Friday, September 30, 2005

The wind energy way

Like the Republican gangsters (and their Democratic molls) that have taken over our government, Greenpeace appears to believe that an effective way to silence the opposition is to throw out so many lies and non sequiturs that a concise response is impossible.

A staffer from Greenpeace's Washington office, Hallie Caplan, has been firing off letters to local newspapers where wind power battles are being fought. One of them appeared Wednesday in the Caledonian-Record of St. Johnsbury, Vt., beginning, "I am so excited about the windmill that will be erected this week."

As far as I know, there is no "windmill" erection planned in the area.

Then she gushes that "wind energy could supply 20 percent of the U.S.'s electricity from non-renewable hydro sources by 2020."

What is "non-renewable hydro"? Hydropower is generally considered a renewable source. Perhaps she meant "non-hydro renewables" but got jumbled in her excitement about the nonexisting new turbine. (Although the same phrase appears in a letter by her in Tuesday's Miller (S.D.) Press.)

If she meant hydro, then 20% of its 2002 contribution to our electricity is only 1.3%. For this she advocates industrializing Vermont's mountaintops? This is essential to combatting greenhouse gas emissions -- displacing nonpolluting hydro and causing new ecosystem damage?

If she meant non-hydro renewables, it's even more pathetic: 20% of that contribution is less than 0.5% of our electricity.

Despite this weak start, the letter goes on with the usual exaggerated claims of wind's potential, lumps it with other renewables, implies that it does not require 200 acres for every megawatt of output, lumps it with efficiency programs, insists we will save money (Greenpeace the cheap-energy advocate!), and even closes with the promise that the destruction of health and the environment by dirty energy sources "would be eliminated." (Actually Caplan specifies "health care" as one of the externalities to be eliminated, again making response difficult.)

In a similar letter in Monday's Greenfield (Mass.) Recorder, Caplan says, "The wind industry will provide a valuable source of highly skilled manufacturing jobs at a time when outsourcing has become a household word and a serious threat to people across the country." Apparently she hasn't heard about the turbine parts coming to this country from Vietnam, China, Brazil, Mexico, and Korea.

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National Wind Watch

National Wind Watch was founded as a nonprofit corporation in August 2005. The organization will seek to promote knowledge and raise awareness of the risks and damaging environmental impacts of industrial wind turbine development, and will make information and analysis on the subject available through its website, www.wind-watch.org.

Here is the press release announcing the new group:
NATIONAL COALITION TO SPOTLIGHT WIND POWER’S HARMFUL IMPACTS, INEFFECTIVENESS

Rowe, MA (September 27, 2005). In response to the accelerating development of industrial wind power plants in the U.S., a coalition of groups and individuals has established a nonprofit organization, National Wind Watch, to better educate the public.

Growing opposition to wind power plants is raising important questions about whether their construction is justified. Significant wildlife and other environmental impacts of wind turbine proliferation are also becoming evident. National Wind Watch aims to disseminate information about the questions and problems associated with wind power, and to provide support to concerned individuals and communities.

NWW President David Roberson states: “Much of the information on wind power plants currently available to the public is propagated by the wind energy industry and associated organizations. It’s onesided, and frequently misleading. Industrial wind has powerful backers, and small communities are often ill equipped to deal with the issues. National Wind Watch will help to remedy that by providing a central resource of information people can use to make more informed decisions.”

The new organization arose from a May 2005 conference of community planners, wildlife biologists, energy experts, and concerned citizens from across the United States. The group identified many widespread misconceptions about the supposed benefits of wind plant development, and also examined the marketing efforts and other strategies of wind energy proponents.
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Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Nine days and seven wind farms

Sue Sliwinski of Sardinia, N.Y., writes:

Over the past nine days and 3,000 miles and seven wind farms, Sandy Swanson and I took many still shots, reams of video, and copious notes and conducted numerous interviews. What's happening is an absolute crime. Every single impact that is denied by developers has been confirmed again and again in wind farm after wind farm. Lovely rural communities are being turned into industrial freak shows. In some places people have just accepted their fate and live with it, not understanding how empowered they actually are by their situations . . . meaning that all they'd have to do is get noisy enough and the developers would stop ignoring them. One told us she's learned how to go outside in her garden and block everything from her mind . . . so as not to be disturbed and frustrated. She said once, on a quiet day (the turbines weren't moving), she heard what sounded like gunshots. She had been blocking everything as she had taught herself to do and suddenly realized the gunshot noises were really coming from the nearest turbine . . . probably contracting as the sun went down.

Scott Srnka from Lincoln Township, Wisconsin, is enduring such awful atrocities, it's very hard to believe they're true. I've even steered clear from his information over the past three years for fear of being accused of using scare tactics. But the guy is rock solid, and anyone who meets him and actually goes to his beautiful farm and sees his beautiful family knows he's the real deal. His neighbors know he's honorable and credible and that his troubles are real . . . it's those of us who hear about his dilemma long distance that doubt the truthfulness when we hear about his deformed cows, his family's health problems, etc. due to severe stray voltage.

Most farmers experience some levels of stray voltage on their farms. But the extenuating circumstances on Scott's farm include a combination of surface rock, no substation for this particular wind farm, and the nearness of the turbines. He and one other dairy farm are being severely impacted, but the other one, right next door, won't admit it because they own the leases for about 10 or 15 of the turbines and don't want to jeopardize that easy money.

Scott is a young man and the farm was his father's and grandfather's before him, but after hundreds of thousands of dollars in expenses to try to remedy the problems caused by the wind farm across the street, he's calling it quits and may be moved out by spring. His wife is pregnant with their third child and they are nervous wrecks, though they have gone through every imaginable test to ensure that the baby's been fine right along. He says with the equipment he's installed he knows when it's bad, and when it is they leave the home for a week, maybe two . . . however long it takes to get back to more tolerable levels. Scott says that under the current conditions, he's losing about a thousand dollars a day from what his farm should and would otherwise normally produce.

Bob Bittner [Illinois], a long-time and dedicated opponent who we recently haven't heard much from, was not at home when we visited his lovely farm house . . . also once his father's, now surrounded with 10 turbines within 4,000 ft of his home, with one only 1,300 ft away. His neighbors told Sandy and I that they believe he spent over $250,000 in court battles and ended up signing a deal with the developers that basically said he would quit interfering in exchange for not being sued for all the lost income the company incurred over the 3 or 4 years of legal wrangling he brought.

I left a note in his door, and when I got home there was an e-mail from him for the first time in a very long while saying that since the turbines went up, he and his wife, Sharon, for their peace of mind bought a cabin in the woods about seven miles away to escape the impacts . . . noise, lights shadows . . . . People everywhere are being driven from their homes.

In the Mendota Hills wind farm [Illinois], it's like the twilight zone. There is no life. Almost every home within the boundaries of the wind farm is kept to look as if someone lives there . . . but on close inspection it's clear that no one does. All the lawns are mowed perfectly . . . but most often no flowers are tended. Every house seems to have a chair or two outside in the front yards creating the appearance that people actually plunk their butts down in them to relax once in a while, but they're dirty and unused. Every window and door is closed, with drapes and shades drawn at eye level. There are cars and trucks with current licence plates parked outside of garages or with garage doors open so you can see them. We didn't check for cobwebs in the mailboxes, we wish we had, but they looked rusty and old. Even dogs were kept on leashes in many of the side yards . . . animals that are evidently being visited once a day to be given food and water. I know this all sounds crazy, but to prove it to ourselves, we went back after dark . . . thinking, well maybe everyone was just at work. But inside these houses, only one light burned, shining through greasy grimy windows in spots where curtains were left slightly open to reveal the condition of the glass, and revealing absolutely no movement whatsoever.

We heard about connectors that were not supposed to be used, but were indeed and have since blown holes -- small craters -- in roads and fields. The stories we've been told all echo each other. There are many children involved. Some, such as in Lincoln Township, have grown up knowing nothing but life with wind turbines. People have been bought off where they're fighting. A family's teenage daughter totaled her car in an accident with wind equipment on a foggy day and then had to fight to get reimbursed! Another says that her little kids are terrified by the noise and can't fall asleep when conditions are bad, such as on rainy nights. Their nearest turbine is 1,000 feet from the bedroom window. Another older woman says, through tears, that her town, where she was born and raised and where her family farm still exists, has been ruined.

Story after story after story . . . .

Lights, shadows, noise, TV and phone interruption, gawkers, accidents, lost views and plummeting property values, and more . . . all on tape, video, and still shots. We felt sick at the end of every day . . . like we had to get away and take a break from the twirling blades and the surreal atmosphere and our sadness for all these families.

It felt so good to get home and step out of the car into this beautiful environment that Sardinia still is and hopefully will stay for years to come. So . . . now we have to figure out how best to use all this information, and not let a smidgen go to waste, because all these families living in these inconceivable conditions deserve no less.

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Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Some errors concerning Danish energy

To the Editor, Contra Costa Times (Walnut Creek, Calif.):

Tapan Munroe is right that we have much to learn from Denmark about efficient energy use, but a couple of statements in his Sept. 25 piece are incorrect.

Where he writes, "Nearly 20 percent of the country's energy comes from wind power," it should be noted that wind turbines produce only electricity, which represents only 18.3% of Denmark's total energy use according to an energy flow chart for 2003 from the Danish Energy Authority. Twenty percent of the electricity therefore represents less than 4% of the total energy.

But because the turbines produce power in response to the wind rather than actual demand, much of it -- 84% of western Denmark's wind production in 2003, by one analysis -- has to be exported (i.e., dumped) because it is not needed. Despite a landscape already saturated with turbines, it appears therefore that they produce only about 3% of the electricity Denmark uses.

Munroe also implies that Denmark's economy is not fossil fuel based. In fact, they are more fossil fuel based than the U.S. According to the Danish energy flow chart, 93.6% of their energy supply is from oil, natural gas, and coal. Much of the oil and natural gas is exported, and all of the coal is imported. In balance, fossil fuels (primarily coal) supply 89.1% of the total energy Denmark uses and 88.3% of its electricity.

In comparison, an energy flow chart from the U.S. Department of Energy for 2002 shows that fossil fuels are the source of 88.0% of our total energy and 69.6% of our electricity.

The Danes use their energy much more wisely and don't have domestic nuclear power, but they are nonetheless very much reliant on fossil fuels, and large-scale wind power has hardly changed a thing other than ruining the countryside.

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Sunday, September 25, 2005

Must. Stay. The. Course.

Phil Donahue recently made Bill O'Reilly flinch during his Fox show, The O'Reilly Factor, as transcribed at Counterpunch.

O'Reilly has admitted that the occupation of Iraq has not gone well. But he clings to the idea that it is necessary to "the war on terror." That is, since we turned Iraq into a terrorist free-for-all, we have to stay the course -- which will obviously have the effect of keeping it a terrorist free-for-all. This failure, this making things worse, in O'Reilly's mind, as in so many others, is the reason we can't just leave.

I am uncomfortable conflating the Bush's murderous wars with wind power developers (though Bush himself is tight with former wind pioneer Enron (making Texas a "showcase" for a while) and off-shore wind facility builder and war profiteer Halliburton), but both of them worry me (to put it mildly) and both of them are supported by a wide range of fellow citizens despite negative evidence.

I recently read in the comment section of an article at In These Times the same illogic for continuing wind development as Bill O'Reilly's for staying in Iraq. Namely, evidence that it has not worked is precisely the reason it must be expanded.

O'Reilly et al. chant "war on terror" to fend off reality, and the supporters of industrial wind chant "climate change." They understandably need to believe that we are doing something about a real problem. The need appears to be stronger than any desire to honestly assess the effects of what they support.

Few people easily switch from belief in an idea to realization of its sham (the rise and fall of celebrities provides a redirection of that need). So they more strongly assert the belief, as if to convince themselves, as if to make the doubt, and even the evidence, go away.

War on terror! Climate change! Must. Stay. The. Course.

Meanwhile, nothing changes except for the worse. The sham continues. (The "neocons" rationalize such policies of lies as "creative destruction"!)

By the way, Donahue brought up a chilling parallel, saying that two things related to Iraq have doubled in the past year: the number of Americans killed, and Halliburton's stock price.

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Thursday, September 22, 2005

"We have made enough mess there already"

"They told you Britain must invade Iraq because of its weapons of mass destruction. They were wrong. Now they say British troops must stay in Iraq because otherwise it will collapse into chaos. ... America left Vietnam and Lebanon to their fate. They survived. We left Aden and other colonies. Some, such as Malaya and Cyprus, saw bloodshed and partition. We said rightly that this was their business. So too is Iraq for the Iraqis. We have made enough mess there already."

--Simon Jenkins, The Guardian (U.K.), Sept. 21, 2005

Join a demonstration this Saturday, Sept. 24, to raise your voice in the U.S. (while it's still allowed) against continuing our ridiculous and deadly escapade in Iraq and for the impeachment and conviction of George W. Bush for crimes against humanity (or at least grave dishonesty and incompetence and destruction of our nation if not others).

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Senators not worried about John Roberts

Senator Patrick Leahy of Vermont has announced his support of John Roberts for the Supreme Court, saying, "I can only take him at his word that he does not have an ideological agenda."

Yet Roberts' whole career has involved crafting words for an extreme ideological agenda. He has found Robert Bork, Antonin Scalia, Clarence Thomas, and William Rehnquist too soft in his efforts in the Reagan and Bush I administrations to prevent the implementation of civil rights laws. He is opposed to the most important role of the Court: protection of the equal rights of minorities.

See the article by William Taylor in the current New York Review of Books for a summary of what a monster John Roberts really is. Of course, the Senators can live with him on the Court. His actions don't affect them, so why not collaborate?

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GAO calls for more oversight of wind facilities

As reported by the Associated Press, Congress's Government Accountability Office has determined that local and state regulators sometimes lack expertise in weighing the impact of wind power facilities on birds and bats and other wildlife, so that "no one is considering the impacts of wind power on a regional or 'ecosystem' scale -- a scale that often spans governmental jurisdictions."

The trade group American Wind Energy Association has responded, saying that "such problems remain limited to two project areas." This is a little like the deluded Mr Deasy in James Joyce's Ulysses boasting that Ireland has never persecuted the Jews -- "because she never let them in," he adds, trying to remain solemn as a phlegmy laugh nearly chokes him.

Just so, the wind companies don't allow independent researchers in, so they can claim whatever results they want. The two projects where they admit problems are precisely the two projects where independent observers have managed to work: Altamont Pass in California (raptor deaths) and Mountaineer facility on the Allegheny ridge in West Virginia (bat deaths). At the latter, research was cut off as the brutal facts became too hard to spin.

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"Henry County will be home of up to 100 wind towers"

Dear Mr. Elliott, Rock Island (Ill.) Argus:

I read your Sept. 21 story, "Henry County will be home of up to 100 wind towers" on the web and thought I should point out the inaccurate title of the sidebar, "Wind energy facts."

It is a stretch to call the wind industry trade group's claims for 2020 "facts." The language itself betrays them: "wind energy is expected to ..." and "wind energy could provide ...."

These are self-serving sales projections, not facts.

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Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Signing it all away for crumbs from the table

A copy of a boilerplate easement agreement between a windfarm developer and a landowner has crossed my desk. Those who have already seen such contracts have remarked on the irony of landowners defending their right to do what they want with their own land against the considerations of their neighbors but signing away that very right to the wind company.

The main grant in the contract is an "exclusive easement" that includes the flow of air across the land. Besides the exclusive right to all wind energy on the property and to install and operate anmeometers, turbines, towers, and foundations, the developer is also free to install transmission facilities, utility lines, roads, bridges, culverts, staging areas, storage buildings, signs, fences, gates, etc. -- in fact, anything they want, anywhere they want, with access any time they want.

The contract also allows wind power facilities not only on the owner's property but also anywhere else to affect the property without limitation, including visual, audible, and any other effects.

Although the contract specifies that the developer will consult with the owner in placing the turbines and infrastructure, elsewhere it specifies that the owner will consent to the developer's decision of location, including on other properties.

It is further clarified that the owner waives all setback restrictions, whether legal or by private agreement, and has no right to complain about the consequences.

Similarly, it is specified that the developer may "enjoy" the property without any interference by the owner or anyone else, and that the owner must in fact actively "protect and defend" the developer's right to "enjoy" the owner's property.

The owner and anyone who might live on the property can of course enjoy it as well, as long as the developer doesn't think they're in the way or costing it anything. The developer can require the owner to take measures to keep people out.

The developer also retains the right to transfer this taking to anyone it wants.

The contract is for 2 years, and then 20 years once a turbine is installed, with the developer retaining the option to extend it another 30 years after that. Of course, the developer can terminate the deal at any time. The owner can't.

When it's over, the developer has to remove its mess only to a depth of 4 feet (the tower foundations are much deeper concrete and steel slabs) and simply cover it with dirt. There's no word about restoring the land to its former state. Nor is there any mention of removing material that the developer may not own itself, such as transmission facilities and utility lines.

It's boggling that anyone willingly signs these things, especially in the name of saving the family farm.

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Monday, September 19, 2005

More madness

And Charles Komanoff writes in Sunday's Times Union (Albany, N.Y.) that all who cherish wildness should support installing huge industrial wind turbines on Gore Mountain in the Adirondack State Park.

He channels the late David Brower to claim the "stature to synthesize, if not reconcile, the opposing positions." He swallows whole, of course, the belief that wind turbines actually displace output from coal plants, and thus he can argue that the benefit can be weighed against the impact.

But opponents also look at the benefit. They find it insignificant, if not utterly absent. That is the argument Komanoff and other "environmentalist" supporters of industrial wind avoid. They trot out the sales brochures as sacred writ and dismiss those of us who demand real evidence or point out the poor record of large-scale wind in, for example, Denmark as unrealistic aesthetes.

Who is defending nature, the "wildness" Komanoff claims to cherish? When everyone who should be opposing development wants to be the mediator instead, there remain only the developers' options. Komanoff, along with the tediously self-righteous Bill McKibben, who also thinks that in the industrial wind boondoggle is the preservation of wildness, thus makes a mockery of concern for the environment.

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Bewildered

In "A tilt at the Don Quixotes" (The Times (London), Sept. 15, 2005), Roy Hattersley insists how beautiful wind turbines are. Indeed, he says that is reason enough to build them. He compares their giant rotating blades to leaves reflecting the sun and their gravelly noise to the "gentle hum of swarming bees." Seeing them off shore at Tintagel, he imagines that "a dozen Ladies of the Lake were reaching out from the water to catch the discarded Excalibur."

So he does not agree that they desecrate the countryside, that they in fact affirm our natural place in it. Their oily rusty remains and concrete pads will be seen in the future as charming relics of an earlier age. Nature-lover that he claims to be, he thinks the escarpment ("the Edge") overlooking his own Derbyshire house would be vastly improved by a line of the "elegant" erections.

This is the same Roy Hattersley who, as Angela Kelly of Country Guardian has pointed out, wrote about the desecration of the Derbyshire Peak National Park and the Edge on Jubilee Day, 2002. As she quotes:
... somebody somewhere looks out each morning at what should be a miracle of nature and sees only the brutality of commerce.

Tomorrow, as I walk up toward the sight of desecration, I shall consider who -- in the judgment of the gods -- are the true patriots, the people who endorse whatever it costs to finance the four-day jubilee celebration or the men and women who would rather spend the money on preserving the splendours of the English countryside. God save the Edge.
There is an obvious contradiction here. Hattersley's divine judgement considers only the passing commerce of promoting the monarchy to be a violation of the landscape, not the commerce of industrializing that landscape with giant turbine towers of doubtful value except to the speculators taking swift advantage of the naïveté of people like Roy Hattersley.

The "splendours of the English countryside" mean different things to different people. But it is outrageous to argue that strings of 100-meter-high spinning turbines are "natural," no matter how much one likes them. And because so many people don't like them, or question their utility, the wise course is to err on the side of nature and avoid building them in otherwise unindustrialized landscapes.

What is "romantic" about ruined farmhouses and abandoned quarries is that nature is reclaiming them. It reminds us not that our impositions on the natural world are right but that they are at best temporary vanity and at worst destructive folly. The jagged remains of Hattersley's beloved erections are more likely to be in the latter category.

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Wednesday, September 14, 2005

A mere $3 billion

Froma Harrop writes in today's Providence (R.I.) Journal: "Of the $14.5 billion in tax breaks to energy producers [in the recent energy bill], about $9 billion goes for oil, gas and coal -- and at a time of soaring oil profits. A mere $3 billion was set aside for incentives to produce electricity from renewable sources."

Mere? Over 21% of the subsidies go to renewables, which produce about 6% of our energy. That doesn't sound like an arrangement to complain about. And the soaring profits, the efficient movement of large amounts of public money into private hands, at least in wind, are there, too -- that's why Goldman Sachs and J.P. Morgan Chase are in the business.

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Sunday, September 11, 2005

Some data on blade failure and throw

At the 2004 California Wind Energy Collaborative Forum (click the title of this post for proceedings, both PowerPoint PDFs and audio MP3s), Scott Larwood of the California Wind Energy Collaborative, University of California, Davis, presented "Permitting setbacks for wind turbines and the blade throw hazard."

His research concludes that a reasonable expectation for blade failure is 1 per 100 turbines per year. Thus setbacks in consideration of blade or fragment throw are indeed important to establish.

His calculations (or his reporting of a Danish study) establishes, first of all, how far a blade or fragment could be thrown at tip speeds at and above the normal operation maximum, expressed as multiples of the total turbine height, using data for 1.5–2.0-MW turbines. At the normal maximum, a blade could be thrown to a distance almost 1.5 times the turbine height and a hazardous fragment over 3.5 times. At twice the normal tip speed, a complete blade could be thrown over 2.5 times the turbine height and a hazardous fragment almost 6.5 times. The maximum fragment distance is 6.5 times the turbine height.

Second, Larwood calculates blade and fragment thrown as a function of turbine height, finding that as height increases, the absolute distance they might be thrown increases, but as a multiple of turbine height it decreases. For example, a 50-m (164-ft) turbine (height to blade tip) could throw a whole blade about 120 m (2.4 × ht) and a fragment over 250 m (5 × ht); a 100-m (328-ft) turbine could throw a blade about 125 m (1.25 × ht) and a fragment about 375 m (3.75 × ht).

Larwood does not recommend specific setbacks, presumably because they involve other considerations as well, such as noise, high voltage, and visual intrusion.

On another note, he cites the distance the turbines should be from each other for minimal wind interference: three rotor diameters when aligned perpendicular to the wind and 10 rotor diameters when parallel to the wind. Thus, the GE 1.5-MW turbine, with a 70.5-m rotor span, requires 37-123 acres per tower. Each Vestas V90 1.8-MW turbine, with a 90-m rotor, requires 60-200 acres.

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Saturday, September 10, 2005

Local zoning for wind turbines

The Ludington (Mich.) Daily News reported yesterday on a new ordinance in Hamlin Township governing the construction of wind turbine towers. It seems like good clear zoning.
The ordinance ... allows individual wind energy conversion systems (WECS) in all parts of the township, such that the power is only generated for non-commercial purposes with a rated capacity of 300 kilowatts or less.

Setbacks for the individual systems must be, at a minimum, twice the height of the total structure (tower and blade combined) on all sides of the site boundary. The generated noise of the WECS cannot be more than 5 decibels above the ambient noise at the site of any neigboring dwelling.

The ordinance limits commercial, industrial-sized wind energy generating stations to agriculturally-zoned and industrial areas. They must adhere to the same restrictions as the non-commerical turbines.

Also, the commercial wind turbines, among many things must be surfaced in a uniform, neutral, non-reflective color; have signage to warn of high voltage and other dangers; be equipped with both a manual and an automatic braking device capable of stopping the turbine operation in high winds; and adhere to guidelines set forth by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service "Guideline to Avoid and Minimize Wildlife Impacts from Wind Turbines."
As the leader of the research team that drafted the ordinance pointed out, variances are possible to loosen the restrictions but not to tighten them, so they need to be tight to start with.

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Friday, September 09, 2005

Paper tiger vs. hard facts

To the editor:

The Bennington Banner (editorial, Sept. 8) appears to think that those who oppose industrial wind power plants on the ridgelines prefer nuclear radiation, coal smoke, and mercury poisoning. They have created a paper tiger and missed the real argument.

Most opponents would readily accept the need for large wind turbines if in fact they reduced the use of nuclear and fossil fuels. Their argument, based on the experience of Denmark and Germany and research elsewhere, is that they don't -- certainly not to any degree that justifies industrializing the ridgelines.

The Banner cites Searsburg as supplying electricity for 2,000 homes. Actually, Searsburg produces an annual average (11,000 MWh) equivalent to that used by less than 1,500 Vermont homes (average 7.5 MWh/year). According to a study sponsored by the Department of Energy, however, almost 40% of the time the turbines are not producing any power at all. That study also reveals that power drawn from the grid by the turbines themselves is not metered and the actual net production is unknown. The bottom line is that it would take an awful lot of turbines to make even a dent in our need for more reliable sources.

To equal the electricity we use from Vermont Yankee (almost 2 million MWh/yr) would require 700 MW of wind turbines, or about 390 of the 1.8-MW 400-feet-high models now being proposed. That probably exceeds even the Banner's opinion of how much more development we should tolerate.

That figure is based on the industry's own self-projections. Based on the actual experience of Searsburg, more than 1,100 MW of wind turbines would be needed.

But because of the cubic relation of energy output to wind speed, two-thirds of the time the turbines would be producing at a rate below their already low average. More than a third of the time, as we have learned at Searsburg, they would not be producing at all. That is, fossil-fueled plants and Vermont Yankee would still be needed to provide electricity when we need it.

To point this out is not to prefer nuclear and fossil fuels, as the Banner implies. Most of us would love to see renewables instead. But we have come to realize that wind power will not significantly reduce our need for "dirty" power any more than taking a walk in the morning will reduce the amount of gas I use to drive to the grocery store in the afternoon.

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Gas vs. wind

From the Miller (S.D.) Press, "Wind power development faces many challenges," Sept. 6, 2005: '"When the wind isn't blowing, it's not serving anyone," [Ron Rebenitsch of Basin Electric Power Cooperative] commented. "I think wind will become a partner with gas energy," meaning when the wind isn't producing, the gas will take up the slack.'

And Renewable Energy Access, "Wind, Natural Gas Hybrid Project Moves Ahead," Aug. 3, 2005, described an 108-MW wind facility proposed off the coast of Cumbria (U.K.) with its own back-up 98-MW natural gas–powered generator.

As noted previously, many advocates of industrial wind power argue that it will help stabilize or offset rising natural gas prices. (Natural gas is used to generate about 15% of the electricity in the U.S.) It has been frequently noted recently that wind power is now economically competitive with natural gas.

The use of natural gas has increased because it is so much cleaner than coal, which still provides over 50% of the electricity in the U.S. (Oil is not a significant source, providing only 2.4%; nuclear fission provides over 20%.) Now it appears that industrial wind power will only displace natural gas.

At best, expansion of industrial wind will fuel an expansion of natural gas, necessary to provide quickly responsive back-up to the unpredictably variable wind production. Increased use of natural gas may then further reduce the use of coal. The presence of wind turbines, with their fluctuating production, however, would require the gas plants to run less efficiently and with more pollution (and more expensively) than if they could run steadily. Obviously, rather than mitigating the demand for gas, wind turbines will be increasing it.

But rather than contributing to an albeit imperfect system of reduced emissions, wind power will be reducing the positive effects of natural gas vs. coal. If new gas plants are going to built anyway, it would be better if wind turbines weren't.

Summary: Wind power requires gas power back-up but reduces its efficiency, thus increasing the emissions of the cleanest fossil-fuel alternative to coal.

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Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Wind behind expansion of coal power

This just in:

“Wind energy in Germany is still backed up by coal. For every 1 megawatt of wind capacity, German power companies will install 0.6 megawatts of coal generation as a backup source, said [Bernhard] Hartmann [a vice president at global management consulting firm AT Kearney].”

--Interfax China, Sept. 6, 2005

That is to say, wind power is actually driving an expansion of coal plant.

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Sunday, September 04, 2005

Confusion

Christine Vanderlan, Global Warming Program Director for Environmental Advocates of New York, Albany, writes in today's Elmira (N.Y.) Star-Gazette ("More renewable energy offsets natural gas hikes," letter), citing the Union of Concerned Scientists, that "increasing the use of wind, solar and other renewable sources for electricity production would help solve the problem of rising natural gas prices."

But the goal of using renewable energy is to move away from coal first, not natural gas which is a much cleaner fossil fuel. So much for the kids with asthma (let alone the dire predictions of global warming) -- these environmental advocates just want to keep their energy cheap! Welcome to the house of mirrors.

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Thursday, September 01, 2005

Stupidity

The alarming rise in gasoline prices in the U.S. (still a fraction of what they are in most of the world) is addling people's brains. At least two recent news articles have cited gas prices as a reason to support building giant wind turbines, as if an erratic supply of expensive electricity will help power your car or heat your home. (It won't even help you keep the lights on!)

As gas skyrockets, Lenox considers alternatives, The Advocate (North Adams, Mass.), Sept. 1, 2005:
Town Manager Gregory Federspiel is alerting residents to a possible reduction in services this winter with the prospect of oil and natural gas shortages and sky-high prices. ...

Federspiel said that this is the time for people to start talking seriously about alternatives to fossil fuel energy such as wind towers and solar panels.
Regular gas in Harwich is $3.50 a gallon already, Sept. 1, 2005:
At noon today the gas station on Main Street (Route 39 at Bank St.) in Harwich Center posted a price for regular gas at $3.50.

Ironically the station in the West End of Hyannis nearest Ted Kennedy's home is charging the same, and some Boston suburbs now pay over $4 a gallon while pundits predict we'll be paying $6 a gallon within weeks if not days.

The national web site which audits gas prices around the country shows the lowest and highest prices locally in the last 24 hours. That site reveals a jump of $1 a gallon in one day!

It is finally time for our Senior United States Senator to change his mind about whether he will tolerate a renewable energy wind farm on the distant horizon in front of his waterfront home.
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