Oh, we’ve all heard of them, the tricksters, the bait and switchers, the flimflam artists, the scammers – and, of course, we all think we are too smart, too informed, and too insightful to fall for their sleights of hand. Well I tell you, there is a scam coming to our Berkshire Hills, a scam that is the scam of all scams. And unfortunately many intelligent, seemingly-informed, sincere people are being seduced by the logic of it all. Beware! For, like all scams, the lie masquerades as truth.
I speak of the “Great Berkshire Wind Turbine Scam.” The proponents of wind turbines on our Berkshire ridgelines assure us of their need. They proclaim these turbines will produce gobs of megawatts of much-needed electricity, enough to supply the needs of thousands of homes. They will reduce our dependence on foreign oil, clean our air, lower global warming, save our trees, and much more. All from a non-polluting energy source. What could be better? The proponents even go so far as to say wind turbines on our Berkshire ridgelines are tourist attractions and will improve the local economy.
The reality is really something quite different.
Wind is intermittent, unpredictable, and unreliable. Most importantly, wind and the electricity it produces cannot be stored; therefore it is a poor resource for commercial electricity. Commercial electricity is bid on and sold before it is needed. And it must be produced on demand, not when the fickle Berkshire wind blows.
Wind is rated by classes. Our ridges are rated the minimum class for commercial wind turbines. In contrast, winds of our coast are rated the maximum class. The difference in electrical generation is enormous.
Wind is seasonal. So in the months that our electric demands are highest (June, July, and August), wind-generated electricity
in non-existent or practically nil. Even during our supposedly “windy months,” wind is often too weak to be useful and much of the time these windmills will sit idle producing nothing.
Even if our entire landscape were covered with wind turbines it would not reduce our dependence on foreign oil, clean our air, or lower global warming. Only 2.45 percent of all electricity in the U.S. is produced by oft-fired electric plants. And for every megawatt that is expected from wind turbines there must be the same number of megawatts in standby mode from conventional power stations, which must be kept idling, ready for immediate cut-in for when the wind turbines fail. And fail they do, with the fluttering and inconsistency of wind.
The reality is, with the millions of dollar in grants, tax incentives, and salable renewable energy certificates (RECs) wind turbines on our Berkshire ridgelines will put millions of public dollars into developer’s pockets. They will destroy our scenic views and diminish our quality of life. They will endanger the ecosystems of our most sensitive areas, reduce property values, and enable existing polluters to continue polluting. And they will district us from real solutions to our energy problems.
What this country needs (and indeed, the world needs) is not a feel-good solution to a complex problem. What we need is an independent science initiative to determine best practices for energy conservation, energy efficiency, and to find realistic alternative energy sources. The sooner the better.
Adams, Aug. 24, 2006
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