April 22, 2006

Why is VPIRG hiding?

It is no secret that VPIRG supports industrial-scale wind power development of Vermont's ridgelines. It has been at the forefront of arguing on behalf of the developers, even as it fights such heedless sprawl in every other issue they are involved in.

After the recommendation from the Public Service Board hearing officer to deny a permit to the four-turbine project in East Haven, the next project they are advocating for is a 26-turbine (each 399 feet high) development in Sheffield and Sutton. But the "group" sent out to rally the people in the developer's favor is called "Clean Power Vermont."

I looked up the group's internet domain (cleanpowervt.org) information some time ago and discovered that it was registered by VPIRG. The main organizer, Tyler Edgar, is an employee of VPIRG. (She was also the sole representative of an earlier group, "Clean Air Vermont," which held an "informational" meeting in Sutton before that town rejected the project by a margin of 6 to 1.) Joining her for the Sheffield push is Drew Hudson, field director of VPIRG. The domain information is now hidden, but the the web pages are still filled (at the time of this writing) with code referring to vpirg.org.

Although they may have been defeated in East Haven, VPIRG board members Dave Rapaport and Mathew Rubin (the developers) are now targeting the string of ridges between East Haven and Island Pond (town of Brighton) that overlook the protected "Champion" lands and the Nulhegan Basin, which has been recognized by National Geographic as one of the world's prime "geotourism" destinations. Obviously VPIRG/EMDC (Rubin & Rapaport's company) needs a favorable precedent to improve their chances of a permit and thus their fanatical -- and dishonest -- promotion of the Sheffield/Sutton installations.

Data: Italy-based UPC has applied to erect 26 two-megawatt (MW) turbines (Gamesa G87 models), each 399 feet high (requiring strobe lights day and night), their rotor blades each sweeping a vertical air space of 1.47 acres. The average output from this 52-MW facility can be expected to be only 25% of its rated capacity, or 13 MW. Because of the cubic relation of output to wind speed below the ideal of 30 mph, however, it would generate at or above that rate only a third of the time, as shown by infeed curves from Germany and Ireland. Its effective capacity, its actual contribution to grid capacity planning, would be about a third of that, or 4.3 MW, since it is nondispatchable, variable, and imprecisely predictable. (This figure of the effective capacity, or capacity credit, of large-scale wind power on the grid is taken from studies by New York, Ireland, the United Kingdom, and Germany, all of them supportive of wind power development; the Irish and German studies also noticed that as more wind power is added to the system, presumably as its penetration approaches the excess capacity that can readily serve to balance its fluctuating infeed, the capacity credit of new turbines approaches zero.)

At 4.3 MW effective capacity, the output from the Sheffield/Sutton plant would represent about two-thirds of one percent of Vermont's current electricity needs. Clearly the negative impacts of such a massive and prominently intrusive facility far outweigh this meager possible benefit.

wind power, wind energy, wind farms, wind turbines, Vermont, environment, environmentalism, ecoanarchism