Recently, the Public Service Board approved the construction of a 63-megawatt wind farm near the town of Lowell, Vermont. The project, which is headed by Green Mountain Power, hopes to create the largest wind farm in Vermont and extract enough energy to power 20,000 households. Energize Vermont is leading the charge against the construction, noting that the project is a “challenge to the character of the state, a challenge to our natural resources, a challenge to our headwater streams, our birds, our bats, our bears… and opposition is certainly growing.” In the midst of an escalating debate over the wind farm is a distressing amount of misinformation and naivety; most coming from the opposition. With several other wind projects being proposed around the state, there is more at stake in Lowell than just a few turbines. Vermont’s domestic energy future will be influenced by the outcome of this project and now would be a good time to clear up some common misconceptions and misinformation that is being passed as legitimate.
To Energize Vermont:
Clean up your website! Within five minutes I was able to find multiple blatant errors in your information. Some errors are careless (“solaf instead of solar”) while others are hilarious. My personal favorite blunder was this subtle line, “Energize Vermont encourages locally produced and consumed wind energy projects. An example of a project that meets this criteria may include a single 150-megawatt wind turbine placed at a local school…” (Emphasis added) For those who don’t immediately get the humor in their blunder, allow me to explain. The largest turbine in the world is Enercon E-126, which has a max power output of 7-megawatts and has a 413 foot rotor diameter. Apparently, according to Energize Vermont’s web site, they would support the construction of a turbine that is 21 times greater than the largest in the world. How noble.
What I’m sure they meant to say is 150-kilowatts, which is a thousand times less and of appropriate scale to power a school. The site ruins your credibility and Vermont’s trust in any of your information. Energize Vermont: either hire an engineer to check your facts or join Sarah Palin’s campaign.
To Green Mountain Power:
Educate and compromise. Energize Vermont supports small scale wind in developed areas, which is a good idea. Encourage small community based wind projects and use your influence to educate people on the viability of small wind. Specifically, let them know that the cheap wind turbines are usually a total disappointment. A 96 foot turbine in Danville, VT was expected to produce 2000 dollars in electricity a year and instead only produced 400. The reason is because cheap turbines use cheap blades. Independent research has found that the classic Bergey wind turbine is half as efficient as new diffuser based turbines. The Bergey, which is now available at Lowes, is a classic design that can produce the amount of power you would expect at wind speeds of 56 mph or higher; anything less will leave you wondering why you’re still drawing power from the grid. The point is that wind turbines are sensitive to factors like manufacturers and location. If GMP would spread that message it may help Vermonters form good opinions of small and big wind projects. GMP could illustrate that a 100-kilowatt turbine on a good location could produce more energy than ten thousand 1-kilowatt Bergeys at scattered low-quality locations. Which would you rather have?
In the battle over Lowell’s energy future, Green Mountain Power holds the professional advantage of actually knowing the numbers and understanding the issue. Energize Vermont has a strong moral argument but they need to be able to suggest a different way to generate the 63-megawatts that would come from Lowell wind farm.