August 31, 2005

Progress report

From the Progress Report, via Sam Smith's Undernews:

Last year, 37 million Americans -- 12.7 percent of the population -- lived in poverty. The figures represent "the fourth straight year that the report found an increase in the U.S. poverty rate." In 2000, there were 5.5 million fewer people below the poverty line. Nevertheless, the Bush administration spun the poverty rates as "good news," noting that there were other times in American history when the poverty rate was higher.

The median income in 2004 was unchanged from the previous year. It's the fifth straight year median income failed to increase, the first time that's happened since the government began collecting the data in 1967. Many people saw their earnings decrease. For example, the median income for all non-elderly households decreased by $600 as compared to 2003.

As millions of Americans struggled, corporate CEOs enjoyed another banner year. In 2004, the average CEO made 430 times as much as the average worker, up from a ratio of 301-to-1 in 2003. If the minimum wage had grown at the same rate as CEO pay since 1990, "the lowest paid workers in the US would be earning $23.03 an hour today."

A letter against the wind pirates

A powerful letter by Kaye Johnson appeared in the Malone (N.Y.) Telegram, August 30, 2005:
Why is it that we are supposed to believe everything the wind salesmen say and write, yet evidence about their constant misrepresentations of the myriad problems being created by their industry is 'propaganda'?

Noble's out-of-state lawyer recently used exactly that word in a letter to this paper. He also attempted to again ridicule a scientist who is a part of our community by, again, taking her comments out of context. No matter how many times he repeats his phony charges, they won't become true. But 'the big lie' can be an effective weapon against the truth. It may overwhelm the facts, especially when we all wish that wind turbines were a magic bullet to fix the nation's energy problems and our local economy at the same time. Then the developers can have their way with our money and our landscape and be long gone before we unravel their deception.

The developers are trying to frame the debate in such a way that it's their critics who have to prove beyond a resonable doubt that lining up hundreds and hundreds of wind turbines across our region is a bad idea. I say the shoe should be on the other foot. They should have to prove what's right about their plan before they so drastically change our environment, community, and economy.

I have heard their inflated claims about how many jobs they will create, but their industry's record shows almost no job creation in host communities. They claim their development of our ridgelines will help the environment, but the testimony from other sites contradicts that. The evidence coming in from other countries shows that littering the countryside with giant turbines has little net impact on greenhouse gases.

In town after state after country, the story is the same. We can expect that they will come in to our community, extract millions, and leave us to clean up their mess. That is why the developers are the ones who should have their 'propaganda' examined by impartial experts.

The developers are the ones who have been caught misrepresenting the results of research. Then they tried to discredit the very same research when their deception was exposed. The developers said they would answer all questions and make all their information available to anyone. Now they refuse to disclose their plans to those who don't sing their praises. And it's the developers who have a pattern of silencing their critics by buying them off.

... Noble, a wholly owned subsidiary of J.P. Morgan, is part of one of the world's largest financial organizations. They know they will have to spend a little money to get the millions and millions from our pockets in the form of higher utility bills and taxes.

So don't be fooled by the 'just plain folks' gimmicks. It will take more than giving our kids a pinwheel at the fair to compensate for the mess they'll have to clean up if these things are brought in. And don't think that a few well placed and highly publicized donations to worthy local causes make Noble's employees wonderful new members of our community. Their motivation in raping our countryside is not green power. It's greed power. And once they've had their way with us, they'll be gone with the wind.
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August 30, 2005

Real emissions reduction caused by wind generators

From "Estimation of real emissions reduction caused by wind generators," Olev Liik, Rein Oidram, Matti Keel -- Tallin Technical University, Tallin, Estonia. International Energy Workshop, 24-26 June 2003, IIASA, Laxenburg, Austria.

Problem of balancing of wind power fluctuations [slides 5-8]
  • Wind power plants are almost uncontrollable.

  • Integration of windmills with the existing power system depends on the size and structure of concrete power system and on the capacity of links with neighbouring systems.

  • Until all the fluctuations of wind power can be compensated with the hydro power plants, the integration of windmills does not trouble the existing system too much and the environmental gain is linearly proportional to the produced amount of electricity.

  • If the power systems contains only thermal power plants or if the installed capacity of windmills exceeds the regulation capacity of hydro plants:

    • As the CHP plants usually follow the thermal load, the condensing power plants must participate in the compensation of wind power fluctuations.

    • Large condensing units cannot be switched on and off frequently and for a short period and their speed of increasing and decreasing of power is limited.

    • Most suitable thermal plants for the load regulation and fast reserve capacity are the gas turbines.

    • If someone wants to introduce large amount of wind power then the power regulating range and speed of the existing plants must be also extensive.

    • Operating a thermal plant with and without the need to compensate the fluctuations of wind power is similar to the running of a car in the city and on the highway, respectively. Fuel consumption of a car can be even double in the city comparing with the highway.

    • The thermal power production without wind generators is equal to the load and it is distributed among the thermal power plants according to the optimality criterion and using static input-output characteristics.

    • When the wind power appears in the system, thermal power stations have to keep constantly additional spinning reserve capacity equal to the maximum total power of windmills. This makes the thermal plants run inefficiently and increases fuel consumption (emissions).

    • Under the fast changes of wind power, the real fuel consumption will increase even higher. The actual operation points of thermal plant will form a curve that is similar to a hysteresis loop. This is the dynamic fuel consumption curve.
Denmark exports wind generated electricity [slide 8 shows that a greater proportion is exported as more wind-generated power is produced, approaching 90% at 2000 MWh/h]

Conclusions [slide 21]
  • Participation of thermal power plants in keeping the reserve capacity for wind turbines and in compensation of the fluctuations of wind power increases the fuel consumption and emissions substantially.

  • Linear methods of calculation of emission reductions from wind energy use cannot consider this increase and therefore special methods for correct accounting of environmental gain have to be elaborated.
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Low-frequency noise and vibrations from windfarms

Eleanor Tillinghast of Green Berkshires recently brought to my attention the paper from which the following excerpts are taken.

P. Styles, I. Stimpson, S. Toon, R. England, and M. Wright. Microseismic and infrasound monitoring of low frequency noise and vibrations from windfarms. Applied and Environmental Geophysics Research Group, School of Physical and Geographical Sciences, Keele University, 18 July 2005:
  • Wind turbines are large vibrating cylindrical towers, strongly coupled to the ground with massive concrete foundation, through which vibrations are transmitted to the surroundings and with rotating turbine blades generating low-frequency acoustic signals which may couple acoustically into the ground. (p. 8)

  • Additionally, the blade-tower interaction is a source of pulses at a low repetition rate, which contain components in the infrasound region. The local and surrounding geology, especially layering, may play an important part in determining vibration transmission. (p. 8)

  • [W]ind farms do produce discernible harmonic signals which can be detected over considerable distances. (p. 44)

  • When the windfarm starts to generate at low wind speeds, considerable infrasound signals can be detected at all stations out to c. 10 km. (p. 66)

  • [T]he vibrations experienced on seismometers situated at considerable distances from farms propagate through the ground as high frequency Rayleigh waves and not through the air, and as such must obey the propagation modes and attenuation and absorption laws for geological materials and not air. (p. 67)

  • We have clearly shown that both fixed-speed and variable-speed wind turbines generate low-frequency vibrations which are multiples of blade-passing frequencies and which can be detected ... at considerable distances (many kilometres) from wind farms on infrasound detectors and on low-frequency microphones. (p. 76)

  • At present there are no current, routinely implemented vibration mitigation technological solutions which can reduce the vibration from wind turbines. (p. 90)
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August 29, 2005

A NIMBY wind is a-blowin' my mind

David Bauman writes in yesterday's Berkshire Eagle:
The appropriate term for opposition to big ugly projects, which could benefit many but harms few, is NIMBY (not in my backyard). Our reluctance to invoke NIMBY has caused us to make laws that give legal power to frogs and roots but none to ourselves. Human's wants and needs always take a back seat to those fussy plants and animals. In generations past the plants and animals were clear-cut, slaughtered, eaten and worn. Now they have it better than ever and all they do is complain.
So it's NIMBY to act as a steward of the land against unquestioned industrial development. And it's fear of challenging said NIMBY that has made weighing the natural environment, the ecosystem that sustains us, against unquestioned industrial development a normal procedure. And, like free speech, it's apparently enough to have the right -- but to actually use it is obstructionist whining.

[He is correct to call many of the opponents of the Cape Wind project NIMBY when they support wind power elsewhere. But most opponents of industrial wind have looked seriously into it and determined that it is not worth sacrificing their or anyone else's backyard, rural landscape, or wild mountaintop for its dubious claims. These people can not therefore be called NIMBY.]

Bauman's answer is pretty much, "might [or more usually mere bluster] makes right" -- hardly a compelling alternative:
As everyone knows West Virginia is the perfect place for windmill farms because the plants and animals there are friendly, poor, a little slow and don't give a hoot 'bout much.
He thinks he's mocking those who have driven out the wind pirates, but he reveals his own contempt for not only plants and animals but also his fellow humans. And typical of the misinformed or disingenuous, he invokes oil, which has almost nothing to do with electricity. If anything, more wind power would mean more oil, because that's what often powers the quick-response plants that would be be needed to cover for wind's erratic production.

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August 27, 2005

Spitting into the wind

From "Company revives Equinox wind plan," Rutland Herald, August 27, 2005:
Endless Energy has a contract in place with the Burlington Electric Department, which will purchase the entire output of the turbines when they are up and running, [Endless Energy president Harley] Lee said.

That's enough electricity to satisfy 7 percent of the entire demand in Burlington, said Patti Richards, the director of resource planning for the department.

With the cost of oil now above $65 per barrel, the economics have swung in favor of wind energy, [said Patti Richards, the director of resource planning for the Burlington Electric Department (BED)].

"Whatever amount of kilowatts we can buy (for wind power) is a savings," she said. "If this project doesn't move forward, we'll likely have to go for a rate increase."

What makes wind energy even more attractive from an economic standpoint is that renewable energy can be traded on a secondary market, Richards said, giving the electric department a buffer if oil prices were to drop.
Burlington's main power plant, although it is able to burn oil and natural gas, is primarily fuelled by wood. According to the U.S. Energy Information Agency, a grand total of 0.2% of the electricity generated in Vermont in 2002 was from oil. Even if all of it was from Burlington -- which it isn't -- oil would represent only 3.3% of BED's output.

The threat of a rate increase if people don't support the wind power facility is simply dishonest bullying. In fact, BED is more likely to be more dependent on oil if they brought in wind power, because oil-fired plants are precisely the quick-response generators necessary to deal with the wildly fluctuating input from wind turbines.

As Richards lets slip, however, the obvious economic benefit is in that market for "green credits" -- the environmental indulgences that people can buy to allow them to continue polluting. The electricity generated by wind turbines doesn't even have to be used, only generated. Since output is so erratic, it is likely to be dumped or at best exported into a larger grid where the fluctuations won't be as much of a problem. So for the prospect of raking in profits from selling not energy but meaningless credits for wind turbine production, Burlington Electric supports industrializing a southern Vermont mountaintop with virtually useless 400-foot-high wind towers. Some vision!

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Missing the point about industrial wind

To the Editor, Manchester (Vt.) Journal:

Jane Newton, whom I have proudly supported in several elections, aptly puts the matter of industrial wind power threatening our ridgelines in context ("'Save our Ridgeline' misses the point," letter, August 26). Indeed, compared to the ravaging that Iraqis have endured for decades, a wind "park" looks almost benign.

It isn't, of course, as the campaign against it has made clear. The drive to develop our ridgelines is part of the same industrial arrogance, the same corporate piracy, that drives the war and poverty machine Newton calls attention to. In fact, many of the same investors and companies, notably Halliburton (active in building off-shore turbine facilities) and GE (the major U.S. manufacturer of wind turbines, having bought the business from Enron), are pocketing huge amounts of public money from both.

Spinning, strobing, grinding, and mostly useless 400-foot-high turbines are not as bad as napalm and depleted uranium, but that doesn’t make them good. If we don’t stop the industrial juggernaut here -- and even repeat the developer’s sales pitch as gospel -- how can we expect it to be stopped in Iraq and elsewhere?

Fighting to protect the ridgeline is every bit as important as fighting other injustices. It is the same fight.

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