December 31, 2004

A closer look at Danish wind farms

The Barnstable Patriot, January 2004:

When the weather cleared at Blavand (Denmark), we were fortunate to be able to go back and actually see the Horns Reef complex.

That was, for me, probably the most important experience of the entire trip, and it was truly a revelation. No computer simulation, video or photo presentation can be a substitute for what the eye actually sees.

My impression was that even at a distance of 7 to 8 miles, the complex was far too visible and, when coupled with the strobe lights that flashed asymmetrically from its perimeter, it presented the look of an industrial complex. I did not find it aesthetically pleasing.

There is, at least in my mind, an expectation that when the sky meets the horizontal sea line there should be nothing permanent to break that plane. Not to wax philosophical, but it may be a human response to want to look at an unbroken seascape to, at least in a psychological sense, escape from the land. A sail or an irregular cloud line, yes, but nothing permanent that will draw the eye from the natural balance of the sea and sky.

In its stark utilitarian aspect, the Horns Reef wind farm assaulted my sense of natural balance and I was disappointed by it.

-- Jim Coogan

December 29, 2004

Energy laundering

[Jacksonville (Fla.) Energy Authority] has signed an agreement to buy power from a wind farm in Nebraska to meet environmental goals, though the public utility will sell the power back to the utility that generates it. ... "Although JEA will sell the power back to [Nebraska Public Power District], we will receive environmental credits for the green power our investment generates, ..." said JEA CEO Jim Dickenson.
Follow this. NPPD sells to JEA a certain amount of power presumably reflecting a certain amount of wind-powered generation in its network. JEA, being aver 1,500 miles away, can't of course use it. They sell it back to NPPD but get credit for buying "green" power anyway. They will also no doubt offer an extra charge for their customers to feel better about their energy use. And who's to stop them from selling more of this premium "clean" energy than they actually "buy" from NPPD, since they don't really have it anyway? I suppose NPPD also could provide this service to any number of customers, selling the same "wind power" over and over again. And the facility isn't even built yet. A green revolution indeed.

December 26, 2004

Nuclear power behind wind advocates?

Besides NIMBY (see earlier post), opponents of large-scale wind power are often dismissed as fronts for the nuclear and coal industries, despite no evidence whatsoever. (Former director and current communications director of the American Wind Energy Association, Tom Gray, was forced by a British court to publicly retract such a charge about the Country Guardian group.)

NIMBYism more often -- and more accurately -- applies to supporters of wind energy. U.K. Prime Minister Tony Blair intervened to prevent a wind facility near his home, though he insists on building them everywhere else. In the U.S., Massachusetts politicos are enthusiastic about wind power except in the view of their Nantucket and Martha's Vineyard homes. And Bruce Lisman, a director of Central Vermont Public Service, which is fighting to turn a pristine mountain top in southeastern Vermont into a giant wind power plant, is appalled by one his neighbors in western Vermont planning to put up a small turbine for his home. That's the definition of NIMBY, folks.

Back to the nuclear and coal industries: How do they benefit from the "green" push for wind power? Scare-mongering about climate change and CO2 emissions is central to the wind industry's marketing strategy but only serves to show how insignificant wind's contribution can ever be. They have, however, successfully lobbied for the "consensus" view that our energy-use emissions are changing the climate. Having accepted that, and having supported massive wind projects and subsequently seeing their lack of positive impact (and their inordinate negative impact), governments must now more seriously address the very narrowly focused problem they have imposed on themselves.

The wind industry also knows that conservation would save loads more electricity than their turbines could ever provide, so they rarely advocate that obvious green solution, which would make their product irrelevant.

So who now steps in to save the day? Nuclear power, which emits no CO2, and coal, which continues to innovate mining and electricity generation to be more environmentally friendly (for example, Florida Power & Light was just named as the best energy company in the U.S. by the World Wildlife Fund for their "clean" coal initiatives -- see earlier post).

Is it just a coincidence that as most of Europe and North America has shied away from nuclear energy Greenpeace is the loudest "environmentalist" advocate of industrial wind power? Greenpeace became a giant well funded organization through dramatic actions against nuclear energy. Without a vital nuclear power industry, it is nothing. In the U.K. Greenpeace has put its name on a "green" utility plan (Npower Juice) that is run under the Germany-based RWE Group, one of the world's biggest nuclear power generators. The interest for both sides appears to be the same: more nuclear power.

December 25, 2004

Time and the Indian

"What persists is the blasphemy of believing that murder is prayer."

-- Richard Rodriguez, "News Hour," Dec. 15, 2004

December 24, 2004


Every announcement of a wind-farm proposal includes the claim of how many homes it "will" power, misleading people to think that it is a steady source. (Not to mention that the unit, "homes," is whatever the salespeople want it to be and ignores the fact that most electricity use is not residential.) In fact, two-thirds of the time the output from wind turbines is not significant.

Only occasionally does the output approach the nominal power rating, so that rare event is cited with the conditional tense, typically a claim of how much of a district's electricity "could" be produced by the wind turbines. Here again, not mentioned is the fact that such an event is more like an unwelcome surge on the grid, since demand is already being met by other sources when the wind suddenly picks up. And if the grid can adjust quickly, then it must also be prepared for the moment the wind generation suddenly drops.

So, as the west Danish grid manager, Eltra, has admitted, most wind-generated electricity must be dumped.

Another rare event is when the industry moves beyond the easily manipulative "will" and "could" to cite actual figures for existing facilities. Even there, they confuse the facts.

As in Denmark's famous "20% electricity from wind," the number reflects the output from the turbines as a percentage of the electrical energy consumed. It does not, however, tell us how much of the wind-generated power was actually used. In western Denmark, for example, only 16% of the wind production did not have to be dumped. That is, the 20% figure should be corrected to barely 3% of Denmark's electricity provided by wind.

That is obviously why Denmark has not closed down a fifth of their fossil-fueled generating plants. In fact, they haven't been able to close down even one.

The clear test of wind power is whether it is able to change existing patterns of energy use. It is not enough to say how much power the turbines generate. How much do they actually contribute? And does that contribution actually affect the use of other sources?

December 22, 2004

Wind is an attractive investment/con

People often ask, upon being told about what lousy sources of energy wind farms are and how much damage they do, why do people invest in them? The answer, of course, is the very non-invisible hand of government manipulation of the market.

A December 15 presentation by Ed Feo of Milbank, Tweed, Hadley & McCloy for an American Bar Association seminar pointed out the financial benefits in the U.S.: accelerated depreciation, production tax credits, power purchase agreement (captive buyer), REC sale agreement (secondary sale of "green credit"), and subsidy payments. These benefits, paid for by taxpayers and ratepayers, amount to two-thirds of the value of a wind project. A 300-KB PDF of the PowerPoint slides is available here.

Milbank, Tweed, Hadley & McCloy sponsored a "Financing Wind Power Projects" conference last year, in which Keith Martin of Chadbourne & Parke claimed, "Federal and state tax subsidies cover as much as 75% of the capital cost of a wind project." A 535-KB PDF of the conference schedule is available here.

Apparently, two-thirds or even three-quarters isn't enough to keep the juggernaut rolling, because the Renewable Energy Business Alliance has been formed this month to lobby for even more tax breaks.

In Germany, already crowded by one-third of the world's wind power, a recent law requires utility companies to buy all wind power produced and to pay 10 times what electricity from coal, nuclear, and natural gas plants costs. The flood of investment is not surprising.

Please note that there is nothing inherently wrong with such subsidies (and also note that there is no such thing as a free market). But who benefits? As has been made clear in Germany and Denmark, industrial wind power benefits only the investors. It also provides green window dressing for politicians and still-polluting energy companies. The subsidies do not serve to advance a greater good at all. They move huge amounts of cash from taxpayers and ratepayers to the pockets of a very few. That's why those that have the means eagerly invest.

Harvesting Energy

"If we choose to live beyond the fringes of powerlines without living like troglodytes, we must become our own little power companies and take responsibility for the whole electric eneterprise: generating and storing it; transmitting it from source to demand; and distributing it among the loads, where it sheds light, performs work, amuses and instructs us, and powers all the myriad uses we have created in this electricity-infatuated era. Suppliers as well as consumers, off-the-gridders quickly come to grips with the finite energy budget within which we all must learn to live comfortably."

-- Michael Potts, in The Real Goods Solar Living Source Book

An Interview with Ralph Nader

MC: There are many critics who feel that had Kerry embraced more Nader-type positions, he might have actually alienated more voters. They claim that the country has gone more conservative. Do you reject that?

RN: Yes, of course. This all comes from the vacuum that the Democrats have created by taking key corporate-worker-economic issues off the table like living wage, or universal health care, or crackdown on corporate crime, fraud, and abuse, or the use of middle-class tax dollars for corporate subsidies, handouts, giveaways. Once you create that vacuum, then the so-called "social issues," the issues that deal with religion, affirmative action, abortion, and immigration -- all the hot-button issues take central positions. And of course, the Republicans know how to manipulate that, and cater to people's prejudices.

But you had 47 million workers in this country who make between $5.15 minimum wage up to $10. If they knew that the Democrats and John Kerry were really serious about a living wage, I don't think they'd worry too much about some of these other issues by comparison.

... the central issue in politics is the contrast between corporate power and the power of ordinary people and who's going to prevail.

... Franklin Delano Roosevelt put it very crisply in a message to Congress in 1938, asking for an investigation of concentrated corporate power, when he said: "When our government is taken over by economic power, that's fascism."

... It's one thing opposing us even though we had the agenda they [progressives] believed in -- that's ridiculous enough -- but what's unforgivable was to lend their credibility to those lies that the Democratic Party and the Democratic National Committee disseminated all over the country to cover up their own dirty tricks against our right to be on the ballot.

December 21, 2004

World Wildlife Fund misses the big picture

From a Dec. 16 press release:
'FPL Group scored the highest ranking in the U.S. and second globally in a World Wildlife Fund (WWF) report that analyzed 72 of the world's leading power companies reviewing current use of available technologies to reduce C02 emissions, as well as clear commitments made for future improvements. The new report said FPL is a bright spot in the U.S. rankings. The WWF says FPL Group scored high due to leadership in developing wind energy and a commitment to dramatically improving power plant efficiency.'
But "socially responsible" investors, who also enthusiastically support wind power, see it differently. Here's an excerpt from an article by Rona Fried, editor of Progressive Investor, "General Electric and Florida Power & Light: Sustainable Investments?"
'"How could they get into our portfolio?" considers Carsten Henningsen, co-founder of Porfolio 21. "If FPL stated that renewables are the way to go and gave a deadline (e.g., by 2050) by which they would be 100% renewable, and if we saw evidence they were translating the words into action, we would probably invest in them."

'Portfolio 21 doesn't invest in companies that are working on sustainability around the edges -- reducing water usage or emissions, for example, but not looking at their overall environmental footprint. They invest in companies they believe are serious about changing their corporate "DNA".'

December 19, 2004

Wind turbines don't reduce CO2 much at all

From the "executive summary" in "Reduction in Carbon Dioxide Emissions: Estimating the Potential Contribution from Wind-Power," by David White, commissioned by the Renewable Energy Foundation (U.K.), December 2004:

"The CO2 emissions reduction from renewable energy in an island power system must be assessed on the basis on the impact that the accommodation of wind power into the grid will have on the whole supply chain. Electricity differs from other forms of energy, and cannot be stored directly on an industrial scale. Consequently, generation and demand have to be balanced on the grid continuously, and second by second. Policy-makers appear to have only a weak grasp of this critical fact and its implications. Indeed, the accommodation of the variable output from wind turbines into the transmission system is complex and the technical challenges are barely understood outside professional circles. Fossil-fuelled capacity operating as reserve and backup is required to accompany wind generation and stabilise supplies to the consumer. That capacity is placed under particular strains when working in this supporting role because it is being used to balance a reasonably predictable but fluctuating demand with a variable and largely unpredictable output from wind turbines. Consequently, operating fossil capacity in this mode generates more CO2 per kWh generated than if operating normally. This compromising effect is very poorly understood, a fact acknowledged recently by the Council of European Energy Regulators."

December 18, 2004

Douglas administration bans wind farms on state lands

WATERBURY -- The Douglas administration released a plan Thursday prohibiting the construction of most large-scale wind farms on state lands, but would allow smaller projects to move forward.

The policy was developed by the Agency of Natural Resources after a series of public meetings held earlier this year. A draft of the policy generated nearly 350 individual comments as well as a petition with several thousand signatures, agency officials said.

The policy -- Wind Energy and Other Renewable Energy Development on ANR Lands -- encourages small-scale wind and other renewable energy projects in appropriate locations on state-owned lands.

"Wind energy development on state-owned lands continues to be an issue of great interest to many Vermonters," said ANR Secretary Elizabeth "Wibs" McLain. "Vermonters are clearly concerned about Vermont’s energy situation and largely support an increased focus on developing new renewable energy sources. At the same time, they cherish their state lands and are divided over whether these lands would be appropriate sites for large-scale renewable energy projects."

McLain said the policy applies only to state-owned lands under ANR's jurisdiction and is not intended to be used to guide wind and other renewable energy development on private, federal, or municipal lands.

ANR's final policy defines the distinction between a large-scale renewable energy project and a small-scale project as follows: Large-scale renewable energy projects that disturb more than one acre of land and have a commercial purpose such as wind farms would not be permitted on any ANR lands under this policy. Development of small scale, net-metered wind and other renewable energy applications that disturb less than an acre of land would be encouraged at appropriate state-owned sites.

ANR's policy along with a report on public comment received by ANR is posted on the web at

The Governor's Commission on Wind Energy Policy, which studied how large-scale wind farm should be regulated, also released its final recommendations this week. However, the final report is not being released publicly until the governor’s staff reviews it, according to officials at the Department of Public Service. The full report should be released next week.

December 15, 2004

Tax evasion scheme

Crucial to the success of the wind-power energy-laundering scam is the legislative scheming to make it financially attractive (which is to say, shift our money from public use into private profit). Here are excerpts from a prospectus found on a U.K. site promoting tax-evading investments.
Ventus is a new, specialist venture capital trust established to invest in a portfolio of companies that will develop, construct and operate small on-shore UK wind projects.

Significant Tax Benefits for Investors
Individual investors in Ventus are entitled to the following tax benefits:
  • up-front 40% income tax relief such that an investment of £10,000 will effectively cost an investor £6,000;
  • tax-free dividends; and
  • gains on disposal of Ordinary Shares free from capital gains tax.
Renewable Energy Economics
As part of its commitment to the Kyoto protocol and in accordance with the EU Renewables Directive, the UK has made a strong commitment to the development of renewable energy. The key policy mechanism by which the UK Government is encouraging growth in renewable energy is the Renewables Obligation, which was introduced in April 2002 as part of primary legislation and which is specified by such legislation to remain in place until 2027. The RO provides strong financial incentives for all licensed electricity suppliers to secure a specified and increasing portion of their electricity from eligible renewable sources such as wind power. Suppliers must either meet their targets or pay a "buyout price" in relation to any shortfalls. The renewables target for 2004/05 is 4.9% of total supply and grows steadily to 10.4% of total supply in 2010/11. According to the ROC register maintained by Ofgen, approximately 55% of the renewable obligation was met for the period from April 2003 to March 2004, during which time the renewables target was 4.3% of total supply. The Government has announced its intention to increase the renewables obligation target to 15.4% of total supply in 2015/16. In the opinion of the Directors, the RO helps to make onshore wind generation an attractive investment opportunity.

December 12, 2004

Blown away

Te Apiti -- facts and figures [from The Manawatu (New Zealand) Standard]:
  • Each of Te Apiti's 55 turbine towers is 70m [230 ft] tall and the turbine blades are 35m [115 ft] long and weigh six tonnes [6.6 tons].
  • 1 million cubic metres [1,307,190 cubic yards] of earth has been moved in the construction of Te Apiti.
  • It took 80 truckloads of concrete -- 400 cubic metres [523 cubic yards, over 1000 tons] -- to fill each of the 55 foundations.
  • A 400-tonne crane, the largest ever brought to New Zealand, was used to construct the towers.
  • The turbines are connected by 48km [30 mi] of underground cables.
  • The turbines are linked by 21km [13 mi] of roads.
Clearly what has been "blown away" here is a large part of New Zealand's natural beauty.

The anti-environmentalists

To the Editor, The Berkshire Eagle:

"Spread over 24 square miles, the 130 turbines reaching 417 feet into the sky" does not sound like an environmentally friendly project to me (editorial, Dec. 10). At the least, the exaggerated claims of the developer should be questioned a bit more rigorously than is represented by your editorial.

To produce two-thirds of the Cape and Islands' electricity, the project would have to show a capacity factor of 40%. Simply considering the actual experience of similar installations, as well as the winds in the Sound, one suspects that output would be closer to 20% of capacity.

We should also ask whether its connection to the grid would significantly reduce the burning of fossil fuels. Since 20-40% would be the facility's average output, two-thirds of the time it would be producing less than that. When it does produce well, it will rarely coincide with higher demand. In western Denmark, the transmission company was able to use only 16% of the wind-generated power that was fed into the grid. (16% of 20% would be 3.2% of the facility's capacity actually being used, or less than a tenth of what Cape Wind's sales brochure claims.)

Further, most fossil fuel is not used for generating electricity. Wind power does nothing about nonelectric transport and heating, further diminishing its largely imagined benefits.

Anti-environmentalism is revealed when people fail to ask questions about the claims of such a massive industrial project. Environmentalists do, and the answers compel them to oppose the Cape Wind proposal.

[Note: At, the Cape Wind company has provided data from its monitoring station in Nantucket Sound, including a calculation of how much energy the finished project would have produced over the previous hour. The data are no longer showing up, perhaps because more people have been taking an interest in it and noticing how small the output figures are compared to the company's claims.]

Crucial information missing

To the editor, The Mendota (Ill.) Reporter:

The Dec. 10 article about Senator Durbin's visit to the Mendota Hills Wind Farm says that the senator asked many questions, such as how much power is generated and do they run all the time. It would have been helpful if the article had shared the answers as well.

December 9, 2004

The big picture

To the editor:

Jody Howard rightly urges us to look at the big picture of fossil-fuel burning, listing some its many ill consequences in a letter in the Dec. 9 Marblehead Reporter.

In then arguing for wind power, however, it would be helpful if Howard could give examples where wind power has in fact reduced fossil fuel use. It seems that Denmark and Germany, the world's leaders in wind power, have not reduced their fossil fuel burning, so Howard's (and HealthLink's) concerns appear to be irrelevant to the debate about wind.

The threat to the Berkshires

from "The rush to wind power: a threat to the Berkshires' way of life"

by Eleanor Tillinghast

A year from now, the third highest point in Massachusetts will be turbine 16 of the Hoosac wind power plant in the towns of Florida and Monroe. Only Mount Greylock and Saddle Ball will be higher. Seven of the Hoosac turbines will be among the 10 highest points in the state. Eleven will be above 3,000 feet.

Enxco Inc. will build 20 wind turbines, each 340 feet tall, on two of our most visible mountains. It will cut more than 4 miles of new roads (some 35 feet wide) through forest, crossing more than a dozen streams and wetlands. The contours of both ridgelines will be cleared, blasted and filled to accommodate vehicles 135 feet long and weighing 197,000 pounds.

The mountain range is a major migratory route for hawks, golden eagles and bald eagles. As scientists are discovering at similar sites, bats are also vulnerable to injury and death from turbine blades. Protected plant species are on the property. One stream flows into a pond that has wild brook trout.

Hoosac is just the beginning. Wind turbines are planned for Brodie Mountain and proposed for Berlin and Lenox Mountains and the Hoosac range south of Enxco’s project.

The Appalachian Mountain Club recently did a study showing that 65 sites on 96 miles of ridgeline in Massachusetts have sufficient wind for turbines. The sites range from a quarter-mile to eight miles long. Of the 65 sites, 62 are in the Berkshires.

... The mayor of Salem, who threatened to sue to stop the state from requiring new emissions controls in a 'Filthy Five' power plant in his city, has announced his support for renewable energy. ...

We are being asked to sacrifice our wilderness to reduce global warming, pollution, and dependence on foreign oil. These are vital goals that can be achieved much more successfully and at much less cost through proven energy efficiency and conservation programs and enforcement of clean air laws.

One regional environmental group has suggested that electricity savings from efficiency initiatives can be considered a new source of energy, costing less than any alternative supply. As just two examples: Kimberly-Clark Inc. improved its energy efficiency by 11.7 percent and saved enough fuel over three years to provide 700,000 homes with electricity for a year. A day after the Aug. 14, 2003 blackout, the regional grid operator paid 82 businesses in Connecticut to reduce energy consumption and within a 10-hour period saved enough power to supply 89,000 homes.

... Gov. Mitt Romney lobbied the White House against the Cape Wind proposal but supports the multiple wind power plants proposed for the Berkshires. Likewise, the secretary of environmental affairs has demanded full environmental reviews and an overall planning process for all offshore wind facilities but is enabling construction here without adequate assessments of impacts and consequences.

Students in Danville (Vt.) don't learn about wind energy

"The windmill is not quite producing as much energy as we had hoped," said Rapoza.

In a year the wind turbine saved the school about $370.00. Compare that to a monthly electric bill for the school of $4000. One reason for the lower than expected savings: The blades were experimental and did not work well. The manufacturer is going to replace them.

"They are going to come out and replace the blades with some newer blades that will do about a third better for production," said Rapoza.

The school says every little bit helps. And more importantly than saving on the bottom line, they see the wind turbine as educational for the kids. An up close way to learn about alternative energy. It's something the students say they now think more about.

Brittany Swartzenberg is a 10th grader. "It is one of those things that you want to make sure for when your kids get older the air is clean for them."

"This is something that all of us are going to have to look at in our future," said Rapoza.

The Danville School wind energy project was just given an award by the Governor for environmental excellence in education and outreach.
So that big expensive wind turbine contributes less than 1% of the school's needs, the improvement "promises" to bring that up to 1%, and the counterfactual lesson that these brilliant devices will somehow clean up our air is rewarded as "excellent."

It appears that everyone has decided wind is the "alternative" energy source to back, even though not a single example of its making a positive difference has ever been shown. On the contrary, the lesson, as in the Danville case, is that we need an alternative to wind.

December 8, 2004

A slew of destruction

Not surprisingly, the installation of giant power plants requires a certain amount of destruction, both in the construction and ongoing. This might be acceptable in some locations if there was a clear benefit. Unfortunately, wind facilities are practically useless, so there is very little to justify this industrial expansion into agricultural, recreational, and wild areas.

1. Le Moniteur-expert reported that the French hunting & wildlife office found that raptors and night-migrating birds are seriously threatened by wind turbines and then calls the impact "

2. Similar to the need in California (see yesterday's post), New Mexico's governor Bill Richardson has called for funding of new power transmission lines that are needed to carry wind power he hopes to see built.

3. "We had hoped to tip-toe in and tip-toe out," the man said. But the construction company is facing their end-of-year deadline, so brought in 100 more workers and much heavier equipment, causing "major changes" (i.e., damage) to the New Mexico ranchers' land.

4. And in Vermont, the Marlboro school has decided to study its wind "resource" before rushing into buying a 120-foot turbine. But they cut down 10 trees anyway, to make room for the measuring instruments.

Fine lessons all in what is not environmental stewardship but is typical for the wind industry.

December 7, 2004

The Guardian interviews Ralph Nader

"Our political system is an idiocracy."

Something missing?

To the Editor, The Caledonian-Record:

There appears to have been a mistake in the Nov. 19 editorial, "Is Socialized Medicine Next For Vermont?" As printed, it stated that single-payer insurance "delivers health care rationing, no choice of physicians, overworked and underpaid providers, immoral cost shifting and soaring taxes."

Obviously that was meant to be a description of the private health insurance that most people know. A sentence must have been dropped that said compared to this dismal record a single-payer system of universal coverage would be a great improvement for everyone.

New lines planned to carry clean power

By Charles F. Bostwick, Staff Writer, Los Angeles Daily News:
LANCASTER -- Southern California Edison is proposing to run new 500,000-volt lines between west Lancaster, Valencia, Acton and Tehachapi to serve a huge expansion of Antelope Valley wind-energy farms.

Expected to cost $190 million to $250 million, the new lines would replace a lower-power line leading northeast from Santa Clarita, add to an existing power-line corridor from west Lancaster to Acton, and create a new power-line right-of-way north from Lancaster between 100th and 110th streets west.

"We are trying to minimize the impact by either building it within existing lines or by replacing existing lines," said Charles Adamson, Southern California Edison's project manager.

With a post-energy crisis state law ordering utilities to get 20 percent of their electricity from "renewable" sources by 2017, state officials say the Tehachapi-Mojave area has the potential to grow from 600 megawatts of wind power to as much as 4,500, with another 400 megawatts in Los Angeles County.

The proposed new lines could carry 1,100 megawatts -- enough for about 500,000 to 1 million homes, though the variability of the wind means the turbines would usually be producing far less than the peak output.
Seventy miles of new very-high-voltage power lines: This is not an alternative, but simply an expansion of our current electrical system. Note also that 4,500 MW of wind power is a 200-400 square mile power plant, hardly an environmentally friendly "solution" and one that would produce (though rarely when needed) barely 4% of the electricity California uses. The proposed lines would not even be able to handle the surge of such a plant's occasional peak production.

December 2, 2004

Why secularism

History teaches that the one thing religions hate more than secularism is other religions.

-- Nicholas von Hoffman
"Democrats Should Oppose Empowering the Pious"
New York Observer, Dec. 1

Great essay

Peter Linebaugh (click the title of this post) writes about the rationalization of torture, reviews the book Caliban and the Witch by Silvia Federici, and ties together witch hunts, capitalism, and the American invasion of Iraq. Related to this theme is the essay "The Ravisht Bride" (50-KB PDF) from my book on Finnegans Wake. Readers might also be interested in my essay "Nature-Guilt."

December 1, 2004

Photos from Nordex

Output debate in Cornwall

A story from Devon reports on a debate sponsored by the Institute of Civil Engineers at the University of Plymouth. I note one item:
Mr Edwards [developer of the U.K.'s first wind facility] defended the efficiency of windfarms, saying: "At Delabole they generate for over 70 per cent of the time, and not 30 per cent as is often claimed."
This is a typical misleading response.

The 30% figure is the total annual output as a percentage of the facility's rated capacity. In the case of Delabole, ten 400-kilowatt turbines have the capacity of producing 10 × 400 KW × 24 hours × 365 days, i.e., 35 million kilowatt-hours/year. According to the utility that buys the power, they in fact produce 10 million, owing primarily to the variability of the wind. That is 28.5% of their capacity, which the developer generously rounds up to 30%.

That does not mean that the turbines are producing power only 30% of the time, because their output is proportional to wind speed. Typically they begin generating a trickle of electricity when the wind speed is around 8-10 mph, slowly building up to their maximum only when the wind speed is around 25-30 mph. If the wind gusts towards 60 mph, they shut down to prevent damage. The figure of 70% is the amount of time that the wind is within the range of, say, 10-60 mph and the turbines are responding.

So while his critics might cite the 30% output to suggest that the turbines are idle 70% of the time (or he skews their charge that way), Mr. Edwards cites the 70% activity as implying 70% output. In fact, because 30% (or, more accurately, less -- the average throughout the U.K. is 24%) is the average output, about two thirds of the time the turbines are producing less than that.

Edwards also mentions how "popular" his facility is (accepted might be more accurate). He neglects to note how small the ten 1991-vintage turbines are: less than half the height (and they don't need flashing lights) with blades sweeping an area just one fourth that of the typical models proposed on land today.

Dear Alan Chartock

I regret having to add to your pile of e-mails concerning wind power, but I must point out a mistake in your last "I, Publius" column, where you write that "unsightly windmills ... are necessary when substituting wind power for conventional oil energy."

Oil is used for less than 2.5% of the US's electricity generation. Granted, Massachusetts is the nation's fourth largest user of oil for electricity, oil being used for over 16% of its own electricity generation and representing over 7% of the national total.

Most of it (83% nationally), however, is used in older plants that supply base load because they can not respond quickly to fluctuations in demand (or supply). The presence of intermittent wind-generated power would not affect the use of these plants.

The rest is used in combustion engines that provide extra power at times of exceptionally high demand. They are expensive to run but can respond quickly not only to demand spikes but also to sudden drops in supply. The former case would not be alleviated by the presence of wind power (peak demand does not correspond with peak wind-power production), and the latter case would actually become more frequent if wind power became a significant source. That is, more windmills would likely require an increase in the use of oil.

It is not just the unsightliness of potentially thousands of giant wind turbines in New England, scarring many of the most beautiful and wild locations remaining to us, that inspires environmentalist opposition. More importantly, it's wind power's utter uselessness for anything other than generating profit and letting people think they are "green."

November 28, 2004

Government at work

A racket: Pass laws requiring the purchase of wind power, grant tax credits to the developers, create a secondary market for "green" credits, and choose your own company over others to take advantage of it all. That's what they just did in Ontario. The tightness of legislators and businessmen around the world suggests it is not uncommon.

To the editor, The New Republic

Some opponents of wind power may be initially NIMBY, as Gregg Easterbrook says they all remain ("Cape Hope," November 29), but once they examine the claims of the sales brochure they quickly deduce that utility-scale wind turbines should not be erected anywhere on the grid. As Easterbrook's article only echos the developer's own material in defending the Cape Wind facility proposed for Nantucket Sound, a response is warranted.

He repeats the claim that modern turbines don't kill many birds. Ongoing studies in Spain and Belgium, however, find that a single turbine kills an average 20-40 birds per year. A study at the Mountaineer facility in West Virginia is following up the finding that over 2000 bats were killed in just 2 months last fall. The blades of new turbines are indeed slower in terms of revolutions per minute, but they are so large (typically sweeping over an acre of air) that the speed at the tips is well over 125 mph.

His unqualified claim of "zero greenhouse gas emissions, zero air pollution, zero waste product" also is typical. The parts have to be manufactured and transported (using dirty energy), each foundation requires tons of cement (a major source of greenhouse gases), access roads typically have to be built or widened or strengthened, trees have to be cleared and vegetation kept down with herbicides, each turbine contains hundreds of gallons of oil which has to be periodically replaced, new high-voltage transmission lines have to be built, and the turbines themselves use power from the grid.

Typical, too, is Easterbrook's dismissal of aesthetic concerns. He admits that they are well over 300 feet high (over 400 feet in Cape Wind's case) and usually sited on prominent ridgelines and in open spaces. These are places any sensible person would be appalled to see industrial development. They are not just big (and include roads, transformers, and power lines), they add significant and disturbing noise to rural environments and must be lit with flashing lights day and night.

Easterbrook says all this is necessary to help resolve the problems caused by our thirst for power. He fails, however, to question the developer's claim of the project's potential contribution of an average 170 MW (which represents a whopping five one-thousandths of one percent of our energy use). That projection is based only on the generous formula from the wind industry, which says -- despite all evidence -- that the output of an off-shore turbine will be 40% of its rated capacity over a year. Existing facilities -- when they're working at all; it is still a very problematic technology -- produce at 20-30% (the figure is even lower on-shore). The wind data from Cape Wind's own measurement station in the Sound suggests that its output will be at the lower end of the range.

And because 20% is the average, two-thirds of the time output will be less than that. A lot of the time, such as the day I am writing this, the whole 24-square-mile installation wouldn't generate enough electricity to make up for its own consumption. It certainly wouldn't be replacing any more reliable source on the grid if Mr. Easterbrook wants the light to go on when he flicks that switch.

As the experience of, for example, Denmark (20% wind) and Germany (4% wind) shows us, large installations of wind turbines would not reduce our use of any existing source of power. This is not to dismiss the very real energy issues that Easterbrook has elsewhere written about. It is only to recognize that industrializing our land- and seascapes with wind towers (it would require hundreds of thousands to produce just a few percent of U.S. electricity needs) is a highly destructive (however profitable) folly.


Todays' Burlington Free Press contains two letters criticizing a recent editorial against putting utility-scale wind-generated power plants on Vermont's undeveloped and supposedly protected mountain ridges. One of them is the typical wind-at-all-costs jeremiad that is blind to the general rejection of putting these erections on the ridges. The other, hilariously, accuses the Free Press of bias. Of course, bias implies ignorance rather than informed opinion. Or it suggests an interest -- like Rob Roy Macgregor's in the letter already described -- in seeing something succeed or fail that has little to do with the facts of experience. The second letter is from "Thomas O. Gray," a citizen from Norwich. Though he neglects to mention the affiliation, he is former executive director and currently deputy executive director and director of communications of the American Wind Energy Association, the industry lobbying group. He is usually known by plain old "Tom." I suspect he is biased.


Animal Place, a sanctuary and educational organization, reports a study by the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization finding that more than 50 billion animals (not counting fish and other aquatic animals) were killed for food in 2003. In the U.S., the slaughter of animals for food represents 98% of all animals killed, including by euthanasia in pounds and shelters, hunting, trapping and farming for fur, research, testing, etc. Worldwide, 46.5 billion chickens and turkeys are killed, 9.8 billion of them in the U.S., where they are specifically not covered by the Humane Methods of Slaughter Act.

In all but the most extreme situations, this is a choice we make. We do not need to kill other animals to thrive ourselves. Yet we do. That is a morally indefensible choice. We ought to have the self-respect (or call it an eye for the karmic scales of justice) to expect better of ourselves.

Thought for the day

"[A] civilization with such a pervasively violent history, in the course of which it has acquired the highest estimation of its own decency and mildness, has developed a peculiar trick of mind, not to be called a divided nature, since the conviction of particular goodness always one way or another justifies or conceals or expedites really remarkable transgression."

-- Marilynne Robinson, Mother Country (1989)

November 23, 2004

Cape Wind output

Data from the Cape Wind measuring station in Nantucket Sound is available on line (click the title of this post), with the wind speed updated every 10 minutes (you have to "reload" the page yourself to update it). Right below the table of data is an estimate of what the complete 420-MW complex would have generated over the previous hour, and at the bottom of the page is a table of data from the previous 12 hours. As I write this, the generation figure is 16 MW-hours, or 3.8% of the plant's capacity, equivalent to 5% of the average electricity use on Cape Cod and the Islands. This falls rather short of the developers' claim that it will provide three-quarters of the Cape and Islands' electricity.

Note about wind speed and electricity generation: The wind turbine produces its rated capacity of electricity only within a specific range of wind speed. The 3.6-MW GE turbines that Cape Wind will use produce their rated capacity at 14 meters/second (m/s), or just over 31 miles/hour (mph). Below that, the output falls off exponentially, so that at about 9 m/s (20 mph) they will produce half, at about 7.5 m/s (17 mph) aquarter, and at about 6 m/s (13.5 mph) an eighth of their rating. Below 3.5 m/s (8 mph), the turbines produce nothing (yet continue to use power themselves). If the wind gusts above 27 m/s (60 mph), they shut down to avoid damage. (Data are from the GE brochure.)

(The Cape Wind data are in knots. 1 knot = 1.15 mph = 0.514 m/s. 1 m/s = 2.24 mph.)

Since I've started writing this, the previous hour's output would have dropped to 10 MW-hours, about 4.3% of the Cape and Islands' average need; the currect wind speed of 6 knots (6.9 mph, 3.1 m/s) is below the speed at which the turbines would start producing even a trickle of electricity. That is, the whole massive installation would be producing nothing right now. Check in often, and ask yourself whether the depredations of such a project are worth it.

Note about Cape Wind's claims: The developers say the complex will provide three-quarters of the electricity used on Cape Cod, Martha's Vineyard, and Nantucket, which represents an average power need of 230 MW, 3/4 of which is 172.5 MW, which is 41% of the capacity planned for Cape Wind. This claim is not based on the actual measurements made in Nantucket sound nor on the experience of existing offshore wind facilities. It is based solely on the inflated generic assumptions of the American Wind Energy Association, which says that onshore wind turbines produce 30% of their capacity and offshore 40% (this figure is called their load factor). In fact, onshore wind turbines typically produce from well less than 20% up to 25% and offshore between 20% and 30%. It appears that Cape Wind's actual output would be at the low end, half of what the developer claims. And that's an average. Two-thirds of the time, it will be producing less than that. Often (like today) it will be producing close to nothing, not even enough to make up for its own electricity needs. So it will certainly not be replacing any more reliable power source on the grid.

November 22, 2004

No impact whatsoever

This is an old Vestas 1.5-MW model turbine going up at the Tjaereborg test site in western Denmark.

Watt a sight!

Developers decided in August to proceed with the [Crescent Ridge, Illinois] project despite a pending federal lawsuit alleging environmental irresponsibility, violation of migratory bird and endangered species acts and violation of numerous other state and federal laws. The plaintiff lost a similar state action earlier in the year.

"It would take a pretty stupid bird to fly into one of these things," [Tim] Reder [site manager of the project for Eurus Energy America] said of the giant blades that look more like airplanes and are visible for miles on a clear day. "I'm not saying they don't have a legitimate concern, but if you weigh that bird against what we're doing to our environment ... our dependence on foreign oil."
The story also describes the dense fog in which the construction is taking place, one of the conditions the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (FWS) warns about as harmful to birds. Not only will the blades be concealed in fog, the tips will be slashing through the air at 144 mph. The blades of each tower sweeping 1.3 acres of air. And speaking of the "stupidity" of birds, why are lights required on these massive structures? Are airplane pilots also "stupid"?

In fact at least 20 birds per turbine are killed each year, according to studies in Spain and Belgium. The researchers consider that a "conservative" figure; the actual number is probably much larger. FWS has estimated the number to be 37. Not only birds but also bats are killed. At the Mountaineer aerogenerator complex in Tucker County, West Virginia (44 turbines), well over 2000 bats were killed over just 2 months last fall.

Although Mr. Reder betrays his contempt for nature by insisting that only "stupid" birds fly into the blades, and by going ahead with construction despite a federal lawsuit charging violation of environmental laws, he nonetheless trots out the pathetic defense that this industrial development will save even more birds. He knows that the public is eager to relieve their guilt about inordinate energy use and the consequent habitat loss, acid rain, asthma, etc. So he presents his 2,200-acre power plant as absolution for their sins.

Notably, he throws in "our dependence on foreign oil." That may well be a problem, but it is not one where wind power can hope to have an impact. Only 2.4% of our electricity is generated from oil (see earlier post). If wind power were actually able to make a significant contribution (which is by all evidence quite doubtful), it would displace three times more hydro- than oil-generated electricity.

Oil is used for transport and heating, folks, not electricity.

November 20, 2004

Saving the world, one journalist at a time

On July 31, Phillipines radio commentator Roger Mariano was murdered after promising to "expose a bombshell" during his next commentary. Mariano had been investigating the network of bribes and coercion behind a 25-MW wind-power facility in Iloco Norte, involving the governor, his friend and chairman of the wind company, the local utility, and the grants and loans that paid for it all from the Danish International Development Agency (the invisible hand of the free market at work!).

It hasn't gotten that bad in most places yet, but the British Wind Energy Association has displayed a list of prominent opponents under the threatening headline, "We know where you live," the home of Country Guardian's director has been broken into and ransacked in Wales, and a bomb threat was called in to disrupt a recent meeting in Australia.

Only overwhelming greed compels such actions. These people are not friends of the earth nor of the people and other animals who live on it.

The title of this post links to part 1 of this story. Click here for part 2.

Batman to the rescue!

At the recent Society of Environmental Journalists conference in Pittsburgh, chairman Don Hopey appeared in costume to introduce panelists for a discussion of "Celebrity, the Media and the Environment." The decal reads, "Save bats: Brake wind power development."

November 18, 2004

Clean and green and free ...

This is a prototype 5-MW wind turbine and tower from Repower in Germany. It's designed for both land and sea. The tower is 295-394 feet (90-120 meters) high. Each blade extends another 207 feet (63 meters). That's a sweep area of over 3 acres. And we are expected to believe that such monsters will have no negative impact on its neighbors or the environment!

Hundreds of thousands of wind towers, you say?

A recent post casually states that it would take hundreds of thousands of wind towers to provide 5% of the electricity used in the U.S. Here are the figures that confirm that statement.

According to data from the Department of Energy, we used 38.401 quadrillion btu of electricity in 2002. That's equivalent to 11,254 terawatt-hours (TW-h). Five percent of that is 563 TW-h, or 562,711,000 megawatt-hours (MW-h).

Dividing that figure by 365 days and 24 hours shows that 5% represents an average power feed of 64,236 MW. (See the post of Oct. 21 for an explanation of power and energy units.)

The output of a well sited (for the purpose of collecting wind) aerogenerator is about 25% of its rated capacity. So to provide an average 64,236 MW would require 256,944 MW of installed capacity. Using the usual utility-size turbine of 1.5 MW, that would require 171,296 of them.

The lesson from Denmark, however, is that only about one sixth of the wind-generated power is actually used, because it so rarely corresponds with demand (David J. White, "Danish Wind: Too Good To Be True?," The Utilities Journal, July 2004). So for the U.S. to get 5% of its electricity from wind would require more than 1,000,000 turbine towers.

Existing complexes use 30-60 acres per MW capacity (the more space they have the better they work). Getting 5% of our electricity from wind would therefore require installations covering at least 72,000 and possibly (ideally) more than 144,000 square miles. That's almost the size of the entire state of Montana.

November 16, 2004

Windfarms drive down property values

Its currently a sellers market and if windfarms make it a buyers market, all the better. I'm for home buyers, the young and the poor first. I'm not against home owners, but feel the pendulum desparately needs to swing the other way for a change. So you're right when you say as a home owner that you're a winner, but don't you feel its time you gave everyone else a chance too?
That's from Andy Parnell, spokesman for Greenpeace on their Yes2Wind web site. He's responding to the recent survey in the U.K. showing that industrial wind installations do indeed lower property values. The British Wind Energy Association says that opposition is to blame, that if everyone just stopped thinking for themselves and let the BWEA tell them what's good for them ("that drone pounding through your house is the sound of global warming being reversed!") prices would in fact go up as people rush to live near these sacred icons.

Mr. Parnell admirably doesn't shift the blame like that. He says it's all part of the service, just one more miraculous benefit of wind power -- making country housing more affordable!

November 14, 2004

The 0.05% solution

According to the U.S. Department of Energy, less than 2.4% of our electricity is generated by burning oil. Yet it is common for the wind-power salesmen to insist that their product will make us less dependent on foreign oil. The amount of our oil consumption that goes towards generating electricity is also less than 2.4%, or less than 1% of our total energy use.

Let's say they get their way and 5% of our electricity is generated by a few hundred thousand giant windmills. That would theoretically replace (if we ignore the typical 2% annual growth in consumption) 5% of our current sources of electricity, 2.4% of which is oil. So at best it would reduce oil's share to just under 2.3%. It would similarly reduce our total use of oil -- only some of which is imported from troublesome regions such as the Middle East -- by 0.1%. It would reduce oil's share of our energy consumption by 0.05%.

Now the salesmen would say that every little bit helps, thinking we will overlook that billions of dollars spent to install hundreds of thousands of giant windmills blighting our every landscape must ultimately be a rather embarrassing way to help a very "little bit." They would also forget their original plea about foreign oil and talk about domestic coal instead.

Coal-burning plants are continually developing to be more efficient and cleaner. But the prospect of significant amounts of wind power on the grid requires keeping on the older dirtier plants -- and even building new ones -- because only they are able to respond quickly enough to the unpredictable fluctuations of wind-generated power to keep the grid supply steady. That is, large-scale wind thwarts cleaner coal.

Coal mining is a dreadful business, and the more we can move away from it the better (it is the source of over 50% of our electricity), but wind power does not move us away from it and in fact perpetuates the worst use of it.

So they move on to the fluctuations of natural gas prices, as if a few percentage points of wind power in the grid (should it ever actually get that far) would have any effect on another market altogether (only a quarter of our natural gas use is for electricity.)

So they point to the dangers of nuclear power. Denmark, which has shunned nuclear power and claims that 20% of their electricity comes from wind (in fact, it's more like 3% -- the rest is exported because it's produced when demand is already being met), now has to buy nuclear-generated power from its neighbors because their faith in wind leaves them in need so often (when there is demand, the wind is rarely blowing in proportion). In other words, wind power won't replace any nuclear power here, either, and may well make us more dependent on it.

Sad to say, wind power won't replace or even reduce any more dependable source of electricity. The only way to reduce fossil and nuclear fuel use is to reduce consumption -- not just of electricity but also the energy for heating and transport. Efficiency and conservation will take us a long way towards solving our energy problems. The depredations of the wind industry won't even point us in the right direction.

Data source: Energy Information Administration, U.S. Department of Energy. Figures are for the year 2002, in quadrillion btu:
total energy: 97.644
total electricity: 38.177
total oil: 38.401
oil used for electricity: 0.908
     (2.38% of total electricity, 0.93% of total energy)
5% less oil used for electricity: 0.863
     (2.26% of total electricity, 0.88% of total energy)

A Seashore Fight to Harness the Wind

An article in today's New York Times looks at the offshore Cape Wind project proposed off Cape Cod in Massachusetts (see previous post).
And several environmental organizations have found themselves in the unaccustomed position of praising the Corps of Engineers, which many have criticized in the past as being too quick to approve development projects.

"At first, obviously, it was pretty frightening because of their history," said Kert Davies, United States research director for Greenpeace, which favors the project. But he added, "I think the effort was very solid, and they were under a lot of scrutiny."
Apparently Mr. Davies is serious. The Corps of Engineers has eagerly approved this development, consistent with its Greenpeace-criticized record. But now Greenpeace also supports this 24-square-mile industrial complex, so the Corps has done a "solid" job.

And in another example of the decline of journalism, the Times echos the idea that this in an "environmental" project:
The 4,000-page draft gives new support to environmental groups that praise the project as a safe, nonpolluting and desperately needed alternative to fossil fuel power plants. But opponents challenge the report, the process that produced it and the idea of building the turbine array in the first place.
There is no mention that many environmental groups (see SafeWind and Save Our Sound for some of them) and environmentalist individuals oppose the project. A vegetarian isn't vegetarian if he or she eats chicken occasionally. And an environmentalist should no longer be called such when he or she supports the work of developers.

[See the next post for how ridiculous the claim is that such projects will reduce fossil fuel burning.]

Don't fence me in!

Today's New York Times includes a photo from the Army Corps of Engineers' "Environmental Impact Statement" (which uses data provided primarily by the developer) showing what the proposed Cape Wind project (130 420-ft towers) between Cape Cod and Nantucket will look like: a barbed-wire fence. So much for the open sea, the expansiveness that draws us to it.

See Wind Stop for similar pictures from other locations. Wind Stop also emphasizes the 10-story oil-filled transformer that will be part of the complex.

November 12, 2004

Wise words

Via Information Clearing House . . .

A Cherokee elder was teaching his grandchildren. He said to them, "A fight is going on inside me. It is a terrible fight, and it is between two wolves. One wolf is full of fear, anger, envy, greed, arrogance, self-pity, resentment, and lies. The other wolf is full of joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, generosity, and compassion. This fight is going on inside me and inside each of you and in every other person, too."

They thought about it for a moment, and one child asked his grandfather, "Which wolf will win?" The old Cherokee replied, "The one I feed."

November 11, 2004

Animal rights protests barred

A giant new building for conducting experiments on animals at Oxford University has been on hold since the contractor withdrew because of protests. But should a new contractor be found, the building is already protected by an injunction against protesters coming within 50 yards of it.

The judge, a Mr. Grigson, said the injunction did not prevent anyone from expressing his views: "What it does restrict is to whom and where he expresses those views." That is, you are free to express your views as long as they don't bother anyone.

The attorney for the university, Tim Lawson-Cruttenden, said the injunction was a win for liberal democracy: "I'm pleased that we're beginning to maintain the right not to be unlawfully harassed in a liberal democracy." That is, if we find protests troubling we can declare them to be illegal, and the liberal principles that depend so much on animal research may continue without the harassment of opposed opinion.

The vice-chancellor of Oxford, John Hood, admitted that the vast majority of protesters had acted within the law: "By obtaining this injunction the University of Oxford is not seeking to stifle the views of those groups and individuals with whom we disagree." Only, as Mr. Justice Grigson made clear, to restrict it, whether it was legal before or not.

The "liberal" principle at work here is that researchers should be able to look out their windows and not be reminded that their work is cruel and meaningless, that people who would harass those noble academics by expressing opposition must be labelled as terrorists or the whole house of cards risks collapse.

November 9, 2004

Cape Wind and the bats

The Army Corps of Engineers has released its 4,000-page report on the impacts of the 24-square-mile 130-tower Cape Wind facility proposed for Nantucket Sound off Cape Cod. Unsurprisingly, they think it'll be fine. For example, although migrating red bats traverse Nantucket Sound, they have determined that there is only "limited collision risk for migratory bats." Meanwhile, study continues at the 44-tower Backbone Mountain facility in West Virginia because a preliminary study last year found that over 400 bats were killed in a mere 2 months. FPL Energy's own in-house environmentalist says that the number was probably more like 2,000 since searches for carcasses were done only weekly, giving scavengers plenty of time to find them first.

He is also curious about what attracts bats to wind turbines, which many people have noticed. Is it the insects attracted by the lights, subaural vibrations, curiosity, or something else? Bat Conservation International has reported bats being killed by turbines where bats were never known to fly before.

If this one issue is an example, it is obvious that the Cape Wind report is deeply flawed if not downright disingenuous.

Exit polls underscore Democratic loss

In 2000, exit polls showed that 11% of Democrats voted for Bush and 8% of Republicans voted for Gore. Considering the error that must be allowed for by the sampling, the figures nonetheless suggest that as the Democrats move right they lose more votes than they gain. If the Democratic Leadership Council (DLC) -- who have dominated the party since Bill Clinton's election -- wants to establish themselves as the moderate wing of the Republican party, the only way they'll succeed is by joining the Republican party itself, not by destroying their own party. There are a lot of Republicans already who support abortion rights, so when a pro-business voter is presented by the "New" Democrats with what is essentially the Republican platform, they will of course take a look at the real thing instead. And when a one-time union worker whose pension has been looted sees no major candidate seriously addressing his concerns, at least the Republicans -- having obviously studied how fascists succeed -- know how to redirect his resentment.

The exit polls this time still show that 11% of Democrats voted for Bush. And only 6% of Republicans -- fewer than voted for Gore -- voted for Kerry.

And may I ask how the "progressive" supporters of John Kerry, such as Move On, Michael Moore, the big unions, et al., think they will push the Democrats left again? They attached no conditions to their support, didn't insist that Kerry take a single progressive stand during the campaign. Imagine them telling the DLC to let some light in now. Ha! the Dems will think. You support us no matter what we do, you spineless grovelers, stop smelling up our tastefully appointed offices and get back to "getting out the vote."
The great are great only because we are on our knees. -- Max Stirner

November 8, 2004

Democrats! You have nothing to lose but your chains!

Bob Herbert ("Voting Without the Facts, New York Times, Nov. 8) points out that what is currently being called "values" in reference to some of the Bush vote should more accurately be called "ignorance."
"You have to be careful when you toss the word values around. All values are not created equal. Some Democrats are casting covetous eyes on voters whose values, in many cases, are frankly repellent. Does it make sense for the progressive elements in our society to undermine their own deeply held beliefs in tolerance, fairness and justice in an effort to embrace those who deliberately seek to divide?"
And Alexander Cockburn ("Don't Say We Didn't Warn You," Counterpunch, Nov. 6/7) has some words about Kerry's supporters who spent $20 million to stop Nader (instead of, say, helping some of the Senate races they lost) and never held Kerry to even the mildest progressive principle (letting him, for example, boast of his principled opposition to the Vietnam quagmire 30 years ago even as today he supports the Iraq quagmire).

What the Democrats ought to learn from this debacle is that trying to not be Democrats doesn't work. Only a charming liar like Bill Clinton can pull it off. As Bob Herbert and Eileen McNamara (see yesterday's post) point out, the Democrats need to be Democrats again, advocating the ideals of social progress: economic equality and justice, labor, guaranteed health care (as it is in almost every other country in the world, rich or poor), protecting citizens against corporate might, protecting minorities from the tyranny of the majority, etc. In short, they need to adopt Ralph Nader's platform.

But they won't. Democrats have been running from their core beliefs for years. That's why they hate Nader. He represents what they once might have been -- a party of principle. They will continue their painful slide into obscurity by urging a further move towards accommodating the ignorance and hatred that are hailed these days as values and faith. They will further narrow their "liberalism" to yet fewer and ever more meaningless culture-war icons and effectively let the robber barons run us all into oblivion. Our esteemed Democratic reresentatives, after all, retire to comfy jobs in board rooms just as Republicans do.

November 7, 2004

George Bush thanks America

End-of-empire decadence

Today's New York Times was full of evidence that we are in the end times (as if George Bush wasn't proof enough already), from the buffoon of a market researcher with his ridiculous mansion and fleet of ugly expensive cars and dopey suits through the entire special "Living" magazine, with its parade of photos of dead animals, their hacked-up body parts presented as "appetizing." The thing today (expanding from September's popularity of Nobu's black cod with miso) is black food. One is reminded of the words of the chef in Peter Greenaway's movie The Cook, The Thief, His Wife and Her Lover:
People like to remind themselves of death. Eating black food is like consuming death. Like saying: "Death, I'm eating you."

Inoffensive, ineffective

Eileen McNamara hits the nail on the head in her column in today's Boston Globe. Some excerpts:
Instead of drawing a distinction between the parties, Democrats insist on blurring the differences in a wrongheaded search for some squishy center. A concerted effort to offend no one ends up inspiring no one, either.

Democrats lose because they are unwilling to embrace the principles of their own party. Poverty is a moral issue, too. So is the right to basic medical care, a job, decent housing, safe streets, and a clean environment. If Kerry had projected half the passion about those issues that Bush did about abortion and homosexuality, this race might have been about big ideas, instead of a protracted series of skirmishes in a culture war that Democrats cannot win.

Kerry kept telling voters that the Bush tax cuts went to the wealthiest Americans. Why didn't he talk about the fundamental economic reality of the last two decades, the growing gap between the haves and have nots? Why no outrage about the fact that the top 1 percent earns more than the bottom 40 percent in the United States, the widest income gap since 1929? A stump speech reference to the ''two Americas" does not constitute a campaign against economic injustice.

Republicans have been winning big by changing the subject from the economic challenges facing Americans to the emotional issues that exploit their fear that the nation has lost its moral compass.

Instead of framing the fight to end joblessness at home or to engage in diplomacy abroad as the moral imperatives that they are, Kerry attempted a pale imitation of the president's personal piety.

November 6, 2004

What's the Matter with Kansas?

Here's a good letter from the November 3rd Wichita Eagle:
Thomas Frank's book "What's the Matter With Kansas?" describes the neocolonial-style situation in Garden City, where huge, out-of-state agribusinesses have exploited the land and cheap labor to create meatpacking and food-processing combines that have simultaneously despoiled the natural environment and created a mess of poverty and ruined infrastructure. That part of Kansas becomes a warren of trailer parks and tacky apartment buildings, while the profits drain to capitalist enterprises far away.

Now The Eagle editorial board thinks Kansas is "losing out" on wind farming in the beautiful, irreplaceable Flint Hills ("Wind: Kansas is losing out," Oct. 11 Opinion). For a relatively small amount of cash paid to some local communities, and a windfall for a few local landowners, the editorial board seems hopeful that the Flint Hills can be colonized by an out-of-state energy company that will despoil the hills -- our spiritual treasure -- and pipe the massive profits to outsiders. Perhaps the editorial board would also like to reconsider the pig farm colonization of north-central Kansas.

What's the matter with Kansas? For one thing, The Wichita Eagle.

Gaylord Dold

November 5, 2004

Response to "Wind Power Seen As Win For All"

To the Editor, Plattsburgh Press-Republican:

Charles Hinckley [managing director of Noble Environmental Power] responded (Oct. 31) to Calvin Luther Martin and Nina Pierpont's Oct. 18 editorial about some of the negative aspects of industrial wind towers by simply ignoring their evidence. He says wind power is good because the state is aggressively supporting it. On the same day that Hinckley's piece appeared in the Press-Republican, an article in the New York Times described MTBE contamination of the state's water, an earlier "aggressive" effort to clean up the air that turned out to be horribly short sighted.

Wind-power projects do not even slightly clean up the air or reduce the use of fossil fuels. Their contribution of electricity is intermittent and unpredictable, requiring the continued (inefficient) use of conventional generation to cover for it. Most pollution and fuel use is due to heating and transport.

Hinckley dismisses the ever-growing testimony from neighbors of wind farms around the world about the noise. He presents instead the sales material from his industry's lobbyist. Five days before his piece appeared, an Enxco manager defending plans for a 120-turbine facility in Kittitas County, Washington, said that noise would not be a problem 78% of the time. That is, by his own admission, noise would be a problem 22% of the time -- an average 5-1/4 hours of each day. In their unquestioning enthusiasm for wind, Oregon rewrote their regulations to allow facilities to add what was previously considered too much noise in rural locations. Concerning Vermont's Searsburg facility (whose towers are less than two thirds the size of modern ones), another Enxco manager has written about the special situation in winter: "When there is heavy rime ice buildup on the blades and the machines are running you instinctually want to stay away. ... They roar and sound scary." (That ice eventually gets flung off in massive thick sheets.)

In Kewaunee County, Wisconsin, a farmer who leased his land for wind towers had to buy his neighbors' properties because of the problems (not just noise but also flicker and the lights at night). Wisconsin Public Service, operator of another 14 turbines in Kewaunee County, offered to buy six neighboring properties because of complaints; two neighbors sued instead.

To pretend that this does not affect property values, Hinckley considers only the property on which the wind towers are erected, dismissing the effect of a giant power plant on neighboring properties. It does not enhance the rural landscape. It drastically industrializes it. That may be seen as an improvement by those profiting from it, but it most certainly diminishes any special value the region had before.

Hinckley also says it is "inconceivable" that giant turbines, each of its blades well over 100 feet long and weighing more than 10 tons, their tips chopping through the air at over 100 mph, send vibrations down the tower and into the ground. Again, neighbors in England say they feel it in their homes. A 160-year-old playing field started to sink soon after large wind turbines were erected nearby.

Finally, he scoffs at the notion that wind companies could go bankrupt. Altamont Pass in California is filled with hundreds of rusting wind towers whose owners can't be found. The federal incentive of accelerated depreciation encourages fast profit taking and abandonment.

November 3, 2004

Slouching towards Armageddon

The Second Coming
by William Butler Yeats

Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all convictions, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.

Surely some revelation is at hand;
Surely the Second Coming is at hand.
The Second Coming! Hardly are those words out
When a vast image out of Spiritus Mundi
Troubles my sight: somewhere in sands of the desert
A shape with lion body and the head of a man,
A gaze blank and pitiless as the sun,
Is moving its slow thighs, while all about it
Reel shadows of the indignant desert birds.
The darkness drops again; but now I know
That twenty centuries of stony sleep
Were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle,
And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?

November 1, 2004

Ralph Nader for President

Michael Colby has written a good piece about Nader at his Broadsides blog:
... If he wanted an ego rush this late in his life, he would have imitated the mainstream eco-ninnies in D.C. during these elections and got in line for the accolades, the award ceremonies, and the “opportunity” to rub elbows with the nation’s power elite. But Ralph knew what kind of bullshit all of that amounts to and, thankfully, steered clear of it. Instead, he’s decided to run for the presidency and put a spotlight on the issues that have not been broached by the other candidates.

And he’s taken a beating. He knew he was going to take a beating. Worse, he knew he was going to get knocked around by his so-called friends – the people who supported him in the past but would turn their back on him now. But Ralph’s deep belief in democracy and the importance of addressing issues trumped his fear of getting the collective knives in the back from his “friends.”

So it’s nothing short of hilarious to hear people say that any of this is about Ralph stroking his ego. He’s too smart for that. And he’s knows just the opposite is happening: his ego and his reputation are being trashed by folks who should know better.

Nader believes in something. He’s not afraid to stand up for what he believes. And he’s not a quitter. But those qualities have become so alien to the mainstream political world that when someone like Ralph steps onto the national scene with them, he’s condemned and called egomaniacal. The cesspool seems to enjoy its own filth. If idealism, passion, truth, and commitment are allowed into the game, how could the chicanery of the two-party game not be exposed?

The next time someone wants to engage me about Nader, here are the rules: We only talk about the issues. We talk about where we stand on the issues compared to where Ralph (and the other candidates) stand on the issues. And then maybe we can agree that a candidate who has an enthusiastic love of democracy and is running for the presidency to end the war, protect the environment, cut the defense department, curtail corporate crimes and transgressions against our democracy is rational and hopeful rather than egomaniacal.

If Kerry took just one position that was similar to Nader’s, the Nader bashers would have one small point. But he hasn’t –- and they don’t.

Enough already. Vote your dreams.

October 31, 2004

A quote for the conscientious

But I don't answer to inevitabilities, and neither do you. I don't answer to the economy. I don't answer to tradition and I don't answer to Everyone. For me, it comes down to a question of whether I am a man or just a consumer. Whether to reason or just to rationalize. Whether to heed my conscience or my every craving, to assert my free will or just my will. Whether to side with the powerful and comfortable or with the weak, afflicted, and forgotten.

--Matthew Scully, Dominion

October 30, 2004

Aren't wind turbines wonderful!

The claim by Enxco's David Steeb (see previous post) that a 5,000-acre power plant of 120 330-ft-high spinning turbines is necessary to preserving the rural character of Kittitas County in Washington reminds me just how magically wonderful this technology is. In fact, we in the U.S. probably need to start recognizing its crucial role in providing affordable health care and prescription drugs as well as improving our schools (by bribes to municipal councils in the latter case, by the desire to transform "unproductive" wilderness into a source of tax revenue in the former).

First of all, the turbines will reverse global warming, potentially displacing a tiny fraction of fossil-fuel-generated electricity even as that generation and consumption become cleaner and more efficient and energy use for heating and transport continues to rise.

They will end war and poverty, too, as we move so dramatically move away from fossil fuels to "free" wind power as just described.

They will increase tourism to wilderness areas, because people who try to escape the industrial world for a weekend will be glad to be reminded that they can't.

They create jobs, as long as they keep getting built. Former trail guides and country innkeepers will be pleased with new careers in road building, foundation digging, and cement hauling -- moving into the future instead of sitting stuck in a fantasy of the past. One of them may get to rent their house to a maintenance engineer.

They are phenomenally beautiful, bringing tears to the eyes of many sensitive souls, such as American writer Annie Dillard. They manifest the presence of the wind in a way swaying trees and fluttering leaves never could. They bring high (300-440 feet high!) culture to the rural masses. They are awe-inspiring symbols of our imperial might, our ability and right to dominate nature. They are like prehistoric stone circles, sleek new henges rising as testament to our self-love.

They save farmers and ranchers from having to break up and sell their land, and if their neighbors got into the game as well they would have a little money to help them move instead of just complaining about being left holding a bag of shite.

They are profitable, because governments around the world make sure they are. What better use of public money than to make things appear better?

They make us feel so good and proud and right, because so many of the problems in the world are solved by the fantastic schemes that make them possible.

The people love them, which is why local input must be minimized: The central government has read the company materials and already knows you want them.

They don't kill birds -- that's a total lie! Anyway, not many, a few dozen per turbine each year. A skyscraper out in those fields or on that mountain top would kill a lot more! And who really cares about all those bats? And global warming and acid rain and all that is killing even more!, which is exactly what building these massive wind towers is meant to stop (see first point, above).

They're very quiet, only making noise when the wind blows.

Above all, the market, with government's help and the visionary collaboration of global environmental groups, says they work. The dot-com bubble is gone, so industrial wind power is the new cool investment.

Bottom line: Are you so uncool that you would "protect" rural and wilderness areas during this rare convergence of forces that makes it possible to turn them into real money makers? Play or bray!

Had I the concordant wiseheads of Messrs Gregory and Lyons alongside of Dr Tarpey's and I dorsay the reverend Mr Mac Dougall's, but I, poor ass, am but as their fourpart tinckler's dunkey. -- Finnegans Wake

October 28, 2004

Enxco says wind turbine noise a problem 22% of time

David Steeb, of the 120-turbine, 5,237-acre Desert Claim wind power project proposed in Kittitas County, Washington, said at a public hearing Tuesday that noise would indeed be a problem 22% of the time (avge. 5-1/4 hours a day).

One wonders where he got that figure, which is suspiciously similar to the expected actual output of the facility.

He said that when the wind blows enough to make the turbine blades turn it also makes other noise to mask the machine's. Wind promoters claim, however, in answer to the charge that a site isn't really that windy to rely on it as a source of electricity, that up at the top of the tower it's a lot windier. So a lot of the time when the turbines are doing their thing, the wind isn't whipping things up around your house. Result (as if rustling leaves (or bare twigs in the winter) could mask the whumping of 120 turbines): turbine noise.

Steeb also pleaded that his massive power plant was essential to preserving the county's rural character. The planning commission unanimously rejected the proposal. Congratulations, citizens of Kittitas County!

October 25, 2004

Phasing out nuclear power in Germany

Late last year, Germany announced the closing of their Stade nuclear reactor, the first of its total of 19 reactors that it plans to permanently shut down as they come to the end of their operating life.

Nuclear power provides over 30% of Germany's electricity and does not officially contribute to global warming (its huge emission of water vapor isn't counted, only the absence of carbon dioxide and the other officially recognized greenhouse gases), so replacing that energy source is a major challenge. Germany is aggressively pushing conservation and efficiency as well as renewable-energy sources such as wind, solar, and biomass.

Although no news article or official statement says anything like it, advocates of utility-scale wind point to Germany's huge installed capacity (one third of the world's total) as the reason Stade was able to be shut down.

Ignoring the more significant changes in Germany's energy use patterns, let us suppose the claim was indeed so. The 672-MW Stade plant represented just over 3% of Germany's total nuclear-powered capacity (less than 1% of their total electricity use). When it was closed down, Germany had about 14,000 MW of wind-power capacity installed. To close down the rest, they would need 430,000 MW more!

Dangerous as nuclear power is, replacing 19 such facilities with several hundred thousand 300-400-foot-high wind towers is not an attractive alternative.

October 23, 2004

Large wind projects in Vermont

Here is an outline of the current industrial-scale wind projects targeted for Vermont. Note the huge leap in size from the existing Searsburg facility that we are all urged to go see and love and love as well the new very much larger facilities being planned.

size data provided:
number of towers × rated capacity of each turbine = capacity of facility
height = hub height + blade length (r); area swept by blades of each turbine (πr2) = x acre(s)


Searsburg (1996) -- Enxco & Green Mountain Power
  • 11 × 555-KW = 6 MW
  • 198' = 132' + 66'; 12,868 ft2 = 0.30 acre


Searsburg expansion -- Enxco & Green Mountain Power
  • 20-30 × 1.5-MW = 30-45 MW
  • 340' = 213' + 127'; 50,273 ft2 = 1.16 acres

East Mountain (East Haven) -- Mathew Rubin
  • 50 × 1.5-MW = 75 MW
    (4 × 1.5-MW = 6 MW demonstration project currently in permitting process)
  • 335' = 220' + 115'; 41,548 ft2 = 0.96 acre

Glebe Mountain (Londonderry) -- Catamount Energy
  • 27 × 1.5-MW = 48.6 MW
  • 387' = 256' (78 m) + 131' (40 m); 5,027 m2 = 1.24 acres

Lowell Mountain -- Enxco & Vermont Public Power Supply Authority
  • 12-26 × 1.5-MW = 18-39 MW
  • 328' = 212' (64.7 m) + 116' (35.25 m); 3,904 m2 = 0.96 acre

Hardscrabble Mountain (Sheffield) -- UPC Wind Partners
  • total 30 MW (per American Wind Energy Association)
  • 3 × 131' (40 m) measurement towers approved by Public Service Board, 1 currrently erected

Mt. Equinox (Manchester) -- Endless Energy
  • 5 × 1.5-MW = 7.5 MW
  • 330' = 200' + 130'; 53,093 ft2 = 1.22 acres


Hoosac Range (Florida & Monroe, Mass.) -- Enxco
  • 20 × 1.5-MW = 30 MW
  • 340' = 213' + 127'; 50,273 ft2 = 1.16 acres

Gardner Mountain (Lyman, N.H.) -- UPC Wind Partners
  • 20 turbines
  • 158' measurement tower proposed

October 22, 2004

Is VPIRG lying?

"Section 248 includes the exact same criteria for reviewing a projects impact on the environment and aesthetics as Act 250. Only, unlike Act 250, Section 248 puts the onus on the developer to PROVE his or her project wont harm the environment, as opposed to forcing citizens to pursue a costly legal process as Act 250 now does."

-- Andrew Hudson
Vermont Public Interest Research Group (VPIRG) field director
personal communication

In Vermont, Act 250 is the environmental review law, and Section 248 describes the review process for energy-generating facilities. Section 248 relies on a legalistic process before the public service board, who must determine if the project "will promote the general good of the state." That is, local concerns may be trumped by a perceived statewide need or the mere desire of a powerful entity. In contrast to Drew Hudson's claim, it is very difficult -- and costly -- for citizens to be involved in the Section 248 process. Only one public hearing is called for.

It is, again in opposition to Hudson's statement, Act 250 that requires the developer to prove that a project won't harm the environment, either natural or human. Section 248 relies on others to present information about negative impact. But even then, the public service board (Section 248) looks at the effect on the state as a whole, easily dismissing local concerns, whereas Act 250 requires regional environmental boards to examine precisely the local impact of a project. Act 250 facilitates heavy citizen involvement.

When asked if he might have inadvertently gotten the two processes backwards in his description, Hudson did not reply. Of course, the misleading statement makes sense as part of VPIRG's campaign against subjecting utility-scale wind power facilities to Act 250 review. How else can an "environmentalist" group argue against the state's environmental law, except by claiming that the utility-review law is actually better? How else can one-time environmentalists who are now active corporate lobbyists live with themselves, except by calling industrial development of wild mountaintops "environmental" and the state environmental law "anti-democratic"? In short, replace reality with a lie -- an all too common predilection these days.

(An earlier post describes VPIRG's desire to build power plants on state-protected land. And another describes VPIRG's proposal to double what even the developers plan for the state.

October 21, 2004

Environmentally friendly wind power lobbyists -- not!

The American Wind Energy Association's PAC has donated to the campaign of California representative Richard Pombo, who as one of Congress's most anti-environmentalist members is also supported by oil and gas companies, mining interests, factory farmers, paper companies, etc. Pombo's support for the wind industry is an effort to exempt them from federal environmental laws (see earlier posts here and here). The green mask of the AWEA has slipped off to reveal the ruthless industrialists they really represent.

Energy units

Here is a primer on the units one tends to encounter in researching energy issues.

The watt (W) is a measure of electrical power. (Power is the rate of doing work or producing or expending energy.) One watt is equal to 1 joule (J) per second.

The joule is a measure of energy, or the ability or capacity to do work. Other measures of energy are
  • kilowatt-hour (KW-h), a thousand watts of power produced or used for one hour, equivalent to 3.6 MJ.

    One PJ = 277.78 TW-h.

    When a 1-MW [maximum rate of energy generation] wind turbine produces at 25% of that capacity as averaged over a year, its annual output is

    1 MW × 0.25 × 365 days × 24 hours = 2,190 MW-h.

  • British thermal unit (Btu), equivalent to 1,054.8 J or 0.293 W-h.

    Quadrillion Btu = 1.055 PJ = 293 TW-h.

  • million tonne oil equivalent (mtoe), equivalent to 41,868 MJ or 11,630 KW-h.
The metric system prefixes:
K means kilo, a thousand, or 103
M means mega, a million, or 106
G means giga, a billion, or 109
T means tera, a trillion, or 1012
P means peta, a quadrillion, or 1015
E means exa, a thousand times more than peta, or 1018

Wind plays role

Garret Mott of Buel's Gore recommends, in a letter in today's Burlington Free Press,
'a visit to Searsburg [Vermont's existing power facility of 11 550-KW wind turbines] for all those naysayers. The sight of the wind turbines slowly revolving along the ridgeline prompted a friend (who, before seeing them was prepared to hate them) to describe the turbines as "elegant." Would these doubters rather see the proliferation of power lines? Many people in towns along the proposed VELCO corridor don't seem to be in favor of new lines. Would the "environmentalists" that oppose wind power rather see the ground fog along the Long Trail become even more acid than the current "dill pickle" acidity?'
1. The Searsburg blades, when they are working at all, rotate "slowly" at 29 rpm. The speed at the tips of the blades, however, is 137 mph, which, for starters, isn't at all bird or bat friendly.

2. The 8-year-old Searsburg turbine assemblies are less than 200 feet high. The towers are 132 feet, and each blade is 66 feet. They do not require lights, and the blades of each turbine sweep an area of air less than a third of an acre. There are 11 towers. This does not give a proper idea of the impact of new projects. The proposed expansion of Searsburg itself, for example, is typical, involving 20-30 340-foot-high assemblies, their 127-foot blades each chopping more than an acre of air. All of the new projects must be lit at night.

3. Every new wind-power facility will need new transmission lines, and in some cases a new substation, to connect it with the grid. Because once in a while the facility actually feeds electricity into the grid near its rated capacity, the power lines must be able to handle that rare occurrence. They must therefore be much bigger than would otherwise be necessary for the actual average feed of less than 25% of the facility's rating. The line from the substation might also need to be upgraded to handle that occasional surge, as well as the backbone lines should the developers be allowed to fulfill all of their plans.

4. Very little of Vermont's electricity comes from natural gas, almost none from oil, and none at all from coal. Even if wind-powered generating facilities were able to provide large amounts of our electricity (which they can't), they would not reduce atmospheric acidity one bit.

The play in which industrial-scale wind has a role ought to be farce but alas is likely to succeed as tragedy.