Posted by: coastlinesproject | August 21, 2014

Texas wind Energy who would have thunk it!

Wind Energy

Sweetwater, Texas

 

“The answer my friend, is blowin’ in the wind. The answer is blowin’ in the wind.”

Bob Dylan

 

 

If you really want to know which way the wind is blowing, fly down to Sweetwater, Texas. During the late Nineteen Nineties George Bush and Ann Richards set aside their political differences to create the most progressive wind tax credit in the country.

 

Companies flocked into places like Sweetwater, providing jobs and making farmers and ranchers rich beyond their wildest dreams. And, West Texas became the largest producer of wind energy in the nation. At one point the two richest wind power billionaires in the world both lived side by side each other in Sweetwater and used to josh each other about all their riches during the town’s Friday night football games.

 

Wind energy did so well that people started to look for problems. Mitt Romney led the charge by saying that the federal wind tax program started by George Bush senior was inherently unfair and that he wanted a level playing field — as if the oil, gas and nuclear industries didn’t enjoy grants and subsidies! Grants and subsidies are about as American as apple pie. They are also the reason we have all those nice things we enjoy like universities, the High-Tech gadgets, and the Internet.

 

In 2012 the Koch-funded group, Americans for Prosperity, followed on by starting an advertising campaign claiming that “Far left European groups and other radical elements of the environmental movement were behind the tax credit.” And Koch-supported representative Mike Pompeo of Kansas sent a letter signed by 52 colleagues to the Chairman of the Ways and Means Committee urging him to let the federal wind tax credit program die when it came up for renewal.

 

The Texas Tea Party piled on. Their main reason for opposing wind energy seemed to be that President Obama was for it. So they figured it must be some kind of effete East Coast boutiquey sort of energy, not the masculine, polluting kind that Texas should be known for.

 

But Republican congressmen throughout the country heard the Tea Party message and voted out the federal wind tax credit in 2013. The result? Energy from new wind turbines plummeted by 92% and 30,000 jobs went down the tubes.

 

Texas Governor Rick Perry had once pledged $10 billion dollars in private investment to the wind industry was attacked for his perfidy, “Perry joins Enron’s Ken Lay and George Bush as fathers of the Great Texas Wind Power Malinvestment.”

 

Of course Perry reversed himself when he ran for President. But the irony remained that 82% of all the wind farms in the United States and almost all the wind farms in Texas are located in Republican Congressional districts.

 

But aside from these political considerations, there are some technical problems with wind energy. They all stem from the fact that wind doesn’t blow all the time. This creates additional transmission costs for the $7 billion power lines that connect Dallas and Houston to the West Texas wind fields.

 

But the greatest advantage of wind energy for drought-addled Texas is that wind turbines don’t use and pollute massive amounts of water like the oil, gas and nuclear industries. At the present moment, fracking is having its day in the sun, but in the long run, solar, wind and hydrogen gas will be the way to go, and one way to get there will be through tax credits.

 

####

 

Read more in; Islands in the Storm, Storm Surge; A Coastal Village Battles the Atlantic, Beach Wars; 10,000 Years on a Barrier Beach. See Strawberry Hill, UPNE, and Schiffer book tabs at the top of this page.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted by: coastlinesproject | August 20, 2014

Ipswich, Wind Turbines

The Wind Turbines

Ipswich, Massachusetts

August 15, 2014

 

When I go to start my car, switch on my lights, or turn up the thermostat I expect something to happen. But, like most New Englanders, I have no idea where all that oil, gas and electricity comes from. I’m fearful of nuclear energy, don’t like carbon dioxide, ditto for dams, fracking and oil spills.

 

But we have very few sources of energy in New England; so if Pennsylvania, Texas or the Middle East wants to squander their valuable resources and ship cheap fuel our way, who am I to complain? Don’t look a gift horse in the mouth, as they say.

 

We also don’t have any derricks or drill ships to remind us where our fuel comes from; just those late night trucks that sneak into town like Santa Claus to fill up our local gas stations.

 

But things are starting to change. A few neighbors have installed solar panels and when I look out my back window I can see the blades of two wind turbines rotating slowly in the early morning wind.

 

In mid-August I decided to walk down to Smith Island to take a closer look. The marsh was in all its late summer glory. Last night’s high course tide had bent the weak stems of the salt hay marsh grass so now it lay in huge cowlicks. I felt I was walking on the back of a giant moose. It would continue to grow that way well into autumn.

 

The full moon tide also drowned the last of the greenhead flies. Unfortunately they had already laid their eggs. They live all year as inch-long larvae that ooze through the marsh mud until they encounter prey. Then they shoot a spiny proboscis into their hapless victim that writhes around in agony for several minutes as its insides are slowly sucked out through the proboscis. The only good thing about these encounters is that the greenheads usually dispatch one of their own relatives.

 

There is nothing so pleasing to an Ipswichite than to slap and kill a greenhead fly. I say slap and kill because the tough old Tabanids have a disconcerting habit of coming to, and flying away a few seconds after they have been slapped. We have long discussions about technique. Is it better to slap and roll, slap and squash, simply bury them in the sand or better yet drown them in the ocean? I used to bring their little corpses home from the beach to feed our pet turtle.

 

Of course none of these techniques will make the slightest dent in the future population of the flies. Days before we get around to giving that satisfactory slap, the perpetrator has already laid her eggs from that protein she sucked out of her larval kin. Our blood was just the aperitif to her plat des jours. But it is still pleasing to slap this notoriously slow but vicious denizen of the marsh.

 

I can’t help thinking about the greenheads as I walk across the causeway to reach Smith Island. The fieldstone causeway was built around 1740 so that the farmhands who lived in the attic of our house could cut the marsh hay without having their horses drown in the marsh.

 

Building the causeway was backbreaking work. The farmers had to remove heavy stones from the fields, and then transport them to the marsh in oxen-drawn carts. Can you imagine hauling tons of boulders in 90-degree heat, surrounded by clouds of deerflies, greenheads and mosquitoes?

 

 

When the causeway was completed it stood more than two feet above the marsh, but now the marsh has grown above the causeway. That’s because the sea level has risen two and a half feet since 1750. It is a reminder of why these wind turbines are so important. They will not be adding to our atmosphere’s surfeit of heat-trapping carbon dioxide.

 

I’m particularly proud of Ipswich for building its two wind turbines. They now supply 3 percent of the town’s total energy and 60 percent of the energy used by our local schools. Unlike many towns our turbines went through the siting process with little fanfare. No residents complained that the turbines would make too much noise, disrupt their television signal or make them ill, because nobody lived very close to the marshy site in the first place.

 

Perhaps Ipswich should have taken a hint from the town of Hull. She built a wind turbine right beside her high school’s football field. The turbine has been credited with scoring several wins for the home team. Their quarterbacks knew to wait until they caught a member of the line looking up at the swirling blades. Then they would snap the ball. It is said Bill Belichick has been seen videotaping their games.

 

I’m less proud of the good people on the south shore of Cape Cod. They have blocked the construction of our country’s first offshore wind farm for close to 20 years. Their main concern was that the turbines would ruin their oceanfront view, even though the turbines would look less than an inch tall when viewed from the water’s edge. It was not lost on the public that many of the same towns that opposed the turbines were not above building replicas of old windmills as magnets to attract summer tourists.

 

The town of Ipswich and our local high school jointly funded the first turbine. The second was built by a private company but it sells all its electricity to the town. Together the two turbines supply about 7% of the town’s electricity, another 3% comes from the town’s part ownership of 10 turbines in the Berkshire Hills. We are well on our way to reaching our goal of getting 20% of our electrical needs from renewable sources by 2020. We may even surpass it.

 

So Ipswich compares very favorably to Massachusetts that has the best efficiency rating of any state in the country but only gets 9% of its electricity from local renewable resources. The other 65% comes from shipped in natural gas and 12% comes from coal.

 

How has Ipswich been able to achieve so much? It had several advantages. First it has owned its own municipal power company since 1903. Though the diesel powered power plant only operated 72 hours in 2013, owning it allows the town to be picky about where it buys its electricity from. We now buy electricity from Berkshire Wind, Eagle Creek Hydro and Ipswich Wind as well as from Stony Brook Gas and the Seabrook and Millstone nuclear power plants.

 

So have there been any problems with the wind turbines? They have already survived two hurricanes, but I understand 6 dead bats were found below the spinning blades of the turbine last summer, circumstantial evidence, but a problem nonetheless. The solution? Town officials turned off the light that was attracting moths and the bats flew off to more productive feeding grounds.

 

####

 

Read more in; Islands in the Storm, Storm Surge; A Coastal Village Battles the Atlantic, Beach Wars; 10,000 Years on a Barrier Beach. See Strawberry Hill, UPNE, and Schiffer book tabs at the top of this page.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted by: coastlinesproject | August 19, 2014

Iceland warns airlines of possible volcanic eruption.

Read more in; Islands in the Storm, Storm Surge; A Coastal Village Battles the Atlantic, Beach Wars; 10,000 Years on a Barrier Beach. See Strawberry Hill, UPNE, and Schiffer book tabs at the top of this page.

 

 

 

Read more in; Islands in the Storm, Storm Surge; A Coastal Village Battles the Atlantic, Beach Wars; 10,000 Years on a Barrier Beach. See Strawberry Hill, UPNE, and Schiffer book tabs at the top of this page.

 

 

Posted by: coastlinesproject | August 17, 2014

William Sargent will be at Newburyport Farmer’s Market this morning.

Read more in; Islands in the Storm, Storm Surge; A Coastal Village Battles the Atlantic, Beach Wars; 10,000 Years on a Barrier Beach. See Strawberry Hill, UPNE, and Schiffer book tabs at the top of this page.

 

 

 

Read more in; Islands in the Storm, Storm Surge; A Coastal Village Battles the Atlantic, Beach Wars; 10,000 Years on a Barrier Beach. See Strawberry Hill, UPNE, and Schiffer book tabs at the top of this page.

 

Islands-Storm-Cover-3.3

Posted by: coastlinesproject | August 15, 2014

Seabrook Nuclear Power Plant and Sea Level Rise.

Seabrook and Sea Level Rise

 

 

 

The view from the NextEra Energy’s boardwalk is sobering. Their Seabrook Nuclear Power Plant sits right behind a beautiful but low salt marsh. Spokesmen for the plant like to point out that the plant is 21 feet above sea level and that a rock revetment and the marsh will protect the plant from being inundated. But they don’t like to talk about what is happening underfoot.

 

For the past decade, groundwater has been infiltrating the walls of the plant’s electrical tunnel causing the concrete to lose 22% of its strength due to an alkali-silica interaction. The groundwater floats on a tongue of underground seawater that rises and falls on high tides and with storms. That groundwater lens is also rising at the rate of 6 inches every twenty years due to sea level rise. This is the same mechanism that causes nuisance flooding in cities like Newburyport, Miami and Norfolk, Virginia.

 

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission is concerned enough about the problem that they have delayed the station’s application for an extension of their license renewal from July to October. This is particularly important because Seabrook has applied to extend its operating license from 2030 to 2050.

 

Senator Markey and Congressman Tierney countered by filing a bill to prevent a nuclear power plant from receiving a 20-year extension if they apply more than 10 year’s before their existing license expires. It would seem to make sense to see if you can’t fix problems relating to your first 20 years of operation before applying to operate for a date 16 years in the future.

 

The last time I was at Seabrook I was camped right beside “Dykes on Bikes” and 2000 other protesters, it was 1977 after all. 1400 of the protesters were arrested and had to spend the night in jail. I had caught the bus back to Cambridge, not a profile in courage I fear.

 

But the protest had worked well enough to drive the former owner into bankruptcy and caused the station’s second reactor to be cancelled. Massachusetts had done its part by blocking the construction of the reactor until the owners came up with an evacuation plan for four Massachusetts towns within 10 miles of the plant, plus Boston and the 4.3 million people who lived within 50 miles of the plant.

 

In the case of a severe accident, the entire 50 square mile area would have to be abandoned for 10,000 years because of soil and groundwater contamination. This happened at Chernobyl and Fukushima at a similar plant built by General Electric.

 

Tokyo Energy Company didn’t plan for a tsunami. Let’s hope Next Era Energy is planning for more Northeasters, hurricanes and sea level rise.

 

####

 

Read more in; Islands in the Storm, Storm Surge; A Coastal Village Battles the Atlantic, Beach Wars; 10,000 Years on a Barrier Beach. See Strawberry Hill, UPNE, and Schiffer book tabs at the top of this page.

 

 

 

 

 

Posted by: coastlinesproject | August 14, 2014

WSJ Democrats increasingly backing Oil and Gas Industry.

Read more in; Storm Surge; A Coastal Village Battles the

Atlantic, Beach Wars; 10,000 Years on a Barrier Beach and The View From Strawberry Hill; Reflections on the Hottest Year on Record. See Strawberry Hill, UPNE, and Schiffer book tabs at the top of this page.

 

 

 

Read more in; Storm Surge; A Coastal Village Battles the

Atlantic, Beach Wars; 10,000 Years on a Barrier Beach and The View From Strawberry Hill; Reflections on the Hottest Year on Record. See Strawberry Hill, UPNE, and Schiffer book tabs at the top of this page.

 

Older Posts »

Categories

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 107 other followers