Like many unsuspecting people in this community, I once had faith in the supposed benefits of large-scale wind energy. How comforting it was to believe the popularized notion that these seemingly benign symbols represent the future of renewable energy. We’re told over and over by wind developers, vendors, financiers of tax shelters for the 1 percent, and even by our own government (who believe them), that turbines will reduce fossil fuel use and carbon emissions; they will get us off foreign oil. The lies are repeated so often that it’s become the dogma, the mantra of conservation groups and other “good people” that turbines will save us from global warming and stop children from becoming ill from coal.
This is how they justify the hell that has enveloped my neighborhood. Until one of these 400-foot-tall industrial machines became operational far too close to my home, I did not question the suppositions. Over the past two years I’ve come to question a great deal about wind energy. While it is entirely disturbing and unethical that good people are willing to sacrifice my health and well-being under the guise of this dogma, it turns out we have all been sorely duped regarding the perceived greater good.
First let me say that only about 1 percent of US electric energy comes from oil, even less from imported oil. Turbines have extremely little to do with foreign oil use in the US. They will not “bring the boys home.”
The inherent problem with wind energy is that it is both intermittent and highly variable. In order to avoid brownouts, blackouts and overloads, conventional “balancing” power plants will always be required and must be able to ramp up and down to maintain a steady supply of electricity. Ramping up and down and especially operating at lower capacities is very inefficient for gas turbines and even worse for coal- and oil-fired plants with regard to greenhouse gas emissions. Thus, wind energy will never replace other forms of electrical generation, the world will continue to burn oil, gas and coal until it is all gone, will continue to operate nuclear power plants, and wind energy will not reduce greenhouse gas emissions. In fact recent studies indicate that on the whole, they actually slightly raise CO 2 emissions due to the balancing required by conventional power sources (http://theenergycollective.com/willem-post/64492/ wind-energy reduces-co2-emissions-few-percent).
Many who “embrace wind” from miles away point out that windmills are successful in Europe—specifically in Denmark and Germany. Upon closer inspection, I find the success of wind energy in Denmark and Germany to be highly questionable and not comparable to wind energy use in the US. No country has reduced their overall use of other fuels or their greenhouse gas emissions due to wind power, including Denmark and Germany. Wind turbines generate the amount of energy equivalent to 20 percent of the electricity used in Denmark but most of it is exported to Norway and Sweden, where it is used by pumped hydro stations and can be “dispatched promptly when wind power is unavailable in West Denmark.” Balancing wind energy using hydro plant energy (combined with pumped storage) happens to be the best combination for reducing CO 2 (although it is still negligible) but this is certainly not an option for New England. Even if we could build a balancing hydro-electric plant, it would be hugely expensive and extremely destructive ecologically.
West Denmark is more densely populated with turbines than anywhere on earth. The Danes now enjoy the highest electric rates per household in Europe. They are dependent on other countries for power. Since 2003 Denmark has added no new wind energy. In 2010, after years of public protest, the government decided no more onshore facilities would be added and all future wind turbines will be offshore—a huge admission that wind turbines near people are a very real problem. Denmark, the country with the most experience with industrial wind turbines, is now the first country with compulsory limits on low frequency noise.
There are reports of public push-back everywhere that industrial wind turbines are placed, including Germany. Recently the Federal Cartel Office reported that “several wind farms must be connected every year” to meet the government’s goal of 35 percent re-newable energy by 2020. One looming impediment to this development is that the power grid needs to be completely reconstructed in order to transport electricity from the wind-rich north of Germany (supply) to industrial zones in the south (demand), which requires construction of large-scale over-head transmission lines through miles of neighborhoods.
Who pays for all of this “development”? Wind energy relies on the grid operators to modify their operations and meet the requirements of a poor quality intermittent power source. It is the ratepayers who bear this financial impact. Developers insist the power produced be purchased at market price whenever it is available, to be paid even when there is no demand. Huge investments paid for with precious public resources are required to meet projected goals of renewables with practically no benefit regarding global warming.
What should we do? Shift the subsidies to where they will do the most good: energy efficiency. We can truly reduce our carbon foot- prints, use less, without hurting anyone and actually create more jobs by subsidizing efficiency. Turbines destroy the health and quality of life for those who are forced to live in close proximity. Taxpayers, ratepayers and small businesses carry a tremendous long-term economic burden without any of the advertised benefits. Most of the 30 percent federal cash grants, major tax shelters and huge tax-free income streams are going into the pockets of the elite at the expense of the struggling public and local small businesses.
Americans constitute 5 percent of the world’s population but consume 24 percent of the world’s energy. The low-hanging fruit is efficiency.
Kathryn L. Elder
Blacksmith Shop Road
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