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Two researchers, David Keith and Lee Miller, released a new paper today and their findings are problematic for several reasons. Furthermore, certain media outlets are misreporting what the paper actually says. The fact is wind power remains one of the most effective and affordable ways to reduce carbon pollution.

Here’s a breakdown of what you need to know about this study.

Wind turbines do not cause global climate change

Keith and Miller’s analysis examines an exceedingly high level of wind power deployment and the effect it might have on localized surface temperature increases. However, they do not find wind energy causes global temperatures to increase, nor does wind contribute to the cascade of side effects and feedback loops caused by carbon pollution. Certain reporting has conflated this localized effect and the global warming impact of carbon emissions, and that is wholly inappropriate.

“If somebody asks me if the deployment of wind turbines contributes to climate change, I say no,” said Jeff Freedman, research associate at Atmospheric Sciences Research Center at the University of Albany. “It will distribute the temperature profile on certain nights.”

Here’s what their model does show: wind turbines do not add more heat to the atmosphere, but they may redistribute heat by mixing air. Certain models show that could temporarily and locally raise ground temperatures. Again, however, there is no contribution to rising global temperatures and their associated problems.

Unrealistic assumptions about the future energy mix: A fatal flaw

Critically, Keith and Miller’s findings rest on assumptions that are fundamentally flawed. They base their analysis on an unrealistic future energy mix, and reality will not resemble the world constructed in their model.

Today, wind energy makes up 6.3 percent of U.S. electricity generation. Keith and Miller’s assumed level of wind development is 2.4 times larger than the Department of Energy’s forecast wind deployment through 2050.

The assumptions in this study are also based on a uniform wind turbine fleet, where each turbine is the same height and capacity, and turbines are built at uniform distances from each other. That does not reflect the reality of the current or future U.S. wind fleet. Differing tower heights and turbine capacities would drastically alter this model’s results.

“This is by no means what future wind power in the U.S. will ever look like. It is an interesting theoretical exercise at best,” said Christina Archer, a wind expert from the University of Delaware. “Even if we were interested in what this crazy scenario would do to air temperature, there are still problems with the tools that they used.”

In fact, Stanford professor and turbine design expert John Dabiri specifically called out the modeling tool used in this study as unreliable.

“It is well known that this type of modeling assumption does a poor job of predicting the flow in real wind farms,” he told MIT Technology Review. However, in other simulations that were “more realistic,” Dabiri said there is “little temperature change near the surface.”

Keith and Miller stay silent on the actual impacts of their findings

The study makes no attempt to describe potential impacts of temporary surface temperature changes related to wind farms, and it’s unclear what if any impact this would have. Meanwhile, besides reducing carbon pollution, we already know that wind power cuts air pollution that contributes to smog and asthma attacks, creating over $8 billion in public health benefits in 2017 alone. A 2017 study from Nature Energy also found that from 2007 to 2015, wind generated up to $108 billion in air quality and public health benefits and avoided up to 12,200 premature deaths.

Increased carbon emissions also create impacts like ocean acidification, loss of sea ice, sea level rise, more extreme weather, and many other effects. The local warming effect Keith and Miller’s model forecasts does not contribute to any of these phenomena.

Keith and Miller acknowledge the extreme assumptions of their study and the climate benefits of reducing emissions. “[T]he direct climactic benefits of reducing emissions grows with the cumulative reduction of emissions and persists for millennia,” they write.

Fortunately, as a carbon free energy source, wind power is perfectly suited to help such emissions reductions. For example, the book Drawdown is comprehensive examination of 100 different solutions to climate change, with input from more than 100 of the world’s foremost climate researchers. It finds that onshore wind power is the second most effective way to reduce emissions, and offshore wind ranks 22nd.

Keith and Miller may have embarked on an interesting thought exercise in their analysis, but essentially a thought exercise is all this amounts to. The assumptions underlying their analysis are of an energy mix and technological deployment not grounded in reality. The fact remains that wind energy is a proven carbon-free energy source that has among the lowest environmental impacts of any way to generate large amounts of electricity.

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Many workers are unaware of the potential electrical hazards present in their work environment, which makes them more vulnerable to the danger of electricity-related injuries. According to OSHA, the following hazards are the most frequent causes of electrical injuries:

  • Contact with power lines;
  • Lack of ground-fault protection;
  • Path to ground missing or discontinuous;
  • Equipment not used in manner prescribed;
  • And improper use of extension and flexible cords.

AWEA’s October Safety Campaign, Stop the Shock: Stay Current and Avoid the Current, focuses on electrical safety and decreased exposure to major electrical hazards during the construction and operation of wind farms. Several resources are available with the campaign:

Throughout the month, here are ways you can utilize the campaign materials and support the safety campaign:

  • Attend the October 3 webinar or view the recording later with your team;
  • Download the materials and share on your company intranet;
  • Use the materials in your training and safety meetings;
  • Order the poster and the hard hat sticker and share with your team.

And while we spend October highlighting electrical safety, remember that you can use these materials throughout the year.

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Many people know that wind energy creates benefits in all 50 states, providing affordable, reliable electricity for millions of American homes and businesses. It also supports over 105,000 well-paying U.S. jobs while reducing harmful pollution. Yet a recent article by Stephen Moore ignores all of this, instead spreading misleading claims and outdated information.

The fact of the matter is that wind power, along with other renewables, helps meet America’s demand for affordable energy. Over the past decade, the cost of renewables has fallen as we continue to innovate and improve transmission. In the last eight years alone, the cost of wind power has dropped over 67 percent, making it the cheapest source of new electricity in many parts of the country.

States red and blue have enthusiastically embraced wind. For example, in 2017, Iowa generated over 36 percent of its electricity using wind. It’s also noteworthy that Iowa has among the lowest electricity rates in the country, pouring cold water on the notion that wind energy is expensive.

Colorado is another state where wind’s cost savings are on display. In response to an RFP from Xcel Energy for new generating capacity earlier this year, wind power led the way by a significant margin, clocking the lowest median bid of $18.10/megawatt hour (MWh)—it was substantially cheaper than every other type of new electricity.

These innovations and cost reductions have also helped ensure wind’s reliability. Wind has shown it can improve resilience during severe weather. Wind is distributed, making it less likely that a single event will affect your lights being on. Take the “polar vortex” of 2014. While freezing temperatures contributed to unexpected equipment failures and fuel shortages at conventional power plants, wind turbines continued operating. That saved consumers in the Mid-Atlantic and Great Lakes regions $1 billion on their electric bills in only two days.

But cost reductions, reliability, and new jobs are not the only ways wind has contributed to the country. Wind has also helped reduce harmful air pollution that creates smog and triggers asthma attacks. Air pollution also happens to be more prevalent in low-income areas, meaning wind can help improve health outcomes there. In fact, wind energy created $8 billion in public health savings in 2017 alone by contributing to cleaner air.

These are tangible savings and quality of life benefits for everyone, especially low-income and rural communities. And wind power brings huge amounts of economic development to communities most in need of new opportunities—over 75 percent of wind projects are built in low-income areas. That means job creation and new revenue go right to the people who need it most.

It is disingenuous to ignore the many benefits wind energy delivers. Especially when many of those benefits go to communities in need of new revenue. Indeed, the market is choosing wind and for good reason.