WindAction Editorials

Turbine safety risks at Barrington, RI high school

Last month, Barrington, RI voters approved plans to fund and erect a $2.4 million wind turbine to power the local high school. Town leaders anticipate the 600 KW turbine to supply a substantial portion of the school's energy demand. Windaction.org tried to determine a cost breakdown, expected electric generation, and suggested payback period but documentation on the Town's website showed numbers to be inconsistent and difficult to reconcile. For example, documents put the turbine cost at $1.4 million installed with published annual capacity factors varying between 19% and 25%. Further, no wind studies were done to gauge whether the marginal area winds meshed with periods of high demand.
24 Jun 2008

Wind wrongs in Roxbury, Maine

Independence Wind, LLC which includes Former Maine Governor Angus King as a principal, is seeking to build a 50 megawatt wind energy facility in rural Roxbury, Maine. King's authority to build the project is governed by a poorly-written zoning amendment rushed to the voters last March. The amendment permits industrial wind turbines, but establishes no setback buffers, noise limits, or other requirements necessary to protect the residents and real property from the large-scale development.
16 Jun 2008

Wind turbine noise impacts on health

Last August, DeWayne and Elaine Wilkie purchased a home in Jefferson County in upstate New York, moving back to the area of Mrs. Wilkie's youth. They decided to move for medical reasons, as the constant noise and attendant vibrations surrounding Mr. Wilkie in his former community, Fort Lauderdale, FL, might negatively affect the pace maker/defibrillator inserted in his chest.
2 Jun 2008

Wind Power and Influence in the Press

Giant utility, Florida Power and Light (FPL) is proposing a six-turbine wind energy facility for Hutchinson Island, a barrier island off the east coast of Florida. The project site is home to about 180 species of birds and animals including 36 species that are endangered or threatened. The proposal has been met with considerable opposition by area residents and environmental groups . In a May 19 letter to St. Lucie County (FL) Board of County Commissioners, the National Resources Defense Council (NRDC) expressed its apparent support for the FPL wind project. An article about the letter in Scripps Treasure Coast Newspaper was originally headlined "Turbine plan gains support from National Resources Defense Council".
26 May 2008

DOE's 20% "Vision Thing"

Last week, the U.S. Department of Energy released a report announcing wind power can provide up to 20 percent of the nation's total electricity needs by 2030. Based on projected increases in electricity demand, the report states wind power would reach 300,000 megawatts by 2030, a 290,000 MW increase over that installed in the U.S. by the end 2006. To achieve these numbers, over 7,000 industrial wind turbines would need to be erected across the country every year for the next 23 years. The report labels the 20% vision "ambitious", but "feasible".
20 May 2008

Wind energy and eminent domain

Last month, at a special meeting of the Prattsburgh, NY town board, the board voted 3-2 to adopt a resolution authorizing commencement of eminent domain proceedings against landowners unwilling to sign easement agreements with UPC Wind (recently renamed First Wind), a private wind energy developer seeking to erect 36 turbines across dozens of private parcels in town. Following a presentation by UPC on the project plan, the board voted on the resolution. Windaction.org was told that public input from the nearly 100 attendees was explicitly prohibited. An unidentified uniformed individual was on hand to subdue anyone trying to speak.
15 May 2008

Wind energy and road development

Wind energy developers commonly downplay the impact of road construction through proposed project areas. For most ridgeline project proposals which Windaction.org has reviewed, applicants quietly state that roads will only require 11-meters (36-feet) width during construction, and quickly add that these areas will be allowed to re-vegetate back to 16-foot mountain trails. Yet, a reading of the actual road plans tells a very different story, as do actual results at completed developments.
12 May 2008

US DOE influences local wind energy development

Wind Powering America (WPA), part of the U.S. Department of Energy, is a governmental wind energy advocacy group committed to increasing the use of wind energy in the United States through funding of pro-wind non-profit organizations across the country. WPA released its 2007 annual summary report where it details its advocacy efforts and accomplishments by State.  As part of this effort, Mr. Gary Seifert of DOE's Idaho National Laboratory Wind Power program and Wind Powering America travels the mountain states of Idaho and Montana advocating for large-scale wind development. Earlier this month Mr. Seifert -- "representing himself as a neutral party" -- showed up at public hearings held by the local Bingham County Zoning and Planning Commission. The proposal before the commission entails building 81 miles of road and erecting 150 wind turbines across the expansive Wolverine Canyon, an area designated as a Natural Resource/Agriculture district that does not permit industrial, energy-producing structures.
28 Apr 2008

Federal energy subsidies for wind

This month, the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) released an important analysis on Federal energy subsidies with a focus on electricity production. The total Federal energy-specific subsidies to all forms of energy was estimated at $16.6 billion for fiscal year 2007, more than double the estimated amounts in 1999 as calculated in 2007 dollars. Windaction.org was most interested in Table ES5 of the Executive Summary which itemizes subsidies paid per fuel-type as measured in megawatt hours (MWh) of generation. A subset of the table is listed below:
22 Apr 2008

Wind developer declares "War to end all wars" on locals

Within two days of the vote by Wisconsin's Calumet County Board of Supervisors to amend its wind energy ordinance governing safe placement of commercial turbines, Midwest Wind Energy's Tom Swierczewski distributed a memorandum to select landowners in the county in which he laid out his strategy to bypass local authorities and file an application with the State's Public Service Commission (PSC). According to Midwest's website, the company has now decided to nearly double the Stony Brook Wind Farm proposal in order to meet the State's minimum requirement of 100+ megawatts for the PSC to assert jurisdiction.
14 Apr 2008

Voices of Mars Hill

The American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) and wind energy developers insist a modern wind facility at a distance of 1000 feet produces a sound no louder than a kitchen refrigerator. This comparison is recited over and over in public hearings throughout the U.S. and worldwide. The residents of Mars Hill, Maine have pages of documentation from UPC Wind highlighting the developer's assertion that the 42MW, 28-turbine facility would not produce noise.
7 Apr 2008

Following land use regulations

Throughout much of the United States (and other countries) siting of wind energy development is governed primarily through local land use regulations as adopted by a host town or county. In jurisdictions with no regulations, there are no rules regarding height limitations, setback buffer requirements, noise enforcement guidelines, or other standards necessary to ensure the safe placement and operation of the turbines. Even with regulations in place, rural towns rarely have experience in large-scale developments, and their land use boards often fail to exercise the full scope of their authority to regulate wind towers.
31 Mar 2008

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