June 5, 2006

Wind is more big industry, not alternative

This ad for insurance and reinsurance company "XL Capital" appeared on the back page of the Wall Street Journal's front section on June 2.

wind power, wind energy, wind farms, wind turbines, environment, environmentalism

June 4, 2006


The New York Times and the Boston Globe each contained an item that immediately suggested an obvious reply.

Times: '"I like George Bush because he is God fearing," said Delia Randall, 22, of Provo, Utah.' He has very good reason to be.

Globe: 'Killing of civilians in Iraq highlights stress on troops.' Not to mention the stress on Iraqi civilians.

Wind farm requires purchase of extra energy

Surprise: Reality doesn't live up to the sales claims. From the Helena (Mont.) Independent Record, June 4, 2006:
New Judith Gap wind farm causing headaches on the grid

The clean, green power from the Judith Gap Wind Farm that debuted last fall has been more intermittent than anticipated.

And that is causing problems for NorthWestern Energy, the utility that must balance supply and demand on its transmission lines. ...

In April, the Western Electricity Coordinating Council [WECC] in Salt Lake City sent a letter to NorthWestern saying that its transmission system may have fallen 3 percent short of its minimum control performance standards of 90 percent. ...

"This is unconfirmed and ordinarily this information isn't even made public," he said. ...

Joel Schroeder worked as project manager for Invenergy Wind LLC's Judith Gap project, the largest of the company's four wind farms. Reached at company headquarters in Chicago, Schroeder said wind is by nature intermittent.

"If you have a storm move in and the wind picks up, that will boost production, or if you have the opposite and the wind drops out, you'll lose power," Schroeder said. "It's completely dependent upon the wind."

Everyone knows wind power is variable and that other backup power from coal or hydro or natural gas is needed to fill in the calm times.

However, the hourly ups and downs are harder to manage than expected, [vice president of wholesale operations at NorthWestern Energy David] Gates said.

"The wind's blowing and in that hour, the output goes from 20 MW (megawatts) to 80 MW," he said. "The average is 50 MW, but as control operator we have to manage that move from 20 to 80 MW (on the transmission lines)." ...

You can store water behind a dam. But you cannot store electricity, and that fact creates lots of challenges for delivering power and pricing power.

Engineers may have more elegant explanations, but you can think of a power transmission line as a teeter-totter.

To keep the board level, the supply of power sitting on one side must balance the demand sitting on the other side.

When there is too much supply, the utility has to sell power right now. When demand outweighs supply, the utility must buy more power right now.

Long-range power contracts that run for years are relatively inexpensive. But, like shopping at a convenience store, buying power on the spot market costs more, often far more.

So variability at the Judith Gap project is costing NorthWestern's consumers more, they just don't know how much yet.

... On May 7, more than 30 energy developers, power company representatives and rural electric cooperative executives met in Helena with Gov. Brian Schweitzer's staff to discuss Montana's energy future.

One topic was how to build more wind farms, yet keep the transmission lines balanced.

Dave Wheelihan, chief executive of the Montana Electric Cooperatives Association, said the gist of that part of the conversation was that NorthWestern has had to buy more short-term power than expected to balance Judith Gap.

"You can go out and contract for it, but the pricing will be interesting," Wheelihan said.

He said the utility has purchased another 15 megawatts of incremental power from Avista Energy to balance the load. ...
wind power, wind energy, wind farms

June 3, 2006

Wind turbine burns 900 acres

A wind turbine in California caused the Tehachapi area's first large-scale fire of the season last Friday (May 26), according to a June 2 report from the Tehachapi News.

A malfunction in the wind turbine started a fire in the machine, and burning debris fell and caught surrounding brush and grass, eventually burning about 900 acres in Oak Creek Pass before it was brought under control, which took two days and 241 firefighters.

wind power, wind energy, wind farms, wind turbines, environment, environmentalism

June 2, 2006

"Houses for Weekend Cooks"

Featured in today's New York Times "Escapes" section, page D4: "Houses for Weekend Cooks":
WHERE Kirby, Vt. [near Burke]
WHAT 3-bedroom house
HOW MUCH $285,000

Built-in hoosiers, exposed beams with pot racks and a wood-burning cook stove exist side by side with more modern amenities in the kitchen of this 1,800-square-foor renovated farmhouse [built in the 1850s]. It has one bathroom, original wood floors and covered porch. The property is 31 acres in the Northeast Kingdom of Vermont with views from Camel's Hump to Willoughby Gap. The property includes established herb and vegetable gardens, a barn and a two-car garage. Agent: Annette Dalley, Peter D. Watson Agency, 802-467-3939; www.northernvtrealestate.com.


June 1, 2006

Model wind energy ordinance (1)

From the Town Code of the Town of Malone (N.Y.) (enacted May 24, 2006, by unanimous vote):

Wind Energy Facilities

Article I

§ 80–2. Purpose. ... to promote the effective and efficient use of the Town's wind energy resource through wind energy conversion systems (WECS), whithout harming public health and safety, and to avoid jeopardizing the welfare of the residents.

§ 80–4. Findings

A. The Town Board of the Town of Malone finds and declares that:

1. ... the potential benefits must be balanced against potential impacts.

2. The generation of electricity from properly sited small wind turbines can be a cost efffective mechanism for reducing on-site electric costs, with a minimum of environmental impacts.

3. Regulation of the siting and installation of wind turbines is necessary for protecting the health, safety, and welfare of neighboring property owners and the general public.

4. Large-scale multiple-tower Wind Energy Facilities represent significant potential aesthetic impacts because of their large size, lighting, and shadow flicker effects.

5. Installation of large-scalee multiple-tower Wind Energy Facilities can create drainage problems through erosion and lack of sediment control for facility and access road sites and harm farmlands through improper construction methods.

6. Large-scale multiple-tower Wind Energy Facilities may present risks to the property values of adjoining property owners.

7. Large-scale Wind Energy Facilities may be significant sources of noise, which, if unregulated, can negatively impact adjoining properties, particularly in areas of low ambient noise levels.

8. Construction of large-scale multiple-tower Wind Energy Facilities can create traffic problems and damage local roads.

9. If improperly sited, large-scale multiple-tower Wind Energy Facilities can interfere with various types of communications.

10. The Town has many scenic viewsheds which would be negatively impacted by large-scale multiple-tower Wind Energy Facilities.

§ 80–5. Permits Required

B. No WECS other than a Small WECS shall be constructed, reconstructed, modified, or operated in the Town of Malone. No Wind Measurement Tower shall be constructed, reconstructed, modified, or operated in the Town of Malone, except in conjunction with and as part of an application for a Small WECS.

E. Exemptions. No permit or other approval shall be required under this Chapter for WECS utilized solely for agricultural operations in a state or county agricultural district, as long as the facility is set back at least one and a half times its total height from a property line and does not exceed 120 feet in [total] height.

G. Notwithstanding the requirements of the Section, replacement in kind or modification of a Small WECS may occur without Town Board approval when there will be: (1) no increase in total height; (2) no change in the location of the Small WECS; (3) no additional lighting or change in facility color; and (4) no increase in noise produced by the Small WECS.

Article III. Miscellaneous

§ 80–14. Variances

B. If (1) a court of competent jurisdiction orders the Zoning Board of Appeals to consider a use variance for any Wind Energy Facility other than a Small WECS ... or (2) the prohibition on any Wind Energy Facility other than a Small WECS is invalidated, no Wind Energy Facility shall be allowed except upon issuance of a Special Use Permit ... which shall require a Decommissioning Plan and Removal Bond, a Public Improvement Bond to protect public roads, and compliance with the following minimum setbacks:

a. The statistical sound pressure level generated by a WECS shall not exceed L10-45 dBA [i.e., shall not exceed 45 dBA for more than 6 minutes (10%) of any hour] measured at the nearest off-site dwelling existing at the time of application. If the ambient sound pressure level exceeds 45 dBa, the standard shall be ambient dBA plus 5 dBA.

b. 1,500 feet from the nearest site boundary property line.

c. 1,500 feet from the nearest public road.

d. 1,500 feet from the nearest off-site residence existing at the time of application.

e. One and a half times the total height of the WECS from any non-WECS structure or any above-ground utilities.

f. 250 feet from federal or state-identified wetlands, to protect bird and bat populations. This distance may be adjusted to be greater or less at the discretion of the reviewing body, based on topography, land cover, land uses, and other factors that influence the flight patterns of resident birds.

[Click here for Article II: Small Wind Energy Conversion Systems]

wind power, wind energy, wind farms, wind turbines, environment, environmentalism

Model wind energy ordinance (2)

From the Town Code of the Town of Malone (N.Y.) (enacted May 24, 2006, by unanimous vote):

Wind Energy Facilities

Article II. Small Wind Energy Conversion Systems [WECS]

§ 80–11. Development Standards

1. A system shall be located on a lot a minimum of one acre in size. However, this requirment can be met by multiple owners submitting a joint application, where the aggregate size of their lots is at leaste one acre.

2. Only one Small WECS (plus, where authorized, a temporary wind measurement tower) per legal lot shall be allowed.

3. Small WECS shall be used primarily to reduce the on-site consumption of utility-provided electricity.

4. Tower heights shall be limited as follows:
a. 65 feet or less on parcels between one and five acres.
b. 80 feet or less on parcels of five or more acres.

5. The maximum turbine power output is limited to 10 KW.

6. The system's tower and blades shall be painted a non-reflective, unobtrusive color that blends the system and its components into the surrounding landscape to the greatest extent possible and incorporate non-reflective surfaces to minimize and visual disruption.

7. The system shall be designed and located in such a manner to minimize adverse visual impacts from public viewing areas (e.g., public parks, roads, trails). Facilities shall not exceed the ridgeline level, where the the ridgeline is defined as the average height of the summer-time vegetation on the parcel.

8. Exterior lighting on any structure associated with the system shall not be allowed except that which is specifically required by the Federal Aviation Administration.

9. All on-site electrical wires associated with the system shall be installed underground except for "tie-ins" to a public utility company and public utility company transmission poles, towers, and lines.

10. The system shall be operated such that no disruptive electromagnetic interference is caused. If it has been demonstrated that a system is causing harmful interference, the system operator shall promptyl mitigate the harmful interference or cease operation of the system.

11. At least one sign shall be posted on the tower at a height of five feet warning of electrical shock or high voltage and harm from revolving machinery. No brand names, logo, or advertising shall be placed or painted on the tower, rotor, generator, or tail vane where it would be visible from the ground ...

14. Construction of on-site access roadways shall be minimized. Temporary access roads utilized for initial instllation shall be re-graded and re-vegetated to the pre-existing natural condition after completion of installation.

§ 80–12. Standards

1. Setback requirements. A Small WECS shall not be located closer to a property line than one and a half times the total height of the facility.

2. Noise. Except during short-term events including utility outages and severe wind storms, a Small WECS shall be designed, installed, and operated so that noise generated by the system shall not exceed [L10-]50 decibels (dBA), as measured by an unweighted meter at the closest property line.

§ 80–13. Abandonment of Use

A. A Small WECS which is not used for twelve (12) successive months shall be deemed abandoned and shall be dismantled and removed from the property within 24 additional months at the expense of the property owner.

B. All Small WECS shall be maintained in good condition and in accordance with all requirements of this section.

[Click here for Articles I (Findings and Permits Required) and III (Variances)]

wind power, wind energy, wind farms, wind turbines, environment, environmentalism