Skip to comments.Wind turbines a poor investment
Posted on 09/13/2010 9:55:21 AM PDT by Inappropriate Laughter
Wind power is still a hot topic on the Cape as controversy swirls around the Cape Wind project on Nantucket Sound.
Opinion on the Cape is still sharply divided. Whether the Cape Wind project goes ahead or not, every town on the Cape now seems to want its own wind turbine.
The Massachusetts Maritime Academy in Buzzards Bay built a 660-kilowatt turbine in 2006. Adm. Richard Gurnon, president of the MMA, called the wind turbine "a money machine." Another 660-kW turbine is under consideration at Cape Cod Community College in Hyannis.
Virtually every town on the Cape is reviewing plans for a municipal wind turbine. Our elected officials gush about their benefits for municipal budgets, climate change, national security and jobs. As fads go, wind power is one of the very best. Think of a wind turbine as a fashion accessory for the well-dressed town.
Our joy at joining the Green Movement needs to be tempered with a little bit of economic realism. Adm. Gurnon likes the economics of his wind turbine mainly because the state gave it to him. He sees no cost, just the savings. The people of Massachusetts still have to pay for the wind turbine whether it's funded through the MMA budget, the state capital fund, the Massachusetts Technology Collaborative or their electricity bills.
All wind projects in the U.S. are based on heavy federal and state subsidies. Government grants or tax credits make the project appear to cost less at the local level, but only because someone else is paying for it. Low-income states like Arkansas, West Virginia or Louisiana have a fighting chance of receiving more federal money than they pay out in taxes. Massachusetts, however, is the sixth richest state. Bay Staters may get some juicy federal grants from time to time, but they are always going to pay out more to Washington than they get back. This is a fool's game.
The latest addition to the Cape's wind inventory will be a second huge 1.65 MW turbine in Falmouth, costing a whopping $5 million. This turbine will produce about four million kilowatt hours a year at an average price of about 8-cents per kWh with annual maintenance costs of about $75,000. A $250,000 annual return on a $5 million investment is nothing to write home about.
How about the turbine's impact on oil imports or carbon emissions? The U.S. generates only about 1 percent of its power from oil today, so wind turbines mostly reduce domestic coal or natural gas. If every one of the 351 cities and towns in Massachusetts installed a 1.65 MW wind turbine, the total capacity would be about 600 MW. China builds this much coal-fired generating capacity every week.
So why are the voters of Falmouth so enthusiastic about this project? They expect to get the federal government to pay for it from stimulus money. Projects always look good when someone else gives you the money.
The Cape Cod Times reported the approval of the Falmouth project with the following lead-in: "Town meeting voters showed their commitment to renewable energy initiatives last night by approving construction of a second wind turbine at the wastewater treatment facility." Apparently, begging for money from Uncle Sam to buy toys is the new definition of civic responsibility.
If you want to show your commitment to electric cars, ask the government to give you a Chevy Volt. If you want to show a really serious commitment to renewable energy, maybe you should ask the government to give you a sailboat.
Bruce Everett, a homeowner in Chatham, teaches energy economics at the Fletcher School at Tufts.
Utility-scale wind in some wind-rich areas will become cost-competitive without subsidies. Compare wind vs. hydroelectric power - you can’t just build one wherever you want to, i.e. close to population centers - you have to put it where the natural resource is. That means transmission lines to get the power out, and they’re in short supply, otherwise half of states like North Dakota would be covered with wind farms. So the industry turned to areas with transmission line capacity but less wind resource, and in order to make it work financially, are given PTC, ITC, or cash grant subsidies. The latter two were part of the Porkulus and will expire soon.
“If every one of the 351 cities and towns in Massachusetts installed a 1.65 MW wind turbine, the total capacity would be about 600 MW. China builds this much coal-fired generating capacity every week. “
Another govt boondogle paid by the American taxpayer. T. Boone Pickens of course was touting this for his own personal gain. There no absolutely no evidence that wind and solar energy will have any significant impact on reducing our capacity for foreign oil or domestic coal reserves.
Producing electricity from coal, oil, nuclear and gas employs Americans and gives us cheap affordable electricity.
If wind turbines were so great why does the govt need to subsidize them? I live in Bloomington, IL. The wind turbines there are a huge eye sore....They produce nothing..
A year ago Obama was claiming these new green jobs couldn't be exported. Now MSNBC and the unions are complaining that China is taking those ‘green’ jobs away from the USA, you guessed it, by doing them cheaper than the USA (unions) . Who could see this coming? except those of us that watch Glenn Beck who predicted this (plus China has all the required natural resources like metals and chemicals bought up around the world) .
Guys, correct me if I’m wrong here, but a $250K return on $5 million is in the 5% range. Not great but not bad either. Further, the article only lists the cost of producing the electricity. If the electricity is used / consumed by the city, then it offsets retail costs. I dont know what rate they are paying but if their cost of 8 cents is less than what they are paying retail for electricity, it could push the return rate even higher.
Funny. I was in Cape Cod and Nantucket early this summer, and anyone I spoke to was opposed to the wind turbines. Nantucket residents are also not in favor of it, and I have a bumper sticker to prove it!
The latest addition to the Cape’s wind inventory will be a second huge 1.65 MW turbine in Falmouth, costing a whopping $5 million. This turbine will produce about four million kilowatt hours a year at an average price of about 8-cents per kWh with annual maintenance costs of about $75,000. A $250,000 annual return on a $5 million investment is nothing to write home about.
And they are ugly. They screw up the natural beauty.
Nothing the screwing up the beautiful view of the mountains in PA with an ugly “wind farm”.
Gee. Here I thought the only reason private capital had failed to rush in and take advantage of this investment goldmine was that all the private investors are working together to stifle green technology in favor of nasty old-fashioned outdated carbon-spewing technologies just because they want to pollute the earth just as much as possible. Even though those investors are, for the most part, human beings just like everyone else, and have to live here on the same Earth we all share. That’s really what I thought, because I listen to the State Run Media.
Drive through Palm Springs or the Dakota’s, you’ll see thousands of these. You can’t tell me the govt. subsidized all of them and they have no stand alone economic value ?
Why not figure the return on investment per consumer.
Typically these systems fail within ten to fifteen years. There’s been no major breakthrough in wind or solar for that matter, that would reduce the payback in installing such a system.
These systems produce virtually no power.
For the average user, the savings per month is minimal requiring over 80 years to pay back for solar and 180 years or more for wind.
Don’t take my word for it, just google a little research. It makes me angry that these no nothing politicians get elected with false information. They use our money for nonsense.
We have almost limitless coal and gas in this country and abundance of oil that would supply our needs for the next two hundred years. Nuclear energy probably is the cleanest and safest.
Nonsense.... pure nonsense.
‘green’ from the environmentally ill, means ‘green’ going to the environmentally ill. wind energy will never produce a return, out of the red. of course, those who manufacture the turbines will disagree. ‘green’ means ‘green’ in their pockets, but red is the bottom line when one looks at benefit vs cost / upkeep for the wind devices.
China's playing our game - and beating us at it... Scary times.
“Funny. I was in Cape Cod and Nantucket early this summer, and anyone I spoke to was opposed to the wind turbines...”
Yet Nantucket is putting a 100KW turbine at the High School right now, it will be online in about three weeks.
Don’t put people near these things either. They give off a sound that can’t be detected by the ear, but it is near the 8Hz fundamental frequency of the human body.
People near enough to one of these turbines (not all turbines, but some of them, and enough of them) can come down with all manner of illnesses. There were chopper pilots in Vietnam that had similar problems when the rotors were turning at certain speeds.
My ship had a rule that you couldn’t clock in 12 knots. Do it and before long the ship would start shaking itself apart internally (engines, shafts, piping, generators).
Actually it is zero return as the entire unit will need replacing in 15 to 20 years.
We live in the eastern part of that Coachella Valley, and don't head west thru the windfarms that often......but each time we do, there are more and more windmills.
They've gotta be doing somebody some good, because their numbers have probably quadrupled in the last eight years.
I live on the Cape and I don't know anyone who is not a member of the IBEW who wants it.
We were recently in CA and it was the first time I saw the wind farm near Palm Springs. I cannot believe that so called environmentalists would destroy the landscape as they have with those eyesores! Unbelievable!
There’s one on Nantucket right now missing all its blades - flew off and landed some 200’ away so they say, I think the tower is about 130’ tall. Then talking to some of the residents they say there’s been some dozen or so other ones on the island that have failed in the last ten years or so.
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