Monday, October 20, 2014

The Truth About the Power Lines

It all started with what might seem to be a shrewd scheme to make two traditionally warring groups happy: environmentalists and the utilities. To please environmentalists, the nuclear power plant at Indian Point would be shut down and new energy for electricity would be supplied by wind power. To please the utilities, a $1.3 billion "energy superhighway" would be created to carry that power downstate, to New York City and Long Island where it is needed. There's only one problem: getting the wind-generated energy from where it is created to where it is needed involves, in the words of Gidon Eshel, "scarring the Hudson Valley up and down"--the Hudson Valley, whose rejuvenated and growing economy is dependent on agriculture and tourism driven by the Valley's scenic beauty and historic resources. 

The plan for the energy superhighway assumes that there is a need for this increased transmission of power to New York City and Long Island. On Saturday, before a huge crowd gathered at the Churchtown Firehouse, environmental physicist Gidon Eshel presented the findings of his analysis of the need, between now and 2040, which concluded that the need does not exist.

Eshel began his presentation with his analysis of the three factors that determine need: use, temperature rise, and population growth. The first assumption is that use is increasing and will continue to increase. Eshel revealed that the statistics show that peak loads rose significantly from 1993 to 2005, but that rise stopped in 2006. Use is now declining. The second assumption is that rising temperatures will increase demand. Eshel asserted that the annual maximum temperature is expected to rise 4.5 degrees Fahrenheit. "You crank up the A/C at 90, but you're not going to crank it up anymore when it's 100 degrees." The third assumption is that the downstate population is rising and will continue to rise. Eshel reported that population numbers have plateaued in the recent past, and future population growth is expected to be slower or none at all. Also, the composition of the population is changing: the 25 to 45 age group, which typically uses more energy, is declining; the 45 to 70 age group, which typically consumes less energy, is growing.

Eshel pointed out that there are already projects south of here in advanced stages of approval that will provide 10,000 megawatts of power, and if only half these projects actually happen, the supply of electricity will always be well above the predictions of peak load--without Indian Point and without transmission upgrades through the Hudson Valley.

The "energy superhighway" is touted as a green plan, moving wind energy harvested upstate to where it is needed downstate. On the topic of tappable wind energy, Eshel identified the two best sources of wind energy in New York State: along the Great Lakes--Lake Ontario and Lake Erie--and around Long Island. Remarkably, there is tappable wind in the same place where there is population density. That being the case, why transmit energy the length of the state when it exists in such close proximity? As Eshel put it, "If you are serious about wind, you do not go to the hills beyond Albany."

Eshel made the point that the "energy superhighway" stifles the ability to produce energy near where it is needed and supports a handful of megacorporations instead of encouraging small energy producers that would be competing and creating jobs. He also warned that giant energy networks are the antithesis of resilience to terrorist attack.

Eshel's presentation concluded that the transmission upgrades threatening the Hudson Valley are unnecessary, stifle competition, and reduce our resilience to attack. The cost to rate payers--us--for this unnecessary upgrade is predicted to be $260 million a year. 

Saturday's presentation was covered by several news media, including News Channel 13: "Research shows Hudson Valley power line expansion not needed."

1 comment:

  1. Wonderful summary of the presentation by Gidon Eshel. He will present this material a second time Saturday, Nov. 1, from 2 – 4 p.m. in the Bertelsmann Campus Center Multipurpose Room at Bard College, Annandale-on-Hudson, Dutchess County.

    It is worth hearing the facts directly: there is no need for the impacts or costs of this proposed new transmission infrastructure.