I’ve been working pro bono as Associate Director of Penguin/Human Relations for Penguins United: http://penguinsunited.com. The penguins have taught me about global warming.
I mention this so that you know up front that I care about the climate crisis.
Now some people will tell you we have to give up our mountains if we really, truly, deeply care about global warming. Some of them get paid to tell you this; others believe it from the bottom of their hearts.
I think it’s a false choice, or as we used to say in the Bronx, a crock.
Some of these folks say we can build as many as 700 really big wind turbines in the Berkshires, most of them on our public state land and some on private land. That if we’re lucky these windmills might produce 5% of our electricity.
The Governor and his supporters want these 400 foot wind turbines so much, they’ve written a new law that makes it harder for citizens, and Conservation Commissions, and Planning Boards, and local Boards of Selectmen to object to, or to place conditions on these wind turbines. They want the state Energy Facilities Siting Board to make the final decisions about whether we need them, and where they can go.
But, for me, the real questions are how much electricity these wind turbines will really generate and whether we need this electricity enough to surrender our mountains to get it.
Try looking for information about these wind turbines and how much they cost, and how much public money – federal, state subsidies, tax advantages, grants etc – goes to underwrite their cost and what the CEOs make, and you’ll spend many unhappy hours with Google. There seems to be a lot of money in wind – for some of the environmentalists who tout it and the companies selling it to us – and, guess what, they don’t really want us to know how much comes from us, the taxpayers and ratepayers.
David Bauman, in the Berkshire Eagle, revealed that the windmill at Jiminy Peak received 1.4 million from the ratepayers. How about ratepayers get a free pass this winter? Bauman also revealed that the 11 turbine Searsburg VT wind farm near North Adams – often touted because of its good wind capacity – produced in its best year “26 percent of its total nameplate capacity of six megawatts averaged over that year. The balance of the years Searsburg produced in the low 20 percent range.” Bauman’s last great nugget is that it turns out that wind producers make more money with renewable energy credits than they do producing electricity.
I was able to find a fascinating map that the wind people produced. You are unfortunately are seeing it in black and white – you really need to see it in color at http://www.windpoweringamerica.gov/maps_template.asp?stateab=ma
Now the little key at the bottom left says the blue areas – unfortunately there are no blue areas – indicates Superb wind speeds; red areas (that the darkest band on the far end of the coast) boasts Outstanding wind speeds; and the bands heading to shore: purple for Excellent wind speeds; pink for good wind speeds. At the very top of the color key is Brown for marginal speeds and White for poor speeds. Now unless I’ve gone color blind from too many espressos, out in the Berkshire Hills we’ve got a whole lot of white and a smattering of brown along the ridgelines.
And if you’re lucky enough to have a magnifying glass in your pocket there are a couple of tiny red circles on our ridgelines.
So let’s think about this for a bit. We’ve got up to 700 400-foot turbines, disrupting the birds and bats and the neighbors. And most probably, the massive turbines will lower real estate values and possibly diminish and destroy our increasingly important tourism economy.
Not to mention kill quite a few birds.
And the sad thing is they will all be dying in vain. Like the tourist trade. Why? Because we absolutely, positively don’t need the electricity in the first place. We use and waste too much of the stuff in the first place. If these environmentalists and utility execs and the Governor really cared, they’d put in place a comprehensive mandated electricity conservation plan. But, guess what, these guys sell electricity not conservation.
The fact is New Englanders have been taking matters into their own hands. In 2008, rising prices and greater consciousness about waste prompted a reduction in electricity use of 1.9%, the largest one-year drop since they started keeping records. So maybe this isn’t the best time to be increasing electricity production. Especially if it means destroying our mountains.
Go back and look once more at the Wind Map. A lot of poor to marginal wind speeds. Why isn’t this the end of the story? Why are we supposed to feel guilty about preserving open space?
Sometimes a scam is just a scam. And a crock, a crock.
Save electricity. Save the mountains. Put the wind turbines where there’s constant reliable wind.
And since I spent the hours looking for this, perhaps you’d like to know that thanks to ratepayers, Charles Shivery, the head of Northeast Utilities, which sells electricity to 2 million customers in New Hampshire, Connecticut and Massachusetts made a mere 6.2 million dollars in 2008.
Mickey Friedman has at various times worked for General Electric, manufacturer of wind turbines, and created a website for Green Berkshires, a tireless opponent of Berkshire wind turbines. He assures us he made a lot more money working for GE than for Green Berkshires.
Thursday August 28, 2009 © Mickey Friedman – All Rights Reserved