The article, War of the Winds by Kher and Hequet (appearing in Time Bonus Section November 2005: Global Business / Energy) is useful in that it admits a few of the reasons why so-called ‘wind farms’ are being so strenuously opposed in many areas of the US and other Countries.
However, the article is factually incorrect and grossly inadequate in three respects:
First, the authors’ assertion that wind energy ‘makes economic sense’ is FALSE. ‘Wind farms’ are being built primarily because of federal, state and local tax breaks and other subsidies, not because of environmental, energy or economic benefits. Two enormous federal tax breaks, alone – 5-year accelerated depreciation and $0.019 per kilowatt-hour production tax credits – account for two-thirds of the economic value of most US ‘wind farms.’ Some states provide additional income, property and sales tax breaks.
Also, some states have enacted insidious ‘Renewable Portfolio Standards’ that create and artificial, high priced market for electricity from ‘wind farms’ that help increase electric customers monthly bills.
The economic FACTS are that current government wind energy policies are:
a. Transferring millions of dollars each year from the pockets of ordinary taxpayers and electric customers to the pockets of a few large companies that own wind farms (such as the FPL Group that apparently paid NO federal income tax in 2002 or 2003 despite reporting over $2 billion in profits).
b. Encouraging investment of billions of capital investment dollars in wind projects that produce very little electricity, which electricity has little value because of its intermittence, volatility and unreliability.
The fact that Oceana County, Michigan, landowner Ron Langcore might reap some personal economic gain by having huge wind turbines on his property ignores the cost that he would impose on others. Those costs include:
a. The higher price that electric customers will be forced to way for electricity produced by those wind turbines (this cost alone will be 10 or more times the rent received by Langcore), and
b. The adverse impacts of the turbines on environmental, economic, scenic and property values.
Mr. Langcore is following a ‘beggar thy neighbor’ policy.
Second, the authors apparently are unaware or have chosen to ignore the fact that electricity from wind turbines is unreliable and has virtually no ‘capacity’ value. Wind turbines produce electricity only when the wind is blowing in the right speed range. Reliable generating capacity must always be available to ‘back up’ the unreliable output from wind turbines. (Wind turbines are most likely to produce electricity at night and in winter when winds tend to be stronger, rather than when electricity is most likely to be needed; i.e., hot weekday summer afternoons.) Providing reliable backup generation adds to the true cost of electricity from wind.
Third, the authors have also ignored the fact that opposition to wind energy is growing rapidly in European and other countries as citizens, business firms, and, belatedly, the media have begun to realize the huge cost of wind energy subsidies and its adverse impacts on electric grids and on environmental values.
You owe your readers a more balanced treatment of wind energy issues, rather than a regurgitation of false and misleading claims made by the highly subsidized wind industry.
Glenn R. Schleede
Glenn R. Schleede
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