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.

The Wind Doesn’t Cut It

Hot Air posted an article today about changes in Germany’s energy policy. Germany has often been cited as an example of effective use of green energy. Well, evidently green energy is not all it’s cracked up to be.

The article reports:

Germany plans to stop building new offshore wind turbines to lower the costs of electricity and prop up its ailing power grid, according to a revision to a new energy law.

The revision of the law will come into force at the start of 2017, and will sharply limit the construction of new offshore wind farms, reports Reuters. The motivation behind the law is that Germany’ over-reliance on wind power “has pushed up electricity costs in Europe’s biggest economy and placed a strain on its grids,” the article reads.

“Germany now has electric rates for consumers that are among the highest in the world. Energy poverty has become a reality for millions of German families,” Myron Ebell, director of the Center for Energy and Environment at the free market Competitive Enterprise Institute, told The Daily Caller News Foundation.

The article goes on to explain that Germany has made good use of wind energy, but that there are two problems with wind energy. First of all, despite the fact that the government has subsidized wind energy, the consumer prices of electricity generated by wind are much higher than the price of electricity generated by fossil fuel.  Second of all, wind power is neither stable or predictable–in order to supply electricity 24 hours a day (expected in most western countries), wind power needs a fossil-fuel powered back-up.

The article concludes:

Keep that in mind here in America where we have a vastly larger and more complex grid. We can’t operate this huge system without a predictable energy supply which can be regulated to match fluctuations in demand. Wind can be a great booster to the energy supply in the areas where it can be produced, but the technology remains too expensive in most cases to stand on its own feet and the wind still has an unpleasant tendency to stop blowing sometimes.

 

We Have Forgotten Our Priorities

Colorado’s 9 News posted a story yesterday about a proposed change in the number of permits for bald and golden eagle deaths under the Bald Eagle and Golden Eagle Protection Act. This is about wind farms.

The article reports:

“Bald eagles were taken off the endangered species list in 2007,” Bove said. “Not that many years has passed since they were taken off this list and now the federal government is proposing to take four to six thousand of these birds.”
 
The federal government also wants to issue these permits on a 30-year-basis instead of the current 5-year process. Bove says the whole process is not mandated as it is for companies who may kill bald or golden eagles incidentally.
 
“These permits are voluntary and that in effect as I believe and many groups believe is one of the main problems with this whole issue,” Bove said.

It’s time to look at wind energy realistically. The wind does not blow all the time. All wind energy needs fossil fuel energy as a back-up to keep electricity flowing 24 hours a day (something Americans expect). Wind energy is more expensive than fossil fuel energy (particularly electricity generated by natural gas, which is clean burning and plentiful in America). Without government subsidies wind energy would not be feasible. This is another example of the government choosing winners and losers, and in this case, the winners will hurt the finances of the average American rather than provide a cheaper source of energy.

The killing of the bald and golden eagles is bad enough, but the fact that it is done to reward certain companies in the name of green energy is obscene.

Wind and…

English: A barn and wind turbines in rural Ill...

English: A barn and wind turbines in rural Illinois Deutsch: Eine Scheune und Windturbinen im ländlichen Illinois Français : Une Grange et des éoliennes dans la campagne de l’Illinois Português: Um celeiro e turbinas de vento na Illinois rural. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Last night I had the privilege of hearing John Droz, Jr., speak on the topic of alternative energy. Mr. Droz is part of the Alliance for Wise Energy Decisions (AWED). an informal group of PhD‘s and other individuals involved in energy and environmental matters. As a physicist, Mr. Droz approaches the concept of green energy from a scientific perspective. Unfortunately, because the issue of green energy has become politicized, that approach is not generally heard. The group maintains the website WiseEnergy.org.

The issue last night was windmills–are they truly green energy and do they make sense scientifically? Recently Carteret County prevented the construction of a wind farm in their county, and there is now a company that may want to place a wind farm in Craven County. The discussion was a scientific approach to wind energy.

Mr. Droz explained that because a constant wind could not be depended upon, wind power alone cannot deliver electricity around the clock unless it is backed up by a conventional electrical source–coal, gas, wood, etc. So when you are talking about wind power, you are automatically talking about wind and.. That is something I have not often heard mentioned by the advocates of wind power.

There is also the issue of the impact of large wind turbines on residents nearby. In February of 2013, I posted an article (rightwinggranny.com) about wind power in Falmouth, Massachusetts. Falmouth is a town on the western end of Cape Cod, and theoretically would be a wonderful place to harness wind power–there is almost always wind. However, after the windmills began turning, residents complained of headaches, interrupted sleep, vertigo, and other symptoms. The Board of Selectmen voted to remove the turbines, but the town voted not to remove them (the removal might cost as much as $18 million). The town was examining other solutions–buying more property around the windmills (not cheap–property in Falmouth is expensive and there would also be the loss of real estate taxes paid to the town) and curtailing the hours the windmills operate. Obviously, neither solution is perfect.

The bottom line here is simple–from a scientific perspective wind power is not practical. There may come a time in the future when the technology advances to the point where wind energy does not need a fossil fuel back-up and the impact on people living near the turbines can be minimized, but we are not there yet.

The most important thing I learned last night was that if Craven County wants to protect itself from the damage wind mills would do to the county, there are some very basic things that can be done. First of all, the public needs to become aware of the facts about wind energy. Second of all, Craven County residents need to make sure that the Board of Commissioners is aware of the facts about wind energy. At that point, it is a matter of drafting basic legislation that will protect the country from the environmental damage that a wind farm would do to the community.

This is the link to the slideshow used in the presentation last night.

Enhanced by Zemanta

Environmental Disasters Don’t Matter If They Are Caused By Liberals

The liberal viewpoint on the environment has always been interesting. It is generally more about feeling good that actually accomplishing anything. I am not in favor of dirty air or dirty water, but I am in favor of common sense, and sometimes that puts me at odds with some environmentalists.

The most recent example of the environmental double standard is related to wind farms. Steven Hayward posted an article at Power Line yesterday about wind farms and eagles.

The article quotes the Associated Press:

An investigation by The Associated Press earlier this year documented the illegal killing of eagles around wind farms, the Obama administration’s reluctance to prosecute such cases and its willingness to help keep the scope of the eagle deaths secret. President Barack Obama has championed the pollution-free energy, nearly doubling America’s wind power in his first term as a way to tackle global warming. .

“This is not a program to kill eagles,” said John Anderson, the director of siting policy at the American Wind Energy Association. “This permit program is about conservation.”

This may not be a program to kill eagles, but unfortunately, that will be the result of this program.

The article continues:

There’s a basic rule of PR crisis communications: you don’t use the phrase “this is not,” because that’s a sure tip off that it is.

All of this is worth remembering the next time an offshore oil spill kills a large number of birds, which occurs about once every 20 years.  The total annual bird kill from windmills is likely orders of magnitude higher than the number of birds killed from oil spills.  There’s a reason I’ve referred to windmills as “Cuisinarts of the Sky.”

The article further reports that Congress may consider letting wind energy tax subsidies expire rather than being renewed. This would end the discussion about the eagles–wind energy cannot exist without subsides. The subsidies to wind energy are another example of the government attempting to pick winners and losers and actually only picking losers. I am not opposed to wind energy, but we need to let the marketplace decide what works and what doesn’t–not Congress and the President.

Enhanced by Zemanta

The Problem With Green Energy

A wind turbine at Greenpark, Reading, England,...

Image via Wikipedia

Green energy is a great idea. Unfortunately, we haven’t reached the point where it makes economic sense. I suspect we will get there in the near future, but we are not there yet. When the United States or other governments try to force the issue, they run into problems. (See rightwinggranny.com from March 8, 2011, which explains what has happened with green energy in Spain). Now it’s the Netherlands’ turn.

On Wednesday, November 16, Reuters reported that the Dutch government is preparing to end its subsidies of offshore wind power. There are 36 turbines in the North Sea that produce enough electricity to meet the needs of more than 100,000 households each year. Because of the need to cut its budget deficit, the Dutch government says it can no longer afford to subsidize the entire cost of offshore wind power (18 cents per kilowatt hour–4.5 billion euros last year).

The article reports:

The government now plans to transfer the financial burden to households and industrial consumers in order to secure the funds for wind power and try to attract private sector investment.

It will start billing consumers and companies in January 2013 and simultaneously launch a system under which investors will be able to apply to participate in renewable energy projects.

But the new billing system will reap only a third of what was previously available to the industry in subsidies — the government forecasts 1.5 billion euros every year — while the pricing scale of the investment plan makes it more likely that interested parties will choose less expensive technologies than wind.

The outlook for Dutch wind projects seems bleak.

There will come a day when green energy is practical. Today is not it. When the government interferes with the free market, bad things happen.

 

 

Enhanced by Zemanta