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Energy independence: Energy developers consider effects on environment

The pursuit of energy independence raises numerous environmental concerns. Environmentalists have challenged coal for its pollutants and oil and natural gas for fracking, but wind and solar power also raise other issues.

BY ADAM WILMOTH Published: October 7, 2012
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As companies pursue efforts to develop domestic sources of both traditional fossil fuels and renewable energy, industry and government leaders are trying to find a balance between energy production and protecting the environment.

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How ‘green’ is green?

Manufacturing and transporting wind turbines and other renewable energy sources require the use of fossil fuels. The time it takes for a power generator to produce as much energy as it uses during manufacturing and transportation is known as the “energy payback time.” The typical payback time for a large scale wind turbine is three to eight months, depending on the wind speed at the site, according to the American Wind Energy Association. A typical wind farm has an average life expectancy of about 30 years. The energy payback for solar power was three to four years in 2004, according to the National Renewable Energy Laboratory.

Wind power capacity

Top states by wind power capacity as of July (in megawatts) from the American Wind Energy Association.

1. Texas: 10,648

2. Iowa: 4,524

3. California: 4,425

4. Illinois: 3,055

5. Oregon: 2,820

6. Minnesota: 2,718

7. Washington: 2,699

8. Oklahoma 2,171

9. Colorado: 1,805

10. North Dakota: 1,469

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