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Inconvenient truths about wind power 

After attending a number of town meetings early last year about windfarm proposals, and reading portions of various Environmental Impact Statements, my wife and I concluded that the issues surrounding windfarms were far more complex than we had imagined and that we really did not understand them very well.

We shared this concern with some friends and neighbors and found that they had similar feelings. On a beautiful June after­noon we all came together to talk about what we might be able to learn if we worked together. We divided up the pertinent sec­tions of the DEIS for Windfarm Prattsburgh among the dozen or so participants with each agreeing to conduct some independent research and report on their findings. Since that first meeting many hundreds of hours of study and analysis have been carried out, and we have learned a great deal about the realities of com­mercial windfarms. It was with dismay that, time after time, we found that the claims made by the wind energy industry were either overstated or just plain false. Here is a summary of some of our findings.

Claim #1: wind will reduce reliance on foreign oil. The fact is that only 3 percent of our electricity is oil-generated, and much of that oil is domestically sourced. So, if wind were able to dis­place all of our oil-fired plants the impact would be less than 2 percent. However, since the unreliability of wind requires an equivalent amount of available conventional back-up capacity there would likely be no offset at all.

Claim #2: wind will reduce carbon dioxide emissions and slow global warming. With no reduction in fossil fuel usage (see above), there will be no reduction in C02 emissions. Regarding global warming, what if it turns out that C02 is only a minor factor in climate change? What if the current warming trend is being caused by natural cycles? This is perhaps the most signifi­cant of the inconvenient truths.

In September of 2005, the National Center for Policy Analysis, a non-profit non-partisan public policy research insti­tute, published a report entitled The Physical Evidence of Earth’s Unstoppable 1,500-Year Climate Change”. The author of this report, which can be found at www.ncpa.org/pub/st/st279, is S. Fred Singer, a well-credentialed environmental scientist. This report provides a wide range of clear and compelling evi­dence that climate change is not due to carbon dioxide emissions but that is a recurring natural cycle that is going to occur regardless of what we do.

Claim #3: wind energy is abundant, safe, clean and renew­able. First of all, wind energy is not abundant, at least in this area where winds tend to be light and variable. It is projected that useful electricity generated by turbines in the central Finger Lakes will be less than 10 percent of nameplate capacity. Regarding safety, there are a host of safety concerns associated with commercial windfarms. The one that we find most com­pelling is the potential adverse effect on the health of our citi­zens, particularly children and the elderly. There are also legiti­mate concerns regarding the effect of LFN on unborn children, particularly in the early stages of pregnancy. Until more research is conducted it is not prudent to risk an increase hi fetal abnormalities or stillbirths. As responsible grandparents we would never permit our little ones to live anywhere near wind turbines. If these projects are built, we will not be living near them, we will be living among them.

Windfarms are a relatively clean source of power, but it takes about seven years for them to pay back for the pollution caused by turbine manufacture and windfarm construction. Wind is also a renewable source of energy, but since it does not displace other generating sources it adds no incremental value.

Claim #4: windfarms cause minimal harm to wildlife. The truth is that there have been no valid studies on the potential impact on wildlife. Studies paid for by the wind energy industry conclude, not surprisingly, that harm to wildlife is minimal. However, close examination of the study methodology and reported data shows that the studies are fatally flawed, and in many cases it looks as if the data was just made up. Developers have consistently refused to allow legitimate third party experts to conduct studies at existing windfarms because they really do not want to know just how significant the impact may be. The US Fish and Wildlife Service estimates that stationery communication towers, on average, kill 1,000 birds, bats and raptors every year. It is logical to assume that the 500 turbines planned for this area will each kill a similar number or more. Of particular concern is our local bald eagle population (in DEC Region 8, there were 22 young bald eagles fledged this year). We have resident eagles that are seen daily over Naples, Prattsburgh, Italy, and Cohocton. The developers maintain that these majestic raptors do not exist.

Claim #5: wind power will reduce electricity costs. This is nonsense. Even the developers admit that wind power costs more than any other source. In Europe, which pioneered the production of wind power, one country after another is eliminat­ing wind subsidies because of the adverse effect expensive wind power was having on economic development. High electrical costs are one of the most serious barriers to economic develop­ment in Upstate New York Wind power will only raise those barriers.

Claim #6: wind power will promote economic development. The way that the wind projects are designed, there will be some positive economic value in the form of PILOT (Payments in Lieu of Taxes), lease payments, and a small number of jobs. However, looking at the broader picture and drawing on studies from other areas it is our conclusion that the total economic impact will be decidedly negative. We estimated for Windfarm Prattsburgh that the net cost to the community over a 20-year operating life would be $141,000. The components of that loss are negative impacts on tourism and property values, avian mortality, resident health and safety costs, and unfunded decommissioning. Since there were some negative factors that could not be quantified we believe that our estimated loss is very conservative.

In addition to spending tens of millions in lobbying dollars, the wind industry has put together a very expensive and con­vincing marketing campaign that appeals to many noble motives of our citizenry. It really is a shame that much of what they claim does not pass objective review and analysis. For those hoping to make hundreds of millions in profits from the industrialization of our region, these certainly are inconvenient truths.

Brad and Linda Jones, Parish Hill, Naples


20 February 2007

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

The copyright of this article resides with the author or publisher indicated. As part of its noncommercial educational effort to present the environmental, social, scientific, and economic issues of large-scale wind power development to a global audience seeking such information, National Wind Watch endeavors to observe “fair use” as provided for in section 107 of U.S. Copyright Law and similar “fair dealing” provisions of the copyright laws of other nations. Send requests to excerpt, general inquiries, and comments via e-mail.

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