Tag Archives: wind power

Billions to replace or decommission thousands of wind turbines

The unintended consequences of good intentions: The tens of thousands of wind turbines installed in the last two decades are wearing out, and no one has the billions it will cost to either replace them or decommission them.

The life span of a wind turbine, power companies say, is between 20 and 25 years. But in Europe, with a much longer history of wind power generation, the life of a turbine appears to be somewhat less. “We don’t know with certainty the life spans of current turbines,” said Lisa Linowes, executive director of WindAction Group, a nonprofit which studies landowner rights and the impact of the wind energy industry. Its funding, according to its website, comes from environmentalists, energy experts and public donations and not the fossil fuel industry.

Linowes said most of the wind turbines operating within the United States have been put in place within the past 10 years. In Texas, most have become operational since 2005. “So we’re coming in on 10 years of life and we’re seeing blades need to be replaced, cells need to be replaced, so it’s unlikely they’re going to get 20 years out of these turbines,” she said.

Estimates put the tear-down cost of a single modern wind turbine, which can rise from 250 to 500 feet above the ground, at $200,000. With more than 50,000 wind turbines spinning in the United States, decommissioning costs are estimated at around $10 billion.

In Texas, there are approximately 12,000 turbines operational in the state. Decommissioning these turbines could cost as much as $2.3 billion. Which means landowners and counties in Texas could be on the hook for tens or even hundreds of millions of dollars if officials determine non-functional wind turbines need to be removed.

Or if that proves to be too costly, as seems likely, some areas of the state could become post-apocalyptic wastelands steepled with teetering and fallen wind turbines, locked in a rigor mortis of obsolescence.

The key here is that wind power is simply not profitable. The turbines were built almost exclusively because of giant federal subsidies — increased significantly during the Obama administration — that are expected to cost taxpayers almost $24 billion from 2016 to 2020.

Those subsidies might disappear under the Trump administration, but even if they don’t, they aren’t there to remove turbines but to build them. The companies that built the turbines aren’t making enough to pay for their replacement.

Share

In an effort to save money and protect the environment, the U.S. Navy has decided to move away from fossil fuels and back to non-toxic and environmentally friendly wind power.

In an effort to save money and protect the environment, the U.S. Navy has decided to move away from fossil fuels and back to non-toxic and environmentally friendly wind power.

Not letting Republican obstructionism of the budget process go to waste, President Obama’s national defense team is putting together a plan to retrofit US warship with ‘tried-and-true’ sails, taking advantage of free, naturally occurring wind rather than diesel and nuclear fuels that put crews at constant risk of causing an ecological disaster.

Used by many advanced cultures for thousands of years, sails were the environmentally sound propulsion system for naval vessels until the 20th century.

Many experts agree that their return might just usher in a new era of ‘green military technology’ – if it can overcome opposition from the generals and the fossil fuels lobby, whose alleged “concerns” about military readiness only serve to ensure more profits for the military-industrial complex.

Read the whole thing. It makes perfect sense!

Share

A skeptic takes an educated look at alternative energy.

A skeptic takes an educated look at alternative energy.

The matter of affordable costs is the hardest promise to assess, given the many assorted subsidies and the creative accounting techniques that have for years propped up alternative and renewable generation technologies. Both the European Wind Energy Association and the American Wind Energy Association claim that wind turbines already produce cheaper electricity than coal-fired power plants do, while the solar enthusiasts love to take the history of impressively declining prices for photovoltaic cells and project them forward to imply that we’ll soon see installed costs that are amazingly low.

But other analyses refute the claims of cheap wind electricity, and still others take into account the fact that photo­voltaic installations require not just cells but also frames, inverters, batteries, and labor. These associated expenses are not plummeting at all, and that is why the cost of electricity generated by residential solar systems in the United States has not changed dramatically since 2000. At that time the national mean was close to 40 U.S. cents per kilowatt­-hour, while the latest Solarbuzz data for 2012 show 28.91 cents per kilowatt-hour in sunny climates and 63.60 cents per kilowatt-­hour in cloudy ones. That’s still far more expensive than using fossil fuels, which in the United States cost between 11 and 12 cents per kilowatt-hour in 2011. The age of mass-scale, decentralized photovoltaic generation is not here yet.

Then consider the question of scale. Wind power is more advanced commercially than solar power, but with about 47 gigawatts in the United States at the end of 2011 it still accounted for less than 4 percent of the net installed summer generating capacity in that country. And because the capacity factors of U.S. wind turbines are so low, wind supplied less than 3 percent of all the electricity generated there in 2011.

Read the whole article. It is detailed, thoughtful, and blunt.

Share

A new study suggests that building wind turbines is a far greater problem to birds than actually operating them.

Good news for wind power: A new study suggests that building wind turbines is a far greater problem to birds than actually operating them.

The uncertainty of science, however: the study also showed a wide range of effects, depending on bird species.

Share

The problems of making both wind and solar power practical sources of electrical power on the grid.

The difficulties making both wind and solar power practical sources of electrical power on the grid.

According to the U.S. Department of Energy, when intermittent sources such as solar or wind reach about 20 percent of a region’s total energy production, balancing supply and demand becomes extremely challenging: rolling blackouts can sometimes become inevitable. The same problem exists elsewhere, notably in Germany, where a vast photovoltaic capacity has sprung up thanks to generous subsidies.

The article proposes several reasonable solutions for storing power for use when there are lulls in wind or sunlight. All, however, appear costly, and all appear to end up making fossil fuels themselves more cost effective. For example,

A pumped-hydro facility consists of two reservoirs with a substantial drop in height between them. When there is excess electricity to go around, electric pumps move water from the lower reservoir into the upper one, thereby storing energy in the form of gravitational potential energy. When wind and solar wane or simply cannot keep up with demand, operators let water flow down and through turbines, generating electricity. In compressed-air facilities, excess electricity pumps air into underground caverns, and it is later released at high pressure to turn turbines.

Pumped hydro has been used for decades to balance the load on large U.S. grids. About 2.5 percent of the electricity used by U.S. consumers has cycled through one of these plants. In Europe the amount is 4 percent and in Japan 10 percent.

Reading this, I immediately asked, why not use this technology now to help reduce the amount of fossil fuels you need to burn? Japan seems to have figured this out. Why not us?

Share