A New Twist On Environmentalism

There is a lot of questionable science behind the push for ‘green energy.’ In some ways the quest is reminiscent of the quest for the elusive perpetual motion machine. One of the main reasons we have the wind and solar farms we have is that they are heavily subsidized by the government. Because the government has gotten involved, the free market has not invented the technology to make green energy truly effective. Why should they when competition is not a factor? Less than perfect technology has its challenges.

Yesterday John Hinderaker at Power Line posted an article with the following headline, “Wind Energy Collapsing In Germany.’

The article reports:

The expansion of wind power in the first half of this year collapsed to its lowest level since the introduction of the Renewable Energy Act (EEG) in 2000. All in all, just 35 wind turbines were build with an output of 231 megawatts. “This corresponds to a decline of 82 percent compared to the already weak period of the previous year”, according to the German Wind Energy Association (BWE) in Berlin.

“This makes one nearly speechless,” said Matthias Zelinger at the presentation of the data. The managing director of the Power Systems division of the German Engineering Federation (VDMA) spoke of a “blow to the guts of the energy turnaround”. This actual development doesn’t match “at all to the current climate protection debate”.

The article notes the cause of the decline:

The most important cause lies in the legal resistance of wildlife and forest conservationists fighting new wind farms. The BWE President referred to an industry survey of the onshore wind agency. According to its findings, more than 70 percent of the legal objections are based on species conservation, especially the threat to endangered bird species and bats.

The article concludes:

The conservationists have a point. One of the worst features of both wind and solar energy is that they are terrible for the environment. They use up an enormous amount of land that otherwise would be available for agriculture, development or recreation. They are eyesores. And they kill huge quantities of wildlife.

It isn’t the most important reason to oppose corrupt subsidies and mandates for “green” energy, but the fact that these energy sources are bad for the environment is one more nail in the coffin.

Somehow I don’t expect to see this news in the mainstream media.

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.

Going ‘Not-so Green’

On Friday, WattsUpWithThat posted an article about the promotion of off-shore wind farms by some eastern states in America. The article details some of the problems with off-shore wind farms.

The article cites the cost of the wind farms and the cost to consumers:

The governors of Massachusetts, Rhode Island, New York, New Jersey, Maryland, and Virginia have signed executive orders or passed laws to procure offshore wind systems valued at billions of dollars. Officials are eager to win leadership in what is perceived to be a new growth industry. The US Department of Energy has funded over $200 million in offshore wind research since 2011.

Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker signed a law in 2016 requiring utilities to purchase 1,600 megawatts of electricity from offshore wind systems over the next 10 years. The law requires that wind systems be “cost effective to electric ratepayers.” But history shows that costs are likely to be far above the New England wholesale market price of 5 cents per kilowatt-hour.

Massachusetts paid solar generators a subsidy of 25 cents per kilowatt-hour during the state’s solar build-out in 2013. Rhode Island’s Block Island wind system, the first offshore system in the United States, now receives over 27 cents per kW-hr, with an annual guaranteed rate increase of an additional 3.5 cents per kW-hr. New England residents must enjoy paying renewable generators more than six times the market price for electricity.

When we lived in Massachusetts, we were able to choose the source of our electricity. Since we lived in an all-electric house, it was to our advantage to choose carefully. We chose a company that got its electricity from Canada in order to avoid the increased cost of Massachusetts’ going green. I am not sure if that option is still available to Massachusetts utility customers.

The article explains the problem of wind turbines and hurricanes (which do happen on the east coast):

Specifications call for wind systems to withstand gusts up to 156 miles per hour, but this isn’t good enough for some of our Atlantic hurricanes. Last September, hurricane Maria struck Puerto Rico with Category 4-strength winds and destroyed many of the wind turbines on the island.

Strong hurricanes occasionally collide with our eastern coastal states. The Great New England Hurricane of 1938 brought Category 3 winds to New York, Connecticut, and Rhode Island. The Great Atlantic Hurricane of 1944 delivered Category 2 winds along the coast from North Carolina to Maine. Hurricane Carol in 1954 and Hurricane Gloria in 1985 brought Category 3 winds to the shores of the wind system-promoting states.

Finally, the Norfolk and Long Island Hurricane of 1821 passed through most of the proposed wind turbine sites with up to Category 4 wind strength. The expensive wind systems planned by Atlantic States could all be destroyed by a single well-placed hurricane.

Offshore wind turbines are expensive, prone to early degradation, and in the case of the US East Coast, at risk in the path of strong hurricanes. State officials should reconsider their plans for offshore wind systems.

I sometimes wonder if our search for green energy is similar to man’s search for the perpetual motion machine. It would be wonderful, but the laws of physics seem to indicate that this may be more of a challenge than first thought. There may be green energy in our future, but it won’t happen until the government gets out of the way and lets someone make a huge profit in the free market. That is called incentive!