Resource Documents: Environment (211 items)
Documents presented here are not the product of nor are they necessarily endorsed by National Wind Watch. These resource documents are provided to assist anyone wishing to research the issue of industrial wind power and the impacts of its development. The information should be evaluated by each reader to come to their own conclusions about the many areas of debate.
Author: Stevens, Landon
Modern society requires a tremendous amount of electricity to function, and one of this generation’s greatest challenges is generating and distributing energy efficiently. Electricity generation is energy intensive, and each source leaves its own environmental and ecological footprint. Although many studies have considered how electricity generation impacts other aspects of the environment, few have looked specifically at how much land different energy sources require.
This report considers the various direct and indirect land requirements for coal, natural gas, nuclear, hydro, wind, and solar electricity generation in the United States in 2015. For each source, it approximates the land used during resource production, by energy plants, for transport and transmission, and to store waste materials. Both one-time and continuous land-use requirements are considered. Land is measured in acres and the final assessment is given in acres per megawatt.
Specifically, this report finds that coal, natural gas, and nuclear power all feature the smallest physical footprint: about 12.5 acres per megawatt produced. Solar and wind are much more land-intensive technologies, using 43.5 and 70.6 acres per megawatt, respectively. Hydroelectricity generated by large dams has a significantly larger footprint than any other generation technology, using 315.2 acres per megawatt.
While this report does not attempt to comprehensively quantify land requirements across the entire production and distribution chain, it does cover major land components and offers a valuable starting point to further compare various energy sources and facilitates a deeper conversation surrounding the necessary trade-offs when crafting energy policy.
June 2017, Strata
Download original document: “The Footprint of Energy: Land Use of U.S. Electricity Production”
Author: Lesser, Jonathan
Abstract: In 2016, the New York Public Service Commission enacted the Clean Energy Standard (CES), under which 50% of all electricity sold by the state’s utilities must come from renewable generating resources by 2030, and emissions of greenhouse gases (GHG) must be reduced by 40%. The CES also incorporates New York’s previous emissions reduction mandate, which requires that the state’s GHG emissions be reduced 80% below 1990 levels by 2050 (the “80 by 50” mandate).
- Given existing technology, the Clean Energy Standard’s 80 by 50 mandate is unrealistic, unobtainable, and unaffordable. Attempting to meet the mandate could easily cost New York consumers and businesses more than $1 trillion by 2050, while providing scant, if any, measurable benefits.
- Meeting the CES mandate will require substituting electric-powered equipment for most existing equipment that burns fossil fuels (vehicles, furnaces, etc.), adding many billions of dollars in costs in both the private and public sectors. It will, in short, mean electrification of the New York economy, including most of the transportation, commercial, and industrial sectors.
- Even with enormous gains in energy efficiency, the mandate would require installing at least 100,000 megawatts (MW) of offshore wind generation, or 150,000 MW of onshore wind generation, or 300,000 MW of solar photovoltaic (PV) capacity by 2050. By comparison, in 2015, about 11,300 MW of new solar PV capacity was installed in the entire United States. Moreover, meeting the CES mandate likely would require installing at least 200,000 MW of battery storage to compensate for wind and solar’s inherent intermittency.
- Just meeting the interim goals of the CES of building 2,400 MW of offshore wind capacity and 7,300 MW of solar PV capacity by 2030 could result in New Yorkers paying more than $18 billion in above-market costs for their electricity between now and then. By 2050, the above-market costs associated with meeting those interim goals could increase to $93 billion. It will also require building at least 1,000 miles of new high-voltage transmission facilities to move electricity from upstate wind and solar projects to downstate consumers.
But none of the state agencies – NYDPS, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (NYDEC), and the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) – has estimated the environmental and economic costs of this new infrastructure. Such a large buildout of renewable infrastructure will surely have significant effects on agriculture, offshore fisheries, property values, human health, and biodiversity.
- As noted, the Clean Energy Fund’s 2030 energy-efficiency mandate calls for 600 TBTUs of savings in buildings. This mandate lacks economic justification and appears to be technically unreachable: the savings mandate is double the most optimistic projection of energy-efficiency potential in the state.
- NYDPS and NYSERDA have both claimed that renewable energy and the CES will provide billions of dollars of benefits associated with CO₂ reductions. Not so. Regardless of one’s views on the accuracy of climate models and social-cost-of-carbon estimates, the CES will have no measurable impact on world climate. Therefore, the value of the proposed CO₂ reductions required under the CES will be effectively zero. Moreover, even if there were benefits, virtually none of those benefits would accrue to New Yorkers themselves.
- Lower-income New Yorkers will bear relatively more of the above-market costs necessary to achieve even the interim CES goal. For example, absent significant changes to how retail electric rates are developed, affluent consumers who install solar PV will be able to “free-ride” on their local electric utilities, relying on those utilities to provide backup power when their solar systems are not providing electricity, while forcing other customers to pay for that electricity.
Jonathan A. Lesser, president of Continental Economics, has more than 30 years of experience working for regulated utilities, for government, and as an economic consultant. He has addressed numerous economic and regulatory issues affecting the energy industry in the U.S., Canada, and Latin America. His areas of expertise include cost-benefit analysis applied to both energy and environmental policy, rate regulation, market structure, and antitrust. Lesser has provided expert testimony on energy-related matters before utility commissions in numerous states; before the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission; before international regulators; and in state and federal courts. He has also testified before Congress and many state legislative committees on energy policy and regulatory issues. Lesser is the author of numerous academic and trade-press articles and is an editorial board member of Natural Gas & Electricity. He earned a B.S. in mathematics and economics from the University of New Mexico and an M.A. and a Ph.D. in economics from the University of Washington.
Download original document: “New York’s Clean Energy Programs: The High Cost of Symbolic Environmentalism”
Author: Hales, Roy
Ocotillo, in Imperial County, has been inflicted by massive dust storms ever since 112 turbines were built around it. The desert surface was scraped clean of vegetation as a preparation for the project. Now there is nothing to hold the dust down.
That’s not the only complaint. Since the project went online, less than two years ago:
- 3 turbines have had their gear boxes replaced,
- 9 turbines have had blade replacements
- a 173-foot-long-blade flew off one turbine
- Ocotillo residents have also documented oil leaks in 40% of the turbines. The Department of Toxic substance control subsequently gave the project a summary of violations.
Two Ocotillo residents, Jim Pelley and Parke Ewing, have documented this project on the web. There are hundreds of videos on Pelley’s Youtube site “Save Ocotillo” and Ewing’s Facebook page Ocotillo Wind Turbine Destruction is a visual chronicle of this project and related materials.
(October 23, 2014)
The Ocotillo wind farm went online almost five years ago. Were they not documented in such meticulous detail, some of the reports coming from the tiny desert community this project surrounds would be difficult to believe. I once received a constant stream of YouTube videos and reports from this project. It was one of the sites that shaped my perception of the energy sector. To some extent, I’ve moved on from this story since then, but I always knew I would be revisiting Ocotillo.
Parke Ewing has not been able to move on.
Last May, I asked him for an update.
Ewing replied, “It’s about 9:30 – 10:00 o’clock in the morning. Not one wind turbine is spinning. There is no wind. Their capacity factor, since they became operational, is only about 21.3%. Pattern Energy stated the wind farm would be 34% and they also said it would produce 891 gigawatts (GW) per year. So far, the most they’ve ever generated is 536 GW. So it is substantially less than what they proposed to get approval on this project …”
Update On Mechanical Failures
This is the beginning of a four minute clip, which you can listen to on the podcast. Some of the details include:
- “About 70% of the turbines leaked oil. They had a crew out here cleaning all the turbines. They did a lot of them and I am sure they fixed some of the leaks.”
- On November 21, 2016, turbine #126 crumpled and fell over. “They’re in the process of replacing the entire turbine right now. The nacelle came in today and the tower sections and they are unloading those as we speak,”
These are just the latest in a litany of problems.
Six months after the project officially went online, a 173 foot-long-blade flew off one of the turbines.
There was a turbine fire in 2015.
Since this project went online:
- 10 turbines underwent blade replacements
- 9 turbines had their gear boxes replaced
- 2 turbines were replaced
Contacting The Developers
Attempts to contact the turbine manufacturer, developer and local utility have been futile.
Ewing says, “We’ve tried to talk to Pattern Energy [the developer], of course we always get a generic reply that they’re working on this or checking on that, but we never get an answer on the noise, or the lights, or anything. They really just write us off. They don’t talk to us. We get an email reply sometimes, that’s about it.”
I phoned Jeff Grappone, of Siemens USA after the turbine caught fire in 2015. He suggested I send an email. I did this, asking:
- Do they know what caused this fire?
- How often turbine fires occur? Are they, for example, as common as traffic accidents are for automobile drivers?
- What about the oil leaks? the blade replacements? the three replaced yaw gears? Is this normal for a two year old wind farm?
- There are also some extreme conditions at Ocotillo. I have seen videos of those incredible dust storms. There are good winds at times, but they are more often 0-4 mph and there are occasionally incredible blow ups. Is this a an exceptionally difficult location?
Grappone never replied.
Maybe I asked too many questions.
I recently tried a different tactic, when asking Pattern Energy about the dust storms that have plagued Ocotillo since the site was built. I sent them the video you see below and asked for an explanation.
Matt Dallas emailed back, “Ocotillo Wind operates its equipment in accordance with our permits. The dust in the video was created by the wind, not by the turbines. You’ll see many of the turbines are not operating in the video because the wind speeds that day were so high they exceeded our maximum operating capacity.”
He was not aware that I had previously interviewed a site developer about dust storms on utility scale wind and solar sites.
According to Harvey Stephens, Vice President of Operations at World Wind & Solar, fugitive dust problems are caused by scraping large areas of the desert crust clean of vegetation. This leaves the underlaying soil exposed to the wind. There are remedies, such as planting grasses, windflowers and other materials as a protective blanket to stabilize areas disturbed by grading operations. When developers follow these procedures, the dust storms normally cease after a year or so.
Ocotillo has been inflicted by dust storms since construction began. In the video below, you can see one from August 2012.
I pointed this out to Matt Dallas, who did not reply.
Ewing and his wife suspect, but can not prove, that infrasound noise from the turbines might be the reason that are “tired all the time.”
He describes the sound made by the turbines, when they are turning, as “… the most irritating sound I have ever heard.”
(There is a recording on the podcast.)
“One of Pattern’s project managers came by and listened to the sound once and said he would take it back to whoever is in charge. We never heard another word about it,” says Ewing.
“We like to be outside. That’s why we are here in the desert. We have a fairly nice place here, with a lot of trees and stuff that we need to keep watered. It is difficult to do when they are making noise. It is kind of like a noise trespassing, that really shouldn’t be happening on your property.”
What’s The Problem?
Parke Ewing believes the problem is wind technology.
I agreed with him, until I saw some German sites in 2014. [NWW still agrees with Ewing.]
The problem at Ocotillo does not appear to be so much with the technology, as how it was used. This is not a good location for wind turbines. The site was politically expedient and there were massive tax credits in 2012, but should never have been built. Now the manufacturer and developer have made their money, and people like Parke Ewing are left with the mess.
September 3, 2017, Roy L Hales, theecoreport.com
Author: Northern Ireland Environment Agency
What impact can a wind farm have on groundwater?
The development of a wind farm has the potential to impact on groundwater quality, groundwater quantity and/or the established groundwater flow regime. Figure 1 shows the scale and extent of the foundation of a single wind turbine which could potentially impact on the aquatic environment. Changes to the local water environment can affect receptors such as wells/boreholes, springs, wetlands and waterways, and can also have implications for groundwater dependent ecology and/or land stability.
The key impacts to groundwater that can result from the construction, operational and decommissioning stages of wind farms are summarised in Table 1 below.
Table 1: Potential impacts on groundwater from wind farms
|Construction Phase||Operational Phase||Decommissioning Phase|
|Groundwater Flow Regime||Earthworks and site drainage:
• Reduction in water table if dewatering is required for turbine foundation construction or borrow pits;
• Changes to groundwater distribution and flow.
|Physical presence of turbines and tracks:
• Possible changes to groundwater distribution;
• Reduction in groundwater storage.
Reduction of forestry in site area:
• Changes to infiltration and surface runoff patterns, thereby influencing groundwater flow and distribution.
|Physical presence of former turbines and tracks:
• Possible changes to groundwater distribution;
• Reduction in groundwater storage.
• Disturbance of contaminated soil and subsequent groundwater pollution.
• Pollution from spills or leaks of fuel, oil and building materials.
• Pollution from spills or leaks of fuel or oil.
|Use of vehicles and machinery to remove infrastructure:
• Pollution from spills or leaks of fuel or oil.
Download original document: “Wind farms and groundwater impacts”