I want to follow up on yesterday’s post to further illuminate the importance of public perception in the wind power debate. As with almost all power generating facilities (both renewable and conventional) trade-offs arise between the necessities of energy production versus the impact to the environment arising from these facilities. To further complicate matters, sometimes the trade-offs are real, and sometimes they are merely imagined.
We are free to weigh the number of electrons we would like to generate verses the number of baby seals we need to club to get those electrons. I can’t quantify how much environmental damage per electron is appropriate. However, I would rather generate two electrons per clubbed baby seal than one. The IBEW wind turbine irks me because it should have been placed at the best site possible to optimize both public perception and power generation. With a capacity factor of 7 - 24%, the later, clearly took a back seat to the former.
There is an on-going debate in Massachusetts over Cape Wind, a proposed offshore wind farm to be located in Nantucket Sound. Opponents to Cape Wind, such as the Save Our Sound Alliance, express concerns ranging from technical problems, to aesthetics, to potential environmental damage.
I haven’t yet done enough research to side with either faction, but ultimately public perception of wind power will drive policy to outright kill the project or enable it to push ahead. Wind power is particularly salient because, unlike other energy technologies, the public can actually see it working (and they can see when it is not working). If Joe Public drives past a wind turbine on I93 that is often not spinning, I fear that perception will unfairly bias policy towards the fallacy that wind is not an effective renewable energy technology. With that policy in place, the chances of the Cape Wind project receiving a fair trail are diminished.