Kyoto – A Perspective (part 29)

Posted on Wed 05/28/2008 by

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WIND POWER (Part 4)

Single wind tower at Nine Mile Beach, Esperance, Western Australia. Note the size when compared to the vehicle near the steps at the base of the tower.Image by Diesel and Wind Systems. Click on the image to open in a larger window.

Here are just two startling examples where NIMBY has actually worked when coupled with input from politicians.

AUSTRALIA

The first happened at one such plant in Victoria here in Australia, in the South Gippsland area. Several plants were planned for areas here, mainly because of the howling winds prevalent in that area. One plant was actually constructed. The area is basically grazing lands for beef and dairy cattle. Some graziers embraced the idea and allowed the Authority to place the towers on their properties. For this, and also for allowing access, they are being paid $7000 per year. Those who missed out sort of grumbled I suppose, and said that the towers were eyesores, a blot on the landscape where they had grown up, and more importantly they thought, lowered the resale value of their property. So what they did was to find a reason so that further construction of towers should not proceed. They found a poor defenceless bird, the rare and endangered Orange Bellied Parrot, that they then quoted as approaching extinction and said that the towers would lead to their outright demise when the birds were killed by those fiendish rotating blades of death the wind vanes. They then got a prospective politician on side who ran on the platform that if he was elected he would see that construction of the whole project was stopped.
The story actually worked too. The long serving and respected local sitting member of State Parliament was booted out when he supported the towers. The process was even taken up at the Federal level, and for such a small prospective benefit, it created an awful lot of noise all over the media and in politics of both persuasions.
The reality was that the bird in question was rarely even seen in that area if ever, the argument here being that just because the bird was not seen didn’t mean that the bird did not use that area during its migration, and here we’re not even talking close by. It was hundreds of miles away. The project was canned, the thinking being that even if only one solitary bird was killed by the wind farms, then that would bring extinction closer.
To further aid the argument, detractors then dredged up other 41 birds that were known to be in the area, and also a flying fox community, and these are called bats in some parts of the World, while here they are looked upon as cute and furry little animals, given the nicer sounding name of flying fox. These birds were supposedly going to be being killed off in droves by the fan blades. This excuse was used by those who perceived that their property value decreased, (untrue) or their quality of life was somehow lessened, (also untrue) and in the end, it achieved the aim.

Here’s the reality about the birds. An independent body carried out a detailed impact assessment on those birds at enormous expense, paid for by the Government as you might guess. The report said that there was little to zero effect on any fauna at all. Birds, flying foxes, animals on the ground, whatever. When the report was handed down, yes, you guessed it, it was treated as a conspiracy by the Victorian State Government to get the result they wanted.
As it happened the project was stopped. The fact that millions of dollars was spent proved futile, as politicians sought to make their point.
The end result was that another Company completely dropped plans for a $200 Million wind farm project in the same area, and a wind tower blade manufacturing Company closed with the loss of 140 jobs, both due to the uncertainty stemming from the situation.

This is not the Cape Wind Project, but an offshore wind farm in Liaodong Bay in China. The Cape Wind towers will be nowhere near this close together This image by Kavips. Click on image to open in a larger window.

THE CAPE WIND COMEDY.

Remember the two old guys kibbitzing from the balcony in Sesame Street sketches. Well, Statler and Waldorf are standing on the beach, pants rolled, up feeling the gentle waves lapping at their bare feet, and looking out over Nantucket Sound.
Statler turns to Waldorf and says, “Man, those wind towers out there really spoil the view.”
Waldorf, squinting and peering off into the distance replies, “I can’t see no damn wind towers.”
Statler looks at him like he’s blind. “Well, climb up on that forty foot stepladder there then.”
Waldorf climbs the ladder, and holding on for dear life peers out to sea again. “Nope. Still can’t see ‘em.”
“You’ll need these binoculars then.”

The real story about Cape Wind might be just that ridiculous.
The plant is mooted for construction on Horseshoe Shoal in Nantucket Sound, near Cape Cod Massachusetts.
Cape Wind touched all the bases in the build up to constructing the Wind Plant. The plan called for 130 towers with the large 3MW generators in their nacelles. By any standard these towers are large, standing 440 feet out of the water with a blade swept area diameter of 364 feet. Even though the maximum power could theoretically be as high as 420MW, because of the fickle nature of wind power it is degraded somewhat, but at any one time the towers would provide 175MW, which is a considerable amount for the local area. They will be situated between 4 and 11 miles offshore, in the Sound.
The towers were to be spread out over nearly 25 square miles with almost 1200 yards between any tower and the next closest. The Company jumped through all the hoops seeking compliance from 17 State and Federal agencies.
It is not in any major shipping area, ferry routes, nor close to any flight paths. It is close to existing undersea electricity cables.
In a small irony, it will directly offset power production currently providing close on half the areas power at the moment that coming from the Canal Power Plant at the historic town of Sandwich, this plant running on bunker oil and natural gas. The irony is that there have been two large oil spills of oil for delivery to that plant, the major one being the Argo Merchant in 1976, which spilled nearly 8 million gallons of oil, killing birds and ruining the shellfish industry.
The towers will be lit for safety purposes, but the lighting will not be obtrusive, as the lights will only be visible from directly overhead, other than normal navigation lights.
The fishing industry say that they will have to steam further to reach their fishing grounds, but surely that is only a minor thing. The Audubon Society has also given tentative approval.
So what’s the problem.
NIMBY.
People who live in the area say that the tourist industry will suffer. And then they find any excuse to throw cold water on the project. They raise their concerns and employed lobbyists who then got into the ears of politicians.
Senator Ted Kennedy (Dem. Maine) was first cab off the rank, and as he lives close by, so it looks like a classic NIMBY case on his behalf. His objections have been numerous and well detailed. The towers would be barely visible, if at all, from the shore near his home. It could look suspiciously like an area of high winds on a body of water being put to use for purposes other than as an area where the yachting community might be playing with their boats. Senator Kennedy actually wrote an article saying that he supported Wind power, but not this project. Having one high powered voice might be good here, but others soon stepped into the breach also.

The press releases came thick and fast from all quarters and this is just one from the Providence Journal.
Congressman Nick Rahall (Dem, West Virginia) came on board, as did Senator John Warner, (Rep. Virginia) Senator Ted Stevens, (Rep. Alaska) Senator Lamar Alexander, (Rep. Tennessee) and Congressman Don Young (Rep. Alaska)
It would seem that those binoculars are being passed around through numerous hands, and in the case of our two friends from Alaska, it would seem that they might need to be standing atop Mt. McKinley, and peering through the Hubble Telescope.

The Cape Wind Project might or might not be a case of a developer lining up for a buck, but what puzzles me is that if there is the chance that a project of this scale might not even get off the ground, and we’re talking of a project worth around $950 Million here, then why would they spend so much up front already if there was even the faintest possibility it would fail.

Yes, electrical power generated by the wind can be a viable alternative. However, it will be costly, and will have to fight many battles before it becomes acceptable.

I included links in this post that might seem to have a lot of information in them. The 3 media articles are of interest, but the other two are specific websites that have a lot of information that is interesting. You may like to save those links and refer back to them for more in depth information.

The link in the second photograph to Kavips will take you to another blog, and here I have included the link to the page regarding wind power. if you scroll to the bottom of the listed links, you’ll see the list for ‘Windpower For Dummies’ and its continuing series.

The link to Cape Wind is for their website and also contains comprehensive information regarding the project.

KPPSTony

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