Saturday, December 30, 2006

"Enfeebled conscience"

Aware of the Other Vibe's growing reluctance to trust reports from out in the field, Foley, who usually was out there and thought he had a good grasp on things, at first resentful and after a while alarmed, had come to see little point these days in speaking up. The headquarters in Pearl Street seemed more and more like a moated castle and Scarsdale a ruler isolated in self-resonant fantasy, a light to his eyes these days that was not the same as that old, straightforward acquisitive gleam. The gleam was gone, as if Scarsdale had accumulated all the money he cared to and was now moving on in his biography to other matters, to action in the great world he thought he understood but -- even Foley could see -- was failing, maybe fatally, even to ask the right questions about anymore. Who could Foley go to with this?

Who indeed? He had at least brought himself to reckon up what the worst outcome might be, and it came out the same every time. It was nothing to recoil from, though it did take some getting used to -- maybe not massacre on the reckless, blood-happy scale of Bulgarians or Chinese, more, say, in the moderate American tradition of Massachusetts Bay or Utah, of righteous men who believed it was God they heard whispering in the most bitter patches of the night, and God help anybody who suggested otherwise. His own voices, which had never pretended to be other than whose they were, reminded Foley of his mission, to restrain the alternate Foley, doing business as Scarsdale Vibe, from escaping into the freedom of bloodletting unrestrained, the dark promise revealed to Americans during the Civil War, obeying since then its own terrible inertia, as the Republican victors kept after Plains Indians, strikers, Red immigrants, any who were not likely docile material for the mills of the newly empowered order.

"It is a fine edge here," the tycoon had hinted one day, "between killing just the one old Anarchist and taking out the whole cussèd family. I'm still not sure which I ought to do." ...

But a voice, unlike the others that spoke to Foley, had begun to speak and, once begun, persisted. "Some might call this corrupting youth. It wasn't enough to pay to have an enemy murdered, but he must corrupt the victim's children as well. You suffered through the Wilderness and at last, at Cold Harbor, lay between the lines three days, between the worlds, and this is what you were saved for? this mean, nervous, scheming servitude to an enfeebled conscience?"

--Thomas Pynchon, Against the Day

anarchism, anarchosyndicalism

Friday, December 29, 2006

The Wayward Wind

The front page of yesterday's New York Times Business section featured an article by Matthew Wald about the fickleness of wind as an energy source (it was also in the International Herald Tribune). Click the title of this post for the whole article. Here are some excerpts.
[B]ecause it is unpredictable and often fails to blow when electricity is most needed, wind is not reliable enough to assure supplies for an electric grid that must be prepared to deliver power to everybody who wants it -- even when it is in greatest demand. ...

[P]ower plants that run on coal or gas must "be built along with every megawatt of wind capacity," said William Bojorquez, director of system planning at the Electric Reliability Council of Texas. The reason is that in Texas, and most of the United States, the hottest days are the least windy. ...

Frank P. Prager, managing director of environmental policy at [Xcel Energy, which serves eight states from North Dakota to Texas and says it is the nation’s largest retailer of wind energy], said that the higher the reliance on wind, the more an electricity transmission grid would need to keep conventional generators on standby -- generally low-efficiency plants that run on natural gas and can be started and stopped quickly. ...

Without major advances in ways to store large quantities of electricity or big changes in the way regional power grids are organized, wind may run up against its practical limits sooner than expected. ...

In May, Xcel and the Energy Department announced a research program to use surplus, off-peak electricity from wind to split water molecules into hydrogen and oxygen. The hydrogen could be burned or run through a fuel cell to make electricity when it was needed most. Xcel plans to invest $1.25 million, and the government $750,000. But storage imposes a high cost: about half the energy put into the system is lost.

The Electric Power Research Institute said that existing hydroelectric dams could be used as storage; they can increase and decrease their generation quickly, and each watt generated in a wind machine means water need not be run through the dam’s turbines; it can be kept in storage, ready for use later, when it is most needed. [If the reservoir is already full, however, then the water is run through the dam without generating electricity. --Ed.]

The institute listed another possibility, still in the exploratory stage: using surplus electricity made from wind to pump air, under pressure, into underground caverns. At peak hours, the compressed air could be withdrawn and injected into generators fired by natural gas. Natural-gas turbines usually compress their own air; compression from wind would cut gas consumption by 40 percent, the institute said.

That would help with an important goal, reducing consumption of natural gas, which is increasingly scarce and costly in North America. But not everyone is so sanguine that wind will do that.

Paul Wilkinson, vice president for policy analysis at the American Gas Association, the trade group for the utilities that deliver natural gas, said that wind, while helpful in making more gas available for home heating and industrial use, would still need a gas generator to back it up. And the units used as backup are generally chosen for low purchase price, not efficient use of fuel.

At the American Wind Energy Association, Robert E. Gramlich, the policy director, said that one solution would be to organize control of the electric grid into bigger geographic areas, so that a drop-off in wind in one place would be balanced by an increase somewhere else, reducing the need for conventional backup. That is among several changes the wind industry would like in the electric system; another is easier construction of new power lines, because many of the best wind sites are in prairies or mountain ranges far from where the electricity is needed.

A problem for new power lines is that they would be fully loaded for only some of the year, since the amount of energy that the average wind turbine produces over 12 months is equal to just 30 to 40 percent [actually, 20-30% --Ed.] of the amount that would result from year-round operation at capacity.
wind power, wind energy

Sunday, December 24, 2006

"Alternative" wind energy requires massive new transmission lines

Dec. 9, Grand Island (Nebraska) Independent: "Costs, especially of new power transmission lines, must be taken into account when considering new wind farms, [Nebraska Public Power District spokeswoman Jeanne Schieffer] said."

Dec. 15, Rocky Mountain News: "Building the high-voltage power lines, which carry electricity from generating stations to substations before delivering it to homes and businesses, has lagged the rapid construction of wind farms because of cost, location and regulatory and technical issues. ... A study by the U.S. Department of Energy released in August identified areas of severe transmission constraints, with New England, Phoenix-Tucson, Seattle-Portland and the San Francisco Bay Area topping the list. The second level included Montana-Wyoming and Kansas-Oklahoma."

Dec. 23, Green Wombat: "But renewable energy projects like the huge wind farms to be built in SoCal’s Tehachapi region face a big hurdle: insufficient or non-existent transmission lines to connect the windy and sunny parts of California to the power grid."

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

Damn the poor

Joseph Kennedy has written an excellent defense of his company's providing low-cost heating oil from Venezuela to the poor of Massachusetts. It's in today's Boston Globe: Click the title of this post. In short, it's time for those who enjoy so much socialism for capital to stop complaining about a little socialism for people.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Land of the free market

But sometimes Veikko went on and got philosophical. He'd never seen much difference between the Tsar's regime and American capitalism. To struggle against one, he figured, was to struggle against the other. Sort of this world-wide outlook. "Was a little worse for us, maybe, coming to U.S.A. after hearing so much about 'land of the free.'" Thinking he'd escaped something, only to find life out here just as mean and cold, same wealth without conscience, same poor people in misery, army and police free as wolves to commit cruelties on behalf of the bosses, bosses ready to do anything to protect what they had stolen.

--Thomas Pynchon, Against the Day

anarchism, anarchosyndicalism

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Excusitarianism

From "Beyond the Grave," by Colleen Patrick-Goudreau:

I've heard every excuse in the book for eating animals, but I've yet to hear a convincing reason. It's a pretty simple equation: since humans don't need to consume animals to survive, killing them simply to satisfy our taste buds amounts to senseless slaughter. But our eating habits and appetites have very deep roots, and we prefer convenience over conscience. With a determination that belies an irrational attachment to animal flesh and secretions, otherwise sensible and sensitive people spend vast amounts of time and energy concocting outrageous excuses to justify this unnecessary habit. Using lyrical and exalted language, they extol the virtues of tradition, glorify the need to conserve "heritage breeds," and wax poetic about our "evolutionary heritage." With "humane meat" gaining popularity, non-vegetarians have co-opted the ethical argument ..., but it's not the vegetarians who are losing. It's the animals. ... If we have to disguise, rationalize, romanticize, and ritualize eating animals to such a degree that we're no longer living in truth or reality, then perhaps we're not comfortable with it at all. Adopting a vegan diet is the best choice I've ever made, and I've never had to offer any excuses for it.

animal rights, vegetarianism

When Animals Resist Their Exploitation

From "Kasatka, the Sea World Orca," by Jason Hribal:

Two weeks ago, an orca named Kasatka intentionally grabbed and pulled her trainer underwater twice-nearly killing him in the process. Kasatka is a performer for Sea World Adventure Park, San Diego. She is one of seven orca entertainers at the Southern California park. With operations in five other US locations, Sea World and Busch Gardens are owned by the Anheuser-Busch corporation. Indeed, as Susan Davis demonstrated in her Spectacular Nature (1997), these flagship zoological parks are corporate enterprises: for-profit businesses.

According to a park official, the Sea World orcas perform as many as 8 times per a day, 365 days a year. The Kasatka attack happened during the final daily show. As for the performances themselves, they are finely choreographed and composed of several acts. Each is highly complex in its routines and challenging in its stunts. These shows require skill, patience, labor, and hours of weekly practice. The orcas are, in every sense, performers and entertainers. ...

In order to see the world from Kasatka's perspective, three facts need to be considered. First, there are no recorded incidences of orcas "in the wild" attacking humans unprovoked. This is an institutional problem. Second, Kasatka and other performers have a long history of attacking trainers. Resistance in zoos and aquariums, in truth, is anything but unusual. Third, the zoological institutions themselves have to negotiate with their entertainers to extract labor and profit. Indeed, animal performers have agency, and zoos have always (privately, at least) acknowledged this. Therefore, the next time you hear about an orca attack, don't dismiss it from above: "Animals will be animals." But instead, look from below: "These creatures resist work, and can occasionally land a counterpunch or two of their own."

animal rights, anarchism, anarchosyndicalism, ecoanarchism

Greenpeace flacks for industry

The shamelessness of U.K. Greenpeace activist Richard Claxton working as a paid agent of industrial wind developer "Your Energy" is breathtaking. What is amusing, however, is how much effort is required to even pretend there is community support for the project. The "silent majority" he claims to be giving voice clearly isn't. It's telling that only the "supporters" of these projects need the professional PR advice of such as Richard Claxton and the generous funds of the developer to create an illusion of support. Visit the Moorsyde Action Group for more about this project.

wind power, wind energy, environment, environmentalism

Western civilization ends in a slaughterhouse

"Yes here," continued the Professor, nodding down at the Yards as they began to flow by beneath, "here's where the Trail comes to its end at last, along with the American Cowboy who used to live on it and by it. No matter how virtuous he's kept his name, how many evildoers he's managed to get by undamaged, how he's done by his horses, what girls he has chastely kissed, serenaded by guitar, or gone out and raised hallelujah with, it's all back there in the traildust now and none of it matters, for down there you'll find the wet convergence and finale of his drought-struck tale and thankless calling, Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show stood on its head -- spectators invisible and silent, nothing to be commemorated, the only weapons in view being Blitz Instruments and Wacket Punches to knock the animals out with, along with the blades everybody is packing, of course, and the rodeo clowns jabber on in some incomprehensible lingo not to distract the beast but rather to heighten and maintain its attention to the single task at hand, bringing it down to those last few gates, the stunning-devices waiting inside, the butchering and blood just beyond the last chute -- and the cowboy with him. Here."

--Thomas Pynchon, Against the Day

anarchism, anarchosyndicalism, animal rights, vegetarianism

Monday, December 18, 2006

Electricity is all around us. But ...

"Back in the spring, Dr. Tesla was able to achieve readings on his transformer of up to a milion volts. It does not take a prophet to see where this is headed. He is already talking in private about something he calls a 'World-System,' for producing huge amounts of electrical power that wnyone can tap in to for free, anywhere in the world, because it uses the planet as an element in a gigantic resonant circuit. He is naïve enough enough to think he can get financing for this, from Pierpont, or me, or one or two others. It has escaped his might intellect that no once can make any money off an invention like that. To put up money for research into a system of free power would be to throw it awa, and violate -- hell, betray -- the essence of everything modern history is supposed to be. ... If such a thing is ever produced," Scarsdale Vibe was saying, "it will mean the end of the world, not just 'as we know it' but as anyone knows it. It is a weapon, Professor, surely you see that -- the most terrible weapon the world has seen, designed to destroy not armies or matériel, but the very nature of exchange, our Economy's long struggle to evolve up out of the fish-market anarchy of all battling all to the rational systems of control whose blessings we enjoy at present."

--Thomas Pynchon, Against the Day

anarchism, anarchosyndicalism

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Minnesota Wind Integration Study smooths data, finds problems to be small

The study also assumes a 40% capacity factor rather than projecting from historical data, which are much less.

And the modest cost they find for integrating wind is simply a comparison with the cost of using the same amount of dispatchable energy. It does not consider the extra cost of wind itself and its low effective capacity. In other words, the cost of building and maintaining capacity just to cover for the wind is ignored. As is the actual effect on fuel burning in such plants. The assumption is that the electricity from wind simply replaces the electricity from other sources and that's that.

Even with smoothing the available 5-minute data into hourly data and exaggerating the likely average production levels, the study found the effective capacity (or "effective load carrying capability") of the wind plant to be about 17-21% in 2003's wind conditions, 11-12% in 2004's, and 4-5% in 2005's.

That is, for practical planning purposes -- even using the fudged data from this study -- one megawatt of wind power could be counted on to "replace" only 50 kilowatts of other sources.

The study is currently available from the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission here.

wind power, wind energy, Minnesota

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Shumlin wants to focus on climate, focuses on wind instead

To the editor, Rutland (Vt.) Herald:

Peter Shumlin seems confused ("Senate leader wants to focus on climate," Dec. 11). It is unclear if he wants to get rid of Vermont Yankee (or at least store its waste somewhere else) or combat climate change.

If he is ready to throw out aesthetics and sacrifice Vermont's mountains for industrial-scale wind energy, how can he complain about carbon-free Vermont Yankee?

He is also mistaken about technological progress in wind energy. The only progress has been that the turbines get bigger, making them more environmentally damaging, not less.

One wonders, too, about his sobriety in this matter when he warns of temperatures rising 30 degrees. Hopefully, it was a typo. The U.N.'s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change predicts a rise somewhere between 2 and 8 degrees Fahrenheit over the next 100 years.

I share Shumlin's concerns about both warming and nuclear power. An honest assessment of wind energy, however, reveals that it would not contribute even a small part towards solving either of these issues.

With sprawling wind turbine facilities, Shumlin would destroy the state in a gravely misinformed effort to save it. We need real solutions, not fashionable window dressing that will do much more harm than good.

tags: wind power, wind energy, environment, environmentalism, Vermont

Monday, December 11, 2006

Robber barons

Goldman Sachs and J.P. Morgan executives are getting year-end bonuses of $25 million each. That's on top of their already obscenely inflated salaries and perqs. That gives them each almost $70,000 extra to play with every day, which is more than twice the median annual income of 90% of American households.

anarchism, anarchosyndicalism

Saturday, December 09, 2006

How the scam works

Driven by a concern for reducing carbon emissions, many governments around the world have signed on to the Kyoto Accord or otherwise established similar goals (such as the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative in the northeast United States).

Since the goal is overall reduction, one mechanism for achieving it is a "cap & trade" market, which has been successful is reducing other pollutants. Desired limits are established, and credits are earned by facilities that reduce their emissions proportionally to below that limit. Those credits may then be sold to entities that are unable (or don't want) to achieve the limit. Their extra emissions are allowed as they are equal to extra reductions by others.

Wind energy is promoted as a means of reducing emissions, but in fact wind energy facilities are being built to generate credits to allow continuing emissions, to avoid actual reductions.

The problem is that wind power generators are assigned credits even though no emissions are reduced. As an emissions-free energy source, their value would be in reducing emissions from other sources in the grid they are part of. Then those other facilities would earn credits for fewer emissions.

The wind turbines don't reduce emissions themselves, because they did not emit carbon dioxide or anything else in the first place. So if they are newly built, then it should be the entities that are able to reduce their emissions because of the use of wind energy that earn the credits.

If wind turbines were in fact responsible for such reductions, then they do deserve credit in some form, and that is an issue only for facilities not owned by the utilities hoping to benefit.

Wind energy advocates assert that since every kilowatt-hour of wind-generated electricity means one kilowatt-hour not generated by other sources (which include non-CO2 hydro and nuclear), you might as well skip the middleman and give the wind companies the credits directly and provide a helpful incentive for investment.

Thus, if a grid's generation balance is 50% coal and 14% natural gas, for every kilowatt-hour generated the wind company would get credit equivalent to the carbon emissions of half a kilowatt-hour from coal and a seventh of a kilowatt-hour from natural gas.

It would earn those credits even if the burning of coal or natural gas is not in fact reduced. And it can sell its credits to the coal and natural gas plants so that they don't have to reduce their emissions.

The wind company will say, however, that by definition -- theirs -- the emissions from coal and natural gas plants are reduced by wind energy on the grid. Yet this has never been shown to in fact be the case.

That is not surprising. Since the grid must continuously maintain the balance between energy supply and demand, highly fluctuating and intermittent wind energy (its average production is one-fourth to one-third of its rated capacity, and it generates at or above that average rate only a third of the time) adds to the challenges of that task.

Because the wind does not always blow sufficiently -- let alone on demand -- no other sources can be removed. Even when the wind is blowing well it may drop at any time, so other sources have to be kept burning to be ready to kick into generation mode. The result is little, if any, reduction of fuel use by or emissions from other sources.

Wind energy promoters also ignore the fact that -- even if wind power worked as they believe it does -- only quick-responding peak suppliers, such as no-emission hydro and low-emission natural gas plants, would be affected. Base load supplied by coal would not be affected at all.

In short, if the goal is to reduce carbon emissions, the method should be to reward results, not promises. If wind works, prove it. As it is, building wind "farms" is like printing money.

wind power, wind energy, environment, environmentalism

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Greenpeace et al. sucks up to power, bargains away environment

From Peace, Earth & Justice News:

Dani Rubin, secretary of B.C. Pathways, says the exclusionary process inflicted "collateral damage" on the entire B.C. environmental movement. "I remember Don McMillan of Interfor telling me that the industry had a plan for us [environmentalists]," he says. "It's pretty clear now that the corporate strategy was to divide the environmental movement by electing to negotiate only with the 'pragmatists,' leaving the rest of us out in the cold." ...

[In February 2006, Greenpeace, Sierra Club and other groups celebrated a historic agreement with government and industry to bring an end to the "war in the woods" in the Great Bear Rainforest area of coastal British Columbia. Less than a year later ... timber companies have ratcheted up the rate of clearcut logging to unprecedented levels, and guidelines for sustainable logging are not being implemented.]

The announcement of the final agreement set B.C.'s environmental community abuzz with debate over tactics and strategies in the Great Bear Rainforest. Clearly, Greenpeace has switched its focus from confrontation to cooperation, no doubt to stay in line with the changing priorities of a protest-weary public. Similarly, "finding solutions" and "building consensus" have become the catch phrases of foundations funding the large eco-groups in the U.S.

The evolution of Greenpeace from a rag-tag band of protestors to a multinational bureaucracy may explain its newfound commitment to collaboration with industry and government. Ingmar Lee, a journalist and old-growth forest activist from Vancouver Island, says the group has adopted the corporate model it once deplored.

"This is exactly what happens to forest protection activists who graduate from the frontlines into paid positions and begin working themselves up the ladder," Lee says. "Once they're into the $60,000-a-year bracket, they just quite simply cannot relate to anyone in the movement, but they can sure hobnob with the corporate logging executives. They begin to see how the 'real world' works, and they begin to understand that if they cooperate, they will start to get some of that power."

wind power, wind energy, environment, environmentalism, anarchism, ecoanarchism

Monday, December 04, 2006

Goldman Sachs wants out of wind biz?

Goldman Sachs wants to sell Horizon Wind Energy, which it bought last year (then called Zilkha Renewable Energy). As the New York Post astutely notes today, Goldman Sachs is betting "that the market for renewable energy is nearing a top."

Of course, they are selling it as a good investment, but if that were the case, why are they letting it go after only a year? Perhaps they have come to perceive that large-scale wind energy is a dead end -- an overhyped technology that underdelivers -- and that the market for it is indeed facing a decline.

wind power, wind energy

Friday, December 01, 2006

A question about renewable energy

More and more governments are requiring utilities to use more and more renewable energy, sometimes even directing them to not use some (such as hydro) and instead use others (such as wind). The goal is to usually to reduce emissions of carbon dioxide.

Why, then, isn't that the requirement? With wind energy, for example, its variability and intermittency cuts into its ability to reduce emissions, since conventional plants have to keep working -- even when not producing electricity -- to balance it.

wind power, wind energy, environment, environmentalism

Reunion Power getting desperate in Cherry Valley

Vermont-based Reunion Power wants so badly to desecrate East Hill in Cherry Valley, N.Y., that it has now offered to give away its electricity to all of the residents.

Nevertheless, the town extended its moratorium on development for another 45 days to ensure that a final ordinance is in place before Reunion formally applies for its project.

In an effort to have its way against an ordinance that would protect the historical and rural character of the area, Reunion has increased its promised "payments in lieu of taxes," will pay $2,000/year to all neighbors of the project, and has now arranged to pay for all of the electricity (though not delivery, about half of the bill) used by an average household (that will encourage conservation!) for every residential customer.

The ordinance currently specifies setbacks of 1,200 feet from property lines and 2,000 feet from residences. Following New York State Department of Environmental Protection guidelines, the noise level is limited to 6 dB above ambient at the property line.

Despite overwhelming opposition to its project, Reunion Power apparently believes it has a right, even an obligation, to have its way.

wind power, wind energy, wind farms, Vermont

Monday, November 27, 2006

Peace on earth called anti-christian

Yes, a christmas wreath formed with a peace symbol to honor the annual birth of the prince of peace has offended some very twisted souls in Pagosa Springs, Colorado. Oy!

[update]

Thursday, November 23, 2006

President performs annual mockery of christian mercy

The president has "pardoned" a turkey, reversing the death sentence that it and billions of others have been given and certainly did nothing to deserve. The charade allows him to cling to the illusion that he has compassion. He believes that this one spared life will absolve, or at least distract from, the slaughter of billions.

The christian story, which the president claims as a guide for his life and thought, tells exactly the opposite. Such slaughter was ended by a single sacrifice, not absolved by a single pardon.

That's the problem with religious principles. They are at war with base appetites and self-serving ignorance, with greed and power, and they are twisted to serve those ends. Good words are made meaningless, package copy. The slaughter of billions is marked by mercy to one. And mercy to the billions is an act of terrorism.

anarchism, anarchosyndicalism, ecoanarchism, animal rights, vegetarianism

Animal Rights Party wins seats in Dutch parliament

The Party for Animals won 2 (out of 150) parliament seats in Wednesday's election in The Netherlands.

Their aim is a constitutional recognition of (non-human) animals' rights to freedom from pain, fear, and stress caused by humans.

animal rights

Low Benefit -- Huge Negative Impact (part 2)

[From a National Wind Watch flyer of the same name;  click here for part 1]

Why do utilities support them?

Given a choice, most utilities choose to avoid such an unreliable nondispatchable source. In many states, they are required to get a certain percentage of their energy from renewable sources. In other states, they anticipate being required to do so in the near future. These requirements do not require utilities to show any benefit (e.g., in terms of emissions) from using renewables<\m>they just need to have them on line.

In Japan, many utilities limit the amount of wind power that they will accept. In Germany, the grid managers frequently shut down the wind turbines to keep the system stable. In Denmark, most of the energy from wind turbines has to be shunted to pumped hydro facilities in Norway and Sweden.

Yet wind energy is profitable. Taxpayers cover two-thirds to three-fourths of the cost of erecting giant wind turbines. Governments require utilities to buy the energy, even though it does not effectively displace other sources.

In addition, wind companies can sell "renewable energy credits," or "green tags," an invention of Enron. They are thus able to sell the same energy twice.

The companies generally cut the local utilities in on some of the easy profits.

Why do communities support them?

Developers typically target poor communities and make deals with individual landowners and the town boards (which are very often the same people) long before anything is made public.

With the prospect of adding substantially to the tax rolls and/or hundreds of thousands of dollars in payoffs each year, it is understandable that a lot of people are reluctant to consider the negative impacts. They are willing to ignore the effects of such large machines on themselves and their neighbors. Excited by the financial promises of the wind companies, they forget that their giant machines will destroy precisely what makes their community livable.

As people find out more, support for the harmful boondoggle evaporates.

wind power, wind energy

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Low Benefit -- Huge Negative Impact (part 1)

[From a National Wind Watch flyer of the same name;  click here for part 2]

Industrial wind promoters claim their machines produce on average 30-40% of their rated capacity. For example, a 400-ft-high 2-megawatt (2,000-kilowatt) turbine assembly would produce an average of 600-800 kilowatts over a year.

The actual experience of industrial wind power in the U.S., however, as reported to the federal Energy Information Agency, is that it produces only about 25% of its capacity, or 500 kilowatts.

It will produce at or above that average rate only a third of the time. It will generate nothing at all (yet draw power from the grid) another third of the time.

Because the output is highly variable and rarely correlates with demand, other sources of energy cannot be taken off line. With the extra burden of balancing the wind energy, those sources may even use more fuel (just as cars use more gas in stop-and-go city driving than in more steady highway driving).

The industry is unable to show any evidence that wind power on the grid reduces the use of other fuels.

Denmark, despite claims that wind turbines produce 20% of its electricity, has not reduced its use of other fuels because of them.

Large-scale wind power does not reduce our dependence on other fuels, does not stabilize prices, does not reduce emissions or pollution, and does not mitigate global warming.

Instead, each turbine assembly requires dozens of acres of clearance and dominates the typically rural or wild landscape where it is sited. Its extreme height, turning rotor blades, unavoidable noise and vibration, and strobe lighting night and day ensure an intrusiveness far out of proportion to its elusive contribution.

Each facility requires new transmission infrastructure and new or upgraded (strengthened, widened, and straightened) roads, further degrading the environment and fragmenting habitats.

wind power, wind energy

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Save the salmon, so we can kill them!

This comment is really about wind energy, but the admirable call from environmentalists (click the title of this post for the news story) to remove four dams from the Lower Snake River in Idaho on behalf of the salmon becomes quite a bit less noble when it is justified by the economic and recreational boons of killing their restored numbers.

Now about the groups' desire to replace that 3,000 MW of hydropower with wind. Just in nameplate capacity, that would require giant wind turbines covering at least 150,000 acres. Since they would generally go up in otherwise undeveloped areas, that "solution" is simply trading one major ecological impact with another.

Like large-scale hydropower, big wind is green in theory but far from it in practice. Unlike hydro, however, wind isn't able to provide reliable energy that can replace other sources. Hydropower varies seasonally, but the wind varies from minute to minute, with huge fluctuations through the day.

So you're trading one negative impact for another to get less in return. Brilliant.

wind power, wind energy, environment, environmentalism

Eighth richest Indian

According to Forbes, The eighth richest person in India is Tulsi Tanti, "worth" $5.9 billion. His business? Wind energy. He's the founder of turbine manufacturer Suzlon.

wind power, wind energy, anarchism, anarchosyndicalism, ecoanarchism

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Class war

But you can't call it class war, because they think they've won. They think it is a war of the "lower" classes -- on whose shoulders the "upper" classes stand -- against their privilege, which it is. But beyond that, it is a war against class. Remember the idea of equality? Justice?

From 1990 to 2004, the average income for 90% of American households increased just 2% (adjusted for inflation). For the top 1%, however, it went up 57%. It went up 85% among the top 0.1% and 112% among the top 0.01%.

In 2004, the average income for the "lower" 90% of households was $28,355. It was $940,441 for the top 1% and $4,506,291 for the top 0.1%.

This information was provided in today's New York Times under the headline "A New Class War: The Haves Vs. The Have Mores," about most of the top 1% feeling left behind by that 0.1%. A serious issue indeed. Just consider: if you take the top 0.1% out of the calculation, the average income of the rest of the top 1% will be well below that $940,000!

At least they -- and their newspapers -- don't have to worry about the 90% of households who are too busy struggling to keep bodies and soul together, the car running, the house heated to rise up from their knees. And just in case, if any of them did actually dare to stand up to such obvious economic injustice they would obviously be terrorists, a threat to national security. Get back to work, you!

anarchism, anarchosyndicalism

Friday, November 17, 2006

Milton Friedman's economic fascism, i.e., the world we live in

On Counterpunch (click the title of this post), Greg Grandin has an excellent history of Milton Friedman's (and other patriotic Americans') efforts to help Augusto Pinochet shape his country. The essay ends:
Today, Pinochet is under house arrest for his brand of "shock therapy," and Friedman is dead. But the world they helped usher in survives, in increasingly grotesque form. What was considered extreme in Chile in 1975 has now become the norm in the US today: a society where the market defines the totality of human fulfillment, and a government that tortures in the name of freedom.
anarchism, anarchosyndicalism

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Reply to letter from UPC Vermont Wind

To the Editor:

Around Halloween, Leila LaRosa, the local face for UPC Vermont Wind, sent a letter to Sheffield and Sutton residents. UPC wants to erect 16 420-feet-high wind turbines, their blades each sweeping a vertical area of 1.9 acres, on ridges between Sutton and Sheffield and overlooking Crystal Lake in Barton. The letter was an attempt to refute worries about such industrialization of otherwise protected ridges and to assert that the project's value is worth the sacrifice.

"They ... ARE effective and they DO reduce our dependence on oil, gas and fossil fuels."

Effective? The only measure of success the industry presents is that they are built. They have never been able to show that wind energy on the grid actually reduces the use of other fuels. This is not surprising, because the variable, intermittent, and unpredictable wind energy only makes the rest of the grid work harder to balance it.

The letter insists that UPC will not limit access to the project area. They need to publicize the leases if anyone is to believe them. All the leases I've seen are indeed restrictive and make the landowner a caretaker to the wind company's control of the land.

The letter takes issue with the charge that miles of new roads will have to be built by saying that, yes, miles, of new roads will have to be built: 5.5 miles of them. These won't be logging tracks but heavy-duty roads that can bear 50- or 60-ton loads and accomodate 160-ft trailers. What will be the effect on the watershed? Flooding and erosion are likely. "Revegetation" is far from restoration, and in fact the roads would have to be kept usable for delivering new rotor blades and gearboxes, which fail quite frequently.

On taxpayer subsidies, The letter cites (very incorrectly) only one subsidy, the 1.9-cent per kWh production tax credit. There are also 5-year double declining accelerated depreciation and the ratepayer-supported market for renewable energy credits. In all, federal subsidies generally cover two-thirds of the developer's cost, and state subsidies may cover another 10%. Crucially, the subsidies do not require evidence of a reduction of other fuels, that is, an actual benefit to justify moving so much public money into private bank accounts.

As for the humble UPC company, who are its investors? What is their connection to the UPC Group of Italy?

On problems from low-frequency noise generated by giant wind turbines, the letter is exactly backwards. It is the denial of problems that is being challenged by the scientific community. The U.K. Noise Association and the French Academy of Medicine recommend that large wind turbines be no closer than one mile from any residence.

In addition, the audible noise will be at an unacceptable level for a rural environment. And the noise won't stop at night, when it will be carried farther.

At the same time that the letter tries to deny such negative impacts, it tries to divert attention to worse problems with other sources of energy, such as coal and nuclear. Nobody denies those serious problems. But it is a wind facility being proposed for Sheffield and Sutton. And wind energy does not reduce the use of other sources. It is not a choice between wind and something worse. Wind's negatives simply add to the negatives we already live with, and none are reduced.

UPC admonishes the people protecting their communities from a massive building project of doubtful value and obvious costs for "spreading misinformation." Again, they have it backwards. Misinformation is UPC's game.

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

Monday, November 13, 2006

Questions about wind energy

National Audubon Society President John Flicker supports carefully sited wind power facilities, because
When you look at a wind turbine, you can find the bird carcasses and count them. With a coal-fired power plant, you can't count the carcasses, but it's going to kill a lot more birds. (Wind Energy Weekly, Nov. 10, 2006)
The question is not which is less evil -- that is a straw man argument. The question is whether one obviates the other. That is, if your concern is the negative effect of coal burning on the lives of birds, does the erection of wind turbines reduce that negative effect enough to justify the negative effects of their own giant blades and roads and clearcutting?

And is the negative effect on birds from wind energy really less? Would 2,000 2-megawatt wind turbines covering 150 square miles kill fewer birds than one equivalent-output 1,000-megawatt coal plant, particularly if that plant has scrubbers to clean up its emissions? I don't defend the use of coal here, because mining and waste are also serious problems, but presumably it is primarily emissions, and their effect on climate and the environment, that concern the Audubon Society.

Even recognizing the problems of mining and waste, the question remains whether wind energy has a significant effect on the use of coal or any other fuel. In other words, does it reduce the problem? Or does it only add its own problems without reducing any other?

All claims that wind industry reduces emissions by reducing fossil fuel use are based on a false assumption that every time the wind is up, other plants can shut down. But most can't. They have to be ready for the wind's dying at any moment, so they simply turn down their electricity production but keep burning fuel.

The plants that can instantaneously switch on and off will more likely be used more not less. Normally, they are used only during a few peak periods in each day, while slower-starting plants vary with the broad curve of each day's use and large inflexible coal and nuclear plants maintain the base supply that is always needed. So when the wind rises and falls during non-peak times, only the quick-responding generators can balance it, so they must replace some of the intermediate supply. Not only must the peak generators be used all day and night instead of just an hour or two, the intermediate generators must operate more often at levels that are not efficient, with the result of increasing their emissions.

In short, large coal and nuclear plants are unaffected, and the rest of the grid has to work harder -- which means burning more fuel less efficiently -- to balance the fluctuations of wind energy production that have so little correspondence with customer demand.

That is why actual reduction of other fuels or emissions because of giant wind turbines on the grid has not been shown.

That is why industrial wind does not represent a "lesser" evil but only an additional evil. It's business as usual for big energy.

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

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Canada's elusive woodland caribou threatened by development

From The Toronto Star:

The woodland [caribou] -- which generally grow to no more than 200 kilograms for males, 115 for females, and lives a dozen or so years -- is thinly spread throughout the boreal forest, which stretches from Yukon to Newfoundland and Labrador, and it's under pressure everywhere.

Its main survival strategy, particularly for females in the calving season, is to disperse. The difficulty in locating these widely scattered animals keeps the main predator, wolves, in check.

But clear cuts and roads open territories to deer and moose, which attract wolves that then go after caribou in larger numbers.

The deeply imbedded desire for solitude means caribou simply don't like disturbance of any kind. Create a clear cut, for example, and they'll shy away at least 10 kilometres.

Each female occupies a home range that's about 6 1/2 times the size of Toronto, Schaeffer says. Individuals' territories overlap, so a herd of 500 requires 21 "Torontos," or about 13,000 square kilometres.

Because their lichens take 50 to 150 years to establish, caribou can only live in forests at least half a century old. The dependence on large, mature forests is what puts them at risk.

About 125 years ago in Ontario, caribou ranged as far south as Georgian Bay and the Ottawa Valley. Over the years, the boundary of their range has retreated northward — at about 34 kilometres each decade — as highways, settlements, logging, mines, hydro corridors and other intrusions destroyed much of the forest and chopped what remained into small bits. Now, with 60 per cent of their original base gone, they're found only north of Lake Superior. ...

The province is also considering a $4 billion plan for a hydro corridor across the top of the province that would carry what its proponents call green power — from hydroelectric projects in Manitoba and, possibly, Northern Ontario, and from wind turbines that could be built along the breezy west coast of Hudson Bay.

The line of towers and high-voltage wires is viewed as a potential alternative to nuclear generating stations. Native leaders say it might create jobs and provide cleaner, more reliable power than their communities now get from diesel generators.

Environmentalists, though, suggest the benefits are being oversold and technical problems downplayed.

On top of that, all the projects would also bring permanent roads into the far north, further fragmenting the wilderness.

[Bill Thornton, assistant deputy for forestry in the Ministry of Natural Resources,] suggests the animals' demise might be inevitable.

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

Monday, November 06, 2006

Wind energy videos on line

National Wind Watch has converted two popular DVDs about industrial wind power for viewing on line with Windows Media and Quicktime: the 21-minute "Voices of Tug Hill" (Lewis County, N.Y.) and the 26-minute "Life Under a Windplant" (Meyersdale, Pa.).

wind power, wind energy, wind farms, wind turbines

Vermont endorsements -- II

Governor:  Jim Hogue, Vermont Green and Second Vermont Republic
2nd choice: Ben Clarke, Vermont Localist

Lt. Governor:  Mary Alice Herbert, Liberty Union and Socialist Party USA
2nd choice: Marvin Malek, Vermont Progressive

U.S. Senator:  Peter Diamondstone, Liberty Union and Socialist Party USA
2nd choice: Peter Moss

Vermont

Saturday, November 04, 2006

The 'green' energy credits that aren't

Bill Virgin wrote in the October 5 Seattle Post-Intelligencer:

Wells Fargo & Co. announced this week that it is buying renewable energy certificates for 550 million kilowatt-hours of wind energy a year for three years. ...

But the buyers of those credits aren't actually reducing their electrical consumption from the local utilities who serve their offices, power that could come from coal, nuclear, natural gas, hydro, or even wind -- not through these transactions, anyway.

So what exactly do these transactions contribute -- beyond burnishing a company's environmental reputation?

The answer, not surprisingly, is that they provide a nice subsidy.

"What renewable energy credits do is provide a second revenue stream for wind developers," a Wells Fargo spokeswoman says. "It encourages development of more wind power" since it "becomes more profitable for them to do so. It pushes the market." ...

But what about the supposed environmental benefits to the energy-credit program? Wells Fargo says its purchase of wind credits will offset 40 percent of its electrical consumption and prevent the emission of 380,000 tons of carbon dioxide a year.

But if Wells Fargo isn't actually cutting its consumption of power, and the credits represent power that someone else has already bought (and would have whether or not someone acquired the credits), it's an incredible stretch to argue that the purchase of credits represents a reduction in emissions. Not one less lump of coal or cubic foot of gas will be burned because of this. The only heat generated is the warm-and-fuzzy feeling the buyer of credits hopes everyone gets from the publicity. [emphasis added]

wind power, wind energy, green tags, environment, environmentalism

Friday, November 03, 2006

Leave the fish alone!

As the BBC reports the recent report in Science, 'There will be virtually nothing left to fish from the seas by the middle of the century if current trends continue, according to a major scientific study. ... Steve Palumbi, from Stanford University in California, one of the other scientists on the project, added: "Unless we fundamentally change the way we manage all the ocean species together, as working ecosystems, then this century is the last century of wild seafood."'

Manage? How about leave alone? A lot of people don't have a problem here. They are vegetarian. It's a simple solution, scientist Steve.

animal rights, vegetarianism

Thursday, November 02, 2006

On the wind plant proposed off Long Island

A couple of good reports from Newsday:

Oppose wind power? You must support breast cancer

Pay (much) more for (much) less

wind power, wind energy, wind farms

Heating up

Peter Kurth ("Crank Call") writes in this week's Seven Days:

"I’m sure you, like all of us, are doing everything in your power, in your little bitty way, to prevent the looming calamity of climate change, such as switching your light bulbs and walking to work. But let’s face it: Until the whole screeching, screaming, over-producing, mass-consuming culture of predatory capitalism comes crashing down around us, this planet’s going to keep on heating up."

environment, environmentalism, Vermont

The military is not sacred

Sam Smith (Progressive Review) wrote an excellent piece yesterday about the worship of the military by Americans. It closes:
I sometimes fantasize that war will be the slavery of the 21st century, which is to say a concept once widely accepted is turned into the pariah practice it should always have been. For this to happen abolitionism will have to replace pacifism; it is not the good of the resister that is important but rather the evil of the practitioner. We need to demystify the military, pointing out not just its moral weaknesses but its logical fallacies. We should sensibly regard people who walk around with pins on their chests celebrating their life as, at best, somewhat unstable. And we need to remind the media that it can not call itself objective and repeatedly rebuff the voices of peace. [emphasis added]
A letter from a local progressive activist a while ago decried the Iraq escapade but also expressed pride in thanking returning soldiers for doing their best. But military service is voluntary, and this far into the occupation any soldier involved is a willing actor in the crime, a willing servant of the psychopaths in Washington.

The responsibility is not Bush's team's alone. The president cannot wage war without the approval of Congress, which has never hesitated to keep the money flowing and to buy into the legalization of torture, extrajudicial detention, and unwarranted spying. Responsible, too, are all of the nation's governors, not one of whom refused the deputization of their National Guard forces for an illegal war.

As Smith suggests, perhaps the peace "activists" are mostly interested in showing how good they are. They don't ask why a man abandons his family to be with his friends in Iraq, as if it's just a weekend hunting trip -- no, they thank him if he survives and mourn him as a victim if he is killed. When such an avatar of militaristic evil as John Negroponte comes to town, they cower, "sensitive" to the feelings of their neighbors. Not only is every soldier responsible for choosing to participate in Bush's madness, but so many pacifists and leftists also validate the fetishization of force.

It is like honoring George Bush for not being as much of a drunk as he once was. So he can drive the getaway car more safely. Slavery is wrong, no matter how "good" the slaveowner. There is no noble war, and there are no noble warriors.

Vermont, anarchism, anarchosyndicalism

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Endorsements

Jim Hogue (Green Party and supporter of Second Vermont Republic) for Governor.

Pete Diamondstone (Liberty Union and Socialist Party USA) for U.S. Senate.

Vermont

Stretching and ignoring the facts about wind power

Glenn Schleede has written a new paper about industrial wind energy, mostly looking at the economics: "Stretching or Ignoring Facts and Making Unwarranted Assumptions When Attempting to Justify Wind Energy." It can be downloaded from the National Wind Watch Resource Library. Here is the outline of section D, which concisely lists the issues to be weighed.

D. Facts about wind energy that are often ignored by federal, state and local officials when considering wind energy policies or facilities
 1. Electricity produced by wind turbines is lower in quality and value than electricity produced from reliable generating units.
 2. Building wind turbines will not replace the need for building reliable, dispatchable generating capacity.
 3. Published information on the cost of electricity from wind per kWh generally is not valid or reliable.
 4. True costs of electricity from wind are much higher than often admitted because important elements of cost are ignored.
  a. Federal and state tax breaks for wind energy are part of the true cost of electricity from wind.
   1) Two very generous tax breaks are available from the federal government.
    • The wind production tax credit (PTC) of $0.019 per kWh for electricity produced during the first ten years of a wind facility's operation.
    • The ability to deduct the entire capital cost of a "wind farm" from taxable using 5-year double declining balance accelerated depreciation.
   2) "Wind farms" enjoy other tax breaks from the state.
   3) Other subsidies are also a part of the true cost but are hidden in either tax or monthly electric bills.
  b. The intermittent, volatile and unreliability of electricity from wind turbines also adds to the true cost of that electricity.
  c. Adding transmission capacity to serve "wind farms" adds to customer costs.
 5. Local economic benefits of "wind farms" are generally exaggerated.
 6. Environmental benefits of wind energy are typically overstated.
 7. Wind energy advocates try to ignore adverse environmental, ecological, scenic and property value impacts of "wind farms."

wind power, wind energy

Stop global fooling


wind power, wind energy, environment, environmentalism

Whole Fools

Whole Foods has now extended their own folly of buying "wind energy credits" by offering them to their customers. To see the absurdity of the scheme, apply it to the food shelf cards that are similarlyly available at many grocery store checkouts.

Buying a $5 food card means that the grocer will give away $5 of food on your behalf. But if it worked like a wind power card, that $5 food shelf card would represent $6.25 of the wholesale price difference between a "gourmet" food item and its mundane counterpart which may cost the grocer, say, $13. The supplier will still sell the gourmet item to grocers for $19.25 but now will get an extra $5.00 because of your generosity (minus the cut for the broker who set this thing up).

It's nice to thus help your preferred suppliers stay in business, but you can not claim to have offset any part of your own good fortune to be able to buy food or -- alternatively -- to have replaced any conventional items on the shelves with the premium product. In fact, nothing is changed except the amount of money the producer makes.

And so it is with wind energy credits, a cynical invention of Enron that "green" hucksters have made their own.

Enron convinced California that the extra cost of wind energy could be sold separately as its "environmental attributes." Then they made sure that the state required the purchase of a certain percentage of renewable energy, to be represented by certificates for those environmental attributes -- green tags. That system is now the norm across the nation. A wind facility still sells its production to utilities at a premium price. In addition, it sells the certificates on a completely separate market. It can sell the electricity twice!

Whole Foods and other companies do not change their or anyone else's energy use by buying wind energy certificates, nor do their customers in buying wind power cards or stickers. They are simply donating a little money to wind companies (such as Electricité de France, Scottish Power, Iberdrola, Florida Power & Light, Goldman Sachs, JP Morgan, etc.) and mostly enriching the green tag brokers, the heirs of Enron.

wind power, wind energy, environment, environmentalism, Vermont, anarchism, anarchosyndicalism

Monday, October 30, 2006

Exploitation and destruction: some things to know about industrial wind power

by Eric Rosenbloom

First, by industrial wind, I mean facilities of large wind turbines meant to supply the grid, the "pool" of electricity that must constantly balance supply and demand. "Large" is the first thing that demands attention. The machines proposed for Sheffield and Sutton, for example, are now to be 418 feet high: a 256' tower plus a 162' blade radius (with a vertical sweep area of 1.9 acres!). Several of them have to be lit by strobes day and night for airplane safety. The strobing effect of the lights is increased by reflections off the turning blades.

Not only are the height, turning blades, and lights visually intrusive and incongruous with rural and wild landscapes, the blades, generator gears, motors (that turn the machine into the wind and pitch the blades to maintain a constant rpm), and electrical transformers all make noise. From a ridgeline and especially at night, that noise can travel quite far. The French Academy of Medicine and the U.K. Noise Association both say that large wind turbines should not be closer than a mile from any residence.

Along with the readily audible (and artificial) noise that is many times louder than normal rural noise levels, there is a low-frequency aspect that has driven people from their homes. It doesn't affect everyone, but many people complain of headaches, insomnia, and nausea -- enough that several researchers have noted the resemblance to vibroacoustic disease and are documenting the phenomenon as "wind turbine syndrome."

Even as the wind companies deny that these and other impacts exist, their leases and "forbearance" easements with neighbors forbid the signers from complaining about them (or even telling anyone about the terms of the agreements).

The destruction of wild places and rural quality of life includes the wide strong straight roads necessary to transport the massive parts, the tons of steel and concrete in each platform, the clearcutting of several acres around each machine, and new transmission infrastructure (substations and power lines). It follows an all-too-familiar pattern of heedless exploitation. The only "green" the developers are interested in is that of the easy money.

UPC, the "Massachusetts" company targeting Sheffield and Sutton, is in fact backed by the Italian UPC Group. Enxco, which is still fishing for landowners in New England, is part of the consortium Electricit├ę de France. PPM Energy, which bought Enxco's interests in the Hoosac Mountains of Vermont and Massachusetts, is owned by Scottish Power. Horizon Wind and Noble Environmental Power, both active in New York, are owned, respectively, by Goldman Sachs and JP Morgan. Noble has just teamed up with Enxco's former agent to target sites in Vermont as well. Community Energy, currently targeting Lempster, New Hampshire, is owned by energy giant Iberdrola of Spain. Vermont's own Catamount Energy is an international operation owned by Marubeni Power of Japan and Diamond Castle Holdings, a group of investors whose experience includes Enron's glory days.

The major U.S. manufacturer of industrial wind turbines is GE, who bought the business from Enron. Another war profiteer and nuclear power pusher getting into wind is Halliburton, whose Kellogg Brown & Root division boasts of being a leader in offshore wind construction. One should be not a little dubious about "alternatives" or "solutions" offered by the same people who created the mess in the first place. What excites these companies is not so much the window dressing that hides their main activities, though that is indeed important: Think BP's "beyond petroleum" and GE's "ecomagination." Enron, along with their friend George Bush, set up a web of subsidies, market support, and tax schemes that created and almost completely pays for today's wind industry -- moving ever larger amounts of public money into private bank accounts. Enron even invented "green tags" to sell the electricity twice!

These developers creep into a poor community, make deals with landowners, woo the town board with gifts and promises of cash, flattering them as forward thinkers, and only then make their plans public. Unfortunately for them, the internet has made it possible for the neighbors to quickly learn the facts about industrial wind and -- when they see what a destructive boondoggle it really is -- mount a grass-roots opposition campaign. But even if the developer is driven off, a divided and bankrupted community is left. Damage is done in any case.

Rural America is no different to these companies than indigenous communities or "third-world" countries. Enrich a few of the natives, persuade others of your "progressive" intentions, pay for a school or firetruck, pit the rest against each other, and take what you want. In Australia, the Point Pierce Aboriginal community lost 40,000 years of Dreaming (which is, like Vermont's ridgelines, otherwise protected) to the construction of an industrial wind facility. In Mexico, wind companies -- led by Spain's Iberdrola -- have divided the Zapotecos on the Isthmus of Tehuantepec, which is the most important bird flyway on this side of the world (I haven't even mentioned the decimation of birds and bats by these machines, with blades moving 150-200 mph at the tips exactly where they fly). Some of the Zapotecos wrote about the wind companies to a Scottish bird protector who lives in Spain, describing "the imposition of neoliberal megacorporations destroying nature and our cultures." That is what is happening right in our own back yard.

Minuscule benefits

The appalling thing is that industrial wind turbines on the grid bring no benefits that can justify this destruction. They generate an average of only a sixth to a third of their rated capacity. They generate at or above that average rate only a third of the time. The output is highly variable, so other sources on the grid must work harder (burning more fuel less cleanly) to balance it. In most places, the times of high wind do not correspond to times of high electricity demand, so much of the already small production is wasted. The evils of coal and nuclear power are undeniable. Unfortunately, wind will never threaten the steady base supply they provide -- no matter how many giant turbines and interconnected high-voltage transmission lines we fill the landscape with. Nor has a single peak supply plant ever been shut down because of wind on the grid.

The people of Denmark have not allowed a new turbine to be erected in years. Construction has also dramatically slowed in Germany. Spain and The Netherlands recently halted subsidies to big wind. Australia is starting to balk at continuing support. Because opposition only grows in their own countries as the useless and wasteful destruction becomes ever more clear, overseas companies have moved into the U.S. market -- they know we'll ignore Europe's mistakes just as much as we ignore their successes.

But even in the industry's own promotional material, wind remains a marginal source. Conservation and efficiency easily surpass it in actually reducing fuel use, pollution, and greenhouse gas emissions -- and they don't require industrializing our remaining rural and wild places to enrich a few multinational companies and investors and impoverish (not just financially) the rest of us.

More information is available on the web: my own site at www.aweo.org, the coalition of Vermont groups at www.rosenlake.net/vwv, and the coalition of groups throughout the U.S. and the world at www.wind-watch.org.

In closing, a quick word about NIMBYism: that is, supporting a project in principle but not in your own neighborhood. That defines the developers. Most of their opponents are fighting to protect not only their own back yards but those of their brothers and sisters everywhere.

wind power, wind energy, environment, environmentalism, Vermont, anarchism, anarchosyndicalism, ecoanarchism, animal rights

Sunday, October 29, 2006

National Wind Watch



Also see the videos "Voices of Tug Hill" (from Lewis County, N.Y., site of the Maple Ridge Wind Farm) and "Life Under a Windplant" (from Meyersdale, Pa.).

wind power, wind energy, wind farms

Saturday, October 28, 2006

County ordinances establishing setbacks and noise limits for industrial wind turbines

Here a a couple of good regulations for large wind turbines, excerpted from the noted county ordinances.

Shawano County (Wisc.) Wind Energy Conversion System Ordinance

5.5.4. Noise Standard: The noise due to WECU [wind energy conversion unit] operations shall not be greater than 5 dBA above the established background noise level for more than five 5 minutes out of any one hour time period as measured per Appendix A.
5.5.5. Low Frequency Noise or Infrasound Noise: No low frequency noise or infrasound noise from wind turbine operations shall be created which causes the noise level both within the project boundary and a one-mile radius beyond the project boundary to exceed the following limits ...
5.5.6. Pure Tone Penalty: In the event audible noise due to wind turbine operations contains a steady pure tone, such as a whine, screech, or hum, the standards for Audible Noise shall be reduced by five (5) dB(A). ...
5.5.9. Operations -- Low Frequency Noise: A WECU that emits impulsive sound below 20 Hz that adversely affects the habitability or use of any existing dwelling unit, hospital, school, library, nursing home, or other sensitive noise receptor shall be deemed unsafe and must be shut down immediately.


Otsego County (Mich.) Zoning Ordinance Concerning Wind Turbine Generators and Anemometer Towers

18.5.3. Setbacks. Each proposed wind turbine generator or anemometer tower shall meet the following applicable setback requirements:
18.5.3.1. Each wind turbine generator shall be set back from any adjoining lot line a distance equal to 2,600 feet. The Planning Commission may reduce this setback to no less than 2,100 feet. The amount of setback relief approved by the Planning Commission will be based on data provided by the applicant and prepared and certified by a registered Professional Engineer licensed in the State of Michigan, who is practicing in his or her area of competency. Such data shall be subject to review by the County's independent, recognized expert.

18.5.3.2. In addition to the above, a wind turbine generator shall, in all cases, be setback from a public or private road right-of-way or easement a minimum distance equal to six times the height of the wind turbine generator tower as defined in this Ordinance.

18.5.3.3. For any newly proposed wind turbine generator or anemometer tower, a "wind access buffer" equal to a minimum of five (5) rotor diameters shall be observed from any existing off-site wind turbine generator tower.

18.5.19.1. Sensitive environmental areas shall have a setback of between 2 to 5 miles and shall be determined by the Otsego County Planning Commission and the Department of Natural Resources.

18.5.19.2. Scenic areas, including parks, highways, recreational areas, and others as determined by the County and Townships, shall have a setback of not less than 1 mile.
18.5.4. Maximum Height. Then maximum wind turbine generator or anemometer tower height from the base to the tip of the blade at its highest point shall not exceed 200 feet. The Planning Commission may approve an increased height for a wind turbine generator tower, not to exceed 260 feet from the base to the tip of the blade, if all of the following conditions are met:
18.5.4.1. The increased height will result in the preservation of a substantial stand of trees, existing land forms or structures that would otherwise be removed to increase wind velocity.

18.5.4.2. The increased height will not result in increased intensity on lighting of the tower due to FAA requirements.
wind power, wind energy, wind farms, wind turbines

Wind company trusts government will ignore environment and community and let them build

Putting the lie to their claim of being "green," Toronto wind power developer Skypower is ignoring the finding of the Quebec Environmental Public Hearing Board (BAPE, from the French) against their 114-tower project in northeastern Quebec near the St. Lawrence river.

According to the CBC, the BAPE "concluded Thursday that the turbines would ruin a picturesque view, threaten the region’s natural and wildlife heritage and threaten the agricultural economy."

Skypower's response was to shrug it off and remind people that the decision is only with the Quebec cabinet, which they are confident to sway with the $350,000,000 investment that the project represents.

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

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Bill McKibben calls for more nuclear power

After an ad hominem dismissal of James Lovelock's opposition to industrial-scale wind power in an upcoming New York Review of Books, Bill McKibben then writes,
we will obviously need new energy sources, and the example of the French success with nuclear power (it generates three quarters of their electricity) means it has to be included in the mix of possibilities, as Jim Hansen recently argued in these pages.
The French, by the way, are getting desperate about the very dangerous radioactive waste that is piling up at all of their nuclear plants. Maybe McKibben, like Lovelock, will offer to have it buried in his back yard.

wind power, wind energy, environment, environmentalism, Vermont

One government, one people, one führer

The National Park Service testified in Maine on the negative impacts that an industrial wind power facility on Redington Mountain would have on the Appalachian Trail.

But President Boosh issued a directive some years ago forbidding federal agencies to get in the way of "alternative energy" projects. The directive also requires that they act to clear the way for such projects, even if it conflicts with their mission, e.g., to protect wilderness and natural beauty.

Pam Underhill, the manager of the Appalachian National Scenic Trail testified: "There is little question that the proposed Redington Wind Farm would have a dramatic impact on the scenic character and recreation setting of this section [of the trail]. ... Spread out across several miles of terrain, these 29 structures -- each 40 stories tall, with constantly rotating 130-foot radius blades -- would become the dominant features of the landscape."

California Representative Darrell Issa wants the Interior Secretary to investigate.

Commenting on Issa's accusations, Underhill said: "The taxpayers pay me to protect the Appalachian Trail."

Issa chairs the House Government Reform Subcommittee on Energy and Resources and plans to hold hearings on local opposition to energy projects and to expose other "lower-level" officials acting against energy company plans.

Speaking of anti-democratic directives, Denmark's Environment Minister has threatened municipalities with one if they don't stop blocking efforts to replace their relatively small turbines with giant new ones. No new turbines have been erected in Denmark since 2004, and the industry is in a panic.

wind power, wind energy, wind farms, wind turbines, environment, environmentalism, Vermont, anarchism, anarchosyndicalism, ecoanarchism