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  • Wind Energy: It’s Not Cheap or Clean

    Much of the justification for subsidies, tax credits, and mandates for increasing wind energy production in the U.S. is that it will create jobs and help cool our planet’s fever. We’ve explained in detail how subsidized green jobs destroy jobs elsewhere, but it also turns out that increased wind power decreases carbon emissions much less than previously thought, and in some instances, could increase emissions.

    The Manhattan Institute’s Robert Bryce explains why in his recent Wall Street Journal op-ed. First, wind power displaces power from natural gas more than it does coal, and coal combustion emits almost double what natural gas does.

    Second, the intermittency of wind forces coal and gas-fired plants to operate inefficiently and actually increase emissions. Coal plants run most efficiently when continuously running, so the ramping up and down of conventional coal plants to make up for intermittent wind pumps out more carbon dioxide. Bryce likens it to the efficiency of an automobile: “An automobile that operates at a constant speed—say, 55 miles per hour—will have better fuel efficiency, and emit less pollution per mile traveled, than one that is stuck in stop-and-go traffic.”

    This has proven to be the case in Colorado and Texas, two states that have adopted a renewable portfolio standard, which mandates that wind be included in the state’s electricity supply. A recent study commissioned by the Independent Petroleum Association of Mountain States looks at the power plant records from these two states and finds:

    Coal-fired power plants are designed to run most efficiently at stable rates and are not well-suited to accommodate the load variability imposed by the integration with wind generation. Cycling causes coal-fired power plants to operate less efficiently, and reduces the effectiveness of their environmental control equipment, which together drive up emissions. Paradoxically, using wind energy in such a way that it forces utilities to cycle their coal generation often results in greater SO2, NOX and CO2 emissions than would have occurred if less wind energy were generated and coal generation was not cycled.

    The study also finds that in Texas, the use of wind saved only 600 tons of carbon dioxide emissions in 2008 and found an increase of CO2 by 1,000 tons in 2009.

    So how much environmental benefit are we really getting? Let’s pretend wind power will reduce emissions as much as the government says it will. Bryce points to carbon reduction estimates from the Energy Information Administration. A renewable electricity standard (RES) mandating that 25 percent of our energy be generated from renewables would reduce emissions by only 4.9 percent by 2030. To put this in perspective, Bryce reminds us that President Obama and Congress’s target is to reduce carbon 80 percent by 2050.

    If that didn’t make you grind your teeth with frustration, this will: According to climatologist Chip Knappenberger, that 80 percent reduction would moderate temperatures by only hundredths of a degree in 2050 and no more than two-tenths of a degree at the end of the century. These temperature reductions are almost too small to measure. What do you think a 5 percent reduction in CO2 will produce?
    None of this would matter if wind energy could compete without mandates and subsidies and provide consumers with cheap electricity. Higher electricity prices have rippling effects throughout the economy. More expensive electric bills force businesses to make production cuts and reduce labor.

    According to a new Heritage Foundation study, if Congress implemented a 22.5 percent RES by 2025, household electricity prices would jump 36 percent and industry prices by 60 percent by 2035. There would be 1 million fewer people working on average with the RES in effect than if there were no RES. And as the mandated level of renewable use rises over time, so do the losses imposed on the economy. Summing up the impacts for 2012–2035 yields a total loss of $5.2 trillion in GDP.

    If wind can compete absent subsidies, mandates, or tax credits, then Americans will benefit from a more robust, competitive energy market. To suggest that windmills are the answer to our economic and alleged climate problems is nothing but blowing smoke to the American people.

    Posted in Energy [slideshow_deploy]

    23 Responses to Wind Energy: It’s Not Cheap or Clean

    1. Dale Warren, St. Lou says:

      My congressman – Russ Carnahan voted to get his brother Tom millions for a wind farm. I doubt he knew (or cared) about this.

      Here is an article on it on his opponent's website.


    2. Michael Goggin, AWEA says:

      One only needs to look at Department of Energy data compiled during the Bush Administration to see that wind energy is creating jobs, saving consumers money, and drastically reducing emissions of harmful pollutants, and that enacting a strong Renewable Electricity Standard would only increase those benefits.

      The false claims made by Robert Bryce are directly contradicted by DOE data for Colorado and Texas showing that emissions and fossil fuel use have drastically decreased in lock-step as wind has been added to the grid there. Similar studies by independent grid operators from other regions show the same result. Besides, to be true, his claims would require a significant re-writing of the laws of physics.

      For the facts on how wind energy reduces emissions, see:

      As far as the Heritage Foundation's misleading report on a national Renewable Electricity Standard, that was debunked here:

      In sharp contrast, Department of Energy studies show that a Renewable Electricity Standard would reduce consumers' energy bills by offsetting the use of more expensive fossil fuels. A December 2007 DOE study found that a 15% by 2020 Renewable Electricity Standard would reduce electricity prices by 0.3% and natural gas prices by 1%, saving consumers $400 million. A 2007 DOE study of a 25% by 2025 RES found that under a higher standard consumers would realize even greater energy savings of $2 billion. Similarly, DOE's 2008 "20% Wind Energy by 2030" study found consumers would save as much as $150 billion from reduced natural gas costs if the U.S. obtained 20% of its electricity from wind energy, while 450,000 new wind energy jobs would be created in the U.S., in addition to the 85,000 that have been created already.

      Michael Goggin,

      American Wind Energy Association

    3. Quizmo, West Texas says:

      How is it that wind power displaces natural gas power more than coal power? Is is a function of transmission capacity? production location? The article does not elaborate on options to address this disproportional displacement.

    4. Dale Warren, St. Lou says:

      If it will save so much damn money, why does a wind farm need 90 million dollars of taxpayer money to be built? 90 million ought to be chickenfeed for a profitable enterprise with a 20 to 30 year life span.

    5. Don Kronenberger, Bu says:

      The anti-synergy between wind generation and increased cycling of coal-fired power plants creates the worst effects in states, like Montana, that are using wind hype to mask a coal agenda. Private property in Montana is being condemned for massive new export transmission lines by NorthWestern Energy and other corporations from ranchers who have stewarded the land for generations. The high voltage export transmission is being forced upon the ranchers so that California can have supposedly clean wind energy from Montana. But, in fact, California will get coal-fired energy. California won't burn coal in California, but California will burn 30% more of the same coal in Montana (due to voltage or "line" loss), ship the power 1,200 miles, and call that a green solution. Governor Schweitzer advertizes Montana's strategy as forward-thinking. But factoring in Schweitzer's massive coal leases (e.g., Otter Creek coal for $0.15 per acre), his most extravagant wind generation dreams won't put a dent in Montana's carbon footprint or create a "green" solution for anybody, anywhere.

    6. TERRY GEE St.Peters says:

      The arguments for wind produced energy are exactly the same ones used for nuclear power which by the way never came close to saving the energy users any money.

      When you have a political family in Missouri that takes taxpayer money(90 million) and gives it to their non-political son and brother who just happens to run a windmill elec.generating company, which will no doubt end up in the family coffers it,s easy to see we have a problem.We need to compare the salary of this Company President in the next few years and let,s see where our tax money ends up.Also let,s look at the campaign donations this Company makes to the sister and brother that are currently running for office.

    7. Pingback: Jason's Blog » Wind Energy: It’s Not Cheap or Clean

    8. KC, IL says:

      Get rid of those monstrosities and enough with this global (warming) hoax. It has already been disproven but some people won't let go of the lie and/ or ignorance.

    9. Todd, Albany says:

      Mr. Goggin,

      Your numbers sound impressive, but my experience with my local electric utility tells me otherwise. They routinely send me mailers tucked inside my utility bill (at additional cost to me I assume) asking me to please consider paying extra money so I can subsidize cleaner energy. That's the bottom line and no amount of propaganda is going to change it.

    10. Todd Coykendall, Alb says:

      Mr. Goggin,

      Your numbers sound impressive, but my experience with my regional electricity utility teach me something different. They routinely send me pamphlets tucked inside my utility bill (at additional cost to me no doubt) asking me to please consider paying more for my electricity to help subsidize cleaner means of production. That's the bottom line and no amount of propaganda can change it. If wind energy or any other kind of renewable source was better at mass power production, it would be profitable and it wouldn't have to beg for a handout to survive.

    11. Pingback: Wind Farms in CO and TX Increase Overall Emissions | RedState

    12. Pingback: Wind Farms in CO and TX Increase Overall Emissions | RedState

    13. Stephen, New Hampshi says:

      To say that wind needs to "compete absent subsidies, mandates, or tax credits, then Americans will benefit from a more robust, competitive energy market," is a red herring.

      Ideally, it would be great to see all technologies compete on a level playing field without subsidies.

      But there is not ONE heavily unsubsidized electron in our energy system today. It is preposterous to use this argument when addressing wind and then ignoring it for other fossil energy technologies. Silly.

    14. Lynne says:

      Another perspective on Colorado and Texas:

      “Recent research strongly suggests how this problem defeats the alleged carbon-reducing virtues of wind power. In April, Bentek Energy, a Colorado-based energy analytics firm, looked at power plant records in Colorado and Texas. (It was commissioned by the Independent Petroleum Association of the Mountain States.) Bentek concluded that despite huge investments, wind-generated electricity “has had minimal, if any, impact on carbon dioxide” emissions.

      Bentek found that thanks to the cycling of Colorado’s coal-fired plants in 2009, at least 94,000 more pounds of carbon dioxide were generated because of the repeated cycling. In Texas, Bentek estimated that the cycling of power plants due to increased use of wind energy resulted in a slight savings of carbon dioxide (about 600 tons) in 2008 and a slight increase (of about 1,000 tons) in 2009.”


      Here is Kent Hawkin’s take on the Bentek Texas study. He has a series of articles dealing with the question of whether wind energy actually reduces carbon emissions. As I read it, his findings confirm Bentek’s conclusion. I agree with Jon Boone’s comment at the end of the article that there should be definitive work done in this area.

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    16. Ben says:

      The reason it displaces natural gas instead of coal is because slowing down and speeding up coal plants is a costly and polluting activity. You waste a lot of coal running below full capacity. Instead, producers reduce natural gas usage, which is a simple control valve to a burner. Heat recovery on a natural gas boiler is pretty close constant over the operating range, so you are losing efficiency.

      Stephen, the "subsidies" you refer to are mostly tax breaks and other things of the sort. If you look at net taxes paid (taxes – subsidies), you find that oil and coal pay heavily into government coffers due to various excise taxes, tarriffs, and the like. In fact, without those subsidies, oil would have an absolutely insane tax rate (I believe 80-90%). Wind, on the other hand, is a large-scale drain on the government.

      Goggin, your claims fly in the face of real-world experience and basic economic sense. Please read the Spanish green-job study, your company's balance sheet, and the wikipedia entry on the broken window fallacy before embarrassing yourself any further.

    17. Pingback: Peoples Press Collective | Colorado Politics | Wind Farms in CO and TX Increase Overall Emissions :

    18. Sophia says:

      Seems that the positive predictions about the wind resources are being stretched to have us believe that in 50 yrs will make a greater reduction of pollution RES is just another "Bogus Accounting" to appease the mass, and raise utility prices. Over taxation to promote the High roller machine in Washington. Shame.

      Those who deceive will face the truth and pay dearly, in the end.

    19. Fredd, Illinois says:

      This might not be correct to insert here and I am a new poster.

      I am disabled so have too much time to sit and ponder.

      We do not always have wind but we always have tides.

      Any ideas on this? How to harness the power of tides.

      In and out. At first glance makes sense to me.

      Any thoughts anyone?

    20. Chuck Ivie, Oak HIll says:

      There are two major technical problems facing the practical integration of wind and solar electrical generating systems into the power distribution grid; predictability and energy storage. Without solutions to these two problems wind and solar can never be a reliable alternative to fossil fuel systems. There are significant costs associated with maintaining standby power generation sources that must be brought on line when the sun doesn't shine or the wind doesn't blow. These costs can be significantly reduced if accurate forecasting methods are available and nearly eliminated if large scale energy storage facilities were in place. Unfortunately, both of these are outside our current technology. The forecasting problem may be solved by utilizing satellite images and meteorological models and many are working this problem now. However, the greatest obstacle to carbon based fuel replacement is storage. It can be shown that in the absence of large scale electrical storage systems, on the order of millions of kilowatt hours, wind and solar contributions to the grid cannot exceed 30 to35 percent without jeopardizing the stability of the distribution system. Large scale blackouts and grid failure will result if intermittent energy sources exceed this level of participation.

    21. Pingback: Get An Online Engineering Degree And Help Find Alternative Energies! | Online Learning Resources

    22. Kelly, Illinois says:

      Is seems absurd to spend all this tax payer money on producing energy that is not green and unreliable, when these same funds could do so much more to help Americans CONSERVE engergy.

      Rather than make a few individuals wealthy at the expense fo the American tax payers, why not give some money back in the form of making homes more energy efficient? Let's create jobs for folks installing weather proofing, better windows, insulation, roof top solar panels, etc., as well as jobs actually making the products to be used to do this. Nah, let's just let a few well-connected folks make a ton of money on this boon-doggle of an industry.

    23. Excellent website. Lots of helpful info here. I am sending it to some friends ans additionally sharing in delicious. And naturally, thank you for your effort!

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