February 28, 2006

turbines noisy as very low-flying aircraft

'At the opening of Black Law windfarm in South Lanarkshire yesterday, Nicol Stephen, deputy first minister and one of the project's biggest proponents, admitted that standing under one of the site's 42 turbines was as noisy as being beneath the path of a "very low-flying aircraft".'

The Herald (U.K.), January 13, 2006

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Cape Wind will have little, if any, benefit

To the Editor, New York Times:

The editorial of Feb. 28 ("Sneak Attack on Cape Wind") mentions "serious effort[s] to deal with global warming and oil dependency." Unfortunately, the Cape Wind project, like all grid-connected wind power projects, is not such a "serious effort."

The power output projected by the developers does not translate into a corresponding reduction of other sources. In fact, the output from wind turbines is so intermittent and variable that other plants must be kept burning to be able to balance them.

Denmark, Germany, and Spain have not reduced their greenhouse gas or other emissions nor their use of other fuels despite massive installation of wind power (along with the necessary overbuilding of supporting infrastructure).

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February 26, 2006

Windfo revival meetups

At the Sutton School on Monday (Feb. 27), starting at 6:30, Clean Air Vermont, a group that appears to have been conjured just for this meeting, probably born in the bowels of VPIRG like that other "volunteer driven group" Clean Power Vermont -- anyway, said group has called a meeting to restore the Suttonites to the true faith of industrial sprawl and centralized power. (I don't know when -- or why -- VPIRG got into this business; it is completely antithetical to their usual concerns.)

Then on Tuesday (Feb. 28) down in Montpelier, from 7 to 10 p.m. at the Unitarian Universalist Church, Vermont's Building for Social Responsibility is putting their face into the same wind. This one actually promises to be a discussion to sort out the pros and cons of commerical wind power development on Vermont's ridgelines. We'll see.

There is currently 1 small operating wind power facility in Vermont and 9 big ones in the pipeline. These projects will affect 58 of the state's 251 towns.

A statement from Vermonters with Vision (and potential petition) is as follows:
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.
For expansion of these statements, see www.rosenlake.net/vwv.

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February 25, 2006

12 easy steps to fascism

From a good piece by Jenni Russell in today's Guardian (U.K.):

[T]he normal rules of customer service had been suspended and replaced by something alarming: an assumption, by those in uniform, that a member of the public who questions them can now be treated as a potential threat.

This change in the relationship between people and officials can only be explained as a result of the new illiberal atmosphere in which we are living. Just consider what happened at the Labour party conference. Everyone noticed the case of Walter Wolfgang, but 425 other people were also stopped under the terrorism act. ... People were being targeted not for terrorism, but for political dissent.

Dangerously for all of us, the fear of terrorism is legitimising intimidating behaviour by petty officials and agents of the state. It has become an excuse for bullying people when they step out of obedient lines.

... I fear that many of us are failing to see the danger we are now in, precisely because we have grown up in a largely benign state. We still trust in the good sense and reasonableness of its agents, and the rest of officialdom. We don't understand that that has been sustained only by the existence of our legal rights, and by a respect for our freedom of action. We don't see the lesson of every society: that if you do not place constraints on official power, its instinct is to grow. Our tolerant world is disappearing, and it is only when many more of us start running up against that reality that we will realise what we have lost.

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Londonderry rejects ridgeline wind power 2-1

The Vermont town of Londonderry held a special vote yesterday about a wind power facility on the very prominent Glebe Mountain, whose ridge they share with the town of Windham. The result was 425-213 against the project.

The Brattleboro Reformer reported the following informed voter:
As she got into a large pickup truck, another woman said she voted yes because her vehicle uses a lot of energy.
The Rutland Herald talked with project developer Rob Charlebois:
"Clearly, we have work to do at educating the public about the benefits of the project." ...

Catamount Energy recently hired a Burlington public relations firm to get its message out. Charlebois noted there has been a sophisticated advertising campaign against his project for months.

One ad used silhouettes to compare the size of the proposed Glebe Mountain turbines to both the Statue of Liberty and the Bennington Battle Monument, as well as the Searsburg wind turbines, which is the only existing wind facility in Vermont. [Click here to see the graphic.]

The proposed Glebe turbines would be much taller than all three. Catamount Energy and a Japanese energy company, Marubeni Energy International, want to build 19 wind turbines, each about 420 feet tall, on 3.5 miles of ridgeline that is privately owned.
One of the challenges of course for Catamount and their PR firm is making sure people such as the woman with her large pick-up truck continue in the happy delusion that big wind will allow them to continue their needlessly wasteful use of energy, even that which has nothing to do with electricity. The problem is that the facts are so clearly against them. Big wind won't even affect our fuel use for electricity. [Click here for "The low benefit of big wind."]

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February 24, 2006

Utility welcomes energy and financial instability

A bill that among other things considers expanding net-metering limits has been approved in the Vermont House. Utilities, however, don't like the possibility. According to the story in today's Rutland Herald, Central Vermont Public Service's lobbyist Kerrick Johnson said that expansion of net metering could affect utilities' bond ratings by adding an element of unpredictability.

He also noted that the power company has to continue contracting for enough electricity to supply its net-metering customers in case they need it.

Net metering is currently limited to 1% of a utility's maximum load and is allowed for generators up to 15 KW, or 150 KW for a multiple-metered "farm" system. On CVPS's system, net metering totals 0.07% of its maximum load.

But even that small amount of unpredictable power can be an expensive burden, according to Mr. Johnson.

It is odd, then, to have read on Wednesday that CVPS has arranged to buy the output from the 47.5-MW wind power facility proposed for Glebe Mountain in Londonderry and Windham by investment firm Diamond Castle–owned Catamount Energy and Japanese giant Marubeni Power International. CVPS says it will represent a seventh of their power load.

Yet they complain about the possibility of 1% of their load coming from customers' systems and having to continue providing power in case their generators aren't working.

Have the people of CVPS been blinded by the cut rate the Glebe Mountain developers have offered (made possible by taxpayer-financed subsidies), unable to consider what they're actually buying?

The power for one seventh of their load will be intermittent, variable, and unpredictable. Two thirds of the time, the output from the wind turbines will be below (mostly far below) their average output. If CVPS did not already contract for power to cover that, then they will have to buy on the expensive spot market. If they did have the power already, and the wind were to rise, they would have to dump the surplus, likely selling it at a loss.

If they think a few tiny net-metered customers are a burden, surely a facility the size of that proposed for Glebe Mountain will be a disaster.

Or maybe there's something in this deal that hasn't been made public.

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February 23, 2006

Airtricity unable to maintain pyramid scheme

Irish wind energy company Airtricity has dumped its residential and large commercial customers, abruptly telling them last weekend to make other arrangements, as reported in the Sunday Times (U.K.) and elsewhere.

They had hoped to keep on building wind turbines fast enough that subsidies would cover the cost of providing reliable electricity to new customers who pay them for the belief that their electricity will be "cleanly" generated from the wind.

But first the Irish Grid stopped all new connections of wind turbine generators for 18 months, and then Airtricity was repeatedly being outbid wherever they turned for other sources to provide their growing list of customers.

The scheme could not be sustained. Eleven thousand customers received letters from Airtricity informing them that their contracts were no longer in effect.

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