Thursday, October 22, 2009

This Politician Understands the Wind Industry


John F. “Jack” Sullivan
Town Councilor
Malone, NY

July 22, 2006

To whom it may concern:

To some, my vote against wind power in Malone was a vote against progress; however, be assured that this decision was based on hundreds of hours of study and research, as well as numerous mathematical calculations backed by years of business experience and a graduate degree in physics. This vote was against the degradation of local property values, destruction of some wonderful viewsheds, lowering the quality of life of some local residents, and the accruing of millions of dollars of NY taxpayer dollars by a few wind developers.

The following should be kept in mind concerning New York wind power projects:

(1) Not a single kw-hr. of electricity will go directly to local residents. Over 99.9% of the power produced goes out of town, mostly to large urban areas.

(2) Wind power WILL NOT be cheaper. Currently, National Grid offers wind power at 1.5 cents above market. ( How can they possibly separate wind power to an individual house?) Last year, when the largest wind project in the east went on-line, did your light bill decrease?

(3) Wind power has almost no relation to oil imports. Almost no electricity is produced by burning oil. Because of the expense of oil, the few oil fired plants in the country are used mainly as backups during peak demand, such as sultry summer days when wind is virtually nonexistent. Wind power would not dent our oil imports. All of New York's wind turbines produce less energy in a year than is contained in ONE DAY’S WORTH of imported oil. Besides this, the tiny amount of oil used to generate electricity all comes from the residue (basically, sludge) left over in the tanks from refining gas and diesel fuel. Essentially, then, this oil is a waste by-product of gas and diesel refinement.

(4) The typical PILOT program offered by area wind developers is far less than 1% of the total budgets of the taxing entities involved. PILOTS are a tiny percentage of company profits. You & I pay full taxes; it is unfair not to demand this of the wind energy companies, which contribute very little by way of jobs to the local economy.

(5) Currently, North Country wind projects can have towers within 1000' of an inhabited dwelling. This distance is much too close for a 400' tall tower. Towers this close have a potential for causing many problems, including: lowering property values, shadow flicker (an annoying problem and, for people prone to seizure disorder or car-sickness or sea-sickness, a serious health hazard that occurs when the sun is low on the horizon), bird kills (especially on migratory routes, as we have here with the Greater Snow Geese and other species), and excessive (health-damaging) sound levels. NOTE: sound pressure levels (decibels) emitted by wind turbines vary widely, depending on wind speed and direction, distance from turbine blades, and even time of day. Scientists using professional-grade instruments have measured sound levels up to 84 db. at 3300' ( over half a mile). That's twice the noise level of a 500 hp Corvette under full throttle.

(6) Windpower is unpredictable: you never know how much you are going to get or how long it will last. The wind salesmen are wont to lead us to believe that the nameplate capacity is the same as the constant output of the turbines. A 1.5 MW GE turbine doesn't produce 1.5 MW until wind gets to 16-18 m/s (about 36 to 40 mph ). Production drops off dramatically at lower wind speeds: less than 0.2 MW at 20 mph, and a miniscule 0.02 MW at 10 mph. Malone's past 2-year average wind speed was 6.05 mph-not enough even to start a large wind turbine. Why try to have a wind project in Malone? READ ON!

(7) The current 1.5 MW turbines have been in use over ten years. Why then, only now, do we get this onslaught of wind developers? The answer is recent government tax credits, subsidies and rapid depreciation allowances. Actually, their cumulative value is more than the value of the electricity produced. It seems likely that without our tax dollars the New York wind industry would simply vanish.

(8) In testing its own turbines GE found their overall net efficiency to be 10 percent!

(9) Wind developers say wind turbines use free fuel and are totally emission free. What they don’t acknowledge is that the emissions produced in manufacturing, transporting, construction and erection of a tower may take up to 7 years of operation to get back.

(10) The wind industry's goal is to produce 10% of NY's electricity. This is either an impossible dream or a blueprint for unbelievable destruction of rural NY landscape. Ten percent of NY's power is about 4000 MW, which translates into 15,000 1.5 MW turbines at 25% efficiency (probably a generous figure ). Since NY wind projects use an average of 60 acres per tower (according to NYSERDA), this means using 900,000 acres of our land for the next 20-50 years. According to NYSERDA (New York State Energy Research & Development Authority), 4000MW of (unpredictable, often gusting) wind power is likely to completely destabilize the entire power grid.

(11) Wind turbines shut down other facilities when in operation, thus reducing polluting emissions. However, figures of reduced emissions published by wind developers are greatly overblown, since only certain types of plants are taken off-line. The first to shut down are pure turbine natural gas plants, which produce much less pollution than coal plants and, secondly, hydro plants are shut down. It is absurd to replace one non-polluting renewable source with another.

(12) In initial presentations the wind salesmen promised up to 45 permanent jobs as a result of a 67 turbine project in Malone. My research found the industry average was 1 job per 10-12 turbines. Either the wind salesmen were exaggerating or they had the most inefficient company in the industry. In addition, their claimed "economic benefits" for the area included the cost of turbines (purchased in foreign countries) and construction contracts (most of which would certainly be awarded to out-of-area firms).

(13) The wind salesmen who invaded Malone actually had their lawyers write a zoning ordinance to govern themselves and then tried clandestinely to sneak it into the Planning Board as a sample from another town. One provision would have allowed 400’ high turbines less than 500’ from a home (the closest in NY State, I believe).

(14) The Malone wind project proposal would have impacted 5000 acres of land for up to 50 years, with little net gain to the community at large.

In attending a number of wind developer presentations it became obvious that they contained duplicitous, misleading statements, exaggerated benefits, and ignored the disadvantages. This, alone, was enough to turn me against wind power for Northern New York.

In addition, I really can’t reconcile the wind companies’ insistence on leasing land when they can buy it cheaper. Liability avoidance? Plans to walk out when the project is depreciated?

And you should see the lease agreements! I have never seen such a one-sided document in my life! I find it hard to believe anyone who signed this read it carefully. I’m sure many only read the financial clauses. I say, “Get a lawyer!” I would be happy to share a lease agreement with anyone wishing to examine one.

Is industrial wind power presently a viable choice for Northern New York? I think not. Yes, we need to reduce emissions and find user-friendly alternatives. Here are some realistic ways of accomplishing this:

(1) Industrial & residential conservation. The average homeowner can reduce electricity use by 15-25% with only very affordable expenditures.

(2) Clean up emissions from coal plants. Entirely feasible and less costly per megawatt-hour than wind power.

(3) Build some nuclear plants. France is 80% nuclear, SAFELY. It is far more dangerous to cross Malone’s Main St. than to live near an American nuclear power plant.

(4) Encourage small wind turbines (as the Malone local law does) and solar installations, both of which give realistic energy aid to local residents, instead of resorting to industrial wind turbines, which provide billions in tax money to multi-billion-dollar companies that take most of the profits out of the area.

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