Wind Power Is Not Dependable
May 1, 2004
To the Editor:
Hello, please pardon me for meddling in the Kingdom's business, but I feel as though I can no longer bite my tongue!
There has been a great deal of discussion about wind power and its feasibility in Vermont. The more I heard, the more skeptical I became.
It all just sounded too good to be true and it began to feel as though the idea of wind power, as a magical solution to all of our energy woes, was being shoved down our throats by special interests and people willing to spend lots of other people's money. There had to be more to this magical solution, but, it seemed, nobody was willing to talk about it.
I am a proponent of wind power and fully appreciate the incredible technological advances that have come to the industry over the past 20 years, but having said that, fully believe there are excellent reasons that the "wind farms" are located in areas of the country where there is a substantial and dependable amount of wind.
I have tried to, objectively, list a few of the reasons why wind power in Vermont needs more study and not a frenzied rush to climb aboard the wind power train. We owe it to ourselves to explore the other side of this "wind power in Vermont" issue and, by doing so, avoid actions that we might regret.
Green Mountain Power spent over 10 years studying sites for wind turbines before settling on Mount Equinox in Searsburg. Where are the feasibility studies supporting the use of state-owned land for wind power?
Were it not for sizable government funding, the Mount Equinox project would not have been economically feasible. If a "sustainable energy" project cannot stand on its own capabilities is it really sustainable?
Ridge line widths vary from a few feet to hundreds of feet. The tower (150 feet high), rotor (300 feet in diameter) and turbine invariably require an acre or two of level ground for erection. To achieve this in most places will require extensive blasting and excavating, affecting wildlife for miles in all directions.
After the flat spot has been made, all the trees, in all directions and for some distance, must be removed to prevent turbulence to the rotor.
A road at least 100 feet wide to accommodate two-lane traffic, with snow removal and drainage, must be blasted to the site. Because of the turning radius requirements of the heavy equipment needed at the top, there can be no sharp curves, nor can the road be too steep.
This type of road may require as much as 10 to 15 feet of travel for every foot of elevation. In order to reach some of the ridges, it will be necessary to travel closer to 25 feet for every foot of elevation. Every foot of the road will require extensive blasting, causing irreversible damage to habitats and watersheds. Building the road to the Searsburg site destroyed a bear habitat.
A large power line right-of-way must be cleared. The right-of-way cannot follow the road. The most direct route will be a straight line at least 100 feet wide down the mountainside. A certain amount of blasting will be necessary along with complete defoliation, destroying habitat and poisoning the ground and water.
According to wind turbine designers and manufacturers, a wind speed of 12 to 13 mph is needed to turn the rotor. At this speed insufficient electricity is generated to supply the electrical requirements of more than a couple of single family dwellings. Records kept by the National Weather Service indicate that during any randomly selected 20-year period at three of the windiest spots in the state of Vermont (Jay Peak, Mount Mansfield and a site on Lake Champlain), the average wind speed over that period in those places was about 9 mph.
For maximum electrical output a wind turbine, depending upon the model, requires a wind speed of 20 to 30 mph. According to the National Weather Service, "ridge line" wind speed reaches or exceeds 20 mph 6 percent of an average year.
Wind power is "real time" only. When the wind blows, if it blows fast enough, you may have some quantity of electricity. When it doesn't blow, you do not.
According to experts in the wind turbine manufacturing industry and studies conducted here in Vermont by several electrical utilities and private consultants, the most optimistic forecast for wind power output is for 30 percent efficiency. That's like driving to your job, 10 miles away, and being satisfied when the car stops running after the third mile.
In Vermont, wind power will not dependably replace any of the conventional power generating systems currently employed. It will, however, convert the only remaining quasi-pristine natural areas in Vermont into stony mesas with high-tech whirligigs as monuments to our collective gullibility.
Our grandchildren will not thank us.
More pages on this site about wind power in Vermont:
• letter to The Caledonian-Record (St. Johnsbury), by Bill Eddy
• editorial by the Burlington Free Press
• notes on some surveys about wind farms
• report on the poor record of the Searsburg wind plant
• comments about proposed East Haven wind project and projects in Vermont in general
• letter to the Manchester Journal, by Hugh Kemper, and response by Andrew Perchlik, with commentary
• outline of large wind projects targeting Vermont and vicinity
• letter to the Burlington Free Press, by Eric Rosenbloom
Also: Vermonters with Vision
back to "A Problem With Wind Power"