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  • A New Revelation: Wind Energy Needs Wind to Work

    One of the common arguments made against wind power is that without government subsidies, mandates or tax credits, wind turbines would not be built. But even when companies do receive preferential treatment to build windmills, just because they’re built doesn’t mean they’re going to work. For that, there needs to be (drum roll, please)…wind! A report from Britain says:

    “The analysis of power output found that more than 20 wind farms are operating at less than one-fifth of their full capacity. Experts say many turbines are going up on sites that are simply not breezy enough. They also accuse developers of ‘grossly exaggerating’ the amount of energy they will generate in order to get their hands on subsidies designed to boost the production of green power.

    While it is possible some of the results were skewed by breakdowns, the revelation that so many are under-performing will be of great interest to those who argue that wind farms are little more than expensive eyesores. The analysis was carried out by Michael Jefferson, an environmental consultant and a professor of international business and sustainability. He believes that financial incentives designed to help Britain meet is green energy targets are encouraging firms to site their wind farms badly.”

    In other wind farm news, although the event was called “exceptionally rare and highly unusual”, Europe’s largest wind farm had to be shut down because a 14-ton turbine snapped. It’s not the first time a windmill broke and fortunately no one was hurt. A turbine snapping is no reason to stop building windmills just as coal mining accidents are not reason to completely cut off our coal supply. Accidents happen in any industry and it’s a company’s job to learn from them and improve both quality and safety.

    If businesses find it profitable to build supply energy in a variety of ways without government handouts, increased competition will only benefit the consumer. Yet, we’re being told we need to transition to a clean energy economy and that the United States needs to be the leader in building these technologies because, “the nation that leads the clean energy economy will be the nation that leads the global economy. And America must be that nation,” said President Obama in his State of the Union address. If renewable energy eventually competes in the marketplace, economist Don Boudreaux says, “So what if the Chinese are world-leading producers of such equipment? Specializing in the production of other goods and services – things that we produce more efficiently than the Chinese – we Americans can then buy solar panels and wind turbines from the Chinese for use in our homes and offices. The latitudinal and longitudinal coordinates of the factories where the final assembly of such equipment occurs are irrelevant.” That’s not to say U.S. can’t be a leader in wind mill production, but market-based policies are the best way to ensure that America’s renewable energy production is as competitive as possible.

    In addition, the cleanliness in the President’s mission to green our economy may be a bit over hyped. We not only use fossil fuels to make turbines but also provide back up power when the windmills don’t spin. Since it’s too costly to stop and start a power plant, wind simply creates more emissions. Or, as Todd Wynn of the Cascade Policy Institute points out, in some instances wind replaces CO2-free sources of energy, like hydroelectricity: “So when the wind blows, the dams stop generating electricity, and when the wind stops, the dams continue to generate electricity. So, in fact, wind power is just offsetting another renewable energy source. It’s not necessarily offsetting any fossil fuel generation.”

    Wind may be economically viable in some parts of the United States, but we should let businesses and electricity consumers, not the government, decide that.

    Posted in Energy [slideshow_deploy]

    15 Responses to A New Revelation: Wind Energy Needs Wind to Work

    1. Billie says:

      Gosh Nick, they've been told over and over again. How did the alternative energy stupids take it? Will reality be accepted?

    2. doug, california says:

      How exactly are government subsidies for wind energy "preferential treatment?" The coal and oil industries receive far more in government handouts than all clean energy sources combined! Such handouts in the energy industries are standard practice, and if any are getting "preferential treatment" its the fossil fuel companies.

    3. Nicolas Loris Nick Loris says:

      Solar and wind receive subsidies of over $23/Mwh compared with the $0.44/Mwh for conventional coal and $0.25/Mwh for natural gas.
      http://www.eia.doe.gov/oiaf/servicerpt/subsidy2/p

      If you include the money from the stimulus, these numbers are even higher. Further, we would argue to peel back the preferential treatment not "level the playing field."

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    5. Bill, Kansas City, M says:

      Easy way to fix that, stop all government handouts for industry. If they can't survive on their own, then they don't desire to survive. Same with the car industry and the financial institutions, there is no such thing as too big to fail.

    6. Paul Terry Stone, Su says:

      Maybe tornado alley will provide the wind needed.

    7. Jeanne Stotler Woodb says:

      If anything to an alternate energy is to work it must be able to harness that elemement. I saw a wind farm east of LA many years ago, not a blade was moving, Solar needs the sun, since we can go days without sun we need a back up. The good thing with Solar is that there can be batteries to absorb the excess sun to charge them. This is what our garden lights do. When I was in Miami 60 Yrs. ago I saw a lot of solar panels, I asked about how they worked and my brother in law explained that the batteries absorbed the exsess. Later I saw these dissappear and now we are bringing them back. I am still looking into the Geo-Thermal heating and cooling, still very expensive, we did go to tankless water heater and love it.

    8. Lloyd Scallan - New says:

      We must look past this argument to the REAL underlying objective, i.e. GE!

      GE, one of Obama most ardent financial and ideology supporters and his socialist agenda. GE is now producing a massive media campaign to "praise" Ronald Reagan's presidency that will appeal to conservatives. GE just happens to be the largest U.S. manufacturers of wind turbines. Ask yourself, what is the real aganda of the "Wind Power" movement?

    9. Somebody somewhere says:

      Great, you do realize you are basically criticizing a baby for not being able to take their final exams yet. This industry is in its infancy. Do you think they found all the coal they could ever want immediately when that industry started? Do you think they had their mining techniques fully established on day 1 like they have them today? Technologies evolve folks… That is simply how it goes. These are new and engineers are still learning how to place wind-farms and what size to make said farms. Wind may not win in the end, but you might as well give it a shot and learn from the problems.

      In all honesty, I'm more of a nuclear kind of person myself…

    10. Len, Alexandria,KY says:

      Wind Mills need WIND… Now why didn't Alphonse Gore Think of that??? Too Busy making or passing Wind after fat Feasts???

    11. Sam, WI says:

      Well, Somebody, even though green energy hasn't been around for as long as fossil fuels, it has been around for at least a couple decades. However, despite that, there hasn't been much improvement if any. In 1981, renewable energy (which would no doubt be the "green energy" liberals always push for) was responsible for about 7 percent of America's total energy use. Fast foward 27 years, and it accounted for 6.7 percent. If it can't make even hold even for 27 years, it is most likely not going to improve in my lifetime, and I'm only 20.

    12. Kenneth E. MacAliste says:

      Wind energy needs wind to work, huh. I say set a bunch of them up inside the chambers of Congress. Lots of wind in there. You could light up D.C. with those windmills inside Congress. At least all of that hot air would be useful in that capacity.

      "Life is hard; it's harder when you're stupid!" – John Wayne

    13. Donald R. Bahnfletlh says:

      What is lost on most people is that even though the wind turbines are installed, electric utility companies must provide nearly 100 percent back up capacity in reliable, clean fossil fuel fired generating plants. The end result is power costs rise because of the inefficiency of the wind systems and the need to build additional generating capacity. We have no easy way no easy way of storing electricity generated by wind or solar systems so their availability is very low. But, solar may have some advantage during the summer when peak solar generation occurs on sunny days when power demand for operating air conditioning systems is at a peak. Even so over a cooling season it will not be competitive with say, gas-fired steam plants.

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    15. Jim, Pleasant Hill C says:

      In all this bickering, both sides forget that there may never be an easy energy answer on a planet that's already too crowded for most people to be wealthy and/or content. Massive population growth (6.8 billion base, growing by 75 million annually) has been largely enabled by the cheap oil boom and will likely diminish when global oil peaks. That's a good thing, since the Earth is finite. Nature is not a welfare agency that owes people a living. As the human population keeps growing, this becomes ever more true. We should all try to live within nature's means in addition to our own financial means. Many scientists say 2 billion at most would be able to live sustainably at current modern standards. This means either an eventual die-off or a sensible reduction of living standards across the board. I'll take the 2nd option.

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