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Updated on July 5, 2010

Wind Power Is a Loser

Wind power is not the answer to our energy woes. And, anyway, what are our energy woes? has anyone ever laid out in clear language a logical definition of the energy issues we face? We certainly do not have a compreghensive national energy policy, a strategy to achieve a stable enrgy supply at predictable prices. While people wreswtle over such things as renewable energy, green energy, co2 reductions, cost effective energy, energy independence...who has his eye on the only ball that counts?.....Sustainable energy is the one main issue we must address.

Sustainable energy is energy that we can afford, predict and use without destroying the panet. We can sustain current levels of its use and even accomodate growth without going broke, losing jobs because of uncontrolled price escalation or choking ourselves and the planet on its waste gases.Renewable energy is not sutainable energy if we cannot afford it.

Gee, suddenly energy issues seem so simple. All we need is a plan. But certainly our government have a plan, don't they? What about all that wind energy offshore on the Atlantic coast Outer Continental Shelf (OCS)? Two or three times every week we read a new claim for the amount of wind energy to be harvested and for the grand plans to combine forces between the U. S. Department of Energy and the new agency that replaces the Minerals Management Service. OOPS! MMS no longer exists. Their name has been changed by Order of the President. The 'new' agency is called the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement, BOEMRE for short. Short? I think I will just call them something phonetic....say - BUMMER.

The new head of BUMMER is Michael Bromwich, a Harvard-trained lawyer. Bromwich has a formidable reputation as a man who gets to the bottom of things and fixes what is not working. Of course there is another aspect of his resume that might bear watching; he was a member of the Department of Justice team that prosecuted Iran Contra operative and rumored cocaine runner Lt. Col. Oliver North. The federal prosecutors made such a hash of North's trial, where he was initially convicted, that his verdict was easily overturned on appeal. Or, perhaps the plan all along was to find a way to let North, the consummate right wing monster off the hook.

But I digress. Why do I say that we cannot afford not just Cape Wind but wind power generally? The answer is in the math, actually simple arithmetic. The claim is that the Atlantic OCS could provide 54 gigawatts of energy from offshore wind power. Since most of us do not deal in technical electricity measurements, let's break a gigawatt down into bite sized chunks: 100 watts = a kilowatt (KW), 100 kilowatts or 1000 watts = a megawatt (MW) and 1000 MW = 1 gigawatt (GW). The Cape Wind project has a total possible capacity of 468 MW or 4.68GW. But, it will never reach that output, or in fact anything close to it. To reach 54GW of offshore wind capacity we will need 116 Cape Wind projects, enough to cover approximately 3000 square miles of our offshore waters.

The massive wind turbines proposed for Cape Wind and indeed all other offshore wind facilities are famously cantankerous mechanical beasts. No one in the world, no one, operates an offshore wind farm at even as much as 30% of capacity reliably. So, Cape Wind's actual capacity, assuming 30% would be 135.6MW, not 468. At a more realsitic but still high average capacity of 25% Cape Wind would produce 113%. At 20%, where many existing offshore wind farms actually operate, 468MW would shrink to 93.6MW. The last time I checked 96 is far less than 54. All this means that the claimed 54GW of wind energy waiting just offshore for us to tap is a fiction, a lie. BUMMER! We do not read this type of analysis in the Boston Globe, or the New York Times, or the Washington Post. Why not? Worse, we do not hear this level of detail from leaders of the Department of Energy or BUMMER....why not?

We now know, have absolute certainty, that offshore wind energy will cost significantly more than other forms of energy. The draft power purchase agreement (PPA) between National Grid and Cape Wind Associates currently under review by the Massachusetts Department of Public Utilities states a price of 20.7 cents/KW. This is roughly double the prevailing price for all other energy and it will increase by 3.5%, compounded, every year. If Massachusetts reaches its goal of 25% wind energy its rate payers will see a 30% - 50% increase in their electric bills. This is not sustainable. As we see, renewable and sustainable are two different things.

The battle cry of the windanistas usually includes reference to our dependence on foreign oil. In the case of Cape Wind this is a red herring because Massachusetts receives energy from sources whose fuel mix is only 1% oil. While this varies from state to state, it is safe to say that wind power is not the answer to the question of reducing our importation of oil from abroad. The the windanistas holler about the volatility of prices for oil and gas. Natural gas is a primary fuel for generating elctricity. It has dropped 50% in price over a little more than one year and discoveries of new gas reserves in the U. S. indicate that we have an adequate supply at stable prices for decades to come. Energy produced by natural gas is dramatically cheaper than wind energy and in all likelihood will remain so for some time. That is sustainable energy. And, gas is a reasonably clean burning fuel, becoming cleaner all the time as new technologies are applied to its combustion.

Since 2001 when he first unveiled his Cape Wind plan Jim Gordon, CEO of Cape Wind, has repeatedly assured one and all that his project would save rate payers money. He was lying when he said this and his actual offer to National Grid is undeniable proof. Now we have senior government officials following his lead. Are they liars also or just not too bright? At the end of the day the simple truth is that we simply cannot afford wind power. It is not sustainable.

Copyright 2010 By Peter A. Kenney


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