It was odd to see a small news article on one of the back pages of The Capital-Journal last May concerning the serious breakdown of a large wind farm near Hays.
Seems that a transformer failed, could not be easily replaced, and 56 turbines were nonfunctional for months.
Amid the hype surrounding generator windmills, the public is not being made aware that they are huge, costly and unreliable mechanical devices which are inefficient, unpredictable and hard to repair.
On May 1, 2009, The Wall Street Journal reported on the many problems being encountered in the industry, including cracked blades, faulty gearboxes and excessive wear on gear trains. The American public is being told that “renewable” wind energy is going to be the salvation of the country, just as soon as we create a new multibillion-dollar grid system to carry it from where the wind is (the plains), to where the people are (the East Coast).
In the U.S. – and indeed, worldwide – wind turbines would be nonexistent if it were not for heavy subsidies from governments. This is because the industry cannot and will never be able to compete on the free market with cheaper forms of energy, such as coal, natural gas and nuclear.
Currently, 70 percent of all nonpolluting electrical energy in the U.S. comes from nuclear power. Of our total electric production, 95 percent comes from domestic sources – 49 percent coal, 20 percent natural gas, 20 percent nuclear, 7 percent water power. Wind energy generates less than 2 percent of U.S. energy output, and can never under any circumstances generate as much as other major sources. The limit a grid system can tolerate is 20 percent at the maximum.
But, you may say, we need to have a nonpolluting and renewable source for electricity! Even granting that there is a case to be made for this, can wind energy be the answer?
Here are some reasons why it can’t:
* Unpredictability. The wind comes and goes, 24 hours a day, and cannot be coordinated with human activities that require electricity. It is intermittent, volatile and unreliable.
* Not storable. Wind energy cannot be stored once produced, a characteristic shared with other electricity sources. But unlike them, the production of wind energy cannot be planned in advance.
* Wind power requires more backup generation than any other source. Because wind power can vary so much and so rapidly, standby natural gas generators must be available and ready to produce at short notice, otherwise the electric grid will fail. This creates, ironically, an increased need for fossil fuel use, the exact opposite of what the advocates of wind power want us to believe. A more complex and expensive grid system is needed to modulate the fluctuations from the wind. Ratepayers will pay this bill.
* Large transmission losses. Because the users of wind power are far from its main sources, the figures usually quoted for the number of homes served by wind farm power ratings are far higher than the true number. At best, the efficiency factor of wind energy is 30 percent – compared to nuclear power’s 91.8 percent and coal’s 71.8 percent – and when wind speed decreases by half, the amount of electricity generated from a wind turbine decreases by a factor of eight.
* Low “energy density.” Wind farms require huge land spaces. Ultimately, most energy arises from the sun in the form of coal, natural gas and oil, sequestered for millions of years. Gasoline is very energy dense – four times more than wood and twice as much as coal. Natural gas is nearly equal to gasoline. Nuclear energy is the most dense. On a unit-per-unit basis, uranium translates into 2 million times more energy than an equivalent amount of coal, and a million times that of gasoline. In Kansas, a mere 1,000-megawatt wind farm will require 125 square miles – for example, a swath 10 miles long and 12.5 miles wide in the heart of the Flint Hills. Anyone like that idea?
I could go on, but you get the idea. For a comprehensive view of this and other energy scams and bad ideas, get Robert Bryce’s new book, “Power Hungry: The Myths of ‘Green’ Energy and the Real Fuels of the Future just out this year from Public Affairs publishing.
James Ransom, a Topeka medical doctor, has authored several published medical studies and articles on nonmedical subjects.
|Wind Watch relies entirely
on User Funding