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Cold Wind Blowing in Lyman

"...Merits of the zoning case aside, there are some important facts about Wind Energy that simply cannot be ignored. Wind has long been promoted as a viable, clean alternative to fossil fuels and people have been conditioned to unconditionally embrace it. In fact, the moral justification for wind as the answer to greenhouse emissions has pitted conservationist against conservationist. And this fight has shamelessly been fueled by the misinformation on wind that the wind developers and their advocates promote."

Last July, the Littleton Courier did an excellent job chronicling the story of UPC Wind Partners’s effort to secure a variance to erect an anemometer atop Gardner Mountain.

Placement of the anemometer, an industrial device designed to measure wind speeds and direction, is the first step in the construction of a massive industrial wind power plant that would stretch across two miles of ridgeline bordering Monroe and Lyman. Lyman’s Zoning Board of Adjustment disapproved the variance. UPC is reported to be back, submitting a new application for variance.

Merits of the zoning case aside, there are some important facts about Wind Energy that simply cannot be ignored. Wind has long been promoted as a viable, clean alternative to fossil fuels and people have been conditioned to unconditionally embrace it. In fact, the moral justification for wind as the answer to greenhouse emissions has pitted conservationist against conservationist. And this fight has shamelessly been fueled by the misinformation on wind that the wind developers and their advocates promoted.

As the US, and the East Coast in particular gains experience with this industry, some basic truths have emerged about wind energy that everyone should know before accepting the towers as an inevitable part of the landscape.

Energy experts recommend communities account for the true costs and benefits of wind energy.

US energy consumption has nearly tripled between the years of 1950 and 2000 and the US Energy Information Administration, part of the Department of Energy, project growth in consumption by another 1/3 by the year 2025.

Despite efforts by the US and state governments to mandate use of renewables, especially wind, solar, geothermal etc., all these energy sources combined represented less than 1% of our energy in 2000 and are projected to supply less than 2% come 2025 – and of these renewables, wind is the smallest and least efficient source.

The reasons why wind power does not contribute more to the US energy portfolio has little to do with the difficulties of displacing an entrenched fossil fuel based industry.

Rather, the problems lie with Wind itself. The massive wind towers over 320 feet in height and weighing 500 tons apiece (including concrete foundations) produce very little electricity. There are over 20,000 wind turbines standing on thousands of acres in 30 states in the US. The majority of these were built in California during the 1980s in response to generous federal tax credits. Many of these towers are now abandoned and rusting. Those operating today produce less than ½ of 1% of the electricity produced in the US.

Wind energy is unreliable. Wind turbines produce electricity only when the wind is blowing, and within the right speed range, usually between 8 and 56 mph, with optimum capacity at 33 mph. Since output is intermittent and largely unpredictable, the power produced has less value than more reliable sources.

Wind developers typically overstate how emission-free” wind turbines are. Since back up energy sources will always be required as part of a wind energy package, the emissions of those sources must be figured into the mix.

Even then the savings are insignificant. According to the New Hampshire OEP Energy Plan, a 25 MW Wind Plant like proposed in Lyman would have a negligible effect on the total annual CO2 greenhouse gas emissions from the state of NH, just 0.06%.

For a power source that is unreliable and offers limited saving on greenhouse gases, wind carries a HUGE footprint. When was the last time you saw a power plant that required a 70 acre footprint along a 2 mile stretch?

Also consider the significant negative impacts wind facilities can have on the environment, property values, and the potential hazards to health and safety. Among the adverse impacts are noise, bird kills, disruptions to wildlife corridors and bird migration paths, the destruction of view- sheds, the aircraft warning lights, strobe-like blade flicker, and the lowering of property values located near the huge structures. If the folks of Lyman hope to hunt on Gardner Mountain, they can expect the abundance of wildlife to be diminished if the noisy towers are allowed to go online.

Wind developers like to emphasize the economic opportunities available to a community where a plant is targeted. And this seems to be a persuasive argument in Lyman. But there is an economic reality that citizens are not told. For one, most of the jobs during construction period (which lasts a few months) are filled by imported workers. Only a handfull of permanent jobs would be available once the facility goes online.

The primary motivation for companies to build wind plants is tax avoidance,; NOT the environmental and energy benefits. Developers take advantage of accelerated depreciation programs at the federal (and in some cases at the state level). Within 5 years the facilities have little value on the books, as huge amounts of cost are shifted from the wind facility owners to ordinary taxpayers and electric customers. Communities that expect a continuous stream of revenue from a wind facility should be aware of the depreciation program. It may only be a few years after coming online before a developer requests a rebate on the local taxes paid. And worse, since the tax benefits are front loaded, there is great incentive for wind plant owners to sell or abandon the facilities should performance degrade or if maintenance costs become too high.

Simply put, there are great risks to a community that becomes dependent on the ideal of Wind power rather than the realities.

Gardner Mountain is not the only ridgeline in North Country that has been targeted by wind developers. It is essential for New Hampshire citizens to stand up and demand that our federal, state, and local governments hold the wind developers accountable.

SEP 8 2004
http://www.windaction.org/posts/317-cold-wind-blowing-in-lyman
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