Friday, December 31, 2004

A closer look at Danish wind farms

The Barnstable Patriot, January 2004:

When the weather cleared at Blavand (Denmark), we were fortunate to be able to go back and actually see the Horns Reef complex.

That was, for me, probably the most important experience of the entire trip, and it was truly a revelation. No computer simulation, video or photo presentation can be a substitute for what the eye actually sees.

My impression was that even at a distance of 7 to 8 miles, the complex was far too visible and, when coupled with the strobe lights that flashed asymmetrically from its perimeter, it presented the look of an industrial complex. I did not find it aesthetically pleasing.

There is, at least in my mind, an expectation that when the sky meets the horizontal sea line there should be nothing permanent to break that plane. Not to wax philosophical, but it may be a human response to want to look at an unbroken seascape to, at least in a psychological sense, escape from the land. A sail or an irregular cloud line, yes, but nothing permanent that will draw the eye from the natural balance of the sea and sky.

In its stark utilitarian aspect, the Horns Reef wind farm assaulted my sense of natural balance and I was disappointed by it.

-- Jim Coogan

Wednesday, December 29, 2004

Energy laundering

[Jacksonville (Fla.) Energy Authority] has signed an agreement to buy power from a wind farm in Nebraska to meet environmental goals, though the public utility will sell the power back to the utility that generates it. ... "Although JEA will sell the power back to [Nebraska Public Power District], we will receive environmental credits for the green power our investment generates, ..." said JEA CEO Jim Dickenson.
Follow this. NPPD sells to JEA a certain amount of power presumably reflecting a certain amount of wind-powered generation in its network. JEA, being aver 1,500 miles away, can't of course use it. They sell it back to NPPD but get credit for buying "green" power anyway. They will also no doubt offer an extra charge for their customers to feel better about their energy use. And who's to stop them from selling more of this premium "clean" energy than they actually "buy" from NPPD, since they don't really have it anyway? I suppose NPPD also could provide this service to any number of customers, selling the same "wind power" over and over again. And the facility isn't even built yet. A green revolution indeed.

Sunday, December 26, 2004

Nuclear power behind wind advocates?

Besides NIMBY (see earlier post), opponents of large-scale wind power are often dismissed as fronts for the nuclear and coal industries, despite no evidence whatsoever. (Former director and current communications director of the American Wind Energy Association, Tom Gray, was forced by a British court to publicly retract such a charge about the Country Guardian group.)

NIMBYism more often -- and more accurately -- applies to supporters of wind energy. U.K. Prime Minister Tony Blair intervened to prevent a wind facility near his home, though he insists on building them everywhere else. In the U.S., Massachusetts politicos are enthusiastic about wind power except in the view of their Nantucket and Martha's Vineyard homes. And Bruce Lisman, a director of Central Vermont Public Service, which is fighting to turn a pristine mountain top in southeastern Vermont into a giant wind power plant, is appalled by one his neighbors in western Vermont planning to put up a small turbine for his home. That's the definition of NIMBY, folks.

Back to the nuclear and coal industries: How do they benefit from the "green" push for wind power? Scare-mongering about climate change and CO2 emissions is central to the wind industry's marketing strategy but only serves to show how insignificant wind's contribution can ever be. They have, however, successfully lobbied for the "consensus" view that our energy-use emissions are changing the climate. Having accepted that, and having supported massive wind projects and subsequently seeing their lack of positive impact (and their inordinate negative impact), governments must now more seriously address the very narrowly focused problem they have imposed on themselves.

The wind industry also knows that conservation would save loads more electricity than their turbines could ever provide, so they rarely advocate that obvious green solution, which would make their product irrelevant.

So who now steps in to save the day? Nuclear power, which emits no CO2, and coal, which continues to innovate mining and electricity generation to be more environmentally friendly (for example, Florida Power & Light was just named as the best energy company in the U.S. by the World Wildlife Fund for their "clean" coal initiatives -- see earlier post).

Is it just a coincidence that as most of Europe and North America has shied away from nuclear energy Greenpeace is the loudest "environmentalist" advocate of industrial wind power? Greenpeace became a giant well funded organization through dramatic actions against nuclear energy. Without a vital nuclear power industry, it is nothing. In the U.K. Greenpeace has put its name on a "green" utility plan (Npower Juice) that is run under the Germany-based RWE Group, one of the world's biggest nuclear power generators. The interest for both sides appears to be the same: more nuclear power.

Saturday, December 25, 2004

Time and the Indian

"What persists is the blasphemy of believing that murder is prayer."

-- Richard Rodriguez, "News Hour," Dec. 15, 2004

Friday, December 24, 2004


Every announcement of a wind-farm proposal includes the claim of how many homes it "will" power, misleading people to think that it is a steady source. (Not to mention that the unit, "homes," is whatever the salespeople want it to be and ignores the fact that most electricity use is not residential.) In fact, two-thirds of the time the output from wind turbines is not significant.

Only occasionally does the output approach the nominal power rating, so that rare event is cited with the conditional tense, typically a claim of how much of a district's electricity "could" be produced by the wind turbines. Here again, not mentioned is the fact that such an event is more like an unwelcome surge on the grid, since demand is already being met by other sources when the wind suddenly picks up. And if the grid can adjust quickly, then it must also be prepared for the moment the wind generation suddenly drops.

So, as the west Danish grid manager, Eltra, has admitted, most wind-generated electricity must be dumped.

Another rare event is when the industry moves beyond the easily manipulative "will" and "could" to cite actual figures for existing facilities. Even there, they confuse the facts.

As in Denmark's famous "20% electricity from wind," the number reflects the output from the turbines as a percentage of the electrical energy consumed. It does not, however, tell us how much of the wind-generated power was actually used. In western Denmark, for example, only 16% of the wind production did not have to be dumped. That is, the 20% figure should be corrected to barely 3% of Denmark's electricity provided by wind.

That is obviously why Denmark has not closed down a fifth of their fossil-fueled generating plants. In fact, they haven't been able to close down even one.

The clear test of wind power is whether it is able to change existing patterns of energy use. It is not enough to say how much power the turbines generate. How much do they actually contribute? And does that contribution actually affect the use of other sources?

Wednesday, December 22, 2004

Wind is an attractive investment/con

People often ask, upon being told about what lousy sources of energy wind farms are and how much damage they do, why do people invest in them? The answer, of course, is the very non-invisible hand of government manipulation of the market.

A December 15 presentation by Ed Feo of Milbank, Tweed, Hadley & McCloy for an American Bar Association seminar pointed out the financial benefits in the U.S.: accelerated depreciation, production tax credits, power purchase agreement (captive buyer), REC sale agreement (secondary sale of "green credit"), and subsidy payments. These benefits, paid for by taxpayers and ratepayers, amount to two-thirds of the value of a wind project. A 300-KB PDF of the PowerPoint slides is available here.

Milbank, Tweed, Hadley & McCloy sponsored a "Financing Wind Power Projects" conference last year, in which Keith Martin of Chadbourne & Parke claimed, "Federal and state tax subsidies cover as much as 75% of the capital cost of a wind project." A 535-KB PDF of the conference schedule is available here.

Apparently, two-thirds or even three-quarters isn't enough to keep the juggernaut rolling, because the Renewable Energy Business Alliance has been formed this month to lobby for even more tax breaks.

In Germany, already crowded by one-third of the world's wind power, a recent law requires utility companies to buy all wind power produced and to pay 10 times what electricity from coal, nuclear, and natural gas plants costs. The flood of investment is not surprising.

Please note that there is nothing inherently wrong with such subsidies (and also note that there is no such thing as a free market). But who benefits? As has been made clear in Germany and Denmark, industrial wind power benefits only the investors. It also provides green window dressing for politicians and still-polluting energy companies. The subsidies do not serve to advance a greater good at all. They move huge amounts of cash from taxpayers and ratepayers to the pockets of a very few. That's why those that have the means eagerly invest.

Harvesting Energy

"If we choose to live beyond the fringes of powerlines without living like troglodytes, we must become our own little power companies and take responsibility for the whole electric eneterprise: generating and storing it; transmitting it from source to demand; and distributing it among the loads, where it sheds light, performs work, amuses and instructs us, and powers all the myriad uses we have created in this electricity-infatuated era. Suppliers as well as consumers, off-the-gridders quickly come to grips with the finite energy budget within which we all must learn to live comfortably."

-- Michael Potts, in The Real Goods Solar Living Source Book

An Interview with Ralph Nader

MC: There are many critics who feel that had Kerry embraced more Nader-type positions, he might have actually alienated more voters. They claim that the country has gone more conservative. Do you reject that?

RN: Yes, of course. This all comes from the vacuum that the Democrats have created by taking key corporate-worker-economic issues off the table like living wage, or universal health care, or crackdown on corporate crime, fraud, and abuse, or the use of middle-class tax dollars for corporate subsidies, handouts, giveaways. Once you create that vacuum, then the so-called "social issues," the issues that deal with religion, affirmative action, abortion, and immigration -- all the hot-button issues take central positions. And of course, the Republicans know how to manipulate that, and cater to people's prejudices.

But you had 47 million workers in this country who make between $5.15 minimum wage up to $10. If they knew that the Democrats and John Kerry were really serious about a living wage, I don't think they'd worry too much about some of these other issues by comparison.

... the central issue in politics is the contrast between corporate power and the power of ordinary people and who's going to prevail.

... Franklin Delano Roosevelt put it very crisply in a message to Congress in 1938, asking for an investigation of concentrated corporate power, when he said: "When our government is taken over by economic power, that's fascism."

... It's one thing opposing us even though we had the agenda they [progressives] believed in -- that's ridiculous enough -- but what's unforgivable was to lend their credibility to those lies that the Democratic Party and the Democratic National Committee disseminated all over the country to cover up their own dirty tricks against our right to be on the ballot.

Tuesday, December 21, 2004

World Wildlife Fund misses the big picture

From a Dec. 16 press release:
'FPL Group scored the highest ranking in the U.S. and second globally in a World Wildlife Fund (WWF) report that analyzed 72 of the world's leading power companies reviewing current use of available technologies to reduce C02 emissions, as well as clear commitments made for future improvements. The new report said FPL is a bright spot in the U.S. rankings. The WWF says FPL Group scored high due to leadership in developing wind energy and a commitment to dramatically improving power plant efficiency.'
But "socially responsible" investors, who also enthusiastically support wind power, see it differently. Here's an excerpt from an article by Rona Fried, editor of Progressive Investor, "General Electric and Florida Power & Light: Sustainable Investments?"
'"How could they get into our portfolio?" considers Carsten Henningsen, co-founder of Porfolio 21. "If FPL stated that renewables are the way to go and gave a deadline (e.g., by 2050) by which they would be 100% renewable, and if we saw evidence they were translating the words into action, we would probably invest in them."

'Portfolio 21 doesn't invest in companies that are working on sustainability around the edges -- reducing water usage or emissions, for example, but not looking at their overall environmental footprint. They invest in companies they believe are serious about changing their corporate "DNA".'

Sunday, December 19, 2004

Wind turbines don't reduce CO2 much at all

From the "executive summary" in "Reduction in Carbon Dioxide Emissions: Estimating the Potential Contribution from Wind-Power," by David White, commissioned by the Renewable Energy Foundation (U.K.), December 2004:

"The CO2 emissions reduction from renewable energy in an island power system must be assessed on the basis on the impact that the accommodation of wind power into the grid will have on the whole supply chain. Electricity differs from other forms of energy, and cannot be stored directly on an industrial scale. Consequently, generation and demand have to be balanced on the grid continuously, and second by second. Policy-makers appear to have only a weak grasp of this critical fact and its implications. Indeed, the accommodation of the variable output from wind turbines into the transmission system is complex and the technical challenges are barely understood outside professional circles. Fossil-fuelled capacity operating as reserve and backup is required to accompany wind generation and stabilise supplies to the consumer. That capacity is placed under particular strains when working in this supporting role because it is being used to balance a reasonably predictable but fluctuating demand with a variable and largely unpredictable output from wind turbines. Consequently, operating fossil capacity in this mode generates more CO2 per kWh generated than if operating normally. This compromising effect is very poorly understood, a fact acknowledged recently by the Council of European Energy Regulators."

Saturday, December 18, 2004

Douglas administration bans wind farms on state lands

WATERBURY -- The Douglas administration released a plan Thursday prohibiting the construction of most large-scale wind farms on state lands, but would allow smaller projects to move forward.

The policy was developed by the Agency of Natural Resources after a series of public meetings held earlier this year. A draft of the policy generated nearly 350 individual comments as well as a petition with several thousand signatures, agency officials said.

The policy -- Wind Energy and Other Renewable Energy Development on ANR Lands -- encourages small-scale wind and other renewable energy projects in appropriate locations on state-owned lands.

"Wind energy development on state-owned lands continues to be an issue of great interest to many Vermonters," said ANR Secretary Elizabeth "Wibs" McLain. "Vermonters are clearly concerned about Vermont’s energy situation and largely support an increased focus on developing new renewable energy sources. At the same time, they cherish their state lands and are divided over whether these lands would be appropriate sites for large-scale renewable energy projects."

McLain said the policy applies only to state-owned lands under ANR's jurisdiction and is not intended to be used to guide wind and other renewable energy development on private, federal, or municipal lands.

ANR's final policy defines the distinction between a large-scale renewable energy project and a small-scale project as follows: Large-scale renewable energy projects that disturb more than one acre of land and have a commercial purpose such as wind farms would not be permitted on any ANR lands under this policy. Development of small scale, net-metered wind and other renewable energy applications that disturb less than an acre of land would be encouraged at appropriate state-owned sites.

ANR's policy along with a report on public comment received by ANR is posted on the web at

The Governor's Commission on Wind Energy Policy, which studied how large-scale wind farm should be regulated, also released its final recommendations this week. However, the final report is not being released publicly until the governor’s staff reviews it, according to officials at the Department of Public Service. The full report should be released next week.

Wednesday, December 15, 2004

Tax evasion scheme

Crucial to the success of the wind-power energy-laundering scam is the legislative scheming to make it financially attractive (which is to say, shift our money from public use into private profit). Here are excerpts from a prospectus found on a U.K. site promoting tax-evading investments.
Ventus is a new, specialist venture capital trust established to invest in a portfolio of companies that will develop, construct and operate small on-shore UK wind projects.

Significant Tax Benefits for Investors
Individual investors in Ventus are entitled to the following tax benefits:
  • up-front 40% income tax relief such that an investment of £10,000 will effectively cost an investor £6,000;
  • tax-free dividends; and
  • gains on disposal of Ordinary Shares free from capital gains tax.
Renewable Energy Economics
As part of its commitment to the Kyoto protocol and in accordance with the EU Renewables Directive, the UK has made a strong commitment to the development of renewable energy. The key policy mechanism by which the UK Government is encouraging growth in renewable energy is the Renewables Obligation, which was introduced in April 2002 as part of primary legislation and which is specified by such legislation to remain in place until 2027. The RO provides strong financial incentives for all licensed electricity suppliers to secure a specified and increasing portion of their electricity from eligible renewable sources such as wind power. Suppliers must either meet their targets or pay a "buyout price" in relation to any shortfalls. The renewables target for 2004/05 is 4.9% of total supply and grows steadily to 10.4% of total supply in 2010/11. According to the ROC register maintained by Ofgen, approximately 55% of the renewable obligation was met for the period from April 2003 to March 2004, during which time the renewables target was 4.3% of total supply. The Government has announced its intention to increase the renewables obligation target to 15.4% of total supply in 2015/16. In the opinion of the Directors, the RO helps to make onshore wind generation an attractive investment opportunity.

Sunday, December 12, 2004

Blown away

Te Apiti -- facts and figures [from The Manawatu (New Zealand) Standard]:
  • Each of Te Apiti's 55 turbine towers is 70m [230 ft] tall and the turbine blades are 35m [115 ft] long and weigh six tonnes [6.6 tons].
  • 1 million cubic metres [1,307,190 cubic yards] of earth has been moved in the construction of Te Apiti.
  • It took 80 truckloads of concrete -- 400 cubic metres [523 cubic yards, over 1000 tons] -- to fill each of the 55 foundations.
  • A 400-tonne crane, the largest ever brought to New Zealand, was used to construct the towers.
  • The turbines are connected by 48km [30 mi] of underground cables.
  • The turbines are linked by 21km [13 mi] of roads.
Clearly what has been "blown away" here is a large part of New Zealand's natural beauty.

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, 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.]

Crucial information missing

To the editor, The Mendota (Ill.) Reporter:

The Dec. 10 article about Senator Durbin's visit to the Mendota Hills Wind Farm says that the senator asked many questions, such as how much power is generated and do they run all the time. It would have been helpful if the article had shared the answers as well.

Saturday, December 11, 2004

Coming to a horizon near you

This is a 3.6-MW GE turbine in Barrax, Spain.

Thursday, December 09, 2004

The big picture

To the editor:

Jody Howard rightly urges us to look at the big picture of fossil-fuel burning, listing some its many ill consequences in a letter in the Dec. 9 Marblehead Reporter.

In then arguing for wind power, however, it would be helpful if Howard could give examples where wind power has in fact reduced fossil fuel use. It seems that Denmark and Germany, the world's leaders in wind power, have not reduced their fossil fuel burning, so Howard's (and HealthLink's) concerns appear to be irrelevant to the debate about wind.

The threat to the Berkshires

from "The rush to wind power: a threat to the Berkshires' way of life"

by Eleanor Tillinghast

A year from now, the third highest point in Massachusetts will be turbine 16 of the Hoosac wind power plant in the towns of Florida and Monroe. Only Mount Greylock and Saddle Ball will be higher. Seven of the Hoosac turbines will be among the 10 highest points in the state. Eleven will be above 3,000 feet.

Enxco Inc. will build 20 wind turbines, each 340 feet tall, on two of our most visible mountains. It will cut more than 4 miles of new roads (some 35 feet wide) through forest, crossing more than a dozen streams and wetlands. The contours of both ridgelines will be cleared, blasted and filled to accommodate vehicles 135 feet long and weighing 197,000 pounds.

The mountain range is a major migratory route for hawks, golden eagles and bald eagles. As scientists are discovering at similar sites, bats are also vulnerable to injury and death from turbine blades. Protected plant species are on the property. One stream flows into a pond that has wild brook trout.

Hoosac is just the beginning. Wind turbines are planned for Brodie Mountain and proposed for Berlin and Lenox Mountains and the Hoosac range south of Enxco’s project.

The Appalachian Mountain Club recently did a study showing that 65 sites on 96 miles of ridgeline in Massachusetts have sufficient wind for turbines. The sites range from a quarter-mile to eight miles long. Of the 65 sites, 62 are in the Berkshires.

... The mayor of Salem, who threatened to sue to stop the state from requiring new emissions controls in a 'Filthy Five' power plant in his city, has announced his support for renewable energy. ...

We are being asked to sacrifice our wilderness to reduce global warming, pollution, and dependence on foreign oil. These are vital goals that can be achieved much more successfully and at much less cost through proven energy efficiency and conservation programs and enforcement of clean air laws.

One regional environmental group has suggested that electricity savings from efficiency initiatives can be considered a new source of energy, costing less than any alternative supply. As just two examples: Kimberly-Clark Inc. improved its energy efficiency by 11.7 percent and saved enough fuel over three years to provide 700,000 homes with electricity for a year. A day after the Aug. 14, 2003 blackout, the regional grid operator paid 82 businesses in Connecticut to reduce energy consumption and within a 10-hour period saved enough power to supply 89,000 homes.

... Gov. Mitt Romney lobbied the White House against the Cape Wind proposal but supports the multiple wind power plants proposed for the Berkshires. Likewise, the secretary of environmental affairs has demanded full environmental reviews and an overall planning process for all offshore wind facilities but is enabling construction here without adequate assessments of impacts and consequences.

Students in Danville (Vt.) don't learn about wind energy

"The windmill is not quite producing as much energy as we had hoped," said Rapoza.

In a year the wind turbine saved the school about $370.00. Compare that to a monthly electric bill for the school of $4000. One reason for the lower than expected savings: The blades were experimental and did not work well. The manufacturer is going to replace them.

"They are going to come out and replace the blades with some newer blades that will do about a third better for production," said Rapoza.

The school says every little bit helps. And more importantly than saving on the bottom line, they see the wind turbine as educational for the kids. An up close way to learn about alternative energy. It's something the students say they now think more about.

Brittany Swartzenberg is a 10th grader. "It is one of those things that you want to make sure for when your kids get older the air is clean for them."

"This is something that all of us are going to have to look at in our future," said Rapoza.

The Danville School wind energy project was just given an award by the Governor for environmental excellence in education and outreach.
So that big expensive wind turbine contributes less than 1% of the school's needs, the improvement "promises" to bring that up to 1%, and the counterfactual lesson that these brilliant devices will somehow clean up our air is rewarded as "excellent."

It appears that everyone has decided wind is the "alternative" energy source to back, even though not a single example of its making a positive difference has ever been shown. On the contrary, the lesson, as in the Danville case, is that we need an alternative to wind.

Wednesday, December 08, 2004

A slew of destruction

Not surprisingly, the installation of giant power plants requires a certain amount of destruction, both in the construction and ongoing. This might be acceptable in some locations if there was a clear benefit. Unfortunately, wind facilities are practically useless, so there is very little to justify this industrial expansion into agricultural, recreational, and wild areas.

1. Le Moniteur-expert reported that the French hunting & wildlife office found that raptors and night-migrating birds are seriously threatened by wind turbines and then calls the impact "

2. Similar to the need in California (see yesterday's post), New Mexico's governor Bill Richardson has called for funding of new power transmission lines that are needed to carry wind power he hopes to see built.

3. "We had hoped to tip-toe in and tip-toe out," the man said. But the construction company is facing their end-of-year deadline, so brought in 100 more workers and much heavier equipment, causing "major changes" (i.e., damage) to the New Mexico ranchers' land.

4. And in Vermont, the Marlboro school has decided to study its wind "resource" before rushing into buying a 120-foot turbine. But they cut down 10 trees anyway, to make room for the measuring instruments.

Fine lessons all in what is not environmental stewardship but is typical for the wind industry.

Tuesday, December 07, 2004

The Guardian interviews Ralph Nader

"Our political system is an idiocracy."

Something missing?

To the Editor, The Caledonian-Record:

There appears to have been a mistake in the Nov. 19 editorial, "Is Socialized Medicine Next For Vermont?" As printed, it stated that single-payer insurance "delivers health care rationing, no choice of physicians, overworked and underpaid providers, immoral cost shifting and soaring taxes."

Obviously that was meant to be a description of the private health insurance that most people know. A sentence must have been dropped that said compared to this dismal record a single-payer system of universal coverage would be a great improvement for everyone.

New lines planned to carry clean power

By Charles F. Bostwick, Staff Writer, Los Angeles Daily News:
LANCASTER -- Southern California Edison is proposing to run new 500,000-volt lines between west Lancaster, Valencia, Acton and Tehachapi to serve a huge expansion of Antelope Valley wind-energy farms.

Expected to cost $190 million to $250 million, the new lines would replace a lower-power line leading northeast from Santa Clarita, add to an existing power-line corridor from west Lancaster to Acton, and create a new power-line right-of-way north from Lancaster between 100th and 110th streets west.

"We are trying to minimize the impact by either building it within existing lines or by replacing existing lines," said Charles Adamson, Southern California Edison's project manager.

With a post-energy crisis state law ordering utilities to get 20 percent of their electricity from "renewable" sources by 2017, state officials say the Tehachapi-Mojave area has the potential to grow from 600 megawatts of wind power to as much as 4,500, with another 400 megawatts in Los Angeles County.

The proposed new lines could carry 1,100 megawatts -- enough for about 500,000 to 1 million homes, though the variability of the wind means the turbines would usually be producing far less than the peak output.
Seventy miles of new very-high-voltage power lines: This is not an alternative, but simply an expansion of our current electrical system. Note also that 4,500 MW of wind power is a 200-400 square mile power plant, hardly an environmentally friendly "solution" and one that would produce (though rarely when needed) barely 4% of the electricity California uses. The proposed lines would not even be able to handle the surge of such a plant's occasional peak production.

Thursday, December 02, 2004

Why secularism

History teaches that the one thing religions hate more than secularism is other religions.

-- Nicholas von Hoffman
"Democrats Should Oppose Empowering the Pious"
New York Observer, Dec. 1

Great essay

Peter Linebaugh (click the title of this post) writes about the rationalization of torture, reviews the book Caliban and the Witch by Silvia Federici, and ties together witch hunts, capitalism, and the American invasion of Iraq. Related to this theme is the essay "The Ravisht Bride" (50-KB PDF) from my book on Finnegans Wake. Readers might also be interested in my essay "Nature-Guilt."

Wednesday, December 01, 2004

Photos from Nordex

Output debate in Cornwall

A story from Devon reports on a debate sponsored by the Institute of Civil Engineers at the University of Plymouth. I note one item:
Mr Edwards [developer of the U.K.'s first wind facility] defended the efficiency of windfarms, saying: "At Delabole they generate for over 70 per cent of the time, and not 30 per cent as is often claimed."
This is a typical misleading response.

The 30% figure is the total annual output as a percentage of the facility's rated capacity. In the case of Delabole, ten 400-kilowatt turbines have the capacity of producing 10 × 400 KW × 24 hours × 365 days, i.e., 35 million kilowatt-hours/year. According to the utility that buys the power, they in fact produce 10 million, owing primarily to the variability of the wind. That is 28.5% of their capacity, which the developer generously rounds up to 30%.

That does not mean that the turbines are producing power only 30% of the time, because their output is proportional to wind speed. Typically they begin generating a trickle of electricity when the wind speed is around 8-10 mph, slowly building up to their maximum only when the wind speed is around 25-30 mph. If the wind gusts towards 60 mph, they shut down to prevent damage. The figure of 70% is the amount of time that the wind is within the range of, say, 10-60 mph and the turbines are responding.

So while his critics might cite the 30% output to suggest that the turbines are idle 70% of the time (or he skews their charge that way), Mr. Edwards cites the 70% activity as implying 70% output. In fact, because 30% (or, more accurately, less -- the average throughout the U.K. is 24%) is the average output, about two thirds of the time the turbines are producing less than that.

Edwards also mentions how "popular" his facility is (accepted might be more accurate). He neglects to note how small the ten 1991-vintage turbines are: less than half the height (and they don't need flashing lights) with blades sweeping an area just one fourth that of the typical models proposed on land today.

Dear Alan Chartock

I regret having to add to your pile of e-mails concerning wind power, but I must point out a mistake in your last "I, Publius" column, where you write that "unsightly windmills ... are necessary when substituting wind power for conventional oil energy."

Oil is used for less than 2.5% of the US's electricity generation. Granted, Massachusetts is the nation's fourth largest user of oil for electricity, oil being used for over 16% of its own electricity generation and representing over 7% of the national total.

Most of it (83% nationally), however, is used in older plants that supply base load because they can not respond quickly to fluctuations in demand (or supply). The presence of intermittent wind-generated power would not affect the use of these plants.

The rest is used in combustion engines that provide extra power at times of exceptionally high demand. They are expensive to run but can respond quickly not only to demand spikes but also to sudden drops in supply. The former case would not be alleviated by the presence of wind power (peak demand does not correspond with peak wind-power production), and the latter case would actually become more frequent if wind power became a significant source. That is, more windmills would likely require an increase in the use of oil.

It is not just the unsightliness of potentially thousands of giant wind turbines in New England, scarring many of the most beautiful and wild locations remaining to us, that inspires environmentalist opposition. More importantly, it's wind power's utter uselessness for anything other than generating profit and letting people think they are "green."