Christine Lang: Wind power is not a good neighbor

Editor’s note: This commentary is by Christine Lang, who lives in Swanton and is a concerned neighbor to the proposed Swanton Wind project.

Anti-wind minority? I think that a lot of people think of wind energy in the abstract as good. Oh, wind turbines, yeah, that is great. Then, when they dig into the details and see what it does to our green mountains and our communities, they realize it isn’t all it is cracked up to be. The Swanton community realized it wasn’t a good fit for their town when they voted 731-160 against the Swanton Wind project.

Wind in Vermont is working only for a very few who are making money off it. Oh, and by the way, the only way money is being made on wind projects is by taking taxpayer subsidies in the form of Production Tax Credits and selling the Renewable Energy Credits (RECs) out of state, which means that the projects don’t even count towards Vermont’s goals. And just remember, the state of Vermont has already stated that none of what we do in Vermont will help in the fight against climate change.

In the Swanton Wind application, the Belisles have left themselves open to selling their RECs out of state. So, I find it hard to figure out how they are doing this to help Vermont meet its so-called goal. If you sell the RECs out of state, it doesn’t count towards Vermont’s renewable energy. And these wind turbines will be obsolete before we reach 2050 anyway, so they are never even going to make it to our goal.

As far as the real estate values go, I would like to see a report of home values for homes within a half mile of a wind project. There are approximately 34 homes within a half mie of the Swanton Wind project. Next, let’s see a report of home values between a half and 1 mile from a wind project. There are approximately 124 homes within that range for the Swanton Wind project. At the Swanton Wind open house, they were showing home sales for homes 5 and 10 miles away that couldn’t even see the project. That is not a helpful report when so many homes are so close to this proposed project. As for the buy-out they are offering, this might be a step in the right direction to compensate owners but it needs a lot more detail. And it doesn’t resolve the issue of the homeowners who love their homes and don’t want to move. What is the fair market value that they are going to get – pre-turbine or post-turbine? Who is going to pay the moving expenses for families that are uprooted? Where are they going to go? There are many more questions than answers.

Logic says that if you have problems at existing projects, you don’t build a new one that is larger and closer to homes.

 

This project is stating that it may power up to 7,300 Vermont homes. Is that if it runs at 100 percent efficiency? Wind projects tend to run at 25-30 percent maximum efficiency at best, so that number is more like 1,825 to 2,190 homes, and only when the wind is blowing.

Phil Scott has listened to the citizens of Vermont who are suffering at existing industrial wind projects in the state. As the Comprehensive Energy Plan states, we should learn from our existing wind projects before moving forward with others. Phil Scott is a good businessman who knows that shoving renewable energy down the throats of Vermonters is not the way to advance the state’s goals.

The existing wind projects in Vermont have divided communities and pitted neighbors against neighbors. A better solution to renewable energy is to have communities working together on solutions. In addition, logic says that if you have problems at existing projects, you don’t build a new one that is larger and closer to homes. Thankfully, Phil Scott is looking at the logic.

Before you call me a NIMBY, you should be aware that I do not want this in anyone’s backyard. I look around this state that I love and I do not want it turned into an industrial wind turbine wasteland. If the state covered 200 miles of ridgeline with wind turbines, that is what our state would look like. If this project is to go in, no home is too close and no ridge is too small for industrial wind turbines in Vermont. Look around you, especially this fall. Take some pictures because it could all be gone in the future and all for an intermittent energy source.

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  • Tom Sullivan

    “Wind in Vermont is working only for a very few who are making money off it”

    “the taxes GMP pays to Lowell have eliminated our municipal taxes. I know of several instances where this has enabled people to stay in their homes, We are proud to have done our part to support the development of wind energy in Lowell.
    RICHARD PION (chairman, Select Board) Lowell

    How dare the people of Lowell for wanting to stay in their homes while supporting renewable energy.

  • If Vermont is sincere about reducing its carbon footprint, instead of wrecking its forested ridgelines, McNeil and Ryegate biomass facilities should close and the state should end its publicly subsidized programs for increased tree burning.

    According to the EPA, McNeil and Ryegate biomass emit 700,000 TONS of CO2 annually but Vermont succumbs to their own feel-good “carbon neutral” greenwashing and ignores these emissions. Burning trees is NOT “carbon neutral” and has a carbon footprint 50% higher per unit of energy produced than coal. (I’m not endorsing coal) http://www.maforests.org/VermontBiomassBiomess.pdf

    Here is a genuine a “win-win-win” situation for neighbors, ridgelines, CO2 and dollars:

    Close McNeil and Ryegate, improve efficiency, or use more Quebec hydro and rooftop solar, and save the ridgelines from more industrial turbines. This will reduce Vermont CO2 emissions by 700,000 tons annually and save public subsidies for genuinely beneficial local projects.

  • Kim Fried

    Christine, thank you for telling it the way it is, the truth concerning these horribly destructive industrial developments is becoming more and more understood.

    • Willem Post

      Kim,
      Wind energy is not good for the grid:

      During winter, solar is near zero, if panels are covered with snow and ice
      NE solar is near zero, or zero, about 75% of the hours of the year
      NE wind is near zero, or zero, about 40% of the hours of the year
      Solar + wind is near zero during many hours of the year, per ISO-NE
      Solar and wind are variable, requiring 24/7/365 baby-sitting by the traditional plants; fossil, hydro, nuclear, bio, etc
      Any missing energy, to satisfy demand at any time, must be provided by almost ALL traditional generators, at least some of the time
      All must be kept in good working order, staffed, fueled, ready to go, as needed
      They do not need wind and solar to function, but wind and solar definitely cannot function without these generators, i.e., wind and solar are supplementary, are grid-disturbing cripples, 24/7/365, i.e., as unsteady drunks disturbing church service
      Without the output of traditional generators, NE’s economy could not function.

      • Willem Post

        Addition:

        The German system is constrained by a fixed capacity of “must-run” plants for essential services, such as hospitals, trains, street and traffic lights, various 3-shift industries, etc.

        Those plants cannot be reduced in output below about 55% of rated capacity, to prevent them from being unstable, i.e., they cannot sufficiently and fast enough “get out of the way” of the larger surges of wind and solar energy.

        As a result of “getting out of the way”, base-loaded and intermediate plants produce less energy, MWh/y, over which to spread their annual costs, i.e., their leveled costs, $/MWh, increase to adversely affect their economic prospects,

        Yet, they are needed for “must run” and other demand, and they are required to operate in a market with wholesale energy prices often below their break-even points.

        Clearly an untenable situation that must be dealt with by…. politicians, who, unthinkingly, were largely responsible for creating these outcomes.

  • Nancy Tips

    I agree that I don’t want turbines for your or anybody’s backyard. Maybe we should ask to be called NIYBYEs (Not in your backyard either). NIYBYEs for Vermont, unite!

    • How about….NIABYs….Not In Anybody’s Back Yard…??

      No matter where you put these Wind Factories…they will be obsolete before our Climate problem is solved…

      • That the “climate problem is [going to get] solved” is the allusion that people want and wont let go of. It was too late for that before we recognized there is a problem. Slowing it down for our grandchildren is our only real hope. But refusing to admit reality and charging full carbon ahead (every pun intended) is what we have always done and probably always will do. VT is NIMBY state. We always put our problems in some else’s back yard and disown our own guilt.

        • Mr. Harvey is right. It is too late to solve the atmospheric carbon problem. We just blew through another tipping point. But it may not be too late to prepare for the impacts of climate change.

          We can preserve our mountains so that they can continue to protect our lowlands from catastrophic storm water events. We can preserve our wildlife habitat to enable climate adaptation by our fellow earthlings. We can preserve our farmlands so that when other agricultural areas become less productive we can continue to feed ourselves with locally grown food.

          Or we can persist in the belief that we can mitigate climate change by developing more and more and more land. The turbine salesmen are working very hard to sell this delusion. Are you buying it?

      • Willem Post

        John,
        Here is a much better approach than industrial wind turbines:

        Almost all Vermont buildings are energy hogs. The heating, cooling and electrical requirements of buildings are a major percentage of Vermont’s energy consumption. At about 19 c/kWh (including taxes, fees and surcharges), it would be very costly to provide that energy with heat pumps to such buildings.

        Energy-surplus buildings can be off the grid with a roof-mounted PV system, a battery system, and a 300-gal domestic hot water tank, and a 2 – 5 kW propane generator, that operates a few hours/y.

        R-20 basements, R-40 walls and R-60 roofs can be achieved with foam type insulation, sealants, and tape.

        Under the basement footing, one should have 4 inches of 100-psi blueboard (special order from Home Depot), to ensure the cold of the soil not entering the concrete.

        12” thick concrete, R = 1
        12” thick blueboard, R = 60

  • Barbie Alsop

    I love the new argument that these wind projects will be “obsolete before our problems are solved.” Our problems will not be solved unless we stop using fossil fuels today. No one is looking at the elephant in the room. Right now the alternatives to wind power are few and far between. Yes, they may be a transition source of energy, but we nust transition now, not in 2050. The gas pipeline being built in Chittenden and Addison counties is even more obsolete than the wind turbines, and will only supply cheaper gas to potentially 3000 Vermonters, and you’re complaining about NIMBY projects based on little or no scientific evidence.

    • Marie Stamos

      Just a quick question of Barbie Alsop: Putting “scientific evidence” to the side, what are your perceived benefits of industrial wind turbines and what are the GUARANTEED benefits of the industrial wind turbine from the developers, the politicians who support them and from the wind industry?

      • Barbie Alsop

        Energy that does not rely on fossil fuels is a start. The alleged eyesore seen by many, I don’t share. They are graceful constructs on lovely mountains that state in broad measure that we care about our Mother Earth and working to save her. They are much more aesthetically pleasing than the broad swaths through our forests and fields of a gargantuan electric grid to deliver foreign power to our southern neighbors. One of the most obnoxious problems with our energy in this state is that the wholly foreign owned Vermont Gas and Green Mountain Power have locked us into long term contracts with Canadian producers of dirty energy. I have not heard one good argument against them as producers of energy. They work in the winter, unlike what someone wrote above, or have you never suffered wind chill here?

        You want guarantees? Are you human?

        • Barbie Alsop

          “They work in the winter, unlike what someone wrote above, or have you never suffered wind chill here?”

          As a lifelong Vermonter, there has been countless times I’ve observed temps well below zero and there is little to no wind. Any idea, any idea at all how much wind and solar power is produced on a “calm dark night”?

        • Willem Post

          Barbie,

          This is much better than wind turbines.

          The energy requirements of buildings are a major percentage of Vermont’s energy consumption.

          Almost all Vermont buildings are energy hogs. At 18 c/kWh (including taxes, fees and surcharges), it would be costly to provide that energy with heat pumps to such buildings.

          If expensive renewable energy were used, it would be even more costly; a headwind for Vermont’s near-zero-real-growth economy and already-struggling households and businesses.

          Energy-surplus buildings can be off the grid with a roof-mounted PV system, a battery system, and a 300-gal domestic hot water tank, and a 2 – 5 kW propane generator, that operates a few hours/y.

          R-20 basements, R-40 walls (4” on the outside of the 2×6 framing, and 3” in the wall cavities) and R-60 roofs can be achieved with blueboard insulation, sealants, and tape.

          Under the basement footing should be 4” thick, 100-psi blueboard (special order at Home Depot).

    • Willem Post

      Barbie,

      Solar is a much better alternative than wind.

      The Windham/Grafton IWT plant cap cost is about $250 million for 96.6 MW; federal and state CASH GRANTS are about 40% ($100 million).

      All can be written off in about 6 years, courtesy of a special “accelerated depreciation” law for wind turbines.

      Revenues = 96.6 MW x 8766 x 0.33 x $100 MWh = $27,944,255 per year for EACH of 20-25 years.

      RECs will be sold out of state for 4-5 c/kWh

      Iberdrola likely will not pay federal or state profit taxes on the IWT plant, because revenues will be offset by write-offs and other costs.

      Iberdrola can afford to make “campaign contributions” to its favorite legislators and lobbyists, such as VPIRG, Wind Works VT, etc.

      No wonder, wind turbines are so popular with multi-millionaires, the beneficiaries of a huge tax shelter, courtesy of Wall Street and a compliant Congress.

      Paid lobbyist/lackeys claim it is all about “saving the world”.

      I have a bridge………

  • Greg Alvarez

    Human development of all kinds—not just wind power development—can both positively and negatively affect property values. In 2014, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBNL) along with University of Connecticut examined 122,000 home sales near 26 wind facilities in densely populated Massachusetts between 1998 and 2012, comparing transactions within a half-mile (1,500 of the sales) to similar transactions up to five miles away. Based on a detailed analysis the researchers were unable to uncover any impacts to nearby home property values. LBNL has conducted two other major studies on this topic (in 2009 and 2013), and in all cases, found no statistical evidence that operating wind turbines have had any measurable impact on home sales prices. As an author of the 2009 report stated “Neither the view of wind energy facilities nor the distance of the home to those facilities was found to have any consistent, measurable, and significant effect on the selling prices of nearby homes.”

    • And yet, the listers in two Vermont towns have found that turbines lower property values and have devalued properties in the vicinity of turbines.

      • Jim Sawhill

        Kirby as well which probably makes that 3 towns.

        • John Greenberg

          John Sawhill:

          Forgive my ignorance, but is there a wind project in or near Kirby? If so, which one?

      • Willem Post

        Mark,

        Not just the local listers are seeing that decrease in property values.

        The local real estate agents are finding they have to put a lower asking price on properties near wind turbines.

    • Marie Stamos

      Join the discussionFor Greg Alvarez regarding Property Value: As a point of information according to the latest issue of ‘Realtor Magazine’ (The National Association of Realtor’s Publication): Under the heading “What Sellers Need to Know About Comps” (and this really applies to Buyers as well), it states, “The sales price of NEARBY HOMES is only part of the equation. …………… If your seller’s home is in a part of the neighborhood that borders a highway, train tracks, OR AN INDUSTRIAL AREA, it’ll likely fetch a lower price. Make sure you pull comps of homes in similar locations to explain pricing.”

      Mr. Hoen is neither a Realtor or a Certified Appraiser. It is strongly suggested that you consult either or both for expert opinion of property values.

      https://wind-watch.org/doc/?p=2915 | http://wndfo.net/D2915 ] (Hoen Admits Little Knowledge of Impacts Within 1/2 Mile of Turbines – Hoen gave a presentation at the March 7, 2012 suggests more research needed.)

      • “If your seller’s home is in a part of the neighborhood that borders a highway, train tracks, OR AN INDUSTRIAL AREA, it’ll likely fetch a lower price.”

        So true! A friend rejected a location due to being to close to powerlines. When Fairpoint proposed a communications tower in Essex Center, a potential buyer rejected that listed property due to the proposal itself. (That tower proposal was moved to another location) If any wind developer or pro-wind activists claim wind turbines won’t impact property values if located in close proximity….that claim is false.

    • Marie Stamos

      In addition to the referred to Hoen/Atkinson-Palombo(UCT) “Relationship Between Wind Turbines and Residential Property Values in Massachusetts” (January 2014) which was supported by the U.S. Department of Energy and created in conjunction with Massachusetts’ wind turbine supportive agencies (MACEC,MADEP,MADPH) and being represented as “expert opinion and research” around the country and may be coming to your part of the world any day now, are the “Research Study on Wind Turbine Acoustics” (March 18, 2016) and “Massachusetts Health Impact Study” (January 2012). In my opinion these reports are flawed and further reading and research is recommended to establish a reality based opinion of industrial wind turbines on property values, health and noise impacts.

  • Roger Sweatt

    These projects do not power Vermont Homes. The power is sold out of state.
    Lowell wind turbines are an exception, their power all goes to Jay Peak. They have giant computers up there.

    • Barbie Alsop

      You are paying the price for having foreign owned utility companies that entered into long term contracts with their own providers, and we are paying the price for that. When those contracts run out, presumably the legislature will have schooled the PSB enough to require them to buy from local producers.

    • John Greenberg

      Roger Sweatt:

      “These projects do not power Vermont Homes. The power is sold out of state.” Please provide some documentation for this statement.

      As far as I’m aware, most of the POWER from wind projects in Vermont is sold in Vermont: GMP owns and gets the power from the Searsburg project; Sheffield power goes to BED, VEC and WEC (http://www.businesswire.com/news/home/20111026005394/en/Wind-Celebrates-Completion-Sheffield-Wind-Project), Georgia Mtn goes to BED, etc.

      I suspect you are confusing the sale of the environmental attributes of the power (RECs) with the sale of the power itself. The RECs from all these projects are, as I understand it, sold out of state, reducing the cost of power to Vermont ratepayers.

      • Willem Post

        John,

        GMP physically draws its electricity supply from the NE grid, and then distributes it, minus losses, to rate payers. All that takes place at near the speed of light, 1800 miles in 0.01 second.

        What GMP PAYS for that supply is an entirely different matter.

        GMP pays many entities under power purchase agreements, PPAs, and also buys on the wholesale market, as needed.

        Those are strictly commercial transactions, which have nothing to do with the physical aspects.

        As part of some PPAs, GMP also performs buying and selling transactions involving RECs.

        If GMP sells any RECs to out of state entities, those entities get to CLAIM the renewable attributes of those RECs.

        THEY get to wear the green halo, not Vermonters.

        However, Vermonters get to celebrate the destruction of their pristine ridgelines and fertile meadows, to save the world, the tourist industry, and whatever else.

  • Roger Sweatt

    People learned to stay in their homes in Lowell because they cannot sell them and their values have declined.

  • Roger Sweatt

    Lowell wind is a little different than most others, The turbines are located on mountains within the town that look down on Irasburg, Albany, and Craftsbury. These towns are downwind from Lowell. So most of Lowell residents do not hear or see them. Turbines do not just use the wind, once they are whirling they tend to suck in inclimate weather and anything that is within their atmosphere, including flying birds and others of the air.

    • Willem Post

      Roger,

      And Lowell received most of the bribes, and Irasburg, Albany, and Craftsbury received next to nothing.

      Those nearby people would have their future ruined, their American Dream instantly shattered, and would be having:

      – Their property values go into the tank
      – Their health damaged, due to lack of sleep and peace of mind
      – To live with closed windows and doors, due to year-round IWT noises (great on hot summer days)
      – Exposure to infrasound, i.e., vibrations below 20 cycles per second, that are not heard, but felt.

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