Thursday, December 29, 2005

Correction

from Ironic Times:

A recent article on hunger issues noted that on the same day the Department of Agriculture reported that 500,000 more Americans went hungry last year, the House Agriculture Committee addressed the crisis by passing a bill adding 300,000 Americans to the Food Stamp Program and $850,000 to the program's budget. In fact the Agriculture Committee passed a bill removing 300,000 from Food Stamp eligibility and cutting the program's budget by $850,000. We regret any confusion caused by our mistake.

Onshore wind in New York a bust

"Capacity factors of inland wind sites in New York are on the order of 30% of their rated capacity. Their effective capacities, however, are about 10%, due to both the seasonal and [the] daily patterns of the wind generation being largely 'out of phase' with the NYISO load patterns."

-- from: "The effects of integrating wind power on transmission system planning, reliability, and operations," New York State Energy Research & Development Authority, March 4, 2005, p. 7.16 (2-MB PDF)

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Saturday, December 24, 2005

Vermonters of the Year

To the Editor, Vermont Guardian:

All of the currently proposed wind power projects in Vermont (up to 312 MW) would provide only 10% of our current needs. They are practically irrelevant to the unlikely loss, desired or otherwise, of Hydro Quebec and/or Vermont Yankee.

Wind power does not respond to demand. It may or may not be there when needed. The Searsburg facility, for example, generates no power at all almost 40% of the time. With widely distributed installations on a system, as in Germany, their average infeed is reached only a third of the time. Even when the wind is blowing well, the system must be ready (i.e., burning fuel in "spinning reserve") to provide power when the wind drops again at any time.

We will therefore need as much other electricity sources with wind as we would without. If we come to depend on the small amount of power the wind turbines will provide, we will, like the Danes, be using the expensive spot market even more.

It is not just unnecessary but offensive to entertain industrial-scale development of the ridgelines, with strobe lights and noise and ecological degradation that far surpasses anything now on the mountains, for such obvious nonsense.

While annual honors are being given out, Vermont Guardian, in unquestioningly presenting the sales pitch of Dave Rapaport and other developers as news, has clearly earned "dupe of the year."

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Thursday, December 22, 2005

Whichever way the wind blows

A team from the School of Geography and Geosciences at the University of St Andrews (Scotland) surveyed residents around two sites each in Ireland and Scotland and found higher approval of existing than of proposed wind facilities. They also found that many people approving of the existing facilities had indeed changed their minds from opposing them when proposed.

Have they also changed their whole worldview? According to the BBC ("Residents air views on wind farms," Dec. 12),
The survey also found that opponents and advocates of wind farms saw the world through "different lenses".

Dr [Charles] Warren said: "We focused on people's general environmental attitudes before homing in on the wind farm issue.

"We found that people in favour of wind farms generally viewed environmental issues as global and justified their support on that basis.

"Opponents tended to view the environment as locally conceived and about protecting their local surroundings."
What this illustrates is the amazing coping ability of humans, who are able to rationalize and disregard personal misfortune or local injustice by referring it to a "greater good," however delusional. It is no wonder that people thus resign themselves to what they must now live with.

[A letter in the Dec. 28 Scotsman points out that the study was done in collaboration with the Macaulay Institute of Aberdeen, which runs a consultancy business, Macaulay Enterprises, for the renewables industry. The links on its web site are all pro-industry.]

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Saturday, December 17, 2005

Plenty of nothin'

From a Joplin (Mo.) Globe editorial, Dec. 17:
Before long, as more companies see the advantage of investing in wind farms, thousands of windmills will be harvesting Kansas’ breezes daily to provide energy to communities large and small. ... Wind farms may never generate a huge portion of our energy requirements, but they will have an expanding role to play in meeting the nation’s power needs.
Thousands of giant (400 feet high) spinning strobe-lit noisy machines, yet "never a huge portion" of our electricity. To not acknowledge or even see that lack of proportion is truly a sign of madness.

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Tuesday, December 13, 2005

National coalition to spotlight windpower's harmful impacts, ineffectiveness

[press release]

www.wind-watch.org adds balance to the industrial wind energy debate

Rowe, MA (December 14, 2005). National Wind Watch, Inc., non-profit organization promoting awareness of the risks and related impacts of industrial wind energy development launched its new website today. The site, www.wind-watch.org, has been under development for months and provides industry news, opinion pieces, researched documents, and a photo gallery.

Industry related news articles, posted daily on the site, are hand-selected from major media sources as well as local press in various regions throughout the country and worldwide.

A growing resource library already contains hundreds of carefully selected documents, opinion pieces, photos and other materials, categorized by geographic location and over two dozen topics which include "Impact on wildlife", "Energy policy", "Noise", and "Zoning/Planning".

The website was developed by Parkerhill Technology Group of New Hampshire. Visitors to the site are invited to subscribe to the mailing list, to receive periodic announcements from National Wind Watch and notifications of major updates to the web site. National Wind Watch also welcomes submissions of additional materials to its resource library; please contact us via the web site or by emailing to info@wind-watch.org.

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A kinder gentler piracy

"Wind Energy" Promoters in the US Have NOT Resorted to the Chinese Tactic of Shooting Opponents

by Glenn Schleede, December 12, 2005

The news story of Chinese riot police shooting "wind farm" opponents demonstrates that aggressive "wind farm" promoters, developers and owners in the US are more subtle and humane.

Nevertheless, the tactics listed below that are employed by the wind industry, by federal, state and local government officials, and by other "wind energy" advocates in the US -- relying heavily on false and misleading information -- may be equally effective [and the aim is the same: to manipulate public policy to ensure unfettered personal profit and to discredit and disregard the people who stand in the way --KM], i.e.:

1. Understating adverse environmental, ecological, scenic and property value impacts of "wind farms."

2. Understating the true economic costs of electricity from wind energy.

3. Overstating the environmental benefits of wind energy.

4. Overstating local economic benefits of "wind farms."

5. Ignoring the impact of the intermittent, highly volatile, largely unpredictable and unreliable electricity from wind turbines on electric systems and grids.

6. Ignoring the fact that wind turbines cannot be counted on to produce electricity when electricity demand is high (i.e., little or no "capacity" value) with the result that reliable generating capacity must be provided whether or not "wind turbines" are built.

7. Convincing government officials and regulators to shift millions in costs from "wind farm" owners and hide those costs in the tax bills and electric bills paid by ordinary taxpayers and electric customers.

8. Securing all sorts of tax breaks to shift tax burden to ordinary taxpayers, including: federal and state accelerated depreciation deductions, production tax credits, and exemptions or reductions in sales and property taxes.

9. Convincing governors, state legislators and regulators to enact or decree insidious "Renewable Portfolio Standards" and other voluntary or mandatory "green energy" programs which create artificial, high cost markets for electricity from "wind farms," [as well as a secondary even more potentially lucrative market in "renewables certificates" or "green credits," --KM] with much of the true costs hidden in monthly electric bills.

10. Convincing Federal and state executives to issue "Executive Orders" mandating that federal and state agencies buy electricity generated from "renewable" energy at above market rates, with the extra costs hidden in agency budgets -- diverting money from agencies' (e.g., military services) primary missions to the coffers of "wind farm" owners.

11. Convincing Federal and state regulators to add more subsidies by using their powers to benefit "wind farm" owners, including use of eminent domain powers to build transmission lines to serve "wind farms," and shifting to electric customers the cost associated with transmission capacity serving "wind farms," exempting "wind farms" from penalties for not meeting delivery commitments, and arbitrarily assigning unwarranted "capacity value."

12. When invading yet unexploited areas, quietly entering into contracts with local government officials to lease land for wind turbines, thus producing influential voices to support granting of necessary permits.

13. Employing aggressive negotiation techniques and aggressive contract and easement terms when securing rights from ordinary landowners to build wind turbines on private land (e.g., low rental payments, payments tied to turbine performance without assurance of maintaining performance, rigid control over land use, long options periods, minimal or no secure decommissioning funds, insisting on secrecy of contract terms).

14. Extensive lobbying of politicians and their staffs, generous campaign contributions and, apparently, willingness to ghostwrite speeches and articles for use by politicians.

15. Extensive lobbying of US Congress to provide tax dollars for the US Department of Energy's Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (DOE-EERE), which distributes the tax dollars via contracts and grants to hundreds of organizations (profit, nonprofit, colleges and universities, state and local government agencies, industry lobbyists, DOE national "laboratories"), creating a veritable "army" of advocates to (a) prepare biased studies, reports, articles, speeches and letters to editors favorable to wind energy, and (b) lobby federal, state and local government executive, legislative and regulatory officials s to provide even more tax breaks and other subsidies and more tax dollars for DOE-EERE to dispense.

16. Providing a lucrative national wind energy "feed trough" for lawyers, financiers and lobbyists who are able to use federal, state and local tax breaks and subsidies -- at the expense of ordinary citizens, taxpayers and electric customers.

17. Providing a seemingly unlimited supply of false and misleading information to the public and to news media via press releases, speeches, free meals and trips for reporters to "wind energy" conferences and "wind farms."

[18. Dismissing and fostering contempt for citizens defending their homes and natural areas against industrial development, particularly fomenting division between natives and newer or part-time residents, between paid-off property owners and their unlucky neighbors, between environmentalists desperate for symbolic action and environmentalists who keep a clear head. --KM]

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Sunday, December 11, 2005

Lovely Galicia, Spain

From "La Fotografia" on Flickr:


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The push for wind in Quangdong Province, China

Now that Amnesty International has noted the lockdown of Dangzhou after police fired on villagers protesting the taking of their land for wind farms, a confrontation in which several villagers were killed and apparently dozens arrested, I suppose Greenpeace, which has been pushing for such large-scale wind power development in Quangdong, will, like the Chinese government, blame it all on "a vocal minority" of misinformed "NIMBYs."

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Saturday, December 10, 2005

Thoughts on Narnia


Animals die for the sons and daughters of Adam and Eve every day, billions of them every year.

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"Is this the week in which the wind debate turned?"

Spencer Feeney (In the Editor's Opinion), South Wales Evening Post, Dec. 10:
Carmarthenshire Council, which is publicly pro–wind energy, turned down an application for a wind farm at Pencader because of the adverse impact on the landscape of the Brechfa Forest, "despite the green energy it would produce."

Members of West Glamorgan Commoners' Association voted to reject plans for 34 wind turbines on Mynydd-y-Gwair, north of Swansea, even though they stand to pocket £700,000 compensation between them if the plan goes ahead.

Suddenly the twin strategy of hefty public hand-outs and tempting individual sweeteners appear to be faltering. What can the pro-windies do? Provide clear evidence that wind turbines will make a significant and consistent contribution to reducing the CO2 emissions that are driving global warming.

If they can't, then the game is up.
See SOCME -- Save Our Common Mountain Environment (Wales) for more news and opinion that is not otherwise available on line.

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Thursday, December 08, 2005

Chautauqua wind: threat to birds, no benefits

The New York Field Office of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service reviewed the avian risk assessment (ARA) produced for a wind project in Chautauqua County. It is withering in its criticism of the ARA's assumptions, methods, and conclusions. A PDF (13 MB) of the document is available at Chautauqua Wind Power. It also takes issue with the claimed benefits.
While electricity derived from "green" energy sources other than fossil fuels will reduce harmful emissions, the placement of wind turbines within an avian flyway certainly would not have greater environmental benefits to wildlife. ... The ARA authors argue that producing electricity from nonrenewable sources will have greater social, environmental, and economic impacts. However, there is no indication that the [Chautauqua Wind Project] will replace any other electricity source .... (pages 35-36)

We agree that there are serious consequences associated with burning fossil fuels to generate electricity, and we support energy policies which promote renewable sources, such as wind and solar, to provide alternate forms of electricity. However, construction of wind energy facilities will not reduce air pollution emissions at existing power generation facilities. Coal, oil, and nuclear generating facilities must be kept in operation and online to provide the main source of electricity, especially when the wind resources are not turning the turbine blades. The intermittency of wind, coupled with the fact that the times of peak availability of wind resources in a given location may not coincide with the times of peak demand for electricity, makes wind energy less suitable from an energy standpoint. ... Due to the intermittent nature of wind-generated electricity, none of the existing coal, oil, or nuclear powered generation facilities will be shut down or run as reserve units. (page 36)

New York State has pushed for reducing air pollution emissions at existing power plants ... Operating changes in these power plants will be more effective at reducing emissions than constructing thousands of wind turbines across the landscape. (page 37)
In other words, discussion of the shortcomings of other sources is irrelevant, as those sources will not be reduced by the construction of wind turbines. Only the shortcomings of wind power itself need be discussed. Because their contribution will be minimal (if measurable at all) any negative impact is reason to reject construction.

(Another analysis of the Chautauqua ARA was done by Mark Duchamp.)

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Charles Komanoff is not an environmentalist

Charles Komanoff is a valiant activist for changes from fossil fuel guzzling. And I agree with him that many of the opponents to the giant wind project in Nantucket Sound appear to be NIMBYs when they say they support wind power but not there where they live or vacation (though most opponents question the value of large-scale wind anywhere). But his desire to replace fossil and nuclear fuels, which together provide almost 95% of our energy, appears to have caused a blindness to wind power's shortcomings for achieving even a small part of that goal. By presenting himself as an energy expert, when in fact he is not an engineer but an economist, and studiously rejecting mitigating reports, he attempts to browbeat the doubters with a simple-minded formula that every kilowatt of power from wind means one less kilowatt from fossil or nuclear fuel. Though easy to say and believe, the tenet is not true.

If every bit of power generated by wind turbines does indeed go into the grid, the formula as stated is true, assuming there are not substantial renewable sources in the area (as in Vermont, which gets more than a third of its electricity from hydropower). In fact, if there is hydropower in an area, it is likely to be the first source to be switched off; relatively clean natural gas plants are the next choice. Base-load coal and nuclear plants, which can not as readily be switched on and off, are unlikely to be affected.

As wind-generated power feeds into the grid, therefore, power from other sources is indeed cut back. But the burning of fuel is not necessarily reduced -- thermal plants are simply switched from generation to standby. Their electricity output is reduced to maintain the grid's balance, but their fuel consumption continues.

Unlike a diesel-powered backup generator for the home, most thermal plants can not simply switch on and off; they take hours and even days to heat up or cool down. Even for those that can switch more quickly, they use more fuel in doing so. And because of the constant fluctuations of power from wind turbines, it is unwise to do so. A rise in the wind only means that a drop will follow, and so the standby source must be kept burning so it can switch back to generation mode at any moment.

Komanoff's vision of the ways things ought to be is threatened by environmentalists who haven't swallowed the sales spiel and instead have determined that industrial wind turbines on rural and especially wild sites bring negative impacts that far outweigh the elusive benefits. He spent almost two months repeatedly pestering an environmental leader in western Massachusetts for opposing giant wind turbines in the Berkshires. Though Komanoff contacted her through a mutual friend, she quickly saw that he was not at all interested in discussion and she rightly ignored his continuing prods. He took this turning of the cheek as a sign of defeat and posted the "exchange" on his website as a trophy of victory.

But if one does not deny the impacts nor the shortcomings of big wind on the grid, the only conclusion is that the benefits do not justify its industrialization of rural and wild areas. Komanoff and other pro-wind environmentalists are on the wrong side of this issue.

In a Dec. 2002 letter to anti–big wind environmentalist Bob Boyle, he asserts that the noise level at 2,000 feet from a large wind turbine is barely more than that in a remote forest and less than that by a remote pond. Besides ignoring the cumulative effect of a large collection of turbines, Komanoff appears to be ignorant of the difference between the pleasant sounds of nature and the intrusive sounds of giant machinery.

In a Jan. 2003 open letter to environmentalists on behalf of building 130 giant turbines in Nantucket Sound, he writes, "The value of the windmills goes beyond energy-share percentages to the plane of symbols and images. ... Seeing the beauty in windmills could be a turning point, making possible a wider appreciation of what are now, we should admit, a beleaguered minority's values: trust in energy efficiency, devotion to conservation, identification with the natural world." It is irrelevant (if not insane) to connect aesthetic admiration of industrial wind turbines with identification with nature. One can enjoy both, of course, but they certainly are not connected. And one certainly can not enjoy both at the same time. It is also illogical to assert that building more power generation plants, however "green" one believes them to be, encourages values of conservation. If anything, it provides a "green" light to continue using as much energy as ever.

In a May 2003 letter to environmentalist Alex Matthiessen, Komanoff presents a variation of his 1-to-1 tenet: "To stand in the way of eminently reasonable windpower projects like Cape Wind and Jones Beach is to encourage the continuing destruction of Earth's air, water and climate by fossil fuels. ... A decision to stop the Cape Wind and Jones Beach wind farms is a decision to keep polluting and poisoning."

That is true only if one accepts without question -- on faith, as it were -- that wind power can actually make a difference on the scale of its own environmental and social impact. Which, of course, Komanoff does believe. But where is the evidence from countries that have already installed substantial numbers of turbines that their fossil fuel use, their pollution and poisoning, has decreased because of wind power? The evidence is instead that substantial installation of wind power has had no positive effect at all.

In "Wind power must be visible," a June 6, 2003, opinion in the Providence Journal, Komanoff most admonishingly presents his thesis: "[E]very unit not produced because a wind project has been blocked means more carbon fuels burned, more carbon dioxide filling the earth's atmosphere, more ruinous climate change. ... And, sure as daylight, continued reliance on oil will not only contaminate the environment but also fuel the cycle of war and terrorism. ... Nor does it seem to matter to them that other precious -- albeit less prosperous -- places, from West Virginia mountaintops to Wyoming sandhills, are sacrificed daily to yield the very fuels that the wind farm would displace." An attractively dramatic alternative, but is there any evidence of wind projects reducing environmental ruin, let alone war and terrorism? Komanoff never presents any.

In "Wind power works," a Jan. 8, 2005, opinion in the Berkshire Eagle, he revives this Manichaean doctrine that wind power is the good whose turn it is to conquer the darkness of fossil fuels. In a direct attack on the environmental group Green Berkshires, he warns of their denial of this truth. Similarly in "Wind power's benefits outweigh risk to scenery," a September 2005 opinion in the Hill Country Observer, he writes, "Through dependence on fossil fuels, humankind has come to a point where a windmill-less Adirondack vista or Berkshire ridgeline is hitched to ruined climate and global violence. Conversely, admitting clean, quiet, graceful windmills into our Northeast landscapes could show the way out of this dependence and to the recovery and continuance of our world." Komanoff leaves no room for discussion here, no room for honestly assessing industrial wind's own negative impacts or examining the claimed benefits. There is only salvation or doom: Accept wind power development or die.

The message of redemption continues with "In the wind," a Sept. 18, 2005, opinion in the Albany Times Union, in which he slithers under the mantle of environmentalist Dave Brower (deceeased) to claim that the construction of ten 425-ft-high turbines at an abandoned mine site in the Adirondacks would be an act of "restoring Earth." Most environmentalists might suggest that restoring the site would require returning it to wilderness, not simply changing the use from one industry to another. But Komanoff's brand of environmentalism, one he shares with many who once put nature first, is nothing without conquest: "Good" human use is better than no use at all, than mere wilderness. This is someone who doesn't know the difference between man-made machine noise and rustling leaves or lapping water. He is not an environmentalist.

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Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Industrial (but "green") exploitation

The targeting of rural areas of the so-called "developed" world for large wind power projects is bad enough. The drive to control lands until now beyond their grasp and the contempt for the people who must live with the giant machines should be clear to any concerned citizen. It is extraction of a region's wealth to line the vaults of bankers in Boston and New York.

If not here at home, this feudal pattern is more obvious in recent news reports from Mexico and China. From Juchitan, Oaxaca (El Universal, Dec. 6):
In this town where strong winds bend trees and overturn truck trailers on the Panamerican highway, Dolores Girón Carrasco says people are in favor of wind power plants, but are opposed to developers that "pretend to give us a bargain" in exchange for generating electricity.

"Investment is welcome," she said, "but not under the conditions of payment they want to give us for renting our land."

Girón owns 3 hectares inside an area designated for the windpower project La Venta II, administered by the Federal Electricity Commission (CFE), which will see the installation of 83 electricity-producing generators.

The Federal Electricity Commission (CFE) has managed a pilot project called "La Venta I" since 1994, which has generated electricity by harnessing the regions powerful winds. ...

However, residents are wary. "We don't trust the CFE because they tricked us," said Girón. "They offered to pave roads and cover the cost of the electricity used to pipe potable water to us, in exchange for letting them use our farmland to install wind generators.

"But they didn't fulfill their end of the deal. They always said they were in the red, and in 2001 when we demanded to see their budget, they jailed our people, including my brother Roberto," she added. ...

La Ventosa mayor Alberto Toledo López said, "Those who pass for representatives of wind developers are little more than 'coyotes;' they are middlemen with no technical skills and they don't have the financing. They want to rent a hectare of land from us for 1,000 pesos (US95) a year with rights to sell the contract to foreign companies."

Toledo said a wind developer called Energía del Istmo leased land from small farmers on 30-year contracts for 100,000 pesos (USD95,400) which they turned around and sold to the Spanish Iberdrola for 500,000 euros (USD586,000). "That's why there is distrust. We are not against wind power projects, only against their methods of payment," he said. ...

However, there is also a legislative proposal pending in congress. Federal Deputy Francisco Javier Carrillo Soberón, of the Democratic Revolutionary Party (PRD), said foreign windpower companies are lobbying Congress to pass a renewable energy initiative that is favorable to business without considering the impact on the communities.
And from Danzhou, Quangdong (Reuters, Dec. 7):
Chinese police opened fire on villagers protesting against the lack of compensation for land lost to a new wind farm in the southern province of Guangdong, local officials and residents said on Wednesday.

U.S. broadcaster Radio Free Asia and residents said at least two villagers were killed in the assault after riot police moved into the area on Monday to quell the unrest in the Guangdong village of Dongzhou.

"In the beginning, there were about 100 to 200 villagers protesting and gradually the number got bigger as more and more people came to watch," said an official surnamed Chen in the nearby city of Shanwei. ...

Police detained three representatives from Dongzhou on Tuesday, which prompted thousands more to come and demand their release, the Radio Free Asia report said, putting the number involved in the demonstration at 10,000.

China has seen increasing disputes over land rights and compensation as breakneck development encroaches into rural areas, and although the Communist Party is bent on maintaining stability, popular protests are becoming more frequent. ...

Residents said they did not object to the new plant but to the fact that they had not been properly compensated for their land.

"The central government sent money for compensation but the corrupt officials who were supposed to give it out stole it away," said one resident.

It was unclear how many people were injured or killed in the clashes.

Radio Free Asia, quoting a hospital official, said two villagers had died. One resident said "several" people had been killed while another, whose husband participated in the protest, put the number of dead at 20.

"No one dares go out," said one, adding that parents were keeping their children home from school.

An official at the Dongzhou hospital said he had not heard of any deaths but that several injured were in hospital.

Another resident said when she left work on Tuesday the air was so thick with tear gas she could not open her eyes.
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U.N. exaggerates wind third-world wind resource by 200

As reported by Reuters and Agence France Presse Monday, the U.N. has found that more of the "third" world is suitable for industrial wind development. This is important because such development would allow them to sell "green credits" to the "first" world who are thereby absolved from reducing their emissions of pollutants and carbon dioxide.

Exploitative motives aside, the estimates as described in the report are way off:
The study defines suitable areas as those that could generate 300 watts per square meter (10.8 square feet), needing winds of at least 6.4-7.0 meters (21-23 feet) per second at 50 meters (164 feet) above the ground.
This translates to just over one megawatt per acre. But wind turbines need a lot of space around them, at least 50 acres per megawatt of maximum output. And average output, because of the variability of wind speed, is typically only a fourth of the maximum. So wind turbines need at least 200 square meters to get that 300 watts out of one square meter.

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Monday, December 05, 2005

New Jersey offshore wind panel interim report

"Offshore wind power development has potential to generate a series of quantifiable environmental benefits. These benefits appear significant in both absolute and monetized terms, but are arguably marginal relative to the scale of existing energy production and emissions affecting New Jersey’s environment and natural resources. Offshore wind power development also presents a series of potential environmental costs. In the absence of a developed literature, the scale of many of these costs are not readily quantified or monetized, making the nature of these impacts highly uncertain and necessitating additional research." (page 82) [emphasis added]

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National Wind Watch


National Wind Watch promotes awareness of the risks and related impacts of industrial wind energy development on our environment, economy, and quality-of-life.

Their website is now available. It is still missing FAQs, but up-to-date news, an extensive resource library, and pictures are there, along with opinion pieces and a collection of quotations.

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Sunday, December 04, 2005

from Tristram


Honor from him? If he found Honor walking
Here in Cornwall, he would send men to name it,
And would arrest it as a trespasser.

—Edwin Arlington Robinson

Saturday, December 03, 2005

Wind developers destroy communities

The northeastern Vermont town of Sheffield, population 720, held a meeting Thursday night to determine levels of support and opposition to hosting 26 2-MW wind turbines on their ridgelines (six of the turbines would be in neighboring Sutton). Faced with a well informed opposition, the development company, Italy-based UPC, brought many of their officers to the area and hired a PR firm to create ads, lawn signs, and a "grass-roots" support group, paying a resident to pose as the coordinator.

Most effective, however, seems to have been to increase their offer from $150,000 to a vague $350,000 as a gift to the town each year. They even paid for the town's hiring of a lawyer to work on the deal. It is unclear whether they will also pay the hosting landowners' increased tax bills, or if this pay-off is instead of taxes. They have also promised the town a shiny new firetruck.

Sheffield is a poor town in a poor corner of the state, but by the tone of letters to the regional newspaper there seemed to be as much a desire of "natives" to spite "newcomers" (though not the carpetbaggers from UPC) as to reduce taxes or lease land to the industrialists.

So, on Thursday, they "came out of the woodwork" (as one news report described it) to spite themselves as well, destroying their own property to prove it is theirs to do so. They voted 120-93 in favor of UPC's passel of promises and their own delusions.

From the Associated Press:
Supporters say the owners of the mountaintops have a right to do what they want with their land. They also say the wind farm would produce clean, renewable energy at a time when the country needs new sources of power, and would generate tax revenues for the town.

Vermont has used other people's oil for years, said Jack Simons. "It's about time that we give something back," he said.

... There ended up being no opportunity for debate at Thursday's town meeting. Voters decided not to allow any presentations from opponents or supporters and the issue went directly to a decision.

Dolores Ham said that was what made her vote in favor. She was undecided going into the meeting and wanted to hear from both sides. When that didn't happen she decided at the last minute to vote in favor of the project. "It was spur of the moment," she said.

Supporters said their decision made a statement about the importance of renewable energy.

"I think people should see where their electricity comes from and maybe they'll think twice about leaving the lights on when they're not home, when they have the windmills on the hill for a reminder," said Jenny Cleary, who voted in favor of UPC's project.
From the Barre-Montpelier Times Argus:
... Backers cited property rights issues and the need for alternative sources of energy as reasons for their yes vote.

... Holly Simpson, 31, voted for the first time in her life to support the wind project. Simpson said she registered to vote for the first time when she paid her property taxes last month. Nobody tried to persuade her, she said.

"I think people should be allowed to do what they want on their own property," Simpson said.

Others who voted 'yes' said new forms of energy need to be developed.
From WCAX television:
"We need clean energy. We're fighting over oil and America's young people aren't worth -- this is an alternative way of getting electricity and it's clean," says Leslie Newland who supports wind power.
Note how the geopolitics of oil is brought up, even though Vermont gets almost no electricity from oil (or from coal, for that matter). Note how property rights are defended even as they are ready to sign away their own land to absentee lessees (!) to infringe on the property rights of their neighbors with 400-ft-high spinning grinding strobe-lit wind turbines. Note the deluded greed translated into the patronizing "lesson" that people should see where their power comes from (even though almost all of it will still be coming from Hydro Quebec and Vermont Yankee), that you should suffer -- even if meaninglessly -- for enjoying the privilege of electricity.

Most common, however, is the not surprising belief in the claim that industrial wind turbines will make an impact on our use of other fuels. It's a convenient myth reinforced by the high environmental and social cost of big wind as proof that we are making a sacrifice. But the same energy use goes on as before (see "The Low Benefit of Industrial Wind"). And the developers sell green credits so that polluters can pollute even more. "Rube" is the word.

UPC hasn't yet applied to the state for a permit, so any project is still a long way off and may not even happen (insh'allah), but the damage to Sheffield is already done.

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Save Our Ridgelines!

Announcing the website of Vermonters with Vision, an affiliation of groups and individuals "dedicated to education and advocacy regarding the impact of industrial wind power on the economics, natural resources, and health of Vermont."

We oppose the construction of industrial wind power turbines on Vermont's ridgelines.
  1. The energy benefits are minimal.
  2. The addition of noise, light, and visual pollution is unacceptable.
  3. The negative impact to the land and to wildlife is significant.
  4. The harm to Vermont's rural character far outweighs vaguely promised pay-offs to affected towns and individuals.
Notes:

1. Even the developers claim that the giant machines will produce only around 30% of their capacity over a year. The Searsburg machines are down to about 21%. Because of the cubic relation between wind speed and output, they produce above their average rate only a third of the time. The Searsburg facility produces nothing, not even a trickle, more than a third of the time. Even when generating power, the output is variable, so it cannot reliably replace other sources on the grid and only causes "spinning reserve" plants to switch between generation and standby, in which status they still burn fuel. Windy areas are sacrificed to development not to provide energy but to generate "green credits" for lucrative sale elsewhere. See "The Low Benefit of Industrial Wind" for more information.

2. They are 330-410 feet tall to the top of the blade area (which sweeps 1-1.5 acres), must be lit day and night, and when the wind is blowing spin and turn noisily. They are not discreet presences but call attention to themselves, particularly on a mountaintop. See "Wind Power Facts" for more information.

3. Besides acres of clearance and blasting of foundations for thousands of tons of rebar and concrete, they require new or upgraded roads and high-capacity transmission lines. Such construction will affect water flow and quality and cause erosion and flooding, as has been documented in Meyersdale, Pennsylvania. Besides reducing and fragmenting forest habitat, the vibration of the machines drives away wildlife, as noted on Backbone Mountain, West Virginia. The turning blades are deadly to bats and birds.

4. Financial benefits, i.e., pay-offs, to others are completely up to the developer, who -- incredibly for a lessee -- writes the contract. Property owners are severely limited in what they can do with their land, even to the extent of who they allow on it. They become caretakers for the wind company. Land that might have been open would be closed to public use. As a project is later sold to national or international investors, payments are likely to be curtailed and taxes contested. The potential legal burden on towns is huge. Construction jobs, the more specialized of which will be filled by workers from elsewhere, are short term. Permanent jobs amount to 1-2 people per 20 MW capacity, again typically filled from elsewhere. Any business that depends on recreation and tourism traffic is likely to suffer, as will neighboring property values. Long after new technology makes giant wind turbines obsolete, or after they are abandoned because of diminishing returns (as in Altamont Pass, Calif., Princeton, Mass., and South Point, Hawaii), property owners and towns will be stuck with the mess.

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Salesmen

To the editor, Seven Days:

Peter Freyne (Inside Track, Nov. 30) has apparently fallen for the sleight of hand that points to gas-guzzling SUVs and peak oil and then switches to advocating giant wind turbines -- which don't power our cars and airplanes or heat our homes and workplaces. And very little oil is used to generate electricity.

The choice is not between staying in Iraq and building wind turbines. In fact, the motivations and justifications for invading Iraq are similar to those behind wind development: We must destroy these sites to save them; It would be much worse without us; Outrageous profits for a few and the suffering of many are a necessary cost; You'll thank us some day.

Also similar is the casual acceptance of "cherry-picked intelligence" by otherwise reasonable people, perhaps out of fear. Shouldn't one be a little dubious when it is the developer himself dismissing environmental concerns about his project?

Dave Rapaport of East Haven Wind told Freyne that "anywhere around the world, you've got an average mortality rate of about two birds per turbine per year." The National Wind Coordinating Committee, however, finds that mortality rates in the U.S. range widely ("about two birds" being the lowest) and are highest in the mountains of the east. Besides birds, the amount of bats killed is so disturbing even to the industry that they kicked out the researchers -- for the same reason U.N. weapons inspectors were taken out of Iraq, because they were no longer "helpful."

Like the most ignorant of right-wing media brutes, Freyne would rather beat up on the Free Press than explore independently whether or not wind power is a viable energy option in the first place, let alone whether or not its its benefits actually outweigh its negative impacts.

Denmark -- the poster child for large-scale wind -- hasn't changed their energy consumption one whit because of wind. Nor has any other country. German grid manager Eon Netz warns that expansion of wind will cause more building of conventional power plants not less.

The wind developers are salesmen and as transparently dishonest as George W. Bush. They'll talk about the coming hydrogen economy, cats, peak oil, battery technology, and how just like you they care about the environment and our shared future -- anything other than the fact that wind turbines built today don't actually do anything about our energy use. They play the guilts, fears, and prejudices of their marks like a fiddle.

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Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Latest Headline

From Ironic Times:

Dems demand White House rearrange deck chairs.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Desperate times for Danish wind

According to a Nov. 10 news item from the Danish Wind Industry Association, Denmark is tackling the biggest problem they have had in integrating wind power. Currently, only a fraction of the wind plant production can be used, because Denmark has built and converted many conventional plants to provide both heat and power ("combined heat and power," CHP), thus doubling the amount of energy extracted from fossil fuels. Because they are providing heat, the plants can not be ramped up and down to accommodate the fluctuations of the wind. But the fact that Denmark exports most of its wind production must be getting embarrassing. The solution is to subsidize converting homes to electric heat! Of course, this means that the CHP plants won't be providing heat any more, so their fuel burning will be back to the old inefficient level, thus raising CO2 and other emissions. New inefficiencies also will be introduced by their being called upon to modulate their output.

But wind turbine manufacturer Vestas, Denmarks' second-largest company (after Lego), is experiencing hard times, and the most important thing is to make it appear that wind energy works. Vestas investors don't care if more fossil fuel has to be burned to make it so.

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Wind power does not work

To the Editor, Manchester (Vt.) Journal:

Rob Roy Macgregor (letter, Nov. 18) would have us believe that more than 50 gigawatts of wind power capacity installed worldwide, or its endorsement by some utilities, is proof that it works. He asks, as if he does not know the answer, where is the profit if wind is so unreliable?

To the first point, one need only ask for evidence that 50 gigawatts (or 10-15, representing the actual output from wind, or even any at all) of energy from other sources has been displaced to discover that wind power does not work as an energy source on the grid, that such claims are as puffs of smoke.

To the second point, endorsement by utilities comes from the same source as the profits: the requirement or expectation to buy a certain amount of renewable energy and the option of buying "green credits" instead. Whether the energy produced by a wind turbine is used or not, equivalent green credits are generated as well. There is great demand for them, and their trade is very profitable. Enron began this model of energy progress, and it remains a scam that benefits only a few investors. Some utilities set up as credit producers themselves, and others are typically bought off, as exemplified by Lyndonville Electric's East Haven deal, with a share in the racket.

Utilities, however, are clear about the futility of wind power. Eon Netz, one of Germany's grid managers, with over 7,000 MW of wind capacity connected, has described in their annual wind reports that they need additional conventional capacity to cover 100% of the possible infeed from wind, because even as it peaks it often drops off very quickly. Many utilities in Japan cap the amount of energy they will accept from wind facilities. A recent report boasting of the U.K.'s superb wind resource also points out that new "spinning reserve" must be built and kept burning to compensate for wind power's fluctuations, thus severely limiting any positive effect on the use of other energy sources. A February 2004 study by the Irish grid found that wind power caused minimal displacement of other sources, that it was essentially superfluous additional capacity. Eon Netz projects that at best wind turbines might displace barely 4% of their capacity in other sources.

Macgregor is right that storing the intermittent output of wind turbines is an essential solution. It only underscores the absurdity of building them now, when large-scale storage, if feasible at all, is still very far off.

If wind power worked, proponents would be able to point to real evidence of energy savings and cleaner air, not just a sales chart.

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Monday, November 21, 2005

"Neighbours Warn of Din From Wind Turbines"

From the Nov. 16 Wellington, New Zealand, Dominion Post:
Manawatu residents say they are being "driven stupid" by noise from wind turbines, despite living twice as far away as those planned for Makara.

Two residents who live up to three kilometres from Te Apiti and Tararua wind farms spoke at the resource consent hearing for Meridian Energy's proposed Makara wind farm yesterday.

On the Makara Guardians group's last day of evidence, Wendy Brock described three consecutive days of relentless noise and throbbing from 18 turbines 2.5km from her Ashhurst home.

"You have this drone, you can't escape it. After three days the residents were just worn down, fed up."

Meridian's Project West Wind proposes 70 turbines, some within 1km of homes. The Makara turbines would also be 35 metres taller than Te Apiti's.

Mrs Brock said Meridian's consultation for Te Apiti did not prepare residents for the noise levels.

"The turbines make noise, lots of it."

... Meridian has already paid an undisclosed sum to move one Manawatu family who could not live in their house because of noise and vibrations.

Daniel Sproull's farm lies within sight of both wind farms. He said he feared for Makara residents if Meridian's 70 turbines were allowed.

"If these go ahead and your place is downwind, you're stuffed."

The turbines' sound at Te Apiti, 3km away, was like a truck rumbling past his house, though "it doesn't pass in seconds, it can rumble for hours".

The turbines were enough to "drive you stupid".

Several nights he was woken by turbine noise, thinking the clothes dryer had been left on overnight or road works were directly outside his property, he said.
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Save the world, save the ridgelines

To the Editor, Vermont Guardian:

I am puzzled by Jane Newton's stand against opposition to industrial wind turbines (letter, Nov. 16). Are not the ridgelines part of the world that needs protecting? If we allow our own back yard to be destroyed merely for corporate profit, how can we go on to save the rest of the world from the same process?

I am surprised by her apparently unquestioning acceptance of claims from the developers that wind power is a step in the right direction. Despite decades of experience, and at least ten years of substantial installation, proponents can not point to any savings of other fuels. It won't move us away from fossil or nuclear fuels, let alone war, exploitation, and pollution. Besides a lack of positive impact, the negative effects are not negligible.

Just as military invasion is sold as "spreading democracy" and corporate piracy as "bringing opportunity," the needless industrialization of our last rural and wild landscapes with wind turbines just as falsely sold as "clean energy."

Newton suggests countering corporate crime in small ways, yet dismisses the crimes of big wind as minor. A scam is a scam, destruction destruction. The fight against it at every level can -- and ought to -- begin in our own back yards. My experience in working with many individuals against big wind is that their concern does not stop at their own ridgelines. The network of individuals and groups helping each other extends around the world. Their activism should be praised not denigrated.

In August 2004, the Point Pierce Aboriginal community of Australia watched 40,000 years of Dreaming destroyed by the construction of 50 wind turbines at Wattle Point. This past autumn, Zapotecos of the Isthmus of Tehuantepec in Mexico asked Mark Duchamp, a bird conservationist who fights giant wind turbine facilities in Spain and Scotland, to help them against "the imposition of neoliberal megacorporations destroying nature and our cultures" (the whole letter in Spanish is reproduced on the web at www.iberica2000.org/Es/Articulo.asp?Id=2565).

Giant wind turbines on our ridgelines won't reduce the use of other sources of energy in Vermont or anywhere else on the grid. According to a Nov. 18 article in the Times Argus, the U.S. president of the Italy-based company targeting Sheffield and Sutton shamelessly boasted of construction on "state-owned virgin mountain tops" on Maui, Hawaii. It's corporate invasion and conquest, nothing else.

The fight against big wind is not to deny the necessary struggles Newton is active in. It is to join them.

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Saturday, November 19, 2005

Stooped

'"Just when you thought you'd seen it all, the Republicans have stooped to new lows, even for them," said Ms. Pelosi, who assailed Republicans as impugning Mr. Murtha's patriotism.'  --New York Times

To show the Republicans that Democrats can stoop even lower, Pelosi then urged her party to vote with them against Democrat Murtha's plan to remove troops from Iraq. And all but three members of the House did.

Friday, November 18, 2005

Wind developers and the urge to conquer

From today's Barre-Montpelier (Vt.) Times-Argus:
"Officials behind a major wind project proposed here unveiled more details of their plans Thursday evening, meeting with the planning commission as required by the state law that regulates energy projects.

"Massachusetts-based UPC Wind Management presented the update, bringing in its president, power sales director, project manager, lawyer, publicist and environmental consultant. They were joined by Avram Patt, general manager of East Montpelier–based Washington Electric Co-op.

"UPC has ... U.S. offices in Maine, New York, San Diego, Toronto and Maui, Hawaii, where UPC's first U.S. wind project is under construction on state-owned virgin mountain tops," Gaynor said." [Paul Gaynor, president of UPC, which is actually based in Italy]
Sheffield and Sutton residents appear to be overwhelmingly opposed to the project, which will sprawl across three mountain ridges. After the usual private dealings with town officials, whom they easily wooed, the company is clearly upset by the public response. Despite an earlier promise to heed the public's wish, UPC never intended to abandon its quest. Besides the show of force to the planning commission reported here, they have hired an advertising firm to organize a "grass roots" support campaign.

A few supporters of the project argue for property rights, even as they sign away control of their own property for decades in a lease written by the lessee and drastically impinge on the rights of the neighbors to enjoy their property.

But the revealing comment is about the "state-owned virgin mountain tops" on Maui. It's about conquest and nothing else. That's why progressives, feminists, and environmentalists oppose these projects. Industrial wind power provides no mitigating benefit that even begins to justify this rape and pillage.

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Thursday, November 17, 2005

Wind power titbits and news

According to a March 2004 report prepared for the U.S. Department of Energy by Craig Cox of Bob Lawrence and Associates (Alexandria, Va.), each of the foundations for the 108 GE 1.5-MW wind turbine towers in Lamar, Colo., contains 1,250,000 pounds of concrete and steel rebar.

According to a Nov. 17 story in the Providence (R.I.) Journal, the hole prepared for a single 660-KW Vestas V47 wind turbine tower at a Portsmouth Abbey is 13 feet across and 26 feet deep.

In Wayne County, Pa., it has been widely reported, the Waymart Wind Farm company is trying to get their tax assessment lowered from $282,410 to $31-45,000 per 1.5-MW turbine. In Meyersdale, Pa., the owners of the wind power facility pay the town $640 per 1.5-MW turbine instead of taxes. Nobody should be surprised that these people try to get out of paying their fair share. But who in supportive communities thinks the crumbs they might throw for a while are worth the tremendous loss of open or wild land?

Finally, the Baltic Times reported on Nov. 16 that Estonia is no longer favoring wind power over other renewables: 'Einari Kisel, head of the Ministry of Economy and Communications' energy department, puts it bluntly: "We do not want to have too many wind mills," he says. "The price of wind energy is expensive. The unstable production causes additional costs to other producers."' The wind developers argue that the high cost and low benefit can be mitigated by selling CO2 credits to countries that must meet Kyoto Accord targets (or at least buy enough tokens of non-CO2 production instead of actually reduce emissions). That is, embrace energy-laundering.

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Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Wind power increases emissions from fossil-fuel plants

On May 14, the Herald Sun of Melbourne, Australia, carried a story that began, "Could wind power actually increase greenhouse gas emissions in Victoria?":
Andrew Richards, external affairs manager for Australia's biggest renewable energy company, Pacific Hydro, ... rejects outright claims that wind farms can increase greenhouse gases because they cause existing brown coal generators to "throttle back" and produce higher emissions.

"Coal-fired power is at its most efficient at maximum load, there is no doubt about that," said Mr Richards, who also sits on the board of the Australian Wind Energy Association.

"But it is a bit of a furphy to say that wind power is causing greater emissions at this stage.

"With the current state of output from wind in Victoria, we are just background noise compared to demand fluctuations."
"At this stage." That is to say, it appears, that as wind power becomes more than just "background noise" it does indeed cause greater emissions.

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Tuesday, November 15, 2005

New wind report blows away myths of proponents

A report that Britain has the best wind resource in Europe has been getting a lot of attention lately. This has in fact long been known and is evident in the higher capacity factor (actual output vs. full capacity) of installed wind turbines: 25% in the U.K. versus 15-20% on the continent.

Rather than looking just at averages, the recent government-commissioned study from Oxford
University's Environmental Change Institute found that Britain is never becalmed. The researchers examined 35 years of meteorological data and found not one hour when the wind wasn't blowing at least 4 m/s somewhere in the island kingdom, that being the wind speed at which most industrial turbines start generating electricity. They also found that the wind is below that speed in more than 90% of the country only 1-2 hours per year. From this, they argue -- and news articles duly echo -- that wind power is not intermittent as opponents claim and is therefore a reliable source of energy.

The report itself (beyond the executive summary), however, distinguishes between intermittency and variability, noting that "it is the variation in output from one hour to the next [let alone one minute to the next] that poses challenges for its integration into electricity networks."

The electricity produced by a wind turbine at 4 m/s is the merest trickle, which the report also explains. So the planned tens of thousands of wind turbines would be justified by proponents because in one region there will always be a trickle of production. Rather than defeating the argument of wind power's intermittency, this study in fact underscores it by emphasizing the need for many widely dispersed wind plants to essentially act as a single small plant.

Even then, as the report also explains, the need for conventional capacity would be minimally reduced, "due to the variability of wind power." In their example, which assumes a 35% capacity factor for wind (despite elsewhere citing the actual 27% long-term average), the addition of 13 GW of wind plant capacity to an 84-GW network could replace only 3 GW of conventional capacity. They also explain that spinning reserve must be added as well to back up the wind, so some of that 3 GW has to remain. Their estimate is a very optimistic 5% of wind capacity, or 0.65 GW in the example, but German grid manager Eon Netz has determined their need for spinning reserve to be at least 50%. Even halving that need by assuming the U.K.'s wind is so much more steady than Germany's would mean that no conventional capacity would actually be displaced.

In addition to the new wind capacity (without any reduction of other capacity, and possibly an increase of conventional capacity for spinning standby), the report describes the need for new and upgraded transmission capacity and the costs of integrating nondispatchable and highly variable wind power.

Thus wind power is an expensive land-intensive intrusion that fails to make a meaningful contribution to our energy needs nor to cleaning up our ongoing energy use.

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Monday, November 14, 2005

High cost of wind energy

Letter to the Editor, The Times (London), Nov. 14, 2005:
Sir, The figure quoted for the payback time of wind turbines (letter,
November 7) is strictly for the manufacture of the turbine itself and takes no account of the huge energy costs involved in making the massive foundations, the access roads, transmission lines, the re-engineering of other generating plant to enable switching in and out of intermittent supply, nor a share of the costs of back-up conventional plant on spinning stand-by. It is these costs that make wind energy not so attractive and make financial pay-back time more like seven years. For a lifetime of some 25 years per structure this is far less attractive and were it not for massive subsidy the current scramble to despoil our upland areas would not be taking place.

PHILIP BROWN
Brampton, Cumbria
Note that the writer limits himself to the financial payback time. It is probable that the wind turbines never pay back the energy their manufacture, transport, installation, and operation require. See "The Low Benefit of Industrial Wind" at www.aweo.org.

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Saturday, November 12, 2005

"The Aesthetic Dissonance of Industrial Wind Machines"

Here's an excerpt from a thoughtful essay about the aesthetics of industrial wind turbines, "The Aesthetic Dissonance of Industrial Wind Machines," by Jon Boone, at the online journal Contemporary Aesthetics. (Click on the title of this post for the complete essay.)
Perhaps only the US highway system has the scope and scale to match the aesthetic pretensions for industrial windpower. It certainly has transformed the landscape, as well as much of the culture, penetrating into nearly every aspect of life on the continent. Moreover, its functional success has allowed it to become part of the accepted natural background, much in the way Prof. Saito hopes for the windpower machines. People generally take the interstates for granted these days. Still, despite its ubiquity, the American highway system should present many "thick value" difficulties for philosophers of aesthetics. These difficulties were rather artfully exposed by Godfrey Reggio in his film, Koyaanisqatsi. Here, Reggio shows our highways as foreboding corridors of frenetic technology in service to unbridled consumption, scarring the earth with terrifying consequence and for no compelling reason. He could just as well been documenting industrial windpower, pointing out similarities with factory farms and noting how each corrupts the economy, diminishes the ecosystem, and blights the landscape.
And from one of the footnotes:
... photograph taken several miles away from four of the twenty 375 foot wind turbines atop a 2700 foot ridge over the town of Meyersdale, PA. But the height and elevation are only part of the story. The differentially moving propeller blades dominate the visual experience, taking away the sense of the mountain itself.
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Friday, November 11, 2005

More cons than pros

Kristin Calkins Rowe wrote in the Burlington (Vt.) Free Press ("Wake up on wind power," Nov. 7, 2005), "It doesn't take a genius to figure out there are more cons than pros in this debate." The most glaring cost of big wind is the industrial development of rural and wild areas, which inarguably degrades rather than improves our common environment. That is impossible to justify if the benefits claimed by the industry's sales material are in fact an illusion, propped up by subsidies and artificial markets for "indulgence credits" which allow the flouting of emissions caps and renewable energy targets.

Why do utilities generally support wind as a renewable power source?

Actually, they don’t. In Japan, as reported by Asahi Shinbun on May 18, 2005, utilities severely limit the amount of wind power on their systems, because, as documented above, "introducing too much of the electricity, whose supply can fluctuate wildly, can cause problems for utilities' power grids. ... If there is no wind, the utilities must rely entirely on other facilities. And even when wind power can satisfy all of the demand, they must continue operating thermal generators to be ready for any abrupt shortfalls in wind power."

With the movement away from vehicles such as the Clean Air Act, which actually reduced emissions, to so-called market solutions such as renewable portfolio standards (RPS), utilities must buy a specified proportion of their power from renewable sources or buy credits equal to their shortfall. As long as they can say that, for example, 20% of their power comes from wind, it doesn't matter if they're burning as much nonrenewable fuel as ever to back it up. Most importantly, however, "green credits" are generated in addition to actual electricity. They are an echo of the renewable energy already sold that is given as much, or even more, value than the real thing. Burdened with the directive to buy renewable energy, utilities want to be a part of wind power development so they can share in the lucrative sale of the credits.

Ironically, analyses for New Jersey utilities and by the U.S. Energy Information Agency have shown that the only effect on emissions that an RPS might have is to drive down the cost of exceeding emissions caps or missing renewables targets.

With rising fuel prices, however, many utilities have started to demand actual useful energy targets from wind facilities. As Renewable Energy Access reported on Nov. 7, 2005, from an American Wind Energy Association financing workshop in New York City, this has worried investors. Wind turbines produce only the very marketable appearance of green energy, not actual relief from other sources.

[Read the rest of this paper at www.aweo.org/LowBenefit.pdf.]

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Wednesday, November 09, 2005

"Onerous" demand that wind turbines actually work

The American Wind Energy Association sponsored a financing workshop in New York last week. As reported by Renewable Energy Access:
Another major theme of the workshop was the effect that high natural gas prices are having on the wind power market. In general, the high fossil-fuel prices will be very good for the wind power market, most agreed, as utilities and investors that want to limit their fuel-price risk start looking for other energy technologies that can be built quickly. However, that interest is making project development more difficult in some ways, as well. As utilities try to define power output from a wind project more and more precisely, they are tending to make power purchase agreement terms more onerous -- too limiting in some cases to make the project viable.

In light of that fact, investors and developers are starting to look toward merchant wind plants -- those built without a long-term supply contract. In some markets, especially those with high renewable energy credit prices and predominant use of natural gas for electricity, merchant plants look as though they may be more profitable than those with supply contracts locked in. However, with the exception of a few cases, there has been little action on the merchant plant front yet.
In other words, a wind facility is only attractive to investors if it is not actually expected to produce useful electricity!

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Saturday, November 05, 2005

"The Sheaves"

The Sheaves

Where long the shadows of the wind had rolled,
Green wheat was yielding to the change assigned;
And as by some vast magic undivined
The world was turning slowly into gold.

Like nothing that was ever bought or sold
It waited there, the body and the mind;
And with a mighty meaning of a kind
That tells the more the more it is not told.

So in a land where all days are not fair,
Fair days went on till on another day
A thousand golden sheaves were lying there,
Shining and still, but not for long to stay—
As if a thousand girls with golden hair
Might rise from where they slept and go away.

—Edwin Arlington Robinson

"Noisy turbine annoys neighbours"

From the August 11, 2003, Christchurch (New Zealand) Press. According to a campaigner in the area, the problem has not yet been resolved.
Windflow Technology is shutting down its Gebbies Pass [500kW] wind turbine each night because of noise concerns. ...

The turbine looms over a ridgeline above photographer Julie Riley's McQueens Valley property.

Ms Riley, who objected unsuccessfully to the project at its resource consent hearing on the basis of noise and landscape values, said the turbine was much louder than expected.

Windflow was not able to stick to its resource consent, and people 3km from the wind turbine could hear it whenever it was running, she said.

"They said it would be quieter than 30 decibels and we would only be able to hear it 3 per cent of the time.

"They would have had a lot more people complaining at the resource consent hearing if people down the valley knew they were going to be affected.

"We are hearing it almost 100 per cent of the time when it is running," Ms Riley said.

Two noises were emanating from the site, just more than 1km from her house.

"Two hydraulic pumps run all the time. I can hear those at night," she said.

"When they have the blades going it is terrible. It sounds like 'grind, grind, grind'. It obliterates the bird sounds and all the nature sounds that we have all come here for."
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Wind turbines require high maintenance

It's not just the gearbox. You've got 40 tons of rotor blades turning and changing pitch, attached to a 70-ton nacelle which turns on top of a 250-foot-high tower to catch the wind. A mechanical challenge in any environment to be sure.

The following is from John Galambos, "Brooklyn wind turbine performance over 12 years," presented at New Zealand Wind Energy Association Conference, 31 August 2005. Remember that this single turbine near Wellington (N.Z.) is a demonstration installation, with all the moeny necessary thrown at it to keep it going. Since most of the financial benefits in the U.S. disappear after a few years (6 years for accelerated depreciation, 10 years for production tax credit), the more likely scenario for most facilities is abandonment, as with many of those in Altamont Pass, California, and the sad specimens at South Point, Hawaii.
TECHNICAL ISSUES DURING OPERATION

Years 1 and 2

Gearbox oil issues with build up of black gunge
  • oil type changed
Part of skylight roof section vanished during 1994 storm
  • 38.5 m/s 10-sec average
  • Estimated 45m/s 3-sec gust, turbine rated for 70m/s 3-sec gust
  • Anemometer cup vanished (years 5 and 11 also)
Slip coupling operating too frequently, required replacement
  • High wind shutdown changed from 25 to 22 m/s
Blackening of gearbox oil

Years 3 and 4

Blade inspections revealed gel coat failures
  • Appear to relate to damage from thrown stones
Tower to foundation ring flange-to-flange bolts started failing
  • Managed by monitoring and change out
Numerous minor factory technical upgrades continued
  • Driven by Service Bulletins not issues on site
Yaw drive issues, noisy
  • motors and worm drive gears replaced
Years 5 to 9

Pitch accumulator leaking - replacement with production loss

Controller required Y2k modifications

Yaw drive gearboxes replaced

Ongoing issues relating to EMC
  • Susceptible to strong local FM radio transmission
Gearbox low speed shaft stiffener fitted
  • Factory modification for high winds
  • Internal expansion sleeve to hollow shaft
  • Too late, damage done, gearbox would require replacement before long.
About year 10

Gearbox high speed shaft bearing failed at 9+ years
  • Noisy gearbox operation
  • Before original gearbox was replaced
Weather mast guy hardware failed
  • Repair can have safety implications
Gearbox replaced at 10 years
  • Refurbished unit, "as new", with warranty
  • Shaft end floats outside maintenance tolerances when delivered
  • Bearing replaced after 3 months
  • Gearbox replaced again after 13 months
  • Condition monitoring trials unsuccessful
Years 11 and 12

Nose cone replaced
  • Disintegrating
Tower section joining bolts corroded
  • Replaced at 11 years
Pitch linkage connections failed,
  • Rods damaged and replaced
Yaw ring and yaw gears failed
  • Long outage
  • No local parts
Other
  • Numerous control card replacements/updates to Service bulletins
  • Included fans to control cards, oil filtering etc
  • Communications issues at times – not turbine related
  • Distribution disturbances have tripped the turbine
  • Some misc contactor failures, replacement repairs, consumables etc.

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"Wind Powers American Dream"

Now-freelance journalist Judy Miller is already working again, using her special access abilities to report the real truth, i.e., the truth those in power need us to believe. Fresh from her work to promote the disastrous invasion of Iraq, she now turns to the domestic challenge of pushing unpopular industrial wind facilities onto communities across the country, as this excerpted story from tomorrow's Washington Argus shows.
Wind Powers American Dream

by Judith Miller

Washington, DC -- I have just spent two weeks embedded with the president of the American Wind Energy Association and cannot convey strongly enough the urgent need for massive wind power development in this country.

Randall Switscher took me with him to see site after site that was either totally lacking industrial development or mostly wasted with low-grade agriculture.

"These people desperately need our help," Randy told me. "We need to bring them into the 21st century, get some investment going there."

Randy's model is the transformation of Nigeria by the presence of foreign oil companies who built schools, hospitals, banks, and communication infrastructure. Nigeria now rivals Sweden in measures of equality and health, he says.

During a retreat in the lovely unspoiled mountains of Vermont, I met Keith Dewley, a college-educated architect. He told me how grateful he is to Mr. Switscher for providing a beacon of hope to Vermonters. It is now normal for a Vermont child to hope to go to college, and that is directly a result of the activity of wind developers from outside, he told me.

Keith's interest verges on the artisitic. "What I learned in college was that aesthetics are about social constructs, about what we expect from our lives. Are we defined by hayfields strewn with rotting manure and mountains left to grow wild without any consideration of financial development needs? When I look up, I want to see the future!"

There are, of course, some holdouts who fear the changes Randy represents. Others selfishly want to preserve a system they have benefited from, however backward. Randy admits that the campaign to win their hearts and minds will be long and hard.

"We may not ever convince some of them," he says. "But we're going in there anyway, because that's our duty as world citizens. Sooner or later they'll have to get used to it. Our mission is bigger than any one of us."

Keith Dewley's daughter Hilary, a proud sophomore at the University of Vermont, echoed the enthusiasm of her elders. "The ancient Egyptians built pyramids as monuments to their beliefs. That's what wind turbines are -- just knowing they're there we can feel better going about our business."

Progress wouldn't be possible without a strong government commitment. I am currently embedded with an analyst in Goldman Sachs and will be writing soon about why massive profits are necessary to guarantee the success of wind power development.
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Thursday, November 03, 2005

Wind power facts

The most frequently unknown aspects of industrial wind power, according to the shared experiences of people trying to educate their neighbors, are the enormous size of the turbines, the new or upgraded roads required, the irrelevance of oil to electricity generation, and the virtually nonexistent effect of wind power on emissions from other sources, such as coal. These have been compiled into a FAQ page at www.aweo.org/faq.html.

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High cost, low benefit

Here's a picture of what appears to have been once a lovely open vista in Hungary.


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The gearbox: wind power's Achilles' heel

This month's Windpower Monthly examines a little-known twist in the "mature technology" of large-scale wind turbines:
Gearboxes have been failing in wind turbines since the early 1990s. Barely a turbine make has escaped. Six years ago the problem reached epidemic proportions, culminating in a massive series failure of gearboxes in NEG Micon machines. At the time, the NEG Micon brand was the most sold wind turbine in the world. The disaster brought the company to its knees as it struggled to retrofit well over one thousand machines. It has since been taken over by Vestas, the world's largest wind turbine manufacturer. Vestas is still grappling with the aftermath of the gearbox catastrophe.

The wind power industry and its component suppliers now believe that such major series failure of gearboxes is a thing of the past. Today's far larger and more sophisticated turbines, they say, are safe from mistakes encountered in early phases of technology development.

Bigger turbines, however, are proving to be far from immune to gearbox failure, as Windpower Monthly reports in its November issue. ...

The wind industry's gearbox problem has for years been shrouded in secrecy. While blame for the failures has been spread far and wide, questions outnumber the answers by far. At Windpower Monthly we set ourselves the task of finding out the true scale of the problem. Why is it that gearboxes in wind turbines have so massively failed? What is the solution? ...

The good news is that understanding of the highly complex loads that gearboxes -- and particularly their bearings -- are subject to is being helped by a new industry willingness to co-operate and face up to the challenges of wind power's rapid technological evolution. But only time will tell whether a definitive solution has been found -- and whether it will stay the course as wind turbines get ever bigger and more demanding of engineering ingenuity.

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Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Punishment

Here's a picture from the October 9 Watertown (N.Y.) Daily Times, of some of the approximately 150 turbines in Phase I of the Maple Ridge Wind Farm on Tug Hill in northern New York. A complete concrete plant was built just to provide for the massive foundations.


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Wind barely better than nuclear

George Monbiot wrote in the October 25 Guardian (U.K.):
Ten cents of investment, [Amory Lovins of the Rocky Mountain Institute] shows, will buy either 1 kilowatt-hour of nuclear electricity; 1.2-1.7 of windpower; 2.2-6.5 of small-scale cogeneration; or up to 10 of energy efficiency. "Its higher cost than competitors, per unit of net CO2 displaced, means that every dollar invested in nuclear expansion will worsen climate change by buying less solution per dollar." And, because nuclear power stations take so long to build, it would be spent later. "Expanding nuclear power would both reduce and retard the desired decrease in CO2 emissions."
It is notable that wind power is almost as bad an investment as nuclear power for reducing CO2 emissions.

Note: I pointed this out, that wind was hardly better than nuclear, to Mr Monbiot, who has written an incisive critique of the "wind power madness" yet still supports it. His reply was, "20-70% hardly better? Try telling that to an economist." One hopes that some economists are better at math than this. The comparison in this analysis is to what ten cents could buy if best spent, namely, 10 KWh of energy efficiency, so that wind is only a 2-7% better investment for reducing CO2 emissions than nuclear.

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