Northern Valley Beacon

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Sunday, January 22, 2006


When standing downwind, wind power is not all fresh air

We have an interest in wind power because we are on the board of directors of a corporation that owns land in one of the nation's prime wind sites. Our posts about wind power and the forces struggling to get control of it have produced an abudance of e-mail and responses.

At this time, the South Dakota Public Utilities Commission will be examining a proposal for stimulating wind power projects in South Dakota. A plaint in regard to wind power development is that there are not adequate transmission lines to get the power from where it is produced to where it is used. Electric producers claim that the cost of constructing such lines is $1 million a mile. The proposal coming before the PUC is to tack the cost of building the lines onto the consumers' power bills.

Another group of wind power advocates is promoting the idea of creating a hydrogen fuel economy. They point out that wind powered generators, water powered generators, and photo cells could be used to generate electricity but also to run electrolysis machines that convert water into hydrogen. In rural areas, the hydrogen would be used to power farm equipement. Our automobiles and trucks would be powered hydrogen. The energy is abundant, renewable, and virtually pollution free.

However, there are some groups that have taken a strong stance against wind power. One such group has a web site at

From an article circulated by its members, here are some of the points they make about wind power.

1. Tax avoidance, not environmental and energy benefits, has become the primary motivation for building “wind farms.” Currently, two-thirds of the economic value of wind projects comes from federal tax benefits.

2. Huge windmills – some 35 stories tall -- produce very little electricity. All the 12,000+ windmills now scattered across thousands of acres in 30 states in the US may be able to produce about 15,000,000,000 kilowatt-hours (kWh) of electricity annually. That may sound like a lot of electricity, but it’s equal to ¾ of 1% of the electricity produced in the US in 2003 and much less than the 20,000,000,000 kWh produced by Exelon’s Braidenwood generating station during 2004.

3. Electricity from wind turbines has less real value than electricity from reliable generating units. Wind turbines produce electricity only when the wind is blowing in the right speed range. Their output is intermittent, highly volatile and largely unpredictable and can’t be counted on when electricity demand is highest; e.g., during hot summer afternoons.

4. The true cost of electricity from wind energy is much higher than wind advocates admit. Advocates ignore the huge costs of subsidies and fail to acknowledge that reliable generating units must be kept available and running to balance and “back up” the intermittent, volatile output from wind turbines so that electricity always will be available when required by electric customers. Windmills use transmission capacity inefficiently, adding to costs.

5. Claims of environmental benefits of wind energy are exaggerated. For example, advocates generally ignore the fact that backup generating units must be immediately available and running at less than their peak efficiency or in spinning reserve mode, and that backup units continue to emit while in these modes. Also, under “cap and trade” rules, credits for sulfur dioxide or nitrogen oxides emissions that may be displaced by wind could be sold to other emitters, with NO reduction in those emissions.

6. “Wind farms” have significant adverse environmental, scenic and property value impacts that wind advocates like to ignore. People living in areas where “wind farms” have been constructed have become painfully aware that – in addition to the high cost of the electricity – “wind farms” impair environmental, ecological, scenic and property values. Adverse impacts include noise, bird kills, interference with bird migration and animal habitat, destruction of scenic vistas and ecological rarities, distracting blade “flicker” and aircraft warning lights, and lower value of properties near the huge structures.

7. “Wind farms” produce few local economic benefits, which are overwhelmed by the higher costs imposed on electric customers through their monthly bills. A few landowners may get additional income but the added cost of electricity to electric customers will overwhelm the total of these payments.

8. Wind energy has NOT been a great success in other countries. Denmark and Germany have residential electricity prices that are among the highest in the world and are experiencing many problems due to their use of wind energy. Opposition to wind turbines is also growing in other countries. Expectations that wind energy will make significant contributions toward meeting European Kyoto goals have been discredited.

9. Renewable Portfolio Standards are an insidious device. They result in enriching a few “renewable energy” producers at the expense of many ordinary electric customers.

Challenging incorrect “popular wisdom” is difficult but, in this case, well worth the effort!

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