Bryce misleads on land use, wind power’s potential

The Manhattan Institute’s Robert Bryce had another column in yesterday’s Wall Street Journal attacking wind power. The following was posted as a comment.

The idea that wind farm requires immense tracts of land to produce clean, low-cost electricity is simply ludicrous. Mr. Bryce is paid by fossil fuel interests to attack wind energy under the guise of “expert opinion” and it’s no surprise that he is pushing this misinformation about land use. Here are the facts:

Only 2-5 percent of the land area of a typical wind farm is actually taken up by wind turbines and other equipment, while the remaining 95-98 percent can continue to be used for farming, ranching, or whatever its prior use was.

A 2008 report by the U.S. Department of Energy concluded that obtaining 20 percent of the nation’s electricity from wind energy would use less land than is currently occupied by the city of Anchorage, Alaska.

By contrast, every year, coal mining consumes several times that amount of land, and that amount of new land must be consumed every year to obtain new coal. Wind farm plants do not use up their fuel and thus only need to occupy one piece of land in perpetuity.

In case Mr. Bryce truly believes that the electricity generated by wind power remains inconsequential, consider these facts: U.S. wind energy currently produces enough electricity to power all of Google’s worldwide data centers 60 times over, based on the 260 MW Bryce cites for Google’s demand. Additionally, U.S. wind energy averaged 14 GW for the entire year of 2011—equivalent to 14 1,000-MW power plants. It also generated enough electricity to power the entire state of Michigan. And do states really rely on wind power to keep the lights on? You bet. Wind turbines provided nearly 20% of the electricity produced in Iowa last year, 8.5% of the electricity on the main Texas grid, and over 20% in South Dakota, to name just a few examples.

The development of wind power and other renewable energy sources is important for the future of the country and the health of our environment. Wind energy bolsters America’s economy through a supply chain of hundreds of manufacturing plants and more than 2,400 companies investing in all stages of American wind power.

With stable tax policy, the wind turbines industry will grow to nearly 100,000 American jobs in the next four years, including increasing the wind turbines manufacturing sector by a third, to 46,000 American manufacturing jobs. Wind energy is clean, abundant, and homegrown, and its cost is dropping. The case for continuing to invest in it is very strong. Let wind finish the job.

Kevin Haley,