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Wind Turbines Offshore North Carolina: Look Before You Dive (Part I)

[Part II by Mr. Droz looks at North Carolina's onshore wind development.]

The Governor of North Carolina recently selected a Scientific Advisory Panel on Offshore Energy to make recommendations regarding offshore energy. At the official state site, information is given about who is on the panel, submissions received, and so on.

Three public hearings have been held regarding coastal Carolina. I spoke in the Morehead City hearing. My brief (two minutes allowed) comments were aimed at the proper process that North Carolina should take to resolve which energy options should be implemented. Not surprisingly the majority of inputs received at these meeting were people and organizations advocating offshore wind energy. (What is that political science insight about concentrated benefits and diffuse costs?)

The Panel is now digesting the inputs received. I have been advised that it would be helpful to email them a follow-up correspondence that focused on the economics of offshore wind energy.

Below is my draft version; I welcome comments for improvements, additions or deletions from MasterResource readers.

Scientific Advisory Panel Members:

In considering offshore wind energy for NC, please remember the cardinal issue:  there have been zero real scientific studies that have shown that offshore wind is a good cost-benefit option.

The citizens of NC are depending on you to insist on a comprehensive, independent, transparent, empirical-based scientific assessment of proposed energy options, prior to any endorsement by the state of North Carolina. Accepting assurances of the wind or other lobbyists is woefully insufficient. We are hoping that the panel will look at their role not as facilitators for any offshore power source, but rather as our representatives insisting on genuine scientific proof of all claims made.

Some economic considerations for offshore wind energy:
1 – The EIA has repeatedly concluded that offshore wind is much more expensive than any conventional source of power, which includes
my comments as to why the costs are actually worse than shown by EIA.

2 – The head of NY Power Authority, the state agency responsible for offshore wind in NYS, has just publicly come out to acknowledge that offshore wind does not make economic sense.

3 – This study, by an engineering firm which favors offshore wind, concluded that offshore wind costs were at least twice those of nuclear.

4 – The UK government’s equivalent (Energy Research Center), concluded that offshore wind was twice the coast of coal.

5 – Real world offshore sticker shock.

6 – This is a summary of some of the issues going on with Cape Wind, including a lawsuit that states that it violates the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act.

7 – In many Eastern states, business organizations have been opposed to offshore wind, e.g.: Maryland, Massachusetts, Rhode Island.

8 – Job claims are often wildly exaggerated, because no guarantees are required and there is no penalty for lying.

9 – An analysis by an economics expert that shows how many “studies” of offshore economics are not accurate.

10-Even the Federal Government is backing away from some of its offshore wind support (also see here).

11-Since Germany has been praised for it’s wind expertise, here is an independent assessment of their offshore wind experience.

12-Here is a worldwide assessment of the unfavorable experience of offshore wind.

13-Offshore insurance is expensive and dicey.

14-This is due to turbine-part failures that are in an extremely adverse environment and partly due to the fact that (despite numerous assurances that these are reliable machines) that there are many design flaws.

15-Air Force Gen. Gene Renuart, head of U.S. Northern Command, said a number of wind energy projects raise “real concerns” involving radar interference. With the heavy military presence in coastal NC, this is no small matter.

16-An interesting video comparing a NC offshore gas resource (Manteo) to offshore wind.

17-One wind promoter discussing offshore wind acknowledges that the technical and logistic issues are “immense“.

18-Legislation has been introduced in some states to ban offshore wind.

19-Maryland Legislature Kills Bill To Encourage Offshore Wind (4/8/11).

20-Despite New York State strongly pushing for offshore wind development, seven NY counties took the unusual step of actually passing legislation to prohibit it in their waters.

21-One of many lawsuits against Cape Wind. This one by environmental groups stating that adequate scientific studies had not been done.

22-The government did a study on the impact of higher electricity costs (i.e. what offshore wind is) and concluded that there are many adverse consequences (some severe) of higher electricity costs (like lower literacy rate, shorter life spans, reduced financial well-being, etc.).

23-Wind Power’s Promises Gone Awry, written by an independent physicist, is a good assessment of false claims made.

24-An overview of offshore wind written by an “aerospace engineer with extensive experience in electrical power generation, storage and distribution, and in defense, radar and navigation systems and technologies.”

25-An overview of wind energy economics and why it is a very poor choice. It is written by an independent energy economics expert (30± years in the business). In reading the article simply substitute “North Carolina” for “Virginia” as everything is exactly the same.

26-“Ontario Rules Out Offshore Wind Projects” until more Scientific work is done. By far the most important takeaway of this is their reason: that there is not adequate Science to support offshore wind! THIS IS EXACTLY THE POSITION THAT THE PANEL SHOULD TAKE.

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I  end with the insightful words written by the environmental organization, the John Muir Trust (my emphasis):

The current rush for large scale wind developments, connected by a hugely centralized grid system shows a poverty of imagination and thinking rooted in the early 20th Century. If attention continues to be focused on increasing renewable energy targets, without any requirement to demonstrate what each development will achieve in greenhouse gas emissions reductions (including all aspects of the generation and transmission), we face a possible worst case scenario, where we achieve renewable energy targets through inappropriate developments and at great cost to important environments – only to discover that our greenhouse gas emissions are up, along with our energy consumption, and our energy supply is not secure.

4 comments

1 Mark Lively { 05.19.11 at 8:40 am }

I am surprised, though maybe I shouldn’t be, that North Carolina is willing to sacrifice its huge tourist industry on its sandy beaches for some transient jobs.

The construction of off shore wind mills will typically be by contract employees, often from out of state, as will be their periodic maintenance.

And where do we expect the accounting and management jobs to be located? My guess is where the money is, New York City, Boston, Chicago, not on the shores of North Carolina.

And how much tourist revenue will this cost?

2 Richard Roach { 05.19.11 at 9:26 am }

The Big Wind lobby, like any lobby, looks out for the interests of its members. They will say and do anything to make money for their members. Wind powered generating facilities make no sense except to the construction and manufacturing people who will make them. They will lie and bribe to reach their ends.

3 Sherri Lange { 05.20.11 at 11:54 am }

Great overview, John. I liked the reference to German offshore by Edgar Gaertner.

“Barely two months after the inauguration ceremony for Germany’s first pilot offshore wind farm, “Alpha Ventus” in the North Sea, all six of the newly installed wind turbines were completely idle, due to gearbox damage. Two turbines must be replaced entirely; the other four repaired. ” Gearbox failures are a notorious problem in the industry, and one study estimates that the average lifespan of a problem free gear box is actually 1.5 years. Imagine these constellations of turbines, then, some in fairly deep waters, requiring dangerous and perpetual repair. As the quote you refer to states, six turbines were entirely idle. Two needed to be replaced entirely. Ribbons of cables, vibration, countless repairs, many dead hulks in the water, and as you note, for zero public economic benefit.

4 Jane Rogers { 05.21.11 at 10:26 pm }

Even with scientific investigation in place, the precautionary principle should always be close at hand when considering any IWT development on or offshore. Studies on the cummulative effects should be considered through thorough empirical-based scientific investigation independent, comprehensive and transparent indeed. No one anywhere has looked at the ‘overall’ picture of how these developments are affecting the groundwater system that feed into the Great Lake system where 40 million Canadian/US citizens depend on their drinking water supply. It is the companies that have been left to monitor their own work. Shame on governments that allow this folly. Many of the on land wind developments are within the watershed of the Basin, a few IWTs here and there really shouldn’t matter but when you get thousands strewn across the watershed, what are the effects? Where are the ‘highly vulunerable areas’ of source water supply in the form of vital recharging aquifers? Does anyone know what action will finally set the ‘house of cards’ tumbling when a ‘saturation or breaking point’ has been reached? With changes in climate and weather conditions anticipated in the future, where shortages of water could even be witnessed in what is now considered an area of abundance of source water, what are governments thinking when they allow the ‘fox to mind the henhouse’ when it comes to this valuable resource?
Thanks John for this work, my support to you and your fine efforts. I hope these comments help everyone see a ‘wider’ picture:)

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