By Harry {doc} Babad, © Copyright 2011. All Rights Reserved.

I have lately been inundated by wind power articles, trying to convince me that (subsidized) wind power for the US, is the next best thing to sliced white bread. One of my thought, ignored by most commentators is that it does mater to me whether I must pay a direct rate increase for alternate energy, or the government sneaks it out of my pocket as a hidden tax, aka subsidy. I object! I get stuck and perhaps suckered either way, which the industry and their political supporters prosper. As Robert Heinlein has coined the SciFi slang terms TANJ and TANSTAAFL. Both speak to my views.

White Bread Analogy — Relative to the white bread, many of us have long been aware that the Wonder’s™ of this world, have profitably convinced several generations of Americans of their products’ worth. We all should eat, so the message goes, this low in nutrition (needs fortification), low fiber, and either sweet or flavorless with no mouth appeal products  ‘tongue” on our innocent advertising is truth addicted public.  The paradigm is slowly changing, check out big store grocery stores and you find much more in the way of whole grain, artisan and other healthier breads… still high carb, but much better tasting and better for you; if using a bread maker does not fit your schedule.

Is the same true of Wind Power? If so where in the US does it make sense? The Europeans once big on wind power that they heavily subsidized it as a silver bullet have now gone off subsidizations. Guess what even in Europe with a closely placed urban friendly grid; orders for Wind turbines have dropped dramatically.

I recently came across two well written and thought provoking articles that naysay the wondrous benefits wind power, which of course motivated this Op-Ed topic. I shall summarize their claims at the end of this article segment.

WIND POWER YES or NO — Questions That Need To be Considered

  • Is Wind Power competitive in your region perhaps because it is easily connected to the local or regional grid?
  • Can a wind power system be developed, in the near future, to provide base load uninterruptable power supply to urban and industrial America?
  • What impact will the cost of wind power have on base regional electrical rates if it is only confined to making up for base-lead shortages? At what unsubsidized cost are any savings that result worth the life cycle cost penalties. (E.g., How Good is Good?)
  • Have much publicized estimated costs/benefits of wind power considered the ecological and greenhouse costs of making, installing and ultimately disposing of the windmills? (E.g., Best estimate ranges of Full Life Cycle Costs. Even the global warming folks do this!)
  • With the major NIMBY response to mostly off shore and also to mountain top turbine farms, are we placing wind farms in locations where the wind blows, sort of, but the distance to the industrial and urban consumer becomes an obstacle to true competitiveness?
  • How do the other environmental side effects ranging from noise pollution to bird kills compare to other energy sources, say natural gas, solar, nuclear (including mini-reactors) and of course oil.
  • How will Windpower fare in the newly developed “Clean Energy Standards” that are being considered as alternatives to both cap-and-trade and a carbon tax.

Note, I left coal out of my list because I don’t believe there will ever be a cost effective politically correct clean way to either use a ‘clean’ coal technology do assure 100,000 year sequestration of the CO2 from coal burning. The numbers I heard bandied about are 5,700 year to assure sequestration safety. Alas I can find no credible analysis or regulatory basis for this number.

The two articles that intrigued me were:

OVERBLOWN: Windpower on the Firing Line (Part I), and0
Oxymoronic Windpower (Part II: Windspeak.)

Both were written by Jon Boone on September 13, 2010 and January 18, 2011 and are posted on the Master Resource the Free Energy Market Blog.

They are a fascinating combination of Boone’s adopted slang from both George Orwell’s’ Movie 1984 and the Harry Potter books, plus. The articles also include a pithy description of the Wind Power industry’s double-speak. The later in typical Madison Avenue style, foisted on the public and brain washed into politicians’ sense of political correctness. Of coursed all is funded by those who would profit, either financially or ideologically, from wind technology.

Although masked sarcasm, that covers sharp and biting analysis, I find Jon Boone’s analysis, replete with credible references, credible and accurate. They substantiate the studies I’ve done, in an area I try to keep up with the ever-evolving factual data. I quote…

Widespread misunderstanding about the difference between energy and power has given cover to the charlatan-like wind lobby, which pretends their wares provide something they do not. We are all familiar with black-white PR jargon that characterizes wind projects as mills, farms, and parks, despite the looming industrial presence of 450-foot tall turbines propelling rotors at tip speeds of nearly 200-mph for many miles along terrain or seabed. But for sheer oxymoronic audacity, nothing beats the trickeration of the term wind power, since the technology is the very antithesis of modern power performance. In fact, wind provides no modern power. Rather, it throws out spasmodic, highly skittering energy that cannot by itself be converted to modern base load power.

Although much of the first article in this series is filled with a general overview about energy and its role in modern society, it is an excellent read, worth your attention. It’s underlying, and accurate premise is that the diffuse nature of wind’s fuel requires (in most locations) continuous supplementation by reliable machines fueled by more energy-dense fuels, as well as virtually dedicated new transmission lines and voltage regulation systems. It’s the kind and scope of activity that must happen to make wind create modern high-density continuous power.

Note: Unlike my usual practice, in this Op-Ed segment, quotes are in italics and my ‘purple prose is in plain or plain blue colored text.

The second article in this series provide details about the wind power industry, their campaign that uses albeit CO2 producing coal as the antithesis “clean” wind power and other madison avenue tactics to create a favorable ‘climate’ for funding wind energy. [Eg. AWEA] despite wind’s low unit availability, and capacity values. White bread anyone?

Here are some factual insights, edited by me for brevity that Boone provides:

1. Despite more than 100,000 huge wind turbines in operation around the world, with about 35,000 in North America, no coal plants have been closed because of wind technology. In fact, many more coal plants are in the offing, both in the US and throughout the world. Moreover, a Colorado energetics company, Bentek, recently published a study about wind in Texas and Colorado showing, in its study areas, that wind volatility caused coal plants to perform more inefficiently, “often resulting in greater SO2, NOx, and CO2 emissions than would have occurred if less wind energy were generated and coal generation was not cycled.” Further examination of fuel use for electricity in both states during the time of inquiry suggested that wind caused no reduction in coal consumption.2. Unpredictable, undispatchable, volatile wind can provide for neither baseload nor peak load situations. It can only be an occasional supplement that itself requires much supplementation. Consequently, as Australian engineer Peter Lang once wrote, since“ wind cannot contribute to the capital investment in generating plants… it’s simply is an additional capital investment.” 

3. Wind technology does NOT represent alternate energy. Since wind cannot provide controllable power and has no capacity value, it cannot be an alternative for machines that do provide controllable power and high capacity value. Wind therefore is incapable of entering into a zero-sum relationship with fossil-fired capacity—that is, more wind, less coal. All other conditions being equal (demand, supply, weather, etc.), more wind generally means more coal.

4. None of the considerable public subsidies for wind, indeed, not even state renewable portfolio standard (RPS) laws, are indexed to measured reductions in carbon dioxide emissions and fossil fuel consumption. Consequently, there is no transparency or accountability for how wind technology will achieve the goals set forth by those policy initiatives. This means that corporations with a lot of fossil-fired market share to protect have no obligation to replace it with wind. And they don’t. Because they can’t. Freedom from responsibility is a child’s fairy tale dreams come true.

5. The work of a number of independent engineers—Hawkins, Lang, Oswald, Le Pair and De Groot—suggests that even the most effective fossil fuel pairing with wind, natural gas, will very marginally reduce overall natural gas consumption beyond what would occur using only natural gas generators, without any wind whatsoever.

6. Because oil provides barely 1% of the nation’s electricity, wind represents no threat to oil’s market share.

There’s more, my favorite entitled, as you might guess, is a discussion of follow the money… Check out the links and the reference therein.

Feedback of course is always welcome with one proviso: Just the Facts Ma’am by Joe Friday; of Dragnet fame’s so provide references to your counter arguments.

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Sidebar Notes

Copyright Notice: Product and company names and logos in this review may be registered trademarks of their respective companies.

Some of the articles cited or quoted in this column are copyright protected – their use is both acknowledged and is limited to educational related purposes, which this column provides.

The author considers, as do many experts, Wikipedia a reliable and accessible site for technical information, provided that the reference cited in the Wikipedia article meets the following standard.

Are the references provided essentially complete or are representative of the literature, and relevant?  Do they include both precedent and present work, including any referenced disagreement with any of the Wiki author’s views?

  1. […] Link: Is Wind Power an Oxymoron? (February 27, 2011) « Mike's and … […]

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