Category — Windpower: History and Issues
“The claim that wind projects in the U.S. are achieving 30% average capacity factors nationally [are] … not meaningful when considering that state RPS mandates are based on local resources. For states like New York and Pennsylvania, where average capacity factors are in the low- to mid- 20% range, many more wind turbines and related infrastructure (transmission) will be needed to meet RPS mandates than originally forecasted, resulting in increased costs and impacts.
Couple this with the fact that wind production in most states is seasonal with summer months producing at half that of winter months and also concentrated during periods of low demand (night time) — much of the energy arrives as excess energy making it less useful.”
The study, produced in cooperation with the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) and other stakeholders, explored a modeled energy scenario in which wind could supply 20% of the nation’s electricity by 2030. DOE made clear in the report that the 20% scenario was neither a prediction nor a goal, but, for wind proponents, the study served as the foundation for ongoing advocacy.
20% wind power by 2030 became a call to action and more. Absent a national renewables standard, AWEA heralded the 20% as a de facto mandate for wind.
The industry insists it’s on track to reach 20% wind (up from 4% today), but such claims are neither realistic nor wise. Despite explosive growth in new wind installations in the last five years alone,  challenges to further development have become more evident and will ultimately limit wind’s expansion.
An Unpopular Wind [Read more →]
May 16, 2013 7 Comments
“From all signs, the wind-energy field has reached that all-important turning point.”
- C. Flavin, Wind Power: A Turning Point (Worldwatch Institute: July 1981), p. 47.
Christopher Flavin, long associated with the Washington, DC-based Worldwatch Institute (see appendix below), was among the most thoughtful and prolific energy writer in the neo-Malthusian energy/environmentalist camp. His tone was positive, his writing clear, and his research well documented. Flavin’s work is scholarly compared to his (shrill) predecessor, Lester Brown, the founder of WorldWatch. Still, Flavin’s final products are little more than lawyer briefs for energy/climate alarmism.
Flavin is now paying the price for assuming alarmism to hype market-incorrect energies. He banked on wind and solar as primary energies despite the fact that they were dilute, intermittent, and environmentally invasive. Flavin pretty much forgot his early caution and warnings about windpower (see his introduction to Paul Gipe’s Windpower Comes of Age).
Flavin’s writings on the inevitability of windpower and the global warming issue inspired none other than Ken Lay, whose Enron invested in and lost money with solar, wind, and energy efficiency. That is a story for another time.
“Oil Short” World
Here is Flavin’s bio at the time of this piece, which reveals another spectacularly wrong prediction from the title of his then new book. [Read more →]
May 6, 2013 No Comments
In the final hours of the 2012 fiscal cliff negotiations, the now 20-year old wind production tax credit (PTC) was granted a 1-year extension at the estimated cost of $12 billion.  This move was done behind closed doors, without debate or opportunity for amendment and no obligation of the Congress to find a way to pay for it.
With this most recent extension of the PTC, the Congress took no action to address the harmful effects  of the PTC on competitive wholesale energy markets.
The PTC is set to expire on December 31st. Until this long postponed day, the legislative opportunity is for the Congress to amend the flawed tax provision to relieve market distortions  and promote more reliable, least-cost renewable choices for taxpayers.
Market Signals That Work
Nearly two decades ago, electric energy markets in most of the U.S. were highly regulated. Wholesale electricity prices were determined based on a generator’s cost of installation plus direct production cost, and not on customer demand. Under deregulation, plant ownership shifted to independent power producers which, in turn, brought about competitive wholesale energy markets aimed at meeting consumer energy needs with the most reliable, least cost generation.
Once fully implemented, fossil-fired generators responded to market price signals. New power plants were built to meet peak demand requirements while discouraging construction of excess capacity. Competitive energy pricing dissuaded generators from building power plants long distances from load centers, thus limiting the deployment of costly transmission.
Improved management increased power plant efficiencies, operator profits and grid reliability while keeping retail prices in check. This coupled with air, water and other environmental rules led to U.S. energy resources becoming progressively cheaper, cleaner, safer, and with a smaller footprint.
The correct policy led to the best economic results for consumers. [Read more →]
April 24, 2013 No Comments
“It’s high time that people’s safety – and truly devastating impacts on important bird and bat species – stopped taking a back seat to political agendas, crony corporatism, and folklore environmentalism.”
Georgia residents recently learned that a rare bat has stalled state highway improvements. The May 2012 sighting of an endangered Indiana brown bat in a northern Georgia tree has triggered federal regulations requiring that state road projects not “harm, kill or harass” bats.
Even the possibility of disturbing bats or their habitats would violate the act, the feds say. Therefore, $460 million in Georgia road projects have been delayed for up to eighteen months, so that “appropriate studies” can be conducted. The studies will cost $80,000 to $120,000 per project, bringing the total for all 104 road project analyses to $8–12 million, with delays adding millions more.
Bat Benefits … and Overreach
Bats have a vital ecological function that translates into agricultural and health benefits for us. A single colony of 150 big brown bats can consume up to 1.3 million flying insect pests per year, Dr. Justin Boyles and other scientists point out, preventing crop damage and eradicating countless mosquitoes. If Indiana bats are expanding their range from Tennessee into Georgia, that could be good news.
“White nose syndrome” is impacting populations of hibernating bats in caves all over the Eastern USA. The infectious disease is probably fungal in origin, these scientists say, and the loss of North America’s bats to WNS could cost farmers $4-53 billion per year – and let mosquitoes proliferate.
At first blush, then, the delay-and-study decision by the U.S. and Georgia Departments of Transportation (DOT) and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to protect these voracious furry flyers makes sense. (The FWS enforces the Endangered Species Act, Migratory Bird Treaty Act and similar laws.)
However, the Georgia bat study action is akin to obsessing about a cut finger, while ignoring cancer. The schizophrenic decision underscores how environmental concerns, DOT actions and federal threats to impose penalties or withhold highway funds too often seem to reflect ideologies, agendas and politics, rather than science or actual risks of harming a species [Read more →]
April 5, 2013 9 Comments
Violent Environmental Problems With Wind Turbine Operation: From Avian Mortality to Catastrophic Failure
Renewable energy wind turbines as electricity sources possess extreme environmental problems not found in their renewable energy rival–solar photovoltaic. These problems are due to rotation of 130-foot or more long, thirteen-ton turbine blades with tip speeds of 200 miles per hour.
“An unavoidable problem of wind turbines is killing flying creatures. The Committee For A Constructive Tomorrow (CFACT) produced a video “Eagle lawsuit ruffles wind industry feathers”. The video records a bird apparently being killed by a wind turbine. It appears the bird went back for a second look at the turbine and a blade struck the fatal blow. Possibly the bird thought the turbine was a bigger bird.”
A companion article published March 19, 2013, by CFACT is “Wind turbines kill up to 39 million birds a year” by wildlife expert Jim Wiegand. Details of studies on bird fatalities caused by wind turbines are cited in this article.
The source of Jim Wiegand’s statement wind turbines kills up to 39 million birds a year is found in the December 15, 2012, Townhall article by Paul Driessen “Stop Subsidizing the Slaughter”. Mr. Driessen’s estimates are based on bird fatality studies done in the United States and Europe that are referenced in the article. He used 39,000 wind turbines operating in the United States at the end of 2011 for making estimates.
It has been long known wind turbines are devastating to bat populations. A U. S. Geological Survey report “Bat Fatalities at Wind Turbines: Investigating the Causes and Consequences” mentions thousands of bats are killed annually at wind turbine sites around the world. [Read more →]
April 3, 2013 13 Comments
“[Wind accident] data … is by no means fully comprehensive – CWIF believe that what is attached may only be the ‘tip of the iceberg’ in terms of numbers of accidents and their frequency…. Renewable UK confirmed that there had been 1,500 wind turbine accidents and incidents in the UK alone in the past 5 years. Data here … may only represent 9% of actual accidents. “
- Caithness Windfarm Information Forum (UK), Wind Turbine Accident Data to 31st December 2012.
My latest Forbes Political Energy post, Oil & Gas Isn’t Just One Of The Richest Industries, It’s Also One Of The Safest, examined the improving, impressive safety of the U.S. oil and gas industry compared to the much smaller (but accident prone) industrial wind power industry. The massive height of open-element wind turbines introduces hazards for high-up workers and from falling debris.
“The density, scalability, and portability of oil, gas, and coal make them affordable, reliable, and flexible for average consumers,” my article concluded. “Wind turbines and solar panels, contrarily, are expensive, intermittent, and inflexible—and have their own set of health and safety issues.”
Media Matters Rebuttal
Enter Media Matters for America–the progressive answer to Brent Bozell’s Media Research Center–that is all-in with (government-enabled) wind energy, described as “an expanding market that saves money and creates jobs.”
April 2, 2013 4 Comments
After 20 years and many extensions, the federal Production Tax Credit (PTC) was scheduled to expire at the end of 2012. Neither the House nor the Senate saw fit to extend this overly generous corporate benefit when it was considered on its own merits, and the PTC did, in fact, expire.
But in the final hours of the fiscal cliff negotiations, a provision in the American Taxpayer Relief Act (P.L. 112-240) surreptitiously added a $12 billion, 1-year extension of the PTC. 
This move was done behind closed doors, without debate, any opportunity for amendment, or obligation of the Congress to find a way to pay for it.
The abuse of the Public Trust did not end there. With this extension, a critical change to the PTC was introduced that relaxed the eligibility requirements for the credit. Renewable energy projects now need only ‘commence construction’ by January 1, 2014, to qualify for the credit, instead of the projects being ‘placed-in-service’ by that date.
IRS Interpretation Forthcoming
March 25, 2013 7 Comments
“The cold reality is that honest, scientific, accurate mortality studies in the Altamont Pass area would result in death tolls that would shock Americans. They would also raise serious questions about wind turbines throughout the United States, especially in major bird habitats like Oregon’s Shepherds Flat wind facility and the whooping cranes’ migratory corridor from Alberta, Canada, to Texas.”
Part I yesterday examined the sober findings and admissions of a 2004 study by the California Energy Commission (CEC) on bird carnage at the Altamont Pass Wind Resource Area (APWRA).
Developing Methods to Reduce Bird Mortality in the Altamont Pass Wind Resource Area also looked at the placement of carcasses in relation to turbine types. It documented that the distances carcasses were found from turbine towers increased significantly as turbine megawatt ratings and blade lengths increased. Based on a sample of about 800 carcasses, the report revealed that birds were found an average of 94 feet (28.5 meters) from 100Kw turbines on towers 81 feet (24.6 meters) high.
Obviously, taller turbines with longer blades and faster blade-tip speeds will catapult stricken birds much further. Figure 1 below shows how a turbine 2.5 times larger will result in an average carcass distance of 372 feet (113.5 meters) from the tower. The wind industry is acutely aware of this. [Read more →]
March 15, 2013 30 Comments
“The [2004 California Energy Commission] study also discussed how higher raptor mortality occurred when smaller towers were “upgraded” with larger turbines and proportionally longer blades. These wind turbines offered what raptors perceived as intermediate to very big windows of opportunity to fly through what looked like open spaces between towers…. However, the industry … rapidly installed thousands of these much larger turbines across America … and focused attention on new study results that reflected far less accurate (and honest) searches and surveys.”
In 1984, the California Energy Commission concluded in regard to the state’s wind industry: “[M]any institutional, engineering, environmental and economic issues must be resolved before the industry is secure and its growth can be assured.” Though it was between the lines, the primary environmental issue alluded to was the extreme hazard that wind turbines posed to raptors.
But the wind industry pretty much knew that there was little that could be done to make its propeller-style turbines safe for raptors. With exposed blade tips spinning in open space at speeds up to 200 mph, it was impossible. Wind developers also knew they would have a public relations nightmare if people ever learned how many eagles are actually being cut in half – or left with a smashed wing, to stumble around for days before dying.
To hide this inconvenient truth, strict wind farm operating guidelines were established – including high security around turbines, gag orders in agreements, and the prevention of accurate, meaningful mortality studies. [Read more →]
March 14, 2013 19 Comments
“Suggesting that renewables will let us phase rapidly off fossil fuels in the United States, China, India, or the world as a whole is almost the equivalent of believing in the Easter Bunny and Tooth Fairy.”
- James Hansen, Baby Lauren and the Kool-Aid, July 29, 2011.
Climate-change activist James Hansen speaks truth to power when he tells wind + solar = energy advocates “renewable energies are grossly inadequate for our energy needs now and in the foreseeable future.” He adds:
Recently I received a mailing on the climate crisis from a large environmental organization. Their request, letters and e-mails to Congress and the President, mentioned only renewable energies (specifically wind and solar power).
Such a request offends nobody, and it is worthless. Indeed, it is much less than worthless. If you drink the kool-aid … you are a big part of the problem.
But this has not prevented the Michigan Environmental Council and its affiliates from making a full-throated appeal for far higher renewable energy mandates at Gov. Rick Snyder’s statewide series of energy roundtable meetings.
The Michigan Environmental Council (MEC) and its allies have chosen one unifying theme for these events: coal-fired electrical generation kills people, and renewable energy (wind) is the cure.
To that end, the MEC commissioned a report called: “Public Health Impacts of Old Coal-Fired Power Plants in Michigan.” Analyzing the health care impacts of fine particulate emissions from Michigan’s nine oldest coal-fired generation plants, MEC concludes that : “the Michigan-specific health-related damages associated with [fine particulate] emissions from the nine coal-fired facilities [are] $1.5 billion annually…” [and cause] … 180 premature [coal emissions] deaths per year in Michigan.” [Read more →]
March 13, 2013 11 Comments