February 26, 2008

Lots of wind

Every now and then, people are surprised that I'm not a huge advocate of wind farms. I wasn't too certain at the outset of the Cornell proposal for towers on Mount Pleasant, but by the time the project suddenly halted, I was very happy that it hadn't gone further.

When the Town passed an alternative energy ordinance, I applauded their supporting small-scale wind energy without opening the door to massive windmills. When we were in Germany, seeing different kinds of windmills confirmed my aesthetic doubts about the huge ones, though aesthetics aren't really enough of a reason to oppose large-scale wind energy generation.

Finally, I think I figured out and wrote up why I'm not automatically a supporter of large-scale wind. Mostly it comes down to the basic problem of not trusting the people who want to build these, and realizing that the consequences aren't all bright. I'm glad that Dryden has taken a sensible course of allowing residential wind without jumping all the way into industrial-scale generation for profit.

I'm not sure how long it'll stay that way here, as I know my views aren't shared by everyone - but for the moment, at least, I'm pretty pleased with the way things have turned out.

If I had a property where it was possible, I'd be putting up a windmill. I may yet put up solar hot water or even solar panels. I encourage readers of this site to consider the same, and I think the Town itself might be wise to add a windmill given the constant wind on that hillside. (It would make a nice combination with the geothermal heat that's already there.

We can do lots of sensible things on a small scale without jumping into the energy business.

Posted by simon at February 26, 2008 8:36 PM in
Note on photos


Tom Shelley said:

Simon--This fits with my previous comments that local/ small scale is good. Big owned by existing energy firms and other international combines is automatically bad. Tom

Katherine Bush said:

We in Springwater, NY have fought long and hard to keep the wind industry out of our town. So far we have managed, but for how long, no one knows. I applaud you for researching past the "cure all, fix all to the energy problem" and having the courage to post. This inefficient method of creating its minute forms of energy is all about money and greed.... nothing more.
Many say, "We need to do something." Yes, we do, but we do not need to do something which is WRONG simply because something needs to be done.

Jimmy Tragle said:

In the linked article you state "It's (wind) an important component of our future energy generation."

Europe is loaded with the things. I have yet to see any evidence that they reduce GHG. I have yet to see evidence linking wind power to the closing of a single fossil fuel fired power plant.

Proponents of wind keep claiming that these WILL reduce our dependency on fossil fuels and reduce GHG thus helping us combat global warming.

Instead of claiming that they WILL, I defy anyone to show me proof that they already HAVE.

With the abundance of turbines in places like Denmark this should be an easy task if they really do anything.

Where's the proof?

Randy Hendrickson said:

Well, the "proof" is difficult to quantify but it remains true that anything powered by wind is not powered by fossil fuels. Whether or not you want one in your back yard is another issue.

Jimmy Tragle said:

Mr. Hendrickson,

You've fallen prey to a wind myth. When the wind is blowing a back up generation facility is running at spinning reserve. This is so that when the wind dies something is ready to kick in and take up the slack immediately.

So even though the wind is providing electricity without burning fossil fuels. Somewhere else fuel is being used to heat water to make steam to turn a turbine that spins a generator just waiting for the wind to die.


Experiences in Denmark are a sterling example. Industry reports for 2004 indicate that 80% of electricity generated by wind in Denmark was exported to Norway. There was a surplus of 84% of the wind power generated because it is generated at the wrong time. Norway generates 98.5% of its electricity with hydro. So the wind power replaced water power for a net carbon savings of not one jot.

The energy industry can readily quantify what power is generated from each facility and when it is generated. This makes tracking the data difficult only in the aspect that there is a great deal of it. Determining the potential carbon savings from wind should be a matter of some number crunching.

The proof is only difficult to quantify because it is imaginary. The only thing GREEN about large scale wind power is the MONEY it saves the power industry in the form of tax breaks and energy credits.

You can admire the emperor's new clothes all you wish, but they're a farce just like wind power.

There are far superior ways to combat global warming.

Coal and other fossil fuels will run out one day. This is true whether or not you believe that anthropomorphic carbon emissions are contributing to global warming.

To be honest I am weary of the whole global warming debate as it is a distraction from the bigger picture. All the fossil fuel burning as well as the extraction processes are causing horrific environmental damage as well as exacting a toll on the health of the humans doing the extracting.

All this chatter about global warming opens the door for people to get all whispy eyed about 400 foot tall whirlie gigs that they think will save the planet or will contribute significantly to the process. This allows them the security to continue on merrily without any self sacrafice at all. Subsequently they can blame people like me for being NIMBYs when that is just a simplistic and ill conceived argument.

Wind will never be adequate as anything more than provision for a very insignificant fraction of peak power. Solar will probably not be adequate for much more than peak power demand. Baseline demands will require something reliable and abundant. Nuclear is that abundant energy source. Like it or not this is a simple reality. Once this sinks in things like wind stand out even further as a waste of time, money, and space.

Conservation would be nice. We're doing quite the opposite as we grow more and more addicted to all the gadgets technology is providing us. Conservation isn't appealing as there is no money in it, so we won't see the lobbyists in DC pushing for it. It is a beautiful horse. Unfortunately it is a dead horse. Beating it is futile.

With no large scale storage methods for wind anywhere near off the drawing table wind turbines are nothing short of a futile solution to a massive problem.

The rabid pursuit of them leads me to conclude that even if we could actually slow global warming we're not at all capable of mustering the collective effort we need to do so.