June 17, 2012

Mike Barnard doesn't know much about wind

Comments to a pair of editorials in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution by AWEA CEO Denise Bode and Wind Watch President Eric Rosenbloom have apparently been closed, so we received this late reply to the most substantial one. It is notable that all of the comments attacked Rosenbloom's piece (despite most commenters obviously not having read it), with unquestioning acceptance of Bode's inane sales pitch. It looks like the "New South" is still easy prey to carpetbaggers.

Mike Barnard (June 13, 1:10 pm) appears to be a one-man propaganda machine on behalf of the big energy companies hiding behind wind. He misrepresents not only his own apologias but also Rosenbloom's arguments.

For example, at aweo.org (not com), Rosenbloom notes that wind turbines on the grid consume a significant amount of energy. One of the sources is the Danish Wind Energy Association. He admits that the exact amount can only be speculated, however, because, as he also notes, it is not measured, as reported by the Electric Power Research Institute. This is an example of questions we should be asking but that the industry refuses to answer.

To some of Barnard's other points:

1. Intermittency. There's a big difference between predictable intermittency and knowing exactly how that intermittency will shape up. And there's a big difference between continuous minute-to-minute variability and the occasional loss of a single coal or nuclear plant. In fact, the grid is overbuilt precisely to handle such an event. Building wind requires using that excess capacity to balance wind's variability (as Rosenbloom says in this piece). And, as Germany has discovered, when that excess capacity is tied up with the wind, the loss of a coal or nuclear plant would be catastrophic.

2. Subsidies. It is a strange argument to say that money has long been wasted on other sources so it is only fair to waste more on wind. According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, wind received 42% of all federal subsidies for electricity production while producing 2.3% of the electricity generated. Wind is clearly benefiting from a very unlevel playing field already.

3. Wind "farms" are usually built, with their roads, platforms, substations, and transmission lines, in previously undeveloped, even wild, places. The impacts of such massive and sprawling constructions are obvious.

4. There has actually been no "peer-reviewed" study showing no connection between giant wind turbines and health problems. The "reviews" that Barnard cites are essentially echos of each other that carefully avoid the ever-growing reports of health problems that begin when the turbines start turning and that disappear when the person leaves the area. It can only be called sociopathic to reverse the cause and effect, as Barnard does by blaming the doctors and acousticians who report findings of harm. In contrast, an editorial in the preeminent British Medical Journal (BMJ, 8 Mar 2012) recognizes the health effects of large-scale wind energy facilities and calls for serious study to provide the basis for adequate regulation to protect the public.

5. The science of biological effects of low-frequency noise and infrasound (LFN/IS) is young. In fact, LFN/IS is rarely measured as part of noise control regulations. But it is known (as reported in "peer-reviewed" journals) to have serious physiological effects and that large wind turbines produce it.

6. While I was composing this reply, wind was generating less than 4% of Ontario's electricity, according to the Independent Electricity System Operator. And the province was exporting about the same amount. To say that wind, even in part, allowed switching off coal clearly ignores the facts. In fact, Ontario has replaced coal with more nuclear and natural gas.

wind power, wind energy