December 28, 2008

La nueva Conquista: Parques eólicos en Oaxaca

En el mes de noviembre de 2008 se llevo a cabo el Encuentro Voces y resistencias para comentar las diversas problemáticas que atraviesan los pueblos de Oaxaca por los proyectos neoliberales y capitalistas que se imponen sin consentimiento en la zona. El encuentro tuvo cita en Juchitan Oaxaca cabecera municipal de esta región donde el aire atrajo no un proyecto ambiental como podría pensarse de la energía eolica, sino de la ambición mezquina de interés capitalistas (como la familia del fallecido Secretario de Gobernación Camilo Murino.

Estas empresas en su mayoría europeas están aprovechándose de la pésima situación en que viven los campesinos debido a las malas políticas de los gobernantes, para vender o rentar su tierra por poco dinero y rompiendo así el tejido social comunitario, debido a la migración y la desigualdad económica.

La forma en que se han llevado a cabo esta nueva conquista ocupa la mentira y el engaño hacia los ejidatarios y campesinos. Los beneficios de la tecnología ocupada no es para el goce colectivo sino de unos cuantos.

Cuando pasó el recorrido de la Otra Campaña, eran menos de 10 transformadores eolicos introducidos por la Comisión Federal de Electricidad, dos anos mas tarde son cientos de transformadores cerca de centros poblacionales, así como zonas agrícolas y de pastizal.

Pero los problemas no paran ahí, por todo Oaxaca, así como en todo el país, la política del gobierno es un diseño de la política global neoliberal, que quiere despojar a los campesinos de su tierra y convertirlos en los miserables de las ciudades. No comprende ni admite las formas y tradiciones democráticas de las comunidades indígenas, no busca el beneficio.

Lunes 29 de diciembre de 2008

Wind energy multimillionaires: "immoral, unjust, scandalous"

This is a translation, as near as I can make it out, from an interview with Roberto García, Secretary general of Unións Agrarias, in the Dec. 26 El Pais (click the title of this post for the Spanish original).

"It is immoral, unjust, scandalous, that in making multimillionaires from wind energy development, the Xunta [Galicia, Spain] takes its percentage of business, the contractors talk of how much they are going to reinvest in replacing Ence in the area and creating who knows how many companies, and the only ones left with nothing are the landowners of Chousas and Leiras, where the wind blows at a certain speed, where they will install the windmills."

"Isn't that standard for industry?"

"They have expropriated our land by emergency and we have no other choice than to go to trial on a question that should have been part of that standard. Our farms are not valued for the toxos, only for the value of the air passing through at a certain speed."

wind power, wind energy, human rights

December 24, 2008

Against Utilitarianism

There is nothing truly beautiful but that which can never beof anyuse whatsoever; everything useful is ugly, for it is the epxression of some need, and man's needs are ignoble and disgusting like hos own poor and infirm nature. The most useful place in a house is the water-closet.

--Theophilé Gautier, May 1834

December 10, 2008

Efficiency 3 times cheaper than wind, payback in 1 year

Gary Parke, chief executive of energy services firm Evolve Energy, writes in Evolve Energy (Dec. 10, 2008):

Energy efficiency has often been seen as the ugly sister to renewable energy, but there is nothing ugly or unglamorous about saving money, reducing energy costs and lowering emissions. While the clean tech sector tends to focus on investment in renewables as a means of cutting carbon, there is growing evidence that investing in "negawatts", a term coined to describe a megawatt of power avoided or saved from use on the energy grid, will provide a better return.

According to Amory Lovins of the Rocky Mountain Institute, energy efficiency is “the largest, least expensive, most benign, most quickly deployable, least visible, least understood, and most neglected way to provide energy services”. While that may seem a strong statement, there is widespread agreement that increasing energy efficiency can bring both financial and environmental benefits.

The opportunity for energy efficiency investment is immense – the International Energy Agency calls it the "fifth fuel" after oil, coal, gas and nuclear. According to a recent report from the McKinsey Global Institute, Curbing Global Energy Demand Growth: The Energy Productivity Opportunity, increased energy efficiency is the biggest and most cost-effective lever to attack greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. It could deliver up to half of the reductions of global GHG required to cap the long-term concentration of GHG in the atmosphere to 450 to 550 parts per million – a level many experts believe will be necessary to prevent the mean temperature increasing by more than two degrees centigrade, leading to "dangerous" levels of climate change. ...

Perhaps even more importantly, there is the opportunity to boost energy productivity using existing technologies, in a way that pays for itself and frees up resources for investment or consumption elsewhere. McKinsey’s analysis suggests that annual investment of $170bn (£115bn) would result in a cut in energy demand of between 20 and 24 per cent by 2020 and a CO2 saving of 7.9 billion tonnes. McKinsey calculated that, at an oil price of $50 a barrel, $170bn annual investment would generate more than $900 billion in annual energy savings, a 17 per cent annual rate of return. This would reduce global oil consumption by 21m barrels a day, from today’s level of 86 million barrels a day.

While many energy efficiency market drivers are similar to those in the renewable energy market, Evolve Energy has found first hand that investing in energy efficiency delivers greater carbon reductions and financial return than investing in renewables.

We recently conducted some research on the return on investment for a typical 4GW wind turbine in comparison to energy efficiency measures implemented for a large supermarket brand. We found that to generate one megawatt of wind energy costs about £1m, while to save one megawatt through energy efficiency measures costs £350,000. For companies investing in wind technologies it could take 20 years to achieve payback, whereas it would only take just over one year through energy efficiency. On a wider environmental point, businesses can reduce up to three times the amount of CO2 for every £1 invested. This comparison shows that energy efficiency can provide a greater economic and environmental reward.

Note that per capita energy use in the U.S. is about twice that in the U.K.; there is obviously a huge potential for conservation as well as efficiency.

December 5, 2008

Denmark: no new wind energy since 2003

The world's leader in wind "penetration" -- with wind turbines producing energy equal to around 20% of the country's electricity use -- Denmark also leads in running up against the practical limits of erecting giant wind turbines to supply the grid. As Kent Hawkins has calculated, with the help of Vic Mason, who works in Denmark and has access to Danish-language reports, the actual penetration limit for wind, which is intermittent, highly variable, and nondispatchable -- all the very opposite of the grid's needs -- appears to be 6%, the rest being dumped into larger markets in Germany and the rest of Scandinavia.

In any case, Denmark has not added new wind energy capacity since 2003:

Year:       2001200220032004200520062007
Installed wind capacity (MW):       2,4892,8923,1173,1253,1293,1363,125

wind power, wind energy

December 4, 2008

Enron provided the model for buying off environmentalists

There are two kinds of environmentalist groups: activists and collaborators. They both have important roles to play. The collaborators, however, often get too cozy with the industrialists they mean to influence. Many of them, such as Conservation International, World Wildlife Fund, The Sierra Club, and The Nature Conservancy, also accept large donations from the companies they "work" with. They become, instead of the pragmatic arm of the environmentalist movement and corporate watchdogs, the "green" outreach office of those companies, industry's "useful idiots".

It comes as no surprise, therefore, that several of these groups have signed on with the new industry-initiated American Wind Wildlife Institute (AWWI) (and its $3 million first-year budget). AWWI's board includes representatives from GE, BP, Iberdrola, Enxco, and NRG Systems, and its web site is registered by Wayne Walker, a consultant who works for Horizon Wind Energy and the American Wind Energy Association. Other industry members are AES Wind Generation, Babcock & Brown, Clipper Windpower, Eon, Horizon, Nordic Windpower, Renewable Energy Systems, and Vestas.

The goal, as seems apparent from Wayne Walker's work, is to come up with ways that industrial wind developers can "mitigate" their impact on wildlife, i.e., give money to cooperative environmentalist groups in return for letting them get on with industrializing the last of our rural and wild places.

It also comes as no surprise to learn that Enron, who created the modern wind industry (inventing "green tags", for example, to sell the energy twice), provided the model for AWWI. Christopher Morris wrote in August 2002, for the anti-welfare Capital Research Center:
... Enron executives worked closely with the Clinton administration to secure support for the Kyoto Protocol because the company believed the treaty could generate a financial windfall. An internal Enron memo circulated immediately after the 1997 Kyoto meeting (and first reported by the Washington Post) shows the company believed the treaty “would do more to promote Enron’s business than will almost any other regulatory initiative outside of restructuring the energy and natural gas industries in Europe and the United States.”

So Enron philanthropy lavished almost $1.5 million on environmental groups that support international energy controls to reduce so-called global warming. From 1994 to 1996, the Enron Foundation contributed nearly $1 million dollars ($990,000) to the Nature Conservancy, whose “Climate Change” project promotes global warming theories.

The company did more than simply provide financial backing for groups supporting ratification of the Kyoto treaty:

• In 1997 Enron CEO Kenneth Lay was named a member of President Clinton’s “Council on Sustainable Development,” joining Secretary of the Interior Bruce Babbitt, EPA administrator Carol Browner, and Fred Krupp, executive director of Environmental Defense Fund (EDF). The task force also included representatives from the Sierra Club, National Wildlife Federation, and the Natural Resources Defense Council.

• The National Environmental Trust, a public relations organization heavily funded by the Pew Charitable Trusts to promote environmental policies, worked with Ken Lay to place pro-Kyoto editorials under his signature in the Houston Chronicle, the Austin-American Statesman, and the Salt Lake City Tribune.

• Enron built ties to the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF). EDF lauded Enron’s “Enron Earth Smart Power,” a 39-megawatt wind farm in Southern California that was intended to offer consumers “environment-friendly” electricity. Daniel Kirshner, an EDF senior economic analyst, commended Enron’s achievement, saying, “The Environmental Defense Fund hopes that buying environmentally-friendly electricity will soon be as popular as recycling is now.”

• Representatives from Enron participated in a panel discussion sponsored by the Progressive Policy Institute to “discuss the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions and politically viable strategies for tackling the larger threat of climate change.” Other panelists included Sen. Joseph Lieberman (D-Conn.) and members of the Natural Resources Defense Council and EDF.

Enron’s activities were not limited to advancing the environmental agenda; the company also used its environmental friends to advance its business agenda. Enron solicited support from green groups for its own business ventures, such as the 1997 purchase of Portland General Electric. Enron urged Natural Resources Defense Council and a coalition of Oregon environmental groups to sign a memorandum of agreement endorsing the purchase, despite objections by the state Public Utility Commission. Portland’s Willamette Week newspaper reported that the groups subsequently received Enron grants totaling nearly $500,000. Among the beneficiaries: Northwest Environmental Advocates ($30,000), Salmon Watch ($15,000), and American Rivers ($5,000). . . .
wind power, wind energy, environment, environmentalism

December 3, 2008

Bloomberg Wind Energy Index plummets

The Bloomberg Wind Energy Index is a multiple weighted index of the leading windpower stocks in the world, with a higher emphasis placed on the companies with the highest exposure to the wind industry and the key suppliers to the wind industry. The index is rebalanced quarterly.

Here is a chart of its value since its inception:

wind power, wind energy

U.S. oil use down 12.8%

According to Energy Information Administration (EIA) data (click the title of this post), the consumption of oil in September 2008 was 533,880,000 barrels, which was 12.8% lower than the oil used in September 2007, 612,438,000 barrels. It is the lowest September consumption since 1994.

Now how hard was that?

That drop represents, according to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), 33,779,940 fewer metric tons of CO2 generated. That's equivalent to taking 6,186,802 cars off the road, or burning 176,397 fewer railcar loads of coal, or eliminating the carbon emissions from the electricity for 4,474,164 homes.

Again, how hard was that? Why don't even environmental groups talk about conservation instead of promoting the construction of new power plants and transmission lines in wild and rural places?

energy, environment, environmentalism

November 25, 2008

Jeffrey St. Clair on today's environmental groups

'They [the large environmental groups] are shackled by their source of money, shackled by their relationship to the Democratic Party, shackled by the fact that their boards are controlled by corporate executives. ... The environment isn’t even talked about in political campaigns much anymore … aside from these airy homilies about global warming, or green jobs to try and reinvigorate the economy. ... It’s a tragic waste that hundreds of millions each year are going to these large organizations. What it means is that people are now left to fend for themselves, to mount their own resistance. ...'

Q: In the early 1990s, some journalists were talking about the limits to growth. As the ecological crises have gotten more dire and potentially more fatal to the human species, it seems like that’s not such a discussion any more in the mainstream.

'What they would like is sort of the Gore approach, which is painless optimism. And that’s not the way it is. These issues, down at the grassroots, are life and death issues. They’re not being reported, they’re not part of policy. There aren’t any easy solutions, there aren’t fifty easy ways you can save the planet. That’s what they want, but that’s not going to do it. And you can’t shop your way to a better planet.

'Difficult choices are going to have to be made in terms of growth, in terms of energy. I mean, California is essentially out of water. What are you going to do, are you going to spend billions of dollars to build a peripheral canal that won’t even solve your problem? Meanwhile, the ecology of your state is crashing. ...

'We’re not going to get our way out of this energy crisis as long as the energy system remains centralized. It’s just not going to happen. ... If you democratize energy production you can begin to enact the kind of fundamental changes we need. ... But if the question is the future of the atmosphere of the planet, I don’t think that’s going to get you very far. ... So frankly, I don’t think there are any solutions, because I think the climate crisis and the extinction crisis are beyond our control. Thirty years ago, if we’d made radically different choices, perhaps. There’s an element of hubris in this [that recalls] British philosopher David Ehrenfeld’s view of technology and the environment, the arrogance of humanism. The idea that a technological solution can stall or reverse climate change is almost the same kind of hubris that got us into this mess. ...

'What it’s going to require, even to feel good about yourself, as the planet careens toward a kind of climate Armageddon, is a radical downscaling. What we’re being offered is a kind of short-selling of the environment. The solutions from Gore, the solutions of many of the mainstream environmental groups, are a kind of profit-taking as the planet hurtles toward a radical reshaping of the global ecosystem which I think spells doom at the end of the line for mammalian species. That’s what these solutions are about. They’re about how to make money, how to capitalize off the anxiety and panic and guilt and hopelessness that many people feel about the state of the environment. ...'

Q: Will the economic crisis result in foundation money drying up for the big environmental groups and for smaller ones?

'Well, that is a positive. These major foundations have been like cloning shops for environmental groups. They control their agenda, they want all of them to look the same, behave the same, be utterly predictable, and dependent upon their money. Once you get on the foundation dole, it’s like becoming like a meth addict. A lot of them, certainly the smaller groups, will lose their funding first, and that’s going to be a very good thing. The weaning process is going to hurt for a while. But when they emerge from that, they’re going to be much better off. That’s what I’m interested in—the varieties of resistance to industrial capitalism and neoliberalism, the forces that are exploiting the planet. The first mission of the foundations was to take critiques of capitalism off the table. Hopefully in the future, you’re going to be seeing, five to ten years from now, much more indigenous radical and unpredictable, organic environmental groups that will end up being much more effective, much more healing for people.

'You want it to be fun, like Edward Abbey says… of all the movements out there, the environmental movement should probably be the most fun. You can see what you’re fighting for, the kind of direct actions and protests that you can engage in are much more exhilarating than a lot of other issues. And it has to be fun, otherwise you’re going to burn out. One of the things the foundations have done is turn it into a bureaucracy. It’s easier to control that way.'

Q: Do you see the environmental justice movement as holding hope for a shift toward that kind of activism?

'Yeah, I do. Environmental justice became a sort of passing interest of the foundations in the ‘90s. But the big money never came. It was the same old white Eastern elites pimping off of their issues, with the exception of Greenpeace, which probably was the only big environmental group that had a commitment on environmental justice issues in the Mississippi Delta Region, in Cancer Alley. They actually went there and listened to people living in the chemical soup bowl. And they put their expertise at direct action, how to train people in Cancer Alley, how to shut down a chemical plant for a day with a protest.

'The other groups remained in DC, they put out their White Papers, and when interest eroded in environmental justice they moved on to something else. I think people will be happy to extract themselves from the likes of the Environmental Defense Fund and the NRDC.'

Published in Terrain Magazine, Fall/Winter 2008

environment, environmentalism, human rights, animal rights, anarchism, ecoanarchism

Help the Obama transition team understand the negative aspects of industrial wind

Click here ( for a form to submit your thoughts to the Obama-Biden Energy and Environment Policy Team.

The Obama team needs to know that it is no longer excusable to pretend that large-scale wind is a meaningful part of our energy and environmental goals. Wind energy is intermittent, variable, and nondispatchable, so it can not replace other more reliable sources without correspondingly large-scale storage methods which don't yet exist and which would add to its cost and further reduce the amount of usable energy extracted. Wind power's ability to meaningfully reduce even slightly the rate of growth of greenhouse gas emissions is thus very limited. The money should be spent much more effectively than this.

Furthermore, big wind is largely incompatible with other environmental interests. It requires giant (400-500 feet high) moving machines spread out over a great expanse (at least 50 acres per rated megawatt), thus severely altering the rural and wild places where it is built, destroying and fragmenting habitat (with heavy-duty roads and high-voltage transmission lines as well) and presenting a direct threat to birds and bats (not just from the blades, but also from the low-pressure vortices created behind the blades). See

Where there are human neighbors, the adverse effects on health from the intrusive rhythmic noise and shadow flicker are increasingly documented (see These people are the victims of the unquestioning support of industrial wind developers by politicians and, sadly, many environmentalists and progressives.

In short, industrial wind fails on many levels. Its potential benefits are at best minimal, and its adverse impacts to the landscape, animals, and people are many and only increase. Large-scale wind is a destructive boondoggle. It should be strictly regulated and certainly not encouraged.

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

November 19, 2008

Weighing Wind Energy

Meg Mitchell, Forest Supervisor, Green Mountain National Forest, writes:

The Green Mountain National Forest released the Draft Environmental Impact Statement [DEIS] for the proposed Deerfield Wind Project in September and we will accept public comment until November 28. The DEIS helps us make a final decision on approval or disapproval of the project by analyzing the effects of an expansion of wind energy development onto National Forest lands, next to the existing wind turbines in Searsburg.

Energy development such as oil and gas exploration and extraction, pipelines, and electricity transmission lines have all been permitted on portions of National Forest lands across the country. However, wind energy development is new to us. Like other activities, this development would have costs and benefits we look at closely before permitting.

As I move toward a final decision, I consider the feedback, comments, and suggestions from all the people who are interested in this project. At recent public meetings, participants requested additional information about spill prevention, restoration and facility removal plans integrated into any action alternative. We also have more work to do on mitigation and monitoring plans for each alternative. In making my final decision I will take all of this into account, consult with other agencies, and step back and look at the larger picture.

This is very likely one of the better places for wind energy in the State (and why there are already wind towers there). But this does not mean we should proceed with this particular project now. This proposal is for is a small wind energy facility. Yet, even with careful design, there are local environmental effects that can’t be avoided. The chief concern appears to be the potential impact to bear habitat. Bears, like people, react differently to uncertainty or something new in their environment. Some prefer being conservative and staying away from development, while others are more comfortable with unknowns and can adapt. Scientists do not agree on all aspects of impacts to bears, but most agree limiting the amount of human access to the area is important.

I am also searching for other options for those concerned with preserving wildlife habitat and supporting alternative energy development. One possibility is ensuring additional quality habitat on nearby lands is managed for bears. Because these bears range over large distances, yet depend on a variety of habitat, this could be one way to offset some risks. Such lands could be privately owned or managed by a nongovernmental group, Town or agency. This could also be a tool for future alternative energy projects that have broad benefits, and localized effects.

As the Forest Supervisor, I also must consider the health of the Green Mountain National Forest and the habitat it provides. We must change our energy consumption patterns by combining energy conservation with the development of cleaner sources to protect Forests, our health and all forms of life that depend on ecosystems and the services they provide. Even without the encouragement of the Federal Energy Policy Act of 2005, I feel a responsibility to be part of the solution.

I also need to know the full opinion of the Public Service Board; they are well versed in these matters and as the final Public Service Board hearings proceed, I’ll be listening for their opinion. It’s the right way to proceed since we both share jurisdiction and responsibilities for this project. I look forward to more feedback on our DEIS. As the final information and opinions flow in, I know this is an important decision and it will weigh heavily on my mind.

More information:
Kristi Ponozzo
Public Affairs Officer
Green Mountain and Finger Lakes National Forest

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

November 18, 2008

Wisconsin "model" wind ordinance disappears from state web site

Here's an interesting bit of information from the press release announcing the unanimous approval of a large wind ordinance specifying strict noise limits and 1/2-mile setbacks:

An open records request from the town of Union study committee revealed that no medical or scientific data was used to set the 50 decibel noise limits or the 1000 foot setback the Public Service Commission recommends. Questions about the origins and authors of the State's draft model wind ordinance remain largely unanswered. The State has since pulled the draft model ordinance from its website and the Public Service Commission has been unable or unwilling to say who pulled the ordinance from the website and why. This draft model ordinance was used to site the turbines in Fond du Lac county where people are experiencing trouble with turbine related noise, shadow flicker and other negative impacts.

wind power, wind energy, wind turbines, wind farms

November 15, 2008

Gas and oil interests now openly in charge of American Wind Energy Association

Whose interests are being served? As many people have long pointed out, the industrial wind industry is not an alternative to but a symptom of big energy. . . .

On Nov. 14, the the industry trade group American Wind Energy Association announced a new chief executive officer (CEO) to replace Randall Swisher after nearly 20 years: Denise Bode, who will take over in January.

Denise Bode has been the CEO of natural gas lobby American Clean Skies Foundation. Before that, she was president of Independent Petroleum Association of America and legal counsel to former Senator David Boren of Oklahoma, who sits on the board of Conoco Phillips.

She was appointed to George W. Bush's Energy Transition Advisory Team, chaired by Dick Cheney, and has lectured at the Heritage Foundation and the Federalist Society. When she ran for the Republican nomination in Oklahoma for U.S. Congress in 2006, she received almost $200,000 from oil and gas interests, the 6th highest amount in the entire country that year.

wind power, wind energy, environment, environmentalism

Graphic artists against big wind

Comeek artist Lynda Barry talks to City Beat in Los Angeles (via National Wind Watch):

The work I’m doing the most of to save the environment is getting the word out about the serious downsides of industrial scale wind turbines. If the goal of using renewable energy resources is to reduce CO2 emissions, industrial-scale wind turbines don’t do this. Because they need fossil-fuel burning power plants to function, and because those power plants are never powered up or down in response to the wind being there or not, the same amount of CO2 is going into the air. This conclusion was reached by the National Academy of Sciences and also a Norwegian study on Danish wind power. You will get more electricity to sell from wind turbines, but no real reduction in current CO2 levels. It’s the only renewable resource that keeps us completely dependent on power companies, fossil fuels (usually coal), and the grid. It’s the only one that doesn’t cause a loss of customers for the power companies. All the other renewable energy choices cause customer loss. Also, industrial wind is used as the justification for more and bigger transmission lines and use of eminent domain. Bigger and more transmission lines allow greater use of fossil-fueled power plants. So industrial- scale wind energy is just another way to say “MORE! MORE! MORE!” Most people don’t realize that unless the wind is blowing at a certain speed – at least 10 miles an hour – the turbines can use more energy than they produce. Most people don’t understand how much electricity it takes to run a machine that is 40 to 50 stories tall. Most people never even ask how the power is getting to and from the turbine. They don’t know about the thousands of miles of cables.

Apart from all this, consider the impact on flying creatures. Turbines are placed in migration corridors because that’s where the wind is. It’s maddening to me that wind developers are getting away with this, siting them in wildlife refuges, national parks, and other protected areas.

By the way, on-site wind turbines of the smaller scale are great. Small, on-site power generation is the best alternative, and it’s the one the power companies are going to fight the hardest against.

My favorite renewable resource option is manure digesters – for both animal and human manure. It’s the only renewable energy option that actually cleans up other environmental problems as it creates electricity. It’s also the least sexy of the choices and one no one wants to talk about.

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

November 14, 2008

Whitewave Foods Recognized For Renewable Energy Investment

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has honored the owner of Silk Soymilk, Horizon Organic, International Delight, and Land O'Lakes, Whitewave Foods, for its green power purchases:

"To date, the company's total wind energy purchases are the equivalent of eliminating more than 450 million pounds of greenhouse gas emissions annually."

The problem is that they have not been purchasing green power, only renewable energy credits. They are donating money to wind power companies, but they are not buying actual energy from them.

Whitewave is using the same electricity as their neighbors. It is not eliminating any greenhouse gas emissions. It is not even adding wind energy to the grid to be used by others, because that is already paid for.

It is only padding the portfolios of wind energy investors. For which service it gets an award from the EPA.

wind power, wind energy, environment, environmentalism

November 11, 2008

"Oceans of fluids"

An ad for Frontier Pro Services in the October 2008 issue of North American Windpower:

Running a wind farm is a massive task.
Scores of turbines, thousands of tons of metal and fiberglass, oceans of fluids. How does anyone keep up with it! ...

Protecting your assets is the most important job you have, and Frontier Pro Services is here to help.
Gearbox servicing
Fluids sampling
Oil and hydraulics changes
Blade repairs
Scheduled maintenance
Frontier Pro Servics
They keep your moneymakers spinning.

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

November 6, 2008

U.S. coal use for electricity, 2002-2007

Receipts of Coal Delivered for the Electric Power Industry -- Electric Power Annual, Energy Information Association, January 21, 2009
2002:   869,929,000 tons
2003: 949,191,000
2004: 965,057,000
2005: 986,213,000
2006: 1,043,681,000
2007: 1,016,236,000
Direct Use and Retail Sales of Electricity, Total Electric Industry -- Electric Power Annual, Energy Information Association, January 21, 2009
2002: 3,631,650,307 MWh
2003: 3,662,029,012
2004: 3,715,949,485
2005: 3,810,984,044
2006: 3,816,845,452
2007: 3,923,814,234
Coal delivered per electricity used (ratio of above figures)
2002: 0.2395410 ton/MWh
2003: 0.2591981
2004: 0.2597067
2005: 0.2587817
2006: 0.2734407
2007: 0.2589919
That doesn't look like less coal being burned because of increasing wind capacity (from 4,275 MW at the beginning of 2002 to 11,603 MW at the end of 2006), as claimed by the wind energy industry. In fact, the trend appears to be more coal burned per unit of electricity, a phenomenon seen in the U.K. as well, even as coal's share of electricity production is decreasing:
   GWh from coal--Total GWh--Proportion from coal
2002: 1,933,130 3,858,452 0.5010118
2003: 1,973,737 3,883,185 0.5082779
2004: 1,978,301 3,970,555 0.4982429
2005: 2,012,873 4,055,423 0.4963411
2006: 1,990,511 4,064,702 0.4897065
2007: 2,016,456 4,156,745 0.4851046
Wind on the grid may be having the exact opposite effect that its promoters claim.

wind power, wind energy, environment, environmentalism

November 3, 2008

Election endorsements

Vt. Governor: Anthony Pollina

Vt. Lieutenant Governor: Ben Mitchell

Vt. State Representative (Hartland–West Windsor): John Bartholomew

U.S. Representative (Vt.): Peter Welch

October 30, 2008

Efficiency, capacity factor, and value

To the Editor, Geelong Advertiser:

As a science editor, I share Heinz Dahl's frustration with the inaccurate use of terms in characterizing wind energy on the grid ("Winds of change", Opinion, October 30th).

But while pretending to clarify terms, Mr. Dahl only further confuses them as he evades their unique application to wind energy.

Efficiency is not the issue. It is well understood that burning coal for electricity is only around 30 per cent efficient.

It is also well known that wind turbines generate power at an average rate of around 30 per cent of their full capacity. And although it is technically incorrect to call that their "efficiency", the word nonetheless conveys the problematic nature of wind turbines.

In common use, we don't consider our car to be only 5 per cent efficient because we drive it only an hour or so each day. If we're lucky, we consider it to be 100 per cent efficient because whenever we need it, it runs.

Mr. Dahl says that wind turbines are nearly always available, which is true. Except that if the wind isn't blowing, they aren't. And if the wind is blowing, but not within an ideal range of speed (roughly 30-60 mph), the power generated is much less than the turbines' capacity. In that sense, they are much less efficient than conventional plants which when you turn them on run reliably at full throttle.

That's the difference. Unlike conventional generators, wind turbines respond only to the wind, not to actual demand on the grid.

To pretend that there is some value in that, Mr. Dahl invents a new term, "availability capacity factor", but seems only to apply the attributes of a dispatchable conventional plant to the intermittent and variable nondispatchable output of a wind plant.

He says that when wind energy facilities have a capacity factor of 30 per cent, that means that "30 per cent of the time they are generating at full capacity".

He is completely wrong. That is what a 30 per cent capacity factor means for a conventional power plant, i.e., that it is used 30 per cent of the time.

But because the output from a wind turbine varies with the wind speed, 30 per cent capacity factor for a wind plant means that its output averages 30 per cent of its capacity. In fact, it very rarely reaches full capacity and generates at or above its average rate (i.e., 30 per cent) only about 40 per cent of the time.

Which brings us to the measure that Mr. Dahl ignored: capacity value. When power is needed on the grid, can wind plants provide it? Only by chance. Their capacity value is effectively zero. The rest of the grid still has to be kept up and running.

October 23, 2008

Eating as if the climate mattered

By Bruce Friedrich

The National Council for Science and the Environment (NCSE) held a climate-change conference, January 16 to 18 2008 in Washington DC, which focused on solutions to the problem of human-induced climate change. And the same week, in Paris, the head of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), which is sharing the Nobel Peace Prize with Al Gore, held a press conference to discuss "the importance of lifestyle choices" in combating global warming.

Notably, all food at the NCSE conference was vegan, and there were table-top brochures with quotes from the U.N. report on the meat industry, discussed more below. And the IPCC head, Dr. Rajendra Pachauri declared, as the Agence France-Presse (AFP) sums it up, "Don't eat meat, ride a bike, and be a frugal shopper."

The New York Times, also, seems to be jumping on the anticonsumption bandwagon. First, they ran an editorial on New Year's Day stating that global warming is "the overriding environmental issue of these times" and that we Americans are "going to have to change [our] lifestyles". The next day, they ran a superb opinion piece by Professor Jared Diamond about the fact that those of us in the developed world consume 32 times as many resources as people in the developing world and 11 times as much as China. Diamond ends optimistically, stating that "whether we get there willingly or not, we shall soon have lower consumption rates, because our present rates are unsustainable." It is reasonable for all of us to review our lives and to ask where we can cut down on our consumption--because it's necessary, and because living according to our values is what people of integrity do.

In November 2007, the United Nations environmental researchers released a report that everyone who cares about the environment should review. Called Livestock's Long Shadow, this 408-page thoroughly researched scientific report indicts the consumption of chickens, pigs, and other meats-concluding that the meat industry is "one of the ... most significant contributors to the most serious environmental problems, at every scale from local to global", and that eating meat contributes to "problems of land degradation; climate change and air pollution; water shortage and water pollution; and loss of biodiversity."

The environmental problems of meat fill books, but the intuitive argument can be put more succinctly into two points:

1) A 135-pound woman will burn off at least 1,200 calories a day even if she never gets out of bed. She uses most of what she consumes simply to power her body. Similarly, it requires exponentially more resources to eat chickens, pigs, and other animals, because most of what we feed to them is required to keep them alive, and much of the rest is turned into bones and other bits we don't eat; only a fraction of those crops is turned into meat. So you have to grow all the crops required to raise the animals to cat the animals, which is vastly wasteful relative to eating the crops directly.

2) It also requires many extra stages of polluting and energy-intensive production to get chicken, pork, and other meats to the table, including feed mills, factory farms, and slaughterhouses, all of which are riot used in the production of vegetarian foods. And then there are the additional stages of gas-guzzling, pollution-spewing transportation of moving crops, feed, animals, and meat-relative to simply growing the crops and processing them into vegetarian foods.

So when the U.N. added it all up, what they found is that eating chickens, pigs, and other animals contributes to "problems of land degradation; climate change and air pollution; water shortage and water pollution; and loss of biodiversity," and that meat-eating is "one of the ... most significant contributors to the most serious environmental problems, at every scale from local to global."

And on the issue of global warming, the issue the New York Times deems critical enough to demand that we "change [our] lifestyles" and for which Al Gore and the IPCC received the Nobel Peace Prize, the United Nations' scientists conclude that eating animals causes 40 percent more global warming than all planes, cars, trucks, and other forms of transport combined, which is why the Live Earth Global Warming Survival Handbook says that "refusing meat [is] the single most effective thing you can do to reduce your carbon footprint."

There is a lot of important attention paid to population, and that's a critical issue too, but if we're consuming I I times as much as people in China and 32 times as much as people in the third world, then it's not just about population; it's also about consumption.

NCSE, IPPC, and the U.N. deserve accolades for calling on people to stop supporting the inefficient, fossil fuel intensive, and polluting meat industry. The head of the IPCC, who received the Nobel Prize with Mr. Gore and who held last week's press conference in Paris, puts his money where his mouth is: He's a vegetarian.

The NCSE's all-vegan 3,000-person conference In January, also, sends a positive signal that other environmentalists would be wise to listen to. Thus far, among the large environmental organizations, only Greenpeace ensures that all official functions are vegetarian. Other environmental groups should follow suit.

It's empowering really, when you think about it: By choosing vegetarian foods, we're making compassionate choices that are good for our bodies, and we're living our environmental values at every meal.

American Vegan 8-1, Summer 2008, pages 12-13

World GO VEGAN Days Oct 27-29

October 20, 2008

Two S.D. universities claim to be 100% wind powered while getting the same electricity as everyone else

An Oct. 15 press release from Babcock & Brown states:
The 51-megawatt (MW) Wessington Springs Wind Farm will provide clean and renewable energy to the University of South Dakota (USD) and South Dakota State University (SDSU), which become the first universities in the Midwest to be powered with 100% renewable energy.
It also says:
The power produced will connect to the Western Area Power Administration (WAPA) transmission system and be purchased by Heartland through a long-term power purchase agreement.
In other words, the two universities are still getting their electricity from the same grid as everyone else. They can no more claim to be wind powered than any other customer on the system.

wind power, wind energy

October 16, 2008

Oil and coal/nuclear/wind: nothing to do with each other

The debate last night between Senators Obama and McCain illustrated a common laziness in lumping all energy together, failing to differentiate their different uses. Here are the relevant excerpts:
McCain: ... We have to have nuclear power. We have to stop sending $700 billion a year to countries that don't like us very much. It's wind, tide, solar, natural gas, nuclear, off-shore drilling, ...

Schieffer: ... Would each of you give us a number, a specific number of how much you believe we can reduce our foreign oil imports during your first term?

McCain: ... We can eliminate our dependence on foreign oil by building 45 new nuclear plants, power plants, right away. ... with nuclear power, with wind, tide, solar, natural gas, with development of flex fuel, hybrid, clean coal technology, clean coal technology is key ...

Obama: ... And I think that we should look at offshore drilling and implement it in a way that allows us to get some additional oil. But understand, we only have three to four percent of the world's oil reserves and we use 25 percent of the world's oil, which means that we can't drill our way out of the problem. That's why I've focused on putting resources into solar, wind, biodiesel, geothermal. ...
When you talk about nuclear, coal, and wind, you are talking exclusively about electrical energy. When you talk about oil, you're talking about transport and heating. Less than 3% of the electricity in the U.S. is produced from oil, and most of that is with the otherwise unusable sludge left over from gasoline refining.

Therefore, clean coal, nuclear, and wind have nothing to do with oil, imported or otherwise.

As for natural gas and wind, go here.

October 11, 2008

Wind energy myths on the grid

Michael Goggin has written a paper for the trade group American Wind Industry Association titled "20% Wind Energy by 2030: Wind, Backup Power, and Emissions". It is an attempt to claim -- in the face of conflicting evidence and reason -- that wind energy, even at substantial "penetration", does not require extra "backup" capacity and substantially reduces carbon emissions from other fuels.
The "no reduction in emissions" myth

Wind opponents sometimes argue that wind energy doesn't actually reduce the fuel use or harmful emissions of other power plants. On its face, this claim does not make sense: utility system operators must precisely balance the total supply of electricity with the total demand for electricity at all times, so the electricity produced by a wind plant must be matched by an equivalent decrease in electricity production at another plant.
The unstated part of that equation is that a decrease in electricity production does not necessarily mean an equivalent decrease in fuel use or emissions. In other words, a thermal plant simply diverts its steam past the turbines, but it doesn't stop creating steam. That is because it may take several hours to reheat. Plants that can switch on faster must use more fuel to do so (like stop-and-go city driving versus steady highway driving). Plants that can modulate their electricity production do so by operating at a lower efficiency, i.e., with more emissions.
• In 2007, wind energy in the U.S. reduced CO2 emissions by over 28 million tons, equivalent to taking almost 5 million cars off the road. On average, each Megawatt- hour (MWh) of wind energy -- the amount produced by two typical modern wind turbines in an average hour -- reduces CO2 emissions by 1,200 pounds.
There is no citation for this claim, because it based only on the above assumption that reduction of electricity production is the same as reduction of fuel use is the same as reduction of emissions. It is not based on actual data.
• The U.S. Department of Energy's (DOE) 20% Wind Energy by 2030 Technical Report calculated that obtaining 20% of our electricity from wind energy by 2030 would [emphasis added] cut cumulative CO2 emissions by over 7.6 billion tons.

• The DOE report found CO2 emissions would [emphasis added] be reduced by over 825 million tons in the year 2030 alone, an amount equal to 25% of all electric sector carbon dioxide emissions in that year -- the equivalent of taking 140 million cars off the road.

• The DOE study also found that wind energy would [emphasis added] cut the amount of natural gas used for electricity generation by 50% in 2030.

• A study by the grid operator in Texas found similar results, concluding that adding 3,000 megawatts (MW) of wind energy to the state's grid would [emphasis added] reduce CO2 emissions by about 5.5 million tons per year, sulfur dioxide emissions by about 4,000 tons per year, and nitrogen oxide emissions by about 2,000 tons per year.

• In regions where a large share of electricity comes from coal power, the emissions savings of wind energy can be [emphasis added] even larger. A DOE analysis found that Indiana could [emphasis added] reduce CO2 emissions by 3.1 million tons per year by adding 1,000 MW of wind power.

• The 30 MW Kaheawa wind plant in Hawaii directly offsets power from oil-burning power plants, reducing oil imports by almost 10 million gallons per year.
The company web site cited for this statement actually says: "Kaheawa Wind will [emphasis added] eliminate the use of over 236,000 barrels of oil or 69,000 tons of coal annually." (236,000 barrels = 9,912,000 gallons.) So again, offsetting the electricity production (which is rarely all oil or all coal based) is not the same as reducing fuel use or emissions, and thus it is not actual data cited but conjecture based on incorrect assumptions. In short, these are made-up numbers that have a shaky relationship with reality.
The "backup power" myth

Sometimes wind opponents claim that because wind energy output varies with the wind speed, wind plants require an equivalent amount of "backup power" provided by fossil fuel plants, negating the environmental and fuel savings benefits of wind energy. Understanding why this myth is false requires some explanation of how the electric utility system operates.

Overview of Power Grid Operations

System operators always maintain significant "operating reserves," typically equal to 5-7% or more of total generation. These reserves are used to deal with the rapid and unpredictable changes in electricity demand that occur as people turn appliances on and off, as well as the very large changes in electricity supply that can occur in a fraction of a second if a large power plant suffers an unexpected outage. Instead of backing up each power plant with a second power plant in case the first plant suddenly fails, grid operators pool reserves for the whole system to allow them to respond to a variety of potential unexpected events.
That is exactly why wind energy facilities can not claim to be replacing other sources. Because wind energy production is intermittent and highly variable -- and typically a small percentage of total generation -- the facilities are like "negative demand" to the grid, balanced by the operating reserves.
System operators use two main types of generation reserves: "spinning reserves," (regulation reserves plus contingency spinning reserves) which can be activated quickly to respond to abrupt changes in electricity supply and demand, and "non-spinning reserves," (including supplemental reserves) which are used to respond to slower changes. Spinning reserves are typically operating power plants that are held below their maximum output level so that they can rapidly increase or decrease their output as needed. Hydroelectric plants are typically the first choice of system operators for spinning reserves, because their output can be changed rapidly without any fuel use. When hydroelectric plants are not available, natural gas plants can also be used to provide spinning reserves because they can quickly increase and decrease their generation with only a slight loss of efficiency. Studies show that using natural gas plants or even coal plants as spinning reserves increases emissions and fuel use by only 0.5% to 1.5% above what it would be if the plants were generating power normally.

Non-spinning reserves are inactive power plants that can start up within a short period of time (typically 10-30 minutes) if needed. Hydroelectric plants are frequently the top choice for this type of reserve as well because of their speedy response capabilities, followed by natural gas plants. The vast majority of the time non-spinning reserves that are made available are not actually used, as they only operate if there is a large and unexpected change in electricity supply or demand. As a result, the emissions and fuel use of non-spinning reserves are very low, given that they only rarely run, the fact that hydroelectric plants (which have zero emissions and fuel use) often serve as non-spinning reserves, and the very modest efficiency penalty that applies when reserve natural gas plants actually operate.
There are two important things to note here. First, no-carbon hydro and low-carbon gas are the sources most likely to be used to balance the fluctuating feed from wind turbines. Yet, the industry always compares the equivalent carbon from coal, oil, or automobiles, when any carbon savings would actually be minimal. Second, since wind must be balanced as "negative demand", those other plants would have to be used more. In the case of gas, that means more carbon emissions, not less.
Accommodating Wind Energy

Fortunately, the same tools that utility system operators use every day to deal with variations in electricity supply and demand can readily be used to accommodate the variability of wind energy. In contrast to the rapid power fluctuations that occur when a large power plant suddenly experiences an outage or when millions of people turn on their air conditioners on a hot day, changes in the total energy output from wind turbines spread over a reasonably large area tend to occur very slowly.

While occasionally the wind may suddenly slow down at one location and cause the output from a single turbine to decrease, regions with high penetrations of wind energy tend to have hundreds or even thousands of turbines spread over hundreds of miles. As a result, it typically takes many minutes or even hours for the total wind energy output of a region to change significantly. This makes it relatively easy for utility system operators to accommodate these changes without relying on reserves. This task can be made even easier with the use of wind energy forecasting, which allows system operators to predict changes in wind output hours or even days in advance with a high degree of accuracy.

Moreover, changes in aggregate wind generation often cancel out opposite changes in electricity demand, so the increase in total variability caused by adding wind to the system is often very low. As a result, it is usually possible to add a significant amount of wind energy without causing a significant increase in the use of reserves, and even when large amounts of wind are added, the increase in the use of reserves is typically very small.

The conclusion that large amounts of wind energy can be added to the grid with only minimal increases in the use of reserves is supported by the experience of grid operators in European countries with large amounts of wind energy, as well as the results of a number of wind integration studies in the U.S.
Actually, the experience in Europe is the opposite of this claim. As wind "penetration" increases, the ability of existing reserves to balance it quickly diminishes and more excess capacity has to be added. See for a summary. The fact is that the wind doesn't always blow, even over a whole continent at the same time. Therefore, the grid has to be built as if the wind isn't there, because so often it won't be. And with the wind turbines added in, the grid needs even more capacity -- and more high-voltage interconnection lines -- to balance that energy.

The bottom line is that very little can be achieved with large-scale wind power on the grid. It simply adds expense and impacts without replacing other expenses or impacts to any degree that can justify it.

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

October 9, 2008

Buying the wrapper, claiming the cheese

Philadelphia Electric and Gas Company, or PECO, has signed up to buy 240,000 MWh of wind energy credits over the next 5 years from a facility in Illinois owned by Spain's Iberdrola.

Note that it's only the "credits", not the actual energy, that they'll be buying.

Yet, despite no change in the energy mix in Pennsylvania, despite the obvious fact that the wind energy is used by and sold to others, most likely in Illinois, the "credits" will allow PECO to claim that it is providing that same energy to its customers, as required by state law.

It should come as no surprise to learn that Enron invented this scam.

wind power, wind energy, green tags, environment, environmentalism

October 2, 2008

Cognitive dissonance: pro-wind, anti-development

As reported in the newspapers yesterday, Conservation Law Foundation and Vermont Public Interest Research Group have spoken up against governor Jim Douglas's energy policy.

They say, on the one hand, that Douglas's plan does not sufficiently protect the rural landscape from development and, on the other hand, that his plan does not sufficiently promote the development of industrial wind energy facilities, which by necessity must be sited in rural or wild areas.

These groups decry Douglas's effort to "simplify" the Act 250 environmental permitting process, but call for permanent clearcutting, blasting, and heavy-duty roads for wind energy facilities on otherwise protected ridgelines.

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

Wind energy for tax avoidance

"Before declaring itself bankrupt on 15 September, US investment bank Lehman Brothers was one of several major firms that invested in wind projects in exchange for the tax credit, which they used to reduce their federal tax bill."

--1 October 2008, Nature 455, 572-573

wind power, wind energy

September 30, 2008

Philosophical interlude

It's not religion versus science, or faith versus reason, or hope versus despair, or order versus chaos. We walk along a knife's edge between certainty and doubt. At a pathological extreme, it is between mania and depression. Faith is not about god or reason, but the necessary idea that we can -- and ought to -- maintain our balance as we continue forward. Whether it derives from religion or science or art or community doesn't matter; each of those is only as good as the persons who make it up. Each is equally subject to certainty and doubt. The difference between religion and science is in the former tending too often toward certainty and the latter too often toward doubt. Life "without god" isn't any harder than life "with god". In fact, they are not different.

September 14, 2008

Green means consuming less, not more.

'[An holistic perspective, says Dartmouth College sustainability director James Merkel,] would correct a common misconception that heating and generating with biomass -- namely, wood chips -- are carbon-neutral activities.

'"It’s anything but green," Merkel contends, because burning wood chips releases more carbon dioxide per BTU than does coal, and because logging often destroys natural habitats and contributes to today’s species extinction rate, which is occurring 1000 times faster than the natural rate. Biomass believers assert that the carbon dioxide emitted during combustion is offset by the planting of replacement trees. Merkel's response is that replanting creates a monoculture, and that it takes 40 years to reap any benefit, assuming the land is not bulldozed and developed. But if biomass, the darling of heavily forested northern New England, is not the answer, where can colleges turn for clean energy? ...

'Not so fast, Merkel cautions. "Thoreau said, 'Simplify three times,' you know?" he begins. "But that was 1853, so I think we need to say, 'Simplify 30 times' now, before you talk about what kind of energy you use."'

--"A second opinion on biomass," by Kirk Kardashian, Seven Days, Sept. 10-17, 2008

environment, environmentalism

September 13, 2008

Thoreau on hunting

Paul Theroux ends an excellent essay (click the title of this post) about Republican cruelty (cynically and perversely called "pro-life") with this quote from Henry David Thoreau:

"Every creature is better alive than dead, men and moose and pine trees, and he who understands it aright will rather preserve life than destroy it."

environment, environmentalism, animal rights, ecoanarchism

September 11, 2008

Wind increases dependence on natural gas

Edgar Gärtner of Germany writes:

... Wind turbines generate electricity very irregularly, because the wind itself is inconsistent. Therefore wind turbines always need backup power from fossil fuels to keep the electricity grid in balance. Gas turbines are the best way to do this. They are able to respond quickly and push power production when wind generators stop suddenly. They can be turned on and off almost instantly [though at a cost of extra fuel consumption --Ed.], whereas traditional coal-fired plants need to be maintained in a very inefficient standby mode if they are to respond to large fluctuations in power demand.

A proliferation of windmills, then, can become a windfall for gas sellers. Just look at the cases of Spain and Germany, Europe’s leading producers of wind power.

By the end of 2007 Spain had 14,700 megawatts (MW) of installed wind capacity, according to Enagás, which manages the national gas network, producing 8.7% of the country’s total power supplies. Most of these wind generators are located in sparsely populated areas, while the power consumption is concentrated in big cities with their many air-conditioned buildings. The peak load of the Spanish power grid is thus in the hot summer months -- but this is precisely the time of year when there usually isn’t much wind.

For this reason, more and more gas turbines are being installed near consumers in the suburbs of Spain’s cities. Only last year, Spanish power providers added 6,400 MW of gas-turbine power capacity, taking the total installed capacity of gas turbines to 21,000 MW. Natural gas has become the main source of electricity generation in Spain, and according to Enagás, 99.8% of the gas used in Spain is imported. Most of this comes via pipeline from Algeria, but the import of liquid natural gas (LNG) by ships will increase.

In Germany, more than 20,000 wind turbines with a total capacity of 21,400 MW are now “embellishing” landscapes. Wind power’s share of total electricity generation has risen in line with that of natural gas since 1990. Germany’s gas consumption for power generation more than doubled between 1990 and 2007, and now represents 11.7% of the country’s total power generation. The country imported 83% of its natural gas supplies. ...

In the U.S. ... [t]his may explain why Shell, BP, Chevron and T. Boone Pickens are investing in wind power. It’s a clever strategy to add value to their gas assets by boosting demand.

These gas players can afford to lose money on wind power in the short term to reap huge profits in the long term. In fact, this was the strategy first implemented by Ken Lay of Enron in 1990s. Enron was the power and gas company that started the first large-scale manufacturing of wind power in the U.S. It also brought up the ideas for a cap-and-trade system, to increase the competitive edge of gas over coal.

Wind power is clearly not reducing the dependence on imported fuel, contrary to the frequent claims of its proponents. In fact the experience from Germany and Spain shows that it is increasing the dependence of imported natural gas.

wind power, wind energy

September 8, 2008

Top 3 Reasons for Opposing Industrial Wind Turbines

1. They do not do what they claim, i.e., reduce the use of thermal fuels or their emissions.

2. They have significant negative impacts -- on people, wildlife, landscape -- which are currently ignored, belittled, or denied.

3. They are very expensive, even for their claimed benefit, let alone their actual benefit (which is virtually nil). That money should be spent for real solutions, not dramatic but fruitless symbols.

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

September 5, 2008

Sarah Palin wrecks economy

Since Sarah Palin introduced herself to the nation and the world Wednesday night (by reading a speech written by Matthew Scully) (Thursday morning in Europe, mid-day in eastern Asia), followed by John McCain's insipid acceptance speech the next night, stock markets around the world have plummeted. That's probably not the convention bounce that Republicans were hoping for.

September 4, 2008

Trisomy Nation

It is said that  compared to John S. McCain, Barack Obama has no experience.

But with McCain's selection of Sarah Palin for vice president, he doesn't appear to think experience is that important anymore. And Obama has national and foreign policy experience that Palin completely lacks.

Palin has more executive experience than Obama.

She has more executive experience than McCain.

How dare you?! McCain has been tested like no one else ...

What exactly does "Country First" mean?

It means that anybody that raises the facts of the past 8 years is a narcissistic traitorous big-city elite. Anybody that questions the paranoid misinformed lies of this Republican campaign is a threat to American freedom and prosperity. It means that democracy is for pansies who can't take care of themselves. Our duty is to die at our leaders' command because freedom isn't free. As long as there's guns, gas engines, and jesus in it. This sign means you are excused of and honored for anything you've done or might do. It's for me and mine. It means submission.

[brain explodes]

September 3, 2008

"What about animal rights?"

As reported in January for the AP by Nedra Pickler, that question was posed to Barack Obama at a meeting in Henderson, Nevada.

He closed his reply with:

"I think how we treat our animals reflects how we treat each other. And it's very important that we have a president who is mindful of the cruelty that is perpetrated on animals."

human rights, animal rights

August 27, 2008

Carefully listening to critics of wind energy

The Oklahoma-based industrial wind energy development company Energy For Generations has "Wind Energy Critics" as one of the topics on their links page.

But if you click on that topic, nothing happens, and scrolling down the page, no links to critics appear.

But if you look at the page source, there they are: links to organizations like National Wind Watch, Protect the Flint Hills, and Audubon of Kansas.

Along with a note:
Energy development of any type inevitably has a range of impacts. Minimizing wind’s visual and environmental impact requires careful site selection and site specific development planning. Critics of wind development are numerous and while some may choose to ignore or contest them we feel careful listening is the best approach. Sorting out legitimate concerns from simple objection to any change and where appropriate reaching a common sense compromise is an important part of wind energy development.
So why, one wonders, is this entire section commented out so that it doesn't appear on the page?

Perhaps the critics' concerns are all in fact legitimate, and "compromise" would in fact have to be made, compromising the economic viability of these sprawling power plants in rural and wild places, and opening the door to doubting their own legitimacy.

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

August 25, 2008

As the turbine turns

Rollins Wind Project [Lincoln, Maine]: Project Summary and Potential Environmental Impacts, prepared by Stantec for Aug. 20, 2008, public information meeting:
Wind projects create zero air or water pollution. Each local, clean megawatt produced through wind energy means less produced through costly fossil fuels. To put this into perspective, the clean energy produced last year at the nearby Mars Hill Wind project in Mars Hill, Maine, is the equivalent of burning approximately 260,000 barrels of oil or 70,000 tons of coal per year, yet has none of the associated toxicity, health, or cost issues.
Has anyone seen those unused 260,000 barrels of oil or 70,000 tons of coal?

You'd think they'd be hard to miss, yet nobody has ever actually pointed them out.

Which means the claim that giant wind turbines reduce fossil fuel use is fraudulent. It's like watching my car idle in the driveway and claiming I've been somewhere ("the time that my car sat idling on the driveway is equivalent to the approximate time it takes to drive to Montpelier and back"). It's nonsense.

wind power, wind energy, wind turbines, wind farms

environment, environmentalism

August 17, 2008

Wind industry donors to Gaye Symington

Financial disclosure statements for the gubernatorial candidates have been posted on line by the Vermont Secretary of State. Since Gaye Symington neglected to mention it at her announcement last week at wind energy supplier NRG Systems of her plan to remove regulatory limits on ridgeline development and limit citizen participation in the permitting process for industrial wind projects (as if it would stop there), the following donors to her campaign through July 31 should be noted:

Jan Blittersdorf (NRG Systems)
David Blittersdorf (NRG Systems)
Matthew Rubin (EMDC [East Mountain Development Corp.])
Thomas Gray (American Wind Energy Association)
Linda Cleek Gray
Stephen Kimbell (Kimbell Sherman Ellis LLP -- UPC/First Wind lobbyist)
Kimbell Sherman Ellis LLP (UPC/First Wind lobbyist)

August 15, 2008

Companies face crackdown on electricity greenwash

Someone appears to have wised up to the fact that companies "buying wind power" are in fact getting exactly the same electricity as those who don't ...

From David Adam in The Guardian (U.K.), August 13 (again, thanks to National Wind Watch):

Dozens of companies face having to report embarrassing sharp increases in their carbon pollution under government plans to crack down on greenwash.

The move could undermine the environmental claims of firms such as BT, which have invested heavily in so-called green electricity tariffs to cut their carbon footprints.

Under the proposed changes, companies using such green tariffs, which are also popular with eco-friendly domestic customers, will no longer be able to claim massive carbon savings by using power coming from renewable sources.

BT, which could be forced to double its reported carbon emissions and to scrap an ambitious target to cut carbon 80% by 2020 under the plan, is lobbying heavily against the move, and says other companies back its position. Johnson and Johnson, Vodafone and several banks including HSBC also buy green electricity tariffs.

Hilary Benn, environment secretary, said the change was to make the system more transparent and to ensure that such tariffs brought genuine environmental benefits. "It is increasingly difficult to demonstrate that buying a renewable electricity tariff is offering additional carbon emissions reductions," he said. "Businesses signed up to green tariffs based on the evidence available at the time, but their choices have been producing only limited additional renewable generation capacity."

Individual consumers opting for green tariffs may also "not have been generating the environmental benefits they anticipated", he added.

Green tariffs have become a popular way for firms and individuals to cut their carbon footprints. They exploit the 5% of UK grid electricity generated from clean hydroelectric and wind sources, which suppliers claim they can effectively ringfence and sell separately.

In 2005, the government said companies buying such renewable electricity tariffs could report them as producing zero emissions. It hoped that wide take-up of green tariffs would drive investment in further renewable sources.

But environmental campaigners and energy experts have long questioned the benefits of some green tariffs. Harry Morrison of the Carbon Trust, which advises companies on climate issues, says the market in them has been "a bit cowboy" and needs clearing up. He compared the use of green tariffs to the sale of carbon offsets, with concern over transparency, double counting and additionality – ie whether they cut carbon emissions over and above what would have happened anyway.

He said: "Many companies bought these tariffs in good faith but there are no guarantees that they actually save carbon. They didn't pay much of a premium for the carbon savings they could claim in their marketing statements, so they have basically been given a free ride."

Morrison said many companies were concerned about how the government's changes would affect their green credentials and corporate image. It could also cost them money. From 2010, thousands of UK companies will be forced to calculate, publish and reduce their emissions as part of a domestic carbon trading scheme. "They're worried about being ranked badly. Nobody wants to come bottom of a table of their peers," he said.

Richard Tarboton, energy and carbon programme director at BT, said: "This is a serious problem for a number of companies who have followed the government's guidelines and gone out and purchased green electricity, and are now being told that green source is no longer valid."

BT, one of the country's largest users of electricity, has used the zero-carbon rating given to green tariffs to claim it has reduced its emissions 58% over the last decade. Tarboton said the new rules would see its reported emissions double, and that the increase would pose "communication" problems for the firm.

He agreed that the existing scheme was flawed but said the suggested solution put too much responsibility on energy suppliers and let customers off the hook. BT says the answer is better labelling, with different tariffs given a carbon rating similar to electrical appliances such as dishwashers. It held a meeting of 30 companies this week to discuss the idea.

Defra, the environment department, which announced the changes to the company reporting guidelines in June, now says it will launch a consultation on the proposal. A spokesman denied this was down to corporate pressure and said the department had always planned to consult.

wind power, wind energy, environment, environmentalism

Indigenous farmers in Oaxaca duped out of land by wind companies

Karen Trejo writes in Latinamerica Press, August 14 (also published at National Wind Watch):

A wind power project on the Isthmus of Tehuantepec in southeastern Mexico has stripped massive amounts of land and natural resources from hundreds of indigenous campesinos in Oaxaca. Those affected are mostly from non-Spanish speaking indigenous communities.

Members were manipulated into giving up their lands in up to 60-year tenancy contracts through misinformation.

Faustina López Martínez, originally from the village of Juchitán, complained that the companies promised agriculture aid without ever following through. On the lands where she used to plant corn to sell, the Spanish company Union FENOSA plans to install windmills to generate wind energy for the next 30 years, and possibly extending to double the term. In exchange, López will receive 150 pesos (less than US$15) each year for the rent of each of her 3 hectares (7.4 acres) of land.

Javier Balderas, director of the Tepeyac Human Rights Center located in Tehuantepec, signaled that the project to build wind parks on the Isthmus, which has been imposed on the native peoples by displacing them from their lands, is part of the Plan Puebla Panama (PPP) strategy — an ambitious integration and development project launched in 2001 whose objective is to link nine Mexican states to Belize, Colombia, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua y Panama.

Indigenous rights violated

According to Balderas, the Mexican government violates International Labor Organization’s Convention 169 on Indigenous and Tribal Peoples by denying them the right to consultation to determine whether they will be jeopardized before pursuing any program to exploit their lands’ resources. The state further impedes their right to participate in utilizing, administrating and conserving their natural resources.

Based on these arguments, a team of lawyers from human rights organizations in Oaxaca and Mexico City have filed a lawsuit to annul at least 185 tenancy contracts for the wind park construction by transnational companies, principally from Spain, including Iberdrola, Endesa, Preneal, Gamesa and Union FENOSA.

In response, the companies say that they operate in Mexico backed by an agreement signed by the Federal Electricity Commission, which is directed at encouraging development through large capital investment in the region to generate jobs.

However, Eduardo Zenteno, president of the Mexican Wind Energy Association, presents figures that seem to contradict this statement.

“In the next three years, the companies will invest $3 billion in Oaxaca in the Isthmus of Tehuantepec Wind Tunnel in the following way: 78 percent will be invested in purchasing wind turbines, 14 percent in the electrical system, 6 percent in civil work and 2 percent in other spending.” He added that the electrical energy produced will be sold to companies with chain stores like Wal-Mart and Soriana, Coca-Cola, Pepsi Cola and Cemex.

Transnationals were attracted to the isthmus since it is a geographically strategic area for wind park construction. According to the Atlas for Wind Resources in Oaxaca, an investigation sponsored in 2004 by the US Energy Department and the US Agency for International Development, or USAID, the best areas to develop wind resources in Oaxaca are on the Isthmus and the greatest resources are in the hills, cordillera and coast.

The La Venta Wind Park II was constructed in 2003 on one of the hills, named La Venta, in the Juchitán area and is currently the biggest wind park in the region with over 98 windmills installed over 800 hectares (nearly 2,000 acres). La Venta is a rural indigenous community that lacks basic services where the state government periodically sends doctors and lawyers to attend the community.

Balderas explained that this is clear evidence that the transnational business model is not encouraging development or bringing about jobs for the Isthmus communities. Furthermore, during the three-month long construction of La Venta II, only 200 local workers were hired, which dwindled down to three hires at present: two janitors and one secretary.

Communal lands are not to be rented

Unlike what happened in La Venta, where there are no agrarian authorities to watch over communal lands, in the Santiago Niltepec community, east of the Isthmus of Tehuantepec, the fear of losing lands has prevented campesinos from leasing their lands to Union FENOSA.

José Santiago Ramírez, secretary of the Santiago Niltepec Community Goods Commission, says the Spanish transnational offered 30-year contracts and 1,000 to 1,200 pesos — $98 to $117 — per hectare (2.5 acres) to the campesinos annually to rent their lands. But no company can have a contract directly with the landowner since 95 percent of the population’s lands is communal.

For Marco Antonio Velásquez, the Mexican Action Network on Free Trade technical secretary, the Isthmus case is not the only one. In Acapulco, Jalisco and Nayarit there has also been social resistance to damn construction which would result in thousands of displaced persons.

“It’s not just a few companies who maliciously want to strip the communities [of their lands]. It’s a policy that has been deliberately applied with the help of the municipal, state, and federal governments that has usurped power with the clear intention of protecting transnational corporations to move forward with their businesses,” he said.

wind power, wind energy, wind turbines, wind farms, human rights

August 6, 2008

Symington Says

Vermont Democratic Party press release, Aug. 6, 2008:
Symington proposes dramatic shift in energy policy

Speaker of the House Gaye Symington proposed a dramatic shift in Vermont's energy policy today by calling for an aggressive ramp-up of wind power. ...

"Deriving twenty percent of our power from wind generation in ten years is an ambitious, but achievable goal that will jump-start our economy and provide a critically needed new source of power," said Symington. ...

Symington unveiled the second half of her energy plan today on the factory floor of NRG Systems, Inc. in Hinesburg, a major supplier of equipment to the wind power industry that does very little business in Vermont because of the state's lack of wind projects.

"It is simply inexcusable that Vermont derives only 0.2 percent of its electricity from wind. While our neighboring states, oil states and nearly all developed countries are embracing the wisdom of wind power, our Governor stubbornly resists and claims erroneously that Vermonters don't want it. It is time for Jim Douglas to stop tilting at windmills and let me build them instead," Symington said.
Symington for Governor web site:
20% from Wind in Ten Years

Wind power is the fastest growing energy source in the world, but Vermont gets only 0.2% of its power from wind sources. 500 megawatts of wind power would provide approximately 20% of Vermont’s energy needs. ...

To achieve this vision, we must standardize and fast-track the process by which we study, test, plan, obtain public input and issue permits. ...

First, the figures, being careful to avoid using the word "energy" when we mean only electricity, which represents only about a fifth of Vermont's total energy consumption. (So Symington is talking about 20% of 20%, or 4%, a savings we could easily achieve through conservation and efficiency at a fraction of the cost and without having to industrialize our rural and wild landscapes.)

In 2006, Vermont used almost 5,800 gigawatt-hours of electricity. Growing at a very modest 1% annually (2% is the usual national rate used for planning), consumption will be 6,500 GWh in 2018 (ten years from now, Symington's target). Twenty percent of that is 1,300 GWh, representing an average rate (or load) of 150 megawatts (1,300,000 megawatt-hours divided by 8,760, which is the number of hours in a year). The average output of the existing turbines at Searsburg is 21% of their capacity (because the wind doesn't always blow within the range of ideal speeds for the turbines or exactly perpendicular to the ridgelines on which they are erected), so, being generous to the claims of newer technology, let's plan for an average 25% output. That would require 600 MW of wind energy capacity, not the 500 Symington claims.

At today's prices, that would require an investment of $1.2 billion, not counting new and upgraded power lines and substations. Imagine how many homes could be insulated with that money, or rural bus routes established, or trains.

At about six turbines per mile, 600 MW (of 1.5- to 2-MW turbines) would use 50-65 miles of ridgelines. Each turbine needs about 5 acres of clearance around it (for a total of up to 2,000 acres of lost habitat and an impact extending much farther), and the site requires not only massive cut-and-fill but often blasting to create a level area for the huge concrete base and construction/maintenance equipment. The turbines would be accessed by heavy-duty all-season roads, with their own extensive impacts on fragile ecosystems.

"Our governor stubbornly resists and claims erroneously that Vermonters don't want it."

In fact, true to form, Governor Douglas deftly manages to have it both ways. He pays lip service to opposition by the people actually affected by the industrial construction of giant wind turbines, while his Department of Public Service casually supports development applications. It was the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers that had to halt the UPC/First Wind (who are currently under investigation by the New York Attorney General) project in Sheffield to properly determine the impact on wetlands (until they were forced by Senator Bernie Sanders, pressured by Douglas's Agency of Natural Resources and the developer, UPC, to back off; in keeping with the politicization of public agencies, Vernon Lang, the official from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service who took seriously his mandate to protect wetlands and wildlife in the northeast, has been removed from working on wind projects).

Symington is accurate that Vermonters as a whole want wind energy. The vast majority of Vermonters won't ever have to live with the consequences of its visual and auditory intrusion. But in every community that has been threatened by industrial wind energy development, opposition has been clear and well grounded on evidence of big wind's low benefits and substantial adverse impacts.

That is why Symington says "we must standardize and fast-track the process by which we study, test, plan, obtain public input and issue permits." It is to avoid due oversight to protect our ridgelines and wildlife. It is to avoid effective citizen input from the people who would have to live in the shadow of the towering machines, their turning blades day and night, their flashing lights. Vermont, famous for its billboard ban and strict protection of its ridgelines, would throw it all away for a symbolic "feel-good" and ultimately meaningless gesture to "alternative" energy.

Because wind energy is intermittent, highly variable, and generally unpredictable, large amounts of it on the grid would make us more dependent on other sources, not less. And it would force those other sources to be used less efficiently, i.e., with more fuel consumption and more emissions, thus largely defeating the entire purpose of erecting giant wind turbines.

It is not an example of environmental concern to call for discarding a hard-fought rigor in siting industrial structures and infrastructure on prominent and sensitive ridgelines -- especially in the name of supporting an industry that, since the days of Enron, has banked on exaggerated claims and denial of negative impacts. It is politically convenient idiocy.

The fact that it has been difficult to site large-scale wind turbines in Vermont means the regulations are working and the people affected have had a decent chance to weigh in during the decision making.

Symington would fundamentally rewrite Vermont's environmental laws on the dubious and self-serving advice of one industry. That would effectively end any principle with which our natural heritage might be protected from any industry or development. That is why giant energy companies and predators like T. Boone Pickens are so interested in it.

Industrial wind, besides being fraudulent and destructive on its own merits, opens the door to further depredations on the rural character and wilderness of Vermont. And for nothing.

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