Wind Power Exposed: The Renewable Energy Source is Expensive, Unreliable and Won’t Save Natural Gas

Wind Turbine

Wind Turbine

By Peter Glover and Michael J. Economides 

This is not what President-elect Barack Obama’s energy and climate strategists would want to hear. It would be anathema to Al Gore and other assorted luminaries touting renewable energy sources which in one giant swoop will save the world from the “tyranny” of fossil fuels and mitigate global warming. And as if these were not big enough issues, oilman T. Boone Pickens’ grandiose plan for wind farms from Texas to Canada is supposed to bring about a replacement for the natural gas now used for power generation. That move will then lead to energy independence from foreign oil.

Too good to be true? Yes, and in fact it is a lot worse.

Wind has been the cornerstone of almost all environmentalist and social engineering proclamations for more than three decades and has accelerated to a crescendo the last few years in both the United States and the European Union.

But Europe, getting a head start, has had to cope with the reality borne by experience and it is a pretty ugly picture.

Independent reports have consistently revealed an industry plagued by high construction and maintenance costs, highly volatile reliability and a voracious appetite for taxpayer subsidies. Such is the economic strain on taxpayer funds being poured into wind power by Europe’s early pioneers — Denmark, Germany and Spain – that all have recently been forced to scale back their investments.

As a result this summer, the U.K., under pressure to meet an ambitious E.U. climate target of 20 percent carbon dioxide cuts by 2020, assumed the mantle of world leader in wind power production. It did so as a direct consequence of the U.K. Government’s Renewables Obligations Certificate, a financial incentive scheme for power companies to build wind farms. Thus the U.K.’s wind operation provides the ideal case study — and one that provides the most complete conclusions.

The U.K. has all the natural advantages. It is the windiest country in Europe. It has one of the continent’s longest coastlines for the more productive (and less obtrusive) offshore farms. It has a long-established national power grid. In short, if wind power is less than successful in the U.K., its success is not guaranteed anywhere.

But wind infrastructure has come at a steep price. In fiscal year 2007-08 U.K. electricity customers were forced to pay a total of over $1 billion to the owners of wind turbines. That figure is due to rise to over $6 billion a year by 2020 given the government’s unprecedented plan to build a nationwide infrastructure with some 25 gigawatts of wind capacity, in a bid to shift away from fossil fuel use.

Ofgem, which regulates the U.K.’s electricity and gas markets, has already expressed its concern at the burgeoning tab being picked up by the British taxpayer which, they claim, is “grossly distorting the market” while hiding the real cost of wind power. In the past year alone, prices for electricity and natural gas in the U.K. have risen twice as fast as the European Union average according to figures released in November by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. While 15 percent energy price rises were experienced across the E.U., in the U.K. gas and electricity prices rose by a staggering 29.7 percent. Ofgem believes wind subsidy has been a prime factor and questions the logic when, for all the public investment, wind produces a mere 1.3 percent of the U.K.’s energy needs.

In May 2008, a report from Cambridge Energy Research Associates warned that an over-reliance on offshore wind farms to meet European renewable energy targets would further create supply problems and drive up investor costs. No taxpayer respite there. But worse news was to come.

Read the rest of this story at Energy Tribune.

17 Responses to Wind Power Exposed: The Renewable Energy Source is Expensive, Unreliable and Won’t Save Natural Gas

  1. Neil F. January 2, 2009 at 4:46 pm #

    What?!?!?!?!?!? You mean to say that everything that has been predicted by skeptics of wind power generation, has become actual factual? No way!
    Sarcasm aside, I really have only one comment. “DUH!”

  2. wind power January 4, 2009 at 4:34 am #

    well we are going to be in deep sh$%

  3. Nigel January 11, 2009 at 12:23 am #

    Great information thanks heaps

  4. brian m January 15, 2009 at 1:00 pm #

    I am not a believer (since Global Warming=Cult) in humans as the cause of climate change. In fact, temperatures in the USA are in a decreasing trend. However, I do believe in the use of alternative energy because I believe global fossil fuel demand will ultimately surpass supply. Read the book Huberts Peak, in reference to oil reserves. I repeat, I strongly oppose the theory proclaiming human carbon dioxide production is the primary cause of global warming. Yet our global oil reserves (that we can efficiently harvest) will not meet our demands in the next couple of decades. I cannot stand wacko environmentalists however alternative energy should be an investment America makes so we can tell the Middle East, Russia, and Brazil we dont need you nor will you have the ability to compromise our freedoms and national security any longer. Alternative energy research/development and further fossil fuel exploration both should be pursued to make America independent and secure. Dont be closed minded and remember America’s motive. This is one time where we hold our nose and agree with enviromentalist wackos and in return demand more oil/gas exploration as a compromise with them.

  5. Matt k January 16, 2009 at 2:28 pm #

    Brian m I think you missed the point – govenment involvement in the form of subsidies (with a basis in taxation=theft since it’s involuntary) has distorted the market in the UK, as all government involvement does. I’m all for alternative energy and believe the market will select it when the supply of fossil fuels starts to dwindle. No government force required.

  6. Neil F. January 16, 2009 at 9:13 pm #

    Brian M: You are assuming that they would be willing to compromise if we hold our noses. They will not. You are falling into the trap of accepting their premise that alternative energy will work. It will not, and has not for the 40-50 years + that people have been trying to make it viable.
    Peak oil is a myth, if you don’t believe that then you have not done enough research on it.
    Also, the two largest importers of oil into the US are Canada and Mexico. The 5th is Saudi Arabia.
    You are trying too hard to be thoughtful and considerate. The end result of that is that it puts you on the fence. You can’t stay up there forever. You will eventually need to come down on one side or the other.
    Here is what I suggest you do. Write down everything you have interests in on a piece of paper, ie: global warming, alternative energy, peak oil, reaching across the isle, etc, etc. Then spend some time researching each one. Note the pros and cons of each one. And don’t believe anything just because you want it to be true. Then form an opinion about each one. The end result will be that you will have an “informed” opinion. Because in my opinion, you are not exhibiting an informed opinion.
    My Father used to tell me “Believe nothing you hear, and only half of what you see” I have found that to be sage advice.

  7. Matt P January 19, 2009 at 10:26 pm #

    I agree with Brian that we will, someday need to do something about our dependency on fossil fuels. But that time is far far away. We are only in the infant stages of our exploration of alternative energy. Wind towers and ethanol will be looked at in the future as steam locomotives are today. With research and science, many advancements could be on the horizon. That last little quip by Neil says it all. My dad told me the same thing.

  8. Alexander January 25, 2009 at 8:25 am #

    It is not possible to solve the Global Energy Crisis and The Global Warming Crisis without developing the technology to burn coal in a clean and environmental responsible way.
    And please, before calling anybody a MORON, check the worldwide energy consumption and then come to conclusions based on facts.
    Yes, the “clean burning of coal” is going to be extremely difficult and I even say extremely expensive. But I don’t believe in the word “impossible” as long as we don’t cheat on the laws of nature. The crux of my argument is that people are going to burn coal because it’s cheaper and more readily available than other alternatives. ”We need time but no pollution”, to develop serious energy sources like Plasma Fusion (in conjunction with Super Conductivity) and lower our energy needs per capita drastically by changing our lifestyle in the developed world. 1) Today humanity uses 426 Quads (426. BTU or 1.055 x joules) of energy per year, of which the lion’s share comes from burning coal. (50 % worldwide, I don’t think that is a very bad estimate) 2) In ten years time humans will “need” or use 150 Quads more, thinking about the 3 billion people in the fast developing countries like China, India, Indonesia, Russia, etc., sitting on very big coal reserves! 3) Global Warming has set in and one of its major contributors is CO2. Our days are counted if we don’t do anything about it! In my opinion it will be impossible to take coal out of the energy equation for the next 100 years, because all the renewables (now worldwide probably a energy contributor of less than 3 %) will not be able to off-set the amount of energy produced from coal and coal is the most available fossil fuel in those fast developing populous countries. Social pressures will force those fast developing countries to burn coal anyway (in a clean or dirty way). Wars have been fought for much sillier reasons. Therefore I am of the opinion that we have to develop the technology to burn coal in a clean and environmental friendly way, despite the extreme difficulties and extremely high costs. We cannot deprive humanity today of about 220 Quads (halve of its energy “needs” or usage) and we cannot go-on burning fossil fuels as we do today without destroying the global climate completely. Both ways (depriving or dirty burning) will bring war, death and mass extinction for humans. A great consolation for me lately was the book I was reading by Richard Dawkins called: “The Ancestor’s Tale, A pilgrimage to the Dawn of Evolution”. There it becomes completely clear that life will go-on on earth with or without humanity. But I would appreciate it if we (humans) could be part of life on earth in the future. We will definitely not be there, if we pretend to WINDMILL ourselves out of this inevitable predicament.

  9. Bob Janicki February 5, 2009 at 8:42 am #

    What is this scam that if we don’t develop this these new alternative energy sources that are inefficient in the long run, we will be reliant on foreign oil. The answer is NUCLEAR! This form of energy is clean and plenty of research and preparation has been done to transfer and store its waste at Yucca Mountain. Three Mile Island never hurt a fly and the U.S. has the scientific prowess to maintain safe facilities. Nuclear power and development of energy efficient automobiles is the route that makes sense and will not waste $$$$$$$ for the next 2 or 3 decades.

  10. Jessica Smith February 5, 2009 at 2:25 pm #

    You are quite simply wrong, mislead and niave.
    Are you willing to risk it?
    Wait, the whole ‘ think about your kids’ thing will not have any impact on you because you are selfish and do not give a [expletive deleted] about anyone else.

    You live in a comfort blanket surrounded by luxuries and your greed. I am sure that if you were to ask the millions of ‘climate refugees’ what their opinion on your actions and behaviour is their response would be ignored also.
    BUT then again I am sure you ignore their presence also.

    Does it feel good in the morning to ‘pretend’ nothing is happening?

    You are one of the millions of ignorant people in the world who have decided, as usual, that this is all wrong.
    I will tell you what is wrong.
    Your ideas.
    Your beliefs.
    And most of all your morals.

    You should care.
    You should stand up.

    It is so much easier to diagree with it all. You can still justify your selfishness then. You can blame someone.
    Do not turn on politicians. They at least admit it is happening. At least they are trying.

    What have you ever done that you are proud of?
    Have ever stood up to save others lives?

    because you are niave.
    [expletive deleted] it. [expletive deleted] you.
    Look at the facts.
    Not the ones that have been bent, changed and interperated wrongly.

  11. Dan McGrath February 9, 2009 at 11:19 am #

    Jessica – Millions of Climate Refugees? You mean Minnesotans who flee to Florida and Arizona? Who is this rant directed at, exactly? Please try to avoid offensive language when posting here. It causes the moderator (me) some hassle and makes me not want to allow your comments though at all. I’m not at all impressed by posters who don’t provide their email address, either. is simply childish, but so is the use of profanity and non-fact-based emotional appeals. Try to put together a rational argument next time you post here. Thanks.

  12. Craig February 24, 2009 at 12:33 pm #

    What makes me laugh is the amount of CO2 produced in actually making those turbines LOL.

  13. Neil F. March 28, 2009 at 10:18 pm #

    Climate refugees????? Millions of climate refugees???? Can you tell us Jessica just what the heck you are talking about? Honestly, I have never, not even once, ever heard of a climate refugee. If you are talking about refugees from the devestation of the great tsunami, I would kinda see what your saying. Except, the tsunami was caused by an earthquake, which is pretty much unrelated to climate. So, what the [expletive deleted]are you talking about?

  14. GaZ August 2, 2009 at 4:32 pm #

    Has anyone looked at Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS)?

    Seems like a viable way to deal with our problems in the short to medium term. Some investment will be diverted from renewables R&D. However In light of the very real problem of climate change surely this is going to happen. Of course there are issues of safety to be addressed

    But people please don’t dismiss renewables technology out of hand we’re gonna need it. Do not doubt it.

  15. Joago Ambisi November 14, 2009 at 7:06 am #

    I come from Nigeria. I am 82, my English is no very good, I used to be a farmer, like my father and his father before, we’ve had the same peice of land for over 4 generations, the climate there is changing we cannot survive there any more, it was too hot, water consumption was large and took a toll on the land. I even being black could no longer stand the heat most of my life spent on my land and in the heat I’m a worker no soft bellied office man, in the space of 50 years I had noticed the change, the weather was harsher, I hated it and began to give up, even 1 degree can make a difference, so I left the country and moved to England. Believe me you it is changing and you westerners will see this only once your over run by people of my type climate refugees.

    Europe is seeing this already and before you’ll know it so will you!

  16. Michael Williams April 30, 2010 at 6:52 pm #

    Wind power is a good source of electricity but it also takes up lots of space just like solar power plants.,””

  17. Imogen Cooper May 1, 2010 at 12:10 am #

    Every government should focus more on Alternative Energy so as not to be too dependent on Oil and avoid air pollution as well..-“

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