Of Unicorns & Pink Elephants: “Reliance” on Wind Power is Pure “Green” Fantasy

Unicorn Drinking from a River

As likely as wind power being there when you need it.

When it comes to their demand for electricity, the power consumer has a couple of basic needs: when they hit the light switch they assume illumination will shortly follow and that when the kettle is kicked into gear it’ll be boiling soon thereafter. And the power consumer assumes that these – and similar actions in a household or business – will be open to them at any time of the night or day, every day of the year.

For conventional generators, delivering power on the basic terms outlined above is a doddle: delivering base-load power around the clock, rain, hail or shine is just good business. It’s what the customer wants and is prepared to pay for, so it makes good sense to deliver on-demand.

But for wind power generators it’s never about how much the customer wants or when they want it, it’s always and everywhere about the vagaries of the wind. When the wind speed increases to 25 m/s, turbines are automatically shut-off to protect the blades and bearings; and below 6-7 m/s turbines are incapable of producing any power at all.

Even with the most geographically widespread grid-connected set of wind farms in the world (the 3,342 MW of wind power capacity connected to Australia’s Eastern grid across SA, Victoria, Tasmania and NSW) there are dozens of occasions each year when total wind power output struggles to top 2% of installed capacity – and hundreds when it fails to muster even 5% (see our posts here and here and here).

Now, if the power consumer was given advance warning of when these total output failures were going to occur, they might simply reconsider their selfish demands of having illumination after dark or that hot cuppa in the morning. That way, they might still consider wind power a “perfect substitute” for conventional power; and plump for the (purportedly cheaper) former over the latter every time?

But, so far, power consumers remain stubbornly selfish; wedded to the idea that when they hit the switch, their power needs will be satisfied that very instant (the cheek, hey?). And that’s where claims that wind power is a “substitute” for conventional generation fall in a heap.

Power delivered at crazy, random intervals (which in practical terms means no power at all, hundreds of times each year) is NO substitute for power delivered on-demand; anytime of the day or night; every single day of the year – and in volumes sufficient to satisfy all consumers connected to the same network, at the same time.

Wind power cannot, therefore, be considered a “substitute” for power which is available on-demand. With every MW of wind power capacity matched with a MW of conventional generation capacity at all times – needed to keep the grid stable by balancing the wild fluctuations in wind power output (see our post here) and to meet demand when output collapses to nothing (see our post here) – wind power is nothing but childish nonsense.

The only reason turbines have been slung up anywhere is in order for wind power outfits and their backers to reap a fat pile of taxpayer and power consumer subsidies. Here’s a take on the greatest rort of all time from the US.

Obama’s Green Unicorn
US News
Peter Roff
25 August 2014

The true cost of renewable energy is being masked by government subsidies and bailouts.

America is about as likely to become reliant on green energy to meet its baseload power requirements as a unicorn is to stroll down the middle of Washington’s Pennsylvania Avenue during rush hour followed by a pink elephant.

It’s just not happening – but that’s hasn’t deterred the modern day snake oil salesmen and their allies inside the Obama administration from continuing to make a push for wind and solar power as an eventual replacement for energy generated from traditional sources like coal, oil and natural gas. Renewable technology has improved, no doubt, but it’s a long way away from being ready to make a substantial contribution to the heating of our homes and the powering of our businesses unless the generous tax subsidies that create the illusion of cost competitiveness continue.

There’s nothing wrong per se with the pursuit of renewable energy; it’s just that what it actually costs is being masked by taxpayer subsidies, federal loan guarantees and renewable fuels mandates at the state level that force power companies to put wind and solar into the energy mix, sometimes at two to three times what traditional power costs. Ultimately, one way or another, the taxpayers and energy consumers are footing the bill even if they don’t know it.

Congress has taken a few positive steps in the right direction. The federal Wind Production Tax Credit was allowed to expire at the end of the year, meaning new wind projects are going to have to be competitive at market rates to attract funding. Remember it was none other than billionaire Warren Buffett, the “Oracle of Omaha,” who explained recently to a group of investors that the tax credit was the only reason that any sensible person invested in wind projects in the first place.

Unfortunately, some federal agencies are trying to keep the program alive through the backdoor.

The worst offender in this regard may be the IRS, which recently issued new “guidelines” that make it even easier for wind projects currently in development to qualify for the tax credit on the basis of work already contemplated or completed. According to Politico, “The IRS says completed or in-progress facilities can be sold and the costs incurred by the seller will still count toward qualifying for the [credit], except in cases where tangible property (think equipment like wind turbines) bought for one project is sold and used at another site.”

To translate this into English, it’s a move to help keep the whole shell game alive until such time as wind power supporters can get the tax credit reauthorized. “There is a large pipeline of projects that were under development at some stage that by virtue of this guidance will be able to go forward. In that regard it is going to permit a lot of projects to be developed,” said one wind energy expert cited by Politico.

Outside groups are also weighing in, including the Sierra Club, which has targeted nine members of Congress in a pressure campaign over the August recess to push for re-authorization of the Wind Production Tax Credit. That is in addition to the online ad buys in 16 other districts that started in June.

The Democrats who run the Senate want to keep the now-expired credit alive and have, in the Senate Finance Committee, already approved a package of so-called “extenders” that would breathe new life into it. The House has thus far refused to go along – and kudos to Texas Republican Rep. Randy Weber, who deserves credit for successfully introducing an amendment to shut the whole business down permanently. But he’s not just fighting the lobbyists and green groups in favor of the credit, but the entire federal bureaucracy which, once a program has been established, is loath to let it die.

Major government investment in speculative green projects may have at one time made sense. But even if that were once the case, it is so no longer. The Obama green energy push has enriched more than a few politically well-connected liberals who used tax credits and government bailouts to enlarge their portfolios, but it has done little to make energy more abundant or lower costs to consumers, which is the justification in the first place to get the taxpayers involved.

If people want to build wind farms – on land or offshore – and they want to reap the benefits of their investments, then they should be willing to take the same risks as everyone else. The way the bureaucrats have it structured now, the taxpayers are making payments on both ends through subsidies for construction and higher rates on consumption. It’s a system only a bureaucrat could love.
US News

yacht

Wind Power: not even billions in subsidies can make it reliable.

About stopthesethings

We are a group of citizens concerned about the rapid spread of industrial wind power generation installations across Australia.

Comments

  1. I note Professor Chapman has not published any books, journals or papers peer-reviewed on wind turbines. Plenty on Tobacco – see his website at the University of Sydney http://sydney.edu.au/medicine/people/academics/profiles/simon.chapman.php. He knows he would be shot down in flames if he tried to publish anything on wind turbines.

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