News and analysis about energy in California with an eye toward renewables.

Report: California Wind Power is Like Taking 900,000 Cars Off Roads

A turbine at Altamont Pass in Northern California | Photo: KQEDQuest/Flickr/Creative Commons License

As the federal Wind Production Tax Credit comes ever closer to expiring on December 31, an environmental group has released a report detailing what it calls the major environmental benefits of wind development in danger of being lost should Congress fail to extend the tax credit. Environment California, a statewide environmental advocacy organization, says that wind turbines produce carbon-free power with the resulting drop in CO2 emissions comparable to taking almost 900,000 Californian cars off the road.

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The report, "Wind Power for a Cleaner America: Reducing Global Warming Pollution, Cutting Air Pollution, and Saving Water," compares the emissions and resource use of wind power with other industrial alternatives, including natural gas and coal. According to the report, the state of California avoided emitting 4,575,000 metric tons of carbon in 2011, and saved 1.76 billion gallons of water that would have been used to generate fossil fuel power, by generating power from wind turbines instead.

At that, California only takes third place among the 50 states in its wind power-related carbon avoidance. Iowa has reduced its emissions by two tons more than California, and Texas has lowered its carbon emissions by almost twice California and Iowa's totals combined.

"Wind power is creating a cleaner, healthier future for Californians," said Sean Carroll of Environment California. "We can continue on this path of cutting air pollution and saving water if Congress acts now to extend critical wind incentives. Our message to Congress is clear: Don't throw wind power off the fiscal cliff. Our clean air, water, and children's future are too important to blow it now."

One thing goes without mention in the report: wind turbines' effect on populations of wild birds and bats.

In addition to calling for an extension of the Production Tax Credit, the report's authors also urge extension of the offshore wind investment credit (which likewise expires at the end of the year), strengthening renewable portfolio standards and making it easier to build long-distance transmission between power demand and areas with high winds.

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About the Author

Chris Clarke is a natural history writer and environmental journalist currently at work on a book about the Joshua tree. He lives in Joshua Tree.
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They could probably double those numbers if they use the "biomass" of slaughtered avian species for combined heat and power!

You can't just kill a bunch of animals, spew a bunch of GHGs from cement and steel and transmission, destroy intact, diverse habitats and occasionally spurt a few MWh into the grid at useless times and call that "green," especially since Big Wind (in stark contrast to rooftop solar and efficiency) requires highly inefficient fracked gas peakers for the time when they are not spinning (as in, 75-90% of the time most places they are sited).

Let's fight for solutions, not greenwash Big Energy boondoggles - efficiency and rooftop solar are vastly under utilized and don't kill anything while hugely reducing peak loads - why aren't we starting there?