Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Caledonian-Record Blows It on Wind

The recent approval of a 40-megawatt (MW) wind project in Sheffield, Vt., occasioned this
outburst from the Newport, Vt., Caledonian-Record. Now, I have nothing against folks who dislike wind--well, OK, maybe I do have a little something against them--but everyone is entitled to their own opinion, no matter how misguided. But I do take exception when that opinion is published in print and is obviously based on falsehood, which is unfortunately the case here.

I'll set aside several questionable statements and quote just one outstanding passage:

Next, the wind towers will produce power for only about 11 percent of the time. The rest of the time, the wind isn't there, and the power that isn't produced by them will have to be replaced by current, allegedly inefficient, global-warming plants. Net benefit to energy efficiency? None.

First, 11% just ain't so, and any reporter or editor worth her or his salt would be able to find that out. A wind project at a Vermont site should be producing electricity 50-80% of the time, which is consistent with the wind developer's projected production for the Sheffield wind farm (115 million kilowatt-hours annually). (To be more specific, generating 115 million kWh would require the wind farm to operate a minimum of 33% of the time. Since it will often be operating at less than full power, it will have to run a higher percentage of the time to achieve that output.)

Second, when the wind turbines generate, fossil-fueled power plants will throttle back and use less fuel, emitting less global warming pollution. If the wind turbines were not there, the same plants would be running more and emitting more CO2. This is a straightforward concept that shouldn't be hard to grasp.

The Caledonian-Record, not surprisingly, declares its determination to stand behind a local anti-wind group in efforts to block the project. It's a good thing that the Vermont Public Service Board, which approved the Sheffield wind farm, is more open to the facts in this case.



KM said...

You made the same error in attempting to clarify the figures: "generating 115 million kWh would require the wind farm to operate a minimum of 33% of the time".

As you note, the turbines will likely operate around two-thirds of the time. Their average output over the whole year will be (it is hoped) 33% of their total capacity.

The Caledonian-Record's (which is based in St. Johnsbury, by the way, not Newport) figure of 11% obviously represents an estimated capacity value, which NYSERDA puts at one-third the actual output. One-third of 33% is 11%.

Tom Gray said...

No, actually, I didn't make the same mistake at all, Eric. The Caledonian-Record says the turbines will "produce power for only about 11 percent of the time," which is flat wrong. As I said, producing 115 million kWh would require the turbines to operate a minimum of 33% of the time, which is correct.

Thanks for the correction on St. Johnsbury vs. Newport, my error.

It is not at all obvious that the C-R is talking about capacity value. Their quote as it stands is dead wrong, and I stand by my criticism. If they don't understand this stuff (and they obviously don't), then they shouldn't be editorializing about it, let alone launching crusades.

Band Teacher said...

No matter how much wind it produces, this is not the correct location for it. Vermont is well-known for beautiful ridge lines, which will be marred by large ugly noisy towers. Also, just building and maintaining the things will destroy wildlife areas. I've heard (total non-fact here, just rumor, I admit) that often wind towers are not well-maintained and become noisier and noisier and often cease to function at all. Why can't these be put somewhere that they will not be as visible or intrusive, such as deserts and oceans?