Julian Juergensmeyer writes about the pros and cons of wind energy in new book

Posted On August 6, 2009
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ATLANTA – Will cities throughout the world one day harness the power of the wind to illuminate their homes and businesses? That possibility and the significant challenges wind farming poses, is the subject of a recently-published book co-authored by Georgia State University College of Law Professor Julian Juergensmeyer. 

Legal Systems and Wind Wind Energy (DJØF Publishing) is a collection of articles penned by Juergensmeyer and colleagues from schools in New Zealand, Norway and Denmark, that analyzes the history of wind energy and the varying successes stories and failures encountered by wind farming around the world.

The book is tailored for wind energy professionals in Denmark and Scandinavia, but includes articles about projects located in countries throughout the world, including the United States. While Scandinavia has a long history of wind energy, attempts to use wind power in other areas of globe has resulted in mixed results. The hope is that this book can be of help to engineers and communities looking for alternative energy sources, by informing them about what works and does not work about wind mills.

One obstacle facing wind energy is that specific geographic conditions are necessary for efficient and successful wind energy generation, Juergensmeyer said. Not all regions have the right combination of consistent winds and steady speeds needed for viable wind farming.

“(Wind energy) has a technical problem because the wind speed has to fall within a range of velocity,” Juergensmeyer said. “If you have very strong winds you have to shut them down too often. If the speed is too low they don’t work at all. So you need an area with a stiff consistent wind.”

The other obstacle is costs. Because wind farms are usually located away from municipal centers on large rural parcels of land or at sea, there’s additional expense in connecting the power generators to the city power grids. In regions like Scandinavia with long histories of wind power, that cost is often offset by government subsidies. Without them, communities are finding wind energy is just too expensive as a viable energy source, Juergensmeyer said.

“There’s a double problem with wind energy, in that the generation is pretty cheap but connecting the wind farms to the grid is quite expensive and (in the U.S.) the distances are even greater than other countries,” Juergensmeyer said. “The other problem is the environmental community is split. Some like it because it’s so clean, other environmentalists are concerned about aesthetics and bird kills.”

Juergensmeyer said some wind energy projects have met with strong opposition in the United States, including a proposed a wind farm off the coast of Cape Cod that brought condemnation from Massachusetts Senator Ted Kennedy and others opposed to its aesthetic impact. While California was an early area for wind farming in the U.S., projects have fallen out of favor there. Ironically, the one state that has taken up the mantel of wind farming as an alternative energy source is oil-rich Texas, where some of the most successful wind energy projects in the U.S. have been located.

“Texas is now the leader in wind generation and where it has the most potential,” Juergensmeyer said. “If you look at a map of Texas, the entire state is ideal for wind generation.”

Juergensmeyer joined Georgia State University in 2000 as its first endowed chair-holder after more than 30 years at the University of Florida. Over his 40-year career teaching law, he has published nearly 100 articles on comparative land use and environmental law, and a previous treatise on Land Use Planning and Development Law is widely used by law and planning practitioners, and frequently cited by courts including the Supreme Court. He is also considered a pioneer in the development of impact fees. He currently serves as Adjunct Professor of City and Regional Planning at GSU’s sister institution, Georgia Institute of Technology, and is also co-director of the Center for Comparative Study of Metropolitan Growth.

– Benjamin Price

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