I recently submitted a letter to the Tri-County News regarding the negative aspects of wind turbine farms.
The intent of the letter was to spark some further debate on the issue, and the fact that an individual took the time to question and counter some of my points makes me appreciate the blessings of a country that allows us all to freely speak our opinions.
My letter was originally printed in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel as a response to a feature about the wind turbines in Mount Calvary. In order to answer Mr. Kenneth R. Buechels’s questions, I would now like to clarify the results of my research and counter some of the issues raised in his response to my original letter.
In my letter, I stated that windmills are only 30 percent efficient (Hiserodt, p. 23). Mr. Buechel confirms that this is true, yet he still supports the wind turbines wholeheartedly. Mr. Buechel replied to my statement that, “The wind doesn’t blow everyday” with the fact that the wind is much stronger at higher elevations. He is right. However, scientific studies support the claim that wind speed is still variable, even at those elevations. Denmark has had wind turbine farms much longer than the U.S., and the Danish Wind Industry Association states the following on their Web site: “The wind speed is always fluctuating, and thus the energy content of the wind is always changing” (Variable Winds, p.1). According to David Dworzak of the Electric Perspectives journal, “On a minute by minute basis, electric generation from a wind facility can fluctuate enormously” (p.79).
In my previous article, I discussed how electrical sources are connected in a grid-like fashion, and since the winds are so variable, conventional power stations must remain on “spinning stand-by” in order to maintain the necessary electrical current. Mr. Buechel disagreed, saying that conventional power stations merely keep the pilot light lit. He also stated that “winds don’t rapidly speed up unless a thunderstorm is present.” The reason wind speeds up during thunderstorms is because of the laws of physics and chemistry, which state that temperature is inversely related to pressure. The cooler air at the higher pressure reacts by moving to the warmer air at the lower pressure, and vice versa, resulting in wind. Thus, wind speed will change with every warm and cold front or even temperature differences between night and day, not just thunderstorms.
The pilot light ordeal raises even more issues. The majority of conventional power stations are thermal, meaning that they heat water and use the resulting steam to power steam turbines. Even though the pilot light is lit, it still takes time “to boil the water, to superheat the steam, to warm all the components of the power station, and to spin the turbogenerators up to operating speed” (Courtney, p.12). Since power stations must remain on spinning standby, their detriment to the environment is not reduced.
I agree wholeheartedly with Mr. Buechel’s desire for tax money to be used within the constituency from which it is paid. But more than anything, I want my tax money to be put to good use! I can’t understand why anyone would want to pay for something so inefficient! Mr. Buechel doesn’t deny my statement that only Big Business is getting rich, and he argues that they are the only ones capable of investing in something so expensive. The main reason they are capable of this is because for each $3 million turbine that they construct, they receive $1 million of our tax money in subsidies!
Mr. Buechel makes it sound like landowners are going to be really rolling in the dough, now that they have these wind turbines. Sure, no one would turn down $4,000, but that amount is fixed. Thus, 10 or 20 years down the road, they will still be receiving the same amount. Due to the rising cost of inflation, that figure won’t be worth nearly as much in the future.
Mr. Buechel counters my calls for conservation with a somewhat illogical argument about large houses. It seems to me that modern houses are more efficient than ever. Besides, what really matters is the attitudes and actions of the residents, not the size of the house. Mr. Buechel also says that offshore tidal turbines are “many years away.” Perhaps if Mr. Buechel had done his research, he would have realized that these tidal turbines already exist! Northern Ireland’s Strangford Lough is now home to the world’s largest tidal turbine, set to begin operation later this year (Thomas, p. 1). Also, studies have shown the promising outlook for tidal turbines on both coasts of the United States (MSNBC, p. 1).
I highly suggest that all readers attempt to inform themselves as best as possible on these issues. The following are my sources, for which I have provided the standard APA citations:
Courtney, R.S. (2006, March). Wind farms provide negligible useful electricity. Retrieved Dec. 3, 2007 from http://www.windcows.com/files/
Dworzak, D (2005, May/June). The Cost of a Windless Day. Electric Perspectives, [30(3)], 79.
Hiserodt, E (2007, September 3). Blown Away. The New American, [23(18)], 22-24.
MSNBC. (2007). Tidal power may provide cheaper energy source. Retrieved Dec. 3, 2007, fromhttp://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/13561656/wid/7279844/
Thomas, Justin. World’s Largest Tidal Turbine Successfully Installed. Retrieved April 20, 2008 from Metaefficent: The Optimal Green Guide Web site: http://www.metaefficient.com/news/worlds-largest-tidal-turbine-successfully-installed.html
Variable Winds. Retrieved April 20, 2008, from Danish Wind Industry Association Web site:http://www.windpower.org/en/tour/wres/variab.htm
Not only did Mr. Buechel call these sources into question, but he also called my personal experience, as a source, into question. He says that “wind energy systems can be taken down and sold for scrap, driveways reclaimed for farmland.” Well, it seems somewhat redundant to “invest” millions of dollars on a “long term” project, and then have intentions of selling it for scrap in the future.
Moreover, to say that the farmland can be reclaimed is far from logically true. I am a 19-year-old freshman at Marquette University, and I have been picking stones every spring since I was probably 5 years old. My dad has picked stones on the same land since that same age, and my grandfather, great-grandfather, and great-great-grandfather before him. Every year the earth is tilled, and every year new stones appear.
The old railroad that ran through Calvary Station used to cross my family’s land. It has been many years since the tracks were removed, but to this day, the ghosts of those forgotten rails bequeath more stones than any other place on our land. You can’t tell me that the tons of gravel stones that are used to build the windmill roads will simply be removed and never seen again! And I highly doubt that the power company and wind turbine company would be willing to lend a helping hand!
To develop efficient alternative energy sources, we as a people must find common ground and educate ourselves on the issues. Progress is good, but action in the face of ignorance will only lead to regret.
Kollin G. Petrie
25 April 2008
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