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.