May 31, 2006

Wind integration follies

At the end of 2005, the Power Engineering Society (PES) of the Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers (IEEE) published a special issue of its Power & Energy Magazine (Volume 3, Number 6, November/December 2005) focused on integrating wind into the power system. This document provides a brief summary of many of the salient points from that special issue about the current state of knowledge regarding utility wind integration issues.
The May 2006 report ("Utility Wind Integration State of the Art") prepared by the Utility Wind Integration Group (UWIG) has been frequently cited recently as showing that wind power can easily provide 20% of our electricity. In fact it doesn't say that at all. Even their own press release misrepresents the report in that way.

The report does constructively address some of the market structures that complicate integrating a variable and intermittent source of energy such as that from the wind, but it glosses over the fact that such integration has little effect on the use of other sources. Even as it notes that wind is an energy, not a capacity, source -- that is, it can't replace any other source of electricity on the grid, it disregards the costs of keeping that excess capacity on line and using it all that less efficiently, nor does it consider the madness of, for example, calling for building excess, redundant, wind facilities in the dim hope that somewhere the wind will be blowing and for more transmission lines to deliver this marginally useful energy -- instead of spending that money to better use what we already have (or even, damn your eyes, to use less energy).

It also inconveniently declines to provide the sources it refers to ("two major recent studies," "have been shown," "one major study"), instead simply referring to the P&E Magazine. So one reads the UWIG summary with no idea of the reliability of its sources. Here are some extracts, with commentary in brackets.
On the cost side, at wind penetrations of up to 20% of system peak demand, system operating cost increases arising from wind variability and uncertainty amounted to about 10% or less of the wholesale value of the wind energy.
Besides obviously ignoring the cost of the wind plant itself and its supporting transmission infrastructure, it should be noted that this is about cost only. As noted above, the publicizers of the UWIG report have misread this to say that the problems of integrating that amount of wind energy are minimal and even that there are corresponding benefits. But nothing in the UWIG report says that.
Since wind is primarily an energy -- not a capacity -- source, no additional generation needs to be added to provide back-up capability provided that wind capacity is properly discounted in the determination of generation capacity adequacy. However, wind generation penetration may affect the mix and dispatch of other generation on the system over time, since non-wind generation is needed to maintain system reliability when winds are low. [That is, wind does not need new back-up capacity, because it should be generally ignored in capacity planning, anyway (since the wind will be low so often).]

Wind generation will also provide some additional load carrying capability to meet forecasted increases in system demand. This contribution is likely to be up to 40% of a typical project’s nameplate rating, depending on local wind characteristics and coincidence with the system load profile. [Utter fudge. First, typical generation reported to the EIA is 27%. Second, that "depending on" is the starting point of the problem not a minor sideshow.] Wind generation may require system operators to carry additional operating reserves. [Just don't call it new back-up!]

In areas with limited penetration, modern wind plants can be added without degrading system performance.
And there's the crux of the matter. What is "limited penetration"? It certainly isn't 20% of peak demand. As long as wind penetration is low enough so that its variability can be accommodated as easily as demand fluctuations, it doesn't present a problem. And that limits the possible contribution wind power can make to meeting our electricity needs.
Because of spatial variations of wind from turbine to turbine in a wind plant -- and to a greater degree from plant to plant -- a sudden loss of all wind power on a system simultaneously due to a loss of wind is not a credible event. [Hogwash. It is wishful thinking (and more madness: to build more wind turbines to back up other wind turbines, further diminishing their usefulness) and it is not at all borne out by actual experience.]

The addition of a wind plant to a power system does not require the addition of any backup conventional generation since wind is used primarily as an energy resource. In this case, when the wind is not blowing, the system must rely on existing dispatchable generation to meet the system demand.
This contradicts the earlier statement that "[w]ind generation will also provide some additional load carrying capability to meet forecasted increases in system demand." It states that wind has no -- zero -- capacity credit. In other words, it is not a choice between wind turbines and smokestacks or cooling towers. Erect and connect all the wind turbines you can, and you'll still need the same amount of "conventional" plants.
The addition of a wind plant to a power system increases the amount of variability and uncertainty of the net load. This may introduce measurable changes in the amount of operating reserves required for regulation, ramping and load-following. Operating reserves may consist of both spinning and non-spinning reserves.

Wind’s variability cannot be treated in isolation from the load variability inherent in the system. Because wind and load variability are statistically uncorrelated, the net increase of variability due to the addition of wind is less than the variability of the wind generation alone. [Nonsense: The addition of times of high wind generation during low demand (and, to a lesser extent, since wind has zero capacity credit, vice versa) obviously increases load variability.]

Upgrades or additions to transmission facilities may be needed to access locations with large wind-energy potential.
For more information on the actual contributions of wind power and its effect on other sources, see "The Low Benefit of Industrial Wind."

wind power, wind energy, environment, environmentalism

May 30, 2006

"The Evil Within," by Paul Craig Roberts

[published on Counterpunch, May 27]

... Bush damns the "axis of evil." But who has the "axis of evil" attacked? Iran has attacked no one. North Korea has attacked no country for more than a half century. Iraq attacked Kuwait a decade and a half ago, apparently after securing permission from the US ambassador.

Isn't the real axis of evil Bush-Blair-Olmert? Bush and Blair have attacked two countries, slaughtering their citizens. Olmert is urging them on to attack a third country -- Iran.

Where does the danger to the world reside? In Iran, a small religious country where the family is intact and the government is constrained by religious authority and ancient traditions, or in the US where propaganda rules and the powerful executive branch has removed itself from accountability by breaking the constitutional restraints on its power?

Why is the US superpower orchestrating fear of puny Iran?

The US government has spent the past half century interfering in the internal affairs of other countries, overthrowing or assassinating their chosen leaders and imposing its puppets on foreign peoples. To what country has Iran done this, or Iraq, or North Korea?

Americans think that they are the salt of the earth. The hubris that comes from this self-righteous belief makes Americans blind to the evil of their leaders. How can American leaders be evil when Americans are so good and so wonderful?

How many Serbs were slaughtered by American bombs released from high above the clouds, and for what reason? Who even remembers the propagandistic lies that the Clinton administration told us about why we absolutely had to drop bombs on the Serbs?

Wasn't it evil for the US to bomb Iraq for a decade and to embargo medicines for children? When US Secretary of State M. Albright was asked if she thought an embargo that resulted in the deaths of 500,000 Iraqi children was justified, she replied, "yes."

The former terrible tyrant ruler of Iraq, Saddam Hussein, is on trial for killing 150 people. The US government murdered 500,000 Iraqi children prior to Bush's invasion. When the US government murders people, whether Serbs, Branch Davidians at Waco, or Iraqi women and children, it is "collateral damage." But we put Saddam Hussein on trial for putting down rebellions.

Gentle reader, do you believe that the Bush Regime will not shoot you down in the streets if you have a rebellion?


May 25, 2006

Wind turbines part of torture and misinformation mission at Guantánamo

This is in an article from the American Forces Press Service:
Each turbine is anchored in "a giant, swimming pool-sized block of concrete, through which 22 soil anchors are drilled into the mountain," Johnston said. [Navy Cmdr. Jeffrey M. Johnston is the base’s public works officer.] He explained that the soil anchors are sunk 30 to 40 feet deep, then sealed with grout. "So they are essentially nailed to the mountain," he said of the turbines.
The four turbines at Quantánamo are relatively modest 950-KW machines, apparently from NEG Micon, which was absorbed some time ago by Vestas. Turbines over twice their capacity, exceeding 400 feet in height, are being proposed for the wild mountains of the eastern states.

wind power, wind energy, wind turbines, environment, environmentalism, anarchism

May 24, 2006

Nordhaus and Shellenberger are not environmentalists (2)

[Click here for part 1]

Excerpts, part 2, "The Enemy Within," by Mike Roselle, Lowbagger:

What really irks me is not just that it has become fashionable among consultants to argue against using boycotts, legislation, litigation and other confrontational and coercive approaches to going after polluter and despoilers. But that you must also differentiate yourself from those who do. This is accomplished by demeaning the efforts of those very environmental activists who have been out there on the front lines doing the heavy lifting over the last few decades. And we can't just be wrong in our approach; we are also selfish, ignorant, irrational, rich, elite or even worse, we are radical.

There are two problems with this thinking, and the first is that the only reason those corporations are sitting down with Breakthrough or any environmental groups is because they don't want to see those sign-waving hippie scum on their doorsteps. Would The Home Depot be talking to any of us if the Rainforest Action Network hadn't picketed hundreds of their most profitable outlets?

And the second problem is that this attitude by the well heeled, well paid professional environmental consultants serves to de-legitimize those very front line soldiers that we are going to need when the going gets rough. What happens when a company refuses to work with the new compliant environmental movement? We have the carrot, but where is the stick? The public may not identify with environmental or animal rights activists, but companies live in fear of being the target of a well coordinated campaign. It is very easy to make fun of the activists, but without them where would we be? ...

I think it should be quite clear by now that Nordhaus and Shellenberger are not, and never were, environmental activists. They have cast their lot with the promoters, developers and opportunists who have taken up residence under the banner of the environment. It is far easier to sit down with big business and cut deals and to give away more wildlife habitat than it is to stick to your guns on principle. You don't have to fight anybody. You don't have to go out into the community to organize the opposition; you don't have to risk being portrayed by these same corporations as unreasonable and confrontational. Indeed, you look out from your conference room table and agree with these bastards, that yes, these scruffy activists are a well-meaning bunch, but they are not realistic. They don't represent anybody, and we represent the voice of reason.

This is horseshit. The conservation movement is a modern, global, political force with historic roots and a clearly defined mission to protect nature. We understand that the survival of humanity depends on the survival of wilderness and natural diversity. We recognize that far too much of the Earth has been sacrificed for industrial and agricultural development, and this has led us to the brink of a mass extinction event and the onslaught of global warming. Without challenging the dominate paradigm of growth for the sake of growth, and getting serious about protecting habitat, a few more windmills and a new $30,000 car with double the gas mileage is not going to make much difference. By rejecting a government role in addressing the global warming crisis with stronger laws in favor of playing patty-cake with developers and alternative energy hucksters, they are abandoning the most powerful tools for achieving corporate responsibility -- the courthouse and the jailhouse. ...

If we cannot get coal mining and oil drilling under control soon, no amount of wind energy is going to affect global warming. We need to continue to question the rapid growth of the human population, and the loss of bio-diversity. If the Breakthrough Institute were doing more to address these problems rather than just play cheerleader for private sector voluntary acts of environmental sanity, maybe I would believe them. But: I don't.

wind power, wind energy, environment, environmentalism, anarchism, ecoanarchism, animal rights

Nordhaus and Shellenberger are not environmentalists (1)

Excerpts, part 1, "The Enemy Within," by Mike Roselle, Lowbagger:

The Death of Environmentalism [by Ted Nordhaus and Steve Shellenberger of the Breakthrough Institute] was a broadside at the conservation movement disguised as friendly criticism from veteran strategists. Our tactics, which were indeed coercive and confrontational, were ultimately successful. We wanted to forge a new conservation movement that would fight, not roll over, to defend the natural world from industrial development. ...

Breakthrough wants to define a new environmental movement, broader in scope and more willing to come up with solutions and work with businesses to implement them. They suggest we abandon our efforts to get new laws or to use the courts to enforce existing laws, arguing that saving nature is for elitists who don't care for the plight of the poor and the oppressed. ...

According to Breakthrough we need new ones. And so they are going after that well known elitist, demon, plutocrat, Yankee, robber-baron, Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. They’re mad because he wrote a widely published op-ed opposing the Cape Wind project, a group of 130 windmills to be built in Nantucket Sound. Kennedy's opposition was for environmental reasons, which he laid out in his article. This large-scale industrial wind farm is being supported by the Breakthrough Institute and, for some unexplained reason, by other environmental organizations like Greenpeace. It is planned for a popular recreation area, an important fishery and wildlife preserve, not to mention near a busy ship channel. We could certainly disagree about whether or not this was the only possible location for a project that would help stop global warming, or about its environmental impacts, but in his response Shellenberger goes further, and suggests any opposition to the project is from rich and famous celebrities on Martha's Vineyard, similar NIMBY's, or environmental extremists.

I had previously read Kennedy's editorial and found it very convincing. It was written in the language of conservation. He mentions the importance of wilderness and wildlife habitat. [H]e described what he thought were the negative impacts of the proposed project. [T]here were no personal attacks and it was a simple appeal to find a better location. It was a passionate argument against an industrial development ...

The response from the Breakthrough Institute and from a Greenpeace "Energy Campaigner” was swift and personal. Not to mention highly technical and legalistic. Some of the arguments in favor of wind derricks are strikingly similar to Ted Stevens's arguments in favor of derricks in the Arctic. They also avoided the central points of Kennedy's arguments by casting aspersions against his integrity. They never mentioned wilderness or wildlife as a value to be cherished. They state flat out that this project won't affect wildlife or the solitude of the area, and would even be an improvement. They accuse Kennedy of "threatening what is arguably the most important clean energy development in the world while encouraging the already substantial public perception that environmentalists are elitists who only care about protecting their own private playgrounds." ...

I don't have as much money as Bobby Kennedy, but I too have been called an elitist and a NIMBY. So now we have something in common other that our rugged good looks and love for running wild rivers. As far as being an elitist goes, if you are a Kennedy living on Martha's Vineyard, you pretty much have to prepare yourself for that one. But was he really a self-interested, vicious liar who couldn't give a rat's ass for the Earth and who doesn't care about global warming at all? ...

If I were going to award points on poise and style, Robert F. Kennedy would win this one hands down. But I will flat out say it is hypocritical of the Breakthrough Institute for criticizing the environmental movement for demonizing our opponents on one day and then to come back and personally attack Robert Kennedy and other environmentalist the next day and accuse them of being elitists, liars and a threat to the movement.

[F]rom an environmentalist's perspective, large-scale industrial development is not the solution, but is the problem itself. Windmills, although better than oil wells, are no panacea for the energy crisis. We are brushing up against the limits of what the natural resources of this planet will support, and a headlong rush into alternative energy production will not affect global warming unless some aggressive steps are also taken soon to address our overall growth and energy consumption in the so-called developed world. Otherwise, we will have wind farms and solar collectors all over the countryside trying to replace energy consumption that in the beginning was subsidized by burning copious amounts of forests and fossil fuel.

... [I]f we are to settle for large-scale industrial wind and solar projects, the threat of global warming should not be used as an excuse to trample the last good places for recreation or wildlife. It is hard to believe that suddenly the only place suitable for wind generators is also a place that has been considered for a wildlife refuge for endangered whales.

[Click here for part 2]

wind power, wind energy, environment, environmentalism, anarchism, ecoanarchism, animal rights

Derelict wind derricks

From a lawsuit in Abilene, Texas:
Dale Rankin et al. vs. FPL Energy et al.
Filed Feb 24, 2006, District Court of Taylor County, Texas

IV. Background Facts

61. The huge wind turbines in this project will produce very little electricity, and that electricity is of less value than electricity produced by reliable coal and gas fired generating plants. This means that when the government subsidies ... run out, Plaintiffs and others similarly situated in Taylor County are likely to be confronted by a poorly maintained and deteriorating wind energy facility that may one day become derelict because ... the provision in the lease agreements for the dismantling of non-operational turbines is not absolute.

South Point, Hawaii

The primary plaintiff in the Texas case has noted in correspondence that there is a gaping loophole in the lease that FPL Energy had landowners sign. It is normal to include a "decommissioning" fund to remove the turbines, towers, and the top part of their foundations and restore the land (except for the bulk of the foundations). This is to comfort the landowner that the company is serious about meeting the obligation to remove everything. Anything three feet or so below the surface, however, including the miles of transmission cable, is usually to be left. Nor are the roads that fragment the land required to be removed. If the Tug Hill lease from PPM (Scottish Power) is typical, the amount deposited in the fund is determined by an "independent" expert chosen by the company, and potential scrap value is deducted. In other words, when the company is long gone, the money in that fund will be meager indeed.

Back to FPL's loophole, Dale Rankin noted that if the turbines are mortgaged and later foreclosed on, then the mortgagee is not bound to remove them. Considering that a third of the federal tax benefits are used up in six years and the other two-thirds last ten years, but the leases are for 25-30 years and wind turbines are very expensive to maintain, this situation is very likely.

That leaves the landowner with exactly what paragraph 61 in the suit asserts is likely and the derelict turbines at South Point on Hawaii stand testament to.

wind power, wind energy, wind farms, wind turbines

May 22, 2006

East Haven survey suspect

George Willy, proprietor of East Burke's Village Inn, wrote in Friday's Caledonian Record about the unreliable survey showing that a majority of the people (or at least property owners, if not residents) of East Haven support four giant turbines on East Mountain (if not 46 more planned for ridges closer to the village). The survey was made quite some time ago, but people still cite it as valid.

Willy described his efforts to get information about the survey. The town select board presented it as theirs, but he learned that it was created, conducted, and tallied by the developer. The town clerk had no record of the select board's involvement and no information about the survey's creation and methodology. Willy also discovered that not all property owners and residents received the survey, known opponents having been apparently left out.

This is certainly no surprise. The wind developers are adept deniers of reality. Just as they insist there are no negative impacts from industrial wind, they insist there is no opposition by both ignoring and insulting it. That's their business, however cognitively dissonant their approach, but it most definitely should not be the method for politicians and environmentalists who promote wind. The job of these individuals is to protect the people and the environment from those with power (i.e., money), not the other way around.

The other way around is fascism, or corporatism, as Mussolini proudly characterized it.

wind power, wind energy, Vermont, environment, environmentalism, anarchism, anarchosyndicalism, ecoanarchism, animal rights

It's not easy being green and supporting industrial wind, too

To the editor, Rutland (Vt.) Herald:

It is good to read that the Rutland Herald recognizes that, like any energy producer, industrial-scale wind power has serious environmental and social costs (editorial, May 20). The task, then, is to weigh those costs along with the financial expense against the actual contribution such a source can practically make.

As the Rutland Herald also recognizes, "even the industrial wind farms [Gov. James Douglas] opposes barely cut into the state's demand for electricity."

Yet, ignoring this information that they themselves have placed before their own and our eyes, the Herald criticizes Douglas's opposition to industrial wind in Vermont as "a short-term argument."

Look again: high costs, low benefit. If you're serious about our long-term energy plans, it's time to stop talking about industrial wind as anything more than a predatory boondoggle.

wind power, wind energy, Vermont, environment, environmentalism

May 19, 2006

Tilting at turbine foes in Vermont

To the Editor, Vermont Guardian:

So the Free Press thinks clean coal and nuclear power are better options than wind for providing Vermont's electricity in the future. Yet they are accused of burying their head in the sand about energy issues. True, they have not published editorials about clean coal and nuclear power. That is because those are not currently being debated throughout the state, with ten large projects newly threatening dozens of towns. It is clear that the wind power industry considers the Free Press to be ignoring energy issues only for writing off wind power as an obvious boondoggle.

As David Blittersdorf himself is quoted as saying, there is no silver bullet. It is not an either/or question, yet Vermont Guardian implies exactly that in connecting the Free Press's rejection of wind power with their reported interest in clean coal and support for nuclear.

Industrial-scale wind power can be debated on its own costs and benefits. It is irrelevant and dishonest to change the subject to nuclear power (one can oppose both) or, for another common example, to the number of birds killed by cars. Even in the larger debate about electricity (let alone the four-fifths of Vermont's energy use that is not electric), there are, as Blittersdorf mentions, peaking and base load plants. Nuclear and coal plants make up the latter, and wind power would have nothing to do with their level of use, even if hundreds of redundant wind facilities are built in the hope that somewhere the wind is blowing.

Proponents of industrial-scale wind power want to bury everyone's head in the sand.

If you reject the idea of 400-ft-high machines flashing on prominent ridges, producing no power at all a third of the time, a trickle another third of the time, and at or above their 25% average output only the remaining third of the time, you are accused of ignoring energy issues.

If you reject badly worded surveys in the conviction as well that the people who actually have to live with the noise and vibration and ecological degradation from the machines are the only ones whose opinion might be informed and relevant, then you are denying reality.

If you note that the intermittency (see above) is defended as unproblematic because the fluctuating contribution from wind would be inconsequential to the larger grid, and therefore you wonder how anyone could justify building on vigorously protected sites for such an inconsequential power source, then you are ignorant of the facts.

A debate based on facts is exactly what promoters of the wind industry do not want. Blinded in their lust to develop what remains of our wild places, to take for profit what belongs to all of us, they lash out at all who question them. That is to be expected. That the Vermont Guardian joins them in that endeavor is sad, even disgusting.

wind power, wind energy, Vermont, environment, environmentalism, anarchism, ecoanarchism

May 18, 2006

"All the eco-news that's fit to sell ads"

Andrew Leonard wrote yesterday in his "How the World Works" column for Salon about a special "green business" section in the New York Times, filled with smarmy ads from the likes of Wal-Mart, GM, Shell, and ADM. He remarks on the greenwashing it promotes and the obvious fact that it is an advertising supplement pretending to be objective editorial content (there's even an article about "eco-ads"!), and he is remarkably perceptive about the fact that this business is part of, not an alternative to, the whole model of economic growth that threatens the environment so egregiously.
There's also a more fundamental snake-eating-its-own-tail problem. The general tone of the section is hopeful, packed with tales of environmentalists and business executives working together, full of heartwarming news about advances in energy efficiency, renewable technologies and corporate commitments to social responsibility. But it would have been nice to have just one essay exploring the question of whether environmental destruction is built into the deep structure of the current global economy. Nowhere is the possibility raised that even as some slivers of society in the developed world are beginning to understand the importance of sustainable development, rampaging economic growth in countries such as China and India threatens to utterly overwhelm what little, incremental progress is being made in, say, Northern California or Sweden. ... [A]ny discussion of "the business of green" ought to tackle directly the fundamental problem: Economic growth, historically speaking, is an eco-killer.
environment, environmentalism, anarchism, anarchosyndicalism, ecoanarchism

Hull wind facts

The following is from the Hull wind website:
Hull Wind 2, a Vestas V80 - 1.8 Megawatt turbine has been installed in Hull!
The new turbine will produce 5 million kWhs every year.
And right below it are data from Hull Wind 1 that call into question that claim:
May 8, 2006
6,853,738 kWhs
Capacity Factor: 27.1%
Days Commissioned: 1594
Total Hours Generating: 25403
After more than 4 years (1,594 ÷ 365), Hull 1 has generated electricity only 66% of the time (25,403 hours ÷ [1,594 days × 24 hours]) and its capacity factor is 27% (6,853,738 kWh ÷ [1,594 days × 24 hours × 660 kW]), yet in complete denial of that fact, a capacity factor of 31.5% is projected for Hull 2 (5 million kWh ÷ [1,800 kW × 365 days × 24 hours]).

The 15% exaggeration may not seem like much, but with such a marginal power source it is indeed significant. In fact, 27% is the average capacity factor voluntarily reported by wind facilities in the U.S. to the Energy Information Agency, and since those reports apparently allow discounting turbines that are temporarily broken down the actual capacity factors are lower. Yet promoters continue to claim that new facilities will have capacity factors of 30-40%. Then when the turbines are up and running, it's on to the next project and if the actual output actually becomes known, why, new technology will have a much higher capacity factor, yes, don't dwell on the past, let's move on.

And let us return to the other aspect of that output that is problematic on the grid (where large-scale storage is impractical): the fact that one third of the time wind turbines are idle (from either too little or too much wind). Related to this is the fact that from the "cut-in" wind speed up to the "rated" wind speed -- at which the generator's output reaches its full capacity, typically around 30 mph -- the output is cubically related to the wind speed. That is, if the wind speed doubles the power output increases by 8. The result is that in addition to being idle a third of the time, another third of the time wind turbines produce power below their already low average rate.

In other words, whatever the capacity factor is (from historical experience it would be expected to be 20-30%), that level of output is seen only one third of the time.

wind power, wind energy, wind turbines, environment, environmentalism

May 15, 2006

Cape Wind: shoveling public money into private pockets

A new Beacon Hill Institute report on Cape Wind cash flow over the projected 25-year life of the facility found that 77% of the construction costs will be paid for by subsidies and tax credits, i.e., by the public, or 48% of its operating revenues. Only 20% of that public money will be returned to the public (in tax payments). Meanwhile, the analysis found, Cape Wind's investors will enjoy a 25% return on their equity.

Only 54% of the facility's revenue will be from electricity sales. Thirty-one percent will be from the sale of Massachusetts green credits, 11% from the federal 10-year production tax credit, and 4% from federal accelerated depreciation.

The press release is available here, and a 200-KB PDF of the report is available here.

Note to investors: Don't count on that 25% return. This analysis apparently uses projected production figures from the Cape Wind company itself, which are grossly inflated. They're lying to you, too.

wind power, wind energy, environment, environmentalism, anarchism, anarchosyndicalism, ecoanarchism

May 13, 2006

Pointless poll on wind energy

WCAX-TV of Burlington, Vt., focused their telephone poll this week on wind energy, with all of one very leading and one almost meaningless question.
QUESTION: Do you favor or oppose wind turbines as a way to offset the rising costs of fuel prices and electricity rates?
Who wrote these questions?! The evidence is if rates change at all they only go up. And it is our taxes that already pay for two-thirds of the cost of erecting wind energy facilities. The developers and their investors win. You lose.
QUESTION: Would you favor or oppose wind turbines if they can be seen from your property? (Note: Question only asked of those who responded "favor" in previous question.)
Once again, there is no effort to find out the respondent's knowledge level or even if they are anywhere near a proposed project. The question should be, "Knowing that they are 330-420 feet tall, are constantly moving, create noise and vibration day and night, cause light and shadow flicker, must be sited on prominent ridge lines (where their blades, with a tip speed of up to 180 mph, endanger birds and bats and the the noise disturbs other wildlife), require clearance of several acres and a deep foundation of thousands of tons of cement and steel for each tower, and that wide strong roads have to be cut through already dwindling and fragmented habitat -- all for an intermittent and variable power source that averages only a fourth of its rated capacity but reaches that average level only a third of the time, meaning its effect on other sources is minimal and perhaps even causes an increase of harmful emissions -- do you favor or oppose the erection of industrial wind turbines in Vermont?"

wind power, wind energy, wind farms, wind turbines, Vermont, environment, environmentalism, anarchism, ecoanarchism, animal rights

May 12, 2006

Delahunt: Cape Wind averse to rules

Democratic Congressman William Delahunt of Massachusetts writes in today's Boston Herald:

Recently, some have suggested that Congress is trying to change the rules of the game for the developers of the wind farm proposed for Nantucket Sound. ...

When Jim Gordon and Cape Wind applied [in 2001] for a permit with the Army Corps of Engineers, ... he possessed no clear legal right to build a wind farm in federal waters. Congress only authorized the development of such facilities in federal waters last August. ...

The emergence of the Cape Wind project and others prompted Congress last year to authorize creation of a policy for offshore wind farms. The rules are now being written by the Minerals Management Service and will most likely call for wind farm sites to be chosen based on a consultation process with states. The rules will no doubt require wind projects to avoid marine sanctuaries, participate in a transparent competitive bidding process and
ensure that the rights to use federal waters produce tax revenues. ...

Tucked away in the energy bill that was signed into law last year was a cleverly written, innocuous provision that would exempt Cape Wind from many rules now being written to regulate emerging wind farms -- specifically, federal competitive bidding requirements. ...

Cape Wind has morphed into a no-bid deal, engineered in secret and financed with $1 billion in taxpayer and ratepayer subsidies [annually]. ...

The so-called "exhaustive process" that Cape Wind claims it has participated in has been extensively criticized by the U.S. Oceans Commission, the Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Interior.

Cape Wind's draft Environmental Impact Statement ... earned EPA's lowest grade. Interior's criticisms are over 50 pages long. ...

With respect to the substance of the Coast Guard provisions, Congress has already established a precedent by giving our governors and the Coast Guard the authority to veto and regulate offshore LNG projects. Nobody is suggesting that was a mistake.

Let's not forget that 30 years ago it was the people of the Cape and Islands who convinced Massachusetts to designate all of Nantucket Sound an ocean sanctuary. It was the state that designated much of this area off-limits to development, and nominated it for national sanctuary protection.

wind power, wind energy, environment, environmentalism

Canada taking low-frequency noise from wind turbines seriously

A Canadian Press article yesterday described the issue of low-frequency sound from wind turbine facilities. The problem has been raised by the case of the D'Entremonts, formerly of Lower West Pubnico, Nova Scotia, who started feeling ill as soon as the neighboring facility began operation.
"The noise is unbearable," [Daniel d'Entremont] says from Abrams River, the nearby community he recently relocated to with his wife and four of his six children.

"It's like a surround sound -- you can't avoid it, you can't ignore it. It just comes right into your head." ...

He says his family couldn't sleep, his children were constantly tired and suffering headaches, and nobody in the house could concentrate.

The d'Entremont family's complaints touch on a little-known -- and little-studied -- debate over whether inaudible sounds from wind farms can cause health problems for residents living nearby.

While the operator of the wind farm brushes off the family's claims, experts say vibrations from the turbines embedded deep into the ground have the potential to affect the health of some.

And new sound testing commissioned by the federal government hopes to offer more insight into what, if anything, is happening at d'Entremont's home. ...

"Around wind turbines, it appears there are always some people who are very disturbed by them," Dr. Nina Pierpont says from her office in Malone, N.Y.

"It's not everybody, so it creates a lot of controversy."

"When the exposure is inside a house, occurring 24 hours a day, even if the sound intensity is less, there is potential to produce serious pathology."
Charles Demond, president of the Pubnico wind company, insists the facility conforms to existing laws, but that's exactly the point: The laws do not consider the inaudible frequencies generated by the giant machines. Even the noise regulations for audible noise are inadequate for the rural areas in which wind plants are usually erected, especially as the turbines are more active and the noise more intrusive at night.
Michael Sharpe, another Dalhousie University audiologist, says even if someone isn't affected directly by low-frequency noise, the constant swoosh of the blades, even at allowable levels, can have psychological effects.

"If the sound is audible and it annoys you, then it can seem louder," says Sharpe, who compares it to a dripping tap that can keep someone awake at night.

"As your stress level increases, your awareness of the annoying sound increases as well. As we know, elevated stress levels for a prolonged period of time can have a negative health effect."
wind power, wind energy, wind farms, wind turbines

May 11, 2006

"Cape Wind, oil, gasoline and outrage"

The economics of electricity are complex, but two things about it are obvious yet unmentioned in Charles Kleekamp's flaccid commentary in today's Barnstable (Mass.) Register (he's vice president of Clean Power Now). First, if wind power is cheap to the grid (which it has to be, since it is so variable and intermittent that it is almost worthless), it is because we have already paid for two-thirds of it with our taxes (while the developer and his investors pocket all of the profits, particularly those not from energy but from renewable energy certificates). Second, when was the last time your electric rate went down -- it is an unlikely event.

The other thrust of Kleekamp's piece is explaining how wind power in New England will make us less dependent on foreign oil. But he notes that what is used to generate electricity is residual fuel oil, that is, the sludge left over from refining gasoline and diesel. Even if wind power could reduce the use of other sources (a debatable point), it would not reduce the demand for gasoline and diesel and therefore would not affect our use of foreign oil.

Kleekamp also mentions that fear helps drive up the price of oil. The instability and antagonism towards the U.S. in so many oil-rich countries (not to mention the continuing growth of domestic demand) are direct results of the policies (and outright invasions) promoted by the oilmen who run (or is that "ruin") our country. Armageddon is obviously very good for business. It gives knuckleheads like Kleekamp something to do, too.

wind power, wind energy, anarchism, anarchosyndicalism, ecoanarchism

Homeland Security Halts Wind Energy Hubris

Das Ministerium der Heimatsicherheit has halted all wind power projects within the range of military defense radars until they complete a study of effects and possible mitigation, which may be done by this fall (don't hold your breath -- in fact, take advantage of the breathing space). This has inspired the FAA to hold off on approvals as well where wind facilities may interfere with airport radar and communication.

In response, a long rambling collection of non sequiturs from Renew Wisconsin culminated in the farcical declaration by their executive director, Michael Vickerman, that "the terrorists have already won the war." My goodness.

wind power, wind energy, environment, environmentalism

May 9, 2006

Another company misinformed or misinforming about wind energy

Tom's of Maine announced in January that they have moved to "100% renewable wind energy":
Using renewable wind energy to power our manufacturing and fulfillment facility will reduce our carbon dioxide emissions by 1.5 million pounds per year ...

As of January 31, 2006, the energy procured for Tom’s of Maine 100,000 square foot manufacturing facility in Sanford, Maine, will be generated by the Ainsworth Wind Energy Facility in Nebraska. The 100% Wind Renewable Energy Certificate [REC] product is certified by the Green-e certification program administered by the Center for Resource Solutions. Tom’s is purchasing 130,000 kilowatt hours of energy per month or approximately 1,150 megawatts per year of renewable energy certificates from the wind farm. This purchase will avoid the emission of more than 1,587,000 lbs. of carbon dioxide pollution each year.
Obviously, Tom's of Maine is not getting their electricity from Nebraska. They're still getting the same electricity they did before from their own local utility, which they continue to pay for. What they're buying are only the renewable energy certificates of the wind energy generated by the plant in Nebraska.

In other words, Tom's is using the same electricity from the same sources as before, and the Nebraska wind plant's energy is still being sold into the grid over there. Nothing is changed by Tom's purchase of the RECs. The claim of reducing "our carbon dioxide emissions by 1.5 million pounds per year" is delusional.

If (that's a big "if") wind power reduces the emissions from other sources, then the Nebraska plant is doing so by selling their power into the grid, not by selling RECs.

Tom's heart is in the right place, but they are fooling themselves -- or their customers -- to believe they have moved to any wind energy at all, let alone "100% renewable wind energy."

wind power, wind energy, wind farms, environment, environmentalism, sustainability, green energy, green living, green business, carbon offset, ecoanarchism


My modest solutions, such as spreading straw and growing clover, create no pollution. They are effective because they eliminate the source of the problem. Until the modern faith in big technological solutions can be overturned, pollution will only get worse.

-- Masanobu Fukuoka
The One-Straw Revolution

environment, environmentalism, anarchism, ecoanarchism

May 8, 2006

Against wind power in Skye

Responding to the recruitment by the opposition group SWAG of notorious defense lawyer Giovanni di Stefano, Moira Macdonald of Skeabost and District Community Council (which has been hoping to get their own industrial wind plant) reminded the BBC today that a ballot of Edinbane residents last July found 57% in favor of the ill-conceived wind power facility in northern Skye:
"It is clear that there are people within the community who are ignoring the wishes of the majority and attempting to enforce their own minority view by any means possible."
As with all such surveys, the majority will not be directly effected by the wind turbines. As with all issues of civil rights, it is the experience of the minority that must be considered. Also crucial is the impact on those who have no voice at all: the animals. It is therefore not to be dismissed that 30% of the respondents were against the project. The only votes that should matter are of the people who must live with the machines every day. Or perhaps Mrs. Macdonald believes in the mob rule instead.

wind power, wind energy, wind farms, anarchism, animal rights

May 7, 2006

Offshore wind power construction harms dolphins

The noise of construction at offshore wind power facilities adversely affects dolphin behavior, according to research published in the quarterly Water and Environment Journal. The author, J.A. David, writes that industrial noise, particularly pile driving, interferes with the dolphins' echo-location and thus their ability to navigate, find food, and avoid predators. This can seriously impair their health and their ability to breed successfully. Lactating females and young calves are especially vulnerable.

This paper may be part of on-going research by industry and government in the U.K. into the impacts of large offshore wind power facilities. Its focus is the unique noises of construction and does not examine the effects of vibration and noise from the regular operation of the giant machines. One recalls the story from last year about hundreds of seals apparently affected by the wind turbines on Scroby Sands, with babies being born dead and live ones being abandoned.

One also wonders where Greenpeace is on this issue.

wind power, wind energy, wind farms, wind turbines, environment, environmentalism, animal rights

May 6, 2006

Conservation Law Foundation ignores standards

The Associated Press report of Thursday's arguments before the Vermont Public Service Board over constructing wind turbines in East Haven (for which the hearing officer recommended denial of permission) describes the testimony of one supporter of the project.
Sandra Levine, a CLF [Conservation Law Foundation] lawyer, told the board she frequently climbs Hunger Mountain in Worcester, which is near her home. From the summit, she can see ski trails and power lines. She wanted to know why those weren't visual blight but wind power is. "I'm concerned now that we're holding wind turbines to a higher standard," Levine said.
Is she now a supporter of ski trails and power lines? Would she support developing the top of Hunger Mountain with ski trails and power lines? Would she support a line of 250-foot-high towers with 150-foot-long rotating wings attached to bus-sized generator housings, all anchored in huge holes filled with thousands of tons of cement and steel -- along with strong and straight access roads and power lines and clearcutting -- on the top of Hunger Mountain, or all along the Worcester and Northfield mountains?

Wind turbines are not being held to a higher standard. They are huge and uniquely intrusive (don't forget the noise and vibration and the effect on wildlife as well as humans), and they particularly target ridgelines which are rigorously protected.

We would have to be in desperate straits, and wind power would have to be an incredibly beneficial technology, to consider erecting industrial power plants on the ridgelines. But we have hardly begun to seriously reduce our energy demand, and wind power has in fact proved to be almost useless in supplying the grid. Industrial wind power is a symptom of waste and sprawl, not part of a solution. Rather than being held to higher standards, developers and their agents complain that they are being held to any standards at all.

It is understandable that predatory capitalists, abetted by lazy politicians, push these things. But that organizations like CLF, VPIRG, and Greenpeace willfully fall for the sales pitch is disturbing indeed.

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

May 5, 2006

Green tags: breathtaking gall, deflating gullibility

Activewear marketer Prana (which means "breath," in the sense of "spirit" or "life-force," in Sanskrit) has clambered on to the "100% wind powered" charade with its "Natural Power" initiative. The goal of offsetting the negative environmental impacts of the company's activities is commendable. The use of renewable energy certificates, or green tags, from wind power, however, makes it a sham.

Even the symbol of the initiative is misleading: an old wind-powered water pump, which never had anything to do with electricity, let alone transport and heating (electricity being only one source of emissions).

Consumer excitement about "offsetting" one's carbon emissions (without, of course, giving anything up except a few spare dollars) is understandable. When it involves actually planting trees, insulating roofs, or switching to compact fluorescents, or even buying renewable energy where one's utility makes it available, it is worthwhile. But the willful self-deception of buying green tags is inexcusable.

On Prana's web site they write, "Wind generated power is a clean, renewable source of energy which produces no greenhouse gas emissions or waste products." That is an obviously simplistic statement. Greenhouse gases and waste are indeed produced during the manufacture, transport, construction, and maintenance of wind turbines. Acres of trees, often in ecologically vital interior forests, are cut down for each tower, access roads, and transmission infrastructure. Hundreds of gallons of lubricating and cooling oil in each turbine must be periodically replaced (and often leaks). The giant rotor blades are often destroyed by wind, lightning, and fire.

Prana goes on to explain how they offset their electricity use (although not the energy used in transport and heating):

Prana has committed to offsetting approximately 6,000,000 kilowatt hours, or 100% of the electricity generated to power 250 retail locations nationwide by supporting the generation of an equal amount of renewable energy by purchasing US EPA approved Renewable Energy Certificates, also known as 'RECs' or 'Green Tags'. ...

Generating electricity from wind still costs more than generating it from fossil fuel sources, in spite of exciting advancement in wind energy technology [i.e., the towers and rotor blades get bigger --Ed.]. The additional funds provided to renewable energy generators through the purchase of certificates by Prana and others provide critical additional financial incentive for project expansion and future development.
There it is: The sale of green tags simply provides an extra income stream to the generator. It does not add wind power to the grid. It does not offset anything, because the energy (along with the benefits it represents) has entered the grid anyway. It's lovely to donate extra money to wind power companies (such as GE, Florida Power & Light, Goldman Sachs, and J.P. Morgan) if you believe they need it or you think it relieves your energy-use guilt. But you cannot claim that you are offsetting the electricity you use (which doesn't change). You cannot claim that you are "100% wind powered."

The purchase of green tags does not cause any more or less wind power to enter the grid. Nor does it cause any more or less conventional power to be used. As Prana themselves clarify, "The electricity will continue to be uninterrupted even when the wind isn't blowing. As always, the retail locations are still connected to the respective regional electricity systems."

Enron invented the accounting trick that allows separating the actual energy generated by a renewable source from its "environmental attributes." This essentially allowed them to sell wind energy twice. Prana uncritically describes this absurd fraud:
Renewable energy has two components: the energy commodity and the corresponding green power attribute. The Energy Commodity is the actual electricity produced at facilities that generate the renewable electricity. The electricity generated is sold as conventional/generic (market) power stripped of its environmental benefits, or attributes. No environmental claims can be made on this power, because it is separate from the associated environmental benefits that are at the center of a Renewable Energy Certificate.
In other words, the energy goes into the grid whether or not its green tags are sold, but it's only "green" when the tags are sold. It's magic!

And although the energy is already used, only the buyers of the green tags, which cost a fraction of what the actual energy costs, get to be able to say they "use green energy." Elaborate accreditation and certification processes ensure that none of the many brokers blunder and knock over the house of cards.

Prana again:
It is not possible to send the electricity directly to store facilities or any other specific end user location because of the nature of the electricity grid. ... Once renewable electricity is delivered to the electric grid, it mixes with power from other generating plants. This means the actual electricity generated from 'green' sources cannot be directed to a specific home or business.
Either the energy has environmental benefits or it doesn't. If it does, that is because it enters the grid, not because RECs are sold. (sigh)

wind power, wind energy, wind farms, Vermont, environment, environmentalism, sustainability, green energy, green living, green business, carbon offset, ecoanarchism

May 3, 2006

Wind energy promoters take advantage of state-issued Non-Veracity Licenses

On energy giant Gruppo UPC's Sheffield Wind site, the following statements are made: "More people turned out for the non-binding referendum in support of UPC’s project in Sheffield than voted in the last presidential election. A strong majority [sic] voted in favor of the project (120-93). An opinion poll conducted after the election showed that people favored the project because it provided clean, renewable energy and a positive economic impact for the town."

Notice the trickiness of that last sentence. It does not say that the poll corroborated the vote but only describes the reasons given for those who "favored" the project.

In fact, the question was whether one would like to see none, less, the same, or more wind development in Sheffield. It was part of a general survey along with other items such as agriculture and cell towers and the reasons one chooses to live in the town (or township, as it would be called in other places). In contrast to UPC's statement, it did not specify the project. The level of wind development in Sheffield is currently none, so UPC's agents campaigned vigorously to make sure people understood that support of their project required a "more" vote.

Nevertheless, the result was that only 40% (69 of 173) wanted to to see wind development. Forty-five percent (78 of 173) clearly chose "none," and the rest chose "less" (8) or "the same" (18), which meant in effect "none." Hence the slipperiness of the statement on the UPC web site. And even that is dishonest, because the survey gave no indication of the reasons people made their choices. UPC's spin is simple projection of their, well, their own spin.

That 2-1 rejection of industrial-scale wind power corroborated a survey the year before in which 79% of the residents and property owners -- 346 out of 436 -- signed a petition from Ridge Protectors against UPC's project.

The vote of 120-93 (56%-44%, hardly a "strong" majority) was clearly the aberration, and it followed a "grass roots" organizing campaign run by a Burlington advertising firm hired by UPC and apparent outright vote buying. The developer's tactics clearly served as a wake-up call, and the vote was corrected in the subsequent poll.

Another example on the web site of the developer's deceit is hidden in their output projections. By calculating back, one can determine that they are based on a capacity factor of 32%, even though the actual experience in the U.S., including Vermont, is less than four-fifths of that, around 25%.

As a correspondent from Malone, N.Y., has quipped, wind power promoters carry a Non-Veracity License (NVL) stamped for a nominal fee by the secretary of state. That's why they're taken seriously. The law requires that they not be questioned.

wind power, wind energy, wind farms, Vermont, anarchism, anarchosyndicalism, ecoanarchism