- National Wind Watch: Wind Energy News - https://www.wind-watch.org/news -

Be cautious about approving wind

As Rice County considers wind projects, note Denmark. Denmark is the poster country for wind energy, with more per-capita turbines than any nation. Government-backed Dong Energy, producer of half of Denmark’s electricity, has a moratorium on new land-based turbines.

Wind noise protests are the cause. A setback of at least one mile, suggested from studies by the World Health Organization and others, is needed for relief from the turbine’s repetitive low frequency sound.

A new documentary film, “Windfall,” is being shown at the Vancouver International Film Festival. It describes what happens to a town when the turbines are too close.

“Once installed, the turbines impose themselves on the town like unwelcome guests at a dinner party. They emit a low frequency sound, producing noises akin to a passing car with a deep bass on its stereo system.”

As to wind efficiency, the Electric Reliability Council of Texas reported on Aug. 23 that it set a new demand record with 65,776 megawatts. ERCOT also said that its 9,319 MW of name plate wind capacity produced only 650 MW during that period, or one percent of demand.

For all of 2009, intermittent winds operated at 8.7 percent of name plate capacity and provided one percent of total demand.

In the U.S. in 2009, wind produced 70 billion kwh at a 26 percent capacity factor. That was just 1.75 percent of total United States electric power. U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar has approved the largest U.S. wind program, the Cape Wind project, having 130 turbines off the coast of Cape Cod.

The project will receive at least $600 million in taxpayer subsidies to buy its 130 turbines from Siemens of Germany. In testimony before the Massachusetts Siting Board, the developer said that in summer, when winds are weakest, Cape Wind will produce a modest 100MW.

This limit is causing Cape Wind to charge at least twice the going rate for its output. U.S. Representative William Delahunt, D-Mass., said, “Cape Wind will be the most heavily subsidized wind farm in the country with power costs to the region that will be at least double.”

There is a role for wind energy in our electric future, but it is an erratic supplement, not a substitute, requiring large taxpayer subsidies and backup power supplies. The substitute for polluting coal is reliable natural gas and nuclear energy.

Rolf Westgard
St. Paul