Riga is facing some hard decisions concerning the proposed development of a wind farm. It’s easy to understand why land owners looking at receiving revenue from a project like this would seriously consider the opportunity, especially when the idea is sold as “green” and beneficial. I’m sure a community decision will be made by observing all implications and reviewing the downside of the project including the environmental impact. What would residents within a couple of mile radius of a wind farm give up or trade-off? What are the costs of installation and maintenance versus the benefits? Since millions of dollars have already been spent on selling you the benefits, I’d like to list a few of the disadvantages to counter the argument.
Wind turbines are designed with failsafe mechanisms like blade brakes to shut them off in high wind velocity to prevent them from turning too fast. They should have grounding to prevent damage from lightning, however, these things have been known to fail or not be properly set up. Windmills are lightning rods and if they turn too fast they’ll basically blow apart, spewing large chunks of debris as shown in this youtube clip.
- rarely do they operate at maximum output.
- inconsistent wind energy stress backup energy sources, wasting more energy while adding a 10% increase in cost, according to this study in Nebraska.
- strobe light flickering from the blades reflecting sunlight or casting shadows could be unbearable for long lengths of time (if you’ve ever been south bound in the passenger seat of a vehicle where the setting sun was low behind a row of trees flickering in the window, you know what I mean)
- pulsating noise similar to a helicopter and loud humming have repeatedly been reported.
- negative crop impact.
- farm land being repurposed isn’t beneficial (assuming we still have to eat).
- the use of cranes for regular maintenance isn’t cheap, neither is installation, transporting or the cost of the turbines.
- kills birds and bats, further reduces near extinct populations of large birds of prey.
- wind produced energy cannot be stored.
- infrastructure and new transmission lines are expensive.
- land depreciation – if you can’t live on a piece of property with humming, pulsating, flickering and vibration, how much could you sell it for, or could you even sell it?
I can’t believe wind would be any better than solar but to even maximize on wind energy a substantial investment is required for a significant expansion to our existing power grid, the estimated cost (government estimations are usually woefully low) for this upgrade is $290 billion. Our cumulative investment in wind energy was $28 billion according to the Department of Energy’s last report as of 2007, I’m not even sure that includes the government subsidies. The lion share of the cost is yet to come while minimally reducing carbon emissions. It’s beyond my comprehension why we are moving to replace fossil fuels without the proper infrastructure for feasible distribution in place at the onset. A recession bordering on depression sounds like the worst possible timing to be changing over a whole fossil fuel dependent society. Many of us can’t afford our energy needs to unnecessarily skyrocket, it seems to me the less we can afford something, the more we’ll cut back usage and force prices even higher.
Here’s a good article from a Kansas resident that gives much food for thought. Another article raises some questions worthy of answers on this Rodale Institute site. I know Jeffery Immelt from the conglomerate GE is one of the big winners in this industry as the largest producer of wind turbines, but Rodale asks;
“As for wind turbines’ supposed economic infusion into rural communities: Who will own the machines? Who will own the power lines? Who will set the prices? Who will own the leases? Who will take most of the profits? Wind power will be just like every other commodity that cities extract from rural areas: something acquired at rock-bottom prices and sold back expensively.”
These are practical considerations, the only reason we are even entertaining wind farms is its supposed to be a solution based on the premise that carbon expelled into the atmosphere from coal-burning is warming the climate.
If you’re a Riga resident and concerned about having a wind farm in your backyard, buy some time to consider your options and attend the next Riga Township Council board meeting Monday at 7:00 P.M. August 9th/ 2010.