August 22, 2013

The basic physics of wind energy

In accordance with the 2nd law of thermodynamics, energy must flow from a concentrated form to a more diffuse form in order to do work.

Wind (and solar) is already diffuse, so it must first be concentrated (requiring a very large collection area, i.e., adverse impacts) to be useful, and second, because it is also intermittent and variable, be stored so it can be called upon as needed.

Both of these are substantial barriers to — and the basis of arguments against — practical large-scale use of wind (and solar) to provide electrical energy.

wind power, wind energy, environment, environmentalism

August 17, 2013

A circle closes

Deutsches Bundesarchiv: Presidential elections, Nazi public address van at Berlin-Pankow, 10 April 1932

Ground was broken [Tuesday, Aug. 13] for a wind farm that will have five turbines located on 1,500 acres east of the Pantex [nuclear fuel fabrication] Plant, about 18 miles northeast of Amarillo in the Texas Panhandle. The project is expected to be completed by July 2014.”

The 11.5-MW facility of five 2.3-MW turbines is being built by Siemens Government Technologies. It will be paid for by energy savings guaranteed by Siemens, that is to say, by the generous tax breaks paid for by you and me.

But the actual facility being built is far less than the one originally planned.

In fiscal year 2010, the plant spent $2.7 million on electricity usage from Xcel Energy and uses about 7 megawatts of energy daily, according to federal data. Bidders must commit to producing at least 10 megawatts a day, a federal proposal said.”

The facility “will generate approximately 47 million kilowatt-hours of electricity annually, which is more than 60 percent of the annual electricity need for Pantex, or enough electricity to power nearly 3,500 homes.”

Note how misleading it is to characterize the generation in terms of "homes", when these five giant wind turbines are intended to provide only three-fifths of a single factory's needs.

Also note that the hoped-for 47 million kWh represents an average production rate of 5.37 MW* (which is 77%, not 60%, of the plants apparent load of 7 MW), quite a bit less than the initially sought guarantee of 10 MW. That 47 million kWh represents a capacity factor of 47%. In both 2011 and 2012, however, the average capacity factors for wind turbines were 34% in Texas and 41% in Oklahoma.

The federal government expects the wind facility to "save" $2.8 million annually, that is, to pay for itself. At a 40% capacity factor (i.e., 40.3 million kWh annually), that would require a cost difference of 14.4 cents per kWh from what they are now paying.

Presumably, this crucial plant is not actually going to rely on the intermittent and highly variable power from the wind turbines and instead it will be sold to the grid from which the plant will buy its more reliable electricity just as before. So add the generosity of ratepayers to meet the inflated price the grid is expected to pay for this merely symbolic boondoggle.

[Siemens' use of slave labor from, even in, work/death camps during World War II was publicized in 2002 when its Bosch division sought to register the trademark "Zyklon" for a range of home appliances, including gas ovens. Siemens already marketed a "Zyklon" vacuum cleaner. The insecticide Zyklon B, of course, was used to kill large numbers of the Nazis' prisoners in camp showers, after which their bodies were burned in ovens. Siemens helped to build V2 rockets (again, with SS-provided slave labor). And here they are still, now generating income from a nuclear weapons plant.]

*47 million kWh = 47,000 MWh; ÷ 8,760 hours in a year = 5.365 MW

wind power, wind energy, wind turbines, wind farms, human rights, anarchism, anarchosyndicalism

August 10, 2013

19 reviews of the research literature on wind farms and health

As of 24 May 2013 and today, pro–industrial wind sociologist Simon Chapman has provided his “summary of main conclusions reached in 19 reviews of the research literature on wind farms and health”, increased from its earlier edition of 17 reviews.

As noted previously, he transparently cherry-picks and misinterprets the actual findings of almost all of them. The previous note also discusses now 28 reviews, almost unanimously recognizing the need for more research into the adverse health effects of large wind turbines and the need for adequate setback distances between turbines and homes to avoid such health effects.

Key to Chapman’s misrepresentation on behalf of the wind industry is his characterization of “annoyance”. Chapman would have us understand “annoyance” as nothing more than a mild distraction. Hence, he blames the sufferers of ill health from wind turbines as bringing it on themselves for being annoyed and, not content to get over it, literally making themselves sick. He thus attempts to present a measurable physical disturbance with documented physical effects as mere political grandstanding (classic projection of his own, obviously).

In medicine, however, particularly in the field of public health, Chapman's own playground, “annoyance” means a significant degradation of quality of life. It is not used lightly. It means a real level of external stressors that can cause ill health. Thus, when a review concludes that wind turbines may cause annoyance, which can lead to health effects, that is a direct physical effect, not a product of self-victimization as Chapman insists (and for which he should probably be removed from his position at the University of Sydney School of Public Health).

wind power, wind energy, wind turbines, wind farms, human rights

July 29, 2013

12 important things to know about wind farms, health and nocebo effects, by Simon Chapman

Simon Chapman, the Australian misocapnist, has just posted a video lecture outlining his thoughts about wind turbines and health, titled "12 things you need to know about wind farms and health". It's more than 26 minutes long, and seemingly designed to bore the viewer so much that they will give up and take his thesis on faith. Your editor, however, sat through the whole thing and here raises some issues with Professor Chapman's presentation.

1. Modern wind farms have existed since early 1980s.

2. Health objections to wind farms are relatively recent [since 2002].

The obvious question is, has anything in the nature of wind farms changed?

The numbers of wind turbines have increased steadily over the past decade, so it is not surprising to find that they have affected more people.

(source: Garrad Hassan, 2008)

(source: National Renewable Energy Laboratory, 2012)

Furthermore, the size of wind turbines made a distinctive leap around the year 2000. Larger sizes and higher towers mean more noise travelling farther, and particularly more low-frequency noise, which travels even farther and does not stop at — in fact, often resonates with — walls and windows.

3. Opponents claim there are immediate and long-term health impacts.

Chapman illogically presents examples of no effects reported as proof that instances of reported effects are false and again dodges the obvious question of mechanism: size and number of turbines, distance from homes, nature of noise that affects some people and not others. Nina Pierpont suggested an inner ear disturbance (like motion sickness) caused by low-frequency noise from large (post-2000) wind turbines sited within 1-2 km from homes. Before then, low frequencies were not considered in noise measurements. Since then, low-frequency noise has indeed been measured in the homes of affected individuals. See, e.g.:

"Dynamic measurements of wind turbine acoustic signals"
"The Bruce McPherson Infrasound and Low Frequency Noise Study"
"Cooperative Measurement Survey and Analysis of Low-Frequency and Infrasound at the Shirley Wind Farm"

4. Even a majority of wind farms with large turbines have zero complaint history.

This claim has been critiqued elsewhere.

5. The number of people complaining about health or noise is very small.

There is no actual registry of such complaints. Chapman is making it up. Companies do not report such complaints. Leases and easements typically prevent public disclosure of complaints if the person wants payments to continue. Chapman's "study" relies on parliamentary testimony, which would represent a very small fraction of affected people (he makes no attempt to estimate the degree of such sampling), media coverage, which of course varies tremendously in interest and bias and can not be comprehensive, and records of the wind companies themselves, apparently accepted without question or verification.

6. The "susceptibility" analogy with motion sickness does not stack up.

Actually, it does, but such nuance doesn't fit Chapman's neat theories. Update, August 4: This just in!

7. You name it ... they say wind farms cause it: 223 and growing!!

Since the primary vectors are stress and disturbed sleep, the broad range of effects — on all animals, not just humans — is not surprising. Chapman then picks out a few of the most extreme, ignoring exacerbation, to discount all reported effects. He also (in typical fashion) misreports them: for example, the "sudden death of 400 goats" he mocks as "seriously a report that was on the web attributed to wind turbines"; in fact, the story from Taiwan was the death of 400 goats over 3 years, beginning when a neighboring wind farm started operation, as reported by the Taiwan Council of Agriculture.

8. Many of the most commonly named problems are very common in any community.

And are more common after wind turbines start operating.

9. Complainants have refused to provide their medical records.

This charge is based on one appeal of a project approval in Ontario — Zephyr Farms in the township of Brooke-Alvinston, Lambton County — where the appellant was told to hand over the complete private health records of 20 individuals, despite their existing sworn testimony, within 1 week — which would then be considered only for "serious" harm to human health. Faced with this impossibility (not to mention the invasiveness), the appellant withdrew (the case was not "thrown out" as Chapman says). Since that project was erected, the adverse health effects warned of by the appellant have indeed occurred. Later such requests in Ontario for medical records have been met (e.g., at the hearing for Ostrander Point), as appellants know what to expect and have time to collect them.

10. Most complaints occur at wind farms targeted by anti-wind farm groups, mostly post 2009.

Duh. The groups provide a medium for publicizing complaints that are otherwise ignored or mocked. And the groups can not be active everywhere at once.

11. There have been 19 reviews of the evidence on wind farms, noise and health since 2003.

Actually, there seem to have been 28 so far, almost all of them, even some of those sponsored by the industry itself, recognizing the need for more research. Update, November 13, 2013:  Make that 35. But only 10 non-industry, non-government reviews.

12. Money may be a magic antidote to complaints.

With the use of the word "magic", Chapman shatters his whole charade of objective inquiry. It must be again noted that the receipt of money from wind companies typically requires silence about problems, a kind of inverse extortion. Chapman has been reassured by wind companies that there are no such gag clauses (which of course are illegal). Nevertheless, many individuals who lease their land for wind turbines do in fact complain of ill effects.

Conclusion:  "What we're seeing is what we call ah um an incidence of psych psychogenic illness." (nervous artifacts transcribed to indicate possible deliberate dishonesty)

Chapman defines psychogenic illness as "a constellation of symptoms suggestive of organic illness, but without an identifiable cause, that occurs between two or more people who share beliefs about those symptoms".

But adverse health effects from wind turbines are not "suggestive" of illness, they are illness. And nearby wind turbines are the easily identifiable cause. As for "shared beliefs", that applies to any illness, but in the case of wind turbines it is well documented that just as many people with a prior favorable view of them get sick as those with a previously more skeptical view. (An early example [2007] is Jane Davis of Deeping St Nicholas, England, and similar testimony of prior support and subsequent distress is indeed common.)

Chapman's suggested cure is apparently to suppress the issue in public and professional discourse, because the only real solution is to keep giant wind turbines an adequate distance from homes, workplaces, and recreational areas.

He quotes Francis Bacon (the alchemist): "Infections ... if you fear them, you call them upon you." The germ theory of infection has long proven that to be nonsense, just as continuing research in the physiological effects of low-frequency noise is validating the connection between giant wind turbines and adverse health effects.

(Chapman also takes the Bacon quote far out of context. It is from an essay on envy published in 1625:
Now, to speak of Public Envy :  There is yet some good in Public Envy, whereas in Private, there is none.  For Public Envy is as an ostracism, that eclipseth Men when they grow too great :  and therefore it is a bridle also to Great Ones, to keep them within Bounds.

This Envy, being in the Latin word Invidia, goeth in the Modern Languages by the name of Discontentment ;  of which we shall speak in handling Sedition.  It is a Disease in a State like to Infection ;  For as Infection spreadeth upon that which is sound, and tainteth it ;  so when Envy is gotten once into a State, it traduceth even the best Actions thereof, and turneth them into an ill Odour.  And therefore there is little won by intermingling of plausible Actions :  for that doth argue but a Weakness and Fear of Envy ;  which hurteth so much the more, as it is likewise usual in Infections, which, if you fear them, you call them upon you.
(Bacon seems to be saying that if you act in fear of envy, you invite it; but also that if you fear not envy, it will find you out anyway. His use of infection is clumsy as a metaphor, especially as he considers public envy a worthwhile check on power.)

Chapman goes on to present his "nocebo" thesis, despite the fact that people are not barraged with "fear mongering", but rather the opposite, with government, media, nonprofits, and educational institutions pitching industrial wind turbines as utterly benign. If he insists on the existence of a nocebo effect, then he has to explain the failure of this "placebo" innoculation against ill effects.

Chapman then moves on to attack Nina Pierpont, who described the consistent set of symptoms that she called "wind turbine syndrome", and proposed a mechanism that elegantly fits the facts, as mentioned above.

After a bit more mockery of complaints and advocates, he explains why this issue is so serious. No, it's not because the effect of low-frequency and pulsating noise from industrial wind turbines on public health needs to be more seriously studied. Simon Chapman, of the University of Sydney School of Public Health, is concerned instead that developers can not erect wind turbines anywhere they want. For example, he inaccurately describes the state of Victoria's designation of a 2-km buffer zone around wind turbines as a ban on erecting them closer to homes. In fact, Victoria simply allows a resident within that distance to say "no, thank you". These are not "no go zones", as Chapman claims. If he and his industry cronies were convincing about the lack of adverse health effects, they would have no worries. But unfortunately for their (publicly subsidized) business, the facts speak louder than their denial of them.

wind power, wind energy, wind turbines, wind farms, environment, environmentalism, human rights, animal rights

July 27, 2013

Bipartisan war on civil liberties

Glenn Greenwald writes on the congressional failure to rein in NSA spying:

... But perhaps the most significant and enduring change will be the erosion of the trite, tired prism of partisan simplicity through which American politics has been understood over the last decade. What one sees in this debate is not Democrat v. Republican or left v. right. One sees authoritarianism v. individualism, fealty to The National Security State v. a belief in the need to constrain and check it, insider Washington loyalty v. outsider independence.

That's why the only defenders of the NSA at this point are the decaying establishment leadership of both political parties whose allegiance is to the sprawling permanent power faction in Washington and the private industry that owns and controls it. They're aligned against long-time liberals, the new breed of small government conservatives, the ACLU and other civil liberties groups, many of their own members, and increasingly the American people, who have grown tired of, and immune to, the relentless fear-mongering.

The sooner the myth of "intractable partisan warfare" is dispelled, the better. The establishment leadership of the two parties collaborate on far more than they fight. That is a basic truth that needs to be understood. As John Boehner joined with Nancy Peolsi, as Eric Cantor whipped support for the Obama White House, as Michele Bachmann and Peter King stood with Steny Hoyer to attack NSA critics as Terrorist-Lovers, yesterday was a significant step toward accomplishing that.

human rights, anarchism

July 23, 2013

The descent of book design

I have just enjoyed reading John Saturnall’s Feast by Lawrence Norfolk, but I was troubled by some aspects of the book design.

First, the title font seemed incongruous, evoking 1890s art nouveau rather than the 1630s and following decades of the book’s setting, particularly when used as large drop caps after the floral “woodcut” initial caps of the excerpts of “The Book of John Saturnall” that precede each chapter. The opening page of each chapter also sports the chapter’s running title, which is unusual and looks like a mistake, since the large drop cap indicates that it is an opening, not a running, page.

Second, The drop caps are set as if by a word processor, i.e., by lazily clicking “Drop Cap” in the layout program without regard to design or readability.

There were also some other glaring typesetting and layout errors, though overall the text itself was well set. Finally, the dust cover curled so badly that it had to be taken off while reading (which some people do anyway, but more usually to preserve the cover of an old book, not one that’s brand new).

Then I realized my mistake: I had bought the U.S. edition, forgetting to seek out the original British edition first. Bloomsbury first published the book in the U.K., and Grove published it in the U.S. Following are the first few pages of each edition side by side. The Bloomsbury images are screen captures from Amazon UK, and the Grove images are my own scans. (Although the Bloomsbury drop caps do not conform to the modern ideal, they are actually true to how books were set in the late 17th century, which those pages successfully evoke. The Grove edition sets these sections just like the rest of the text, only ragged right.)

Note, the British paperback appears to use the Grove edition, which suggests the driving aesthetic behind the latter: to be trade paperback ready. Note the larger text font, ready for photo-reduction. And the gaudy cover.

[[[[ ]]]]

Apart from its degraded vessel, John Saturnall’s Feast is a compelling fantasy about the power of cooking, representing alchemical wizardry and creativity to woo, mock, and sustain in lean times as well as flush. And ultimately to cross barriers, to subvert orders, to assert an older magic, older gods, a natural order.