Wind power is a complete disaster

By Michael J. Trebilcock

There is no evidence that industrial wind power is likely to have a significant impact on carbon emissions. The European experience is instructive. Denmark, the world’s most wind-intensive nation, with more than 6,000 turbines generating 19% of its electricity, has yet to close a single fossil-fuel plant. It requires 50% more coal-generated electricity to cover wind power’s unpredictability, and pollution and carbon dioxide emissions have risen (by 36% in 2006 alone).

Flemming Nissen, the head of development at West Danish generating company ELSAM (one of Denmark’s largest energy utilities) tells us that “wind turbines do not reduce carbon dioxide emissions.” The German experience is no different. Der Spiegel reports that “Germany’s CO2 emissions haven’t been reduced by even a single gram,” and additional coal- and gas-fired plants have been constructed to ensure reliable delivery.

Indeed, recent academic research shows that wind power may actually increase greenhouse gas emissions in some cases, depending on the carbon-intensity of back-up generation required because of its intermittent character. On the negative side of the environmental ledger are adverse impacts of industrial wind turbines on birdlife and other forms of wildlife, farm animals, wetlands and viewsheds.

Industrial wind power is not a viable economic alternative to other energy conservation options. Again, the Danish experience is instructive. Its electricity generation costs are the highest in Europe (15¢/kwh compared to Ontario’s current rate of about 6¢). Niels Gram of the Danish Federation of Industries says, “windmills are a mistake and economically make no sense.” Aase Madsen , the Chair of Energy Policy in the Danish Parliament, calls it “a terribly expensive disaster.”

The U.S. Energy Information Administration reported in 2008, on a dollar per MWh basis, the U.S. government subsidizes wind at $23.34 — compared to reliable energy sources: natural gas at 25¢; coal at 44¢; hydro at 67¢; and nuclear at $1.59, leading to what some U.S. commentators call “a huge corporate welfare feeding frenzy.” The Wall Street Journal advises that “wind generation is the prime example of what can go wrong when the government decides to pick winners.”

The Economist magazine notes in a recent editorial, “Wasting Money on Climate Change,” that each tonne of emissions avoided due to subsidies to renewable energy such as wind power would cost somewhere between $69 and $137, whereas under a cap-and-trade scheme the price would be less than $15.

Either a carbon tax or a cap-and-trade system creates incentives for consumers and producers on a myriad of margins to reduce energy use and emissions that, as these numbers show, completely overwhelm subsidies to renewables in terms of cost effectiveness.

The Ontario Power Authority advises that wind producers will be paid 13.5¢/kwh (more than twice what consumers are currently paying), even without accounting for the additional costs of interconnection, transmission and back-up generation. As the European experience confirms, this will inevitably lead to a dramatic increase in electricity costs with consequent detrimental effects on business and employment. From this perspective, the government’s promise of 55,000 new jobs is a cruel delusion.

A recent detailed analysis (focusing mainly on Spain) finds that for every job created by state-funded support of renewables, particularly wind energy, 2.2 jobs are lost. Each wind industry job created cost almost $2-million in subsidies. Why will the Ontario experience be different?

In debates over climate change, and in particular subsidies to renewable energy, there are two kinds of green. First there are some environmental greens who view the problem as so urgent that all measures that may have some impact on greenhouse gas emissions, whatever their cost or their impact on the economy and employment, should be undertaken immediately.

Then there are the fiscal greens, who, being cool to carbon taxes and cap-and-trade systems that make polluters pay, favour massive public subsidies to themselves for renewable energy projects, whatever their relative impact on greenhouse gas emissions. These two groups are motivated by different kinds of green. The only point of convergence between them is their support for massive subsidies to renewable energy (such as wind turbines).

This unholy alliance of these two kinds of greens (doomsdayers and rent seekers) makes for very effective, if opportunistic, politics (as reflected in the Ontario government’s Green Energy Act), just as it makes for lousy public policy: Politicians attempt to pick winners at our expense in a fast-moving technological landscape, instead of creating a socially efficient set of incentives to which we can all respond.

Financial Post
Michael J. Trebilcock is Professor of Law and Economics, University of Toronto. These comments were excerpted from a submission last night to the Ontario government’s legislative committee On Bill 150.

Read more here.

Solar Panels – another Silly Roof Scheme

By Viv Forbes, Carbon Sense Coalition

The Carbon Sense Coalition today called for the immediate suspension of another of Mr Garrett’s silly roof schemes – the Roof Solar Panel Scheme. “This scheme is driven by the Renewable Energy Target Scheme, Renewable Energy Certificates and obligations on power companies to buy the inconsistent dribbles of electricity produced by solar panels on domestic homes.” The Chairman of Carbon Sense, Mr Viv Forbes, said that like the roof insulation scheme, the Roof Solar Panel Scheme was dangerous, ill planned and a massive waste of community funds.

“There are two aspects of electricity demand. “First is base load demand, which is present 24 hours a day, every day. However, sun power is maximised for only a few hours around noon and fluctuates with the seasons. Thus solar panels cannot replace even one iota of base load generating capacity. Coal, gas, hydro, nuclear or some expensive power storage system must sit there, ready to supply 100% of base load demand every night and on all cloudy days.

Any storage facility must be large enough to cope with several consecutive cloudy days. “The second power consideration is peak load demand, which tends to occur around meal times, night and morning. Solar panels contribute nothing at these times either.

“Therefore every dollar spent on roof solar panels duplicates capital already spent on conventional power generation – ie community capital is wasted. And the more panels, the more waste. “Roof solar panels also induce householders into danger. “Even quite small amounts of dirt, dust, bird droppings, tree leaves or suicidal kites will dramatically reduce the electricity generated by a solar panel. Someone must climb onto the roof to clean the panel. Inevitably, someone will fall off. “Solar power is not free. Whilst the sunshine is free, it can only be harnessed by the construction, collection, distribution, maintenance and replacement of solar panels and transmission lines, which are not free.

Solar power is an expensive option that will always need taxes or hobble-chains on competitors, support from taxpayers or coercion of consumers to survive. “Surely our parliament cannot be so negligent as to allow rock singers and lawyers to pretend that solar playthings have the reliability, capacity and safety to provide any useful contribution to the future energy needs of our homes, cities, trains, factories, mines and farms? “If solar panels are so good, consumers will buy them without coercion and subsidies. In reality they are a dangerous waste, so why should other consumers and taxpayers be forced to fund such folly?

“Places like Germany and California have learned to their dismay that massive stimulation of the solar power industry has done three unwelcome things. It has driven up electricity prices, driven away other industries and stimulated the manufacture of solar panels in foreign lands, mainly China.

And unless it is propped up by conventional power generation, the inevitable consequence will be network instability and blackouts. “Solar energy is useful for solar hot water systems, for power in remote locations, for small installations with battery backup and for growing plants. It is not useful for generating electricity for modern power grids. “The Roof Solar Panel Scheme should be suspended immediately and an independent enquiry made into its engineering and financial feasibility.” See this newsletter here.

See also: Solar Power Realities: Solar Power Hits the DustSolar Power – a subsidised Appendage: Solar Energy Costs and Economics: Dust on a solar panel will reduce its efficency by up to 50%.

Solar power project in Mojave Desert gets $1.4 billion boost from stimulus funds

 By Steven Mufson, Washington Post, Tuesday, February 23, 2010

The Energy Department on Monday announced a “conditional” $1.4 billion loan guarantee for a solar thermal power complex in the Mojave Desert that would ultimately produce as much as 392 megawatts of electricity.

The loan guarantee would be drawn from the resources given to the Energy Department under the economic stimulus bill adopted last year. While the terms of the solar loan guarantee — like the terms of nuclear loan guarantees announced last week — are still being negotiated, the Obama administration highlighted the jobs it said would be created.

BrightSource, the project developer, estimates that during the construction phase, the solar power complex will employ about 1,000 people. Operation of the plant will require 86 permanent jobs (That’s $16.3 Million Spent for Every Permanent Job Created). BrightSource’s construction contractor is negotiating labor agreements with various trade unions, the Energy Department said.

Construction could start as early as later this year if BrightSource gets the necessary permits. Earlier this month, the company scaled back the proposed size of the third and final phase of the project because environmental groups had objected to the project’s impact on rare species such as the desert tortoise.

The solar plant is on federally owned land. So, while the Energy Department is seeking to promote the project, the Interior Department’s Bureau of Land Management is supposed to be protecting the area.

BrightSource said it would reduce the footprint of the entire complex by 12 percent and cut the maximum power output to 392 megawatts (enough to power 140,000 California homes) from its initial proposal of 440 megawatts.

The plant would generate electricity using heat generated by the sun’s rays. BrightSource plans to erect thousands of “heliostats” on three solar fields. Each heliostat will have two mirrors that track the sun, and reflect it onto a boiler filled with water atop a tower. The boiler will produce steam for a turbine. The company says the mirrors will capture a greater percentage of solar energy than other solar thermal technologies.

The first of three fields is expected to begin construction in the second half of this year and come on line in 2012. The company plans to start commercial operation of the second plant in mid-2013 and the third later that year. Electricity from the project will be sold under long-term power purchase agreements with Pacific Gas & Electric and Southern California Edison Co.

BrightSource has $160 million in backing from Silicon Valley venture capital firms, Morgan Stanley, BP, Chevron, Google and others. Post is here.

Should Congress Embrace A ‘Clean Energy’ Standard?

Standard Still A Production Quota

By Marlo Lewis

Senior Fellow, Competitive Enterprise Institute

Sen. Lindsey Graham’s Clean Energy Act is, like cap-and-trade, calculated to raise energy prices and expand government control over the economy for the benefit of special interests.

The public – and therefore the Senate – isn’t buying cap-and-trade, and no informed adult really believes we can “repower” America with wind turbines and solar panels. So Sen. Graham has come up with a slick alternative to both cap-and-trade and a national renewable electricity standard (RES) – a national “clean energy” standard (CES).

RES advocates claim they want to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and dependence on Mideast oil, yet won’t allow nuclear power and coal with carbon capture and storage (CCS) to contribute to those goals. Graham’s CES avoids this rank inconsistency. (Or it does …

Sen. Lindsey Graham’s Clean Energy Act is, like cap-and-trade, calculated to raise energy prices and expand government control over the economy for the benefit of special interests.

The public – and therefore the Senate – isn’t buying cap-and-trade, and no informed adult really believes we can “repower” America with wind turbines and solar panels. So Sen. Graham has come up with a slick alternative to both cap-and-trade and a national renewable electricity standard (RES) – a national “clean energy” standard (CES).

RES advocates claim they want to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and dependence on Mideast oil, yet won’t allow nuclear power and coal with carbon capture and storage (CCS) to contribute to those goals. Graham’s CES avoids this rank inconsistency. (Or it does in principle – it’s anybody’s guess whether in practice any new nuclear facility would qualify as “qualified nuclear,” or if CCS ever becomes economical.)

Nonetheless, Graham’s proposal does not deserve even one cheer from free marketers. A CES is still a Soviet-style production quota – an attempt to decree what percentage of America’s energy comes from what kinds of sources. And Graham proposes to fix these percentages not for the duration of a mere five-year plan, but for the next 40 years! For sheer hubris, that clobbers the ethanol mandate, which establishes production quota for 15-years.

Graham professes to believe that we cannot “clean the air” until we “price carbon,” but because cap-and-trade has hit a wall in the Senate, he is proposing a CES as a “bipartisan” alternative. However, the notion that we cannot clean the air without pricing carbon is bunk.

History is clear on this point. U.S. air quality has improved, decade by decade, for almost as long as we’ve been measuring it. Particulate matter, for example, has been dropping since at least the late 1950s. Between 1980 and 2008, nationwide air pollution levels decreased 79% for carbon monoxide, 25% for ozone, 92% for lead, 46% for nitrogen dioxide, and 71% for sulfur dioxide. Between 1990 and 2008, air pollution levels decreased 31% for coarse particulates (PM10) and 20% for PM2.5. This progress will continue under regulations already on the books or planned, as motor vehicle fleets turn over to cleaner vehicles and new capital stock replaces old.

Graham claims his main concern is not saving polar bears but saving American jobs. “Every day we wait in this nation [to price carbon], China is going to eat our lunch,” he explained at a February 3 conference (Business Advocacy Day for Jobs, Climate, & New Energy Leadership) in Washington, D.C.

The Senator is mistaken on two counts. First, “clean tech” industries that cannot compete without policy privileges are now and very likely will remain less competitive than the industries Graham would have them replace. That is a recipe for reducing wealth- and job-creation. In Spain, subsidies for “green energy” destroy about 2.2 jobs for every single job created. Similarly, Germany’s feeder tariff system promoting wind and solar power has produced net job losses.

Like many conservatives, Graham is a fan of nuclear power, but corporate welfare, whether right wing or left wing, benefits special interests at the expense of the overall economy. Federal nuclear subsidies have totaled $178 billion during 1947-1999, according to economist Doug Koplow. Yet as Cato Institute energy analyst Jerry Taylor points out, despite this largesse, no new nuclear plants have been built in 30 years. Why? Because the economic risks are too great:

“In short, even during the go-go days prior to the September 2008 crash – a time when Wall Street was allegedly throwing around money left and right to all sorts of dubious borrowers – the banks that stand accused of recklessly endangering their shareholders on other fronts were telling utility companies that they would not loan them anything for new nuclear power plant construction unless the feds unconditionally guaranteed every last penny of those loans. That’s how risky market actors think it is to build nuclear power plants.”

Piling mandate on top of subsidy would feed corporate welfare dependency, not ‘incentivize and reward the future,’ as Graham supposes.

Second, the notion that China will “eat our lunch” unless we handicap the most competitive sources of U.S. electric generation is deeply confused. China, after all, does not put a price on carbon! Indeed, one reason China has become a leading manufacturer of solar voltaic panels is that Chinese energy prices are low. Putting a price on carbon would jeopardize Chinese manufacturers’ access to abundant, affordable coal-based power (China’s consumption of coal for electric generation is projected to more than double from 2006 to 2030).

Nor is it the case that a nation must produce lots of zero-carbon energy for domestic consumption in order to compete in global “green tech” markets. China has become the world’s largest producer of solar panels, producing about 820 megawatts of PVs in 2007. But, due to their relatively high cost, China in 2007 deployed only about 20 megawatts of PVs domestically, mostly for “remote off-grid applications.”

A final point – enactment of Graham’s bill would not preclude subsequent enactment of a cap-and-trade bill or a more stringent CES. Recall how quickly the ethanol mandate grew between 2005 and 2007 – from 7.5 billion gallons per year by 2012 to 30 billion gallons per year by 2022. Recall also that Al Gore says we need it all – cap-and-trade, renewable energy mandates, tougher energy efficiency standards, and a carbon tax. Enactment of the Graham bill will surely embolden rather than mollify the global warming movement. As we should all know from Captain Hook, feeding the crocodile your hand does not make it less aggressive.


Chu on this

Energy Secretary “Nervous” that Congress’s Proposed Plan to Mandate the Use of Expensive, Unreliable Power Nationwide Doesn’t Quite Go Far Enough.

The Hill (2/20) reports, “Energy Secretary Steven Chu said Saturday that major Capitol Hill renewable electricity proposals would not prompt additional generation from sources like wind and solar power beyond the increases expected under existing programs. A “renewable electricity standard” (RES) that forces many utilities to supply escalating amounts of their power from renewable sources over time has long been a pillar of Democratic energy and climate bills, but has not become law. An RES approved by the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee last year sets a 15 percent renewable target by 2021, but roughly a fourth of that could be met through energy efficiency measures.

“My fear is that unless Congress passes something that is a little bit more than that, there will not be that incentive,” he said at a forum on energy issues at the governors’ meeting. Chu said he would like to see a standard that is “a little bit more aggressive than what’s being considered.” He noted that Vestas is “nervous” that unless there is a strong national standard, the market will not have sustained growth.

Don’t Show This to Tom Friedman (or Steve Chu): Top Wind Developer In China Tells Reporters “The Blades Do Not Work As Well As We Thought.”  

China Daily (2/22) reports, “Businessman Xu Zhichun’s plans were thrown up in the air when demand for the wind turbine blades his company made suddenly crashed. The vice-general manager of Tianjin Dongqi Wind Turbine Blade Engineering Co discovered few any longer wanted the 37.5-meter blades that were popular two or three years ago. “We were caught unprepared,” said Xu. “The blades do not work as well as we thought, and we had to step up production of longer. “It’s like taking a roller coaster: We are falling all the way from the top to the bottom,” said Xu.

Prices of turbine blades have decreased by about one third compared with those in 2004. Profit margins in some companies were 25 to 30 percent in 2004, but now the figures are just about 10 percent, said an industry insider.”We are not losing money, but not making much profit, either,” said Liang Xiaobing, deputy- general manager of Dongfang Electric (Tianjin) Wind Power Technology Co, a turbine-making unit under DEC.

China's wind energy industry sees challenges

NRCM isn’t working in Maine’s best interest

By J Dwight
Feb 14, 2010 12:01 am

The Natural Resources Council of Maine (NRCM) has earned a reputation for protecting the environment and the people of Maine.

It has championed wind power development, delayed Plum Creek’s plan in Greenville and removed dams from Maine’s rivers in recent years. These actions have had an impact Maine’s economy.

To this columnist, the staff and board members of the NRCM seem to have lost their way. It appears they have gone from protecting Maine’s environment and people to harming them.

This can’t be good.

Leader in Wind Power Development

The NRCM’s 2008 annual report boasts that the organization helped produce a plan “to make Maine a leader in wind power development, ensure Maine people receive tangible benefits, and protect Maine’s quality of place.”

Because of this plan, an estimated 15,000 to 40,000 acres of Maine’s most beautiful and essential mountain top wildlife habitat will be destroyed by industrial wind developers.

Is a plan that causes permanent destruction of fragile mountain-top habitat protecting Maine’s “quality of place”?

Full implementation of wind power, it is estimated, will double electricity rates.

Is a plan that threatens high-paying, high-tech jobs at world-class semiconductor manufacturers by driving up utility rates leadership?

Few jobs are being created, and according to the Maine Revenue Service, few tax revenues will be forthcoming from wind development.

Is a plan that will bring few permanent jobs to Maine, and provide little or no tax revenue, while adding billions to the Federal deficit and debt, “ensuring tangible benefits”?

In Vinalhaven and Mars Hill, harmful mental and physical effects are troubling some citizens.

Is this a plan for protecting the people of Maine?

Delaying Plum Creek’s Development Plan

According to the NRCM, Plum Creek’s plan “will forever damage one of Maine’s most remarkable areas.” The NRCM is proud to have delayed Plum Creek’s development plan, on procedural grounds, not the validity of the plan.

Plum Creek’s plan will disturb only 1,500 acres for homes, buildings and roads, when allowed to move forward.

Compare that to a minimum of 15,000 acres permanently destroyed, and holes literally blasted out of mountainsides to make foundation sites for 25-story industrial wind turbines.

Don’t they see contradiction in this?

The Greenville area will gain 975 new homes, 100 rental cabins, two new hotels, a golf course, a new marina, new convenience stores, barber and beauty shops, and gas stations. New sources of tax revenue to the localities and the state are estimated between $25 million and $75 million.

Sounds like good community development to me.

Plum Creek’s plan could bring some 500 new permanent jobs, and perhaps over 1,000 temporary jobs, to the Moosehead region, five times what wind power development can claim.

How can they justify delaying jobs for working people in rural Maine?

A long-term conservation easement will be placed on 430,000 acres of forest by Plum Creek’s plan as well.

Does NRCM think that stopping the protection of these forests is wrong?

Hydro Electric Compared to Wind Turbines

NRCM pushed for the removal of three hydroelectric dams on the Penobscot River, the removal of the Edward’s hydroelectric dam on the Kennebec River, and prevented the building of the Big-A dam on the West Branch of the Penobscot.

Ironically, their work wipes out 200 megawatts of clean renewable energy, and kills some 50 sustainable jobs in Maine.

Comparing the Big-A hydroelectric dam to the similar amount of erratic wind power output is not equal, but I’ll do it anyway.

Side-by-side comparison for 40 megawatts: Big-A Hydro, cost $100 million, 20 acres disturbed; Wind power, cost $825 million, 2,500 acres destroyed.

Clearly, putting in the Big-A project would have been much better economically and environmentally for Maine. Ripping out more dams should be reconsidered. Investing the same $825 million in modern fish ladders and modern hydro-turbines is a better idea.

So, the questions begin to mount up.

Why is the NRCM for policies that destroy essential fragile habitat?

Why is the NRCM for industrial policies that hurt Maine economically?

Why is the NRCM for policies that are physically harmful to people and animals?

Why is the NRCM for policies that threaten high-paying high tech jobs at world-class semiconductor manufacturers?

Basing economic and environmental policies on the questionable theory of anthropogenic global warming seems very thin.

These are just a few of the questions the people of Maine need to ask the staff, and the board members of the Natural Resources Council of Maine, and their supporters.

J Dwight is President & Chief Investment Officer of Dwight Investment Counsel

See post

Stimulating Green Jobs For China

Energy: When even Chuck Schumer is upset with the White House, you know something’s amiss. In this case, it’s news that efforts to boost wind power with taxpayer stimulus dollars are filling foreign coffers and creating foreign jobs.

According to the Investigative Reporting Workshop at American University, nearly $2 billion in money from the American Recovery and Investment Act has been spent on wind power. The goal was to further energy independence while creating American jobs. It has done neither.

Of the money spent, according to the report, nearly 80% has gone to foreign manufacturers of wind turbines.

“In all due respect, I remind (Energy Secretary Steven Chu) there is a four-letter word associated with the stimulus — J-O-B-S,” Sen. Schumer, D-N.Y., told ABC News, which interviewed him for a report done in coordination with the workshop’s investigation. “Very few jobs here, lots of jobs in China.”

The only good thing one can say is that at least China is a real place, as opposed to the phantom ZIP codes and congressional districts in which the administration has claimed to have created jobs.

But how does buying wind turbines made in China create energy independence or create jobs?

Last October, on the day the workshop first reported on this story, a consortium of U.S. and Chinese companies announced a deal to build a $1.5 billion wind farm in Texas, using imported Chinese turbines.

The project is expected to create some temporary construction jobs in America. Some 2,000 manufacturing jobs will be created in China. In a message posted on his Facebook page, Secretary Chu wrote that the point of the grant program was “ensuring America leads the world in creating jobs in manufacturing the parts that go into wind farms” and even export components to foreign wind farms. It hasn’t worked out that way.

Of the 1,807 turbines erected on 28 wind farms receiving grants, foreign-owned manufacturers built 1,219, according to the workshop report. The installation of these turbines may have created as many as 6,838 manufacturing jobs overseas.

When the American Wind Energy Association released its 2009 year-end report on Jan. 26, CEO Denise Bode acknowledged that despite billions in stimulus spending, there had actually been a net loss in manufacturing jobs. Bode told USA Today she estimates the manufacturing job loss at 1,500.

Last March, a cargo of steel towers was unloaded at the port of Vancouver, Wash. They were made in Vietnam for a Danish wind company and destined for a Portuguese wind farm in Indiana that got a stimulus grant.

Read more here.