Friday, March 4, 2011

The Sad Truth about Wind Power

Wind power is neither viable nor “sustainable”. If the whole planet were covered with wind “farms”, one would still need backup power. 1,000 wind generators by themselves cannot produce enough energy to manufacture a single ball bearing. 10,000 wind generators cannot be relied upon to power a single hospital. They need backup power which is best provided by natural gas.

Wind is free, but wind power costs two or three times that of conventional power. What wind power effectively accomplishes is the substitution of inexpensive coal or nuclear power with gas power. Gas power is fine but it can be expensive, and for many countries it carries significant political risk. In any event, gas power alone is cheaper than gas power plus wind power.

Wind power would never exist without subsidies. Unlike other subsidies for energy, this subsidy is counterproductive. The subsidy results in many installed wind generators but not in plentiful or readily-available electrical energy. It does though go towards employment and exports for two or three select European countries and possibly China, while it impoverishes everybody else.

The environmental impact of wind power is dubious at best. Gas is a cleaner fuel than coal, but most coal power plants could be easily improved with proven fly-ash filters and sulfur scrubbers.

Natural gas is claimed to be preferable to coal because it emits less carbon dioxide and therefore does something to prevent climate change. In spite of years of quasi-religious climate propaganda, the questions persist:

  1. It is not clear that the climate has been changing in any way different from the way it has been changing over the last 1,000,000 years; it is not clear in which direction it is in fact changing.
  2. If the climate has been changing, it is not obvious at all that such change is anthropogenic.
  3. If the climate has been changing and if such change is anthropogenic, there is no evidence whatsoever that installing many wind generators will make any difference.
  4. Nor is there evidence that such effort is worth the cost.
Expensive wind electricity only contributes to inflation and recession. The infamous Green jobs to be had are in Germany or Denmark (or China). Tourist destinations are decimated by large scale wind “farms”.

Wind power is promoted as environmentally-friendly and as a substitution for fossil fuels. I consider the first argument doubtful and the second absurd. Southern European politicians market it to their constituencies as a means to offset the “carbon tax”. The carbon tax is an administrative invention that will cripple non-nuclear states but it will subsidize German exporters. In the last 12 months, Holland, Turkey and Poland have decided to turn to nuclear power.