††††††††††††††††††††††† ††††††††††††††††††††††† ††††††††††††††††††††††† ††††††††††† ††††††††††† September 15, 2003
Remember when your mother told you to eat everything on your plate because children were starving in China?† We used to feel bad about that, and sometimes we ate the peas and more often we didnít, but we used to wonder if those starving children would really be helped if we cleaned our plates.† Itís been a little like that with the wind turbine project in Prattsburgh.
One of the most difficult things about objecting to the wind turbines is the reaction we get from people who think that wind energy is the answer to our countryís need for clean energy.† People have said it is our patriotic duty to put up with windmills ďin our backyardĒ so that the U.S. can do away with coal and nuclear plants.† For a while we wondered if they were right.† Why should we be selfish enough to want it to stay quiet and beautiful here when we have an energy crisis?††
††††††††††† After months of feeling this way, we finally started doing research that has not only assuaged our guilt, but made us a little angry.† It is quite apparent that the wind farms are not going to be supplying significant amounts of energy to the grid. Furthermore, not a single coal or nuclear plant will be shut down because of the hundred wind towers proposed by Global Winds Harvest and Ecogen for Prattsburgh and Italy.† The government and the companies are throwing figures around that sound impressive, but on closer examination we realize that it is easy to make it sound like the wind towers will be doing more than they are capable of doing.
††††††††††† In a press release dated August 20, 2002, Governor George Pataki announced that $17 million dollars would be granted to support the development of five wind farms in New York State, for a total of 213 wind towers.† This includes the turbines planned for Prattsburgh and Italy by Global Winds Harvest† The press release stated that the wind farms would add 315 megawattts of electric capacity to the power grid.
†The key word here is ďcapacity.Ē† No one, including the developers, expects the wind turbines to be able to work up to capacity.† In fact it would be overly optimistic to expect them to operate at 33 percent.† When the wind doesnít blow, no electricity is produced.† When the wind blows too fast, the wind towers are supposed to automatically shut down so that they donít break.† It now becomes clear that the 213 wind towers would actually add 105 megawatts of electricity to the grid, not 315. If you multiply 105 megawatts times the number of hours in a year, you find that we could expect the wind towers to produce 919,800 megawatt hours of electricity in one year.†
What does this mean?† In 1999 (according to the New York State Department of Energy) household consumers used 43 billion kilowatt hours of electricity.† This translates to 43 million megawatt hours.† So now Ė the five windmill projects will be contributing 919,800 megawatt hours out of 43 million megawatt hours, or less than two and a half percent of the electricity used by household consumers in New York State.† HOWEVER, household consumers use only about one third of all electricity demanded in the state, with businesses using the rest, so the contribution of the 213 wind turbines to the total amount of consumed energy in New York State would be less than eight tenths of one percent.† And we are deliberately overestimating in order to be fair.
††††††††††† We donít think that tiny contribution of electricity is worth the assault on our hills.† Donít forget that alternate power plants have to be kept running on standby to be ready for the times that the blades donít turn.† To those who say that any amount, no matter how small, is worth turning Prattsburgh into one giant factory, we reply that the amount of money going into these wind turbines would be better spent on improving the infrastructure of our existing distribution grid so as to prevent future blackouts.† Adding wind energy at this point will only add to the already over strained supply system.
Bear in mind that demand for electricity is increasing far more than the amount that would be contributed by wind towers.†† We simply canít keep on using more and more electricity and gasoline and expect the smog to clear up, even if we plaster every hill in New York State with wind turbines. Just as eating those peas didnít decrease starvation in China, living with wind towers, with their 500 watt strobe lights and blades that spin 150 miles per hour at the tip, is not going to clean up our air or make us any less dependant on Arab oil.†
††††††††††† ††††††††††††††††††††††† ††††††††††††††††††††††† ††††††††††† Very truly yours,
††††††††††† ††††††††††††††††††††††† ††††††††††††††††††††††† ††††††††††† Ruth Matilsky
††††††††††† ††††††††††††††††††††††† ††††††††††††††††††††††† †††††††††††
††††††††††† ††††††††††††††††††††††† ††††††††††††††††††††††† ††††††††††† Terry Matilsky
††††††††††† ††††††††††††††††††††††† ††††††††††††††††††††††† ††††††††††† Professor of Physics