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Wild Bill

Wind Power a Boondoggle?

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Found this in my surfing travels:

http://www.americanthinker.com/2010/02/wind_energys_ghosts_1.html

"The new paradigm created by the generation of 1968 is more political and less economy. Without government intervention, utilities normally avoid wind energy. Wind's erratic power feed destabilizes power grids and forces engineers to stand by, always ready to fire up traditional generators. Wind does not fit into an electric supply model made up of steady massive low cost "base load" coal or nuclear plants backed up by on-call natural gas powered "peaker" units which kick in during high demand. No coal or nuclear power plant has ever been replaced by wind energy.

Although carbon credit schemes often assign profitable carbon credits to wind farm operators based on a theoretical displacement of carbon emitted by coal or natural gas producers, in reality these plants must keep burning to be able to quickly add supply every time the wind drops off. The formulae do not take into account carbon emitted by idling coal and natural gas plants nor the excess carbon generated by constant fire-up and shut down cycles necessitated to balance fluctuating wind supplies."

"In early 2009 the Socialist government of Spain reduced alternative energy subsidies by 30%. Calzada continues:

"At that point the whole pyramid collapsed. They are firing thousands of people. BP closed down the two largest solar production plants in Europe. They are firing between 25,000 and 40,000 people...."

"What do we do with all this industry that we have been creating with subsidies that now is collapsing? The bubble is too big. We cannot continue pumping enough money. ...The President of the Renewable Industry in Spain (wrote a column arguing that) ...the only way is finding other countries that will give taxpayers' money away to our industry to take it and continue maintaining these jobs."

Best quote has gotta be this one!

""If wind power made sense, why would it need a government subsidy in the first place? It's a bubble which bursts as soon as the government subsidies end." "

This article chronicles the history of wind power over the past couple of decades, reporting how thousands of wind turbines have been abandoned. The premise is that wind power is only profitable if heavily subsidized and cannot ever compete on its own. Governments have pumped in money for the photo op of "going green" but have been forced to drop the subsidies as they run out of money.

It's a good read all the way through. Obviously the authors have their bias but are they wrong? Is wind power cost-effective anywhere on its own? Will the subsidies be a huge drain until and unless we see the day when electricity rates have moved into the stratosphere and we all live a "poor as church mice" lifestyle anyway?

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....It's a good read all the way through. Obviously the authors have their bias but are they wrong? Is wind power cost-effective anywhere on its own? Will the subsidies be a huge drain until and unless we see the day when electricity rates have moved into the stratosphere and we all live a "poor as church mice" lifestyle anyway?

Wait...it gets worse....all of our new "green" wind turbines froze up like the Tin Man this winter because of lubricant viscosity. Somebody forgot to "winterize" them....or the design. So as usual, good 'ole reliable hydrocarbon generation had to pick up the slack.

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Wait...it gets worse....all of our new "green" wind turbines froze up like the Tin Man this winter because of lubricant viscosity. Somebody forgot to "winterize" them....or the design. So as usual, good 'ole reliable hydrocarbon generation had to pick up the slack.

How typical! :rolleyes: Here in Ontario we've been merrily replacing stop lights with new, energy saving LED models. Now we're starting to have accidents because LEDs don't generate any heat like the old fashioned bulbs and the lights get covered over with snow and ice!

To be fair, this doesn't mean the energy savings and better lifetimes aren't worthwhile. It just means that the people making the decisions as to which models to buy and what specs to demand are simply not qualified! Any high school student who learned how an incandescent bulb and an LED worked would have likely anticipated the problem.

I am convinced that anyone wanting a job in political office or bureaucracy who took real science after Grade 6 is barred from getting the position! If they are really any good they are shuffled off to a research institute with some government grants and only allowed to publish what agrees with the government's misconceptions in the first place!

We used to call such things as the wind power debacle "Liberal Solutions", meaning "It doesn't have to work as long as we can say we've got one!"

Edited by Wild Bill

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Best quote has gotta be this one!

""If wind power made sense, why would it need a government subsidy in the first place? "

While I think you make some good points throughout, would this question not apply across the board? For example, this would apply directly to Big Agribusiness, specifically corn. And yes, corn "works" very well, in that it is virtually becoming North America's primary food source. And agribusiness is subsidized up the yingyang, sometimes to the point where they can sell below the cost of production.

Edited by bloodyminded

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While I think you make some good points throughout, would this question not apply across the board? For example, this would apply directly to Big Agribusiness, specifically corn. And yes, corn "works" very well, in that it is virtually becoming North America's primary food source. And agribusiness is subsidized up the yingyang, sometimes to the point where they can sell below the cost of production.

Good point! Look at the mess that happened with corn and ethanol. The whole thing was politically driven for votes in the Corn Belt, with subsidies galore. It sent the price of corn for food soaring! Then the bubble burst. Subsidies were used to create an artificial situation that could not be sustained because the initial premises were not real world but political.

Politicians meddle in the market place to achieve political ends, like carbon credits. Since the real world doesn't work like a political situation their meddling fails to achieve their ends.

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It's clear that none of these new technologies are as viable or inexpensive to run as hydrocarbon based energy sources. If they were easy, we would already be doing them. Solar power has its drawbacks too, as do electric cars. Namely, toxic metals are used to make the panels and batteries. In a world were there might be millions of panels and electric cars, the waste created by disposal of the materials becomes a serious issue. Probably just as serious as dealing with spent nuclear fuel rods. Maybe we can find a way to weaponize the waste, as is currently done with depleted uranium tipped bullets and shells. ;)

It can be argued that the problem with wind power being inconsistent, is made negligible when they are used over large areas of the country and the average power is more or less maintained. Even if wind cannot do the job alone it can act to supplement existing power sources and so reduce (but not eliminate) the amount of power obtained from hydrocarbon generators. The generators are not switched on and off depending on which way the wind blows, but the amount of fuel they use to generate power is be reduced.

Despite these technological drawbacks, I think subsidies are beneficial in establishing a market base for alternate energy technologies, which will encourage further R&D. There is also still a lot to be gained in improving the efficiency of energy useage, let alone the development of completely new energy sources.

Edited by Sir Bandelot

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Despite these technological drawbacks, I think subsidies are beneficial in establishing a market base for alternate energy technologies, which will encourage further R&D. There is also still a lot to be gained in improving the efficiency of energy useage, let alone the development of completely new energy sources.

I think you are missing a few important factors! First, the subsidies are HUGE! This is money taken from taxpayers. How many hospital beds would that translate into in the total budget?

Second, governments are very poor at picking areas of R&D to subsidize. When private industry sinks money into R&D they have usually qualified the subject as one worth looking into, to pay off as a profit! It will eventually result in a new product or process that will be valuable to investors.

Governments are not doing this with areas like wind and solar power. It's all about scoring green points at election time. People like Harper, Ignatieff and certainly Jack Layton have absolutely no hard science background. They have no idea whether the subsidies will pay off or turn out to be a total waste of money and time.

We can pay for widely spaced wind farms so that there's always power coming from somewhere but high and low pressure fronts can cover entire provinces! It could be quite common for half or more of Ontario to have little or no wind at a given time. That's the problem. We have no practical way to store electrical energy. Wind power could have a 1000% over capacity on a Monday and that's of no help at all on a windless Tuesday. You have to have the power when you need it. You can't bank any surplus.

That leaves building massive wind farms across the entire country! Remember, you need THOUSANDS of turbines to equal ONE nuclear reactor! Now, how are you going to get that power from one part of the country to another? We don't have a national grid! The wires just aren't there from Manitoba into Ontario or from Quebec to Alberta!

So we spend more BILLIONS of dollars! We build a national grid! Unfortunately, as we build it we discover that we don't yet know how to make a grid work with power sharing across such vast distances and besides, the losses in transmission lines that long become ridiculous!

At this point and for the foreseeable future, the whole thing just doesn't work! Every techie can plainly see this. Only arts majors who think that if you don't have enough electricity you just need to put more plugs in your house think that wind power will work.

Even given our present level of technology, it would be FAR cheaper to have government subsidies to enable every home in Canada to have some amount of self-generation from wind and/or solar power! Leave the present system alone and enable individual people to produce enough power on their own to reduce or eliminate their load on the system.

Of course, politicians are NEVER going to agree to any scheme that reduces dependence on centralized, mega-sized systems! Ontario still has at least $30 BILLION dollars in stranded debt from the stupid way they wasted money building nukes and such in the 70's and 80's. It's being paid by a surcharge on each and every homeowner's electric bill. If enough people got off the grid, who would pay that debt?

The only hope for individual citizens is to wait for the cost of having their own solar and wind system for their home that's affordable. ANY reliance on a provincial or national power system will ALWAYS be expensive! The government has to pay off the subsidies, after all. Right now a home system costs about $30,000. That means about 15 years before it will have paid for itself. After that the power is free but your system is 15 years old. What about maintenance costs? Nothing lasts forever.

Like I've said before, when it comes to picking advisers and decision makers for political policy on such things, anybody with some technical background seems to have been BARRED from the room! The agenda is political. There are lots of companies that will take advantage of a politician's ignorance.

Look at Dion and his Green Agenda! There's nobody easier for a techie to con than an academic!

Edited by Wild Bill

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I am not attempting to be an apologist for this industry, and certainly am no expert in wind power generation. You could well be right that politics plays a major role in making the decision to provide funding. My view is, if scientists should stay out of politics, politicians should stay out of science. That's not the way it is.

Governments are very poor at picking areas of R&D to subsidize. When private industry sinks money into R&D they have usually qualified the subject as one worth looking into, to pay off as a profit! It will eventually result in a new product or process that will be valuable to investors.

This view is along the lines of what I was trying to say. There has to be a viable market share for companies to want to invest in R&D. The subsidies don't necessarily go to R&D itself, but to establish the industry with a view toward getting the research going. Scientists and engineers should have direct input. The problem is as with most things in our society, greed and corruption follows the money, and the truth (about what is/ is not viable) gets obscured in the clamour for cash.

The only way to solve a problem like this is to have independent auditors and government that is not in the pocket of industry lobbyists. We are a long, long way from having that kind of accountability.

Even given our present level of technology, it would be FAR cheaper to have government subsidies to enable every home in Canada to have some amount of self-generation from wind and/or solar power! Leave the present system alone and enable individual people to produce enough power on their own to reduce or eliminate their load on the system.

Makes good sense to me. At this time it's not affordable. The amount of money spent on upgrading your home and adding new energy technologies still greatly exceeds any potential returns. If the technology costs more than the energy savings, it's a wasted effort. What we need are cheap devices in each home that reclaim energy waste, such as heat loss from furnaces and car tailpipes. Tremendous energy is wasted there.

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This view is along the lines of what I was trying to say. There has to be a viable market share for companies to want to invest in R&D. The subsidies don't necessarily go to R&D itself, but to establish the industry with a view toward getting the research going. Scientists and engineers should have direct input. The problem is as with most things in our society, greed and corruption follows the money, and the truth (about what is/ is not viable) gets obscured in the clamour for cash.

The only way to solve a problem like this is to have independent auditors and government that is not in the pocket of industry lobbyists. We are a long, long way from having that kind of accountability.

Would it not be simpler to avoid such problems by not having government meddle in the first place? Governments should not subsidize such R & D projects at all, or pick which ones to support. Politicians are simply not qualified to choose and to vulnerable to deception if not flat out corruption.

When conventional power gets too expensive the private market seeks ways to offer cheaper solutions to customers. Much of our problems with energy costs can be traced to people like Sir Adam Beck in Ontario, a man who is usually hailed for leading the way with Ontario Hydro as in effect the only source for electricity. Actually, he was a socialist who believed that private generation(and thus competition!) was evil!

So we ended up with a government monopoly so incompetent it ran up a debt of over $30 Billion dollars, mostly on sweetheart salaries and sourcing deals for its friends involved in building nuclear reactors. Then socialistic apologists blame nuclear power in itself for being so expensive!

It's Kaffeka-esque, to the max!

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Would it not be simpler to avoid such problems by not having government meddle in the first place? Governments should not subsidize such R & D projects at all, or pick which ones to support. Politicians are simply not qualified to choose and to vulnerable to deception if not flat out corruption.

I agree to a point...though I imagine a world of big, international business free from government regulation connotes a kind of tyranny.

But at any rate, it's almsot moot; because the government meddles in ALL business, at least of any size--at the demands of Big Business, and for their benefit.

As Thomas Friedman wrote (approvingly, mind you, as an advocate of the so-called "free market" and a total supporter of every facet of capitalism):

"The hidden hand of the market will never work without a hidden fist. McDonalds cannot flourish without McDonnell Douglass.... And the hidden fist that keeps the world safe for Silicon Valleys technologies to flourish is called the U.S. Army, Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps."

See, that's government intervention. Oh boy, is it ever. Only it's for the benefit of companies and investors, not to thewri detriment.

And it's certainly politicization. Just as Friedman's militaristic apologetics here are politicization.

Edited by bloodyminded

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