I am so pleased to share with all our readers, an interview we conducted with Mike Barnard!
Mike Barnard is a Senior Fellow – Wind at the Energy & Policy Institute and has been a deeply interested observer of energy systems for three decades. Through the Energy & Policy Institute, his blog barnardonwind.com and other venues, he focuses on bringing data-centric reality to bear in policy, siting and social license discussions related to wind around the world.
With the support of the Energy & Policy Institute, Mike recently wrote an insightful report on the Wind Health Impacts Dismissed in Court that is definitely worth reading.
How did you become so involved in the wind industry, and specifically, working against dispelling myths?
The engagement with wind power specifically is simple: it’s one of the most effective wedges against climate change. Generating electricity with coal and gas is one of the largest contributors to climate change, and every MWH of electricity generated from the wind eliminates almost all of a MWH generated by fossil fuels. Global warming is about the most significant challenge the world is facing right now, and helping to get more wind energy deployed is a positive action.
Regarding dispelling myths, it became evident a few years ago that wind energy was a lightning rod for a broad selection of obviously absurd accusations, but that they were gaining traction. My upbringing values giving back to society via volunteer work, but my career meant I was traveling a lot making traditional volunteer work difficult. Researching and writing coherent rebuttals and making them available to others became my volunteer give back.
What led you to start your own blog: barnardonwind.com?
The blog is just one of the outlets I use. It’s a great place to centralize material and maintain evergreen versions of fully referenced source material, and it’s a convenient place to post early versions of material for discussion. The formal report on health-related legal cases is an Energy and Policy Institute (http://www.energyandpolicy.org) effort, but much of it appeared first on the blog. I also spend a fair amount of time on Quora.com answering questions about wind power and renewables, as well as doing a lot of writing for CleanTechnica.com and RenewEconomy.com.au. Many of the articles in CleanTechnica and posts on the blog were originally answers to questions on Quora. I’ve just started putting material on Huffington Post as well.
If they are substantive, I look for the factual merit in them and often fix minor errors in my material or tweak content to be more nuanced. If they are merely counter-factual rants, I’m amused by them and use them as a minor measure of successful communication. I try not to waste time talking extensively with people who are unwilling to learn and have nothing of factual, referenced and logical merit to say.
What are your hopes for the future of wind power?
Wind power has been building 40 to 50 GW of global capacity annually for the past four years of the economic slowdown. I expect that to grow strongly over the next few years both onshore and offshore. The USA is just a blip in the global growth with its latest PTC annoyance. China put in 16 GW of capacity in 2013 alone and is continuing to build out wind generation. New ‘low wind’ designs for turbines with longer, broader blades are making more and more wind resources economic and improving capacity factors in higher wind areas as well. Wind power averaged 2.5 cents USD per KWH in purchase power agreements signed in the USA in 2013 with the PTC, and is averaging a shade over 5 cents USD per KWH in Brazil on a completely level playing field. The NREL projects that both wind and solar power will be so cheap by about 2025 that on completely unlevel playing fields such as the USA — where legacy forms of generation such as fossil fuel and nuclear receive permanent tax code breaks, — that they will be impossible not to choose first based on pure economics. This is already true in Brazil.
World wide, utility-scale wind power and solar power will be the dominant forms of electrical generation in not too many decades. This is very good news, because they are the lowest carbon forms of generation with the lowest negative externalities.
Is there anything specific that you want to share with people about you, your work or your thoughts on the wind industry?
The wind industry and renewable generation of electricity in general are great places for young people to consider careers. The transformation to low-carbon grids and the increasing penetration of smart technologies which increase efficiencies are going to combine with increasing electrification of transport and the rest of society. The combination means that there is a lot of work and there will be a lot of money flowing into the sector. It’s a great place to be doing virtuous work that is also a good career choice for fiscal security for growing families. It’s a global marketplace for skilled people.
I want to thank Mike Barnard for taking the time to do this interview with me, and with his continued work in dispelling the myths of wind energy!