January 30, 2005

"Germany shelves report on high cost of wind farm–produced energy"

In today's Telegraph (U.K.):

'A damning report warning that wind-farm programmes will greatly increase energy costs and that "greenhouse gases" can be reduced easily by conventional methods has been shelved.

The findings of the 490-page report, commissioned by the German government and due for publication last week, were so embarrassing that ministers have sent it back to be "re-edited". Jürgen Trittin, Germany's Green Party environment minister, said: "We do not want the findings of this report to be misinterpreted. ..."

'The findings of the unpublished report were leaked to Der Spiegel magazine last week. They suggest that if Germany presses ahead with its plan to double the number of wind turbines, annual energy costs for consumers will rise from €1.4 billion to €5.4 billion ...

'The research also cast doubt on one of the main arguments for wind power: that it cuts the amount of "greenhouse gas" polluting the atmosphere. The report says that almost the same effect can be achieved -- at substantially reduced costs -- by installing modern filters at existing fossil-fuel power plants.'

January 29, 2005

Stray voltage -- or dumped electricity?

The dramatic effects of "stray voltage" from the wind facility in Kewaunee County, Wisconsin, seem to be awfully extensive for simple leakage from the buried transmission lines, particularly as those lines were brand new.

The electrician who helped the affected farmers noted that except in California there is no limit in the U.S. of how much electricity can be dumped into the ground. Consider, then, the fundamental problem of aerogenerators on the grid: Their production depends on the wind and cannot be adjusted according to actual demand (the grid must keep production and consumption in constant balance). What, then, is done when the grid is meeting demand and the wind rises unnecessarily? The electricity from the aerogenerators is an excess and must be dumped. In western Denmark, the grid operator calculates that 84% of the wind-generated power must be exported, because it is not needed when it is produced.

Wind facilities complicate the balancing act of the grid. In Ireland, connections were halted last year because of the instability they cause. The German grid operator Eon Netz describes the problem of wind-generated power suddenly dropping off and the unpredictability of production levels, requiring substantial backup facilities that would seem to negate any benefit claimed for the aerogenerators.

Yet they are highly profitable because of tax breaks, mandated sales, and, most significantly, the market for "renewable energy credits" (or "renewables obligation certificates"). Logically, the best situation for a utility involved in a wind facility would be to not have to deal with its erratic supply yet still be able to enjoy the sale not only of the power produced but the "green credits" as well. They need only record the power that arrives at a substation from all of the turbines and then "ground" it whenever it's not actually needed, which is most of the time. The utility sells what is produced whether or not it is actually used.

Other production plants can adjust their output, but aerogenerators can't. Theirs is subject only to the wind. The only way to control it is to direct it into the ground instead of the grid. Is this what is happening in Kewaunee County? Is this the normal design of wind "farms"?

January 28, 2005

Information missing

Mark Jacobson of Invenergy, which is seeking the use of 6,000 acres in Monroe County, Wisconsin, for 30-50 wind turbines, provided a prime example of developers' lack of respect for their marks, much less for the truth. (His partner's estimate of payment to landowners of $3,800/turbine/yr also is deceitfully low. At a meeting Wednesday, backed by two of his coconspirators, Jacobson "provided information" by answering one concern after another by simple denial:
'Jacobson said he knows of no documented cases of stray voltage connected to wind turbines.'

'Turbines generate less than 50 decibels. As a comparison, a quiet room measures 40 decibels, Jacobson said.'

'[Birds -- a] "hot topic in the 70s," Jacobson conceded due to early designs because birds could perch in turbines. Now tubular designs have limited bird mortality rates to an average of two birds per year per turbine.'

'Jacobson has not heard of any cases where property values decreased because of turbines. Due to the potential economic return of having a turbine on your land, property values may increase. Jacobson encouraged landowners to call local assessors to seek their input.'
Let's help Mr. Jacobson out here, with information gathered in Lincoln Township, Kewaunee County, Wisconsin, after the construction of a 22-turbine wind facility.

Stray voltage: The fact is that it's completely legal to ground any amount of electricity, including dumping excess production (e.g., when the wind is good but there is no corresponding increase demand on the grid), so there is no reason for developers to worry about the effect of it. Dairy farmers near the wind facility noticed high rates of cancer, birth deformities, and other illnesses, including dehydration because the water had become electrified, in their herds. Each farm has had to spend tens of thousands of dollars to isolate their land from the stray voltage. Their families, as well as visiting workers, also suffered ill effects.

Noise: 67% of residents living 800-1,300, and 52% of residents 1,300-2,600 feet from the turbines complained of the noise. The developer (Wisconsin Public Service, WPS) was ordered to do a noise study, which, though laughably spotty, showed that the turbines added 5-20 dB(A) to the ambient sound level. Ten dB is perceived as a doubling of the noise level. As a result, WPS offered to buy the neighboring homes and raze them.

Birds: Jacobson and his pals might like to know that the effects on birds are still an issue, and a new concern for bats is growing. On Backbone Mountain in West Virginia, for example, 2,000 bats were killed in just 2 months last year. In the Altamont Pass, where thousands of raptors have been killed, the Fish and Wildlife Service says that new turbines will not mitigate the problem; the only solution is to shut them down. Like the raptors in Altamont Pass, migrating songbirds fly by the hundreds of thousands over the ridges targeted by wind-power developers. They are not equipped for dodging a giant blade chopping through the air at up to 150 mph, particularly at night or in fog.

Property values: WPS's buyout offer of the uninhabitable neighboring homes is pretty strong evidence of a decline in value. Even without considering those, it was found that properties in Lincoln Township decreased in sales value from 104% to 78% of assessed value within 1 mile of the wind turbines and from 105% to 87% beyond 1 mile.

January 27, 2005

Doctor Death

The Black Commentator has some good articles this week: "The Condi and Colin Follies" by Margaret Kimberley, "Rice Arrives Just In Time To Oversee U.S. Decline," and "The Global Descent of America" by Aijaz Ahmad.

Disneyland, Iraq

Excerpts from an article by Brian Cloughey about some of what is being done in the name of our values:

'The New York Times reported that "Residents trickling back to Falluja ... enter a desolate world of skeletal buildings, tank-blasted homes, weeping power lines and severed palm trees. Sullen and anxious, tens of thousands of residents have passed through stringent checkpoints to find out ... whether their homes and shops were reduced to rubble or merely ransacked . . . people have to file through huge coils of razor wire and a gantlet of armed marines to pick up their supplies. On the road ... Lt Col Patrick Malay ... watched the scene with satisfaction. 'This is how I like it, just like Disneyland,' he said. 'Orderly lines and people leave with a smile on their face.'"

'The Director of Falluja hospital told the BBC that "about 60% to 70% of the homes and buildings are completely crushed and damaged ... Of the 30% still left standing, I don't think there is a single one that has not been exposed to some damage."

'... Marine Lt Gen John Sattler said his troops had "taken away this safe haven" of Falluja, which he stated was the base for the entire Iraqi uprising (he called it "rebellion") against US occupation troops. The Marine offensive, he said two months ago, has "broken the back of the insurgency" across Iraq. "We have," he announced proudly, "liberated the city of Falluja ... the enemy is broken."

'Following General Sattler's declaration that his enemy was broken there was a massive increase in ferocious anti-US attacks throughout the country. In the weeks after he mouthed his idiot words, over 150 US soldiers have been killed and scores more maimed. A few hundred Iraqi fighters against occupation have died. And hundreds, perhaps thousands, of Iraqi civilians have been slaughtered.'

January 26, 2005

Leahy: "I yield the floor."

"The other major reason I am voting in favor of Dr. Rice's nomination is that I am the Ranking Member of the Foreign Operations Subcommittee. In this capacity, I have a responsibility to work with the Secretary of State, on a daily basis .... I hope that Dr. [sic] Rice will meet me half way."

So Patrick Leahy, "liberal" Democrat from Vermont explains why he had to vote in support of Rice's appointment to Secretary of State. Because he's scared of her! Yet he didn't hesitate to outline the long list of reasons to vote against her, as if she's not going to hear about it.

One thing he mentioned is her inability, characteristic of all Bush loyalists, to admit mistakes. Yet he says she is "capable of learning from her mistakes and changing her ways." What mistakes? What would compel her to change, Pat? The only possible lesson, since she won't admit there are any mistakes to learn from, would have been to reject her nomination. She's a liar (not even a good one) and a bully, and Leahy hopes she'll meet him half way with the many issues he hopes to deal with. Has he learned nothing during the last 4 years?!!

What a loser! It won't be long before Leahy and the 31 other Democrats with him will be denying they made a mistake in approving Rice. Remember how Russell Feingold voted to send John Ashcroft's nomination for Attorney General to the full Senate? He said much of what Leahy said about Rice, that Ashcroft would rise to the challenge and they would work together happily and productively. Unfortunately, Ashcroft didn't respond to the magnanimous gesture and -- because of one idiotic Senator's vote (for which he never expressed regret) -- we got a taste again of the days of J. Edgar Hoover. Feingold at least now opposes Ashcroft's replacement with the even more odious Alberto Gonzalez, though now it won't make any difference. Leahy is voting against Gonzalez, too. Yet they'll have to work with him! What guts! Lest we get carried away by this example of integrity (watered down as it is by their mealy words of respect for this monster), take comfort that Feingold joined Leahy in the big bipartisan thumbs up to Rice.

Democrats shouldn't be talking about getting along with the mockery of a government that Bush represents. They should be talking about locking them all up in Guantánamo for the rest of their lives. Their guiding strategy should be obstruction, not collaboration.

But where do I think I am? We don't have a representative parliament. There is only one party, the plutocrats playing good cop bad cop in an expensive entertainment that is all the politics we get. Feh!

January 25, 2005

From the Right: Hot Air

Editor Jim Motavalli writes in E (The Environmental Magazine), "Trust the chairman of the House Resources Committee, Richard Pombo, to seize upon consumer anxiety and twist it to his own anti-environmental ends." Motavalli's subject is the high demand for natural gas, which he takes as another reason we need large-scale wind power facilities. The funny thing is, Richard Pombo, seizing upon consumer anxiety and twisting it his own anti-environmental ends, also is an enthusiastic supporter of wind power. The American Wind Energy Association even donated to his election campaign last year. Who's "right"?

Okay, but why wind power, which doesn't work?

To the Editor, Burlington Free Press:

Mary Sullivan, spokesperson for Burlington Electric, scoffs that "some people" worry about the effect of giant wind-turbine facilities on our ridge lines while global warming and acid rain pose a much greater threat ("Let's not wait to reduce greenhouse emissions," opinion, Jan. 24). Her implication, one must assume, is that the giant wind turbines, occasionally spinning enough to generate more electricity than they use, are essential to reducing global warming and acid rain.

Despite warning us about ethically challenged pseudoscience, however, Sullivan does not explain her reasoning. How, in a state that gets no electricity from coal, would wind turbines reduce coal use? How, in a state where electricity accounts for only 1% of the greenhouse gas emissions, would wind turbines reduce global warming?

In fact, even if 100% of our electricity came from coal, wind power would not reduce its use. When researching the issue it does not take long to realize that there is no evidence anywhere that wind power on the grid reduces electricity generation other sources.

I support the challenge to reduce our energy use and make it cleaner. Nobody wants to see our mountains destroyed by pollution. "Some people" don't want to see them destroyed by useless wind facilities, either.

[Published Jan. 29, 2005, as "Turbines on ridgelines"]

State Recommends Seasonal Shut Down of Altamont Pass Turbines to Save Birds

KCBS radio, San Francisco, reports that California is recommending that the wind turbines in Altamont Pass be shut down through the fall and winter to save the lives of perhaps up to 800 raptors (of the acknowledged 1,300 that are killed there each year). This is apparently a period of lower winds, so the 4,550 remaining turbines (the state also recommends that 650 of the current machines be taken down) would produce only a third less each year. I hope California can cope with losing that source of 0.1% of their electricity!

January 22, 2005

The nation at war

Six thousand police and secret service, 7,000 soldiers, rooftop sharpshooters, anti-aircraft batteries, river patrols, sky patrols by helicopter gunships and fighter jets, spy cameras, chemical sensors, all to protect that little man speaking from behind the bulletproof glass -- yes, Bush must be doing something right! We are at indeed at war: Bush's Washington against the people.

January 21, 2005

On the west side of the capitol

... and as I walked down the hill by the Capitol it suddenly struck me that this isn't about me and you; it's about them. We are being governed by some intensely frightened people. From George Bush on down. Much of the homeland security business, in Washington at least, is to provide personal protection to important people from the consequence of the extremely bad things they are doing. We are the victims of both Al Qaeda and Il Dubya, told to give up our rights and freedoms so that the worst leaders of our entire history can go about their business without having to suffer for it. The whole city of Washington has become the armored vest of the Bush administration and Congress.

-- Sam Smith

January 20, 2005

With Fergus now

[Sing with harp accompaniment.]

Who will go ride with Fergus now
And pierce the deep wood's woven shade
And dance upon the level shore?

Young man lift up your russet brow
And lift your tender eyelid maid
And brood on hopes and fear no more.

And no more turn aside and brood
Upon love's bitter mystery
For Fergus rules the brazen cars

And rules the shadow of the wood
And the white breast of the dim sea
And all dishevelled wandering stars.

-- William Butler Yeats

January 19, 2005

In memory of the riviverend

ARCHIE. ... What makes a cow give milk?

RICHARD. [Takes his hand.] Who knows? Do you understand what it is to give a thing?

ARCHIE. To give? Yes.

RICHARD. While you have a thing it can be taken from you.

ARCHIE. By robbers? No?

RICHARD. But when you give it, you have given it. No robber can take it from you. [He bends his head and presses his son's hand against his cheek.] It is yours then for ever when you have given it. It will be yours always. That is to give.


ARCHIE. Are there robbers here like in Rome?

RICHARD. There are poor people everywhere.

-- James Joyce, Exiles

January 18, 2005

Goodbye, Riverend

Clarence (The Riverend) Sterling died on January 7. A nice obituary appeared in the January 16 Ventura Country Star (registration required). He was much loved by the people around Ojai, California. The Ventura Red Cross disaster operations center was named for him in December. He died of esophageal cancer at the age of 59.

His humanity set him apart from most scholars of Finnegans Wake, which he elucidated along with Joyce's other works with fresh and penetrating insight, supported by a wide range of interests. He was extremely generous with his knowledge and enthusiastic about the work of others. I corresponded with him while working on my book about Finnegans Wake. Not just about that book but also about our respective lives on our respective mountains. He had wonderful tales from his family's past, particularly one about a great-aunt's dance date spontaneously combusting (if I remember correctly). He also wrote about the people of the region, including the native Chumash.

He showed James Joyce to be a humane writer who gave voice to the victims of history's brutality. Notably, he realized that the central number in Finnegans Wake, 1132, referred to the sacking of Kildare, the house of St. Bridget, on the eve of her saint's day of that year. The abbess was raped. The event contains all the violence -- political, sexual, technological -- inflicted by humans on each other and the earth. The famously beautiful Book of Kells, a model for Finnegans Wake, may have been produced at Kildare. Sterling wrote that all of Joyce's work invoked the ancient mother Brigid (who became St. Bridget).

Joyce gave voice to that which is lost. Clarence Sterling helped us to hear it.

... there fell a tear, a singult tear ...

Website will 'blow away myths' about windfarms

The Scottish government has announced plans for a web site to give people "'the hard facts' on renewables and wind energy and allow for informed debate -- something pro- and anti-windfarm campaigners have long called for." They say it will "blow away the myths."

But it will attack only charges by opponents. It will leave untouched all claims made by supporters. It will also feature long-refuted polls showing public support, even as they receive thousands of letters opposing the proposed wind farm in Lewis.

Deputy First Minister Jim Wallace, in announcing the site, urged those opposed to wind energy to "engage in a debate based on the facts." Ah, Mr. Wallace, that is in fact what we ask of you. Republishing on a government site the trade group British Wind Energy Association's spiel does not make it true.

On Greenpeace U.K.'s Yes2Wind forum, a simple question was recently posted: "I gather that the question is whether whatever benefit they provide is worth the expense and impact of their construction. Can someone cite some data showing how much fossil and nuclear fuel use has been reduced where wind farms are operating?" There has yet to be an answer.

Nobody arguing for utility-scale wind power has been able to cite such basic data to support their claims. It seems, Mr. Wallace, that it is you and your friends in the wind biz who are averse to facts.

January 17, 2005

"Beyond Vietnam"

From address to Clergy and Laity Concerned about Vietnam, Riverside Church, New York City, April 4, 1967, by Martin Luther King, Jr.

A few years ago there was a shining moment in [the struggle I and others have been waging in America]. It seemed as if there was a real promise of hope for the poor, both black and white, through the poverty program. There were experiments, hopes, new beginnings. Then came the buildup in Vietnam, and I watched this program broken and eviscerated as if it were some idle political plaything of a society gone mad on war. And I knew that America would never invest the necessary funds or energies in rehabilitation of its poor so long as adventures like Vietnam continued to draw men and skills and money like some demonic, destructive suction tube. So I was increasingly compelled to see the war as an enemy of the poor and to attack it as such.

Perhaps a more tragic recognition of reality took place when it became clear to me that the war was doing far more than devastating the hopes of the poor at home. It was sending their sons and their brothers and their husbands to fight and to die in extraordinarily high proportions relative to the rest of the population. We were taking the black young men who had been crippled by our society and sending them eight thousand miles away to guarantee liberties in Southeast Asia which they had not found in southwest Georgia and East Harlem. So we have been repeatedly faced with the cruel irony of watching Negro and white boys on TV screens as they kill and die together for a nation that has been unable to seat them together in the same schools. So we watch them in brutal solidarity burning the huts of a poor village, but we realize that they would hardly live on the same block in Chicago. I could not be silent in the face of such cruel manipulation of the poor.

My third reason moves to an even deeper level of awareness, for it grows out of my experience in the ghettos of the North over the last three years, especially the last three summers. As I have walked among the desperate, rejected, and angry young men, I have told them that Molotov cocktails and rifles would not solve their problems. I have tried to offer them my deepest compassion while maintaining my conviction that social change comes most meaningfully through nonviolent action. But they asked, and rightly so, "What about Vietnam?" They asked if our own nation wasn't using massive doses of violence to solve its problems, to bring about the changes it wanted. Their questions hit home, and I knew that I could never again raise my voice against the violence of the oppressed in the ghettos without having first spoken clearly to the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today: my own government. For the sake of those boys, for the sake of this government, for the sake of the hundreds of thousands trembling under our violence, I cannot be silent.

... Somehow this madness must cease. We must stop now. I speak as a child of God and brother to the suffering poor of Vietnam. I speak for those whose land is being laid waste, whose homes are being destroyed, whose culture is being subverted. I speak for the poor of America who are paying the double price of smashed hopes at home, and dealt death and corruption in Vietnam. I speak as a citizen of the world, for the world as it stands aghast at the path we have taken. I speak as one who loves America, to the leaders of our own nation: The great initiative in this war is ours; the initiative to stop it must be ours.

... Five years ago [John F. Kennedy] said, "Those who make peaceful revolution impossible will make violent revolution inevitable." Increasingly, by choice or by accident, this is the role our nation has taken, the role of those who make peaceful revolution impossible by refusing to give up the privileges and the pleasures that come from the immense profits of overseas investments. I am convinced that if we are to get on the right side of the world revolution, we as a nation must undergo a radical revolution of values. We must rapidly begin the shift from a thing-oriented society to a person-oriented society. When machines and computers, profit motives and property rights, are considered more important than people, the giant triplets of racism, extreme materialism, and militarism are incapable of being conquered.

A true revolution of values will soon cause us to question the fairness and justice of many of our past and present policies. On the one hand we are called to play the Good Samaritan on life's roadside, but that will be only an initial act. One day we must come to see that the whole Jericho Road must be transformed so that men and women will not be constantly beaten and robbed as they make their journey on life's highway. True compassion is more than flinging a coin to a beggar. It comes to see that an edifice which produces beggars needs restructuring.

A true revolution of values will soon look uneasily on the glaring contrast of poverty and wealth. With righteous indignation, it will look across the seas and see individual capitalists of the West investing huge sums of money in Asia, Africa, and South America, only to take the profits out with no concern for the social betterment of the countries, and say, "This is not just." It will look at our alliance with the landed gentry of South America and say, "This is not just." The Western arrogance of feeling that it has everything to teach others and nothing to learn from them is not just. A true revolution of values will lay hand on the world order and say of war, "This way of settling differences is not just." This business of burning human beings with napalm, of filling our nation's homes with orphans and widows, of injecting poisonous drugs of hate into the veins of peoples normally humane, of sending men home from dark and bloody battlefields physically handicapped and psychologically deranged, cannot be reconciled with wisdom, justice, and love. A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual death.


From Ironic Times:

A recent article misstated President Bush's solution for asbestos injury lawsuits as calling for a ban on asbestos. In fact the president called for a ban on lawsuits. We apologize for any confusion caused by our mistake.

January 16, 2005

Airline CEO's free pass

To the Editor, Caledonian-Record:

According to an April 4 story in USA Today, US Airways CEO David Siegel was given a new compensation package last year potentially worth almost $11 million. When the airline fails, he'll be all right. Yet it's the baggage handlers of his airline whose absence is noticed (Caledonian-Record editorial, Jan. 7).

Siegel could call in sick for a couple of months from a villa in southern France and nobody would notice. Baggage handlers made it clear what keeps an airline flying, and this paper reviles their audacity to expect fair compensation and security for it.

If US Airways can't afford to pay their workers, the CEO ought to come under some scrutiny. Instead, this paper condemns the workers' desperate worries and gives the CEO a free pass to enjoy his millions.

The people separated from their luggage over Christmas should vent their wrath at David Siegel, not the people whose work he lives on.

January 14, 2005

It doesn't work

Marcus Rand, chief executive of the British Wind Energy Association, asks, "If this stuff doesn't work, why would major companies be investing millions of pounds in developing it?"

Meanwhile in Ireland, "Sustainable energy firm Airtricity said it will not go ahead with any further wind energy projects due to the uncertainty over continued Government support. ... [Chief executive Eddie O'Connor] said the industry was struggling because banks were not prepared to provide finance with the amount of uncertainty surrounding the sector."

Seminars in the U.S. explain that tax breaks can cover 75% of the cost of a wind facility.

That is to say, this isn't investment. It's piracy. Without the government's support, forget it. Why, Marcus Rand? Because putting this technology on the grid doesn't work.

P.S. Even if those "major companies" (such as military contractors GE and Halliburton) were honestly putting their own money into them, that doesn't mean anything. The U.S. has spent billions for a "star wars" defense system that still isn't anywhere near working (not to mention that it would be totally unnecessary even if it did work). Money is a marker of folly more often than wisdom.

January 13, 2005

The wind power song

On The Simpsons yesterday, a scam artist suckered Springfield into building a monorail (season 4, episode 71). A timely repeat, substituting a certain current craze . . .

Lyle Lanley: Well, sir, there's nothing on earth
Like genuine,
Bona fide,
Wind power!
What'd I say?
Ned Flanders: Wind power!

Lyle Lanley: What's it called?

Patty & Selma: Wind power!

Lyle Lanley: That's right! Wind power!

[crowd chants 'wind power' softly and rhythmically]

Miss Hoover: I hear those things are awfully loud...

Lyle Lanley: They spin as softly as a cloud.

Apu: Is there a chance the blades could bend?

Lyle Lanley: Not on your life, my Hindu friend.

Barney: What about us brain-dead slobs?

Lyle Lanley: You'll be given cushy jobs.

Abe: Were you sent here by the devil?

Lyle Lanley: No, good sir, I'm on the level.

Wiggum: The ring came off my pudding can.
Lyle Lanley: Take my pen knife, my good man.

I swear it's Springfield's only choice...
Throw up your hands and raise your voice!
All: Wind power!

Lyle Lanley: What's it called?

All: Wind power!

Lyle Lanley: Once again...

All: Wind power!

Marge: But Main Street's still all cracked and broken...

Bart: Sorry, Mom, the mob has spoken!
All: Wind power!
Wind power!
Wind power!
[big finish]

Wind power !!!!

Homer: Wind... D'oh!


To the [North Adams] Transcript editor:

In the Jan. 13 article about Enxco's plans to build 20-25 turbines in Readsboro, Vt., many of the numbers are confusing.

According to John Zimmerman (whose pose as part of Vermont Environmental Research Associates hides his other role as Enxco's northeast representative), the proposed turbines will be rated at 1.5 MW each. Times 20-25, that's a facility rated at 30-37.5 MW.

The industry typically claims that each MW of installed wind capacity produces the amount of electricity used by 333 homes. This is of course a meaningless value, but the 10,000-13,000 homes figure cited thus fits the calculated rating of 30-37.5 MW.

The article says that the output of the existing Searsburg facility is one third of the proposed plant. Searsburg's rating is 6 MW, three times which is 18 MW. What was meant is that each new turbine -- not the whole facility -- has almost three times the capacity of each of the older Searsburg turbines (of which there are 11).

The claim that the proposed project would generate 750 MW remains unclear. At most, the 25-turbine facility could generate 37.5 MW. Depending on the wind being just right, this would of course rarely occur. The annual output of the existing Searsburg facility is less than 25% of its capacity. At that rate, the new facility would generate about 82,000 MW-hours over a year, equivalent to 1.5% of Vermont's electricity use.

Unfortunately, two-thirds of the time the facility would be generating at a rate less than its annual average. When its production is better, it would rarely correspond to actual demand on the grid. In other words, the only thing it will be powering is the sale of "green credits."

(((((((( ))))))))

There are a few of other items of note in the article responded to above.

First, as noted in the letter, John Zimmerman, Enxco's eastern-region representative in the U.S., presents himself only as the president of Vermont Environmental Research Associates, whose consulting and management services are used by Enxco. (Be sure to pronounce it "enksco.")

Second, related to the first, is that the proposal was submitted by Deerfield Wind, a newly created company with a local name for Enxco to hide behind.

Third: '"The concern early on was to put turbines on the ridge line you would have to clear cut the forests, and the fact is you don't," Zimmerman said. He said there would be minimal clearing in a circle around each turbine, and along the roads that would have to be built in order to connect the turbines to each other.' That is to say, there will be no clearcutting except where there will be.

Fourth, the proposed site is completely on federal land (the Green Mountain National Forest). Having until now avoided federal land (the Forest has refused a swap to accommodate Enxco's plan to expand the Searsburg facility), Enxco is clearly now testing the process, which may turn out to be easier for them than the increasing resistance of local citizens and the state.

Rejection of fruitless industrialization

"A huge 87 per cent of responses to the Assembly's controversial Tan 8 policy are opposed to wind farms. It is the largest response to a planning consultation in Wales in living memory. More than 1,700 responses gave the thumbs down to plans to increase the volume of wind power supplied in Wales." (South Wales Evening Post, Jan. 12)
TAN8 stands for Technical Advice Note 8 on Renewable Energy. Wales already hosts one third of the wind turbines installed in the U.K., including those at Cefn Croes, where the appalling destruction is well documented at www.users.globalnet.co.uk/~hills/cc.

Similarly, in Scotland, as of Dec. 29 (Stornoway Gazette) the Scottish Executive had received more than 2,000 objections to plans for the largest wind facility in the world on the western island of Lewis, a wild and magical place. The 45-square-mile project of up to 300 of the largest aerogenerators available will completely encircle protected wilderness areas on the island.

Keep in mind that on the grid, these machines don't work. No sacrifice should be tolerated, because they do not provide any benefit.

See www.kirbymountain.com/rosenlake/wind/windsurvey.html for more about public opinion.

January 12, 2005


Citizens of Lyman, New Hampshire, with Gardner Mountain targeted for a 160-foot wind measurement tower, are moving to define such setups as industrial rather than scientific use for purposes of zoning. The towers' only purpose is to plan the siting of industrial wind turbines -- at least 20 in Lyman's case. (They are also moving to forbid them and any other structures over 35 feet high, excepting farm buildings and antennas.)

As an example of the sleaziness they have to watch out for, a farmer in Fitchburg, Massachusetts, has defied the town ordinance that prevents his installing a measurement tower by putting the equipment on a mobile crane, saying such a "temporary" use is allowed. The town says anchoring it with guy wires doesn't suggest a short-term presence.

Developers typically insist that such towers be considered for permits on their own data-gathering merits, without regard to the reason they're sought, that is, a potential sprawling power plant on the site.

To clinch this deceit, the East Haven Windfarm company has removed all mention from its web site of plans for more towers beyond the 4-turbine "demonstration" project currently in the permitting process. They obviously don't want to remind people that they are planning to construct 50 turbines over three ridges. They want you to put that out of your mind and consider only the impact of the first four foot-in-the-door towers.

Courtesy of the "Wayback Machine," the web site used to proudly say, "Once operational, the six-megawatt East Mountain Demonstration Project is expected to stimulate substantial local and statewide support for Vermont wind energy. East Haven Windfarm will then propose increasing the size of the project to fifty turbines. ... As planned, the larger project will be composed of fifty 1.5-megawatt turbines, making it the largest wind farm in the Northeast. The turbines will be located on three ridgelines of Seneca, East, and East Haven Mountains."

What they have stimulated is substantial opposition. So no more boasting. Forget about the ambition to build "the largest wind farm in the Northeast." They now pretend to be satisfied shooting for just four turbines, and further interest is only in more "data gathering": They have applied to erect measurement towers on three other peaks nearby, this time without a hint about plans for actual turbine towers.

Claiming to be saving the planet, these people sure make a big effort to hide the facts.

January 10, 2005

Bosnia's #1 dance band

Dino Merlin. Our 8-year-old makes us dance around the kitchen table every night to the songs from the latest album, "Burek." Energetic 80's style eurodisco with a touch of Balkan arabism. You can download the title song from the web site.

January 9, 2005

Wind power works -- until it does

To the Editor of THE [Berkshire, Mass.] EAGLE:

Charles Komanoff's neat theory ("Wind power works," Jan. 7) that every kilowatt of wind energy generated means one less kilowatt of fossil fuel consumed is attractive. It would be even more so if he could show some evidence to support such an obviously simplistic model.

He dismisses Eleanor Tillinghast's charge that the unpredictable variability of wind power requires spinning reserve -- that is, a plant burning fuel but not generating electricity -- to be ready to balance it on the grid. He asserts that "windmills don't require extra spinning reserve so long as they're not a huge share of the regional grid."

With that established, Komanoff expects wind power to lead us to "an oil- and coal-free future." But if it becomes a "huge share" of the grid, he has admitted it will require spinning reserve. How exactly does he expect it to liberate us from fossil fuels without becoming a significant presence on the grid?

It may be that economists are privy to more sophisticated logic than I am able to perceive, but to this layman science editor it looks like a self-defeating argument: Wind power "works" only when its contribution is insignificant.

For this, self-described "environmental activists" are eager to sacrifice our land- and seascapes?

January 7, 2005

Crime and demeanor

Sam Smith, The Progressive Review:

'ALBERTO GONZALEZ will undoubted be approved by the Senate since he meets the current Washington standard for confirmation: he has not been found guilty of any indictable offense and doesn't have an illegal nannie.

'In fact, he and his buddies should probably be prosecuted under the RICO statute for sitting around the White House plotting ways to ignore various national and international laws as they tortured people. And his evasive answers clearly put him the category of other great congressional witnesses such as the mobsters who appeared before the Kefauver committee.

'Finally, it was clear that Gonzalez, like much of official Washington, considers moral values to be defined not by the Father Almighty but by the criminal code. The idea that one might want to stand further than just the other side of criminality is an alien one to your capital city.

'Not even the press bothers about such concerns anymore. They are considered quaint and obsolete. One Washington correspondent patiently explained to Diane Rehm why stress positions shouldn't be considered torture and on CSPAN, an editor of City Journal, Heather MacDonald, announced that "we need these tools" and that we are "too good for our own good."

'It is with the aid of such sophistry that evil flourishes, whether episodic or organized as fascism. Great wrong doesn't just come out of the barrel of the gun; it also comes from the cynical rationalizations of those who are meant to know better.'

Affirmative Action, Cuban Style

The Black Commentator this week reprinted an article (click the title of this post) from the New England Journal of Medicine about Cuba's Latin American School of Medicine, where 500 slots are reserved for students from the U.S. who promise to treat the poor. It's free, of course.

Study finds wind turbines in path of bird migration

The East Haven (Vermont) wind-energy project is initially targeting East Mountain, which is a couple peaks north of Kirby Mountain, with 4 turbines as a "demonstration" project. Pretending that they're not thinking "yet" about the complete plan for 50 turbines spread over two ridges and looming over state-protected wilderness (the "Champion" lands), the developers are currently seeking Public Service Board approval. Insisting as well that East Mountain is not in a significant flyway, even though it borders the Victory Bog, which is nationally cherished by birdwatchers, or, if it is, that the birds would fly well above the turbines, they have refused to do any actual research. The PSB has allowed time for the primary opposition, the Kingdom Commons Group, to pursue a study but also refused to fund it. KCG has managed to start such a study, of wildlife on the ground as well as birds. (When the research began, the project's president, Mathew Rubin, opened the property to ATVs, obviously hoping to scare away the [non-human] animals.)

As reported in the radio story linked to in the title of this post, the first results of the bird survey, done by the state Agency of Natural Resources, show that there were over a half million flights over the mountain last October, 67% of them below 400 feet, i.e., where turbine blades would be.

And lest those 335,000 threatened birds be dismissed as "common," their senseless death not threatening the survival of their species (and thus somehow "OK"), I would like to report a young peregrine falcon, an endangered species, seen sitting in a white ash near our house today. Among smaller birds who find shelter and food in these mountains, the elusive Bicknell's thrush is a threatened species.

January 5, 2005

Into the trenches

"Does the Democratic Party office in your hometown stay open past the election so they can mobilize people to join unions or protest corporate abuses? Are any of the new '527' campaign groups keeping their field offices open and going door to door to assist working people in protesting rocketing consumer prices or to fight for a national health care program? Are any of the internet activist organizations using their techno-wizardry to mobilize on behalf of working people who are on strike someplace? Did your local Democratic Party organize a post-election picket line in front of Wal-Mart to demand that they pay a living wage? Have you seen anything like this? Of course not."

Click the title of this post for the whole piece by Chris Townsend, Political Action Director of the United Electrical, Radio and Machine Workers of America (UE).

"A re-elected President Bush has declared his expanded war on working people, and they are loading up the cannons and mortars. The anticipation is so great in their ranks that they are fighting among themselves about how they will divvy up the booty of the blitzkrieg to come.

"The attack is imminent. Grab your helmet and your Labor Party card and I'll see you in the trench."

Just Health Care
Free Higher Education
Campaign for Worker Rights

Against the wind

[ Letter in the Western Mail (Wales), Jan. 3 ]

SIR -- Most people are aware that electricity cannot be stored.

For this reason wind turbines do not significantly help reduce CO2 emissions, which, we are told, is the main cause of global warming.

If we were to rely on wind power for even a fraction of our electricity needs and the wind drops, the lights would go out; which is why we need constant, C02-emitting back-up from conventional power stations.

Wind power is a political fairy tale: it is designed to make all us soft greenies feel less guilty about our consumption of electricity and thus win Brownie points for our parliamentary leaders.

But the truth is that in believing wind power is actually helping save the world from global warming, we are compounding the problem and wasting valuable time in pursuing a white elephant that doesn't work.

The hypocrisy of our current energy policy beggars belief. Why aren't we all being encouraged to conserve energy which could cut C02 emissions by 20%?

Answer: because it would affect the profits of the electricity companies.

Why not put a tax on aviation fuel which is one of our biggest environmental polluters?

Answer: because it would effect the profits of the airline companies and would ultimately be a vote loser for Tony Blair.

It is time to stop this hypocrisy and to end the evangelistic obsession with wind turbines; instead, we must look to measures which we know can make a difference, such as energy conservation and renewable energy from a reliable source such as tidal power.

Clout (Conwy Locals Opposing Unnecessary Turbines) Steering Committee, Pandy Tudur, Abergele

Bush Campaign Urges Dismissal of Lawsuit

'Regardless of the outcome of the lawsuit, Jackson called for an investigation into the election that would include deposing Secretary of State Ken Blackwell, Ohio's chief elections official. He said "the pattern of anomalies in Ohio -- and Pennsylvania and Florida -- amount to a plan" and that Blackwell should be held responsible.

'Blackwell spokesman Carlo LoParo dismissed the accusations as baseless. He said Ohio's performance on Election Day was a national model.'
That's precisely the issue, isn't it.

January 4, 2005

The victims of the tsunami pay the price of war on Iraq

"The US government has so far pledged $350m to the victims of the tsunami, and the UK government £50m ($96m). The US has spent $148 billion on the Iraq war and the UK £6bn ($11.5bn). The war has been running for 656 days. This means that the money pledged for the tsunami disaster by the United States is the equivalent of one and a half day's spending in Iraq. The money the UK has given equates to five and a half days of our involvement in the war."

-- George Monbiot, The Guardian, Jan. 5

Donate to Oxfam (International or America) or Médecins Sans Frontières (Doctors Without Borders).

January 3, 2005

The promise of green energy

An article by Alison Hawkes in todays' Intelligencer from northeast Pennsylvania states,
"Wayne-based Community Energy Inc. is set to build a $30 million wind farm early next year in Bear Creek Township [Pa.], 10 miles southeast of Wilkes-Barre. Thirteen wind turbines will pump 20 megawatts onto the grid, enough to power 10,000 homes."
According to Community Energy, 20 MW is the capacity, not the output. It will only very rarely "pump" 20 MW into the grid. Two-thirds of the time, it will be feeding less than its annual average of 3-6 MW (representing average output of 15%-30% of capacity). Divided by "10,000 homes," that's only 300-600 watts each on average (and much less two-thirds of the time).

The average load of a household in the U.S. is over 1,100 watts (more accurately, per-capita residential use averages 500 watts). Ignoring the fact the electricity use is highly variable by hour, day, and season, and ignoring the fact that only 35% of electricity use is residential, and ignoring the fact that wind production rarely corresponds with demand, the 20-MW facility would therefore produce the amount of electricity used by 2,600-5,300 "homes."

Because "homes" is a deliberately undefined unit, and because the aerogenerators would be providing electricity to offices and factories as well, it would be more informative to state that the 20-MW facility would produce the amount of electricity used by 2,100-4,100 people.

But very little of the power produced will correspond with moments of demand on the grid. In western Denmark, for example, only 16% of the aerogenerator infeed could be used. The rest had to be dumped. Considering that experience, this $30,000,000 subsidy-financed project to industrialize a mountain range with 400-ft windmills will actually supply the equivalent electricity needs of only 330-670 people.

And ignoring the fact that electricity accounts for only 39% of energy use in the U.S. . . .

January 2, 2005

In the Winters

"I see you very plainly, sir," she said. "I see you for the hypocrite you are. You make your voice solicitous and sympathetic, but your heart is hard and unforgiving. You have won men over by saying they can be better men and love one another, but better men for you are the better sort, the rich and mighty who have all in their hands and yet want more. There are the men who have your love. Those who are truly in need of love and grace and pity, they go disregarded and reviled. From your rich friends you demand only that they continue as before, keeping all and sharing none. From the rest you demand that which they cannot give. You demand of them sobriety, thrift, truth, prudence, order. You demand industriousness and fidelity. You demand chastity and virtue, piety and obedience. You demand respect, discipline, hard work and prayer."

The Master began to recover something of his wits. "For this you indict me?" he said, incredulous. "Is sobriety a vice in your estimation, mistress? Chastity? Discipline? Why should such things not be asked of men?"

"Because men cannot give them!" Elizabeth cried. "Not in the measure you require. They are frail. And when they cannot answer your demands, you judge them and condemn them...."

-- Ronan Bennett, Havoc, in Its Third Year

In the city on a hill

"We live in bitter times and the world is divided in two: those who live inside the godly nation, and those outside. Inside is righteousness and strength. Outside is barbarism and terror. You chose to live outside."

"I chose rather not to live inside," Brigge said.

-- Ronan Bennett, Havoc, in Its Third Year

January 1, 2005

None of the above

According to the back page of the New York Times' Dec. 26 "Week in Review," 39.5% of U.S. citizens eligible to vote didn't. In comparison, only 30.9% voted for Bush and 29.4% for Kerry.

Bad reporting

From The Oak Ridger (Tenn.), Dec. 31, 2004:
"When it first opened atop Buffalo Mountain with three turbines in 2001, the South's first commercial wind farm produced a mere 2 megawatts of electricity, enough for just 360 homes. But the December addition to the grid of 15 larger turbines -- each as tall as a 26-story building -- boosted the capacity to 29 megawatts, enough for 3,000 homes."
If 2 MW represents the energy use of 360 homes, then 29 MW should represent the energy use of 5,220 homes. Or if 29 MW is equivalent to the energy needs of 3,000 homes, then 2 MW would be equivalent to the needs of 207 homes. One ought to question rather than mindlessly parrot such obviously confusing numbers.

(Forget for the moment that only a third of of electricity use is residential, and only a third of all energy use is for electricity, so even the undefined claim of "homes provided for" represents only a ninth part of the whole problem. Also forget that wind-generated production rarely coincides with demand, so that much of it isn't even used.)

Assuming 10 MW-h to be the amount of electricity used by a "home" in the U.S., 2 MW and 360 homes represents an output of 20.5% of capacity, and 29 MW and 3,000 homes only 11.8%. The Tennessee Valley Authority does not consistently report the production data from their Buffalo Mountain facility, but an analysis at Mens et Manus concludes that its average capacity factor is 21.9%.

(Despite such evidence from actual installations, the American Wind Energy Association still predicts a 30% capacity factor for on-shore wind turbines and even more for off-shore.)

Some or all of the figures in the Oak Ridger article may have been misreported (not only did they not notice the discrepant ratios, they also wrote produced where had a capacity of was meant. Household use in the area served by the TVA may be much more than the national average (and nearly doubled between the time of the original 2-MW project and the expansion to 29 MW). These are lame explanations.

Instead, because any deliberate fudging (the whole point of using the undefined unit of "homes") would have been to make their output appear greater, I suspect that the capacity factor of 11.8% might be near the true output.

(((((((((( ))))))))))

In other news, Alan Chartock, in his "I, Publius" Berkshire Eagle column, predicts for 2005, "A hydroelectric windmill farm will be approved for the Berkshires." Now that's a confusion of terms.

Meanwhile in Wales, Liberal Democrat leader Mike German has written, "There is also a common misconception that wind energy is not available when wind is not blowing. Wind turbines operate by storing energy when the wind blows, not directly generating it to homes." He cites Friends of the Earth, Bheara, the British Wind Energy Association, and the Carbon Trust as the sources of his knowledge. It's incredible that a whole industry claiming to be essential to a viable future needs to lie so much.