Margolis: The ‘fix’ is in for wind, and that’s OK

Editor’s note: Jon Margolis is VTDigger’s political columnist.

Surprised that the Public Service Board approved the first stage of the planned wind energy project in Brighton, Newark and Ferdinand even though Gov. Peter Shumlin said such projects should not be forced on “any community that doesn’t vote for them,” and two of those communities have voted against them?

Don’t be.

First of all, Shumlin did not pledge to block wind energy in towns that do not welcome them, only that he did “not believe” the projects should be sited over local objections. He does not have the power to block wind projects. Only the Public Service Board – an independent, three-member, quasi-judicial body – can grant or withhold the certificate of public good a developer needs before erecting those big towers.

OK, the most fervent anti-winders doubt the PSB’s independence. But only one of the three board members – Chairman James Volz – is a Shumlin appointee. David Coen and John Burke were appointed by former Gov. Jim Douglas, a Republican who was much more skeptical of “industrial” wind than is his successor.

But all three members signed the certificate of public good allowing Seneca Mountain Wind to install four 190-foot-high temporary meteorological stations, two in Brighton and one each in Ferdinand and Newark. These stations are designed to figure out whether there’s enough wind on those ridge tops to make it worthwhile to build the projected 35-tower project.

A fix is in when a boxer agrees to throw a fight or when a judge accepts a bribe to acquit a defendant. Despite some Capitol-corridor mutterings from those fervent anti-winders, none of that is going on here. Vermont officials are not for sale. They are not being bribed. These are policy decisions.

Don’t be surprised if the answer to that question is yes; it almost always is. And don’t be surprised if the application to build the whole enchilada gets its certificate of public good, too; they almost always do. Indeed, a cynic might be tempted to say that when it comes to approving wind projects in Vermont, the fix is in.

A nasty phrase, implying corruption and thievery. The fix was in for the 1919 World Series. A fix is in when a boxer agrees to throw a fight or when a judge accepts a bribe to acquit a defendant. Despite some capitol-corridor mutterings from those fervent anti-winders, none of that is going on here. Vermont officials are not for sale. They are not being bribed. These are policy decisions.

With that reality firmly in mind, it is possible to understand what is really going on in the CPG-approval process for wind projects in Vermont: the fix is in.

The difference is that in this case the “fixers” are not gamblers or gangsters. They are you, the “you,” in this case, meaning not the individual you reading this, but the collective you, the people of Vermont, speaking through their (your) representatives in the Legislature.

In deciding that wind power is good policy and should be approved almost whenever and wherever proposed, the PSB is doing its job. It is following the law, specifically the SPEED (Sustainably Priced Energy Enterprise Development) Act of 2005. That law told the state’s utility companies that they should (which for all practical purposes means that they must) get 20 percent of their power from “renewable” sources such as wind or solar.

The policy directive to the PSB seems clear. Absent some extraordinary reason to deny a wind power proposal, it should be approved. Approval is what the computer nerds would call the default position.

Or to put it another way, the fix is in. That’s Vermont’s chosen policy, established by the Legislature and approved by the public according to every poll taken on the subject. A credible new survey indicates that the approval rate is falling, at least up north, but even that poll showed a pro-wind majority.

But shouldn’t opposition by most of the folks in town constitute one of those extraordinary reasons that would convince officials to turn down an application? Newark’s voters overwhelmingly rejected the wind proposal in March. A month later, Brighton adopted a town plan calling for a moratorium on new wind projects. In both towns, the local sentiment is not debatable. Is Vermont not dedicated to “local control”?

No. Nobody is devoted to local control, not unless they agree with the locals and disagree with the non-locals on a specific issue. “Local control” is part of the process fraud. Whoever says, “this is the best process,” really means, “this is the process I think will yield the substantive result I prefer.”

“Local control” is the Vermont version of the national “states’ rights” debate. Nobody cares about states’ rights either. Jefferson Davis said he did, but he just wanted to protect slavery. George Wallace said he did, but he just wanted to preserve segregation. Had the feds been pro-slavery and pro-segregation, both men would have welcomed federal interference.

(In fairness to Wallace’s memory, he regretted his segregationist ways in 1979, a repentance certified as sincere by, among others, the Rev. Jesse Jackson).

Vermonters tend to be pro-wind because Vermonters tend to be liberals. Liberals favor wind power because they think more wind power will mean less fossil fuel burning, and therefore less global warming.

They could be right. Or they could be wrong, but that makes no difference because liberals – exactly like conservatives – tend to embrace those accounts and narratives that appeal to them, and to reject evidence to the contrary.

In the recent Florida trial of George Zimmerman for the tragic death of young Trayvon Martin, for instance, liberal columnists, bloggers and TV talking heads regularly stated that Zimmerman had refused an order not to get out of his car and follow Martin, had no reason other than race to suspect that Martin’s intentions deserved scrutiny, and (in the words of a journalist-lawyer on PBS’s “News Hour”) “had called the police 46 times in previous six years, only for African-Americans, only for African-American men.”

None of this was true. Almost none of it was ever retracted or corrected. But it fit the preferred narrative of the target audience, much as hysteria over the possible horrendous consequences of the Affordable Care Act fits the preferred narrative of conservative audiences.

So most Vermonters, being liberals, are disinclined to question the assumption that wind power will help fight global warming. The officials they vote for assure them that it will. So do the commentators they choose to read. To repeat, they may be right. But the actual evidence does not conclusively confirm their assumption.

No matter. Vermonters are pro-wind. Lawmakers, accurately reflecting the views of their constituents, have made support for wind power the policy of the state. The Public Service Board is following that policy. When it comes to approving wind projects in Vermont, very legally and very democratically, the fix is in.

Jon Margolis

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84 Comments on "Margolis: The ‘fix’ is in for wind, and that’s OK"

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Avram Patt
3 years 6 days ago
Jon Margolis appropriately tries to correct the misconception that the members of Public Service Board are lackeys doing the bidding of the Shumlin administration. However, he got who appointed who wrong. In fact the Chair, Jim Volz is the only member of the Board who was first appointed by Governor Douglas, in 2005. He was then reappointed by Governor Shumlin in 2011. David Coen was first appointed by Howard Dean in 1995 and was then reappointed by Douglas. John Burke was also first appointed by Howard Dean (his PSB website bio doesn’t give the year) and reappointed by Douglas. In… Read more »
Barb Morrow
3 years 6 days ago

First let me say I was a volunteer for Gov. Shumlin’s campaign. However, he has soured me mightily on this wind issue. Therefore, nothing that comes of this is any surprise, anymore.

Annette Smith
3 years 6 days ago

Dave Gram’s article about the solar boom says Rep. Tony Klein said “he did not see a need to change course.”

It would be appropriate for the legislature to revisit these policies that were enacted in 2005, especially since the SPEED program has been revealed to be a sham.

Eight years later, why not reevaluate and adjust based on what we have learned?

And as for those polls, the demographics show that Vermonters are happy to support wind as long as it’s in somebody else’s backyard:
http://vermontersforacleanenvironment.wordpress.com/2013/03/16/wind-poll-details-support-yiyby/

Dave Stevens
3 years 6 days ago

Hello Annette
I had asked you recently if there was a wind project in Vermont that you thought was a worthwhile project from start to finish, and your response was that there wasn’t one. So my question is what would you like Vermont’s energy portfolio to look like? Small scale wind? Solar? should we expand on our hydro-quebec sourced energy? Should we build a newer generation nuclear plant that Willem Post has suggested?
Thanks Annette

Rob Pforzheimer
3 years 6 days ago

If and when we need more power, which we don’t right now
or in or the foreseeable future, we should buy “baseload”, reliable hydro from Quebec, which the legislature now labels renewable. If hydro isn’t available then build gas generators closed to demand, not on remote mountain tops with no transmission.
Destroying our mountains, forests, and people’s lives to build expensive, intermittent, highly subsidized, unreliable, environmentally destructive wind projects is insane.

Peter Liston
3 years 5 days ago

“Destroying our mountains, forests, and people’s lives to build expensive, intermittent, highly subsidized, unreliable, environmentally destructive wind projects is insane.”

That’s almost exactly what the Cree Indaians said about the Quebec hydro project that you’re promoting.

Karl Riemer
3 years 5 days ago

Ah, but that’s on the other side of an imaginary line, in someone else’s back yard. (Actually consuming and effacing back, front, and side yard, but, crucially, someone else’s.)

Peter Liston
3 years 5 days ago

Sadly, their ‘back yard’ is now under water — made into a resivoir so that foreigners (you and I) can get ‘cheap’ power.

Lynn Nila
3 years 5 days ago
I agree. I am but an ordinary folk-person who thinks of the practical application of this huge operation (out-of-scale-wind-turbines and all machinations associated with them, being mostly dirty) being guided by engineering “science” and lots of money. It looks good on paper until you start to put it all into action. I imagine people from around the country will soon be taking the future high-speed train through Vermont just to view the mountain-top whirly things. What will that train be running on besides tax payer money? “The Prisoner” had his bubble, the residents of Vermont will have the spinning blades,… Read more »
Annette Smith
3 years 5 days ago
The phrase making a mountain out of a mole hill comes to mind where Vermont’s electricity needs are concerned. I’ve lived off grid with solar for about 25 years and was pleased to find Ben Luce, a Ph.D. with expertise in renewable energy, prioritize Vermont’s and the region’s needs with solar photovoltaics as the most abundant and cost-effective renewable electricity source for this region. Solar works in Vermont, and it is increasingly affordable. I am not a rich person and my choices are based on taking personal responsibility, which includes using a lot less power than most people. Do we… Read more »
Rob Macgregor
3 years 5 days ago

In saying “This top down approach, with politicians and their wealthy donors dictating energy policy is definitely not working and is antithetical to Vermont’s small town rural communities” you’re saying that Margolis is completely wrong in his assertion… that the politicians and agencies are responding to what the majority of the state’s voters have made abundantly clear?

It really is the legislature, the executive, the judiciary and the various state agencies all sucking up to zillionaire wind industry campaign donors?

Still clinging to the conspiracy theories?

Kevin Jones
3 years 5 days ago
Lets not overlook Annette’s important point that the SPEED program in terms of Vermont is a renewable energy illusion or as Annette correctly states a sham. Jon Margolis has written on this point before, the Vermont SPEED program promotes the perception, but not the reality, that Vermont’s energy supply is green. The Vermont legislature in one of the most wasteful and misdirected policy decisions of its long history allows Vermont’s utilities to sell the renewable energy credits from all of the Vermont’s wind projects (and the large solar ones too). Once the RECs are sold out of state to CT… Read more »
Lisa Grout
3 years 6 days ago

As an extremely liberal democrat whose home is Newark, I am very very depressed. Simple solutions such as the notion that wind power is a panacea cure for all our energy and environmental ills is disheartening, and unless something changes a fair number of Vermonters and a large portion of Vermont’s pristine ridge lines will literally be bulldozed.

Dylan Gifford
3 years 6 days ago

I am very pro wind. I am glad to see wind development.
But the assertion that Vermont Politicians are not for sale is not backed up by any data in this opinion piece.

Mr Margolis, I ask you to look at the recent failed effort to tax sugar sweetened beverages in Vermont, and reconsider your opinion that “Vermont officials are not for sale.”.

http://vtdigger.wpengine.com/2013/04/29/lobbyist-reports-filed-american-beverage-association-spent-well-over-half-a-million-dollars-fighting-sugar-sweetened-beverage-tax/

How can half a million dollars worth of political contributions from the American Beverage Association to a small number of state politicians not be the very definition of corruption?

Patricia Turner
3 years 5 days ago

If you had any idea what it is like to have one of these industrial wind companies target your community…..If you are pro wind: go ahead and work to get a development on your land or nearby land. Go ahead.

3 years 6 days ago
Re: “…a cynic might be tempted to say that when it comes to approving wind projects in Vermont, the fix is in. A nasty phrase, implying corruption and thievery.” John, let’s see if I have this right. The Governor tells citizens from Newark that a town shouldn’t have to host an industrial wind plant if they don’t want it. (Don’t know where you got your version of that conversation from. I was standing next to him when he said that to Newark resident Noreen Hession.) The town votes overwhelmingly to reject it. The Northeastern Vermont Development Association calls for a… Read more »
Timothy MacLam
3 years 6 days ago

And stupidity it is. And arrogance and more than a handful of greed.

What does it take for the Public Service Board to do the right thing?

Thank you, Sen.Benning. Please continue the fight against this environmental nightmare.

Bruce Post
3 years 6 days ago
I would imagine that these liberals Jon writes about would scream bloody murder if there were a serious proposal to repeal our billboard law. Yet, not so much of a peep from them while we blow up and bulldoze, demolish and devastate our mountaintops. It makes me question how committed the Vermont Democratic Party is to the environment. Sure, they pick and choose what do defend – cafeteria environmentalism. And, they will keep those billboards out as well — boutique environmentalism. There are also a bunch of liberals who stand solidly with the military-industrial complex and have the welcome mat… Read more »
Bruce Post
3 years 6 days ago

Oops, that should have been “cozy chumminess.”

Lynn Nila
3 years 6 days ago

Good-bye Green Mountains. How lucky was I to have grown-up during the era of Dean Davis. He got a lot of things right— no billboards and act 250. Wind turbines on top of our pristine glacial mountain tops defeats both of these green thinking concepts since I have read over and over how corporate people will come to be mightily impressed with these humongous erections, er, well, you know what I mean…

Lynn Nila
3 years 6 days ago

Wow, Bruce, I never even saw your post and I, too, could not help think of the no-billboard law. That’s what Vermont has become, the turbine advertisement to the world. We are open for business. Money talks and everyone else can walk.

Barb Morrow
3 years 6 days ago

I’m not against wind per se. I DO have it in my “backyard.” What I’m bitterly discouraged about is Mr. Shumlins statement that siting for wind towers would be made after a careful statewide review of where they should go for optimal positioning, and where they should NOT go. That still has not happened.

3 years 6 days ago

Isn’t Mr. Margolis the same person who wrote a lengthy opinion piece defending Peter Shumlin’s swindling of his neighbor?

I really can’t take anything he says seriously.

Ellin Anderson
Brownington

3 years 5 days ago

Ellen,
Bob Stannard also defended Shumlin’s “faux pas”.

3 years 5 days ago
William (LOL): In the gentleman’s own words: “As for my column(s); […] I write them for me; not for you.” Since he writes them for himself, and not me, I don’t read them. With respect to the issue at hand: It’s the tone of this particular piece of writing that bothers me: fiddling on the roof while Vermont burns, using some shallow wordplay to dance around a major human rights violation and environmental disaster. He seems cheery about it. But focusing on writers and what they say or don’t say is a mistake. The towns that willingly host industrial wind… Read more »
3 years 5 days ago

Hey, Ellin —

Nice tone there. After all, why should we bother with civil debate about a pressing climate issue, when we can just call people names?

Rob Pforzheimer
3 years 6 days ago
The PSB is supposed to evaluate the criteria in the Section 248 statutes, not simply rubber stamp bad policy from the legislature. Some of the 248 criteria are viewable here: http://www.leg.state.vt.us/statutes/fullsection.cfm?Title=30&Chapter=005&Section=00248 Here are some the board regularly ignores: (1) with respect to an in-state facility, will not unduly interfere with the orderly development of the region with due consideration having been given to the recommendations of the municipal and regional planning commissions. Newark, Brighton, & the NVDA all have recommended against more wind projects. (2) is required to meet the need for present and future demand for service which could… Read more »
3 years 6 days ago
Jon states: “ That’s Vermont’s chosen policy, established by….. every poll taken on the subject.” According to Rick Clark, Head of Castleton Polling: “Legislators relying on the collective poll results as justification that people of Vermont strongly support big wind would have a weak foundation.” He further opined: “The polls are not a highly considered response.” “They’re a gut reaction.” And, “They’re not a referendum.” These comments were made to me by Dr. Clark on May 6th of this year when we discuss the February 2013 Castleton wind polls findings. Over time as people learn more about wind power, support… Read more »
Michael Colby
3 years 6 days ago

I remember the good old days when political columnists had an opinion and took a stand. Now we get this kind of verbal vapidness which, of course, allows the politically-wrong-headed-of-any-stripe to go unchallenged.

What happened to facts? And good, strong opinions based on facts. You know, like a column based on the fact that Vermont’s power elite game of wind power is built upon a giant global-warming-solving lie.

But I guess that wouldn’t please the (liberal) donors.

Pam Arborio
3 years 6 days ago
Regarding the recent PSB ruling to allow met towers in Ferdinand, Brighton and Newark let us not forget the PSB has ignored advice from our own Vermont FIsh and Wildlife Dept., the Wilderness Society, experts who’ve weighed in from Susan Morse, Ben Luce, Will Staats, Val Desmarias and VCE along with a host of others. Perhaps the PSB should read the articles and rulings sent to them regarding Eolian/Antrim Wind’s denial in Antrim, N.H. Including a “true fix” in dealings with the towns’ Select Board. Perhaps Mr. Margolis, as an investigative journalist , you could tell us if any PSB,… Read more »
3 years 5 days ago
Pam, “TAKE BACK OUR RIGHT TO BE HEARD.” Should be: Take back our right to DECIDE. The largely lay Legislature has gone off an RE tangent, gave the PSB free license to do whatever. An example is a separate clause within Act 250 just for wind turbines which enpoered the PSB to hold “hearings”, take vendor (Danish Vestas) and stakeholder (GMP) input, and decide on 45 dBA, AVERAGED OVER ONE HOUR, just outside a nearby residence. Some noises could be 50-60 dBA, others 30-40 dBA. The sound pressure level of 45 dBA is 32 times greater than 30 dBA of… Read more »
Tin Barton-Caplin
3 years 6 days ago

An analogy comes to mind: PSB/Big Wind is to NEK Residents/Local Government as Entergy is to the Vermont Legislature.

Jon Graham
3 years 6 days ago

I personally believe wind power should be smaller scale and oriented to serving local power grids. But if the powers that be insist on destroying our mountain tops, lets put these industrial turbines on mountains that have already been greatly altered by development–the ski areas. Let’s put wind farms on the top of Mount Snow, Killington, Sugarbush, and so forth–the ski areas can benefit from the power that is generated, (the Lowell turbines are already generating more power than the grid can handle) and they can sell advertizing space on the wind turbines to snowboard and ski manufacturers, among others.

Lynn Nila
3 years 6 days ago

I believe, according to what I have read concerning existing industrial sized wind turbines in place in other (European) locations, due to the potential for blade unbalance (snow and ice accumulation causing unbalance and potential cracking and spinning off of blades) that a radius of up to fifty miles of no-trespass is in effect to prevent life threatening “accidents”. Here, in Vermont, wildlife is okay, since free-passes are given out to legally kill them if they are in the way.

3 years 6 days ago
Some definitions that may be helpful: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Genocide_definitions “The Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (2002): Article 6 of the Rome Statute provides that ‘genocide’ means any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, as such (a) Killing members of the group; (b) Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group; (c) Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part; (d) Imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group; (e)… Read more »
3 years 6 days ago
Is it true there is excess Canadian hydro that we could use that would be less costly that bulldozing mountain tops and building 400 plus foot towers? And what is the cost for changing a mountain top into ten or twenty wind turbines? Would this cost be better spent insulating old Vermont homes, which could lower energy cost 15%? That’s what I was told when I was a low income benefiter of winter proofing my old home. But they stopped and left because they found vermiculite in the attic. Asbestos! they said, in their puffy white sani-suits. And they left,… Read more »
Don Peterson
3 years 6 days ago

We’ll never get these mountains back. The thirty pieces of silver a few industrialists get for them will disappear into trust funds and portfolios. Global warming continues, because this is window dressing, a simulated solution to a real problem.

Its like killing the last buffalo for their tongues, and leaving the carcass to rot on the prarie.

Randy Koch
3 years 5 days ago

Fortunately, they did not kill off the buffalo for their tongues: that would be disgusting! In fact they killed off the buffalo to starve the Indians, to make that problem go away.

Fred Woogmaster
3 years 5 days ago
What a conundrum! After watching a video of Luann Therrien’s testimony before the Legislature, I visited the Therrien Family at their off-the-grid, 50 acre property, and have now done so two more times. I have played with their children 3+ and 1+. The adults have been profoundly affected by the action of the turbines. The children? Who knows? They will become the specimens evaluated for neurological and emotional problems in the future. Children, not fully developed physically, mentally or emotionally may become the real victims while the sociopolitical debate continues. One can’t blame wind – just as one cannot blame… Read more »
Randy Koch
3 years 5 days ago
A President makes up a story that Iraq is going to drop the big on on us. The US press buys the lie and before long 95% of those polled here say they are scared to death and that they favor going to war. Is that what we want to call “democracy”? Bill McKibble tugs his forelock and demands that we do anything and everything, no matter how disproportionate, starting this very second to stop global warming. Blittersdorf and VPIRG, Mary Powell and Peter Shumlin, Tony Klein and the curiously-named Volz, all dusty and panting, the whole thundering herd galloping… Read more »
3 years 5 days ago

Why environemntalists’ opposition to wind is misguided (because to avoid climate chaos, we need to get off fossil fuels and maximize alternatives like wind). My previous column, archived at http://bit.ly/11l5zrV.

Annette Smith
3 years 4 days ago

What evidence do you have that building big wind turbines in New England effectively reduces greenhouse gas emissions and avoids climate chaos?

Where do you live and what mountain do you want a string of wind turbines on?

3 years 4 days ago
You’re asking for a fait accompli, Annette, and we’re just not there yet. Do you and other wind doubters really believe that if we keep heading in the same direction, climate change won’t be a problem? Do you think the scientists are making it up, or that the arctic isn’t melting? Are we just gonna be fine burning fossil fuels? I think we need to look at the big picture. We need to produce electricity, and the way we do it now is cooking the planet. We’ve got some tough choices to make. To transition to a point where we… Read more »
Rob Pforzheimer
3 years 4 days ago

You seem to miss the point that with wind power there is no transition, no shift away from fossil fuels. Decades of building and subsidizing hundreds of thousands of turbines all over the world and there has not been and never will be a transition or shift away from anything due to intermittent, unreliable wind power.

3 years 3 days ago
All forms of energy production have their shortcomings, and the intermittent nature of wind is no exception (though there are many quite windy places on the planet where this is less of a problem). It’s only recently that we’ve made a serious commitment to generating wind power (not “decades”), so it’s way too early to say “it doesn’t work.” It’s easy to just point out the problems with alternatives. But again, I’ll ask the naysayers what your alternative is. Because burning fossil fuels at the present rate is unsustainable and will cause massive shifts in the climate and human existence.… Read more »
3 years 4 days ago
More from that NY Times story on the latest international scientific consensus about climate change: “The level of carbon dioxide, the main greenhouse gas, is up 41 percent since the Industrial Revolution, and if present trends continue it could double in a matter of decades. “Warming the entire planet by 5 degrees Fahrenheit would add a stupendous amount of energy to the climate system… “They add that such an increase would lead to widespread melting of land ice, extreme heat waves, difficulty growing food and massive changes in plant and animal life, probably including a wave of extinctions.” A sober… Read more »
3 years 5 days ago
Don, “Margolis: The ‘fix’ is in for wind, and that’s OK” So it is OK for the PSB to provide CPGs to build wind turbines on ridge lines even though much of their PRESENT energy has no place to go, and if more wind turbines are built, their energy has no place to go either. This will be the case for many years until the NEK grid is fully capable of accepting the variable, intermittent, i.e., junk energy. D-VAR and S-C systems should be a minimum necessary complement of any wind turbine plant in the NEK. The Legislature endorsed the… Read more »
Patricia Turner
3 years 5 days ago

To all pro-wind Vermonters, including our land-owning Governor: Let’s see you put your money where your mouths are and invite these nasty, lying, manipulative wind developers into your communities to erect these symbolic monstrosities. No? Better to have them ruin beautiful small towns in the Northeast Kingdom far away from Montpelier and your Chittenden County? Yeah. That’s what we thought. Google “Living Under the Blades” in Falmouth, MA.

Matt Fisken
3 years 5 days ago
Patricia Turner is correct. Vermont needs to find energy solutions that are 100% scalable and appropriate to the distinct character and nature of VT. That means giving individual Vermonters the option to generate their own power from the wind OR NOT. 20+ turbines in the middle of nowhere should be a turbine or two on each roof in VT powering a home micro-grid with some kind of storage. The $300 million for IWTs and smart meters should have been invested slightly differently. All we can do now is learn from the mistakes. The just-in-time function of power grid and gas… Read more »
Rep. Tom Koch
3 years 5 days ago
It’s true that the governor does not control the independent Public Service Board. But the governor has more than a little control over the Public Service Department, which is part of his administration. So what position will the Department take in its representation of the public on the Seneca Mountain project? If Newark, Brighton, and the regional planning agency oppose this project, and the governor says they shouldn’t have to accept a project they don’t want, it seems clear what position the Department should take. On a broader scale, Vermont should reexamine its support for industrial scale wind for many… Read more »
Wayne Andrews
3 years 5 days ago

If the fix is in as indicted in this article then why has it taken over six years in Searsbug/Readsboro windmill expansion? There has not been one tree cut, nor road built or one nail hammered in Readsboro yet. Is this the procedure we want when our backs are against the wall when more electricity is needed?

3 years 5 days ago
Wayne, “Is this the procedure we want when our backs are against the wall when more electricity is needed?” In the real world, utilities plan their generating plants, distribution systems and transmission systems at least 10 years ahead. They do load growth studies, and studies of what kind of plants are best suited to meet future demand. Utilities build the plants several years before they are actually needed. The same is true with the poles, wires and substations of distribution systems and of transmissions systems. Since 2007, the estimated load growth has not happened (most people and businesses are “economizing”,… Read more »
Valerie Desmarais
3 years 5 days ago
I can attest that the “fervent anti-winders” are actually ardent conservationists, preservationists and naturalists who are working on behalf of increasingly rare high elevation habitat and contiguous forest blocks that provide sustenance for the wild creatures.These are the same animals and birds that are being challenged by the co-opting of tracts of land for “development” and the public’s seemingly endless need for expansion and growth. These same forests also provide a sense of place and heritage for many of us, whether living in the Kingdom or in Deerfield. Now those same forests are on the verge of being exploited and… Read more »
3 years 5 days ago
In fairness regarding the comment about wind being “taxpayer subsidized,” let’s also note that the fossil fuel industry is much more heavily taxpayer subsidized. Bernie Sanders’ legislation identifies hundreds of millions in subsidies to the fossil fuel industry that could be eliminated. By comparison, the “subsidy” portion of wind is precarious and subject to the whims of a very conservative Congress. So much so that development of safe, clean wind energy has been hampered by this uncertainty. There’s really no parallel, and to slam wind power as taxpayer subsidized — without mentioning subsidies to fossil fuel industries — is unfair… Read more »
3 years 5 days ago

Gregory,

Bernie Sanders knows the real numbers as do most US Senators, but he is grand-standing for vote and attention getting purposes.

Here is a URL that states the following DIRECT federal electric subsidies per unit of PRODUCTION:

http://jerrygraf.wordpress.com/2013/03/23/energy-subsidies-in-the-usa/

Solar $775.64/MWh
Wind $56.29/MWh
Geothermal $12.85/MWh
Nuclear $3.14/MWh
Hydropower $0.82/MWh
Coal $0.64/MWh
Nat Gas and Petroleum Liquids $0.64/MWh

There are INDIRECT subsidies, but to quantify THEM is a major challenge.

There are EXTERNALITIES, but to quantify them quickly becomes subjective, as few agree on what is, or is not, an externality.

3 years 4 days ago
These are interesting numbers, and thanks for supplying them. But instead of loking at dollars per KW hour, the more relevant number — if we’re worried about taxpayer subsidies — is how much (how many dollars) it costs the government to subsidize each form of energy production. And in that regard, fossil fuels are much more heavily (and much more dangerously) subsidized. If we want to avoid a climate catastrophe (yesterday’s report — sea level rises by 3 feet by year 2100, putting parts of many coastal cities underwater — we’ve got to convert to clean energy. So subsidizing solar… Read more »
3 years 4 days ago
Gregory, “So subsidizing solar and wind makes all the sense in the world.” It makes much more sense, i.e., much less costly, capital cost and operating cost wise, to use 60% efficiency, gas-fired CCGTs (low CO2 emissions/kWh) and hydro plants, such as Hydro-Quebec, (near-zero CO2 emissions/kWh), and implement massive EE efforts and gradually eliminate coal. Absent economically-viable, utility-scale energy storage, which has not yet been invented, wind and solar energy cannot exist without other sources of energy, such as gas and hydro (for balancing) and coal and nuclear for base-load. In NE, about 30% of the hours of the year… Read more »
3 years 4 days ago

Good info, Willem, thanks. I believe it makes sense to look at all the low-carbon alternatives including those you’ve suggested. And yup, it’s gonna be expensive to go low-carbon. But not nearly as expensive as doing nothing.

Eric Rosenbloom
3 years 2 days ago

The theoretical greenhouse gas savings of all existing wind “farms” in Vermont is equivalent to removing 47 cows from the state. http://kirbymtn.blogspot.com/2011/06/how-many-cows-is-wind-energy-equal-to.html

3 years 2 days ago

“The theoretical greenhouse gas savings of all existing wind “farms” in Vermont is equivalent to removing 47 cows from the state.”

That statistic (if true) strikes me as a good reason for Green Mtn. customers to buy Cow Power electricity to reduce cow emissions. And it’s also a good reason to go vegan, or at least reduce our consumption of dairy products.

Eric Rosenbloom
3 years 1 day ago

Actually, that calculation doesn’t count manure. Let alone the fossil fuels burned to feed and keep dairy cows and to process their milk, “veal” calves, and their near-middle-aged mothers who no longer pay their way. Indeed, the UN says that animal agriculture accounts for more greenhouse gas emissions than all transportation. Going vegan, or at least seriously reducing consumption of animal products, is probably the easiest thing for the environment that one person can do.

2 years 11 months ago

Completely agree, Eric, about the value and importance of reducing consumption of animal products. I’ve been on that course for 40 years now.

I’m often surprised how many people who care about the environment don’t realize that they can make a big difference by shifting their eating habits to more plants and fewer animals (including less dairy). And hey, it’s healthier, too.

Rob Pforzheimer
3 years 5 days ago

Wind power does nothing to alleviate climate change. Please tell us where you think this is occurring?

“By now it should be clear: The biggest threat to the environment are the dishonest bureaucrats who want us to believe they are saving it.”

http://notrickszone.com/2013/08/19/german-report-confirms-its-worse-than-we-thought-wind-parks-killing-far-more-wildlife/

Study Confirms It’s Worse Than We Thought – German Wind Parks Killing Quarter Million Bats Per Year

Lance Hagen
3 years 4 days ago

Gregory, your statement of ”fossil fuel industry is much more heavily taxpayer subsidized” is just not true.

According to the Dept. of Energy, direct subsidies in 2010 in energy production were:

Coal = $1,189 million
Natural Gas and LP = $654 million
Renewables = $6,560 Million (with Wind being $4,986 Million of that total)

And as Willem points out all those subsidies for Wind and Solar are not producing much power in 2010 or in 2013.

3 years 4 days ago
Lance wrote: … Direct subsidies in 2010 in energy production were: Coal = $1,189 million Natural Gas and LP = $654 million Renewables = $6,560 Million (with Wind being $4,986 Million of that total) My reply: Your figures leave out the oil industry. Maybe that’s an important part of the equation, do ya think? I’ll bow to Bernie Sanders and his staff on this one, who have spent a lot more time researching this than most of us. They put on-the-books subsidies to the fossil fuel industry over the coming decade at $113 billion — more than $1 billion a… Read more »
Lance Hagen
3 years 4 days ago
Gregory, we are talking about electrical power generation, here. Oil use to generate electrical power is minimal. Less than 2% of electrical power in the US is generated by burning oil. So subsidies to oil are irrelevant to this discussion That being said, let’s look at Bernie’s number …… $113 billion over 10 years …… or on average $11.3 billion/yr …… or $11,300 million/yr. From his listing this includes ‘direct’ subsidies and ‘indirect’ subsidies (which Bernie has to estimate the value of these ‘indirects’ and considering Bernie’s political position on fossil fuel corporations, I would bet his estimates are extremely… Read more »
3 years 4 days ago

Well, Lance, you cited subsidies for “energy production” and so did I. And if I read your numbers right, the direct/indirect subsidies for fossil fuels — which are already hugely profitable industries so why are we subsidizing them at all? — are still larger than for renewables.

Again I would ask that folks look at the bigger picture. Wind ain’t perfect, but continuing down the road we’re going heads straight off a cliff.

3 years 5 days ago
Valerie wrote: “The mountains and forests of the Seneca Range are an unparalleled hydrological resource. To spend any time on the mountain is to be surrounded by the sound of running water. Streams flow into the National Wildlife Refuge in the Nulhegan Basin, and into the Connecticut River watershed, one of New England’s largest. One does not need an engineering degree to realize the negative implications that blowing up the top of the ridgeline and paving it will have on this scenario.” Anyone who knows what a watershed is, also knows that no one really “owns” their land. The water… Read more »
Kathy Nelson
3 years 4 days ago
Rep. Anderson, The Eolian/Seneca Mountain Wind scammers actually tried to persuade Brighton’s water commissioners to put 500ft wind turbines on 400 acres of water source protection land that is under the control of some very corrupt elected good ole boys. The water protection area serves as Island Pond’s second (there are only two) sources of drinking water. These commissioners were caught having their secret meeting with Eolian and the hammer has come down. All these commissioners thought about was getting a few extra bucks in their pockets and actually condoned the lies that industrial development (blasting, road-building and pouring concrete)will… Read more »
3 years 4 days ago

I am not a State Representative from Brownington, I just live there.

I was also wondering: What happens when they start blasting in Eden and spew asbestos dust everywhere, from the old mine or other deposits they unearth?

I really think they are trying to drive people out of the NEK.

Ellin Anderson
Brownington

Valerie Desmarais
3 years 5 days ago
It is impossible to address all the tangential issues related to energy policy in Vermont (or the world) in a brief reply to an article written for a daily news publication. Wind is not a clean energy source, it relies on fossil fuel back up and it is precarious and subject to the whims of the jet stream. It is intermittent and highly variable.It is not “green” or “clean”. My point was to underscore the complex nature of the habitat in the cross-hairs of our current regime, and to take issue with the oversimplification inherent in describing “the process” as… Read more »
Valerie Desmarais
3 years 5 days ago

@ Ms. Westover, please tell us that your comment is your way of being wry or sardonic.

Vanessa Mills
3 years 5 days ago
Gregory Dennis writes: “Another thought: What happens to these natural places during climate change, if we don’t start using clean alternatives such as wind and solar?” These natural, ecologically-sensitive places are critically important and therefore need to be left intact. These are watersheds that have worked effectively since the birth of the land itself. The watershed issue with regard to installations of ridgeline wind turbine facilities and resulting erosion and impacted water quality are HUGELY important things we will need to keep at the forefront as we move into the future. Preserving intact watersheds instead of ripping them open and… Read more »
Lee Stirling
3 years 4 days ago

What good will these extra wind power projects be if the “grid” run by ISO New England can’t reliably accommodate the power generated? Are the new proposed projects going to be faced with $10 million projects, a couple years after go-live, to install power condensers like Lowell to smooth the delivery of power to the “grid”? This is totally putting the cart before the horse.

3 years 4 days ago

What good will new wind projects do, if there’s a grid problem? It’s a good question — but a bogus argument to use again wind power.

The grid problems are not just an issue with wind. We need to solve the grid problem whatever form of energy we use. This challenge isn’t specific to wind. It’s something we need to address as a region wherever we get our electricity.

Lee Stirling
3 years 4 days ago
I’m not against wind power, but I am against being stupid. If the “grid” needs improvement, spend money to improve the grid before spending tens of millions of dollars on a wind project whose output will be curtailed due to insufficient grid capability. Wind projects are being built where the wind is, where less people live who can put up a serious opposition to the projects, and where the people who will use most of the power are geographically removed from. But these very locations are not high-demand nodes for the grid, which is necessarily weaker in those locations. Imagine… Read more »
3 years 4 days ago

Hi Greg
Zeropoint does not require a grid. Did you click the link I gave you, where former military personnel, FAA, government contractors, intelligence operatives with everything to lose and nothing to gain go in front of the cameras at the National Press Club testifying to their personal experiences with UFOs. The same type of experience I had here in Plainfield. Frankly mine were substantially more profound, given the context. Hence my insight and passion on this critical subject.
No serious energy discussion is complete without considering the ETs, unless of course one is an atheist, fundamentalist
or other close minded Flatearther.

Kathy Nelson
3 years 4 days ago
Mr. Dennis, in the NEK there is an easy fix for the grid, it’s called enabling more people to get their homes and businesses off grid and keep vital natural resources intact. Please take your pro-wind argument to dirty, power-gobbling cities like Burlington where that grid can handle junk intermittent wind power. You want wind turbines? Put them on the shores of Lake Champlain and on the rooftops of the city buildings. Don’t kid yourself that there is no wind resource there because wind developers do not divulge the data from their MET towers. The PSB says they don’t have… Read more »
3 years 4 days ago

I recognize the value of the NEK and would certainly support an effort to get more people off the grid and self-sustaining. It’s hard to know where the money would come, but it’s a laudable idea and worthwhile goal.

But we still need cleaner energy sources and right now, properly sited wind farms can provide that.

Kathy Nelson
3 years 4 days ago
Mr. Dennis, How do you properly site an industrial wind plant (please don’t use the propaganda term wind farm, it’s a true insult to real farmers)when the data that comes from wind developers MET towers remains a trade secret? Industrial wind is not clean, green or energy efficient. It is an obsolete technology that was scrapped a century ago and the scrapyard is where it belongs. Vermont has never needed wind turbines and its natural, clean, green resources have been destroyed to pad the pockets of the corrupt and ease the conscience of those, like you, who have fallen for… Read more »
3 years 3 days ago

I don’t lose any sleep over wind data being “a trade secret.” Most businesses have trade secrets and the world still turns.

As for wind energy being “scrapped a century ago” — gee, maybe the technology has gotten a little better in the last 100 years?

3 years 4 days ago

The truth behind carbon offsets

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m71C4G1fU3Y

note the metaphorical ending

John Rodgers
3 years 2 days ago

The Liberals like their elected officials are misinformed and misguided. If the liberals in Burlington and Montpelier want industrian wind they should have it in their back yard not someone elses. The policies that the legislature has set around RE should be scrapped and redone so that the PSB is following laws that have some logic, Unlike the decission to allow Met towers in an area where there is no transmission, the people do not want it and the state and federal government have spent millions of our tax dollars to preserve wilderness and rare and endangered species.

Eric Rosenbloom
3 years 2 days ago
What a mess of an article! Equating minority rights and environmental concern in the face of mob rule and politico-corporate aggression with the defense of slavery and segregation? But Zimmerman not a racist because the majority are? Mio dio. But I write primarily to note that while Margolis thinks the SPEED law that utilities “should” get 20% of their energy from renewables (but not counting Hydro Quebec) really means they “must”, it is interesting that so many producers have applied for Connecticut’s RPS, including the Searsburg and Sheffield wind, a couple of SPEED-funded solar, and the Burlington and Ryegate biofuel… Read more »
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