Planes, trains and automobiles. Toilets and light bulbs. Milk! What’s the one thing they have in common? Yep! Standards.
Industrial wind turbines – off limits!
Here’s how I see the drama playing out. A Maryland State Delegate wants to put some standards on wind turbines. The wind industry representative has his bloomers in a knot at the suggestion.
Let’s use Mr. Kevin Spradlin’s article in the Cumberland (Maryland) Times-News, published on February 07, 2010 08:47 pm as a guide. My comments will be in bold italics to differentiate from the article text.
The article is titled, “Wind energy standards bill gaining support.”
CUMBERLAND — Delegate Wendell Beitzel has submitted a bill that would require the development of general performance standards for commercial wind turbines across the state. (Good – performance standards set by representatives of the taxpayers for items subsidized by the taxpayers sounds like a worthy effort.)
Last year’s solo effort failed to get out of the House Economic Matters Committee. This year, the bill already has 22 co-sponsors, including the influential Montgomery County Democrat Brian Feldman, a member of the Economic Matters Committee, as well as Democrat Barbara Frush, of Anne Arundel and Prince George’s counties. (Darn, if he’s picking up support this time around … something must have happened. In spite of what folks say, most of the Delegates are pretty smart and wouldn’t just flip for no reason.)
Delegates Kevin Kelly and LeRoy Myers also have signed on as co-sponsors. (Kevin Kelly and LeRoy Myers – where do I remember these fellows from? Oh yeah! They co-signed a letter to Maryland Attorney General Douglas Gansler along with Delegate Beitzel, requesting he take a peek into industrial wind compliance with the Endangered Species Act. Uh, Oh! I don’t imagine they’ll be invited to the AWEA Christmas party.)
The bill, introduced Friday, does not attempt to indicate what those performance standards might be. Instead, Beitzel said the bill would require the state Public Service Commission and the Department of Natural Resources to jointly develop standards to regulate tower height, number and size of blades, rotor diameter, noise, lighting on and near turbines, and setbacks. (Darn! I’d have gone for the performance standard thing. But again, that’s just the taxpayer in me talking. And maybe it’s asking too much for a product that consistently operates far less than it’s name plate capacity to either improve a little or change the nameplate. My Subaru will do 175 over a cliff, but the speedometer only says 110 or something. Oh! And the state regulates my car, too!)
“I really sensed that I had quite a bit of support last year,” Beitzel said. “What it boils down to … I felt the administration didn’t want anything standing in the way of windmill development.”
Beitzel said Gov. Martin O’Malley “viewed these bills as maybe something that would put conditions … that would restrict the development of windmills.” (Well Delegate Beitzel, it’s like this. When you guys pass a law that says you have to do so much by this date, it’s not actually a suggestion. Some of your friends in Annapolis decided to set standards for the state to achieve a certain percentage of electricity from renewables by such and such a date, so don’t get all wound up if the “administration” feels they have to obey your rules. That’s like changing the speed limit on Routes 70 and 68 to 25 mph and complaining about how long it takes to get from Baltimore to Cumberland. Maybe you should change the rules that were based on some political “rabbit out of hat” numbers that have no basis in reality anyway. That would be a goal for you after you get this standards bill in place. I don’t want to get you off track. After all, I’m on your side.)
This time, however, there are “quite a few colleagues on both sides of the aisle that have signed on to the bill that I think will help quite a bit.”
And the cause of the turnaround? (This should be good!)
“I think there’s becoming more of an awareness from the environmental community that you need an alternative energy source but in some cases, to develop this alternative energy may add to the cost of electricity (and) create environmental problems that they didn’t envision,” Beitzel said. (Superbly put, Delegate Beitzel! I might have thrown in tinker toy eagle choppers, mountain top erector set, not enough to light a closet, won’t replace coal, expensive, unreliable and tax shelter scam comments, but that’s why you’re in Annapolis and I’m not.)
Wind energy industry spokesman Frank Maisano said he is “skeptical” of any so-called good intentions Beitzel might have. Maisano said Beitzel has been a lead advocate against any wind projects in the state. (So, let’s see. A wind industry official is “skeptical” of the intentions of an elected representative of the people of the State of Maryland? I’m not sure if the road to good legislation is paved with good intentions, Mr. Maisano … that’s the road to the other place.)
He said it “doesn’t make sense” to have detailed performance standards, because changes in technology are “advancing so rapidly.” (HUH??? I’m not sure I heard that correctly! You can’t have performance standards for a product because the product is advancing? Excuse me, Sir! What doesn’t make sense is the long leash of arrogance the wind industry has been provided by cowering politicians that permits you to make such a nonsensical statement. Do you think it more appropriate that the State of Maryland, West Virginia, Virginia, Kentucky, Pennsylvania, New York, Maine and on and on and on should change their standards to permit you to plop any Rube Goldberg spinning device you can come up with anywhere you please? Let’s get an understanding, Sir. The reason that so many Delegates are moving toward this legislation here, and soon in other states is because of the arrogance of the wind industry. The AWEA and it’s financial backers are bypassing local ordinances and communities with threats of lawsuits and intimidation common folk can neither afford to fight or have the political muscle to push back against. Well, your industry might have nudged the pendulum a little too far. These Representatives are hearing the complaints from citizens who witness your wind sail version of Sherman’s march to the sea and they don’t like what they hear.)
A commercial wind project in Fayette County, Pa., was delayed for more than two years when new technology called for turbines to sit 12 feet higher than existing local ordinances. (So, better to change the land, citizen’s rights to home rule to accommodate the “new technology?” Exactly how was it determined that the new technology might be advantageous for the wind developer anyway? Are you going to tell me they designed, prototyped, tested and fabricated models just for this location? Or did the manufacturer simply change its “standards?” It’s an old rule, Sir … when you move into a neighborhood you learn what’s expected of you. If you don’t like the rules, find another home.)
Maisano said that any general performance standards on wind projects could jeopardize wind energy companies from receiving financing for such projects when “some sort of arbitrary standards” are put in place. (Now this just jumped into the top ten on my list of all time top stupid statements. That’s equivalent to saying that requiring my automobile to have brakes, seats and a steering wheel puts me in jeopardy with the bank financing my car. Wouldn’t a financial institution investing millions of dollars in a product or process expect it to meet certain standards. How about the taxpayers who are heavily invested in these adventures, Mr. Maisano? Is it possible that they should expect certain standards to be met. Well, guess what – that’s exactly what the bill presented is suggesting – the investors who are giving you cash (taxpayers) expect you to meet standards that will protect the taxpayers receiving your goods. This is not complicated, sir! Oh, we do agree on one thing. I don’t like “arbitrary” anything. I think I mentioned that a few paragraphs back … you know the 20% by 2025 renewables thing.)
Support from metro-area lawmakers didn’t surprise Maisano, who said legislators from those urban areas aren’t “going to have any wind turbine projects” in their areas anyway. (Gee, that reminds me of this interchange – “Nedpower, one of the most aggressive wind companies in the country, is in the midst of constructing a huge 200-wind turbine facility along a 14-mile strip of the Alleghany Front east of Mount Storm Lake in West Virginia. Frank Maisano, a Washington, DC lobbyist and media spokesman for Nedpower and who lives near the Bay, said that any allegation that a wind-powered project will be an “eyesore” is generally a claim without merit.” However, when asked by a reporter, he declined to say if he would want such a project built within two miles of his home. “I’m not living next to one, so I’m not going to answer hypothetical questions for you just for the sake of answering them,” he said. (Charlotte, WV Gazette, November 30, 2005.) This stuff drives you nuts, doesn’t it?)
“This is intended to prevent wind projects from being built in Western Maryland,” Maisano said. (A little cheese with that whine, sir?)
Maisano said Beitzel has never been interested in talking with industry representatives but that they are willing to do so.
“We’re always willing to be a participant in working on things that will improve the process of siting wind turbines,” Maisano said. “We have an open mind. So far, we’ve been treated with nothing but disappointment and delay.” (Gee! Then it must all be just a misunderstanding! See, folks on the other side complain that they can’t get specific information from the wind industry except the boilerplate provided on the web sites and brochures of the industry. Perhaps if you want to bring real content to the discussion – specifics concerning the actual amount of CO2 reduced by the industrial plants operating. How about the number of fossil fueled power plants actually closed as a result. How about the actual amount of usable electricity actually reaching peoples homes. Why do people buy wind credits instead of the electricity generated? Bring that to the table and I suspect you get the attention you deserve. It may not be what you want, but it will be what industrial wind deserves. For many of us, dealing with the wind industry is like picking up mercury.
At the risk of repeating myself, let me include a comment I made in a recent post here just a month ago:
I’m easily confused! Let’s get that out of the way first. So, maybe someone can help me understand the following:
An article published January 7, 2009 at the Cumberland Times-News contained this quote: “I think the important thing is that this is developing another resource in the region that is beneficial for the environment, but also communities that are struggling right now,” said Frank Maisano, spokesman for the wind energy industry. “It’s not a matter of displacing or replacing coal or nuclear or things like that. But it’s a matter of taking a project that you can develop where it makes sense … and adding it to the grid to make that pool of power a little bit cleaner.”
That comment struck me as a little odd, since the AWEA (American Wind Energy Association) states in its Wind Energy and Environment section: “whenever the wind is blowing, it displaces the most expensive conventional power plant that is generating. Typically, this tends to be the oldest and dirtiest gas plants on a utility system, but in some parts of the country (notably the mid-Atlantic states such as Maryland, West Virginia, or Virginia), wind power may displace coal.”
So, is Mr. Maisano tailoring his comment to fit the mood, since the WV Supreme Court of Appeals cautioned the PSC during the Laurel Mountain hearing last year that decisions to permit cannot show preference to replacement of another resource, or is he acknowledging what many knowledgeable individuals have already stated – “With nearly 100,000 huge wind turbines now in operation throughout the world—35,000 in the USA—no coal plants have been closed anywhere because of wind technology. And there is no empirical evidence that there is less coal burned per unit of electricity produced as a specific consequence of wind.“ In other words, Will industrial wind replace fossil fuel? Just do the math!
So then, if “It’s not a matter of displacing or replacing coal or nuclear or things like that,” and all you really want to do is make the “pool of power a little bit cleaner,” can’t that be done more sensibly and economically with investment in clean coal technology, natural gas and nuclear?
Wouldn’t it be more sensible to upgrade existing power plants that have already consumed the spot of land they’re on, rather than building a huge set of power cranks which will require additional vast land and air consumption?
Wouldn’t it make more sense to invest in improvements in power sources that produce 24/7/365 rather than add thousands of temporary spinning devices that operate, at best, to 30% of their nameplate capacity, if the Goldilocks wind happens to be blowing not too soft-not to hard-but just right?
After all, if you’re just looking to improve the economic status of our area, how about investing in technology that allows our community to really grow. Not by consuming many square miles of mountain top with some temporary and unreliable contraptions for the sake of perhaps 6 jobs and some tax revenue, but in real return for the taxpayer dollars.
Again, the environmental improvement you mention as “make the “pool of power a little bit cleaner” could be accomplished with a more sensible and economical approach by investing in clean coal technology, natural gas and nuclear.
Eighty percent of the Stimulus dollars thrown at the wind industry didn’t land here in the US. Were that money spent instead in the United States on infrastructure and improvements of proven sources of electricity, permanent jobs would have been created, here.
Investors seeking quick return flock to the heavily subsidized wind schemes popping up across the country. From the rush to plop your constructions anywhere a tax subsidy exists to the “renewable energy credit” deals, the Public, mostly in an effort to do the right thing for the planet, sacrifice their tax dollars to the drive-by LLCs. Perhaps a better choice would be to if the same taxpayer dollars were invested in the existing reliable power producing structure until the energy grid can be rebuilt to accommodate new forms of energy from new ideas. Not from some old world, gust driven romantic technology that went out with the steam engine, but real innovation.
So, I hope you’re right Mr. Maisano. I hope it’s not about closing coal and nuclear fired plants, because wind can’t handle the load. Since industrial wind seems to fall short of providing reliable energy; is not reducing our requirement for fossil fuel; will increase rates to consumers and the subsidy hungry LLCs will continue to dip at the tax trough, it strikes me that we really don’t need industrial wind! It seems to me that the only thing industrial wind is contributing to, is the bank account of folks like yourself.
Contact Kevin Spradlin at firstname.lastname@example.org.