TMC’s Smart Grid Contributor and Co-founder of Intelligent Communications Partners, Jon Arnold (News - Alert), although a supporter of renewable energy, has covered the downside of wind energy programs. Many of these programs take away the right for local groups to protest against renewable energy projects, such as wind or solar. As Arnold has expressed before politicians live and die by their programs, sometimes pushing something through for all the wrong reasons.
Even eco-friendly nations like the Netherlands have their petitions against renewable energy programs. And for those townspeople of Urk, Netherland confronted by a backyard, front yard and even side yard view of massive wind turbines, a petition seems in order.
Arnold finds this aspect of renewable energy particularly fascinating – go big, or go small. Large scale renewable projects are attractive for utilities, especially since they keep power generation on their side of the fence. Whether they produce this energy themselves, or purchase it from large developer projects, it goes into their grid and they control the supply into the consumer market.
On the other hand, these projects need artificial government and financial incentives to get built, and they take a long time to develop. These types of renewable projects are not that compelling. In time, they will find their niche in the overall energy ecosystem, but not enough forces have lined up yet in their favor. It is quite obvious that the citizens of Urk aren’t lining up for the wind turbine giants, with gray metallic blades at 650 feet (about 200 meters), destroying a way of life.
As wind turbines sprout up across Europe — and increasingly off its coastlines — tussles between energy developers and local opponents are increasingly common. "They are the highest buildings in Holland," said Leen van Loosen, Urk's undertaker. "It's just crazy."
But with oil prices again toying with $100 a barrel and global concerns mounting over climate change, electricity from wind, solar, biofuel and other renewables are seen by many as the long-term answer to energy security, pollution and curbing greenhouse gases.
A report issued mid-2010 by the United Nations Environment Program and the Renewable Energy Policy Network claimed that 2009 saw the amount of new energy being created coming more from renewable sources than non-renewable sources. The findings showed that 60 percent of new capacity in Europe came from renewables, and in the U.S., it was over 50 percent. The report predicts that globally, we'll be at 50 percent or better within two years. In terms of total electricity capacity, renewables currently account for 25 percent globally - this means both new capacity and existing output.
Both wind and solar are poised for continued growth, especially with so much unrest around offshore oil exploration. Wind power garnered $67 billion worth of investment in 2009, representing 56 percent of all renewables investment. This level is up from 45 percent in 2008, and today, wind power projects are running in over 82 countries. The report indicates that both solar and wind have remained dominant as renewables.
However, Urk’s residents cite a long list of dangers from the wind park. They believe the tranquil panorama of the local lake will be disrupted, the town will tremble with the constant rumbling noise of blades, animals traumatized, and the whole project could undermine a dike slated to host turbines.
After eliminating seven turbines from the plan, the government signed off on the wind farm last month. The town says it won't back down, requesting, or more so demanding another 15 turbines to be ditched, vowing to appeal to the Council of State, the country's highest court.
Economics Minister, Maxime Verhagen, tries to put some logic into the disagreement saying that the project fits with the energy mix that the Netherlands needs, and that every energy source has a down side. "You could say 'no' to wind energy because it will spoil the view. You can say 'no' to nuclear energy because of the waste. And you can say 'no' to coal as well — leaving us with no energy at all in the Netherlands," Verhagen told Dutch television.Jaclyn Allard is a TMCnet Web Editor. She most recently worked on the production team at Juran Institute, a quality consulting firm producing its own training and marketing materials. Previously, she interned at Curbstone Press, a nonprofit publishing press in Willimantic, CT, and fulfilled the role of Editor-in-Chief for the literature and arts journal published by the University of Connecticut. To read more of her articles, please visit her columnist page.
Edited by Jaclyn Allard