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Why I Turned Against ‘Green’ Windpower

“I cannot abide the suggestion that we must sacrifice our environment in order to save it. This is an absurd argument enabling this energy imposter’s invasion of delicate habitat with little return. … Environmentalists must consider the possibility that industrial wind, by its failure to perform to stated goals, does not then qualify for this sacred consideration.”

The heavily funded and admittedly effective U.S. industrial wind lobby portrays its product as descending from old-world windmills. Close your eyes and you’ll surely imagine these magnificent machines gently turning in the breeze … each kilowatt arriving at your reading lamp courtesy of a rosy–cheeked Hummel child.

Existing solely to save the planet by generating clean, affordable and environmentally friendly electricity, you can be sure that any addition to the plant owner’s bank account is purely accidental.

Hogwash!

In reality, the U.S. industrial wind business was rescued by Ken Lay and Enron with quick, low-risk profit as its core goal. As Gabriel Alonso, chief executive of Horizon Wind Energy LLC – one of America’s biggest wind developers, often reminds his employees … their goal isn’t to stage a renewable-energy revolution … “This is about making money!”

Once a Believer

I was not always this cynical. I wanted to believe that industrial wind would replace fossil fueled power plants and, until two years ago, defended its arrival here. Like many West Virginians, I wanted the destruction of our mountains by those who profit from the blue diamond stopped … NOW!

I believed industrial wind offered the best opportunity to accomplish that goal and, even recognizing industrial wind also consumes our forest lands, it seemed an excellent alternative to the coal industry’s horribly destructive mountaintop removal mining process.

Sadly, once the layers of woulds, coulds and shoulds were peeled back, I found industrial wind failed to keep its environmental promises. Save the canned boilerplate responses to criticisms, the wind industry offered nothing conclusive to demonstrate it would significantly reduce emissions or close fossil fueled plants. There is no conclusive evidence that one coal plant has been closed as a direct result of the installation of tens of thousands of wind turbines. Not one! I’ve asked advocates to name one facility. Answer … zippo!

I fully expect advocates to point to many studies which validate their woulds and shoulds. But the studies they point to carry their own fair share of woulds and shoulds as well.

We’re even asked to disregard the increased emissions generated by fossil fueled plants as they inefficiently try to compensate for wind’s constant variability and accept that, on their word alone, when the wind is blowing, a coal plant, somewhere, is not running. That’s equivalent to some self-appointed Giraffe Control Officer bragging that not one has been spotted in Charleston during his watch.

Consider this measure instead. US industrial wind capacity at the end of 2010 exceeded 40,000 MW. The U.S. has some 490 coal power plants with an average size of 667 MW. A direct one-to-one trade would have closed some 60 coal plants. Again … name one!

Bringing this closer to home … Edison Mission Energy is heavily invested in Appalachian coal-fired power plants even as it grows its Appalachian wind plants. Can we expect Edison to replace its fossil plants as it opens wind plants with equivalent MW capacity? Will any of the major players holding significant interest in both fossil fueled plants and wind plants make this commitment? I suggest they will not, as long as there is profit to be made from each.

The sad truth is that industrial wind does not replace fossil-fueled electricity generators. It does not reduce emissions. It does not provide affordable, on-demand electricity. The relatively miniscule amount of electricity generated typically arrives when it’s not needed and cannot effectively be stored. Industrial wind, true to Ken Lay’s intent, is a profit center founded on favorable legislation, mandated renewable energy goals and funded by taxpayer subsidies.

Conversion Experience

I did not come to the “dark side” willingly. At the suggestion of a friend, I attended a presentation on industrial wind at which the speaker systematically destroyed any notion that industrial wind has earned a seat at the US energy table.

Expecting yet another NIMBY rant, the presenter [ed. note: John Droz Jr.] instead based his case that industrial wind is a failed technology on science alone. There was little mention of view-shed, bat/bird kills, noise or health issues, all of which I’ve since learned are serious issues in their own right. The presenter focused primarily on the poor performance and high cost of industrial wind and the fact that it could never replace current generators, my main reason for initially supporting industrial wind.

Knowing that the two key representatives of our proposed wind plant were introduced as being in the audience, I could hardly wait for the question-and-answer session. This was going to be a knock down for the ages! Just wait until they set this clown straight!

Then, the presenter wrapped up and said the magic words I’d been waiting for … Any Questions? My gladiators stood up and walked out! Not a word! No defense! How could they let this brutal attack stand?

That was my turning point. Suspicion drove me to read any article I could find about industrial wind, and the more I learned the more I disliked these monstrous contraptions which were scheduled to invade my Appalachian Mountains by the tens of thousands.

What I Have Learned

Before this event, I was willing, like many of my friends, to sacrifice a mountain view, some bats and birds and even the hard earned tax dollars these wind folks would pick from my pocket if it meant the greater good would be served.

What I learned, however, lead me to the conclusion that there is no trade.

  • Coal plants will continue to exist at pre-wind levels and the mines will remain open in order to supply them.
  • Emissions will not be reduced as a result of industrial wind. When asked if wind power was reducing carbon emissions, Deb Malin, a Bonneville Power Authority Representative, answered, “No. They are, in fact, creating emissions.”
  • Not only will the surface destruction brought about by mountain top removal mining not be reduced as a result of wind plants, industrial wind will bring destruction well above the ground in areas not previously impacted by mountain top removal.
  • The cumulative impact of long stretches of deadly 450 foot tall whirlybirds along our fragile mountain ridges will set a deadly gauntlet for many migratory species with no real benefit to show for the sacrifice.
  • The arguably unnecessary remote wind installations require long runs of forest fragmenting high power lines required to bring the occasional electricity generated to a point of use.
  • My picked pocket only serves to benefit the wind developers.

I cannot abide the suggestion that we must sacrifice our environment in order to save it. This is an absurd argument enabling this energy imposter’s invasion of delicate habitat with little return. Sacrifice is, after all, a forfeiture of something highly valued for the sake of something one considered to have a greater value or claim. Environmentalists must consider the possibility that industrial wind, by its failure to perform to stated goals, does not then qualify for this sacred consideration.

Affiliations

My comments here are my own. I am a member of the Board of Directors for the Allegheny Highlands Alliance, but do not speak for the organization in this commentary. I serve as editor of the Allegheny Treasures blog, an amateur site intended not to answer questions, but instead to stimulate discussion of industrial wind among readers, as I hope to do in this piece.

I arrived at my opinions after all consideration to the argument presented by the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) and other industrial wind support groups. I’ll be the first to admit I could be wrong, as I was when I supported industrial wind just two years ago. If a persuasive argument can be made to sway me back, I assure you I’ll happily move.

But I should warn you, the argument must begin with a list of coal- plant closings and not easily manipulated speculative “data.” Empty promises will not justify consuming even one more square inch of Appalachian forest.

Oh, before I’m criticized on the property rights issue … I firmly believe that you should be allowed to do anything you wish with your property as long as it brings no harm to others. But whatever you choose, don’t ask me to underwrite your adventure with my tax money in the form of subsidies, grants, or any other considerations from which you profit.

Beyond NIMBY

I am not insulted at the NIMBY (not-in-my-back-yard) moniker the wind advocates apply to me. I would take it one step further and suggest they call me a NOPE (not-on-planet-earth)!

I believe we are all responsible for our environment and must challenge every intrusion. We cannot accept, without question, the possibility that what has been portrayed as a solution may, in fact, create additional ills, no matter how much we want to believe.

Moving the country away from fossil fuels is one thing; choosing an alternative with no proven track record in accomplishing this effort, especially one with industrial wind’s potential for serious environmental destruction is quite another.

—————–

Michael Morgan is a “no party” West Virginian with a self-described “nose for nonsense.” A semi-retired Project Management and Transportation Consultant, he worked as Transportation/Materials Manager for an international manufacturer of large hydro turbine equipment and, before that, as Materials Manager with a Fortune 500 company.

“While I can’t claim to be an environmentalist,” Morgan adds, “growing up along the Allegheny Front dictates a respect for the environment and demands scrutiny of any intrusion.”

22 comments

1 RexAlan { 01.13.12 at 5:49 am }

And in the future there will be great towers that harvest the wind! and then….and then….wooden shoes!

2 Why I Turned Against 'Green' Windpower — MasterResource » greennewstweets.com { 01.13.12 at 9:11 am }

[...] Green News Source- Click to read full articleh204(); [...]

3 Kent Hawkins { 01.13.12 at 9:43 am }

This article illustrates the growing body of people who are realizing the nonsense and folly associated with the extensive commercialization today of utility-scale new renewable energy sources, primarily wind and solar.

I continue to be encouraged to hear about and from such people. They are those who take the time to learn, critically think about and understand the issues involved. Most often they are people who are faced with the imminent implementation of wind plants in their community. Sometimes they are those not so affected, but who are equally thoughtful and rational, but often silent, members of our society.

No criticism is intended of the latter group, but unfortunately I suspect that there are far more of them than is known. Some are our leaders and their advisors, who are limited somehow by the imperatives of their position to take a public stand.

Unfortunately, the rest, a large group of our citizens, simply do not know what they do not know.

4 john { 01.13.12 at 10:03 am }

Mr. Morgan, I too played a role in it’s resurrection and regret it. My work on the industrial side consisted of wind resource assessments and cannot believe that some of the sites I had measured (extremely poor resource) were developed. In a truly fair and free market these developers would be bankrupt now. As the issues come to light (and the trough is now nearly empty) they will clamor for the last crums like this.

http://thehill.com/blogs/e2-wire/e2-wire/203875-afl-cio-chief-congress-effectively-controlled-by-climate-change-deniers

5 Lionell Griffith { 01.13.12 at 10:32 am }

Giving up a lessor value for a higher one IS NOT a sacrifice, it is a trade to gain the higher value – a net gain. Giving up a higher value for a lessor one IS a sacrifice and always a net loss.

I suggest that some of your willingness to believe in industrial wind power is the acceptance of the morality of sacrifice. You thought it was noble to give up something for the greater good and failed to do your homework. The data was directly available to you from the beginning.

1. The wind does not blow all the time. Given that, who and what provides the power when it doesn’t?
2. The power from the wind generator has to get to you somehow. Does that not imply a spider web of power lines crossing your mountains?

In every scheme to induce one to sacrifice something, the story is always the same: a free lunch is available after you give up something you value dearly. You don’t examine the claim because you believe sacrifice is good. Then you discover all you sacrificed for is a long line of still more sacrifices which lead to still more sacrifices until you have nothing of value left to sacrifice.

This leads us to the final and most important reason why not to buy into things such as industrial wind power. THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS A FREE LUNCH. All free lunches will be paid for. The cost is always more than the cost of paying for the so called free lunch in the first place.

6 Tony Fleming { 01.13.12 at 8:49 pm }

Mike Morgan’s account speaks to many of us who have gone through the same transformative experience with industrial wind. I can still remember the popping sound as my preconceptions burst upon taking a hard look at the data. And Kent is correct, that quite a few of us were motivated to do our homework by wind plants looming in our neighborhoods.

My awakening came in 2006 with the “Liberty Gap” wind plant proposed for Pendleton County, WV, a place to which I have a long, familial attachment. At the time, I was potentially willing to accept a phalanx of turbines in the midst of the viewshed from my mother’s home, because I thought such wind plants had few impacts and were part of “the answer” (though evidently I wasn’t clear about what the correct question is).

Part of my naivete undoubtedly came from a long, positive experience with small-scale renewable energy–the kind that works, like geothermal HVAC, firewood (oops, that’s “biomass” now), and the PV system that has reliably powered my mom’s far-from-the-grid home for decades. Even though I am a scientist and naturally skeptical, it didn’t occur to me at the time that this experience doesn’t translate to the utility scale–until I decided to take a hard look at cold scientific facts. So for that, I am, in a way, grateful to US Windforce and the (now defunct) Liberty Gap project for giving me a good reason to question my own assumptions.

7 Donna Davidge { 01.14.12 at 8:23 am }

We in Maine are learning this lesson all too much- from the Lincoln and Roxbury Lakes to the Bowers Project, still on hold from wind warriors fighting the manipulative wind companies to our own battle to save the bats, birds and highly ranked lakes that are preserved by the State and now scheduled to be destroyed by the State..the town of 100 with 80 votes NIMBY decided the fate of 3000 taxpayers in Island Falls, many who own property on these pristine lakes- there is so much sad deception and taking advantage of rural people in this economy- our environment will be ruined forever if this funding and this scam is not stopped. Thank you for shedding more light on this.
Yes- there is no such thing as a free lunch..money handed to you is NEVER free.,,.our site is protect our lakes and our Facebook page is stop oak field wind.

8 Tomaz Ogrin { 01.14.12 at 4:01 pm }

May be wind people hope that one day wind electricity will power electrolysis cells to produce hydrogen from water. Hydrogen to power cars or else. In China great lithium-ion battery was build with MW capacity to store wind electricity. Is that a solution and future? Storing wind electricity by pumping water up, is that means to give apology or reason for wind farms? What could be answers to these trends? Still we could protest against landscape destruction…

9 Cooler Heads Digest 13 January 2012 { 01.15.12 at 11:37 am }

[...] Bryson Wants Higher Energy Prices Iain Murray & David Bier, Washington Examiner, 13 January 2012Why I Turned against “Green” Wind Power Michael Morgan, Master Resource, 13 January 2012Energy Department Makes More Bad Bets Paul Chesser, [...]

10 joselori { 01.15.12 at 1:56 pm }

A new definition of insanity Wind energy version:

To solve a problem that does not exist with technology that does not work and in the process drive millions in the developed countries into fuel poverty while destroying their economy and condemn billions in developing countries to endless poverty and stifle their meager economies in its tracks.

And to do all of this at a time when the world can least afford it.

11 Jon Boone { 01.16.12 at 12:04 pm }

joselori:
Thanks for your economical summary, distilling as it does the vacuity of such a cynically craven energy policy, with its public be damned roots producing strange fruit indeed.

12 Lionell Griffith { 01.16.12 at 2:18 pm }

joselori,

There is a fundamental and inescapable principle of system action: the purpose of a system is what it does.

Our governance system is doing exactly what you say. THAT is its purpose. As far as it is concerned, what it is doing is working. It is achieving exactly what it intends to achieve. Clearly, it does not act in our best interest or even in its own best interest. Yet it is not insane, it simply acts based upon values other than the life of man as man.

With friends like our Government, do we really need any enemies?

13 Trey { 01.16.12 at 10:44 pm }

Joselori’s definition reminded me of the following Matt Ridley quote:

“Another policy is to bribe rich landowners to festoon the most picturesque landscapes with concrete pads on which are placed gargantuan steel towers topped with wind turbines containing two-tonne magnets made of an alloy of neodymium, a rare earth metal mined in inner Mongolia by a process of boiling in acid that produces poisoned lakes filled with mildly radioactive and toxic tailings.”

Economic insanity AND environmental insanity.

14 Michael Morgan: Why I Turned Against ‘Green’ Windpower | JunkScience.com { 01.17.12 at 12:16 am }

[...] been closed as a direct result of the installation of tens of thousands of wind turbines. Not one! Why I Turned Against ‘Green’ Windpower by Michael Morgan January 13, 2012 “I cannot abide the suggestion that we must sacrifice our [...]

15 James Close { 01.17.12 at 11:30 am }

A false argument is made here, of which the author surely is smart enough to know better: He posits that industrial wind power is built for the express purpose of decommissioning coal-fired utility plants. I can’t think of any industrial wind facility which put that out as it’s express purpose. They’ve marketed themselves as ‘renewable energy’, which they surely are, but it’s a long ways from that statement to one in which their raison d’etre is explicitly tied to the closure of fossil fuel electric generating plants.

16 rod wolcott { 01.17.12 at 9:55 pm }

The federal Grant provided should be directed to the development of wind generators that stand no taller than 100 feet with a different prop design that can be covered by a protective cage for the sake of wildlife protection.
These monsters are under developed and troublesome in many ways including deficient oiling, transmission failures, fires, etc. The manufacturers which include companies in china are proposing 750 foot tall flashing, howling ticking time bombs.
Please have some consideration for humans and wildlife and stop this over rated development of machines that have continued to fail and need to be redsigned as environmently friendly.

17 Bill { 01.18.12 at 1:51 pm }

The reality of big wind (and large scale solar) is that, once ‘spinning reserve stock” capability in the local grid in broached, each megawatt of new intermittent generation must be offset with a megawatt of new spinning stock. Typically this stock is 2-8MMW fast start reciprocal engine generation (made by CAT and Wascilla in Finland) which burns natural gas.

18 jim arthur { 02.08.12 at 6:54 pm }

To the point made by Mr. Close — if the point of building industrial wind farms is not to replace fossil fuels then what would their raison d’être be? Calling wind energy “renewable energy” means very little unless there is a goal of reducing cost or improving the environment and I fail to see how wind energy does either. As regards the moniker “renewable energy”– wind energy is not renewable at all from my perspective because the fuel it consumes is land and there is nothing renewable about that. I am trying to keep an open mind re wind energy and I am open to facts which will change my mind.

19 News Blast from John Droz! « Save Our SeaShore { 02.08.12 at 9:48 pm }

[...] “Why I Turned Against ‘Green’ Windpower” <<http://www.masterresource.org/2012/01/turned-against-windpower>&gt;. [...]

20 Recent Energy and Environmental News – Febuary 2012 « PA Pundits – International { 02.10.12 at 6:02 am }

[...] “Why I Turned Against ‘Green’ Windpower”  http://www.masterresource.org/2012/01/turned-against-windpower [...]

21 Jeffrey Eric Grant { 02.18.12 at 2:29 pm }

The reason that windmills are regarded as ‘green’ energy is because their promoters state that they do not polute the atmosphere with additional CO2, and therefore, will save the planet from sure annihilation from heat!
The promoters also state that windmills will reduce atmospheric CO2 pollution because they will replace the energy currently being provided by coal-fired electricity generation plants that do spew CO2 into the atmosphere.
Jim (#15), wind power is not clean when you consider all of the additional equipment needed for its implementation. For instance, backup power is typically produced using a gas-fired generator. However, because it needs to be continually adjusted up and down to compensate for the variable wind, it is actually more economical (and creates less CO2) by running the gas generator at a constant rate. Therefore, the windmills actually create more CO2 and cost more to run because of inefficiency in the variable gas-fired backup.
Other things that will surely come from developed windmill farms: killed birds and bats, unsightly (to some) mountain top views, loss of tax dollars that could be used productively, a reduced land value for miles around them, a low frquency noise that is very difficult to block, increased blight from grid power lines needed, unsightly relics when they have been decommisioned.
So, there!

22 Energy Density in the Driver’s SeatInstitute for Energy Research | Institute for Energy Research { 05.15.12 at 8:48 am }

[...] this piece titled Why I Turned against Windpower, Michael Morgan [...]

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