November 22, 2005

Wind power does not work

To the Editor, Manchester (Vt.) Journal:

Rob Roy Macgregor (letter, Nov. 18) would have us believe that more than 50 gigawatts of wind power capacity installed worldwide, or its endorsement by some utilities, is proof that it works. He asks, as if he does not know the answer, where is the profit if wind is so unreliable?

To the first point, one need only ask for evidence that 50 gigawatts (or 10-15, representing the actual output from wind, or even any at all) of energy from other sources has been displaced to discover that wind power does not work as an energy source on the grid, that such claims are as puffs of smoke.

To the second point, endorsement by utilities comes from the same source as the profits: the requirement or expectation to buy a certain amount of renewable energy and the option of buying "green credits" instead. Whether the energy produced by a wind turbine is used or not, equivalent green credits are generated as well. There is great demand for them, and their trade is very profitable. Enron began this model of energy progress, and it remains a scam that benefits only a few investors. Some utilities set up as credit producers themselves, and others are typically bought off, as exemplified by Lyndonville Electric's East Haven deal, with a share in the racket.

Utilities, however, are clear about the futility of wind power. Eon Netz, one of Germany's grid managers, with over 7,000 MW of wind capacity connected, has described in their annual wind reports that they need additional conventional capacity to cover 100% of the possible infeed from wind, because even as it peaks it often drops off very quickly. Many utilities in Japan cap the amount of energy they will accept from wind facilities. A recent report boasting of the U.K.'s superb wind resource also points out that new "spinning reserve" must be built and kept burning to compensate for wind power's fluctuations, thus severely limiting any positive effect on the use of other energy sources. A February 2004 study by the Irish grid found that wind power caused minimal displacement of other sources, that it was essentially superfluous additional capacity. Eon Netz projects that at best wind turbines might displace barely 4% of their capacity in other sources.

Macgregor is right that storing the intermittent output of wind turbines is an essential solution. It only underscores the absurdity of building them now, when large-scale storage, if feasible at all, is still very far off.

If wind power worked, proponents would be able to point to real evidence of energy savings and cleaner air, not just a sales chart.

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