Correction: The commenter was incorrectly identified as Austin Hill. My apologies to Mr. Hall as I remedy my error.
I elected to reply to Mr. Austin Hall’s recent comments in the form of a post. The points raised by Mr. Hall and replied to here represent a serious debate among folks interested in the future of the Appalachian Mountain environment. I would encourage you to view the complete comments provided by Mr. Hall as well as those of “mountainprotector” at the link – BREAKING: Wind powered pig flies non-stop from Garrett County, MD to the University of Delaware!
My reply begins:
Mr. Austin Hall,
You begin with: While I applaud the rights for individuals to express opinions on various topics. I find that folks, who vehemently oppose wind energy, ultimately will use the least factual information. As a proponent of alternative energy sources, and an advocate to phase out coal fired generation and minimize the litany of problems associated with coal, I strive to provide factual information about alternative energy – especially wind power. I find that constructive dialog can only occur when the basis of discussion relies on facts. I want to highlight a few problems with this article.
Your applause is rewarding and I appreciate your offer to provide factual information about alternative energy – especially wind, and hope you do so, perhaps in a follow-up to the comments. Facts lacking, what you provided in your comment was, unfortunately, “simply commentary” to what you feel was, in my own post, “simply commentary.” I’m just not sure how far this style will take us in the debate about this “contentious” issue, so I’ll try to do better here.
Let me begin by addressing your suggestion that: “I find that folks, who vehemently oppose wind energy…”
A year ago, almost to the month, I was an advocate for industrial wind. I live in the heart of coal country and found nothing objectionable to the placement of the wind towers on the high ridges of the Alleghenies. Like many in my community I saw the need to close coal mines, improve our air and water quality and move forward to an energy source which will do so while providing desperately needed jobs and an increased tax base to support our small community. And, much like the Audubon Society and the Sierra Club, I felt if a few birds are whacked in the process, it was the price to be paid for such wonderful benefit. Plus, the turbines I saw operating in another community looked pretty cool, so the visual issue was not a problem for me.
That was before I was introduced to the “NIMBY” side of the argument. And I must tell you that finding information other than the boilerplate produced by the wind industry, lobbyists and political enablers was a real eye opener for me. It surprised me to find that the literature and discussions on the opposing side came from environmentalists, scientists, economists, people from both political parties and folks who believe in man-made global warming and those who do not. This was not a group of wacko’s and Neanderthals holding back progress as suggested by the wind industry and even the local papers.
But, what struck me the most was the wind industry’s lack of transparency and unwillingness to engage on specific issues. The local wind developers I initially supported attended two discussions at which their technology was savaged by scientists and they chose to remain silent. I was struck by the unwillingness to engage on the issues. Their insistence to remain inside the boilerplate was stunning and, I suspect to any inquisitive mind, a reason to look further. I’m frankly surprised that still, to this day, when I write something critical there is no comment from any of the industry folks, and I have it on good authority that they read the material. It is as if they feel so secure in their own hype that, with the aid of fawning advocates nurtured by the ignorance of the political environment, they can simply write opponents off as lacking credibility or accuse opposition of distorting the truth, much as you attempted by your comment, “ultimately will use the least factual information.”
So, with your permission, I’ll attempt to reply to your comments with reference to material which is found elsewhere in the Allegheny Treasures blog, should you choose to find the basis of my thinking.
Speaking of blogs, let me begin by stating what you perhaps already know. Each post is topic or event specific and the purpose of the post is to draw attention to the issue and encourage the reader to perhaps look further into the blog or elsewhere for additional information. If I were to repeat every fact associated with a comment for each new blog post they would be monstrously long, boring and frankly, unread. The goal of this blog is that folks will find something of interest and read further. Not being a professional writer, as is painfully obvious to the regular readers, I may not adequately link a particular blog post with content posted previously here or elsewhere which I use as the basis for my post, relying on their interest to do so. I will, however attempt to do so in response to your request for factual information, to remedy what you seem to feel is my failure to find a “smart way to convey information.”
Your point 1:
“First I will address the video, which was shot in Croatia, (you subsequently corrected to Crete) a country that has a completely different wind energy-permitting regime than the US. Bird fatalities will occur at wind farms, but it is incredibly important to realize that the National Audubon Society endorses wind energy. Here is their statement “Audubon strongly supports properly-sited wind power as a clean alternative energy source that reduces the threat of global warming. Wind power facilities should be planned, sited and operated to minimize negative impacts on bird and wildlife populations”.
Although bird fatalities do occur at wind farms, if you compare those deaths at wind farms to other human caused fatalities. The numbers are quite compelling. Buildings, windows, high-tension lines, pesticides, vehicles and CATS, kill far more birds than wind farms. Proper siting is a critical component of minimizing bird fatalities.”
You and I seem to differ on whether the individual state Public Utility Commission members are prepared to analyze the opposing views of the wind developers and their paid consultants and the state Department of Natural Resources and the US Fish and Wildlife Service. It would be difficult to assess each state and each member of an authority; however my opinion, after reading testimony specific to area cases, is that some members are absolutely not prepared to make these judgments. The wind industry, flying on the backs of pressure from politicos and promises, finds advantage in this weakness.
Unfortunately, the issue of competence relative to successful siting cannot be factually proven or disproven until the bird and bat counts are made, which is a little too late for me. I’m not sure if your mention that, since the video is shot in Croatia or Crete, US birds are somehow smarter, but I find the results from the Altamont Pass suggesting otherwise. I don’t share your confidence in the wind industry’s willingness or ability to properly report of kills to the appropriate agencies and the public due to the kills landing away from the turbines, harvested by predators or any number of possible distortions, including the questionable ethics of some operators. History has unfortunately suggested otherwise in my local area.
I will suggest to you that the concept of cumulative impact of industrial wind is lost on the PSC, our politicians and the majority of citizens. The politically established goals for wind energy are arbitrary and do not take into account the horribly destructive impact to our mountains and the obstruction of flyways. The wind industry experts suggest that even if towers are infringing on flyways, birds will find their way around. That works well until the gaps are filled as well, as will be required to meet the demands of 20, 25 or 20% by 2015, 2020 or 2030 arbitrary political goals.
Regarding the position of the National Audubon Society, it seems you and I disagree. As you offered, their statement is: “Audubon strongly supports properly-sited wind power as a clean alternative energy source that reduces the threat of global warming. Wind power facilities should be planned, sited and operated to minimize negative impacts on bird and wildlife populations.” You fall back onto the old saw about birds being killed by tall structures and cats, so what’s a few more.
I believe the National Audubon Society is absolutely wrong and failing to live to standards that support the very reason for their existence. I believe that industrial wind is a scam. It provides no economic or national security benefit, has miniscule impact on emissions, what little energy it produces it does so on its own schedule, and it bleeds the treasure of this country in the form of tax breaks, subsidies, landscape and environment. I believe that industrial wind is an antiquated technology which stands in the way of truly innovative energy source development by taking vast sums of money and putting it into the pockets of Ken Lay’s offspring. There is absolutely no place for industrial wind in the energy inventory for this or any other country, therefore, I do not believe the loss of one Golden Eagle is acceptable sacrifice.
Even though you indicate that “regardless of your personal opinions on global climate change,” it seems the Audubon society considers it significant enough to mention in its policy statement. Should you choose to read Allegheny Treasures further, you’ll note that the Climate Change/AGW issue is not part of the discussion. The reason is because industrial wind has no impact on the core issues in that debate, except for the additional emissions generated during manufacture and delivery of these silly tinker toys to the mountain tops. Perhaps, other than the model projections and industry estimates, you would be kind enough to provide empirical evidence that industrial wind has been directly responsible for reductions in carbon emissions or the closing of fossil fueled plants.
Your point 2:
Bat fatalities are indeed a concern; it appears that bats echolocation attracts them to the tips of the turbine blades. They are not actually hit by the blades but enter into the low-pressure air system behind the blade, which causes fatal internal damage. The wind industry, unlike traditional energy companies has voluntarily taken unprecedented steps to address this problem. The Bats And Wind Energy Cooperative is an alliance of state and federal agencies, private industry, academic institutions, and non-governmental organizations that cooperates to develop solutions to minimize or, where possible, prevent mortality of bats at wind power turbines. Once again proper sitting is an incredibly important component to minimize bat fatalities
Your faith in the wind industry is far greater than my experience allows. Note this excerpt from a very recent opinion piece from the Industrial Wind Action Group discussing events 9 miles from my home: (http://www.windaction.org/faqs/26609) Significant bat mortality at wind energy facilities first became widely known in the United States in 2003 when research scientists observed alarming numbers of bats killed at FPL Energy’s Mountaineer wind energy plant in West Virginia. The forty-four turbine site located along the forested Backbone mountaintop was found to be slaughtering bats at annual rates of over 50 bats per turbine with some estimates placing the count at close to 100 bats. High mortality was also observed that year at the Meyersdale wind farm in Pennsylvania, another FPL project.
Researchers from Texas-based Bat Conservation International (“BCI”) were invited to investigate the cause for the high mortality with the intent of trying to minimize and/or avoid the impact. FPL (now Next Era) initially agreed to cooperate, but in 2004 abruptly changed course and banned further visits by scientists to the sites. To our knowledge, bat kills are continuing unabated and Windaction.org has no independent information to suggest anyone is even monitoring the problem.
In 2007, renown bat expert Dr. Thomas H. Kunz and others published “Ecological impacts of wind energy development on bats: questions, research needs, and hypotheses“, which detailed the significant risk that industrial-scale wind turbines posed for migratory and local bat populations in the Mid-Atlantic region of the United States. The authors projected that by 2020, annual bat fatalities at wind energy facilities in this area alone could reach 111,000 bats.
The authors also made clear that their preliminary projections of cumulative bat fatalities were likely unrealistically low.
The internal lung burst (barotrauma) issue was posted here in September 2009 – Scientists provide yet another reason to delay the rapid deployment of wind turbine installations in areas where need is not proven. Siting and scheduling of run times to coincide with bat patterns were discussed as potential mitigating factors. Has that become an industry standard? If so, I’m not aware. In fact, the wind industry lobby is successfully fighting against any legislation requiring standards of any kind. Again, your trust level in the industry is much higher than mine, since, while the portrayal of concern is as you describe, the reality is it requires court action to hold the developers accountable to their word. Beech Ridge might ring a bell.
Your point 3:
While I agree with the author that integrating wind into the current grid system will prove difficult as wind energy generation continues to grow, I disagree with the assessment that wind energy and it’s variability is sole the problem. It is quite the opposite. Wind energy is variable, but fairly predictable, years of research to the wind patterns, speed, and prevalence are analyzed before a wind farm is even proposed. The wind resource must be consistent, and fairly predictable before any company will invest. In fact power companies in the North West have included up to 20% of wind energy in their Integrated Resource Plan as “base load” generation. To be able to integrate this clean resource we will have to overhaul our 100-year-old inefficient and antiquated power grid. This grid was designed to ship massive amounts of electrons from one source to various need points. The exact system Edison devised at the turn of the century. Distributed renewable energy will need an updated digital system to intelligently integrate the resource, which does have a factor of variability as opposed to coal or nuclear or gas generation.
Perhaps you could assist my understanding of the “fairly predictable” and “consistent” trend of wind in this real time hourly reporting of actual production v rated nameplate capacity over a 30 day period in Ontario. –Industrial wind: “enough to run 70,000 clothes dryers”
Can the grid handle the fluctuation? Well, according to the post which you contested – BREAKING: Wind powered pig flies non-stop from Garrett County, MD to the University of Delaware! – seems if enough money is thrown at the problem anything can be achieved, but at what real cost?
Industrial wind is an absurd concept. It is certainly not “base load” in any respect. Base load requires on demand, reliable and predictable energy such as that supplied by fossil and nuclear. You did not link to the North West Integrate Resource Plan you reference making if difficult for me to discuss specifically, but for a region to include a “base load” of 20 percent wind energy would be beyond fool hardy. Since the actual output v nameplate capacity ranges anywhere from the 9% as planned by the Texas grid to the 30% industry average estimated by the AWEA, to achieve 20% “generation” would require installing wind plants at a capacity level of 60% to more than 100% of the regions required electricity demands. And since you spoke in terms of “generation” instead of installed capacity, I must question your facts.
If I take your suggestion at face value, then I would assume that there is commitment from this region to reduce by equivalent amount the purchase of any fossil related electricity, even if it means you don’t toast bread when the wind is not blowing. To the contrary, they will continue to have available the fossil generated electricity to cover for the inadequacy of wind, ramping fossil plants up and down causing even more emissions, cost and inefficient use of coal. Again, since the wind industry response is a bit nebulous, perhaps, as an advocate, you could clarify for them.
And, to your final point
“Regardless of your personal opinions on global climate change, there are significant concerns regarding the production of electricity using coal and nuclear fuel. At every single phase of the coal cycle there is a negative ecological, human and environmental cost. These costs are incalculable, as we are sacrificing clean air, clean water and public health for a cheap energy source that is rarely in our view shed. We must transition to cleaner, renewable energy systems. Wind will play a critical role in our clean energy future. I for one will choose wind energy and an overhauled grid over mountaintop removal coal mining and nuclear waste.”
If there is one thing on which we seem to agree, it is the immediate halt to mountain top removal for the sake of energy, when there are other methods to source the fuel. I’m frankly surprised at your endorsement of wind, since it will require installation of the thousands of massive towers and thousands of miles of new power lines to be placed all along the Appalachian Mountains.
My personal choice is to look beyond the antiquated, inefficient and unreliable wind as an energy source. You and I will perhaps disagree on the use of Nuclear, but I cannot imagine that we would disagree on the promotion of innovation which will very likely provide localized, private and community based energy sources could reduce our dependency on the “100-year-old inefficient and antiquated power grid.” This is especially true as it relates to the “far from consumer” placement of industrial wind plants and the requirement of new transmission lines to connect them to the ancient grid.
But to imply that my opposition to wind energy is default to support for coal as the long term energy source for our future is beyond silly. Industrial wind is a worthless contributor on all counts. It is my position that the billions spent to fund industrial wind serve to restrict funding of real and exciting technology. In a future that requires energy sources to serve our requirement for “on demand” energy while providing a better treatment of our environment, industrial wind does not make the cut.
The fast track policy for renewables world wide is driven by purely political interest. It is creating an environment conducive for graft and corruption. Politicians are pouring tax money into the pockets of scam artists with any promise of a quick fix and a campaign contribution. And, the shame of it all is that, in the name of saving the environment, we continue to destroy the environment.
Your ending line is “I understand that wind energy is contentious, but factual information is generally a smart way to convey information.” On this, you and I agree completely!
In your second comment you offered the following links:
Audobon [sic] Society. http://www.audubon.org/
Wind as base load generation.http://www.nrel.gov/wind/systemsintegration/system_integration_basics.html
Similarly, I would like to offer these links from Allegheny Treasures to support my replies to your points:
Point 1: Birds – Audubon Society:
Point 2: Bats:
Point 3: Grid
Your final point: Future and environment:
Other related posts for your review:
I do appreciate that you took the time to comment on my post and hope we can continue this dialogue.
Allegheny Treasures Blog
Bonus: Mr. Jon Boone offers these comments
What most people, even those who understand the data, don’t properly ken is the difference in the production delivery between conventional power units and wind. The former provides its whole power (its rated capacity) at a steady rate, unless asked to change its rate by grid controllers. Wind provides energy in fits and starts, always staggering its way around the grid, never controllable–in the process always entangled with supportive prosthetics to make its production appear whole and steady.
This is the kind of phenomenon that should also be part of the performance record from the Energy Information Administration. But it’s not. Such a mask allows people to therefore assume that the energy yield from wind is the same as that from conventional sources. But this is nonsense. Glenn Schleede has always characterized wind energy as low in value. This drives the wind suits crazy, for they want people to think that a kWh from wind is the same as the kWh from coal or nuclear. Balderdash! Is the performance of a drunken ambulance driver the same value as that of a sober ambulance driver?
Finally, tell Mr. Hall I would be happy to meet him in debate on the issue. We would address wind’s volatility as it affects integration techniques. And we would answer the following questions:
* Why did the Dutch stop using windmills to grind grain and pump water to reclaim land from the sea–as soon as the steam engine was invented?
* Why are sailing vessels used almost entirely for recreation today, rather than for commercial purposes?
* Why aren’t gliders providing a substantial percentage of commercial air transport?
* What is the difference between energy and power? What would be the likely consequence if all our gas pumps were wind “powered?”
* What is the percentage of oil used for electricity, nationally and in the MidAtlantic region?
* Why must electricity supply be matched to demand at all times?
* What are the implications for wind technology given that any power generated is a function of the cube of the wind speed along a narrow range of wind velocities (a wind turbine doesn’t begin work until wind speeds hit 9-mph and maxes out when the wind speeds hit around 34-mph)? Explain how a fluctuating source of energy could, by itself, “power” any city.
* Why has steady, controllable, precision power been the basis of modern life?
* If constructed on a forested ridge, how many acres of woods must be cut to support a 100MW wind project, consisting of 40-2.5MW turbines, each 460-feet tall? Account for the requirement to accommodate the “free flow of the wind” for each turbine, staging areas for construction, access roads, substations, and transmission lines. Also account for the number of miles the wind project would extend downrange, assuming five turbines per mile. Finally, account for the amount of concrete necessary to provide a sturdy base for each turbine.
* Examine four wind projects in Pennsylvania and West Virginia, asking how many permanent jobs were produced, the amount of local taxes and revenues received, and what the promises of such were beforehand?