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  • Renewable Energy: Free as the Wind?


    The Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources met this morning and, among other things, discussed a national renewable electricity standard (RES). The RES, which mandates that a certain percentage of our nation’s electricity production come from wind, solar, biomass and other renewable energies, already passed out of committee but is likely to be a part of any energy agenda this year. A new Heritage Foundation study analyzing the costs of an RES finds that a national mandate for pricier, less reliable electricity would be harmful to American families, American businesses and the American economy.

    The Heritage analysis models the effects of an RES that starts at 3 percent for 2012 and rises by 1.5 percent per year. This profile mandates a minimum of 15 percent renewable electricity by 2020, a minimum of 22.5 percent by 2025, and a minimum of 37.5 percent by 2035. It looks solely at onshore wind, which is currently the cheapest renewable energy source that can be scaled in significant fashion. While some studies have attempted to model the economic effects of an RES and found only marginal price increases, they fail to take into account the true cost of renewable sources. Wind is not dependable, it cannot be stored and it must be built in geographically disadvantageous locations that require significant new build for transmission lines. A detailed analysis of this can be found in the study. The Heritage Foundation’s Center for Data Analysis projects that an RES would:

    • Raise electricity prices by 36 percent for households and 60 percent for industry;
    • Cut national income (GDP) by $5.2 trillion between 2012 and 2035;
    • Cut national income by $2,400 per year for a family of four;
    • Reduce employment by more than 1,000,000 jobs; and
    • Add more than $10,000 to a family of four’s share of the national debt by 2035.

    The reality is if electricity created by wind and other renewables were cost competitive, consumers would use more of it without a federal law to force consumption. Recent experience with the mandate for renewable fuels like corn ethanol also suggests significant cost increases as well as technical shortcomings. Proponents for wind and solar argue that the two energy sources are still in the infant industry phase and that more reliable sources of energy such as coal and natural receive preferential treatment. But solar and wind have been around for decades and receive subsidies of over $23/Mwh compared with the $0.44/Mwh for conventional coal and $0.25/Mwh for natural gas. The Energy Information Administration crunched these numbers before the passage of the stimulus bill that allocated billions more for clean energy production. At any rate, we believe we should peel back the subsidies for all energy sources (including coal, oil, natural gas and nuclear) so the government does not give preferential treatment to any one over another.

    Americans concern about the economic costs of cap and trade throw a wrench in congressional plans to cap carbon dioxide. Alternative approaches like a renewable electricity standard would be just as economically painful. Check out the full study: A Renewable Electricity Standard: What It Will Really Cost Americans.

    Posted in Energy [slideshow_deploy]

    19 Responses to Renewable Energy: Free as the Wind?

    1. Billie says:

      More dangerous then willing to acknowledge. Seems more obvious that man-made wind turbines could pose earth quakes as they are sunk so deep and vibrate so much and there are sooooo many of them. Maybe trigger a man-made volcano eruption? Or man made wind turbines manipulation of tornadoes and hurricanes. This government is putting all in danger as we become trapped according to their negligence, ignorance, reluctance and intentions… hmm

    2. Splunge says:

      Please use proper grammar and spelling! "through a wrench?" Really?

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    4. Erik, CDA, ID says:

      It is short sighted to not invest and develop wind and solar energy. We have invested in the infrastructure of non renewables for 50-100 years in some case. Non-renewables have a leg up that is difficult to overcome in the short term. We need to calculate start up costs in the long term. Renewables can add redundancy to existing systems. Non-renewable resources should be conserved. Who would not like to go 100 miles on a gallon of gas. Renewables can stretch our non-renewables.

      We need to take advantage of this resource. Wind systems in certain areas like Portland, Oregon area it makes a lot of sense. Large scale solar concentrating collectors in the fringe area of LA and other major southern cities are another renewable resource.

      Comparisons of the life cycle cost should be long term not just 7-10 years. The cost of decommissioning a nuclear plants should be considered as an upfront cost. Those in favor of nuclear are welcome to have it buried in their backyard. Hanford is still being cleaned up. Much of the clean up has left to super fund sites. The goes for mining as well. The lead and other hazardous material that have contaminated rivers, lakes and the surrounding areas.

    5. Norseman, Pueblo West, Colorado says:

      Not to mention the birds that are killed by these windmills and the blight that they cause to the environment. Drive through Iowa sometime and you will see what I mean. You have to ask yourself…what is their motive?

    6. Wayne, Imperial, Cal says:

      I live in an area that is touted as having great potential in the alternative energy arena. But there is a big fight going on about building transmission lines to get the power to where it is needed. I think that illustrates one of the big problems with alternative energy sources.

    7. lamar,colorado says:

      well to the guy from peublo west i think you are ignorant. I work for a company putting up turbines. and before you get on hear and start ranting and raving look up you facts. take a look at this site

      Bird Deaths – Comparing Wind Turbines with Other Causes

      When considering the impact of wind power on bird populations, it’s important to consider it in the context of all bird deaths caused by human activities. Benjamin Sovacool, Assistant Professor at Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy, has attempted to put the issue in perspective (Sovacool 2009). Using the data currently available, Sovacool estimates that wind farms in the United States cause 0.3 – 0.4 bird fatalities per gigawatt-hour (GWh) of electricity produced. If these figures are correct, then US wind power generation killed about 7000 birds in 2006.

      Using the same methods, Sovacool estimates that nuclear power generation kills about the same number of birds per GWh as wind power, and that producing power with fossil fuels kills nearly fifteen times as many birds per GWh. If Sovacool is right, power generated from fossil fuels killed more than 14 million birds in 2006, and a move from fossil fuel power generation to wind farms would actually save many birds.

      For further comparison, the National Wind Coordinating Committee estimates the following annual bird deaths from various causes in the United States:

      •98 million to 980 million fatal collisions with buildings and windows

      •60 million to 80 million deaths caused by automobiles

      •4 million to 50 million fatal encounters with communications towers

      National Audubon estimates that roaming cats kill millions of birds each year in North America.

      All estimates of bird deaths due to human activities are likely to be high because of the tendency to gather data in problem areas.

      Read more at Suite101: Wind Turbines and Bird Fatalities: Are Windmills Killing Too Many Birds? http://bird-habitats.suite101.com/article.cfm/win
      and all those turbines you probley seen in iowa was probley ones that we just got done erecting in the past year or two. so get a good look cause maybe next time there will be one in you back yard.

    8. Cynthia in North Car says:

      This is simply a way for these wind scammers to hide income. Florida Light and Power pays a little over 1% in federal taxes because they have worthless wind turbines. DISGUSTING.

      The insanity must stop before we eat up every ridge top in the east in order to green their pockets with our tax money.

    9. Tim, Jackson, MS says:

      Hurry up with the next elections so we can reverse some of this nonsense with representatives who want Americans to have the best combination of renewable and nonrenewable energy sources to best supply our needs at the best price. We DO NOT need unproven GREEN technology forced upon us. If it made sense we would use it voluntarily. Many years ago I was told by an economist that we can NEVER win converting food crops into fuel like ethanol. It takes more calories of heat to produce it than you can ever burn. Basic physics, no energy is free and every conversion results in lost efficiency.

    10. TonyfromOz Coomera Q says:

      What needs to be specifically looked at here is not the overall Nameplate Capacity of these renewable plants, because if that is concentrated on, then it looks like these plants actually are becoming large scale producers of electrical power.

      However, the main point of emphasis is the power that these renewable deliver to the grids that is actually being consumed.

      When this is specifically targeted, it then becomes easy to see that they just cannot deliver electrical power on the scale required.

      The current overall annual percentage of consumed power from the two main renewables, wind and solar, currently sits at around 1.82% of all consumed power, and that percentage figure has changed very little in the last two years, so where those figures of 15%, 22.5% and 37.5% are quoted, those percentages will never be realised, no matter what happens.

      What also needs to be realised is that in the recent 3 month Winter period just finished, those renewables were the only sector to decrease the amount of power they supplied to the grids, both in actual figures and in percentage figures, dropping in fact to 1.76%, a fall that might seem only small in percentage figures, but in fact quite large in actual power delivered. ALL other sectors increased electrical power production. Both Wind and solar decreased.

      This is even after the exponential increase in construction of these plants, making the U.S. now the largest producer on the Planet of Wind Power.

      All figures here are from the Government site, Energy Information Administration.

      For further detailed insight into these statistics, go to the following link, and I know it's one of my own posts, but that does not make the figures any less damning than the actual statistics provided from that named source.

    11. Ronald Leppala says:

      I was in the area southwest of Fon du Lac WI a few weeks ago and noticed about 2 or 3 percent of the turbins were moving. My guess, that's the norm. There should be stats out there from European countries… Opps!!! their drinking the same cool-aid. It's going to be a hard up hill run.

    12. Bud says:

      "Americans concern about the economic costs of cap and trade through a wrench in congressional plans…"

      "Americans concern" ? "through a wrench" ? Could we please have some proof-reading before publishing?

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    14. Ben, Utah says:

      @ lamar – About Birds.

      Lamar…if your figures are correct that the wind energy would kill far fewer birds than other forms of energy production, then that would be a good thing for birds…only if we only had wind energy. But it isn't capable of providing electricity for the whole country, and so it can only subsidize existing forms of energy production.

      If, wind power were ever to gain enough foot hold to totally replace these other existing forms of energy production, then I suppose the figures you're referring to would change dramatically considering the number of turbines that would be required to replace the current bird killing methods of energy production…so at that point are we any better off? We'll be killing the same amount of birds…and based on what this article shows, we'd be paying more for it too.

      I'm not against wind power, or solar power, or other renewable sources of energy…but I am against a mandate from the Federal Government that serves only the liberal agenda fueled by the myth of Global Warming.

      This article points out that Wind and Solar Power have been receiving more federal subsidies, but they have failed to really gain a place in the market. I will admit that some of that is due to the strong hold that Oil Companies have in our nation and across the world, but there is also no escaping the facts of cost and lack of efficiency when it comes to solar and wind power.

      I think that, as this article points out, that we should stop subsidizing any of these industries, and let them stand on their own merits. If the technology is superior and is cost effective and is marketable, then it will enter the market and will result in even lower costs as the market embraces it more and more.

      I think that there is a definite place for renewable energy, but a sweeping government mandate will do nothing to improve the image that these alternative fuels suffer from currently that is making their introduction to the market place more difficult.

    15. lamar,colorado says:

      well ben from utah. thank you for your comments yes i do believe that we would be killing more birds, but would you rather kill more birds with clean energy or have the birds dieing from other forms of energy. the reason i defend this issue so much is because i work in the wind industry i work for one of if not the largest wind energy contractors in the nation. i have been on 3 of the worlds largest wind farms and it is amazing to see what everyone goes threw to do this and to see the final project is pretty cool for no more land than it takes and no more noise as they make it is neat. there are probley at least 1000 employees with this company and they all work very hard to see this come together. We have project back to back for the next ten years and that is numerous projects at one time also. so i think it is getting to the point where we might just be able to run on wind. we do alot of work with e-on energy and FPL (florida power and light) and to see what they do for the small communites is very generous also. i have seen many times where FPL has built new community centers for town and taken part in community functions. these companies also do alot of business in the small towns. they also hire locals alot of the time to work for them and do the maintance on these turbines. the point that i am trying to make is that i do have faith in wind energy and solar. and i would pay more to have it then i would for any other none green energy. just think find the good birds dove,quail around some solar panels grab a stick some seasoning and in 20-30 min you have a good meal. thank you for dealing with my typing and grammar in this i am running on hardly any sleep.

    16. al Northeast says:

      Wind and solar are only good for small locales. They're not going to light up New York City.

      Everyone is watching the Chinese, since their way out in front of anyone doing this and they're cutting back. (They noticed, like some suggested that sending the "juice" down the wire loses it's wealth over long distances. The technology is not there).

      What we are noticing and also happening in the U.S. is the building of nuclear reactors. 35 in China (last time I looked); 22 permits in the U.S., one being built in Georgia or Alabama…can't remember).

      Anyways, the technology over last 40 years has gotten to the point where you can actually order a ready made reactor out of the Netherlands.

      We have also been able to recycle 98% of the waste as well.

      So for a home, solar and / or wind should be a standard install to supplement their electrical. (new homes)

      I booted my oil burner system out the door last year and put in geothermal. Should have done it years ago. I also should have put in solar water heater as well too, but I'll live with the LP gas version for now.

      Next on the list is 1K of solar to supplement my electrical.

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    18. ARET says:

      The ARET’s circle of Renewable Power (a logical combination of resources) at the End user consumer source level; new efficient nanocrystal P/V panels with Enphase Microinverter System at single source in unison with SEGS – Solar Energy Generating Systems and CSP concentrating solar power to create Hydrogen fuel for fuel cells constructed with (fuel cells just got a lot cheaper) lab created platinum (for 24/7 energy reliability) and EV Electric vehicles, Small VAWT or HAWT, hydro energy, better home insulation and energy efficient products, Smart software micro-CHP technology (heat pump (gas and electrically powered) , hybrid boiler (combination of a high efficiency boiler and a small electric heat pump), solar boiler combination with CHP microchip technology) or true AI monitoring systems. Renewable energy is not just our job; it's an important part of our sustainable lifestyle and our national security.

      Vote in my idea and I will make this happen, here is my ideas link; http://challenge.ecomagination.com/ct/ct_a_view_i
      So many Great ideas and my idea incorporate mostly all of them, all of YOURS. Let us bring together the collaborational effort of these titans of industry holding powerful thoughts, innovations and revolutionary devices that together with my vision we will lead us into this new undiscovered country of the future. We together are a strong force and I want to personally Thank GE for bringing us together with in this forum so that we might make history together.

      GE has the technological expertise and teams of engineers to push our efforts within my proposal toward forward immediate results save for greed of money vs. world human betterment (I know they will make the right choice here for I believe our very lives and economies depend on it); they have the buying power we could only dream of, they have the power and influence to make this happen and my friends it will be glorious.

      So I want everyone to take just one thing here from what it is I am saying we do not need to wait until tomorrow for today we have the will and the technology to do this and with GE’s help we can make it so…..

    19. Pingback: Exposing the folly of wind and solar power « Clear Thinking

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