Sunday, December 12, 2004

The anti-environmentalists

To the Editor, The Berkshire Eagle:

"Spread over 24 square miles, the 130 turbines reaching 417 feet into the sky" does not sound like an environmentally friendly project to me (editorial, Dec. 10). At the least, the exaggerated claims of the developer should be questioned a bit more rigorously than is represented by your editorial.

To produce two-thirds of the Cape and Islands' electricity, the project would have to show a capacity factor of 40%. Simply considering the actual experience of similar installations, as well as the winds in the Sound, one suspects that output would be closer to 20% of capacity.

We should also ask whether its connection to the grid would significantly reduce the burning of fossil fuels. Since 20-40% would be the facility's average output, two-thirds of the time it would be producing less than that. When it does produce well, it will rarely coincide with higher demand. In western Denmark, the transmission company was able to use only 16% of the wind-generated power that was fed into the grid. (16% of 20% would be 3.2% of the facility's capacity actually being used, or less than a tenth of what Cape Wind's sales brochure claims.)

Further, most fossil fuel is not used for generating electricity. Wind power does nothing about nonelectric transport and heating, further diminishing its largely imagined benefits.

Anti-environmentalism is revealed when people fail to ask questions about the claims of such a massive industrial project. Environmentalists do, and the answers compel them to oppose the Cape Wind proposal.

[Note: At capewind.whgrp.com, the Cape Wind company has provided data from its monitoring station in Nantucket Sound, including a calculation of how much energy the finished project would have produced over the previous hour. The data are no longer showing up, perhaps because more people have been taking an interest in it and noticing how small the output figures are compared to the company's claims.]