Tag Archives: alternative energy

Wind Farms Paid to Stop Producing Power

Wind Farms Paid to Stop Producing Power
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Written by James Heiser

While President Obama travels around the United States touting “green energy” as the solution to the nation’s spiraling energy costs, the wind farms of the Pacific Northwest are proving once again that alternative energy sources are having a hard time living up to the praise lavished on them.

According to the UPI, Obama told workers at a truck manufacturing plant in North Carolina: “We’ve got to develop every source of American energy — not just oil and gas, but wind power and solar power, nuclear power, biofuels.” At the same time, the Bonneville Power Administration — a federal agency — has been shutting down wind turbines for hundreds of hours because demand could not keep up with the supply. An article for FoxNews.com (“Wind farms in Pacific Northwest paid to not produce”) details the decision to further subsidize wind farms which could only be built with federal funds:

The problem arose during the late spring and early summer last year. Rapid snow melt filled the Columbia River Basin. The water rushed through the 31 dams run by the Bonneville Power Administration, a federal agency based in Portland, Ore., allowing for peak hydropower generation. At the very same time, the wind howled, leading to maximum wind power production.

Demand could not keep up with supply, so BPA shut down the wind farms for nearly 200 hours over 38 days.

“It’s the one system in the world where in real time, moment to moment, you have to produce as much energy as is being consumed,” BPA spokesman Doug Johnson said of the renewable energy.

Now, Bonneville is offering to compensate wind companies for half their lost revenue. The bill could reach up to $50 million a year.

The extra payout means energy users will eventually have to pay more.

Lacking a means for storing the excess energy produced by the wind turbines, the capacity of the wind farms simply went to waste when the order came down to cease production for hundreds of hours. Unlike coal and oil fired plants, which produce power on a predictable schedule, wind farm production is literally at the mercy of the elements: whether the turbines are functioning at peak efficiency, or at a standstill because of low windspeed, the needs of the market for power fluctuate according to concerns which may have little or nothing to do with the winds driving energy production. Coal, oil and nuclear plants can fluctuate production to match demand from industry and residential customers, but the wind turbines are ambivalent to such concerns and may overproduce, or underproduce, without concern for economic impact.

It has been known for some time now that wind power falls far short of living up to its reputation for being “green” energy. The problem with wind turbines is not simply one of erratic energy production — the creation of the turbines themselves has led to environmental damage. Mining the raw materials needed for the powerful magnets used in the turbines has led to widespread ecological despoliation in China. As reported for The New American in February 2011, the media in the United Kingdom was already documenting the pollution connected with wind power:

An extensively researched report for the UK’s Daily Mail reveals one of the apparently-unavoidable byproducts of “green” wind power: a vast lake of toxic, radioactive sludge resulting from the production of the powerful magnets needed at the heart of every wind turbine. Thus far, the absurd contradiction at the heart of the expansion of wind power in the United Kingdom has been hidden from the public, because the pollution is far removed from the eyes of the public: The rare earths needed for making the wind turbines are processed in Mongolia, and it is alleged that corporate interests and environmentalists have either concealed that pollution, or attempted to downplay its effects, to avoid public backlash against the expensive and inefficient alternative energy.

Not only were the turbines built at an appalling cost to the environment, they also proved to be most inefficient when they were needed the most. When the UK suffered from a dramatic drop in temperatures, the turbines came to a stop for the simple reason that the winds ceased to blow:

According to the Daily Mail, the absurd inefficiencies of wind power resulted in the UK’s 3,153 turbines producing a mere .2 percent — yes, that’s one-fifth of one percent — of the needed power during the bitter cold which blanketed the nation this past December. (Operating at peak efficiency, the turbines should have been able to provide almost ten percent of the needed power, but unreliable winds had the turbines functioning at less than 2.5 percent of their capacity.)

Aside from the controversies related to the manufacture of the wind turbines, and their highly variable level of energy production, wind farms have also generated protests on the basis of their noise generation, and complaints about their aesthetic effect. One wind farm project in the Pacific Northwest is already on hold due to several factors — despite approval from the Governor of Washington. The Associated Press reports that one of the developers admits the wind farm would not be economically viable:

Opponents of a wind farm on the north side of the scenic Columbia River Gorge say they may appeal Washington Gov. Chris Gregoire’s approval of it.

Meanwhile, one of the developers of the Whistling Ridge Energy Project in Skamania County says the project is on hold.

Jason Spadaro, president of SDS Lumber Co. of Bingen, says he appreciates the governor’s approval but that the reduced size of the approved project is not economically viable right now.

Washington’s energy siting council had recommended that the project be scaled back from 50 to 35 turbines.

With wind farms being paid not to produce, or failing to produce when they are needed, the most reliable and economically-efficient means of energy production continues to be various forms of hydrocarbon-based energy sources, and nuclear power. As noted in a recent Bloomberg article, 35 percent of the world’s energy comes from oil, 30 percent from coal, and 20 percent from natural gas. And, despite Obama’s fixation on alternative energy vehicles, the world’s supply of oil can continue to meet demand for many years to come. Every dollar spent on non-producing wind turbines is coming directly from the pockets of a public already overburdened with taxation and spiraling energy costs. As reported last fall for The New American, new domestic oil production could create a million new jobs by 2018. What is needed is for new production to proceed without interference driven by the ideological agenda which favors inefficient, expensive forms of energy production over proven technologies. Until then, Americans may continue paying wind farms to underproduce.
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Electric Car for the 1%.

Fisker Karma Electric Car Gets Worse Mileage Than an SUV

Warren Meyer’s

Electric Car for the 1%.

The Fisker Karma electric car, developed mainly with your tax money so that a bunch of rich VC’s wouldn’t have to risk any real money, has rolled out with an nominal EPA MPGe of 52.

Not bad? Unfortunately, it’s a sham. This figure is calculated using the grossly flawed EPA process that substantially underestimates the amount of fossil fuels required to power the electric car, as I showed in great depth in an earlier Forbes.com article. In short, the EPA methodology leaves out, among other things, the conversion efficiency in generating the electricity from fossil fuels in the first place.

In the Clinton administration, the Department of Energy (DOE) created a far superior well to wheels MPGe metric the honestly compares the typical fossil fuel use of an electric vs. gasoline car.

As I calculated in my earlier Forbes article, one needs to multiply the EPA MPGe by .365 to get a number that truly compares fossil fuel use of an electric car with a traditional gasoline engine car on an apples to apples basis. In the case of the Fisker Karma, we get a true MPGe of 19. This makes it worse than even the city rating of a Ford Explorer SUV.

Congrats to the Fisker Karma, which now joins corn ethanol in the ranks of heavily subsidized supposedly green technologies that are actually worse for the environment than current solutions.

Postscript: I will say, though, that the Fisker Karma does serve a social purpose — Hollywood celebrities and the ultra rich, who want to display their green credentials, no longer have to be stuck with a little econobox. They can now enjoy a little leg room and luxury.

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Wind Farms: Monuments to Lunacy

Wind farms: the monuments to lunacy that will be left to blot the landscape

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By Christopher Booker

Three separate news items on the same day last week reflected three different aspects of what is fast becoming a full-scale disaster bearing down on Britain. The first item was a picture in The Daily Telegraph showing two little children forlornly holding a banner reading “E.On Hands Off Winwick”.

This concerned a battle to prevent a tiny Northamptonshire village from being dwarfed by seven 410-foot wind turbines, each higher than Salisbury Cathedral, to be built nearby by a giant German-owned electricity firm. The 40 residents, it was reported, have raised £50,0000 from their savings to pay lawyers to argue their case when their village’s fate is decided at an inquiry by a Government inspector.

In the nine years since I began writing here about wind turbines, I have been approached by more than 100 such local campaigns in every part of Britain, trying to fight the rich and powerful companies that have been queuing up to cash in on the vast subsidy bonanza available to developers of wind farms. Having been the chairman of one such group myself, I know just how time-consuming and costly such battles can be. The campaigners are up against a system horribly rigged against them, because all too often – although they may win every battle locally (in our case we won unanimous support from our local council) – in the end an inspector may come down from London to rule that the wind farm must go ahead because it is “government policy”.

I long ago decided that there was little point reporting on most of these individual campaigns, because the only way this battle was going to be won was by exposing the futility of the national policy they were up against. My main aim had to be to bring home to people just how grotesquely inefficient and costly wind turbines are as a way to make electricity – without even fulfilling their declared purpose of reducing CO2 emissions.

Alas, despite all the practical evidence to show why wind power is one of the greatest follies of our age, those who rule our lives, from our own politicians and officials here in Britain to those above them in Brussels, seem quite impervious to the facts.

Hence the two other items reported last week, one being the Government’s proposed changes to our planning rules (already being implemented, even though the “consultation” has scarcely begun) which are drawing fire from all directions. The particular point here, on page 43 of the Government’s document, is a proposal that local planning authorities must “apply a presumption in favour” of “renewable and low-carbon energy sources”.

What this means in plain English is that we can forget any last vestiges of local democracy. Our planning system is to be rigged even more shamelessly than before, to allow pretty well every application to cover our countryside with wind turbines – along with thousands of monster pylons, themselves up to 400 feet high, marching across Scotland, Wales, Suffolk, Somerset and elsewhere to connect them to the grid.

All this is deemed necessary to meet our EU-agreed target to generate nearly a third of our electricity from “renewables” – six times more than we do now – by 2020. This would require building at least 10,000 more turbines, in addition to the 3,500 we already have – which last year supplied only 2.7 per cent of our electricity.

Obviously this is impossible, but our Government will nevertheless do all it can to meet its unreachable target and force through the building of thousands of turbines, capable of producing a derisory amount of electricity at a cost estimated, on its own figures, at £140 billion (equating to £5,600 for every household in the land).

Which brings us to the third of last week’s news items, a prediction by energy consultants Ulyx that a further avalanche of “green” measures will alone raise Britain’s already soaring energy bills in the same nine years by a further 58 per cent.

A significant part of this crippling increase, helping to drive more than half Britain’s households into “fuel poverty”, will be the costs involved in covering thousands of square miles of our countryside and seas with wind turbines. The sole beneficiaries will be the energy companies, which are allowed to charge us double or treble the normal cost of our electricity, through the subsidies hidden in our energy bills; and landowners such as Sir Reginald Sheffield, the Prime Minister’s father-in-law, who on his own admission stands to earn nearly £1,000 a day at the expense of the rest of us, for allowing a wind farm to be built on his Lincolnshire estate.

Even more damaging, however, will be the way this massive investment diverts resources away from the replacement of the coal-fired and nuclear power stations which are due for closure in coming years, threatening to leave a shortfall in our national electricity supply of nearly 40 per cent. If we are to keep our lights on and our economy running, we need – as the CBI warned in a damning report on Friday – urgently to spend some £200 billion on power supply,

But our politicians have been so carried away into their greenie never-never land that they seem to have lost any sight of this disaster bearing down on us. Instead of putting up turbines on the fields of Northants, E.On should be building the grown-up power stations we desperately need. But government energy policy has so skewed the financial incentives of the system that the real money is to made from building useless wind farms.

Sooner or later, this weird policy will be recognised as such a catastrophic blunder that it, and the colossal subsidies that made it possible, will be abandoned. That will leave vast areas of our once green and pleasant land littered with useless piles of steel and concrete, which it will be no one’s responsibility to cart away.

If the Government really wishes to make a useful change to our planning laws, it should insist that every planning permission to build wind turbines should include a requirement that, after their 25-year life, they must be removed at their owners’ expense. Alas, by that time the companies will all have gone bankrupt, and we shall be left with a hideous legacy as a monument to one of the greatest lunacies of our time.

A way has been found to save our village cricketers

There has been another twist to the year-long battle for survival of our little Somerset village cricket club which, as I wrote last Sunday, has been threatened with closure by a bizarre bureaucratic double whammy.

On the one hand, our local council wanted us to pay rates amounting to more than £100 for every home game we play, more than we can realistically afford. On the other, Her Majesty’s Revenue & Customs has ruled that we cannot get any relief on this crippling demand because our constitution did not state explicitly that membership of the club is open to anyone “regardless of sex, age, disability, ethnicity, sexual orientation, religion or other beliefs” (it merely stated that membership was “open to anyone”).

On Monday, in a friendly and helpful letter from Mendip district council, it emerged that a way may have been found round this difficulty. If our cricket club is redesignated as a business, we might qualify this year for Small Business Rate Relief, at 100 per cent.

For the moment, it seems, that the threat has been lifted, and that next season we may again be permitted to take the field on Sunday afternoons without having to pay a tax of over £700 a year – thanks to a scheme designed to promote growth in the local economy.

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