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Inconvenient truth on wind

It is unfortunate for the citizens of Massachusetts generally, and likely devastating to many residents of Franklin and Monroe specifically, to witness the ill-conceived commitment of Gov. Patrick and his administration to Industrial Wind Turbines.

Perhaps he and his administration have not done their homework. Perhaps they are naive enough to believe the PR materials of Big Wind — the little girl chasing the butterfly with the large wind turbines in the background and the promise of large amounts of money flowing into the town. Perhaps the lobbyists are just that convincing and generous with their donations to the Patrick administration.

What the science and the more extensive experience of other countries have demonstrated is the following:

Industrial Wind Turbines (IWTs) make no engineering or economic sense in inland New England. Based upon available prevailing winds, as estimated by the U.S. Department of Energy, IWTs will produce little sustainable energy. Moreover, the energy they produce will be intermittent and available when the grid does not need it. The U.S. DOE National Renewable Energy Laboratory classifies wind assets in inland New England as “not good.”

As a result, for every MW of capacity of IWT put in place, an equal amount of traditional fossil-fuel-based back-up generation capacity will need to be constructed and operated, so that that backup capacity can be quickly brought on line when the wind suddenly stops blowing.

Therefore, in inland New England, IWTs will not reduce our carbon footprint. They will not contribute in any way toward limiting global warming. They will however significantly increase the cost of every person’s and business’s electricity, precisely at a time when we cannot afford it. The reason is that the subsidies paid to keep this economically unsustainable technology operating will be spread over everyone’s monthly electric bill, in addition to the cost of the normal fossil-fuel-based capacity required to back-up those IWTs.

Based upon many epidemiological studies, IWTs will have serious adverse health impacts upon residents within at least a 2-mile radius of the IWTs. Based upon reliable statistical and property appraisal studies, the values of properties of these residents will decrease by 25-40 percent.

It is precisely these impacts that have led European countries (e.g., Holland, Germany, the UK among others) to halt construction of IWTs. It is precisely these impacts that have led Massachusetts towns to want to sell their IWTs (e.g., Princeton) or shut down the IWTs that are operating (e.g., Falmouth). The experience of Princeton is instructive. Any payments estimated as flowing to the towns of Monroe and Franklin from the operation of the IWTs which have not taken account of the poor wind resources and their poor operational performance will have been vastly overstated. If you do not believe this, ask the town government of Princeton about the profitability of local IWTs. The town has publicly stated that their IWTs were falsely promoted and are losing money.

Wake up, Massachusetts. The Patrick administration is telling the Big Lie to promote a pipe dream energy technology (Big Wind) that will be revealed as the Big Boondoggle a decade from now. I wish Big Wind were the answer; it would be such a wonderful way to power our region. The inconvenient truth is that it fails upon almost all criteria.

I am very grateful that the citizens of Shelburne voted to ban projects like the one in Florida and Monroe. I am certain we will start hearing about health issues related to noise, given how close some of those turbines are to people’s houses. I am certain we will start hearing about people who want to sell their homes but cannot, because of the noise. I think it’s unfortunate for Florida and Monroe that the Hoosac Wind Project will be proof that people in Shelburne did the right thing by voting in a ban.

Raymond S. Hartman, a Shelburne Falls resident, is president and director of Greylock McKinnon Associates, an economic consulting firm specializing in analysis in support of litigation. He has a doctorate from MIT in mathematical economics and have served on the faculties of MIT, Boston University and the University of California, Berkeley. Two of his areas of specialty are energy and environmental economics.

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