Cohocton Wind Watch: Industrial WInd Turbines for New York?
Cohocton Wind Watch is a community citizen organization dedicated to preserve the public safety, property values, economic viability, environmental integrity and quality of life in Cohocton, NY and in surrounding townships. Neighbors committed to public service in order to achieve a reasonable vision for a Finger Lakes region worthy of future generations.


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Monday, December 15, 2008

Industrial WInd Turbines for New York?

Many NY politicians, members of the media and environmentalists see wind power as an all-encompassing solution to global warming, energy independence, as well initiating massive job creation. Are these rosy expectations supported by scientific facts and wind project performance?

A recent AP article stated that New York currently has about 700 Megawatts of installed wind capacity, less than the output of a single large nuclear plant. The article states that New York has the potential for up to 7000 MW of installed capacity. The catch here is the vast difference between installed capacity and actual production.

Two North Country wind projects went on line in April -- Noble Clinton with an installed capacity of 100.5 MW and Noble Ellenburgh with an installed capacity of 81 MW. The 2nd quarter Clinton output averaged 12.9 MW and the 3rd quarter output was 11.7 MW. Noble Ellenburgh’s 2nd quarter average was 13.2 MW and 10.4 MW for the 3rd quarter. Those figure represent an overall performance of only 13.4% of capacity rating.

Wind developers have consistently claimed their turbines will operate in the 30-35% of capacity range. Early indications suggest that realistically they will produce only half that. Add to a low efficiency many hours of zero production and a complete lack of dependability, wind is the most unpredictable of all generating methods.

Both North Country wind projects average over 200 hours of zero output for the 2nd quarter and nearly 300 hrs for the 3rd quarter or about 10% to 14% of the time producing no power. This means on average no power is produced for more than 2 hours each day! Even larger blocks of time involve production of less than 1% of rated capacity. The extreme variability of wind power makes it totally unsuitable for baseload power.

The northern New York wind projects are yielding a very low return on their investment, averaging less than 4% before expenses according to The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.

We have to ask why would a wind developer build spend about $ 3 million per turbine in an area with winds less than the minimum recommended by NYSERDA? The answer seems to be that the real goal of NY wind projects is not cheap renewable power but rather the sale of tax credits and green credits. Is wind power really just an elaborate tax break?

Ostensibly created to allow struggling wind companies to lower their tax burden, tax credits are sold to corporations and investors because wind company write-offs -- particularly double declining balance depreciation -- are so lucrative.

While NY is cutting funds to hospital, nursing homes and schools it continues to subsidize wind power.

Is wind power really a clean, effective method to reduce global warming? While wind turbines are non-polluting once they are up and running, the manufacture, transport and construction of a wind turbine produces thousands of tons of carbon based emissions. Every step from mining the ore to make the steel, moving parts by ship or overland and constructing access roads to running giant cranes and excavators creates emissions. Building the access roads alone produces nearly ten thousand tons of emissions.

The problem of mercury pollution associated with wind projects is rarely mentioned. However, it is a known fact among environmental experts that the production of cement produces large amounts of mercury released from the limestone used as the raw material, the median amount being 1.5 lbs. of mercury per ton of cement. Each turbine base requires over a million pounds of concrete –you do the math!

Since NY has relatively low winds (only 1/50th of some western states) a wind project may never pay back its carbon debt. In many areas of NY hydropower would have to be shut down to accommodate wind [re-state reason; original wording didn’t make sense.]

Add to the above there are the problems of property devaluation, scenic blight, bird and bat kills, wildlife habitat fragmentation, human health risks highlighted by recent studies on Wind Turbine Syndrome. There is also the danger from turbines built too close to roads or homes, thereby threatening potential ice throw or blade disintegration. Another question is whether there is too much potential for unethical business dealings between officials who control wind projects and the developers.

Coupled with the major disadvantages of too little wind and too many people, it is little wonder that more informed people are starting to question whether industrial wind turbines belong in New York State.

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