July 29, 2006

Vermont Department of Public Service testifies against proposed wind power facility


July 29, 2006


"It is like a dream come true," said Greg Bryant, a member of the Ridge Protectors, an organization opposing a proposed wind project in the Northeast Kingdom. "The Vermont Department of Public Service has filed testimony opposing UPC's application to build industrial wind turbines on the undeveloped ridge lines of Sheffield and Sutton, Vermont." "This testimony is reassuring and historic for the protection of Vermont 's pristine mountain tops," said Bryant.

The Department's testimony had several significant findings that could well lead the Public Service Board to deny a certificate of Public Good to the UPC wind developers. Noting that the place where the project is to be built is defined as a Rural area in the regional plan and given the undeveloped nature of the site and the large size of the proposed project "the turbines will be out of scale and out of character with the surrounding area." For this reason, the department believes that the proposal is inconsistent with the land use provision of the regional plan.

Another significant fact in the Department testimony is the finding that the proposed project does not conform to the orderly development of the region, an element necessary to comply with the Regional Plan. Citing the recent establishment of the King George School the department states, "The area is ripe with private education facilities built upon the business model of private tuition for educational purposes." The testimony then goes on to state that this tradition is both very old and very young and goes on to site specific examples: Lyndon Institute, St. Johnsbury Academy, the Riverside Day School, St. Paul's Catholic School, Sterling College, and the King George School.

Recognizing the economic impact of this tradition on the regional community, the department goes on to note the specific financial impact that the King George School has on the local community. According to Karen Fitzhugh, the school currently employs 47 full-time staff with a payroll of 1.2 million dollars and spends 750,000 dollars within the regional community. The school has made it clear that if the wind development takes place, they might well have to close the school. "A payroll of the size of this school's is a very significant economic generator for northern Caledonia County ... the risks of the school's demise, in my opinion, could outweigh the benefits of the proposed wind generation project," said Robert Ide in his testimony to the Board.

Probably the most significant finding in the Department's pre-filed testimony addressing project aesthetics is its conclusion that the UPC wind project will have an undue adverse impact on the surrounding natural and visual environment. Specifically, if built, the project might unreasonably interfere with the public's use and enjoyment of Crystal Lake State Park . This finding alone could force this whole project to be reviewed under the Quechee test which might be very difficult for this project to meet. "All of these findings will make it very difficult for this project to move forward," said Bryant. "We have opposed this project for a long time for all the right reasons," Bryant said, "it is wonderful to have the state join our efforts to preserve the natural beauty of these ridgelines."

Ridge Protectors is a non-profit grassroots organization dedicated to preserving Vermont's undeveloped ridgelines. There are over 250 members of Ridge Protectors, based in Sheffield, Vermont.

wind power, wind energy, wind farms, Vermont

July 27, 2006

Wind power won't replace Vermont Yankee

The July 24 Times Argus (Montpelier & Barre, Vt.) reported on a campaign event in Putney for Bernie Sanders (running for U.S. Senate) and Peter Welch (running for U.S. House). Besides expressing his impatience with those calling for Bush et al.'s impeachment (not to mention conviction and ouster) (and which the Vermont Democrats had a chance to instigate but then backed off), Sanders spoke to the understandably strongly anti-nuclear crowd about the nearby plant:
Sanders said he had been opposed to the increased power production at the Vernon plant, and he was opposed to extending its federal operating license beyond 2012, when it is due to expire.

That statement drew the largest applause of the evening.

But Sanders said that if Vermont Yankee was shut down, Vermont had to find alternative sources of electricity -- and soon. Sanders said he was a strong supporter of wind energy ...
There's the rub. Vermont Yankee provides a third of the electricity used in Vermont. That's an average load of about 215 megawatts (forget about how much it is likely to have increased by 2012). By the productivity record of the Searsburg wind power facility (average output of 21% capacity), it would require 1,024 megawatts of wind power to produce that average load. That's over 500 turbines of the size currently proposed in Sheffield and Sutton (26 400-feet-high 2-megawatt machines over 3 ridges).

But unlike the steady supply from Vermont Yankee, the energy from wind would be intermittent and variable and would rarely coincide with actual demand. For planning purposes, most grid managers (as in a recent New York study) assume an effective capacity for wind of one-third its average output. That is, Vermont would actually need to plan to erect 3,072 megawatts of wind -- more than 1,500 Sheffield-size turbines -- to replace the energy we use from Vermont Yankee.

But that still wouldn't be enough. The assumption of effective capacity only applies when the penetration of wind is well within the excess capacity of the system, when the unpredictable load from wind can be adequately balanced. Once the system has to rely on wind to actually meet demand -- as in attempting to replace a base load provider of a third of Vermont's electricity needs -- wind power's effective capacity starts heading towards zero. This has been found independently by Irish and German government studies.

In other words, when wind capacity exceeds the capacity of other sources on the system to cover for it, its true value is revealed. If you could cover the hills with giant strobe-lit wind turbines, along with their roads, transformers, and high-voltage power lines, you would still be using the same sources as before to get your electricity. Only the lazy, insane, and greedy could support such a destructive boondoggle.

Closing down Vermont Yankee would benefit all of us, but industrial wind isn't what's going to make that possible.

wind power, wind energy, Vermont, environment, environmentalism

July 26, 2006

Amazing disconnect at Conservation Law Foundation

The July 26 newsletter from New England's Conservation Law Foundation reports that a Vermont judge ruled that construction of the "circumferential highway" ("the Circ") around Burlington must remain halted until an adequate environmental review is completed. The CLF "has opposed the Circ since 2002, arguing that the highway will not solve transportation problems in the area. Instead, the Circ will cause more sprawl and more pollution."

The newsletter also hails the Massachusetts Senate endorsement of the Massachusetts Ocean Act to "govern development activities and foster environmentally sustainable uses of marine resources in Massachusetts waters while protecting public trust resources." As the CLF notes,
Recent proposals for liquefied natural gas terminals, sand and gravel mining, desalinization plants, gas pipelines, telecommunications cables, tidal and wind energy facilities have raised numerous concerns among local, state and federal agencies, and the general public about how to manage the diversity of uses and the impacts of this intensified development pressure on the marine ecosystem. [emphasis added]
But the CLF is also sad, because inadequate environmental review, like that keeping the Circ on hold, as well as numerous concerns among the general public about the impacts of development pressure, like those in Massachusetts' ocean, has caused the denial of a permit to erect four giant wind turbines on East Mountain in the wilds of northeast Vermont.

The project will not solve energy or pollution problems in the area and will instead cause more sprawl and visual pollution.

CLF has clearly, insanely, taken the wrong side on the issue of industrial wind power.

wind power, wind energy, environment, environmentalism, Vermont

July 25, 2006

Wind project thrown out in West Virginia

Word comes from West Virginia that the state Public Service Commission (PSC) has thrown out an application to erect 50 giant wind turbines (400 feet tall, 2 megawatts each, sprawling along 6.5 miles of ridgelines) on Jack Mountain. Congratulations, Friends of Beautiful Pendleton County and Citizens for Responsible Windpower !

The application by Liberty Gap Wind Force, a subsidiary of U.S. Wind Force, represented by notorious coal lobbyist Frank Maisano, was rejected because the company would not allow an independent hydrology consultant on the proposed site.

Wind Force claims that they required a liability waiver to allow the hydrologist on the site, but Friends of Beautiful Pendleton County noted that they had allowed PSC staff on the site without such a waiver. The PSC recognized it as a delaying tactic and "unreasonable and contrary to the public interest." They also cited "repeated unreasonable behavior."

Hearings were scheduled to begin next month but have now been canceled.

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

Hezbollah did not venture into Israel

Thanks to Sam Smith's Progressive Review, we now know that the claim that Hezbollah went into Israel to kidnap 2 soldiers is yet another lie. The soldiers were arrested for illegally entering southern Lebanon, and bombing by Israel was already in progress.

July 12, Hindustan Times:
The Lebanese Shiite Hezbollah movement announced on Wednesday that its guerrillas have captured two Israeli soldiers in southern Lebanon. "Implementing our promise to free Arab prisoners in Israeli jails, our strugglers have captured two Israeli soldiers in southern Lebanon," a statement by Hezbollah said. "The two soldiers have already been moved to a safe place," it added. The Lebanese police said that the two soldiers were captured as they "infiltrated" into the town of Aitaa al-Chaab inside the Lebanese border.

July 12, Bahrain News Agency:
The Lebanese Hezbollah movement announced Wednesday the arrest of two Israeli soldiers in southern Lebanon. Lebanese police said that the two soldiers were arrested as they entered the town of Aitaa al-Chaab inside the Lebanese border. Israeli aircraft were active in the air over southern Lebanon, police said, with jets bombing roads leading to the market town of Nabatiyeh, 60 kilometers south of Beirut.

July 12, Yahoo:
According to the Lebanese police force, the two soldiers were captured in Lebanese territory, in the area of Aïta Al-Chaab close to the border, whereas Israeli television indicated that they had been captured in Israeli territory.

July 24, 2006

Blasted by a missile on the road to safety

From The Guardian (U.K.):

Family ordered to flee were targeted because they were driving minivan

The ambulanceman gave Ali the job of keeping his mother alive. The 12-year-old did what he could. "Mama, mama, don't go to sleep," he sobbed, gently patting her face beneath her chin. Behind her black veil, her eyelids were slowly sinking. "I'm going to die," she sighed. "Don't say that, mama," Ali begged, and then slid to the ground in tears.

On the pavement around mother and son were the other members of the Sha'ita family, their faces spattered with each other's blood. All were in varying shades of shock and injury. A tourniquet was tied on Ali's mother's arm. A few metres away, his aunt lay motionless, the white T-shirt beneath her abaya stained red. Two sisters hugged each other and wept, oblivious to the medics tending their wounds. "Let them take me, let them take me," one screamed.

Their mother was placed on a stretcher, and lifted into the ambulance. "God is with you, mama," Ali said. She reached up with her good arm to caress his face.

The Sha'itas had thought they were on the road to safety when they set out yesterday, leaving behind a village which because of an accident of geography -- it is five miles from the Israeli border - had seemed to make their home a killing ground. They had been ordered to evacuate by the Israelis. ...

Plumes of smoke rise in the distance, and the road in front of us offers up signs of closer peril: car wrecks, still smoking after Israeli strikes, and abandoned vehicles with shattered rear windows. Some were direct hits by Israeli aircraft. Others were drivers who had lost control. Overhead is the menacing roar of Israeli warplanes and the buzz of drones tracking every movement.

With bridges on the main coastal roads severed by Israeli air strikes, and secondary mountain routes scarred by craters, the means of escape for Lebanese trying to follow Israel's orders are limited. "All the smaller roads leading to the coastal roads are destroyed," said a spokesman for the UN in the border town of Naqoura. "In some areas you have people pushing cars by hand through obstacles made by a rocket or a bomb." By yesterday afternoon, for many villagers, there was truly no way out.

Death came crashing into the Sha'ita family soon after 10am, in the form of an Israeli anti-tank missile, seemingly fired from an Israeli helicopter high overhead, in Kafra, about nine miles from their home. Those passengers who were not killed or injured by shards of burning metal were hurt when the van plunged into the side of a hill.

In their village of et-Tiri, the Sha'itas were an extended clan of 54 people. Between them they had three cars. When the Israeli evacuation order came, in leaflets shot out of aircraft, the family planned at first to stay. "We were at home living our lives," said Musbah Sha'ita, Ali's uncle.

By 7pm on Saturday night, the deadline set by Israel for people in about a dozen villages in south Lebanon to leave, the Sha'itas were close to panic. "Whoever could run was running," said Mr Sha'ita. "I pushed them to go."

One of their fleeing neighbours said he would send transport for them, and the next morning all 54 of the Sha'itas set out in a convoy of three white minivans. That choice of transport proved a fatal mistake.

In their leaflet campaign, the Israelis have warned repeatedly they would consider minivans, trucks and motorcyles as targets. "The minivans are a target for Israel because they can take Katyusha rockets for Hizbullah, so they do not contemplate too long," the UN official said. "They just shoot it."

Dozens of others have met a similar fate as Israeli F-16 jet fighters and attack helicopters intensify a campaign meant to cut off the supply of Hizbullah rockets, and the movement of its fighters.

But Israel's offensive is being felt across a much wider swath of south Lebanon. The Lebanese Red Cross in Tyre said 10 cars carrying civilians and three or four motorcycles had been hit by Israeli missiles yesterday. Red Cross ambulances were no safer; a spokesman said an ambulance had narrowly escaped a missile near the village of el-Qlaile, south of the city. A number of the dead, including the three members of the Sha'ita family, remained trapped in their cars because it was too dangerous to retrieve their bodies. ...

July 22, 2006

Evil intent

"With a worldwide disaster looming just a few years ahead, it is a time of unrestrained corporate greed, false religiosity, moronic fecklessness, and evil intent in high places."

That's from the description by Thomas Pynchon of his new book, Against the Day, set in the years from 1893 to the early 1920s, which is scheduled to be published December 5.