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Click to see a simulation of the proposed wind plant atop Backbone Mountain in Western Maryland
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Notable Quotes


"The trouble with wind farms is that they have a huge spatial footprint for a piddling little bit of electricity... ."

—Sir Martin Holdgate, former chairman of the British Renewable Energy Advisory Group.

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#9. Wind technology consists of "wind mills" on "wind farms."

As if 400-foot tall differentially moving turbines were bucolic Dutch windmills, and their arrangement—eight to a mile on tall ridgetops, each with a four acre clear-cut when sited in the forest, and spread out in rows over many miles of upland habitat—was akin to a family farm.

The reality is that the technology consists of mammoth industrial factories often targeted for areas that pride themselves on their natural beauty. This inherent incompatibility makes for a hard sell. Consequently, the wind industry has commandeered the terms "windmill" and "wind farm" to make its outsized machinery more attractive to rural areas. But when a windplant is built, the rift between promise and reality becomes stark. Contemporary industrial wind turbines are taller than most urban skyscrapers, rivaling the size of the Statue of Liberty. Pittsburgh has but one building near 400 feet, while Cleveland has none.

Wind developers sometimes misrepresent their turbines' size in the press to make the machines appear even more hospitable. Press releases describing "wind farms" occasionally state the turbines' size in meters, causing some readers to think that a 125-meter turbine is really only 125 feet—and not over 400 feet. More often, they will only refer to the height of the turbine tower, not mentioning the size of the enormous propeller blades. However, a turbine tower that is 265 feet tall with a propeller blade that is 135 foot long is 400 feet tall. Even when they concede the actual size, they maintain wind facilities won't be intrusive because the turbines will be hidden in the trees, as if trees over 400 feet tall exist on forested ridges.

Watch for this classic bait-and-switch technique. Wind developers will often initially propose a facility consisting of a number of "smaller" turbines, typically 1.5 MW-340-400 foot machines. When the public begins to realize the threat to its basic qualities of life, and rushes to oppose the project, the wind developer will appear to offer appeasement—in the form of lesser numbers of turbines but 10-15 percent larger (430-465 foot--2.5 MW) with a much greater rotor sweep (the propeller blade will be more than 310 feet long). The developer will claim this is possible because of "newer technology." It is more likely, however, that this is a cynical ploy to make the industry seem more congenial to the communities it seeks to exploit, always "ready to compromise." In fact, however, this is a tactical move that will actually increase industry profits while playing havoc with the community.

< Back to List   |   Claim #10 >

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