Turbines on the Laurel Mountain Wind Farm in West Virginia.

Turbines on the Laurel Mountain Wind Farm in West Virginia.

Crab Orchard Wind Farm — Are we considering ALL the costs?

By TWF CEO, Michael Butler

Recently, Sen. Lamar Alexander took to the floor of the United States Senate to discuss an important issue: a proposed wind farm that would be located in Cumberland County if approved. He was joined in opposition by Rep. Diane Black, who wrote to several federal agencies voicing her concerns. Watch Sen. Alexander’s presentation below.

So why are they so vocal in their opposition to a seemingly well-intended project? “Clean energy” like wind power must be a positive thing for the environment, right? And it must therefore also be good for wildlife too, yes?

The truth is that the impacts of wind farms are significant, and they are decidedly not positive for Tennessee’s environment and wildlife. If you look at the 23 wind turbines proposed for Cumberland County, each 600 feet tall – three times the height of Neyland Stadium, with blades as long as a foot ball field – and plainly visible from 1-40 and the surrounding area, you begin to understand the scope.

A sufficient amount of wind to run the turbines would only be available 18 percent of the time, and TVA says they don’t even need the electricity it would produce. From an efficiency standpoint, it costs $52 dollars an hour to subsidize wind power production, versus 84 cents for hydropower – and the project will only produce a fraction of what is generated by Watt’s Bar dam nearby. The Crab Orchard Wind Farm as proposed would cover 1,800 acres, not including the large transmission lines to service it – a change in habitat requiring clear cuts and large applications of herbicide to maintain.

It doesn’t make financial sense, and it would alter the natural landscape forever. All of that wind through all of those turbines also produces a lot of unpleasant noise. But what about the impact on wildlife?

Each year, wind farms are responsible for the death of 1.4 million plus birds and bats – in just two months at the Backbone Mountain wind farm in West Virginia, 2,000 bats were chopped to pieces by the turbines. When federal investigators discovered the carcasses of 38 golden eagles and 336 other protected birds at two wind projects in Oregon, PacifiCorp Energy was assessed a $2.5 million fine for violating the Migratory Bird Treaty Act.

Simply put, wind farms kill wildlife both directly and indirectly, and lots of it. Add to this problem the cost, the negative affect on quality of life for area residents, the gross inefficiency of wind power production and the fact that we don’t even need the electricity it would produce, and the reality sets in. Any cost-benefit analysis on this project tells a clear story – the massive and permanent effects of wind power production are not worth it.

The question we must ultimately ask ourselves is this: Do we want to use public tax dollars to subsidize an unneeded private business to chop up our public wildlife?

Wind farms by the numbers…

  • 23 – Number of wind turbines proposed for the Crab Orchard Wind Farm.
  • 71 – Number of megawatts (MW) the project will produce. For comparisons sake, Watts Bar Units 1 and 2 generate right at 2,500 MW.
  • 52 – Dollar figure of the federal subsidy per megawatt hour (MWh) for wind power. For comparison, the federal subsidy for hydropower is $0.84/MWh, coal $0.64/MWh, natural gas and oil $0.63/MWh, and nuclear $3.10/MWh. Only solar receives a higher subsidy at $968/MWh.
  • 18 – Percent of time that wind is estimated as available to run the Crab Orchard Wind Farm.
  • 0 – Amount of base-load electricity TVA says is needed at this time. (Wind power only provides base-load electricity.)
  • 600 – Height in feet of each wind turbine (three times the height of Neyland Stadium), with blades as long as a football field. This incredible mass of steel and aluminum would be plainly visible from I-40 and the surrounding area.
  • 1,000 – Distance in feet at which a turbine is as loud as an air conditioning unit.
  • 600,000+ — Estimated number of birds killed by wind farms in the U.S. annually.
  • 800,000+ — Estimated number of bats killed by wind farms in the U.S. annually.
  • 2,000 — Number of bats killed in two months at the Backbone Mountain wind farm in West Virginia.
  • 1,800 — Number of acres proposed to be used by the Crab Orchard Wind Farm. This number does not include acreage needed to provide transmission lines to the site – a change in habitat requiring large applications of herbicide to maintain.
  • 2,500,000 — The number of dollars paid by Oregon based PacifiCorp Energy for violating the Migratory Bird Treaty Act when federal investigators discovered the carcasses of 38 golden eagles and 336 other protected birds (e.g., hawks, blackbirds, larks, wrens and sparrows) at two PacifiCorp wind projects in the state.

Please check back often or follow us on Facebook to learn when and how to make your voice heard on this issue as the permitting process continues.

24 replies
  1. Randy Richesin
    Randy Richesin says:

    I have traveled this country from one end to the other and witnessed what these wind farms do. They ruin scenic views,kill wildlife, and destroy the landscape where ever they are built. When they strip the land of vegetation to build these there is nothing to stop the runoff into local streams and that does not count the runoff of herbicide to keep the area clear. What kind of carbon footprint do these monsters leave when you figure in all the energy it take to manufacture each windmill? Eighteen hundred acres plus for the wind farm is insane!
    The Cumberland Plateau is too beautiful and area to have these eyesores erected to ruin the land especially when the power is not need here.

  2. David
    David says:

    On the bright side, they can only pulverize wildlife 18% of the time? That’s only a couple of months out of the year that they are blade-bludgeoning innocent creatures out of the sky. The rest of the time they only kill animals in less gruesome ways. Giant, needless reminders of their own indiscriminate brutality.

  3. Haskel Meadows
    Haskel Meadows says:

    I agree with the Senator . Do you remember the Ethanol plant in Kimball Tn that failed as well as the cost to produce the product . There may have been others that also failed . They also diverted a food source into a fuel source . Wind , Solar , Pueumatic from ocean waves ; all fine concepts but need many years of research in all these areas to determine the need and practicality before we jump headlong into any of these areas . It seems that these are treated as a get rich scheme by some folks.

    • Cliff
      Cliff says:

      Who is Apex?

      Apex Clean Energy Holdings, LLC is a subsidiary of Greenlight Energy Resources, Inc., which is a subsidiary of BP Alternative Energy International Ltd., which is a subsidiary of BP plc.; also referred to by its former name of British Petroleum, the world’s sixth-largest oil and gas company.

  4. Sandra
    Sandra says:

    Hoping to learn as much as possible about the wind turbines from all point of views, but I am against them in Crab Orchard/Cumberland County. Do we have a migratory law here?

  5. AOK
    AOK says:

    The most compelling arguments are ones made logically. When arguments don’t make sense, you lose credibility. This hit me as I was reading the points about how the wind turbines are not efficient, do not make financial sense, and the energy is not even needed.Oh and let’s top off those arguments by pointing out how they make an unpleasant noise and are visually unappealing.

    As pointed out by another comment below, follow the money – who stands to profit. Be clear there would be no interest in this project if it was not profitable. In order for it to be profitable the energy production has to be efficient enough and make financial sense. This means there has to be a customer for the energy too, which means the energy is needed. So the inefficiency, economics, and necessity for the energy arguments are shoddy. Noisy and visually unappealing wind turbines as an argument against clean, sustainable, renewable energy which works towards making our country energy independent really does not even seem worth addressing as a valid argument.

    So let’s address the environmental impact to birds. Yes, wind turbines will harm birds. Thankfully it is significantly less (about 10%) than the number who die from collisions into high rise buildings, automobiles, power lines & cell towers, and outdoor cats. Has the wind industry learned from past mistakes about migratory and protected birds? Yes they have and are continually working to reduce the impact, which includes shutting down specifically to avoid avian collisions. I hope you aren’t use Trump as your source for the number of golden eagle deaths. Henny Penny arguments are counter productive.

    Any energy source, the act of human existence on this earth, will have a detrimental impact on wildlife and the environment. As much as I cannot stand the thought of the peril of wildlife, the only realistic goal is to reduce our impact. The impact of harvesting and burning fossil fuels has a far greater impact on not just wildlife, but the environment as well. This impacts our health, livelihood, and life. The World Health Organization just released data citing 3 million premature human deaths annually due to air pollution. This is less acceptable for me than a few hundred thousand bird deaths. Not to be flippant, but this is harsh reality. Understand we have a negative impact and it is our DUTY to seek less harmful solutions. There is no room for NIMBY attitudes and arguments of wind turbines making unpleasant sounds and being visually unappealing. You know what is much less visually appealing, watching your 50 year old brother die from lung cancer.

    I appreciate your passion Mr. Butler, but the source of your efforts is misguided from where I sit. And aligning yourself with the likes Lamar Alexander and Diane Black is aligning yourself with the fossil fuel industry.

  6. John F.
    John F. says:

    Inefficient, financial “rat holes,” unneeded, noisy, visually objectionable, environmentally harmful, destructive to wildlife–then why has this proposal gotten this far? For which of the following reasons? Either It will serve some special interest. Or it will promote someone’s hidden agenda. Or it will make money for some “chrony” to the advocates. Or perhaps all three. Where do our other state leaders stand on this project?

    • AOK
      AOK says:

      John F. the reason why the proposal has gotten this far is because it is not inefficient, unneeded, noisy, and is far, far, far less environmentally harmful and destructive to wildlife than our current, widespread, unrenewable energy sources. The hidden agenda lies with those who are objecting to the project without being fully informed. Please do your research before taking a stance based on others’ bias. Or are you John Droz, trolling as a different person?

  7. Mike
    Mike says:

    Mr. AOK and Mr. John F.

    While your comments are valued and appreciated, I would like to make it clear that this reply forum is a place for sharing of opinions and information. It is not a place for challenging individual’s credibility or personal attacks. To this point, let’s please stay on topic and discuss the best science, data and facts regarding this subject.

    Thank you for your consideration of this request.

    Mike Butler, CEO
    Tennessee Wildlife Federation

    • John F.
      John F. says:

      Mr. Butler, if you assess my remarks as other than “sharing of opinions and information” or attacks upon someone’s “credibility” or persons, I offer my sincere apology.

    • AOK
      AOK says:

      Mr. Butler,

      If someone is sharing “information” in a way that masquerades as fact but it is actually biased poppycock, wouldn’t you want to see that challenged? I absolutely want decisions on this matter to be founded in scientific data and fact. I feel quite strongly about that, which is why I am incensed to see anyone misleading others in the realities at hand. For example, the data presented above states numbers about Federal subsidies per MWh across electricity sources, but this is distorted if we do not account for whether the data is for direct or tax expenditures, whether tax provisions are permanently embedded, if it supports capital expenditure for development which could then produce energy cheaply for decades, or even why an energy technology that is a century old requires a subsidy. If readers are unwittingly being persuaded with distorted, biased, or even incorrect data then it should be challenged. We’re told that 600,000 birds are killed annually by wind turbines, but not told that hundreds of millions to a billion are killed each year from collisions with windows (and by the way, Audubon has estimated the number of annual wind turbine deaths to be 140,000-328,000). Why not fully explore all of the external costs of burning fossil fuels?

      I welcome anyone to challenge my credibility and data since that would mean they are doing their own research and verifying truthful and unbiased information. Also, wondering why it is you assumed I am a man?

  8. Dan Holton
    Dan Holton says:

    It may be helpful to look at energy production in Tennessee from a political perspective, then try to find the quality and sometines subjective values that emerge in this issue, just like President T Roosevelt would have done. After all, Republican conservation policies have always focused on benefitting the few wealthy and those in high stations such as the legislature and congress. (Ref: ‘Wilderness Warrior’) Tennesseans value good jobs for our people, with sustainable wages. And just one of the industries and occupations employing Tennesseans is wind tower and blade manufacturing, a reflection of our values. We share these values with our neighbor, North Carolina.

    Let’s consider coal which creates energy through power plants in Tennessee. Where does all that coal come from to power Tennessee? The inconvenient fact is, our power plants get all their coal from TVA, a federal agency over which we have no control. Not one crumb of coal extracted from Tennessee mines goes to power production in our wonderful state. Why is this a fact? Because Tennessee coal is not clean coal. Only mining operations using clean coal are shipped to our state’s power plants by TVA, and only certain mines west of the Mississippi River have clean coal.

    And who exactly owns most of the clean coal mines? Why, it is the federal government, of course, another inconvenient fact. All the while, Tennessee mines and miners are forced to compete with over-priced global mining operations, and they are going out of business basically bankrupt, as we speak.

    I’ll not load up a bucket of statistics to confirm my comments, because after all, the flaw with statistics is the same stats can be used to support any argument whatsoever. But in the face of these facts, which I can prove with evidence, we see in this blog-post advocating opposition to wind power in Tennessee, regardless how many jobs it will create. Wind power is part of the future of manufacturing in Tennessee.

    Follow the money.


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