The American Renewable Energy Day (AREDAY) conference opened Thursday in Aspen, Colorado, with leaders from the sectors of government, industry, activism and science engaging on questions about how the United States can wean itself from dependency on fossil fuels.
In an early keynote speech, Lester Brown, founder and president of the Earth Policy Institute, offered 10 succinct reasons why wind power is desirable: It is abundant. China, for example, has enough harnessable wind to increase its electricity consumption 16-fold.It is carbon-free. Reducing carbon emissions is a key part of any plan to transition from fossil fuels.It is non-depletable. What we use today doesn’t affect how much we have tomorrow.It does not require any water. This is in contrast to other water-intensive energy sources, such as nuclear and natural gas.It does not use any fuel. Wind farm developers are ready to sign 20-year fixed-price contracts, Brown said, because the main cost associated with wind is building the farm.Wind turbines don’t use a lot of land. It’s true that wind farms take up a lot of land. But the turbines themselves only occupy 1 percent of a wind farm’s land area, which leads to the next point…Land owners can double-crop. It’s possible to produce cattle, wheat, corn, and other commodities while also harvesting wind energy. Far from creating a NIMBY (not-in-my-backyard) problem, wind farms become very desirable in agricultural areas.It is locally available. Wind is everywhere.It scales up easily. A wind farm can go from 20 to 400 megawatts easily.Wind farm construction is not time-intensive. The power can be brought online very quickly.
Brown cited Denmark, Spain, Germany and India as having significant portions of energy sourced from wind. But wind still represents only a small fraction of worldwide power generation (in the United States, it’s around 2 percent), and like other renewable energy sources struggling to gain on the fossil-fuel behemoths, it needs support.
Speakers at AREDAY had varying ideas about what would finally create a breakthrough for renewable energy. For Brown, it was the problem of how to feed 7 billion people with shrinking resources: “Food prices will be the biggest indicator to bring us face-to-face with the climate problem,” he said.