Frequently Asked Questions About Wind Energy
Do I have to put up a windmill on my building or in the backyard to get wind power?
No, the energy is generated at Pennsylvania wind farms and is transferred to the energy grid that services your area. A wind power purchase means an increase in the percentage of clean, renewable wind energy delivered to the total pool of resources. Please refer to the consumer resources for more information.
Will there be a blackout if the wind is not blowing?
No, wind energy is a part of the total energy grid serving your electric needs. The grid will continue to transfer energy without interruption of service.
Why does it cost more for wind energy?
Contrary to popular belief, wind power often costs only marginally more to consumers than energy from traditional sources. The small premium that sometimes exists helps to pay for the continued development of high-tech wind farms. Recently, significant technology advances have brought down the cost of wind energy to 2 to 6 cents per kilowatt hour, which is competitive with fossil fuels and nuclear power. The price will continue to become even more competitive as more wind farms are developed and the price of fossil fuels increase.
Will the cost of wind ever decrease?
Wind power today costs only about one-fifth as much as it did in the mid-1980's, and that cost is expected to decline another 35% by 2010. In fact, wind power is the least expensive new source of electricity and is not vulnerable to price spikes or political instablility. Wind power could help stabilize energy prices and remove much of the United States' dependence on foreign oil.
But natural gas is fairly clean; why isn't it the answer?
Nationwide, natural gas is burned to generate 15% of America's electricity. 90% of new power plants are gas fired. As a result, demand for natural gas is projected to increase by 50% over the next decade. But domestic supply has basically been flat for the past 10 years. Natural gas is expected to experience large price spikes this year and in the future. Wind provides critically needed resource diversity.
Don't wind turbines kill birds?
Currently, for every 10,000 birds killed by human activities, less than one is killed by a wind turbine. Hunters kill 100 million birds a year; house cats kill at least 100 million birds a year; plate glass kills at least 100 million birds a year. Even at the highest levels of use imaginable, wind energy would be just a drop in the bucket. However, wind farms need to be sited and operated appropriately to avoid and mitigate excessive bird kills. The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection is currently engaged in discussions with the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, Pennsylvania Game Commission, Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission, and
the US Fish and Wildlife Service to clarify roles and responsibilities, and to determine whether additional rules are needed. Further collaboration between the wind industry, ecological organizations and government agencies is necessary in order to make sure that Pennsylvania has the best possible process to encourage the positive effects of wind development while minimizing negative impacts to our unique ecological resources.
What about bat kills? Wasn't there a big problem in West Virginia?
While the vast majority of wind farms studied have had little impact on bat populations, one wind farm - the Mountaineer project in West Virginia - did have an unexpectedly high frequency of bat deaths in 2003. In response to this incident, the American Wind Energy Association, Bat Conservation International, and government agencies have formed a cooperative venture to study the problem and research solutions. Similar studies conducted in 2004 showed high bat mortality at both Mountaineer and at the Meyersdale Wind Farm in Pennsylvania. Additional collaborative research and monitoring is necessary to avoid and mitigate bat deaths as wind farm development continues.
Do wind farms spoil the landscape?
Although some people dislike the aesthetic impact of wind turbines, others see them as striking and graceful. Moreover, in comparison to ugly nuclear power plants or the smokestacks of coal facilities, wind farms are quite inobtrusive. Public opinion surveys typically show large margins - 3 to 1 or 4 to 1 - in favor of wind energy. When surveys have been taken in the same communities before and after wind turbines are installed, the level of support has usually gone up, not down, indicating that people's aesthetic fears have been unfounded. Furthermore, a recent study showed that wind farm construction has no significant negative effect on property values, and sometimes even causes them to increase.
Do wind farms make too much noise?
Noise is not a problem with modern wind turbines. In the field, it is typically dealt with through setback requirements. A wind turbine a quarter of a mile away is no noisier than a kitchen refrigerator.