The Madness of Wind Energy

It did not take me long. Typing ‘wind energy’ into the New Zealand Herald search box produced a string of ‘hits’, including this from a piece about Genesis Energy:

While Genesis began seeking resource consents for a major new wind farm in the Wairarapa, called Castle Hill, during the period, it considers the market is currently “saturated” with new generation proposals that will more than meet weakly growing electricity demand in the near future.

Yes, like many others in the world, New Zealand is rushing down the wind energy route, and doing so in the face of a mounting body of evidence that this route is  a complete waste of money.

One of my earliest posts on the blog was a discussion of the utter uselessness of wind energy, and you may want to take a look at it. It gives an analogy which explains the uselessness of this method of energy production in simple terms. More recently, I posted on a Civitas (a UK ‘think-tank’) report on wind energy, which slammed both the economics of wind power, and the ‘green’ credentials of wind power. As it is, a new report has been released by the Global Warming Policy Foundation (GWPF). It is written by an Economics Professor, Gordon Hughes, and points out the same problems with wind energy that can be found in my earlier post and the Civitas report. I will quote from the forward of the report:

The total consumer bill for wind subsidies by 2030 is estimated to amount to a staggering £130 billion. A recent analysis of UK wind farms revealed that a dozen of the biggest landowners will between them receive almost £850 million in subsidies, a huge amount of funding that will be paid by ordinary
families through hidden taxes on their household electricity bills.

The forward notes that these huge expenses and subsidies have been hidden from the consumer. As is always the case, Hughes identifies that the fundamental problems with wind (and many other sources of ‘renewable’) energy is the intermittent nature of the generation, which means that back-up generation capacity is needed for the wind farms. The report also questions whether the use of wind farms will even reduce CO2 emissions, which is one of the fundamental reasons that wind energy has been promoted so heavily, and is in receipt of so much subsidy. If you have ever wondered about the economics of wind generation, I strongly recommend reading the report in full, or at least reading the summary.

The report goes against one of the great green causes, and it is therefore no surprise to see the limited coverage of the report in the press. I found no coverage in a search of Stuff, but a Google news search found coverage in several countries, also including this from The Australian:

The British study warns of the rising cost to consumers of wind power subsidies on the grounds that governments could achieve the same environmental benefits by other means at much lower cost.

Comparing a pound stg. 13 billion ($19bn) outlay on a combined-cycle gas plant against a pound stg. 120bn outlay on wind farms, Professor Hughes found the renewable energy option was too expensive by any standard.

Wind power would cut emissions at an average cost of pound stg. 270 a tonne, he estimated, but meeting Britain’s greenhouse targets in this way would cost about pound stg. 78bn a year or 4.4 per cent of the nation’s GDP.

Note the last figure for the cost in GDP. To say that this is complete madness would be an understatement. As the report in the Australian points out, wind characteristics may vary between countries, making direct comparisons difficult, but the principles of the study carry over. I therefore have several questions about wind power in New Zealand:

  1. What is the real cost of wind energy in New Zealand, including indirect subsidies of wind power?
  2. How much is this going to cost businesses?
  3. How much is this going to cost consumers?

It may come as no surprise to find that the New Zealand Wind Energy Association has given a report arguing that wind power is a wonderful solution to New Zealand energy requirements. However, as is always the case with such reports, and as is pointed out in both the Civitas and GWPF reports, the pro-wind energy reports all have in common that they make completely unrealistic assumptions. As it is, the report was criticised by the New Zealand Climate Science Coalition, in a press release that can be found here:

“The report uses an economic model of New Zealand which is totally unsuited to analysing the effect of 20% energy generation from wind. Any model that does not take into account the intermittent and seasonal nature of wind and its effect on power prices and the fact that, in a dry year, hydro cannot backup wind, is worthless. The model makes no allowance for the fact that over peak demand periods, only about 10% of the wind generation can be relied on. It also does not consider the need for extra transmission lines and the poor efficiency of the gas fired power stations that must be built to back up wind. For example, one study in the United States showed that, in Texas, a large amount of wind energy results in a tiny reduction in carbon dioxide emissions.

“This flawed report reflects little credit on the Infometrics and on the New Zealand Wind Energy Association. It does not alter the fact that wind is expensive, requires backup, and has only a small effect on reducing emissions of carbon dioxide–which is, in any event, an entirely beneficial gas that causes plants to grow,” Mr Leyland concluded.

Notwithstanding this critique, where is the debate on wind power in New Zealand? Where is the equivalent of Civitas? The UK is slowly waking up to the idiocy of wind power, with this from Matt Ridley in the UK’s Spectator:

Even in a boom, wind farms would have been unaffordable — with their economic and ecological rationale blown away. In an era of austerity, the policy is doomed, though so many contracts have been signed that the expansion of wind farms may continue, for a while. But the scam has ended. And as we survey the economic and environmental damage, the obvious question is how the delusion was maintained for so long. There has been no mystery about wind’s futility as a source of affordable and abundant electricity — so how did the wind-farm scam fool so many policymakers?

One answer is money. There were too many people with snouts in the trough. Not just the manufacturers, operators and landlords of the wind farms, but financiers: wind-farm venture capital trusts were all the rage a few years ago — guaranteed income streams are what capitalists like best; they even get paid to switch the monsters off on very windy days so as not to overload the grid. Even the military took the money. Wind companies are paying for a new £20 million military radar at Brizlee Wood in Northumberland so as to enable the Ministry of Defence to lift its objection to the 48-turbine Fallago Rig wind farm in Berwickshire.

Wind energy is not a small issue. It is, in fact, an issue that can have profound and serious impacts upon every New Zealand family, and every New Zealand business. Look again at the figures for the cost of wind power in the UK, as measured in GDP. If the cost of New Zealand’s wind energy is even as low as half of the UK figure, it is an issue that impacts the whole of the New Zealand economy.When is New Zealand going to wake up from this madness that is so economically ruinous?

What really worries me is that there appears to be no will to take on anything which has a ‘green’ label attached to it. It is a situation in which no politician dares to go against anything that might be seen as anti-green. As such, rather than taking on a ‘green issue’, I suspect that the New Zealand politicians will remain silent, and allow this economically mad and economically ruinous policy of encouraging wind energy to continue.

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7 responses to “The Madness of Wind Energy

  1. > One answer is money. There were too many people with snouts in the
    > trough.

    The most notable snout in the trough is that of the UK Prime Minister’s father in law. With that snout in the trough wind farms will be encouraged as long as ‘Call me Dave’ remains in politics.

  2. There is some evidence that the tide is turning in the UK. I follow a lot of anti-wind Facebook pages that are very active and share information with each other.

    At some stage, the politicians will have to wake up and realise that they might need to think their policies if they want to get re-elected.

  3. The Castle Hill project has been given the go-ahead.

    http://www.stuff.co.nz/business/industries/6604879/1-6b-Wairarapa-wind-farm-gets-consent

    Doomed we are, doomed!

  4. The Castle Hill project is massive. I’m not convinced it will get built, if the industry in Europe starts to get the jitters.

    Here’s hoping, anyway

  5. Have you seen this?
    http://nzwindfarms.wordpress.com/
    It shows the lengths the wind promoters are prepared to go to get their way

  6. Pingback: A Great Energy Solution | New Zealand Climate Change

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