USA and New York
In the lawsuit, the residents claim that the noise produced by the turbines on the 74-megawatt facility causes headaches and disturbs their sleep. Some of the residents say they have abandoned their homes because of the noise. Others are claiming that the project has hurt their property values. The key paragraph in the suit says that the defendants "failed to adequately assess the effect that the wind turbines would have on neighboring properties including..."
[Windfall is] a reminder that whenever a virtually unregulated industry (as in this case) offers capitalists a chance to defraud the little guy and make a bundle, they'll do it. It's a tantalizing case study that suggests ordinary people still have the power to steer a course between faceless bureaucracies and greedy capitalists, but only just - and only if they can find a way to overcome their differences and work together.
"Windfall" left me disheartened. I thought wind energy was something I could believe in. This film suggests it's just another corporate flim-flam game. Of course, the documentary could be mistaken, and there are no doubt platoons of lawyers, lobbyists and publicists to say so. How many of them live on wind farms?
The economic reality of wind-farm development has always relied on two things: government subsidies in some form, and a growing cost of electricity. In the middle of this decade, both federal and state governments were pushing financial aid to alternative energy projects, and because its technology is largely developed, wind power was a darling of the renewable energy crowd. ...Now, all of that is either gone or disappearing.
The wind industry will no doubt try to dismiss Windfall as a piece of anti-"green" energy agitprop. But the controversies over wind energy development that Israel exposes in Meredith are not going away. Indeed, as the wind industry continues its breakneck expansion here in the US and around the world, the number of controversies like the one in Meredith, along with the number of mad-as-hell landowners like Charlie Porter, will only increase.
There is a David and Goliath aspect to these battles between heavily funded corporate interests and citizen activists who come out and stand in the rain with home-made signs. Will the NIMBY's - a designation one should wear with pride - really be able to do something, as they did in Meredith, or will the forces of darkness masking as environmental crusaders prevail? Tune in.
The heated debate in Jefferson County over the location of a proposed transmission line carrying power from a wind farm on Galloo Island is emblematic of the problem confronting wind power development nationwide.
Building the wind farms, as controversial as they may be, is one thing; getting the power to the electric grid is another. And that is proving to be the weak link in the push for wind as an alternate energy source.
AWEA CEO Denise Bode seems mildly disappointed by the numbers. Citing a slowdown in manufacturing of turbine components, Bode described the industry as "swimming upstream."
The contrary current may get even stronger if my recent visit to upstate New York is any indication. Arriving for a family visit, I found that I'd landed in the midst of an uproar over wind farms, both built and proposed.
You may not be aware of this but across America each year thousands of birds of prey are killed at wind farms. The public perception of wind turbines is that of slow moving blades turning in the wind on a ridge line. The power and danger of the prop design wind turbine is not well understood. Probably the hardest aspect for the public to grasp is that of "tip speed." The killer of eagles and all birds at wind farms is blade tip speed. This is what kills and this is what the wind industry does not publicize or put in their environmental documents.
Tufts economist, Gilbert Metcalf ran the numbers and found that the effective tax rate for wind is a minus 163.8 percent. In other words, every dollar a wind firm spends is subsidized to the tune of 64 cents from the government -- creating a free lunch for the Big Wind LLCs, and forcing taxpayers to pay for what is nothing less than a huge corporate welfare feeding frenzy.
In spite of the fact that "America is now No. 1 in Wind Power" (as Invenergy boasted in a recent propaganda piece it sent out to Orangeville residents), over 25,000 industrial wind turbines later in the U.S., wind still contributes less than 1 percent of our nation's electricity.
[W]e are being urged to support the construction of massive wind turbine farms all over this country. Why are these developers so eager to build these massive inefficient industrial complexes? Because our state and federal government are offering lucrative tax incentives to build them. Where do you suppose this money will come from? The taxpayers.
These international companies hire public relations firms to market their product. They love to use buzzwords such as: green energy, renewable energy, carbon exchange, global warming, etc., to lure you into thinking wind turbines are the answer to our energy needs.
But had Bloomberg done the math, he'd know that even if Manhattan were topped by a solid block of windmills, they wouldn't come close to meeting the city's power consumption.
Wind power has its place as a power source, but it's not a place at the top. It provides less than one-tenth of 1 percent of U.S. electricity because it costs more to produce. The wind may be free, but the equipment is expensive.
The costs are even dearer if you follow Bloomberg's other suggestion, namely floating windmills in the middle of the ocean.
How many windmills does it take to meet the power needs of a typical city, much less New York City?
I continue to be amazed, and alarmed, by decisions being made in regard to industrial wind installations without the foreign-owned developers first being required to provide proof of all of their claims. It has always been my understanding that good common sense business practices dictate that responsible persons first demand proof of claims being made before jumping into business with anyone, and then seek competitive bids in order to assure the absolute best service, goods, and financial agreement possible for the person, community, and/or entire region entering into these business deals. To date, neither has happened in the case of industrial wind energy development in Western New York. Sadly, what we are left with is the looming industrialization of our countrysides, the apparent indifference as to whether wind actually does what it claims or not, and many other unanswered questions.
There are so many other questions out there that need national answers. Are biofuels in general really worth the cost to the environment and the economy? Does wind power cut it when you compare the rising cost of oil with the construction costs of a large scale wind farm? Can we make more effective use of photovoltaics, lowering the price and producing solar energy in bulk for the grid? And, how much do we need to spend on energy efficiency to make it really effective without blowing a gaping hole in our gas and electric bills?
This nation will be better served if our candidates spend more time proposing the development of a national Green Energy Agenda. Simply saying you're Green doesn't make it so.
Robert Sullivan's review of "Cape Wind" (June 17), about the battle over the development of a wind farm off the coast of Cape Cod, made me wonder why a majority of Cape Cod and island residents would oppose a project that promised them clean, cheap, non polluting renewable energy at a time when everyone is focused on making America energy independent. You can start with the fact that this project won't deliver lowercost energy because offshore wind is by far the most expensive form of energy. You can then wonder what all the fuss is about when you understand that at its optimum operating efficiency (an average of 170 megawatts, according to Cape Wind's own Web site, and not the 468 megawatts its proponents claim) it would produce just 1 percent of New England's electricity supply. And because wind energy is inherently unpredictable (it depends on when the wind is blowing and cannot be stored), fossil fuel plants would always have to be online as reserve power to keep our lights on. Concluding his review, Sullivan mentions the growing opposition to a wind farm proposal off the coast of Long Island. This opposition is bolstered by the economic facts of the project - according to previously confidential documents obtained by Newsday, energy from the proposed wind plant would cost Long Island ratepayers as much as double the wholesale cost of energy.
So why, apart from the well-intentioned New York state legislators, who want renewable energy but don't understand the costs and inefficiencies, should the beautiful Catskills await the new industrial rapists? The claim of new jobs doesn't stand any scrutiny, since teams of contractors will be brought into the area and taken out again after the turbines have gone up.
No, the real reason that Goldman Sachs and other big mecantile financiers are backing the giant windmills are good old-fashioned tax breaks. The US government permits a triple depreciation for tax purposes on wind turbines, and those with enough capital can invest in tax shelters that use these depreciations to remove the tax on profits for other ventures.
In the words of one Catskills campaigner: "If I had the ability to invest $1 million in a wind farm, I could avoid paying taxes on another $2 million in profits from some other venture. Yup, that would save me half a million in taxes. Hmmmmm".
Maybe, when it comes to some of the solutions offered by well-intentioned environmentalists, it would be wise to examine the motivation of some of the lobbyists who profess to support them. It's still not too late for the Catskill Mountains.
The commercial wind industry is making a mockery of environmental and renewable energy advocates who support them. They're often ruthless in their local activities, and will no doubt disappear long before we can hold them accountable for their indiscretions against us and against the planet. Where, I wonder, will Invenergy and others like them be when society realizes the folly of it all?