Attention disinformers: last chance to belittle wind power

It’s kind of surreal–who would think that a nuclear emergency would lead to a new round of attacks on wind energy?

Yet that is what is happening. Nuclear advocates, to keep their dream alive, need to claim that nuclear is the only hope, and that wind turbines cannot produce enough electricity to do the job. Coal advocates, meanwhile, are saying that nuclear is dead, and coal is the only hope, because wind farm plants cannot produce enough electricity to do the job.

The numbers tell a different story, and they also tell us that this is the last chance–if it’s not already too late–to belittle wind power and pass the laugh test. Here are some of them:

– In the last three years, enough new wind farm power was installed in the U.S. to generate as much electricity as five nuclear power plants.

– This year, U.S. wind turbines will generate as much electricity as 10 nuclear power plants.

– During the Bush Administration, the U.S. Department of Energy found that wind energy could supply 20% of U.S. electricity (roughly what nuclear supplies today) by 2030. To do that, wind would have to generate as much electricity as 75 nuclear plants.

– During the past decade, wind energy installations have surged around the world, going from 17,000 MW in 2000 to 194,000 MW–more than 10 times as much–by 2010. This year, the world’s wind turbines will generate as much electricity as 50 nuclear plants.

– The U.S. National Renewable Energy Laboratory estimates the total U.S. wind resources at 14 MILLION MW–enough to generate roughly 10 times all of the electricity our nation uses. Wind energy is clean, affordable, homegrown, and overwhelmingly abundant. End of story.

Wind turbines in Japan survive both tsunami and earthquake

While some of Japan’s nuclear plants have suffered disaster and are spewing dangerous radiation into the skies, Japan’s wind energy facilities escaped damage.

The Kamisu facility which is an offshore wind farm was only 186 miles from the epicenter of the largest quake ever recorded in Japan. Despite assertions by its detractors, the Japanese wind energy industry is still functioning and helping to keep the lights on during the Fuksuhima nuclear power crisis. Wind turbines do not need to be near a source of water. If they fail no one is going to possibly loose their lives as a result. Compared to nuclear power plants they are relatively simple.

Wind Power Plants Survive Japan Disasters Unscathed and Are Stepping Up Operations to Provide Power to Devastated Country. As the world collectively holds its breath to see how the Fukushima crisis plays out (the quote of the day has got to be: "The worst-case scenario doesn’t bear mentioning and the best-case scenario keeps getting worse…") there’s a positive story which is not yet being reported.

Despite assertions by its detractors that wind energy would not survive an earthquake or tsunami the Japanese wind turbines industry is still functioning and helping to keep the lights on during the Fuksuhima crisis.

I’ve been directly corresponding with Yoshinori Ueda leader of the International Committee of the Japan Wind Power Association & Japan Wind Energy Association, and according to Ueda there has been no wind damage reported by any association members, from either the earthquake or the tsunami. Even the Kamisu semi-offshore wind farm, located about 300km from the epicenter of the quake, survived. Its anti-earthquake "battle proof design" came through with flying colors.

Mr. Ueda confirms that most Japanese wind turbines are fully operational. Indeed, he says that electric companies have asked wind farm owners to step up operations as much as possible in order to make up for shortages in the eastern part of the country:

Eurus Energy Japan says that 174.9 MW with eight wind farm plants (64% of their total capacity with 11 wind farms in eastern part of Japan) are in operation now. The residual three wind farms (Kamaishi wind farm 42.9 MW, Takinekoshirai wind farm 46 MW, Satomi wind farm 10.02 MW) are stopped due to the grid failure caused by the earthquake and Tsunami. Satomi is to re-start operations in a few days. Kamaishi is notorious for tsunami disaster, but this wind farm is safe because it is locate in the mountains about 900m high from sea level.

The largest wind farm operator in Japan, Eurus Energy with about 22% of all wind turbines in Japan, is a subsidiary of Tokyo Electric Company (TEPCO) which operates the Fukushima nuclear facility. Right now, it is likely the company is very happy about its diversified portfolio:

While shares in the Tokyo stock market have fallen during the crisis, the stock price of Japan Wind Development Co. Ltd. has risen from 31,500 yen on 11 March to 47,800 yen on 16 March.

The Little Engine That Could has proven itself once again. What are your thoughts on the Fukushima crisis and do you think it will impact future energy policy around the world?

By Tom Gray,