While the U.S. is dumping billions of dollars into wind farms and onshore and offshore wind turbines, this energy source is being cast aside as a failure elsewhere in the world.
Some 410 federations and associations from 21 European countries, for example, have united against deployment of wind farms charging it is “degrading the quality of life.”
The European Platform Against Wind farms (EPAW) is demanding “a moratorium suspending all wind farm projects and a “complete assessment of the economic, social, and environmental impacts of wind farms in Europe.” The EPAW said it objects to industrial wind farms which “are spreading in a disorderly manner across Europe” under pressure from “financial and ideological lobby groups,” that are “degrading the quality of life living in their vicinity, affecting the health of many, devaluing people’s property and severely harming wildlife.” A petition for a moratorium has been sent to the European Commission and Parliament, said EPAW chairman J.L Butre.
France, earlier his year ran into opposition to its plan to build 3,000 megawatts (MW) of offshore wind turbines by 2020. That year is the target date the European Union set for providing 20 percent of its energy through renewable sources. An organization called the Sustainable Environment Association, opposes wind power, saying the subsidies will “not create a single job in France.”
In Canada, Wind Concerns Ontario (WCO) has launched a province-wide drive against wind power. It said Aug. 8 it wants to ensure that the next government is clear that “there is broad based community support for a moratorium…and stringent environmental protection of natural areas from industrial wind development.” WCO claimed, “The Wind industry is planning a high powered campaign to shut down support” for the WCO’s aims. “Our goal is to store the petition until the next legislative session gets underway in the fall…”
The Netherlands has approximately 2,000 onshore and offshore wind turbines. But even though Holland is synonymous with windmills, the installed capacity of wind turbines in the Netherlands at large has been stagnant for the past three years, according to an article in February in the Energy Collective. It was 2237 megawatts (MW) at the end of 2011. That was said to be about 3.37 percent of total annual electricity production. The principal reason for the stagnant onshore capacity “is the Dutch people’s opposition to the wind turbines.” They are up to 400 feet in height.
The Dutch national wind capacity factor is a dismal 0.186. The German wind capacity factor “is even more dismal at 0.167,” the article said.
Expanding wind power to meet the European Union’s 20 percent renewables target by 2020 meant adding at least another thousand 3 MW, 450-foot wind turbines to the Dutch landscape “at a cost of about $6 billion.” Not surprisingly, the Dutch people found that to be far too costly—“an intrusion into their lives and an unacceptable return on their investment, especially when considering the small quantity of CO2 reduction per invested dollar.”
An added 3,000 MW of offshore turbines also was rejected. The capital cost was figured at $10 to $12 billion. The cost was judged to be too much and the wind energy produced too little. “The energy would have to be sold at very high prices to make the project feasible.” The article added, “The proposed Cape Wind project in Massachusetts is a perfect example of such a project.” Environmental Lawyer Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. in July wrote an op-ed piece in the Wall Street Journal blasting the project off Cape Cod as “a rip-off.” Recently, the Netherlands became the first country to abandon the European Union target of producing 20 percent of its domestic power from renewables by 2020.
In Denmark, the Danes became aware that the poor economics of their heavily-subsidized wind energy is a major reason for the nation’s high residential electric rates. Opposition to the gigantic onshore turbines was so great that the state-owned utility finally announced last year that it would abandon plans for any new onshore wind facilities.
The Energy Collective article also reported that a CEPOS (Center for Political Studies) study found that 90 percent of wind energy sector jobs were transferred from other technology industries and that only 10 percent of the wind industry jobs were newly created jobs. As a result, the study said, Danish GDP is $270 million lower than it would have been without wind industry subsidies.
The Australian government, like the U.S., has placed a major emphasis on deploying renewable sources of energy, especially wind energy. As in the U.S., Australia set a target of 20 percent of its energy to come from renewal sources by 2020. The government provides generous subsidies and tax breaks to wind energy developers. But medical studies on farmer families living within 5 miles of wind farms found health problems ranging from sleep deprivation to nausea. Similar health effects have been discovered in other locations, including in the U.S.
Because wind blows only intermittently, Britain has determined that it will have to construct an additional 17 natural gas-powered plants as back-ups to wind to keep the lights on by 2020. These plants will cost 10 billion pounds, according to a posting by the Institute for Energy Research. One analyst was quoted as saying, “Government’s obsession with wind turbines is one of the greatest blunders of our time.”
Onshore wind power today costs about $0.13 per kWh. That’s nowhere near either the objective of the U.S. Department of Energy or the cost of competing power sources. The wind turbines jutting into the sky all across the country exist only because of the massive federal subsidies. Is this considered a failure by Obama officials? No way. Obama’s 2012 budget proposal increases renewables spending by 33 percent.
Wind farms in Texas that will cost $400 million over the next two years produce, incredibly, an average of only one job for every $1.6 million of capital investment. So the state’s comptroller general figured, according to a December 20, 2010 story in the Austin American-Statesman.
As long ago as 1973, then-President Nixon called for “Project Independence” in reaction to the OPEC oil embargo. The project was to achieve energy independence through development of alternative energy sources, such as wind, solar and geothermal power. So, there’s nothing new about renewable energy.
The Obama 2012 budget asks for $8 billion for “clean” energy, mainly wind power subsidies. As recently as Feb. 7, the secretaries of Energy and Interior announced plans to launch dozens of offshore turbines miles out at sea, while admitting the expense would be unknown. Despite generous subsidies, wind power is expected to provide no more than 8 percent of electric power in the U.S. by 2030.
The American Wind Industry Energy Association, the wind lobby group, said the top five states for wind energy were Texas, Iowa, California, Minnesota, and Washington. It said the second quarter of 2011 saw over 1,033 megawatts of capacity installed. It also maintained that wind is second only to natural gas and U.S. wind power represents more than 20 percent of the world’s wind power.
Over the next half century, say, it’s possible some new technologies will revolutionize energy. But, if so, they surely will come from the private sector – not government.
Tait Trussell is a national award-winning writer, former vice-president of the American Enterprise Institute and former Washington correspondent for The Wall Street Journal
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