As a Pendleton County landowner recently threatened by the Liberty Gap project, I was interested in the recent article “Windmill Debate: What Are Future Effects?”
Barry Sweitzer’s remarks were of particular interest. He dismisses the fact that electricity cannot be stored by mentioning electricity generated by other means typically isn’t stored. Unless you consider small scale operations where batteries are practical, this is true. But it is hardly a valid argument to support large-scale wind plants.
Fossil fuel and nuclear plants run at the operator’s whim. Hydro plants are only affected by dry spells. Wind plants only operate when the wind blows and at the correct speed. Within the acceptable wind speeds the production varies exponentially with changes in wind speed. Wind generation peaks during the night in the fall and spring yet our consumption peaks during the hot summer days.
This intermittent and unpredictable behavior requires wind to have back up generation to avoid grid problems when the wind dies down. These back up plants cannot be started up instantly. They’ve got to be running at spinning reserve so they’re ready to go online when the wind fails. So they burn fuel continuously even though they’re not being used to generate electricity.
Denmark boasts a 20-percent wind saturation in generating capacity. However, the lion’s share of wind-generated electricity is often exported to countries like Norway where it replaces hydro power for a net carbon savings of zero. This is due to wind power availability at times when it is needed the least and a lack of availability during peak usage times.
The recent event with an abrupt drop in wind power in Texas was only minimized because a portion of the electricity consumers agree to have power cut in such emergencies. As grid saturation increases, these solutions won’t be practical. Europe suffered a massive blackout in November 2006 that was due largely to similar events.
Mr. Sweitzer makes a passing reference to oil being used to generate electricity. One can assume he’s playing to the desire to reduce dependency on foreign oil in this reference. The U.S. generates about 3 percent of its electricity with oil. Most oil used in this production is of poor quality and has no other use. Wind power will never knock a tiny dent in our oil consumption.
We keep getting told that wind power will help reduce carbon emissions and help combat global warming. Europe is littered with wind plants yet there are no reports of a single fossil fuel powered plant being closed as a result of wind power. Europe shows no evidence of any significant reduction in carbon emissions due to wind power. Denmark, a country with one of the largest numbers of wind turbines, is one of the worst offenders in terms of carbon output per capita.
This failure to deliver carbon savings makes the negative impacts all more important to consider. The impacts from the Backbone Mountain facility have already destroyed numerous bats. That is but a single installation.
The cumulative effects of thousands of wind turbines scattered throughout West Virginia and surrounding states needs consideration. These will include, but are not limited to, increased water run off, bird and bat fatalities, loss of property values, adverse health effects from noise and shadow flicker, and property damage from a variety of accidents that can and do occur with wind turbines.
West Virginia suffers enough with the coal mining industry destroying its mountains and endangering coal miners. That it should be subjected to further abuse from what amounts to nothing less than modern day “emperor’s new clothing” is a terrible irony.
Jimmy Tragle, DVM
22 March 2008
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