Windaction.org has been tracking a number of controversial wind energy stories that we will be commenting on in future Wind Alert! newsletters.
WindAction Editorials filed under General
It is fundamental that the benefits of any proposed wind energy facility outweigh its impacts. Since there are no intrinsic environmental benefits to erecting wind turbines on ridge lines, prairie lands or coastal areas, the benefits of wind-powered electricity are expected to accrue through the displacement of fossil fuel generation, and the offsetting of associated CO2 emissions and other pollutants.
Last June, Windaction.org commented on the US Department of Energy's report "20% Wind Power by 2030" touting wind power could supply 20% of the US electricity needs by 2030. Buried in the document was a remarkable admission - that wind power cannot replace the need for many "capacity resources", i.e. those generators that supply electricity during periods when we need it. In other words, while utilities are obligated to provide electricity, instantaneously, when customers demand it, wind does not, nor can it ever, do that.
Pressure is mounting in the United States to construct new and extensive transmission lines necessary to transport wind energy from remote areas where it's generated to markets where it will be consumed. Power lines hundreds of miles long are proposed to criss-cross the country costing billions of dollars. While wind generators are willing to commit to building projects (heavily subsidized by federal tax credits), the cost of new transmission is expected to be borne by ratepayers and taxpayers in the different regions.
The Massachusetts Technology Collaborative (MTC), a quasi-public agency tasked with encouraging renewable energy technologies in the State, is funded through a monthly systems benefit surcharge to all electricity users statewide. MTC has spent millions speculating on wind proposals, including $250k on the out-of-state Redington, Maine project which was denied a permit.
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".
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 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.
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.
According to California ISO's Integration of Renewable Resources draft report (http://www.windaction.org/documents/12510) wind generation on a typical summer day peaks during periods of low demand and is at its lowest production levels when electricity demand is high.
An analysis of grid interconnection requests within U.S. portions of North America reveals that proposed wind energy development as of October 2007 totals up to 164,900 MW. This information, based on data compiled within the last two months, is regionally distributed as follows (rounded to the nearest 100 MW):
By the end of 2005, Germany's installed capacity of wind energy connected to the grid represented 18,300MW. The control area for transmission operator E.ON Netz GmbH included close to 7,600MW or 41% of the total installed. According to E.ON Netz's report entitled Data and Facts Relating to Wind Power in Germany (see: http://www.windaction.org/documents/11871), wind availability for 2005 was below average. This helps explain why the average wind power feed-in within E.ON's control area for that year was only 1327 MW, or 18%. The lowest feed-in for 2005 was 8MW (0.1% capacity) and occurred just after noon on May 5, 2005.
The Green-e Renewable Energy Program's seal of approval is provided to all wind and other renewable energy projects which adhere to a set of national standards and pay a fee. According to the Green-e website ( http://www.green-e.org/ ), "The Green-e logo is the most trusted symbol in America for high quality renewable energy. The logo is backed by the Green-e program, the nation's leading independent certification and verification program from the Center for Resource Solutions." However, the only "environmental" criteria used to determine whether a renewable energy project qualifies for "green-e" certification is if it generates electricity from fuel sources other than fossil fuels, nuclear and hydropower greater than 5 MW (see: http://www.windaction.org/documents/12207). If a wind project slaughters thousands of bats and birds annually, destroys hundreds of acres of forest or important wildlife habitat, is built on public land, or impacts a scenic viewshed or "dark sky" reserve, the facility, nonetheless, would be awarded the coveted "Green-e" marketing stamp-of-approval without questions or reservations.
The windaction.org database contains over 35,500 items selectively culled from sources all over the world.