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Why Wind Power Doesn’t Live up to its Environmental Promises

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By MasterResource | Wed, 18 January 2012 01:33

“I cannot abide the suggestion that we must sacrifice our environment in order to save it. This is an absurd argument enabling this energy imposter’s invasion of delicate habitat with little return. … Environmentalists must consider the possibility that industrial wind, by its failure to perform to stated goals, does not then qualify for this sacred consideration.”

The heavily funded and admittedly effective U.S. industrial wind lobby portrays its product as descending from old-world windmills. Close your eyes and you’ll surely imagine these magnificent machines gently turning in the breeze … each kilowatt arriving at your reading lamp courtesy of a rosy–cheeked Hummel child.

Existing solely to save the planet by generating clean, affordable and environmentally friendly electricity, you can be sure that any addition to the plant owner’s bank account is purely accidental.

Hogwash!

In reality, the U.S. industrial wind business was rescued by Ken Lay and Enron with quick, low-risk profit as its core goal. As Gabriel Alonso, chief executive of Horizon Wind Energy LLC – one of America’s biggest wind developers, often reminds his employees … their goal isn’t to stage a renewable-energy revolution … “This is about making money!”

Once a Believer

I was not always this cynical. I wanted to believe that industrial wind would replace fossil fuelled power plants and, until two years ago, defended its arrival here. Like many West Virginians, I wanted the destruction of our mountains by those who profit from the blue diamond stopped … NOW!

I believed industrial wind offered the best opportunity to accomplish that goal and, even recognizing industrial wind also consumes our forest lands, it seemed an excellent alternative to the coal industry’s horribly destructive mountaintop removal mining process.

Sadly, once the layers of woulds, coulds and shoulds were peeled back, I found industrial wind failed to keep its environmental promises. Save the canned boilerplate responses to criticisms, the wind industry offered nothing conclusive to demonstrate it would significantly reduce emissions or close fossil fuelled plants. There is no conclusive evidence that one coal plant has been closed as a direct result of the installation of tens of thousands of wind turbines. Not one! I’ve asked advocates to name one facility. Answer … zippo!

I fully expect advocates to point to many studies which validate their woulds and shoulds. But the studies they point to carry their own fair share of woulds and shoulds as well.

We’re even asked to disregard the increased emissions generated by fossil fueled plants as they inefficiently try to compensate for wind’s constant variability and accept that, on their word alone, when the wind is blowing, a coal plant, somewhere, is not running. That’s equivalent to some self-appointed Giraffe Control Officer bragging that not one has been spotted in Charleston during his watch.

Consider this measure instead. US industrial wind capacity at the end of 2010 exceeded 40,000 MW. The U.S. has some 490 coal power plants with an average size of 667 MW. A direct one-to-one trade would have closed some 60 coal plants. Again … name one!

Bringing this closer to home … Edison Mission Energy is heavily invested in Appalachian coal-fired power plants even as it grows its Appalachian wind plants. Can we expect Edison to replace its fossil plants as it opens wind plants with equivalent MW capacity? Will any of the major players holding significant interest in both fossil fueled plants and wind plants make this commitment? I suggest they will not, as long as there is profit to be made from each.

The sad truth is that industrial wind does not replace fossil-fueled electricity generators. It does not reduce emissions. It does not provide affordable, on-demand electricity. The relatively miniscule amount of electricity generated typically arrives when it’s not needed and cannot effectively be stored. Industrial wind, true to Ken Lay’s intent, is a profit center founded on favorable legislation, mandated renewable energy goals and funded by taxpayer subsidies.

Conversion Experience

I did not come to the “dark side” willingly. At the suggestion of a friend, I attended a presentation on industrial wind at which the speaker systematically destroyed any notion that industrial wind has earned a seat at the US energy table.

Expecting yet another NIMBY rant, the presenter [ed. note: John Droz Jr.] instead based his case that industrial wind is a failed technology on science alone. There was little mention of view-shed, bat/bird kills, noise or health issues, all of which I’ve since learned are serious issues in their own right. The presenter focused primarily on the poor performance and high cost of industrial wind and the fact that it could never replace current generators, my main reason for initially supporting industrial wind.

Knowing that the two key representatives of our proposed wind plant were introduced as being in the audience, I could hardly wait for the question-and-answer session. This was going to be a knock down for the ages! Just wait until they set this clown straight!

Then, the presenter wrapped up and said the magic words I’d been waiting for … Any Questions? My gladiators stood up and walked out! Not a word! No defense! How could they let this brutal attack stand?

That was my turning point. Suspicion drove me to read any article I could find about industrial wind, and the more I learned the more I disliked these monstrous contraptions which were scheduled to invade my Appalachian Mountains by the tens of thousands.

What I Have Learned

Before this event, I was willing, like many of my friends, to sacrifice a mountain view, some bats and birds and even the hard earned tax dollars these wind folks would pick from my pocket if it meant the greater good would be served.

What I learned, however, lead me to the conclusion that there is no trade.

• Coal plants will continue to exist at pre-wind levels and the mines will remain open in order to supply them.
• Emissions will not be reduced as a result of industrial wind. When asked if wind power was reducing carbon emissions, Deb Malin, a Bonneville Power Authority Representative, answered, “No. They are, in fact, creating emissions.”
• Not only will the surface destruction brought about by mountain top removal mining not be reduced as a result of wind plants, industrial wind will bring destruction well above the ground in areas not previously impacted by mountain top removal.
• The cumulative impact of long stretches of deadly 450 foot tall whirlybirds along our fragile mountain ridges will set a deadly gauntlet for many migratory species with no real benefit to show for the sacrifice.
• The arguably unnecessary remote wind installations require long runs of forest fragmenting high power lines required to bring the occasional electricity generated to a point of use.
• My picked pocket only serves to benefit the wind developers.

I cannot abide the suggestion that we must sacrifice our environment in order to save it. This is an absurd argument enabling this energy imposter’s invasion of delicate habitat with little return. Sacrifice is, after all, a forfeiture of something highly valued for the sake of something one considered to have a greater value or claim. Environmentalists must consider the possibility that industrial wind, by its failure to perform to stated goals, does not then qualify for this sacred consideration.

Affiliations

My comments here are my own. I am a member of the Board of Directors for the Allegheny Highlands Alliance, but do not speak for the organization in this commentary. I serve as editor of the Allegheny Treasures blog, an amateur site intended not to answer questions, but instead to stimulate discussion of industrial wind among readers, as I hope to do in this piece.

I arrived at my opinions after all consideration to the argument presented by the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) and other industrial wind support groups. I’ll be the first to admit I could be wrong, as I was when I supported industrial wind just two years ago. If a persuasive argument can be made to sway me back, I assure you I’ll happily move.

But I should warn you, the argument must begin with a list of coal- plant closings and not easily manipulated speculative “data.” Empty promises will not justify consuming even one more square inch of Appalachian forest.

Oh, before I’m criticized on the property rights issue … I firmly believe that you should be allowed to do anything you wish with your property as long as it brings no harm to others. But whatever you choose, don’t ask me to underwrite your adventure with my tax money in the form of subsidies, grants, or any other considerations from which you profit.

Beyond NIMBY

I am not insulted at the NIMBY (not-in-my-back-yard) moniker the wind advocates apply to me. I would take it one step further and suggest they call me a NOPE (not-on-planet-earth)!

I believe we are all responsible for our environment and must challenge every intrusion. We cannot accept, without question, the possibility that what has been portrayed as a solution may, in fact, create additional ills, no matter how much we want to believe.

Moving the country away from fossil fuels is one thing; choosing an alternative with no proven track record in accomplishing this effort, especially one with industrial wind’s potential for serious environmental destruction is quite another.

By. Michael Morgan

Michael Morgan is a “no party” West Virginian with a self-described “nose for nonsense.” A semi-retired Project Management and Transportation Consultant, he worked as Transportation/Materials Manager for an international manufacturer of large hydro turbine equipment and, before that, as Materials Manager with a Fortune 500 company.

“While I can’t claim to be an environmentalist,” Morgan adds, “growing up along the Allegheny Front dictates a respect for the environment and demands scrutiny of any intrusion.”

Source

USA: Fight for Nantucket Sound Continues

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You could almost detect the gritty glee in Audra Parker’s statement when, as president of the Alliance to Protect Nantucket Sound, she said: “This represents a major setback for an already struggling project,” regarding the recent appeals court decision — the alliance filed the appeal — that further delays the implementation of the country’s first offshore wind farm, Cape Wind.

Like Ali and Frazier, this represents another round in the epic battle of Sound vs. Wind.

The decision rendered on Oct. 28 by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia (former members include John Roberts and Ruth Bader Ginsburg) is important because the court is considered the second most important behind the Supreme Court.

Principally, because of its “often exclusive jurisdiction” to hear “challenges to … environmental protections” issued by federal agencies, such as the Federal Aviation Administration, Cape Wind is running out of legal options. The FAA is now required to further review the project — it has reviewed the matter for eight years — to determine (as it has previously done) that the turbines pose no threat to aviation.

With aerial anticipation, the alliance is sensing a final knock out.

Citizen advocate groups, single-issue social artifacts, like the alliance, are typically created to profess opposition to, raise awareness of, and are ultimately organized for, elimination of public projects (ironically, created for public benefit) or societal ills, of which, locally, Cape Wind is public enemy No. 1.

For the alliance and its neighboring cousin, Windwise-Cape Cod, among others, rejection is often an easier form of political expression than proposition. The statements they make and alternatives they offer are overly simplistic and are sometimes consumed with more emotion and hyperbole than intelligence and should be challenged as much as the assumptions offered by Cape Wind and other wind projects.

Sheila K. Bowen, president of Windwise, recently wrote of industrial turbines that “they are not environmentally responsible.” Does any thoughtful person, who is serious about energy policy, especially “green” or “clean” energy, really believe that? With that line of reasoning one should come to the same conclusion that the use of combustion engines in school buses, emitting carbon monoxide and hydrocarbons, is also not “environmentally responsible.” Stop the buses!

The alliance says “other green initiatives like energy efficiency and alternative power sources, including land-based wind and hydro, can provide power and save the environment at half the cost of Cape Wind.” Preposterous. Do they factor into their calculus that significant upgrades (read, cost) need to be made to transmission lines from an already taxed grid, from places like Maine and Vermont?

Further still, they also support land-based wind projects “when appropriately sited” and in the “general interests of the local community.”

Additionally, “land-based wind is often more favorable than offshore wind due to better economics, less risk and the existence of a regulatory process.” Translation: not happening. Ask the residents of Brewster, Bourne and Falmouth if they believe there are favorable, appropriate sites in their towns.

Should Cape Wind proceed, the alliance believes, citing what should be a questionable Beacon Hill Institute study, that “a loss in property values of $1.35 billion” can be expected and “a reduction in tourist spending of $57 million to $123 million” should be feared.

Finally, the alliance touts “upgrades to existing power plants” (will Parker agree to pay more for the cost?), “deep-water sites” (think Deepwater Horizon), “management of consumer demand patterns through peak-load sharing or shifting” (elaborate how) and “renewable options that can produce constant, reliable generation with lower transmission costs” (what are the options?).

The reality is that there are few options. But Cape Wind, perhaps not economically proficient at the moment, is a viable one. Solar energy provides a cost of nearly double that of offshore wind energy and recent bankruptcies of Evergreen and Solyndra — financed with taxpayer dollars at the local and national levels — is rarely mentioned by those opposed to Cape Wind as a sensible option. Nuclear energy, in the wake of the Fukushima Daiichi troubles, does not seem politically expedient either.

So, opponents of Cape Wind, provide better, more detailed options for powering our homes, gadgets and lifestyles, considering our increasing, insatiable demand.

As Sound and Wind take to their respective corners, it is not known when the next round will be, but it is certain that the match, like all fights, will be determined by judges. Sadly, that is a reflection of our flawed and failed energy policies.

James P. Freeman of Orleans is a financial services professional.

By James Freeman (capecodonline)

Source

NIMBY Opposition Threatens Renewables

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A recent poll said 63 percent of Americans support renewable energy investment… in theory. But, in practice, Not-In-My-Backyard (NIMBY) opposition to new energy infrastructure prevents about 45 percent of renewable energy proposals from being built across the country, according to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

For instance, the Michigan chapter of the Raging Grannies, a national band of senior citizen environmentalists, wants to see the completion of a wind farm off the shores of Grosse Pointe, MI, right outside Detroit. But local residents are opposing the proposed farm. Sailboat owners claim the turbines create dead air, making it harder to sail. They also say and the turbines will be unsightly.

There is similar opposition to renewable projects all over the country. The permit process for the Cape Wind offshore wind project in Massachusetts took nine years, over the opposition of locals, including the late Sen. Edward Kennedy.

Off the coast of Virginia, the military is opposed to offshore wind, claiming turbines will interfere with their training. And in the Mojave Desert, a rare tortoise protected by the Endangered Species Act has slowed development of a massive solar farm.

And in Maryland, engineer and inventor Robert Bruninga, wanted to turn his unused boat dock into a solar field to provide electricity for his home. But the state denied his permit because, according to Maryland law, nothing is allowed on a pier unless it’s of aquatic nature.

Bruninga has been appealing to the state for a year and a half to make some sort of ordinance for solar panels on boat piers. Until then, he has to set up his panels on the ground in the back of his house, moving them every month because of the shade from the trees.

Patrick Earle of Takoma Park, MD, a science teacher, wanted to put solar panels on his roof, but needed to remove an old silver maple tree. But the Takoma Park arborist told Earle he would have to replant 23 trees in its place, or pay $4,000 into the city’s tree fund.

Earle learned the trees didn’t have to be planted on his own property and was able to get the city to reduce the number of trees to 15 if he planted bigger ones, so he went around town giving out free trees to his neighbors. Total cost: About $600. And now Earle and his family are proud owners of a rooftop solar array, providing about 75 percent of his home’s electricity needs.

by Silvio Marcacci (reuters)

Original Article

Do we really want drilling in the Gulf?

By Laurel Brubaker Calkins
Bloomberg News

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An Apache rig drills for natural gas at Matagorda Island in the Gulf of Mexico. (Photo: Apache Corp. via Bloomberg News)

That’s the question that I found myself pondering after an hour-long discussion with Karen Alderman Harbert, the chief executive of the Institute for 21st Century Energy, which is affiliated with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. One of Harbert’s favorite themes is that we need a clear path to viable alternative energy sources.

In other words, “clean” energy is fine, but the goals ought to be achievable.

“We can’t decide an energy policy for 30 years from now,” she said. “We can’t wait that long. You have to deal with today’s energy reality.”

For all the goals and mandates thrown out by Congress and the administration, there’s no roadmap of how to get there. We can push solar and wind programs, for example, but in many parts of the country, local opposition has blocked the building of transmission lines, so there’s no way to get the power to users.

Public opposition to things like power lines, generation plants and hydraulic fracturing is often called NIMBY – “not in my backyard” – but Harbert has a better acronym: BANANA – “build absolutely nothing anywhere near anyone.”

That attitude has been expanded since last year’s Macondo well disaster to include things like offshore drilling. Last fall’s moratorium, and this spring’s ongoing slowdown in new drilling permits – as well as a halt on new projects in areas such as offshore Alaska – raises the question of how we’re going to meet our energy needs if we shun fossil fuels yet remain unprepared for the fact that alternatives simply can’t fill the gap.

Oil is still going to be a big part of the U.S. energy picture, the question is whether we’re going to import more or develop more sources domestically, Harbert said.

On renewables, she’s calling for more predictability in government support for new technology. Developing industries can’t tap capital markets if subsidies are voted on annually. Just look at what happened with biodiesel.

That doesn’t mean she favors unlimited subsidies. Instead, she prefers an eight-year funding cycle, with a four-year phase out. That would mean anyone investing in new energy technology knows they have 12 years to make it economically viable. She also favors a “green energy bank” that would award grants independently, so the government didn’t wind up in the position of trying to pick winners. (It can’t, and too often subsidies are awarded to companies with the best lobbyists.)

Our discussion covered a lot of other interesting ideas. I didn’t agree with everything, of course, but Harbert’s overall theme made a lot of sense. We need to figure out where we want our energy coming from, and what we’re willing to do to get it. Most of all, we need a better understanding of the tradeoffs.

“We should recognize the abundant resources that we have here and become more self-reliant,” Harbert said.

( Original Article )

fuelfix.com

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