Renewable power generation from the wind and the sun promises higher energy costs, less reliable infrastructure and, ironically, more pollution, according to a report from the American Enterprise Institute (AEI).
These problems form “the perfect green trifecta,” according to the report’s author, Benjamin Zycher, a visiting scholar at the think tank. Speaking at AEI’s offices in Washington, D.C., last week, he presented findings from his study titled “‘Renewable’ Electricity Generation – Economic Analysis and Outlook.”
Zycher focused primarily on wind energy and concluded that despite widespread public support for renewables, the current technologies, subsidies and incentives make renewable energy untenable as a major energy source.
Solar and wind power have “inherent problems” that deter investors, according to Zycher. They are not concentrated, requiring large amounts of land. For example, a 1-gigawatt natural gas power plant would take up 15 acres, while a comparable wind farm would take up 48,000 to 60,000 acres, he said.
Another issue is siting, since windmills and photovoltaic panels need to be placed where the wind blows and the sun shines. These areas will become scarcer as more facilities are built, raising prices and reducing output. Renewables are also intermittent, making it difficult to schedule power usage and requiring backup power from fossil fuel plants. The entire process – from the amount of land to the number of generators needed to reserve power to grid upgrades – ends up producing more pollution than some of the more efficient fossil fuel-fired plants, according to Zycher.
In addition, Zycher said, many arguments in favor of funding renewable energy fall flat. He pointed out that on a per megawatt-hour basis, renewable energy is substantially subsidized, with wind receiving $52.48 per megawatt-hour and solar receiving $968.00 per megawatt-hour in 2010 while nuclear power and natural gas received $3.10 and 63 cents, respectively. Despite this investment, solar and wind energy prices have gone up in the past decade, Zycher observed.
Timothy Considine, a professor of energy economics at the University of Wyoming, also spoke at the panel and criticized the idea of “green jobs” as a reason for subsidizing renewable energy. He said jobs are mostly created when wind and solar farms are being built. “When you stop building, the jobs go down,” Considine said. Meanwhile, the increases in electricity costs to fund these projects end up dragging the economy down over the long term. He also said renewable portfolio standards – mandates for renewable energy production set by a number of states – should focus on improving energy technology instead of pushing unready and flawed systems onto the market. (ClimateWire, 2-27-2012)
|Wind Watch relies entirely
on User Funding