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Blokes wising up to follies of wind power

I don’t know that I’ve ever seen a more passionate denunciation of wind power than the one written by James Delingpole, a self-described “conservative – libertarian” from Britain.  As you’ll see in the link, Delingpole is not sanguine about wind power.  Despite his hands-in-the-air rhetoric, he identifies the same problems with wind power that its detractors have noted since it began to be touted as the energy panacea for the West.    Says Delingpole,

Wind farms are the ugliest, most stupid, environmentally damaging, expensive, wasteful and utterly pointless monstrosities ever to deface the British landscape….  [It] wipes out birds (400,000 a year in the US alone), drives anyone who lives nearby mad with its strobing effects and low subsonic hum, trashes property values, costs between three and nine times the amount of conventional energy, creates the fuel poverty which has caused hypothermia deaths to soar this year, slows economic growth, blights views[,] destroys jobs and produces such unreliable, intermittent energy it requires near-100 per cent backup from conventional power.

As my twenty-something friends might say of a quote like that, “I’m, like, whoa.”  His article leaves out only one significant problem, which is that wind power usually requires extensive construction of transmission lines owing to wind farms being sited in locations remote from consumers.

To focus on one particular criticism, he notes that wind power requires nearly 100 percent conventional back-up to compensate for its intermittent availability.  It’s likely that the back-up requirements are a bit less in the United States, but the point remains: Wind turbines can’t replace conventional power stations for the same reason sailing ships cannot replace engine-driven ships.  Something has to replace the power lost when the wind dies down, and that means keeping coal, nuclear, and gas plants on hot standby.  Think about it: If conventional generation has to stay available, then the cost of power plants doesn’t go down except for fuel.  The hardware, capital investment, siting costs, personnel expenses, transmission lines, and maintenance (not to mention various taxes and license fees) all stay the same, and wind turbines only add to it.  This, in turn, means, that every wind turbine you connect to the grid actually increases the price of electricity.

That said, America would be well served to allow private wind power companies forge ahead with finding their market niche.  There are places where the wind blows hard and steady enough for people to make money out of it.  There’s nothing to be gained by locking these people out of the market like they’re doing in Nantucket and other places.  On the other hand, taxpayer funding for windy Solyndras is a really bad idea.  We just need the government and the environmentalists out of the picture.  Nothing beats freedom for getting people to adjust their actions naturally to the real needs of energy consumers.  Those real needs would, in the long run, afford wind power a small niche in the nation’s energy mix, a niche that would be profitable for people on both ends of the energy business.

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