Analysis: Twenty Years of Lowell <= Ten Days of NYC Traffic

Sep 08, 2014 No Comments by

Green Mountain Power claims that its complex of industrial wind turbines on Lowell Mountain prevents the emission of greenhouse gases. GMP claims that each megawatt of power that the turbines put on the grid replaces dirtier electricity and prevents the release of 0.4 tons of CO2 into the atmosphere.

Here are the calculations that show the value of the CO2 that GMP claims to avoid in terms of New York City traffic emissions. (Download the Excel workbook here.)

Lowell versus NYC calculation

Over its lifetime, the Lowell turbine complex will, according to GMP, prevent CO2 emissions equivalent to only 9.7 days of metro NYC traffic. While this reduction would be good (were it real), the price of an intact Vermont ecosystem is far too high.

GMP’s claimed CO2 reductions are not real. GMP fails to account for the carbon emissions associated with:

  • Manufacturing of the turbines and other equipment and materials
  • Transportation of the turbines and other materials
  • Site preparation … blasting, excavation, and the like
  • Construction
  • Transmission upgrades
  • The frequent repairs to the turbines and ancillary equipment
  • Decommissioning
  • Electricity required to:
    • Provide spinning reserve to support Lowell operations
    • Operate the synchronous condenser
    • Cool the synchronous condenser
    • Power other ancillary facilities and equipment

If these CO2 emissions were to be accounted for honestly, it is entirely possible that we would find the Lowell turbines to be net contributors of atmospheric CO2.

And then there’s the issue of GMP’s sale of renewable energy credits. These credits represent the environmental benefits that GMP claims for the Lowell turbines. Vermont law enables GMP to sell these RECs to polluters.

One result of these REC sales is that GMP is prohibited (by the Federal Trade Commission) from calling electricity from Lowell “renewable.” Ever notice the peculiar language that GMP uses to hint that they are selling renewable electricity?

The sale of RECs from Lowell puts the lie to any claims of avoided CO2 that GMP makes. The fraudulence of the Vermont policies that enable this practice has been well documented by Ben Luce, Kevin Jones, as well as VTDigger reporter John Herrick.


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