Steve Wright: Another message from the Kingdom

Editor’s note: This commentary is by Steve E. Wright, a member of Ridgeprotectors, a nonprofit created early in the Sheffield wind project struggle to educate Vermonters as to the value of its landscape, especially higher elevations. He is an aquatic biologist and former commissioner of the Vermont Fish and Wildlife Department and lives in Craftsbury Common.

On Monday, Jan. 13, landowners in the Unified Towns and Gores of Essex County — the UTG — joined 11 other Vermont towns opposing industrial wind projects. This occurred even with the project developer’s promise of a $900/year direct payment to each landowner – in addition to a hefty annual payment to the UTG of $600,000 for 20 years. There is, however, a significant difference between this vote and others: it was a vote by property owners in the UTG, not registered voters. There are, some say, as many as 457 property owners in the UTG; registered voters number 40.

Project developer Eolian/Seneca Wind initially proposed a 31-industrial wind turbine (IWT) project located in the towns of Brighton, Newark and Ferdinand on 9,000 acres of private land, most of which are owned by a New Hampshire resident. Brighton and Newark voters strongly objected to this proposal, leading to Seneca Wind’s alternative plan for 20 IWTs sited exclusively in Ferdinand, one of the six UTG. Since the UTG are governed collectively, the Governing Board decided to poll UTG landowners to find out whether or not they supported the project. Ballots were sent to 399 landowners, throughout the UTG and 278 were returned completed. The result? 171 against the project, 107 in favor.

Town votes have no standing in the Section 248 process in which the Public Service Board issues or denies a certificate of public good (CPG) for energy and telecommunications projects. Wind developers, however, have made much of communities or groups that support a project, currently three of 14 (See Table 1.). Those opposing wind development in their communities have carried the 11 other town votes. There are also towns where the local governing bodies took a negative position or the town plan prohibits industrial wind (See Tables 2 and 3.). Keep in mind that none of this matters legally except possibly where towns have used a formal planning process to discourage or prohibit IWTs.

An effective climate change action program requires the reduction of carbon emissions by using less fossil fuel. Building additional IWT-generated electricity under the existing system fails that test. In other words, this is “pretend” climate change action that does nothing to reduce Vermont’s carbon emissions.

 

Gov. Shumlin, in referencing the so-called Seneca Wind project, has said publicly that he thinks the voters there have a right to reject the project. He also thinks “it won’t be built.” Rep. Tony Klein, chair of the House Natural Resources and Energy Committee and a supporter of renewable energy development, seems to agree. However, neither the governor nor Rep. Klein matter, legally, in this issue. The real maestro of the Section 248 process is Public Service Board Chair James Volz, who continues to say, in effect, that “The Legislature has told us to approve these projects if they meet current standards. If anyone has problems with this process, the place to address it is in the Legislature.”

But Vermont’s three operating IWT projects — Sheffield, Lowell and Georgia Mountain — are hardly role models for investment in so-called renewable generation. Transmission and grid management problems, such as “curtailment” (dumping electricity), chronic and acute noise issues, the disturbance to wildlife and water flows, and underperforming turbines (which don’t generate the amount of electricity the developers claimed in their CPG application) are raising concerns about the value of this technology in Vermont. The noise issue has risen to such a level that the PSB recently opened an investigation (Docket # 8167) of noise issues for all types of generation.

These are serious problems.

As a Vermonter I find it embarrassing to have our governor spouting simplistic sound bites about converting from fossil fuel to “renewables”: the process is far from simple, nor is it easy to know whether any of these projects reduce the state’s emissions. Following a pattern established by the developers of the Sheffield, Lowell and Georgia Mountain wind projects, the Seneca Mountain Wind developer intended to sell their Renewable Energy Credits (RECs) to southern New England utilities that use fossil fuels to generate power.

The sale of the RECs by a Vermont utility allows the RECs purchaser (say a Massachusetts utility) to meet requirements to lower greenhouse gas emissions, while it continues to burn fossil fuels. At the same time, the Vermont utility can use the same energy project to claim it is meeting SPEED requirements. Have your cake and eat it, too! The Vermont Department of Public Service acknowledges that with the sale of the RECs the three operating industrial wind projects are increasing the state’s carbon footprint. This is what happens when politics and profit masquerade as “public good.”

An effective climate change action program requires the reduction of carbon emissions by using less fossil fuel. Building additional IWT-generated electricity under the existing system fails that test. In other words, this is “pretend” climate change action that does nothing to reduce Vermont’s carbon emissions.

Those who oppose industrial wind projects are heroes. While lacking significant financing or political clout, what they have, in abundance and to a person, is a passion for their connection with the soil, water, woods and wildlife of our state. This passion fuels the much needed and more authentic discussion of how the state can implement an effective and coherent climate change action policy.

They have given Vermonters a gift for the future, a pathway to responsible climate stewardship while protecting the state’s landscape. It is straightforward, independent of technological unknowns, and cost-effective: keep our landscape intact while attacking carbon emissions at their source via aggressive weatherization, efficiency, net zero construction and incentives for alternative transportation.

Will our leadership hear that message? Will this administration acknowledge that the industrial wind projects built in Vermont to date have done nothing to reduce carbon emissions? It’s time to stop playing make-believe and implement climate change action that is not only respectful of our landscape and communities, but that is genuinely effective.

Steve Wright Table 1

Steve Wright Table 2.

Steve Wright Table 3

Comments

  1. Matt Fisken :

    This is easily one of the best commentaries I have read on VT Digger.

    “Will our leadership hear [this] message?”

    They hear it. They probably understand it.
    However, *accepting* that money has been wasted, people have been harmed, and they were/are wrong/accountable is a tough pill to swallow.

  2. Vanessa Mills :

    Thank you, Steve. Well said. And thank you, RidgeProtectors.

  3. Jeff Parsons :

    Steve Wright’s points about wind, REC’s and noise issues need to be seriously addressed in future wind considerations. Sacrificing even a few people’s health and well-being for any energy project is not to be sanctioned. There however, is no evidence, save perhaps for bats, that wind projects, once constructed have a negative effect on water flows or wildlife beyond the actual, relatively limited footprint (remember the footprint of Hydro Quebec is tens of thousands of square miles), of the turbines and roads (which are gated).

    • Steve Wright :

      Jeff Parsons’ comment supports the well-lubricated–by way of cash–myth-making machine of the wind industry. Parsons’ company is a consultant for said industry. He gets paid for what he reports to the industry. His comment is the dictionary definition of disingenuous: “….not candid or frank; insincere.”

      Green Mountain Power, in 2011/12 built more than seven miles of road in the Lowell Mountains in order to locate 21 industrial turbines on 3.2 miles of ridgeline. Much of that road–including cleared area– is 200 feet or more in width. Road cuts from one peak to the next are 40 feet deep into the mountain. Turbine pad anchoring cables go deep into the mountain’s bedrock.

      These are only some of the fundamental alterations of 450,000,000 year-old mountains. If, as infer from Parsons’ claim, the Department of Environmental Conservation regulators cannot measure an
      effect then the problem is with the measurers and an even bigger one for the mountain. Metaphorically speaking, it is as if a surgeon cuts off your arm and then tells you he/she can’t measure a negative effect.

      The Legislature must take control of this madness and put us on a path toward legitimate climate change action

      • Tom Eckert :

        Bravo Steve,
        Your articulate and informative commentary is most welcome in this arena.
        Please keep up the good work knowing that your voice rings clear & true!

      • Battle for the Real Truth on the Impact of Wind score:

        Steve Wright: 100

        Jeff Parsons: 0

        And:

        Parsons: 5 minites in the penalty box for pretending to be an un-biased source of information.

        Make that a major penalty and expulsion from the game for getting paid by the “well-lubricated–by way of cash–myth-making machine of the wind industry”.

      • Jeff Parsons :

        I guess I am defeated. Wright’s attack reminds me of all the times I have defended the environment in court against well-healed business interests. When the facts are not on your side, attack the resume and the messenger. Once again innuendo. and fiction.

        • Mark Whitworth :

          I have seen Mr. Parsons argue on behalf of a developer to despoil the second largest habitat block in Vermont.

          The developers hire Mr. Parsons because that is what he does. If he didn’t do that, they wouldn’t hire him.

    • Annette Smith :

      Classic. “There is no evidence…on water flows.” The reason there “is no evidence” is because First Wind, GMP, and David Blittersdorf exclusively control access to the site. We have repeatedly asked GMP and ANR for access to the Lowell site so qualified experts can evaluate the experimental “level spreaders” that ANR approved and the use of which is currently before the Vermont Supreme Court.

      I have seen photographic and video evidence of the failure of more than two of the stormwater features on the Lowell wind site. Breaches of level spreaders require regular maintenance, and they must be maintained for the life of the mountain, not just the life of the project. New stream channels are being cut on both Lowell and Sheffield mountains. Oops, but I’m not supposed to know about any of that, because I have no right to go look, nor does anyone other than the GMP/First Wind and ANR club members.

      There is no credible environmental protection of our waters taking place on these wind mountains.

      • Jeff Parsons :

        I have lived in Lowell for over 20 years. The historic rain storm that caused the failure of the level spreader happened it also created a 500 foot landslide on Belvidere. Commentators also fail to mention that unregulated logging activities, present long before wind power arrived in the Lowell have resulted in dozens of stream being captured and new one’s being created. Anyone that is able to walk up the Lowell’s and document new streams that resulted from the project is encouraged to do so by this individual.

        • Don Peterson :

          What about Kate Murphy’s barn?

          • Glenn Thompson :

            Is anyone allowed to walk up to the Lowell Wind Farm? I thought they were off limits to the public?

            PS. When the Circ Highway was finally killed due to Environmental objections it was due to a piece of vacant farmland that had a portion declared “wetlands”. Preliminary designs showed that not only could the wetlands have been enhanced but expanded. Didn’t matter to the Environmentalists. Along comes Sheffield and Lowell and it obvious from maps, not only were streams and wetlands impacted by also the upper watershed! From the likes of VPIRG & the CLF… dead silence! Does anyone other than myself see all the hypocrisy in all of this?

          • Annette Smith :

            Glenn, you have to be a member of “the club” which Jeff is, to get access to the Lowell wind site. Nine headwater streams were impacted by the Lowell wind project, including above 2500 feet. One stream that was “taken” for the project for hundreds of feet now has a road built on it. In response to comments filed during the public comment period about the filling of headwater streams, ANR’s response was “we disagree.” I think hypocrisy is too nice a word.

    • Kathy Leonard :

      Jeff should know that science hasn’t yet scratched the surface about the effects of anthropogenic noise on wildlife. Here are just a quick few studies I’ve run across.
      ____

      The price of a loud world: How road noise harms birds
      http://www.hcn.org/blogs/goat/the-price-of-a-loud-world-how-road-noise-harms-birds

      The costs of chronic noise exposure for terrestrial organisms
      http://www.cell.com/trends/ecology-evolution//retrieve/pii/S0169534709002614?_returnURL=http://linkinghub.elsevier.com/retrieve/pii/S0169534709002614?showall=true

      Anthropogenic noise is associated with reductions in the productivity of breeding Eastern Bluebirds (Sialia sialis)

      Although previous studies have related variations in environmental noise levels with alterations in communication behaviors of birds, little work has investigated the potential long-term implications of living or breeding in noisy habitats. However, noise has the potential to reduce fitness, both directly (because it is a physiological stressor) and indirectly (by masking important vocalizations and/or leading to behavioral changes). Here, we quantified acoustic conditions in active breeding territories of male Eastern Bluebirds (Sialia sialis). Simultaneously, we measured four fitness indicators: cuckoldry rates, brood growth rate and condition, and number of fledglings produced (i.e., productivity). Increases in environmental noise tended to be associated with smaller brood sizes and were more strongly related to reductions in productivity. Although the mechanism responsible for these patterns is not yet clear, the breeding depression experienced by this otherwise disturbance-tolerant species indicates that anthropogenic noise may have damaging effects on individual fitness and, by extraction, the persistence of populations in noisy habitats. We suggest that managers might protect avian residents from potentially harmful noise by keeping acoustically dominant anthropogenic habitat features as far as possible from favored songbird breeding habitats, limiting noisy human activities, and/or altering habitat structure in order to minimize the propagation of noise pollution.
      Read More: http://www.esajournals.org/doi/abs/10.1890/12-0133.1
      ___

      It seems birds (mammals too I assume) disperse from their habitats and have difficulty with communication such as mate selection and predator avoidance, among other things. Adaptation may happen but over an unknown time and at a big price. I don’t believe the scope of your work goes anywhere close to these studies in terms of noise effects.

  4. Bruce Post :

    Thank you, Steve. I want to reflect on just this one point you made: “While lacking significant financing or political clout, what they have, in abundance and to a person, is a passion for their connection with the soil, water, woods and wildlife of our state.”

    I greatly admire the stick-to-itiveness of the folks up in the Kingdom whom I loosely call the Lowell Mountain People. After that monstrosity was implanted on the top of Lowell Mountain, they could have folded up their tents and gone home. Not so. As have you, they have persisted, giving heart and encouragement to people elsewhere in Vermont who are battling multinational corporations and their local minions who see our state as just another target of opportunity and profit.

    The late anthropologist Keith Basso wrote a book about the Western Apache with a compelling and telling title: “Wisdom Sits in Places.” Vermonters have not always been wise stewards of their land, as history amply documents. Yet, in the early 1960s, the first shoots of a statewide land ethic arose among small, local, ad hoc groups of Vermonters. They were willing to fight powerful figures to save Camels Hump (state forester Perry Merrill dismissed it as “a pile of rocks”) and Victory Bog (Senator George Aiken wanted to dam it up). The Green Mountain Profile Committee, including Craftbury’s Shirley Strong, called attention to the degrading of our highlands. All these efforts helped contribute to the passage of Act 250.

    Since then, we perhaps have taken Vermont’s mountains for granted, assuming that laws would protect them. Alas and again, not so. Now, it is not just our ridgetops that are at risk. Cities on the hills are sprawling up and across our mountainsides, massive real estate developments and amusement parks at what are euphemistically called “ski areas.” All this has been aided, abetted and anointed by our top political figures and many environmental groups that practice cafeteria environmentalism, designed not to offend their largest benefactors.

    Yes, wisdom exists in places, not just among the Western Apaches but here, too, in Vermont. Perhaps what is happening today can be a turning point where Vermonters are reminded that protecting our environment – in this case, our mountains — is “work”, as Wallace Stegner once wrote. Thanks to the NEK for showing the rest of us: It’s time to roll up our sleeves and get to work.

  5. Don Peterson :

    Forests are the lungs of the world.

    To cut into those forests with the pretext of saving the world is folly; to do it without lowering carbon emissions is hypocritical; to assert that carbon emissions are reduced by such actions is, given the current state policy regarding Renwable Energy Credits is nothing short of criminal.

  6. Fred Woogmaster :

    Developing alternative energy options is a good thing; protecting our environment is vital.

    The safety of our children is precious!

    I have come to believe that young, undeveloped children are specifically in harm’s way when they live in close proximity to wind turbines.

    It is highly possible that lifetime neurological impairment will ensue – for those neurologically immature children. Present science, as far as I know, does not dispel that possibility.

    The suppression of the truth in order to maximize profit has not been an uncommon industrial practice throughout our history.

    Are children (people) being damaged?
    Let’s find out!

    Thank you, Mr. Wright, for putting forth this valuable essay.

  7. John T. Ewing :

    Thank you Steve for again exposing the fact that ridgeline wind development is only a symbolic gesture for renewable energy, making no real difference and destroying the precious mountains that define Vermont, the Green Mountain state.

    • Vermont ridgeline wind development is less than symbolic.

      It is destructive and contributes nothing to improve Vermont air quality and thus does nothing to lessen global warming.

      According to the EPA, in 2011 the United States emitted 6,702 million metric tons of greenhouse gases. Vermont emitted 5.9 million tons or .0008% of the total.

      So if Vermont were to totally eliminate every ounce of greenhouse gases produced, the percentage decrease in the US would hardly register on most calculators.

      There is no improvement in air quality that warrants lining our ridgelines with wind turbines or roadways with large solar farms.

      The whole idea that covering Vermont with these technologies will help prevent global warming is the 2014 equivalent of snake oil sales.

  8. Charles W. Johnson :

    Keep speaking and writing, Steve. We need your voice more than ever.

  9. Sorry, but the soil, water and wildlife you so rightly celebrate are going to be destroyed by climate change — unless we move swiftly to forms of alternate energy such as wind. To think otherwise is just, well, spitting in the wind.

    • Rob Pforzheimer :

      The soil, water, and wildlife have adapted and survived for millennia and will continue to do so. Preemptive destruction in the name of saving the planet is insane.
      Please explain exactly how you think intermittent, unreliable, environmentally destructive,wind power, that replaces nothing, is going to have any effect on climate.

    • Matt Fisken :

      It appears that Gregory read page 15 of the the December issue of Green Energy Times and bought the fuzzy logic (http://www.greenenergytimes.net/~/webapps/wp/wp-content/uploads/2013/12/GET-DEC-2013-WEB.pdf)

      “The state of most of the forests in New England is much like that of Michael Landon in his terminal illness. They may look good, but we cannot save them from climate change.”

      “Our children, and their children cannot
      have our New England, but they can have
      a New England they can cherish, and they
      may even live healthier lives than we do.”

      “To stop climate change, we have to stop
      using fossil fuels. To stop using fossil fuels,
      we have to use the other resources we
      have. The problem is not windpower. It is
      climate change. Windpower is something
      we need to stop climate change.”

      So… we can’t stop climate change, but we need to stop climate change? huh?

      The other half of page 15 is is an ad for Iberdola Wind.

    • Annette Smith :

      In the Peak Keepers round table discussions, Susan Morse, reknowned wildife expert, addresses the suggestion so often offered by wind proponents that the wildlife are doomed anyway so it doesn’t matter if their habitat is destroyed for wind turbines. You can watch these educational programs here http://peakkeepers.org/roundtable-discussions/.

      What I have yet from wind proponents is an articulation of how wind turbines address climate change. Why are otherwise-intelligent people so willing to believe, without any evidence? I have been asking and still have received nothing. Please enlighten us all. How do wind turbines reduce fossil fuel consumption and greenhouse gas emissions in the New England grid?

    • don peterson :

      To quote Samuel Beckett in his play “Endgame”:

      “If I don’t kill that rat, it’ll die!”

    • Glenn Thompson :

      Gregory Dennis, looking at this from a global perspective and factoring in the small size of the state of Vermont, how would filling the entire state with solar and wind farms solve your climate change beliefs?

      I don’t know what you have been reading, but I would strongly suggest you are least look at the other side of the coin?

    • Steve Wright :

      Gregory,
      Help us understand how generating excess intermittent electrical energy reduces our carbon emissions.

      • John Greenberg :
        • Glenn Thompson :

          John Greenberg, are you satisfied with this plan?

          “Between 2011 and 2015 Germany will open 10.7 GW of new coal fired power stations. This is more new coal coal capacity than was constructed in the entire two decades after the fall of the Berlin Wall. The expected annual electricity production of these power stations will far exceed that of existing solar panels and will be approximately the same as that of Germany’s existing solar panels and wind turbines combined. Solar panels and wind turbines however have expected life spans of no more than 25 years. Coal power plants typically last 50 years or longer. At best you could call the recent developments in Germany’s electricity sector contradictory.”

          theenergycollective.com/robertwilson190/328841/why-germanys-nuclear-phase-out-leading-more-coal-burning

          • John Greenberg :

            Glenn Thompson,

            This may come as a shock to you, but I’m not responsible for German energy policies. For the record, no, I would not be building new coal plants if I were.

            That said, attributing the high electricity prices that German households pay for electricity to renewables when, in fact, All renewables (including hydro, biomass, etc.) constitute no more than 7% of the total price (the remainder being taxes and levies, grid costs, and the costs of non-renewable energy) is clearly wrong, and that’s the only point I’ve been making about Germany here.

          • Glenn Thompson :

            John Greenberg, I believe this is the 3rd time you have mentioned the high costs of Germany’s electric power is the result of taxes, levies, grid costs, etc!

            I decided to go out and do my own investigation and researched your claim! You are correct! However, you failed to mention all of these additional taxes and costs is a direct result of Germany going down this foolish path! If one thinks Germany’s electric rates are high now….we haven’t seen nothing yet! Take a lookie at this article. I wouldn’t want the US to go down this path!

            http://www.spiegel.de/international/germany/high-costs-and-errors-of-german-transition-to-renewable-energy-a-920288.html

        • Annette Smith :

          John, you get a C for coming up with some studies, but none of it is convincing or, more importantly, specific to the ISO-NE system.

          In the order you posted, this is what I found.
          –from 2009, looks mostly at PJM, mentions NYSIO, no mention of ISO-NE, concludes “when wind turbines are operated as parts of an interconnected grid for which the dominant share of energy is provided by generators burning fossil fuels (coal, oil, natural gas), wind power generation displaces fossil fuel use at a nearly 1-for-1 rate.” Natural gas has already displaced most coal and oil (except in this cold spell) in the ISO-NE grid so the opportunity for gains is much less.
          –a theoretical model showing possible combinations, conducted from 2007 to 2010
          –behind a paywall so I can only read the abstract, but it is from 2012 and models the grid system in Illinois, finding “Our results for the power system in the state of Illinois show significant emissions effects from increased cycling and particularly start-ups of thermal power plants. However, we conclude that as the wind power penetration increases, pollutant emissions decrease overall due to the replacement of fossil fuels.” Illinois has a huge wind resource, and probably uses coal. Like the first study, I have read studies that show that a combination of coal, natural gas and wind can reduce emissions when there is a lot of coal to offset. But that study was also specific to the midwest and where there is a lot of coal to displace, which we do not have in New England.
          –about storage, which of course those of us who live off grid know works on a small scale
          –undated, could be 10 years old, about small and medium wind, says very little about reducing carbon
          –duplicate of the one above
          –advocacy piece from Australia from 2007
          –from 1998 and theoretical
          –from 2002 and very theoretical
          –“preliminary and incomplete”

          • John Greenberg :

            Annette,

            I’m not sure there’s any point in reviewing these studies with you one by one, but I do want to respond, yet again, to the point you’ve raised here and on a number of previous occasions: namely that none of them is “specific to the ISO-NE system.”

            Legitimate generalizations, which are what at least several of these studies are seeking to provide – are not system specific.

            The Komanoff article, in particular, provides a pretty detailed explanation of WHY intermittency is not a problem, and particularly why it does not require very much more additional backup than the system already requires, as do several of the other articles. While his study is based on the PJM grid, there is little in his analysis which is specific to that grid: his whole point is that all grids require ongoing backup with or without added intermittency. That certainly pertains to the ISO-NE system.

            And the NREL article suggests, in some detail, that with larger geographical distribution and improved weather forecasting, some of the intermittency issues are considerably more predictable than might be imagined.

            Indeed, the whole point of making generalizations is to encompass instances NOT studied, precisely because understanding the principles involved allows us to understand not only what we HAVE studied, but to predict that unstudied instances will perform equivalently.

            To give an example, when the FDA examines a new drug, it does not test it on every potential patient. Instead, it tests it on what it considers an adequate representative sample, and if it finds the drug to be safe and effective, allows it to enter into use.

            That’s not to say that the scientific generalization process is always correct; clearly, it isn’t. Drugs have been allowed on the market based on the process I just described, only to be withdrawn later for reasons that were not foreseen. Moreover, even for drugs which get through the process and remain on the market, some individuals will not be able to use them, either because they find them ineffective, or because of adverse reactions (or both).

            Accordingly, it COULD be the case that there is some reason to think that the ISO-NE system is somehow different from all of those looked at, and that because of this difference, the generalizations obtained elsewhere will fail. But you’ve never suggested exactly what those differences might be, and ISO officials don’t seem to think there are any.

            Until you DO specify a reason to believe that these studies and the principles they articulate, are inapplicable to the ISO-NE system, it seems to me perfectly sound to assume that they ARE pertinent, and that the ISO system can be expected to form like the other systems studied.

          • Annette Smith :

            I do specify the reason. ISO-NE’s coal and oil generators have mostly been displaced by natural gas. Studies consistently show that the benefits of wind’s ability to reduce carbon emissions, though small, are greatest in systems that are heavy in coal and also have natural gas generators. ISO-NE’s challenges are different because of the high reliance on natural gas.

          • John Greenberg :

            Annette,

            It’s clearly true that natural gas emits less CO2 than oil or coal. As a direct consequence, ANYTHING replacing natural gas will have a smaller impact on CO2 production than if coal or oil were replaced. So what?

            First, displacing SOME CO2 is better than replacing NO CO2.

            Second, CO2 is not the only greenhouse gas, nor the post potent; it’s simply the most plentiful. Methane is 30 times more potent, and it is unclear how much is released into the atmosphere from natural gas production in the US. Whatever the amount is, wind turbines displace it as well. Some studies have suggested that burning natural gas actually produces MORE greenhouse gas pollution than coal, thanks to methane leaks during the natural gas production cycle.

            Third, greenhouse gases are not the only environmental problem confronting us. Natural gas emits other atmospheric pollutants, as well as polluting water and causing other environmental harm. Fracking for it only makes all this worse. Wind turbines emit no pollutants (though, of course, they do disturb habitat).

            Finally, fossil fuels like natural gas are not sustainable resources, but wind is. Sooner or later, we’ll run out of fossil fuels, but there is little prospect of our running out of wind.

  10. Michael Colby :

    Bravo. Once again, Steve nails it.

  11. Rob Pforzheimer :

    Residents of Sutton were told before voting 120-93, in Dec 2005 that the vote was to look into the possibility of a wind project and that they would have an opportunity to vote up or down on an actual project. There was never another vote and the first vote has been touted by First Wind as a vote for wind, when it was not.

    • Rob Pforzheimer :

      Should read residents of Sheffield voted in 2005. Sutton residents voted in Feb 2006, 120-23 to oppose the UPC/First wind project.

  12. walter moses :

    The problem is the people like Gregory Dennis that believe the drivel put out by GMP and the politicians that gain materially from these projects that facts prove have no effect on climate change here in Vermont. They along with people like Paul Burns of VPIRG sell a concept that has no basis in fact. Please keep up the good work Steve. What a great article!

  13. Steve…..great article…you have the right stuff…but, as you know the power brokers in Montpelier are hell bent to do anything to assist the wind power advocates…keep bringing us your excellent articles…you should provide every legislator, the Governor and the Lt. governor a copy in bold print!!!!

  14. Again your voice of measured reason brings hard facts to those that are either new to the failure of industrial wind or haven’t fully understood the impacts. How very lucky we’ve been to have you as a mentor, educator and ommunicator for our cause here in the NEK.
    Perhaps you will be the one the Governor and Rep.Klein finally hear and acknowledge as they publicly reject the Eolian/SMW project and advise the legislature to make the changes necessary so he PSB will stop blaming their decisions and incomplete hearings on everyone but themselves.

  15. Valerie Desmarais :

    Thank you so much Steve for your thoughtful and informative commentary. The burden of cumulative impacts and fragmentation is so detrimental to the long term viability of our natural communities and the regional ecosystems that support them. We must all recognize that this destruction is the most pervasive threat to Vermont’s natural heritage. Vermont voters of conscience and voices of reason will continue to deliver the message that the plundering of the landscape is short sighted , irresponsible and a giant disservice to the greater good of us all.

  16. Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:
    “God is not dead, nor doth He sleep;
    The Wrong shall fail, the Right prevail,
    With peace on earth, good-will to men.”

    — Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

  17. Nancy Fried :

    Thank you for your thoughtful commentary Steve. Let’s hope the lawmakers in Montpelier are listening.
    Nancy Fried

  18. Bill Manning :

    Thank goodness your still a bulldog Steve. Keep up the good work.

  19. Ralph Colin :

    In the ongoing conflict between what is right and just versus what is political, politics always wins hands down. No contest.
    What a politician speaks is not necessarily what that same politician does, particularly if financial support and the promise of support at the voting booth is
    involved.

    What Mr. Wright writes makes all the sense in the world. What the governor and Rep. Klein say are just empty blah; we know their real intent.

  20. Don Peterson :

    Recent events in West Virginia bring to mind yet another reason to be opposed to ridgeline development:

    West Virginia is a state controlled by a small group of resource extractors. The state’s citizens are not well served by this dominance; far from it. There is no metric in which West Virginia looks better than Vermont, except in the price of a bag of coal.

    We cant let corporate interests control the way our state looks, or we end up like the people of West Virgina– impoverished, and living in a nightmare landscape. We have to resist this.

  21. David Dempsey :

    Mr. Wright is a true steward of Vermonts natural resources and a needed voice of reason. Reading the comments made me think how things have changed in the last couple of years. If this article was printed back then, I think the pro wind comments would have far out numbered the comments from those against ridgetop wind projects. Mr. Wright would have been blasted for being anti-renewable energy. Where are those voices now?

  22. Steve Comeau :

    As John Greenberg points out above, there is plenty of evidence that wind power does displace fossil fuel usage in many cases. As this commentary points out, many people feel there are unacceptable health and environmental harm with utility wind turbine installations in Vermont. So ultimately, it is judgment call that the benefits of in-state electricity generation that displaces fossil fuels (someplace) is outweighed by the direct harm these installations are causing people in Vermont.

    Steve Wright only briefly mentions the need for a “a pathway to responsible climate stewardship while protecting the state’s landscape”. Much more needs to be said on that topic, so hopefully he will have a followup commentary to address that topic in more detail.

  23. Great article Steve. My father-in-law Harrison Snapp sent me this and say you are always Right.

    I think one key point you mentioned is the under performance of the turbines when in service. It seems to me that a power gen business shouldn’t be investing in anything that loses them money. The people who make and install turbines obviously do not care. If subsidies were removed so that the actual financial performance of the installation matters, my guess is most projects in this state would never go forward.

    • John Greenberg :

      “If subsidies were removed so that the actual financial performance of the installation matters, my guess is most projects in this state would never go forward.” That’s true not only of renewable energy projects, but of all others as well: fossil fuels, nuclear, etc.

      • Lance Hagen :

        John, your statement is NOT true and you know it. Subsidies are not required for fossil fuels and most likely not required for nuclear. Why we keep subsidizing them is beyond me, but unlike renewables they do not need them to survive.

        • John Greenberg :

          Lance,

          My statement is clearly true of nuclear, and unless you’re parsing words, it’s true of fossil fuels as well.

          To my knowledge, every US nuclear project proposed in the last 20 years (and there are precious few going forward) has been financed with federal loan guarantees, i.e. subsidies. If you know of any exceptions, please enumerate them. In addition, as I have repeatedly pointed out, without Price-Anderson Act insurance subsidies, existing nuclear plants would very probably close within days. See: http://vtdigger.org/2014/01/26/willem-post-renewable-energy-goals-must-balanced-economic-realities/#comment-90620

          As to fossil fuel projects, if you read Howie Goldfarb’s statement to limit itself strictly to the actual plant used to burn the fuels, while there are significant tax subsidies involved at that level, they MAY not be existential, that is, the projects might go forward without them. But the subsidies involved in PRODUCING and transporting the fuels to be burnt in those plants are critical to the industry, and without them it’s not at all clear that any new fossil fuel plants would be built in the US.

          Without such subsidies, small players (and perhaps even some large ones) would be forced out of business, and, if subsidies remained for OTHER energy players, it’s not at all clear that oil or gas could continue to compete in the electricity generating business. In short, no production/transportation subsidies, no fossil fuel plants.

          If ALL subsidies were eliminated for ALL energy industries, it’s far from clear which generating sources would come out on top, for the same reasons that it’s not easy or straightforward to actually calculate with any precision the actual amounts of current subsidies. (See our detailed discussion of this at the same link as above)

          My guess, however, is that renewables prices would be MORE competitive once the dust had settled than they are now, because my guess is that MOST of the current price differences in new projects is due to far greater subsidies for older industries. Over time (5-15 years), I have little doubt that solar would emerge as the winner anyway, since large-scale solar project prices are already at grid parity in some cases now, and the price of photovoltaic power continues to decline sharply, while that of other fuel sources continues to rise, in some cases, rather sharply.

          An important caveat to that last paragraph is that most renewables companies are considerably smaller and newer than their competitors in more traditional energy industries, and therefore lack the financial cushions their competitors have to wait out slack demand, caused either by the confusion of the transition, economic recession, etc. But since the practical probability of all energy subsidies disappearing overnight is zero, such speculation really doesn’t matter.

          There’s really not much mystery as to “why we keep subsidizing them,” either. They have plenty of money to hire lobbyists, provide ample campaign contributions to politicians, and otherwise ensure that their legislative agendas are fully implemented.

          • Don Peterson :

            Subsidies in relation to energy are a large piece of the puzzle, so its good to think about them:

            Fossil fuels would be extracted with or without subsidies I suspect`, so in that case tax dollars flow to the bottom line of the corporation. However, without them, fossil fuel producers would increase their prices, meaning a lot of really poor people who depend on fossil fuel fertilized food would go hungry, or worse.

            In short, when you’re in command of a basic resource like fossil fuel, you hold society hostage.

            Enter Renewables: To compete with a fuel source priced below its true cost to society, they have to be supported by tax dollars as well.

            And what happens when something is priced below it’s cost to produce: we waste it. Hence the 6000 lb truck used to pick up pound loaf of bread from the store. And the build out of a wind project where there is no way to dispose of the output.

            In the case of fossil fuel subsidies, there is no doubt in my mind that the effect is to stifle innovation in ways to transport people and materials.

            I don’t blame policy makers for not being able to solve this problem immediately. But I do blame them for trying to sell flawed solutions as the second coming of Christ.

  24. Annette Smith :

    Article out of Germany today very much on topic. The house of cards is falling down. http://www.spiegel.de/international/business/wind-power-investments-in-germany-proving-riskier-than-thought-a-946367.html
    Gone With the Wind: Weak Returns Cripple German Renewables

  25. Kim Fried :

    Thanks you Steve, once again. Maybe Vermont should be first in saving its mountians and ridgeline instead of every other Montpelier initiative under the sun. This may be the first state wide initiative that is both achievable and necessary for the future of Vermont as we know it. Sure seemed to be important during the past 50+ years.

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