General and California
Erecting thousands of wind turbines along a major migration corridor would seemingly fail a fundamental requirement for bird-safe wind energy: correct siting. A World Bank document about one of the Tehuantepec wind farms states "avian impacts are not expected to be significant," but a case study of another wind farm admits "concern about the potential cumulative impacts of the many additional wind farms planned in the same general area."
The homeowners who are expected to host the power lines do not wish them, nor the access road. The homeowners and business owners of Ferndale just showed they don't want the project either.
Shell Oil representatives went around to the media pitching their deal. Why? Because they know they don't have community support in Ferndale nor much support in Rio Dell.
Is wind power a viable alternative to low-cost fossil fuels? Consider this: relying on windmills to reduce greenhouse gas emissions not only is expensive and ironically harmful to the environment, it won't accomplish its main goal. ...The inefficient "cycling" of generators made to run continuously creates more emissions than running constantly.
Energy: The governor wants to carpet the desert with solar panels. The senator says it will destroy the ecosystem. The battle between environmentalists and conservationists is one of alternative energy's big drawbacks.
Why has California basically stalled, while other states have forged ahead? I put the question to V. John White, executive director of the Center for Energy Efficiency and Renewable Technologies in Sacramento.
First, Mr. White pointed out, California was the early leader in wind power - it installed several big projects in the 1980s (one of which, Altamont Pass, has been criticized for harming birds). Not much has happened since, however, and the fact that California moved early "means that the easy projects are already in," said Mr. White.
The decision to build the Tranquillon Ridge Wind Farm by county planners was made much too quickly and with the near exclusion of input from Lompoc. Mark these concerns: ...
Anyone who was paying attention this summer knows how unreliable windmills are, because 90 percent of the time, they just sat there motionless. ...Local media always have a lot of coverage when windmills are triumphantly approved after the usual protests by affected residents. But they never say a word about how often, or what percentage of actual time they are completely and worthlessly still. According to local windmill developers, they power thousands of homes. This summer they didn't.
[T]he developer has offered a contribution to Burney to ensure the town profits from the dramatic change to its landscape. Ideas have included a community hall, a recreation district and town beautification. The developer in July outlined donations to a Burney community fund and an educational foundation ...It sounds promising, but the last-minute scramble doesn't instill confidence in the county's due diligence. And springing details at the Planning Commission meeting doesn't give the town time for a fully informed debate about the pros and cons.
Expanding "alternative" energies would not be alternative if they worked ("Expand energy alternatives," June 30), they would be just energy sources. ...If solar, wind power and biofuels are so great, they would not need the massive, taxpayer funded subsidies they now enjoy.
In the area of fossil fuel emissions, emotions seem to have obliterated logic. Pollution control laws have brought about necessary changes, much like that of sewage control laws.
Virginia and California are the only two states that must buy electricity from other states at the present time. Therefore, when the crunch of limited supply comes, as it will, these two states will be the first to suffer.
The experts looking into alternate energy sources are coming up with dismal solutions.
This is a peculiar project from the standpoint of its effect on the public. While we suspect that some environmental activists, those who favor the greening of the planet, will be in favor, at least as many will be opposed because of their perceived belief that the horizon-dominating structures will be unsightly at best, and ugly at worst. And beyond that, pretty much anyone who likes the outdoors and spends time there will see the project as an in intrusion on their right to enjoy unblemished landscapes. ...The turbines, of course, would be instantly recognizable for what they are; thousands of such structures are visible all over the central and southern parts of California, mostly in the Tehachapi and Palm Springs region.
Will that visual impact doom the project? Possibly. The courts, last resort of Those Opposed To Anything and Everything, haven't yet been visited on the issue. But we suspect they will be.
Although politically popular, technologies such as wind and solar carry heavy liabilities in addition to being two to five times more expensive than average nuclear, coal or gas:
-- These technologies are intermittent and volatile - every megawatt will require another megawatt of baseload resources to backfill, support and regulate it.
-- They are small-scale and land-intensive - replacing one plant's output (Diablo Canyon) with solar would require more than 25 times the entire U.S. solar output and would require at least 40 square miles of solar panels.
-- They require significant new transmission lines across environmentally sensitive and scenic parts of the state.
Wind power is cheap, but especially capricious in California's rugged terrain and varied climate. Wind turbines spinning like mad during a cool summer's night do little for California's electricity needs while motionless turbine blades on a hot day require the firing up of massive natural gas "peaker" plants that make up for the lack of wind power at a huge cost in fuel and CO2 emissions. And for all of wind's supposed "green" advantages, it takes about 10 times the steel and cement for wind to produce the equivalent amount of power as nuclear does 24/7, even on a calm day.
I think that somewhere along the line, we the payees need to get a refund from someone for a failed experiment called wind power before our bills are quadrupled again.
But as the number of turbines grew into the hundreds and then the thousands, concern arose among residents, adjacent landowners and environmental groups.
Wind power can be a viable method of producing electricity, and it is widely considered a clean, safe and reliable source of energy. However, it does have adverse effects in locations such as the San Gorgonio Pass, including the loss of developable land and danger to local wildlife.
Wind-energy companies claim that they only use a fraction of the land, leaving the rest as open space. But in essence, modern wind-energy projects involve massive industrialization of undeveloped land. The newer turbines that have been installed in recent years are large, typically 100 meters (330 feet) tall. Indeed, some developers of future projects are proposing turbines that are 125 meters (410 feet) tall.
Local homeowners and adjacent landowners are the ones immediately affected, and they are now very active in opposing any new wind-energy projects. Other opposing parties are residential developers and the city of Desert Hot Springs. The latter sees a tangible loss of developable land south of Pierson Boulevard, an area the city is considering annexing for future growth.
In addition to the impact wind-energy projects have on land, the structures cause problems in the air as well. The tips of the turbine blades reach speeds of 200 mph to 300 mph, depending on wind speed, which can harm animals.
As a result of studies in other areas, such as Altamont Pass near San Francisco, we know that wind-energy systems cause deaths among many species, particularly raptors, owls and other migratory birds. A major concern for environmental groups, including The Sierra Club, is bird and bat mortality.
It may be the time to consider how wind farms fit in with the values which the Wilderness Society represents. If the Society is prepared to go through such a prolonged and worthy fight to save the forests, with all the financial and emotional costs involved, it would be consistent to regard wind farm development with the same scepticism with which it regards the wood chip industry. Both are potent adversaries to the values which I hope we share.
The potential for growth, most analysts argue, is clear. But bottlenecks and political setbacks, not to mention technological glitches, will create many bumps in the road ahead. Indeed, fears that the most euphoric investors were overlooking such obstacles seem to have contributed to a sharp fall in clean-energy stocks earlier this year-although they have since recovered much of the lost ground. Such jitters caused several green-energy firms to cancel planned flotations.
“There’s legitimate debate about a couple of segments,” says Keith Raab, boss of Cleantech Venture Network. In some instances, valuations accorded to firms with no profits-and little chance of making any soon-were reminiscent of the excesses of the dotcom bubble. As Douglas Lloyd, of Venture Business Research, puts it, “There’s too much money chasing too few opportunities. How is it possible that this many solar companies are going to succeed? They’re not.”
The temptation for Silicon Valley voters would be to ignore the intricacies of the proposition and simply decide a ``yes'' vote would send a message to oil companies and to the world that California intends to lead the way in developing alternative energy sources.
That would be a mistake. We strongly support the concept of Silicon Valley entrepreneurs helping California research and develop technological breakthroughs that will eliminate our foolhardy reliance on Middle East oil. But two fundamental flaws in Proposition 87 force us to recommend a ``no'' vote.