Windfall at the Little Art

The movie Windfall is showing at the Little Art Theatre in Yellow Springs Ohio and I’m scheduled to lead a discussion on the movie and wind energy in general afterwards.  To help with that discussion I’ve created and gathered up some material which is displayed below.  If you are looking for a quick summary of my observations about the industry this collection might be useful.

First, the handout.

Little Art Theatre Windfall showing, April 7, 2012

Thank you for coming.  Details on these points and more are at

Fracking.  Windfall mentions wind displacing gas.  Operationally this is generally true.  Over the longer term wind’s variability starts excluding base load coal and nuclear.  This in turn forces an increase in gas usage to fill in for when wind isn’t blowing.

Emissions.  The industry has never demonstrated that wind energy has saved emissions.  All of the government and industry claims about emissions savings are based on models which ignore wind’s affects on the existing grid, of which there are two major ones.  (1) Wind’s variability and the inability to store electricity make the rest of the grid work harder, thus raising emissions. (2) Backing traditional generators down to accommodate wind makes them less efficient and raises emissions.  Shutting generators completely down causes problems when the wind dies.  Actual measurements and studies of real grid operations indicate that any savings are either very small or even negative.

Birds and Bats.  They try to minimize bird deaths with cars, buildings and cats, and also pretend to support the idea of proper siting.  In reality they will put their turbines wherever the government will allow them, and so far very little seems to be off-limits: the Great Lakes, IBA’s, known migratory routes, public lands and so on are all in play.  Some iconic species are threatened: raptors (eagles, owls, hawks, falcons, vultures, even condors), cranes, prairie chickens etc.  Bats are already under pressure from WNS, and the numbers of bats killed by turbines has been extraordinary.

Noise and Health.  Almost all the comparisons (refrigerators and quiet libraries) are created with models.  Actual measurements are rare, and generally show the models are optimistic, sometimes by significant amounts.  Wind turbines generate a characteristic noise that is more disturbing to neighbors than just about any other source.  Complaints are coming in from around the world, sometimes at large distances – up to several miles.  The ever-changing noise causes sleep disturbance and a host of other significant issues that end up translating into health problems.  The industry quotes a number of studies that claim there are no “direct” health effects, which lets them off the hook for all the indirect (but very real) effects.  None of these quoted studies has ever actually gone into the field and interviewed victims or their doctors.

Property Values.  The industry quotes a handful of studies that show no loss in property value.  All of these use regression analysis instead of comps and repeat sales.  All of them actually show losses, but the wide variance in house prices and relatively few sales leads to statistical insignificance and thus the claim.  Actual experience indicates a 25-40% loss in areas around wind projects, and sometimes a total loss.  Developers generally refuse to sign any property value guarantees.

Financials and Jobs.  The industry would not exist but for subsidies and mandates.  The number of jobs is overstated and the loss of other jobs due to higher energy prices is not calculated.  All independent studies, from several countries, show more jobs lost than gained.

Next, the slides.

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