Windmills make some of us feel good, for better or worse. Turbine supporters consider wind a “green” source of electricity that is renewable, sustainable and less damaging to the environment than fossil fuels.
Those considerations are up for debate. Windmill farms substantially alter the landscape. Giant turbine blades, which weigh up to 12 tons each, are notorious for attracting birds and pulverizing them. The Caithness Windfarm Information Forum, a Scottish organization that encourages renewable energy, found that windmills have caused 35 human fatalities in the United States since 1970. Nuclear power plants, which generate far more electricity, caused zero fatalities on American soil during the 40-year study window. The Department of Energy’s Information Administration estimates that electricity from wind costs 100 percent more than from natural gas, if we include costs of capital, operation and fuel involved in the manufacture, transportation, installation and climate control associated with turbines. Those costs, in other words, largely involve conventional fuels these windmills are supposed to replace.