In the past year, several Wisconsin townships and counties established study committees to evaluate and recommend local ordinances for smaller renewable energy projects (as provided by State law for projects under 100 megawatts). Having carefully studied the State's draft Model Wind Ordinance, these committees found the Model to have serious flaws and unfounded recommendations, as revealed in this video segment.
Last month, Oregon's Occupational Safety and Health Division (OR-OSHA) released its report on the wind turbine collapse at the Klondike III wind facility that left one worker dead and another seriously injured. Oregon OSHA fined Siemens Power Generation Inc. $10,500 for safety violations and multiple errors in Seimens' training and procedures.
Last Friday, a Vestas wind turbine in Denmark was caught on video blowing apart in high wind conditions. It's been reported that the braking system failed on the unit causing the blades to speed out of control.
A retired EMS pilot in Wisconsin was interviewed by the Calumet County ad hoc committee regarding emergency medical transport within the vicinity of industrial wind turbines. The pilot substantiates several warnings including:
Property owners in Oswego County, NY were notified last week that Babcock & Brown, an Australia wind developer with twenty wind farms in the U.S., could execute eminent domain to secure a 150-foot wide swath across private land needed to erect transmission lines to a proposed wind project on Galloo Island.
The Recorder newspaper published an interview with Judge Theodore Morrison, retiring member of Virginia's State Corporation Commission (SCC). Judge Morrison served on the Commission when it reviewed and conditionally permitted the controversial 39-megawatt Highland New Wind Development wind energy facility proposed for Allegheny Mountain in Virginia. Judge Morrison's comments are worth noting given the aggressive campaign now underway by the wind industry to pressure Congress into renewing the Federal Production Tax Credit (PTC) as part of the Economic Stimulus Package.
The wind industry has continuously lobbied Congress to enact a long-term extension of the federal production tax credit (PTC) since the incentive was first introduced in 1992. The PTC now represents up to one-third the return on a given wind farm. While it's true that fossil fuel generation also receives federal subsidies, when measured on a per kilowatt hour basis, wind is paid significantly more for a very minor percentage of overall generation (1% of U.S. consumption).
The USDA's Forest Service proposes to make sweeping changes to its internal directives governing wildlife monitoring and special use authorizations. These proposed changes will greatly facilitate the siting of industrial wind turbines within our National Forests. The new language contained in the Forest Service Manual section now lists the Forest Service's #1 goal as: "Authorize wind energy facilities on National Forest System lands to help meet the nation's energy needs." The Service has declared these proposed revisions as "non-significant", thus exempting this policy action from National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) requirements, i.e. no Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) needed to evaluate the cumulative impacts of these extensive policy revisions. Please write to insist that the Forest Service not finalize these proposed revisions until they complete an EIS - as should be required pursuant to the letter and intent of NEPA.
Membership of Wind Turbine Guidelines Advisory Committee Violates FACA
Wind energy developers are increasingly benefiting from local town officers who have a conflict of interest in seeing developments built on their own lands. News of such conflicts emerged during the past year from communities in New York, Ohio, Wisconsin, and elsewhere. In the town of Burke NY, two town board members voting on a proposed Wind Energy Facilities Law were exposed as clearly having "direct pecuniary interest in the placement of wind towers", according to a letter filed by an attorney representing citizens of Burke. The letter asserts "Town Board member Arnold Lobdell is a party to an Option and Lease Agreement with Jericho Rise Wind Farm, LLC.," and "Town Board member David Vincent has entered into an Easement Agreement with Noble Chateaugay Windpark LLC." (see agreements) Such conflict is destructive to the democratic process and should not be tolerated anywhere in the United States of America. In the case of Burke NY, WindAction.org and others recommends swift action be taken by the Town Board to disavow the draft wind energy facilities law, and re-initiate the effort from scratch with the conflicted members removed from the process.
Methodology questioned by experts; UPC Wind project may be out of compliance with Maine State permit conditions
The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) aired this segment on the dramatic decline in bird populations across North America.
More than half the states in the U.S. have adopted a Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS) requiring a percentage of electric generation come from renewable sources. A Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory study found that 62% of the renewable generation needed to satisfy these RPSs will come from wind, with Texas and the Midwestern States seeing 94% compliance coming from wind energy.
Robert Bradley, in his seminal policy paper entitled Renewable Energy Not Cheap, Not "Green", discusses the Department of Energy's 1976 study which estimated wind power could supply nearly 20% of the U.S. electricity by 1995. By 1996, wind represented 1/10th of 1 percent share with clear signs the market was in decline. In 1997 Enron entered the picture with its purchase of Zond, one of the largest developers of wind generation. This, coupled with new state and federal restructuring initiatives that funneled billions into new subsidies for wind and other renewables, resuscitated the near-dead market.
Two different, but very similar news reports (CBS News: Winds of change blow in Texas and NPR: Winds of change blow into Roscoe, Texas) were published in the last two weeks. Each highlighted the economic opportunities resulting from wind energy development in West Texas and the revitalization of otherwise land-rich, resource-poor communities of the State. CBS termed it a "wind energy gold rush".
The U.S. Department of Energy's Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE) has undertaken a study to determine the impact of utility-scale wind turbines on property values. In June 2007, the preliminary results of the study presented at the American Wind Energy Association's (AWEA) annual meeting showed "No effects found" on property values. The study analyzes four sites, including areas in Somerset County and Wayne County, PA which are already highly-industrialized including active and reclaimed strip mines. This is in direct contrast with target sites like rural Lempster, NH not included in the EERE study. The topographical map of Lempster reveals a site with no industrialization and located at least fifteen miles from the nearest interstate highway. While the final EERE report is not due until 2008, the preliminary results rushed to the AWEA annual meeting appear suspect, insufficiently sampled, and overly generalized.
The transmission and distribution grid system within the United States loses approximately 7.2% of the energy to resistance. Given 500,000 MW of energy available on the U.S. grid system, up to 36,000 MW may be lost, representing nearly 3x the installed capacity of wind in the country. If wind facilities are built far from load centers and the energy delivered via an extensive transmission network, it's reasonable to ask how much of this energy actually reaches its destination.
The New York Times
Several important studies pertaining to noise and utility-scale wind turbines are listed below. Others can by found on www.windaction.org by searching on the keyword 'noise'.