An April 28 letter by Elizabeth Salerno, chief economist with the American Wind Energy Association, paints a rosy picture of one side of the economics of wind power but leaves out some of the negative aspects. Here’s the other side.
In an overwhelming tilt toward wind, the federal subsidy to wind power amounts to $55 for each 1 million watts of production capacity. In contrast, the subsidy for coal energy is 66 cents. All other fossil fuels, hydro power and nuclear are less than $2. Under current rules, wind project subsidies can be awarded for projects at any stage, even as early as ground-breaking.
Another downside of wind power is unreliability of output. It requires standby capacity for when it’s not windy and for peak loads, and standby power must be operational at all times and thus using energy, which is especially true of coal-fired power plants. They cannot be shut down and restarted instantly like an automobile.
Salerno’s claim that 70 percent of the content of each turbine is produced domestically may not reflect an analysis of the total work input to get to operation stage. A 2011 report by Information Handling Services, a specialist in energy industry information, reports that less than 8 percent of total worldwide wind turbine production was at that time produced in the United States. On the plus side, assembly and installation must be done domestically.
Finally, the claim that this is cheap energy is true only if you disregard the lavish subsidy of wind with consumers’ tax money. And subsidies favoring one energy source mean others will be at a disadvantage in technical development to improve their efficiency and environmental impact.
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