With oil prices setting new highs nearly every day, wind power is getting another look.
But, like most weather reports, the outlook for large windmill projects is anything but predictable, plagued as they are by noise complaints, endangered species and fickle commercial backers.
In the United Kingdom, a giant wind farm planned for the Thames River estuary now appears to be in jeopardy after Dutch oil giant Shell announced it would pull out of the project.
The BBC reported that Shell, citing the rising cost of building materials, would sell its 33 percent stake in the London Array, a proposed wind farm that had been listed by Forbes magazine as one of the biggest clean energy projects in the world.
The pullout sparked anger on the part of environmentalists and other supporters of the project.
Nick Rau, an activist with Friends of the Earth, pointed out that the decision comes at a time of record profits for oil companies.
“Shell announced a 12 percent profit rise to 3.92 billion pounds,” Rau told the BBC. “It should be investing those profits in renewable energy projects, not focusing its efforts on making money from sucking fossil fuels out of the ground and contributing to climate change.”
The company has said it will continue to pursue wind power projects in the United States.
Yet U.S. wind power projects have run into some snags of their own.
A proposed set of three wind farms in Massachusetts’ Buzzards Bay was scaled back to two this week after officials concluded that one location would pose a threat to endangered birds in the area.
In contrast to the London Array, which was supported by Friends of the Earth, the Massachusetts clean energy project was partly scuttled by opposition from environmentalists.
New Bedford’s Standard-Times cited the Massachusetts Audubon Society as one of the groups that helped kill the third wind farm.
Wind power is sometimes touted as one of the cleanest energy sources available, but as the Tribune-Democrat, in Johnston, Penn., reported, windmills can sometimes cause noise pollution.
According to the newspaper, Todd and Jill Stull of Portage Township, Penn., have filed suit against Gamesa Energy USA, alleging that the company’s 30-turbine Allegheny Ridge Wind Farm, which began operating last year, has created a public nuisance.
The Tribune-Democrat quoted the couple’s lawyer, Bradley Tupi, as saying: “They assured the officials in the township in question that the turbines would be quiet. The turbines are quite loud. They wake Dr. Stull up and he must go to the basement to sleep.”
“Wind turbine plan off Fairhaven dropped; 2 other SouthCoast sites still eyed”
Standard-Times (Mass.), May 6, 2008
“Couple sues wind farm over noise levels”
Tribune-Democrat (Penn.), May 4, 2008
“Green Giants: The World’s Biggest Clean-Energy Projects”
Forbes.com, April 30, 2008
“Shell pulls out of big wind farm”
BBC.com, May 1, 2008