Thursday, June 15, 2006

Wind Farms - More Proposed, More Blocked [more NIMBY]

The NIMBY effect goes on. It's a wonder that this country can maintain, never mind create, any infrastructure. Wind farms are taking a hit again.
A group of residents has hired an attorney in connection with proposals to build a wind farm in the town of Cape Vincent. Wind Power Ethics Group, made up of approximately 30 people, wants a moratorium on development of commercial wind power facilities.

The group hired Dexter attorney Judy Drabicki, who drafted a letter asking the town board to make no decisions on wind farm projects for six months.

Drabicki said the town needs to carefully examine the potential harm posed by wind facilities.

"You need to look at the view shed. You need to create computer generated images. You need to study the birds, study the traffic, not just click off boxes on a form," said Drabicki.

Oh LORD yes, we need more studies. Imagine the results of a study on "view shed." You can be certain that that has far more to do with the resistance to this than birds or traffic. I'm stunned that they didn't pop out the old RADAR interference complaint while they are at it. But go ahead with the studies. The company that wants to provide that clean, safe, renewable power source has very deep pockets. They can wait years to move on a project to help diminish the US dependency on oil. (If you didn't note the sarcasm, try again.)

Haven't heard the RADAR argument?
More than $500 million in wind farm developments in Minnesota face potential delays because of a federal directive to study the effects of wind turbines on military radar installations.

At least four wind projects in the state - and more than a dozen elsewhere in the Upper Midwest - have been temporarily denied safety permits from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). Instead, the FAA has sent notices of "presumed hazard" that effectively prohibit construction until the wind farm proposals are reviewed further, or until the Department of Defense completes a study ordered by Congress earlier this year.

"Our goal is not to put up roadblocks to these wind farms but to preserve the safety of our airspace and defense of our nation," said Eileen Lainez, a Defense Department spokeswoman.

Congress ordered the study about wind farms and their effects on military radar in a last-minute amendment to a national defense bill in January.

The language apparently was added because of a wind farm proposed for Nantucket Sound in Massachusetts. Some residents of the Cape Cod area oppose the project on grounds that the machines will spoil their views and kill migrating birds.

The author of the amendment was Sen. John Warner, R-Va., who, the Chicago Tribune reported, has tried previously to block the cape project.

In March, the departments of Defense and Homeland Security issued an interim policy that they would contest any new windmill farms "within radar line of sight of the National Air Defense and Homeland Security Radars" until the study is completed.

Some opposed to the Nantucket Sound project, called Cape Wind, have strong environmental credentials, including Robert F. Kennedy Jr., a senior attorney for the Natural Resources Defense Council. His uncle, Sen. Edward Kennedy, D-Mass., also has been an opponent, and the issue has created a rift among environmental activists.

I completely believe Lainez. The DoD isn't trying to block the wind farms. But only a complete moron would not understand that the POLITICIANS that required the study certainly are trying to block them.

If the worry over RADAR is of that high level of priority, why not also look at mitigation of the effects? That wasn't part of the legislation now was it? The UK is doing trials related to mitigation work for RADAR.

Scotland is planning to utilize up to 1.4 Gigawatts of power from wind alone. Of course they are getting a lot of complaints about the view and birds as well. At least they are trying to move to clean sources. The US seems to be doing its best to block every attempt.

I'd really like to know if the present RADAR used for civilian aviation and the military doesn't have a design that prevents blank spots in cases of failures. I would have thought that such redundancy and design would allow for an overlap in RADAR coverage that could easily be used to overcome the possible interference of the turbines. Maybe I'm assuming too much? One would hope that modern technology would have moved to the point where RADAR is more dependable and effective.

Then there is the birds. Migratory and courtship disruptions.
So what happens when the birds encounter 40,000 acres of 400-foot-tall wind turbines a few miles off the coast, as is planned at Padre Island? No one knows for sure. But we need to find the answer before plunging ahead, or we might wake up one day and say, "Oops, what's happened to all our songbirds?"

Wind energy certainly has the potential for clean, renewable energy, resulting in less dependence on fossil fuel and a reduction in carbon dioxide emissions known to coincide with global warming. Thus the rush to build wind farms off the Texas Coast. But the rush, if not thought out, might result in bloody bird feathers.

I really want to know how they propose to do that study. No wind farm means no stimulus to note alterations in the birds migrations, so what will they do? Well, fault to the safe side and don't allow the wind farm.
Proof that wind turbines harm birds is at California's massive wind farm at Altamont Pass. Up to 1,300 birds of prey, including 75 golden eagles, perish each year in collisions with wind turbines and adjacent power lines.
Nice vague statistic there. How many from turbines and how many from powerlines? Again, isn't there a way of mitigating the hazards?
The problem of bird mortality has not been ignored by the Texas wind-farm industry. Houston-based Superior Renewable Energy ( has publicly stated its intention to conduct a study of bird migration in order to mitigate bird mortality at offshore wind turbines. However, the outlines of the study and possible mitigation strategy remain unclear.
Oh, see, someone is trying to do it right from the design time. Though I'd bet that their results will be discounted and the project blocked until an independent study can be performed.

These days, the prairie-chicken, which makes its home on the Kansas plains, is also getting much scrutiny from energy companies, biologists, wildlife groups and government agencies.

That is because the windy sites it loves may also be the perfect place for a wind farm. And in an unusual example of cooperation between energy companies and environmentalists, the fate of the bird is being considered in a four-year study before development begins.

"This is about doing wind energy right, putting it where it doesn't do significant ecological damage and developing to get the benefits that wind energy promises," said Rob Manes, conservation director for The Nature Conservancy of Kansas.

One of the most sensitive grassland birds, the prairie- chicken -- or Tympanuchus cupido -- needs wide open range to wander in search of insects, other food and nesting sites, naturalists say.

How wind farms may affect nesting areas is a key part of the study, Manes said. If nesting birds abandon their habitat, reproduction will drop and their numbers will decline, he said.

A FOUR year study. I'm certain that the vast tracks of wind farms will soon cause the prarie-chicken into extinction. Or is it more likely that they will just not nest directly under the turbines and roost elsewhere just as nicely.

It's almost funny how the tactics to block nuclear power stations are now being used to block wind farms. Don't like it, demand studies of the impact. Don't like those results, demand a study on the environment. Don't like those results, change local zoning. Fail in that, go to your local politician. If that fails, by this time the company proposing the project has likely given up due to loss of feasibility.

At least Barny Frank has changed directions in supporting the Caps Cod wind project.
U.S. Rep. Barney Frank has changed his mind about wind power and now supports the controversial Cape Wind project, as well as turbines in Buzzards Bay that do not interfere with navigation.
The Newton Democrat wrote a nine-paragraph e-mail to his constituents yesterday, explaining his sudden shift in support for offshore wind projects.
"I am in favor of wind power off our southern coast, both in those waters adjacent to my own district and to others," he wrote. "I do not believe there are any environmental or aesthetic objections that should get in the way."
Rep. Frank explained in the e-mail that his initial opposition to the 420-megawatt, 130-turbine Cape Wind project in Nantucket Sound was out of deference to U.S. Rep William D. Delahunt and Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, who has a direct geographic interest in the project. By supporting their position against Cape Wind, he hoped they would help him in matters pertinent to his district, such as the proposed liquefied natural gas plant in Fall River.
Nice to see that Frank can point out that Delahunt and Kennedy are not disinterested parties. In fact, here is more on the Kennedy's.
Critics include members of the Kennedy family, whose summer compound is on Cape Cod. Both Senator Edward Kennedy, and his nephew Robert F. Kennedy Jr., have said the turbines would spoil the ocean views, threaten the local tourist economy and endanger migratory birds. The younger Kennedy, an environmental lawyer and activist who has supported wind power in other parts of the country, said putting a wind farm in Nantucket Sound would be akin to placing one in the Grand Canyon or Yellowstone National Park. "This isn't the right location, for a number of reasons," Kennedy said.
So Cape Cod is comparable to the large national parks? Well, if it's that nice maybe we should move you out of it and make it a park. That way we can ensure its preservation and eliminate all those hideous mansions that are parked on the coast. It's especially entertaining to see an environmental lawyer standing firmly against this.

I suppose with these extreme NIMBY attitudes, you can completely discount the Tidal Energy Project.

With all the screeching over global warming, you'd think there would at least be a little push back on this. I honestly don't believe that anyone really wants clean energy. How much more proof does one need?

1 comment:

Tom Gray said...

Well, let's see, lots to comment on here:

- Moratoriums on wind are foolish and a waste of time--their only purpose is to stop development. The only way for any issues that may arise with a wind project to be understood and resolved is through the permitting process. Moratoriums don't allow that process to proceed. QED.

- Excellent point on mitigation of radar problems. That can be done and has been done at a number of sites, in the U.S. and elsewhere. However, wind turbines can cause "clutter" on radar. The problem can almost always be worked out, by moving individual turbines, by hardware upgrades (more modern radar equipment), by software upgrades, or some combination. As this suggests, it is a site-specific problem depending on the specific type of radar and the turbine locations--a blanket freeze on new wind farms is misguided and inappropriate.

- Regarding mortality of birds of prey in Altamont Pass, there is a major mitigation effort now underway. Half of the turbines were shut down during the winter months and all of the turbines will be replaced over the next several years by new, larger units that are expected to present less hazard to birds.

- The prairie-chicken issue (and the issue of other grassland bird species) is a legitimate one, but it is not yet clear to me how to isolate the impact of wind from many other human activities that are disrupting grassland bird habitat--power lines, roads, ranchettes, oil pump jacks, hunting, etc., etc. As the quote you excerpted indicates, the wind industry is cooperating in funding research on the species in question.

I share your frustration, but it is still nice to see the industry growing at last. Last year, wind ranked second only to natural gas in the amount of new electric generating capacity added in the U.S. More is absolutely needed, but we are making progress.

Tom Gray
American Wind Energy Association