EPA Facts

The High Cost of Red Tape:
Renewable Energy

The ultimate goal for many environmental groups is to rely completely on renewable energy for our electricity, though there is virtually no way that wind, solar, and water power could provide all the energy Americans need.

Even among scientists that blame fossil fuels for causing climate change, there is an understanding that 100 percent reliance on renewable sources is unrealistic. Four of the top climate change scientists sent a letter to politicians and environmental groups stating “realistically, they [renewable energy sources] cannot on their own solve the world’s energy problems.” Instead, the scientists call for an increased use of nuclear power to meet the worlds’ growing energy needs.

They’re cheating themselves if they keep believing this fiction that all we need is renewable energy such as wind and solar.

James Hansen, former NASA scientist to the Associated Press

Renewable energy is an important part of our energy portfolio, but has serious limitations that make it impossible to rely on completely.


To produce energy from wind, companies must build wind turbines—massive structures that take up a lot of space. These turbines can be as tall as 30-story buildings and are clustered together to form wind farms. According to the American Wind Energy Association, constructing a roughly 25-turbine wind farm carries an up-front cost of around $65 million and requires roughly 4,000 acres of space.

Killing Birds and Bats

Though windmills can produce and create energy without producing carbon emissions, wind energy receives a significant amount of criticism from environmental groups.

Wind energy is responsible for killing roughly 1.4 million birds and bats each year—many of them endangered and protected species. Particular attention has been paid to the impact of wind turbines on eagle populations. Reports show that wind farms were responsible for the deaths of at least 67 bald or golden eagles from 2008-2013, and a study by government biologists predicts that number is probably much higher.

Each death of a bald eagle is a violation of federal law, but the Obama Administration now says it will allow some companies to kill or injure bald and golden eagles for up to 30 years without penalty.

A massive wind energy project in Wyoming was slammed by conservation groups that claimed the turbines would “devastate local sage grouse and golden eagle populations.”

Possible Human Health Risks

Because energy produced by wind, for example, is intermittent, its generating capacity is harder to predict than conventional power’s. And a lack of widely available, cost-effective ways to store electricity generated by wind only compounds the complex current marketplace.

The phenomenon “wind energy syndrome” has been blamed for health problems in people who live near wind farms. The constant thumping of the turbines has been blamed for a range of symptoms from headaches and sleeplessness to depression. The flicker effect caused by sunlight hitting the spinning turbines can cause vertigo and even seizures.

Intermittent Reliability

Because wind turbines have to wait for the weather to produce wind in order to generate electricity, turbines can’t generate power 24/7.

This has posed immense challenges as utility companies cannot accurately predict how much energy the turbines will generate and can’t store wind energy for use when turbines aren’t turning. Wind also poses a problem when it produces too much energy too fast. A surge in energy production can overload transmission lines.