Assertions against wind power have no basis

"Everyone is entitled to their own opinion, but they’re not entitled to their own facts.” — Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan.

In a recent op-ed, Jonathan Carter charged wind advocates of “distortions and misrepresentations” in making the case for wind power, but then went on to make a series of assertions that defy logic and have no basis in fact (July 25). Let’s separate fact from fiction:

He says that almost 30 acres of forest would have to be cleared for every turbine installed. In fact, the real figure — based upon actual experience in Maine — is closer to 3 acres, including roads and the area immediately around the turbine.

Claims are made that we will lose the carbon-reducing potential of the forest, cut to make way for the turbines, thereby offsetting the carbon gains from wind power. But here again, the fact is a typical wind project will provide 200 times the clean air benefit of not doing the project. A single 120-megawatt project, for example, will offset about 90,000 tons of carbon dioxide a year versus 450 tons held by the trees on the site if the project doesn’t happen.

Probably the most egregious misstatement wind opponents make is that there really aren’t any pollution savings from wind power — that the reserves necessary for when the wind stops cancel out any gains in carbon savings.

One Maine editorial put this claim in a nutshell: “nonsensical.” When the wind is blowing, the energy directly reduces power produced somewhere else and, in Maine and New England, that’s almost always fossil fuels (usually natural gas). The argument Carter makes has become an article of faith for wind power opponents, but it’s flat-out untrue. Study after study — and real life experience both here and in Europe — has proven that the amount of online reserve necessary to make up for the fact the wind doesn’t blow 100 percent of the time is very small (about 2 percent) and getting smaller all the time, as grid operators learn to manage wind as a part of their energy mix.

Additionally, “... wind power now produces about 3 percent of Texas’ electricity, enough to avoid about eight million metric tons of global warming pollution per year.”

The same website quoted above also asks what sustainable energy sources would be most capable of producing a significant percentage of our electrical energy. The answer? “Wind power and solar power are both quite viable sources of energy. At present, wind power probably has the edge.”

Ironically, both of these quotes are from Carter’s own Forest Ecology Network website. It looks like he was for wind before he was against it, as the man once said. Now he says, well, he’s against mountaintop wind. But that’s where the strong, reliable wind is; this is like being for hydropower, just not in rivers.

Carter says that because China has invested heavily in wind power and is still building coal plants hand over fist, it proves that wind power doesn’t offset fossil fuels.

This one gets a zero on the believability scale. The demand for electricity in China is growing so fast that the Chinese are building everything they can to meet their needs — including coal, nuclear, gas, solar, hydropower and wind facilities. To imply (as Carter clearly does) that China is forced to build the coal plants because of the wind projects is just ludicrous.

Carter claims that property value declines of “20 to 40 percent” have been “documented” near wind projects. We are unaware of any such case and, in fact, the best actual documentation on this question is a recent national study conducted by the Department of Energy, which looked at more than 7,000 home sales near wind projects and found no significant property value effects.

Putting aside Carter’s claims, why should we develop wind power in Maine?

Simply because 87 percent of the total energy we use (about 55 percent of the electricity) comes from oil and natural gas — of which zero comes from Maine. Zero. As we move toward electric heat and cars, the demand for electricity will grow, even after a solid dose of conservation. So we must ask ourselves: Where will the new power come from? Of the options available — more natural gas, more oil, a new nuke or a coal plant — wind is an essential part of the answer to help meet the needs of our environment, economy and energy security; it’s clean, renewable, plentiful and, most importantly, made in Maine.

Rather than heeding Sen. Moynihan’s wise words, Carter seems to follow his own creed: Never let the facts get in the way of a good story.

Jeremy Payne is executive director of Maine Renewable Energy Association in Augusta.

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Comments

 's picture

Saying we should produce all

Saying we should produce all of our energy here is like saying we should produce all of our oranges here. On second thought, if we get the US taxpayers to help pay to build and heat the greenhouses....why not?

Seriously, wind power is not a good use of tax dollars. $5 billion in subsidies will be required to install Baldacci's dream (nightmare actually) of 2700 MW, but 2700 MW of wind, at a 25% capacity factor, will only provide about 4% of the 16,000 MW electricity used by the NE grid on an average day. Wind power is nothing more than a symbolic feel good gesture in terms of our use of electricity.

If that same $5 billion was used for energy improvments to Maine homes it would equal about $10,000 per household. Imagine how many jobs that woulld create! Imagine how much foreign oil could be saved.

As it is, there are no programs in place that match the aggressive push for wind power. Angus King likes to say that wind power is not the silver bullet, it is like a silver shotgun pellet. But where are the other pellets? 95% of all renewable energy subsidies are going to wind power. Compared to the spending of our children's and grandchildren's borrowed tax dollars to deploy useless wind turbines built overseas, which actually increase the use of fossil fuels and emissions due to the stop and go inefficiency required to regulate the erratic output, conservation and efficiency programs - which everyone agrees are the most cost effective ways to reduce fossil fuel consumption - get almost nothing.

 's picture

NIMBY

I am a nimby with a small wind turbine in my front yard and 400 watts of solar panels. Total cost = $3000 I live off the grid for ten years. No generator.

ummmm clair, gee

$3 million a turbine x 1000 turbines = 3,000,000,000 how much is that?
now divide by $ 10,000 an (on site home solar set-up) and how many get off the grid?
Please take the same stimulis $ for these huge, inefficient ,mass animal lair destroying turbines, and give to the average home owner/ tax payer. many jobs in the administration of this package.

 's picture

xyz & oil

Gawd, here we go again! How many times do we have to hear that stupid repetition that there is a connection between electricity generation and oil? Oil is used primarily in transportation, heating and steam production for manufacturing, plastics, lubricants, and many other uses that provide us with the standard of living we enjoy.
Once again, less than 2% of the nation's electricity comes from oil. Here in Maine, only the old Wyman plant in Yarmouth is oil fired and is used for back up and peak power needs.
Frankly, it could be converted to natural gas and for a tenth of the cost of all the planned wind turbines, could become a reliable baseline facility producing hundreds of megawatts 24/7, just like the Calpine plant in Westbrook. I happen to live in a home that was built for electric heat standards. But I am glad I have an oil fired furnace. I just wish I had natural gas available. I would never, ever want to pay the expense of electric heat.
Wind produced electricity will be far more costly than the mix of generation currently in the market. The announcements of the contracts for wind projects signed in recent months indicate triple the kwh cost than what we pay in the grid today. Wind is a farce that bites the citizens three ways: As taxpayers, we heavily subsidize it; as ratepayers, we pay more for it and the transmission line expansions; as Mainers, we witness the destruction of the northeastern uplands and the western mountains.

 's picture

Payne is a Paid Shill

Yep! I sure wish the citizens could have a full time paid shill for their point of view. Payne rolls out the usual wind industry propaganda to attempt to discredit a citizen who actually researches the real information about wind that the industry doesn't want you to know. This state has had a relentless misinformation campaign from numerous paid staff from the wind industry and their self serving supporters who want to jump on the subsidy-sucking bandwagon. Its about time we hear from the citizens' side of this travesty.
Well, Jeremy, you can twist and spin selected information all you wish. But I know these projects, too. The bottom line is wind is unpredictable, unreliable, grid-disrupting, and an economic and scientific farce. When the best one can get from wind in Maine is maybe 30% and most proposed locations will come in well under that, it makes absolutely no sense for this state to destroy 350 miles of ridgelines, permanently clearcut 50,000+ acres of forest, and create 1,000 miles of connector powerlines for a fickle trickle of electricity for Southern New England. That is a travesty! If it weren't for the heavy subsidies from the taxpayers and the preferential treatment that the wind industry, the bastard son of Enron, has lobbied into place, there wouldn't be a wind turbine built anywhere.
Your job is to be a paid shill for the industry, to perpetuate the propaganda machine for the wind folly. My job is to be a conscientious citizen, protecting the state I have lived in for more than 60 years from the devastation of the greedy plunderers you represent.

 's picture

Open and honest debate needed

The Wind industry and its champions are extremely adroit at minimizing its costs and negatives and glibly touting it’s purported benefits, relying on smooth marketing “facts,” calls to patriotism and home-grown energy. There is no mention of its abysmal production capacity; try and garner that information, it is not readily available. 30% of nameplate capacity is a rule, and that is generous. The wind projects slated for the Maine mountains will rely on CMP’s expensive new transmission project to carry that intermittent energy out of Maine to markets in southern New England. You and I, the consumers, will pay for that. Take a look at the quarterly report CMP sends its customers, and you will see we have already exceeded the 30% renewable standard, the majority of it from hydro power.
The media has not yet brought to the fore the impact of existing projects. Why is that not debated publicly? Take a closer look at Mars Hill, Stetson I & II, and the Kibby projects. Is this how Mainers want their state to look? It will under the governor’s expedited wind legislation, 360 miles of it. We are talking about the cumulative effects of industrial sprawl, not individual projects here and there. Public funds have gone into protecting many of Maine’s priceless views. That will be our money squandered.
Industrial wind mountaintop development – sprawl – will destroy the Maine we all know and love. There will be no “energy independence,” just expensive utility bills and power that must be backed by fossil fuel generation, as wind can never provide load capacity on the grid. The media needs to step up to the plate and provide the visual elements of existing projects, dig into and produce the amounts of energy they are currently producing, if any, and facilitate engaging the citizens of this State in an open debate as to the real facts of industrial wind and whether or not it is something we should pursue at all costs.

 's picture

Sorry Mr. Payne. Based on my

Sorry Mr. Payne. Based on my personal experience in dealing with First Wind's PR front men, I'd believe Charles Manson before I believed anyone associated with the wind power industry. Just one lie after another ...and right to your face. That's been my experience. You can twist your story any way you want to but there's a large and quickly growing number of people in this state that are catching on to the scam that is industrial wind power. You'll soon find that we're NOT the bunch of dumb hicks you thought we were. There is brain power north of Augusta. Keep your arogance to yourself the next time you feel the urge to write an article like this one.

 's picture

?

So, Jeremy, we should believe your version of facts? Mtn. top cutting with spraying to prevent regrowth cannot be good. You fail to mention the carbon just to mfg. the windsprawl. You ignor the studies from Europe which document increases of CO2 in spite of turbine sprawl. You omit the bird and bat reductions since the windsprawl fad in Europe. In short, you disregard pertinent info to make your "facts" seem more palatable. You are an industry schill and have a vested interest in promoting windsprawl. HydroQuebec sealed a deal with Vermont to sell power for 6cents per kwh. Why can't Maine have cheap hydro power from next door and save our mtns?

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