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.

36 replies
  1. M.Cooper says:

    I Know nothing about these things but if they are harmful to this beautiful land and to wildlife then I most certainly vote no if given the opportunity

    • AOK says:

      M. Cooper – all human existence comes at a cost to our beautiful land and wildlife. It comes down to choosing the lesser of evils. Renewable energy is unarguably less harmful than burning fossil fuels. You may want to give further thought to voting no if you have not considered the alternatives.

    • Jay McCarthy says:

      The Cumberland Mountain wind project that was slated for Crab Orchard was rushed into and did not take into account the significant impact that it would have on the environment and surrounding community. After the Cumberland Mountain Preservation Coalition did a thorough investigation of the planned project site we found many problems that had been overlooked by the developer. These problems presented an irreversible effect on the wildlife and environment for generations to come. How can you
      put a cost on that? You can’t. Fortunately after we formed a partnership with TWF, together we convinced the elected officials in the great state of TN to step back and take a deep breath along with placing a moratorium for one year so that projects like this will have to go through a thorough venting process. This was it will insure that anytime a future project like the one planned for Crab Orchard will have to go through State permitting regulations that are currently being designed to prevent this from happening again. We also would like to add that the developer has also shown enough concern that are studies indicated and as a result has decided that this is not an appropriate site for a wind project and has suspended the project indefinitely .

    • Pamela Hennes says:

      I read the link you provided in your post above. There was a quote included in the article from the Audubon Society “A tough reminder for bird-friendly lighting and design.” One might consider this a message that these bird deaths might have been prevented had “man” not had a hand in causing them.

  2. Pamela Hennes says:

    Before I start I would like to address previous statements about bird deaths from high rises, cats and other minutiae mentioned. You will not find bald eagles flying into high rises anywhere in TN nor do they or any other of the protected species die from being caught by a cat. Given the proposed Crab Orchard wind farm will be built in migratory bird paths…you can expect excessive loss of avian life including bats based on the caves in the area. The bats control insect infestation for the area including mosquitos. Unfortunately, inasmuch as this project will be on private property; only recently we found there is a local ordinance to control such a project, to date our local Cumberland County Board does not foresee any environmental issue of concern and the project is preceding full steam ahead, literally steamrolling the objections of a growing chorus of resistance. With substantial subsidies from Washington D.C. building this wind farm in an area with a poor wind rating profits only Apex Clean Energy, certainly not Tennesseans.
    Looking at the U.S. Dept of Energy Wind Exchange, Crab Orchard has a poor wind rating. Making this location for both energy & profit once built one of the least desirable locations for a wind farm. (http://apps2.eere.energy.gov/wind/windexchange/windmaps/)
    Apex and their Wind Energy Lobbyists can no more provide data to support the construction of the wind farm in Crab Orchard than the opponents can provide data to not build this wind farm. The reasons are simple:
    · There is no data on the effects of 650’ turbines placed inland; the new turbines for this project are bigger, louder and more powerful that any turbines placed inland to date. The necessity to place such tall turbines on the mountain plateau is lack of wind at lower altitudes.
    · There is no data of the effects of turbines of this size being placed on a mountain plateau, though there is data to not place shorter turbines on mountain ranges.
    · Additionally Apex placed a wind monitoring station on the mountain 3 years ago; continue to refuse to make data public.

    Crab Orchard Wind Farm construction issues are:
    1. It will require razing the top of the mountain of all trees.
    a. making it difficult if not impossible to control storm water run-off from the high-impact, high-elevation construction site
    i. including increased flooding, stream bank erosion, and sedimentation on culverts, bridges, and the local community
    ii. a downstream risk imparted by this project will be the environmental impact on existing local and State Parks
    b. the act will destroy the beauty of the irreplaceable Cumberland Plateau for generations
    c. Loss of tourist $$$ for both local economy and state of Tennessee.
    2. Turbine placement requires deep blasting into the mountain.
    Past coal mining on land under contract currently have contained slurry ponds.
    We have locally a large number of retired military and veterans living in the area that suffer from PTSD. Blasting on the Plateau will force them from their homes.
    There is water from local aquifers, streams & rivers that have the potential for contamination from the turbines themselves once built. Please understand this wind farm is not “Green Energy”.
    The turbine rotors require an excessive amount of oil to turn…as they turn they cause vibrations allowing the oil to move down the turbine into the soil.
    In addition what Apex Clean Energy does not disclose is each turbine constructed requires at least a couple THOUSAND pounds of Rare Earth Elements (REEs). These Rare Earth Elements are highly toxic to the environment when the life of the turbine ends and remains abandoned.
    FIRE! We in Tennessee just suffered one fire with great loss in our Great Smoky Mountains National Park into Gatlinburg. Placing turbines on a mountain top with natural forest surrounding the cleared land puts yet another area of Tennessee in jeopardy from fire.
    Wind turbines catch fire!
    i. Highly flammable materials such as hydraulic oil and plastics are in close proximity to machinery and electrical wires. They ignite a fire when they overheat or are faulty. An immeasurable amount of oxygen, in the form of wind, can quickly fan a fire inside a turbine.
    ii. Lightning strikes: The simple fact is, a metal structure 63 stories high on a 2,700′ mountain in an area with frequent lightning storms (living here we have at least one if not more lightning storms a month) is going to get hit and catch fire.
    Once ignited, the chances of fighting any blaze is diminished due to:
    i. the massive height of the wind turbine
    ii. the remote area proposed
    iii. The closest fire department is comprised of volunteers in Fairfield Glade, TN.
    In 2014 the College London, the University of Edinburgh and SP Technical Research Institute of Sweden carried out a global assessment of the world’s wind farms. Fire has accounted for 10 to 30 per cent of reported turbine accidents.
    The placement of the Crab Orchard Wind Farm on Millstone Mountain will have a negative effect on the largest growth area in Cumberland County, TN
    Heath Issues for an aging population of residents.
    The State of Tennessee going forward needs strict guidelines for Wind Technology/Wind Farms placement, construction, & turbine end of life.

    • W Phillips says:

      @Pamela Hennes, sure is refreshing to see your information, few know or understand the Wind Technology industry, the motives behind the HUGE subsidies and grants that has been at a record high over the last few years has been a waste (based on documented track records, several of which that received such went bankrupt). I have been a Professional Energy & Utilities Landman for the last 7 years, primarily performing mineral title search determination work back to patent with oil/gas leasing and utility easement/ROW. I have traveled around the US on various contract projects and I was shocked to see the masses amount of wind turbines in West Tx plains and New Mexico. When I saw so many that were not running I inquired about it and began to gather information overall. Turns out most of them in that area were mfg in Spain and was enlightened about how much fossil fuels went into the mfg of them, not to mention hauling them… I have much to say about this so called “green” technology but like others comments here, educating one’s self is the best way to know and understand their worth or unworthiness in conversation or debate. I’m also familiar with Apex Energy and have talked with them several months past about performing the ROW and title work on that proposed Crab Orchard project but was pretty sure it wouldn’t fly after reading about the community responses and the TN State government position. As a resident of Putnam Co Tn, I’m very familiar with the oil/gas industry around this area and KY. NONE that I know of in the oil/gas exploration, predominantly by small business exploration/drilling companies receive any subsidies or grants and have suffered greatly over the last 4 years with crude down so low and the previous administrations actions. I have educated myself and also witnessed several oil/gas drilling sites and the fracking involved. I so wished many others would too because you get alot of false information from the media and special interest groups. As for the fire, you are right on, they are frequent. Here’s a video of one in Portugal, I assure you all, that type would be devastating upon the Cumberland Plateau forestry and wildlife, not to mention property owners. Every form of energy has its risk but technology has come a long way, hopefully pushing ahead we can achieve the best mankind can do for the betterment of all people, wildlife and this planet.

  3. Jay Mac says:

    In reply to AOK comments who unfortunately only knows talking points and not facts about industrial wind turbines I invite him/her to look at Ontario’s 30 year history of industrial wind farm development. Consumers bill’ have increase over 88% over the last 5 years due to the wind farm subsidies. Even though after 30 years wind farms only produce 4% of the energy, it cost is 20% of each person bill. Companies are fleeing Ontario due to rapid increase in utility cost like John Deer, Catipillar, GM, Kraft food and the list goes on. Over the next 15 years Co2 is projected to increase because with wind power you have to constantly start & stop gas turbines to make up the difference since turbines power is not constant to the electrical grid.Municipalities have had all rights removed regarding wind projects.
    Over 80 municipalities are “unwilling hosts” to turbines, but are not acknowledged.
    Every turbine destroys 3 acres of land; roughly 21,000 acres of farmland lost forever.
    Ontario turbines are closer to people than any place in the world and Apex is modeling that program here in Tennessee.
    Turbine neighbours suffer from turbine noise and wind turbine syndrome which can be life threatening.
    Residents are abandoning their homes at a unprecedented pace.
    The small number of fortunate home owners are bought out by the wind companies, but must sign a gag order.
    Rural Ontario areas are becoming ghost towns.
    Don’t believe the facts then go visit the area for yourself.
    This is exactly what we don’t need to happen to Tennessee.

  4. 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.

  5. 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. 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 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?

  6. 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 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. 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.

  8. 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?

    • 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.

  9. 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.

  10. 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.

  11. 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.


Trackbacks & Pingbacks

Leave a Reply

Want to join the discussion?
Feel free to contribute!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *