September 30, 2004

Wind turbines do not reduce CO2 emissions

"Øget vindmøllendbygning reducerer ikke den danske CO2-udledning."

(Increased development of wind turbines does not reduce Danish CO2 emissions.)

-- Flemming Nissen, head of development, Elsam (operates 404 MW of wind power in Denmark), at "Vind eller forsvind" conference, Copenhagen, May 27, 2004.

September 26, 2004

More wind power means more fossil fuel burning and more high-voltage power lines

For technical reasons, the intensive use of wind power in Germany is associated with significant operational challenges:
  • Only limited wind power is available. In order to cover electricity demands, traditional power station capacities must be maintained as so-called "shadow power stations" at a total level of more than 80% of the installed wind energy capacity, so that the electricity consumption is also covered during economically difficult periods.
  • Only limited forecasting is possible for wind power infeed. If the wind power forecast differs from the actual infeed, the transmission system operator must cover the difference by utilising reserve capacity. This requires reserve capacities amounting to 50-60% of the installed wind power capacity.
  • Wind power requires a corresponding grid infrastructure. The windy coastal regions of Schleswig-Holstein and Lower Saxony are precisely the places where the grids have now reached their capacity limits through wind power. At present, just under 300 km of new high-voltage and extra-high voltage lines are being planned there in order to create the transmission capacities required for transporting the wind power.
-- Eon Netz Wind Report 2004 (Eon Netz manages the transmission grid in Schleswig-Holstein and Lower Saxony, about a third of Germany, hosting 6,250 MW of Germany's 14,250 MW installed wind-generating capacity at the end of 2003. The total production in Eon's system was 8.5 TW-h, representing an average feed of 969 MW (15.5% of capacity). Germany's wind production as a whole was 14.8% of capacity and equal to less than 4% of demand. Click the title of this post for more of the report.)

September 22, 2004

Progressive Party write-in "success"

I just can't get over this (see earlier post)! In the party newsletter today, director Chris Pearson thrills to their success at "keeping a Progressive out of these races."
'In a small but satisfying victory, Progressives around Vermont successfully sent Peter Diamondstone and his gang packing. Four Liberty Union (LU) candidates had petitioned to be on the Progressive Party primary ballot. Since these seats were uncontested by the Party, the LU candidates were poised to win and therefore get around the state debating as the "Progressive" candidate.

'... "We felt it was ridiculous for Progressives to look like they were challenging Bernie Sanders or Peter Clavelle," said VPP Chair, Martha Abbott in a press announcement. ...

'Except for Sue Davis, the candidates will step down -- keeping a Progressive out of these races. This is a much more desirable outcome than having interlopers claiming to represent the Progressive point of view.

'Our congratulations goes
[sic] out to all the winners.'
Winners! They're stepping aside to please one independent and two Democrats who shun them, they call the serious progressives from Liberty Union a "gang," and they congratulate themselves for staying out of the way. That'll get people to take them seriously!

Just imagine the trees

Leaf peeping season is gearing up in Vermont. Here is a picture of a recent outing in Searsburg. The guide is trying to assuage the group's disappointment by describing as eloquently as he can the trees and their color that used to characterize the site. But as they say in "environmental" circles, they would'a died eventually anyway, so mowing them down prematurely actually saved them from that fate.

Searsburg outing

Actually, this article is interesting for a couple reasons. First:
"Winds were so light Tuesday morning that the facility was not generating power during the visit, although the turbines' blades continued their counter-clockwise rotation."
How is that possible? They appear to be using the turbine as a motor so the facility looks like the "kinetic sculpture" it's praised as. So not only are they not generating electricity, they're using it, lots of it.

Second, the senior vice president of Green Mountain Power (GMP), Stephen C. Terry, downplays the importance of wind's contribution to Vermont's electricity, saying it would be "remarkable" if 10% could come from wind. And John Zimmerman, Enxco's representative in New England, says a recent survey found good development sites for only 150 MW of wind-generating capacity, or about 35 MW of actual output, 3.5% of Vermont's need according to GMP's Stephen Terry. He looks hungrily at the Green Mountain National Forest for more power-plant sites.


With all that energy and broad range of opinion out there (see earlier post), wouldn't it be nice to have a democracy in which everyone was actually represented? If 5% of the people support Liberty Union and 10% support the Progressive Party, then 5% of the legislature should be Liberty Union and 10% Progressive. That would be representative democracy. Instead, the Progressive Party is scared of "spoiling" the race for a few popular candidates, so they don't run candidates and aren't represented at all. Which is just as bad as voting for the candidate who doesn't win anyway, in which case your vote -- your opinion -- is effectively thrown out. Because of our winner-takes-all system (you don't even need a majority in most cases), more than half of the citizens of the U.S. are not represented in their government. It's no wonder so many don't bother to vote, much less care. Of course, that suits the corporatists just fine. They just have to hire a PR firm for a new sales drive every time "elections" come up again.

So speaking of spoilers: Revolutionaries always spoil corrupt regimes. That's on the back of a T-shirt you can buy to support the Nader/Camejo campaign. A picture of the Liberty Bell is on the front.

Progressive Party "clears the slate"

About half of the 794 people who voted in Vermont's Progressive Party primary wrote in the Progressive Party–recommended fake candidates (see earlier post) and successfully thwarted any progressives from appearing under their banner on the November ballot.

They wrote in "independent" Bernie Sanders for the U.S. House. He refuses to be listed as a Progressive. They wrote in Martha Abbott, the party's chairwoman, for governor. She will have her name removed as a favor to Democratic candidate Peter Clavelle. They wrote in Democrat Elizabeth Ready for auditor. She too refuses to be listed as a Progressive. And they wrote in Susan Davis for attorney general, who has decided to stay in the race (as a Progressive!).

Martha Abbott is quoted in a Sept. 21 Burlington Free Press article: "Having folks run under the Progressive Party label without being Progressives hurts our party's identity and ultimately is a disservice to voters." No, it's apparently better to support candidates that refuse to appear under your label or who promise to refuse the nomination. It's apparently better to mobilize against a slate of progressives who want to see actual candidates on the Progressive Party lines. It seems to me that if the nominee withdraws then the runner-up ought to take the place.

The Progressive Party acts as if Liberty Union (the people who stepped in with their candidates where the Progressives chose not to run) is their enemy. But the vote for the one candidate the Progressives actually ran -- Steve Hingtgen for lieutenant governor -- was nearly unanimous, more than the combined vote for Liberty Union candidates and Progressive-Party write-ins of any other race.

In other primary news, Republicans did not have candidates for secretary of state and treasurer, so Democrats wrote in their candidates, both of which won. So next time someone says the Dems and Repubs aren't just two faces of the same corporatist machine, just point to these races in Vermont, where the candidates will be listed as both Democrat and Republican! Aren't open primaries fun!

Meanwhile, the new Vermont Green Party held their convention. The steering committee had endorsed Ralph Nader instead of David Cobb for U.S. President, and the party as a whole chose not to pick either. Nader will be on the ballot anyway as an independent, and Cobb will not be there at all. There are Green-Party candidates for attorney general (James Marc Leas) and the U.S. Senate (Craig Hill) as well as several local races.

And the proudly socialist Liberty Union Party will still have its candidates on the ballot (but not as "Progressives"!): Peter Diamondstone for governor, Ben Mitchell (who ran in the Republican primary) for the U.S. Senate, Jane Newton for the U.S. House, Boots Wardinski for attorney general, and Peter Levy for auditor.

September 21, 2004

Ralph Nader and the Democrats

As the editorial in yesterday's Caledonian-Record asked, if Democrats think Ralph Nader is so awful, why are they so scared of him? Is John Kerry really so unappealing in comparison? Of course, it might have something to do with actual issues in the campaign, which Kerry avoids addressing in their very real seriousness and which Nader describes and offers clear solutions that aren't an insult to our intelligence, or worse a bait-and-switch confidence game. If Kerry is the clear choice for Progressives, as David Jones of stated last night on PBS's The News Hour, they should include Nader (along with Green candidate David Cobb (if he wants to) and Libertarian Michael Badnarik) in the debates so they can prove it. Or if they are really worried about "splitting" the vote, or that "the stakes are too high," they should withdraw their candidate and endorse the real opponent to Bush's corporatist thugs, Ralph Nader.

Kittitas Valley Audubon Society rejects wind

The Kittitas Audubon Society board of directors on September 2 voted 10-3 to oppose three wind facilities proposed in the Kittitas valley of central Washington state.

"Kittitas Audubon believes that lacking a national, state, and local commitment within the framework of a national energy policy to promote conservation, the [perception of -- KM] additional energy supplied by the wind farms will only help continue and actually increase the current wasteful level of energy use. National, state, county, and city governments must develop energy conservation strategies to offset the demand for more energy. Wind farm development in this county is at a stage similar to that of hydropower 50 years ago and of nuclear power 25 or more years ago. Planners for those projects likely thought they had planned things well. However, here we are in 2004 with drastically impacted fish stocks, searching for ways to restore them that include removal of dams. We are still trying to find places to store nuclear waste, and attempting to clean up the leaking sites at Hanford before contamination reaches the Columbia River. Now we have an overnight overwhelming rush to build numerous industrial wind farms in this part of the Kittitas valley that occupy thousands of acres -- 7,000 acres for the KVWPP [one of the projects] alone. Since we cannot predict with reasonable accuracy the long-term environmental impacts of these projects, it is imperative that caution be taken. Policies and guidelines must be in place to protect the natural environment with special consideration for birds and bats. Wind power developers are guests of Kittitas County. Citizens of the county are the ones whose lands and environment will be affected by the wind farms. Kittitas Audubon Society is a voice for the birds of this valley and those that pass through. Our comments and recommendations are made from a perspective that the air space must be kept safe for birds and bats.

"KAS Board of Directors voted not to approve applications for any of the three wind farms because of the lack of adequate study of environmental factors affecting birds, bats, and habitat. Also, the cumulative effects of the three wind farms in relationship to other existing and future wind farms have not been studies or considered. Conservation of energy should be promoted as an alternative."


Here's an appropriate quote from another story. "They creep closer and closer to the marsh with larger and larger turbines," said Nick Jacobs [of Advocates for the Suisun Marsh (near San Francisco, California, and the largest contiguous brackish water marsh remaining on the west coast of North America)].


And to help you think about the size of industrial windmills, the 35-meter blades of a 1.5-MW GE assembly sweeps an acre of air, at a speed of up to 165 mph at the tips.

September 19, 2004

Industry lies

"[T]he usual 30% capacity use was actually more like 50% in gusty 2003." So says the British Wind Energy Association in the BBC article linked to in this post's title. The U.K. Department of Trade and Industry, however, has reported that the output of on-shore wind turbines in 2003 was only 24.1%.

The developers hire whole teams who work full time keeping the misinformation going, while their opponents have to counter it in their spare time. Still, we have the advantage: There's a lot more of us, and we're not liars.

September 18, 2004


To the editor:

If Cheryl Rivers believes there should be only one popular candidate opposing Brian Dubie for Lieutenant Governor ("Progressives fight against 'spoiler' label," Burlington Free Press, Sept. 18), then the obvious solution is for her to drop out and endorse Steve Hingtgen.

[The article also pointed out that: "Hingtgen ... wants to be cautious about wind power development. Rivers is all for it." Hingtgen for Lieutenant Governor!]

September 17, 2004


'Gunther, a supporter of wind turbine energy, said a problem with wind energy is when wind speeds are low over a long period and make energy production difficult.

'"The problem with wind power today is that we can't count on the wind when we need it the most -- in the summer," Gunther said. "We need a good, renewable source to back up wind."

'The good, renewable, backup source could be hydrogen fuel cells, which would make wind energy a more popular choice, Gunther said. The fuel cells, however, in the commercial market may be years away.
Though he is the Assistant Majority Leader in the Minnesota House of Representatives, Bob Gunther is confused here. Hydrogen fuel cells are not a source of energy, but only a means of storing energy. By definition, they do not replace any energy source.

Two great powers

"Every little increase in human freedom has been fought over ferociously between those who want us to know more and be wiser and stronger, and those who want us to obey and be humble and submit."

-- Philip Pullman, The Subtle Knife, Book II of His Dark Materials

September 15, 2004

Freedom Tower to throw ice all over New York

The link in the title is to a story at Wired about the proposed "Freedom Tower" for the World Trade Center site. It is to be very tall and will provide as much office space as the twin towers did. It will also have a bunch of wind turbines in the latticework between the top floor and the antenna base. These it is hoped will provide 20% of the building's electricity.

The figure, of course is in kilowatt-hours: 2.6 million! That is in fact the theoretical output of only a 1-megawatt wind turbine. And this building will sport a whole series of turbines, so they're obviously going to be rather small. The picture in the article shows bigger ones in the center, flanked by smaller ones on the outside. (Their proximity to each other will probably cause interference, so the actual output would likely be very much less than the projected claim; and they would have to be shut down when ice is a possibility, or else risk throwing it all over lower Manhattan, which doesn't need more of that, thank you very much.)

So what, you say? Small rooftop turbines sound like an ideal choice in the city. They aren't expensive, they generate power right where it's used, and they can reduce some of the building's need from the grid. True enough, and this project is being hyped as a showcase of such urban use of renewable electricity generation (the building will also have solar panels).

But those tiny propellors 1200 feet up at the top of a massive building surrounded by other massive buildings amidst the dense urban roar will be used to promote jumbo-jet-sized turbines thump-thumping around on giant poles in rural areas, including unspoiled prairies and mountains.

September 9, 2004

Your vote's safe with me -- I'm not running!

I just got a strange note from the Progressive party. They urge me to participate in their primary (which is open in Vermont) to write in their slate of candidates. Why, you might ask, do they need to write in the candidates for their own primary?

This brave party decided to run in just one statewide race, for Lieutenant Governor, so there are not only no contested nominations but there aren't even any candidates. So the Liberty Union party (which is affiliated with the Socialist Party USA) petitioned the state to list their candidates in the otherwise empty Progressive spots on the ballot. Fair enough, one would think -- Liberty Union is progressive.

But the Progressive party doesn't want to oppose Bernie Sanders (Independent, formerly Progressive) for the U.S. House or Peter Clavelle (Democrat, formerly Progressive) for Governor. So they want people to get the Progressive primary ballot and write in a slate of statewide candidates who will then withdraw from their respective races as soon as (if) their name appears on the final ballot.

Isn't that clever?

Here's the Liberty Union slate that I urge everyone in Vermont to vote for in the Progressive party primary ballot.
Governor -- Peter Diamondstone
U.S. Senate -- Ben Mitchell (write in)
U.S. House -- Jane Newton
Secretary Of State -- Boots Wardinski
Auditor of Accounts -- Jerry Levy
Note that the fledgling Vermont Green party also will be running a candidate for the U.S. Senate.

September 7, 2004

Thousands of windmills

Emboldened no doubt by VPIRG's plan for 10-12 sites instead of "just" 5-6, more of the Fair Wind advocates are speaking up. This is from a note by Donald Lasell.
"Vermont has a very significant natural resource for generating commercial scale wind energy. I'm an advocate for admitting to the entire state that I like to imagine seeing extensive wind turbine development across the state before I die. Actually, I believe we will eventually extensively develop many of the ridge-lines of the Green Mountain National Forest. I'm not talking hundreds, I believe (longterm) we will be installing thousands."

September 6, 2004

High time to strike back

Windpower Monthly, in its September editorial, is alarmed at the public reaction in the "has-been island" of Britain against the government's aggressive pursuit of wind power.
"Anti-wind power sentiment boils down to four main concerns: [1] that wind turbines spoil attractive landscapes and wildlife habitat, [2] that when the wind stops blowing so does electricity supply, [3] that only vast arrays of turbines can provide enough power to make a difference, [4] that wind power is expensive.

"The concerns are easy to counter.

[1] "Environmental opposition crumbles in face of the alternatives: global warming, storing nuclear waste, unproven renewables, or living with power shortages. That is why mainstream environmental groups like Greenpeace back wind."
Note that the charge is not denied but is argued to be worth it. Unfortunately, there is no sign anywhere of wind power bringing about a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions, nuclear power, or blackouts. It is a false choice. With or without wind power, the same energy problems remain, so it is not at all necessary to despoil the few wild places left for humans and other animals.

It must be remembered that nuclear plants provide nonfluctuating base load, which wind power -- even by the claims of the sales brochures -- would never impact. And most greenhouse gas emissions are from burning fuel for needs other than electricity, which again wind power would have no effect on.
[2] "The technical concerns have no foundation. More than 40,000 MW of wind power stations daily demonstrate that wind makes a significant contribution to electricity supplies and lower greenhouse gas emissions. The lights stay on without dedicated back-up power -- even in regions where for periods wind meets total demand ..."
40,000 MW of installed wind capacity translates to an output of about 87,600 GWh/yr (assuming a capacity factor of 25%). World energy use in 1990, according to the U.N.'s International Panel on Climate Change, was 106,645,000,000 GWh. Wind's "significant" contribution represents eight 100,000ths of that.
[3] "[I]f a small land like Denmark can get 20% of its electricity from wind turbines without being overrun by them, so can other countries."
Denmark is overrun, so much so that even the government has noticed and has stopped development of any more on-shore facilities. And Denmark does not get 20% of its electricity from the wind turbines. The turbines may produce that amount, but more often than not demand does not rise with the wind, so the extra electricity is exported to Norway and Sweden, where they can use it to pump hydro, and to Germany, which is large enough to absorb it. The western Denmark transmission company, Eltra, exports 87% of the wind energy in their grid, according to their 2003 annual report.

Eltra also says that for every 1000 MW of wind capacity added to the grid, 300-500 MW of back-up power has to be made available. That is, at a 25% capacity factor for wind, 1.2-2.0 times as much "conventional" power dedicated to making the "free and clean" wind power work. Such back-up power can not be the newer cleaner more efficient plants, because they are not able to respond quickly enough to the rapid fluctuations of wind-generated power. So wind power not only requires at least an equal amount of back-up, it also ensures the continuation of less efficient plants to provide that back-up.
[4] . . .
The editorial skips the last charge about expense. Later, it admits the charge by urging developers to work on changing the subsidy and "renewables obligation" structures to try bringing down the cost.

September 2, 2004

Help the environment. Eat less meat.

In the September Ranger Rick magazine (from the National Wildlife Federation), a reader asks, "Is there anything I can do to help the environment?" The answer:
  • Eat less meat. (Raising animals for food uses lots of energy and water and can cause awful pollution.)
  • Eat more organic food. (Organic farmers don't use chemicals that harm the environment or people's health.)
  • Drive small cars, live in an energy-saving house, and buy energy-saving appliances.
  • Buy only things that you really need. (Almost everything factories make or people use harms nature in some way.)

September 1, 2004

VPIRG Issues Own Proposal for State Energy Plan

Vermont Public Interest Research Group proposes meeting 15% of Vermont's electricity needs with industrial wind plants. Of course, wind-generated power doesn't meet needs at all, unless those needs happen to coincide with a good sustained wind. Anyway, they estimate 272 1.5-MW wind towers, in 10-12 facilities, would produce that 15%. They fudge the impact, however, by saying wind could provide 15%-20%; the latter figure would push the number of towers to 362 (or 370, by my calculations).

Even the industry shills at Fair Wind Vermont are appalled. They've been trying to play down the impact of 5-6 "well sited" facilities, and here comes VPIRG giving away the game. [Well, not all of them: David Blittersdorf of anemometer maker NRG systems says we should go for 50%!]

The American Wind Energy Association estimates the wind resource in Vermont to be able to supply an average output of 537 MW, or 5000 GW-h/yr. The developer of East Haven Windfarm, Mathew Rubin, has said that only one eighth of that resource is not restricted from development. That would reduce the possible wind-generated output to an average of 67 MW, or 625 GW-h/yr, which is about 11% of Vermont's electricity consumption and would require 194 1.5-MW towers (assuming the 23% capacity factor of the existing Searsburg facility).

That is already an appalling possibility to most residents around those "available" sites. VPIRG, however, proposes defying their own environmentalist and public-interest values to not only ignore the wishes of the people affected by wind-turbine installations but also throw out existing protections of federal, state, and private land to build even more (along with the necessary roads, power lines, and PCB-containing transformers). And they call this a "green" solution!