The movie “Windfall” was shown in three local venues this past month to present the point of view from a small farm community in New York. This community was the location of a proposed wind energy farm and the residents began to research how the new wind industry would affect their lives. Most of them were in favor of harvesting electricity from the wind as a sustainable energy source but their opinions changed as they learned more about the effects of the large wind turbines.One of the first concerns that sprung up was the secrecy in which the contracts were handled. Some reported that they were told in order to see the contract they would have to sign a confidentiality form. The set backs originally were one and a half times the height and homeowners were adversely impacted by the sound and flicker from the rotors. The film showed the shadow flicker of the rotors as it affected the lighting inside of houses and on roadways with astounding effect. It became very obvious that the setbacks needed to be much greater distance than first imagined. Video of a wind turbine on fire and one which collapsed, under scored the importance of the set back subject.The size of the structures was the next issue to deal with. A 400’ wind turbine weighs more than thirty thousand tons and requires a base thirty feet deep consisting of 610,000 pounds of concrete and rebar. The blades weigh eleven tons and the tip travels up to 178 mph. When the brake failed on one wind turbine, the rotor spun out of control causing the vibrations to break the top two sections sending the tower to the ground. The speed of the rotors creates a vacuum that is deadly to birds and bats. Raptors are sucked into the vortex and often dismembered by the blades. Bats have their lungs collapsed by the air pressure change caused by the turbulence. In Pennsylvania 10,000 bats were found dead in a 420 turbine wind farm.After the health impacts were discussed in the film they turned to the economic cost of the giant wind turbines. Federal and state subsidies offset the price tag for each wind turbine by nearly 66%. Each megawatt of power produced by a wind turbine receives a government subsidy of $23.37. In contrast coal power electricity is subsidized at 44 cents per megawatt, natural gas at 25 cents per megawatt and hydro electric at 67 cents. The cost of going green will increase electricity for an average household by 36% and will add $2,500 to the national debt for each person in the USA by 2035 according to figures from the Minnesota Rural Electrical Association. Wind turbines only generate electricity when the wind blows making them an unreliable source of power. During the record breaking heat in Texas during August the wind turbines, which were intended to provide 15% of the power, only managed to generate 2.2% of their expectations. Texas has three times as many wind turbines as any other state and has spent $25 billion on the wind industry. Wind turbine output ends up being about 15% of their rated capacity due to the uncertainty of wind currents. Because of this it is necessary to have natural gas fired generators on standby to come online at a minutes notice to fill the grid with electricity when the wind stops. Since much of the country that has wind currents needed to power the turbines is not near major population centers, it is necessary to build transmission lines to transport the electricity to market. The large transmission lines are just as unpopular as the tall wind turbines.The film pointed out that just because the wind is free, the cost of wind energy ends up being much higher than other forms of electricity. That coupled with the intrusion of the tall wind turbines in close proximity to residential areas makes the issue a hot button with more people as they are confronted with wind farms in their communities. One over riding issue was the level of government subsidies supporting the wind energy program. Without the subsidy, wind power would not be cost effective and considering the exploding national debt the future of wind power would look dim if the federal government ceased appropriate funds for it. The variable speed wind turbines also discharge voltage into the ground as they operate creating the stray voltage problem that plagues dairy farms, a serious threat to the dairy industry in Goodhue County.Overall the film was interesting to see how a group of rural residents who were positive towards wind energy became so against it once they learned how it would affect their lives and property.
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