May 12, 2005

Noise level not acceptable

Near Meyersdale in the Allegheny Highlands of southwest Pennsylvania, the wind facility with which Florida Power & Light replaced a forested mountaintop -- without any warning, as they own the land -- has had some troubles.

After Hurricane Ivan washed out roads and overwhelmed silt barriers in nearby towns in 2004, a few people wondered if clearcutting the ridge above their streams had aggravated the effect, since nobody could remember seeing or could find reports of such problems before. From calculations with the loss of absorptive ground cover and trees, they found that runoff from a severe storm would be 1.3 to 3 times what it would be had the ridgetop forest been left untouched.

A Danish worker was killed last fall while making repairs. Apparently nobody thought about locking the blades while he was up in the crane -- when they started turning they knocked the basket (and worker inside) right off. The chairman of the American subsidiary of Vestas (the Danish manufacturer of the turbines) responded, "These things just don't happen." Except they obviously do.

And the noise. A resident whose home is 3,000 feet or a bit closer (over half a mile) to the turbines got an engineer to measure the noise at his house. Over 48 hours, the noise level averaged around 75 dB(A), as described in this letter and shown in this graph (which mistakenly gives the distance as 3,000 meters (3 km) rather than 3,000 feet).

As quoted in the letter, the EPA says that noise above 45 dB(A) disturbs sleep and noise above 70 dB(A) prevents sleep for most people. Every increase of 10 dB is technically a tripling of the noise level and generally perceived as a doubling of loudness. The A scale is weighted for the normal range of audible sound, but many analysts have determined that the C scale should be used for this kind of monitoring, because it includes some of the lower frequencies that are felt more than heard. Lower-frequency sound waves, as well as vibrations through the ground, travel much farther and are more disturbing than noise in the normal range of hearing. Ignoring them, as well as coming to measure sound only at rare moments, has allowed the industry to claim there is no problem even as people who live near the turbines become addicted to sleeping pills.

In Fenner, N.Y., the wind company has bought neighboring homes that people have fled. They have sold them in turn, and the deeds specifically forbid complaints about the turbines. Similarly, leases with landowners to site turbines on their property typically hold the company free from responsibility for a long list of common complaints, even as the same companies deny such problems exist and insist that everyone loves them.

My thanks to Todd Hutzell of Friends of the Allegheny Highlands and Dan Boone, Conservation Chair of the Maryland Sierra Club, for providing much of the information here.

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"With us or against us"

An article in the New York Daily News Saturday quoted Richard Kessel, chairman of the Long Island Power Authority, regarding his desire to install giant wind turbines off Jones Beach: "Either you're with us or you're with OPEC."

Phillippe Cousteau, president of EarthEcho International, was right behind him.

This rhetorical formula is of course familiar from George W. Bush's simple-minded belligerence (which selectivity translates more to "Either you will privatize your national resources or you're with the terrorists"). Like that call to arms, Kessel's and Cousteau's call for wind power also is based on lies.

Although such grandstanding denies the possibility of dissent, let me just point out that only 2.3% of the oil used in the U.S. is for generating electricity. In fact we export three times that amount. (See the energy flow diagram at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory.)

It's a bad sign when environmentalists sound like warmongers and show as little regard for the facts.

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Environmentalists hoisted with their own petard

Press and Journal (Aberdeen, Scotland), May 4, 2005:
Scottish ministers are planning to give themselves unprecedented powers to push through controversial developments such as windfarm projects and the Aberdeen bypass, according to leaked documents.

Environmental campaigners branded the move a "naked power grab" and claimed it would make it virtually impossible to object to a slew of controversial developments.

Under a new "streamlined" planning process, once ministers had declared a project as being of "national strategic significance" it would not be possible to challenge it on the basis of need.

Instead, planning inquiries would only be able to look at detail and location.

Environmentalists believe if projects such as nuclear power stations and associated nuclear dumps or motorways have been designated as part of the national planning framework, it would be impossible to stop them, regardless of public opposition. ...

Duncan McLaren, chief executive of Friends of the Earth Scotland, said, "This is an unprecedented power grab which will centralise planning, reduce public involvement and allow the imposition of unpopular, socially unjust and environmentally unsustainable projects."

Business leaders back the executive proposals.
This kind of centralized planning to ignore public concerns is precisely what Friends of the Earth supports for putting hundreds of industrial wind power facilities throughout Scotland. Corporatized environmentalist groups worldwide argue urgency and "strategic significance" to ram the wind energy boondoggle into rural and wild areas despite widespread opposition. As opposition grows as more such facilities are built and more people see what they are, so does the call for national policies to force their continued building. When environmentalists thus sound like industrialists and land developers, they can hardly be surprised when their new friends apply such power-mad reasoning to other pet projects as well.

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May 10, 2005

Wind turbine tower snaps in Oklahoma

After a week of operation, one of the 71 GE 1.5-MW wind turbines in FPL Energy's Weatherford, Okla., wind power facility snapped apart last Friday, May 6. The towers are assembled from 3 sections, and everything above the bottom section is now on the ground in bits. The wind speed at the time was variously reported to have been 12-20 mph.

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May 9, 2005

Industrial Wind Warriors Unite!

Organize! I just spent the weekend with industrial wind opponents from around the country. We're getting together to better protect the lives of wildlife and people from the useless ravaging of our environment that industrial wind is all about.

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May 6, 2005

"Violating ridges"

[letter published in Burlington Free Press, May 5, 2005]

Barbara Grimes, general manager of Burlington Electric Department (Free Press, April 18), insists that there will not be a string of giant turbines from one end of the state to the other. But some proponents have said we could get 50 percent of our electricity from the wind, which would require precisely the endless string of towers that Grimes dismisses as "scare tactic."

Searsburg's 11 turbines, with a capacity equivalent to the 4 "foot-in-the-door" turbines proposed for East Haven, produce power equal to 0.2 percent of Vermont's electricity use, and it is less every year. To get to 50 percent would therefore require at least 1,000 giant new turbine assemblies, costing about $2 million each along with clearing and blasting of mountain tops and construction of new roads, substations, and high-voltage transmission lines.

And because wind-based production doesn't coincide with demand, they wouldn't even provide much electricity that we would actually use (e.g., western Denmark had to dump 84 percent of its wind production in 2003).

So, with little persuasive argument, she evokes "Vermont" values and the working landscape, as if that is not a feature everywhere that humans dwell. New Jersey has a working landscape. Vermonters old and new have worked for 100 years to restore and preserve the state's wild mountain ridges. The desire to violate them with collections of 330-foot-high steel and composite turbines -- for insignificant benefit except profits for a few -- is not what most people, wherever they come from, usually think of as "values."

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May 1, 2005

Meat in style

The New York Times published their Spring "Style" Magazine today, featuring plenty of animal corpses as de rigueur entertainment fare. Amanda Hesser goes to market to buy a dead chicken, as "young chickens are at their best this time of year." She says, "It is time to stop being squeamish," that bringing the "cycle of life" (meaning raising animals to kill them for your enjoyment) out of the shadows is "healthier" and a challenge to the industry. That's like saying it was better when the Nazis shot people individually rather than killing them en masse in gas chambers. It's still an industry of death. It's also rather creepy that the dead chicken in one of the photos for Hesser's piece is tied with the same fabric adorning the drugged-looking (human, female) model. Sex, food, death, beautiful victim. Spring chickens trussed up to fulfill the human appetite.

And Todd Purdum writes about Joel Salatin, an inspiring organic farmer in Virginia. He describes the farm as a "peaceable kingdom." But those animals, allowed to do what is natural to them, are raised for a very unnatural end, when Purdum must distance the reader from fostering the lives of cows, pigs, and chickens to write about "raising beef, pork and poultry." He quotes mid-20th-century novelist and farmer Louis Bromfield to describe Salatin as "the happiest of men, for he inhabits a world that is full of wonder and excitement over which he rules as a small god." This evil little god "harvests" over 10,000 chickens, 100 cows, 250 pigs, 800 turkeys, and 600 rabbits every year. What wonder and excitement must he see in so much slaughter?

The Salatins sell much of their "inventory" directly from a walk-in freezer on the farm, in which Purdum spots a "perfect six-pound chicken" among other parts and pieces of the various animals once tended "with such care." In what moral universe is an animal that has been deliberately killed in its prime "perfect"? Is an animal's worth, its "perfection," determined only by someone's desire to eat it? Only then -- killed and presented as "food," is its value fulfilled?

Again, the "cycle of life" is evoked to suppress the "occasional pang when it comes time to kill an especially kindly old cow." Sorry, bucko -- you are not God. Maybe your imagined god has a bottomless hunger for willfully spilled blood. But betrayal of the love and trust nurtured in these animals, cutting short the joyful lives you have given them, is not only a violent mockery of the cycle of life but also reveals all that "care" as a cruel charade.

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