Build the infrastructure first, then add turbines later. Rinse, wash, repeat.
The Maryland-based transmission-line company Trans-Elect proposes … a $5-billion undersea power grid that would stretch some 350 miles from northern New Jersey to southern Virginia. The Atlantic Wind Connection (AWC) would provide multiple transmission hubs for future wind farms, making the waters off the mid-Atlantic coast an attractive and economical place for developers to set up turbines. The AWC’s lines could transmit as much as six gigawatts of low-carbon power from turbines back to the coast—the equivalent capacity of 10 average coal-fired power plants.
Guidelines for siting wind turbines with respect to the:
The guidelines encourage developers and cities to take a tiered approach to building wind turbine systems in order to reduce bird collisions, minimize environmental damage while clearing land, consider impacts on immediate ecosystems from building a turbine, and monitoring the success of the project after it’s been built.
UPDATE: My concern, as a city planner, is with safety. Apparently they’ve exploded. I wrote about exploding turbines, here.
This is a huge, huge win for Massachusetts and the US. Hy Line Cruises once sued to stop Cape Wind. Now they’ve fully embraced the controversial project not only as a matter of common sense, but as a matter of economics. Hy Line will now create an eco-tourism cruise ship tour. In fact, they’ve pulled a 180 and partnered with Cape Wind to create the first wind-turbine eco-tourism business in the United States. Part of the tour will cover US energy history, from whaling for whale oil, to local wind mills, to, obviously, wind turbines. (For background on the controversy, go here. [in]Famous Ted Kennedy opposition, here).
Hy Line will invest in green ships, green shuttle buses, build a green facility, and have even partnered with a local college to train and educate students for green jobs. This is a mega huge win for wind turbine development. Y’all better recognize!! Video:
130 wind turbines will be built, starting this fall. Quick facts:
Pickens latest scheme is to extract a $64,000 federal subsidy per 18-wheeler truck, converting them from diesel fuel to natural gas. Three years ago, Texas billionaire T. Boone Pickens thrilled environmentalists when he pledged to create the largest wind power project in the world. He has since given up that plan and believes that natural gas is the best answer to energy independence.
Now, the oil magnate is going-all-in, investing in booming natural gas markets. Recall it was Vice President’s Dick Cheney’s amazing ninja deal that exempts fracking from EPA and other environmental regulations. Fracking has made billions for producers. Environmentalists, always in a state of shock, are frozen like deer in headlights, not knowing what to do, or who to call. Thus, the natural gas and mountain top removal for coal booms will continue for decades.
“You’re stuck with hydrocarbons — come on, get real,” Pickens, the 82-year-old Oklahoma native blessed with a silver tongue and a self-deprecatory, down-home charm, told the reporters. “I’ve been in meetings before where somebody says, ‘I want to cut out all coal-fired plants and go to wind.’ What are you talking about? I mean you’d run the price of electricity 10 times what it is [now]. Realistically you’ve got to use coal and you’ve got to use oil and, no, I don’t approach it from an environmental standpoint. But my record is good on the environment.”
Source: Yale e360
You got me all fired up. Here in Massachusetts and New England, the primary obstacle of siting wind turbines and solar is NIBYism. Our beloved “Liberal Lion” Ted Kennedy was famously against Cape Wind for aesthetic reasons. And there are a lot of NIMBY groups here, campaigning diligently to stop turbines.
But, take the example of MassCEC, an aggressive alt-energy group supported by the state via the Green Jobs Act of 2008. They have millions of dollars ready to grant wind and solar projects. They train people to work in alt-energy jobs. And they’re building a wind turbine test center - the first in the country (blades are currently shipped to Europe for testing!). They’ve succeeded in building 24 projects with about 100 more in the works (there are 351 towns in Massachusetts). Their biggest obstacle? Aesthetics and NIMBYs (I know this because I’ve talked with their wind people).
Agreed, there’s an infrastructure problem. Plugging these things into the grid is quite tricky without upgrades. Agreed, the Coal Lobby is powerful, so are the Nuclear, Hydro, and biomass lobbies (at least here in New England). Further, sad to say, energy-environmentalists here are generally disorganized. From my observations, they’re tied down by short-term campaigns run by seat-of-the-pants funding - a formula for constant burnout.
Still, and again from my New England centric POV, the primary preventer is the public. I’m a city planner, and I attend town meetings all the time. ‘Town meeting’ here is deeply, culturally important - it’s pure democracy and town officials have to work closely with the public. In order to site a turbine, you (basically) have to change a zoning regulation. Generally, this is very difficult even when someone wants to build, say, a few homes or a gas station. Changing a reg to accommodate turbines can take five years of grueling stakeholder engagement, public meetings, and it’s just hard, tiresome work.
The flip is the anti-turbine lobbyists, who have compelling campaign language and presentations, and I tip my hat to them. There message is clear, tight, and easily understandable.
All they have to do is show anyone this video, and the debate shuts down in a matter of seconds: Turbine Kills Vulture, stop turbines now!
Energy-environmentalists are instantly paralyzed and on the defensive. Someone once said that the left is characterized by their constant state of shock (How often do we see this, for example). Generally, enviro’s do not know how to make such compelling arguments, like the the above video. Their (our!) campaigns are all convoluted, encased in layers of doom and asthma all measured by “tons of CO2.”
Coal et al are brilliantly effective at inflaming NIMBYist hearts and minds. Make the claim that decommissioning a coal plant will kill 45 jobs, cost millions in toxic clean-up, and blow tax-payer money on risky worker retraining, and you’ve got a formula for deeper NIMBY entrenchment.
Finally, when I was delegate to the COP15 I took some photos of coal plants around Denmark. I published a photo essay in Berkeley Planning Journal, questioning why Denmark was so slow at converting to alternative energies. After all, it is common knowledge that Denmark is the greenest country in the world. Yet, upon examination they’re only at 30% green energy. They’ve been converting their coal plants since the 70s, barely made a dent. I conclude that even an uprising with massive public protest won’t work. A version of the essay is here. (Let me know what you think.)
Look, the technology exists to upgrade the grid. We can buy it anytime we want right off the shelf. The will of the public is just not there.
Thanks for the question, anonymous! This is an important question deserving careful thought. So, let me tell you a story about a coal plant near my place. I also made some maps for you.
Three miles south of me there is a coal burning power plant located on the edge of the Connecticut River. It’s a small plant, and it supplies electricity to poorest city in Massachusetts - Holyoke. It’s called Mount Tom Station.
Below is a map of Massachusetts. In the circle are the cities of Northampton and Holyoke, Massachusetts. Note a decent size river flows north/south here, called the Connecticut.
Below I zoomed in to the red circle. You can see the river, and the two cities on the left (Holyoke is at the very bottom). Right in the middle is the coal plant in the red box. (Hope that makes sense! Hit me up if it doesn’t, OK?). I zoomed in and marked it up so you can see what’s going on. Also, you can play around with it on google, here.
There are a couple of things to notice. First, the plant is sited on the Connecticut River. You can see the power plant, the coal pile, and trains cars. Those big rectangles are coal ash and slurry ponds. They’re full of toxins like mercury and arsenic and uranium (yep). It’s also high in radiation. Do you think it leaches into the river? You bet. And the EPA recently busted them.
Second, coal kills a lot of people (and it really pisses me off that the public doesn’t give a rats ass). See the IBM death calculator, here (see also, here). Emissions and dust from this plant lingers in the air longer than usual. It doesn’t dilute in the air like most plants because it’s located in a low valley (that’s what colleagues and I have discussed). So, the dust ends up settling locally. But look, this stuff contributes (at least) to asthma in children, especially poor children with little access to health care.
Third, you won’t believe this but it’s true. Guess where this plant gets its coal from? China. The plant gets its coal from the Drummond Company, which gets most of its coal from China, see here. This is cheaper than buying coal from Pennsylvania or Virginia, which are two states away. This is mostly because imported coal is classified differently, getting around U.S. environmental regulations (not kidding!). The plant burns 1,200 tons of coal every day. For perspective, my car weighs 3,500 pounds. 1,200 tons = 685 of my cars BURNED EVERY DAY, 24/7/365 since 1970.
Finally, water and river health are impacted daily. Water is sucked in from the Ct. River to cool off the turbines. Any left over water is dumped back into the river. It’s a marvel of human engineering. See here:
Look, this plant should be decommissioned. It’s old, and there are locals lobbying to convert it to burn biomass and woodchips (if only there were subsidies). Despite this, coal power plants average 30-35% efficiency. Around 70% of the coal is burned for no reason - that’s 70% burned away, making no electricity. I guesstimate around 70 to 100 wind turbines could replace this plant, with supplemental supply coming from the grid - a hard sell to locals and political leaders. People do not want turbines because they don’t like to look at them. If the public doesn’t see the deaths, the river, the air, or the asinine inefficiencies, then coal will always trump wind politically.
So, what do I think about wind energy? It is a moral obligation.
Saudi Arabia to invest $100 billion(!) in alternative energy over the next few years. More importantly, they openly tell the world why they switch - peak oil:
"Given consumption forecasts, Saudi Aramco Chief Executive Officer Khalid Al-Falih warned last April that national daily energy demand would more than double to 8.3 million barrels of oil equivalent in 2028 from 3.4 million barrels in 2009.”
Besides the glaring math error, it strikes me as odd that this fundamental premise was buried so deep in the article. If there’s peak oil recognition in the Middle East, does this mean we really, really are running out faster than predicted?? That seems to be the real story here.
Of this $100 billion, only 20% or less would come from solar. The other alternative sources include nuclear, geothermal(!), and wind. I’m surprised they don’t mention biofuels or natural gas, but maybe they’re not getting into that (let me know if you hear otherwise).
NIMBYs have one more argument against wind turbines: reliability. According to this scary-ass article by Spiegel, “thousands of mishaps, breakdowns and accidents hav(e) been reported in recent years…”. Spiegel, by the way, was once deemed by Columbia U as employing the most fact checkers of any news zine, so I don’t have much reason to think this is a hit piece.
We’ve all heard stories about NIMBY neighbors and their skittishness towards wind turbines. They kill birds, cause too much noise, ruin views, and they even attract alien attacks (an obvious nuisance). But, if Spiegel is correct, that new turbines are demonstrably less reliable than previously thought, how can cities guarantee safety?
With people already nervous about the impacts on property values, a lingering folk story about “the turbine the blew up papa’s barn” certainly doesn’t help the industry. How can fears be allayed?
The thought of exploding turbines will surely slow the advances from aggressive climate change and alt-energy advocates. While they push for turbines as safer alternatives to coal, rebuttals are getting stronger. This is one rebuttal that advocates will have serious trouble with.
The Dangers of Wind Power
By Simone Kaiser and Michael Fröhlingsdorf
Wind turbines continue to multiply the world over. But as they grow bigger and bigger, the number of dangerous accidents is climbing. How safe is wind energy?
It came without warning. A sudden gust of wind ripped the tip off of the rotor blade with a loud bang. The heavy, 10-meter (32 foot) fragment spun through the air, and crashed into a field some 200 meters away.
The wind turbine, which is 100 meters (328 feet) tall, broke apart in early November 2006 in the region of Oldenburg in northern Germany — and the consequences of the event are only now becoming apparent. Startled by the accident, the local building authority ordered the examination of six other wind turbines of the same model.
The results, which finally came in this summer, alarmed District Administrator Frank Eger. He immediately alerted the state government of Lower Saxony, writing that he had shut down four turbines due to safety concerns. It was already the second incident in his district, he wrote, adding that turbines of this type could pose a threat across the country. The expert evaluation had discovered possible manufacturing defects and irregularities.
Mishaps, Breakdowns and Accidents
After the industry’s recent boom years, wind power providers and experts are now concerned. The facilities may not be as reliable and durable as producers claim. Indeed, with thousands of mishaps, breakdowns and accidents having been reported in recent years, the difficulties seem to be mounting.