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4/26/11 If a wind developer says it, it must be true, right? Wind turbines have no impact on property values AND will bring lots of good jobs AND will reduce CO2 

OSHA TO FINE LM WIND POWER $136,500

SOURCE Grand Forks Herald, www.grandforksherald.com

April 25 2011

Tu-Uyen Tran,

In two days in October, inside of wind-turbine blade No. 106, the amount of a hazardous substance called styrene reached 1,889 parts per million and then 2,195 parts per million, triggering air-quality alarms at LM Wind Power in Grand Forks.

Workers were inside the confines of the giant blade, but a supervisor failed to get them out, according to the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration.

Styrene is a hazardous chemical used in fiberglass production and the maximum exposure OSHA allows is 600 parts per million, or ppm.

The October incident and several others throughout August and September at LM’s plant led to proposed fines totaling $136,500, which the agency announced Monday.

LM did not respond Monday to a message seeking comment.

“We’re working with the company,” said Tom Deutscher, area director for OSHA’s Bismarck office. “In the past they’ve really expressed a desire to work with us.”

The latest proposed fines, which LM can challenge, follows another set of proposed fines totaling $92,000 for various incidents that contributed to the death of a worker in July. LM is challenging that fine.

The Denmark-based company employs about 440 in Grand Forks.

Repeat offense

OSHA cited LM with four “serious” violations, with penalties totaling $28,000; two “willful” violations, with penalties totaling $70,000; and five “repeat” violations, with penalties totaling $38,500.

In one violation, OSHA said LM workers did not have proper protective equipment for working with styrene. “Severe chemical burns to the body were reported to the employer,” the agency said.

Excessive exposure to styrene can affect the central nervous system, according to the agency’s website, leading to “complaints of headache, fatigue, dizziness, confusion, drowsiness, malaise, difficulty in concentrating and a feeling of intoxication.” It is also considered a potential human carcinogen.

Maximum exposure

The maximum exposure at 600 ppm is only for a short period of time, Deutscher said. For an eight-hour shift, it’s about 100 ppm.

In another violation, OSHA said LM allowed one worker to be exposed to 277 ppm and another to be exposed to 275 ppm during their entire shifts.

Compounding LM’s violations is the allegation by OSHA that it knew there were problems but did nothing, which Deutscher said led to the willful violations.

The agency cited the fact that LM had air-quality readings for blade No. 106 and blade No. 1790, which reached 1,945 and 995 ppm, but didn’t get workers out from inside the blades as safety rules require.

LM was last cited for such violations in April 2008, OSHA said. Agency records indicate LM paid $17,400 in fines for 10 serious violations and one repeat violation. Those fines were reduced from $29,000 after the company worked with OSHA.

NEXT STORY

CROWDED WIND POWER HEARINGS HIGHLIGHT DIVISION

SOURCE Kennebec Journal, www.kjonline.com

April 26 2011

By Tux Turkel

AUGUSTA — First, Steve Bennett passed out pictures, which showed the wind turbine tower looming over his house in Freedom.

Then, he told the Legislature’s Energy, Utilities and Technology Committee about the incessant noise, and the flickering light from rotating blades that enters his window and makes the room appear to be moving.

Anyone who says the intrusions from the Beaver Ridge wind farm don’t lower the value of his home “is delusional,” he said.

Bennett made his comments while testifying Monday on one of 13 bills meant to modify recent state policies that encourage wind power. Drafted by opponents of commercial wind energy, they represent a concerted effort to dilute the substance of a sweeping law passed three years ago to expedite wind energy development in Maine.

Monday was the first of two days of public hearings on the bills, which include a proposed moratorium on new wind power projects, a call to collect information on health effects, and an effort to amend the Maine Wind Energy Act, which was passed without opposition in the Legislature in 2008.

The crowd of people who waited to testify spilled out of the committee room, with both supporters and opponents lining up for the day-long session.

Bennett testified on a bill that would make developers compensate property owners within three miles of turbines for any loss in property value.

Opponents of the bills, largely representing the wind power industry, told the committee that various studies have failed to show that wind energy lowers property values.

Jeremy Payne, executive director of the Maine Renewable Energy Association, pointed to language in the bill requiring a developer to pay the asking price for a home that hasn’t sold within six months. Homes routinely sit on the market longer than that for reasons that have nothing to do with wind power, he noted.

The two sides’ failure to agree even on wind farms’ effect on property values highlights the gulf between those who see wind as an economic opportunity and an energy imperative and those who see it destroying Maine’s forested highlands for little good.

In the weeks ahead, lawmakers must decide whether to begin tinkering with parts of the Wind Energy Act or defer to a process in the law that requires a comprehensive review in 2013. One option, suggested by environmental groups, is to do that review sooner.

The law has frustrated residents, many of them in rural communities in northern Maine and the western mountains, who don’t want scenic ridges lined with 300-foot-tall towers and swirling blades. They have been largely unsuccessful in court challenges, and hope that the new, Republican-controlled Legislature will be more sympathetic to local control and property rights.

Wind opponents have found an unlikely ally in Rep. Larry Dunphy, R-North Anson, a paper mill supervisor who serves on the energy committee. He is sponsoring or co-sponsoring eight of the 13 bills.

A first-time legislator, Dunphy said he didn’t have a strong feeling about wind power until he started hearing from residents in his district who felt threatened by various project proposals in western Maine. He slowly came to the view that the industry provides relatively few jobs and threatens the region’s long-term potential for tourism.

“Once we build those roads and transmission lines and change the face of the mountains, it’s done,” he said.

On Monday, wind power supporters testified that the projects built to date in Maine take up only a tiny land area, analogous to a playing card on a football field. And they zeroed in on a top priority of Republicans including Gov. Paul LePage: the economy.

LePage’s position was represented in testimony by Ken Fletcher, a former Republican lawmaker who served on the committee and was recently appointed director of the state’s energy office. Fletcher will testify over the next two days that the governor opposes all 13 bills.

Payne, citing a recent study, said the wind power industry has invested nearly $1 billion since 2004, of which $378 million has been spent in-state to erect 195 turbines. More than 600 jobs were created in 2008 and 2009, during the peak of the recession.

Most of the turbines were put up by Reed & Reed Inc. of Woolwich. The company’s president, Jack Parker, told the committee that wind power has transformed his business. Any changes to the state law will send a signal to the industry that Maine doesn’t want the capital or the jobs, he said.

“Uncertainty is the enemy of investment,” Parker said.

Parker was accompanied in the committee room by construction workers wearing fluorescent yellow vests. They and other workers provided a show of support for the industry.

Their presence was offset by scores of residents, including sporting camp owners and those who now enjoy pristine, mountain views, who feel they are victims of Maine’s aggressive wind energy policies.

Sally and David Wiley, who have a home near the Fox Islands Wind Project on Vinalhaven, said they reluctantly have decided to sell their coveside house, because of noise from two nearby turbines.

The compensation law would allow residents who are afflicted by wind energy to move and recover the lost value of their properties, David Wiley said. “It’s simply the right thing to do.”

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FICKLE WINDS, INTERMITTENT SUNSHINE START TO STRESS U.S. POWER SYSTEM

SOURCE: ClimateWire, www.nytimes.com

April 25, 2011

By Peter Behr

The growth of U.S. wind power has begun to create operating challenges for nuclear and coal plants that must be ramped up and down as wind speeds vary, panelists at a Massachusetts Institute of Technology energy conference reported last week.

The MIT Energy Initiative symposium on integrating large-scale wind and solar power attracted executives of utility and transmission companies, senior government officials and academic researchers, whose comments were off the record. Some papers prepared for the conference were made public by their authors, and they define a growing challenge of matching the current U.S. mix of power plants with new requirements to respond quickly to changes in wind and solar resources.

“The power system needs more flexibility to handle the short-term effects of increasing levels of wind,” said Ignacio Pérez-Arriaga, a professor at Spain’s Comillas University and a visiting professor at MIT.

He and other speakers predicted the expansion of renewable power will continue as a clear option for reducing power plant carbon emissions. Nearly half of global electricity supply will have to come from renewable sources if world carbon dioxide emissions are to be cut to half of current levels by 2050, according to the International Energy Agency, he noted.

But utility regulation has not adapted to a future of high renewables, he warned. And a high penetration of wind and solar generation is likely to make wholesale electricity prices more volatile. These and other potentially disruptive issues “raise concerns about attracting sufficient investment in … flexible plants” in competitive power markets, he said.

A paper by the Brattle Group says the expansion of renewable energy requires “more generation … that can quickly ramp up and down, possibly with short start-up times and minimal cool-down times.” Whether those needs for more cycling and peaking energy can be met by existing generators is not clear and must be given detailed study, the Brattle Group paper says.

Regulation, finance and operational changes needed

In the United States, the drop in demand for power that began with the recession in 2008 has left spare generation capacity that can be used to balance power supply to demand in this decade. But regulation, capital investment policies and operating practices all must change to maximize that potential, speakers said.

And right now, the difference in the peak demand for daytime power is growing in the United States, adding to the need for a more flexible system. Grid operators must plan for a future worst-case scenario of several consecutive days with very low wind and solar power coinciding with very high summer power demand, Pérez-Arriaga said. This is a key challenge in designing the long-term generation mix.

A major focus of the April 20 symposium was the impact of more frequent start-stop cycling of coal-fired generators, as they are called on to balance peaks and valleys in wind output.

Putting coal plants on a more rapid cycling schedule exposes valves, piping and other components to more extreme temperature shifts and potentially damaging changes in steam operation chemistry, said Steve Hesler, a program manager at the Electric Power Research Institute, in a conference paper. These can accelerate wear and tear and induce corrosion and stress, raising the risks of cracking and failure of metals and welds, he noted.

Hesler said that increased cycling of coal plants is already evident, resulting from the recession-caused drop in power demand, lower natural gas prices, and expansion of renewable generation. The bulk of the balancing services from U.S. coal plants is being met by smaller units built before 1970 that are typically run at relatively low capacities, rather than newer and larger coal plants whose owners run them as much possible to supply baseload power, Hesler wrote.

The smaller, older plants are most at risk from U.S. EPA regulation and competition from natural gas generation that currently benefits from low gas prices. As these older coal plants are retired, current flexibility of the generation fleet is likely to suffer, speakers said. “We’re running out of flexible coal units,” one participant said. “The newer plants aren’t built well enough to do load following” in response to variations in renewable energy output.

“I can’t imagine owners of coal plants … making significant capital investments around ramping,” said another participant.

Who pays for needed adjustments?

Both large coal units and nuclear plants are intended to be run full time, and the utility industry has spent decades training operators to do that. If they now are required to run the plants at varying outputs to respond to ups and downs in renewable energy, the risk of human error may rise, one conference participant said. “I’m sure they’ll get there, but the human factor is not be underestimated.”

Another participant said that manufacturers have designs for faster-responding gas-fired generators that would be better suited to handle the temperature and pressure stresses of ramping operations. But the industry has not seen utilities “rushing to the door” to purchase more adaptable but more expensive generators. “It’s an economic decision.”

The regulation of the U.S. electric power industry is still aimed at securing power at the lowest cost. But the changes in store for the power sector won’t come for free, one speaker said. “There is no way we can accomplish this at a lower cost. So the question is, who pays?”

Officials of the American Wind Energy Association sparred with a representative of the Bentek Energy consulting firm, who presented a new analysis, “The Wind Energy Paradox.” It asserts that increased wind energy output forces coal generation into inefficient start-stop operations that increase emissions of nitrogen- and sulfur-oxide pollutants.

To the extent that wind power will be backed up by gas-fired generators rather than coal, the gains in carbon emission reductions from wind are diminished, the Bentek report says.

The paper says that the increase in pollutant emissions caused by frequent cycling of coal- and gas-fired generation undermines the wind industry’s claims about the emission reduction benefits from renewables. “It’s not a very cost effective way” of saving carbon, SOx and NOx, the sulfur and nitrogen oxide pollutants, the report says.

AWEA responded via email, “There are more than two dozen different peer-reviewed wind integration studies from the U.S. and Europe, mostly by utilities. They show that the U.S. can accommodate a lot more renewable generation than we have today, at relatively modest integration costs and with significant emissions reductions.”

“Similarly, their [Bentek's] model only looks at hourly snapshots and would therefore exclude the vast majority of the emissions savings caused when wind energy causes emitting sources to turn off for an extended period of time,” AWEA said.

“The Bentek report overstates coal cycling costs and impacts by extrapolating from an extreme case of ramping a generator down from 100 to 40 percent of capacity in an hour which almost never happens. While it is fair to incorporate coal ramping costs and impacts, the study greatly overstates those impacts and does not reflect the way generators are committed and dispatched by grid operators,” AWEA said.

‘Fractured decisions’ expected from states and regions

The conference concluded with the question of whether the patchwork of federal and state regulation and the stalemate over national climate and transmission policies in Congress would help or hinder a transition to more renewable power.

“Considerable progress” is being made by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, state regulators, regional transmission organizations and utilities in planning to accommodate more renewable power, tuning market incentives to create a more flexible system, and fairly allocating costs for this transition, the Brattle Group report says.

The reality is that states and regions will have the most to say about this process. “We do not see any grand, unifying theory of cost allocation for the costs of renewable variability, nor do the institutional differences, legacy generation, or indigenous resources across regions of the U.S. … lend themselves to uniform solutions,” the report says.

“While the road ahead may be contentious and laborious, there seems to be no technical or economic reason why a well-functioning regulatory system cannot find its way to a sustainable, reliable and economical destination.”

Other conference participants were far less optimistic that a divided Congress and White House can rationalize climate and energy policies.

A larger, more sophisticated transmission network, including long-haul high-voltage direct-current lines, would expand the footprint for solar and wind generation, smoothing the daily and hourly variations in renewable energy output, speakers noted.

One industry executive said that many papers submitted to the conference assume that a stronger inter-regional transmission network would ease the integration of renewable power into the grid. With some exceptions, notably in Texas, that goal faces huge political and industry opposition, the speaker said.

“We have no right to that assumption in the U.S., and we shouldn’t make it. We should assume instead we will be making fractured decisions.”

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