Real numbers scare off one-time wind energy proponents

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If only wind energy worked, it would be great. But it does not — at least not that well. What’s worse, most people do not know, especially the Green Energy True Believers. Those who do know, however, do not care.

They tell us wind is an ideal way to solve “global disruption,” which is what they are calling global warming this week. The only thing standing in the way of wind energy, they say, is the ignorance of the fossil-fuel crowd.

Let’s put aside for a moment all the talk about global warming: Whether it exists. Whether it is man-made. Whether wind turbines will slow it down.


Let’s even forget for a moment that the plunging price of natural gas and its increasing popularity as a substitute for coal has reduced carbon emissions to their lowest level in 20 years. It is threatening to make wind power even more financially obsolete.

When you set these factors aside, there is what remains: Wind turbines do not last as long as promised. They do not produce as much energy as hoped. Moreover, they require more maintenance than anyone imagined.

Wind energy turns out to be a lot like solar energy.

The Daily Mail recently reported that the University of Edinburg found “on shore wind, the monthly ‘load factor’ of turbines (a measure of how much electricity they generate as a percentage of how much they could produce if they were on all the time at full power) dropped from a high of 24 percent in the first year after construction, to just 11 percent after 15 years.”

That’s a 55 percent drop, but keep in mind the figures are just for wind turbines that remain operational!

In fact, thousands of wind turbines been abandoned in the United States. Recently – to no avail — this matter was brought to the attention of the Pasquotank County Commissioners, when pictures were shown of wind turbines with no blades that had rusted and fallen off.

There is a reason why so many wind projects got so much attention on the drawing board, but when it comes time to build them, they wither away. The offshore wind project in Delaware is a good example: One day it was hailed as the secret to the universe. The next day, it was gone. It disappeared down a black hole when people who actually had to pay for it, and build it, figured out what it was actually going to cost.

It was the real numbers that scared them off.

In America, these numbers are harder to come by, which is another red flag for investors, but as many as one in four wind turbines just does not work. Some do not even spin. Others spin, but do not generate electricity, so it is hard to tell by looking at them.

Hawaii provides this favorite example: The 37 turbines at the Kamaoa Wind Farm stood derelict for more than six years after it was discovered that the repairs were more expensive than replacements. This is just one of six abandoned wind farms in one of the most wind-ideal places on the planet.

The Altamont Pass Wind Farm in Northern California was once the largest wind farm on Earth. Now it is best known as the largest killer of eagles and other raptors. The turbines are shut down for four months a year to protect the birds during their migration.

So much for that pro-forma profit and loss statement!

As many as 4,500 wind turbines have been built — and abandoned — in California alone.

How long can that last? Ask that question of a “true believer” at your own peril. They say making money is no longer the point of being in business — saving the planet is the goal.

Even former Vice President Al Gore is getting out of alternative energy, such as wind. Just check the US Securities and Exchange Commission filings for his company, Generation Investment.

Not a ‘wind play’ in the portfolio.

There may be one million reasons to invest in wind, or to install a windmill. Most involve bragging to your friends that you are saving the planet. But if you need the energy or the money, don’t do it, because right now, wind is still nothing more than a faith-based initiative.

All of this information was put before the Pasquotank County commissioners in an effort to help them come to a reasonable, informed conclusion, before voting to extend the permit that had been issued to Iberdrola. Sadly, however, these words and pictures, all fell on deaf ears.

We all know that President Obama is pushing the alternative energy issue in this country and his efforts to eliminate the coal industry are well known. There is no doubt that if wind energy and solar energy were viable, our government would not have to provide such high-cost tax incentives for developers.

Regretfully, our commissioners – plagued with budget difficulties that we have chronicled — seem to think that the development of wind energy is the salvation they are seeking.

Reporter’s note: Much of this report was originally published in the Washington Times Newspaper.