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Wind power: Clean energy, dirty business?

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While energy and environmental experts note that the conflicts are still relatively few, they are cautionary lessons for the industry.

Wind takes off

"Much of Africa, Asia Pacific, and Latin America – as far as we see it – is on the verge of taking off," says Shruti Shukla, policy director of the Global Wind Energy Council.

The growth of wind power is driven partly by demand: China's electric power demand has doubled in just a decade, and India's peak demand is 12 percent higher than its available supply.

But also, national and international subsidies and incentives – such as carbon offsets that allow companies to invest in clean energy to "offset" carbon emissions in their dirtier businesses – have driven wind industry growth. Critics of the incentives say that every new turbine represents a blank check to pollute elsewhere. Supporters say it's a market-based solution meant to ease business into clean energy.

For Kyoto signatory nations it has meant a global rush to acquire land for wind turbines. Wind projects have been successful – notably, in Tamil Nadu, India, which experts like Ms. Shukla and Mr. Kammen cite as a model of responsiveness to local need and manageable scale.

Indeed, wind energy projects do generally inject economic benefits wherever they're built, but the development process often sparks anger, especially among poor landowners.

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