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The Almighty Buck Science

A Mighty Wind 670

DoraLives writes "Fascinating New York Times piece regarding a proposed wind farm for Nantucket Sound. Suddenly, all the environmentally friendly locals are going ballistic over the prospects of seeing an 'industrial energy complex' in their backyard. Walter Cronkite decries it, as do many other local checkbook environmentalists. Greenpeace says 'Jim Gordon (the developer) is the real thing, there aren't many entrepreneurs out there willing to take risks to clean up the environment.' Who's right?"
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A Mighty Wind

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  • local reaction (Score:5, Informative)

    by iate138 ( 677385 ) on Sunday June 15, 2003 @03:00PM (#6205559) Journal
    i live on cape cod, and i am sick of the people who are protesting this. the major arguments against it consist basically of the lessening of aesthetic appeal for beach-goers and boaters. it irks me that the same people who realize the necessity of easing the power demand on the canal power plant (a vile, coal burning smoke belcher) are unwilling to take steps to find alternative energy resources. stupid rich tourists, afraid of seeing a few gulls chopped up in windmills on their way to the islands.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday June 15, 2003 @03:03PM (#6205577)
    NYT Story []
  • by ApharmdB ( 572578 ) on Sunday June 15, 2003 @03:19PM (#6205694)
    Ok, I consider myself an environmentalist and these people who bitch about wind farms really have no business claiming to be so. Their choices are according to my recent utility supplied info are along with my half-assed pissed-off descriptions:

    1) Oil - Polluting
    2) Coal - Seriously Polluting
    3) Natural Gas - Clean compared to other fossil fuels, but still requires us to fight wars for it.
    4) Nuclear - Cart toxic waste across country to bury it in Yucca Mountain. Also, BOOOM!
    5) Wind - Unsightly, similar in price to fossil fuels.
    6) Solar - Still too expensive in cents/kWh.
    7) Biomass - Can't really increase the supply unless you want to start collecting cow farts.
    8) Hydro - Most rivers that can generate hydro already are.
    9) Imported Power - Mysterious Power!
    10) Municipal Trash - Burning stuff is not clean.

    Now, of the above choices, what should we focus on until something better becomes available? I think wind is the obvious choice. But no, they are unsightly! OMG! Everything has a negative and wind power's is pretty minor compared to the others. The land that wind power is on can also be used for other purposes such as farming or grazing.

    I have a feeling that the people who whine would really like all their power to come from number 9, Imported Power. You know, that magical, free power that some poor schlub in another community has to suffer the environmental consequences for. Now, unless they want to whip out their magic fairy-wand and produce energy out of thin air, they have to use something and they should wake the hell up and realize that wind is a very good choice.

    If you are interested in costs, check out the California 1996 Energy Technology Status Report Summary. [] For a summary, it weighs in at 93 pages. Bleah.
  • by VCAGuy ( 660954 ) on Sunday June 15, 2003 @03:28PM (#6205769)
    Coal - Seriously Polluting

    I would tend to disagree with that. A few years ago, I took a tour of Curtis H. Staton energy plant, which is owned by OUC (the Orlando [Florida] Utilities Comission). This plant has won environmental awards since boiler #2 was completed in 1994(5?). Both boilers are filtered through an ABB designed system that includes everything from cyclonic filtering, to electrostatic precipitators, to lime wash, to a final-stage HEPA filter. The plant's exhaust is 99.6% CO2 and H2O vapor, making it one of the cleanest in the world. To this plant, Lake Underhill residents acutally said "YIMBY."

  • by ApharmdB ( 572578 ) on Sunday June 15, 2003 @03:35PM (#6205834)
    The programs that you are probably talking about were run by the federal government. They tried building large windmills on the order of 1-2 MW with synchronous generators which is the reason that they had problems. Synchronous generators have been abandoned at this point and people with brains make windmills using induction generators.

    The other thing that they do is make smaller windmills and make lots of them. This is why they are called wind farms. The prototypes you refer to were likely meant to be large individual sources. This is another advantage of wind power, it is modular. When a windmill needs maintenance, you can shut it down and only take a few hundred kW off the grid.

    Also, if you see my other post in this article, and take the link to the California report you will see that wind costs are comparable to the fossil fuels.

    As for liability for broken windmill parts, I have never heard of such a thing. Please point out your source. There is a safety measure for this sort of thing anyway. Windmills have a brake put on them and their blades feathered when the wind is too strong to prevent them from centrifugally ripping themselves apart.
  • by gregmac ( 629064 ) on Sunday June 15, 2003 @03:39PM (#6205868) Homepage
    The land that wind power is on can also be used for other purposes such as farming or grazing.

    Denmark built an off-shore wind farm [], which seems like a pretty good idea. The wind currents are stronger over the ocean, and it doesn't take up any land. Includes pictures [].

  • Re:NIMBY (Score:3, Informative)

    by Guppy06 ( 410832 ) on Sunday June 15, 2003 @03:44PM (#6205911)
    "Windfarms are, in my experience, very beautiful, quiet, aesthetically pleasing things."

    Huh? Windfarms in my experience are anything but quiet, with each windmill making "woosh-woosh-woosh" sounds as the blades turn and the generator in each making a high-pitched whine. When you have farms bigger than a dozen or so, you can hear them from miles away.

    While I for one think they sound cool and wouldn't mind living near one, I know I'm in the small minority. I also like airplane noise.
  • by ikeleib ( 125180 ) on Sunday June 15, 2003 @03:45PM (#6205919) Homepage

    3) Natural Gas - Clean compared to other fossil fuels, but still requires us to fight wars for it.

    Almost all natural gas in the US comes from domestic production.

    5) Wind - Unsightly, similar in price to fossil fuels.

    Depending on the ownership and financing structure, wind can be cheaper than fossil fuels. If you discount the subsidies that fossil fuel exploiters get, wind is by far the cheapest energy.

    7) Biomass - Can't really increase the supply unless you want to start collecting cow farts.

    Because, as we all know, every dump in America is currently generating power.

  • Re:NIMBY (Score:5, Informative)

    by heli0 ( 659560 ) on Sunday June 15, 2003 @04:05PM (#6206038)
    this huge $44Trillion debt that is going to bite us in the ass in the next few years especially with these tax cuts,

    The Federal Gov't budget was $2.1 Trillion [] for 2002. The tax cuts are $35 Billion/yr.

    In comparison $75 Billion/yr goes to family farmers who have been obsolete for 40 years now, $344 Billion for defense, $460 Billion for Social Security and $850 Billion for welfare programs.

    Here is a good graph showing national debt as % of gdp []. We are not any worse off then we were in the '90s or the '60s.

    The 2003 Senate Energy Bill (enter S.14 into "bill number") [] offers loan guarantees for the construction of 7 new nuclear reactors in the US, as well as a new $1.1Billion nuclear plant in Idaho to produce hydrogen. If these are steps you want taken, you should write a letter to your Senators telling them how much your vote depends on their support of this bill.

  • by ubiquitin ( 28396 ) * on Sunday June 15, 2003 @04:09PM (#6206071) Homepage Journal
    REPP has a paper on how wind the top five or so wind farfarm projects have affected housing and property values. See the report in PDF here: d_online_final.pdf [] They refer to "view shed" as a way of indicating how far around the area the wind generaters are visible. Very interesting look at wind energy.
  • Re:NIMBY (Score:3, Informative)

    by sphealey ( 2855 ) on Sunday June 15, 2003 @04:13PM (#6206104)
    Hmm, considering we already have a long distance transmission system in this country I don't think it'll be much of a problem.
    The practical transmission limit in a network that has reasonable stability and security is around 1600 km. Longer distances would be possible if the network were converted from 345 kV to 765 or 1500 kV, but attempts to build 765 kV transmission systems in the 1970s didn't go very well and most utilities dropped back to 345 kV. It wouldn't be impossible to ship power from Nevada to New England, just difficult and inefficent.


  • by sabaco ( 92171 ) on Sunday June 15, 2003 @04:24PM (#6206163) Homepage Journal
    While I do think the hypocritical bastards should crawl in a hole and die, I'm not entirely sure I agree with your list anyway.

    2) coal - not so much that it is polluting (when done right, as it often is) that it is environmentally unfriendly to get the fuel
    4) nuclear - "boom?" Nuclear plants don't really go boom. While environuts always like to say "look at chernobyl," that sort of thing is really impossible with modern plants. That's like saying, "Don't use linux for servers, because look how much microsoft software sucks."
    5) wind - Have you looked at actual costs for wind power? I think they are great things, but the prices are still around the same as for solar, which is to say that they are still very expensive. I don't know where they got their numbers, but I recently actually researched non-utility wind generation costs for my parents, who own a small farm with extra land that could be used for something like that. Initially it seemed like solar was more expensive, but a lot of the solar power systems had things like inverters built in. Maybe solar has come down a lot in price since that report, or maybe wind has (somehow) gone up, but at the moment they are very close, and are a several times more expensive than regular utility power. Anyway, I'm just saying their non-utility numbers look off to me.
    8) Hydro - not to mention that (at least some) hydrologists think hydro is far more environmentally damaging than most power generation, because it prevents sand/silt from getting to the ocean (by slowing the water down until things precipitate) and causing beach erosion. That may not seem like much damage, but it means that eventually beaches will be pushed completely back to human habitation and will destroy the habitats of the creatures living there.
    11?) fusion - We'd probably have it now if the same environuts would stop protesting it and realize how safe it is. Worst case fusion disaster is the same as every day at a fission plant, which is already completely safe.

    Personally, if/when I can actually afford a house I'd definitely like to start putting wind and solar power generation on the property. The cost is incredible though, so it might be pretty hard.
  • Bulllshit (Score:4, Informative)

    by Keebler71 ( 520908 ) on Sunday June 15, 2003 @04:51PM (#6206318) Journal
    Last I checked, the Koreans, Panamanias, Somalis, Vietnamese, Grenadians (?), Bosians, Croats, and Muslim residents of Kosovo don't have any oil. That pretty much covers every signinficant US military action in the last 50 years leaving the one exception being the collective Gulf Wars. So actually when you think about, the US fighting for oil is the exception, not the rule.
  • by Kwil ( 53679 ) on Sunday June 15, 2003 @05:04PM (#6206382)
    According to your own link, Defense gets over 360 billion, and for each of the others you lump together several categories, such as Medical into "welfare programs", meaning that you seem to think HMO regulation costs, hospital insurance costs, government employee health benefits, the cost of funding the FDA and health research, as well as disease control and training all fall under the heading of "welfare programs".

    Just a wee bit of bias, perhaps?
  • by Willard B. Trophy ( 620813 ) on Sunday June 15, 2003 @05:12PM (#6206417) Homepage Journal
    Regarding bird kills:

    No matter how extensively wind is developed in the future, bird deaths from wind energy are unlikely to ever reach as high as 1% of those from other human-related sources such as hunters, house cats, buildings, and autos. Wind is, quite literally, a drop in the bucket.

    -- from the AWEA FAQ, 2002 [], emphasis mine.

    Oil leakage is an old-technology problem,and then only in the case of poor maintenance. New turbines, like the Lagerwey we [] built in Toronto, don't use hydraulics.

    Turbines failing in high winds seldom, if ever, happen. New generator technology allows wind turbines to generate -- small amounts of power, admittedly -- in winds you can barely feel. There's nothing generates bad feeling like a stopped wind turbine.

  • by gaijin99 ( 143693 ) on Sunday June 15, 2003 @05:32PM (#6206517) Journal
    Actually, most wind plants don't kill any birds. The whole "wind power kills birds" came from a single installation done in California. It was, through incredible lack of foresight and foolishness, right in the middle of a migratory path. Birds, bless their hardwired little brains, don't much change their migration paths. As long as we leave the generators out of the migratory paths its really no problem.

    The installations in Denmark and Germany, for example, were placed with more care and don't kill birds. Right now Denmark is getting 20% of its power from wind farms.

  • by Gorimek ( 61128 ) on Sunday June 15, 2003 @05:55PM (#6206679) Homepage
    The US didn't enter WW2 to stop the Holocaust or stop Hitler from getting a nuke. It entered because it was attacked by Japan in Pearl Harbor, followed by an immediate declaration of war from Germany.

    For as long as it had a choice, the US chose to stay out of the war.
  • Correct! (Score:2, Informative)

    by blissful ignorant ( 208109 ) on Monday June 16, 2003 @12:31AM (#6209167)
    The many, many, many many other US military invasions of the past 50 years(insignificant, perhaps, to US citizens, not so for residents of invaded countries) usually had a lot more to do with installing pro-US dictators, deposing leftward-leaning popularly elected governments. There are some exceptions. These involve either power/resource grabs(Iraq) or the policy of containing the Soviet Union(North Korea).

    Too lazy to find links - Google will back me up on this one.
  • by vanyel ( 28049 ) * on Monday June 16, 2003 @04:47AM (#6210182) Journal
    The entire United States of America can be converted to wind powered electricity using only 14,000 acres of turbine footprint area

    I guess we can shut down all our other powerplants then: according to Wind Farms and Wind Farmers [], the Tehachapi Wind Farm in California is 40 square miles (25000+ acres), and the San Gorgonio Pass farm is even bigger at 70 sq miles... They don't say how big the Altamont Pass farm is, just that these are the three largest windfarms in the world, so I expect it to be similarly sized...
  • by andrewmc ( 88496 ) on Monday June 16, 2003 @05:23AM (#6210290)
    Denmark built an off-shore wind farm, which seems like a pretty good idea. The wind currents are stronger over the ocean, and it doesn't take up any land. Includes pictures.
    An Irish company is also building one in the Irish Sea []. It's supposed to be finished later this year.
  • Propaganda (Score:3, Informative)

    by siskbc ( 598067 ) on Monday June 16, 2003 @10:33AM (#6212063) Homepage
    Hell, what exactly was his cause? If you say gun control, then either you didn't actually watch it, or you weren't paying attention.

    Gun control was certainly one of his causes. Also slamming anything right of flaming liberal was another. If you missed that, YOU weren't watching. Also remember his little acceptance speech at the Academy Awards?

    Seriously, if you don't think that Moore is completely political and completely left, you're either too daft or farther left than him to even notice the difference. Nothing wrong with either, but it makes Moore less than objective.

    I would say he's never done a documentary in his life - rather, all his work are conflict pieces where he creates the conflict to expose his cause. That's not a documentary, that's propaganda, whether you happen to agree with the cause or not.

    Oh, and as for his fabrications:
    # The Charlton Heston speech supposedly given at Denver is edited from two different speeches, one a year later and a thousand miles away. The audio is edited, with the cuts hidden by visual and pans of crowds, so as to create a misleading impression that Heston's remarks were one contiguous speech. Nor were both speeches entirely of the same general content: in fact, at least two sentences from each speech have been spliced together to form a brand new one.
    # The sequence in the bank is staged, again to create a false impression. Forbes reports that an early scene in "Bowling" in which Mr. Moore tries to demonstrate how easy it is to obtain guns in America was staged. He goes to a small bank in Traverse City, Mich., that offers various inducements to open an account and claims "I put $1,000 in a long-term account, they did the background check, and, within an hour, I walked out with my new Weatherby," a rifle. But Jan Jacobson, the bank employee who worked with Mr. Moore on his account, says that only happened because Mr. Moore's film company had worked for a month to stage the scene. "What happened at the bank was a prearranged thing," she says. The gun was brought from a gun dealer in another city, where it would normally have to be picked up. "Typically, you're looking at a week to 10 days waiting period," she says. Ms. Jacobson feels used: "He just portrayed us as backward hicks."
    # The "missile manufacturing plant" actually builds civilian rockets, and converts former military missiles to carry out civilian launches.
    #Mr. Moore makes the preposterous claim that a Michigan program by which welfare recipients were required to work was responsible for an incident in which a six-year-old Flint boy shot a girl to death at school. Mr. Moore doesn't mention that the boy's mother had sent him to live in a crack house where her brother and a friend kept both drugs and guns--a frequently lethal combination.
    #Mr. Moore repeats the canard that the United States gave the Taliban $245 million in aid in 2000 and 2001, somehow implying we were in cahoots with them. But that money actually went to U.N.-affiliated humanitarian organizations that were completely independent of the Taliban.

    I could fo on, but I think you get the idea. When confronted with inaccuracies in his books, he has this answer to why he doesn't care about inaccuracies:
    "No, I don't. Why should I? How can there be inaccuracy in comedy?"

    So just remember, Moore is doing 'comedy.' Real funny too.

  • FOOTPRINT area (Score:3, Informative)

    by js7a ( 579872 ) * <james AT bovik DOT org> on Monday June 16, 2003 @12:20PM (#6213383) Homepage Journal
    Modern 2.5 MW turbines take 36 square feet at the base of their turbines. That doesn't mean that you can plant them adjacent to each other.

    14,000 acres is the amount of land taken from use, not the area of the total land needed to accommodate the turbines.

    The point being, that the land in between the turbines is still fully available for farming or pasture.

If graphics hackers are so smart, why can't they get the bugs out of fresh paint?