The Environment and wind power

600 Megawatt Power Plant

 

Xcel Energy Company of Denver, Colorado, has proposed building a 600 Megawatt power plant across the Eastern Colorado Central Plains.  It would stretch from near Deertrail, Colorado, south across the Palmer Divide to Rush Creek, then Southeast along Rush Creek to almost Hasewell, Colorado.  The proposed electrical plant would cover 40,000 acres.  This wind powered electrical plant would involve 400 wind turbines at an estimated cost of over One Billion Dollars.  Xcel is expecting to receive 700 million dollars from the Federal Government to build the project or three fourths of the money to build would come from taxpayers.

For comparison, the Cherokee generating station north of Denver, produces 580 Megawatts of electricity and covers roughly 1000 acres.  The customers for Xcel are close by not requiring long distance transmission lines.  The Power Plant in Brush, Colorado has an output of 505 Megawatts, about 20% smaller.  It covers about 1000 acres which includes a cooling pond of 140 acres.  The Department of Wildlife uses this cooling pond to raise fish for stocking of fisheries around the state of Colorado.  The Valmont station, near Boulder, Colorado is situated along the banks of Boulder Creek, creating a very picturesque and scenic setting.  The plant is smaller, generating 227 Megawatts of electrical power.  Valmont Lake on the edge of the plant is for cooling, yet it supports a large variety of wildlife and fish.

Lots of this will change as the coal fired plants are being replaced Natural Gas fired power production generators.  Here are three plants that have a combined capacity of 1312 Megawatts of production and would cover about 3000 acres of ground and be of benefit to wildlife and have a recreational value to the people of Colorado.  So gas/coal fired plants produce 1 Megawatt of electricity per 2 acres of ground.  Whereas the Rush Creek wind powered plant will produce 1.5 Megawatts of electrify per 1000 acres.

The other thing is the power consumed transporting the watts across transmission lines.  The power plants located near the cities along Colorado Front Range, do not lose as much electricity transporting the watts to the consumer.  Whereas the Wind power plants on the Eastern Plains require long journeys to get the watts to the Front Range consumer.  Boulder, Colorado has passed a resolution wanting renewable/clean energy.  So much of the Rush Creek power would be earmarked for Boulder, a journey of 100 to 150 miles to get to Boulder.  Approximately 10% of the energy produced would not arrive in Boulder for it would be consumed in transporting the power to the Front Range.  One of the biggest problems with electricity is its transportation costs and how much is lost on moving and or converting the power grid.

One of the unexplored assumptions in wind generated electricity is that it is considered clean, but is it really clean energy.  Consider all the holes in the ground that have to be dug to produce the materials to build a wind turbine with tower.  How much iron ore has to be dug, and then refined into to iron pigs.  Lots of iron is imported because of local environmental regulations that stopped lots of steel mills from production.  Then there is all the energy need to process the iron into steel.  Then there are the mines to produce the ore to strengthen the steel.  The Copper pits need to get ore to produce copper wire and then the mines for the rare earth minerals used to regulate the turbines and electrical flow.  Next is all the petroleum products used on the production of all the raw materials.  Then the petroleum byproducts in the plastics for wrappings and insulation not to mention the lightweight carbon fiber used on coverings.

By the time all the labor, technology and money has been invested in a wind turbine, its expected life is but 15 years.  After the wind turbine dies, where does it go?  In some instances, the motionless windmill sits on the plains as a monument to ______________ .

Another thing that does not have much discussion is the pay back for investment.  Generally something with a short life span, 15 years, a 1-3 year payback is sought.  From various comments, the payback of a wind turbine does not begin until after the tenth year, so only the last five years is it a net producer, a very poor return on investment.

With wind farms, various environmental impact reports have been dismissed.  Environmental Impact Reports were a tool used by environmental groups over the years to block, stop or eliminate projects they did not like.  Yet they have the illusion the wind power is clean and will not damage the environment, so the reports for large projects like this, they have put in the round file of 13 coffins.

It is a consensus that wind turbines are killers of big birds and many smaller species.  There is the story of the bird watchers out in the field studying birds.  They spotted a bird they thought was extinct; everybody got excited and stared taking pictures.  The bird took wing and flew away from the birders, right into the propeller of a wind turbine.  Feathers, blood and guts went flying across the field.

At one time the American Symbol, the Bald Eagle was considered an endangered bird species.  The eagle was given special protection laws, in the attempt to keep people from harming the endangered species.  That changed when the wind turbines blades were shown to be great killers of the American Bald Eagle.  The protection laws for the great birds were waived/ignored where there were wind farms.  Where the wind farms were located it was now okay to kill the great birds without consequences.

The Rush Creek project stretches across some sensitive wildlife habitat, for a large variety of birds.  Besides being home to Bald Eagles, the massive Golden Eagle calls the area home.  There is a variety of other raptors in the area.  A tremendous assortment of hawks, falcons, owls, and waterfowl, live in the boundaries of the proposed project.  During migration, huge flocks of birds can be seen floating across the horizon.   Sand hill cranes, stop in the fields to glean the seeds left behind as do the geese and ducks.  The prairie ponds make nice habitat for the migrating birds.  Then there are the mid size birds, like the Mountain Plover, that some of the communities have bird festivals for.  All these birds would be under threat of mutilation by the spinning blades of the wind turbines.  And this killing would probably bring in more buzzards/vultures looking for a meal, resulting in more sliced up bird.

All the laws that have been passed in the past to protect wildlife become void when there is a wind farm.

The Rush Creek Power Plant track will also cross some very sensitive areas of Archeology and environmental.  So many people along the Front Range see nothing in Eastern Colorado.  They see it as a devoid, barren land of no value.  Yet the power lines and wind mill sites will be built crossing ancient Indian villages, hunting grounds and burial sites.  It will also be crossing Creeks that are loaded with small springs that feed small ponds and creeks.  Activity around these areas can change the water flow of the springs and creeks and in worse case, destroy them.  Many an early pioneer built his home near these areas for a supply of water.  The rancher knew of them to provide water for his cattle and cattle trails followed along these creeks to where the springs were.  Water on the prairie is the life blood of the people that call it their home.

Then there are the Indian sites along the land.  Tepee rings dot the land where the Indians used to live, fire rings are found nearby and a variety of ancient tools can be found in the area, arrowheads, scrapers, spear points, grinders and the occasional burial site.  Right over the top of these ancient sites the Power Plant will be built.  Again it appears that laws will be ignored, The Antiquity Act, to get the wind farm built.

When the windfarm is built, there is road construction to access all the wind mills and carry the wiring that connects them into the power grid.  Then there are the tremendous holes in the ground that have to be dug and filled with concrete as an anchor base.  In a land where water is in short supply, water used in concrete puts lots of pressure on local water.  When the farm is completed, land has been tied up that is no longer productive land to the farmer or rancher.  When the life of the wind turbines expire what happens to them.   In instances of older wind generators wearing out and no longer useful, the operators have abandoned them and the windmills sit as a monument to something.  All the concrete anchor pads, which are equal to a 5-6 story building in size, are there in the ground.

For when a farmer or rancher loses productive land, they lose a part of their income.  Dirt can not be rolled out on the Sixteenth Mall and then graze cattle.  Yet the pundits say that lost income is replaced by the rental income of the windmill.  Is the trading of tax dollars a replacement for lost income?  A reduced Ag income means the taxes paid by the Ag industry have been lost.  So when land is taken out of production, taxes are also lost.  Then when the windmills are abandoned, what does it take to restore the land to productivity?  Will the operators be forced to reclaim the land like the coal miners are forced?

The economics of this project is also questionable.  The Federal government will give Xcel Energy 700 million dollars to build the power plant.  That means that every citizen in the United States will give Xcel Energy two dollars out of their pocket.  In return what will these coerced citizens get from Xcel Energy?  The power generated from this farm will only go to a small portion of people on the Front Range.  The expensive impact of the project will reach into everybody’s pocket book.

Wind generated electricity is more expensive than the other methods, coal, nuclear and gas.  So on the backside a wind powered electrical plant will take more money out the pocket of people.  Electricity is one of the keystones that drives the economy.   It powers the motors in the production lines of the factories, the machines for tooling, the electronic machines of communication and the illumination of business buildings.  Without electrify, we would still be using candles to light the way.

Wind generated electricity is roughly 25% more expensive then the conventional means of producing it.  That means, durable goods production pricing will go up, communication costs will go up, the cost of operating an office will go up, stores will have to pay more on their energy bill and across the board the price of everything increases.  With all these price increases, does the environment improve?  There has not been a consensus answer to that.

The economics of wind generated power raises so many questions and creates rubs that make sparks fly.  With the government subsidy, the price of wind generated power is more expensive then coal, nuclear or gas.  There are the maintenance expenses of the towers.  The land holders get lease payments plus there are the access roads to the turbines to gain access for repairs.  Again it is government subsidies that support these expenses.  After the life of the wind turbine expires, what happens to them?   In locations, the wind farm was left standing.  Silent giant windmills on the horizon, a monument to something.

The land holder that leases some of his land to the operator likes it because they feel they are receiving increased revenue.  With government subsidies, it amounts to sending a 10 dollar bill to Washington DC and getting 50 cents back for their lease payment.  Every taxpayer in the county sends a couple of pennies to the land owner and what do they get back…… ?  I get an increase in my electric bill because the supplier raised their rate.  Of of the rate increase of a quarter, 20 cents go to the distributor and supplier and a nickel goes to the leaseholder of the wind turbine.  Again what does the land owner return to me for giving him a nickel?

When a person looks at government subsidies, it can be seen that it creates lots of animosities for subsides favor a few that the many have to pay for and get nothing in return.  Yet it is something the government has been doing for decades and it has resulted in some scandalous deals over the years.

So when a person looks at the Rush Creek wind farm, who benefits, where do the benefits go?  Who is damaged, why are they damaged?  Is there an upside to the project?  How much damage will there be in the construction of the project.

One of the cleanest power plants for electricity is nuclear.  Because of the Atomic bomb, there has been lots of fear and scare tactics used against nuclear power plants.  Duke Energy, has an interest in some of the wind turbines around Burlington, Colorado.  Duke Energy is one of the biggest utility companies in the SE US, producing electricity for the Carolinas, Georgia, parts of Florida and surrounding areas.  They also operate Nuclear power plants, producing over 3000 Megawatts on plant sites of about 3000 acres, a ratio of one Megawatt per acre.  Compared to 1.5 Megawatts per 1000 acres on a wind farm.

Even Xcel Energies largest power plant at Pueblo produces Megawatts at a good ratio of Fourteenhunded Megawatts on roughly 1400 acres of land.  On their web page, Xcel states they have 99% reduction of pollutants.  Comanche is a coal fired power plant and a 99% reduction is excellent.  The maintenance costs on a plant like Comanche are nominal compared to the expenses of repairing wind turbines.

Nuclear far out shines the other methods of producing electricity on a cost benefit ratio.  The waste byproduct has become neutral over the years.  The nuclear waste dumps around the country are closely monitored and in the older storage sites, radiation has dropped to the levels as background radiation we receive daily. If a person wants renewable energy, nuclear would fit the bill.

Today, the use of natural gas is leading the way for electric production.  Listening to the people that work in the gas fields, many are saying that the gas is almost replaced as fast as it is extracted from the ground, making it a renewable fuel source.  In the ever expanding world of technology, wind generated electricity is falling way behind in delivering a reliable and affordable product.

Wind turbines, tie up vast amounts of land, wasting numerous acres but most of all it is not reliable.  For the wind does not blow 24 7 365 days on the Prairie.  And when the wind does set down, nothing is produced by the windmills, they silently sit there being non productive.  Then when the wind does decide to roar, it is to strong of wind for the windmill and it has to be shut down, again being non productive.

In today’s market, the natural gas fired power plants are the best value and gas is a renewable energy source that is virtually non pollutant.

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