October 30, 2005

The Low Benefit of Industrial Wind

Driving the desire for industrial wind power is the conviction that its development is necessary to reduce the effects of fossil and/or nuclear fuel use. Thus the local impacts of large wind turbine installations are justified by a greater good of healthier air and water, reduction of global warming, and moving away from harmful mining and fuel wars. These are all without question important goals.

While the wind power industry tends to downplay its negative effects, many conservation groups call for careful siting and ongoing study to minimize them. There is debate, therefore, about the actual impacts, but there is none about the actual benefits. Even the most cautious of advocates do not doubt, for example, that "every kilowatt-hour generated by wind is a kilowatt-hour not generated by a dirty fuel."

That may be true for a small home turbine with substantial battery storage, but such a formula is, at best, overly simplistic for large turbines meant to supply the grid. The evidence from countries that already have a large proportion of wind power suggests that it has no effect on the use of other sources. This is not surprising when one learns how the grid works: A rise in wind power simply causes a thermal plant to switch from generation to standby, in which mode it continues to burn fuel.

Read the rest of the paper at: www.aweo.org/LowBenefit.pdf.

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October 23, 2005

Lying about bat kills

From the Winona (Minn.) Daily News, Oct. 23:
During a tour last month of Carleton College's 1.65 megawatt turbine in Northfield, Minn., project director Rob Lampa told a group of about 30 Winona County residents that the college had found no evidence of bird or bat kills in the first year of operating the 230-foot turbine [plus 135-foot blade radius], situated in a cornfield about 1 1/2 miles east of town.

As the group was leaving, Winona resident Marijo Reinhard pulled County Commissioner Dwayne Voegeli aside.

"Look," she said, pointing at the ground, where she had spotted a small, brown bat dead on the gravel below the slowly spinning turbine. A few feet away, she spotted another, also dead.
Lampa will have to make sure the clean-up crew does a better job before he gives the next tour!

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October 22, 2005

Desire for wind turbines justifies killing

To the Editor, Providence (R.I.) Journal:

Jack Coleman (Opinion, Oct. 20), in citing two caveats from the Desholm and Kahlert study (Biology Letters, 2005) of geese and ducks flying around the off-shore wind facility near Nysted, Denmark, did not notice the most obvious limitations of the research: Monitoring was done only during fair weather and not during twilight. That is, it found a favorable outcome by restricting observation to favorable conditions.

Coleman then goes on to describe the toll of buildings, towers, cats, oil spills, soot, mercury, global warming, and habitat destruction on bird populations, as if that justifies the new mode of death he is advocating.

Of course he admits, apparently believing that opponents have never thought of it, that the new death toll "must be measured against the cost of failure to reverse climate change."

There he ends his opinion piece, simply implying that industrial wind turbines help mitigate global warming and thus save more birds that they kill, that they save more wildlife habitat than they degrade.

But that is precisely where the debate begins. Do large wind power facilities actually reduce the effects of fossil fuel use? Opponents look at the evidence -- instead of the industry's sales material -- and find that they do not. Therefore even the most downplayed impact is not justified.

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October 21, 2005

RPS makes it cheaper to pollute

An interesting analysis of the effects of a "renewable portfolio standard" (RPS) in New Jersey that would require 20% of the electricity sold in the state by 2020 to be from renewable sources was brought to our (National Wind Watch's) attention by Dan Boone, Conservation Chair of the Maryland Sierra Club.

The 206-page report was prepared in December 2004 by the Center for Energy, Economic, and Environmental Policy, Edward J. Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy, State University of New Jersey, for the Office of Clean Energy, New Jersey Board of Public Utilities, and is available as a 2-MB PDF at www.bpu.state.nj.us/reports/EIAreport.pdf.

One of the things it found, which is hidden deep inside the paper and completely absent from the summary, is that the RPS would have no effect on sulfur and nitrogen emissions except to make it cheaper to exceed current limits. The report notes that the Energy Information Agency of the U.S. Department of Energy came to the same conclusion about a national RPS. That is, the RPS would not reduce emissions and would benefit only the polluters, who would enjoy lower prices because of the greater supply of "green credits."

Only with correspondingly stricter caps on noxious emissions would this ironic effect be avoided. But then the RPS wouldn't be necessary. Politicians and their once-environmentalist supporters evidently prefer the easier path of imposing an RPS -- especially easy as it benefits polluter-donors more than our health and ecology, as long as the public believes we're all doing something grand to save the planet.

And so the market triumphs. Bad money drives out good.

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October 20, 2005

Chinese herbs effective for asthma

As published in the September issue of Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology and being widely reported this week, researchers who had previously found a traditional Chinese 14-herb combination to be an effective treatment for allergic asthma tried a formulation of just 3 of the herbs. The simpler combination was also effective. Unlike steroids and another herbal treatment, ephedra, these herbs have no side effects.

The full article is available at the link in the title of this post, and excerpts can be seen at www.kirbymountain.com/rosenlake/asthmanotes.html#wen.

The dosage, divided into 3 doses daily, was
  • Ling-Zhi 20 g, Ganoderma lucidum -- Reishi mushroom
  • Ku-Shen 9 g, Radix Sophora flavescentis -- root of S. flavescens or S. angustifolia, yellow mountain laurel
  • Gan-Cao 3 g, Radix Glycyrrhiza uralensis -- root of G. uralensis or G. glabra, licorice
(Note: I have been using herbs instead of steroids to manage my asthma for a couple of years. See my notes at www.kirbymountain.com/rosenlake/asthma.html.)

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October 14, 2005

Wacky windfarm math

"Lee anticipates that the five turbines would provide four times as much energy as Searsburg's 11 smaller turbines."

That's Harley Lee of Endless Energy, who wants to erect five 1.8-MW turbines on Little Equinox Mountain in Manchester, Vt., as reported in the North Adams (Mass.) Advocate Weekly.

The existing wind facility in Searsburg, Vt., consists of eleven 555-KW turbines for a total capacity of 6 MW. Four times that capacity is 24 MW. Lee's proposed project has a total capacity of 9 MW.

Nine megawatts is quite a bit short of four times six megawatts.

Even if he expected a better capacity factor (actual output as a fraction of capacity) than Searsburg's 21%, it would have to be an impossible 56% to so produce four times as much as Searsburg. When Searsburg was erected, they too expected output about twice what they actually get.

It is not surprising that these salesmen exaggerate the prospects for their product so brazenly, while downplaying their negative impact. What is so troubling is that so many people just smile and nod and enthusiastically eat it all up, ignoring the actual record for this technology.

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October 13, 2005

The end of empire

Sam Smith of the Progressive Review has a new essay about cultural decay in the U S of A. He goes on a bit long about music, but it is nonetheless an essential read. Here are some excerpts.
Thomas Jefferson saw it coming. He warned, "From the conclusion of this war we shall be going down hill. It will not then be necessary to resort every moment to the people for support. They will be forgotten, therefore, and their rights disregarded. They will forget themselves, but in the sole faculty of making money, and will never think of uniting to effect a due respect for their rights." ...

Instead of being outsiders, critics and moral observers, the American intelligentsia have become players accepting many of the values of the system they should be scorning. ...

It is particularly telling that in the past thirty years, America has passed more laws than it did in its first two centuries, a sign of a country that has lost its way and trying desperately to compensate by making the results of its failures illegal.

[A few contributing factors to our cultural decay:]

ABUSE OF MYTHOLOGY -- ... the culture that accepts such a redefinition of its own myths becomes a prisoner of the myth twisters, causing it to turn - as in the present case - not to Christ but to a Karl Rove or George Bush for an understanding of what faith means. While plenty of cultures have thrived on mythological faith, it is impossible to do so when faith becomes a massive fraud.

TELEVISION -- ... has become the means by which leaders have escaped their own culture, and their culture has lost contact with them.

THE CORPORATIZATION OF CULTURE -- ... Inherent in this bizarre value system is the inference that those who make or create things are less important than those who manage or sell them. In other words, as a matter of government, economic, and intellectual policy, the content of our culture is no longer as important as how well it can be marketed. Any culture with such priorities does not have a long life expectancy.

FAILED COMMUNITIES AND FORGOTTEN STORIES -- ... "Where we are is a world dominated by a global economy that places no value whatsoever on community or community coherence. In this economy, whose business is to set in contention things that belong together, you can no nothing more divisive than to assert the claims of community. This puts you immediately at odds with powerful people to whom the claims of community mean nothing, who ignore the issues of locality, who recognize no neighbors and are loyal to no place." [Wendell Berry]

... it is long past time to drop the pretense. As I was walking through one of our frightened airports I heard the real motto of our land repeated over and over: "Caution, the moving walkway is about to end." It's true. We're on our own now.
This is good place to mention the Vermont Independence Convention next Friday, Oct. 28. See the Second Vermont Republic for more information.