Article

Nimby Ninnies

1401l.jpg

An article on CNN describes the "plight" of a man who doesn’t like wind turbines:

He hates the sight and he hates the sound. He can’t stand the gigantic flickering shadows the blades cast at certain points in the day.

But what this brawny 48-year-old farmer’s son hates most about the wind turbines is that his father signed a deal with the wind company to allow seven of them on Yancey land.

[…]

"Is it worth destroying families, pitting neighbor against neighbor, father against son?" asks John Yancey, whose family has farmed Tug Hill for generations. "Is it worth destroying a whole way of life?"

Similar questions are being asked across the country as more small towns grapple with big money and big wind. For many, the changes are worth it. With rising oil and gas prices and growing concerns about global warming, wind is becoming an attractive alternative.

The Maple Ridge project produces enough electricity to power about 100,000 homes. Other wind projects are going up all over the state. T. Boone Pickens is talking about building a $10 billion wind project in the Texas panhandle. Everyone, it seems, is talking about wind.

This makes me speechless. I feel the writing equivalent of sputtering and stammering. H-O-L-Y C-R-A-P!!!!

Wind is the single bright spot in America’s otherwise dismal non-response to the clear and present danger of C02-induced climate-change. Wind power is clean, renewable, and will also make our electricity production and usage visible and conscious. I’d be overjoyed to have one of these beautiful machines (or several) on my land. And get a check in the mail every month? Are you kidding me? What’s not to like?

Apparently, some people just don’t like looking at them. Or hearing them. And this is not new. The Cape Wind project has been delayed for years by this kind of nonsense. (previous article) Now comes Dr. Nina Pierpont claiming that wind turbines cause negative health effects. I recall similar bogus claims being made about now ubiquitous Wi-Fi. Funny how these claims always peter out after the technology has been widely accepted and it’s not going away. Only new technologies incur the ire of hypochondriacs, and only just when they’re being introduced.

But the more important point is that right now, electricity generation is completely in the shadows. It’s all out-of-sight and out-of-mind. Mountaintop-removal coal mining increasingly is being used to get at the fuel which primarily provides America’s power. And scarce natural gas which soon may have to be imported from other parts of the world. And nuclear, which though it’s proven pretty safe over the past 50 years, accumulates thousands of tons of added high-level radioactive waste every year. This waste builds up at hundreds of plant sites around the country–near population centers, and above ground. It’s the height of stupidity.

Why is the nuke waste just sitting around? Nevada’s got it’s own NIMBYs. They’re highly incensed about the Yucca Mountain repository, and it’s been delayed repeatedly as people fret about 10,000 year vs. million year certifications for safety. What?? Humans haven’t ever done anything on those kinds of timescales. We should be worrying about the next hundred years, and what might happen to global temperatures, sea levels, and water resources during that time.

But back to wind. Let’s analyze what this man is saying. First of all, it’s a family dispute. Doesn’t belong as the top story on CNN. Why is it considered newsworthy? Because as wind power gets built out around the country, we can expect throngs of NIMBY ninnies like Yancey to crop up everywhere–standing in the way of what should be a no-brainer energy solution. They’ll be cheered on as heroes by those who think "preserving a way of life"–whatever that means–should be done at the expense of vital global concerns. The re-branding of wind energy from environmental savior to industrial villain has begun.

I say anyone who opposes wind power gets their electricity feed yanked–immediately. Or heavily taxed. Or something. Because that’s what they’re trying to do to the rest of us. Coal burning is literally sickening and killing people, and it may yet destroy the climate. Now that we have exported a lot of manufacturing to China, they’re dealing with the choking pollution to make our products for us. But make no mistake, even in the U.S., we pay the price as mercury and radioactivity from coal invade the food-chain, particulates foul the air, and C02 belches out non-stop, putting our consumption burden squarely on our grandchildren. Now that’s a family dispute we should be talking about!

We’ve been spoiled for a century, getting our power from sources we don’t have to look at. Men used to labor underground, getting black lungs and dropping like flies so that others could flip a light switch. Though safety has improved, people still die by the dozens around the world in coal mine accidents every year. I wonder how Yancey would compare his "annoyance" at wind turbines to the literal choking death people used to have to put up with to get electricity? How times change. Wind power connects our consumption to something visible and audible, and that’s a beautiful thing. I think the thrrup-thrrup of a wind turbine should be music to our ears. It tells us we’re being accountable, sustainable, paying as we go. And this connects us back in some small way to the fact that we are part of a larger ecosystem.

We can expect NIMBYs like Yancey to fight the inevitable energy transition every step of the way–slowing progress and making lawyers rich. They’re misguided and short-sighted, and they lack any perspective outside of the narrowest form of self-interest. They expect the whole of society to continue to consume deadly fossil fuels to soothe their precious aesthetic preferences, and they ought to be ashamed of themselves.


Comments (27 comments)

Paul Ryder / August 17th, 2008, 12:47 pm / #1

“Mountaintop-removal coal mining is what primarily provides America’s power.” No. It provides only 4.8% of U.S. electricity.

BlackSun / August 17th, 2008, 12:49 pm / #2

Paul, good catch. The point is that coal is America’s top energy source. I reworded that. Thanks.

gkruz / August 17th, 2008, 1:39 pm / #3

Uh, and how is this nimby ninny any more deplorable than liberal god-king Teddy Kennedy who’s up in arms about wind turbines being put in his back yard (i.e., Nantucket sound), spoiling his beautiful view and cluttering his nautical playground?

BlackSun / August 17th, 2008, 2:03 pm / #4

Uh, Gkruz, did you read how I said in the article they were the same? Referring to the opposition of the Cape Wind project? All such hypocrites are equally deplorable.

PhillyChief / August 18th, 2008, 10:26 am / #5

There’s been the same objections here in DE, but leading the opposition is the state power company because it’ll eat into profits (the wind platform would be built by another company). When first their objections failed, they then went to claims of it endangering the ecosystem and finally they’re at the eyesore excuse.

Let’s not forget that there are entities who stand to gain by blocking things like wind and solar energy, and they will contribute to encourage these ninnies, encourage this thinking of “preserving our way of life” and so forth.

Rusty / August 18th, 2008, 8:17 pm / #6

First of all, I agree–it didn’t belong as a cover story on CNN, although they rotate lead stories a lot during the avg day. Secondly, I’m glad you pointed out that China’s pollution is largely a product of our over-consumption–a point many Americans don’t get.

Okay, is having a wind turbine running 100 yards from your bedroom at night the aural equivalent of the Seinfeld episode where Kenny Roger’s Roasters puts a big, red neon sign right outside Kramer’s apartment window–leaving him seeing red constantly, unable to sleep and in danger of pouring tomato juice in his cereal?

I don’t know. Also, it’s important to keep in mind what we’re dealing with: moving air. It’s not a finite resource like oil, it doesn’t really matter in the grand scheme of things if some people don’t want turbines on their property.

And maybe the money the turbines offer would be perfect for a retiring couple who otherwise would have been forced to sell their land.

Maybe on that couples’ land, the turbines would disturb fewer people while also generating more energy from a more consistent wind pattern. Effectively maximizing energy generation and minimizing citizen complaints by careful placement considerations ultimately enhances the future of wind power…a future that looks bright, as long as there’s not a big wind spill or wind leak. :)

Nuclear energy looked like the future until environmentalists, imo, grossly over-reacted to Three Mile Island, and thanks to there good intentions, we generate about 20% of our electricity with nuclear plants, compared to 80% in France.

If Al Gore is even close to being right about how drastically and quickly we need to change before it’s too late–then it seems that we really missed the boat with nuclear energy, thanks to environmentalists using and abusing fear much like the Bush administration has done.

Amen A. Sigala / August 18th, 2008, 9:52 pm / #7

How about just finally making solar power more afordable to have and install up on everyones foof tops !!! I’ve seen it done tastfully as to actually compliment the home’s architechture & property’s landscape. Everyone coming home to a full days charge for those who have no one at home while the panels are taking in some sun is a tremendous saving.
Let me know how this wouldn’t wk, because I don’t see or understand why it can’t. I was a baby when solar power came about, that was 36 yr’s ago !!!

Reality Czech / August 19th, 2008, 11:52 am / #8

environmentalists, imo, grossly over-reacted to Three Mile Island

There was a great deal of paranoia long before TMI, but the meltdown (and Chernobyl) gave it political traction.

Peter / August 19th, 2008, 7:36 pm / #9

How about just finally making solar power more afordable to have and install up on everyones foof tops !!! I’ve seen it done tastfully as to actually compliment the home’s architechture & property’s landscape.

Solar is very inefficient so far. Only about 25% of the incoming light gets converted to energy.
Since the source is free, it wouldn’t matter – but its the cost of the “converter” that makes the technology not very feasable at present – about 10$/1 watt, whereas solar is about 3$/watt.

I think for homeowner heating on larger lots – as well within subdivisions – geothermal is the way to go. Reliable, no matter what time of day.
Everything else needs a storage system to function.
There are some developments on the way regarding hydrogen production through catalysts,
which makes the production safer and less cumbersome.
This could be used to produce and store hydrogene even in small scale systems, and using the hydrogen in fuel cells.

Amen A. Sigala / August 19th, 2008, 7:58 pm / #10

Peter thk u:-) ! This is amazing for me to read because all the info on solar power I’ve come accross is always pro-solar for the solution on our enrgy needs. It’s been very educating, thks again !

Reality Czech / August 20th, 2008, 12:32 pm / #11

Peter has no idea of what he is talking about.  There is no such thing as a “converter” in most PV installations, and DC/DC converters do not cost anything close to $10/watt.  Inverters in the 5 kW range are under $1/watt in my recent survey.

Rusty / August 20th, 2008, 9:22 pm / #12

Mayor Bloomberg has a great idea: put wind turbines on NY skyscrapers. It might even look hip. http://www.cnn.com/2008/US/08/20/ny.bloomberg.energy/index.html

I think they should be installed alongside stretches of interstate highways that run through unpopulated or lightly populated areas. They’re already noisy areas that threaten the surrounding ecosystem, so adding turbines would have less of an impact.

At forty feet tall, the turbines would also serve as a visual landmark for highways–preventing millions of “Can you tell me how to get back to (nearby highway name)?” A little time saved, a little gas saved.

Amen A. Sigala / August 20th, 2008, 10:40 pm / #13

Rusty,
thk u aswell, let me know of info or types of searchs that can inform me well enough on the subject, this would save me time roaming the web aimlessly?

Amen A. Sigala / August 20th, 2008, 10:44 pm / #14

Correction!
To Reality Czech, ahhh ! sorry.

Jim1138 / August 22nd, 2008, 2:00 am / #15

With fixed solar panels, a 100 watt panel will only produce about 16 watts averaged over 24 hours if there are no clouds. They do tend produce power when it is needed.

Wind turbines do have their problems. The wind is not always reliable. Wind turbines do chop up birds and bats. Also, they do occasionally throw their blades. Hopefully, with improved monitoring technology, problems like this will be reduced.

Everything has its trade offs.

Amen A. Sigala / August 22nd, 2008, 1:20 pm / #16

Jim1138,
OUCH!!
I think it would be a better idea to improve solar panels instead, for every one’s sake, human & animal !! : .) No?
Thks for the input !

Jim1138 / August 22nd, 2008, 2:36 pm / #17

People do fall off roofs working on their solar panels. If everyone had one, it might be a major morbidity and mortality factor. Also, high winds would mean poorly tied down panels would go flying and they can be heavy.

Work is being done to keep bats and birds away from wind turbines. Some farms refused to let scientists on their land to study the problem. I don’t know if that has changed.

Todays solutions are tomorrows problems. Understand the issues before you choose. An emotional decision may have an undesirable outcome.

Amen A. Sigala / August 22nd, 2008, 3:16 pm / #18

Big smiley’s to Jim1138!
I haven’t stopped laughing!
Right ! = ) but that vidio footage was intense for me, wouldn’t want to have been under that especialy when it happens again !! Improving solar panels & their installations so no one would have to fall off their roofs is something I’d prefer at this point than these wind turnbines! I’ve seen solar paneling put out in open spaces not just on the roof tops. Improving the absorbtion capability is something the geniuses can do, I believe in them! So can they on wind turbines, just don’t like anything out there that isn’t strong enough to withstand what it needs to.
Scary footage! : (

Luis Dias / August 25th, 2008, 7:27 am / #19

Nuke was the way to go, but I guess environmentards just feel that it is threatening to the planet, so it must be so, so we are denied this incredible non-nimby source of energy.

I despise BlackSun’s waving off the nimbyism that comes with wind energy. Surely he hasn’t seen a blade close to his home. I’ve seen personally what it has been done to the landscape of my country, and when I see how much of a dent it actually made on energy budgets (like next to zero, with incredible costs), I despair on how stupid mankind is.

Also, this notion that all of us should have blades to remind us how we spend energy is embedded with such a paternalistic bullshit that creeps me up so bad! There are lots of issues with wind energy (like oh for instance, the intermittence of wind, which makes it impossible to work itself independent of the existence of a CO2-based energy power plant), but I support all the investment and R&D into it. I sincerely doubt though that it is the future.

Same I don’t say about solar. Solar has potential. Much more so than wind. But it still is too expensive. 3$/w is porsche priced electricity. It’s alright for Gore, but not for the “rest of us”, yet. It will take some years before solar power can decrease to more manageable prices, like 10cents/watt (we should remember that water dams cost something like 3 cents/watt).

So I would say, research more, wait for more promising tech before blowing up our landscapes and economies for almost nothing for return. Search for the Broken Window Fallacy to understand better what I am talking about.

Jim1138 / August 28th, 2008, 3:54 am / #20

Wikipedia has a good entry for Wind Power But, as always, consider it possibly suspect.

The Diablo Canyon Nuclear Power Plant produces about 18,000 gigawatt hours of power annually. To produce the same amount of power using 2.5 megawatt wind turbines with a 35% wind factor (0.88 megawatts average) would take 18,000,000 (megawatt hours) / (2.5 megawatt * 24 * 365 * 0.35 factor) = 18,000,000 / 7,665 = 2348 wind turbines. That is about 50 rows of 47 columns of wind turbines. If you lose the wind, you lose the power. Diablo Canyon has had a fairly good up time. Usually only one of the two reactors is down for refueling every few years. The 18,000 gigawatt hour number should include refueling.

Luis Dias / August 29th, 2008, 7:19 am / #21

Thanks, Jim. Exactly my point.

Michecox / August 29th, 2008, 5:22 pm / #22

Heck, they can give me a couple of those turbines any day…

Jim1138 / August 29th, 2008, 8:49 pm / #23

If they are free, throw in a few for me too! If I have to pay the wind turbines and put up with calm related power outage, I’ll take a nuclear plant!

Maybe within the next ten years, we can paint our house with solar-panel-paint. With only an occasional battery in the basement explosion.

BlackSun / September 2nd, 2008, 9:37 am / #24

Luis,

Nuke was the way to go, but I guess environmentards just feel that it is threatening to the planet, so it must be so, so we are denied this incredible non-nimby source of energy.

First of all, I’m asking you to stop the patronizing and insulting tone. I take it as a given that protecting the environment is protecting humanity, since "the environment" is in fact where we all live, and what we all have to learn to share. The term "environmentards" implies that there is something stupid about wanting to have a healthful and sustainable environment. Consider this your final warning. If you use that kind of language here again, I will ban you. This site is for rational debate, not personal attacks.

To your points about nuclear, you might want to consider that elephant in the room, waste disposal. It’s the ultimate NIMBY problem with nuclear energy. I might agree that nuclear should be part of the mix in a sustainable society. But until politicians figure out how to deal with waste, it’s unsustainable and therefore impractical.

I despise BlackSun’s waving off the nimbyism that comes with wind energy. Surely he hasn’t seen a blade close to his home. I’ve seen personally what it has been done to the landscape of my country, and when I see how much of a dent it actually made on energy budgets (like next to zero, with incredible costs), I despair on how stupid mankind is.

This comes under the heading of not even wrong and so off the mark I’m tempted not to dignify it with a response. Luis, either you are accusing me of lying or you didn’t read the article. I’d be happy to have a turbine close to my home. I’d welcome it. What you claim as "paternalistic" is simply my wish that the population was more aware and connected to the energy that sustains them. Current power generation is invisible to most people. Therefore they don’t appreciate the impact their lives are having. More awareness of the impacts creates change in behavior, and therefore a healthier society. Your continual emotional reactions to my calls for sustainability betray your investment in the greed, short-term thinking, and denialism that preserve the status quo.

Care to substantiate your claims about "next to zero, with incredible costs?" Wind energy is among the fastest growing energy sources in the world. Right now it enjoys a small subsidy in the form of tax credits, but it’s competing with hundred-year-old entrenched fossil fuel interests which do not pay for pollution, depletion, or other externalities. Fossil fuels have institutionalized subsidies. If they didn’t they would be far too expensive to use.

Luis, why don’t you address the issue of fossil fuel externalities? You make a fool of yourself by sweeping it under the rug. The "broken window fallacy" does not apply here. No one is saying break what’s working. But existing energy infrastructure (do I have to repeat myself) enjoys a structural subsidy. Government policy has supported a short-term solution of extracting a very finite resource, burning it and dumping the products of combustion into the atmosphere. This has masqueraded as a growth strategy. In the long-term, all it really amounts to is a loan taken out against future generations. We need to stop borrowing, and learn to pay as we go.

If you lose the wind, you lose the power.

Luis and Jim1138, that’s what the grid is for, obviously. The mix of energy generation smooths out local fluctuations in wind. There are also many other techniques such as flow-batteries, compressed air storage and water pumping that will make wind more practical as the technology matures.

Happy&Free: .) / September 20th, 2008, 9:55 am / #25

Wshingtonpost.com has an article on water turbines being tested in NY CIity. I wonder how this would impact marine life? Haven’t had the time today to look into it further, so anyone else has any feed bk on this would be great?
Thks!

Kevin / May 23rd, 2009, 9:29 am / #26

Check out Magenn.com for a new type of wind turbine that does not have the problems of a conventional wind turbine. Basically, it's a barrel-shaped dirigible with air scoops tethered by a cable. It would not kill birds and bats because it's a "solid" structure they can see and avoid (conventional turbine blades chop down on the bird or bat from above, and they don't see it coming). It can operate at higher altitude than conventional turbines since it does not require a tower. This higher altitude also means they access more regular winds. Some people might consider them to be eyesores, but I think they look cool. Maybe less so once people start putting ads on them, but I'll take that over the climate change/peak oil doom scenarios any day.

As far as the right-wing "screw the future of civilization, I want my monster truck!" "way of life"…well, tough. No "way of life" is inherently worthy of preservation just 'cause that's the way we've always done it. The Aztec "way of life" involved gouging the beating hearts out of people as a way (so they believed) to guarantee their society's prosperity. Our hydrocarbon society has basically been doing that to the Earth and our climate. It's not as if the preservation of NASCAR redneck culture is even a possibility. Oil is a finite resource, and the largest remaining sources of it happen to be owned by the fundamentalist Islamic monarchy that is the biggest monetary supporter of the terr'rists.

Since neither oil, nor the Earth's atmosphere are infinite we have a choice about how the transition to a post-carbon society will take place, not whether it will or not. We can do it as a death spiral of resource wars, climate disasters, shortages, famine, Mad Max theme park and the rest (as the conservatives apparently want–maybe it'll force Jesus to come, finally)–or we can use a little intelligence and forethought and prove that we're smarter than yeast.

home made wind generators / June 27th, 2009, 1:35 am / #27

Well written points. Will definitely visit again.

Post a comment

Comments are closed for this post.