February 28, 2006

turbines noisy as very low-flying aircraft

'At the opening of Black Law windfarm in South Lanarkshire yesterday, Nicol Stephen, deputy first minister and one of the project's biggest proponents, admitted that standing under one of the site's 42 turbines was as noisy as being beneath the path of a "very low-flying aircraft".'

The Herald (U.K.), January 13, 2006

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Cape Wind will have little, if any, benefit

To the Editor, New York Times:

The editorial of Feb. 28 ("Sneak Attack on Cape Wind") mentions "serious effort[s] to deal with global warming and oil dependency." Unfortunately, the Cape Wind project, like all grid-connected wind power projects, is not such a "serious effort."

The power output projected by the developers does not translate into a corresponding reduction of other sources. In fact, the output from wind turbines is so intermittent and variable that other plants must be kept burning to be able to balance them.

Denmark, Germany, and Spain have not reduced their greenhouse gas or other emissions nor their use of other fuels despite massive installation of wind power (along with the necessary overbuilding of supporting infrastructure).

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February 26, 2006

Windfo revival meetups

At the Sutton School on Monday (Feb. 27), starting at 6:30, Clean Air Vermont, a group that appears to have been conjured just for this meeting, probably born in the bowels of VPIRG like that other "volunteer driven group" Clean Power Vermont -- anyway, said group has called a meeting to restore the Suttonites to the true faith of industrial sprawl and centralized power. (I don't know when -- or why -- VPIRG got into this business; it is completely antithetical to their usual concerns.)

Then on Tuesday (Feb. 28) down in Montpelier, from 7 to 10 p.m. at the Unitarian Universalist Church, Vermont's Building for Social Responsibility is putting their face into the same wind. This one actually promises to be a discussion to sort out the pros and cons of commerical wind power development on Vermont's ridgelines. We'll see.

There is currently 1 small operating wind power facility in Vermont and 9 big ones in the pipeline. These projects will affect 58 of the state's 251 towns.

A statement from Vermonters with Vision (and potential petition) is as follows:
We oppose the construction of industrial wind power turbines on Vermont's ridgelines.
  1. The energy benefits are minimal.
  2. The addition of noise, light, and visual pollution is unacceptable.
  3. The negative impact to the land and to wildlife is significant.
  4. The harm to Vermont's rural character far outweighs vaguely promised pay-offs to affected towns and individuals.
For expansion of these statements, see www.rosenlake.net/vwv.

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February 25, 2006

12 easy steps to fascism

From a good piece by Jenni Russell in today's Guardian (U.K.):

[T]he normal rules of customer service had been suspended and replaced by something alarming: an assumption, by those in uniform, that a member of the public who questions them can now be treated as a potential threat.

This change in the relationship between people and officials can only be explained as a result of the new illiberal atmosphere in which we are living. Just consider what happened at the Labour party conference. Everyone noticed the case of Walter Wolfgang, but 425 other people were also stopped under the terrorism act. ... People were being targeted not for terrorism, but for political dissent.

Dangerously for all of us, the fear of terrorism is legitimising intimidating behaviour by petty officials and agents of the state. It has become an excuse for bullying people when they step out of obedient lines.

... I fear that many of us are failing to see the danger we are now in, precisely because we have grown up in a largely benign state. We still trust in the good sense and reasonableness of its agents, and the rest of officialdom. We don't understand that that has been sustained only by the existence of our legal rights, and by a respect for our freedom of action. We don't see the lesson of every society: that if you do not place constraints on official power, its instinct is to grow. Our tolerant world is disappearing, and it is only when many more of us start running up against that reality that we will realise what we have lost.

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Londonderry rejects ridgeline wind power 2-1

The Vermont town of Londonderry held a special vote yesterday about a wind power facility on the very prominent Glebe Mountain, whose ridge they share with the town of Windham. The result was 425-213 against the project.

The Brattleboro Reformer reported the following informed voter:
As she got into a large pickup truck, another woman said she voted yes because her vehicle uses a lot of energy.
The Rutland Herald talked with project developer Rob Charlebois:
"Clearly, we have work to do at educating the public about the benefits of the project." ...

Catamount Energy recently hired a Burlington public relations firm to get its message out. Charlebois noted there has been a sophisticated advertising campaign against his project for months.

One ad used silhouettes to compare the size of the proposed Glebe Mountain turbines to both the Statue of Liberty and the Bennington Battle Monument, as well as the Searsburg wind turbines, which is the only existing wind facility in Vermont. [Click here to see the graphic.]

The proposed Glebe turbines would be much taller than all three. Catamount Energy and a Japanese energy company, Marubeni Energy International, want to build 19 wind turbines, each about 420 feet tall, on 3.5 miles of ridgeline that is privately owned.
One of the challenges of course for Catamount and their PR firm is making sure people such as the woman with her large pick-up truck continue in the happy delusion that big wind will allow them to continue their needlessly wasteful use of energy, even that which has nothing to do with electricity. The problem is that the facts are so clearly against them. Big wind won't even affect our fuel use for electricity. [Click here for "The low benefit of big wind."]

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February 24, 2006

Utility welcomes energy and financial instability

A bill that among other things considers expanding net-metering limits has been approved in the Vermont House. Utilities, however, don't like the possibility. According to the story in today's Rutland Herald, Central Vermont Public Service's lobbyist Kerrick Johnson said that expansion of net metering could affect utilities' bond ratings by adding an element of unpredictability.

He also noted that the power company has to continue contracting for enough electricity to supply its net-metering customers in case they need it.

Net metering is currently limited to 1% of a utility's maximum load and is allowed for generators up to 15 KW, or 150 KW for a multiple-metered "farm" system. On CVPS's system, net metering totals 0.07% of its maximum load.

But even that small amount of unpredictable power can be an expensive burden, according to Mr. Johnson.

It is odd, then, to have read on Wednesday that CVPS has arranged to buy the output from the 47.5-MW wind power facility proposed for Glebe Mountain in Londonderry and Windham by investment firm Diamond Castle–owned Catamount Energy and Japanese giant Marubeni Power International. CVPS says it will represent a seventh of their power load.

Yet they complain about the possibility of 1% of their load coming from customers' systems and having to continue providing power in case their generators aren't working.

Have the people of CVPS been blinded by the cut rate the Glebe Mountain developers have offered (made possible by taxpayer-financed subsidies), unable to consider what they're actually buying?

The power for one seventh of their load will be intermittent, variable, and unpredictable. Two thirds of the time, the output from the wind turbines will be below (mostly far below) their average output. If CVPS did not already contract for power to cover that, then they will have to buy on the expensive spot market. If they did have the power already, and the wind were to rise, they would have to dump the surplus, likely selling it at a loss.

If they think a few tiny net-metered customers are a burden, surely a facility the size of that proposed for Glebe Mountain will be a disaster.

Or maybe there's something in this deal that hasn't been made public.

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February 23, 2006

Airtricity unable to maintain pyramid scheme

Irish wind energy company Airtricity has dumped its residential and large commercial customers, abruptly telling them last weekend to make other arrangements, as reported in the Sunday Times (U.K.) and elsewhere.

They had hoped to keep on building wind turbines fast enough that subsidies would cover the cost of providing reliable electricity to new customers who pay them for the belief that their electricity will be "cleanly" generated from the wind.

But first the Irish Grid stopped all new connections of wind turbine generators for 18 months, and then Airtricity was repeatedly being outbid wherever they turned for other sources to provide their growing list of customers.

The scheme could not be sustained. Eleven thousand customers received letters from Airtricity informing them that their contracts were no longer in effect.

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February 21, 2006

"Bush's Mysterious 'New Programs'"

"The long war," as the Bush administration now calls its program, is straight out of George Orwell's 1984:
War, it will be seen, is now a purely internal affair. In the past, the ruling groups of all countries, although they might recognize their common interest and therefore limit the destructiveness of war, did fight against one another, and the victor always plundered the vanquished. In our own day they are not fighting against one another at all. The war is waged by each ruling group against its own subjects, and the object of the war is not to make or prevent conquests of territory, but to keep the structure of society intact.
Nat Perry writes (click the title of this post) in Consortium News about the war on Americans, not just residents and citizens who might be suspected of violent acts of terror but anyone who is perceived to be undermining, i.e., critical of, this administration's -- this government's -- programs, as well as the business of its supporters.
[T]he White House still asserts the right to detain U.S. citizens without charges as enemy combatants.

This claimed authority is based on the assertion that the United States is at war and the American homeland is part of the battlefield.

"In the war against terrorists of global reach, as the Nation learned all too well on Sept. 11, 2001, the territory of the United States is part of the battlefield," Bush's lawyers argued in briefs to the federal courts. (Washington Post, July 19, 2005)

Given Bush's now open assertions that he is using his "plenary" -- or unlimited -- powers as Commander in Chief for the duration of the indefinite War on Terror, Americans can no longer trust that their constitutional rights protect them from government actions.
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February 18, 2006

Noise and vibration from wind farms

From Hawke's Bay (Australia) Today (Feb. 18):

They call it the train that never arrives. It's a low, rumbling sound that goes on and on . . . and on.

Sometimes, in a stiff easterly, the rumbling develops into a roar, like a stormy ocean.
But worst of all is the beat. An insidious, low-frequency vibration that's more a sensation than a noise. It defeats double-glazing and ear plugs, coming up through the ground, or through the floors of houses, and manifesting itself as a ripple up the spine, a thump on the chest or a throbbing in the ears. Those who feel it say it's particularly bad at night. It wakes them up or stops them getting to sleep.

Wendy Brock says staff from Meridian Energy promised her the wind turbines at Te Apiti, 2.5km from her Ashhurst home in southern Hawke's Bay, would be no noisier than waves swishing on a seashore.

"They stood in my lounge and told me that."

But during a strong easterly, the noise emitted by the triffid-like structures waving their arms along the skyline and down the slopes behind the Brock family's lifestyle block is more like a thundering, stormy ocean. Sometimes it goes on for days. And when the air is still, there's the beat - rhythmic and relentless, "like the boom box in a teenager's car".
"It comes up through the floor of our house. You can't stop it."

Mrs Brock says she can feel it rippling along her spine when she's lying in bed at night. Blocking her ears makes no difference.

"It irritates you, night after night. Imagine you've done your day's work, then you go to bed, and there's this bass beat coming up through the floor and you can't go to sleep. You can't even put headphones on and get away from it.

"My older son sometimes gets woken up by the noise. He gets up and prowls around the house."

She tells of other Ashhurst residents who "feel" the sound hitting their chests in the Ashhurst Domain 3km from the turbines. She says one woman is so distressed by the sensation she has put her home on the market.

Not everyone in the village hears the infrasound -- Mrs Brock reels off the names of residents wondering what the fuss is all about -- but says those who do feel the sound are distressed by it and have nowhere to turn for redress.

There's little point complaining to the Tararua District Council because all it does is record each complaint and forward it to Meridian, and nothing ever happens.

"What are they (the council) going to do to Meridian -- fine them, or shut down the turbines?" asks Mrs Brock.

Meridian is dismissive of complaints about noise from Te Apiti.

"Infrasound is just not an issue with modern turbines," insists spokesman Alan Seay.
"We take it very seriously. We have looked into it seriously, but the advice we are getting from eminently qualified people is that it is just not an issue."

Many people claiming to be putting forward scientific argument about noise from turbines "are not qualified in this area of expertise. I have a problem with some of their statements", Mr Seay said. ...

Meridian is currently appealing noise restrictions placed on its proposed 70-turbine wind farm at Makara, near Wellington, where some houses will be about 1km away, and downwind of, the turbines.

John Napier lives on the Woodville side of the Te Apiti turbines, about 2km from the nearest one.

When they first began operating, he couldn't believe the roaring noise they made.
"We can hear it in our bedroom at night." ...

He doesn't hear the infrasound beat so much. It's mainly "a roar like a train going through a tunnel or over a bridge, but it never stops".

He complained to Meridian about the noise, and the company put a noise meter on his property for a couple of weeks, but wouldn't tell him the results.

"Wind farm companies say noise from turbines is not an issue, but it is an issue all right. I would be very concerned if I lived in Karori (near Makara, in Wellington)," Mr Napier said.

Harvey Jones, who lives in a valley 3km from Te Apiti, says there is an easterly wind blowing across the wind farm about 10 percent of the time. The wind goes across the top of the hill, but the noise from the turbines rolls down the valley. It sounds like a train constantly passing by, and the stronger the wind, the louder the noise. When there's a westerly blowing, he can even hear the turbines in Woodville, 6-7km away. ...

Low-frequency sound - sometimes called infrasound - is controversial.

Dr Geoff Leventhall, a noise vibration and acoustics expert from the UK who looked into infrasound at the request of Genesis Power, says "I can state quite categorically that there is no significant infrasound from current designs of wind turbines". ...

Engineer Ken Mosley, of Silverstream, has an entirely different view.

The foundations of modern turbines create vibrations in the ground when they are moving, and also sometimes when they are not moving, Dr Mosley says.

"This vibration is transmitted seismically through the ground in a similar manner to earthquake shocks and roughly at similar frequencies.

"Generally, the vibrations cannot be heard until they cause the structure of a house to vibrate in sympathy, and then only inside the house. The effects inside appear as noise and vibrations in certain parts of a room. Outside these areas, little is heard or felt.

"However, the low frequency components of the noise and vibration can cause very unpleasant effects which eventually cause the health of people to deteriorate to an extent where living in the property can become impossible."

Dr Mosley says that wherever wind farms are built close to houses, people complain about noise and vibration.

He quotes a scientist in South West Wales, David Manley, who has been researching noise and vibration phenomena associated with turbines since 1994.

An acoustician and engineer, Dr Manley writes "it is found that people living within 8.2km of a wind farm cluster can be affected and if they are sensitive to low frequencies they may be disturbed".

Two GPs in the UK have researched the health effects of noise and vibrations from turbines. Amanda Harry documented complaints of headaches, migraines, nausea, dizziness, palpitations, sleep disturbance, stress, anxiety and depression. People suffered flow-on effects of being irritable, unable to concentrate during the day, losing the ability to cope.

Bridget Osborne, of Moel Maelogan, a village in North Wales, where three turbines were erected in 2002, is reported as saying "there is a public perception that wind power is 'green' and has no detrimental effect on the environment, but these turbines make low-frequency noises that can be as damaging as high-frequency noises.

"When wind farm developers do surveys to assess the suitability of a site they measure the audible range of noise but never the infrasound measurement -- the low-frequency noise that causes vibrations that you can feel through your feet and chest.

"This frequency resonates with the human body, their effect being dependent on body shape. There are those on whom there is virtually no effect, but others for whom it is incredibly disturbing."

Dr Mosley says wind-power generators in New Zealand are aware of such literature on turbine noise and infrasound from all around the world.

February 16, 2006

Danziger condemns wind energy deaths

To the editor, Barre-Montpelier (Vt.) Times-Argus:

If Jeff Danziger ("An apology, sort of," Feb. 5) is concerned that coal miners die for our electricity (let's ignore for now the fact that Vermont doesn't get any electricity from coal, and that workers die on wind turbines, too), then he should look into the cause of those deaths a little more.

Soon after the deaths in West Virginia that inspired Danziger's cartoon, there was a similar event in Canada. But those trapped miners survived and were quickly rescued, because they had safety arrangements and emergency equipment that their U.S. counterparts can only dream of.

Danziger rightly condemns mountain top removal, yet that method of digging up coal is safer for the workers involved.

Obviously, Danziger would like to see less demand for coal however it's procured. But he himself writes, correctly, that "wind power won't alter our reliance on coal and nuclear electric generation."

Admirable as his concerns are, then, support for wind power development has nothing to do with them. No promoter of wind power can show a reduction of other fuel use due to giant wind turbines on the grid.

Wind power development has no benefit except for the developers and their bankers who are taking advantage of misguided policy to shovel public funds into their private accounts. So Danziger's real message seems to be that clearing and blasting our own mountains for wind turbines is necessary as symbolic atonement for our energy sins, not for actually changing our energy use.

He won't have to live with the giant machines, of course.

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February 15, 2006

El caso eólico

It's prison for Celso Perdomo and his fiancée Mónica Quintana in the Canary Islands, as reported yesterday by Madrid's Cadena Ser.

Perdomo was regional director-general of industry from 2003 to 2005. Quintana was a Gran Canaria council member. Perdomo is accused of embezzlement of public funds, taking bribes, and influence peddling. Quintana is accused of embezzlement and taking bribes.

"El caso eólico" began with the arrest of industrialist Alberto Santan for insider trading. So far, seven people -- from both industry and government -- have been arrested for secretly arranging the development of wind turbine facilities before public notice. The amount of the bribes is reported as 12 million euros.

Meanwhile, here in the U.S., today's New York Times describes the "gold rush" of big-money interest in wind power.

Most of the article is about General Electric's Energy Financial Services but also mentioned are Goldman Sachs and J.P. Morgan Chase, who have purchased wind energy companies.

Not mentioned in the article is why such a marginal source of energy is such an attractive investment, namely, that most of the investment is actually made by us taxpayers. Out of the pockets of the many and into the pockets of the few. It's wind profiteering, not "ecomagination." It's business as usual, which should cause pro-wind "environmentalists" to wonder how anything will change. Of course, they benefit from all the jobs clearing the way for the big-wind juggernaut consulting for the charade of "sensitive siting," so resignation is the norm.

And to help things along even more, the U.S. Department of the Interior has essentially pre-approved the construction of wind turbines on federal land, where we already subsidize private ranching and mining and drilling. The attempt to end the protection of endangered species, led by California wind advocate Richard Pombo, will also help.

Remember, George Bush was a pioneer as governor of Texas in looting the public treasury and raping public lands to make Texas a "showcase" of large-scale wind power -- all for the financial benefit of his friends at Enron.

It should be amusing that the most "successful" capitalists always turn out to be the most on the dole. But it's no laughing matter when they so carelessly destroy lives and land.

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February 13, 2006

Letter to state rep about wind power

My state representative, Lucy Leriche, got back to me about my concern about her vote at the Northeast Kingdom Caucus meeting last week in favor of industrial development of our ridgelines. She clarified her position, which seems to be "trust the Public Service Board." I wrote back to her and clarified mine.


As for the deliberation process, you must be aware that there have indeed been efforts to subject wind power facilities (which uniquely target the most protected features of our landscape) to Act 250 review rather than Section 248 review, or at least to incorporate the Act 250 processes into the PSB process. As I have read it, Section 248 recommends consideration of much of what Act 250 requires, but it does not require it, and all input, from, for example, the Agency of Natural Resources and particularly the people who actually have to live with the intrusive machines, can be dismissed for the "greater good" of the state.

As for interfering, is that not our duty as citizens? Are you suggesting that the wind power lobby does not "interfere"? When I first heard about the interest in building wind turbines on Kirby Mountain (where we moved from last fall), I thought that would be great. I had seen the pretty pictures and read about how great wind energy was. On the other hand, I had also seen wind facilities in Spain, and only an insane person could call them attractive. As I lay on my hammock looking up towards the Kirby ridge, I comforted myself that the knoll our property was on would probably shield us from having the turbines dominate our back yard.

Nonetheless, I looked into them. It very quickly became clear that there was a lot of hype, a lot of promises of how much power wind turbines will provide, but there were no data at all showing any real benefit. And while dodging that obvious lack (by totting up theoretical tons of CO2 and other emissions avoided, though not showing actual data proving any such effect) there was an also obvious downplaying and outright dismissal of negative effects, such as habitat fragmentation and degradation, disruption and killing of birds and bats, erosion, noise, visual intrusion, etc.

I was ready to weigh the impacts against the benefits. I am a science editor and a writer. I can tell when language is being used to hide the truth or to misdirect. I can tell when there is no basis for a statement. Industrial wind power is not an argument over aesthetics. Wind turbines are machines that are supposed to make a tangible contribution to our electrical energy. Yet no promoter in the world is able to point to such a contribution.

At this point, I am usually asked, why, then, do so many utilities and politicians support it?

My perception is that it is a vicious circle. Politicians and utilities are under pressure to provide more energy and provide it cleanly. Environmentalists (some) endorse wind power as a solution. Big business sees an opportunity to reap subsidized profits and presents itself as green. Everybody is happy and so it goes on, because nobody is allowed to ask: Where is the evidence that wind power actually makes a significant contribution?

The result is the wanton destruction of the world's last rural and wild places. As long as they have wind, their value is only as an energy source. It is no different than mountain top removal for coal or the drive to extract oil from under the Arctic wilderness, except in this case a lot of so-called environmentalists are on board.

Even the promoters of wind acknowledge that it will not be a significant part of our energy mix. Even the most ambitious don't see wind power producing more than 10% of Vermont's electricity or 5% of the nation's. (And that's different from actually providing electricity, and different again from actually displacing the use of other fuels.) An associate of mine has asked if we are in such desperate straits that we are forced to develop Vermont's ridgelines. Ridgeline development should be the very last resort, when we have done everything else and are still desperate for the least intermittent trickle of electricity.

Wind power's theoretical contribution would be swiftly outpaced by growing demand or alternatively could be easily obviated by conservation and efficiency.

Forgive me for going on so long. You wrote that you have faith that if anti-wind concerns are substantiated the board will respond appropriately. Notice that the benefit of the doubt is already in favor of the wind developer, who is not held to such rigor concerning his claims of benefit (as he might under Act 250). To wash our hands of the matter as if the PSB were utterly impartial and independent of political pressure seems to me highly irresponsible. Unless, of course, one's faith is that they will indeed support the construction of wind power facilities on our ridgelines.


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February 12, 2006

Alaska governor is insane

A story in today's Boston Globe says that Alaska Governor Frank Murkowsi
wants the state to hire a public relations firm to change the perception of Alaska and its people as greedy for federal dollars and all too willing to plunder the environment for profit.
But wait:
Ultimately, he wants to sway public opinion in favor of opening the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil drilling.
So it appears that the idea is not to show that Alaska is not "all too willing to plunder the environment for profit" but simply to persuade the rest of the U.S. to let them.

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"terrorists with briefcases"

Usually smug capitalist cheerleader Ben Stein has written an impressive piece in today's New York Times. He describes the response to an earlier article about United Airlines "parent" UAL as it reorganized under bankruptcy court protection, firing tens of thousands of workers, cutting the pay of the remainder (by up to two-thirds) and terminating pensions. Meanwhile, it was spending $10,000,000 a month on lawyers, accountants, and investment brokers, as well as $18,000 a month to keep a hotel suite available for the new chairman whenever he happened to be in Chicago. After 37 months, UAL emerged from bankruptcy and provided hundreds of millions of dollars to reward its top executives. One of UAL's board members is chief executive of Delphi, which appears ready to embark on a similar program.

Stein writes about the 1950s president of General Motors, who was paid about 40 times the average wage of the line workers, 80 times with a bonus during his peak year. In most companies, Stein writes, 10 to 20 times was the norm. Today, the norm is hundreds,
"whether or not the company is doing well. The graph for the pay of C.E.O.'s is a vertical line in the last five years. The graph for workers' pay is a flat line -- in every sense. ... it isn't the free market at work. It's a kleptocracy at work."
Stein is quick to note that the management of most companies, even if they are ridiculously overpaid, are "still honest and hardworking" (working hundreds of times harder than the average wage employee in the company?).
For centuries, the idea has held that the stockholders own the company. They are the trustors. The trustors select directors who in turn hire a chief executive and other top officers and then keep an eye on them for the stockholders. They ... are all agents for the stockholders ....

But what has happened is that -- as in a corrupt, failed third-world state -- the trustees in too many cases are captives of the C.E.O. and his colleagues; they owe both their places on the board and their emoluments to the chief executive, and they exercise no meaningful restraint at all on managers. The directors are instead a sort of prætorian guard, protecting management from its real bosses, the stockholders, as management sucks the blood out of the company.

... Government, meanwhile, does nothing, or next to nothing. Courts, especially bankruptcy courts, do nothing. And the employees and stockholders and the whole society are looted. ... In the capitalist society, the most basic foundation is trust. But in today's world, trust is abused, mocked, drained of meaning.
And why doesn't government do anything to protect society, to protect individuals? It doesn't require much of a leap of insight to notice that the U.S. government is now modeled on the very kleptocracy Stein describes in business. Alas, Stein doesn't make the little leap, instead calling for President Bush (who?) to rally for
common decency for the workers and the savers and investors of this country, and an end to the hideous breaches of trust that build great mansions in the Hamptons and wreck a free society.
You might as well ask him to rally for animal rights, too. Two pages before Stein's article is an item about war profiteering. The value of stock in the six leading war contractors has increased 350% since (pre-Bush) March 2000. Elsewhere in the paper, an article described the intensive investigations triggered by the revelation of Bush's warrantless spying on his fellow citizens (for those of us who aren't "unitary executives" it's called voyeurism or stalking). But the investigations are not to find out the extent of the illegal program -- which most analysts suspect is a actually a massive data mining operation -- but rather to find out who told on them.

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Wind farms conk out in heat wave

The Adelaide (South Australia) Advertiser has a story today about the sorry performance of the state's 180 wind turbines during the January heat wave. Even if there were some wind, many of the turbines shut down because it was too hot. Then one of them caught fire. Although firefighters couldn't do anything about the turbine, at least they were there to put out the spot fires started by falling debris. Imagine such a fire amidst the brush of a remote ridgeline.
A $3 MILLION wind farm turbine caught fire while dozens shut down at the time South Australia most needed them -- when a heatwave left 63,000 South Australian homes without power last month.

Adding to the drama, firefighters could not extinguish the blaze because the tower was too high at 67m [220ft].

Lack of wind and automatic shutdowns triggered by hot temperatures were to blame for the state's 180 turbines producing just 10 per cent of their maximum power capacity during the January heat wave, according to experts.

The experience proved SA could not rely on wind power to provide electricity when demand was greatest, the Electricity Supply Industry Planning Council (ESIPC) said.

"You never know if the wind will be blowing when you need it to or if wind turbines will shut down," ESIPC spokesman Brad Cowain said.

Operators of the Lake Bonney wind farm, where the turbine fire occurred on Sunday, January 22, said all of its 46 turbines had automatically shut down during the heat wave when temperatures exceeded 40C [104F].

... [Wind farm operator Miles George of Babcock and Brown Wind Partners] said the turbine fire ... had been caused by an electrical fault while maintenance crews were working on it after it had shut down.

Around 3pm, 40 CFS firefighters and six trucks rushed to the wind farm to extinguish the blaze but fire hose water couldn't reach the steel generator at the top of the tower.

Instead, the firefighters watched as fire destroyed the $3 million turbine – which weighs 75 tonnes -- and extinguished spot fires ignited by ashes from the turbine blaze.

... [D]uring Saturday's peak power demand wind farm output plummeted to just 2 per cent of capacity, producing enough power for only 3500 homes, according to ESIPC. This compared with the maximum capacity of 318MW to power 175,000 homes. SA leads the nation in wind farm energy with five established sites -- Starfish Hill, Canunda, Wattle Point, Cathedral Rocks and Lake Bonney.

There are numerous other approved wind farm developments including an AGL plan for 43 turbines at Hallet in the state's Mid North.

But AGL also plans to more than double the capacity of its nearby gas-fired plant, from 180MW to 430MW, at a cost of more than $100 million to ensure peak demand during hot weather can be met.
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February 10, 2006

Groups raise concern over efforts by wind industry to revise USFWS' interim guidance outside federal law

[press release]

Rowe, MA (February 10, 2006). National Wind Watch, Inc., the Humane Society of the United States, the Alliance to Protect Nantucket Sound, and Juniata Valley Audubon, Chapter of National Audubon Society, called on Interior Secretary Gale Norton and other federal officials to confirm whether the Fish and Wildlife Service intends to comply with the basic openness and accountability of the Federal Advisory Committee Act (FACA) with regard to the "collaborative process" being pushed by wind energy proponents to revise the Fish and Wildlife Service's (FWS) Interim Guidance on Avoiding and Minimizing Wildlife Impacts from Wind Turbines.

In a letter to Secretary Norton and others, the groups cited the critical importance of the FWS adhering to FACA requirements for public access and accountability given the "significant public controversy surrounding the impact of wind turbines on our nation's treasured wildlife -- in particular on bats and birds -- and considering the current rapid expansion of wind power throughout the country and the potentially devastating impact this expansion could have on wildlife if the turbines are not properly sited." In the letter, the groups stated "We are very concerned that if the FWS does not fulfill this FACA requirement, then the process will simply be an opportunity for the wind power industry to force its views on the agency, and will result in the agency revising its Interim Guidance in a manner that makes turbine siting and operation easier for the industry, but detrimental to wildlife."

The first meeting of the Policy Group for the collaborative was scheduled for February 9, 2006 in Washington, DC. The meeting was canceled when the Fish and Wildlife Service advised participants that it needed more time to evaluate the applicability of the Federal Advisory Committee Act (FACA) to the collaborative process.

National Wind Watch spokesperson, Lisa Linowes, was pleased with the FWS response to the letter but expressed concerned that the collaborative effort was permitted to go as far as it did. "The groups represented by the letter have consistently raised legitimate and important conservation concerns about industrial wind power projects. It is essential that there be a fair representation of our views and expertise," she said. The letter was submitted to the Interior Department by Meyer Glitzenstein & Crystal, a public-interest law firm in Washington D.C..

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February 9, 2006

market scams, dead bats, and big business

Here are a few abstracts from Windpower Monthly's February issue.

China changes tack on wind market structure and drops fixed purchase prices for competitive tenders:  Companies which a short time ago were rushing to develop wind projects in China are now having second thoughts after the government announced last month it would not be introducing a premium wind power tariff, as widely expected. Instead, the market structure will be a competitive bidding process controlled by government. "The zeal for wind development in China is likely to cool down," says Zhu Junsheng of China Renewable Energy Industries Association.

Plans for Scandinavian green certificates market hit icy patch:  Europe's first cross-border market for trade of green power certificates is looking unlikely to go ahead at the start of next year as planned. All eyes have otherwise been on Norway and Sweden to demonstrate that the environmental value of renewable energy is a commodity that can be sold separately from the physical electricity. Green certificate trade, increasingly common in America, allows a country with poor wind resources to buy cheaper wind power from a distant windy neighbour. [This echos the arrangement of powerful nations enriching themselves with the resources of weak nations. --KM] But Norway is still wrangling over the details, while a Swedish fear is that as long as Norway can produce wind power more efficiently than Sweden, Swedish subsidies to renewables will end up in Norwegian pockets. ... [W]ind industry views remain mixed on whether these are teething problems or a more fundamental flaw in the concept of green certificate trade.

GE Financial Services aiming to be world's biggest wind power investor:  With last year's purchase of seven small German wind farms and the commissioning of a 50 MW project in California, GE Energy Financial Services (EFS) has joined the list of institutional investors aiming to build substantial portfolios of wind plant assets. Right now wind is a "sweet spot" for new energy investment, says the company's Tim Howell. This year EFS is forming a dedicated team to focus exclusively on renewables, chasing deals in Europe and the US. We interview the men with the ambitions -- and the billions of dollars -- to make EFS the largest, most profitable owner of wind assets in the world.

Investigating mystery bat deaths in Canadian wind farm:  A leading Canadian power producer is launching two bat research programs after site monitoring at a southern Alberta wind farm revealed hundreds of bat mortalities. About 90% of the bodies were found during the fall migration in August and September. The mortalities were largely silver-haired and hoary bats, neither of which is a species at risk [small comfort if you or your mate is one of the individuals killed --KM]. The company is funding research to track bat behaviour and hopes the findings can be used to identify potential issues at other sites.

Merger of American power giants seen as benefit to wind industry:  A pending merger between US electricity majors FPL Group and Constellation Energy will create a giant among giants and has likely wide-reaching implications for the future of wind power development across the country. "Constellation has flirted with the wind industry and as a combination they'll be the leading players in the market," says Randy Swisher of the American Wind Energy Association. "It's very, very interesting." FPL assures that its intention to add up to 1500 MW of wind power to its portfolio remains unchanged. "A market with larger players and larger control areas is more attractive to the wind industry," adds Swisher. [This, along with the GE story above, underscores that industrial wind power is not an alternative to but increasingly a symptom of the same big-energy control that got us into the mess we're in. --KM]

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February 8, 2006

More gearbox failures in wind turbines

The Associated Press reported yesterday from Minot, North Dakota, that a couple of three-year-old wind turbines haven't been operating for the past couple of months because of gear box problems.

"It's sad to see mechanical failures and we've had our fair share," said Bruce Carlson, president of the Verendrye Electric company. And Ron Rebenitsch, a Basin Electric engineer from Bismarck, added, "With the gear teeth stripping out, the turbine could run wild and self-destruct. Those turbines are under a tremendous amount of stress, and there are many parameters for a turbine to operate safely. It's a complex mechanical device, subject to failure."

"Gear box problems are not uncommon," said Randy Bush, a resource coordinator for Basin Electric. "At Edgeley, where they have a lot more towers, they have the same issues to deal with that we have."

Also see the log of problems of one New Zealand turbine in an earlier post.

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February 6, 2006


Ever reviled, accursed, ne'er understood,
Thou art the grisly terror of our age.
"Wreck of all order," cry the multitude,
"Art thou, & war & murder's endless rage."
O, let them cry. To them that ne'er have striven
The 'truth that lies behind a word to find,
To them the word's right meaning was not given.
They shall continue blind among the blind.
But thou, O word, so clear, so strong, so true,
Thou sayest all which I for goal have taken.
I give thee to the future! Thine secure
When each at least unto himself shall waken.
Comes it in sunshine? In the tempest's thrill?
I cannot tell -- but it the earth shall see!
I am an Anarchist! Wherefore I will
Not rule, & also ruled I will not be!

-- John Henry Mackay
(born Feb. 6, 1864)

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Wind turbine noise -- a primer

A good overview of the wind turbine noise issue, written by physician Nina Pierpont, is available at www.aweo.org/Pierpont-noise-060204.pdf (40 KB). She explains the difference between A-weighted and C-weighted sound measurements and presents evidence that the C-weighted sound level from industrial wind turbines is much greater than the usually cited A-weighted level. The C-weighting includes more low-frequency sound, which can have a serious impact on quality of life and even health.

Pierpont also puts the sound levels of wind turbines and their impact into the context of current environmental and health guidelines.

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February 5, 2006

$100,000 per minute

That's what the Department of Defense says the U.S. is spending on the occupation of Iraq: $4,500,000,000 per month.

That's $54,000,000,000 per year, but Bush just asked for $120,000,000,000 more from Congress for the rest of 2006, most of it for the Iraq operation. It is estimated that $250,000,000,000 has already been spent for Iraq since the invasion in March 2003, almost three years ago.

So it looks like the cost is more like twice what the DD says: $200,000 per minute, $300,000,000 per day, $9,000,000,000 per month.

If you're going to destroy a country, it obviously requires a hell of a lot of cash to do a thorough job of it. Sacrifice is demanded from all of us.

Republicans endorse instant runoff voting

The U.S. House Republicans used runoff voting to ensure that their leader represents the choice of a majority of those voting. The first vote they had, with four candidates, put Roy Blunt well ahead of everyone with 110 votes to John Boehner's 79. But there were also 40 votes for John Shadegg and 2 for Jim Ryun, denying Blunt a majority and forcing an immediate runoff between the two top-polling candidates. After that, Boehner won 122 to 109.

Rather than being spoilers in the simple-minded vote process of most elections in the U.S., Shadegg and Ryun's candidacies served to show the broader support for a candidate other than Blount. A runoff vote recognized that and allowed the majority to select the candidate better reflecting the majority's choice.

Instant runoff voting is a version in which voters mark their second and third choices as well as their first. When no candidate winds a majority in the first choices, then the votes for the lowest-polling candidate are removed and those voters' second-choice votes are counted instead. This is done again if a third round is needed to determine a majority choice.

While the House Republicans endorse runoff voting in their own tightknit club, both the Republican and the Democratic parties fight it for wider elections. As with their barring of other candidates from presidential debates, the two major parties are more interested in maintaining their shared monopoly on power than in engaing in the democratic process. Their worst nightmare is people being free to vote their conscience.


February 4, 2006

Tons of conrete, blasting of bedrock for small wind turbine

From "Tons of concrete, massive bolts to secure windmill to earth" (East Bay (R.I.) Newspapers, Feb. 2), here is a description of the platform for a relatively small 660-KW Vestas V47 wind turbine. Its total height will be 241 feet (tower 164', blades 77'), 100-180 feet shorter than models currently being pushed for utility grids (and not singly, as in this case, but in groups of dozens, sometimes hundreds.

This is going into the grounds of the Portsmouth Abbey School, who think they are going to get half of their electricity from the turbine. They are looking at the projected average output, however, ignoring the fact that a wind turbine generates at or above its average rate only a third of the time. And much of that time is likely to be when there is low demand.

Of course, they will still be connected to the grid, and any mismatch of supply and demand will be handled there. The school may gain some savings from net metering, at the expense of other customers on the system.
... The ingredients for that base rolled into the school aboard caravans of trucks. Twenty mixer trucks full of cement and eighty 27-foot long by one-inch diameter steel rods all sunk through bedrock in a 30-foot deep hole should keep the turbine firmly tethered to earth.

... Halfway down they struck rock, "solid rock all the rest of the way down."

The school located a licensed blasting company which agreed to take on the job. ...

Next, a 15-foot diameter corrugated steel pipe, of the sort used in drainage systems, was lowered into the hole and an outer two-foot ring of cement (120 cubic yards worth) was poured between the pipe and the bedrock to form an outer shell.

A team of laborers, among them Brother Joseph, Paul Jestings, the school's director of operations, and Henry duPont, ("Our wind turbine expert from Block Island") climbed down into the hole and threaded the 80 heavy threaded rods into their templates. It is to these rods that the turbine tower will be bolted.

Another corrugated pipe, this one narrower at 13-feet, was lowered into the hole and filled to the top with dirt. Then the two-foot space between the two pipes was filled with 80 yards of concrete, effectively sandwiching the bolts in solid concrete. The whole thing was capped with reinforced concrete and, once cured, will provide an immovable foundation for the turbine to come. ...
It seems rather a lot to put up with for such an intermittent and variable source of power.

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February 3, 2006

National Wind Watch cautions wind energy does not meet Bush's 2006 Agenda objectives

[press release]

Rowe, MA (February 3, 2006). National Wind Watch, Inc., an organization dedicated to providing the facts about wind energy, welcomed President Bush's call this week to become less reliant on foreign oil for America's energy needs. The organization agrees advances in technology are essential, but warns further appropriations for wind energy would be a distraction from Bush's defined energy objectives.

National Wind Watch president, David Roberson, stated, "Wind is not a reliable form of energy and, as such, cannot replace traditional modes of electricity generation. And industrial wind development will not meet the criteria outlined in Bush's 2006 Agenda," referring to the objectives of reducing fuel prices and US dependence on foreign oil. "The simple fact is wind can do little to eliminate our need for foreign oil, because less than 3% of our oil consumption is used in electricity generation," Mr. Roberson noted. He added that rural America is facing an onslaught of wind energy proposals that could result in thousands of industrial towers, many standing over 400-feet high, and thousands of miles of associated transmission lines. At best wind will deliver only small amounts of electricity at a high cost. "In the face of rising energy prices, our federal, state, and local governments are grasping at wind energy as the solution to energy independence, but wind only increases both our economic and environmental costs," Roberson said. "The mission of National Wind Watch is to help educate communities and decision makers on the realities of wind."

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Hush money from wind company

Here are excerpts from a "forbearance and non-disturbance agreement" being foisted on owners of property neighboring a large wind power facility.

... Company and Owner have determined that it is in their mutual best interest to enter into this forbearance and non-disturbance agreement. The Company is desirous of providing Owner with certain economic benefits to accrue from operation of the Wind Project ... Owner understands and accepts that operation of wind turbine generators may have some impacts on the Wind Project's neighbors, including the Owner's Property.

... Owners irrevocably grant to the Company, its successors and assigns, the right and privilege to operate the Wind Project, which activity may result in visual, television, noise and other impacts and disturbances at the Property. Owners agree, among other things, that during operation of the Wind Project the Company may occasionally generate and maintain audible noise levels in excess of fifty (50) db (A) on and above the Property at certain times of the day or night. Owners also agree to not engage in any activity on the Property that might cause interference with the operation of teh Wind Project. ...

Owners may sell, mortgage, assign or convey the Property without consent of Company, but any conveyance shall be subject to the terms of this Agreement.

... Owners understand and agree that the Easements and agreements granted herein shall run with the Property, and that any assignee or future buyer of the Property will take the Property subject to the obligations herein. The terms of the Easements and forbearance agreements granted hereunder shall commence upon the execution of this Agreement, and shall terminate forty years after ...

Owners agree to keep this Agreement confidential and shall not disclose to any third party any of the terms of this Agreement ...

The Company shall pay Owner an ... operations easement payment in the amount of $--- per year ...
Note that the 40-year "agreement" is so above board that the signer is required to keep it secret!

From a later letter to owners still holding out, a "one-time $1,500 payment as a partial offset to some of the visual impacts of [the transmission line]" is offered which the manager of the wind power company says he "may have neglected to mention ... before." He also proposes to keep feeding them money until they sign the "forbearance agreement."

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A reminder from Ironic Times:

Fascism in the defense of liberty is no vice.

February 2, 2006

Capitalism or habitable planet -- can't have both

Robert Newman writes in today's Guardian (U.K.):
There is no meaningful response to climate change without massive social change. A cap on this and a quota on the other won't do it. Tinker at the edges as we may, we cannot sustain earth's life-support systems within the present economic system.

Capitalism is not sustainable by its very nature. It is predicated on infinitely expanding markets, faster consumption and bigger production in a finite planet. And yet this ideological model remains the central organising principle of our lives, and as long as it continues to be so it will automatically undo (with its invisible hand) every single green initiative anybody cares to come up with.

Much discussion of energy, with never a word about power, leads to the fallacy of a low-impact, green capitalism somehow put at the service of environmentalism. In reality, power concentrates around wealth. Private ownership of trade and industry means that the decisive political force in the world is private power. The corporation will outflank every puny law and regulation that seeks to constrain its profitability. It therefore stands in the way of the functioning democracy needed to tackle climate change. Only by breaking up corporate power and bringing it under social control will we be able to overcome the global environmental crisis.

... We have lived in an era of cheap, abundant energy. There never has and never will again be consumption like we have known. The petroleum interval, this one-off historical blip, this freakish bonanza, has led us to believe that the impossible is possible, that people in northern industrial cities can have suntans in winter and eat apples in summer. But much as the petroleum bubble has got us out of the habit of accepting the existence of zero-sum physical realities, it's wise to remember that they never went away. You can either have capitalism or a habitable planet. One or the other, not both.
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