Wind Energy Will Never Be Affordable

There is a financial crisis in the wind industry. You can see it in headlines like Support for offshore wind sinks as costs soar, and The ill wind of offshore wind projects. At the Telegraph, Matt Ridley sums up the ineluctable reasons for the current crisis:

The MPs who have forced Rishi Sunak into a U-turn on onshore wind power love to repeat the favourite slogan of the wind industry: “wind is cheap”.

Wind is free, actually. Which doesn’t mean that electricity from wind power is cheap. It is ruinously expensive.

Electricity from wind is not cheap and never will be. The latest auction of rights to build offshore wind farms failed to attract any bids, despite offering higher subsidised prices. That alone indicates that wind is not cheap or getting cheaper.

But the real reason for the lack of interest in the auction is that, for the first time, bidders are not free to walk away from their bids when it suits them. In the past, they could put in low offers, boast about them being cheap, then take the higher market price later. The Government has at last called their bluff, so they are having to admit that electricity prices need to be higher to make wind farms pay.

Emphasis added. What follows is, of course, the question the “greens” can’t answer:

If wind power is so cheap, how come energy bills have risen in step with the amount of installed wind power?

The extraordinary costs of wind power can never be avoided:

The cost of subsidising wind is vast. Then add the cost of getting the power from remote wind farms to where people live. And the cost of balancing the grid and backing wind up with gas plants for the times when the wind drops. And the cost of paying wind farms to reduce output on windy days when the grid can’t take it.

Every time you read an estimate of the cost of wind power in a newspaper, it leaves out all of those components. And more.

The Ukraine war exposed the worthlessness of wind energy:

Says the energy expert John Constable: “We had a huge amount of wind…and it not only did absolutely nothing to protect against the recent gas crisis: it actually made it worse, because the UK’s security of supply now hangs by the single thread of gas, as the sole thermodynamically competent fuel in the system, coal being near absent and nuclear a small fraction.”

Wind energy will always be ridiculously expensive because it is low-intensity, a fact of physics that can never change:

The wind industry’s capital costs were very high before the Ukraine crisis, and now, like everybody else’s, are shooting up still further: the cost of steel, concrete, carbon fibre, copper and all the other ingredients of a wind turbine have risen sharply. Operating costs are rising. Inevitably, the energy generated by wind is expensive.

And…wind itself is thermodynamically inferior. Consequently, it takes a huge machine – the building of which requires a lot of energy – to extract a small amount of electricity from randomly fluctuating, low-density wind, which bloweth as and when it listeth. By contrast, in a nuclear plant, it takes a small machine to produce a flood of energy from a dense, “thermodynamically competent” energy source, and on demand.

“Green” advocates tell us wind energy will be cheap any day now, but all they ever want to do is soak up more subsidies and demand more mandates. Why? Because they need more money.

[T]he wind industry is complaining that today’s high electricity prices are not high enough, and without more subsidies they will stop building: “The race to the bottom on strike prices incentivised by the current auction process is at odds with the reality of project costs and investment needs, jeopardising deployment targets,” said RenewableUK recently. How does that square with claims it is cheap?

“Give us more money or we will stop developing wind projects.” Is that a threat, or a promise?

Wind energy, like solar energy, is terrible for the environment:

[W]ind power is not cheap or secure. Nor is it clean. The mining of minerals and pouring of concrete that is required for a wind farm have a huge pollution impact and a massive carbon footprint.

True, but to be fair, the environmental evils of wind energy pale compared with the economic destruction that will be wrought by reliance on this expensive and unreliable technology. You can’t run a modern economy on an energy source that works nowhere near half the time. (MISO, the grid operator for the Midwestern states, has calculated that wind farms will actually supply 18.1% of their alleged capacity, and that undependably, at more or less random intervals.)

Ridley thinks that voters understand these basic facts, even if politicians, perhaps blinded by the blizzard of cash being thrown at them by wind interests, do not. I hope he is right. In any event, voters will understand soon enough, when electricity rates quadruple and the lights often don’t go on. At that point, I doubt whether all of the Democrats’ spin doctors will be able to deflect responsibility for the economic, social and moral catastrophe that is wind energy.

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