The Wall Street Journal reports that the wind industry has fallen on hard times:
The wind business, viewed by governments as key to meeting climate targets and boosting electricity supplies, is facing a dangerous market squall.
After months of warnings about rising prices and logistical hiccups, developers and would-be buyers of wind power are scrapping contracts, putting off projects and postponing investment decisions. The setbacks are piling up for both onshore and offshore projects, but the latter’s problems are more acute.
Why might prices be rising, and supply chain issues emerging? The Journal mentions Bidenflation and rising interest rates, but the more intractable problem is supply and demand. Because of their minuscule productivity, wind turbines use extraordinary amounts of steel, concrete, copper, cobalt, zinc, and numerous rare earths. As governments around the world have mandated “green” energy, demand for these materials has skyrocketed. Prices are only going higher, as massive new mines for minerals like copper and cobalt will have to be developed.
Europe’s strong winds and shallow waters have made offshore wind one of its fastest-growing renewable technologies. But a 40% cost increase recently halted a giant project in the U.K., a global leader in offshore wind, while developers delayed two investment decisions in the Baltic Sea.
Another three projects in the North Sea totaling about $19 billion in planned spending are potentially delayed or revising terms too, said Peter Lloyd-Williams, a senior analyst at Westwood Global Energy Group.
There have been similar cancellations and delays of offshore projects in the U.S., too. Quality problems are also adding insult to injury. Wind turbines are at best disposable power plants, lasting only 20 years or so. They are also costly to maintain:
Manufacturers have been struggling with profitability as they deliver ever-larger and more advanced machines, which are more efficient at making electricity. Now some say they are running into problems with wear and tear.
“We have problems both offshore and onshore,” said Tim Proll-Gerwe, spokesman with Siemens Energy. The company, which had previously said quality issues related to its subsidiary’s flagship onshore turbines could cost up to $1.1 billion to fix, on Monday raised that estimate to about $1.75 billion.
Blade supplier TPI Composites, which has agreements with several wind manufacturers, issued a profit warning last month that it was seeing higher inspection and repair costs.
The struggling wind industry faces other problems that likely cannot be overcome at any cost. Robert Bryce describes the popular revolt against “green” energy that is taking place world-wide:
[A]ll over the world, rural people are reacting with fury at the encroachment of large wind and solar projects on their homes and neighborhoods.
In June, thousands of Druze residents in the Golan Heights rioted to stop the installation of a large wind project on their traditional lands. Last month, Australia’s largest farmers union said it wanted a moratorium on new solar projects. In May, a wind project in Colombia being pushed by the Italian company, Enel, was canceled after it met fierce opposition from the indigenous Wayuu communities.
Meanwhile, here in the U.S., over the last 10 days, local governments in Illinois, Ohio, and Iowa have rejected or restricted wind and solar projects. Those moves bring the total number of rejections or restrictions in the Renewable Rejection Database to 574.
Robert does a tremendous service by maintaining a database of instances where local objections and protests have successfully blocked wind and solar projects. The reality is that, no matter how loudly the federal government clamors for “renewables” to be built, successfully constructing them has proved to be difficult.
And this problem ultimately can’t be solved. Bryce deserves credit for arguing forcefully that, notwithstanding all of the other intractable problems with low-intensity, unreliable wind and solar energy, what will finally kill those technologies is their land use requirements. In a paper that he wrote for American Experiment, Robert pointed out:
[M]erely meeting America’s current electricity needs with wind energy would require a territory more than two times the size of California.
And, of course, if liberals get their way and electrify everything from automobiles to stoves, the land requirements would be vastly greater.
None of this is going to happen. The laws of physics do not permit a developed country to power itself with “green” energy. Our attempt to do so is doomed. In his Substack piece, Bryce quotes a British physics professor:
In 2016, shortly before his death at age 46 from cancer, David J.C. MacKay, a physics professor at the University of Cambridge, said wind turbines are “a waste of money.” Eight years earlier, MacKay had published Sustainable Energy — Without the Hot Air, a remarkable book that hammered home the land-use impacts of renewables. MacKay, who recognized nuclear must be part of any effort to reduce carbon-dioxide emissions, calculated that wind energy needs about 700 times more land to produce the same amount of energy as a fracking site. In the same 2016 interview, MacKay called the idea of relying solely on renewables an “appalling delusion.” He continued, “There’s so much delusion and I think it’s so dangerous for humanity that people allow themselves to have these delusions that they’re willing to not think carefully about the numbers and the realities, and the laws of physics and the realities of engineering… humanity really does need to pay attention to arithmetic, and the laws of physics.”
Arithmetic? Laws of physics? They are lost on politicians, to our incalculable cost.