September 23, 2010

Wind industry continues to lie

Here are a couple of examples of the alternate reality in which wind industry executives operate, hoping that the rest of the world will join them.

In today's Daily Mail report about the U.K.'s new sprawling wind energy facility off the coast of Kent, an unnamed spokesman for Renewable UK, responding to criticism that this 13.5-square-mile, £780 million plant will produce at an average of only 35-40% of its capacity, said, ‘You have to bear in mind that coal and gas-fired power stations don’t work at full capacity either – and even nuclear power stations are taken off line.’

He does not mention that other power stations are used according to demand, not the whims of the wind. Using a peaking plant (at full rated power) 35% of the time, that is, when you need it, is very different from wind turbines producing power, at variable rates, whether you need it or not. An average of 35% is meaningless: If it can not be produced on demand, it is worthless. Wind turbines produce at or above their average rate — whatever it might turn out to be — only about 40% of the time — at whatever times the wind wills.

Also in the article, an item in the sidebar says that it "generates power at wind speeds between 8mph and 55mph". Elsewhere in the article, however, it is noted that the the plant will generate at full capacity only if the wind is blowing at 16 metres per second, i.e., 36mph. Below that speed, production falls precipitously. At 8mph, it is barely a trickle. Furthermore, after the wind gusts above 55mph and the turbines shut down, they don't start up again until the wind goes down to 45mph.

Let us now turn our attention to Vermont, where the founder of anemometer maker NRG Systems David Blittersdorf (his wife Jan is still CEO; David went on to Earth Turbines and then All Earth Renewables, which applied for millions of dollars of grants this year, so Mr B got himself appointed to the state committee disbursing the grants ...). As reported by the Rutland Herald, Blittersdorf gave a talk about wind power at the annual meeting of the Castleton Historical Society.

He said that "wind power is practically unsubsidized when compared to power sources like oil and nuclear energy." Federal financial interventions and subsidies in the energy market were examined by the Energy Information Administration in 2008. They found that wind energy received $23.37 per megawatt-hour of its electricity production in 2007, compared with 44 cents for coal, $1.59 for nuclear, and 25 cents for natural gas and oil.

He also said that "many of the objections to wind power, such as danger to birds and concerns about noise, are no longer true due to newer technology". In fact, "newer technology" simply consists of taller towers with larger blades, which now reach well into the ranges of migrating birds, both large and small. Every post-construction survey of a wind energy facility continues to report more deaths than predicted. (And yet permitting agencies and bird protection organizations continue to believe the developers' assessments.) In addition to birds, the toll on bats has become an increasingly alarming concern. The size of modern turbines has also only increased, not decreased noise problems. Everywhere that wind turbines are erected within 2 kilometers (1.25 miles) of homes, people complain of disturbed sleep, consequent stress and irritability, and often worse health problems that may be a direct result of the throbbing low-frequency noise on the balance organs of the inner ear. (And yet permitting agencies and neighbors continue to believe the developers' reassurances; the latest victims of this willful obtuseness reside on the island of Vinalhaven, Maine.) Again, the problems with wind have only become worse with "newer technology"..

And so he said that the only real remaining objection is the aesthetic one: "Some folks don't want to see a wind turbine on a mountain. We have to choose something. By denying wind power, you're supporting coal, oil and nuclear energy."

Bullshit and bullshit. Not to mention, the aesthetic objection is valid, considering that wind turbine facilities are generally built in previously undeveloped rural and even wild areas. You can't have environmentalism without aesthetics. Vermont doesn't allow billboards on the highways. It essentially bans all development above 2,000 feet on the mountains. 400-feet-high machines blasted into the ridges and connected by wide straight heavy-duty roads are rightly seen as an insult to what we hold dear.

Anyway, many objections — as described about birds, bats, and noise — remain. And the benefits to be weighed against those "aesthetic" costs are hard to find. By denying wind power, you're not supporting other forms of energy any more than you are by promoting wind power. Because wind, which answers only to the whims of Aeolus, not to the actual minute-to-minute needs of the grid, has not replaced and can not replace other forms of energy on the electric grid.

David Blittersdorf may think it's worth killing birds and bats, destroying the neighbors' health, and wrecking the landscape in the belief that if we erect ever more wind turbines we might actually see some positive effect (ignoring all the havoc wreaked to get there). But instead he denies that these well documented impacts actually occur. That is quite disturbing.

wind power, wind energy, wind turbines, wind farms, environment, environmentalism, human rights, animal rights, Vermont