Sep 12, 2010

Monhegan: decision nears in lawsuit over scenic & bird impacts of planned U&Maine floating R&D windmills

For Immediate Release 9/9/10
Contact  Penobscot Bay Watch (207) 691-7485

Decision nears in litigation over Maine's proposed offshore wind R&D center

Monhegan. This rocky isle off the coast of Maine, a migratory haven for birds and human beings alike, has hosted generations of both for long centuries.  Amid the hawks, songbirds and seabirds that birdwatchers have painstakingly documented as using Monhegan's thick forests, and feeding, courting and fighting in the winds and waters south of the island's Lobster Cove,  This forever natural, privately owned isle also attracts artists from around the world, who have come to Monhegan to ply their crafts, and have gone away with inspired paintings, sculptures, photographs and poetry. 

Monhegan also fronts the location where four critical coastal currents collide off Penobscot Bay, bringing a bounty of baby lobsters (and their prey and predators)  to the Midcoast and to points south - a delicately balanced ecological/economic dance from sea to sky that has brought prosperity to the region for centuries.


This forever natural, privately owned isle with its tiny village is a refuge for wildlife on an increasingly developed midcoast aine also attracts artists from around the world, who have come to Monhegan for much the same reasons as the wildlife and have gone away with inspired paintings, sculptures, photographs and poetry. 

But this twofold wealth of seafood and scenic beauty may end, if an alliance of industrial contractors, engineering firms and 'Ivory windTower' academics calling themselves the DeepCwind Consortium have their way.

Their plan, approved December 14, 2009  by the Maine Bureau of Parks and lands, but presently under litigation brought by a deep ecologist, would set up the vanguard of  a powerfully energy-extractive offshore ocean wind and wave industry two miles from the island, directly in the place where the currents come together.  Following that first site, the offshore wind industry hopes to put dozens of windmills within this critical zone, though a few miles further out to sea.

Rockland resident and longtime Penobscot Bay activist Ron Huber has taken a stand in Maine Superior Court against this offshore wind rush. Huber filed suit in January asking Superior Court Justice Jeffrey Hjelm to order a halt to the project until the state and University make an effort to find out how their project would affect what is ecologically and oceanographically the "womb" of the Gulf of Maine, as well as an place of unparalleled beauty.  

"Assistant Attorney General Amy Mills has entirely dropped the ball on the critical questions of Monhegan's  ecology and aesthetics. Maine's lobster fishery and Monhegan's art and scenery-powered economy rest upon systems that this DeepCwind project  would blindly toy with." Huber said. "Yet in the rush for federal funds, the state and university have decided to ignore  such potentially inconvenient truths."

Truths they are, for researchers around the world studying the environmental impact of ocean windfarms are in growing agreement that their deployment does affect existing  ocean currents and thus can effect climate.   Especially at the scale that US and European governments are promoting in the North Atlantic. (See links, below)

"The reaction from DeepCwind Consortium head and professor of engineering Habib Dagher has been that he doesn't care," Huber noted.  "Hopefully Justice Hjelm will help him see the light."

Mills'  recent  brief to the court downplays possible impacts on the ecology of birds and lobsters,  and on the ineffable beauty of the location. The state agrees that the towers, generators, pumps, blades and lights proposed to be operated at this renewable lease site will dominate the artistically and aesthetically renowned vistas of this crown jewel of American wild coastal beauty. But somehow, Mills and the attorney for the University claim, the blinking lights, flickering blades, noise and subsonics coming from their facility would have no impact on those unspoiled vistas off Monhegan's Lobster Cove, long an end destination sought by the world's artists. 

Furthermore, Jeff Thaler, a private attorney  representing the University of Maine in the case, has written to Judge Hjelm that he acknowledges that Huber has been involved in protecting Penobscot Bay  from development and pollution for many years, that Huber visits Monhegan and  even  that Huber's deep ecological stewardship impels him to protecting those natural assets from harm.  Nonetheless, Thaler has told the judge, the believes that Huber has no standing to bring his case. Even if he does, Thaler claimed, the fact that there is nothing built and operating out there yet  means the case is premature.  

"That's like waiting to appeal a timber sale until after it has been clearcut," Huber said.  "Mr. Thaler knowns perfectly well that the decision by the Bureau of Parks and Lands  can be appealed as soon as it is made."

"This is now up to the court " Huber said. "One wishes that instead of scurrying for cover, the state of Maine and the University raised their collective eyes from the economics of this subsidized venture, and took a look at the environmental and cultural assets that, like truant children, they are so heedlessly bent on defacing."  

"Do it right. Or don't do it."

# # #

LINKS TO STUDIES ON THE IMPACT OF OCEAN WINDFARMS ON OCEAN CURRENTS AND CLIMATE:





On the influence of large wind farms on the upper ocean circulation
. Goram Brostrom, Norwegian Meteorology Institute. 2008 


Excerpt: "We show through simple analytical models and idealized numerical experiments that a wind speed of 5–10 m/s may generateupwelling/downwelling velocities exceeding 1 m/day if the characteristic width of the wind wake is of the 

same size or larger than the internal radius of deformation. The generated upwelling is sufficiently enough that the local ecosystem will most likely be strongly influenced by the 

presence of a wind farm.




* Windmills at sea will affect the climate  Goram Brostrom, Norwegian Meteorology Institute. 2008 (note this is a google translation from Norwegian.
Excerpt: "A new study from the Norwegian Meteorological Institute has shown that a wind farm that provides an impact on the wind field at the same time will provide a powerful impact on the local ocean currents, and probably on the amount of phytoplankton that can grow in the ocean. Windmill parks will affect the wind field over an area much larger than the parks themselves, and the effects on the ocean will also apply to an area much larger than the size of the park."





Potential climatic impacts & reliability of very large-scale wind farms. 3/12/2010 C. Wang & R. G. Prinn, MIT Ctr for Global Change Science.(Read commentary on this report)




Excerpt: "For very large-scale utilization of this resource, there are however potential environmental impacts...


"We use a three-dimensional climate model to simulate the potential climate effects associated with installation of wind-powered generators over vast areas of land or coastal ocean. Using wind turbines to meet 10% or more of global energy demand in 2100, could cause surface warming exceeding 1 °C over land installations. In contrast, surface cooling exceeding 1 °C is computed over ocean installations, but the validity of simulating the impacts of wind turbines by simply increasing the ocean surface drag needs further study. Significant warming or cooling remote from both the land and ocean installations, and alterations of the global distributions of rainfall and clouds also occur. These results are influenced by the competing effects of increases in roughness and decreases in wind speed on near-surface turbulent heat fluxes, the differing nature of land and ocean surface friction, and the dimensions of the installations parallel and perpendicular to the prevailing winds."








Excerpt: " Using wind turbines to meet 10% or more of global energy demand in 2100, could cause surface warming exceeding 1 °C over land installations. In contrast, surface cooling exceeding 1 °C is computed over ocean installations, but the validity of simulating the impacts of wind turbines by simply increasing the ocean surface drag needs further study. "



*

  Could Windmills Alter the Weather? Meteorology News on University of Maryland Study 2009 
Excerpt: "A team of researchers from the University of Maryland have found that large-scale use of wind turbines as a power source may have an impact on our environment directly opposite that which they purport to minimize:  Climate change."



* 

Research on Windfarm-Climate Interactions. University of Maryland research mentioned above.

Excerpts: "Recent work  on the climate impact of very large scale wind farms has demonstrated appreciable effects on surface temperature, including warming and cooling on the order of a degree Celsius"....."These results show a zonal pattern suggestive of a reduction in meridional heat transport."...."... The patterns of warming and heating seemed most related to changes in wind direction, resulting in advective heating and cooling, and in changes in cloud fraction that influenced solar heating patterns"..."These experiments show a significant remote influence of large scale roughness changes on synoptic scale winds. My graduate student Dan Barrie and I are now exploring the influence of  time-varying surface roughness on downstream storm tracks."


End of excerpts





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