FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
ABOUT RENEWABLE ENERGY
Wind Energy General Questions
How does wind energy work?
Wind turbines are simple machines that require no fuel and produce no emissions. They work only when the wind blows past the rotor blades, causing them to turn. The turbine’s blades turn because of ‘lift’, similar to the way a kite flies. A spin of the rotor blades turns a generator, which then produces electricity. Since a turbine has no motor or power source of its own, it can only turn when it is windy enough. Wind turbines are one of the best renewable ways to become energy independent and reduce pollution. Some wind turbines use a permanent magnet generator rather than a traditional gearbox generator.
What wind turbines exist in RI?
In 2016, the total capacity of on-shore wind turbines installed in Rhode Island totals is 22.6 MW. These include:
Turbine Impacts Questions
How much noise do turbines make?
Noise from wind turbines has been one of the most researched impacts of this renewable technology. Wind turbines produce two types of noise: Mechanical noise from the gearbox and Aerodynamic noise from the blades and cooling system. Because the VENSYS turbine technology used in Green Development turbines is gearless, the only audible sound is the swooshing of the turbine blades and hum of the cooling fans. The sound of the turbine can only be heard when it is in operation, while a lot of this noise is masked by the sound of the wind blowing through the trees. Noise maps are generated for each wind turbine based on the technology and site-specific characteristics. The wind turbines we develop are sited to meet local noise ordinances.
Reference: Knopper LD, CA Ollson, LC McCallum, Whitfield Aslund ML, RG Berger, K Souweine, and M McDaniel. 2014. “Wind turbines and human health”. Frontiers in Public Health.
What is shadow flicker and how can its impact be minimized?
Shadow flicker is a phenomenon that occurs when the sun is low in the sky, the turbine is located between the sun and an occupied structure, the turbine is facing the sun or the building, and the blades are spinning. When the sun shines through the rotating blades it creates a temporary absence of light each time the blade shadow passes the window inside the structure. Flicker can be a nuisance for residences in close proximity to the wind turbine only if a turbine is not sited properly. It is extremely easy to predict, and a flicker analysis is conducted for every wind turbine to ensure that excessive shadow flicker will not occur. The internationally acceptable amount of shadow flicker is no more than 30 hours per year or 30 minutes per day in an occupied structure.
Is “Wind Turbine Syndrome” real?
Researchers have found that the issues associated with “Wind Turbine Syndrome” are most commonly caused by everyday problems, such as stress and anxiety. Stress and anxiety do not exist if turbines are sited responsibly. There is not enough evidence to show that there is a correlation between wind turbines and sickness/sleeplessness in humans who live in close proximity to the project.
Reference: McCunney, R. J., Mundt, K. A., Colby, W. D., Dobie, R., Kaliski, K., & Blais, M. (January 01, 2014). Wind turbines and health: a critical review of the scientific literature. Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine / American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, 56, 11, 108-30.
How do turbines affect property values?
There is not enough Top of Form proof to demonstrate that property values around wind turbines decline. A University of Rhode Island study was commissioned to analyze this in detail and found: “across a wide variety of specifications, the results indicate that wind turbines have no statistically significant impact on house prices. For houses within a half mile of a turbine, the point estimate of price change for properties within ½ mile relative to properties 3-5 miles away 4 is -0.2%. So our best estimate is wind towers have no virtual effect on prices of nearby properties.”
Reference: Lang, C., Opaluch, J. J., & Sfinarolakis, G. (July 01, 2014). The windy city: Property value impacts of wind turbines in an urban setting. Energy Economics, 44, 4, 41Bottom of Form.Top of Form; Hoen, B., Brown, J. P., Jackson, T., Thayer, M. A., Wiser, R., & Cappers, P. (July 15, 2015). Spatial Hedonic Analysis of the Effects of US Wind Energy Facilities on Surrounding Property Values. The Journal of Real Estate Finance and Economics, 51,1, 22-51. Bottom of Form
How do turbines affect wildlife?
Although wind turbines may hypothetically represent a risk to birds and bats, these figures are nothing compared to the amount of birds and bats killed due to domestic and feral cats, buildings, and power lines. GED works to reduce any potential threat to wildlife through our innovative regrowth projects, which rehabilitate local ecosystems and maintain wildlife. Additionally, wind energy has the smallest amount of avian fatalities compared with other methods of energy production, including nuclear energy plants and fossil-fuel powered plants.
Reference: Smallwood, K. Shawn. 2013. “Comparing bird and bat fatality-rate estimates among North American wind-energy projects”. Wildlife Society Bulletin. 37 (1): 19-33.; Loss, Scott R, Tom Will, and Peter P Marra. 2012. “Direct human-caused mortality of birds: improving quantification of magnitude and assessment of population impact”. Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment. 10 (7): 357-364.; Wang, Shifeng, Sicong Wang, and Pete Smith. 2015. “Ecological impacts of wind farms on birds/ Questions, hypotheses, and research needs”. Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews. 44/ 599-607.; Benjamin K. Sovacool, “Contextualizing Avian Mortality- A Preliminary Appraisal of Bird and Bat Fatalities from Wind, Fossil-Fuel, and Nuclear Electricity,” Energy Policy 37(6) (June, 2009), pp. 2241-2248
Are wind turbines safe?
Yes. Design and engineering advances have created an industry where malfunctions and “blade throws” are uncommon and considered a thing of the past. Moreover, there are specific guidelines that take these uncommon occurrences into consideration, known as Setback Guidelines which ensure the safety of the public that surrounds a wind turbine.
Don't turbines only work on wind farms in Texas and California?
No. The viability of a wind turbine is based on 2 factors: the available wind speed and the cost of power. Although the available wind speed in Rhode Island is lower than other states, GED utilizes a technology that is designed to operate despite lower wind speeds. Moreover, since Rhode Island has very high electricity prices, even less efficient wind turbines can still save money for cities and towns across the state.
What’s the Difference Between GED Turbines and Other Turbines?
GED utilizes wind turbines manufactured by VENSYS, a German manufacturer. The technology is a direct drive which utilizes a permanent magnet rather than a traditional gearbox to make electricity. Gearboxes are the most common point of failure in wind turbines and create the most noise. A gearless VENSYS wind turbine in the 1.5 MW class contains very few components and requires only 2 liters of motor oil. The turbine produces more electricity because it is available to run 99% of the time due to less wear-and-tear on components and fewer breakdowns. With more than 11,000 turbines installed worldwide, Vensys is the market leader for large wind turbines. Examples of similar wind turbine technology can be seen at the Narragansett Bay Commission site in Providence and in North Kingstown at the home of GED’s founder/CEO. Additional information on this technology can be found on our Technology page.
How widespread is Wind Energy?
Installed wind capacity in the United States has grown exponentially from 1999 to 2015. The graphs below show national wind growth during that period.
Wind Vision Map— expansion of wind energy 2000-2050
Energy Policy in Rhode Island
What is energy security?
The IEA defines energy security as the uninterrupted availability of energy sources at an affordable price. Long-term energy security deals with timely investments to supply energy in line with economic developments and environmental needs. On the other hand, short-term energy security focuses on the ability of the energy system to react promptly to sudden changes in the supply-demand balance.
What Policies Support Energy in Rhode Island?
RI has numerous programs which promote and support the expansion of renewable energy in the state. At the state level there is a Renewable Energy Standard, the Renewable Energy Growth Program, Net Metering, as well as an Executive Order from the Governor.
What is a renewable energy standard?
A Renewable Energy Standard (RES) is a policy that requires and outlines the expansion of renewable resources at the state level. This includes wind, solar, geothermal, hydroelectric, biomass, landfill gas, wave energy, ocean thermal, and anaerobic digestion energy sources. In its most recent session, the legislature voted to expand the existing RES which would have had 14.5% of RI’s power come from clean energy by 2019 to an astounding new level of 40% by 2035.
What is the Renewable Energy Growth (REG) Program?
The REG Program is a performance-based incentive program administered by National Grid and supervised by the Public Utility Commission (PUC). It allows an owner of a renewable energy project to enroll and sell power to National Grid at a fixed rate for 20 years through a tariff. The aim of the program is to promote the installation of grid-connected renewable energy at reasonable costs. The program is designed to help finance the development, construction, and operation of renewable energy distributed generation projects through tariff-based incentives.
What is Net Metering?
Net Metering is a practice whereby the utility acts as a virtual bank for turbine owners. At times when a turbine is producing more power than needed, the energy gets fed into the grid and the turbine owner gets credit to use at a later time. The electric grid acts like a battery and the turbine owner’s meter can spin forward and backward. This allows customers to offset the cost of power drawn from the utility and helps reduce the strain on distribution systems.
What is “Remote” or “Virtual” Net Metering?
Remote Net Metering is an extension of Net Metering that allows customers to net meter from sites that are located away from their existing facilities. For example, the Town of West Warwick purchased three of the wind turbines built in Coventry, RI. The Town of West Warwick is able to offset their electricity needs through net metering even though the turbines are located elsewhere.
How are Governor Raimondo and the Rhode Island Legislature Supporting Wind Energy Initiatives?
Governor Raimondo was part of the Governors’ Accord for a New Energy Future, a bipartisan effort to support clean energy across a number of states. Gov. Raimondo also issued a Lead by Example executive order in December 2015, which pledged that Rhode Island would use 100 percent renewable power in state government by 2025 and reduce energy use in the state by 10 percent by the end of 2019. Rhode Island also recently developed the RI Green Bank and the Efficient Buildings Fund. These new entities help municipalities improve their energy efficiency, modernize the electrical grid, create jobs, improve system reliability, and reduce environmental impact. Additionally, RI is a part of the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, which works to reduce carbon dioxide emissions from the generation of electricity by more than 40 percent by 2020.