Saturday, April 30, 2005

"The atheist"

An interview in Salon with Richard Dawkins:

'Bush and bin Laden are really on the same side: the side of faith and violence against the side of reason and discussion. Both have implacable faith that they are right and the other is evil. Each believes that when he dies he is going to heaven. Each believes that if he could kill the other, his path to paradise in the next world would be even swifter. The delusional "next world" is welcome to both of them. This world would be a much better place without either of them.'

"Cornell halts planning for wind project"

'ITHACA -- Cornell University decided not to proceed with its wind energy project on Mount Pleasant after more than four months of preparing to study the feasibility of eight 400-foot wind turbines. ...

'"They thought things over carefully, listened to community concerns and decided in favor of environmental policies and being a good neighbor."'

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

No-impact construction?

Here is a picture from the construction of a relatively small industrial wind turbine in Moorhead, Minn., a 750-KW NEG Micon. The tower is 180 feet high, and each blade extends another 83 feet. Newer turbines are at least 1.5 MW, around 330 feet high total, and they are getting bigger (see "Giants of the Amazon"). Nonetheless, this 750-KW model required a foundation hole 44.5 × 44.5 × 10 feet deep filled with 24 tons of steel rebar and 300 cubic yards of concrete. A new road had to be built that was able to carry not only the usual heavy equipment and dumptrucks but especially the 500-ton crane used to assemble the turbine. Whenever anyone says they can just be removed when something better comes along, you can see that rolling your eyeballs and scoffing is the mildest appropriate response. In fact, when a decommissioning agreement is required, the company generally agrees only to remove the top few feet of cement from the platform.


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"No EISs for Vic wind farms"

"The Victorian Planning Minister has decided that an environmental impacts statement (EIS) will not be needed for proposed wind farms near Warrnambool at Drysdale [30-40 2-3 MW turbines] and Woolsthorpe [25-30 2-3 MW turbines] in the state's south-west."

Somehow, industrialists have convinced planners that these 400-feet-high power plants -- along with their roads, power lines, and substations -- are by definition environmentally friendly and therefore require no such scrutiny as they are constructed in relatively (or even totally) undeveloped areas.

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Tuesday, April 26, 2005

"An ugly face of ecology"

George Monbiot has written an incisive critique of industrial wind power and its "green" supporters. It is in the Guardian (click the title of this post) as well as on his own site, where it includes notes.
The people fighting the new wind farm in Cumbria have cheated and exaggerated. They appear to possess little understanding of the dangers of global warming. They are supported by an unsavoury coalition of nuclear-power lobbyists and climate-change deniers. But it would still be wrong to dismiss them. ...

Wind farms, while necessary, are a classic example of what environmentalists call an "end-of-the-pipe solution". Instead of tackling the problem - our massive demand for energy - at source, they provide less damaging means of accommodating it. Or part of it. The Whinash project, by replacing energy generation from power stations burning fossil fuel, will reduce carbon dioxide emission by 178,000 tonnes a year. This is impressive, until you discover that a single jumbo jet, flying from London to Miami and back every day, releases the climate-change equivalent of 520,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide a year. One daily connection between Britain and Florida costs three giant wind farms.

Alternative technology permits us to imagine that we can build our way out of trouble. By responding to one form of overdevelopment with another, we can, we believe, continue to expand our total energy demands without destroying the planetary systems required to sustain human life. This might, for a while, be true. But it would soon require the use of the entire land surface of the UK. ...

I believe the Whinash wind farm should be built. But I also believe that those who defend it should be a good deal more sensitive towards local objectors. Why? Because in any other circumstances they would find themselves fighting on the same side.
Monbiot is right to express discomfort with the pro-nuclear and climate-change-denying tendencies of many wind energy opponents. Yet ultimately they are defending the landscape against needless industrialization. Many opponents are indeed conservationists and defenders of wildlife without the baggage Monbiot decries. Even Greenpeace, adamantly pro-wind, has balked at the extent of the proposed facilities on the island of Lewis, as has almost every wildlife and natural heritage group. Many opponents recognize the problem exactly as Monbiot describes it and agree with his assessment of the futility of building ever more giant wind farms. How he concludes from this forthright analysis that industrial wind facilities are "necessary" is a mystery.

Monbiot argues from the need to reduce carbon emissions, pointing out that wind turbines currently provide only 0.32% of the U.K.'s electricity. That represents the output from 888.8 MW of wind power, according to the British Wind Energy Association. The addition of the 67.5-MW Whinash Wind Farm would increase that to 0.34%. To get to the target of 10% would require the addition of 26,576 MW after Whinash (using the less-rounded figures from Monbiot's notes). No wonder capital is so excited. No wonder sensible people resist.

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Monday, April 25, 2005

Voices from Chernobyl

As so many in the U.K. and elsewhere are clamoring for nuclear power, the Guardian has published excerpts from Voices from Chernobyl, by Svetlana Alexievich (click on the title of this post). The stories are truly haunting. Even when working normally, a nuclear reactor is contaminating the air and water and producing an unresolvable waste problem. People point to the example of France, where 80% of their electricity is produced -- apparently safely -- by nuclear fission. Yet the extremely dangerous waste has yet to be dealt with, as it continues to accumulate at each of the 58 reactors. The ultimate plan is simply to bury it, as the Chernobyl "liquidators" did. Where, of course, is a big problem. And as France's nuclear plants age, many are questioning the huge expense of just maintaining them, let alone upgrading or building more.

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Giants of the Amazon

Last night's Nature program featured "the giant of the Amazon," the Brazil nut tree, which can live for hundreds of years and reach a height of 160 feet. That's less than half the height of most modern wind turbine assemblies. And because even those giant wind turbines don't appear to have any positive effect on electricity use, manufacturers are making them even bigger. GE has recently come out with its "2x" series, ranging from 367 to 548 feet high, the blades chopping through 1.4 to 1.7 acres of air. These are the models planned for Gore Mountain in the Adirondacks and which environmentalists like Bill McKibben think would be a fine addition to the park's wilderness.

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Sunday, April 24, 2005

"Industrial wind power is more than view issue"

To the editor, Albany (N.Y.) Times Union (published April 28, 2005):

Aesthetics is indeed an important issue, as Fred LeBrun wrote in his balanced assessment of the wind farm debate in the Adirondacks ("Wind farm plan splits activists," April 24). Opposition to industrial wind power, however, is about more than just the view.

Just as advocates shape their aesthetics by considering the project's benefits, so do opponents. When supporters of the Gore Mountain and other projects argue the necessity of reducing emissions of carbon and toxins, opponents point out that giant wind facilities do not in fact reduce such emissions.

Industrial wind turbines are all the more ugly because they are practically useless: an expensive intrusive boondoggle.

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Social value

Hudson River Sloop Clearwater executive director Andrew Mele is quoted by the Plattsburgh (N.Y.) Press-Republican in support not of restoring a mining property in the Adirondack State Park to its natural state but of erecting an industrial wind power facility on it: "We need to shift our sense of aesthetics to include the social value these wind turbines provide. They are tall and graceful and can be seen as beautiful."

Isn't that exactly what every industrialist claims for his factory? Isn't that exactly what the oil companies claim as they salivate to dig up the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge? Sure, they say, there's a certain cost, but the claim of a "greater good" allows scoffing at any critical concern as "quaint," allows justifying any violation of aesthetics, morality, or just plain reason as "worth it." From unprovoked war in Iraq to power plants in wilderness areas, these are the social values so many self-styled environmentalists now promote.

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A note on wind power facility siting

The Barton (Vt.) Chronicle pinpoints the problem that industrial wind developers have in siting their plans. Because the machines are so big, noisy, and dangerous, they can't be erected where a lot of people live. So they are proposed in relatively remote and undeveloped areas -- precisely where such big, noisy, intrusive machines do not belong. The editorial also notes that once a relatively small "demonstration" project is installed, the logic for building more will be set: What was sought to protect will no longer exist. The salesman's foot is in the door.

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Saturday, April 23, 2005

Environmentalists don't support industrial wind "farms"

The Berkshire Eagle ends an article about the federal energy bill and the nonsolution of drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge with a quote from Amherst representative John Olver:
Olver, who said global warming "is the most critical environmental issue of the 21st century," is worried that his constituents might agree with Michaels [of the Cato Institute, who argues that we are not running out of fossil fuel]. He seemed perplexed by Massachusetts residents' unwillingness to support proposed wind farms, including one in remote [sic] Fitchburg [a city of 40,000 people].

"For the environmentally conscious people in Massachusetts, the level of opposition to this is really quite startling," he said.
Even if there were still centuries of fossil fuel left, we obviously can't keep digging it up and burning it like there's no tomorrow. Nuclear power, too, has very serious problems of digging, transport, pollution, and waste. Unfortunately, industrial wind power won't get us away from either of these power sources.

A comment on a blog entry by LA Weekly columnist Judith Lewis about the proposed Pine Tree wind facility outside of Los Angeles -- in which she laments the environmental issues but compares it to the alternative, a giant new coal-fired plant in Nevada -- might help explain to Olver why environment-minded people do not support industrial wind power:
The new coal plant ("Granite Fox") that Sempra wants to build in Gerlach is rated at 1,450 MW. It would be great to be make it (and the many more proposed new plants) unnecessary -- through conservation at the user end and increased efficiency at the existing producer end. Or, if we just want to try continuing on as we are, we could build wind turbines instead. At a 20% capacity factor for wind turbines in California, 7,250 MW would be required to equal the annual average output of the Gerlach plant. That's 500 MW more than is currently installed in the entire U.S. Two-thirds of the time, however, that massive wind plant (340-680 square miles) would be producing less than its average output, so you'd still need substantial frequent back-up from a more reliable source. And frequently ramping up and down those other plants diminishes their efficiency, increasing their pollution.

In short, it is unlikely that enough industrial turbines could be built to have a significant impact, and even then they wouldn't have a significant impact. Except in the negative.
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Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Thoughts on theocracy

One realized upon watching the "Frontline" report about a Saudi princess executed for adultery how a privileged elite has fostered a harsh absolutist religion in their country to secure their power. They of course remain above the law, not bound by the strictures that keep everyone else enslaved. (The princess dared the rulers to kill one of their own, which they did, as keeping the illusion of absolute law and the corresponding righteousness of their power was more important than allowing a such a publicized unrepentant exception.)

One thought about the close ties between the Bush and Saud families, and the cynical and terrible use of religion that keeps George W in power, enriching his pals and impoverishing the nation (spiritually as well as materially). His is truly a medieval vision of the worst sort. It even includes crusades to gain control of the middle east from the forces of evil, mirrored at home in the battles against the armies of sin. Even the true believers must accept their diminishing fortune, even their death, as their painful duty in the great cause.

What is the endless reverential coverage of the death and funeral of John Paul II and the election of Benedict XVI in the Vatican City but an insistence that the story is not just relevant but important? This medieval anachronism is suddenly central to all our lives, legitimizing the "moral" concerns of our government that mask a blatant theocratic coup. They would have us so cowed to believe that God blesses the President and that therefore his actions need not be judged objectively, if at all. The Pope is the model, the Holy Roman Emperor that Adolf Hitler sought to resurrect in himself. He is infallible. Dissent is treason.

Normal human behavior is sinful, because individual thought is a crime, a threat to the sheiks who cling so jealously to their ill-got gains. They demand our submission. There is only one God: Its name is Power.

The great are great only because we are on our knees. --Max Stirner

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Monday, April 18, 2005

Wind turbines no help to Vermonters

Today's Burlington (Vt.) Free Press includes an opinion piece by Barbara Grimes, general manager of Burlington Electric Dept.
As it stands now, Vermont imports electricity worth about $200 million each year. These are hard-earned Vermont dollars that go out of the state's economy and benefit wealthy people far away.
Turbine manufacturer GE is not local and Vestas is in Denmark, Enxco (Searsburg expansion, Readsboro, Lowell) is based in France, UPC (Hardscrabble in Sheffield) in Italy, Endless Energy (Equinox in Manchester) is from Maine, and the local companies behind industrial wind development are already in the power business, already raking in plenty of our electricity dollars. Their desire for more is not a compelling argument.

(Grimes mocks the mention of Halliburton as an "interesting little scare tactic" -- it must have touched a nerve. The fact is. Halliburton's subsidiary KBR, the division which is also profiteering shamelessly in Iraq, is "in the vanguard of the development of offshore wind power in the UK" (according to their web site), working in close partnership with the above-mentioned Vestas.)
Wind turbines properly placed in ideal wind spots so that we can produce our own energy in an environmentally and economically sound manner while providing good jobs for Vermonters is about as close to Vermont values as anything I can imagine. We believe in appropriately sited wind generation, which does not mean a continuous row from one end of the state to the other. That's just another ridiculous scare tactic designed to frighten the general public.
David Blittersdorf of anemometer company NRG wants to see 50% of the state's electricity generated by wind. That would require precisely the endless string of towers that Grimes dismisses as "scare tactic." Even VPIRG's goal of 20% would require hundreds of turbines (see below). It would also require violating a lot of heretofore protected land. The facts and goals of the industry itself are quite enough to scare the public.
The reality is Vermont already has wind energy and the view is not ruined and tourism hasn't suffered. I really wish people who say they are opposed to any and all wind turbines in the mountains would go and take a look at the wind farm at Searsburg, owned and operated by Green Mountain Power. Though the new ones would be taller, people would still get a sense of how turbines really do fit into the landscape. The wind power from Searsburg enters the grid and provides electricity for Vermonters in a clean and renewable manner.
Searsburg's towers are indeed much smaller. Significantly, they don't require safety lighting. Each tower in new developments is a couple stories higher than the whole assembly of one of Searsburg's machines. The blades reach 1 2/3 higher and chop through an acre of air -- more than 3 times those of Searsburg and correspondingly more noisy. Searsburg's 11 turbines, with a capacity equivalent to the 4 turbines proposed for East Haven, produce power equal to 0.2% of Vermont's electricity use, and it is less every year. To get to 20% would therefore require at least 400 giant new turbine assemblies; 50% would require 1,000 of them, costing about $2 million each and requiring new roads, substations, and high-voltage transmission lines. This is hardly a sustainable solution. It certainly does not protect the environment (each foundation, for example, would likely have to be blasted into the mountain rock and then requires many tons of concrete and steel). And because wind-based production doesn't coincide with demand, it wouldn't even provide much electricity that we would actually use (e.g., western Denmark had to dump 84% of its wind production in 2003).
Wind energy cuts our need of having to import power from outside the state. It cuts our reliance on others, and clearly puts the reliance back on ourselves, while supporting our economy and protecting our environment. If this doesn't reflect Vermont values, I'm not sure what does.
So, with little more argument than that she wants to see more wind turbines built, she closes with the old values bullying. She had laid the groundwork earlier by mentioning she's a "native" Vermonter, implying that all "real" Vermonters think exactly as she does and everyone else ought to shut the hell up. She evokes the "working landscape" unique to Vermont, though it is a feature of all places where humans dwell. New Jersey has a working landscape. What is unique to Vermont are the wild mountain tops for which Vermonters old and new have worked for a hundred years to restore and preserve. The desire to violate that with not manured hay fields but collections of 330-foot-high steel and composite wind turbines -- for very little benefit other than profits for a few -- reveals an appalling set of values, wherever they come from.

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Saturday, April 16, 2005

The hole gets bigger

One problem with ever-larger industrial wind turbines is the size of the foundation they require. In Bureau County, Illinois, 19 of the 33 turbines of the Crescent Ridge wind power facility near Tiskilwa have started to lean since the first was noticed last December. The holes dug for the foundations were already 30 feet deep, filled mostly with sand and topped with 6 feet of concrete and steel. Now they're injecting 16 5-foot-diameter columns of soil and grout into the hole to interlock under each existing concrete slab. The article (linked in the title of this post) mentions that in the west dynamite is used to blast out the holes for wind towers, as John Zimmerman, Enxco representative, has said would be required on the mountain ridges of the northeast U.S. as well. Many advocates claim that when wind turbines are no longer needed (or proved to be useless) they can be removed to leave the sites exactly as they were (ignoring the new or widened and strengthened roads, the clearcutting of forest, and new substations and transmission lines). That is obviously not so.

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Thursday, April 14, 2005

Tit bits

"Wind Energy an Important Contributor to Kyoto Plan" (news release):
"The installation of a minimum of 4,000 megawatts (MW) of wind energy
capacity in Canada over the next five years would produce enough electricity
to meet at least 15% of the projected increase in Canada's electricity demand
for the entire period between 2000 and 2010", says Robert Hornung, Canadian
Wind Energy Association (CanWEA) President.
That's about 4 billion dollars to (in theory only) cover 15% of only the increase in electricity use. In the U.S. that increase is generally assumed to be 2% a year, so assuming a similar rate in Canada electricity demand in 2010 would be 122% of what it was in 2000. 15% of that 22% increase is 3.3%. And electricity is only a fraction of total energy use, so industrial wind's contribution to the Kyoto plan is even further diminished. Even that very little something (based on the CanWEA's rosy assumptions of turbine performance) would require 3,000 turbines, each over 300 feet high, covering a total of 200-300 or more square miles. Besides the 4 billion dollars US for their construction, they would also require very expensive new high-voltage transmission lines. It seems obvious that conservation and efficiency would be a much more effective route. Of course, there's no profit for the energy companies in actually cutting back.

"Wind turbine on Tower Hill would be a beacon of hope" (letter):
Not only will the wind turbine become a major tourist attraction, but because of its proximity to our new hospital, it can also act as backup emergency power.

It can also act as emergency power for old-age homes and seniors' apartments in the case of blackouts, supplying power for elevators and respirators.
It should just be noted here that industrial wind turbines can not work without power from the grid. In a blackout, they are dead, too.

"Windmill Deemed Not Tall Enough" (news item):
[John Zimmerman, northeast U.S. Enxco representative,] said it will take time to perfect windmill technology ...

So far, Rapoza said, the windmill has produced a total of about 3,800 kilowatt hours [over 18 months], and makes enough electricity to power a small house.
The average residential customer in Vermont uses about 7,500 KW-h/year, so that's an awfully small house he's talking about: a third of the average. How many ever-larger turbines will industrialize ever more landscapes while the kinks of the technology (such as its dismal output) are still getting worked out?

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Another wind turbine couldn't take it

Up in the Lammermuirs of Scotland, a blade on one of the 2.5-MW wind turbines in the Crystal Rig wind power facility "flew apart" last Thursday morning. The news is just now being reported (click the title of this post), and the BBC story that appeared today has already been removed from their web site (update: it has returned). The damaged turbine assembly was installed only 8 months ago. These giant propellers don't seem to be able to withstand much wind.

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"The beauty of wind farms"

To the editor, New Scientist:

David Suzuki ("The beauty of wind farms," Opinion, 16 April) reminds us of the importance of solving the problem of global warming. But the issue at hand was the charge that industrial wind farms make little significant difference to carbon emissions, which he doesn't even try to refute. Further, his illustration that beauty is in the eye of the beholder -- that factory smokestacks once filled people with pride -- underscores the lack of objective evidence in favor of "windmills."

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Monday, April 11, 2005

Wind hearings end

Excerpt from today's Burlington (Vt.) Free Press editorial, concerning the proposed East Haven Windfarm:
When Champion Paper Co. sold its 132,000-acre holdings in the Northeast Kingdom, the land was split into three parcels: 22,000 acres on West Mountain went to the Vermont Agency of Natural Resources; 84,000 acres with conservation easements went to the Essex Timber Co.; and 26,000 acres went to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The Vermont Legislature appropriated $4.5 million for the project in 1999 with a matching grant from the Richard King Mellon Foundation. The federal government invested another $6.5 million in the lands.

"This area is truly exceptional," Decker wrote in his pre-filed testimony. "There are few places like it, if any, in Vermont or the Northeast. ... And it did not happen by chance. The so-called Champion Lands deal was a culmination of years of hard work, negotiation, collaboration and expense. ... The mountain peaks are the fundamental cornerstone to the remote nature and rugged character."

East Haven Windfarm's proposed "demonstration project," on an island of private property in the middle of the Champion Lands, would generate about 0.3 percent [more likely 0.2%] of the state's annual electricity needs. This small amount of power does not justify putting 30-story-tall, strobe-lighted turbines right in the middle of land that the state explicitly protected as wilderness. Industrial wind turbines do not fit into the vision for these conserved lands nor could they possibly be considered "very little" development.
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Thursday, April 07, 2005

Which side are you on?

M. David Stirling, in the Washington Times today, criticizes opponents of drilling for oil in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR). In contrast, he praises Dear Leader's "common-sense approach and balancing of environmental concerns with real human needs." He dismisses environmental concerns, describing how environmentally friendly oil drilling has become, and reminds us that we need the energy and it will create jobs and local revenue.

Critics of course also point out that it will do little to affect our energy picture. The U.S. currently consumes about 20 million barrels of oil every day, and according to the U.S. Geological Survey any ANWR production would peak at about 1 million barrels/day in 2025, or 5% of today's consumption. It will obviously not replace any current or future sources, and more importantly it is not enough to risk cutting back contracts for imports. We will still be buying as much foreign oil as before. (In fact, about 7% of the oil used by the U.S. is currently exported.) It is definitely not worth violating a nominally protected wilderness area.

These arguments and reaction are not surprising, however. I write because Stirling sounds just like those who support industrial wind power: "We need to construct this expensive tiny source of power on previously undeveloped sites, even in protected wilderness areas, because -- well, anyway it creates jobs and local revenue." Stirling should be comforted that even environmentalists are pro-industrial capitalists now.

Related to this mix-up is recent news about Richard Pombo, U.S. Representative from California and promoter of industrial wind power. The Los Angeles Times found out that his parents own a good part of the land on which the Altamont wind power fiasco is situated. Pombo has earlier proposed (as noted here) that federal environmental review not be required for "alternative" energy projects. The L.A. Times now reports that he also requested the Department of the Interior directly to suspend Fish & Wildlife guidelines for the Altamont sites. His parents received $125,000 in 2001 for the use of their land by wind energy companies.

Altamont is an embarrassing showcase for the industry because large numbers of raptors have been killed there. A lawsuit is going forward on behalf of the birds. A current compromise (noted here) proposal is to shut the wind turbines down for the portion of the year when a majority of the deaths occur. That might cut Pombo's parents' wind income by a third. Pombo denies any interest in his parent's affairs and even denies knowledge of his signed letter to Interior secretary Gale Norton.

The anti-environment Pombo echos another argument from advocates for industrial wind: "We don't need environmental regulations -- by definition we're environmentally friendly."

It's all business. The industrial wind crowd is no better than the arctic drilling crowd.

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"Malone planners hear worries about wind-power rules"

The planning board of Malone, N.Y., is working to devise local laws for industrial wind turbines, which JP Morgan Chase–owned Noble Assets wants to construct 67 of.
But things got a little nasty at the end of the 90-minute session when Noble's attorney Mark Lyons and Managing Director Chuck Hinckley questioned some of the findings Pierpont has published that claim low-frequency noise from wind turbines is a health hazard.

Lyons said he and Hinckley contacted Dr. Geoff Leventhall, the man who wrote the study Pierpont gleaned information from, "and he said the study he did had nothing to do with wind farms.

"He said, 'I can state categorically that there is no significant infrasound from current designs of wind turbines. To say that there is an infrasound problem is one of the hares which objectors to wind farms like to run.'

It is doubtful that Lyons and Hinckley contacted Leventhall. Their quote is pulled right out of an unsigned British Wind Energy Association paper, where it is attributed to "personal communication," though when and to whom is not specified. Noble had even already used the quote in a newspaper ad (Malone Telegram, February 19, 2005).

Nor is the statement backed up by actual data. Leventhall's personal opinion, or peevishness that laymen are getting involved in the issue, does not refute his research for the U.K. Department of Environmental, Farming and Rural Affairs concluding that current noise regulations do not adequately protect the public from low-frequency noise, which he shows to be a serious annoyance and stress problem.

Though Leventhall has already dismissed the issue of infrasound and low-frequency noise regarding industrial wind turbines, he has nonetheless organized a conference on wind turbine noise in general at the Hotel Stuttgarter Hof, Berlin, 17-18 October 2005. Many papers have already been offered, a few specifically about infrasound and low-frequency noise. Clearly the noise issue is still very much alive.

(The news article linked to in the title of this post contains an obvious error, unquestioningly repeating Noble's description of their plan as 67 1.5-MW turbines on about 30 acres of land. Existing and other planned facilities use 30-60 acres per megawatt, so at a minimum Noble's would take up 3,000 acres.)

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Tuesday, April 05, 2005

"Wind blamed for damage to prototype wind turbine"

Not a parody. That's a real headline from New Zealand. It wasn't the fault of the turbine design -- it was the wind! (See "Prototype blades blown away" for the story of the March 10 mishap, where the whole blade and gearbox assembly was torn off.

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Sunday, April 03, 2005

The stray voltage issue

I just learned from a campaigner in New York who has talked to Scott Srnka, the dairy farmer in Lincoln, Wisconsin, whose cows have suffered very serious problems since a nearby industrial wind power facility was installed, that Srnka at one point disconnected the grounds of the turbines and his herd immediately started recovering. As soon as the wind company found out and repaired them, the herd's problems resumed. The company chose not to take Srnka to court for his vandalism, obviously fearing the airing of evidence.

See earlier post, "Stray voltage -- or dumped electricity?"

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Industrial wind, corporate vandalism

In the Burlington (Vt.) Free Press today:

Many well intentioned people champion industrial wind power, but it baffles me when those who label themselves "environmentalist" or "green," or who otherwise consider themselves to be politically progressive, seem so eager to do business with the same huge profit-driven corporations that have already done so much to destroy the planet. GE, one of the biggest manufacturers of military weapons and nuclear power plants, is also the US manufacturer of industrial-size wind turbines. GE got into the business by buying the wind division of the Enron corporation. War profiteer Halliburton is involved in the construction of off-shore wind facilities. Investment banks such as Goldman Sachs and JP Morgan Chase own wind energy companies, as reported by the New York Times on March 22. Citizens for Tax Justice, a labor and consumer rights group, has noted that FPL Group, the parent company of the biggest wind energy company in America, paid no federal income tax in 2002 and 2003 on more than 2 billion dollars of profit, thanks in large part to the tax evasion schemes of industrial wind.

Blasting Vermont's lovely ridgelines to ram monstrous turbine assemblies into the earth, along with clearcut wide strong roads through wild areas and ever more power lines strung about, is a violent assault, despoiling all life around it. There seems remarkably little concern from the pro-industrial wind crowd regarding the further loss of habitat for other species and the inevitable deaths of many birds and bats. It seems that the big-wind supporters have bought into the rapacious corporate mindset of "think big." The US government is granting subsidies for industrial wind not because it gives a damn about green energy but because it benefits corporate America, as always. It is the same mentality, ironically, that applauds drilling for oil in the pristine Alaskan wilderness.

What ever happened to "small is beautiful"? Vermont is a small state. Why not instead promote small windmills, such as at the Danville School? We could advocate for and more generously subsidize even smaller windmills for home use along with solar panels, microhydro, and insulation to save heating fuel, as the purchase and installation of most of these things are beyond the means of many Vermonters. What about the use of biodiesel from non-genetically modified crops? Why aren't unnecessary recreational gas-guzzlers and polluters heavily taxed instead of relentlessly encouraged? Why are SUVs not required to be more environmentally friendly? Conservation would save much more energy than giant wind facilities could ever generate. Alas, none of this will happen easily, if at all, because it won't benefit big business.

We have made a dire mess of this planet, and trashing and industrializing Vermont's mountains is simply adding to it. And the saddest part is that industrial wind facilities won't close down one fossil or nuclear fueled power plant after all that "necessary" destruction of Vermont's most valuable resource. The gargantuan turbines will be only an empty symbol for those people who need to easily assuage their consumerist guilt, most of whom will probably not be living anywhere near the noisy brightly lit monsters.

I sometimes wonder if the "progressive" supporters of big wind realize exactly what they are opening the door to and who will be profiting from the further industrialization of Vermont. Though there are no easy answers or quick fixes, we need to step back from the abyss of this high-testosterone approach and try to create more peaceful, imaginative, harmonious, and decentralized ways of employing renewable energy in Vermont.

-- Joanna Lake

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