The following letter was submitted to the Charleston “WV” Daily Mail in response to their editorial titled: Wind farms deserve increasing scrutiny
Charleston Daily Mail Editor
Dear Sir or Madam:
You are correct to demand increased scrutiny for wind farms. As our elected state and federal officials legislate renewable energy requirements and fund the wind industry with taxpayer supported incentives, few question the return on our financial and environmental investment.
The wind lobby promotes wind energy as a clean, environmentally friendly, low cost product which will improve our position on energy security. Unfortunately, once probed, the wind turbines we are being asked to place in the Appalachians fail miserably on all counts.
This discussion is not about the stand-alone windmill used for decades by farmers for specific applications at their location. When we speak of industrial wind, it is important to note, that the goals established for renewables will require hundreds of thousands of massive (747 size) turbines and miles of new transmission lines placed along our ecologically delicate ridge lines in order to make a dent in the politically driven renewable energy goals. Making matters worse, driven by profits from the vast pool of taxpayer money, as the prime space is consumed and the very attractive subsidies remain, wind turbines will appear on less suitable sites simply to take advantage of the funding. The accumulative destructive impact to our environment from this dismal performer will be staggering.
The wind energy lobby claims the use of industrial wind will drive us from fossil fuels, however there is mounting evidence that, not only is wind’s contribution to emission reduction minuscule, its use may well increase the requirement for same due to the requirement that fossil plants ramp up and down to attempt to meet winds constantly variable supply. Further, there is no empirical data which shows that any fossil fuel plants have been closed as a direct result of wind energy. Even power operators question the emission reduction claim.
The wind energy lobby claims the turbines are environmentally friendly, however paper after paper from distinguished naturalists from this area stress the dangers created by these installations. Even the folks representing the wind lobby will note only that endangered species kills will be minimal and the best they can come up with is “it’s better than mountain-top removal.” If this product were to actually provide the security and energy claimed, this might be an acceptable trade, however industrial wind fails on these counts.
Industrial wind operates, on average, at some level near or below 30% of the installed nameplate capacity. This effectively requires installation of 100 massive turbines in order to hope for the benefit of 30 massive turbines. Even then, the wind arrives on its own schedule providing much of its energy during the hours not needed by the grid, little at peak demand and, during the coldest winter and hottest summer days when demand is extreme and the wind is calm – little or nothing from the turbines. Not only is the actual output per installed capacity a miserable failure, wind is the ultimate unreliable. While fossil fuels and nuclear await our call; wind arrives on its own schedule.
The illusion that wind is “low cost” simply because the fuel arrives with no price is beyond silly. There is nothing cheap about a product that doesn’t perform. As you stated in your editorial and demonstrated numerous times, one need only look to the Danes, who have driven their energy prices so high with wind, their own people are rebelling at wind subsidies.
Finally, our security is jeopardized by the application of industrial wind in our energy mix. To buy the claim that our need for foreign oil will be reduced by the installation of wind turbines requires an Evel Knievel size leap of faith. Oil represents a small percentage of our electricity production and the claim that placing ineffective wind turbines in the energy mix will push the electric car forward thus rushing the transition from oil is ludicrous. If electric cars become a significant mode of transportation (my bet is on natural gas) their use will require dependable, on-demand fuels such as fossil and nuclear to supply the charging stations.
Little discussed, is the emergence of an important security issue. As we in the US pursue the renewable dream, Russia’s Putin, who likely will be president in 2012 and serve until 2024, has publicly stated that “nuclear energy is the only alternative to traditional energy sources.” He rejects other alternative energy approaches as “claptrap!” Russia will provide their “neighbors” with nuclear technology and continue the flow of gas and oil through an expanding network of pipelines. China is pushing all forms of energy production in its bid to surpass the US economy. The region, specifically China and Russia, is reaching levels of cooperation with energy at its core. One might be suspicious that the Chinese have delved heavily into the industrial wind market simply to set themselves in a prime position to sell product to Europe and the US, which they do successfully with their cheaper pricing structure. One should not take the Chinese seriously that they are installing wind farms as part of the effort to wean from fossil fuels. If that were true they would not be constructing fossil plants at such a remarkable pace.
It should concern our elected officials that, while we tinker with “unreliables,” our global competitors are moving full force to develop a solid base of “on demand” supply. While we spend ourselves into further debt on the illusion that we will predict and control the wind to our needs, our global competitors are competing for the mineral rights to the poles.
Here at home, we seek to replace one type of mountain top removal for another all on the promise that communities will receive a few jobs, construction crews will spend a few months in our mountains temporarily bumping up the local economy and local governments will receive additional taxes distributed from a source which relies on additional taxes and increased electric bills to survive. All too soon the jobs will disappear while the general public is basically handed back a small portion of their own money and presumably happy to have it. Foreign suppliers take continue to take advantage of our stimulus spending and renewable subsidies. In this country, the American Wind Energy Association is pleading for a Renewable Electricity Standard not to set standards for performance, health and safety, but to insure they receive even more guaranteed funding for this ineffective product.
It is necessary to increase scrutiny of wind farms. WV legislators are obligated to ask for, and publicly post actual performance of products we fund as a return for supporting industry. The public should see all subsidies, tax credit arrangements and any benefit gained by support from our tax dollars. The legislature, if failing to require such openness by, for example “maintaining the confidentiality of certain credit pricing data” raises questions to their motives to protect this industry.
All this might be more tolerable were the contraptions to actually live up to the hype. But sadly, they just don’t! It seems impossible to imagine this country diverting so much time, money and effort to prop up this outdated energy source.
It is my hope that the Charleston Daily Mail will continue its own scrutiny of industrial wind and provide the public with a much needed view from the other (unfunded) side of the discussion. There are many, very sincere individuals concerned that the favorable legislation afforded industrial wind in our region be challenged, and their voices deserve not to be drowned out by the easy access to the wind industry’s boiler plate promotion. These folks are often written off as NIMBYS, although when protecting the region from the onslaught of a destructive and ineffective product such as industrial wind, that’s not a bad thing.