Huge Windmill "Plants" Fail as "Green Energy" and Fail to Provide Any Significant Amount of Electricity
by Pamela C. Dodds, Ph.D., R.P.G., and Arthur W. Dodds, Jr.
Introduction: Huge windmill "plants" cannot supply "green" electricity
Wind energy is unreliable because huge windmills (that is, those greater than 400 feet in height) can only produce electricity when the wind attains a speed of 8 miles per hour. Huge windmills are not designed to store energy, so any electricity produced by the windmills must enter the regional electrical grid system to be used immediately; otherwise, the electricity is unused. Also, wind velocities are not synchronized with peak "load" times. Wind velocities are too low in the summer peak electrical usage times to provide meaningful electricity (www.ncdc.noaa.gov/oa/climate/online/ccd/avgwind.html). In order to compensate for this variability of electrical production, the Regional Transmission Organization must maintain a capacity margin (also referred to as reserve generating capacity, reserve margin, and spinning reserve or synchronized reserve) which requires excess electricity to be produced at all times. The U.S. Department of Energy's Energy Information Administration (EIA) provides annual reports, the most recent of which showed a capacity margin as of October, 2005, of 15.4% for the contiguous U.S. (www.eia.doe.gov/cneaf/electricity/epa/epat3p2.html). Effectively, then, any electricity produced by huge windmills is absorbed in the envelope of excess electricity, which must always be maintained.
Huge windmills will not cause any coal-fired plant to go out of service and therefore will not reduce greenhouse gases
Given that an excess electricity margin of approximately 15.4% is constantly maintained, consider the amount of carbon dioxide produced by the required excess electricity produced by coal-fired plants. Because electricity produced by huge windmills is absorbed in this excess electricity envelope, this wind energy cannot reduce carbon dioxide emissions. Huge windmills actually cause more carbon dioxide emissions because there must be enough electricity produced by coal-fired plants to serve as a backup for the unreliable amount of electricity produced by huge windmills.
It is a fallacy to contend that electricity produced by huge windmills can be considered for "renewable energy credits"
The U.S. Department of Energy is encouraging the purchase of "Renewable Energy Credits", which has become a lucrative new business where people purchase credits from companies claiming to produce "green energy" to supposedly offset the purchaser's use of fossil fuels and other activities which contribute to the production of carbon dioxide. Part of the money from "Renewable Energy Credits" is invested in the construction of huge windmill "plants". Huge windmill "plants" require additional electricity production by reliable coal-fired plants or nuclear plants because the electricity produced by wind is not reliable and cannot be stored. Therefore, huge windmill "plants" do not reduce carbon dioxide emissions.
Substantial energy is lost using the current methods of electricity production
The U.S. Department of Energy publishes an annual energy review, the most recent of which is "U.S. Energy Flow Trends -- 2002", published in 2004. A diagram is provided in this referenced publication as a synopsis of the U.S. energy flow trends. The most important observation to consider in this diagram is that for the 38.2 quadrillion BTUs of energy generating electricity in 2002, there are 26.3 quadrillion BTUs of electrical system energy losses. This constitutes an approximate 68% loss. This report is available on the internet at faculty.olin.edu/~jtownsend/Renewable%20Fall%202006/docs/llnl%20energy%20flows.pdf.
What causes these losses? One relatively minor cause is the transmission of the electricity because electricity is lost due to resistance in the transmission lines. Transmission and distribution losses in the U.S. were estimated at 7.2% in 1995 (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Electric_power_transmission). However, the constant production of excess electricity as capacity reserve accounts for the greatest amount of energy loss.
Huge windmills use electricity from the electric grid system, referred to as "parasitic" loads. Such parasitic loads include electricity from the grid for the electric pitch system yaw motors, oil heaters, oil pumps for bearings and gearbox, cooling fan for the generator and turbine controller. Unfortunately, if electricity is not supplied for these components, disasters can occur, such as ice throws when the blades are not heated during winter and total destruction of the blades if the brake does not work to stop the turbine during wind speeds exceeding 57 miles per hour.
New technology and energy storage can provide realistic renewable energy
Although the electronic features of windmills have advanced, the mechanical technology of the huge windmills being constructed is based on technology introduced over 60 years ago: the high aspect ratio glider wing. New technologies, such as the vortex turbine (www.eco-nex.com/32.html), decrease the size of the wind turbines and create less harm to the environment. Also, they can store excess electricity in batteries.
Monetary incentives drive the continued construction of useless huge windmills
With the advent of enormous monetary incentives available for constructing wind turbine facilities, the excitement for using wind power as an alternative energy overwhelmed the rational evaluation of performance and potential negative impacts. Federal tax benefits pay as much as 65% of the cost of building huge windmill "plants" in the U.S. This explains why there is so much interest by big business in constructing huge windmill "plants". U.S. Code 42 Section 13317 includes a renewable energy production incentive of 1.5 cents per kilowatt hour for any alternative energy facility. The Federal Production Tax Credit provides $0.019 per kWh of electricity estimated to be generated by a wind turbine facility during the first 10 years. Wind generators receive capacity credits that they can sell as "renewable energy credits". The capacity credits are based on a wind-turbine facility's output, regardless of whether or not the electricity is used. (www.pjm.com/contributions/news-releases/2003/wind%20power%20news%20rele.pdf and www.eei.org/industry_issues/legal_and_business_practices/master_contract/PJM.pdf).
Huge windmill "plants" cause cumulative negative impacts
In the Appalachian mountains extending through West Virginia, Virginia, Tennessee, and Pennsylvania, extensive areas are cleared for wind turbine placement. As more mountain ridges are cleared, the negative impacts become cumulative. The Government Accountability Office (GAO) determined in its report, "WIND POWER: Impacts on Wildlife and Government Responsibilities for Regulating Development and Protecting Wildlife", at the request of Representative Mollohan and Representative Rahall, that "no one is considering the impacts of wind power on a regional or 'ecosystem' scale" and that state and local officials have no guidelines for considering the negative environmental impacts caused by wind turbine facilities" (www.gao.gov/new.items/d05906.pdf).
This equates to cumulative impacts on a watershed, such as the Potomac River watershed which extends from headwaters in the mountains of Virginia and West Virginia to the Chesapeake Bay. The watershed headwaters are so important because they create habitats where the food chain begins. The overhead trees intercept rainfall so that it gently penetrates the ground as groundwater rather than flowing overland as runoff or being captured as storm drainage directed into streams. Increased storm drainage results in habitat destruction within streams and the consequent death of aquatic organisms, including trout. Additional threats to trout occur because of decreased groundwater recharge: groundwater accumulates calcium ions where it flows through limestone or shale. Trout require the calcium ion in water to flow over their gills for proper digestion. Where the calcium ion is not present in adequate quantities, or where the pH is too low, the trout die. It is essential for the calcium ions and the correct pH to be present in streams where there are naturally reproducing trout.
Numerous government agencies have spent enormous amounts of time and taxpayers' money developing ways to protect, preserve, or rehabilitate watershed areas on a regional scale: the Watershed Protection and Flood Prevention Act, enacted in 1954 as Public Law 83-566 (www.nrcs.usda.gov/programs/watershed/pl56631705.pdf); the USDA-sponsored 25 million dollar Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program (CREP) designed to protect water quality and wildlife in much of the Potomac River Basin, which is referenced in the following document: www.wvdep.org/Docs/9654_Implementation%20Plan%2012_15_05.pdf; the Flood Prevention Act of 1944 (Public Law 78-534; www.nrcs.usda.gov/programs/watershed/pl534.html); the 1997 U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's "Volunteer Stream Monitoring: A Methods Manual" (www.epa.gov/volunteer/stream/); the U.S. Forest Service's publication "Wildland Waters" , (www.fs.fed.us/wildlandwaters/newsletters/wildlandwaters_sp02.txt), which repeatedly emphasizes the importance of watershed protection of headwaters for sustaining water supply and water quality; and Section 305(b) of the Clean Water Act, which requires states to report to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency on the designated uses of their waters, the extent of the impairment of those uses, and the causes and sources of impairment.
West Virginia laws and Virginia laws were developed to protect our environment, but have not been enforced regarding negative impacts of huge windmill "plants": the Water Pollution Control Act is "declared to be the public policy of the state of West Virginia to maintain reasonable standards of purity and quality of the water of the state consistent with (1) public health and public enjoyment thereof, (2) the propagation and protection of animal, bird, fish, aquatic and plant life ..." and includes "setting standards of water quality applicable to both the surface waters and groundwaters of this state; the Groundwater Protection Act; the Natural Streams Preservation Act, which is to "secure for the citizens of West Virginia of present and future generations the benefits of an enduring resource of free-flowing streams possessing outstanding scenic, recreational, geological, fish and wildlife, botanical, historical, archeological or other scientific or cultural values."; and the State Natural Resources Law, which assigns protection and "ownership of and title to all wild animals, wild birds, both migratory and resident, and all fish, amphibians, and all forms of aquatic life in the state of West Virginia", such that it is illegal to "kill, destroy, ... wound or injure any wildlife".
Huge windmills kill bats which control disease-carrying insects
All bats found in West Virginia and Virginia are insectivores, which are animals that eat only insects. Bats often eat more than 50% of their body weight in insects each night and nursing female bats eat enough insects to equal their body weight. This can result in a single bat eating over 4,500 insects in a single night. Because bats eat so many insects, they are a very important part of our ecosystem. The endangered gray bat [Myotis grisescens] spends the majority of its life inside of caves. Unfortunately, human disturbance of its cave roosts has led to a severe decline in this species' population and the gray bat is now declared an endangered species. With protection, the gray bat is making a come back and its numbers are increasing. This southeastern bat can eat as many as 3,000 insects in a single night (www.organcave.com/Bats.htm). Under Section 9 of the Endangered Species Act, it is unlawful for 'any person subject to the jurisdiction of the United States to take any [federally listed] species within the United States' (16 U.S.C. Section 1538 (a)(1)(B))." However, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is now working with companies responsible for constructing huge windmill "plants" in order to develop Habitat Conservation Plans that would provide an Incidental Take Permit of the very same endangered species they are certain will be killed. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service projected number of 135,000 bat deaths that would result if the huge windmill "plant" had been constructed on Jack Mountain in Pendleton County, West Virginia. An Incidental Take Permit would protect the company from being penalized for this enormous amount of killing. However, the West Virginia Public Service Commission denied the application to build a windmill "plant" on Jack Mountain.
Conservation, preservation, and new technology can provide the solution
As individuals, we can limit carbon dioxide emissions by conserving energy. We can also install residential solar power and windmills utilizing new technologies which can store energy in batteries for later use. We can plant trees to preserve watershed headwaters and stream corridors to protect our streams and groundwater, keeping in mind that trees use carbon dioxide. We can use new technology, such as vortex wind turbines (http://www.windside.com/), which can also be used to store energy in batteries and do not harm wildlife. Each individual is the solution to our global concerns. Each individual is capable of being responsible for his or her own energy use and for maintaining "green" areas of trees and other vegetation which can preserve our groundwater and surface waters. Each individual is responsible for communicating with government entities to ensure that environmental laws are enforced and that the government will apply regional planning to conserve our resources.