Thursday, June 07, 2012

Basic Problems with Big Wind Energy

Here is a very brief and basic look at a few of the many problems with big wind energy, by Paul Driessen:

Energy 101: It is impossible to have wind turbines without fossil fuels, especially natural gas. Turbines average only 30 percent of their “rated capacity,” and less than 5 percent on the hottest and coldest days, when electricity is needed most. Hydrocarbon-fired backup generators must run constantly, to avoid brownouts, blackouts and grid destabilization owing to constant surges and fall-offs in electricity to the grid.

Energy 201:Despite tens of billions in subsidies, wind turbines still generate less than 3 percent of U.S. electricity. Thankfully, conventional sources keep our country running - and America still has centuries of hydrocarbon resources, if only our government would make them available.

Economics 101:It is impossible to have wind turbines without perpetual subsidies - mostly borrowed from Chinese banks and future generations. There is no credible evidence that wind will be able to compete economically with traditional energy in the foreseeable future, especially with abundant natural gas costing one-fourth what it did just a few years ago. It makes more sense to rely on the plentiful, reliable, affordable electricity sources that have powered our economy for decades, build more coal and gas-fired generators - and recycle wind turbines into useful products (while preserving a few as museum exhibits).

Economics 201:As Spain, Germany, Britain and other countries have learned, wind-energy mandates and subsidies drive up the price of electricity - for families, factories, hospitals, schools, offices, churches and shops. That means two to four traditional jobs are lost for every wind or other “green” job created. It means the 37,000 jobs that the AWEA claims the U.S. wind industry creates (via $5 billion to $10 billion in combined annual subsidies, or $135,000 to $270,000 per wind job) are likely costing the United States 74,000 to 148,000 traditional jobs every year.

Environment 101:Industrial wind-turbine projects require enormous quantities of rare-earth metals, concrete, steel, copper, fiberglass and other raw materials; for highly inefficient turbines, multiple backup generators and thousands of miles of high-voltage transmission lines. Extracting and processing these materials, turning them into finished components, and shipping and installing the turbines and power lines involve enormous amounts of fossil fuel and extensive environmental damage.

Environment 201:Wind turbines, transmission lines and backup generators also require vast amounts of crop, scenic and wildlife habitat land. A typical 600-megawatt coal or gas-fired power plant requires 250 to 750 acres, to generate power 90 percent to 95 percent of the year; a 600-megawatt wind installation needs 40,000 to 50,000 acres (or more), to deliver 30 percent performance. Because wind installations must go where the wind blows, hundreds of miles from our cities - transmission lines add thousands more acres to every project.

Environment 301:U.S. wind turbines slaughter nearly half a million eagles, hawks, falcons, vultures, ducks, geese, bats and other rare, threatened, endangered and otherwise protected flying creatures every year. But while oil companies are prosecuted for the deaths of even a dozen common ducks, turbine operators have effectively been granted a “007 license to kill” exemption from endangered- and migratory-species laws and penalties.

Environment 401:Even if carbon dioxide does contribute to climate change, there is no evidence that even thousands of U.S. wind turbines will affect future global temperatures by more than a few hundredths of a degree. Carbon-dioxide emissions from backup generators (and wind-turbine manufacturing) offset any reductions from wind installations, and rapidly increasing emissions from Brazil, China, India, Indonesia and other developing countries dwarf any possible U.S. wind-related CO2 reductions.

Human Health and Welfare 101: Skyrocketing electricity prices owing to “renewable portfolio standards” raise heating and air-conditioning costs; drive families into fuel poverty; increase food, medical, school and other costs; and force companies to lay off workers, further impairing their families’ health and welfare. Audible and inaudible turbine noise causes fatigue, headaches, dizziness, irritability, sleep problems and vibro-acoustic effects on people’s hearts and lungs. Landowners receive royalties for having turbines on their property, but neighbors receive no income and face adverse health effects, decreased property values and difficulty selling their homes.

Real World Civics 101: Politicians take billions from taxpayers, ratepayers and profitable businesses to provide subsidies to Big Wind companies, who buy turbines mostly made overseas - and contribute millions to the politicians’ re-election campaigns, to keep the cycle going.

It is truly government gone wild and is unsustainable. _WT Paul Driessen

Huge resources across the western world are being devoted to this destructive and ultimately futile attempt to provide "clean energy." We should skip the euphemisms and call it what it is: energy starvation of a most expensive and wasteful kind.

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Blogger Whirlwind22 said...

Whats the EROEI of wind energy?

9:46 PM  
Blogger Snake Oil Baron said...

The basic argument you lay out ia a fairly good criticism of wind power in the current context. But there are some points I would like to bring up:

Firstly, the argument about wind turbines needing expensive rare earth elements and steel are engineering issues which can change significantly over time as material science progresses and manufacturing methods develop.

Secondly, the issues of extra transmission lines and the intermittency of power is dependent on these things being connected to the grid. Some industrial processes do require the immediacy of the the power grid system but there is no reason that some could not run on the same system that crops use through the year; when lots of sunlight reaches the leaves lots of photosynthesis occurs and growth takes place. When clouds become too dark for a time the plants stop growing. If something clever comes along like a cheaper way to use electricity to fix nitrogen from the air directly then a system can use intermittent energy to panufacture and store fertilizer which could be harvested when sufficient quantities are achieved. Much like a maple "sugar bush" outfit, some years would be better than others but you can plan for that.

So wind energy is being judged on the current situation where systems which should not be out of the proof of concept testing stage are being forced upon the world via government subsidies. It is also being considered from the point of view that any energy source needs to live or die on its compatibility with the on-demand power grid. By all means, end all government involvement in wind power and let the parasitic weeds in the industry (virtually all of them at this point) die off. But let's keep in mind that the first airplanes took heavier than air powered flight from completely impractical to completely uneconomical. If the government had stepped in at that point and subsidizes the creation of fleets of Wright Flyers and we had judged the airline industry on the future as it was unfolding the airline industry would have been set back decades.

Finally, birds, bugs and bats hit things all the time. Telephone poles, transmitions towers, bridges, cars, trucks, trains, boats, mountains, trees and such. Wind power blades are probably less likely to result it the victim limping away to die elsewhere. Evolution has made them pretty good at avoiding hazards but flight carries risks and there is no proof that turbines represent any greater risk than anything else. The bird argument may be fun to use against the eco-nuts but I wouldn't base decision making on it.

8:35 AM  
Blogger al fin said...

Interesting comment, Baron, thanks.

From the standpoint of the here and now, the destructive political wind crusade needs to be stamped out. It is exorbitantly expensive and harmful to the stability of the power grid.

It is the noise and pressure waves which seem to draw so many bats and perhaps the large birds to the huge monstrous turbine blades, where they meet their doom. It is a tragic and pointless insertion of inept counter-productive technology into natural settings, doing no one good, and causing many persons in the vicinity significant discomfort.

You suggest that eventually wind power may be useful, affordable, and non-destructive? I will gladly meet that day, if it ever comes.

As for WW22's red herring interrogative, EROEI has very little bearing on the overall, ruinous costs of wind energy.

In fact, EROEI has very little of a practical nature to do with much at all. It does provide great fodder for a number of circular jerkulars among the mentally challenged set.

4:57 PM  

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