Windy Woes

Solving Wind Power’s Hidden Pollution Problem




The U.S. Department of Energy reports that although wind power accounts for just over 4 percent of domestic electrical generation, it comprises a third of all new electric capacity. Even with the freedom from coal or oil that wind power creates, a major component of the generating devices, the turbine blades, has its own carbon footprint that needs examining.

Some of the blades are as long as a football field, and the metal, fiberglass or carbon composites must be mined, refined, manufactured and transported, all consuming energy and creating materials that are difficult to recycle when they reach the end of their usefulness and are replaced. Christopher Niezrecki, a member of the University of Massachusetts-Lowell Wind Energy Research Group, estimates the United States will have as many as 170,000 wind turbines by 2030, creating more than 34,000 discarded blades each year.

The next generation of blade material may come from natural cellulose fibers and bio-based plastics derived from soybean, linseed and other vegetable oils, instead of oil-based polymers. A $1.9 million National Science Foundation grant is funding the research.


Source: FastCoexist.com

Edit ModuleShow Tags

More from Natural Awakenings

Smog Begone

As the world’s eighth-largest economy, California is throwing its weight behind greenhouse-gas reduction by setting ambitious 2030 goals and putting 1.5 million zero-emission state cars on the road.

Reforesting India

About 800,000 volunteers planted a staggering 49 million trees on a single day last year in India as part of an international effort to reforest the planet.

Ocean Watch

This year scientists discovered a new whale species in the Bering Sea and long-living orcas in the Pacific, even as dolphins in China, Hong Kong and Gulf of California waters are rapidly disappearing.

Bye-Bye Birdies

Factors as diverse as island rats and cats, overfishing and plastic products are putting a third of all North American bird species at risk of extinction.

Extinction Scenario

The risk of humans disappearing from the Earth is estimated at one-tenth of a percent every year, say environmental biologists, but rising temperatures and populations may push that probability up to 3 percent.
Edit ModuleShow Tags