Tuesday, February 16, 2010

The Siren Song of Wind Energy

For those who are lulled by the idea of "alternative energy," the American Thinker has a pretty comprehensive article on the current state of wind power by Andrew Walden entitled Wind Energy's Ghost. I have to confess that even I have looked at how much power whips around at times, and have thought "if we could just capture some of it." It all seems so simple. Put up a turbine, attach it to a generator, and voila', free energy for running all sorts of stuff. Alas, the engineering problems make wind energy an unrealizable idea.

Some quotes:

The ghosts of Kamaoa are not alone in warning us. Five other abandoned wind sites dot the Hawaiian Isles -- but it is in California where the impact of past mandates and subsidies is felt most strongly. Thousands of abandoned wind turbines littered the landscape of wind energy's California "big three" locations -- Altamont Pass, Tehachapi, and San Gorgonio -- considered among the world's best wind sites.

Built in 1985, at the end of the boom, Kamaoa soon suffered from lack of maintenance. In 1994, the site lease was purchased by Redwood City, CA-based Apollo Energy.

Cannibalizing parts from the original 37 turbines, Apollo personnel kept the declining facility going with outdated equipment. But even in a place where wind-shaped trees grow sideways, maintenance issues were overwhelming. By 2004 Kamaoa accounts began to show up on a Hawaii State Department of Finance list of unclaimed properties. In 2006, transmission was finally cut off by Hawaii Electric Company.

California's wind farms -- then comprising about 80% of the world's wind generation capacity -- ceased to generate much more quickly than Kamaoa. In the best wind spots on earth, over 14,000 turbines were simply abandoned. Spinning, post-industrial junk which generates nothing but bird kills.

It turns out that wind turbines require lots of maintenance. That means lots of people and parts to maintain them, which adds to the costs. Then there is the problem of what to do when the wind isn't blowing, or isn't blowing hard enough to generate enough electricity. Turns out you need coal fired, or nuclear back up idling, which greatly decreases the benefits. You can read in the article the actual generated electricity vs. the calculated capacity. If your car performed this badly, you would probably sell it, or junk it.

The thing is, we have already had plenty of experience to go on from Europe, where Denmark and Spain have put these ideas into practice. We can see that they don't work. We don't need to stick our finger into the electric socket. We can already see what happens when other children do. So, who are the people being represented by our esteemed "representatives?" It is certainly not us.

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