Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Pro-wind violence

On the island of Skye off Scotland, a three-year effort to build an industrial wind plant in Edinbane was sent back to square one last week because of legal technicalities. Concerns about peat destruction and raptor deaths have also been newly raised. Members of the Skye Windfarm Action Group (SWAG) had already been subject to intimidating letters, telephone calls, and vandalism, and this weekend the pro-wind camp were true to form: painting a bed-and-breakfast sign with "SWAG scum," cutting down a dozen spruce trees and piling them in a driveway, smashing and pulling up road signs.

news.scotsman.com/scotland.cfm?id=593462005
news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/scotland/4594555.stm

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The color of money

Disgen, the company behind the Brodie Mtn. project in Massachusetts, has an outline of the "Wind Development Process" (a 135-KB PDF). Under "Financing," the source of equity is characterized with "Rate of Return 16-18%."

Even if you were convinced that large-scale wind could make significant contributions to the grid and that there would be correspondingly significant environmental benefits so that the industry needs or at least deserves government support, this promised return clearly goes far beyond that -- into the realm of piracy.

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Thursday, May 26, 2005

Gone with the wind

Letter in the Financial Times (London), May 24:
From Mr Hugh Sharman [Hals, Denmark].

Sir, in your editorial ("Glowing green", May 16) you wrote that "Denmark, which relies on intermittent wind power for nearly 20 per cent of its power, has stability problems on its grid".

Although it is true that the wind power we have creates "stability problems", it is not true that we inhabitants of west Denmark rely on wind power at all.

Whenever west Denmark produces a lot of wind power, it simultaneously exports almost equivalent quantities along its strong inter-connections with Norway, Sweden and Germany.

In other words, in spite of wind turbines producing a quantity of power equivalent to more than 20 per cent of its domestic consumption, very little of this power is actually consumed in west Denmark. I have calculated that in 2003, more than 80 per cent of wind output was exported, leaving west Denmark to consume about 4 per cent of its power from its enormous capacity of wind turbines.

There is an added irony here. The Danish consumer pays the highest tariffs for electricity in Europe. Much of these are hypothecated for the support of windmill owners. However, the wind wind power is sold on the spot market at rates that are much lower.

Thus there is a direct transfer of wealth from Danish consumers to consumers in Sweden, Norway and Germany, every time 1kWh of electricity is sold in this way. During 2003, this net transfer of wealth amounted to more than £100m -- or £40 per inhabitant.
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Familiarity breeds contempt

Along the lines of the previous post, the Press and Journal of Aberdeen, Scotland, tells of another neighbor who finds the turbines not just awful but distressing as well:
Noise from windfarm making life a misery

A recent settler in Caithness claimed yesterday his life is being blighted by ghostly noises from his new neighbours, the county's first large-scale windfarm. ...

[Frank] Bellamy said: "The problem is particularly bad at night when I try to get to sleep and there's a strong wind coming from the direction of the turbines.

"They just keep on droning on. It's a wooh wooh type of sound, a ghostly sort of noise. It's like torture and would drive anyone mad."

Mr Bellamy believes the noise is being transmitted through the ground since it seems to intensify when he lies down. ...
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"a train that never arrives"

From a story in the Manawatu (New Zealand) Standard, May 22:
The hearing for the Te Apiti wind farm in September 2003 received 20 submissions -- 11 in support, 8 against and 1 which didn't specify.

A year later the number of submissions to the Te Rere Hau hearing, in December 2004, had jumped to 71 -- 27 for, 38 against and 6 not indicating either.

Five months later, the hearing into the proposed Tararua 3 extensions received 340 submissions -- 106 in support, 230 against, and 4 not indicating either way.
And from the Dominion Post (Wellington), May 25:
Turbines were beginning to lose their appeal, especially in the Ashhurst area, where residents complained of noise from the Te Apiti turbines, a rumble that sounded "like a train that never arrived", as one submission to the recent resource consent hearing described it. ...

"A lot of people think that we've done our bit for sustainable energy around here. When the second stage of the Tararua wind farm went up it looked like a fence along the top of the ranges, and the Te Apiti development changed many people's minds. They didn't know the turbines were going to be so big or that there would be so many of them." ...

One turbine was a feature; a wind farm was an eyesore.
Yet the industry insists that people only love them more after they're built!

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Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Wendy Williams in support of the coal industry

To the editor, Providence (R.I.) Journal:

Most legislators are oblivious to the world beyond their offices until someone in their own family is affected. That indeed makes for pathetic representation, but if Lamar Alexander and John Warner got interested in the wind energy debate only because their children have property on Nantucket Sound, so be it (Wendy Williams, "TR IV tilts for windmills," May 25).

And yes, Alexander's energy votes are usually determined by the energy lobby. In the case of developing Appalachian ridge lines for wind power, however, the energy lobby is all for it. For example, the firm of Gracewell and Giuliani, which fights emission limits among other burdens to their clients, is working on behalf of a giant wind facility proposed for Highland County, Virginia. There are two obvious reasons: Wind is turning out to be an attractive tax shelter, and while people think that wind turbines are cleaning the air the coal plants can go on polluting as much as ever.

Williams makes much of Knoxville and Memphis being the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America's top two "asthma capitals." Besides looking at the rate and severity of asthma, the ranking also considers pollen levels, public smoking laws, inhaler laws in schools, and the rates of poverty and lack of health insurance. General air quality is but one factor. As the American Lung Association's annual "State of the Air" report shows, Memphis and Knoxville do have pollution problems -- like most big cities -- but they are nowhere near the worst.

Williams also mocks Alexander's proposed funding of "clean coal" as a corporate give-away. She defends the corporate give-aways for wind power as relatively small, ignoring how much the 1.9-cents per kilowatt adds up over the planned 20-year life of a wind turbine as well as other benefits, such as accelerated depreciation and RPS schemes to force the purchase of wind-generated power and create a secondary market in green "credits."

Meanwhile, the main source of our electricity, coal, will continue to burn just as before (and Williams ignores the fact that most of our emissions come from other uses of energy, such as transport). Despite Williams' mockery, cleaning it up can make a real difference.

Scrubbers installed (against the owner's will) at the 1600-MW coal-fired power plant in Mt. Storm, West Virginia, remove the sulfur and nitrogen oxides and most of the mercury from its smokestacks. Once one of the dirtiest plants in the nation, Mt. Storm is now one of the cleanest.

An article in the New York Times business section May 22 described the single integrated coal gasification combined cycle plant in the U.S., owned by Tampa Electric in Florida. In gasifying the coal before burning it, 95% of the sulfur and mercury, and most of the nitrogen, is removed -- at a tenth of the cost of smokestack scrubbing -- and carbon can be captured as well. In addition, the plant generates 15% more energy from the coal and uses 40% less water than traditional plants.

Mining the coal to fire such plants of course remains a serious issue. Unfortunately, building giant wind turbines -- whose output is unpredictably variable -- is not going to reduce, much less end, the use of coal. If Williams is concerned about air quality, if Teddy Roosevelt IV is worried about the arctic ice cap melting, they should put their efforts into cleaning up the energy sources we use now and will be using well into the future.

Resigning oneself to, even to the point of advocating, "feel-good" wind turbines that won't actually change anything -- yet create many problems of their own -- is an environmental cop-out.

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Polly Toynbee on the despair behind embracing the wind

To the editor, the Guardian:

It's amusing to note that Toynbee calls it heroic to stand against the apparent popularity of nuclear power, but excoriates opponents of industrial wind power (not the 17th-century models!) by citing their apparent popularity.

She ably sees through the nuclear industry's propaganda, but sadly not that of the wind industry.

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Sunday, May 22, 2005

Unaccountable

The New York Times today writes about the continued bullying of Latin America by the U.S., this time in trying to get the Organization of American States (OAS) to set up a committee for monitoring the "quality" of democracy in the different member countries. As the price of supporting the new secretary general José Miguel Insulza, the U.S. forced him to stand with Condoleezza ("revenge of the sith") Rice last month and state, "The elected governments that do not govern democratically should be held accountable by the O.A.S."

Now Rice is going around calling it Insulza's plan to attack Venezuela's government. Why does the U.S. hate Venezuela's president Hugo Chavez so much? Because he is popular. He rejects the banana republic assumptions of U.S. dominance in the region and has turned Venezuela's oil wealth to making life better for all Venezuelans rather than only a few.

As far as "elected governments that do not govern democratically," the glaring example is the U.S. itself. What is fight about the filibuster, i.e., the right of the minority to demand a larger majority than 51% for controversial votes, than a desire to remove perhaps the last barrier to absolute one-party rule?

Friday, May 20, 2005

Embrace the Revolution

"Embrace the Revolution" is the name of the British Wind Energy Association's government-sponsored campaign to convice people that they really do like giant wind turbines as much as investors do. Calling these ineffective but hugely intrusive industrial machines "revolutionary" is like saying that war is peace, submission is freedom.

One of their tactics has been a continuous stream of surveys showing that two-thirds to three-fifths of the public want lots of giant wind turbines all over the U.K. They say this even as every single proposed facility faces strong and broad-based opposition. The embracers are obviously asking the wrong people (or by design the right people, for their purpose).

As BWEA's head of communications Alison Hill told an international meeting in London last November, "Most people don't understand climate change and they don't understand wind turbines."

And that is clearly all that their surveys show. Rather than address that shortcoming, the BWEA and its dupes are only trying to exploit it.

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Thursday, May 19, 2005

Incredible

"People are dead because of what this son of a bitch said. How could he be credible now?" --Pentagon spokesman Lawrence Di Rita.

I couldn't have said it better myself. Except there's many more than one such "son of a bitch" in the gang of pirates we're stuck with instead of a government. Too bad there's no other group to rally behind. Maybe we should ask George Galloway, late of the U.K.'s Labour Party, to come over and start a real opposition.

Wind advocacy rather weak

The Southern Alliance for Clean Energy (SACE) issued an amusingly inept response to Tennessee Senator Lamar Alexander's Environmentally Responsible Wind Power Act of 2005.

I agree with them about the "siren song" of nuclear power, and I am glad to read that Alexander has worked with them to protect the Smoky Mountains and pursue cleaner use of coal.

While they criticize him for listening to energy lobbyists more often than good sense in supporting the current energy bill, however, they also criticize him for trying to insert this bit of good sense against the wishes of energy lobbyists.

What are their answers to Alexander's charges against the wind energy industry?
  1. A blindfolded person can tell the difference between the noise of a freight train and that of a wind turbine facility.
  2. Thousands of giant wind turbines will not scar the landscape as much as mountaintop-removal coal mining.
That is not to say, of course, that wind turbines are not very noisy or do not scar the landscape. And just as we will still have freight trains, we will also still have coal mining to the same extent whether we build a hundred thousand wind turbines or none.

SACE correctly recognizes the seriousness of our energy issues, including reducing pollution and preserving wild places. But they forget to show how industrial wind power helps in tackling these issues. In fact, they can't. Giant industrial wind facilities are scarring our landscapes and ruining the lives of their neighbors. They are destroying wild places and the lives of animals on the ground and in the air. And they are not giving us anything in return.

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Wednesday, May 18, 2005

"Utilities put cap on wind power"

An article in the May 18 Asahi Shimbun:
Just when it looked like smooth sailing for wind power generation, electric power companies, its main buyers, have placed limits on their purchases, citing the unreliability of the clean energy. ...

Until recently, regional utilities have cooperated by purchasing all of the electricity generated by wind power suppliers.

But introducing too much of the electricity, whose supply can fluctuate wildly, can cause problems for utilities' power grids.

According to Tohoku Electric, which purchases about 40 percent of wind power generated nationwide, wattage can change between zero to 80 percent of its capacity within a single day.

Electric power companies worry a supply shortfall will result in blackouts, while excess supply may destabilize frequencies, which could cause malfunctions at factories, for example.

To avoid such risks, utilities control supply by monitoring shortages and sufficiencies and compensate by raising or lowering supply at thermal generators by means of computer-controlled systems.

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. ...
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Tuesday, May 17, 2005

"100 percent wind-powered"

The Sunday New York Times Travel section went to Boulder, Colo., and recommends an eatery that boasts it is "100 percent wind-powered."

The claim is amusing, since they're getting the same electricity their nonwind-powered neighbors are getting. They're just paying extra so they can say it's different.

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Monday, May 16, 2005

Giant wind turbine foundations

From "Wind farms remain pricy propositions," The Citizens Voice (Wilkes-Barre, Pa.), May 15:
The Waymart Wind Farm, located in Clinton and Canaan townships in Wayne County [Pa.], contains 43 1.5-megawatt turbines ...

The blades are shipped from Brazil and the gearbox for each turbine is brought over on barges from Denmark.

Each turbine weighs 190 tons and requires a sturdy foundation to keep the structure stable.

At the Waymart site, the turbines rest on concrete foundations extending 30 to 40 feet into the bedrock. The foundations are reinforced by 14-foot and 12-foot diameter pipes, and the turbine is fastened to a bolt carriage that runs through the entire foundation.
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Saturday, May 14, 2005

Not so insignificant harm

From today's Herald Sun of Melbourne:
Andrew Richards, external affairs manager for Australia's biggest renewable energy company, Pacific Hydro, admits that as wind power generation increases, more work needs to be done on how it fits into the existing power grid.

But he 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."
That is to say, if in the future there is enough wind power capacity installed that when the wind blows just right its output rises well above "just background noise," then other plants will be forced to operate at less efficiency, increasing their emissions. So, as long as wind power's presence on the grid is insignificant, there is no need to worry about its fluctuations causing greater emissions from coal plants.

As noted in response to a similar comment about spinning reserve, yet another advocate seems to be asserting that wind power works great as long as it's not actually contributing anything of significance.

Yes, it's working great for the developers and green credit marketers. But it is destroying more and more of our last rural and wild places. It is destroying the lives of people and animals. For nothing.

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The Fenner wind farm show

Sue Sliwinski of the Sardinia (N.Y.) Preservation Group writes about the frequent developer-sponsored tours from around New York to the wind facility in Fenner. Her husband, Ed, went on one but thought he'd take a look the day before as well. He noted a mowed field near the turbines, the hay all taken in. On the tour the next day, they were led from the bus to stand under an operating turbine (known to be the quietest spot). But the only thing they could hear was a tractor in the nearby field. Someone went over to tell the fellow to turn it off for a bit, and with that noise gone the gravelly swishing of turbines was a relative relief. Then back to the bus and to the wining and dining part of the tour.

Sue has heard about other tours having to deal with that same tractor:
"This caught my attention because there are other accounts of visits to other wind farms by developers and they're almost all identical:

"Everyone boards a big fancy bus, the developers make rounds to chit chat with all along the way, they get to the wind farm, pull right up under a turbine, get out, and have to kindly request that the farmer over in the next field turns off his tractor because it's noise is louder than the turbine. Then after about 20 minutes it's time for lunch: back on the bus down to the nearest village where you probably can't even see the turbines anymore. There you listen to locals proclaim their pleasure about having them in their town, and more importantly the mayor or supervisor along with several leasers join you for lunch and verify every single wonderful claim made by the developers. Then they pile back onto the bus and sing rah-rah songs all the way home.

"No kidding -- I've heard the same exact story a number of times from different places. Every once in a while an article will turn up describing the day exactly that way, too."
Ed Sliwinski has visited Fenner and another facility in Weathersfield several times on his own to record the sights and sounds. The lights at night are notably intrusive. They light up the top of the tower and the nacelle (the bus-sized generator housing at the top of the tower) as well as the blades near the hub. That's bad enough, but as the blades turn the reflected light does, too, making it even more distracting and industrial.

One time at Fenner, on a windless foggy day, he recorded the eerie screeching that many people have described. The sound may be from the whole assembly turning on the tower to unwind the cable inside, which becomes twisted from turning the blades into the wind. It was too foggy to see what was going on way up there.

Another noise he described hearing is like gunshots, an explosive popping as the towers cool in the evening after a sunny day.

On some of his early visits, Ed talked to a Fenner town supervisor, who told him, "The honeymoon is over." Major complaints from residents have been increasing, he said. He also mentioned a violation of the setback agreement of 2,000 feet from any home: The company did not consider it as applying to "mobile" homes.

Also see Pam Foringer's account of her life next to the Fenner wind power complex.

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Lamar!

The Appalachian range in the mid-Atlantic states is being aggressively targeted for industrial wind development. The Allegheny Ridge alone, in the border areas of West Virginia, Maryland, and Pennsylvania, is under assault by plans for at least 1,000 giant turbines. U.S. Senators Lamar Alexander of Tennessee and John Warner of Virginia have introduced the Environmentally Responsible Wind Power Act of 2005. Here are some excerpts from Alexander's May 13 speech.
Our legislation provides for local authorities to be notified and have a role in the approval of the siting of tens of thousands of massive wind turbines that will be built in America under current policies. It also ensures that the federal government does not subsidize the building of these windmills -- which are usually taller than a football field is long - within 20 miles of a military base or a highly scenic location, such as a national park or offshore. ...

One part of our energy debate will be about wind power, which is the subject of our legislation today. This is because several of our colleagues have proposed something called a Renewable Portfolio Standard, or RPS, which would require power companies to produce 10 percent of all their electricity from renewable sources by 2025. These renewable sources are wind, hydro, solar, geothermal and biomass. ...

It is important for our colleagues to know that a Renewable Portfolio Standard or RPS is all about wind. ... Experts agree that the bottom line is that a requirement that electric companies produce 10 percent of their electricity from renewable energy, if it could be achieved at all, would mean that about 70 percent of the increase would come from wind. In other words, we would go from producing about 1 percent of our electricity from wind to 7 or 8 percent.

Testimony before our Energy Committee and most other sources suggest that to produce this much wind energy in the United States could require building more than 100,000 of new, massive wind turbines. We have less than 7,000 such windmills in the U.S. today, with the largest number in Texas and California.

Testimony also indicated that, even without the RPS, if Congress continues its sustained generous subsidy for wind production for the next 10 years, it will guarantee that the U.S. has about 100,000 of these windmills by 2025. According to the Treasury Department, this wind subsidy, if renewed each year for the next five years, would reimburse wind investors for 25 percent of the cost of wind production and cost taxpayers $3.7 billion over those 5 years. General Electric Wind, one of the largest manufacturers of wind turbines, has experienced a 500 percent growth in its wind business this year due to the renewal of the wind production tax credit last year.

I want to make sure that my colleagues know that there are serious questions about how much relying on wind power will raise the cost of electricity, questions about whether there are better ways to spend $3.7 billion in support of clean energy, questions about whether wind even produces the amount of energy that is claimed. My studies suggest that at a time when American needs large amounts of low-cost reliable power, wind produces puny amounts of high-cost unreliable power. We need lower prices; wind power raises prices. We will have an opportunity in our debates and further hearings to examine these questions.

But the legislation we offer today is about a different question: the siting of 100,000 of these massive machines.

The idea of windmills conjures up pleasant images -- of Holland and tulips, of rural America with windmill blades slowly turning, pumping water at the farm well. My grandparents had such a windmill at their well pump. That was back before rural electrification.

But the windmills we are talking about today are not your grandmother’s windmills.

Each one is typically [over] 100 yards tall, two stories taller than the Stature of Liberty, taller than a football field is long.

These windmills are wider than a 747 jumbo jet.

Their rotor blades turn at [well over] 100 miles per hour.

These towers and their flashing red lights can be seen from more than 25 miles away.

Their noise can be heard from up to a half mile away. It is a thumping and swishing sound. It has been described by residents that are unhappy with the noise as sounding like a brick wrapped in a towel tumbling in a clothes drier on a perpetual basis.

These windmills produce very little power since they only operate when the wind blows enough or doesn’t blow too much, so they are usually placed in large wind farms covering huge amounts of land.

As an example, if the Congress ordered electric companies to build 10 percent of their power from renewable energy -- which as we have said, has to be mostly wind -- and if we renew the current subsidy each year, by the year 2025, my state of Tennessee would have at least 1,700 windmills, which would cover land almost equal to two times the size of the city of Knoxville.

If Virginia were to produce 10 percent of its power from wind and the subsidies continue, it would probably need more than 1,700 windmills. These windmills would take up enough land to equal the land mass of three cities the size of Richmond, Virginia.

In North Carolina, to supply 10 percent of electricity from wind if the subsidies continue, it would take up the landmass of the Research Triangle -- the Raleigh, Durham, Chapel Hill area.

According to testimony before our committee, in Tennessee and Virginia, these windmills would work best and perhaps only work at all along ridge tops.

So, if present policies are continued, we could expect to see hundreds of football field sized towers with flashing red lights atop the blue ridges of Virginia, above the Shenandoah Valley, along the foothills of the Great Smoky Mountains, on top of Signal Mountain, and on top of Lookout Mountain and Roan Mountain in Tennessee and down the Tennessee River Gorge, which the city of Chattanooga has just spent 25 years protecting and now calls itself the scenic city. ...

What will this do to our tourism industry? Will 10 million visitors a year who come to enjoy the Great Smokies really want to come see ridge tops decorated with flashing red lights and 100-yard tall windmills?

What happens to electric rates when the federal subsidy disappears?

Who will take down these massive structures if we decide we don’t like them or if they don’t work?

Who is making the money on all this?

Why are some of European countries who pioneered wind farms now slowing down or even stopping their construction in some places?

Clearly there are more sensible ways to provide clean energy than spending $3.7 billion of taxpayers’ money to destroy the American landscape. ...

While we are debating the wisdom of wind policies, these massive turbines are being built across America, 6,700 of them so far, 29 of them in Tennessee. The Tennessee Valley Authority recently announced it had signed a 20-year contract with a group of investors from Chicago to build 18 huge windmills atop a 3,300 foot ridge on Buffalo Mountain in East Tennessee.

So the purpose of our legislation is to give citizens the opportunity to have some say in where these massive structures are located in their communities and to make sure that the Congress does not subsidize the destruction of the American landscape near our national parks or other highly scenic areas or build such tall structures dangerously close to our military bases.

First, the bill ensures that local authorities are notified and have a role in the approval of new windmills to be built in their areas of jurisdiction. This means that at the same time a proposed windmill is filed with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, FERC would notify the local authority with zoning jurisdiction. ...

Second, our legislation provides protection to highly scenic areas and to military bases. It does so my eliminating tax subsidies for any windmill within 20 miles of a World Heritage Area (which includes many national parks), a military base or offshore.

Under the bill, placement of a windmill within 20 miles of such a site shall also require the completion of an environmental impact statement. Further, any windmill that is to be constructed within 20 miles of a neighboring state’s border may be vetoed by that neighboring state. In other words, if the neighboring state can see it, and don’t want it, they can veto it.

I believe that during our debates we will find there are better ways to produce a low-cost, reliable supply of American energy than by spending $3.7 billion over the next 5 years requiring power companies to produce energy from giant windmills that raise electric rates, only work when the wind blows, and destroy the American landscape. ...

In the United States of America, Mr. President, the wholesale destruction of the American landscape is not an incidental concern. The Great American Outdoors is an essential part of the American character. Italy has its art. Egypt has its pyramids. England has its history. And we have the Great American Outdoors.

While we debate the merits of so much subsidy and reliance on wind power, we should at the same time protect our national parks, our shorelines and other highly scenic areas, and we should give American citizens the opportunity to protect their communities and landscapes before it is too late.
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Thursday, May 12, 2005

Noise level not acceptable

Near Meyersdale in the Allegheny Highlands of southwest Pennsylvania, the wind facility with which Florida Power & Light replaced a forested mountaintop -- without any warning, as they own the land -- has had some troubles.

After Hurricane Ivan washed out roads and overwhelmed silt barriers in nearby towns in 2004, a few people wondered if clearcutting the ridge above their streams had aggravated the effect, since nobody could remember seeing or could find reports of such problems before. From calculations with the loss of absorptive ground cover and trees, they found that runoff from a severe storm would be 1.3 to 3 times what it would be had the ridgetop forest been left untouched.

A Danish worker was killed last fall while making repairs. Apparently nobody thought about locking the blades while he was up in the crane -- when they started turning they knocked the basket (and worker inside) right off. The chairman of the American subsidiary of Vestas (the Danish manufacturer of the turbines) responded, "These things just don't happen." Except they obviously do.

And the noise. A resident whose home is 3,000 feet or a bit closer (over half a mile) to the turbines got an engineer to measure the noise at his house. Over 48 hours, the noise level averaged around 75 dB(A), as described in this letter and shown in this graph (which mistakenly gives the distance as 3,000 meters (3 km) rather than 3,000 feet).

As quoted in the letter, the EPA says that noise above 45 dB(A) disturbs sleep and noise above 70 dB(A) prevents sleep for most people. Every increase of 10 dB is technically a tripling of the noise level and generally perceived as a doubling of loudness. The A scale is weighted for the normal range of audible sound, but many analysts have determined that the C scale should be used for this kind of monitoring, because it includes some of the lower frequencies that are felt more than heard. Lower-frequency sound waves, as well as vibrations through the ground, travel much farther and are more disturbing than noise in the normal range of hearing. Ignoring them, as well as coming to measure sound only at rare moments, has allowed the industry to claim there is no problem even as people who live near the turbines become addicted to sleeping pills.

In Fenner, N.Y., the wind company has bought neighboring homes that people have fled. They have sold them in turn, and the deeds specifically forbid complaints about the turbines. Similarly, leases with landowners to site turbines on their property typically hold the company free from responsibility for a long list of common complaints, even as the same companies deny such problems exist and insist that everyone loves them.

My thanks to Todd Hutzell of Friends of the Allegheny Highlands and Dan Boone, Conservation Chair of the Maryland Sierra Club, for providing much of the information here.

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"With us or against us"

An article in the New York Daily News Saturday quoted Richard Kessel, chairman of the Long Island Power Authority, regarding his desire to install giant wind turbines off Jones Beach: "Either you're with us or you're with OPEC."

Phillippe Cousteau, president of EarthEcho International, was right behind him.

This rhetorical formula is of course familiar from George W. Bush's simple-minded belligerence (which selectivity translates more to "Either you will privatize your national resources or you're with the terrorists"). Like that call to arms, Kessel's and Cousteau's call for wind power also is based on lies.

Although such grandstanding denies the possibility of dissent, let me just point out that only 2.3% of the oil used in the U.S. is for generating electricity. In fact we export three times that amount. (See the energy flow diagram at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory.)

It's a bad sign when environmentalists sound like warmongers and show as little regard for the facts.

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Environmentalists hoisted with their own petard

Press and Journal (Aberdeen, Scotland), May 4, 2005:
Scottish ministers are planning to give themselves unprecedented powers to push through controversial developments such as windfarm projects and the Aberdeen bypass, according to leaked documents.

Environmental campaigners branded the move a "naked power grab" and claimed it would make it virtually impossible to object to a slew of controversial developments.

Under a new "streamlined" planning process, once ministers had declared a project as being of "national strategic significance" it would not be possible to challenge it on the basis of need.

Instead, planning inquiries would only be able to look at detail and location.

Environmentalists believe if projects such as nuclear power stations and associated nuclear dumps or motorways have been designated as part of the national planning framework, it would be impossible to stop them, regardless of public opposition. ...

Duncan McLaren, chief executive of Friends of the Earth Scotland, said, "This is an unprecedented power grab which will centralise planning, reduce public involvement and allow the imposition of unpopular, socially unjust and environmentally unsustainable projects."

Business leaders back the executive proposals.
This kind of centralized planning to ignore public concerns is precisely what Friends of the Earth supports for putting hundreds of industrial wind power facilities throughout Scotland. Corporatized environmentalist groups worldwide argue urgency and "strategic significance" to ram the wind energy boondoggle into rural and wild areas despite widespread opposition. As opposition grows as more such facilities are built and more people see what they are, so does the call for national policies to force their continued building. When environmentalists thus sound like industrialists and land developers, they can hardly be surprised when their new friends apply such power-mad reasoning to other pet projects as well.

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Tuesday, May 10, 2005

Wind turbine tower snaps in Oklahoma

After a week of operation, one of the 71 GE 1.5-MW wind turbines in FPL Energy's Weatherford, Okla., wind power facility snapped apart last Friday, May 6. The towers are assembled from 3 sections, and everything above the bottom section is now on the ground in bits. The wind speed at the time was variously reported to have been 12-20 mph.

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Monday, May 09, 2005

Industrial Wind Warriors Unite!

Organize! I just spent the weekend with industrial wind opponents from around the country. We're getting together to better protect the lives of wildlife and people from the useless ravaging of our environment that industrial wind is all about.

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Friday, May 06, 2005

"Violating ridges"

[letter published in Burlington Free Press, May 5, 2005]

Barbara Grimes, general manager of Burlington Electric Department (Free Press, April 18), insists that there will not be a string of giant turbines from one end of the state to the other. But some proponents have said we could get 50 percent of our electricity from the wind, which would require precisely the endless string of towers that Grimes dismisses as "scare tactic."

Searsburg's 11 turbines, with a capacity equivalent to the 4 "foot-in-the-door" turbines proposed for East Haven, produce power equal to 0.2 percent of Vermont's electricity use, and it is less every year. To get to 50 percent would therefore require at least 1,000 giant new turbine assemblies, costing about $2 million each along with clearing and blasting of mountain tops and construction of new roads, substations, and high-voltage transmission lines.

And because wind-based production doesn't coincide with demand, they wouldn't even provide much electricity that we would actually use (e.g., western Denmark had to dump 84 percent of its wind production in 2003).

So, with little persuasive argument, she evokes "Vermont" values and the working landscape, as if that is not a feature everywhere that humans dwell. New Jersey has a working landscape. Vermonters old and new have worked for 100 years to restore and preserve the state's wild mountain ridges. The desire to violate them with collections of 330-foot-high steel and composite turbines -- for insignificant benefit except profits for a few -- is not what most people, wherever they come from, usually think of as "values."

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Sunday, May 01, 2005

Meat in style

The New York Times published their Spring "Style" Magazine today, featuring plenty of animal corpses as de rigueur entertainment fare. Amanda Hesser goes to market to buy a dead chicken, as "young chickens are at their best this time of year." She says, "It is time to stop being squeamish," that bringing the "cycle of life" (meaning raising animals to kill them for your enjoyment) out of the shadows is "healthier" and a challenge to the industry. That's like saying it was better when the Nazis shot people individually rather than killing them en masse in gas chambers. It's still an industry of death. It's also rather creepy that the dead chicken in one of the photos for Hesser's piece is tied with the same fabric adorning the drugged-looking (human, female) model. Sex, food, death, beautiful victim. Spring chickens trussed up to fulfill the human appetite.

And Todd Purdum writes about Joel Salatin, an inspiring organic farmer in Virginia. He describes the farm as a "peaceable kingdom." But those animals, allowed to do what is natural to them, are raised for a very unnatural end, when Purdum must distance the reader from fostering the lives of cows, pigs, and chickens to write about "raising beef, pork and poultry." He quotes mid-20th-century novelist and farmer Louis Bromfield to describe Salatin as "the happiest of men, for he inhabits a world that is full of wonder and excitement over which he rules as a small god." This evil little god "harvests" over 10,000 chickens, 100 cows, 250 pigs, 800 turkeys, and 600 rabbits every year. What wonder and excitement must he see in so much slaughter?

The Salatins sell much of their "inventory" directly from a walk-in freezer on the farm, in which Purdum spots a "perfect six-pound chicken" among other parts and pieces of the various animals once tended "with such care." In what moral universe is an animal that has been deliberately killed in its prime "perfect"? Is an animal's worth, its "perfection," determined only by someone's desire to eat it? Only then -- killed and presented as "food," is its value fulfilled?

Again, the "cycle of life" is evoked to suppress the "occasional pang when it comes time to kill an especially kindly old cow." Sorry, bucko -- you are not God. Maybe your imagined god has a bottomless hunger for willfully spilled blood. But betrayal of the love and trust nurtured in these animals, cutting short the joyful lives you have given them, is not only a violent mockery of the cycle of life but also reveals all that "care" as a cruel charade.

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