January 20, 2007

UPC's continuing misinformation

Your editor contributed to a report on Wednesday by Pat Bradley of New York Public Radio station WAMC. She was covering the third version of UPC's plan to erect 16 420-ft 2.5-MW wind turbines on mountain ridges overlooking historic and peaceful rural communities in remote northeast Vermont. Their moving of 2 turbines across a town line seemed to have been timed to overshadow a more dramatic development in one of those affected communities. The town of Barton voted 120-0 (yes: zero) Tuesday night to oppose the project.

In the demand for sacrifice from these communities, for utterly changing their character for very much the worse, one asks "what are we weighing here? It's very clear that wind energy is just not going to make any significant contribution to replacing fossil fuels or reducing greenhouse gas emissions."

Matt Kearns, hired flack for UPC (backed by private equity firms Madison Dearborn Partners of Chicago and D.E. Shaw of New York), calls that statement "one of the disingenuous arguments regarding wind power. One of the issues that we hear is that wind power will not provide an offset to other forms of energy generation or that somehow this won't produce a benefit in terms of the use of some other fuels. Y'know, any green electrons that you add to the grid it means that there's less need to bring on other units that are fossil fuel based."

Then where are the numbers showing a reduction of fossil fuel use due to wind power on the grid? The disingenuous argument is Kearns's, because it claims a result for which it has no data. The evidence (see, e.g., the graph from the International Energy Association of Denmark's fuel use for electricity generation from 1971 to 2003 at National Wind Watch) is clear that large-scale wind has negligible, if any, effect on other sources. This is probably because, although their electricity generation may be displaced, they either must continue burning fuel (less efficiently, i.e., less cleanly) on standby or burn more fuel (again, less efficiently) in more frequent ramping up and down or switching on and off.

Besides, in Vermont almost no electricity comes from fossil fuels.

tags: wind power, wind energy, wind farms, environment, environmentalism, Vermont