Renewable Energy: Still Breaking Wind

First Generation Wind Mills in Tehachapi Pass

The federal budget is not the only thing looking at dropping off a fiscal cliff.  One of the loose ends caught in the whole mess is the renewal of the “production tax credit” (PTC) for wind power, a supposedly “temporary” measure to help the industry get on its feet, but which, like wartime rent control, somehow becomes a permanent necessity to “save jobs” now.  The wind industry is currently lobbying Congress furiously to extend the PTC, which currently costs taxpayers $1 billion a year.

But the lobbying crusade isn’t going very well.  In fact, the head of the wind rent-seeking lobby, Denise Bode of the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA), abruptly resigned recently when her most proposal to extend the PTC came with a $12 billion annual price tag.  Lisa Linowes reports over on the indispensable Master Resource blog:

When Representative Pat Tiberi (R-OH), chairman of the House Select Revenue Measures Subcommittee asked AWEA in April to present a proposal for phasing-out the PTC, the trade group ignored the question. The idea of a phase-out fell outside the limits of their campaign messaging and thus, outside their ability to respond. Last week, the pressure for a proposal reached a peak and AWEA threw together a six-year, front-loaded extension with a price tag in the tens of billions of dollars.

The sheer ridiculousness of the proposal outraged Congressional members and may well have changed the debate. It’s NO coincidence that within 24-hours of AWEA’s poorly received proposal, Denise Bode bailed. A move that sudden suggests the industry thinks it’s better off without her and probably without AWEA’s inflexible, out-of-touch campaign.

Even the Washington Post has come out against renewing the PTC.  Here’s my suggestion: the American Wind Energy Association should change its name to the Fatuous Attempt to Rob Taxpayers, or FART for short.

Meanwhile, if fleecing taxpayers isn’t enough, check out a new report from the Renewable Energy Foundation in the UK which finds that the falloff in electricity production from windmills in the UK and Denmark occurs a lot faster than people think.  The key finding of the study, by Prof. Gordon Hughes of University of Edinburgh, is this:

The normalised load factor for UK onshore wind farms declines from a peak of about 24% at age 1 to 15% at age 10 and 11% at age 15. The decline in the normalised load factor for Danish onshore wind farms is slower but still significant with a fall from a peak of 22% to 18% at age 15. On the other hand for offshore wind farms in Denmark the normalised load factor falls from 39% at age 0 to 15% at age 10. The reasons for the observed declines in normalised load factors cannot be fully assessed using the data available but outages due to mechanical breakdowns appear to be a contributory factor.

Translation: wind mills wear out faster than you think.  Dr John Constable, director of Renewable Energy Foundation, commented: “This study confirms suspicions that decades of generous subsidies to the wind industry have failed to encourage the innovation needed to make the sector competitive. Bluntly, wind turbines onshore and offshore still cost too much and wear out far too quickly to offer the developing world a realistic alternative to coal.”

Abandoned Wind Farm in Hawaii

Is this true for wind installations in the US?  No idea, but I have noticed for long time now that when I drive through California’s Tehachapi Pass on Hwy 58 (as I did again just the other day), you can see a lot of old, 1970s-era windmills still sitting at top ridges, but not operating any more.  Apparently a lot of them were put up by wind power ventures, enticed by federal tax credits and subsidies that started back under Jimmy Carter, and California tax credits and subsidies started under Governor-for-Life Jerry Brown, and now there’s no one to take responsibility for taking them down.  According to one estimate, there are 14,000 abandoned windmills in the U.S., though this number is disputed, though even wind defenders acknowledge there are “derelict” wind mills in California.

Oh what the heck—since we’re on this subject, I may as well revisit the short video I posted here last year of driving past what I called the “Golgotha of taxpayer subsidies” that the Tehachapi Pass wind farm represents.


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