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Wind capacity is limited

The key word in your Aug. 10 editorial, “Wind win,” is “ought.” You conclude that the PSB approval of the Sheffield wind project is a “positive step that ought to improve Vermont’s energy future.” The fact is, unfortunately, that it won’t.

Although you admit that the wind turbines would not be generating at full capacity all the time, you let stand the figure of the project’s 40-megawatt installed capacity as meaningful. In fact, the facility would rarely, if ever, generate at full capacity. Its average annual output is more likely to be a fifth of that, as it is for the existing Searsburg facility and the average through the U.S. and the world: eight megawatts. Even the developer projects an average output of only 13 megawatts.

Because of the cubic relation of output to wind speed, however, any wind energy facility generates at or above its average rate only a third of the time. And those times are at the whim of the wind, not necessarily corresponding to actual need on the grid.

Consequently, the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority plans for wind energy to provide useful energy at the rate of a third of its average output. This is in line with estimates from similar studies in Europe. The Sheffield project would thus represent a contribution of only about 3 to 4 megawatts for Vermont’s energy planning.

Yet this potentially small source requires blasting for foundations and roads, tons of cement for each turbine, acres of forest clearing, and the erection of 419-feet-high towers with 162-feet-long turning blades and strobing safety lights over miles of ridge line where any other development would never even be considered, much less praised by the likes of Bill McKibben and VPIRG. This is a win for industry and the robber barons that run our country again, not for the environment. And not for our energy future, either.


East Hardwick

Rutland Herald

14 August 2007