Squaring the Culture

"...and I will make justice the plumb line, and righteousness the level;
then hail will sweep away the refuge of lies,
and the waters will overflow the secret place."
Isaiah 28:17

04/12/2009 (7:42 pm)

The Escalating Wind Power Disaster

wind-turbine-reviewTestimony submitted to the government of Ontario last week demonstrates that wind power does not reduce carbon emissions in practice, and raises the cost of electricity for all users.

The Financial Post, a Canadian publication, last Wednesday published excerpts from testimony submitted to Ontario’s legislative committee by Mike Trebilcock, Economics and Law Professor at the University of Toronto. That testimony shows wind power to be useless in practice as a “green” energy source, and destructive to the economies of states that use them. Comments following the article in FP illustrate even more clearly the disaster that’s building under the rubric of “green energy.”

Dr. Trebilcock begins by citing Danish and German experience with wind:

The European experience is instructive. Denmark, the world’s most wind-intensive nation, with more than 6,000 turbines generating 19% of its electricity, has yet to close a single fossil-fuel plant. It requires 50% more coal-generated electricity to cover wind power’s unpredictability, and pollution and carbon dioxide emissions have risen (by 36% in 2006 alone).

Flemming Nissen, the head of development at West Danish generating company ELSAM (one of Denmark’s largest energy utilities) tells us that “wind turbines do not reduce carbon dioxide emissions.” The German experience is no different. Der Spiegel reports that “Germany’s CO2 emissions haven’t been reduced by even a single gram,” and additional coal- and gas-fired plants have been constructed to ensure reliable delivery.

The issue seems to be that because wind does not always blow, the generating capacity of the system needs to be equal to what it would be if the wind turbines were producing no power at all, and the coal-fired plants need to continue operating normally in order for the wind power plants to be able to contribute.

One of the comments on the article points out that most of the steel for the wind turbine towers is likely to be produced by Chinese steel plants, which burn soft coal at an alarming rate, and transported to the US by diesel-powered ships. These environmental costs were not part of the Danish and German assessments of the environmental impact of wind turbines.

The economics of the wind turbines are no better.

Again, the Danish experience is instructive. Its electricity generation costs are the highest in Europe (15¢/kwh compared to Ontario’s current rate of about 6¢). Niels Gram of the Danish Federation of Industries says, “windmills are a mistake and economically make no sense…”

The U.S. Energy Information Administration reported in 2008, on a dollar per MWh basis, the U.S. government subsidizes wind at $23.34 — compared to reliable energy sources: natural gas at 25¢; coal at 44¢; hydro at 67¢; and nuclear at $1.59, leading to what some U.S. commentators call “a huge corporate welfare feeding frenzy…”

The Economist magazine notes in a recent editorial, “Wasting Money on Climate Change,” that each tonne of emissions avoided due to subsidies to renewable energy such as wind power would cost somewhere between $69 and $137, whereas under a cap-and-trade scheme the price would be less than $15.

This is not to be taken as an endorsement of cap-and-trade; it simply points out that the cost of wind power exceeds the enormous additional cost of electricity in a cap-and-trade system by at least a factor of 4, and possibly by a factor of 9. One of the commenters explains further, drawing on experience from a wind farm in New York State:

For example, a moderately sized windfarm in NY State that only became operational at the end of 2008, was in 2007 awarded by NY State Government a state grant of $65.3 million — LONG BEFORE IT EVER GENERATED ANY ELECTRICITY.

That funding came from the special tax (known as Renewable Portfolio Standard / RPS) billed monthly on each New York ratepayers’ monthly electricity bill for each kilowatt hour of all electricity used.

(see the final 2 paragraphs of the 18 March 2009 Malone Telegram article written by Darcy Fargo, viewable online at: www.wind-watch.org/…/noble-liens-snare-landowners ).

That 2007 monetary corporate welfare handout to the wind industry of the citizenry’s money is NOT based on electrical output (“MW per Hour”) as there were no “MW’s per Hour” being produced in 2007 by that windfarm.

Instead, that monetary handout of the citizenry’s money is based on theoretical maximum capacity (“MW” rating) which is determined and assigned by the wind industry’s own labs.

“MW” ratings which the wind industry assigns to every windfarm are NEVER electrical output. “MW” ratings of wind turbines and windfarms exist for three primary reasons: (1) to mislead the citizenry into believing each wind farm churns out far more electricity than it actually generates; (2) to obtain long term “futures contracts” (in aggregate totals far beyond any output that can ever be achieved) with businesses who are given “MW” Renewable Energy Certificated Credits printed by the wind company and transferred to each “futures contracted” business which in turn receives RPS citizen ratepayers’ cash from the Government to pay back to the wind company before any electricity is ever produced; and (3) to receive from Government other preproduction huge handouts of taxpayers’ and citizen ratepayers’ monies in the form of Government-provided grants and subsidies.

What we’re watching is an economic disaster of enormous proportions. Dr. Trebilcock’s testimony was presented to oppose Bill 150, a massive “green energy” bill that may hobble Canada’s economy. The US extended federal wind farm subsidies and subsidized state “green energy” grants as part of the stimulus bill that President Obama signed in February. We’re basically dumping money into “solutions” that do not reduce carbon emissions but lock America’s future into spending massive amounts of money for electricity — all the while ignoring the building of power plants that can actually contribute on a regular basis to economic growth.

This entire debacle is the result of listening to government rather than to industry. Industry sources look primarily at the economic costs of each energy source, and move towards those that are most reliable and easiest to maintain over the long haul — until government piles on incentives that distort the decision-making process. Government, on the contrary, is more likely to make decisions based on ideology and symbolism, and to ignore economic realities.

There are reasons why certain types of alternative energy sources are never built without heavy subsidies; those reasons almost always indicate that the energy source is not truly ready for the market. Left to themselves, industrial customers choose energy supply that is plentiful and reliable; contrary to loud and ignorant blather from environmentalists, this still means fossil fuels, and will continue to mean that for the next half-century at least. Left more or less to itself, the electrical industry would choose effective, low-polluting solutions that actually work, and would shift toward alternative sources whenever they actually become economically viable. Electric utilities are not suicidal; they would readily switch to alternative production if such production made economic sense, and will do so long before traditional sources are exhausted.

What we’re getting instead is the pipe dreams of Chicken Littles, who fear that the sky is falling; they’re insisting on switching to alternatives long before they’re required, and long before they’re ready. This fear-driven error will demolish our ability to produce and reduce the US economy to second-rate status in the world, and assure the rise of China, India, and South Korea as the new economic superpowers. If that were the goal, we could hardly have chosen a better path.

Hat tip to Blue Crab Boulevard.

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April 13, 2009 @ 6:48 pm #

Thanks for covering this. Here in Ontario, the institution is being run by the lunatics in power. Wind developments are being forced on communities whether they like it or not and citizens voices are being silenced to protect the wind lobbyists. To learn more on what is happening here:

April 13, 2009 @ 6:49 pm #


April 14, 2009 @ 11:28 am #

One thing you can say about the left: They’re obstinate in their refusal to learn from the experience of others.

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