February 28, 2007

Wind power opens doors for new coal plants and transmission lines

A couple of recent news items illustrate how wind energy development is being used as the frontman for new coal plants and expansion of transmission lines.

First, a letter in the Feb. 28 West Central (Minn.) Tribune notes that a large new coal plant with transmission upgrades will be a necessary part of Minnesota's new effort to get 25% of their electricity from renewables.
The law is based on the results of the Minnesota Wind Integration Study, a project undertaken by the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission resulting from 2005 legislation. The study report, which was published late last year, shows that by 2020 up to 20 percent of the state’s electrical energy could economically come from wind without adverse supply or reliability impacts. The report assumed, as part of its baseline, that certain facilities already were in place. [The study also misleadingly used wind data smoothed to hourly averages.]

Included in those assumptions was that eastern North Dakota and eastern South Dakota would contribute to Minnesota’s wind energy resource and that Big Stone II with its associated transmission would be built. The [coal] plant is needed as a source of baseload generation and to help ensure voltage stability between the Dakotas and Minnesota. Big Stone transmission upgrades are needed to help deliver energy from Minnesota’s wind-rich Buffalo Ridge.

Thus, in order for Minnesota to realize the goals of the Legislature’s “25 by 25” mandate, there must be a Big Stone II. ...
And an article in the Feb. 27 Newsday reports that the developer of a giant new high-voltage transmission line in central New York is selling it as a spur to wind energy development. Interestingly, Senator Hilary Clinton is critical of the transmission project yet an active proponent of wind development. It thus appears to be purely symbolic for her as it proves to be for all.

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

February 26, 2007

Avram Patt doesn't know what he's talking about.

To the editor, Rutland (Vt.) Herald:

Avram Patt (Perspective, Feb. 18) obviously did not read Metcalf's Feb. 11 letter past the first paragraph. Metcalf uses capacity rhetorically in the same way the industry does in leading people to believe that 1,000 megawatts of wind is indeed the same as -- and will thus replace -- 1,000 megawatts of other sources. The rest of the letter does not follow the industry in that misleading use of capacity, but instead cites, e.g., a German government study that 48,000 megawatts of wind capacity would be the same as only 2,000 megawatts of capacity from other sources.

It is Patt who is confused. He has evidently imagined the rest of the letter so he could more easily criticize it. His analogy about a car not burning gas until it's going somewhere is simple-minded. What if the car is sitting in a traffic jam or even a stop light? In city driving, because it must slow down and stop and reaccelerate so much more, the car actually burns more gas although going much smaller distances than it might on a highway. That is a more accurate analogy for much of the grid. If the wind rises, and energy from wind turbines requires other sources to stop or slow down their electricity generation, it does not mean that fuel at those other sources is no longer being burned. They have to stay "warm" to be available when the wind drops again. The few modern plants that can shut down must start up again more often, and that uses more fuel, too.

Wind energy on the grid is not like riding a bike and leaving the car in the driveway, as Patt suggests. Wind energy on the grid is more like riding a bike and having someone follow you in the car in case you get tired (lose your wind, so to speak).

But Patt's complaint (along with his attempted correction) is not only wrong, it is a red herring. After showing wind's minuscule potential contribution to our energy supply, Metcalf's letter is about the substantial noise from the giant machines. As the turbines have recently started operation in Mars Hill, Maine, for example, their noise is now undeniable, robbing people of sleep and the peaceful enjoyment of their homes and land.

He explains that sound is relative. What might be unnoticeable in a city during the day would be intolerable during a typically quiet rural night. And where unnatural noises are not the norm, especially at night, the rhythmic pumping and mechanical grinding of giant wind turbines (augmented by flashing lights) are much more intrusive than their absolute measures (as estimated by the developers) are meant to suggest.

That was the point of Metcalf's letter, and it was completely ignored by Patt. Just as the industry exaggerates the value of electricity from wind, it downplays its negative impacts. Even then, the cost-benefit balance is doubtful. When the facts are not ignored, the costs overwhelm.

Industrial wind turbine facilities are a not only a visual and auditory insult, they degrade and fragment wildlife habitat, they threaten bats and birds, they open up wild areas to sprawl with roads and transmission lines. As Vermont industry rep John Zimmerman has said, "wind turbines don't make good neighbors."

wind power, wind energy, environment, environmentalism, Vermont

February 24, 2007

Industrial wind vs. the environment

Which side are you on? (as the old union song asks) ...

Maryland is facing bills to protect industrial wind developers from environmental scrutiny as they pave roads and string transmission lines over the Appalachian ridgetops and ram in giant wind machines that serve no purpose beyond making politicians and "green" consumers feel as if they've "done something" about our energy problems.

According to the blog My Commonplace Book (click the title of this post, and thanks to National Wind Watch for the tip), "The bill would eliminate any requirement for public review or notification -- or even for informing adjacent land owners whose property values could plummet [and would suffer from the noise]. Nor would there be any environmental review of the impact on wildlife, endangered species, or forest fragmentation. All an applicant for a wind project would have to do is request a construction permit from the Public Service Commission."

For an industry that claims to be green, they sure don't like actual scrutiny. No longer able to deny the substantial negative impacts of their projects on land, animals, and people, they now hope to exempt themselves from the law. This is an industry shaped by Bush's pals at Enron, after all.

wind power, wind energy, environment, environmentalism, ecoanarchism, animal rights

Quote of the day

"It's like everything we do in this country. We jump in with both feet and we don't think about any of the consequences."

--Mike King, Illinois, on industrial wind

wind power, wind energy, environment, environmentalism

February 23, 2007

Conservation Law Foundation weeps for polluters

Like Peter Shumlin, President Pro Tem of the Vermont Senate, Christopher Kilian of the Conservation Law Foundation is worried about global warming's effect on ski areas and snowmobiling (as expressed in a column recently appearing in Vermont newspapers). He wants to appear serious about fighting global warming but ignores the fact that ski areas and snowmobiling are contributors to global warming, not its victims. As examples of environmentally harmful recreation, they should be admonished not pitied.

environment, environmentalism, Vermont, animal rights

February 21, 2007

Animal farms and deforestation and global warming

Here are some "inconvenient truths" from the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations news room last year (underscoring added) ...

Livestock a major threat to environment

29 November 2006, Rome - According to a new report published by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization, the livestock sector generates more greenhouse gas emissions as measured in CO2 equivalent -- 18 percent -- than transport. It is also a major source of land and water degradation. ...

With increased prosperity, people are consuming more meat and dairy products every year. Global meat production is projected to more than double from 229 million tonnes in 1999/2001 to 465 million tonnes in 2050, while milk output is set to climb from 580 to 1043 million tonnes.

Long shadow

The global livestock sector is growing faster than any other agricultural sub-sector. ... But such rapid growth exacts a steep environmental price, according to the FAO report, Livestock's Long Shadow -- Environmental Issues and Options. "The environmental costs per unit of livestock production must be cut by one half, just to avoid the level of damage worsening beyond its present level," it warns.

When emissions from land use and land use change are included, the livestock sector accounts for 9 percent of CO2 deriving from human-related activities, but produces a much larger share of even more harmful greenhouse gases. It generates 65 percent of human-related nitrous oxide, which has 296 times the Global Warming Potential (GWP) of CO2. Most of this comes from manure.

And it accounts for respectively 37 percent of all human-induced methane (23 times as warming as CO2), which is largely produced by the digestive system of ruminants, and 64 percent of ammonia, which contributes significantly to acid rain.

Livestock now use 30 percent of the earth's entire land surface, mostly permanent pasture but also including 33 percent of the global arable land used to producing feed for livestock, the report notes. As forests are cleared to create new pastures, it is a major driver of deforestation, especially in Latin America where, for example, some 70 percent of former forests in the Amazon have been turned over to grazing.

Land and water

At the same time herds cause wide-scale land degradation, with about 20 percent of pastures considered as degraded through overgrazing, compaction and erosion. This figure is even higher in the drylands where inappropriate policies and inadequate livestock management contribute to advancing desertification.

The livestock business is among the most damaging sectors to the earth's increasingly scarce water resources, contributing among other things to water pollution, eutrophication and the degeneration of coral reefs. The major polluting agents are animal wastes, antibiotics and hormones, chemicals from tanneries, fertilizers and the pesticides used to spray feed crops. Widespread overgrazing disturbs water cycles, reducing replenishment of above and below ground water resources. Significant amounts of water are withdrawn for the production of feed.

Livestock are estimated to be the main inland source of phosphorous and nitrogen contamination of the South China Sea, contributing to biodiversity loss in marine ecosystems.

Meat and dairy animals now account for about 20 percent of all terrestrial animal biomass. Livestock's presence in vast tracts of land and its demand for feed crops also contribute to biodiversity loss; 15 out of 24 important ecosystem services are assessed as in decline, with livestock identified as a culprit.

Deforestation causes global warming

4 September 2006, Rome -- Most people assume that global warming is caused by burning oil and gas. But in fact between 25 and 30 percent of the greenhouse gases released into the atmosphere each year -- 1.6 billion tonnes -- is caused by deforestation. ...

Trees are 50 percent carbon. When they are felled or burned, the C02 they store escapes back into the air. According to FAO figures, some 13 million ha [32 million acres, 50,000 square miles] of forests worldwide are lost every year, almost entirely in the tropics. Deforestation remains high in Africa, Latin America and Southeast Asia.

environment, environmentalism,, ecoanarchism, animal rights, vegetarianism

February 18, 2007

How it ends

Boston Globe, Feb. 18, 2007, end of "Rally targets US base expansion": "I don't want any more Americans here," said Pucci Mori of Vicenza. "Wherever they go in the world, Americans cause trouble."

New York Times, Feb. 18, 2007, end of "Jailed 2 years, Iraqi tells of abuse by Americans": "The United States through its actions made people hate the Americans much more than before."