December 5, 2005

New Jersey offshore wind panel interim report

"Offshore wind power development has potential to generate a series of quantifiable environmental benefits. These benefits appear significant in both absolute and monetized terms, but are arguably marginal relative to the scale of existing energy production and emissions affecting New Jersey’s environment and natural resources. Offshore wind power development also presents a series of potential environmental costs. In the absence of a developed literature, the scale of many of these costs are not readily quantified or monetized, making the nature of these impacts highly uncertain and necessitating additional research." (page 82) [emphasis added]

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National Wind Watch

National Wind Watch promotes awareness of the risks and related impacts of industrial wind energy development on our environment, economy, and quality-of-life.

Their website is now available. It is still missing FAQs, but up-to-date news, an extensive resource library, and pictures are there, along with opinion pieces and a collection of quotations.

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December 4, 2005

from Tristram

Honor from him? If he found Honor walking
Here in Cornwall, he would send men to name it,
And would arrest it as a trespasser.

—Edwin Arlington Robinson

December 3, 2005

Wind developers destroy communities

The northeastern Vermont town of Sheffield, population 720, held a meeting Thursday night to determine levels of support and opposition to hosting 26 2-MW wind turbines on their ridgelines (six of the turbines would be in neighboring Sutton). Faced with a well informed opposition, the development company, Italy-based UPC, brought many of their officers to the area and hired a PR firm to create ads, lawn signs, and a "grass-roots" support group, paying a resident to pose as the coordinator.

Most effective, however, seems to have been to increase their offer from $150,000 to a vague $350,000 as a gift to the town each year. They even paid for the town's hiring of a lawyer to work on the deal. It is unclear whether they will also pay the hosting landowners' increased tax bills, or if this pay-off is instead of taxes. They have also promised the town a shiny new firetruck.

Sheffield is a poor town in a poor corner of the state, but by the tone of letters to the regional newspaper there seemed to be as much a desire of "natives" to spite "newcomers" (though not the carpetbaggers from UPC) as to reduce taxes or lease land to the industrialists.

So, on Thursday, they "came out of the woodwork" (as one news report described it) to spite themselves as well, destroying their own property to prove it is theirs to do so. They voted 120-93 in favor of UPC's passel of promises and their own delusions.

From the Associated Press:
Supporters say the owners of the mountaintops have a right to do what they want with their land. They also say the wind farm would produce clean, renewable energy at a time when the country needs new sources of power, and would generate tax revenues for the town.

Vermont has used other people's oil for years, said Jack Simons. "It's about time that we give something back," he said.

... There ended up being no opportunity for debate at Thursday's town meeting. Voters decided not to allow any presentations from opponents or supporters and the issue went directly to a decision.

Dolores Ham said that was what made her vote in favor. She was undecided going into the meeting and wanted to hear from both sides. When that didn't happen she decided at the last minute to vote in favor of the project. "It was spur of the moment," she said.

Supporters said their decision made a statement about the importance of renewable energy.

"I think people should see where their electricity comes from and maybe they'll think twice about leaving the lights on when they're not home, when they have the windmills on the hill for a reminder," said Jenny Cleary, who voted in favor of UPC's project.
From the Barre-Montpelier Times Argus:
... Backers cited property rights issues and the need for alternative sources of energy as reasons for their yes vote.

... Holly Simpson, 31, voted for the first time in her life to support the wind project. Simpson said she registered to vote for the first time when she paid her property taxes last month. Nobody tried to persuade her, she said.

"I think people should be allowed to do what they want on their own property," Simpson said.

Others who voted 'yes' said new forms of energy need to be developed.
From WCAX television:
"We need clean energy. We're fighting over oil and America's young people aren't worth -- this is an alternative way of getting electricity and it's clean," says Leslie Newland who supports wind power.
Note how the geopolitics of oil is brought up, even though Vermont gets almost no electricity from oil (or from coal, for that matter). Note how property rights are defended even as they are ready to sign away their own land to absentee lessees (!) to infringe on the property rights of their neighbors with 400-ft-high spinning grinding strobe-lit wind turbines. Note the deluded greed translated into the patronizing "lesson" that people should see where their power comes from (even though almost all of it will still be coming from Hydro Quebec and Vermont Yankee), that you should suffer -- even if meaninglessly -- for enjoying the privilege of electricity.

Most common, however, is the not surprising belief in the claim that industrial wind turbines will make an impact on our use of other fuels. It's a convenient myth reinforced by the high environmental and social cost of big wind as proof that we are making a sacrifice. But the same energy use goes on as before (see "The Low Benefit of Industrial Wind"). And the developers sell green credits so that polluters can pollute even more. "Rube" is the word.

UPC hasn't yet applied to the state for a permit, so any project is still a long way off and may not even happen (insh'allah), but the damage to Sheffield is already done.

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Save Our Ridgelines!

Announcing the website of Vermonters with Vision, an affiliation of groups and individuals "dedicated to education and advocacy regarding the impact of industrial wind power on the economics, natural resources, and health of Vermont."

We oppose the construction of industrial wind power turbines on Vermont's ridgelines.
  1. The energy benefits are minimal.
  2. The addition of noise, light, and visual pollution is unacceptable.
  3. The negative impact to the land and to wildlife is significant.
  4. The harm to Vermont's rural character far outweighs vaguely promised pay-offs to affected towns and individuals.

1. Even the developers claim that the giant machines will produce only around 30% of their capacity over a year. The Searsburg machines are down to about 21%. Because of the cubic relation between wind speed and output, they produce above their average rate only a third of the time. The Searsburg facility produces nothing, not even a trickle, more than a third of the time. Even when generating power, the output is variable, so it cannot reliably replace other sources on the grid and only causes "spinning reserve" plants to switch between generation and standby, in which status they still burn fuel. Windy areas are sacrificed to development not to provide energy but to generate "green credits" for lucrative sale elsewhere. See "The Low Benefit of Industrial Wind" for more information.

2. They are 330-410 feet tall to the top of the blade area (which sweeps 1-1.5 acres), must be lit day and night, and when the wind is blowing spin and turn noisily. They are not discreet presences but call attention to themselves, particularly on a mountaintop. See "Wind Power Facts" for more information.

3. Besides acres of clearance and blasting of foundations for thousands of tons of rebar and concrete, they require new or upgraded roads and high-capacity transmission lines. Such construction will affect water flow and quality and cause erosion and flooding, as has been documented in Meyersdale, Pennsylvania. Besides reducing and fragmenting forest habitat, the vibration of the machines drives away wildlife, as noted on Backbone Mountain, West Virginia. The turning blades are deadly to bats and birds.

4. Financial benefits, i.e., pay-offs, to others are completely up to the developer, who -- incredibly for a lessee -- writes the contract. Property owners are severely limited in what they can do with their land, even to the extent of who they allow on it. They become caretakers for the wind company. Land that might have been open would be closed to public use. As a project is later sold to national or international investors, payments are likely to be curtailed and taxes contested. The potential legal burden on towns is huge. Construction jobs, the more specialized of which will be filled by workers from elsewhere, are short term. Permanent jobs amount to 1-2 people per 20 MW capacity, again typically filled from elsewhere. Any business that depends on recreation and tourism traffic is likely to suffer, as will neighboring property values. Long after new technology makes giant wind turbines obsolete, or after they are abandoned because of diminishing returns (as in Altamont Pass, Calif., Princeton, Mass., and South Point, Hawaii), property owners and towns will be stuck with the mess.

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To the editor, Seven Days:

Peter Freyne (Inside Track, Nov. 30) has apparently fallen for the sleight of hand that points to gas-guzzling SUVs and peak oil and then switches to advocating giant wind turbines -- which don't power our cars and airplanes or heat our homes and workplaces. And very little oil is used to generate electricity.

The choice is not between staying in Iraq and building wind turbines. In fact, the motivations and justifications for invading Iraq are similar to those behind wind development: We must destroy these sites to save them; It would be much worse without us; Outrageous profits for a few and the suffering of many are a necessary cost; You'll thank us some day.

Also similar is the casual acceptance of "cherry-picked intelligence" by otherwise reasonable people, perhaps out of fear. Shouldn't one be a little dubious when it is the developer himself dismissing environmental concerns about his project?

Dave Rapaport of East Haven Wind told Freyne that "anywhere around the world, you've got an average mortality rate of about two birds per turbine per year." The National Wind Coordinating Committee, however, finds that mortality rates in the U.S. range widely ("about two birds" being the lowest) and are highest in the mountains of the east. Besides birds, the amount of bats killed is so disturbing even to the industry that they kicked out the researchers -- for the same reason U.N. weapons inspectors were taken out of Iraq, because they were no longer "helpful."

Like the most ignorant of right-wing media brutes, Freyne would rather beat up on the Free Press than explore independently whether or not wind power is a viable energy option in the first place, let alone whether or not its its benefits actually outweigh its negative impacts.

Denmark -- the poster child for large-scale wind -- hasn't changed their energy consumption one whit because of wind. Nor has any other country. German grid manager Eon Netz warns that expansion of wind will cause more building of conventional power plants not less.

The wind developers are salesmen and as transparently dishonest as George W. Bush. They'll talk about the coming hydrogen economy, cats, peak oil, battery technology, and how just like you they care about the environment and our shared future -- anything other than the fact that wind turbines built today don't actually do anything about our energy use. They play the guilts, fears, and prejudices of their marks like a fiddle.

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