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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