December 30, 2013

Wind displaces hydro, not fossil fuels

As a follow-up to an earlier post looking at the generation patterns in Spain and northwestern USA, here are a couple more pictures:

It's pretty clear from the Spanish graph that it is hydro power that is varied in response to fluctuation of demand as well as of wind power.

And the same thing is clear from the Bonneville graph: It is hydro power that is varied in response to both demand and changing wind. The thermal power generation line remains virtually constant.

In other words, wind power on the grid is not reducing the use of fossil fuels.

wind power, wind energy, environment, environmentalism

December 18, 2013

Sleep clears brain of toxic metabolites

Anthony Komaroff writes in New England Journal of Medicine Journal Watch:

We all know that without enough sleep, mood and cognition are impaired. Certain central nervous system conditions, including migraines and seizures, become more frequent and severe with a lack of sleep. When animals are kept from sleeping, they ultimately die.

Clearly, we need to sleep. But why? In a study in the October 18, 2013, issue of Science (, researchers report on a technique they developed for measuring the interstitial space in the brains of living mice. That space is bathed by cerebrospinal fluid that is produced by the choroid plexus and pumped back into the blood in the meninges. The researchers found that, during sleep and anesthesia, the interstitial space increased by 60%. The functional result of this expansion is that many metabolites of neurons and glial cells that spill into the interstitial space are cleared from the space much more rapidly, enter the blood, and are detoxified by the liver. These molecules include β‐amyloid and tau, which build up in the brains of patients with Alzheimer disease. When sleeping animals are aroused, the clearance of toxic metabolites slows markedly.

The researchers speculate that, at least in mice, the buildup of toxic metabolites in the interstitial space in the brain is a trigger for sleep, and that a key purpose of sleep is to clear these metabolites. Maybe the reason we feel restored after a good night’s sleep is because the brain has freed itself of toxins. This hypothesis is arresting in its simplicity and could prove to be profoundly important in human biology (

Emily Underwood comments:

Scientists have long speculated that one of the functions of sleep is to restore and repair the brain, but whether this is a “core” purpose of sleep remains controversial. Now, a paper published in Science this week on page 373 provides direct experimental evidence that the mouse brain cleans itself during sleep, by expanding channels between neurons that allow an influx of cerebrospinal fluid. The fluid flushes out detritus such as amyloid proteins, which accumulate as plaques in Alzheimer's disease, twice as fast when mice are sleeping as when they are awake.

Suzana Herculano-Houzel comments:

We know from personal experience that sleep is not just another brain state but a basic requirement for normal brain function while we are awake. Mental fatigue, poor decision-making, impaired learning, and a heightened risk of migraine and epileptic attacks ensue when we are sleep deprived — and chronic and complete insomnia ultimately lead to death in humans, rats, and flies alike. Why does normal brain function deteriorate with prolonged waking and require sleep to be restored? On page 373 in this issue, Xie et al. report that during sleep, waste products of brain metabolism are removed from the interstitial space among brain cells where they accumulate. Sleep, therefore, might be required for potentially toxic metabolites — the very results of a working brain — to be cleared from the tissue.

human rights

December 11, 2013

“Lewd, lascivious, salacious — outrageous!”

Remember Jackie Chiles, Kramer’s Johnny Cochran–like attorney in Seinfeld who in affected dudgeon characterized every situation with a set of at least three hyperbolic adjectives? I've been noticing that this is not uncommon among defenders of corporate wind ...

“Give this article [about the nocebo effect] to an anti-windpower campaigner and watch denial, evasion and anger set in.”

“I lay blame on those who ideologically spread fear, doubt and pseudoscience.”

“Anti-wind lobbyists spread fear, disharmony and anger.”

“You've stepped into a bit of a cesspool. Expect abuse and frothing. Despite this, they keep making the same unreferenced and unsupported comments in threads like this, without nuance or evidence of learning. Haters gotta hate.
[not exactly in the pattern, but squarely in the spirit: cesspool, abuse, frothing, unreferenced, unsupported, without nuance, without evidence of learning]

“So you [give victims of wind turbine noise more sympathetic treatment] through plagiarism, misrepresentation and deception? There's no merit in being conniving and manipulative. ... stealing, doctoring and misappropriating someone else's work”

wind power, wind energy, human rights, animal rights,

November 22, 2013

Questions and Answers: What's wrong with wind energy?

1. The National Wind Watch home page says, “because of the wind’s low density, intermittency, and high variability, [large-scale wind turbines] do next to nothing for reducing carbon and other emissions or dependence on other fuels”. Could you go into a bit more detail about this and present any links you have for evidence?

The power of the wind is 1/2 of area (turbine rotor diameter) × air density × wind speed cubed. There is a theoretical physical limit (Betz’ law) that no more than 16/27, or 59.3%, of the wind’s energy (power × time) can be captured. Modern wind turbines may reach 50% efficiency, but only within a certain range of wind speeds, which appear to be the average speeds for which the turbines are designed, but at which speeds they generate at only a fraction (around 1/3) of their maximum rate. As the wind speed increases, the rotors are increasingly feathered and efficiency plummets.

The brochure for Enercon turbines includes graphs showing the efficiency vs. wind speed.

In addition to being limited by Betz’ law, wind turbines must not interfere with each other, so they must be spaced quite far apart. The minimum distance is generally considered to be 3 rotor diameters perpendicular to the wind (possible only where wind is unidirectional) and 10 rotor diameters parallel to the wind. See, eg, Thus in an array of, say, 90-meter-diameter turbines (the blades of each machine sweeping a vertical airspace of 1.57 acres), each machine would require 810,000 square meters around it, or 200 acres. From that 200 acres, assuming a 2-MW turbine and an average rate of generation 25% of capacity (see for U.S. averages; they are generally quite a bit less in Europe), the average power density is only 2.5 kW/acre.

Furthermore, that wind energy is intermittent, meaning other sources of electricity must be available, and variable, meaning other sources must be kept running to be ramped up and down as needed to keep the electricity supply exactly matched to demand. This means that wind is only adding to the grid and then causing other generators to run less efficiently, including burning fuel while not generating electricity. See and

2. Pertaining to health — I’ve heard very mixed messages about whether the health effects are of legitimate concern and I would like to hear your take on it. ... Any scientific information would be great!

21 published (peer-reviewed) studies:
10 non-industry, non-government reviews:

One hitch has been the term “annoyance” as used in these studies. In epidemiology it means to a degree that can cause health problems. The wind industry has instead used its colloquial meaning to characterize the problem as something people just need to get used to.

Even that flies in the face of the evidence that infrasound (frequencies below the threshold of conscious hearing) and low-frequency noise (ILFN) is probably responsible for much of the problem, because research suggests that people who are sensitive to ILFN become more sensitized with continued exposure.

The research showing that people complain more about wind turbine noise than other artificial sources at similar decibel levels is probably explained by the facts that it is unpredictable (depending on wind speed and direction), that it often occurs at night, and that it is a pulsating noise.

Basically, the wind industry is trying to stop research as it has just begun. Because, as the reviews conclude, the preliminary research clearly justifies concern and is already leading to revisions of noise regulations to consider lower frequencies and pulsating patterns. And if such regulations are justified for humans, they would also have to be considered for wildlife ...

3. For my own sanity, I’m wondering why on earth there is so much controversy! How can there be such polar opposite opinions and what is the truth ... in your opinion?

There is a lot of desperation and urgency to remedy the consequences of our high level of energy consumption, and big wind has exploited that, ever since Enron first realized that it could sell wind to environmentalists as an alternative to coal. Since concern about climate change came to dominate mainstream environmentalism after Al Gore’s movie, wind energy has been sold as our salvation. It became a “with us or against us” marker of one’s concern for the environment or sociopolitical team loyalty. Its own adverse impacts (mining, birds and bats, wild habitat) are then dismissed simply as being much less than those of fossil fuels (the other team), ignoring the fact the the reduction of fossil fuel burning because of wind energy is effectively nil, making wind’s impacts — many of them unique, such as the threats to raptors and bats, and the need to build over hundreds of acres at a time in rural and wild places — an addition, not an alternative. Even the American Wind Energy Association once admitted that the most ambitious wind program would only slow the increase of carbon emissions. And for greenhouse gases, there are still the problems of transport and heating. And animal agriculture. And hydrofluorocarbons.

The truth is that there is no free lunch. By approaching the problem with building more instead of using less, wind energy is only perpetuating it. And while people look to wind energy to save the planet, they are more likely to avoid doing things that would make a real difference. They are able to buy Enron-invented “green tags” (carbon credits) to “offset” their impact rather than actually reduce it.

So the polarity is indeed justified and inevitable. Once somebody realizes that wind is a nonsolution, and harmful itself without meaningfully mitigating other harms, it is clear that there is hardly a “middle ground”. And once someone who believes in wind starts to admit that it has drawbacks or that claims for its benefits are overblown, a cornerstone of mainstream environmentalism starts to crumble — and retrenchment becomes all the more fierce to avoid complicating “the message”.

4. One more question: What are viable solutions instead of wind energy, and if wind energy is here to stay what kind of regulations or changes are needed for it to be successful?

Frankly, there probably isn’t a viable solution right now to 8 billion humans consuming ever more resources, particular in a world economic model of “growth”, which even with the modifier “sustainable” is still growth — growth of consumption, growth of waste, and less for the rest of life on the planet. Thursday's Democracy Now had a couple of climate scientists on calling for radical change from that model:

As for the potential success of wind energy, it would require not only massive building of wind turbines (and all the resources they require) but also an even more massive battery backup system (and all the more resources) and a massive expansion of continent-wide high-capacity transmission lines. In other words, it’s ridiculous. Virtually everything would have to be turned over to wind energy. We would have instead of a war economy a wind economy, where wind energy powers primarily the maintenance of wind power. And we’d still need backup generators!

H.G. Wells wrote, in 1897, “A Story of the Days to Come”:

And all over the countryside, he knew, on every crest and hill, where once the hedges had interlaced, and cottages, churches, inns, and farmhouses had nestled among their trees, wind wheels similar to those he saw and bearing like vast advertisements, gaunt and distinctive symbols of the new age, cast their whirling shadows and stored incessantly the energy that flowed away incessantly through all the arteries of the city. ... The great circular shapes of complaining wind-wheels blotted out the heavens ...
In that story, it is indeed the power company that is in power.

That said, it is a fact that wind turbines are being and will continue to be built, so like National Wind Watch I strongly support effective setbacks (at least 2 km, perhaps 5 km) from homes and noise regulations (that limit nighttime indoor noise to 30 dBA, as the WHO recommends, and limit ILFN and pulsating noise as well). And we oppose opening up otherwise protected land to the construction of the giant machines. Of course, such regulation would not contribute to, but instead would threaten, the “success” of wind energy. It would remain rare and unprofitable, as such an absurd source of energy for the modern world should be, used only in the most desperate of circumstances when nothing else is possible and the cost and harm and low benefit might be justifiable.

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

November 21, 2013

How much does wind energy reduce carbon emissions?

Claims of wind energy reducing carbon emissions and water use are like my taking a walk and then claiming I prevented the emissions of driving instead. Except neither I nor anybody else might have made that drive, and I didn't check if anybody’s driving was actually prevented or displaced by my taking that walk.

Claims of wind energy reducing carbon emissions and water use are made only on the basis of how much electricity is generated by wind turbines and multiplying that by the average (if they are that rigorous) carbon intensity of the rest of the grid.

But that ignores several factors that likely reduce that equivalence:

  • Because wind is variable, it is more likely to displace no-carbon hydro and lower-carbon natural gas, not coal, because those generators can ramp up and down much more quickly than coal plants are able to.
  • In balancing the variability of wind, fossil fuel plants are forced to run less efficiently, i.e., burn more fuel per unit of energy generated.
  • Wind also takes advantage of the redundancy already built into the grid that keeps a substantial amount of capacity on spinning standby to be able to instantly switch to generation in case of a major failure of supply elsewhere — or a dip in wind generation. Therefore, at modest penetration levels (perhaps up to around 6%), wind probably has no effect on emissions at all, instead only switching already running backup plants between generation and standby more often. At greater penetration levels, connections to other grids (such as Denmark’s to Germany and the rest of Scandinavia) are used for that purpose.
That’s why wind’s benefits are always reported in terms of equivalences. Its advocates tireless avoid presenting actual data of less burning of fossil fuels, because, for the reasons given above, such data do not show much, if any, benefit at all.

wind power, wind energy, environment, environmentalism

November 16, 2013

Wind displaces …

Here are a couple of pictures of the generation mix on the electric grids from two very different locations. These times were not chosen for any particular reason except that your editor was just now looking at them and though he/she might write about them. First, 24 hours from Spain:

What is notable is that only 3 sources vary substantially: wind, solar, and hydro. And gas use goes up a bit for the midday and evening peaks. As wind rises early in the morning and does not decrease after the midday peak, it is clear that hydro is the source being adjusted to accommodate it. It is also clear that there is substantial hydro capacity that is drawn on for the evening peak (when there is no solar). One might therefore conclude that the large amount of wind power installed in Spain has served more to reduce the use of hydropower rather than fossil fuels.

Second, a week from the Pacific Northwest in the USA:

What is notable here is the effect on other sources of the steady rise of wind-powered generation over the past 3 days. It's harder to read than the Spanish graph, but the effect seems to be almost none.

Update, Dec. 4, 2013:

wind power, wind energy, environment, environmentalism

6 Problems with Wind Turbine Syndrome by Skeptoid Brian Dunning

(Skeptoid episode #4388 — Most of the following is by courtesy of commenter El Rucio.)

Problem #1: There is no consensus on what it does or who it affects.

1. It is the consistency of symptoms reported by significant numbers of people after large wind turbines began operating nearby that led to the conclusion that those symptoms were probably caused by the turbines.

Problem #2: The symptoms attributed to Wind Turbine Syndrome do not require any cause.

2. It was Nina Pierpont's insight that the combination of symptoms and the pattern of susceptibility were signs of inner ear disturbance, suggesting infrasonic and/or low-frequency noise as the cause. Other physicians have noted that many of the symptoms can be caused by sleep disturbance due to the pulsating peaks of audible "blade swish". In any case, the symptoms vary with wind strength and direction and quite clearly diminish when affected individuals leave the area of the turbines or the turbines stop operating.

Problem #3: The timing of complaints is too unlikely.

3. PubMed lists 21 studies of the health effects of wind turbine noise published from 2003 to 2012, 9 of them dating from before Pierpont's book. In 2006, the French Academy of Medicine recognized the impact of wind turbine noise on human health and recommended a 1.5-km minimum distance from homes. Also in 2006, the British Noise Association wrote about the infrasound from wind turbines and recommended a setback of 1-1.5 miles.

Problem #4: The geographic dispersion of complaints is too unlikely.

4. Again, 21 studies published in English show a correlation, and only 7 of them come from English-speaking countries. Furthermore, most of the research showing the physiological effects of infrasound and low-frequency noise over the past few decades has been in non-English-speaking countries (see item 5). A review was recently recently published in Lakartidningen, the Journal of the Swedish Medical Association: "Infrasound From Wind Turbines – An Overlooked Health Hazard". In the comments of that article, the author, a specialist in otoneurology, addresses many of the arguments attempted here to dismiss the evidence.

Problem #5: Only implausible causes have been suggested.

5. PubMed lists well over 100 studies of the physiological effects of infrasound. And infrasound levels of concern from wind turbines have indeed been measured in homes. When Denmark proposed adding infrasound to its noise regulations in 2011, the wind industry forced the government to water it down.

Problem #6: Almost nobody seems to agree that it exists.

6. There is a list of 35 – at latest count – reviews of the health effects of wind turbines, and those by physicians overwhelmingly express concern and the need for further research and revised regulation.

[Problem #7:] Wind Turbine Syndrome ... bears all the signs of a psychogenic condition.

7. If there is any psychogenic condition around this issue, it is clearly the determination of so many otherwise intelligent people to vehemently deny the mounting evidence.

But at Skeptoid, all science is settled, all knowledge is absolute, and Brian Dunning, entrepreneur/convicted felon (read: huckster), is the final arbiter of both.

This whole subculture of smartypants skepticism is a sad aspect of our fascist era. Their pose of intellectual rigor appears more often to be simple contempt for people who think differently from them, and often as a desperate attempt to avoid facing facts that don't fit their vision of a technocratic utopia (or sales plan). Why do they feel so threatened? Why is the truth as they see it so unconvincing to others? Perhaps their own cultishness (like, never wondering what makes Brian Dunning such a know-it-all) betrays their claim of reason. Any reasonable person would be a lot more skeptical than these servants of power.

For their keen eye seems to be quite selectively applied to industries, since the "skeptics" themselves are invariably promoting or directly profiting by several of them, for example, industrial wind energy development. As in this episode, a lazy attempt to refute evidence of adverse health effects due to noise from wind turbines transparently serves only to promote wind energy companies by defaming their victims and those who listen to them. It is a contemptible performance, and it has nothing to do with science.

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

November 15, 2013

Reviews of wind turbines’ effects on human health

Elsewhere on this blog, there is an inclusive list of reviews of the literature concerning human health and the noise from industrial wind turbines. It was compiled to provide a more complete list than the highly selective one presented by Simon Chapman of the University of Sydney that is often cited by wind power promoters. It also showed that while Chapman presented the reviews as reason to dismiss health concerns, most of them actually note the limited number and power of studies but that the evidence justifies further investigation and caution.

Most of the reviews, however, are government reports: nine of Chapman’s original 17, all of the three he later added, and five of the additional reviews listed earlier on this blog. Furthermore, of Chapman’s list, four are irrelevant (three not about wind turbines and one a press release about one of the other reviews), two are industry reports, and two are just rehashes of an earlier review. Only three of the reviews he originally listed merit attention:

  • Dani Fiumicelli: Wind farm noise dose response: A literature review. Acoustics Bulletin, November/December 2011 (pages 26-35). [link]
  • Loren Knopper & Christopher Ollson: Health effects and wind turbines: A review of the literature. Environmental Health, 2011 10:78. [link]
  • Committee on Environmental Impacts of Wind-Energy Projects, Board on Environmental Studies and Toxicology, Division on Earth and Life Studies, National Research Council of the National Academies [NRC]: Environmental impacts of wind-energy projects. 2007. [link]
Ignoring additional government, industry, and unpublished reviews, we also have the following (in reverse order by date):
  • Patrice Tran Ba Huy, l’Académie nationale de médecine [France]: Nuisances Sanitaires des Éoliennes Terrestres. [Health Impacts of Onshore Wind Trubines.] May 9 2017. [link]
  • J. H. Schmidt, M. Klokker: Health effects related to wind turbine noise exposure: a systematic review. PLoS One 9(12): e114183 (2014). [link]
  • R. J. McCunney, K. A. Mundt, W. D. Colby, R. Dobie, K. Kaliski, & M. Blais: Wind turbines and health: a critical review of the scientific literature. Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine 2014 Nov;56(11):e108-30. “The Canadian Wind Energy Association funded this project.” These authors produced a similar review for the American and Canadian Wind Energy Associations in 2009. [link]
  • Loren Knopper, Christopher Ollson, et al.: Wind turbines and human health. Frontiers in Public Health 2014;2:63. [link]
  • Ian Arra, Hazel Lynn, Kimberley Barker, Chiebere Ogbuneke, & Sophie Regalado: Systematic Review 2013: Association between Wind Turbines and Human Distress. Cureus 6(5):e183. [link]
  • Michael Nissenbaum: Industrial Wind Turbines, Human Variability, and Adverse Health Effects. New England College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine Reporter, Volume 2 Issue 38 Fall 2013. [link]
  • Håkan Enbom & Inga Malcus Enbom: Infraljud från vindkraftverk – en förbisedd hälsorisk. [Infrasound from wind turbines – an overlooked health hazard.] Lakartidningen [Journal of the Swedish Medical Association], 2013 Aug 7-20;110(32-33):1388-9. [link]
  • Donata Kurpas, Bozena Mroczek, Beata Karakiewicz, Krzysztof Kassolik, & Waldemar Andrzejewski: Health impact of wind farms. Annals of Agricultural and Environmental Medicine 2013, Vol 20, No 3, 595–605. [link]
  • Jennifer Roberts & Mark Roberts: Wind turbines: is there a human health risk? Journal of Environmental Health, April 2013, Volume 75, No. 8. [link]
  • Con Doolan: A Review of Wind Turbine Noise Perception, Annoyance and Low Frequency Emission. Wind Engineering, Volume 37, No. 1, 2013, pp 97-104. [link]
  • Amir Farboud, R. Crunkhorn, & A. Trinidade: ‘Wind turbine syndrome’: fact or fiction? Journal of Laryngology & Otology, Volume 127, Issue 03, March 2013, pp 222-226. [link]
  • Christopher Hanning & Alun Evans: Wind turbine noise [editorial]. BMJ [British Medical Journal] 2012;344:e1527. [link]
  • Richard R. James: Wind turbine infra and low-frequency sound: warning signs that were not heard. Bulletin of Science, Technology & Society, 32(2) 108-127 (2012). [link]
  • Erwin Quambusch & Martin Lauffer: Infraschall von Windkraftanlagen als Gesundheitsgefahr. [Infrasound from wind turbines as a health hazard.] ZFSH/SGB–Zeitschrift für die sozialrechtliche Praxis 08/2008. [link]
  • Claude-Henri Chouard, l’Académie nationale de médecine [France]: Le retentissement du fonctionnement des éoliennes sur la santé de l’homme. [Repercussions of wind turbine operations on human health.] March 2006. [link]
  • Marjolaine Villey-Migraine: Eoliennes, sons et infrasons: Effets de l’éolien industriel sur la sante des hommes [thesis]. [Wind turbines, noise, and infrasound: effects of industrial wind turbines on human health.] Université Paris II–Panthéon-Assas, December 2004. [link]
Vetting these eleven, we find that: Dani Fiumicelli is Technical Director (Head of Noise and Vibration) of Temple Group, a development consultancy in the U.K., and is an author of a 2013 report for the Scottish government to deny concerns of health effects; Loren Knopper is Senior Scientist and Christopher Ollson is Vice President for Strategic Development of Intrinsik, an environment and health consultancy in Ontario, and in their paper they disclose that they “have worked with wind power companies”, that Ollson “has acted as an expert witness for wind power companies during a number of legal hearings”, and that all of the authors of their 2014 review are also disclosed to be employees of Intrinsik: “the authors work for a consulting firm and have worked with wind power companies”; in 2015 the Canadian Wind Energy Association honored Knopper and Ollson with their R. J. Templin Award for “results that have served to significantly advance the wind energy industry in Canada”; Mark Roberts is Principal Scientist of Exponent, an engineering and scientific consulting firm involved in wind energy development; and Kurpas et al. mention in passing towards the end of their paper that they “are involved in community public consultations with the advocates of new projects”. These potential conflicts are noted in the following quotes (ordered by date).

Villey-Migraine: “Wind turbines emit infrasound, this is not disputed by anyone. ... It seems to us immoral on the part of this organization [Agency of the Environment and Energy Management] to assert, without any reference, that infrasound emitted by wind turbines is perfectly harmless, and furthermore, to make claims of so-called ‘action,’ but that we can not prove the impact of wind turbine infrasound on humans by epidemiological studies. ... Noise and infrasound emitted by wind turbines have a definite impact on the health of humans and can harm people’s lives. ... Wind developers have a responsibility to put in place adequate measures to reduce the risks of damage to the health of residents living near wind turbines by siting turbines no closer to homes than – not 500 m as suggested in their publications – but 1600 m considering audible noise and at least 5 km considering infrasound.” [translated]

Chouard: “Whether it is quite intense or it represents a more moderate noise pollution, noise is the complaint most frequently made concerning wind turbines. It can have a real impact, and so far disregarded, on human health. ... It would be desirable, as a precaution, to halt the construction of wind turbine facilities greater than 2.5 MW closer than 1500 meters from homes.” [translated]

NRC: “In the absence of extensive data, this report focuses mainly on appropriate methods for analysis and assessment and on recommended practices in the face of uncertainty. ... Low-frequency vibration and its effects on humans are not well understood. Sensitivity to such vibration resulting from wind-turbine noise is highly variable among humans. ... More needs to be understood regarding the effects of low-frequency noise on humans.”

Quambusch & Lauffer: “There is no doubt that wind turbines produce infrasound. In contrast to the pronouncements of the authorities, plant operators, and related institutions that infrasound is "completely harmless", there are an increasing number of scientists noting the health risks of infrasound. The risk is sufficient that new regulations are required for prevention. As long as and to the extent that the health risks are not prevented by technical or similar guidelines, construction and operation of these plants should be allowed only if they are out of sight of residential areas.” [translated]

Knopper &: Ollson [industry consultants, non-medical]: “wind turbines can be a source of annoyance for some people”

Fiumicelli [industry consultant, non-medical]: “uncertainty about human response to wind turbine noise”

James [acoustician, non-medical]: “There is sufficient research and history to link the sensitivity of some people to inaudible amplitude-modulated infra and low-frequency noise to the type of symptoms described by those living near industrial wind turbines.”

Hanning & Evans: “A large body of evidence now exists to suggest that wind turbines disturb sleep and impair health at distances and external noise levels that are permitted in most jurisdictions ... Sleep disturbance may be a particular problem in children, and it may have important implications for public health. ... Robust independent research into the health effects of existing wind farms is long overdue.”)

Farboud et al.: “There is some evidence of symptoms in patients exposed to wind turbine noise. The effects of infrasound require further investigation.”

Doolan: “Low-frequency noise levels from wind turbines may exceed audibility thresholds and thus it is possible that they are correlated with annoyance. A review of studies related to general low-frequency noise annoyance shows there are similarities with annoyance studies involving wind turbine noise. ... noise levels may comply with existing environmental noise guidelines based on the dB(A) scale yet still cause annoyance due to the uniqueness of low-frequency noise problems. However, there is very little information (level, spectral balance, temporal qualities, etc) regarding low-frequency noise in people’s homes affected by wind turbines. ... Thus more research is needed in understanding the fundamental aspects of wind turbine low-frequency noise generation, propagation and perception.”

Roberts & Roberts [industry consultants]: “The answer to the question of whether or not exposure to wind turbine sound is a human health risk is still under review and warrants further research. Although limited, research has demonstrated that LFS [low-frequency sound] can elicit adverse physical health effects, such as vibration or fatigue, as well as an annoyance or unpleasantness response. The current research on exposure to wind turbine sound and the mere presence of wind turbines have also demonstrated a significant annoyance response among study participants. But the association and particular pathway between LFS specifically generated from wind turbines, annoyance, and adverse physical health effects have yet to be fully characterized.” [These authors also ignore the Nissenbaum et al. study in Noise & Health.]

Kurpas et al. [industry consultants]: “Short description of state of the art: The nuisance caused by wind turbines is stereotypically linked with the noise that they produce. Nevertheless, the visual aspect of wind farms, opinions about them, and sensitivity to sound seem to be of the greater importance. ... Health effects are more probably associated with some environmental factors leading to annoyance or frustration. All types of studies share the same conclusion: wind turbines can provoke annoyance. ... The influence of wind turbines on human emotional and physical health is a relatively new field of research. Further analyses of these issues are justified, especially because none of the studies published in peer-reviewed journals so far meet the criteria for cohort or case-control studies. ... The authors did not analyse coherent publications or website documents (study by M. Alves-Pereira and N.C. Branco and the study by N. Pierpont).” [The authors also missed the Nissenbaum 2012 paper in Noise & Health, which appeared after their submission. And they assert that noise from wind turbines cause only subjective effects, despite the evidence under review of interference with, e.g., sleep, and physiological effects.]

Enbom & Malcus Enbom: “Infrasound from wind turbines affects the inner ear and is a potential health risk for people with migraine or other type of central sentitisation. Regulations for construction of wind turbines should be revised, taking this fact into account.” [translated]

Nissenbaum: “In summary, in many IWT projects, the preconstruction sound modeling has underestimated the eventual real world sound levels those turbine projects eventually produce. When coupled with the underappreciated human physiological responses to the type of noise large turbines produce (adverse sleep and mental health effects), this has had real world consequences for those living near them. The relationship of noise to sleep disturbances is established. The biological plausibility of sleep disturbances resulting in ill health is settled science. Chronic noise exposure leads to chronic sleep disturbance in many of those exposed, often resulting in ill health. Observed adverse human effects must trump preconstruction sound modeling; changes in practice must occur when there are errors. It’s all about distance when siting decisions are made.”

Arra et al.: “In this review, we have demonstrated the presence of reasonable evidence (Level Four and Five) that an association exists between wind turbines and distress in humans. The existence of a dose-response relationship (between distance from wind turbines and distress) and the consistency of association across studies found in the scientific literature argues for the credibility of this association.”

Knopper, Ollson, et al. [industry consultants, non-medical]: “Setbacks should be sound-based rather than distance-based alone. Preference should be given to sound emissions of ≤40 dB(A) for non-participating receptors, measured outside, at a dwelling, and not including ambient noise. ... Post construction monitoring should be common place to ensure modeled sound levels are within required noise limits. If sound emissions from wind projects is in the 40–45 dB(A) range for non-participating receptors, we suggest community consultation and community support. Setbacks that permit sound levels >45 dB(A) (wind turbine noise only; not including ambient noise) for non-participating receptors directly outside a dwelling are not supported due to possible direct effects from audibility and possible levels of annoyance above background. When ambient noise is taken into account, wind turbine noise can be >45 dB(A), but a combined wind turbine–ambient noise should not exceed >55 dB(A) for non-participating and participating receptors. Our suggested upper limit is based on WHO conclusions that noise above 55 dB(A) is ‘considered increasingly dangerous for public health,’ is when ‘adverse health effects occur frequently, a sizeable proportion of the population is highly annoyed and sleep-disturbed’ and ‘cardiovascular effects become the major public health concern, which are likely to be less dependent on the nature of the noise.’”

Schmidt and Klokker: “At present it seems reasonable to conclude that noise from wind turbines increases the risk of annoyance and disturbed sleep in exposed subjects in a dose-response relationship. There seems to be a tolerable limit of around LAeq of 35 dB. Logically, accepting higher limits in legislations may lead to increased numbers of annoyed subjects. It therefore seems reasonable to conclude that a cautious approach is needed when planning future wind farms. Furthermore, there is an indication that noise annoyance and sleep disturbance are related and that disturbed sleep potentially can lead to adverse health effects. These conclusions are, however, affected by a potential risk for selection and information bias even in the larger cross-sectional studies providing the current best evidence. The evidence for adverse health effects other than sleep disturbance is primarily supported by case-series reports which certainly may be affected by various sources of bias. Larger cross-sectional surveys have so far been unable to document a relationship between various symptoms such as tinnitus, hearing loss, vertigo, headache and exposure to wind turbine noise. One limitation causing this could be that most studies so far have only measured LAeq or Lden. An additional focus on the measurement of low-frequency sound exposure as well as a more thorough characterisation of the amplitude modulated sound and the relationship between objective and subjective health parameters could lead to different conclusions in the future. Finally, in regards to the objective measurement of health-related disorders in relation to wind turbine noise, it would be valuable to demonstrate if such health-related outcomes fluctuate depending on exposure to wind turbine noise.”

Tran Ba Huy: “[L]e caractère intermittent, aléatoire, imprévisible, envahissant du bruit généré par la rotation des pales, survenant lorsque le vent se lève, variant avec son intensité, interdisant toute habituation, peut indubitablement perturber l’état psychologique de ceux qui y sont exposés. Ce sont notamment les modulations d’amplitudes causées par le passage des pales devant le mât qui sont dénoncées comme particulièrement dérangeantes.” [The intermittent, random, unpredictable, invasive character of the noise generated by the rotation of the blades, arising when the wind rises and varying along with its intensity, preventing habituation, can undoubtedly disturb the psychological state of those who are exposed to it. These include amplitude modulation caused by the passage of the blades in front of the mast, which is noted as particularly disturbing.] “[L]e groupe de travail recommande: ... de revenir pour ce qui concerne leur bruit (et tout en laissant les éoliennes sous le régime des Installations Classées pour le Protection de l’Environnement) au décret du 31 août 2006 relatif à la lutte contre les bruits du voisinage (relevant du code de Santé publique et non de celui de l’Environnement), ramenant le seuil de déclenchement des mesures d’émergence à 30 dB A à l’extérieur des habitations et à 25 à l’intérieur.” [The working group recommends returning to the decree of 31 August 2006 concerning the fight against neighborhood noise, reducing the the threshold for emergency measures to [ambient levels] 30 dBA outside residences and 25 dBA inside [limiting wind turbine noise to +5 dBA in daytime (7am–10pm) and +3 dBA at night (10pm–7am)].]

To undertake your own review, click here for a list of, and access to, 21 published studies (2003–2012) of health effects of industrial wind turbine noise.

Also see the tables from “Health Effects Related to Wind Turbine Noise Exposure: A Systematic Review” by JH Schmidt and M Klokker (2014)

Also:  “There is clear evidence of an annoyance or irritability caused by the acoustic signal from wind turbines that appears to be greater compared to other equivalent-level environmental noise such as airport or road traffic noise. In this regard, wind turbine noise is unique in having low-frequency signal components including infrasound (below 20 Hz). The sounds that are audible have a distinct amplitude modulation component, generally described as a “swish” or “thump”. This rhythmic characteristic makes the noise difficult to ignore or to adapt to, and its enhanced perception compared to un-modulated noise appears to contribute to its increased annoyance factor. Biological health issues can arise when the irritability and annoyance leads to sleep disturbance and stress.” —Robert Harrison: On the biological plausibility of Wind Turbine Syndrome. International Journal of Environmental Health Research, 2015, Vol. 25, No. 5, 463–468.

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

November 14, 2013

Two-thirds of dementia cases have unknown causes

“Much of late life cognitive decline is not due to common neurodegenerative pathologies”. Patricia A. Boyle, PhD, Robert S. Wilson, PhD, Lei Yu, PhD, Alasdair M. Barr, PhD, William G. Honer, MD, Julie A. Schneider, MD, and David A. Bennett MD. Annals of Neurology. Volume 74, Issue 3, pages 478–489, September 2013. DOI: 10.1002/ana.23964

Objective. The pathologic indices of Alzheimer disease, cerebrovascular disease, and Lewy body disease accumulate in the brains of older persons with and without dementia, but the extent to which they account for late life cognitive decline remains unknown. We tested the hypothesis that these pathologic indices account for the majority of late life cognitive decline.

Methods. A total of 856 deceased participants from 2 longitudinal clinical–pathologic studies, Rush Memory and Aging Project and Religious Orders Study, completed a mean of 7.5 annual evaluations, including 17 cognitive tests. Neuropathologic examinations provided quantitative measures of global Alzheimer pathology, amyloid load, tangle density, macroscopic infarcts, microinfarcts, and neocortical Lewy bodies. Random coefficient models were used to examine the linear relation of pathologic indices with global cognitive decline. In subsequent analyses, random change point models were used to examine the relation of the pathologic indices with the onset of terminal decline and rates of preterminal and terminal decline (ie, nonlinear decline).

Results. Cognition declined a mean of about 0.11U per year (estimate = −0.109, standard error [SE] = 0.004, p < 0.001), with significant individual differences in rates of decline; the variance estimate for the individual slopes was 0.013 (SE = 0.112, p < 0.001). In separate analyses, global Alzheimer pathology, amyloid, tangles, macroscopic infarcts, and neocortical Lewy bodies were associated with faster rates of decline and explained 22%, 6%, 34%, 2%, and 8% of the variation in decline, respectively. When analyzed simultaneously, the pathologic indices accounted for a total of 41% of the variation in decline, and the majority remained unexplained. Furthermore, in random change point models examining the influence of the pathologic indices on the onset of terminal decline and the preterminal and terminal components of the cognitive trajectory, the common pathologic indices accounted for less than a third of the variation in the onset of terminal decline and rates of preterminal and terminal decline.

Interpretation. The pathologic indices of the common causes of dementia are important determinants of cognitive decline in old age and account for a large proportion of the variation in late life cognitive decline. Surprisingly, however, much of the variation in cognitive decline remains unexplained, suggesting that other important determinants of cognitive decline remain to be identified. Identification of the mechanisms that contribute to the large unexplained proportion of cognitive decline is urgently needed to prevent late life cognitive decline.

October 30, 2013

U.S. CO₂ emissions for electricity from coal have risen over past 10 years

A report from Spain and a news release from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency have recently touted a decline in CO₂ emissions from electricity generation. Both, however, actually cite only a reduction of electricity generated by fossil fuels. A much more meaningful measure, considering the complexity of the grid, would be the amount of fossil fuels burned per unit of electricity generated. But that seems to be precisely what is studiously never reported (outside of this space, e.g., here, here, and here).

It requires a bit of digging into many different sources of data at the U.S. Department of Energy’s Energy Information Administrations. To be as up to date as possible, the following has used the latest Electric Power Monthly, release Oct. 24, 2013, to include data from 2012. First, instead of looking at power plant heat rates of fossil fuels, we need to look at their simple heat contents, i.e., not how much electricity they generate but how much energy they contain. This is because not all burning of fossil fuels at power plants goes to generating electricity. The heat content is expressed as Btu/unit of fuel: The present analysis used the values of 9,530,000 Btu/ton of coal, 1,021,000 Btu/1,000 cubic feet of natural gas, and 5,871,390 Btu/barrel of petroleum liquids.

Second, instead of electricity generated by fossil fuels, we need to look at the amount of fossil fuels burned at power plants.

Finally, assigning amounts of CO₂ per unit of fuel, we can calculate the actual CO₂ emitted by each fossil fuel. Here we assume 210 lb. CO₂/million Btu coal, 117 lb. CO₂/million Btu natural gas, and 170 lb. CO₂/million Btu petroleum liquids.

Then we can total them up and express those emissions as a ratio to total electricity generated. If, e.g., wind power is causing a reduction of, say, coal-generated electricity and thus a reduction of CO₂ emissions, then that ratio of CO₂ per unit of electricity will be lower.

Overall, the CO₂ emitted per GWh in total has indeed gone down, from 1,288,801 pounds in 2003 to 1,120,663 in 2013 — a 13% decrease. This is due mostly to the increasing share of natural gas over coal, because natural gas releases almost half the amount of CO₂ as coal. Furthermore, the amount of CO₂ emitted per unit of electricity generated by natural gas has also decreased, from 1,032,279 CO₂/GWh in 2003 to 918,727 in 2013 — an 11% decrease.

The picture is further complicated by the fact that over the past 10 years, the amount of CO₂ emitted per unit of electricity from coal has actually steadily risen, from 2,107,148 pounds CO₂/GWh in 2003 to 2,234,734 in 2012 — an increase of 6%. At the same time, wind energy rose from 11,187 GWh in 2003 to 140,089 GWh in 2012. This suggests that wind does indeed cut into the efficiency of using coal for electricity, because coal plants need to “stay warm” even when not generating electricity so that they are able to kick in when the wind conditions change.

Assuming that wind is the primary reason for coal’s decreasing efficiency, what if the 140,089 GWh generated from wind power in 2013 were generated by coal operating at its heat rate from 2003? Then the overall CO₂/GWh would have been 11.5% instead of 13% lower than in 2003, suggesting that wind power has been responsible for only a 1.5% decrease in CO₂/GWh and a 1.6% decrease in total CO₂ emissions. Considering that wind’s share of U.S. electricity generation increased from 0.3% in 2003 to 3.5% in 2013, it is clear that its effect on CO₂ emissions is very far from — less than half of — what its proponents claim.

In the scale of the graph below, the decrease in CO₂ emissions with wind (blue, mostly hidden - not the teal line for coal generation) or without wind (green) are nearly identical, whereas other changes, including the addition of wind energy, are quite obvious. Also note the exactly parallel lines of coal CO₂/GWh (orange) and wind generation (red).

And that clearly suggests that the costs and impacts of wind energy — the necessary consequence of trying to harness such a diffuse and variable source — well outweigh its benefits. Compared with the very modest conservation that would achieve the same emissions results, wind appears to be a very wasteful and destructive alternative indeed.

wind power, wind energy, environment, environmentalism

October 24, 2013

It Was Meant to Be

James McWilliams writes:

Grass-fed beef advocates are always going on and on about how cows "were not meant" to eat corn. They were meant to eat grass. This might be true, barring any investigation into how genetics might have structured cows to eat corn, or how grasses and genetics match up. This is might be true, I suppose, if we want it to be true, and the media says so.

But let's just say its true. So, if cows were meant to eat grass and that is why advocates of grass beef support this form of production rather than corn based, feedlot production, we can logically conclude that those who eat only grass-fed beef – again, because it's more natural, and because this was how it was "meant to be" – don't drink milk or eat dairy products.

Huh? How did milk get into this discussion about beef? Well, if we're going to make a fetish out of what's natural, we have an obligation to ask: is forcibly impregnating cows, kidnapping their offspring, and drinking their milk natural? Isn't it natural for a mother to feed her offspring her own milk? Actually, is anything more natural?

Ask this question next time you hear someone justify some form of animal exploitation or another on the grounds of what nature intended. Make them answer. Force them to answer. Because there is no right answer.

human rights, animal rights, vegetarianism, veganism

October 9, 2013

Infrasonic Fear Generator : Industrial Wind Turbines

From Monster-tronics:
The Fear Generator can cause a range of strange feelings, anxiety, sorrow, chills, unnerving feelings, heightened emotions, including visions and vibrations in the chest and other parts of the body, in a large percentage of people.

Infrasound refers to extreme bass waves or vibrations, with a frequency below the audibility range of the human ear. Even though these waves can't be heard by us, they can be felt and sensed and have been shown to produce a range of effects in some people.

Based on previous studies, 20% to 60% of people have reported strange feelings when tests were performed at concerts, in pressure chambers, at home, and in test facilities. No tests were conducted in a scary environment. We believe the percentage of people affected in a haunted house setting will be even greater. Most people will feel vibrations in parts of their bodies (commonly the chest area) similar to audible bass but won’t know where it is coming from since they can not hear it. Vibrations in the chest are a common symptom of extreme terror.

Infrasound is very difficult, if not impossible, to recreate from a standard stereo system. Most subwoofers are only rated down to 40 Hz and the amplifiers, filters, and crossover systems can limit the low frequencies you need to hit even further. The Fear Generator is specially designed to produce a specific infrasound frequency that has been scientifically tested to produce these effects in people.

NOTE: A large pipe is required for the Fear Generator and is not included.
From “Wind Turbines and Ghost Stories: The Effects of Infrasound on the Human Auditory System” by Hsuan-hsiu Annie Chen and Peter Narins, UCLA:
High levels of infrasound and low frequency sounds generated by wind turbines pose a potentially serious threat to communities near wind farms. Wind energy companies remain largely dismissive, claiming that wind turbine noise is subaudible, undetectable by humans, and therefore presents minimal risk to human health. However, various cochlear microphonic, distortion product otoacoustic emission, and fMRI studies have demonstrated the detection of infrasound by the human inner ear and auditory cortex. Additional psychosomatic stress and disorders, including the “wind turbine syndrome” and paranormal experiences, are also linked to infrasound exposures. With wind turbines generating substantial levels of infrasound and low frequency sound, modifications and regulations to wind farm engineering plans and geographical placements are necessary to minimize community exposure and potential human health risks.
Also see:  U.S. Patent 6,017,302, Jan. 25, 2000: Subliminal Acoustic Manipulation of Nervous Systems, inventor Hendricus G. Loos
Abstract: In human subjects, sensory resonances can be excited by subliminal atmospheric acoustic pulses that are tuned to the resonance frequency. The 1/2 Hz sensory resonance affects the autonomic nervous system and may cause relaxation, drowsiness, or sexual excitement, depending on the precise acoustic frequency near 1/2 Hz used. The effects of the 2.5 Hz resonance include slowing of certain cortical processes, sleepiness, and disorientation. For these effects to occur, the acoustic intensity must lie in a certain deeply subliminal range. Suitable apparatus consists of a portable battery-powered source of weak subaudio acoustic radiation. The method and apparatus can be used by the general public as an aid to relaxation, sleep, or sexual arousal, and clinically for the control and perhaps treatment of insomnia, tremors, epileptic seizures, and anxiety disorders. There is further application as a nonlethal weapon that can be used in law enforcement standoff situations, for causing drowsiness and disorientation in targeted subjects. It is then preferable to use venting acoustic monopoles in the form of a device that inhales and exhales air with subaudio frequency.


Experiments have shown that atmospheric acoustic stimulation of deeply subliminal intensity can excite in a human subject the sensory resonances near 1/2 Hz and 2.5 Hz. The 1/2 Hz resonance is characterized by ptosis of the eyelids, relaxation, drowsiness, a tonic smile, tenseness, or sexual excitement, depending on the precise acoustic frequency near 1/2 Hz that is used. The observable effects of the 2.5 Hz resonance include a slowing of certain cortical functions, sleepiness, and, after long exposure, dizziness and disorientation. The finding that these sensory resonances can be excited by atmospheric acoustic signals of deeply subliminal intensity opens the way to an apparatus and method for acoustic manipulation of a subject's nervous system, wherein weak acoustic pulses are induced in the atmosphere at the subject's ears, and the pulse frequency is tuned to the resonance frequency of the selected sensory resonance. The method can be used by the general public for control of insomnia and anxiety, and for facilitation of relaxation and sexual arousal. Clinical use of the method includes the control and perhaps a treatment of anxiety disorders, tremors, and seizures. A suitable embodiment for these applications is a small portable battery-powered subaudio acoustic radiator which can be tuned to the resonance frequency of the selected sensory resonance.

There is an embodiment suitable for law enforcement operations in which a subject's nervous system is manipulated from a considerable distance, as in a standoff situation. Subliminal subaudio acoustic pulses at the subject's location may then be induced by acoustic waves radiating from a venting acoustic monopole, or by a pulsed air jet, especially when aimed at the subject or at another material surface, where the jet velocity fluctuations are wholly or partly converted into static pressure fluctuations.

The described physiological effects occur only if the intensity of the acoustic stimulation falls in a certain range, called the effective intensity window. This window has been measured in exploratory fashion for the 2.5 Hz resonance.
And: Cooperative Measurement Survey and Analysis of Low-Frequency and Infrasound at the Shirley Wind Farm
We consider a 1987 paper entitled: Motion Sickness Symptoms and Postural Changes Following Flights in Motion Based Flight Trainers [R.S. Kennedy, G.O. Allgood, B.W. Van Hoy, and M.G. Lilienthal, Journal of Low Frequency Noise and Vibration, Vol. 6, No. 4, 1987, pp. 147-154].

This paper was motivated by Navy pilots becoming ill from using flight simulators. The problems encountered by the Navy pilots appear to be somewhat similar to those reported by the Shirley residents. This 1987 paper focused on whether the accelerations in a simulator might cause symptoms similar to those caused by motion sickness or seasickness. Figure 1 from the reference shows the advent of motion sickness in relation to frequency, acceleration level and duration of exposure. To develop these data, subjects were exposed to various frequencies, acceleration levels and exposure durations, and the Motion Sickness Incidence (MSI) was developed as the percentage of subjects who vomited. Figure 1 shows two delineated regions. The lower region is for an MSI of 10%. The top end of this region is for an exposure duration of 30 minutes and the bottom end is for eight hours of exposure. The upper delineated region has the same duration limits but is for an MSI of 50%. The acceleration levels indicated for the SH3 Sea King Simulator show that the accelerations in the y and z direction went well into the nauseogenic region as defined by the Navy, whereas the P3-C Orion simulator had comparable accelerations in the x direction and lower accelerations in the y and z direction. Not surprisingly pilots' reports of sickness increased dramatically after exposure to the SH3 simulator while exposure to the P3-C simulator had virtually no effect on reports of sickness.

What is important here is the range encompassed by the delineated regions of Figure 6. Essentially, this nauseogenic condition occurs below 1 Hz; above 1Hz it appears that accelerations of 1G would be required for the nauseogenic condition to manifest itself. While the Navy criteria are for acceleration, in Shirley we are dealing with pressures in a closed cavity, the house. Acceleration of the fluid filled semi circular canal in the ear will manifest itself as force on the canal. The similarity between force on the canal from acceleration and pressure on the canal from being in a closed cavity suggest that the mechanisms and frequencies governing the nauseogenic region are very similar for both pressure and acceleration.

As the generated electric power of a wind turbine doubles the sound power doubles and the blade passage frequency decreases by about 1/3 of an octave. The wind turbines at Shirley have a blade passage frequency of about 0.7 Hz. This suggests that a wind turbine producing 1 MW would have a blade passage frequency of about 0.9 Hz, and on Figure 6, a change from 0.7 Hz to 0.9 Hz requires a doubling of the acceleration for the same level of response. Thus, it is very possible that this nauseogenic condition has not appeared frequently heretofore because older wind farms were built with smaller wind turbines. However, the 2 MW, 0.7Hz wind turbines clearly have moved well into the nauseogenic frequency range.

This analysis suggests that similar problems to the problems in Shirley can be expected for other wind turbines that have the same or lower fundamental frequency. The Navy criteria suggests that to maintain the same level of health related effects as have occurred heretofore, the levels of a 2 MW, 0.7 Hz wind turbine as experienced in the community must be 6 dB lower than those for 1 MW, 0.9 Hz wind turbine. Moreover, Figure 6 does not bode well for future larger wind turbines if they go even lower in frequency.
wind power, wind energy, wind turbines, wind farms, environment, environmentalism, human rights

September 30, 2013

Gullible for Wind Power

Ketan Joshi writes: "Not all climate 'skeptics' are wind farm opponents, and not all wind farm opponents are climate 'skeptics', but the region in which those two groups overlap is a truly fascinating case study into how we filter evidence according to our respective worldviews."

This is an important acknowledgement that there are indeed wind energy opponents (or 'skeptics') who are not climate skeptics. In his continuing effort to tar wind energy skeptics with the same brush as climate skeptics, however, Joshi ignores the much more dissonant overlap of climate 'believers' and wind energy supporters.

He decries what he sees as gullibility (or worse) of those who 'believe' the evidence against wind, even as he counts on the gullibility of those who 'believe' in wind to support his defense and promotion of it.

Joshi finds it "fascinating" that one can reject the findings of climate science yet accept those of adverse health effects from wind turbines, insisting that there is "a complete lack of evidence" for the latter. The reference he provides is a film – produced by a wind advocacy group with many industry-connected members – showing unaffected hosting landowners. Joshi apparently takes this single piece of evidence completely on faith, despite its overt agenda, even as he completely rejects all testimony of harm (see, for but a few examples, these victim impact statements).

So one notes that Joshi himself exemplifies how evidence is filtered according to one's worldview. In this case, it is easily understandable in that he works for a wind developer. His general claims of scientific rigor are thus called into doubt when he so casually misrepresents the science of wind energy. His devotion to science seems to go only so far as it supports his and his company's interests.

That's obvious, really, to everyone except, apparently, himself. Just as he tars all views of climate skeptics because of their view on climate change, like many that promote the industry he asserts that faith in wind energy unquestionably follows from the acceptance of climate science. Rather than acknowledge any evidence against wind energy, he bolsters his faith in it by lashing on other examples of accepted science, such as the benefit of vaccines and the truth of evolution, shamelessly aligning industry self-interest with the indisputable achievements of Salk and Mendel. Another tactic is to detect not only scientific heresy anywhere in the views of wind power's critics, but also any hint of racism, sexism, xenophobia, homophobia, etc. to further justify ignoring and even mocking the evidence. Even worse, corporate wind defenders often gloat over the money they make and spend and dismiss critics as merely envious, as cynically angling, like themselves, for a big payoff.

This does not, of course, cause the evidence to go away that wind energy is neither a viable energy source nor a meaningful contributor to lower emissions, and that it has a high level of adverse impacts relative to its benefits.

[[[[ | ]]]]

Despite the acknowledgement that "[n]ot all climate 'skeptics' are wind farm opponents, and not all wind farm opponents are climate 'skeptics'", Joshi's main purpose remains the nonsensical defense of wind energy as a good simply because many climate skeptics bash it. By bashing the climate skeptics in return, he avoids addressing their critiques – which many climate non-skeptics share – of wind energy. In short: 'Because they are wrong about climate science, they are also wrong about wind energy.'

But are climate skeptics who support wind power also therefore wrong about the latter? Are climate non-skeptics who agree that wind energy has serious shortcomings also wrong about climate science? At least the latter possibility is blocked by denying that climate non-skeptics really are: 'Because they oppose wind power, they are dishonest about supporting climate science.' In other words, it is really only one's view of wind energy that is tested, because that is in fact the only true interest. For the former question, corporate representatives like Joshi are quite able to separate the issues of climate science and wind power when climate skeptics support the industry (a common situation in the U.S. among legislators at the subsidy trough). [Update, Jan. 29, 2014:  Joshi has decried Greenpeace as "anti-science" on the evidence of their destroying a GMO research crop. But Greenpeace also supports corporate wind power, which is "pro-science" according to Joshi, whose "science" is clearly an ad hoc fetish.]

Circularity is not a concern, because the premise is not what it might appear to be: not climate science, fossil or nuclear fuels, particulate pollution, nor the Koch Brothers. It is simply the desire to erect giant wind turbines wherever possible.

Those who support that goal repeatedly show that their interest is not science, but simply to sell their product. Thus they misrepresent both.

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

September 24, 2013 Just Another Wall St Greenwash Department

Cory Morningstar writes at Counterpunch:

Anne Petermann writes: ... “if you focus solely on eliminating fossil fuels without changing the underlying system, then very bad things will take their place because it is the system itself that is unsustainable. It is a system designed to transform ‘natural capital’ and human labor into gargantuan profits for an elite few: the so-called ‘1%.’ Whether it’s driven by fossil fuels or biofuels or even massive solar and wind installations, the system will continue to devour ecosystems, displace forest-based communities, Indigenous Peoples and subsistence farmers from their lands, crush labor unions and generally make life hell for the vast majority of the world’s peoples. That is what it does.”

... the so-called climate movement has sabotaged any chance of mitigating a full scale global ecological collapse, having instead cleared the way for corporate profiteering, deforestation, fund-raising and full-out omnicide. ...

A key design element within the non-profit industrial complex is that “movements” are created top down. In the case of Rockefeller’s, the game is simply this: locals take their marching orders straight from the top ( International) while “the top” (McKibben et al) take their marching orders directly from their funders – and in the case of’s Do the Math Tour, those funders are Wall Street investors.

McKibben, along with key staff, developed the divestment campaign in consultation with Ceres Investors – referred to fondly as their “Wall Street friends.”

Such loyalties are par for the course in the corporate enviro world where Wall Street execs can be referred to as “our Wall Street friends.” Never mind that Wall Street is the very root cause of our multiple and ever accelerating ecological and economic crises, not to mention the global food crisis. These crises are not truly “crisis” in a spontaneous sense, rather they are strategic by design with the aim of furthering corporate profit, which is simply insatiable. ...

One must take note of’s obsession with fossil fuels exclusively. With certainty,, in tandem with the non-profit industrial complex, is strategically preparing the populace to accept what Guy McPherson calls the “third industrial revolution.” This “climate wealth” agenda will include false solutions such as biomass, unbridled “green” consumerism, carbon market mechanisms such as REDD, etc. What it will not include is: the urgent necessity to destroy the expanding military empire, to transition from/dismantle our current economic system, to address the industrialized livestock industry, to massively scale back and conserve, to employ tactics of self-defense by any means necessary, nor anything else that is imperative to address if we are to mitigate full-out omnicide. [See also: : “White House misinformation and inaction regarding greenhouse gases”.] In a nutshell, the agenda will not include anything that would actually pose any meaningful threat to the system. It’s always divide and conquer with the corporate/elite-funded NGOs. The point is to ensure the masses fight meaningless battles and never “connect the dots,” to use’s phrase. Just like the Avaaz founder, successfully induces consent. ...

We are about to witness the global transition to profitable false solutions under the guise of “green economy” coupled with the complete commodification/privatization of the shared commons by the world’s most powerful corporations. All while they simultaneously greenwash themselves as noble stewards of the Earth.

[Also see: Activist Malpractice” by Michael Donnelly]

environment, environmentalism, human rights, animal rights, vegetarianism, veganism, Vermont, anarchism, ecoanarchism

September 9, 2013

Two songs for you

The Wanton Seed, sung by Bert Lloyd, from The Bird in the Bush (1966)


My Bonny Boy, sung by Anne Briggs, from The Hazards of Love (1964)


September 7, 2013

Report on Kyoto — Enron wins — At what price?

"On the business front: During the next year there will be intense positioning of organizations to capture an early lead in a variety of carbon trading businesses.

"The endorsement of joint implementation within Annex-1 is exactly what I have been lobbying for and it seems like we won.

"The clean development will be a mechanism for funding renewable projects. Again, we won. (We need to push for natural gas firing to be included among the technologies that get preferential treatment from the fund.)

"The endorsement of emissions trading was another victory for us. ...

"Through our involvement with the climate change initiatives, Enron now has excellent credentials with many “green” interests including Greenpeace, WWF, NRDC, GermanWatch, the US Climate Action Network, the European Climate Action Network, Ozone Action, WRI, and Worldwatch. This position should be increasingly cultivated and capitalized on (monetized). ...

"This agreement will be good for Enron stock!!"

—John Palmisano, Senior Director for Environmental Policy and Compliance, Enron, Dec. 12, 2997  [see below]
(((( o ))))

To: Terry Thorn, Joe Hillings, Cynthia Sandherr, Jeff Keeler, Fiona Grant, Hap Boyd, Bill Shoff, Dan Badger, Tom Kearney, Lynda Clemmons, Bruce Stram, Mike Terraso, Rob Bradley, Jim O’Neill, John Hardy
From: John Palmisano
Date: December 12, 1997
Subject: Implications of the Climate Change Agreement in Kyoto & What Transpired

This memo summarizes the implications of the agreement reached in Kyoto and also describes what I was doing and provides some observations.


If implemented, this agreement will do more to promote Enron’s business than will almost any other regulatory initiative outside of restructuring of the energy and natural gas industries in Europe and the United States. The potential to add incremental gas sales, and additional demand for renewable technology is enormous. In addition, a carbon emissions trading system will be developed. While the trading system will be implemented by 2008, I am sure that reductions will begin to trade with 1-2 years. Finally, Enron has immediate business opportunities which derive directly from this agreement.

On the policy-front: There will be a great number of country-specific and international meetings related to every aspect of this agreement. I do not think it is possible to overestimate the importance of this year in shaping every aspect of the agreement.

Three issues of specific importance to Enron are: (1) the rules governing emissions trading, (2) the rules governing joint implementation within Annex-1, and (3) the rules governing the proposed clean energy fund (which promises to dwarf the GEF as a fund for wind, solar, and power plant conversions.)

On the business front: During the next year there will be intense positioning of organizations to capture an early lead in a variety of carbon trading businesses.

The endorsement of joint implementation within Annex-1 is exactly what I have been lobbying for and it seems like we won.

The clean development will be a mechanism for funding renewable projects. Again, we won. (We need to push for natural gas firing to be included among the technologies that get preferential treatment from the fund.)

The endorsement of emissions trading was another victory for us.

Highlights of the Agreement

38 developed countries are required to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to or below 1990 levels by 2012.

The U.S. reduction objective is 7%, the European Union is 8%, and Japan is 6%; therefore, it is not possible (or at least credible) that Congress can say the United States is at a comparative disadvantage vis-à-vis its main trading partners or competitors since the EU and Japan have higher control targets and are more “carbon-lean” than are we.

Six gases are included (CO2, CH4, N2O, HFCs, PFCs, and SF6).

Emissions trading is included. Details of an international system are to be worked out in 1998.

A “clean development fund” is included. The fund would allow for emission offsets from projects in developing countries.

Joint implementation for Annex-1, developed countries and the transitional economies, is included. This means that Enron projects in Russia, Bulgaria, Romania or other eastern countries can be monetized, in part, by capturing carbon reductions for sale back in the US or other Western countries.

While I do not have the final version of the agreement, I do have the first and second versions. The latest version is not on the world-wide web.

What I Was Involved In

I gave three speeches and received an award on behalf of Enron. The speeches dealt with emissions trading, energy efficiency/renewable, and the role of business in promoting clean energy outcomes. The award came from the Climate Institute and was for Ken Lay and Enron for our work promoting clean-energy solutions to climate change. The other recipients were Sven Auken, MP and Minister for Energy and Environment in Denmark, and MP and former Environment Minister for the UK, John Gummer.

I have met Gummer and Auken several times before and it was nice for them to hear Enron praised so much. (I gave a speech with Gummer last Saturday and it was the third time we have been on the podium together. He is someone who still retains considerable influence in the UK and Europe and someone Enron might want to cultivate.)

I was also involved in a press conference.


I believe that it will be impossible to separate electricity restructuring from climate change as a domestic political issue. The administration has signaled its view that the two issues are intertwined.

At yesterday’s White House press conference, this connection was underlined by the comments from Tom Kasten, President of Trigen Corporation who spoke in favor of the climate change agreement and its linkage to restructuring. His remarks had to be cleared by the White House.

These remarks are entirely consistent with every other signal from the Administration’s climate change team.

Through our involvement with the climate change initiatives, Enron now has excellent credentials with many “green” interests including Greenpeace, WWF, NRDC, GermanWatch, the US Climate Action Network, the European Climate Action Network, Ozone Action, WRI, and Worldwatch. This position should be increasingly cultivated and capitalized on (monetized).

(Parenthetically, I heard many times people refer to Enron in glowing terms. Such praise went like this: “Other companies should be like Enron, seeking out 21st century business opportunities” or “Progressive companies like Enron are….” Or “Proof of the viability of market-based energy and environmental programs is Enron’s success in power and SO2 trading.”)

Developing countries have acquired substantial negotiating power. The shift in negotiating power to India, Brazil, China, and the G-77 has been gradual and pronounced.

The EU negotiated as a group. Until two years ago, they negotiated as individual countries. While there are still individual country interests, the EU retains substantial power when working together. It was this cohesiveness that lead to a more stringent agreement.

EU delegates asked for my input into the agreement to oppose some of the positions espoused by some US delegates. In particular, the US was advocating no rules governing the trading of carbon emissions because rules would “inhibit trading.” My position is that rules defining who owns what reductions, how reductions are traded, how they are tracked, and liability rules will help promote trading since rules give both buyers and sellers more confidence in the commodity.

While some companies and trade associations continue to criticize developing countries for not doing more, no company wants to be specific on this issue. To the extent any company does, they will hide under the shield of a trade association. I think that shield will soon be pierced. I believe that some companies will soon break from the line that developing countries should do more. It is a weak position in terms of equity and suicidal in terms of their commercial interests in these countries.

An increasingly ugly trend has become evident to the environmental NGO community and the delegates from developing countries. They see the argument about developing country participation as a thinly disguised recycling of the early twentieth century fear-mongering characterized by the so-called “yellow-peril” or invasion of the US by Asian peoples.

The developing country delegates see the argument of the carbon lobby that the US will lose markets to developing countries as empty and racist — they see energy-intensive imports to the US coming from Japan and Germany in terms of automobiles (and these are high cost energy areas), while economic growth in developing countries is fueled by local growth or Western industries requiring low cost of labor, low cost for land, or permitting flexibility for new plants.

Enron should not participate in any argument like this because it hurts our credibility with developing countries, NGOs, and developed country governments.

I should have a copy of the agreement today.

The next year will be very intensive because the structure of the agreement exists, business opportunities are being defined, the rules governing emissions trading will be developed, and identifying, financing, and managing JI projects will be important.

One final point, Terry, if you remember, I predicted an agreement that would yield a 5% reduction by 2010; we got 7% by 2012. I now predict ratification within 3 years. I predict business opportunities within 18 months. I predict this agreement will have very significant influences on the energy sector within OECD and transitional economies and will accelerate renewable markets in developing countries.

This agreement will be good for Enron stock!!

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Enron’s Ken Lay asks for Texas Gov. Bush’s help in securing tax credits for wind [letter, Aug. 10, 1998]

How the White House Energy Plan Benefitted Enron [U.S. House of Representatives report, Jan. 16, 2001]

"The gap between wind and combined-cycle gas is substantial when subtle factors such as tax preferences, reliability/dispatchability, and transmission are taken into account.

"My estimate is that the all-in economic cost of wind is double the cost of gas and triple the cost of surplus power. Accelerated depreciation may be an even bigger component of this underlying competitive gap than the federal tax credit. Gas would have to stop improving or get worse as wind gets better to reach near-parity – not a likely scenario.

"Wind needs storage if not another fuel backup, yet storage is estimated to cost between $400 and $1,000 per kilowatt (DOE/EPRI, 1997). If wind can’t compete today with the double tax benefit and upstream DOE subsidies that have averaged over 3 cents per produced kWh in the last 20 years, when will it compete?"

—Robert Bradley, Corporate Director of Public Policy Analysis, Enron, Oct. 28, 1998  [see below]

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Author: Rob Bradley at CORP_1_PO
Date: 10/28/98 4:13 PM
Priority: Normal
TO: Kenneth Lay at ENRON
Subject: Enron Wind Decision

Please see the attached on reasons to sell the wind subsidiary. I hope this memo contributes to the right decision.

Some Reasons for Enron to Sell the Wind Subsidiary

On the presumption that you are mulling over the sale of the wind subsidiary and are getting lobbied to not do so within the company, allow me to make some arguments in favor of exiting.

I do not know the economics of our wind investment or its potential selling price. There are also issues of core competency that I defer on. I do know that the purchase was more of an image play for our mass retail electricity effort than natural marketplace economics. Natural gas technology has made wind (and solar outside of its distributed uses) unnecessary for the foreseeable future in the U.S. and other methane-rich areas of the world.

With Enron’s niche as a “green” energy provider for the masses in doubt, the image component is less compelling. Otherwise, our image is helped and hurt by the investment. We get accolades from the environmental community but criticism from the free-market and conservative community for our subsidy appetite and Kyoto leadership.

Here are my reasons to exit:

1. You mentioned in our December meeting that if I could prove that wind could not compete with gas in the long run, you would sell the subsidiary. The gap between wind and combined-cycle gas is substantial when subtle factors such as tax preferences, reliability/dispatchability, and transmission are taken into account.

My estimate is that the all-in economic cost of wind is double the cost of gas and triple the cost of surplus power. Accelerated depreciation may be an even bigger component of this underlying competitive gap than the federal tax credit. Gas would have to stop improving or get worse as wind gets better to reach near-parity – not a likely scenario.

Wind needs storage if not another fuel backup, yet storage is estimated to cost between $400 and $1,000 per kilowatt (DOE/EPRI, 1997). If wind can’t compete today with the double tax benefit and upstream DOE subsidies that have averaged over 3 cents per produced kWh in the last 20 years, when will it compete?

2. Enron with wind is really competing against Enron with natural gas. New wind capacity displaces output from existing gas-fired plants in locals such as California where gas is the marginal fuel most of the time. Wind also (incrementally) postpones the need for new gas-fired capacity. Renewable mandates will hurt the gas market in this regard.

3. Wind is almost a pure subsidy play, which means that Enron will be at odds with the market and must continually intervene into the political processes to extend subsides and/or create new ones. This is an expensive process and may trade away what we are lobbying for elsewhere.

4. Fundamental tax reform would severely limit wind by removing the federal tax credit and accelerated depreciation. Fundamental tax reform will have political life with a Republican president in the post-2000 period. Green pricing could collapse with the end of tax preferences since the “green” premium would be too high. (This is why quotas are the only solution to make uneconomic renewable really stick.) It would be opportune to sell out before this “political risk” gets factored into the equation.

5. Wind has a negative dynamic at work. The more wind construction, the more prime sites are utilized and the more its economic and environmental drawbacks will become transparent. The Energy Information Administration is finding that its cost estimates for wind are too optimistic given that the best wind sites often have higher up-front and operating costs.

6. Wind as a Kyoto play will be burdened by all the Kyoto controversies – the growing questions about the science, the economics of meeting just one Kyoto, and political forces that will work to cheapen compliance in a Kyoto case (early-credit inflation). Even with subsidies, increased profitability is not assured given that competition grows with the subsidies.

7. With the sale of our solar and wind businesses, Enron can get off of a hardcore Kyoto line. This issue is turning our government affairs department into rent seekers. (Latest example: how do we fashion an early crediting program where it helps us at the expense of other businesses.) The more Enron pushes early implementation to give Kyoto life, the more we will be setting up a regulatory regime (“climatism”) with a life of its own that will cut both ways for our many business interests.

8. With uneconomic renewables off of Enron’s plate, your speeches can get away from spin and more toward underlying energy economics to maximize your credibility. For example, instead of showing the slide about the falling cost of renewables (which begs the question of how much the cost of other technologies including gas have fallen), you can get into the relative economics of different renewables versus natural gas.

As an economics Ph.D. and visionary, you have a leadership responsibility to promote good thinking and economic energy strategies in place of energy faddism (such as wind). The corporation should be positioned to reflect sound underlying economics (consumer demand) and not short-term political plays as much as possible – or at least the corporation should be taken out of political plays as soon as changing conditions permit.

9. Good corporate citizenship should include not only an environmental ethic but a market ethic of not seeking discretionary government subsidies. Enron can set an example that could result in accolades from the other side of the political spectrum.