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UPC Wind’s claims disputed  

Good for that little boy who tugged on his parent’s sleeve and said, "But, Ma, the emperor doesn’t have on ANY clothes!"

Common sense tugs too persistently at our sleeve regardless of "studies" being proffered by UPC Wind and touted by its newly hired PR firm. We have to say it: "People don’t want homes with views of gawking, 40-story high wind turbines." Take any home and put it in front of a beautiful view or put it in front of an industrialized site. Which would you choose?

UPC Wind ads tell us that the emperor has on beautiful new clothes, that is, that home value isn’t related to proximity to wind turbines. Studies, even "independent studies," can produce varying results depending on how the sampling is done.

The 2002 Kittitas Valley Washington study by ECO Northwest was a telephone survey of tax assessors’ views only – no data was provided to support their conclusion of no adverse property impacts. The sampling done for the Renewable Energy Policy Project (REPP) also suffers from sampling bias – samples were reportedly drawn from properties as much as five miles away that were marginally affected by the wind energy projects.

There are no definitive, objective studies of effects of wind energy projects on property values; however, real estate agents recognize and agree that properties with significant natural views have premium value and intrusions on these views erode value. Read all the references to "beautiful view" in real estate ads. People care greatly about view and buy accordingly. "You’re right, son, the emperor doesn’t have on any clothes!"

A second ad claims that wind farms don’t deter tourists and many wind farms are themselves tourist attractions. Industrial wind energy developments attract tourists like freak shows at our county fairs.

It is true that people driving by stop to see wind turbines – they are huge, out of place, ugly and, by virtue of those attributes, attract the attention of passing motorists. Driving Route 8 near Searsburg, Vt., drivers are shocked to see the wind turbines rising above the forest and stop to see them before continuing along to their destinations.

Similarly, near Thomas, V.Wa., in Tucker County, motorists stop to gawk at the array of huge turbines strung along five miles of ridge line. U.S. Highway 219 crosses the ridge line at two places in this landscape which includes active and reclaimed coal mines, a limestone quarry, the Mt. Storm coal-fired electric power plant, and several industrial parks.

West Virginia is a far different landscape than Hardscrabble Mt. and the undeveloped ridge lines adjacent to it.

As Gov. Douglas has said in reference to Vermont’s $3.3 billion tourist industry, "It’s all about the experience." Our tourism comes from our region’s natural beauty – people come here from all over the world to see what is uniquely Vermont. Currently 80 percent of the Northeast Kingdom’s economy is based on tourism – wind turbines won’t put "heads in beds." Anything degrading the natural pastoral experience puts at risk our world-class tourist industry. That risk isn’t worth it. Come on, son, we’re leaving the city to vacation at the foot of wind farms.

A third claim being touted by UPC’s PR ad blitz is "The Sheffield Wind Farm will produce clean, renewable power for 15,000 to 20,000 households." This ad assumes 33 percent efficiency and 7 megawatt-hours/household/year usage in order to arrive at their estimate of 15,000-20,000 households powered. The Searsburg wind energy development started out at 25 percent efficiency and has degraded to 20 percent (Green Mountain Power annual reports).

In addition, Vermont household usage averages 12 megawatt-hours/household/year. Assuming 25 percent efficiency (more realistic when considering blade icing/fouling, cold temperature shutdown, wind factors, down time for maintenance, and line loss) and documented average household power usage, a more realistic estimate would be 3,280-5,740 households powered (when the wind blows) or 1.3-2.3 percent of Vermont’s 242,000 households.

In the context of the New England Power Grid, which uses less than 30,000 Megawatts at peak demand and to which the power will be sold, the proposed development, by UPC’s own admission (Tim Caffyn’s statement at the 6/23/05 Sheffield meeting) won’t even affect the "spinning reserve" requirements needed to meet fluctuations in demand or production.

In other words, no alternative power generation facility will be able to go off-line or modify its operation because of the project. So much for decreasing electricity made by coal, oil, and natural gas and for decreasing carbon dioxide emissions.

Vermont gets virtually all its electricity from hydropower, nuclear and wood-powered electric generation facilities, none of which cause smog or acid rain, or increase net emissions of carbon dioxide that may affect our climate (wood’s emissions are balanced by forest growth). Vermont does not contribute to these problems.

Finally, if wind power were ever to become significant enough to affect the "spinning reserve" requirements of the New England Power Grid, quick response diesel or gas-powered generators are precisely the kind of plants that would be needed to make up for its lack of reliability. Such plants would increase price volatility and increase our dependence on foreign oil, not limit them!

Nope, despite the best PR money can buy, the emperor still isn’t wearing clothes and Vermonters know it!

Paul and Carol Brouha, Sutton

This article is the work of the source indicated. Any opinions expressed in it are not necessarily those of National Wind Watch.

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