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My One-Time, Tacit Support of Industrial Wind: A Confessional

[Ed. Note: This testimonial joins Michael Morgan's last week  indicating a growing disconnect between Washington, D.C.-based BIG ENVIRONMENTALISM and in-the-pristine, grassroots, common-sense environmentalism. Mr. Cudnohufsky's bio follows this post.]

On a regular basis, friends are surprised to learn of my recently voiced concerns about industrial wind. Enlightened, perceptive and thoughtful people, they share much of my concern for our earth and human communities.

They ask me, “Isn’t wind a good thing? What concerns you and why? Wind is a large renewable resource used for centuries! We are behind the rest of the world in the use of wind power! We need to address climate change. What is your solution?”

These friends have not incorporated wind energy investigation into their busy lives. With climate change, unemployment, a stagnant economy, health care legislation and a war all screaming for attention, there is to be expected a certain complacency and acceptance of industrial wind.

Despite little time for research, there is strong emotional conviction from the dwindling proponents of wind power as well as the growing number of opponents. Once healthy, convivial communities are sometimes permanently divided by the issue.

It takes but a minute’s reflection to realize that just over two years ago, I held the same opinion of wind that some of my friends do now.  However, investigation of industrial wind has led me to this well-considered conclusion: industrial wind is a total sham! Not only is it horrendously impactful, but it also does not work in any meaningful manner. But efficacy is a subject for another discussion.

What has led to our collective and tacit endorsement of industrial wind energy? Why do some of us hold such strong yet naive convictions that industrial wind actually does work?  

My past assumptions were:

Worldwide examples are constructed proof.

I have seen turbines at work producing electrical energy by spinning blades so it obviously must be a tested and proven technology. Besides, turbines are often striking, at minimum interesting, and for some, even attractive.

Money talks.

Certainly there is so much money and risk investment involved that it must have been peer-reviewed and vetted to cover that risk. After all, so many good minds — technical, financial and scientific — have been applied. 

A coherent story with impressive immediate promises.

Government and corporate publications and pronouncements are clear, coherent, consistent, statistic-laden (homes served, CO2 saved and jobs created) and enticing. All point to the wonder of this renewable energy-capturing technology.

An enticing magical silver bullet.

Industrial wind is promoted as a clean, green, economical (some say free), sustainable and non-polluting source of energy where every kW of wind energy produced eliminates the need for a polluting kW. Is this not logical and simple to understand?

Technology is our savior.

I have long held belief that we as a society have the capacity to make meaningful change and our technologies will and must be a large part of that change. If wind is not perfect now, it is at least in a process of being perfected. Technology is improving daily!

Simple unshakable fear.

There is the genuine fear that our nation and our world are in serious trouble, trouble that may truly lead to the end of civilization and render our earth uninhabitable. We need to get on with corrections starting now, even if modest. There is extreme urgency!


Personal guilt.

There is the guilt that my somewhat unconscious, consumptive living is making the problems worse. I wish to support and be known for supporting a way to improve.

Trust in those we elect and hire.

There was my trust in our government and our corporations doing the research. I believed that 25 years of industrial wind development on foreign shores would have allowed the kinks and deficiencies to be worked out. Inadequacies would obviously have been fully revealed. I believed that if we elect good political representation, these people would look out for our interests.

Solution seems obvious

There are not a lot of solutions, so wind energy has to be a logical component of the mix, doesn’t it? After all, capturing wind energy has been a significant part of human culture and evolution.

Leading environmental organizations lend their support.

I was aware that the environmental organizations with which I have long held memberships were condoning and, in some cases, constructing industrial wind turbines. They had the staff members to investigate and would obviously do so to protect their reputations.

These notions were part of my casually focused reasoning that gave unspoken support to industrial wind energy. 

I had concluded that industrial wind energy is a world-proven technology, that the involvement of big money would have required its justification. The statistics were impressive, it seemed logical, it involves our inventive and often life-enhancing technologies. I trusted our politicians and corporations to make wise, vetted decisions. I did not see other easy choices and my environmental leadership heroes were supportive. I also carried and carry personal guilt for being part of the problem and hold genuine fear for my grandchildren’s future.

This may be sufficient reasoning to understand and excuse where I was, and where some of my good friends may still be, relative to industrial wind technology.  Unfortunately, I can report with certainty that these convictions and conclusions were not based in reality. Every premise I leaned on is being proven unsubstantiated.

Any proof of consistent wind turbine performance is either adulterated, non-existent or lacks full accounting. The books are cooked! Vast amounts of money have corrupted, not clarified, wind development. Statistics are reported in a simplistic manner and have not been supported. Technology is simply not a savior in this case. Schumacher’s belief in appropriate-scale technology and solutions come to mind here. Today’s politicians and corporations have rarely placed themselves in favorable light, also true with industrial wind.

So it comes down to my having guilt for participating in expanding energy climate problems and fear for our children’s future. It is probably good that I and others have guilt and fear to motivate us. Perhaps it is why industrial wind is an emotional issue for so many?

That we have gone down the wrong, soon to be proven dead end, road should not be not a total surprise. In our complacency, and by not attending to the issue, we have allowed our energy and environmental policies to be hijacked and dictated by special single interest lobbyists. Instead of wise decisions based on the scientific method, we are hearing only financially sponsored platitudes and rhetoric. This multi-dimensional disaster is essentially guaranteed by this fundamental flaw in our policy making process.

A proposal:

I now openly admit my long-held error of judgment. I wish for and request only that our leadership, elected officials, governments at all levels, other societies, corporations, universities and institutions, and particularly our Governor, admit they have made a mistake!

As I see it, there is no larger or more compelling show of human strength than publicly admitting a mistake and then charting a different path. The most devastating impact of our silent endorsement of now-faltering industrial wind power is that it steals from the indomitable human resolve to search out, test and then employ viable energy solutions.

While waiting for these honest admissions, I will continue to work to simply conserve our energy use and stay abreast of possible components of the energy solution. I already know the answers will stress local, small-scale, renewable sources. They will not be large-scale, corporate or greed-based choices. The solutions cannot continue to be derived by business as usual and will be multi-dimensional.

In the Buddha’s resolutions from a well-known discourse called the Kalama Sutta: “I will not believe in anything simply because I’ve heard it and it is rumored by many. I will not believe in anything simply on the authority of my teachers and elders. But after observation and analysis, when I know for myself that something, if undertaken and practiced, will lead to the welfare and happiness of one and all, I will accept it and live up to it.”

———————-

Walter Cudnohufsky of Ashfield, MA is founder and head of Walter Cudnohufsky Associates Inc. www.wcala.com , “a full-service landscape architecture and land planning firm based in Western Massachusetts with a client base in the Berkshires. Our strong commitment to designing in harmony with nature is evident in our green design solutions.” Located in Conway , MA, Walter was founder and for it’s first 20 years Director of the Conway School of landscape Design, a nationally recognized School of sustainable planning and design. www.csld.edu   He is an avid watercolor painter and teacher www.cudnohufsky.com of the much loved New England landscape, so often threatened by the imposition of non-meaningful industrial wind.

 

15 comments

1 Charles { 01.20.12 at 2:14 am }

All your assumptions are correct, there is no value to wind energy whatsoever for the environment, and there never will be. All those politicians and activists in which you placed your trust can now be seen for the intellectually slovenly, ideological zealots that they are.

However, all these character shortcomings do nothing to prevent them from preening in pious sanctimony when they establish the latest of these lunatic schemes, so they are definitely not fast learners. Hopefully they will be held to account for this in the indeterminate future.

Your other comment on minimising your energy footprint by engaging in small scale renewables is also doomed to failure I am afraid. There is no evidence to suggest that small scale turbines, solar panels, etc. do anything other than support rent-seeking businesses such as those which are rewarded with induction of industrial scale wind turbines.

Given that the man’s impact on the climate is looking more insignificant with each passing day, you need to have the courage to do nothing, which is about the best advice you can get at present

2 Kent Hawkins { 01.20.12 at 9:56 am }

This is another important testimony from the increasing number of people who have taken the time to understand the issues surrounding industrial wind.

The US has no reason to believe that it is “behind the rest of the world in the use of wind power”, as it led the world in wind turbine capacity for almost the total 20th century. It was not until 1995 that Germany gained parity with the US and briefly took the lead. The US passed Germany again in 2008. Germany rushed into wind at that time because it made the least use of renewable energy sources for electricity in Europe, and believed it needed to catch up. This point is made in the German legislation adopting its renewable energy (wind) policies.

Germany still leads in terms of wind (and solar) penetration of the electricity system, and is experiencing the consequences of that in terms of the need for curtailment of intermittent sources and lack of claimed benefits. Germany has reduced CO2 emissions since 1990 by about 20%. The first 15 percentage points were achieved when Germany was re-united in the 1990 time frame and the worst polluting industries in the east were shut down. Since then according to EC reports, the further few percentage points were due to the conversion from coal to gas for electricity generation and heating, in buildings and transportation.

I suggest that there was not a period of 25 years of industrial wind development of any significance on foreign shores preceding the US involvement. It should be viewed more as a short gap of thirteen years in implementations.

Miniscule Denmark is a special case not worthy of mention, and their short-lived, “sustainable” turbine manufacturing industry is severely at risk due to competition from global giants, notably China.

The important point in all this is that the US lead in wind turbine installations throughout the 20th century was for the right reasons: wind turbines provided electricity in areas that did not have grid-supplied electricity. In other words, there was no other real choice for the modern conveniences provided by electricity. This was an example of true distributed generation, that is, the electricity is consumed in close proximity to where it is generated.

The fact that the US has “regained the lead” again is unfortunately for the wrong reasons, many of which Mr. Cudnohufsky has outlined. One saving factor is that there is still time for the US (and other western countries) to come to their senses before falling into the trap of over-doing this in terms of wind penetration of the electricity system. Along with its commitment to solar plants, Spain provides a good example of the consequences.

Industrial-scale wind should be considered no more than a failed experiment that is not worthy of commercialisation, particularly because of the massive investment of national treasure involved.

3 Jon Boone { 01.20.12 at 10:13 am }

With knowledge comes responsibility. In this case, responsibility should mean, particularly from such an articulate spokesman, a continuing effort to inform others about the scam, challenging regulatory agencies and politicians to do their jobs, and confronting–ridiculing–those environmental organizations that work hard to make people think the pigs of wind can fly.

Confession is the first step….

4 MarkB { 01.20.12 at 1:12 pm }

So perhaps after years of supporting wind power in principle – and from afar – he is now dealing with clients whose McMansions he would landscape who are worried that turbines will soon sit on top of the Berkshire hills ‘view’ they paid for? Excuse me for being cynical, but….

5 Paul Lindsey { 01.20.12 at 2:20 pm }

Walter, do you still standby your letter to the Windham Regional Commission following the Jan 7, 2008 public meeting regarding the Certificate of Public Good for the Vermont Yankee license extension?
Page 2 of this pdf: http://www.rpc.windham.vt.us/energy/VY_WRC/Exhibit-WRC-TB-2-App-G.pdf

For those that missed the announcement yesterday, US District Judge Murtha slapped the State of Vermont pretty hard in his decision in Energy’s lawsuit against Vermont.

6 CG { 01.21.12 at 12:54 pm }

You almost turned me against wind. However, I didn’t see solid research on the scam. Industrial or technological change is always redistribution of interests, full of odds and passion.

7 archaeopteryx { 01.21.12 at 5:03 pm }

Worldwide examples, when you go past the deliberate falsehoods, are proof that wind power is a sham. Germany claims 6-7% from wind power but only if it can access France, Austrian and Scandinavian supply, several times a year to avoid blackouts, and only if it can dump destabilizing excess power to Poland (who blocked it) and to the Czech Republic which grumbles. That is with 22,000 installed MW! Germany is primarily coal. All 22,000 wind units cannot replace a simple 500MW thermal plant. Tiny Denmark is equally bogus. Denmark claims wind power because it sit between hydroelectric Norway (to which it dumps wind at a loss) and huge Germany which barely notices Denmark’s output. The Falklands are an excellent example of the fallacy: Initially advertized to supply 40% of needs, the wind units save 4,4% to 8,3% of actual fuel used. Hard and simple numbers.

There is no financial or business risk to the wind power operator. The purchase of the variable power is guaranteed, and so is the price, in Europe. A triple A bond where the bond holder gets a guaranteed subsidized return from utility bills, without necessarily delivering something useful. Most wind “farms” require hot stand-by power. Double costs, double capital.

“Homes served and CO2 saved” are totally bogus statistics. Imputed numbers. Fiction. Ask about “availability”. Or even better, ask “how much real fuel was saved” as measured; Not through theoretical calculations. 20,000 wind generators cannot power a hospital’s ER. 1.000.000 wind generators cannot power a foundry. Or produce enough useful power to manufacture a single ball bearing. Cumulative averages are irrelevant in the manufacture of a ball bearing, “actual power” is relevant.

The environmental organizations include two kinds of people: the well intended nice people, and the highly paid salespeople. The latter are centrally coordinated in Central Europe. Panda experts cannot be opining on utility pricing and energy, like I cannot opine on the breeding habits of cats (and I own several).

8 john { 01.23.12 at 7:57 am }

This post covers Wind, Markley, Bill McKibben and de-regulation. I tried to post a news item yesterday but the link may have been incorrect and post killed. My apologies.

New rules could boost New England renewable power

http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-505245_162-57363549/new-rules-could-boost-new-england-renewable-power/

excerpt:

Massachusetts U.S. Rep. Edward Markey and FERC Commissioner Cheryl LaFleur are keynote speakers and environmentalist Bill McKibben is a panelist at the summit.

Related:

http://www.windaction.org/news/34145

9 john { 01.23.12 at 11:56 am }
10 Paul Lindsey { 01.24.12 at 10:16 am }

Walter Cudnohufsky replied directly back to me, vice posting his answer to the question I asked above about his letter opposing the license renewal of Vermont Yankee:

==========
From: Walter Cudnohufsky [mailto:*****@******.com]
Sent: Saturday, January 21, 2012 6:17 AM
To: plindsey@******.com
Subject: RE: [MasterResource] Comment: “My One-Time, Tacit Support of Industrial Wind: A Confessional”

Hello Paul

I do stand by my letter totally. The unfortunate fact is that wind is no longer a green energy solution. Conservation of all kinds first and then geo thermal, solar, small scale wind, pumped hydro etc.

Walt Cudnohufsky
========

11 tfleming { 01.24.12 at 6:43 pm }

Most of the assumptions people hold about utility-scale wind energy can be boiled down to this:

In approximately 1985, leading doctors–in fact all doctors–”knew” that ulcers were caused by excess stomach acid. Therefore, they routinely gave their ulcer patients advice to use antacids on a long-term basis and, when they felt guilt because antacids had no effect or worsened the condition, they sometimes prescribed powerful drugs to suppress the production of acid. Both of these “remedies” sometimes led to horrible side effects and a worsening of the ulcer to the point of requiring wholesale removal of the stomach.

Meanwhile, despite being ridiculed and marginalized, two courageous Australian researchers persisted with publicizing their novel research, done outside of the auspices of conventional medicine, that convincingly showed that the vast majority of ulcers were caused by H. pylori bacteria in the gut, and could be easily and quickly eliminated through common antibiotics. Eventually, after enough reports surfaced about these efforts to sway the powers-that-be, their research was successfully replicated by the doctors blessed by the imprimatur of the medical establishment, leaving the latter no choice but to eat alot of crow and reverse course.

This is the likely future of industrial wind.

In other words, groupthink stifles progress. It only takes one person to be right.

12 john { 01.25.12 at 6:54 am }

Update 2:

First Wind: PUC position would harm state’s economy
http://bangordailynews.com/2012/01/24/business/first-wind-puc-position-would-harm-states-economy/

13 john { 02.04.12 at 9:27 am }

Update 3:

First Wind merger faces strong headwinds with the Maine PUC

http://api.ning.com/files/Qx6a0LN-EZJReyW2Ez*CT8jfn7VYnYpli*N069eHxb8WV2wO4KBZ2pr6BBhIw4Os5Fd-F5L0HZMEXtNzPyWHUJ5n9-mk2IxF/easyfile_doc242789.PDF

Public Advocate Eric Bryant moves for dismissal with prejudice in the matter of petitioners Bangor Hydro Electric and Maine Public Service due to numerous violations of the Commission’s Rules of Procedure.

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