I have been to wind farms all over the US. WV has a wind farm with a problem due to turbines being built near a large cave that houses a large bat population. This area has been studied heavily, dead bats have been found, it is estimated that for every 1 bat found there were 3 that arenít.
Another wind farm nearby was under scrutiny for bat deaths, out of 132 turbines, and in 9 months I saw one dead bat, and a dead crow. I spent about 12 hours a day around the wind turbines.... The local enviros and coal companys made a big deal of this. Interestingly enough, every morning I drove to work I passed 2 coal mines that had trucks running about 1 minute apart to the coal plant near the wind farm. The section of road from the mine to the coal plant was 'carnage ally'; the road was littered with the carcasses of birds, deer, raccoons, etc....
Also another weird thing was people complained about the 'view shed' of the wind turbines. A good portion of the wind farm was built on a flat 'mesa' that had once been a mountain, but had been leveled to mine coal. Part of the wind farm was built where streams and drainage has once been, but had been filled in with the debris of the mountaintop that had been taken for coal. Also about 1 mile from the wind farm was the Dominion owned Mount Storm Power Station (Mount Storm Power Station - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
) talk about a view shed problem! The lake built to cool the station is a trip, it is about 60 degrees in the cold WV winter.
The Mount Storm power station burns 15,000 tons of coal a day, and generates 1,600 MW of power, the adjacent Mt Storm Wind Farm has 132 turbines and produces 264MW of power (when windy, which is almost always).
To some one that can objectively think this particular farm was a no brainer, but local opposition was fierce. The Unions, environmental groups, coal industry, etc fought hard. There was also a bat study done here, I saw bat houses being built near the wind farm in order to count bats. I am not a bioligist, but it seems like building and encouraging bat habitat near a wind farm is a sure fire way to ensure more bat deaths.
Everyone knows that an environmental assessment by an oil company is usually skewed and flawed for obvious reasons. Environmental groups are often no better. Once a group publically opposes something their resulting studies will be also compromised because they have already taken a stance, so both sides are usually way off, and the truth is in the middle.
I personally believe that the radiation, mercury poisoning, habitat decimation, and water quality degradation of coal is nothing compared to wind turbines. Wind turbines arenít perfect though. They usually weigh about 200-350 tons, each turbine uses 8-10 trucks for transport. They use gearbox oil, coolant. There is an absurd amount of copper and steel in a turbine, most of the weight of a turbine is steel. Concrete foundations can use 300+ yards of concrete. Many components are made in India, China, and Europe. The US is beginning to make a lot of turbines, but the fact remains that the quality and pride of the US worker pales in comparison to those in Europe. I spend much time repairing and inspecting components from the US and China, the European components are usually built better and to tight tolerances.
They say they create jobs, which is true, but most large jobs sites may have 100-600 people on them Iíd venture that less than half are local (<50 miles) jobs, the rest are specialized traveling technicians. The local jobs usually are civil work, transportation, and electrical. Building and installing turbines is specialized work requiring specialized skills. I live in CO, but work everywhere; my only contribution to local economy is buying hotels, PBR, and food.
As it stands now the US is not building many new wind farms. This can be attributed to the economy and NIMBY sentiment. Another large problem is transmission capacity, the windy area in the US are remote and need a serious infrastructure overhaul. The Columbia River gorge is an amazing recourse, but they need more transmission capacity to built more wind capacity. This is being held up by NIMBYs, which I can sympathize with for several reasons. Currently TX, OK, and NM, are in the process of a huge transmission line project, this will allow more wind power generation in the region.
A biologist, engineer, an economist I am not but, I would think a public works project similar to the CCC building infrastructure for power transmission might help our economy and environment, but this is likely to never happen. Our country has an insatiable appetite for power, but no one wants to see a turbine, power lines, solar panels, etc. Many people also donít want to inconvenience themselves and conserve either. We are a nation of self-entitled whiner who want lots but wont sacrifice anything.