Following The Money On Renewable Energy

John Hinderaker at Power Line Blog posted an article yesterday about the cost of the a green energy proposal in Minnesota. The article illustrates what will happen if this sort of program is attempted on a national scale.

The article reports:

Today Center of the American Experiment released a groundbreaking paper that addresses a relatively mild “green” proposal: legislation that would raise the renewable energy standard in Minnesota from 25% to 50%. Two of my staffers have been working on the paper for months, drawing on publicly available (but rarely consulted) sources to understand what would be necessary to achieve that 50% goal, what it would cost, how it would impact the state’s economy, and what effect it would have on global temperatures.

The paper is titled “Doubling Down on Failure: How a 50 Percent by 2030 Renewable Energy Standard Would Cost Minnesota $80.2 Billion.” With appendices, it runs to 75 pages. I am not aware of a similarly comprehensive analysis that has been done of any “green” proposal at either the state or the federal level. The paper is fully transparent: all assumptions, data and calculations are clearly set forth. The appendices are largely spread sheets. If anyone disagrees with the report’s conclusions, it should be easy to identify where and why those disagreements arise. You can read the paper here.

The article cites a few highlights from the report:

* Building and maintaining “green” wind and solar facilities, along with transmission lines and necessary natural gas complementary plants (to provide electricity when the wind isn’t blowing, i.e. 60% of the time), would cost $80.2 billion through 2050. For a state like Minnesota, that number is out of the question.

* Every household in Minnesota would pay an average of $1,200 per year, in 2016 dollars, through higher electricity rates and otherwise.

* Electricity prices would rise by 40.2%.

* Electricity-intensive industries like mining, agriculture, manufacturing and health care would be hurt the most. Once again, urban greenies are hammering rural, and physically productive, America. [That last is my commentary, not found in the executive summary.]

* Higher electricity prices are a dead loss that will reduce spending in other areas as household budgets are squeezed. Therefore, according to economist John Phelan, using the generally accepted IMPLAN software, achieving the 50% renewable goal would cost Minnesota 21,000 permanent jobs, and reduce the state’s GDP by $3.1 billion annually. It is one small step on the road to Venezuela.

This really does not sound like a good idea. The push for green energy has always been about government power–whether at the state or federal level. It is interesting that the political left has chosen to attack fossil fuels just at the time when America has achieved energy independence because of fossil fuels and fossil fuels are driving our economic success. Economic success is the enemy of those who espouse socialism–if people are become prosperous, why would they want something different?

The Things They Never Told Us About Wind Power

An article at the Center of the American Experiment website tells us some of the things the media might not have mentioned about wind power:

An industrial wind facility in Kewaunee County, Wisconsin has been decommissioned after just 20 years of service because the turbines are no longer cost effective to maintain and operate. The decommissioning of the 14 turbines took many people by surprise, even local government officials and the farmer who had five of the turbines on his property.

What’s really surprising about these wind turbines being decommissioned after 20 years is the is the fact that people were surprised by it. You’d be astonished at how many people I talk to that have no idea that wind turbines only last for 20 years, maybe 25. In fact, the National Renewable Energy Laboratory says the useful life of a wind turbine is only 20 years.

The following chart appears in the article:

So what do we do with these things after they have lived their useful life span? Can we dispose of them in a way that is environmentally safe?

The article notes:

The short usable lifespan of a wind turbine is one of the most important, but least-talked about subjects in energy policy.

In contrast to wind, coal, natural gas, and nuclear plants can run for a very long time. Coal and natural gas plants can easily run for 50 years, and nuclear plants can be updated and retrofitted to run for 60 years. This has profound implications for the cost of electricity on a per megawatt hour basis that seemingly no one is talking about.

When the federal government puts out their cost projections for energy, the numbers they produce are called the Levelized Cost of Energy, or LCOE. These numbers are supposed to act as a measuring stick that allows policymakers to determine which energy sources will best serve their needs, but these numbers are wrong because they assume all power plants, whether they are wind, coal, natural gas, or nuclear will have a 30-year payback period.

This does two things, it artificially reduces the cost of wind power by allowing them to spread their costs over 30 years, when 20 would be much more appropriate, and it artificially inflates the cost of coal, natural gas, and nuclear by not calculating the cost over the entirety of their reasonable lifetimes.

The search for totally green energy is not unlike science’s search for a perpetual motion machine. Scientists and engineers may come close, but the perpetual motion machine cannot exist because it contradicts the laws of physics.

The Cost Of ‘Free’ Energy

Green energy is a wonderful thing–the wind and the sun are free and they create electricity without pollution. If you believe that, I have a bridge in New York I would like to sell you. Some of the components in the batteries in wind and solar energy have a bigger environmental footprint than natural gas. Anyway, so far green energy has not lived up to its expectations.

John Hinderaker at Power Line Blog posted an article today about the use of wind power in Minnesota. Obviously solar power in Minnesota would not work, but wind power sounds like a good idea. Unfortunately for the consumer and the environment, it wasn’t.

The article reports:

…can green energy fulfill the extravagant promises made by its backers?

The answer is a resounding No, according to a blockbuster paper by our own Steve Hayward and Center of the American Experiment’s Peter Nelson. The paper, titled “Energy Policy in Minnesota: the High Cost of Failure,” can be read or downloaded at the Center’s web site.

Minnesota is a poor place for solar power, so its renewable policies have focused on wind. Minnesota has gone whole hog for wind energy, to the tune of–the Hayward/Nelson paper reveals, for the first time–approximately $15 billion. It is noteworthy that demand for electricity in Minnesota has been flat for quite a few years, so that $15 billion wasn’t spent to meet demand. Rather, it replaced electricity that already was being produced by coal, nuclear and natural gas plants.

Wind energy is intermittent and unreliable; it can only be produced when the wind is blowing within certain parameters, and cannot be stored at scale. It is expensive and inefficient, and therefore patently inferior to nuclear, coal and natural gas-powered electricity, except in one respect–its “greenness.” That greenness consists of not emitting carbon dioxide. So, for $15 billion, Minnesota must have bought a dramatic reduction in the state’s CO2 emissions, right?

The article explains that Minnesota’s use of wind energy has reduced CO2 emissions slightly, but because the backup to wind energy is coal-fired electric plants, the reduction has not been significant. The state would have gotten better (and cheaper) results by replacing the coal plants with natural gas. The article also points out that the state’s investment in green energy has resulted in significantly higher energy costs for the residents. Considering what residents of Minnesota spend to keep their homes warm in winter, this is not good news.

The article concludes:

The sad story of Minnesota’s green energy failure is one that no doubt is being replicated around the country. And one of the ironies of green energy is that it is terrible for the environment. Both wind and solar energy require enormous amounts of land compared with conventional, reliable energy sources. Minnesota has scarred its landscape with endless acres of giant windmills and, to a lesser degree, solar panels. When those windmills begin to rust and fall still, the environmental damage will be even greater. And the green cronies who are now making millions through their political connections will be long gone.

When the government interferes in the free market, bad things happen for the consumer and the taxpayer.