October 21, 2004

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.