June 28, 2006

Scudder Parker running for wind turbine salesman

Scudder Parker for Governor:
My Vision for Vermont's Energy Future


Just as healthcare is a right, not a privilege, I believe that all Vermonters have shared, basic rights concerning energy.

Vermont Energy Empowerment Principles
  • Reliability: All Vermonters should have access to secure and reliable heat, electricity and transportation, even in the face of external problems such as market changes, supply disruptions or political instability abroad.

  • Security: All Vermonters (individuals, communities and businesses) should be able to stay warm, keep the lights on, and get from one place to another without having to sacrifice other basic needs.

  • Responsibility: Vermonters have the right to an energy supply that reflects concern for economic strength, the environment and their communities.

  • Leadership ...
Energy problems facing Vermont have been left unaddressed:
  • Rising energy costs and price volatility.

  • Higher demand, fewer traditional resources, looming threat of Peak Oil.

  • End of contracts with Hydro-Québec and Vermont Yankee.

  • Negative effects of global warming theaten Vermont's economy (i.e.: ski industry, maple trees, agriculture).

  • Unreliable and strained electric grid.
... [T]he Douglas administration has proposed wind-siting regulations that are the most sweeping and complex of any regulations in the history of the state.

... In my first year in office, I will help businesses stabilize energy costs and create jobs by implementing the following: ... A plan to promote -- not discourage -- renewable energy, including wind, thus creating more jobs and protecting our environment.
Most of what Parker says and proposes is spot on (about health care, too). But his "leadership" on wind power has obviously been hijacked by the industry. Tom Gray of the American Wind Energy Association, after all, is a county chairman of the Vermont Democratic Party. The comments below pertain only to electricity and the push for big wind (Parker doesn't even mention home generation).

Reliability: Wind turbines generate only two-thirds of the time. They generate at or above their annual average (which is 21% of capacity at Searsburg) only one-third of the time. They respond to the minute-to-minute fluctuations of the wind, not to user demand.

Security: Not only will industrial wind facilities not "keep the lights on" (see Reliability, above), their erection requires many Vermonters to "sacrifice other basic needs," such as health, wildness, and rural tranquility.

Responsibility: Two-thirds or more of the cost of erecting industrial wind facilities is paid for by tax- and ratepayers to ensure handsome returns for private investors. Yet they do not add reliability or security to the electrical supply.

Rising and volatile prices: As they have discovered in Judith Gap, Montana, wind power on the grid has added substantial variability to the system which must be balanced by increased purchase of energy on the spot market.

Fewer resources: Vermont uses almost no fossil fuel for electricity. Even if we did, wind's intermittency and variability ensure that the use of other fuels is not reduced. Germany, with about a third of the world's installed wind capacity, is planning new coal plants as much as ever.

End of contract and license: The contract with Hydro-Québec will have to be renewed. How hard is that? And though it ought to be shut down, there's no sign that Vermont Yankee is going to be.

Global warming: In Vermont, our greenhouse gas emissions have almost nothing to do with electricity. They're from transport and heating, which Parker does address. In the realm of electricity, however, this issue requires a national and global effort to reduce consumption and clean up generation. New more sustainable sources of energy will be a part of that, but industrial wind power is a symbolic but ultimately meaningless and destructive sideshow.

Strained grid: See Reliability, above. Giant wind turbines will strain it even more, with huge surges and dips that are largely unpredictable.

Regulations: Vermont's environmental law, Act 250, effectively prevents development of the upper elevations and ridgelines of our mountains. Many towns have zoning laws further protecting such areas. But those are precisely the locations targeted by wind developers. In the Section 248 guidelines for public utilities, there was no mention of the special circumstances of large-scale wind plant siting. The state Agency of Natural Resources (ANR) determined that industrial wind was incompatible with its mission to preserve state lands for the benefit of all Vermonters. They also emphasize the unique ecosystems of higher elevations and the importance of keeping them undeveloped. As for the public service board, the "sweeping and complex" changes essentially require better public notification and allow a greater area for intervenors, since the sites would be prominent and the machines are so large (and, day and night, move and are lit), and specify that the ANR is an automatic intervenor.

Naturally, the industry does not want a fair process. They want one that they control, like they apparently control Scudder Parker's thinking about big wind. They want us to swallow their pablum about energy costs, jobs, and the environment and not have to show any evidence to back up their claims. They want to industrialize Vermont's mountaintops and don't want any one questioning the usefulness, much less the wisdom, of it.

wind power, wind energy, environment, environmentalism, Vermont, animal rights