The nation’s first offshore wind farm to be built 15 miles south of Martha’s Vineyard was hailed by the Biden administration, but a better alternative would have been a nuclear power plant, according to a Time magazine “hero of the environment.”
Michael Shellenberger said the 800-megawatt Vineyard Wind energy project, touted as part of the administration’s goal of generating 30 gigawatts of energy from offshore wind by 2030, would likely produce only half the energy of a nuclear reactor.
“The output from the wind farms would be intermittent,” he said during a Zoom talk organized by the Massachusetts Fiscal Alliance. “It actually puts a heavy strain on the (power) grid to have to adjust to highly unreliable, intermittent wind energy. And so you have to maintain natural gas backup … that’s not something you need if you have nuclear power plants.”
Wind farms also pose serious risks to birds and critically endangered North Atlantic right whales, said Shellenberger, author of “Apocalypse Never: Why Environmental Alarmism Hurts Us All.”
Pam Bechtold Snyder of the New England Aquarium said there are now only 360 North Atlantic right whales left. The number has plummeted in roughly the last four years due to vessel strikes and entanglements in fishing gear, she said. And these stresses are believed to be resulting in female right whales giving birth less often and at older ages.
All of these things converted Shellenberger from a wind energy supporter to a nuclear power proponent, he said.
Nuclear energy provides ”cheap and reliable electricity that’s also carbon free,” Shellenberger said.
But when nuclear power plants fail, they fail with devastating results. Ten years after an earthquake and tsunami killed over 18,000 people and triggered a nuclear meltdown in Fukushima, Japan, more than 40,000 people still are unable to return home, most of them from areas near Fukushima Daiichi, where the triple meltdown forced the immediate evacuation of 160,000 people.
“Nuclear power emits no CO2 but does require significant amounts of water, environmentally costly mining of raw materials, and requires the transportation and disposal of radioactive waste,” said Stu Webster, American Clean Power Association senior director of wildlife and federal lands.
“After more than 20 years of addressing concerns with government, conservation, private and academic funded research,” he added, “there is no evidence to suggest that wind energy is having any population level impacts on birds. Additionally, offshore wind developers and federal regulators have taken similar measures to lessen impacts to marine mammals, including whales.”