READER'S EDITORIAL: GET THE POLITICS OUT OF WIND ENERGY!

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Originally Published in the ECOreport

by Roy L Hales

Stanford University has just published a glowing report about how Wind Farms “can provide a surplus of reliable clean energy to society.” I almost posted it. It is important to publish information that does not fit your beliefs but, in this case, I decided to voice my skepticism instead.

“Whenever you build a new technology, you have to invest a large amount of energy up front,” said Michael Dale, a research associate at Stanford. “Studies show that wind turbines and solar photovoltaic installations now produce more energy than they consume. The question is, how much additional grid-scale storage can the wind and solar industries afford and still remain net energy providers to the electrical grid?”

According to the authors, wind turbines produce enough energy to provide three days of  uninterrupted power and solar energy produces enough for 24 hours.

My problem is with the first number. The internet is full of glowing reports about wind technology and in some cases I know they are not true. There are problems the industry keeps minimizing or denying. This may serve to deflect immediate questions, but eventually destroys the industry’s credibility.

Fact: Wind turbines kill raptors. Stop burying this under statistics about the number of birds that crash into windows or get eaten by pussycats. Golden eagles do not normally crash into windows and I pity the cat that tries to eat one. Large numbers of golden eagles do get chopped up by wind turbines and they are rapidly disappearing in areas like Southern California.

Fact: There are several bird friendly turbine designs. Do they work? Are they financially viable? Is this a viable option?

Fact: Some people living close to wind turbines report they are getting sick. Studies have shown correlations between the wind farm’s distance from residences, as well the decibel levels, and the number of complaints received. That would seem to establish a working criteria. Can wind turbine syndrome be eliminated? (I do not accept the theory it  is simply people’s imagination.)

Fact: Large scale renewable energy projects have a negative impact on the local environment. As result of the desert floor being scrapped in preparation for the Ocotillo Wind farm, for example, the town of Ocotillo CA has been inflicted with giant dust storms. It appears that if the solar projects proposed for Boulevard CA went forward, they may literally suck up all the water and leave the local resident’s wells dry. To paraphrase some of the complaints: why don’t you build on brown field areas where any environmental damage is already done, rather than pristine desert habitat?

Fact: Renewable energy projects are being forced upon communities that do not appear to want them. Towns like Boulevard and Ocotillo (photo at top of page) are being virtually surrounded by gigantic industrial scale wind and solar projects owned by outside corporations. Native Americans have being fighting to keep solar projects off their sacred sites in places like Blythe, McCoy Valley and Ivanpah since 2010. A  similar situation seems to be occurring in Massachusetts, with the Cape Wind project.

When the American colonies revolted, back in 1776, they believed there should be no taxation without representation. They should have remained English! In the UK, local communities get to decide if renewable projects will be built in their midst. The alternative produces the lawsuits that are now occurring throughout Canada and the United States.

Fact: Though I keep reading general statements about how fantastic wind energy is, there are also reports that indicate otherwise.

The site I know the most about is Ocotillo. According to the developer, “the Ocotillo Wind project will provide enough clean and renewable energy to power nearly 125,000 homes in Southern California each year.” Unfortunately for them, one of the residents has been videotaping most of what happens and posting it to youtube. You can find them at “Save Ocotillo.” The entry for March 20, for example, records the wind speed as 2 mph and the turbines are not moving. Most videos show the turbine not moving, which would make for some pretty boring watching were it not for the occasional dust storm, foam and flooding.

Incidentally, statistics from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission show that the Ocotillo Wind Farm was only producing 15-19% of capacity).

During a workshop in San Diego last Spring, attorney Bill Pate said that US wind farms produce “22 to 23% net capacity on average.”

According to Tom Sickenger, who writes for the Oregonian, the wind farms around Arlingyon have peak times but produce, on average, about a third of their nameplate capacity. 

Compared to these statistics, suggestions that the Cape Wind project might operate at  50% capacity sound pretty good.

Only the most important figure is missing! How much do wind projects need to produce? What is the break even point? And how much do they have to produce to be profitable? (Projections based on 100% capacity are of limited value.)

We need to know which wind energy projects are duds and what can be done to improve the situation.

In a devastating commentary entitled “Wind-Power Subsidies? No Thanks,” Patrick Jenevein of the Tang Energy Group recently explained why his company is curtailing further investment in this sector. They believe the industry is being driven by politics, rather than economics.

Government subsidies to new wind farms have only made the industry less focused on reducing costs. In turn, the industry produces a product that isn’t as efficient or cheap as it might be if we focused less on working the political system and more on research and development. After the 2009 subsidy became available, wind farms were increasingly built in less-windy locations, according to the Department of Energy’s “2011 Wind Technologies Market Report.” The average wind-power project built in 2011 was located in an area with wind conditions 16% worse than those of the average project in 1998-99.

Jenevein claims that Wind energy makes sense in Texas but not California – which is not in the “wind belt” and has only become America’s second-largest wind energy producer because of the state’s aggressive energy policies. He added that America’s current Wind Energy boom is the result of Federal grants and tax credits that enable Wind developers to recoup up to 30% of their capital investment. If there were no subsidies, developers would be more selective when they chose prospective sites.

From the little I’ve been hearing, a similar situation may be occurring in Ontario. I have yet to see the stats.

Get the politics out of Wind Energy development.

That Stanford study probably contains some valuable information, but it is difficult to take seriously until we start identifying what is working in the wind energy sector? What is not? And what we can do about it?

Photos:

Ocotillo, surrounded by wind turbines – Jim Pelley photo

Dust storm coming into Ocotillo. Those are 435 foot high wind turbines being swallowed up – Jim Pelley photo

The White foam that flowed into Ocotillo, from the surrounding wind project – Jim Pelley.

One of the Ancient Geoglyphs at Blythe CA viewed from an airplane. At least three have been destroyed in preparation for solar projects and more are scheduled to be destroyed – image from the documentary “Who Are My People?

Illustration of a solar project’s negative impact on the desert. Note all the vegetation is gone from the lower photo – from Alicia Previn’s book: The Strange Disappearance of Walter Tortoise.

Jim Wiegand’s illustration as to why the 50m search area used for bird fatality is no longer reliable. Turbines are larger and 80-85% of the carcasses  now fall outside that radius.

The opinions in this editorial reflect the views of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of East County Magazine. To submit an editorial for consideration, contact editor@eastcountymagazine.org.

 


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Comments

Speaking of politics and wind

Speaking of politics, a group of 144 members of the Congress sent letters last Friday urging their colleagues to renew tax credits that help the wind energy industry.

There just happens to be a huge problem with all of this……..The wind industry was built on fraud and this fraud continues today thanks in part to our Congressional members.

I believe that if the public were made aware of the extinction of species coming from these turbines and the mountain of fraudulent studies the industry has produced, they would want nothing to do with these turbines, the wind industry, or the wasting their tax dollars.

I also believe the majority of people after hearing the truth would rather conserve energy and would be willing to pay more for other forms of electricity just to shut down these deadly turbines.

So how can the people hear the truth when 144 members of congress and the FWS are helping to cover-up the industry’s on going genocide? An ethical group of congressmen would have a congressional hearing to investigate.

A fair hearing would expose a fraud hiding incredible numbers of birds and bats being slaughtered by turbines. A fair hearing would reveal the sickening excuses for studies being presented to the public. But instead we have a Congress that wants to reward this industry for their bad deeds with tax credits and force taxpayers to pay for it all.

But even if this Congress does give away billions more to this industry and the lowlifes conducting their rigged studies, news of this ongoing fraud and anger towards this industry will continue to swell. It can already be seen in the numbers of wind projects being refused by communities.

For a reality check everyone should to take a sobering look at “Another eagle killed-gory pictures”….. Because this is the real uncensored character of the wind industry  being hidden from the public. This is just the story of one eagle but there are many thousands more of these eagle stories that have not been told.

Here is another eagle meets wind turbine story. On 03/13/09 the severed wing from a golden eagle was found near a turbine. The severed wing was not fresh. I know it was several days old when found because I have the image taken when it was found. Nearly thirty days later after a wind turbine severed off the wing, the golden eagle was found alive wandering around the wind farm April 9, 2009.

According to wind industry research neither of these eagles count as a fatality because they both were found beyond the rigged distance designated for industry studies. The one found alive would have died but because it was found alive it had a double industry exclusion. The industry calls these fatalities "incidentals" and they are not factored into their data.

The "green" industry is not all that it seems

Thank you for posting this article. I am relieved that this is now getting to be out in the open. I heard about the destruction of our last pristine California desert and plans for more solar/wind projects from the Native Americans who have been trying to fight this. They have sacred sites, burial grounds, petroglyphs and geoglyphs that have already been damaged because of the millions of acres of solar panels. My picture book of beautiful desert photographs and hand-drawn desert animals called "The Strange Disappearance of Walter Tortoise" was written a year ago before this news was allowed to be discussed. It was extremely important to me to make our future generations aware that we are not truly being sustainable if we destroy animals, ancient sites and ecosystems in the process of green or renewable energy! Our future engineers and thinkers should not make the same mistakes we are making. The book is on sale worldwide in all online bookstores and I have given readings/talks/assemblies to ages 5th-8th graders who understand perfectly what is at stake and are willing to practice saving energy as well Education is the key, go order the book today. Click on the name of the book within the article above and be taken directly to my website. LovelyPrevinPublications. A TortoiseBrand Book www.TheEarthwormBook.com

True, but there is a way that's greener and saner.

It's not just a choice of fossil fuels and nuclear vs. industrial wind and solar. Jim Bell and others have calculated that San Diego could easily meet its power needs with a combination of rooftop solar (with proper incentives such as Germany has done) and other steps such as better public trasnportation and better conservation of energy in buildings (the latter uses over half of all the electric power in the U.S.). Some European countries also have many businesses with vertical axis wind turbines, small ones that don't kill birds, on their foots. There is also some very cool solar architcture projects - why not do more of these to put solar where the power is used in urban areas?

Five jaw-dropping solar architecture projects: https://joinmosaic.com/blog/solar-architecture/

Also true. Thanks, Miriam.

Also true. Thanks, Miriam. Exploring the possibilities offered by roof top solar and wind projects in developed, urban areas makes sense to me.

"Get the politics out of wind

"Get the politics out of wind energy!"?? Best idea I've heard in a long time. Without politics--without government subsidies--wind and solar farms would disappear completely. Europe's learned this the hard way. Overreliance on renewable sources, especially in "green" energy leader Germany, has both made them reliant on foreign nuclear and fossil fuel sources and jacked their own energy prices through the roof. This year the EU dropped their own arbitrary and entirely unreasonable carbon emissions standards. This is good news for Environmentalists. Wind and solar farms destroy more land per energy unit produced than any other energy type--coal, oil, gas, nuclear--by far. http://www.nationalreview.com/nro-energy/364885/wind-turbines-are-climate-change-scarecrows-robert-bryce