A New Twist On Environmentalism

There is a lot of questionable science behind the push for ‘green energy.’ In some ways the quest is reminiscent of the quest for the elusive perpetual motion machine. One of the main reasons we have the wind and solar farms we have is that they are heavily subsidized by the government. Because the government has gotten involved, the free market has not invented the technology to make green energy truly effective. Why should they when competition is not a factor? Less than perfect technology has its challenges.

Yesterday John Hinderaker at Power Line posted an article with the following headline, “Wind Energy Collapsing In Germany.’

The article reports:

The expansion of wind power in the first half of this year collapsed to its lowest level since the introduction of the Renewable Energy Act (EEG) in 2000. All in all, just 35 wind turbines were build with an output of 231 megawatts. “This corresponds to a decline of 82 percent compared to the already weak period of the previous year”, according to the German Wind Energy Association (BWE) in Berlin.

“This makes one nearly speechless,” said Matthias Zelinger at the presentation of the data. The managing director of the Power Systems division of the German Engineering Federation (VDMA) spoke of a “blow to the guts of the energy turnaround”. This actual development doesn’t match “at all to the current climate protection debate”.

The article notes the cause of the decline:

The most important cause lies in the legal resistance of wildlife and forest conservationists fighting new wind farms. The BWE President referred to an industry survey of the onshore wind agency. According to its findings, more than 70 percent of the legal objections are based on species conservation, especially the threat to endangered bird species and bats.

The article concludes:

The conservationists have a point. One of the worst features of both wind and solar energy is that they are terrible for the environment. They use up an enormous amount of land that otherwise would be available for agriculture, development or recreation. They are eyesores. And they kill huge quantities of wildlife.

It isn’t the most important reason to oppose corrupt subsidies and mandates for “green” energy, but the fact that these energy sources are bad for the environment is one more nail in the coffin.

Somehow I don’t expect to see this news in the mainstream media.

Going ‘Not-so Green’

On Friday, WattsUpWithThat posted an article about the promotion of off-shore wind farms by some eastern states in America. The article details some of the problems with off-shore wind farms.

The article cites the cost of the wind farms and the cost to consumers:

The governors of Massachusetts, Rhode Island, New York, New Jersey, Maryland, and Virginia have signed executive orders or passed laws to procure offshore wind systems valued at billions of dollars. Officials are eager to win leadership in what is perceived to be a new growth industry. The US Department of Energy has funded over $200 million in offshore wind research since 2011.

Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker signed a law in 2016 requiring utilities to purchase 1,600 megawatts of electricity from offshore wind systems over the next 10 years. The law requires that wind systems be “cost effective to electric ratepayers.” But history shows that costs are likely to be far above the New England wholesale market price of 5 cents per kilowatt-hour.

Massachusetts paid solar generators a subsidy of 25 cents per kilowatt-hour during the state’s solar build-out in 2013. Rhode Island’s Block Island wind system, the first offshore system in the United States, now receives over 27 cents per kW-hr, with an annual guaranteed rate increase of an additional 3.5 cents per kW-hr. New England residents must enjoy paying renewable generators more than six times the market price for electricity.

When we lived in Massachusetts, we were able to choose the source of our electricity. Since we lived in an all-electric house, it was to our advantage to choose carefully. We chose a company that got its electricity from Canada in order to avoid the increased cost of Massachusetts’ going green. I am not sure if that option is still available to Massachusetts utility customers.

The article explains the problem of wind turbines and hurricanes (which do happen on the east coast):

Specifications call for wind systems to withstand gusts up to 156 miles per hour, but this isn’t good enough for some of our Atlantic hurricanes. Last September, hurricane Maria struck Puerto Rico with Category 4-strength winds and destroyed many of the wind turbines on the island.

Strong hurricanes occasionally collide with our eastern coastal states. The Great New England Hurricane of 1938 brought Category 3 winds to New York, Connecticut, and Rhode Island. The Great Atlantic Hurricane of 1944 delivered Category 2 winds along the coast from North Carolina to Maine. Hurricane Carol in 1954 and Hurricane Gloria in 1985 brought Category 3 winds to the shores of the wind system-promoting states.

Finally, the Norfolk and Long Island Hurricane of 1821 passed through most of the proposed wind turbine sites with up to Category 4 wind strength. The expensive wind systems planned by Atlantic States could all be destroyed by a single well-placed hurricane.

Offshore wind turbines are expensive, prone to early degradation, and in the case of the US East Coast, at risk in the path of strong hurricanes. State officials should reconsider their plans for offshore wind systems.

I sometimes wonder if our search for green energy is similar to man’s search for the perpetual motion machine. It would be wonderful, but the laws of physics seem to indicate that this may be more of a challenge than first thought. There may be green energy in our future, but it won’t happen until the government gets out of the way and lets someone make a huge profit in the free market. That is called incentive!

When Green Energy Kills Wildlife

On Monday The Daily Caller posted an article about the impact of ocean wind farms on the sonar capabilities of whales and other marine animals. It is known that wind farms impact radar when they are near airports, so it is not really a surprise that they would have an impact of the navigational systems of marine mammals. This report of the death of a family of whales near a wind farm comes from the United Kingdom.

The article states:

The U.K. coastguard received reports of a minke whale calf that had become separated from its mother Friday evening. By the next afternoon, it had been found dead at the mouth of the River Ore, and its mother washed up near Felixstowe. On Sunday, another dead adult whale surfaced, indicating that an entire family could have been killed.

…“There are studies that show that the sounds created by the operational noise of the turbines create vibrations under that may in fact disorient marine mammals like whales,” Bonnie Brady, director of the Long Island Commercial Fishing Association who regularly discusses the impacts of noise on marine mammals, told The Daily Caller News Foundation. “In the case of what looks like this mother and calf, they go on the wrong path and end up disoriented then beaching themselves. The sound kills.”

Both construction and ordinary operations noises from offshore wind turbines can travel immense distances under water. This harms whales, dolphins, marine mammals and fish that communicate with noises in order to breed. For this reason, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) guidelines show that high noise levels can cause marine mammals like whales and dolphins to go deaf and disrupt their vocal communications.

The acoustic disturbances from constructing wind farms and from the wind farms themselves are harmful to fish and water mammals. Combined with the fact that the wind cannot be depended on to generate electricity 24/7 and a backup fossil fuel energy source is needed for those times when the wind dies down, wind energy is not yet at a point where it makes sense. In America, wind farms are killing some of our most magnificent birds. We need to either improve the wind farm technology or look in another direction for alternative energy sources.

Wind and…

English: A barn and wind turbines in rural Ill...

English: A barn and wind turbines in rural Illinois Deutsch: Eine Scheune und Windturbinen im ländlichen Illinois Français : Une Grange et des éoliennes dans la campagne de l’Illinois Português: Um celeiro e turbinas de vento na Illinois rural. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Last night I had the privilege of hearing John Droz, Jr., speak on the topic of alternative energy. Mr. Droz is part of the Alliance for Wise Energy Decisions (AWED). an informal group of PhD‘s and other individuals involved in energy and environmental matters. As a physicist, Mr. Droz approaches the concept of green energy from a scientific perspective. Unfortunately, because the issue of green energy has become politicized, that approach is not generally heard. The group maintains the website WiseEnergy.org.

The issue last night was windmills–are they truly green energy and do they make sense scientifically? Recently Carteret County prevented the construction of a wind farm in their county, and there is now a company that may want to place a wind farm in Craven County. The discussion was a scientific approach to wind energy.

Mr. Droz explained that because a constant wind could not be depended upon, wind power alone cannot deliver electricity around the clock unless it is backed up by a conventional electrical source–coal, gas, wood, etc. So when you are talking about wind power, you are automatically talking about wind and.. That is something I have not often heard mentioned by the advocates of wind power.

There is also the issue of the impact of large wind turbines on residents nearby. In February of 2013, I posted an article (rightwinggranny.com) about wind power in Falmouth, Massachusetts. Falmouth is a town on the western end of Cape Cod, and theoretically would be a wonderful place to harness wind power–there is almost always wind. However, after the windmills began turning, residents complained of headaches, interrupted sleep, vertigo, and other symptoms. The Board of Selectmen voted to remove the turbines, but the town voted not to remove them (the removal might cost as much as $18 million). The town was examining other solutions–buying more property around the windmills (not cheap–property in Falmouth is expensive and there would also be the loss of real estate taxes paid to the town) and curtailing the hours the windmills operate. Obviously, neither solution is perfect.

The bottom line here is simple–from a scientific perspective wind power is not practical. There may come a time in the future when the technology advances to the point where wind energy does not need a fossil fuel back-up and the impact on people living near the turbines can be minimized, but we are not there yet.

The most important thing I learned last night was that if Craven County wants to protect itself from the damage wind mills would do to the county, there are some very basic things that can be done. First of all, the public needs to become aware of the facts about wind energy. Second of all, Craven County residents need to make sure that the Board of Commissioners is aware of the facts about wind energy. At that point, it is a matter of drafting basic legislation that will protect the country from the environmental damage that a wind farm would do to the community.

This is the link to the slideshow used in the presentation last night.

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Environmental Disasters Don’t Matter If They Are Caused By Liberals

The liberal viewpoint on the environment has always been interesting. It is generally more about feeling good that actually accomplishing anything. I am not in favor of dirty air or dirty water, but I am in favor of common sense, and sometimes that puts me at odds with some environmentalists.

The most recent example of the environmental double standard is related to wind farms. Steven Hayward posted an article at Power Line yesterday about wind farms and eagles.

The article quotes the Associated Press:

An investigation by The Associated Press earlier this year documented the illegal killing of eagles around wind farms, the Obama administration’s reluctance to prosecute such cases and its willingness to help keep the scope of the eagle deaths secret. President Barack Obama has championed the pollution-free energy, nearly doubling America’s wind power in his first term as a way to tackle global warming. .

“This is not a program to kill eagles,” said John Anderson, the director of siting policy at the American Wind Energy Association. “This permit program is about conservation.”

This may not be a program to kill eagles, but unfortunately, that will be the result of this program.

The article continues:

There’s a basic rule of PR crisis communications: you don’t use the phrase “this is not,” because that’s a sure tip off that it is.

All of this is worth remembering the next time an offshore oil spill kills a large number of birds, which occurs about once every 20 years.  The total annual bird kill from windmills is likely orders of magnitude higher than the number of birds killed from oil spills.  There’s a reason I’ve referred to windmills as “Cuisinarts of the Sky.”

The article further reports that Congress may consider letting wind energy tax subsidies expire rather than being renewed. This would end the discussion about the eagles–wind energy cannot exist without subsides. The subsidies to wind energy are another example of the government attempting to pick winners and losers and actually only picking losers. I am not opposed to wind energy, but we need to let the marketplace decide what works and what doesn’t–not Congress and the President.

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Picking Winners And Losers When Enforcing The Law

CBN News posted a story today which illustrates what happens when the people in charge of enforcing the law do not respect the principle of equal justice under the law. The case involves the death of two ducks in a waste pool next to an oil drill site.

As you read this story, please keep in mind the following, reported by Fox News on August 16, 2011:

Case in point: In the Bay Area, when activists in the 1980s demanded a cleaner planet, the state responded with the Altamont Pass Wind Resource Area. The state-approved wind farm, built with federal tax credits, kills 4,700 birds annually, including 1,300 raptors, among them 70 golden eagles, according to biological reports generated on behalf of the owners.

…Pine Tree is one of the wind farms in Kern County and is operated by the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power. According to an internal DWP bird and bat mortality report for the year ending June 2010, bird fatality rates were “relatively high” at Pine Tree compared to 45 other wind facilities nationwide. The facility’s annual death rate per turbine is three times higher for golden eagles than at Altamont.

“Politics plays a huge role here,” Smallwood said. “Our leaders want this power source so they’re giving, for a time being, a pass to the wind industry. If you or I killed an eagle, we’re looking at major consequences.”

I am asking you to keep this in mind as you read this story. Bud Brigham, head of Brigham Resources, was charged with killing two ducks who died in a waste pool next to one of his drills in North Dakota.

The article at CBN News reports:

“A Justice Department appointee apparently chartered a helicopter to go search for this,” Brigham told CBN News, “and flew around to all the different well sites in western North Dakota.”

…Those in the helicopter found 28 dead birds in the waste pools of seven oil and gas companies, and the prosecutor used the 1918 Migratory Bird Treaty Act to charge the companies with criminally killing the 28 birds.

When Congress passed the act, it was intended just to stop poachers or hunters deliberately killing migratory birds. But that didn’t stop this federal prosecutor going after Brigham and the other oil executives.

In Brigham’s case, he and his company were charged with killing two ducks.

“And for two mallards there were cash fines, but also, as CEO, I could potentially serve two consecutive six-month terms in prison,” Brigham said.

As previously mentioned, there have been no charges brought against windmill companies.

Fortunately, the judge in the case tossed it out, stating that if the government were allowed to put Mr. Brigham in jail, they could theoretically imprison a cat-owner whose cat had killed a bird.

Those people in the Justice Department and the Environmental Protection Agency who sent out the helicopters to find the birds and those in the Justice Department who prosecuted the case need to be removed from office. This sort of activity does not represent equal justice under the law–it represents the government picking winners and losers–something the Obama Administration is known for doing.

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Calling For Sunlight

Today’s Boston Herald posted an article about the Cape Wind Farm Project and the lack of transparency in the approval process.

The article reports:

In a letter provided to the Herald, the alliance cited a trove of bombshell internal Federal Aviation Administration emails that suggest the agency buckled to political pressure and downplayed fears that the 440-foot tall spinning turbines would interfere with radar and ensnare small, low-flying aircraft.

The Herald reported Saturday that FAA documents obtained by Parker’s group through a public records request contain repeated references to political support for the proposed 130-turbine project five miles offshore of Cape Cod.

“You’ve got a very clear green agenda from the Obama administration, and very clear agenda from the Patrick administration, wanting to have America’s first offshore wind farm, seemingly at the expense of public safety,” Parker has told the Herald. “It’s like offshore wind at any cost.”

The article and the comments remind us of some of the problems with the Cape Wind Farm Project. Aside from the question of whether political pressure played a part in its approval, there is the fact that it will raise the cost of electricity significantly for Massachusetts residents. There is also the fact that the life of a wind turbine is approximately 25 years before it will need to be removed. What a mess! This will never be a practical project–it will never save consumers money, and we will still need carbon-based back-up electricity to ensure that Massachusetts residents have electric power 24 hours a day! It would make much more sense to refine the technology for natural-gas generated electricity (which is extremely environmentally friendly) and save consumers money and generate jobs in America (America is the Saudi Arabia of natural gas).

Man has been looking for the perpetual motion machine since the beginning of time (that is one of the few things I remember from high school physics!). Green energy is simply another reflection of that quest. At some point in the future, there may be viable green energy, but the government will accomplish nothing by forcing the issue!

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