Showing posts with label environment. Show all posts
Showing posts with label environment. Show all posts

Friday, January 25, 2013

Should We Worry About Wind Farms And The Marines?

Today's County Compass reports a brouhaha resulting from a request by representatives of Cherry Point MCAS to appear before a joint session of the Pamlico County Board of Commissioners to discuss wind farms. Commissioner Delamar, who has supported wind farms in Pamlico County, voted against the meeting. His was the only vote against it.

I plan to attend the meeting. I hope to hear from the Cherry Point representatives an informative discussion examining potential problems, including a technical explanation, along with proposed solutions. I want to see some empirical data backed by research. I would hope that an expert from NRL might appear. If the proposed solution is not to have wind farms in Pamlico County, I will be very disappointed.

One commissioner is quoted as saying "the Marine Corps deserve our respect just based on who they are." I share that commissioner's high regard for the marines. At the same time, I would hope that our marines are bending every effort to insure that we can share the land, sea and air space of Eastern North Carolina without precluding other future economic development in the region.

By the way, we should all recognize that effective alternate energy sources to replace the burning of fossil fuels is an urgent national security priority. In fact, the Department of the Navy (including the marines) has taken the lead in DOD in fostering alternate energy development.

I gather that the marines share a concern of a number of government agencies that wind farms present a particular challenge to radars, including air search and air control radars, including doppler radars for meteorology. The fundamental concern is radar clutter.

Clutter has been a major challenge for radar designers from the earliest days. Dealing with clutter has generated an alphabet soup of anti-clutter measures: STC, AGC, FTC, IAGC, MTI, frequency agility, circular polarization, Moving Target Detector, Pulse-Doppler Systems, and on and on. Clutter presents some of the same challenges as are presented by electronic and mechanical jamming.

Solving particular problems of clutter from wind farms may not be trivial, but is certainly surmountable.

The following is an executive summary of a 2008 report by The MITRE Corporation, one of our premier defense contractors with experience in this area.

Wind Farms And Radar

January 2008

The MITRE Corporation


"Wind farms interfere with radar. This interference has led the FAA,
the DHS, and the DOD to contest many proposed wind turbines in the line
of sight of radar, stalling development of several thousands of MW of wind
energy. A large number of such denials is a serious impediment to the nation’s
mandated growth of sustainable energy

"There is no fundamental physical constraint that prohibits the accu-
rate detection of aircraft and weather patterns around wind farms
. On the
other hand, the nation’s aging long range radar infrastructure significantly
increases the challenge of distinguishing wind farm signatures from airplanes
or weather

"Progress forward requires the development of mitigation measures, and
quantitative evaluation tools and metrics to determine when a wind farm
poses a sufficient threat to a radar installation for corrective action to be
taken. Mitigation measures may include modifications to wind farms (such
as methods to reduce radar cross section; and telemetry from wind farms to
radar), as well as modifications to radar
(such as improvements in processing;
radar design modifications; radar replacement; and the use of gap fillers in
radar coverage).

"There is great potential for the mitigation procedures, though there
is currently no source of funding to test how proposed mitigations work in
practice. In general, the government and industry should cooperate to find
methods for funding studies of technical mitigations. NOAA has an excellent
research plan, but no adequate funding to carry it out

"Once the potential for different mitigations are understood, we see no
scientific hurdle for constructing regulations that are technically based and
simple to understand and implement
, with a single government entity tak-
ing responsibility for overseeing the process. In individual cases, the best
solution might be to replace the aging radar station with modern and flexi-
ble equipment that is more able to separate wind farm clutter from aircraft.
This is a win-win situation for national security, both improving our radar
infrastructure and promoting the growth of sustainable energy

"Regulatory changes for air traffic could make considerable impact on
the problem. For example, the government could consider mandating that
the air space up to some reasonable altitude above an air-security radar
with potential turbine interference be a controlled space, with transponders
required for all aircraft flying in that space. This would both solve the
problem of radar interference over critical wind farms and would provide a
direct way to identify bad actors, flying without transponders.

"Current circumstances provide an interesting opportunity for improving
the aging radar infrastructure of the United States, by replacing radar that
inhibits the growth of wind farms with new, more flexible and more capable
systems, especially digital radar hardware and modern computing power.
Such improvements could significantly increase the security of U.S. airspace."

For what it's worth, in my opinion the Marine Corps needs to take the lead in getting this project budgeted. FAA, DHS, Air Force, Navy, DOD and perhaps some other agencies should chip in.

This is not an optional program. We urgently need more renewable energy sources. The cost of failure to control global warming and allowing the sea level to rise is incalculable. It is already threatening Norfolk, VA. Projected sea level rise of one meter later in this century will make my home unlivable - and those of many other Pamlico County residents as well. One meter this century may well be an underestimate.

There is no single silver bullet. We need to explore every avenue.

Not just for the residents of Eastern North Carolina, but for the marines as well.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Hottest Year On Record: Inhofe

NOAA says 2012 was the hottest year on record in the contiguous United States.

"The average temperature was 55.3 degrees, 1 degree above the previous record and 3.2 degrees more than the 20th-century average. Temperatures were above normal in every month between June 2011 and September 2012, a 16-month stretch that hasn’t occurred since the government began keeping such records in 1895"

While the hottest year was underway, Senator James Inhofe of my home state of Oklahoma and home town of Tulsa, published his new book:

The Greatest Hoax: How the Global Warming Conspiracy Threatens Your Future [Hardcover]

Senator James Inhofe (Author)

I think Inhofe should simply introduce legislation limiting temperature rise. That might hold off the drought in Oklahoma. How about a "sense of the Senate" resolution?

Perhaps he can collaborate with the North Carolina General Assembly who legislated limits to sea level rise.

If worse comes to worse for the environment, we can always retrain polar bears to hunt land animals. Just think how great it will be to have a year-round, permanent Northwest Passage.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Public Trust Lands: Public Trust Waters

A good op-ed article in yesterday's New York Times addresses the problem of building up and developing our shorelines in the context of the shore as a public trust. How this is handled varies from state to state, even though the public trust doctrine was brought here from England as a feature of common law.

Interestingly enough, the article holds up Texas as a favorable example of a state that protects the public trust shoreline very effectively. Who knew? Texans know.

The New York Times piece stimulated economist Matthew Kahn, who specializes in Environmental and Urban economic issues, to post his thoughts here on what economists refer to as the "tragedy of the commons." Professor Kahn contends that the large scale of the destruction by Hurricane Sandy reflects the privatization of the shoreline and consequent destruction by owners of natural environments defenses.

Another way to put it is that we have privatized the benefits of living along shore, but socialized the risk. How this works has been revealed anew as "gated communities" in and around New York City, whose "private streets" have been damaged now want the city and the state to help them with repair, even while they wish to continue excluding the public from their developments.

We see a similar development along the North Carolina shore, especially the outer banks. Waterfront property owners naturally want the government (taxpayers) to pay to restore facilities (roads, bridges, houses, piers, groins, etc) damaged by hurricanes. And, by the way, to prevent the outer banks from moving.

Lewis Carroll in his poem The Walrus and The Carpenter described the task facing those who live along the shore:

The sea was wet as wet could be,
The sands were dry as dry.
You could not see a cloud, because
No cloud was in the sky:
No birds were flying overhead--
There were no birds to fly.

The Walrus and the Carpenter
Were walking close at hand;
They wept like anything to see
Such quantities of sand:
"If this were only cleared away,"
They said, "it would be grand!"

"If seven maids with seven mops
Swept it for half a year.
Do you suppose," the Walrus said,
"That they could get it clear?"
"I doubt it," said the Carpenter,
And shed a bitter tear.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

More On The Dust Bowl

I was born in Oklahoma in 1937, near the end of the Dust Bowl period. I was a couple of hundred miles east of the Dust Bowl, in Tulsa. By the time of my first memories, about 1939, the Dust Bowl catastrophe was abating.

In 1949, I was in the eighth grade in a rural school east of Oklahoma City. As a part of our elementary school curriculum, eighth grade boys had to take a course in agriculture. I think the girls took home economics.

We boys learned about measures to take to control erosion by wind and water. We learned about planting wind rows of trees between the fields to moderate the wind. We learned about contour plowing and crop rotation, and natural methods of controlling agricultural pests. We learned about use of natural fertilizer and the benefits of using legumes, including alfalfa, in crop rotation. Legumes fix nitrogen in the soil and reduce the need for artificial fertilizers.

All of these methods were put into place out in the Oklahoma panhandle, and the dust bowl began to subside.

But it came back. In 1950 and 1951, whenever there was a sustained wind from the west, we would have vast sand storms in Oklahoma City. The storms would dim the sun and occasionally mid day would look like late evening. This was the beginning of another period of drought that lasted seven years.

In June of 1954, I flew from Denver to Tulsa by way of Amarillo and Oklahome City. Our twin-engine Convair flew low enough that I could see drifts of sand across Southeast Colorado, Eastern New Mexico, the Texas Panhandle and Western Oklahoma. The sand piled up at each fence corner.

It looked pretty grim.

By 1957 the drought was over.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

The Dust Bowl

The past two nights, public television broadcast Ken Burns' new documentary on the Dust Bowl. Very powerful!

The dust bowl was a man-made ecological disaster. Billed by PBS as the worst ecological disaster in American history, I am not entirely convinced. I think we have made equally destructive ecological disasters, just not as concentrated in geography and time.

The most powerful aspect of the movie was the in-depth interviews with dust bowl survivors, all children at the time. Their recollections are moving and revealing. Much of what they have to say might caution us about the new disasters we are creating in climate, in wetlands, by contributing to sea level rise, etc.

The movie is worth watching again and again.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

North Carolina Wind

A little more than three years ago, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill completed a nine-month comprehensive study of coastal wind energy.

The study's conclusion: "North Carolina is well positioned to develop utility scale wind energy production and it is the opinion of the project team that the State should pursue it aggressively."

That was in the summer of 2009. Here is a link to the study - click on "Full Study." If you don't have the time or patience to read it (it's 378 pages), just look at the illustrations and maps. Especially the maps at the end of the study. The map on page 370, for example, shows Bayboro as a possible interconnection substation.

Has the State pursued wind energy production aggressively? No.

Why not?

Could it be because in 2010 the North Carolina State Legislature was taken over by a political party that has:
1. No interest in any kind of energy but petroleum, natural gas and coal?
2. No interest in freeing the US from  petroleum imports?
3. No interest in reducing carbon emissions?
4. No concern over sea level rise?
5. No interest in economic development in Eastern North Carolina?

How about all of the above?

It looks like any push for coastal wind energy development will have to come from the people of Eastern North Carolina working together in their own interest. In the present political climate, neither Raleigh nor Washington is likely to pick up this challenge without a strong push from us.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Follow The Money

That was the advice of "Deep Throat" in the movie, "All The President's Men" about Watergate. It's actually good advice most any time. It helps answer the questions "who benefits" and "who pays."

Take energy policy. Discussions in that arena tend to generate more heat than light, but the heat is against exploring alternative "green" or other sources of energy and in favor of relying more on increasingly expensive (and difficult to recover) petroleum.

Most recently, the US Senate rejected a one-year extension of a tax benefit for alternative energy, including wind energy. The ostensible reason: oh, that's a subsidy. And we have to pay for it.

Well, we already subsidize oil to the tune of $4 billion per year. World wide, oil companies are subsidized about $409 billion annually.

One way to cover most of the cost of alternative energy would be to do away with the existing US subsidy of the petroleum industry, which clearly doesn't need it. But every time progressive legislators try to take away that subsidy, we see an outcry from Republicans and the few remaining oil state Democrats.

Could that have anything to do with the fact that the Koch brothers (who got their wealth the old-fashioned way - by inheritance) are the principal funders of conservative Republican candidates, think tanks and movements?

A frequent objection to subsidies for solar, wind and other non-fossil energy sources is that they are more expensive than oil and natural gas. Beside, global warming was made up by Al Gore. Pay no attention to the melting ice caps and resulting sea level rise.

But costs of wind and solar are coming down. Quickly. Partly because China is investing heavily in alternate energy.

Here is an analysis in Scientific American of recent developments in the field of solar energy. In short, we may be within three years of equality between the cost of coal-fired and solar power generation.

But the sun only shines about half the time. Wind, on the other hand, can blow any time of the day or night.

And North Carolina has the best location on the entire East Coast of the United States for offshore wind generation. A serious effort to develop our wind power resources in Pamlico Sound as well as offshore could provide a major economic engine for Eastern North Carolina.

It might also contribute to slowing global warming and sea level rise.

This would be a win, win, win for Eastern North Carolina.

Monday, March 5, 2012

The Power Of Wind

Tonight's meeting of the Pamlico County Board of Commissioners received an information briefing from the Wind Capital Group concerning their planned wind farm in Pamlico County. The briefing also addressed issues concerning technical developments in wind generation of electrical power, power distribution, costs and environmental effects.

Wind Capital Group has built and operated wind farms elsewhere in the country, mostly in the mid west. The company's information addressed issues including the percentage of time the wind turbines will produce electricity (about a third of the time); cost per KW to generate electricity (less than nuclear, a bit more than coal, but in the general ballpark and costs keep coming down); noise (45-50 dBA - about the same as a conversation at home in a quiet suburb); adverse effect on the atmosphere (none to speak of - in same ballpark as hydroelectric power).

Tonight's briefing contrasted greatly with that of Dr. John Droz, who briefed the commissioners a month ago. Whereas tonight's briefing presented actual verifiable facts, complete with numbers, Mr. Droz provided a rant. There were no facts that could be verified - only strongly worded opinions. Don't take my word for it - read one version of the Droz briefing on his own site.

If you find any actual facts in the Droz briefing, please let me know.

As for me, I don't quite understand what the fuss is about. Anyone who believes or claims to believe that wind power can replace fossil fuels is either a fool or a liar. But no one promoting wind power or solar power or for that matter nuclear power, claims that it can solve our power generation problem.

A lot of foolish assertions are made.

Last week, for example, I came across an attack on electric automobiles. "What they really are," the author asserted, "is coal-powered automobiles." OK. Some might be. They also might be powered by natural gas. Or water turbines. Or by the tides. Or by the sun or the wind or nuclear power.

When you plug your car's charger into an outlet, you don't know how that particular power was generated. It doesn't matter. It's a game of percentages. Anything we can do to reduce the percentage of our transportation powered by high pollution sources is a plus. Even using better insulation.

Wind powered automobiles? Pretty neat idea.

Friday, February 24, 2012

The Real Science Of Heads In The Sand

A couple of years ago a graduate student telephoned, wanting to interview me. It turns out she was doing research on planning approaches in North Carolina coastal communities concerning anticipated sea level rise.

I had to tell her that in Oriental we had done no planning at all, save for the decisions by individual homeowners to raise their houses to the standards required by Pamlico County.

I wasn't personally worried, since my house hadn't been flooded during Isabel. Wrong! I should have been. The house was flooded by Irene and suffered significant damage. I will now have to raise it about three feet to meet county standards.

But wait. The Science Panel of North Carolina's Coastal Resources Commission has determined that a rise of 1 meter (39 inches) is the most likely scenario by 2100. I can tell you from experience that three inches in a house (difference between 36 inches and 39 inches) can wreak havoc.

There's more. Other states have concluded a sea level rise between 3 and 4 feet is the minimum expectation by 2100. It depends on how much of the Greenland and Antarctic icecaps melt by then.

But not to worry. Our local lobbying organization for 20 coastal counties, in part supported by tax money from Pamlico County, and aided by our appointed representatives to the Coastal Resources Commission, successfully kept the Emergency Management division from reporting on the effect of a one-meter rise.

Justification: "we insist on REAL science." Presumably "real science" consists of waiting until we get seriously flooded and collecting the data. "We don't need no stinkin' analysis." Read all about it in yesterday's News and Observer in an article by a real scientist with no known connection to real estate developers.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

On Outgrowing Earth

Today's article in the New York Times by Thomas Friedman should be alarming.

But don't worry. Oriental's member of Pamlico County's Board of Commissioners reported at the last Board meeting that she and others have successfully blocked an effort by NC planners to push restrictions on construction based on predicted sea rise. The objection: the plan was based on computer modeling. Presumably, we are supposed to wait until the water actually rises. That would be scientific.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Protect Polluters

Monday night's County Commissioners meeting addressed, among other things, a request by Commissioner Mele for the board to pass resolutions of support for three bills now before the legislature concerning environmental regulations. The bills, attributed to drafting efforts of local real estate mogul Missy Baskerville and introduced by Senator Preston, were as follows:

Senate Bill 323, An act to create an exemption to the riparian buffer requirements for certain private properties in the Neuse River and Tar-Pamlico River Basins.

In brief, the proposed act "grandfathers" any parcel platted and recorded prior to August 1, 2000 from current riparian buffer requirements;

Senate Bill 324, An act to require greater notification of and ability to attend hearings for rule making.

In brief, the act amends present law to require the rule-making agency to notify the governing unit in each county and publish notice in a newspaper in each county that will be impacted by the proposed rule and to schedule public hearings within 60 miles of each county affected by a proposed rule;

Senate Bill 325, An act to provide additional requirements to apply to the adoption and implementation of any proposed administrative rule that is an environmental rule.

The most significant requirement is that at least 80% of any "stakeholder" committee created to consider a proposed rule be made up of persons employed in the private sector, residing in the city or county affected and essentially be in the industry regulated by the rule.

In a nutshell, these three bills are intended to obstruct agencies responsible for developing regulations to implement public law and delay or outright prevent them from doing their job.

Who in all this is going to represent the interest of the public?

Friday, April 22, 2011

Earth Day

Today, April 22, is Earth Day 2011.

A week ago, while I was watching Dr. Strangelove at the Old Theater in Oriental, the scene where General Jack D. Ripper described the commie plot to threaten our precious bodily fluids reminded me of an event during the first Earth Day in 1970. I remembered being told by my destroyer squadron commander that the event was a "commie plot." It was obviously a communist plot, he explained, because Vladimir Lenin was born on April 22, the day of the Earth Day celebration. Even more significantly, he emphasized, Lenin was born April 22, 1870, so the first Earth Day was in celebration of Lenin's centenary.

Not exactly.

In fact, the first Earth Day was organized by Senator Gaylord Nelson of Wisconsin, a long-time environmental activist. April 22 was selected because that spring it came on a Wednesday, and wouldn't be a day taken off just to have a long weekend.

As for Vladimir Ilich Ulyanov, later known as Lenin, April 22 1970 wasn't exactly his birthday, either. He was born in Russia, which used the old style Julian Calendar until after the 1917 Russian Revolution. In England and America, which used the Gregorian calendar since 1752, Lenin was born on May 4, 1870. The calendar discrepancy is why the Soviet Union always celebrated the October 1917 revolution in November.

Anyhow, Earth Day never had anything to do with Lenin.