May 9, 2011
Letters, Maryland, West Virginia

Wind turbines are silly and inefficient

Cumberland Times-News, 8 May 2011

There’s been a lot of discussion lately about wind powered electrical generation plants being constructed on formerly forested ridges in Maryland and West Virginia.

As a former supporter of wind power, I decided to make an unofficial, private citizen’s study of the subject. Since August 2010, I’ve visited hundreds of wind farms in twenty states observing siting, noise and operating practices.

Among the many conclusions I’ve drawn is that wind turbines are a silly and inefficient means of generating electricity which rarely meet the claims made to promote them. The claim stated most often is the large number of homes that will be powered by a wind energy plant. This might be possible if the wind blew at a high and constant speed all the time.

Fortunately for us and unfortunately for the wind promoters it does not. A second claim made on behalf of wind turbines is that their useful life is 20 years or more. Observation of turbines in the 20 states I’ve visited shows that wind turbines begin to break down early in their operation and that the average four or five year old wind farm will have 5 percent or more of its turbines standing still.

Last month, I flew over the two brand new wind facilities on Backbone Mountain in Maryland. One at Roth Rock, a German Nordex, and two Clipper turbines were not turning.

Last week I was in Utah at Edison Mission’s wind powered generating facility in Spanish Fork. Locally, Edison Mission has recently received the blessing from the West Virginia Public Service Commission and the Mineral County commissioners to construct a wind farm on the mountain that frames the city of Keyser.

Spanish Fork, Utah, where the Edison Mission wind facility is located, was touted in 2008 as having the “richest source of wind in Utah.” Only nine turbines were built there in a suburban environment.

It is worth noting that a half days drive away is the Milford, Utah, Wind Corridor with over 100 wind turbines. It began in 2009 and was still erecting towers last week. So much for the hyperbole of “richest source” in Spanish Fork.

I visited Spanish Fork two consecutive days and on each day, one of the nine turbines was not turning, two or three were turning too slowly to produce electricity and the rest were turning a little faster, but not at full capacity.

The Spanish Fork facility is not on open ground like Milford Wind Corridor (most western and mid-western wind farms are) nor is it on a ridge line. Edison Mission has placed their nine Suzlon wind turbines, from India, in a valley at the mouth of a canyon, below towering mountains on foundations that are 60 or 70 feet lower than the Spanish Fork housing development they face.

According to Utah Valley news reports, the electricity generated here will not be used in Spanish Fork because the cost of the electricity generated by the wind is greater than what the city would pay from traditional sources.

When the project was constructed, in 2008, Spanish Fork’s Nebo School District was promised $1.267 million for the first 20 years of wind farm operation and $3.682 million for every 20-year phase thereafter.

I don’t know whether the wind farm has met those obligations, but I know that this year the Nebo School District found it necessary to furlough its teachers and cut days from the school year because of budget shortfalls.

Edison Mission does contribute to the Spanish Fork economy through an annual kite festival celebrating the wind in Spanish Fork.

John Terry

Montrose, W.Va.

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