Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Vt. Yankee: 2% of New England's power

Yesterday, the State Committee of the Vermont Progressive Party voted unanimously to support the following resolution, modeled after the resolutions being warned across the state for town meeting day:

"The State Committee of the Vermont Progressive Party requests the Vermont Legislature to:

"1. Recognize that the 2% of our New England region’s power grid supply that is provided by Vermont Yankee Nuclear Power Plant can be replaced with a combination of local, renewable electricity and efficiency measures, along with the purchase of hydro generated electricity, and excess power already in the New England electricity market; ..."

Note the welcome lack of hysteria or pushing of other agendas. This is in stark contrast to other campaigners for shutting down Vt. Yankee when its license expires in 2012 (it is, after all, a very old plant that has had numerous problems -- apart from the nuclear waste piling up on the site and the contamination and warming of the Connecticut river).

Most notably, Vermont Public Interest Research Group (VPIRG) is proposing to replace the ~200 MW that the plant provides to Vermont with several ridgeline wind energy plants, of which it would require ~1,000 MW installed capacity (because of the variability and intermittency of the wind) -- and even then we would still need 200 MW from other sources, because the wind isn't always blowing when it's needed. In fact, 60% of the time wind turbines generate power at a rate below their annual average (which is 21% at Searsburg) and one-third of the time they are idle.

One thousand megawatts of wind means industrializing 100 miles of ridgelines, which are otherwise off limits to development. It means clearing trees, blasting for foundations, cut-and-fill heavy-duty roads, and transmission lines replacing important ecosystems and habitat. And it would not even achieve the intended goal of replacing any other source of electric power.

Therefore, it is refreshing to see the Progressive Party put Vt. Yankee in the context of the actual grid, not just Vermont's small corner of it. It is not a crisis. It does not justify blatant land grabs by profiteering developers and opening up our mountaintops to sprawl. When Vt. Yankee is shut down, Vermont's need to replace our share of it will represent 1% of the New England grid. We are also long-time customers of Hydro Quebec. We should have no trouble finding other sources. With continued efficiency and conservation, it will be even easier.

wind power, wind energy, environment, environmentalism, Vermont