Free Electricity??

Guest Post by Michael Chambers (guest posts are moderated, but not approved or endorsed by the CCA Steering Committee)
This weekend, my friend and I went to the saltwater fishing exposition at the Providence Convention Center. I had an opportunity to ask about the effect of the Falmouth wind turbines with a few of the Falmouth exhibitors. There were four representatives of the bait shop at the exhibit site, three slightly younger than I and one young enough to be my son.

My friend and I asked how the town of Falmouth is coping with their wind turbines and what they think of the latest Town Council actions leading to dismantling the electric generators. The three older men were happy to see that the 400-foot turbines were being dismantled, while the youngest exhibitor felt that the council had made a grave mistake. Neither of us let on about how we felt about wind turbines in general, nor about wind turbines in residential areas. We preferred to hear their comments without prejudice. The elder exhibitors explained that from a social perspective, the construction of the three wind turbines in Falmouth have split the town down the middle. They stated that if you want to tear down a neighborhood or a quiet, neighborhood-oriented town, just erect a 400-foot turbine in the middle of everything. From a public health perspective, the town was split along the lines of half the people not believing the other half when it came to loss of sleep, headaches, and rise in blood pressure, upset stomachs, and other ailments. They also confided that the noise was real and air compression was real also.

The younger man stated that he lived very near one of the turbines and had no trouble sleeping and heard no noise or felt no compression or saw no strobe or light flicker. I believed him but I also believed the other three men, as incongruous as this may seem. However, one statement that caused me to side with the other three gentlemen was that the young man stated that free energy is worth the hassles. I asked if he meant free wind or free electricity and he stated that he was referring to free electricity, because the wind is free. He evidently does not pay an electricity bill – his parents’ or landlord’s responsibility – or he equates free wind with free energy.

This is the crux of the issue. Wind is green, renewable, and free. However, all electricity costs money. Wind turbine-generated electricity costs more per kilowatt hour than gas-generated electricity. Gas has a direct effect on the atmosphere and is non-renewable, wind turbines have little effect on the atmosphere but direct effects on the health and well-being of those who live close by, and have a lifespan of about five years for the gearbox and twenty years for the tower and sails. To eliminate the adverse effects of the wind turbines, it would be simple to site them away from humans and wildlife. It is the greed of developers that keep the human/turbine interface a problem.

Hydrologic fracturing aside (this is a real problem); gas is also collected through horizontal drilling and with the use of ceramics which do not pollute the water table. Again, greed is the problem here because the Federal Government has given Halliburton a bye when it comes to using the cheapest, most dangerous method of extracting natural gas, against the standards set by the US Environmental Protection Agency.

Why should we be caught between greedy wind turbine developers and greedy natural gas developers? We rely on our public officials to protect us from the greedy developers. Let’s see how this plays out!