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EWEA's Opinion

EWEA's opinion

19.01.2009

All hail wind: saluting the best energy source

While wind power is already a proven technology and increasingly praised for its many environmental benefits, it is worth noting that a study discussed in the prestigious magazine New Scientist shows that it is the pre-eminent energy source amongst 11 non-fossil fuels.

In his study, Mark Jacobson, a professor of civil and environmental engineering at Stanford University in California, found wind is best suited to provide dependable energy supplies, reduce the disastrous effects associated with global warming and slash the death rate attributed to air pollution.

The 14 January New Scientist report noted that according to Jacobsen, the US could replace its entire car and truck fleet with vehicles fueled by electricity generated from wind turbines.

To say Jacobson’s independent study is music to the ears of the European Wind Energy Association (EWEA) is an understatement. Indeed, EWEA suggests that EU-27 policy makers grappling with improving energy security and mitigating climate change should read his study, or the article, themselves.

After embracing wind power, Jacobson found the next six best alternative energy sources were, in descending order, concentrated solar, geothermal, tidal, solar photovoltaics, wave, and hydroelectric.

He was definitely unimpressed by nuclear, coal with carbon capture and sequestration, corn ethanol, and cellulosic ethanol.

According to the report, Jacobson examined both the amount of greenhouse gases that each energy source would emit and the impact they would have on the environment and human health.

“The energy alternatives that are good are not the ones that people have been talking about the most,” Jacobson was quoted as saying.

He was dismissive of nuclear energy and so-called clean coal that is to use the still-untested carbon, capture and storage (CCS) system.

Nuclear, Jacobson said, “results in 25 times more carbon and air pollution than wind.”

As for CCS, the magazine notes that his study showed that building and using enough clean coal power plants would emit up to 110 times more carbon than building and using wind turbines only.

“Some options that have been proposed are just downright awful,” he said. “Ethanol-based biofuels will actually cause more harm to human health, wildlife, water supply, and land use than current fossil fuels.”

Jacobson, who has also presented his study to the US Senate, said policy makers need to focus on the alternative energy sources that are most beneficial.

“We know which these are,” he is quoted as saying, adding renewable energy investments will also help the beleagured economy while it is mired in recession.

“Building wind turbines, solar plants, geothermal plants, electric vehicles, and transmission lines would not only create jobs but also reduce costs due to healthcare, crop damage, and climate damage - as well as provide the world with a truly unlimited supply of clean power.”

EWEA praises Jacobson’s research, conclusion and message. Together, his findings should clarify once and for all the enormous value that wind power is already providing.

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