Doesn’t it make your planet-saving heart go pitter-pat when you hear elected officials such as Harry Reid talk about spending your money for subsidies, tax breaks and loan guarantees for renewable sources of electric power such as wind and solar, which will cut the output of carbon dioxide and prevent global warming?
Construction already has begun on Nevada’s first large-scale wind farm in Spring Valley, about 30 miles east of Ely. Plans are in the offing for wind farms in the Wilson Creek Range north of Pioche and in the foothills outside Harry’s hometown of Searchlight, as well as a huge solar array near Laughlin. Not only will they save the planet like some tights-wearing superhero but create green-collar jobs to boot.
The Spring Valley project should create 225 construction jobs and 13 permanent jobs upon completion.
Harry’s National Clean Energy Summit 4.0 spent a whole day this past week rhapsodizing about the wonders of clean and green renewable energy resources.
As perverse and illogical as it may sound, adding wind and solar to the power grid probably will increase the carbon dioxide output — and hasten the demise of homo sapiens on the planet earth, if that is your faith. And this is not some startling new revelation, papers explaining this have been around at least seven years, but none of our politicians have taken time to read them.
Retired electrical engineer Kent Hawkins wrote in February 2010 that “the introduction of wind power into an electricity system increases the fossil fuel consumption and CO2 emissions beyond levels that would have occurred using efficient gas plants alone as the providers of electricity equivalent to the firmed wind.”
This is because every kilowatt-hour of intermittent electricity introduced into the grid must be backed up by a reliable fossil-fuel generator. When the wind don’t blow and the sun don’t shine, the demand for electricity remains. There is no known means of storing electricity in a reservoir like water.
But starting and stopping gas-, coal- or oil-fired generators is inefficient, comparable to operating a car in stop and go traffic instead of steady and efficient on the open highway. Just like the car, the fuel consumption can double, along with the carbon emissions, negating any presumed carbon savings by using solar or wind.
And never mind the fact that back in the 1990s the Institute for Energy Research estimated a commercial wind farm takes seven years of operation just to offset the carbon emissions that occur in the manufacture and use of concrete used to anchor the massive wind turbines that can stand 500 feet tall.
David White in 2004 estimated in a report for the Renewable Energy Foundation that the “entire benefit of reduced emissions from the renewables programme has been negated by the increased emissions from part loaded plant(s) …
“The actual level of emission will depend on the type or mix of fossil-fuelled capacity being operated to match the output of the windpower.
“It could be coal-fired, a combined cycle gas turbine system, or an open cycle peak shaving system.These technologies all have different efficiency characteristics on full- and part-load, and will consequently emit different levels of CO2 if used as a running-mate for wind-power. In other words, the more wind capacity that is introduced, the more of the lower efficiency capacity will be required to operate on part-load with increased emissions.”
White also noted that resultant price increases for electricity cause a domino effect in the economy. He noted electrical power is the major cost to the water and sewage plants. Of course the requirement of a back-up system doubles the capital cost that must be borne by the ratepayers.
“In conclusion,” White wrote years ago, “it seems reasonable to ask why wind-power is the beneficiary of such extensive support if it not only fails to achieve the CO2 reductions required, but also causes cost increases in back-up, maintenance and transmission, while at the same time discouraging investment in clean, firm generation capacity.
Jon Boone in a 2006 paper on the topic added a colorful image to the debate, describing the wind and solar technology as a Rube Goldberg contraption. (Goldberg was a cartoonist famous for drawing very complicated and totally impractical machines that accomplished nothing.) “Rube Goldberg would admire the utter purity of the pretensions of wind technology in pursuit of a safer modern world, claiming to be saving the environment while wreaking havoc upon it,” Boone wrote.
Boone reported on what he called the Irish experience, which was that as the amount of power produced by wind increased the amount of CO2 emissions also increased as a direct result of having to cope with the unreliability of wind.
“Because they perceive time to be running out on fossil fuels, and the lure of non-polluting wind power is so seductive, otherwise sensible people are promoting it at any cost, without investigating potential negative consequences —and with no apparent knowledge of recent environmental history or grid operations,” Boone concluded.
Boone also commented on Hawkins’ online article, saying one problem with precisely determining the effect of wind farms on carbon emissions is that performance data is considered proprietary and confidential by the wind companies. This is the very data that would substantiate or subvert the case for windmills.
Boone also praised wind vs. carbon emissions studies performed in California years earlier:
“Why isn’t such analysis a boilerplate requirement as a means of indexing wind’s bloated windfall from the public treasury to actual measured reductions in systemwide CO2 emissions? If it were, would wind wither away? Very likely.”
But please don’t commit heresy and tell Harry and his acolytes any of this. Oh, never mind.
Harry doesn’t care a whit about green power. He cares only about his power, which is buoyed by support from gullible liberals and campaign donors who see a chance to make a buck off the federal largesse — such as George Kaiser of the bankrupt Solyndra solar panel maker who gave Harry the max in 2010 or Solyndra’s stimulus-benefited subcontractor CH2M Hill, which gave Harry and his PACs $12,500 in the last election cycle or Jim Rogers of Duke Energy, which is trying to put a wind farm in Searchlight and gave Harry the max in the general and the primary in 2010, or the principles in U.S. Renewables, who maxed for Harry while trying to partner with the Chinese company A-Power Energy to build a wind farm in Texas and a manufacturing plant in Southern Nevada before A-Power’s stock was frozen and the SEC started investigating allegations of fraud, or Pattern Energy, which is building that Spring Valley wind farm and whose CEO Mike Garland has backed WindPAC, which has contributed $15,000 to Harry over the past few years.
Green power is all in the definition of green … and the definition of power.
Harry at the Chamber of Commerce: