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Dec 26, 2008

Problems With Green Energy

Wind Power Fail
02/17/11 - Whats Up With That

[edited]  A $200-million wind farm in northern New Brunswick, Canada is frozen solid, cutting off a supply of renewable energy for NB Power.

The 25-kilometre stretch of wind turbines has been shut down for several weeks due to heavy ice covering the blades. The ice alters the aerodynamics of the blades, rendering them ineffective as airfoils. The added weight further immobilizes the structures.

Suez's website states its wind farms on average produce about 35% of their capacity on an annual basis, accounting for daily and seasonal fluctuations in wind patterns.

Remember that figure "35% of their capacity" when you interpret stories about wind turbines and the energy they will deliver. Delivered power is always much less than rated capacity. But, costs are almost always estimated according to rated capacity, and so costs are almost always understated according to the power delivered.

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Wind Power in Spain
05/18/10 - Chicago Boys by David Foster

This information comes from a leaked Spanish government report on their wind power program.

[edited]  The report takes pains to minimize the economic harm, yet reveals exactly why electricity rates “necessarily skyrocketed” in Spain, along with the public debt spent on this disaster. The Zapatero administration recently acknowledged that the “green economy” must be abandoned, lest they risk Spain becoming Greece.

An independent study found that Spain’s “green economy” program removed 2.2 jobs for every job “created” by the state. The government report does not directly confirm this. Instead, the government figures show even greater job-losses.

Energy is a key input in industrial production. Energy costs in basic industries are three times the labor costs (cement, industrial gases, metals, basic chemicals, and steel). Electricity costs for Spanish industry are 17% higher than the European average.

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Spain's Green Economy is a Disaster
05/21/10 - Pajamas Media by Christopher Horner

La Gaceta: “Spain admits that the green economy as sold to Obama is a disaster.”

[edited]  The Spanish newspaper La Gaceta reports on Spain’s “green jobs” boondoggle, the plan cited eight times by President Obama as his model for the United States. It is now known to be a costly disaster. Even the Socialists admit this, with the media in full pursuit.

Spanish president José Zapatero had rejected a study about the fatal economic consequences of renewable energy. Now, a leaked internal document from the Spanish cabinet supports that study, and is even more negative.

Zapatero wants to continue his grand bet. But, the minister of Industry, Miguel Sebastián, worries that the enormous debt from investment in so-called clean energies could delay Spain’s exit from its economic crisis.

The leaked report admits that the price of electricity has gone up, along with the debt, due to the extra costs of solar and wind energy. Government numbers indicate that each green job created costs more than 2.2 traditional jobs, as was shown in the previous report of the Juan de Mariana Institute.

Spanish solar plants charge 12 times more than for the same energy from fossil fuel combustion. Most of this is a subsidy charged to the consumer. It is not possible to continue injecting money into these projects with the economy at the point of bankruptcy.

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Trouble Brewing for Wind?
05/14/10 - At Spectrum IEEE by Bill Sweet

[edited]  "Wind Energy Update" is an independent business intelligence service which publishes "The Wind Energy Operations & Maintenance (O&M) Report".

Current O&M costs for wind farms are two or three times higher than first projected, and there has been a 21% decrease in investment returns. O&M costs are especially high in the United States, "now the world's largest wind power market".

They estimate average world O&M costs at $.27 per kilowatt-hour (KWH). The value of US wind production credits is about $.20 per KWH. Almost 80% of the world's wind turbines are under warranty, but "this is about to change". Many gearboxes, designed for a 20-year life, are failing after six to eight years of operation.

Operation and Maintenance (O&M) costs are all of the daily costs for producing wind power. This would not include the cost of fuel (there is no fuel), or the costs of buying land and building the wind turbines.

The report of $.27 as being 2-3 times more than projected means that developers wildly underestimated the costs of operating wind turbines. They estimated $.09-$.13, but the real cost is $.27.

The major concern is that this higher cost even exceeds the subsidies ("production credits of $.20") being handed out by governments. This report does not clearly say why the costs are higher. A big part must be the failures of the gearboxes, the huge transmissions that connect the blades to the generators. These are a major, expensive component, like the transmission in a car. The gears are lasting for only one-third of their intended life.

You probably pay around $.11 per KWH for your residential electricity, which was produced for about $.03 to $.05 per KWH (Coal 2.97 Gas 5.00 Nuclear 2.03). It is costing $.27 per KWH to produce wind power, and your cost will be more, except for the cost that is hidden in government subsidies (higher taxes and fewer jobs).

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Vibrating Wind Farms
08/10/09 - American Thinker by Thomas Lifson

Neighbors of wind farms have discovered that they are far from benign, clean, efficient ways of harnessing energy to our needs. Jeff Swiatek of The Indianapolis Star reports:

[edited] The tips of those giant blades move at about 160 mph, creating low-frequency vibrations through the ground. People three-quarters of a mile away sometimes feel the vibrations in their chests. Cases of nausea, headaches, insomnia, and other ills are called "wind turbine syndrome".

That new illness is just one of a growing list of health effects, inconveniences, risks, and costs causing a backlash against wind farms in other states.

Reflections from the rotating blades creates "shadow flicker", a strobe light effect on nearby homes.

Wind farms have broad environmental impact. They are located in rural areas, often on ridgetops or in mountain passes. They require quarter-acre clear zones for the turbines, and long cuts through forests for permanent service roads.

The blades turn day and night, efficiently killing birds and bats. Some studies show large wind farms located on ridgetops or in migratory paths kill thousands of birds a year, though other studies report a lower figure.

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Germans To Pay Much For Offshore Wind Power
07/25/09 - Future Pundit by Randall Parker (Via Instapundit)

[edited] Germany is phasing out nuclear power plants before the end of their useful lives, building more coal electric plants, and will make Germans pay for offshore wind electric power.

The wholesale price will be US 21¢ per KWH, plus retail markup to pay for distribution and billing costs. Compare this to the average US retail price of 11.28¢.

You can't order up wind power in response to demand spikes. You get it only when the wind blows. Electric power that can increase in response to demand spikes commands a higher price than steady, baseload power like a nuclear power plant that runs all the time. That 21¢ wholesale price for an undependable power source is a very high price to pay.

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Problems With Green Energy.
12/26/08 - AmericanThinker by Thomas Lifson

Darn, there are always a few glitches.

[edited] Reliability and maintenance problems of green energy sources are highlighted in a strikingly honest report in today's New York Times by Kate Galbraith.
In winter, wind turbine blades ice up and may hurl chunks of ice as they rotate, biodiesel fuel congeals in the gas tanks of buses, and solar panels produce less power in the weaker sun, or no power when covered with snow.

Even in northern California, with mild winters and little snow, solar panels can generate about half as much as in the summer, depending on how much they are tilted.

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Alternative Power Is and Will Remain Useless
02/28/10 - Chicago Boyz by Shannon Love

The physical and technical reasons why alternative energy (Green Power) is a political scheme, not a useful way to produce bulk power. The comments are also good.

[edited]  There exists no alternative energy source or combination of such sources that can fully replace a single, conventional electric plant, a plant fueled by coal, gas, oil, or nuclear power. Even hydro-power needs conventional backup.

Yet, many want us to rely on these functionally useless technologies to be the primary energy sources for our entire civilization.

Most discussions consider the cost and reliability of electricity at the place it is generated. However, energy is useful only where and when you need it. Plenty of power in Arizona won't help you in Michigan. A roaring fire in July doesn't warm you in January. The only real factors that count are the cost and reliability of power at the place it is consumed. Bulk alternative energy is mismatched to its uses.

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Fred:  We'll build wind turbines everywhere and store the excess energy in hydro facilities.
Mike:  That will work for places that are flat and windy, next to mountains that will support a hydro dam. What about the other places?

The Myth of Alternative Power and Hydro- Electric Storage
06/17/10 - ChicagoBoyz by Shannon Love

[edited]  "Alternative energy" can’t be used for baseline power because it is not reliable, and we can’t make it reliable by storing the electricity that it episodically generates.

What about energy storage in a hydro-electric dam? Pumps would use alternative power to lift water behind the dam. When wind or solar power is not available, we could drain the water through turbines to create electricity.

Suppose alternative power should produce 30% of our current baseline power needs. If alternative power (optimistically) operates 75% of the time, we would need a 25% stored reserve. 25% x 30% is 7.5% of our total electric power needs.

Coincidentally, hydro-electric power today produces 8% of U.S electricity. If we want to use hydro-electric storage to make alternative power reliable, we will have to recreate 93% of the generating capacity of every current hydro-electric facility. That includes Hoover Dam, the entire TVA, and all of the dams in the Rocky Mountains.

All the places with the geography and water to produce hydro-electric power are already in use. Worse, the places that produce significant amounts of solar and wind power, the desert and the plains, are very far from that geography, requiring expensive power-line connections.

The full post has more information and many interesting comments.

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Solar Panels Are Hideous

Residents of New Jersey are unhappy with the solar panels installed by the state's largest utility company on electrical poles in leafy residential neighborhoods. See a picture at the link.

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