4/12/08 What Are They Saying in the Washington Post about Wisconsin And Wind Turbines? BUCKY DON'T WANT 'EM 1000 FEET FROM HIS DOOR! He'd take a manure digester, though!
Wisconsin Feels Turbulence Over Pulling Power From Air
State Finds More Opposition Than Expected to Wind Turbines
Saturday, April 12, 2008; Page A02
CHICAGO -- Given Wisconsin's reputation as a "green" state, it would seem that a proposal to construct wind farms in Lake Michigan and Lake Superior off the state's shores would easily be approved.
But opposition to land-based wind farms and the slow development of wind power in the state have some wind power advocates gearing up for a fight with those expressing concern about humming noise, flickering shadows and ruined views.
"Anytime you talk about putting anything in the lake, there is going to be opposition," said Wisconsin state Sen. Jeffrey Plale (D). "People say it will be ugly. But if you go seven miles out, it will be beyond the sightline because of natural curvature of the earth. If we're serious about capturing wind, the lake is a logical place to look."
On April 3, Wisconsin's Public Service Commission voted to assess the potential for offshore wind turbines in Lake Michigan and Lake Superior, following the lead of Ohio, which has been investigating wind potential in the shallow waters of Lake Erie. Research into offshore wind potential is in the beginning stages, and no projects would be seen for at least five years.
Wisconsin's neighbors Minnesota and Iowa rank third and fourth nationally in total megawatts of wind power as of 2007, according to the American Wind Energy Association. Those states boast more than 1,200 megawatts capacity from wind, whereas Wisconsin ranks 23rd with 53 megawatts.
Wind power is considered a key to fulfilling 2006 legislation in Wisconsin mandating that 10 percent of the state's energy come from renewable sources by 2015.
But opposition to wind farms runs deep. Last month, the state Senate let die a bill by Plale that would have curbed municipal and county governments' ability to ban wind turbines.
"A lot of fear-mongering and misinformation went on," he said. "Now that process is delayed through at least January 2009, and there can be a lot of mischief before then."
A 133-turbine wind farm by the Chicago company Invenergy Wind LLC near Horicon Marsh in central Wisconsin is partially constructed and operating despite vociferous opposition.
"You've got to hear these things, they drive you nuts," said Joe Breaden, a retired high school ecology teacher who says he was mocked 20 years ago for warning about global warming. "It's a droning sound mixed in with a woo-woo-woo. It reminds me of the 'Twilight Zone.' "
Breaden is all for renewable power but thinks wind is inefficient, compared with solar. He is president of the citizens group Horicon Marsh Systems Advocates, which he says "won't give up until there's no stone unturned" in its efforts to halt the wind farm.
Marquette University student Kollin Petrie, 19, said his family refused to participate in a recent wind project on farmland in Fond du Lac County, north of Milwaukee. Wind power producers often pay farmers to erect turbines on their land.
"I've seen the effects," Petrie said. "They have to use humongous cranes to put them up, and now there are all these gravel roads cutting the farmland into random sections. It's kind of sad. My father felt the price wouldn't justify the cost we'd lose in land and aesthetic value."
We Energies faced considerable opposition to its recent 88-turbine, $300 million Blue Sky Green Field project in Fond du Lac County. The company is in discussions with one landowner angry that a turbine was accidentally built 47 feet closer to his property than state guidelines allow.
We Energies wind farm project manager Andy Hesselbach said opposition usually dies down once a project is constructed.
"If you talk to people with projects put up three to four years ago, it is a nonissue," he said. "People become accustomed to it. And having the turbines reduces the amount of urban development. You could look at our turbine today or 50 homes 10 years from now."
NOTE FROM THE BPRC RESEARCH NERD: One thing missing from this article is just why there is opposition to industrial wind plants being placed in communities like ours. The state of Wisconsin says a 40 story turbine can be placed 1000 feet from your door and make 50 decibels of noise. An open records request shows these numbers have no scientific or medical data behind them. In fact, they seem to come from power companies and wind lobbyists. The World Health Organization says harm to human health begins after 35 decibels of noise during sleep time. The difference between 50 decibels and 35 decibels is much greater than it seems once you understand how sound is calculated.
A decibel (abbreviated dB) is the internationally adopted unit for the relative intensity of sound. The intensity is “relative” because the measurement compares a loudness level to a reference level, usually the threshold of human hearing. The decibel scale is a logarithmic scale, meaning that for every 10 decibels, the loudness of a sound is increased by a factor of 10. For example, a relative intensity change of 30 dBs to 40dBs means the sound will be ten times louder than it was at 30 dBs. A change of 30 dBs to 50 dBs would mean the new sound would be 100 times as loud. Call up your high school science teacher and ask them! Or click here to contact the BPRC Research Nerd to learn more!
We thank Washington Post Staff writer Kari Lydersen for speaking to people on all sides of this issue. And give her an official BPRC tip of the hat (with Bucky on it, of course!)
PS.Why is noise pollution dangerous?
In the past, noise pollution was only thought to create health effects if the intensity was large enough to cause hearing damage. However, studies over the past several decades have found that long term-exposure to noise can cause potentially severe health problems—in addition to hearing loss--- especially for young children. Constant levels of noise (even at low levels) can be enough to cause stress, which can lead to high blood pressure, insomnia, psychiatric problems, and can even impact memory and thinking skills in children. In a German study, scientists found that children living near the Munich Airport had higher levels of stress, which impaired their ability to learn, while children living further away from the airport did not seem to experience the same problem.
(This information on sound comes from a BPRC Research Nerd favorite,"The Handy Physics Answer Book" by P.Eric Gunderson. This book is great for nerds and non-nerds alike!)
GOT TURBINE TROUBLES or CONCERNS?
Call 1-888-732-7234! Ready to talk to you 24/7! The Coalition for Wisconsin Environmental Stewardship (CWESt) is a grass roots organization of made up of people concerned about the responsible placement of wind turbines. CWESt's primary goal is to provide a central source for both gathering and giving out reliable information about industrial wind plant siting, issues relating to the industrial wind turbines and the effects on residents. CWESt will take your concerns and information to our legislators in Madison. The BPRC applauds CWESt for providing us with this very helpful resource.
ON WISCONSIN! ON MANURE DIGESTERS!
This is no bull! On April 10th, during Friday's NBC nightly news, there was a feature on the Wisconsin Crave Brothers dairy and cheese making operation in Waterloo, just east of Madison.They produce cheese that is a BPRC favorite! They have had so much success with their manure digester that it not only pays for their $6000 a month electrical bill but also powers 120 neighboring homes.
On top of that they have captured harmful green house gasses, kept nitrates out of their waterways and have a salable clean-by product of potting soil!
Here's what the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel had to say about it in June
Farm's new juice isn't moo
Methane from cow manure generates sustainable electricity
By BILL GLAUBER
Posted: June 25, 2007
Waterloo - At the Crave Brothers Dairy Farm, they grow corn and soybeans on 1,600 rolling acres of prime Wisconsin farmland, raise a herd of 750 dairy cows and produce prize-winning cheeses out of milk pumped straight from farm to factory.
But this year, the four Crave brothers added a new line to their family-run agribusiness.
They're turning manure into enough electricity to power 200 homes.
With the flick of a keystroke on a computer, Gov. Jim Doyle literally threw the switch Monday for the ceremonial start-up of an anaerobic digester at the sprawling Crave Brothers farm.
Why is this digester any different from the 23 others scattered around the state?
For one thing, it's fully automated. For another, the operation can be monitored from a computer desktop in Milwaukee, home to Clear Horizons and its holding company, PPC Partners, which bankrolled and built the $2 million digester.
Now, if they could just figure out a way to make a profit.
Richard R. Pieper Sr., chairman of the holding company, figures it costs 20 cents per kilowatt hour to produce energy at the Crave Brothers farm, but the firm receives only 5 cents per kilowatt hour from the local power company.
That's a pretty big loss leader.
"The wind people get 12 cents," Pieper said. "Solar gets 22 cents. We get a nickel. Give us those rates (wind and solar), and we can build more of these."
But Pieper is optimistic the venture can become profitable as well as do some good in helping the United States wean itself from foreign oil.
That's a point driven home by the governor.
"We want to produce 25 percent of our power from renewable resources by 2025," Doyle said.
Doyle said "it's not a pipe dream" to believe Clear Horizons' estimates that Wisconsin's agriculture industry has the potential to generate enough biogas to power 175,000 homes.
Even as a loss leader, though, the digester accomplishes quite a bit.
Take the manure, please.
There's around 1 million gallons of the stuff sitting in a massive holding tank and, amazingly, not much of a smell. The manure is heated at 105 degrees and breaks down over a month. Methane rises to the top to produce biogas, which is then used to generate electricity.
A couple of other products are also created. Liquid is used as fertilizer on the farm. Other solid material is used as bedding for the cows.
And, finally, a line of organic potting mixes is served up. It's called EnerGro.
Charles Crave, who oversees the farm's finances, said turning manure into power has been a dream of his for 25 years.
"You take a farmer's dreams and a visionary like Dick (Pieper) and you keep talking and talking, you finally get the job done," Crave said.
In a barn the length of a football field, the cows stand on slotted floors. Manure flows away through gravity.
No muss, no fuss.
"When you're handling many millions of gallons of manure, any way to handle that risk is helpful," Crave said. "What is in this for us is manure management, odor reduction. And a chance to move the operation forward using modern technology."
Amazing what you can do with 1 million gallons of manure and $2 million of investment.
Could this cow be Wisconsin's next "Miss Manure Digestor? She would look so good with a crown on!