I hear comments from some folks who think UPC Wind’s proposed project would lessen our dependence on Middle Eastern oil. They might be surprised to know that, according to the Department of Public Service Vermont Electric Plan, 2005, only 2.5 percent of our electric power is generated with oil. In Vermont, as well as nationwide, transportation use – our gas guzzling cars and trucks – is the major culprit. I couldn’t agree more on the need to cut back on oil consumption and let’s do it where it counts. Those who think this dependence is on the Middle East might also be surprised to know that, to date in 2006, Canada and Mexico top our crude oil import list.
I agree that wind power has potential and the theory behind its use is a great one but there is one major downfall that sends all the ideas of economical and “green” power out the window. That downfall is the simple fact that it is unreliable power.
Thermal power plants come in two flavors, base load and supplemental. Base load plants are just as the name applies, plants that never shut down except for scheduled maintenance or failure. Then, what I call supplemental plants are used to balance the power grid for our ever changing power needs as there is no storage capacity in the grid. These plants are either generating power when we need it or put in “Spinning Standby” waiting for the need to come. “Spinning Standby” is a mode where all the fuels are spent as if they were generating power but the heat generated is “blown down” rather than used to create electricity. A thermal power plant takes days to get to the point of actually generating electricity and can’t be shut down. As the use of wind power increases in our energy mix so does the need for increased standby plants, more emissions, more costs. When you look at the big picture the proponents advertised benefits clearly dwindle. Wind farms will not replace any other forms of power generation so if you think it’s a choice between turbines and nuclear or coal plants then I challenge you to find where that ever was a reality. Wind powers potential lies in other areas like producing hydrogen that can be stored or pumping water above a dam for power that can be used when we need it and not unreliably as the wind blows.
So one might ask why our government would adopt such a renewal portfolio and then subsidize it so heavily with our tax dollars. It can be traced directly back to Enron, which once owned the majority of “large wind.” They lobbied for and initiated the green credits that wind companies sell to out-of-state utilities which, by their state laws must have a certain percentage of their electricity production from renewable sources. Under their laws these utilities can simply purchase green credits and keep their fossil fuel plants on line. While this kind of trading is legal, it harms Vermont forests because it encourages upwind states to continue sending acid rain into Vermont as they keep on burning “dirty” coal.
Lastly I would like to comment on the term “nimby” that was developed to make opponents in close proximity sound selfish and unfounded. Consider this: There will be negative impacts to people and families closely located to these industrial facilities that go far beyond aesthetics. It is misguided to fling the word “nimby” at those who show compassion for these people and try to help preserve their own or their neighbor’s quality of life. So to any voter in Sutton I think you should ask yourself what “quality of life” is worth to you, your neighbors, fellow townspeople or other Vermonters. Those who would lose jobs, have property devalued, or be forced to live with the negative downsides need your help. Let’s be good neighbors and work to keep the “Green Mountain State” just that, a place unmatched in the nation.
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