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Costs of wind power

Vermonters must decide if it is worth destroying their exquisite mountains for symbolism -- because the giant wind turbines being proposed for the ridgelines won't produce much power.

Vermonters must decide if it is worth destroying their exquisite mountains for symbolism -- because the giant wind turbines being proposed for the ridgelines won't produce much power.

To wind advocates, a 30-story-high turbine on a mountaintop symbolizes independence and clean energy, the emblem of a green state.

The reality is the amount of electricity produced by wind towers -- even giant ones and lots of them -- is paltry in the larger energy picture. Even with the vast stretches of wind turbines in such states as California and Texas, wind generates only about 0.4 percent of the nation's electricity.

In Vermont, which relies on its natural, unspoiled beauty for thousands of jobs and its very identity, preservation of the state's remarkable landscape has to win out over the trickle of power that would be generated by strobe-lighted turbines on our high peaks.

Vermont uses 6 million megawatt-hours of electricity every year. IBM, Vermont's largest private employer, uses 475,000 megawatt hours annually and customers of Burlington Electric Department use 370,000 megawatt-hours.

The four 330-foot-tall turbines being proposed for East Mountain in the Northeast Kingdom would produce about 19,300 megawatt hours, according to developer Mathew Rubin. That would be about 4 percent of IBM's annual electrical needs and 0.3 percent of the state's needs.

The East Haven... [truncated due to possible copyright]  

Vermonters must decide if it is worth destroying their exquisite mountains for symbolism -- because the giant wind turbines being proposed for the ridgelines won't produce much power.

To wind advocates, a 30-story-high turbine on a mountaintop symbolizes independence and clean energy, the emblem of a green state.

The reality is the amount of electricity produced by wind towers -- even giant ones and lots of them -- is paltry in the larger energy picture. Even with the vast stretches of wind turbines in such states as California and Texas, wind generates only about 0.4 percent of the nation's electricity.

In Vermont, which relies on its natural, unspoiled beauty for thousands of jobs and its very identity, preservation of the state's remarkable landscape has to win out over the trickle of power that would be generated by strobe-lighted turbines on our high peaks.

Vermont uses 6 million megawatt-hours of electricity every year. IBM, Vermont's largest private employer, uses 475,000 megawatt hours annually and customers of Burlington Electric Department use 370,000 megawatt-hours.

The four 330-foot-tall turbines being proposed for East Mountain in the Northeast Kingdom would produce about 19,300 megawatt hours, according to developer Mathew Rubin. That would be about 4 percent of IBM's annual electrical needs and 0.3 percent of the state's needs.

The East Haven Windfarm proposal is for a relatively small "demonstration project." But even if the state were to cover its ridges with more than 270 turbines, as advocated by some environmental groups, wind power would still only supply about 15 percent of the state's electricity. It is not worth it.

The idea of harnessing the wind to provide electricity has its appeal. Farms not long ago relied on individual windmills, and small-scale turbines have their place in Vermont today. But the intrusive monoliths that would be thrust on the Northeast Kingdom and other sites around the state are way out of scale. Wind power has the potential to overwhelm this state.

Tuesday, a Public Service Board hearing resumes into Rubin's East Mountain project. This is an important inquiry, the first to deal with a commercial wind development since Vermont's only wind project was built in 1997 in Searsburg near Bennington. Developers, eager to move forward with at least 100 high-elevation turbines, are watching closely.

It is a technical hearing, but the big questions about aesthetics and the impact on the environment and wildlife hang over the hearing room. These are questions that must be answered for the people of Vermont.

Tourists from around the world come to this state to experience the environment and escape industry and sameness. Turbines on our mountains would take that away.

Perhaps we don't appreciate what we have. Perhaps we should look to other places that have already lost their landscape to giant wind turbines.

In an article entitled "Welsh Wind Monsters," published in July in Ninnau, the North American Welsh Newspaper, author Dr. John R. Etherington writes that the United Kingdom has more than 1,000 wind turbines which generate 0.4 percent of the electricity, and more than one-third of the turbines are in his home -- tiny, mountainous Wales.

With the permission of the author, here is an excerpt: "Wales was an early target of U.K. wind power. ... These early assaults on the landscape succeeded because few people realized just how aesthetically destructive the machines would be.

"It is not just their enormous size, but their continual twitching as hilltop crucifixions. They draw the eye with morbid fascination, even from many miles away. On a sunlit day they glint and flicker and on a gray day, in closer views, gigantic blades swoop down out of the mountain mist arousing those adrenal responses that protected our ancestors from leaping predators. They are distinctly unpleasant machines."

We still have the chance to spare Vermont. Wind turbines on our mountaintops -- instead of being a symbol of green -- would remind us daily of the state's disgraceful lack of foresight, a careless abandonment of the people's long-held resolve to protect Vermont from reckless development and wrong-headed ideas in the name of progress.

Let's refuse to allow giant wind turbines on our ridgelines.

Wind hearings

A Public Service Board hearing into East Haven Windfarm's proposed development resumes Tuesday at 1 p.m. at the Public Service Board Hearing Room, Third Floor, Chittenden Bank Building, 112 State St., Montpelier. For more editorials and stories on wind power, go to www.burlingtonfreepress.com.


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MAR 26 2005
http://www.windaction.org/posts/272-costs-of-wind-power
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