I was goofing around on Twitter today:
I’m pretty sure all da GMOs, flame retardants & WiFi electromagnetic radiation cancel out my wind turbine syndrome.
— keith kloor (@keithkloor) April 18, 2013
If you’re unfamiliar with that last reference, I refer you to my recent Slate piece:
I’m often fascinated by what’s left out of environmental stories. Tim McDonnell has written a piece for Mother Jones that is picked up by the Guardian. It’s titled: “Why the U.S. still doesn’t have a single offshore wind turbine.”
There is a major omission in this section on wind opponents:
Blowback from “stakeholders”: Whale and bird lovers. Defenders of tribal lands. Fishermen. The Koch brothers. Since it was proposed in 2001, Cape Wind, a wind farm whose backers say could provide 75 percent of Cape Cod’s energy needs, has been run through a bewildering gauntlet of opponents and fought off more than a dozen lawsuits on everything from boat traffic interference to desecration of sacred sites to harming avian and marine life. Just down the seaboard another major project, Deepwater Wind, had to negotiate concerns that its turbines would throw a roadblock in the migratory pathways of endangered right whales. Alliance for Nantucket Sound, Cape Wind’s main opposition group, claims the project “threatens the marine environment and would harm the productive, traditional fisheries of Nantucket Sound.”
Of course, there’s another powerful factor at play here: NIMBYism. No one could put it better than fossil fuel magnate Bill Koch, owner of a $20 million Cape Cod beachfront estate and donor of $1.5 million to ANS: “I don’t want this in my backyard. Why would you want to sail in a forest of windmills?”
There is another famous individual who doesn’t want windmills in his backyard, either, but he is conspicuously left out of the story. Any idea who that might be? Read More
If you google Wind Turbine Syndrome, the first link will take you to a book by Nina Pierpont, an author with all sorts of impressive-looking medical credentials, who wastes no time in revealing “wind energy’s dirty little secret”:
Many people living within 2 km (1.25 miles) of these spinning giants get sick. So sick that they often abandon (as in, lock the door and leave) their homes. Nobody wants to buy their acoustically toxic homes. The “lucky ones” get quietly bought out by the wind developers—who steadfastly refuse to acknowledge that Wind Turbine Syndrome exists. (And yet the wind developers thoughtfully include a confidentiality clause in the sales agreement, forbidding their victim from discussing the matter further.)
Is this really true? Last year, the UK’s Daily Mail claimed that thousands of people living near wind turbines have come down with an array of maladies (because of the whirring blades), from tinnitus and insomnia to depression and high blood pressure. The Daily Mail based its report on people it interviewed and this 2011 study.
a classic “communicated” disease: it spreads by being talked about, and is therefore a strong candidate for being defined as a psychogenic condition.
In other words, as I wrote here, it is a
phenomenon akin to mass hysteria—an outbreak of apparent health problems that has a psychological rather than physical basis.
Stephen Colbert had some fun with this a few months ago: Read More
Every energy source comes with its own set of problems that give rise to a passionate opposition. In the United States today, we see it with shale gas and the anti-fracking movement. In Britain, Australia and other countries where wind farms have proliferated across rural landscapes, we see fierce anti-wind campaigns gaining strength.
Like gas fracking, there are numerous vexing issues (of a different nature) associated with wind turbines. But campaigners against fracking and wind power have something in common: They both exploit and distort science to advance their agendas. Of course, someone like James Delingpole, being the buffoonish demagogue he is, would be the last to recognize this. So it’s amusing that what he criticizes enviros for is exactly what he’s guilty of himself. The energy writer Robert Bryce is not a court jester like Delingpole, but he is guilty of selective citation in this recent one-sided column that suggests there are serious health effects from wind turbine noise.
Still, the assortment of maladies that have been attributed to wind farms is pretty fascinating. I explore the phenomena of “wind turbine syndrome” over at Discover. Is it real or just a lot of hot air? Have a read and let me know what you think at Discover or here.
In 2005, after Robert Kennedy Jr. published an op-ed in The New York Times opposing an offshore wind energy project in Nantucket Sound, environmentalists were plenty pissed. Since then, RFKJr has offered numerous arguments against Cape Wind, but none of them has stuck.
I thought he had reached a hypocritical apex a few years ago when he scolded Senator Dianne Feinsten for quashing solar development in California’s Mojave desert. But Kennedy scaled new heights with his op-ed in yesterday’s Wall Street Journal. That piece seemed to cross some sort of rubicon even with Climate Progress (but not Joe Romm, who has never taken him to task), which ran this guest post last night, slamming Kennedy:
It is simply impossible to portray Kennedy’s latest salvo in the ongoing battle over Cape Wind as anything less than utter hypocrisy. Kennedy suggests that the project, which has undergone more than a decade of environmental and economic review, could be supplanted by “renewable” power from Canadian hydroelectricity ““ the same alternative that has been proposed to replace Vermont Yankee’s nuclear energy. And yet in 2004 as a senior attorney for the Natural Resource Defense Council, Kennedy penned a piece titled “Hydro is Breaking Our Hearts.” His article lamented that hydro development in Canada had “turned pristine rivers into power corridors, ancient lakes into holding tanks, and a sacred homeland into an industrial complex.”
Yet Canadian hydropower is precisely the solution he proposes to replace Cape Wind’s green electrons. Apparently his own Hyannisport sacred homeland is somehow “¦ more sacred?
Now I’m not someone who thinks it’s clear sailing for wind power. As this recent piece in Climate Central and this post by Mark Lynas demonstrate, there are serious issues and considerable blowback that still need to be addressed in numerous places. But Cape Wind is not one of them. It is perhaps the most vetted wind project on the planet. Opposition to it today boils down to plain old NIMBYism.
Last year, David Roberts of Grist, who often writes passionately about climate change, did an interview with Kennedy, but avoided asking him about his relentless anti-Cape Wind stand. Here was the final soft ball question and Kennedy’s answer, which included cartoonish rhetoric about “evil-doers,” a term George Bush Jr. was fond of using, too.
Q. What are you spending your time on now?
A. I’m doing a lot of green-tech businesses. I’ve employed all the tools of advocacy during the past quarter-century; Martin Luther King said the tools of advocacy are agitation, legislation, litigation, and education. I would add to that innovation, which may turn out to be one of the most powerful tools of advocacy. We have an opportunity now, using new technologies, to displace the evildoers, the oil industry and the coal industry, and turn this country back into a democracy.
Kennedy neglected to add that he was also employing all the tools of NIMBYism to thwart a massive clean energy project that would do its part to help reduce greenhouse gases.
In 2007, I wrote a cover story for Audubon magazine about Wyoming’s imperiled sage grouse population. New research had shown that the iconic bird avoided using habitat in the vicinity of roads, gas wells and other related energy infrastructure. All the noise and traffic was a big turnoff. As the scientist who led one of the studies explained to me then,
This species needs big, undisturbed landscapes to breed, spread its nests, and hatch its chicks.
When I wrote my story in 2007, there were already palpable fears that the sage grouse was destined for the federal endangered species list, which would bring Wyoming’s lucrative gas industry to a screaming halt. But politicians and federal land managers diddled and no serious drilling restrictions were put in place.
In October, a more definitive, three-year sage grouse study was published in PLoS ONE, which reaffirmed everything I wrote about in 2007. This time around, though, the feds and Wyoming’s governor are taking action. But what’s notable is that the new measures will also affect the nascent wind industry. As reported in Scientific American,
The governor’s ruling has placed the future of a $600-million wind farm planned by Horizon Wind Energy in doubt.
Here’s the SciAm headline:
Wyoming’s environmental Hobson’s Choice: Killing wind energy or endangering birds?
Over dramatic perhaps, but it still captures the larger dilemma that I keep predicting will pit greens against greens.
And some climate activists chided me for making hay out of the Mojave desert/renewable energy controversy. Looks like Romm is taking on Feinstein over this and in doing so, he’s ignited a zesty debate among his loyalists, revealing a green schism that is sure to grow wider and nastier.
Or has it already? Craig Goodrich, a new reader to this blog, decried the scourge of wind turbines in a recent comment:
The plague of industrial wind plants is utterly destroying countryside and wildlife habitat at an incredible “” and genuinely unprecidented “” rate, while producing no useful energy and reducing CO2 emissions nowhere in the world.
This struck me as a bit vague and exaggerated (the pillaging of habitat), so I asked him to provide specifics. He obliged, but all the links sent his response straight to my spam filter. So I’ve pasted his comment below for everyone to have a look-see. A disclaimer: I’ve only given these websites a cursory glance. Thus I have no way of knowing whether any of the groups mentioned below are astroturfers or legitimate grassroots organizations.
If they’re all legit, does this add up to a story the media is missing? Or does it pale in comparison to, say the mountaintop mining madness that has gone on for so long? I’m not sure, since I haven’t yet looked into this issue with any rigor. But given the renewable energy boom underway, plus the biofuels craze, this quote from one policy expert is worth pondering:
If we are to prevent serious, damaging climate change, it will require one of the largest land-use changes in the history of the country.
So without further ado, here’s Goodrich’s descriptive compilation of wind power atrocities across the globe:
OK, you asked for it:
Germany, nearly everywhere. http://wilfriedheck.de/
Denmark, ditto. Analysis at http://www.wind-watch.org/documents/wp-content/uploads/mason-2005-10.rtf
France, threatening the incredibly beautiful and historic Mont Saint-Michel. http://epaw.org/
England, all over — from vandalizing the peaceful Lakes District to offshore installations overstressing mother seals at the Yorkshire breeding grounds. http://www.countryguardian.net/
Wales — the devastation of Cefn Croes will break your heart. http://www.users.globalnet.co.uk/~hills/cc/gallery/index.htm
Scotland, disfiguring the Highlands — http://www.viewsofscotland.org/
… skipping for the sake of space numerous local atrocities in Eastern and Southern Europe, ignoring the mess in Spain, we cross the Atlantic to
Mars Hill, Maine — check out the video at http://www.wind-watch.org/video-marshill.php for a taste of what is going on around wild mountain ridges all across New England.
Pennsylvania and West Virginia — http://www.shol.com/agita/LookoutMountain/ — several ridges are already disfigured, and the State of Virginia is fighting plans to place a huge phalanx of turbines within a mile of the best-preserved battlefield of the Civil War, Camp Allegheny. http://www.vawind.org/ or a Pennsylvania video at http://www.wind-watch.org/video-meyersdale.php
Ontario’s beautiful Thousand Islands region on the St. Lawrence, and upstate New York across the river, is disfigured by 86 turbines on Wolfe Island — http://www.wolfeislandresidents.ca/ — which has so horrified area residents that local groups on both sides are fighting desperately (with mixed success) against any more such installations, which the lunatic Ontario government wants to see all along the eastern Lake Ontario coast.
Skipping across Michigan ( http://www.knowwind.org/ ) to my native Wisconsin, in Fond du Lac County, where I grew up, an 87-turbine plant has been installed directly adjacent to Horicon Marsh, the largest freshwater marsh in the world and a crucial stopover for migratory waterfowl. Duckburger, anyone? http://www.windcows.com/
And on and on and on. Only a recent decision by the Kansas Supreme Court saved the last remaining unspoiled tallgrass prairie in the Flint Hills from being destroyed by turbine plants. In Wyoming, look for the Big Sky and you see turbine blades. In Nevada (even!), residents are fighting to save Virginia Peak ( http://aplusfirearms.com/saveourvalley.htm ).
New Zealand — http://www.tui-g.co.nz/ . Australia — http://www.spacountryguardians.org.au/truth.php — or video at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s_CZIfiFPwk&feature=related
And all of this for nothing. Nothing. Even granting for the sake of argument that CO2 emissions should be reduced, industrial wind turbines can’t do it, for all sorts of technical reasons which (again) I will spare you.
Each of these wretched turbine towers — picture the Statue of Liberty with a 747 pinned to her nose — costs about $2 million to erect, and will cost about $1 million to decommission. Typical landowner contracts provide that the contract becomes void if the wind developer sells the plant to another company, which they typically do instantly once the project is completed. These turbines are there forever, disintegrating and dripping industrial lubricants onto our grandchildren’s vandalized landscape.
“Criminal lunacy” is far too kind a term for this.