July 6, 2005

Experience a lie

The western Massachusetts "Center for Ecological Technology" is organizing tours of the Searsburg wind facility (11 small 550-KW turbines, each about three-fifths the size of today's 1.5-MW turbines). The tour appears to be ultimately sponsored by the aggressively pro-industry Massachusetts Technology Collaborative.

THe reason for comment is the advertisement to "Experience a wind farm that produces 14 million kilowatt-hours [14,000 MW-h] of renewable energy annually."

There was one 12-month period when Searsburg produced that much energy, but it was from July 1998 to June 1999 (14,256 MW-h). There has never been a January-December year that saw that much.

According to owner Green Mountain Power's annual reports the output was 13,605 in 1999, 12,246 in 2000, 12,135 in 2001, 11,458 in 2002, 10,828 in 2003, and 11,023 in 2004.

The average annual output of the last three years was 11,103 MW-h, representing less than 21% of capacity. The tour hype overstates the amount by more than a quarter.

In fact, 14,000 MW-h works out to what the industry always claims to be the output of a wind facility: one-third of capacity. It's pure shamelessness that they continue to sell Searsburg's theoretical output even after seven years of operation have shown it to be so much less. ANd Searsburg's low output is not unusual. Self-reports (meaning the true figures are undoubtedly lower) to the U.S. Energy Information Agency show an average output of less than 27% capacity.

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