The Kingdom Community Wind Project is a bad idea. When wind and solar technologies hit the front pages, I was initially impressed. However, upon closer examination of their true carbon footprint, these technologies aren’t as “green” as they first appear.
Take hybrid cars, for example. Although not a source of energy, they serve as an analogy to the issues associated with wind turbines. The carbon footprint associated with making just the battery for one hybrid car equals the energy required to run the vehicle for eight to 10 years. After its useful life has expired, the battery must then be recycled and this involves additional energy.
In the case of wind turbines, each step in the manufacturing process, even before accounting for transporting and erecting the turbines, requires a tremendous amount of energy. This energy must be considered in determining the net value of wind turbines. The energy comes from traditional, carbon-based, sources. It is used to manufacture machinery necessary for each step of the wind turbine manufacturing process. The number of energy-consuming steps that go into producing wind turbines astounds me. I can only mention a few here.
Mining and processing the equipment for drilling, mining, extracting and refining oil and coal.
Manufacturing and operating the machines (bucket loaders, bulldozers, etc.) that mine the iron ore.
Producing the equipment (bucket loaders, bulldozers, etc.) that mines the raw materials (bauxite and other metals) necessary to manufacture the turbines themselves.
Transporting and refining the bauxite to produce the aluminum, heated and processed by machines, whose substance is also mined, refined, transported and milled.
Transporting the completed towers, blades and generators long distances on specially constructed vehicles that require additional energy-intensive manufacturing processes.
Hauling the turbines up roads onto mountains that have been flattened by blasting and bulldozing.
Erecting the turbines with cranes which have been fabricated by the above-mentioned energy-intensive processes.
My fear is that wind turbines will ultimately prove themselves to be a net energy loss. My hope is that this realization does not occur after Vermont has lost the wild treasure that Gov. George Aiken so presciently named the “Northeast Kingdom.”
The energy crisis is real, and climate change is occurring as an unintended consequence of development. We cannot allow our attempts to remedy this situation to multiply the negative effects and create additional unintended consequences with ultimately no benefit. While wind turbines can be abandoned or removed, Vermont’s natural resources, such as mountain tops that have been removed, cannot be so easily restored.
The Kingdom Community Wind Project should not be undertaken until a closer analysis has been done to determine whether wind power is a net energy gain. The answer to the question of net gain or loss must be part of the review process. Any decision that jeopardizes the state of Vermont should be based on all the facts. We cannot risk losing our natural resources, something of enormous value, if the wind turbine technology produces no net energy gain.
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