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Cautious approach needed on wind farms  

A 90-megawatt wind turbine project has been proposed for the town of Arkwright and surrounding towns will probably be getting their own proposals.

When trying to make sense of a complicated issue like this, it helps to compare it with a more familiar alternative. What if a developer proposed building a 90 megawatt high-efficiency gas-fired generating station in Arkwright using gas from the high-pressure pipeline that runs through the township? How would the two proposals compare?

A gas-fired installation would occupy a compact location, be less than five stories in height, kill no birds or bats, and have minimal impact on property values. Any problems such as noise could be mitigated fairly easily and the installation could be screened with trees/shrubs in order to blend into the rural residential environment. This facility would probably operate at about 80 percent of capacity since it would function as a peak-use generator on the grid. It would burn a fossil fuel but would add relatively little CO2 load due to its efficiency. If it were combined with a “terra preta” cycle, it would actually reduce CO2 through sequestration*, provide an additional market for farm-grown bio-mass and increase the fertility of agricultural land. (*A terra preta cycle involves cooking a container of bio-mass slowly. The gases released are cycled back into the burn process until the bio-mass has turned into charcoal. The charcoal is plowed into farm fields to greatly improve the fertility of the soil so the farmer uses less fertilizer).

A 90 megawatt wind turbine project will consist of at least 40 towers, each one (depending on megawatt rating) a 40 to 50 story tall, rotating, revolving, night-lit machine, spread over a significant portion of the township. The actual turbine for each will sit approximately 300 feet in the air. Any negative effects (health-related effects from noise and flicker are frequently mentioned) will be impossible to mitigate. The turbines will kill a significant number of birds and bats. Because of their size, the wind turbines will dominate the landscape and discourage residential investment within at least one-half mile, possibly more. Lincoln Township, Wisconsin has experienced a 30 percent drop in average property values within one mile of their smaller project. Projects like this typically run between 20 percent and 30 percent of capacity and are not necessarily producing power when it is needed. Of course, they utilize the wind as a power source and so produce no additional CO2. There is CO2 created in the process of manufacturing, transporting, and erecting the turbines, but I don’t know if anyone has done a full life-cycle study of embodied CO2 in wind turbines.

Industrial wind turbines won’t replace coal-burning generators because the grid requires a constant, dependable, adjustable power supply.

Gas-fired generators have clearly established state and federal standards of construction and operation, while wind turbines have none. Even though federal and state subsidies (our tax dollars) are in place to encourage the development of wind turbine projects, townships are on their own in developing ordinances to regulate them.

A cautious approach to the wind turbine question seems to be in order since any mistakes will be with us for at least a generation!

Arthur Woolson,



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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