August 31, 2005

Progress report

From the Progress Report, via Sam Smith's Undernews:

Last year, 37 million Americans -- 12.7 percent of the population -- lived in poverty. The figures represent "the fourth straight year that the report found an increase in the U.S. poverty rate." In 2000, there were 5.5 million fewer people below the poverty line. Nevertheless, the Bush administration spun the poverty rates as "good news," noting that there were other times in American history when the poverty rate was higher.

The median income in 2004 was unchanged from the previous year. It's the fifth straight year median income failed to increase, the first time that's happened since the government began collecting the data in 1967. Many people saw their earnings decrease. For example, the median income for all non-elderly households decreased by $600 as compared to 2003.

As millions of Americans struggled, corporate CEOs enjoyed another banner year. In 2004, the average CEO made 430 times as much as the average worker, up from a ratio of 301-to-1 in 2003. If the minimum wage had grown at the same rate as CEO pay since 1990, "the lowest paid workers in the US would be earning $23.03 an hour today."

A letter against the wind pirates

A powerful letter by Kaye Johnson appeared in the Malone (N.Y.) Telegram, August 30, 2005:
Why is it that we are supposed to believe everything the wind salesmen say and write, yet evidence about their constant misrepresentations of the myriad problems being created by their industry is 'propaganda'?

Noble's out-of-state lawyer recently used exactly that word in a letter to this paper. He also attempted to again ridicule a scientist who is a part of our community by, again, taking her comments out of context. No matter how many times he repeats his phony charges, they won't become true. But 'the big lie' can be an effective weapon against the truth. It may overwhelm the facts, especially when we all wish that wind turbines were a magic bullet to fix the nation's energy problems and our local economy at the same time. Then the developers can have their way with our money and our landscape and be long gone before we unravel their deception.

The developers are trying to frame the debate in such a way that it's their critics who have to prove beyond a resonable doubt that lining up hundreds and hundreds of wind turbines across our region is a bad idea. I say the shoe should be on the other foot. They should have to prove what's right about their plan before they so drastically change our environment, community, and economy.

I have heard their inflated claims about how many jobs they will create, but their industry's record shows almost no job creation in host communities. They claim their development of our ridgelines will help the environment, but the testimony from other sites contradicts that. The evidence coming in from other countries shows that littering the countryside with giant turbines has little net impact on greenhouse gases.

In town after state after country, the story is the same. We can expect that they will come in to our community, extract millions, and leave us to clean up their mess. That is why the developers are the ones who should have their 'propaganda' examined by impartial experts.

The developers are the ones who have been caught misrepresenting the results of research. Then they tried to discredit the very same research when their deception was exposed. The developers said they would answer all questions and make all their information available to anyone. Now they refuse to disclose their plans to those who don't sing their praises. And it's the developers who have a pattern of silencing their critics by buying them off.

... Noble, a wholly owned subsidiary of J.P. Morgan, is part of one of the world's largest financial organizations. They know they will have to spend a little money to get the millions and millions from our pockets in the form of higher utility bills and taxes.

So don't be fooled by the 'just plain folks' gimmicks. It will take more than giving our kids a pinwheel at the fair to compensate for the mess they'll have to clean up if these things are brought in. And don't think that a few well placed and highly publicized donations to worthy local causes make Noble's employees wonderful new members of our community. Their motivation in raping our countryside is not green power. It's greed power. And once they've had their way with us, they'll be gone with the wind.
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August 30, 2005

Real emissions reduction caused by wind generators

From "Estimation of real emissions reduction caused by wind generators," Olev Liik, Rein Oidram, Matti Keel -- Tallin Technical University, Tallin, Estonia. International Energy Workshop, 24-26 June 2003, IIASA, Laxenburg, Austria.

Problem of balancing of wind power fluctuations [slides 5-8]
  • Wind power plants are almost uncontrollable.

  • Integration of windmills with the existing power system depends on the size and structure of concrete power system and on the capacity of links with neighbouring systems.

  • Until all the fluctuations of wind power can be compensated with the hydro power plants, the integration of windmills does not trouble the existing system too much and the environmental gain is linearly proportional to the produced amount of electricity.

  • If the power systems contains only thermal power plants or if the installed capacity of windmills exceeds the regulation capacity of hydro plants:

    • As the CHP plants usually follow the thermal load, the condensing power plants must participate in the compensation of wind power fluctuations.

    • Large condensing units cannot be switched on and off frequently and for a short period and their speed of increasing and decreasing of power is limited.

    • Most suitable thermal plants for the load regulation and fast reserve capacity are the gas turbines.

    • If someone wants to introduce large amount of wind power then the power regulating range and speed of the existing plants must be also extensive.

    • Operating a thermal plant with and without the need to compensate the fluctuations of wind power is similar to the running of a car in the city and on the highway, respectively. Fuel consumption of a car can be even double in the city comparing with the highway.

    • The thermal power production without wind generators is equal to the load and it is distributed among the thermal power plants according to the optimality criterion and using static input-output characteristics.

    • When the wind power appears in the system, thermal power stations have to keep constantly additional spinning reserve capacity equal to the maximum total power of windmills. This makes the thermal plants run inefficiently and increases fuel consumption (emissions).

    • Under the fast changes of wind power, the real fuel consumption will increase even higher. The actual operation points of thermal plant will form a curve that is similar to a hysteresis loop. This is the dynamic fuel consumption curve.
Denmark exports wind generated electricity [slide 8 shows that a greater proportion is exported as more wind-generated power is produced, approaching 90% at 2000 MWh/h]

Conclusions [slide 21]
  • Participation of thermal power plants in keeping the reserve capacity for wind turbines and in compensation of the fluctuations of wind power increases the fuel consumption and emissions substantially.

  • Linear methods of calculation of emission reductions from wind energy use cannot consider this increase and therefore special methods for correct accounting of environmental gain have to be elaborated.
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Low-frequency noise and vibrations from windfarms

Eleanor Tillinghast of Green Berkshires recently brought to my attention the paper from which the following excerpts are taken.

P. Styles, I. Stimpson, S. Toon, R. England, and M. Wright. Microseismic and infrasound monitoring of low frequency noise and vibrations from windfarms. Applied and Environmental Geophysics Research Group, School of Physical and Geographical Sciences, Keele University, 18 July 2005:
  • Wind turbines are large vibrating cylindrical towers, strongly coupled to the ground with massive concrete foundation, through which vibrations are transmitted to the surroundings and with rotating turbine blades generating low-frequency acoustic signals which may couple acoustically into the ground. (p. 8)

  • Additionally, the blade-tower interaction is a source of pulses at a low repetition rate, which contain components in the infrasound region. The local and surrounding geology, especially layering, may play an important part in determining vibration transmission. (p. 8)

  • [W]ind farms do produce discernible harmonic signals which can be detected over considerable distances. (p. 44)

  • When the windfarm starts to generate at low wind speeds, considerable infrasound signals can be detected at all stations out to c. 10 km. (p. 66)

  • [T]he vibrations experienced on seismometers situated at considerable distances from farms propagate through the ground as high frequency Rayleigh waves and not through the air, and as such must obey the propagation modes and attenuation and absorption laws for geological materials and not air. (p. 67)

  • We have clearly shown that both fixed-speed and variable-speed wind turbines generate low-frequency vibrations which are multiples of blade-passing frequencies and which can be detected ... at considerable distances (many kilometres) from wind farms on infrasound detectors and on low-frequency microphones. (p. 76)

  • At present there are no current, routinely implemented vibration mitigation technological solutions which can reduce the vibration from wind turbines. (p. 90)
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August 29, 2005

A NIMBY wind is a-blowin' my mind

David Bauman writes in yesterday's Berkshire Eagle:
The appropriate term for opposition to big ugly projects, which could benefit many but harms few, is NIMBY (not in my backyard). Our reluctance to invoke NIMBY has caused us to make laws that give legal power to frogs and roots but none to ourselves. Human's wants and needs always take a back seat to those fussy plants and animals. In generations past the plants and animals were clear-cut, slaughtered, eaten and worn. Now they have it better than ever and all they do is complain.
So it's NIMBY to act as a steward of the land against unquestioned industrial development. And it's fear of challenging said NIMBY that has made weighing the natural environment, the ecosystem that sustains us, against unquestioned industrial development a normal procedure. And, like free speech, it's apparently enough to have the right -- but to actually use it is obstructionist whining.

[He is correct to call many of the opponents of the Cape Wind project NIMBY when they support wind power elsewhere. But most opponents of industrial wind have looked seriously into it and determined that it is not worth sacrificing their or anyone else's backyard, rural landscape, or wild mountaintop for its dubious claims. These people can not therefore be called NIMBY.]

Bauman's answer is pretty much, "might [or more usually mere bluster] makes right" -- hardly a compelling alternative:
As everyone knows West Virginia is the perfect place for windmill farms because the plants and animals there are friendly, poor, a little slow and don't give a hoot 'bout much.
He thinks he's mocking those who have driven out the wind pirates, but he reveals his own contempt for not only plants and animals but also his fellow humans. And typical of the misinformed or disingenuous, he invokes oil, which has almost nothing to do with electricity. If anything, more wind power would mean more oil, because that's what often powers the quick-response plants that would be be needed to cover for wind's erratic production.

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August 27, 2005

Spitting into the wind

From "Company revives Equinox wind plan," Rutland Herald, August 27, 2005:
Endless Energy has a contract in place with the Burlington Electric Department, which will purchase the entire output of the turbines when they are up and running, [Endless Energy president Harley] Lee said.

That's enough electricity to satisfy 7 percent of the entire demand in Burlington, said Patti Richards, the director of resource planning for the department.

With the cost of oil now above $65 per barrel, the economics have swung in favor of wind energy, [said Patti Richards, the director of resource planning for the Burlington Electric Department (BED)].

"Whatever amount of kilowatts we can buy (for wind power) is a savings," she said. "If this project doesn't move forward, we'll likely have to go for a rate increase."

What makes wind energy even more attractive from an economic standpoint is that renewable energy can be traded on a secondary market, Richards said, giving the electric department a buffer if oil prices were to drop.
Burlington's main power plant, although it is able to burn oil and natural gas, is primarily fuelled by wood. According to the U.S. Energy Information Agency, a grand total of 0.2% of the electricity generated in Vermont in 2002 was from oil. Even if all of it was from Burlington -- which it isn't -- oil would represent only 3.3% of BED's output.

The threat of a rate increase if people don't support the wind power facility is simply dishonest bullying. In fact, BED is more likely to be more dependent on oil if they brought in wind power, because oil-fired plants are precisely the quick-response generators necessary to deal with the wildly fluctuating input from wind turbines.

As Richards lets slip, however, the obvious economic benefit is in that market for "green credits" -- the environmental indulgences that people can buy to allow them to continue polluting. The electricity generated by wind turbines doesn't even have to be used, only generated. Since output is so erratic, it is likely to be dumped or at best exported into a larger grid where the fluctuations won't be as much of a problem. So for the prospect of raking in profits from selling not energy but meaningless credits for wind turbine production, Burlington Electric supports industrializing a southern Vermont mountaintop with virtually useless 400-foot-high wind towers. Some vision!

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Missing the point about industrial wind

To the Editor, Manchester (Vt.) Journal:

Jane Newton, whom I have proudly supported in several elections, aptly puts the matter of industrial wind power threatening our ridgelines in context ("'Save our Ridgeline' misses the point," letter, August 26). Indeed, compared to the ravaging that Iraqis have endured for decades, a wind "park" looks almost benign.

It isn't, of course, as the campaign against it has made clear. The drive to develop our ridgelines is part of the same industrial arrogance, the same corporate piracy, that drives the war and poverty machine Newton calls attention to. In fact, many of the same investors and companies, notably Halliburton (active in building off-shore turbine facilities) and GE (the major U.S. manufacturer of wind turbines, having bought the business from Enron), are pocketing huge amounts of public money from both.

Spinning, strobing, grinding, and mostly useless 400-foot-high turbines are not as bad as napalm and depleted uranium, but that doesn’t make them good. If we don’t stop the industrial juggernaut here -- and even repeat the developer’s sales pitch as gospel -- how can we expect it to be stopped in Iraq and elsewhere?

Fighting to protect the ridgeline is every bit as important as fighting other injustices. It is the same fight.

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August 24, 2005

Another picture of turbines in Hawaii

Here's another photograph of the South Point, Hawaii, turbines, only 24 of 37 of which are still working after 19 years. They are a long way from being the elegant kinetic sculptures that the industry wants us to see them as.

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Book wish

"From mescaline to mesclun: The decline and fall of late-20th-century counterculture"

August 23, 2005

Turbines now junk after 19 years

A Kansas correspondent sent this dramatic photograph that a friend of his took on a recent trip to Hawaii. It's some of the turbines installed in 1986 at South Point, Hawaii. Note the dripping oil and missing blades, and that many of them are turned in the opposite direction of the rest. This is the future!

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August 22, 2005

The folly of daylight savings time

Courtesy of David Roberson, here are excerpts from a Boston Globe opinion piece by Michael Downing about the folly of daylight savings (or summer) time, during which our clocks are turned forward one hour so that there is more daytime to shop after work. In the new energy bill, DST will be start a month earlier and be extended a month longer starting in 2007.
The idea of falsifying clocks to delay sunrise and sunset times came to New England from old England. British architect William Willett noticed people were sleeping through sunrise. In 1907, he published "The Waste of Daylight," which inspired Germany, then Great Britain and the United States, to shove ahead their clocks during the First World War, hoping to conserve fuel.

It didn't work. It did work for Boston department store magnate A. Lincoln Filene. He knew evening sunlight encouraged working people to shop on their way home. Filene was chairman of the Boston Chamber of Commerce, which produced the influential 1917 study, "An Hour of Light for an Hour of Night." This became the basis for the national daylight saving campaign. Filene predicted a boon to the health and morals of the nation, and he outlined ten specific benefits for farmers. Each one was at odds with the experience of actual farmers.

Filene claimed that produce harvested before sunrise retained dew, making if fresher and more appealing at markets. Farmers knew crops could not be harvested until the sun had dried that dew. Filene predicted farmers would enjoy sleeping later, but they rose earlier than ever with one less hour of light to get their dairy to cities. Filene said animals preferred to work in the cool darkness of morning. Farmers said roosters did not wear watches.

Congress repealed daylight saving in 1919, despite intense lobbying from the Chamber of Commerce, Wall Street, professional baseball, and golfers. ... In 1919, defying Congress and pleasing merchants, New York City passed a local ordinance to save daylight. Soon, Boston sprang ahead, and many cities followed. State legislatures, however, resisted the clock change on behalf of rural interests. Indeed, in Connecticut and New Hampshire, you could be fined up to $500 if your clock or watch displayed fast time.

Massachusetts was the exception. In 1921, our lawmakers passed a statewide daylight saving law -- the only one in the nation for more than a decade. This distinction did not please Bay State farmers. They sued the state, demanding a return to Standard Time and compensation for financial losses.

The case was ultimately settled by the US Supreme Court. In 1926, the farmers lost on both counts. The majority opinion was delivered by Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, a native of Boston.

Now, Congress promises we will save 100,000 barrels of oil every day. "The more daylight we have," reasons Congressman Markey, "the less electricity we use." Unfortunately, Congress can't increase the amount of daylight we have. Moreover, during the first week of November 2007, Americans won't see the sun until sometime between 7:30 and 8:30 a.m. We will have to turn on lights and squander our saving before it accrues.

In truth, even in midsummer, the oil saving doesn't add up. Most of our electricity is made with nuclear power and coal. And Congress has known since 1919 that daylight saving does not save a single lump of coal, though it does increase gasoline consumption by encouraging Americans to get in their cars and go shopping in the evening. ... When Congress extended daylight saving from six to seven months in 1986, ... [t]hat month was worth $350 to $550 million in additional sales to the golf and barbecue industries.
Not only roosters don't wear watches: Our own bodies are not simply "reset" to another time system. The annual leap "forward" essentially tells your body to wake up an hour earlier than it is used to. In northern states in March, most people would have to wake hours before dawn. Productivity at work and school plummets every spring because of this folly. And with darkness coming an hour later (by the clock), it is harder to make up the lost sleep to help the body readjust. Any gains for retailers are easily overwhelmed by the stresses put upon every worker and student.

Not to mention, it's unnatural. It's bad enough that we ignore sunrise and sunset in slavish year-round obedience to the clock's schedule. Then going and messing with that clock twice a year just to further manipulate the masses (to the masters' own loss, even) is diabolical. Or just plain stupid.

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August 20, 2005

Shall I Compare Thee to a Freaking Cow?

Common Dreams published an essay by Andrew Christie yesterday about the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) pointing out that exploitation and abuse of animals is akin to slavery, child labor, and concentration camps and why people are so outraged by such an obvious comparison.
... The larger lesson of Darwin (there are no superior species, only differently adapted ones) has not yet sunk in; instead, we are still ruled in every way that matters by the medieval Great Chain of Being, on which we placed ourselves one rung below the angels and far above all other manner of beaste, most low, foule and uncleane. When a black man in New Haven sees images of his ancestors and a cow side by side, equally mistreated and commodified, he is conditioned to see only the comparative sullying of his godliness, not the cruelty that is the lot of sentient beings who have no rights. He fears he will be cast down by the implication that the lot of the oppressed should be raised up.

Historically, he is not alone. That was the deepest fear of his ancestors' owners in the antebellum South. It was the fear of men confronted by women's suffrage. It was the fear of our founding fathers, the white male land owners who, in drafting the Constitution, struggled to find a way to exclude the rabble from too much participation in the democratic experiment, the better to keep the levers in the hands of the right sort of people while giving the others just enough by way of social rewards to keep them controllable.

Changing those paradigms were (and are) hard fights, but the animal rights movement is fighting 10,000 years of cultural conditioning and the tendency of the disenfranchised, in the words of Howard Zinn, to fall upon each other "with such vehemence and violence as to obscure their common position as sharers of leftovers in a very wealthy country."

Thus the good people of New Haven recoil, the NAACP shouts at PETA, and the pundits trot out safe, predictable outrage, using generations of conditioning to studiously miss the point. It's a fight amongst ourselves on a deeper level than usual. It misses not only the fact of our increasing disenfranchisement but the dysfunctional ways in which the disproportionately distributed wealth is produced by a system that is impoverishing the Earth and our ethical sense alike. One of that system's most fundamental control measures persuades people that in their visceral rejection of the truth PETA is laying down, they are standing up for their dignity and humanity, when, in reality, they are defending a system in which commonality of suffering is not on the agenda, the members of only a single species have any right to life, liberty and freedom from harm, a chicken is of value only as a sandwich, and the idea that a chicken might be of value to the chicken is an idea that must not be thought.
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August 14, 2005

Tom Gray spins with the wind

Thomas O. Gray, Deputy Executive Director and Director of Communications of the trade group American Wind Energy Association, wrote a letter to the Burlington (Vt.) Free Press, pointing out, "Wind energy emits no air, water, or global warming pollution; it uses no water; and it requires no mining or drilling for fuel."

Neither does a dead log. And despite the cost and ecologic impact of wind energy the electricity output is not much different.

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Nuclear power vs. conservation and global warming

An opinion piece by Mark Hertsgaard in last Sunday's San Francisco Chronicle is entitled "Nuclear energy can't solve global warming: other remedies 7 times more beneficial." The following comment was posted at Sam Smith's Undernews.
This same argument is even more applicable to industrial-scale wind power. Two billion dollars, presumably for about a 1000-MW nuclear plant, would get at most 2000 MW of also heavily subsidized wind power capacity. But whereas the nuclear industry boasts that their 1000-MW plant will produce an average of 850 MW, the wind industry claims that their 2000 MW of turbines will produce an average of 667 MW. In reality, the nuclear plant may provide an average of 750 MW and the wind plant less than 260 MW (according to U.S. Energy Information Agency data). And not to diminish the huge negative implications of a radioctive plant, the nuclear plant is in a single location over a few square miles at most. Two thousand megawatts of wind power would require about 100,000 acres, over 150 square miles (see Further, the wind plant's output is highly variable and unpredictable, requiring the continuing and more inefficient (thus more polluting) use of other sources to compensate. Much of the time, as in Denmark, which must dump almost 85% of its wind plant output, turbines produce well when there is no demand. And (again, not to diminish its very serious problems) nuclear power has proved itself in providing roughly 20% of our electricity, whereas the practical potential for wind power is no more than 5%. Two billion dollars can easily save that amount and more, without industrializing our rural and wild landscapes. Or it could buy 2000 MW of giant intrusive and destructive wind turbines that might provide less that 0.1%.
If nuclear power is a boondoggle whose pursuit detracts from actually solving our energy issues, then that is even more the case with industrial wind power. It's true that wind turbines are nowhere near as dangerous and poisonous, but unfortunately they also don't produce much electricity (let alone other forms of energy) so you'll still have as much "dirty" sources as ever.

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August 9, 2005

"Wind is on its way [out] as a powerful resource"

Green Bay (Wisc.) Press-Gazette, August 7, 2005

Paired with an opposition piece by Lynn Korinek of Wisconsin Independent Citizens Opposed to Windturbine Sites, Michael Vickerman writes in his support piece (Green Bay (Wisc.) Press-Gazette, August 7, 2005),
"wind power, with current federal tax credits, is now less expensive than natural gas-fired generating units. It makes no economic sense for utilities to burn natural gas at any time when wind power is available.wind power, with current federal tax credits, is now less expensive than natural gas-fired generating units. It makes no economic sense for utilities to burn natural gas at any time when wind power is available."
According to Wisconsin Public Interest Research Group ("The Environmental Case for Wind Power in Wisconsin," July 2005), only 2.9% of the state's electricity comes from oil and natural gas. 72.3% comes from coal, and 21.7% from nuclear. Nationally, about 15% of our electricity comes from natural gas, 20% from nuclear, and over 50% from coal.

I have seen this argument before, that with subsidies wind power is now economically competitive with natural gas. Natural gas is then lumped in with coal and oil (the latter is an insignificant source of electricity which would be unaffected by wind power) for the claim that wind power will clean up the air. But natural gas is relatively clean; coal, especially the bituminous ("brown") coal commonly burned in the midwest, is the main source of polluting emissions from electricity generation.

So wind power is now being touted for displacing the one source that was actually making inroads against coal.

And because people want to believe that ever-larger wind turbine technology will actually do what the salesmen claim, coal continues to burn as much as before -- but now without any effort to make it cleaner. In fact, wind power advocates have mocked the talk of "clean coal" even as smokestack scrubbers in existing plants and new coal gasification plants, or simply switching from bituminous coal to anthracite, have actually made the air cleaner -- to a degree that all the giant turbines dreamed of by the industry would never be able to achieve.

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August 7, 2005

Wind power not worth it

To the editor, Green Bay (Wisc.) Press Gazette:

The editorial of August 7, "Give windmills chance to prove their worth," makes the valid point that next to the pollution from fossil fuel plants, the noise and visual intrusion of wind turbines may seem minor. Indeed, most opponents to industrial wind turbines would agree.

What they point out, however, is that next to the insignificant contribution that wind power can make to our energy needs, the impact is disproportionately large and not worth it.

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August 5, 2005

The difference between theory and practice

According to the New Hampshire Public Interest Research Group, the "wind farm in Searsburg, Vermont, produces enough power for 2,000 Vermont homes" ("New Energy Solutions,"

According to Green Mountain Power (GMP), Searsburg's average annual production has been around 11,000 MW-h for the last two years, and their average residential customer uses about 7.5 MW-h per year. Searsburg therefore produces power equivalent to that used by fewer than 1,500 Vermont homes.

After a facility is built, there's no longer any excuse for using sales projections. There's a record of actual performance. Of course, it seems to be invariably disappointing in the case of wind power, so naturally the advocates choose to ignore it.

And lest 1,500 homes sounds significant, remember that production does not necessarily correspond to actual need (so the homes are not using the power), and residential use is less than a third of GMP's load. (Residential use is a little more than a third of the total load nationally.) Searsburg's 11 200-foot-high towers, with all the roads and clearcutting and new transmission lines, produce less than 0.2% of Vermont's electricity. (Vermont has about 600,000 people.)

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Low-frequency vibrations from wind turbines

The previous post, "The noise of a wind turbine," noted the very loud figure of 105 dBA 415 feet from the Clipper 2.5-MW model. The "A" in the unit designates that the measurement is weighted to the normal range of human hearing. A more serious problem may be low-frequency noise and vibrations that aren't measured in the dBA scale but have a profoundly debilitating effect on many people.

As reported in the Telegraph (U.K.) (January 25, 2004), a doctor in England had noticed that many people who lived near a 16-turbine facility in --- were complaining of migraines and sleep problems. She made a survey and found that 13 of 14 people who lived within 1 mile of the turbines complained of increased headaches, and 10 reported sleep problems and anxiety that started with the installation of the wind power facility two years before. Other complaints included nausea, dizziness, palpitations, stress, and depression. She is currently conducting a more scientific study of the phenonemon.

Another doctor presented a paper to the Royal College of Practitioners about a "marked" increase in depression among people in a northern Wales village where three turbines were erected in 2002. She said the cause is low-frequency noise that is felt rather than heard.

There are many reports of people who get dizzy and nauseous while they work near wind facilities, and the symptoms disappear immediately upon their leaving the site. People also report that windows in their houses often shake from the low-frequency sound waves from wind turbines. It was noted by a frequent visitor to Backbone Mountain in West Virginia that after the wind turbines went up, there was no longer any sign of wildlife where before it was teeming. That writer also noted, "the noise was incredible. ... It sounded like airplanes or helicopters. And it traveled. Sometimes, you could not hear the sound standing right under one, but you heard it 3,000 yards down the hill."

The Scotsman reported today ("Wind-farm noise rules 'dated'," August 5, 2005) that a study of the Dunlaw wind facility (26 660-KW turbines), which began operating in June 2000, found that infrasound and low-frequency vibrations as the turbines started to turn in low wind could be detected 10 km (6.2 miles) away.

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August 4, 2005

The noise of a wind turbine

The Clipper "Liberty" is a new 2.5-MW wind turbine model. The company has installed one as a test near Medicine Bow, Wyoming. In their environmental impact assessment submitted to the Department of Energy, Clipper notes that the noise level of the turbine in an 18-mph wind (8 m/s, well below its full operating speed) is 105 dBA 415 feet away. This is about the same as given for the Vestas V80 1.8-MW turbine. Clipper's own discussion notes that 90 dBA is the level at which "constant exposure endangers hearing."

Concern was noted for the effect of such noise on raptor nests and sage grouse leks (mating areas).

The assessment also expected that 10 acres of land would be disturbed and compacted by the construction of this single 415-ft-high turbine, causing runoff, erosion, sedimentation in streams, loss of soil productivity, destruction of vegetation, loss of wildlife habitat and food, and increased poaching and harassment of wildlife (presumably because of the new road).

During construction, the impact to pronghorn deer, mule deer, and elk was considered to extend a half-mile farther, displacing them from a total of 503 acres.

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Quote for the day

Evidence is ubiquitous suspicion is pervasive fantasy hardens reality seeps away.

-- Out->, Ronald Sukenick, 1973
(available at

August 2, 2005

Wind turbine noise is a problem

A couple of news items pertaining to noise. From the Manawatu (N.Z.) Standard, "Meridian pays family to move" (August 2, 2005):
Meridian Energy has paid an undisclosed sum of money to shift a family from their farm where Te Apiti's wind turbines are located, because noise and vibration made it too difficult to live in their house. ...

eridian has also made a confidential deal with the other farm owners affected. [Company spokesman Alan] Seay said he understands this has involved building alterations, such as double-glazing windows to reduce noise. ...

Last November, Ashhurst resident Colin Mahy complained that sun reflection flickering into his house from the Te Apiti turbines was "driving him mad". Meridian had told him to draw his curtains.
And from the Times-Tribune of Scranton, Pa., "WInds of change aren't problem" (August 2, 2005):
... A hum, like a plane warming on an airport tarmac, falls across the fields of the township as the 43 windmills near Waymart turn -- some lazily, others at a faster pace.

It won't stay this quiet, said Gary Bates, who lives at the base of the ridge about 200 feet below the windmills. The wind shifts and comes down from Moosic Mountain each night at about 8:30. The hum becomes a louder whir that reverberates through the house he shares with his wife, Debbie. The land has been in her family since her great-grandparents.

The wind changes slightly as Mr. Bates speaks, and the hum grows louder. It sounds like a plane flying above the blanket of clouds, but the engine noise never dims.
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August 1, 2005

"German Results Cast Doubt on UK's Wind Farm Proposals"

The Independent (U.K.) reported Sunday that the German goal of generating 10% of their energy from renewable sources is being undermined by the very poor performance of industrial wind turbines.

Germany has about a third of the world's wind turbines, with a capacity of about 16,000 MW, which according to the salesmen should be providing 8% of their electricity. But two of the major utility companies, RWE and Eon, report average output of only 16% and below 12%, respectively. The national grid therefore allows wind facilities to count only 6% of their capacity as available to customers, because so much of the time wind power is produced when it is not needed.

That means that Germany's 16,000 MW of wind power looks to the grid more like 960 MW, producing less than 1.5% of their electricity.

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