Every energy economist knows that, under present rules, the Renewables Obligation is a scandalous boondoggle — Gordon Hughes.
Boondoggle: Webster’s College Dictionary – the standard US dictionary – offers the following definitions of a boondoggle: “(1) work of little of no value done merely to keep or look busy; (2) a project funded by the federal government out of political favouritism that is of no real value to the community or the nation”.
Wind has one HUGE advantage, it is “Politically Correct” and favored by all the innumerate greenies and politicians. I.e., the ones who know nothing of what it takes to operate a national grid to deliver dependable, affordable energy to essential industries and consumers. But they love the “feel good” energy policies that use middle-lower-income taxes to subsidize investments by rich-taxpayers in economically unproductive wind and solar projects. Meanwhile efficient base-load nuclear power is widely ignored. Actually that’s an overstatement for the UK – whose nuclear policy is looking more and more sane.
There is a new study by Prof Gordon Hughes, an economist at Edinburgh University: Why is wind power so expensive? An economic analysis [PDF, 42 pages]. The Hughes study documents the magnitude of economic burden imposed by subsidized wind projects. It will curl your hair.
For a gentle introduction I recommend the summary by Robert Mendick, Chief Reporter at The Telegraph. Mendick concentrates on one aspect of the wind boondoggle – the efficiency of the turbines turns out to be less than half what the promoters claim. Less than half what the government proposals and plans assume.
The analysis of almost 3,000 onshore wind turbines — the biggest study of its kind —warns that onshore wind farms will continue to generate electricity effectively for just 12 to 15 years.
The wind energy industry and the Government base all their calculations on turbines enjoying a lifespan of 20 to 25 years. The study estimates that routine wear and tear will more than double the cost of electricity being produced by wind farms in the next decade.
Older turbines will need to be replaced more quickly than the industry estimates while many more will need to be built onshore if the Government is to meet renewable energy targets by 2020.
The extra cost is likely to be passed on to households, which already pay about £1 billion a year in a consumer subsidy that is added to electricity bills.
The report concludes that a wind turbine will typically generate more than twice as much electricity in its first year than when it is 15 years old.
The report’s author, Prof Gordon Hughes, an economist at Edinburgh University and a former energy adviser to the WorldBank, discovered that the “load factor” — the efficiency rating of a turbine based on the percentage of electricity it actually produces compared with its theoretical maximum — is reduced from 24 per cent in the first 12 months of operation to just 11 per cent after 15 years.
The decline in the output of offshore wind farms, based on a study of Danish wind farms, appears even more dramatic. The load factor for turbines built on platforms in the sea is reduced from 39 per cent to 15 per cent after 10 years.
Please see Part 2 for more on the data that explains the short economic life of wind turbines.