Gov. John Hickenlooper recently signed a bill (Senate Bill 252) that increased the renewable energy requirements for rural electric associations from the previous 10 percent to 20 percent. Not only will this bill significantly increase electric rates for all REA members, but nothing positive will result, as the requirements are simply unattainable.
A few basic facts are in order: Both wind energy and solar energy are intermittent and unreliable, typically producing power less than 30 percent of the time. As a result, both must be backed up by hydroelectric or natural-gas power plants, which continuously change power levels to compensate for the variability of these so-called “energy sources.” More fuel is used and more carbon dioxide is emitted, in the case of wind power with natural-gas backup, than if the natural-gas backup plants were simply run at steady power – that is, if there were no wind turbines used at all.
For any electrical grid in which wind power accounts for more than about 8 percent of total power, the variability of power causes the grid to become unstable. For example, in Denmark, Germany, Holland and Spain, each of which has wind-power capacity that exceeds 10 percent of total power consumption, the average wind-power usage is around 4 percent. As a result, construction of new wind turbines has all but stopped throughout Europe. It is fair to question the accuracy of power usage figures for those states across the U.S. that claim more than 10 percent renewable energy use.
British Energy Minister John Hayes recently halted all onshore wind-farm construction, ending an energy experiment that produced little usable electricity while draining the finances of British taxpayers and electricity consumers. Power advocates objected to the intermittency problem mentioned above; environmentalists objected to the thousands of birds and bats killed each year; conservationists objected to the hundreds of square miles of wind turbines required to produce as much power as a single fossil-fuel plant; consumer advocates pointed out the high cost of wind power; and everyone opposed the negative human health impacts of living close to wind turbines.
Wind farms produce very little grid-quality electricity, and they cannot be built or operated without government subsidies or mandates. Instead of building more wind turbines and further blighting our landscapes, we should redirect the power output of existing wind turbines to applications such as pumping freshwater or desalinating seawater or recharging batteries, which can tolerate the turbines’ on-again, off-again intermittency.
Please tell our legislators to abolish this unworkable bill.
Carl G. Langner is a Loveland resident.
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