Sunday, September 10, 2006

Letter to the Editor, Berkshire Eagle (Mass.)
September 8, 2006

We all need wind power

To the editor of THE EAGLE:

John Trimarchi’s letter of Sept. 4 (“The Berkshire wind turbine scam”) contains a number of errors.

Leaving aside the overblown (pun intended) rhetoric:

Mr. Trimarchi contends that wind energy is “unreliable” and cannot be stored. While the wind is indeed variable, so is our demand for electricity, rising and falling throughout a typical day. Utility system operators must turn generators up and down to match demand, and adding wind generators to the system does not significantly increase its overall variability. That is why, for example, the Reliability Committee of the New England Independent System Operator, which runs our regional utility system, voted unanimously to approve hooking up the Cape Wind project to the system.

Mr. Trimarchi contends that “electricity must be produced on demand.” While this is true, it applies to the entire utility system, not to each individual generator. That is why even very large generators like nuclear power plants can sometimes experience unexpected outages, while we continue to enjoy a dependable supply of electricity.

Mr. Trimarchi criticizes incentives for wind. But our tax dollars have helped support fossil fuels for decades, and continue to do so today. The result has been enormous economic growth and prosperity, but also an addiction that we need to curb. In fact, it is good public policy to support wind power—an energy source that requires no mining, no drilling, and no water, and that produces no air pollution, no water pollution, no global warming pollution, and no waste.

Mr. Trimarchi says that wind turbines installed in the Berkshires will sit idle most of the time. At a typical U.S. wind site, the turbines are generating electricity 65-80% of the time.

Mr. Trimarchi claims that wind energy will not displace energy from other sources. A fairly detailed recent study of the effects of adding wind to New York’s power system found otherwise. It said that 65 percent of the wind-generated electricity would displace electricity from natural gas, 15 percent would displace coal, 10 percent would displace oil, and 10 percent would displace imported power from other states. The study also found, “By displacing energy from fossil-fired generators, wind generation causes reductions in emissions from those generators. Based on wind and load profiles for years 2001 and 2002, annual [nitrogen oxides] emissions would be reduced by 6,400 tons and [sulfur dioxide] emissions would be reduced by 12,000 tons."

Aside from the environmental benefits enumerated above, wind farms in the Berkshires would increase Massachusetts' energy security and help keep a lid on natural gas prices (a growing amount of natural gas is used for electricity generation, and that causes price pressure on gas for home heating).

We all need to think long and hard before abandoning this inexhaustible energy resource.

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