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CHINA'S OFFSHORE WIND SYNDROME

Updated on May 9, 2010

Flawed Research Bolsters False Statements

Here we go again. For reasons quite different from what they might imagine, the New York Times is rapidly becoming a very useful source of information, much of it wrong. When information is wrong, what do we call it? Is it fiction, fantasy, strategic distraction, or simply useless drivel?

Driven by such forces as the American Wind Energy Association, misguided environmental advocates and their bully pulpit organizations and know-nothing political figures who see anything green as good and press organs such as the Times have become shills for the most outrageous scams imaginable. One of these is offshore wind energy. And, leading the charge at the Times is a fellow named Tom Zeller, Jr. Having watched a piece he did for an online presentation on the virtues of woodstoves and fireplace inserts I find him a likeable sort. But then, having read his pieces posted on Monday, April 26 about wind energy generally and Cape Wind in particular I find I cannot agree with him at all on this subject and must question how he arrives at what he terms fact.

Here are two examples from different postings Zeller made on April 26. Both are about wind in China and both are wrong. First, "Europe, China and Japan, meanwhile are far along in developing a water-based wind industry." That same day Zeller posted this, "China's first offshore wind farm, a 102 megawatt venture near Shanghai, goes online this month, with more in the pipleline." My information about Chinese wind energy comes from easily done GOOGLE searches as well as from information received from personal acquaintances.

Generally speaking, China is cutting back its wind equipment production. Earlier this year there was information readily available on the web about China cutting back its manufacturing of wind equipment by 30% - 40%. This is a striking development because in 2009 two of the companies included on a list of the the world's top ten wind energy equipment manufacturers were Chinese. The giant German/Danish wind energy manufacturer Siemens has been using Chinese-fabricated steel monopiles in their offshore wind farms in northern Europe but at home the Chinese are becoming wary of offshore wind.

Furthermore, Mr. Zeller's claim about Chinese offshore wind energy having "more in the pipeline" might be a pipe dream. To date there is one project already launched in the waters off the coast of Shanghai and another is about to launch. But, there is growing uneasiness in China about committing to further installations because offshore wind is simply too expensive. For the moment there are no firm plans to build more offshore wind farms beyone the two already mentioned. Land based wind, however, at half the capital cost of offshore wind, is moving forward. China has huge expanses of very wind land, largely unpopulated.

China at this time does not have the capability of producing the huge hollow turbine blades from composite materials and thus is reliant on foreign sources. Foreign manufacturers may be reticent about allowing the Chinese close up access to their advanced technologies for understandable reasons. What the Chinese are doing to reduce their carbon footprint is retrofitting many of there 900 coal fired power plants with cutting edge technology for carbon capture and other emmissions reductions. The technology being used is largely American. In fact, in terms of cleaning up conventional energy generation (fossil fuels) China is light years ahead of the U.S., not necessarily in its own technology but in its willingness to use available technology from beyond its borders.

So, to the Tom Zeller, Jr. and other wind farm flacks out there in media land, get it right, please.


Copyright 2010 By Peter A. Kenney

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