Wind energy myths

The Feb. 4 letter to the editor by longtime wind energy opponent Rolf Westgard, “Poor energy decisions,” recycled previously refuted myths.

Wind energy has already proven a reliable energy source by providing significant amounts of electricity across major parts of the U.S. Iowa produces more than 20 percent of its electricity from wind, and wind energy recently provided more than 25 percent of the electricity being used across 11 Midwest states, including Minnesota. The regional grid operator, Midwest Independent Transmission System Operator, Inc., commented, “Wind represents one of the fuel choices that helps us manage congestion on the system and ultimately helps keep prices low for our customers and the end-use consumer.” A 2012 report from Synapse Energy Economics found that wind energy can save the average Midwestern household up to $200 per year.

In 2011, wind power contributed 12.7 percent of Minnesota’s electricity generation, supported up to 3,000 jobs and contributed $8 million in land-lease payments.

Data and analysis from utilities, the government and independent utility system operators confirm that adding wind energy displaces large quantities of fossil fuel use and carbon dioxide pollution. That’s because when the wind is blowing, the electricity generated displaces the output of the most expensive, least efficient power plants. In Minnesota, as wind grew from providing less than 4 percent of the state’s electricity in 2006 to almost 10 percent in 2009, electric sector carbon dioxide emissions fell by more than 10 percent or 4 million tons. Utility operators accommodate gradual and predictable changes in wind output with the same tools they use to deal with fluctuations in electricity demand as well as sudden outages of large fossil and nuclear power plants, which are far more costly to deal with.

Despite critics’ spin, the facts demonstrate that wind power is a vital component of an “all-of-the-above” national energy policy.