Alden Hathaway, a wind-power broker with
development raised by Rick Webb, a Senior Scientist with the University’s Department of
Mr. Hathaway is quoted, saying that Webb’s “narrow anti-wind views [are] based on some
very shaky environmental claims.” The article further states:
turn reduces the need for coal, Hathaway argues. And while he acknowledges that wind
turbines alter mountaintop ecosystems, they are far less destructive than the mountaintopremoval
method of mining coal. He estimates each wind turbine offsets the need for 40 to 50
acres of coalfields.
offsets the need for 40 to 50 acres of coalfields. In
of the UVA Wind Chill Article that
the calculation was 40 – 50 acres
per turbine. My estimation is
approximately: 0.24 acres saved
per MW per year of installed wind
power capacity. I am struggling to
see what was lost in the
translation. . . . However, 18 acres of
saved mountain top over 30 years of
continuous operation is likely, for a
2.5 MW Wind Turbine operated in
the Appalachians, if we continue our
penchant for coal-fired electricity
the destruction associated with mountaintop removal mining. However, we find that his
analysis doesn’t stand-up to close examination.
Tucker County, West Virginia
reduce the need for coal-fueled generation. The recent National Academies report on
Energy projections for growth in electricity demand with projections for growth in wind
generation. Between 2005 and 2020, annual U.S. electricity demand is projected to increase
by more than a trillion kilowatt-hours (kWh). The projected increase in wind generation is
expected to account for only 3.5% to 19% of this increase in total demand. In other words,
wind development may somewhat slow the growth in demand for electricity from traditional
sources – but it will not reduce the demand for electricity from traditional sources.
Our second objection concerns Mr. Hathaway’s estimation of “18 acres of saved mountain
top” per turbine. His calculations depend on a string of questionable data and assumptions.
compared U.S. Department of
the basis for calculating that an acre of strip mining/mountaintop removal yields 6,200
tons of coal. In contrast, EPA’s 2003 Draft Environmental Impact Statement on
Mountaintop Mining/Valley Fill indicates that an average acre of mountaintop removal in
West Virginia yields 10,000 tons of coal.
He relies on data published in Grist magazine and the Appalachian Voices newsletter as1
electricity –based on a report he submitted to the Virginia State Corporation
Commission. We previously responded to this report, noting that it relies extensively on
confidential and summary data that are not available or provided for independent review
and evaluation. As we argued in our response, this lack of transparency is well outside the
norm for either scientific assessment or public policy deliberation.
He assumes that 100 MWh of wind generated electricity will displace 88 MWh of coalgenerated2
coal that is mined through strip mining/mountaintop removal. According to the U.S.
Energy Information Agency, more than 60% of coal mined in the Appalachian region is
extracted from underground mines.
He assumes that wind-generated electricity will only displace generation associated with
operating at a 35% capacity factor, with a lifespan of 30 years. There are no 2.5 MW
turbines installed on central Appalachian ridges, most are 1.5 MW, and the largest are 2.0
His estimate of per-turbine electricity generation is based on 2.5 MW wind turbines,
page III.J-17 (see:
2 Mr. Hathaway’s submission to the Virginia State Corporation Commission and our submission in response are posted on
the Virginia Wind website. (see :
(CF) in 2004 was 30% – and the average CF of all the windplants in the eastern U.S. is less
3 The rated operational lifetime for turbines installed to date in West Virginia is4
estimate of potential mountaintop removal offset. We have used original data sources and
more-realistic assumptions to obtain a more-credible estimate.
of area mined by mountaintop removal.
We rely on the above cited EPA estimate for West Virginia of 10,000 tons of coal per acre
technology and actual observation. That is, our calculations are based on 2.0 MW
turbines, with a capacity factor of 30% and an operational lifespan of 20 years.
We have less-optimistic expectations for turbine performance, based on current
We calculate a
generated with coal (65.3%)
Potential coal displacement, based on the percentage of Appalachian region electricity5
coal extracted by surface mining (34.9%)
Potential surface mine displacement, based on the percentage of Appalachian region6
coal is equivalent to 2 MWh of electricity generation.
Consistent with the Hathaway analysis and EIA statistics, we further assume that 1 ton of7
= 1.2 acres
4 Det Norske Veritas. 2004. Type Approval of NM72C – Approval number A-642052-5 [NM72C is the model number of the
1.5-MW NEG Micon wind turbines installed at Mountaineer windplant in WV; Appendix 1 on p. 3 of the Approval indicates
this turbine’s “Design life time” is “20 years”. See also:
5 U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. 2006. eGRID2006: Emissions and Generation Resource Integrated Database
(containing 2004 information) – available via:
VA, and WV.)
http://www.wt-certification.dk/UK/Approved.htm]http://www.epa.gov/solar/egrid/index.htm (Region defined as MD, PA,http://www.eia.doe.gov/cneaf/coal/page/acr/table7.pdf (Region defined as MD, PA, VA, and WV.)http://www.eia.doe.gov/neic/infosheets/coaldemand.html
Wind Chill article or the 18-acre estimate subsequently provided by Mr. Hathaway.
mile and that each wind energy project may clear an average of 3-5 acres of forest per turbine.
The impact on wildlife and habitat due to forest fragmentation is an even larger issue when
turbines and connecting roads are constructed on forested ridges, with a per turbine loss of 15
to 20 acres of interior forest habitat.
and ridgeline wind energy development. It is our intention to provide some perspective. We
should all be concerned about the environmental and human costs of mountaintop removal
and other forms of coal mining. We suggest, however, that it is not in anyone’s interest to
exaggerate the potential role of wind development in addressing