Oct
17
2012
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Conservation Groups Call for Changes at Nation’s Most Deadly Wind Power Development

http://www.abcbirds.org/newsandreports/releases/121017.html?utm_source=ABCtwitterfeed&utm_medium=twitter

MEDIA RELEASE

Contact: Robert Johns, 202-234-7181 ext.210, Email click here

Wind turbines by Mike Parr

(Washington, D.C., October 17, 2012) A coalition of eight conservation organizations has called on the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) to make changes at a wind energy facility in Western Maryland to reduce bird and bat mortality. According to recent data, the 28-turbine Criterion Wind Project, located near Oakland, Maryland, about 175 miles northwest of Washington, D.C., now ranks as the deadliest to birds in the United States on a per-turbine basis.

The environmental groups calling for action are Save Western Maryland, American Bird Conservancy, Friends of Blackwater, Allegheny Highlands Alliance, Friends of Beautiful Pendleton County, Laurel Mountain Preservation Association, Allegheny Front Alliance, and West Virginia Highlands Conservancy.

The request comes in response to a FWS call for comment on three documents concerning the project, published in the Federal Register: a draft Environmental Assessment, which assesses the existing and potential environmental impact of the project; an application for an Incidental Take Permit, which is required under the Endangered Species Act when activities will likely result in the killing or disturbance of a threatened or endangered species – in this case the endangered Indiana bat; and a proposed Habitat Conservation Plan, which must be completed before a take permit is issued.

“I cannot imagine that the state of Maryland is proud of the fact that the first commercial wind power project in the state – a short drive from our nation’s capital – is the most deadly for birds in the entire country. This is a terrible precedent for the state; something their wildlife leaders probably find to be very embarrassing and in need of corrective action by the Federal Government,” said George Fenwick, President of American Bird Conservancy.

“This project is a realization of a worst-case scenario. This is why Save Western Maryland sued over the project in 2010, because of fears that bat mortality could be very high. As things have turned out, bat and other wildlife mortality, especially for birds, is far worse than expected,” said Eric Robison, Co-Founder of Save Western Maryland.

“Bats are getting a brutal one-two punch here. They are already suffering huge losses from white-nose syndrome, so if they continue to face high losses at the state’s wind projects, the environmental consequences to the state could be significant. Bats eat massive numbers of insects that are agricultural pests, so when you lose the control they provide, you are left with a choice between two very negative alternatives: either suffer agricultural losses or use more insect-controlling poisons on crops,” said Judy Rodd, Executive Director of Friends of Blackwater.

“The Habitat Conservation Plan and Environmental Assessment for the Criterion Wind Project raise many red flags under various federal statutes, and notably fail to implement any significant measures aimed at reducing the substantial bird mortality observed at this project site constituting hundreds of Migratory Bird Treaty Act violations on an annual basis,” said Bill Eubanks, an attorney at Meyer Glitzenstein & Crystal, which prepared the groups’ comment letter requesting action.

In their letter to FWS, the groups say that “…while we applaud the Service and Criterion for taking certain steps in an effort to make this wind project more environmentally sustainable, we raise various concerns with respect to [the Service’s] and Criterion’s compliance with federal law, and request that the Service and company address these concerns before issuance of any [Incidental Take Permit].”

This will be the first time such a permit has been issued to a wind development in the continental United States (the Kaheawa Wind Project on Maui, Hawai‘i already has an Incidental Take Permit authorizing the take of an endangered bat and three threatened or endangered birds), and this precedence makes the problems related to the site and the environmental review conducted by FWS doubly significant.

The primary concerns identified by the groups are in relation to the violation of four federal environmental statutes, the Endangered Species Act (ESA), National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), Migratory Bird Treaty Act (MBTA), and the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act (BGEPA). The groups assert that:

1) The Habitat Conservation Plan is not based on the best available science, in violation of the ESA;

2) Preparation of an Environmental Assessment is inadequate, and a full, more comprehensive Environmental Impact Statement is warranted under NEPA;

3) The Service’s Draft Environmental Assessment does not adequately analyze alternatives, in violation of NEPA;

4) Without appropriate authorization, birds killed at Criterion will be in violation the MBTA and BGEPA.

The turbines are located along the ridge of Backbone Mountain, extending northeast approximately nine miles from Allegheny Heights to just south of Wild Turkey Rock in an area commonly referred to locally as Eagle Rock. The ridgeline maintains an elevation of approximately 3,200 feet above sea level. There are at least eight operating or proposed wind power projects within 40 miles of the Criterion project, which has been in operation since December 2010.

In response to a lawsuit brought by Save Western Maryland and other interested parties, Criterion agreed to seek an Incidental Take Permit for Indiana bats to comply with the ESA. During its first full year of operation (2011), Criterion conducted daily monitoring for bat and bird mortality between April 5 and November 15. Although no Indiana bat deaths were confirmed, Criterion estimates that the project killed approximately 1,093 other bats (39.03 bats per turbine) and 448 birds (16.01 birds per turbine). This rate is described in the draft Environmental Assessment as the highest per-turbine bird mortality ever estimated at a studied wind project in the United States, and as the highest per-turbine bird mortality ever documented in North America.

Based on the 2011 data, Criterion estimates that if the project did not take steps to reduce the number of bats killed, it would result in between 13,238 and 26,477 bat deaths and approximately 8,960 bird fatalities during the expected 20-year operational life of the project. Each bird death is a distinct violation of the MBTA, a strict liability statute that prohibits the killing of birds even when the killing is unintentional.

In addition to migratory birds in general, Bald and Golden Eagles have been routinely seen on and in the vicinity of the project, and according to FWS, “it is expected that Bald and Golden Eagles would pass by as they use the ridgeline for migration.

Written by Administrator in: Wind Energy |
Sep
14
2012
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WIND ENERGY AND THE SUMMER DOLDRUMS

By Brad Stephens

Massive wind turbines now stand upon numerous ridgetops in central Appalachia, and despite the sluggish economy and uncertainty as to whether certain federal tax incentives for renewables will continue, proposals for new wind projects in the region continue to emerge. Setting aside the various detrimental impacts to wildlife, viewsheds and nearby residents of “industrial” or “gridscale”

wind facilities, one is pressed to ask what we have gotten in return in terms of capability to generate electricity or to offset emissions from conventional power plants using fossil fuels. The latter consideration is beyond the scope of this article, but a brief look at generation statistics from this summer reveals industrial wind’s scant contribution to the grid during peak demand for electricity in the region.

Following the passage of the federal Energy Policy Act of 1992 and the issuance of several orders afterward by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, PJM Interconnection, a “power pool” for various electric utilities since 1927, was christened a regional transmission organization (“RTO”). As an RTO, PJM coordinates the transmission of electricity and manages a wholesale power market across all or parts of 13 states and the District of Columbia. Over 60 million people reside within the PJM region, which encompasses all of Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Maryland, as well as most of the state of Virginia.

The major electric utilities serving end-use customers in the region all have membership in PJM, and many of these entities or their corporate parents also participate in PJM as “transmission owners”

which retain ownership of their high-voltage power lines, yet which have transferred “functional control” of those lines to PJM. PJM plays many roles as an RTO, but key in this context is its function in balancing the output of electricity from generating units connected to its grid with the demand for electricity of customers within its territory (the latter often referred to as “load”). Once on the transmission grid, power generated in West Virginia, for example, becomes indistinguishable from electricity generated elsewhere, so PJM’s balancing act is generally performed without regard to state lines.

During the summer, peak load for PJM tends to occur in mid to late afternoon, when high temperatures prompt a surge in the use of air conditioning. Saturday, July 7 of this year is an excellent example of this phenomenon, as temperatures that day hit 100ºF across most of the PJM footprint, including in Morgantown, West Virginia. For the hour ending at 5:00 p.m. Eastern time on July 7, PJM recorded an official all-time Saturday peak load of 147,905 megawatts (MW).

Based on actual observations available on PJM’s online eData system that day, a comparison of customer load and aggregate wind generation (including every wind energy facility in service at the time in PJM) appears below:

Time                      PJM Load             Wind Generation

4:00 p.m.             147,984 MW       299 MW
4:45 p.m.             148,369 MW      767 MW
8:00 p.m.             134,605 MW       408 MW

During this span of four hours of record heat, the contribution of wind energy facilities in PJM to customer demand never exceeded 0.57% of that figure. Peak aggregate wind generation for July 7 reached only

1,712 MW, and not until 11:53 p.m. Eastern time, well after load had receded substantially from its late afternoon apex. Adam Keech, Director of Dispatch for PJM, reported that, although some baseload generators, such as large coal-fired and nuclear units, had to scale back somewhat on output due to operational and environmental temperature constraints during the afternoon of July 7, PJM ran 16,000 MW of combustion turbines (most running on natural gas) to handle the peak. As on many summer days in PJM, on July 7 wind energy made no meaningful contribution to mitigating dependence on fossil fuels to generate electricity.

Wind energy performance in PJM on the afternoon of July 7 is particularly significant when compared to the total generating capacity of wind energy units in PJM. As of January 31, 2012, 5,230 MW of wind energy capacity was in service in PJM. Even taking into account that some turbines could have been out of service for maintenance on July 7, the facts remain that actual wind generation in PJM remained between only 5% and 14% of total wind capacity during the hours of greatest customer demand, and never exceeded 33% of total wind capacity that day. At 11:00 am EDT on July 9, total wind generation in PJM actually went negative (to -8 MW), while the customer load in PJM at that time was 127,654 MW. One can only assume that at this point in time the aggregate “parasitic load” of wind units in PJM (the power needed to run the pitch and yaw mechanisms inside the turbine’s nacelle and other equipment on-site) exceeded any actual output by that amount.

Yet, sharp drops in aggregate wind generation in PJM are not limited to the summer. Although total wind output in PJM hit 4,403 MW on March 9 of this year (comprising 84% of total wind capacity in the RTO), the consistency with which aggregate wind output converged on zero this year, as shown in the table below, is remarkable. In addition, different days during the same month can produce widely disparate results, even at the same time of day, as seen in statistics for the month of February.

Month Date/time
(ET)
Peak wind
generation
PJM load Date/time (ET) Low wind
generation
PJM
load
Feb 2/24/12
15:00
4095 97157 2/5/12
15:00
64 88319
Mar 3/9/12
4:00
4403 74777 3/23/12
16:00
149 87874
Apr 4/10/1211:00 4217 85065 4/12/12
22:00
206 73984
May 5/28/122:00 3129 60952 5/25/12
16:00
102 85385
Jun 6/18/1217:00 2811 78989 6/23/12
10:00
15 85403

 

Advances in demand response and time-of-use pricing of electricity promise to reduce peak load in PJM in the coming years, but even quantum leaps forward in energy storage technologies can only do so much to even out the intermittent output from wind energy facilities in the region. Moreover, the evolving “smart grid” cannot compensate for wind energy’s abysmal performance during the dog days of summer. If we are committed to moving away from fossil fuels for the generation of electricity, we will simply have to find an alternative to onshore wind energy in central Appalachia to beat the heat.

Sources (last accessed August 31, 2012):

PJM Interconnection, eData guest function, https://edata.pjm.com/eData/index.html

PJM Interconnection, 2011 Regional Transmission Expansion Plan, (http://www.pjm.com/documents/reports/rtep-documents/~/media/documents/reports/2011-rtep/2011-rtep-book-1.ashx)

PJM Interconnection, “PJM Wind Power Statistics” (PowerPoint presentation)

(http://www.pjm.com/~/media/committees-groups/task-forces/irtf/20120820/20120820-item-06-wind-report-july-2012.ashx)

PJM Interconnection, “Operations – 2012 Summer Conditions” (PowerPoint presentation), (http://www.pjm.com/~/media/committees-groups/committees/oc/20120710/20120710-item-04-pjm-operations-201

2-summer-conditions.ashx)

Note: Mr. Stephens is the acting Executive Director of the Allegheny Highlands Alliance. This article reflects his views, but not necessarily those of the organization.

 

Written by Administrator in: The Highlands Voice,Wind Energy |
Jul
17
2012
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POTENTIAL SOCIAL AND HEALTH COSTS OF INDUSTRIAL WIND ENERGY PROJECTS

By Larry Thomas

The sense of belonging to a place leads to a sense of belonging to a community. There is a mutual support in our West Virginia mountain communities, from fundraisers to help those in need to family hog butchering. Mountain cultural activities from clogging, to music, to hunting are passed on to future generations. A sense of pride of place is apparent in West Virginia and its remote rural communities, passed down from one generation to the next.

The land provides a culture of self-sufficiency as well. Many of the families continue to grow their own vegetables and domestic livestock, home processing all that they produce in their gardens and butchering the domestic livestock in the fall and winter, providing meat for year around consumption. The land takes care of them, so they must take care of the land.

There is a spiritual mystique to the mountains. Changes to the mountains should not be taken lightly, especially when those changes desecrate a way of life that is disappearing rapidly in West Virginia as well as the United States. Siting industrial wind energy projects in such an area changes the mountain, causing an irreversible and devastating effect on the people and their culture.

The targets for industrial wind energy projects in West Virginia are remote rural mountains. These areas have caught the attention of historians, anthropologists, biologists, writers, photographers, environmental activists and are finally being appreciated for their cultural diversity and environmental history.

What makes places in West Virginia and its remote rural communities unique? The answer is the dedication to the land, a sense of place, a feeling that where they live makes them who they are. Many families here in West Virginia and its remote rural communities have lived on the same parcels of mountain land as their great-great-great-great grandfathers, as far back as the 1600s. People here know their land-they have walked every inch, they have heard stories about their homesteads and family activities from generations back, they have created those families and a living on their land. Their roots run deep into the mountains. How many times have you heard “My Mother was raised right here.” or “There have been Blands here for as long as I can remember?” People choose to stay on that same land even when that choice makes their lives more difficult, whether in employment or convenience terms.

There can be no reasonable doubt that industrial wind turbines, whether singly or in groups (“industrial wind energy projects”), generate sufficient noise and shadow flicker to disturb the sleep and impair the health of those living nearby. Reports from many different locations and different countries have a common set of symptoms that have been well documented. The symptoms include sleep disturbance, fatigue, headaches, dizziness, nausea, changes in mood and inability to concentrate and have been named “wind turbine syndrome” by Dr Nina Pierpont. http://www.windturbinesyndrome.com/
Inadequate sleep has been associated not just with fatigue, sleepiness and cognitive impairment but also with an increased risk of obesity, impaired glucose tolerance (risk of diabetes), high blood pressure, heart disease, cancer, depression and impaired immunity as shown by susceptibility to the common cold virus. Sleepy people have an increased risk of road traffic accidents. Sleepiness, as a symptom, has as much impact on health as epilepsy and arthritis. This is certainly not insignificant.

The July/August issue of “Audiology Today” contains an article “Wind Turbine Noise What Audiologists Should Know”. The article states that evidence has been mounting over the past decade that utility-scale wind turbines produce significant levels of low-frequency noise and vibration that can be highly disturbing to nearby residents. None of these unwanted emissions, whether audible or inaudible, are believed to cause hearing loss, but they are widely known to cause sleep disturbances. Inaudible components can induce resonant vibration in solids, liquids, and gases-including the ground, houses, and other building structures, spaces within those structures, and bodily tissues and cavities-that is potentially harmful to humans.

The most extreme of these low-frequency (infrasonic) emissions, at frequencies under about 16 Hz, can easily penetrate homes. Some residents perceive the energy as sound, others experience it as vibration, and others are not aware of it at all. Research is beginning to show that, in addition to sleep disturbances, these emissions may have other deleterious consequences on health. It is for these reasons that wind turbines are becoming an important community health issue, especially when hosted in quiet rural communities that have no prior experience with industrial noise or urban hum.

Further the authors of the article state that “for this article, we reviewed the English-language, peer-reviewed literature from around the world on the topic of wind-turbine noise and vibration and their effects on humans. In addition, we used popular search engines to locate relevant online trade journals, books, reference sources, government regulations, and acoustic and vibration standards. We also consulted professional engineers and psycho acousticians regarding their unpublished ideas and research”. I believe that the article and other documents reviewed provide credible evidence that there are health issues that are being ignored by the industrial wind energy industry.

Written by Administrator in: The Highlands Voice,Wind Energy |
Jul
17
2012
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ORGANIZATION SUPPORTS GOLDEN EAGLE RESEARCH AMID QUESTIONS ABOUT EFFECTIVE REGULATION OF THE WIND INDUSTRY

By Rick Webb

Highlanders For Responsible Development (HRD) has donated $1,000 to support a West Virginia University research effort to better determine the status and behavior of golden eagles in the central Appalachians, including Highland County and the surrounding area. A major concern for HRD and the WVU research group is the potential for golden eagle mortality and population impacts associated with construction of utility-scale wind turbines on mountain ridges in the region.

The eagle research, lead by Dr. Todd Katzner in WVU’s Division of Forestry and Natural Resources, will estimate the size of the eastern golden eagle population using count data obtained from hawk migration watch sites and information on migratory flight routes. In contrast to western North America, where the population of golden eagles is about 30,000, the population of golden eagles in eastern North America may be as low as 1,000 individuals.

Photo by Larry Lynch

 

Eastern golden eagles are migratory, nesting in Canada and wintering in the United States. The majority fly along the Appalachian Mountains, and a large proportion of those spend the winter in the higherelevation forested mountains of Virginia. Highland County is a particular golden eagle concentration area and a popular destination for ornithologists and bird clubs from around the state who seek to observe this relatively rare species and other raptors that move into the area in winter.

As reported in past articles in The Recorder, the status of both golden and bald eagles in Highland County has been matter of significant public and scientific interest over the last decade, due in large part to the Highland New Wind Development (HNWD) proposal to locate 400-foot wind turbines on two of the highest ridgelines in the area.

Attorneys for HNWD submitted testimony to the State Corporation Commission in 2005 claiming that no eagles nest in the county and that winter raptor use at the proposed wind project site is low.

This has proved to be wrong. A number of bald eagle nesting sites were subsequently located along Highland County waterways, and the area surrounding the proposed wind project has been identified as a high-use area for wintering golden eagles.

Efforts to document and understand eagle activity in the area have involved a variety of stakeholders, including the WVU research group, the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries, Virginia’s Center for Conservation Biology, and local citizens. Data have been collected to document eagle observations and bald eagle nesting sites, and a number of golden eagles have been captured and fitted with tracking devices.

Most famously, the travels of one female golden eagle, captured near the HNWD site and given the name Virgil Caine, have been tracked by satellite since 2008. Virgil Caine attained broader celebrity when her passage through proposed wind development areas in Maine was discussed in a local editorial titled, Golden Eagles, Wind Power Don’t Mix.

The impact on eagles and other wildlife has been a subject of national controversy since large wind turbine projects were first constructed. Despite years of legal battle and mitigation efforts, golden eagle mortality at the huge Altamont Pass project in California continues at about 67 eagles per year.

Closer to home, the U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service recently estimated that a proposed wind project along the North Carolina coast will result in the death of up to 20 bald eagles per year. According to news reports, the wind development company, Invenergy, which also has plans for western Virginia, has now delayed going forward with the North Carolina project until the risk to eagles can be further studied.

The issue of risk, both to eagles and to wind energy developers, comes down to enforcement of the Eagle Protection Act, which explicitly prohibits the so-called “taking” of eagles. The law, however, has not actually been enforced.

Dr. George Fenwick, President of the American Bird Conservancy, describes how, in 2009, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service introduced a “fiveyear permit scheme that allows the wind power industry and others to kill eagles during the normal course of business. . . . Rather than being grateful for a means to operate within the law, wind companies have continuously flouted the eagle protection act and lobbied for a longer permit duration.”

“Independent scientists,” Fenwick says, “are routinely refused access to wind power facilities, and data given to the government are often kept from the public. Some companies even falsely claim that this information is proprietary, as if they owned the public’s wildlife.

The birds that are acknowledged publicly as being killed therefore represent just a fraction of the true toll.”

Eric Glitzenstein, an attorney with the law firm engaged by HRD to bring suit if HNWD should go forward in defiance of endangered species protections, has asserted that the government has effectively told the wind industry: “‘No matter what you do, you need not worry about being prosecuted.’”

This could be about to change, but perhaps not for the better.

The wind industry lobby has apparently convinced the Fish and Wildlife Service to weaken rather than implement their regulations.

The agency has now proposed to issue “take permits” for 30 years instead of five years and to relax permit requirements.

Dr. Fenwick predicts that with 30-year permits handed out to an industry already failing with respect to both transparency and accountability, we will only see more wind development in inappropriate places and more dead eagles. This is bad news for the small population of eastern golden eagles that must increasingly share their ridgeline flight space with turbine blades.

The research currently underway will provide information needed by regulators if they are to make responsible decisions to avoid or minimize the risk presented to golden eagles by Appalachian wind energy development. It will all be for naught, though, if the industry lobby prevails in its campaign to ensure that such information never receives real consideration.

The Fish and Wildlife Service is accepting public comments on its proposed regulation changes until July 12th. Information on the proposed change and on submitting comments is available at: http://www.fws.gov/migratorybirds/BaldAndGoldenEagleManagement.htm

Editor’s note: Rick Webb is a board member of Highlanders for Responsible Development and manager of the Virginia Wind website (vawind.org). Highlanders for Responsible Development is a citizens’ group that promotes stewardship of Highland County’s unspoiled landscape, natural resources and exceptional quality of life. HRD supports policies and activities that are based upon informed community discourse, democratic decision making, prudent land use and sustainable economic development.

Written by Administrator in: The Highlands Voice,Wind Energy |
Jul
17
2012
--

Our Readers Write

Dear John,

As a long time member of WVHC I read with interest the article in the May newsletter re: industrial wind. As an environmental writer I have studied several alternative energy sources, including distributed solar PV and ridgetop industrial wind. The only logic for ridgetop industrial wind is greed by utilities for federal subsidies.

In our mountainous area, the experiment conducted by Frostburg Univ. at http://www.frostburg.edu/renewable/

performance.html shows that solar outproduces wind in nine months out of twelve, in several months by a factor of 5 or more. Ridgetop turbines produce very small amounts of electricity especially in summer when air conditioning creates the biggest demand, as referenced in the PJM Manual21 that was quoted in the newsletter:

“Currently effective class average capacity factors are 13% for wind and 38% for solar units.”

Plus, industrial turbines cause enormous destruction during installation, requiring deforestation of approx. five acres for every turbine, causing fragmentation of habitat and invasion of exotic plants; roads widened up to 100 feet to allow passage of the blades; and huge foundations of concrete that will be in the ground forever.

Ridgetop turbines also cause destruction during operation, as witness the recurring bird kills that have made Mt. Storm and other West Virginia and Pennsylvania wind factories notorious as the killers of more birds and bats than any other wind turbines IN THE WORLD (Arnett et al, “Impacts of Wind Energy Facilities on Wildlife and Wildlife Habitat. Bethesda, MD: The Wildlife Society, Technical Review 07-2, 2007). In addition, turbine noise can inflict harm on people.

On the other hand, installing and operating a solar PV system causes no environmental impact (putting aside the question of manufacturing impacts, which apply as well to turbines). Distributed solar, on residences, businesses, hospitals, schools, etc., would strengthen our communities against catastrophes of all kinds and allow our citizens to be in control of their own energy use. Installing solar systems would support more local jobs than any other alternative energy at this point. I have had solar panels with batteries for 4 years now, allowing me to watch old movies while a blizzard raged outside.

There is no maintenance, and the costs of panels have declined by half just in these four years.

As a long-time member of West Virginia Highlands Conservancy and a resident of the mountains of western Virginia, I urge the WVHC board to reject ridgetop wind completely and endorse distributed solar as the best way to insure the ecological integrity of our mountains AND democratize access to electricity.

Thank you for the opportunity to give my opinion.

Sincerely,

Chris Bolgiano, Mildly Amusing Nature Writer:
www.chrisbolgiano.com
Road, Fulks Run, VA 22830

***************************************

 

The Highly Subsidized Wind Industry

Editor:

The wind energy industry has been subsidized by taxpayers with billions of taxpayer dollars for 30 years. Today, wind still only produces 1% of US power. Yet, billions of taxpayer dollars, through subsidies and other programs, continue to prop up thousands of wind turbines

across the US. Following is a discussion of these subsidies and costs to taxpayers.

• In 2010, wind developers received $5 billion in federal subsidies through Federal incentive programs.

• Of the $2.1 billion from the American Recovery and Reinvestment, more than 79% percent of it has gone to foreign manufacturers ofwind turbines.

• The Federal Production Tax (PTC) is the largest provider of taxpayer dollars to wind, providing an income tax credit of 2.2 cents per kilowatt-hour for the production of electricity from utility-scale turbines. When it expired in 1999, wind development dropped to nearly no activity. Some estimates have the PTC costing taxpayers over $2.5 billion per year if extended in 2012.

• The Federal 1603 Grant Program, (for up to 30% of project cost), created by the 2009 stimulus bill, totaled $7.7 billion for wind as of November 22, 2011. The largest 1603 grant, $276 million, supported creation of wind jobs in Denmark and Vietnam through a Portuguese company. Many companies received grants for projects already completed before creation of the program in 2009 – not a stimulus, but a giveaway.

• Under the Federal Loan Guarantee Program, taxpayers, through the Department of Energy, repay the loans if borrowers cannot. $1.67 billion in loan guarantees was awarded to five wind projects as of June 2011. As with other subsidies, including $95 million for wind energy technology development, the loan program is proposed for renewal in the 2013 budget.

• In March 2012, Senator Lamar Alexander testified before Congress that according to the Joint Tax Committee, wind subsidies would cost $27 billion from 2007 to 2016. He further argued that billions of dollars spent on the wind industry largely comes from borrowed money, as the Government borrows 40 cents of every dollar it spends.10

• GE is the nation’s leader in the manufacture of wind turbines, with 12,519 installed in the U.S. as of May 2012.11 Yet GE paid zero

U.S. federal taxes in 2010 due to its aggressive twin strategies of fierce lobbying for tax breaks and innovative accounting that enables it to concentrate its profits offshore.12

• DOE’s Wind Program alone was funded with $93.5 million for FY-12 for its role in the acceleration of the deployment of wind technologies.13

• As of March 2012, wind facilities in the Pacific Northwest are being paid to shut down due to a reported oversupply of renewable power at certain times of the year. The payout could reach $50 Million per year, costing consumers even more.14

• The American Wind Energy Association openly admits that consumers’ electric rates go up if they use wind energy.15

Sincerely,

Barbara A. Dean

Franklin, WV

  1. http://www.windustry.org/wind-basics/learn-about-wind-energy/wind-basics-wind-energy-today-and-tomorrow/wind-energy-today-and
  2. http://www.wind-watch.org/alerts/2011/12/03/oppose-extension-of-production-tax-credit/
  3. http://investigativereportingworkshop.org/investigations/wind-energy-funds-going-overseas/story/renewable-energy-money-still-going-abroad/
  4. http://www.utilipoint.com/2011/11/us-wind-industry-awaits-tax-credit-renewal
  5. http://www.seia.org/galleries/pdf/TGP_Awards.pd
  6. http://washingtonexaminer.com/politics/2011/04/boondoggle-tax-code-subsidies-green-energy/112949
  7. http://gigaom.com/cleantech/doe-offers-135-76m-loan-guarantee-for-99mw-wind-farm/
  8. http://www.instituteforenergyresearch.org/2012/02/16/the-obama-budget-and-wind-power/
  9. http://www.chattanoogan.com/2012/2/15/219538/Alexander-Opposes-Production-Tax.aspx
  10. http://www.tennessean.com/article/20120310/NEWS02/303100005/Alexander-says-subsidies-wind-energy-waste
  11. http://blogs.denverpost.com/thebalancesheet/2012/05/01/ge-leads-wind-turbine-derby-vestas-distant-storm-clouds-coming/4519/
  12. http://www.nytimes.com/2011/03/25/business/economy/25tax.html?_r=1&pagewanted=allhttp://www.nytimes.com/2011/03/25/business/economy/25tax.html?_r=2&pagewanted=all
  13. http://www1.eere.energy.gov/wind/budget.html
  14. http://nation.foxnews.com/wind-power/2012/03/08/wind-farms-pacific-northwest-paid-not-produce
  15. http://archive.awea.org/faq/wwt_costs.html

 

Written by Administrator in: Our Readers Write,The Highlands Voice,Wind Energy |
Jul
17
2012
--

LESS WIND POWER; MORE CREATIVITY

By Linda Cooper

Having deeply researched and diligently fought for nearly a decade to prevent even the first industrial wind power development in West Virginia, I think you well know my thoughts on what West Virginia Highlands Conservancy’s position should be in this regard.

I argued long and hard that West Virginia’s wind speeds are not conducive for wind power, that thinking of wind power as an alternative to coal power was/is stupid (for so many reasons), that tax and rate payers lose gigantically while large land and energy development corporations get obscene windfalls (pun or not) from industrial wind developments, and that the cost to West Virginians and to our birds, bats, wildlife, forests, and waters is not worth any alleged benefit (when any can be found at all).

But now, after reflecting on it a few years, what bums me out the most is how support for status quo investments (including wind

power) and disincentives for creativity prevent us from actually solving our energy problem with so many resources readily available at our fingertips. As opposed to mining and burning more unsustainable, polluting hydrocarbons (coal, gas, oil), why don’t we take better advantage of things we already have in abundance all around us just waiting to be used: (a) motion producers of all kinds, things in constant motion, and (2) what we are accumulating everywhere with little reprieve and think of, by definition, as valueless, our trash.

What is out there that is in constant motion: ocean and large lake waves, big rivers, heat rising from heat-production industries (steel, power generation, aluminum, chemicals, etc.), and automobiles (to mention only a few). For example, take the bane of the existence of many city dwellers, rush-hour traffic. There has got to be a way for those spinning wheels to power some kind of power generator under the road surface. Trains, trolleys, subways, all moving, moving, moving. They all need power to run but should be producing it as well.

As for trash, it’s a no brainer. Either sort out the non-toxic burnables and/or find ways to separate toxic from non-toxic gases and put them to good use elsewhere. We need those chemicals for everyday life and they could come from this trash air rather than continuing to rape them from and scar the earth and cause MORE problems. Finding this solution (gas-sorting) would truly be a patriotic, “put a person on the moon” kind of undertaking. (Surely, current coal burning plant and other industrial scrubbers have made a start.) And then there are the tops and sides of all those buildings in cities, the parking lots and sidewalks that the sun constantly beats down on! hotter and hotter each year. The sacrifice of our beautiful countryside to run the lights and gears of these behemoths and the brain trust invested on finding good solutions in these huge towers is just instant depression for me. Either turn off them lights or generate your own energy! Stop wasting our land and water! (Yea, I go a little crazy sometimes. You know how it is with us tree-huggers.) The sun, yes, another of those constant motion things. Must we continue to grow corn to get to it? Wouldn’t it be simpler and more beneficial in many ways for the farmers to just have sunfarms?

I guess the real point I want to make is when we let poor, destructive “solutions” demand our attention and use up our tax dollars (such a horrid consequence of our commercial society–”I have an idea that will make me millions who cares if it’s good for society!”), we stop searching for and trying new things that will really work. We keep “just getting by.” But the jig is up. We are killing ourselves and the world with these non-solutions. It’s time to get real and to come up with good solutions and settle for nothing less.

After many years in West Virginia, Linda Cooper currently resides in Alaska.

 

Written by Administrator in: The Highlands Voice,Wind Energy |
Jun
27
2012
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Federal Agencies Sued Over Failure to Disclose Correspondence with Wind Industry

Federal Agencies Sued Over Failure to Disclose Correspondence with Wind Industry – Promise of Government Transparency Not Being Met

MEDIA RELEASE

Contact: Robert Johns, 202-234-7181 ext.210, Email click here

(Washington, D.C., June 26, 2012) In a lawsuit filed today in Washington D.C. District Court American Bird Conservancy has accused the federal government of suppressing information about wind energy projects and their potential negative impact on America’s wildlife. ABC is being represented in the suit by the Washington D.C. public-interest law firm of Meyer Glitzenstein & Crystal

ABC charges that two Interior Department (DOI) agencies flagrantly violated the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) by failing to comply with statutory deadlines for disclosure of information, and by failing to provide their correspondence with wind developers and other information related to potential impacts on birds and bats, and bird and bat deaths at controversial wind developments in 10 states.

“It’s ridiculous that Americans have to sue in order to find out what their government is saying to wind companies about our wildlife—a public trust,” said Kelly Fuller, Wind Campaign Coordinator for ABC. “ABC is concerned that many of these projects have the potential to take a devastating toll on songbirds, majestic eagles, and threatened and endangered species,” she added

ABC filed six requests under FOIA – all of them more than eight months ago. ABC’s FOIA requests asked for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s correspondence with wind developers regarding birds and bats, as well as related information about wildlife impacts, such as studies showing which bird and bat species were in the area and how many had been killed by the facilities. ABC’s FOIA requests were to be processed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS), which subsequently referred one request to the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA). Under FOIA’s strict deadlines, the agencies were required to fulfill the requests or claim exemptions within 20 working days.

“In President Obama’s first month in office, he directed federal agencies to respond to the public’s FOIA requests promptly and in a spirit of cooperation. The President said, ‘A democracy requires accountability, and accountability requires transparency.’ With this lawsuit, ABC is asking the Department of the Interior to carry out the President’s promise,” said Fuller. “Some DOI offices have not sent a single document that we asked for, even though the agencies were legally required to do so more than seven months ago.”

Many organizations are concerned about the U.S. government’s management of wind energy’s impacts on wildlife. In May 2012, ABC and 60 other organizations asked committees in the U.S. House and Senate for Congressional oversight of FWS’s implementation of new voluntary guidelines for avoiding, minimizing, and mitigating the impacts of wind energy on wildlife. Ninety-one organizations endorsed an extensive rulemaking petition submitted by ABC requesting that FWS establish mandatory wildlife protection regulations in lieu of the voluntary approach favored by the industry.

In a March 2012 letter rejecting ABC’s petition, FWS Director Daniel Ashe asserted that FWS was being “meticulously transparent” in how the Service was addressing the impact of wind power on wildlife, and asked for ABC’s help in assessing the effectiveness of the voluntary wind guidelines. “But stonewalling FOIA requests is hardly ‘transparency,’ and without timely access to the crucial information held by the Service, evaluating the effectiveness of the guidelines will be impossible. ABC also will not be able to properly fulfill our mission to protect native birds and their habitats throughout the Americas,” said Fuller.

ABC’s FOIA requests were in regard to proposed and existing wind energy developments in Arizona, California, Florida, Minnesota, Nebraska, Nevada, New Mexico, North Dakota, South Dakota, and Texas. Birds that could potentially be harmed include Bald and Golden Eagles, as well as birds that have been federally designated as threatened and endangered, such as Whooping Cranes, Northern Aplomado Falcons, Least Terns, Piping Plovers, Marbled Murrelets, Snail Kites, Wood Storks, and Northern Crested Caracaras. Other birds that could potentially be harmed include night-migrating songbirds, birds of prey, and candidates for listing under the Endangered Species Act such as Greater Sage-Grouse and Sprague’s Pipit

ABC supports Bird-Smart Wind Power, which employs careful siting, operation and construction mitigation, bird monitoring, and compensatory mitigation to reduce and redress any unavoidable bird mortality and habitat loss. In May 2012, ABC released an interactive web map to help wind energy development become more Bird-Smart. The map shows more than 2,000 locations in the United States where birds will be particularly vulnerable to the impacts of wind energy development.

Written by Administrator in: Wind Energy |
Jun
25
2012
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INTERIOR DEPT. REPORT SLAMS BLM FOR POOR MONITORING

INTERIOR DEPT. REPORT SLAMS BLM FOR POOR MONITORING, LACK OF FINANCIAL ACCOUNTABILITY AT WIND AND SOLAR PROJECTS ON PUBLIC LANDS

http://eastcountymagazine.org/node/10145

By Miriam Raftery

 

June 24, 2012 (Washington D.C.) – A scathing new report by the U.S. Department of Interior’s Inspector General highlights “significant failures” by the federal Bureau of Land Managment in its stewardship over more than 30,000 wind energy right-of-way (ROW) acres and another 31,000 acres of solar energy ROW sites. View the complete report at http://www.doioig.gov/images/stories/reports/pdf/CR-EV-BLM-0004-2010Public.pdf,

In addition, the report exposed “weakness in financial accountability and resource protection including obligations to protect the Government’s financial interest by collecting rental revenues, managing the bond process, and by appropriate monitoring and enforcing ROW requirements.”

The BLM is poised to add another 21 million acres identified with wind energy development potential and over 20 million acres for potential solar energy facilities, raising serious concerns over enforcement of mitigation requirements for impacts on public lands.

In Palm Springs the BLM failed to adequately bond four wind projects, including one with 460 turbines “leaving BLM at risk to future liabilities for land reclamation and the potential damage to natural resources,” the report stated.

Read more…

Written by Administrator in: Federal Government,Wind Energy |
Jun
15
2012
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Wind Costs, Efficiency Bigger Hurdle Than Reliability

http://www.statejournal.com/story/15901157/marshall-researcher-wind-costs-efficiency-bigger-hurdle-than-reliability

Marshall Researcher: Wind Costs, Efficiency Bigger Hurdle Than Reliability

By Taylor Kuykendall, Reporter

 A researcher at Marshall University says there are still hurdles to overcome in adjusting the traditional, inflexible electrical grid to accept wind energy in Appalachia.

Wind, a relatively small contributor to the state’s energy portfolio, has recently experienced some growth in the state. Increasing concerns about cost to the system and other hurdles have slowed the proliferation of wind generators in the state and nationwide.

Read more…

Written by Administrator in: Wind Energy |
Jun
14
2012
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Wind-driven blunder

http://www.pe.com/opinion/editorials-headlines/20120607-nation-wind-driven-blunder.ece

The bald eagle warrants protection not only as one of nature’s most majestic creatures, but as the U.S. national symbol. A proposed change to regulations that govern the killing of bald eagles, simply to accommodate wind-power generators, could reverse progress in the recovery of this once-endangered species. The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service should leave in place existing permit procedures, which are generous enough as is.

Under federal regulations adopted in 2009, two years after the bald eagle was taken off the endangered species list, businesses and other entities can apply for a five-year permit that allows killing of bald eagles “that is incidental to an otherwise lawful activity, such as mortalities caused by collisions with rotating wind turbines.” The wildlife service in April proposed pushing the permits’ expiration date to 30 years. The service maintains that the five-year term “needed to be extended to better correspond to the timeframe of renewable energy projects.”

 

Read more…

Written by Administrator in: Wind Energy |
Jun
12
2012
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ANOTHER LOOK AT WIND ENERGY

By Kolin Jan

I applaud the Board’s effort in taking a closer view in refining its position on industrial wind. Like many West Virginians, initially I believed the hype and thought this approach would be our salvation in supplying a source of eco-friendly electricity. Much to my chagrin, after extensive research I have come to the opposite conclusion. Based purely on the science and engineering involved in this method of supplying electricity, I have come to the conclusion that this approach is folly. No number of wind turbines can satisfy demand— we will always require other sources to supply reliable, dispatchable electricity, and the amount of electricity supplied by turbines will always, from a practical application, supply only a very small fraction of our needs….at an inordinate expense.

Those who argue that the turbines harm the viewshed have a valid point….but it’s subjective. Those who argue that they negatively impact the environment and the wildlife have a valid point—but to some that doesn’t matter. They want their electricity no matter the environmental cost….and it is substantial. How can we conserve our environment and its occupants by clear-cutting thousands of acres, chasing away the wildlife and killing a significant percentage of the avian population? Especially when there are other, significantly less expensive ways to source electricity.

I encourage the Board to continue their deliberation, but dozens of peer-reviewed scientific papers on the topic clearly show this industry to be fallacious. Over the past several years I have requested from a number of industrial wind proponents copies of peer-reviewed scientific papers in favor of industrial wind—-so far I have not been able to find a single one.

Moreover, the only green aspect of this endeavor is the cash going to developers and owners through Congress’ blindness to the facts, along with the majority of the population’s ignorance to the facts in how these turbines operate, and their true cost. Every taxpaying American is supporting this industry—without significant government support this industry would die immediately. Not next week or next year….immediately. The only way to make money in this business is through government grants and tax write-offs…..or charge an exorbitant rate that Americans would not tolerate.

Industrial sized wind turbines do not belong in West Virginia… or any other place, for that matter. They are a pox on the land, an unreliable source of electricity, and way too expensive.

Windmills on Laurel Mountain Photo by John Terry

Ask yourself one question…..would you pay 10X (or more) to hook up your house to a company that supplies electricity only from wind turbines, as your only source of electricity?

I could present a number of other arguments and rebuttals for those in favor of this industry, but I’m sure you understand my position. Again, I encourage the Board’s further discussion on the topic, but I also urge the members to set aside emotion and deal with facts instead of what we hear from the media (our tax dollars are paying for the ads, by the way), or what the developers would like you to believe. Listen to the facts provided by science, along with the facts that reveal the true expenses and how this industry is financed. Every statement, regardless who makes it needs to be supported by factual evidence…not by something gained through the media or hearsay.

Unfortunately, this argument is potentially tainted because there are people involved in the discussion who have a financial interest. A good question to ask a proponent involves the level of potential personal financial gain through land leases, construction contracts, or the false promise of permanent jobs. We’ve seen that first-hand around Keyser.

Finally (somewhat tongue-in-cheek), as with any contentious issue, remember there are people who live by “Don’t confuse me with facts….my mind’s already made up.”

Editor’s note: As part of its continuing wrestling with the question of industrial wind facilities, the May issue of The Highlands Voice offered a question: Industrial wind power: what should the board do? The Board solicited thoughts, facts, and opinions on this question. This article is one of three responses to that question that the Voice has received so far. The others are on the next few pages.

Written by Administrator in: The Highlands Voice,Wind Energy |
Jun
12
2012
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WIND POWER: SOME OBSERVATIONS FROM THE FRONT LINES

By John Terry

In response to Dr. Wayne Spiggle’s request for membership input regarding industrial wind:

My wife and I are located north of Elkins and have a unique understanding of industrial wind power that most people do not. From our windows we see six AES Laurel Mountain GE 1.6 MW wind turbines. We can see ten from various locations on our property. I will not speak here about forest fragmentation, flying wildlife kills, noise, property value or any of the familiar complaints against wind energy. The subject of this letter is “wind” and how little of it there is in West Virginia. For those who hold on to a hope that somehow wind turbines will, in some way, replace mountain top removal this will be an unpleasant read and I apologize in advance for the bad news.

First a little background: There are five wind farms operating in West Virginia and two nearby in Maryland. With the exception of Beech Ridge, each is operating within sight of each other. The four in West Virginia are: Mountaineer with 44 turbines, NedPower/ Mount Storm with 132 turbines, Beech Ridge with 65 turbines, AES Laurel Mountain with 61 turbines and Pinnacle with 23 turbines. In Maryland, Roth Rock has 20 turbines and Criterion has 23. The last four wind farms have gone on line since winter 2010.

Industrial wind energy is weather dependent. The striking variability of our landscape consisting of mountains, hills and river valleys is one of the reasons why wind energy is unsuited to this state. If you look at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory’s Wind Energy Map http://www.windpoweringamerica.gov/wind_maps.asp , you’ll notice that there are precious few locations in West Virginia that approach a marginal rating for wind generation. Those are located on the state’s very highest ridges. Conversely, the NREL map shows that much of the state falls in or below the 4.5 m/s wind speed range at the bottom of the wind resource scale.

This lack of wind should be evident to all of us who’ve spent much time here. Think fog for a moment and how still the air is. West Virginia is one of the foggiest places in the United States with over 200 cloudy days each year thanks to our mountain terrain and abundant tree cover. NOAA’s National Weather Service has been recording wind speed data for over 50 years. Of the 276 US cities on NOAA’s list, only 8 have a lower average annual wind speed than Elkins, WV, home to the AES Laurel Mountain wind farm. http://lwf.ncdc.noaa.gov/oa/climate/online/ccd/avgwind.html

We know that wind varies by season and that historically we would expect the months of May through October to produce less wind energy than November through April would.

What goes unseen is an incredible variation in productivity making no season very good for wind turbines. There’s really nothing predictable about them. In a string of turbines, everyone will be turning at a slightly different speed which varies minute by minute. Even on good days, turbines 1, 3, 5 and 9 may be turning while 2, 4, 6 and 8 stand idle; only to slowly begin to turn as others quit. Writing this and overlooking the wind farm, I can tell you that, at this time in May, the turbines outside my window have not generated any appreciable amount of electricity for the past five days.

Traditionally we think of electrical generation in terms of a power station’s output. We hear those same kinds of numbers about wind too, but the maximum potential production of a wind farm or the number of homes that might be powered have nothing to do with the reality of how these machines will perform in real world conditions.

In a response to a letter of mine in the Cumberland Times-News May 19, 2011, Raif Sigrist, President and CEO, of the German turbine manufacturer, Nordex USA Inc. said, in effect, that the economics of the wind industry take into account that the wind does not blow at a consistent speed, but that wind energy is, “bountiful, freely available and competitively priced.” He then went on to say that a Nordex turbine “achieves availability greater than 97 percent” of the time. Meaning that the turbines are ready even if the wind doesn’t cooperate. http://times-news.com/letters2/x1372148106/Future-of-U-S-wind-power-is-promising

I can’t tell you how many watts come from how many revolutions of a wind turbine’s blades, but I’m quite sure that when they’re stationary, the number is zero. I’m pretty sure too that less electricity is generated when the blades turn slowly rather than quickly.

Recently, a small number of observers have begun to accumulate data on turbine operation in West Virginia. It’s hit or miss at best. I’ve chosen a single turbine to watch which appears to be no more or less efficient as any of the others. I try to time blade rotation for ten revolutions at lease five times (every two hours) on days when I’m home and it isn’t too foggy.

Without going into too much detail, let me tell you that my subject turbine never turns faster than17.857 rpm or slower than10.052 rpm. In the 756 observations made since October, 2011, this turbine has only reached the top quarter of its speed potential 157 times or 21%. On the other hand, this wind turbine has turned in the bottom quarter of it’s speed potential 202 times 27%, and it was not turning at all for 257 observations or 34% of the time.

Other observers have been recording one siting a day of as many turbines as they can see since the wind farm began operation in July 2011 (about 42 turbines out of 61). From this data we know that 32% of the turbines were not in operation at the times when observations were made.

These observations may not be perfect. Turbine operation is random and individual turbines will begin spinning for several minutes then quit for no apparent reason. We are not able to see what happens after dark, but it is usually the case that what wind there is dies down after sunset, so it’s doubtful if the turbines spring to life after dark.

To be sure, there’s a lot about wind farm operation we don’t know. There’s every reason to believe that the new wind farm I watch is no better or worse than regions other six operations. We do know that West Virginia’s wind farms are operated by intelligent managers who work for very large, successful corporations. West Virginia’s lack of suitable wind must not be the only reason for their apparent poor results.

The question in your minds should be why are large corporations eager to invest here in West Virginia in a losing enterprise. I hope that another writer will take up where I’ve left off and explain the tens of millions of dollars of gifts these corporations have received from our government for building wind farms on mountains where there’s simply not enough wind.

Written by Administrator in: The Highlands Voice,Wind Energy |
Jun
12
2012
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A CLOSER LOOK AT LAND BASED WIND POWER

By Bill Howley

I have followed discussions of commercial wind farms in the Allegheny Highlands for the last few years in The Highlands Voice. As the Conservancy’s board has pointed out numerous times, the issues are complex and often contradictory. I have seen a number of statements in the Voice that have been ill-informed and often just plain wrong. I am offering my comments which are based on my research and active engagement fighting high voltage transmission lines in West Virginia.

High quality wind resources have determined a lot of locations for Allegheny Highland wind farms, but the fact that numerous high voltage transmission lines already cross the mountains has been the factor which determined that early wind farm development would take place in the Alleghenies. Proximity to transmission connections has been the main reason that West Virginia wind farms have been built in their existing locations.

Wind resources are much higher quality, both in velocity and consistency, in offshore locations, but there are no transmission connections offshore. Offshore transmission connections in the United States can be relatively short, because 50% of US population lives within a 100 mile radius of prime offshore wind farm locations on the East and West Coasts as well as the Great Lakes.

In Europe, with relatively high population densities, most large scale wind power development has been off shore. The European Wind Energy Association states that there are currently 3294 megawatts of offshore wind generation built and connected off Europe’s coasts, and new capacity will be added on a massive scale in the coming decades. Europeans have also made strong commitments to reduce the burning of coal for electric power, and Germany has made a strong commitment to eliminating nuclear power generation entirely by 2022. There is no such pressure driving renewable energy development in the US.

In the US there are currently 0 megawatts of installed offshore wind capacity. All of US wind power development has occurred on land. The US has much lower population density than Europe, and that is clearly one reason land-based wind has been the US preference. Land based wind turbines are less expensive to construct than offshore turbines. The most important factor in US development, however, has been that connections to existing substations and transmission connections are readily available on land.

Politics has been a big factor in how and where wind power has been developed in the United States. The notorious Koch brothers, along with former Mass. Gov. Mitt Romney and Sen. Ted Kennedy and his nephew, Robert Kennedy, Jr., have campaigned for twenty years against the Cape Wind offshore wind farm, driving experienced European companies away from US offshore wind development until just recently. Cape Wind: Money, Celebrity, Energy, Class, Politics, and the Battle for Our Energy Future by Robert Whitcomb and Wendy Williams provides a detailed look at how the Kochs and the Kennedys have held back offshore wind power development in the US for decades.

Land-based wind power now has a strong lobby in the US simply because there is now so much money invested in it. The American Wind Energy Association, unlike its European counterpart, is fixated almost entirely on the needs of land-based wind development.

Understanding transmission is the key to understanding US wind power. Most wind power development has already taken place in the “sweet spots” where there is existing transmission infrastructure. For land-based wind power to expand further in the US, large amounts of new high voltage transmission lines will have to be built. The huge expense of this new construction will cancel out any cost advantage that land based wind power has enjoyed over offshore wind development.

New high voltage transmission lines will mostly be used by coal-fired power until wind generation is built in the area, and coalfired power will be dispatched in times when wind turbines aren’t producing power. Many national environmental groups have fallen for the lie that new transmission is needed only for new land-based wind power, and that coal-fired power can somehow be kept off of these new lines. Coal-fired giants like AEP and FirstEnergy have used wind power as a cover for their new transmission projects, including PATH and TrAIL here in West Virginia.

In his story in the May 2012 Voice, Wayne Spiggle incorrectly called wind power’s capacity factor on PJM Interconnection’s regional grid as “efficiency.” Wind power’s 13% capacity factor on PJM has nothing to do with efficiency. Capacity factor is used by regional transmission operators to calculate a generator’s contribution to the overall generating capacity on the grid operator’s system. Grid operators need to track generating capacity to make sure they have enough power to meet demand. This has nothing to do with efficiency.

There have also been a number of references in the Voice to “spinning reserve” and the claim that new wind power generation does not displace coal-fired generation on the PJM system. This is simply not true. PJM transmission managers dispatch power to load based on the principle of “economic dispatch” which requires them to dispatch the lowest cost power on the system to meet increases in demand. When the wind is blowing at regional wind farms, the marginal cost of producing an extra megawatt of power from a wind farm is essentially zero, putting that power at the top of most dispatch queues.

As wind generation has increased on the PJM system, this wind generation has definitely displaced coal-fired generation at times of high wind output. While coal-fired steam turbines are not entirely shut down during these periods, keeping them operating when their power can’t be dispatched and sold raises the overall cost and dispatchability of coal-fired power from many plants. Numerous studies have now shown that once wind generation reaches a certain critical mass on any regional transmission organization, it will have significant impacts on displacing higher priced coal-fired power.

So what do I think about wind power in general? Long term, we need a much more diversified range of generation in the US. The Europeans are demonstrating that renewable power can be integrated into the base power generation of large scale electrical grids. The Europeans have also shown that small scale renewable generation, primarily rooftop solar, but also locally developed landbased wind power, can significantly decentralize generation, making the overall system more reliable and resilient.

The US needs large scale wind generation, but it doesn’t need more land based generation. The US desperately needs massive investment in offshore wind power. Offshore wind blows stronger, and it blows all night, unlike most wind over the North American land mass. There are also no major avian flyways at sea level 20 to 100 miles off all US coastal waters. Offshore wind farm locations also have the significant advantage of being located within 100 miles of over 50 percent of the US population on both coasts and the Great Lakes.

All of the current wind farms in West Virginia sell onto the PJM grid, essentially exporting power from our state. West Virginia already exports 70 percent of the power generated in the state. We don’t need to export any more power, of any kind. We need offshore wind development, because it will eliminate the need for East Coast population centers to import coal- or wind-generated power from West Virginia.

So I don’t oppose “industrial” wind power in general. “Industrial” is not really a useful category in this discussion in any case. A better descriptor would be “grid scale,” which is how the electrical industry describes large scale wind farms. That is, they are wind farms big enough to sell directly onto the grid.

The claim that grid scale wind farms are not economically viable because they are “subsidized” is just silly. No power source is more heavily subsidized in the US than the coal industry. Well deployed subsidies are essential to wise development and spread of useful technologies. Recent studies have shown that if all of coal’s subsidies were eliminated, coal-fired power would sell for about 30 cents per kilowatt hour.

The long term solution for the US grid is to create a widely distributed network of very diverse generation capacity. Because this generation will be near or in population centers, it will have to be largely renewable. For the foreseeable future, that technology will probably be some mix of photovoltaic cells and wind, backed by small scale combined cycle natural gas turbines. Renewable technologies should be locally developed, where practical.

Most wind power development, given current technical limitations, will have to be larger scale. Small scale wind turbines for homes or small businesses simply aren’t reliable enough to be economically viable. Just ask any of the many solar power installers in West Virginia who have stopped selling home wind turbines.

But we have a long way to go until we reach distributed generation nirvana. There will be lots of transitional technologies and generation systems. Grid scale wind power has its place, but that place is no longer on land, and certainly not on tops of mountains in major avian flyways and bat habitat. You don’t have to base your arguments on inaccurate information about subsidies or capacity factors or PJM’s dispatching system to make this case. You also don’t have to oppose grid scale wind farms, just land based wind farms on ridge tops. We need grid scale wind power, but we need it, in a big way, off the East and West Coasts and in the Great Lakes.

[Mr. Howley lives in Calhoun County, WV and has published the blog The Power Line, the View from Calhoun County for the last four years focusing on the PATH power line project and associated transmission issues.]

Written by Administrator in: The Highlands Voice,Wind Energy |

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