October 7, 2005

Big wind steals Peter Freyne's brain!

Peter Freyne flakking for Enxco and GE? He certainly follows their line that Free Press editorials opposed only to industrial-size turbines on Vermont's ridgelines are obstructing all progress on energy issues ["Freep Wins Award!," Inside Track, October 5].

Even as evidence shows that giant wind turbines will contribute very little to our energy future, and as big wind's supporters nonetheless insist they are essential to any solution, Freyne says it is the Free Press that has made them a "fetish."

If anyone has been "dogmatic in its approach to Vermont's energy future," as Lawrence Mott is quoted, it is he and others determined to plant their 400-foot-high erections across otherwise undeveloped land -- despite their many negative impacts, negligible benefit, and diverse local opposition.

Freyne also quoted Mott referring to "changing times" and "the latest information." Where is Freyne's usual journalistic instinct? What has changed about multinational corporations swindling landowners and paying off politicians to take over land and resources? What is the latest information other than more PR from the industry about sales projections?

Freyne is almost always more insightful and witty, but here he resorts to lame terms like "boneheaded," "shortsighted," and "blanket idiocy," as if blind to the possibility of a reasonable alternative. It is not just the Free Press but a wide range of individuals throughout Vermont -- and the world -- who question the wisdom of large-scale wind power. Anyone who looks beyond the sales material quickly discovers that industrial wind power is little more than a shameful boondoggle. (It is not surprising to learn that the modern large-scale wind industry was pioneered by Enron.)

Many members of Renewable Energy Vermont are working for real change in energy use -- small-scale and more sustainable alternatives to the centralized utility structure that giant wind turbines from GE (which acquired Enron's wind division) only reinforce. But Enxco, a part of the French nuclear power consortium EDF, and other pushers of large-scale wind power also are members and have clearly skewed REV's vision.

Like George Bush blaming Osama bin Laden for the violence in Iraq, REV's "Energy Ostrich Award" to the Free Press for opposing big wind only underscores their own "head-in-the-sand" viewpoint.

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October 5, 2005

Wind power and foreign oil

To the Editor, Watertown (N.Y.) Daily Times:

In the Oct. 4 article, "Clinton offers help on border," the senator is quoted after visiting the Maple Ridge Wind Farm that such a project "is so profoundly important" because "we have to end our addiction to foreign oil."

If the concern is our dependency on foreign oil, then wind farms are irrelevant. Less than 2.5% of our electricity is generated by oil. In fact, as we connect large wind plants to the grid -- with their unpredictable fluctuating output -- we become more dependent on oil-fired plants, which generally provide the necessary quick-response backup.

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October 4, 2005

Vegetarian Times swallows bull about wind

To the Editor, Vegetarian Times:

In promising an examination of "the most important issues in the debate" about industrial wind power, Caroline Kettlewell proceeded to deliver instead an unbalanced promotion for the wind industry.

Whereas she introduced each objection only to shoot it down with an unexamined riposte from one of the industry trade groups, she presented each of the claims in favor of wind power without question. The only sources suggested for more information were the government's industry-friendly energy department and the wind companies' own lobbying and PR organization.

She even went further, mocking opponents as "otherwise" environmentally sensitive and now "freaking out."

But it is not "ironic" that many opponents come from the environmentalist community (including vegetarian animal rights activists like me). Concern for animal habitat and health is central to much of the opposition. What is ironic is that an article in Vegetarian Times so readily dismisses it.

Nobody claims that giant wind turbine facilities kill anywhere near as many birds as the rest of our industrial society, but that doesn't excuse them. One has to ask if the number of birds and bats they do kill is worth it. Advocates say (and Kittlewell dutifully repeats) that "every megawatt it generates is a megawatt that doesn't have to come from a conventional power plant," and that therefore it will reduce the threat to animal life much more than its own negative effect (like the "destroy the village to save it" argument from the Vietnam war).

A little research, however, quickly reveals that wind does not displace other sources to any significant degree and that even in Denmark it hasn't changed their energy use.

Turbines produce at their full capacity only when the wind is blowing above 25-35 mph. Below that the production rate falls off exponentially. In many regions, the wind is higher at night, but demand is low, so much of the power is not needed. Large base load plants can not be rapidly ramped up and down as the wind fluctuates. Those plants that can be quickly modulated do so at the cost of efficiency, thus causing more pollution.

The statement that Denmark "now gets 20 percent of its power from wind" is both misleading and inaccurate. Misleading, because "electrical power" is meant, which represents only about a fifth of Denmark's total energy use. Inaccurate, because around 84% of the wind-generated power has to be exported as it is produced when they can not turn down their very efficient combined heat and power plants.

Though there is much else in Kettlewell's article to argue, one should at least pause to consider what is required for wind to provide the nearly 2,000 billion kilowatt-hours of new electricity that we are projected to need by 2025. That represents an average load of more than 225,000 megawatts. Because wind turbine output varies with wind speed, their average output is typically a fourth of their maximum capacity, so we would require more than 900,000 megawatts of new wind capacity. Every megawatt of wind capacity requires about 50 acres, so we're talking about more than 70,000 square miles of wind plant -- most of it targeted for our last remaining rural and wild places.

And we'd still have to build an equal amount of conventional plants, because the typical wind facility does not produce any electricity at all about a third of the time and much less than its already low average for another third of the time.

Large-scale wind is clearly not a practical nor an environmentally sound alternative.

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October 3, 2005

GE study finds huge need for GE products

To no one's surprise except the many newspaper editors who reproduced the "findings," a collaborative sponsored by GE, the only U.S.-based manufacturer of industrial wind turbines, developed a framework for extensive construction of off-shore wind facilities.

Helping GE out with the effort was the U.S. Department of Energy (really?! ) and the Massachusetts Technology Collaborative (a state agency), who have long been taken for a ride by the wind industry.

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From Ironic Times:

We erroneously reported that President Bush had appointed a timber company lobbyist to head the National Forest Service, a partner in a law firm most well known for union-busting as Assistant Secretary of Labor, a mining industry lobbyist who believes public lands are unconstitutional to be in charge of public lands, a utility lobbyist who represented the nation's worst polluters as head of the Clean Air Division at the EPA, a lobbyist for the American Petroleum Institute onto the Council on Environmental Quality and a veteran to head the Women's Health Section of the FDA. In fact, the woman he named to head the Women's Health Section of the FDA is not a veteran. She is a veterinarian. We regret any confusion this may have caused.

October 2, 2005

"The conmen and the green professor"

No surprise here.

Today's Times (U.K.) has two articles about a company of excons setting up shop to take advantage of the free flow of wind-energy subsidies and the gullibility of people who are sure they have the answers. From "'Green' adviser takes cash for access to ministers":
An investigation by The Sunday Times has found that Professor Ian Fells, one of Britain’s foremost academic experts on energy and an adviser to the cabinet, is trading on his connections to help clients lobby government. Last week Fells negotiated a fee of £600 to broker a meeting between a reporter, posing as a businessman, and a senior civil servant. Fells said the official was writing the forthcoming energy white paper.
And from "The conmen and the green professor":
Like thousands of other modern entrepreneurs, they hoped to turn a quick profit from trading in wind power and other forms of green energy.

Labour’s push to generate 10% of Britain's energy from green sources by the end of the decade has created a boom time likened by one expert last week to the South Sea Bubble.

Nathan and Rees hoped that their new company, Pure Energy & Power, would take advantage of generous government subsidies, European grants and an eagerness by the City and banks to invest without doing proper due diligence.

For they had a dirty secret. Nathan was not the respectable lawyer with a PhD in economics that he made himself out to be. Fellow inmates at Wandsworth prison had known him as Ronnie, a serial fraudster who could not resist a con. It was in prison that he met Rees, a disgraced private detective, who was serving a seven-year sentence for attempting to plant drugs on a client’s wife.

Given their dubious backgrounds, they needed someone who could give them credibility and open the door to the corridors of power. Enter Professor Ian Fells.

The emeritus professor at Newcastle University is one of Britain’s foremost experts on green energy. ... His expertise is much sought after. He was the science adviser to the World Energy Council for 11 years until 1998 and is also an energy adviser to the European Union.

He is particularly close to senior British government officials after acting as an adviser for cabinet and select committees. This week he will be in London to advise officials engaged in rewriting the energy white paper.

Despite his many commitments, he is still available for hire.
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October 1, 2005

Immaturity is in the wind

Rob Roy Macgregor writes in this week's Manchester (Vt.) Journal to admonish the effort by Londonderry citizens to prohibit giant wind turbines. He points out that such a law will not make the developer happy, and since the state decides such utility matters it is "immature" to take this stand for local zoning control.

In a revealing parenthetical paragraph, Macgregor berates those trying to preserve the ridgeline -- that it is not "theirs," that it is not "pristine," and that if it is "ours" metaphorically or spiritually (duh), then he has a right to see turbines there if he wants. As he admits, "there is no substance to this logic." That is because he equates installing the power plant with not installing the power plant, insisting that it is simply an aesthetic preference. His preference, however, would impose on everyone else. To claim that preventing the installation infringes his aesthetics is simply ridiculous. Not installing the power plant would not change his life, aesthetically or otherwise.

His conclusion, following logically from false premises, is that the town should make it easier on themselves by doing everything they can to accommodate the developer. Democracy (let alone reason) has no place in the desperate world of Rob Roy Macgregor's aesthetics.

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