New windmills will not produce any electricity

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Whenever the Union-Bulletin prints an article about windmills, it includes a prediction of the amount of generated electricity, using a standard formula: megawatts divided by three equals thousands of households served.

This formula has a serious shortcoming: it ignores the wind.

Portland General Electric is about to build 116 windmills in Columbia County west of Dayton, an area where numerous anemometers on meteorological towers confirm that no electricity will ever be generated. This construction will permanently destroy 232 acres of prime farmland, including the beautiful wheat variety plot trials on Pettichord Road, where just two months ago, WSU researchers praised local farmers for their stewardship of a precious natural resource.

In addition, this construction will adversely affect 928 more acres, because gigantic obstructions in the middle of farm fields make it inefficient to use modern farm equipment.

Despite the fact that no electricity will be generated, landowners will receive lease payments, and PGE will receive tax credits and subsidies, as if the standard formula applied. For a landowner, this will amount to about $35,000 per year per windmill.

Whitman College owns the 1,000-acre Usher farm, upon which PGE will build 13 windmills. Naturally, Whitman College will be delighted to receive half a million dollars per year in windmill lease payments, which is far more than the $93,000 per year Whitman typically gets in crop shares from the entire Usher farm.

Funny, isn’t it, that pretend energy is worth more than real food.

Despite the fact that no electricity is being generated, the tax credits and subsidies paid to PGE will amount to $3.5 million per year per windmill, which is ever so much more than is needed to build the new gas-fired power plant from which PGE will get its electricity.

Jim Thorn

Dayton

Comments

PearlY 8 months ago

Mr. Thorn, thank you for bringing this travesty to public attention, at least as much as a letter to the editor can.

Here is yet another example of the new economy, where politicians re-distribute the wealth to their cronies or ideological soul-mates and the only accomplishment is their self-satisfaction.

We hear constantly that government "needs more revenue" and how the sequester will take food from the mouths of children and kick veterans out of their hospital beds. Yet there's money to literally throw to the wind with wasteful and destructive projects like this one.

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downhillracer 8 months ago

But it's ok to keep subsidizing Oil? Yes, thank you for bringing this non-issue to the forefront with a truly balanced analysis. Have you ever heard of the book 'Diffusion of Innovation'? It was written about this very phenomenon...the violent and ignorant suspicion that new ideas are met with. Not to mention how clever Big Oil is in manipulation.

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PearlY 8 months ago

Way to change the subject. Mr. Thorn never told us one way or another his views on oil subsidies (or mom and apple pie, for that matter), and you haven't disputed a single one of the facts he asserted. Can you? What kind of windpower production will those windmills actually sustain, if not what the writer claims?

Pork-barrels, rent-seeking and plunder of the public treasury aren't "new ideas" or "innovation." I don't like windmills because I consider them the worst kind of visual pollution, but if they actually produce a meaningful amount of energy, at least there's something to weigh in the balance. If not, AND I'm being forced to subsidize them, what purpose do they serve?

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downhillracer 8 months ago

I didn't change the subject whatsoever. This rant is focused on "subsidies" and the "horrible government" and various "entitlements". Referring to Big Oil is quite on-topic.

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PearlY 8 months ago

I know your rant focuses on subsidies, but his letter focused on the non-productiveness of the turbines at this particular site and the wastefulness both in money and in land. Subsidies to oil, to the extent they exist, at least are linked to something that actualy does produce energy. We have no idea, based on his letter, whether he would oppose subsidies if he thought the windmills were, in fact, going to prodcue sustantial amounts of energy.

You probably don't intend this but you're playing into the caricature of liberals as people who are anxious to throw money at kooky ideas no matter how unsound the economics. You could win this argument easily if you could show that he's wrong that the windmills are destined to be non-productive because of the amount of wind at that location. Why argue instead, in effect, that their productivity is irrelevant?

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downhillracer 8 months ago

Where you come up with your analysis is beyond me.

It's not important to look to gadflys such as this for facts, accurate research or direction. I have no delusions of changing anyone's mind in a simple public 'forum'. The debate of the value and return on investment isn't studied here. Oil, as you correctly indicate, actually produces something - and at a huge profit - it needs no further subsidy. It's also extraordinarily destructive, has been tolerated for generations, and is based on a finite resource.

Emerging and developing technologies, however, do require investment and tax credits are part of that formula. Many organizations - commercial, scientific and academic - have studied this for a long time and their efforts are far beyond your casual dismissal as a 'kooky' idea. Thank goodness.

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paco1234 8 months ago

I see, Pearl just like the oil pollution better!

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barracuda 8 months ago

One has to remember, almost all letters to the editor in regards to these "worthless" and "unsightly" things has been by Jim Thorn. They started with the views out his window of his house was compromised, and now evidently, he has an agenda to eradicate these terrible and worthless things. He used to post like clock work.... Now not as often...

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PearlY 8 months ago

OK, so he has an agenda. Worth knowing. But bias goes to credibility, and credibility is irrelevant unless facts are in dispute. So which of his facts are in dispute? Even if Stalin, Pol Pot and Hitler all agree the sun rises in the East, unless you're prepared to argue it doesn't, there's no point in challenging their credibility.

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barracuda 8 months ago

I am not an expert on all things windmills...... By any stretch.... What my comment was directed towards is this....I find it interesting to follow over the last few years is his letters on how when his stand "against-the-machines" started, it was about it being a un-slightly visual issue, seemly with-out much vocal support, and standing up beside him for his cause. So then the letters were about it being a wild life issue, then to a bird killer issue, and then to the too many bright light(s) issue and now to the non-profitable issue.
It is amusing to see (with a warped sense of humor) it morphing into anything to gain support for his window view problem. That is just my opinion. But, still a good point is.... There are literally thousands of these things all over the western United States, and I find it hard to believe that the only money to be made is to the local farmers/land owners and they are really not profitable to the power shortages issues.

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PearlY 8 months ago

Why would you find it hard to believe that huge subsidies - up to half of wind farm revenues are from various gimmicks and subsidies rather than actual energy production - would dramatically distort the economics of wind energy?

If Mr. Thorn's arguments against wind energy are valid, the fact that he has multiple valid arguments is hardly proof that his case is weak.

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barracuda 8 months ago

I find it hard to believe that in the great USA, with all of the bright minds, smartest lawyers, some of the greatest schools, greatest engineers in the modern world, it is a gentleman who lives outside of Dayton Wa. that finds all of these problems. I am not trying to be a a$$ about it... but, really?

But, I respectfully stand reprimanded and eagerly wait for the next installment of this ongoing and thrilling saga

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dukhuntr 8 months ago

Barracuda, As you state you are not an expert on the windmills. I fully understand. Most of the windmills produce less than 3 megawatts at best when the wind is blowing. Most of the Hydropower turbines that I know of are 95-105 megawatts year round. I would think that the math would be easy. I realize that the Hydropower dams on the Snake only have 6 of these units you should look at the larger dams that produce far for power. For instance Grand Coulee ( the largest power producer in the U.S) or the second largest which is owned by the Corps that operates 17 of the 95 megawatt units and 10 of the larger 105 megawatts units just downstream. If that is not a major difference you are living in a dream world.

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downhillracer 8 months ago

Instead of insulting Barracuda, you could also consider he does in fact understand mathematics, whereas your example doesn't appear to include a total. You know: the sum. Wind power is intended as a hybrid solution, not an end-all. The additive result is indeed significant.

For example, as-of 2012, the Alta Wind Energy Center is the largest onshore wind farm in the world at 1020 MW, followed by the Shepherds Flat Wind Farm (845 MW), and the Roscoe Wind Farm (781.5 MW). Overseas, and also as-of September 2012, the Sheringham Shoal Offshore Wind Farm and the Thanet Wind Farm in the UK are the largest offshore wind farms in the world at 317 MW and 300 MW, followed by Horns Rev II (209 MW) in Denmark.

At the end of 2012, worldwide capacity of wind-powered generators was 282 gigawatts (GW), growing by 44 GW over the preceding year.

Source: http://www.gwec.net/wp-content/uploads/2012/06/Annual_report_2012_LowRes.pdf

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barracuda 8 months ago

Dukhunter...... (a.k.a. Mr. Thorn?) Go back and look at my previous posts..... I am not going to get into a pissing match over the facts and/or figures on output versus profit etc.
What I see that is comical is the way the writer is trying to gain support for his cause! There were letters on problems with the un-pleasant views. Then there issues with a danger to wildlife, the machines killing birds, too bright lights for safety. Then there were was a letter on other locations (somewhere in the south, Utah or Texas if I remember correct) being mis-lead to believe these machines were profitable. And now it is about non-profitable output of electricity here at home.

A friend and I have a small bet on his next problems with this will be.....

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cayuse 7 months, 4 weeks ago

All responders have good points, but one thing you are doing is pointing the finger at Mr Thorn who has quite a following but is one of the rare people who has the time and motivation to speak his and others mind. I'm on his side. I detest the windmills. They have taken away the beauty of this area and turned it in to a 'business' for those who can afford to own land where these windmills will go. Do they need the subsidies paid for each windmill per month? Probably not, but they are there with their hands out and say more...more...more.

I remember when the windmills were first proposed. Oh, they wouldn't be a problem to wildlife, and oh they are quiet, and oh best of all, your electrical bills are going down. Yeah, down the tubes. My bill has increased at least 25% in the last two years. That's not a savings; it's a lie.

For those quick to criticize, please do your homework and see all sides of these monstrocities. I did because I liked the idea of renewable energy; clean energy. They are waste of money non-energy.

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