Obama’s quixotic wind program

Windmill PowerBy Rebekah Rast — An integral part of President Obama’s renewable energy plan is wind power.

It paints a nice picture; towering fields of gigantic turbines on an open hillside or small residential windmills atop a house or barn all collecting power from the wind solving all your electricity needs.

Too bad it doesn’t really work all that well on a mass scale.

Wind power only accounts for about 1 percent of all the energy used in the U.S. today.  In 2010, it accounted for 2.3 percent of all electricity generated in the U.S.  These numbers aren’t low due to a lack of turbine farms in America, they are low because turbines only generate a percentage of their theoretical maximum output—the wind does not always blow.

What’s more ironic from an environmentalist perspective is the fact that these giant turbines (some can reach 400 feet tall and turn at speeds of 200 mph in peak times) kill a half-million birds and bats without penalty every year.  Knowing the typical response of true environmentalists, if any other industry other than a “green” one caused that much damage they would be there with a lawsuit threatening to shut it down.

In mass, if wind power seems to kill more birds than it produces energy, why does it remain such an integral component in Obama’s energy plan?  Why does America continue to spend millions of dollars on an unstable energy source when there is no shortage of other much cheaper, reliable industries?

The city of Reno, Nev., is probably asking itself the same question.

Windmills were installed in Reno between April and October of 2010 and cost about $1 million out of a $2.1 million federal energy grant given to the city that was part of President Obama’s stimulus package, which passed in 2009.

Unfortunately, to date the turbines haven’t performed well in the city.

In one example, the city of Reno paid $21,000 for a particular wind turbine only to have it save them $4 in energy costs. Furthermore, a total cost of $416,000 worth of turbines has netted the city $2,800 in energy savings—in two years.

John Hargrove, who manages NV Energy’s Renewable Generations program in Nevada, hits the nail on the head when it comes to the main problem with wind power.  He said, “There is a lot of difference in some of the generators relative to what the (manufacturers) claim.  A generator can claim to put out 100 kilowatt hours, but that’s based on an assumption that there’s a certain amount of wind. If you don’t have the wind, you won’t have the output.”

Wind power is not a sustainable source of energy.  It’s a good idea in theory; a way to get something for doing nothing.  But it’s simply not reliable.

This problem extends beyond just Reno.  Since the city’s risky “green” investment was part of a larger renewable energy grant from Obama’s stimulus, all these wasted dollars once belonged to taxpayers.

Windmills served a great purpose when they were used to mill grain for food production, but a growing demand for electricity led to other more reliable and viable industries.

This isn’t to say wind power won’t play a role in the future, but when an industry with such poor output is eating up money from hard-working Americans, is it worth the investment?  If wind power technology someday becomes a sustainable and affordable source of energy, then such an investment will make sense.

But for now, as Bill Wilson, president of Americans for Limited Government (ALG), says, “Using energy independence as an excuse to fund unsustainable green energy programs is nothing more than tilting at windmills at the expense of U.S. taxpayers.”

Rebekah Rast is a contributing editor to Americans for Limited Government (ALG) and NetRightDaily.com.  You can follow her on twitter at @RebekahRast.

This article has 39 comments
  • colleenf 13.04.2012 10:38 AM

    The “green industry”  odumbo keeps pumping money into and touting as the answer to all our energy needs is just a slush fund (Obama’s stash) for his supporters.

  • Gymnastmom803 13.04.2012 12:37 PM

    Going to run them from all the hot air from the blowhards in Washington?

  • MlchaelC 13.04.2012 4:05 PM

    Proof that very little actually needs to be in the hands of a lawyer.  Lawyers need to stick to what they are trained for and let the other disciplines do what they are trained for.  Every important law or rule needs to be voted on by the people.  Make that legal…  

  • Norskinelson 13.04.2012 5:37 PM

    Up in Minnesota-South Dakota-Iowa, these windmills have only a 42% efficiency, and with government subsidies (our tax dollars) pay for 1/2 the cost of the windmill tower assembly.  If the SUBSIDY goes away, I will bet the windmills would stop.

  • Diverjimk 13.04.2012 5:57 PM

    Nuclear is the answer.  Of course liberals scream bloody murder.  Hopefully nuclear fusion will be corralled in the near future and energy will no longer be a problem.  Fusion keeps the sun going and there is no radioactive radiation.

  • Teapot in SE Minnesota 13.04.2012 6:15 PM

    The output of these industrial wind turbines is more like 20% or less than the maximum output.  Electricity from wind turbines is not practical, cannot be stored, and is produced typically at the wrong time of the day/year.  These turbines also require a back up system when the wind doesn’t blow.  What’s even worse, the wind lobbyists are trying to resurrect the Section 1603 gransts (expired 12/31/11) and renew the production tax credits (PTCs) set to expire at the end of 2012.  We have given enough handouts/subsidies/cash grants/tax credits to wind and solar.  Enough is enough!!

  • Teapot in SE Minnesota 13.04.2012 6:17 PM

    Industrial wind turbines usually generate 20% or less of their nameplace capacity. 

  • Frank629 13.04.2012 6:45 PM

    the really big wind is the commie/ socialist/marxist obama !

  • allosaur 13.04.2012 6:50 PM

    Put all the illegal aliens on treadmills.  

  • Public_Citizen 13.04.2012 6:52 PM

    Reno would have been way ahead of the game to expand their use of geo-thermal generation capacity instead of blowing money on politically fashionable wind turbines.
    There is a large area east of Reno with great geo-thermal development potential.  I-80 crosses through part of it and there are thermal pools and vents visible from the highway.
    Geo-thermal is a well developed technology with enough of a commercial history that costs can be accurately computed at the outset of a project without the “fiddle factors” [engineering speak for outright guessing] needed to sell wind projects.
    The possibilities for development have been explored and mapped, the formation that is generating the hot water in this area is the same one that caused so many problems with hot water intrusion and mine flooding during the Comstock Mining Boom that made Nevada a state.

  • moose2moose 13.04.2012 6:58 PM

    The FEDERAL GOVERNEMNT shall be removed from all things except one
    1. Protecting OUR shores, OUR nation from all enemies and promoting fair trade benefiting our business profits and the citizens safe well being ……………………………

  • Hotnike 13.04.2012 7:13 PM

    Most of the things the government tries, go BUST.

  • FatMan45 13.04.2012 7:56 PM

    In fact there is already one geothermal power plant at the location you’re talking about. But there is also much more potential. Even in the city of Reno – the Peppermill casino drilled a geothermal well on their property and now the entire building’s energy needs for heating and hot water come from that well. I have a friend in Carson City with a domestic well with a water temp of 97°!

  • FatMan45 13.04.2012 7:59 PM

    The only wind energy systems I’ve seen that make any sense are the small domestic ones that are “grid-tie” systems. In other words, backed by the grid, but when generating more electricity than you are currently using, feed back to the grid with the bonus of turning your meter backwards!

  • Harold 13.04.2012 8:05 PM

    There are 14000 abandoned whirly  gigs  in America, when the subsidies stop they are abanoned. and left for someone else clean up the junk and mess.

  • Harold 13.04.2012 8:05 PM

    There are 14000 abandoned whirly  gigs  in America, when the subsidies stop they are abanoned. and left for someone else clean up the junk and mess.

  • Sciarrettasciarretta 13.04.2012 8:18 PM

    I think that’s why they got rid of windmills along time ago.

  • Kdsabic 13.04.2012 8:24 PM

    Not one wind energy windmill in the world has ever paid for itself!  The maintenance cost alone make them prohibited.  Wind energy will never work!  Sun energy will work well as soon as the Sun starts shining at night!!!  These alternative energy ideas are not about energy, they are about control.  Control of the people!  That is what all of these green socialist ideas are really about! 

  • James 13.04.2012 10:00 PM

    Wind turbines only make sense with a small system that must include a battery backup system to take advantage of any wind blowing.  It must also be used with solar arrays to make up a good system.  If one lives near a running stream then the continual water flow can make good electricity consistently.  What many people don’t know or don’t understand is that our electrical system runs on demand and can not store energy.  As people wake up in the mornings and turn on those coffie pots, hair dryers, and other electrical devices all power plants must increase their production to meet the demand.  So if there is no load (coffee pots, hair dryers,ect..) then the eletricity can not be created or produced.  This is why the large wind turbines don’t work.  If high winds are blowing and the turbines are making power if there isn’t a load/demand then where does the electricty go, nowwhere, and since the wind is not consistent then the power production goes up and down that the power plants can not maintain the balance.  So wind power is only viable in small systems that have battery backup to store its energy.

  • James 13.04.2012 10:18 PM

    Nuclear Fision is not the answer over the long term.  Through radioactive material all it does is heat water to steam to turn steam turbines to make power.  So it is just heating water and not harnessing the raw energy from the radioactivity.  I personally don’t like Nuclear power plants because the byproduct is radioactive water and materials that have a half-life of a billions years (not exact but trying to make a point.) The people in Japan can not return to their homes from their nuclear accident in their lifetimes or their children’s lifetimes.  That is the only reason I don’t like Nuclear.  If Fusion reactor is a reality then the byproduct has been said to be water.  Fusion is not a reality yet but only in the lab for seconds.  It is much easier to burn coal and improve the technology to clean up the emisions then to deal with Nuclear fision and the radioactive byproducts.  One plant run by Florel Danials emmisions clean up system byproduct is gypsum which is what drywall is made of so it is a money making byproduct.  We need more of this type of technology and it is more feasible right not then nuclear or wind or any other so called green energy.  We should cancel all subsides to everything and use what we have for power production coal, oil, natural gas, and continue to work on future technology for power production.  We need to stop wasting money on wind farms, solar farms, because wind will never work on a large scale, solar will work on a large scale but not now not until their efficiencies approach 80% unlike their current 17-21% now.  This ethenal that they are watering our gasoline in is junk.  It can not run a car in pure form, and does more harm to the engine as it absorbs moisture which does not burn.  It waste our food and reduces our mileage per gallon, there is nothing good about ethenal other then making the farmers rich and I don’t blame the farmers.  Ethenal subsidies need to stop and if ethenal is a viable product then it will survive but I know it is not and will just die if subsidies are removed.

  • MIPAIN 14.04.2012 12:14 AM

    In truth that doesnt work either although i understand the assumption.

     It is a complicated subsidy mechanism that is not obvious at first. It starts with the tax subsidy and loans to the industry itself to manufacture. Following that is the tax subsidy to purchase with a projected twenty year pay back after subsidy. That payback is dependent on a “free” buyback meter being installed by the utility at a cost of a couple thousand dollars each. (The power that is provided by the windmill is not “clean” in the electrical grid sense so it has to be corected hense the expensive filtering meter) Finally the power is bought back by the utility at a higher PREMIUM GREEN rate by the utility. So we pay more in taxes and electrical cost to make someone feel good 

  • Michael Zorn 14.04.2012 12:45 PM

    Things do not turn in miles per hour!!!!!  Things turn in revolutions per minute (rpm).  The tips of the blades may go 200 mph, but that’s another matter.

  • Michael Zorn 14.04.2012 12:51 PM

     Nuclear power plants gave come a long way since Chernobyl.  Plants can be designed to be fail-safe (pebble bed reactors).  While the byproducts have long half-lives, the amount of byproduct is actually small, and it can be recycled into more reactor-grade fuel.

    You’re right on just about every thing else.  Solar power plants only generate power when the sun is shining.  They’re OK for the Southwest – provided they can figure out how to store the energy so it can be available at night.  Wind power is even less useful than solar, because it only works when the wind is blowing.  There are a few places on the Earth where it blows all the time, but for that very reason, not too many people live there.  And ethanol takes away from the food chain.

  • Michael Zorn 14.04.2012 1:01 PM

     True, but the Sun is a long way away.  The sun is essentially a huge fusion bomb.  The process it works on needs extremely high temperatures, and it does produce radiation, mostly gamma rays – which are absorbed along the way from the core to the surface.   Then there are X-rays.  It won’t be easy to contain and control the energy when we build a fusion reactor here.

    France has been running on nuclear power for many years.  They generate so much power they can sell the extra energy to neighboring countries.

  • Michael Zorn 14.04.2012 1:01 PM

     True, but the Sun is a long way away.  The sun is essentially a huge fusion bomb.  The process it works on needs extremely high temperatures, and it does produce radiation, mostly gamma rays – which are absorbed along the way from the core to the surface.   Then there are X-rays.  It won’t be easy to contain and control the energy when we build a fusion reactor here.

    France has been running on nuclear power for many years.  They generate so much power they can sell the extra energy to neighboring countries.

  • topeka 16.04.2012 11:31 AM

     Geo-thermal is not going to be popular anytime soon…

    because it might work.

  • topeka 16.04.2012 12:01 PM

     Diverjimk,

    Yes, nuclear would be an answer. But there is too much misinformation and FEAR associated with the plants. The actual limitations and hazards due to mining are always ignored – because they are too small to amount to the Armageddon necessary to make it unpopular. Also, no one ever mentions the construction of tie-lines, or plant or waste site locations to mitigate the risk of a full-blown meltdown – such considerations would illustrate the practicality of the technology and expose the disingenuous fear-mongering of the political class.

    See James’ post e.g. – ignoring total output, actual risk factors, evidence of safety, and consideration of politically motivated intentional mistakes such as in Japan and Russia – and oblivious to the industry’s global safety record even in the hands of outrageously incompetent governments.

    All in all, the only way to make nuclear look bad is to blame it for the faults of politicians and pinheads, while simultaneously ignoring the risks of other energy sources.

    Russia had one disaster based on 60 yo design, rejected by GE. Japan lost a group of reactors about 40 yo, thanks to a historic earthquake and tsunami – never mind the pinheads could have taken pre-cautions based on new safety information any time in the last 4 decades. The US has had one serious near-miss. There are some others – but more people died/suffered at Bhopal (setting aside hysterical numbers for Chernobyl) – and no one is giving up their petrochemicals.

    - but compare nuclear to coal, gas, or rare-earth element mining, oil drilling, the wars caused by our cell phones, much less money printing, health care rationing, or taxation…

    - if Obama’s money printing was as effective, and dangerous as nuclear power, the global economy would ten times stronger, unemployment would be negative, the ACLU would force us to install the portraits of ten Central Bankers in every public building, and we would worship Central Bankers as gods …

    - but if an engine of technology slips up once in awhile, Chicken-Littles wet themselves…

  • topeka 16.04.2012 12:13 PM

    Rebekah,

    Good article.

    What I have been told – by design engineers – is that new wind farms typically run at about 20% capacity. That’s 20% of design – estimating the wind to blow – but only about 1/5 of what they expected based on calculations from meteorological data. i.e. they are overestimating the results to justify the projects for political expediency. Many of the ones I have spoken to are young guys – who didn’t realize they should have guessed this in the first place. (Didn’t they watch Star Trek? Scotty would have told them to slash their expectations…) (And they also don’t realize they are involved in a fraud – without the immunity bestowed on the politically connected owners. )

    Some farms though do operate at much higher efficiencies. So if one ignores the farms where the wind does not blow as often, and one ignores the farms where the turbines are shut down for economic reasons – one gets better results.

    So it would not surprise me if the number I just suggested is overly optimistic.

    When in need of justification, always cherry-pick the data…

  • Public_Citizen 16.04.2012 6:27 PM

     It isn’t a “might” situation, it is a well documented “does”.
    There is a large scale commercial production geo-thermal generating station in the Coachella Valley in Southern California.
    The plant has been cranking out mega-watts for DECADES.
    Iceland gets a lot of their power from geo-thermal as it sits right on the break between the European Crustal Plate and the North American plate.
    Any where there is a geo-thermal hot spot close enough to the surface to be drilled you can install a geo-thermal generator.
    You just circulate a “working fluid” similar to transmission fluid through heat capture pipes drilled into the hot rocky mass, run the hot fluid through a heat exchanger to make steam and hook that up to your generating turbines.  Electricity comes out the other end with a very low carbon footprint.
    Your major operating costs are labor, water treatment, which has to be paid for with any large scale generating plant, and maintenance and repairs.
    Your piping needs to be carefully watched and changed out at regular intervals as the hot rocks sometimes contain corrosive materials that will shorten the service life of the plumbing.

  • Jim_L_Adrian 23.04.2012 10:34 PM

    I know wind farms will not create large population centers adequate electrical needs and it is deplorable that the Obama minions tout that it will! I have been to many wind farms and what I see is slow moving blades compared to the speed of birds.
    What I also understand is though the above scenario is inadequate for large urban areas, country living is perfect for turbines as well as very low populated areas to achieve that assistance we all want.
    Turbines placed in continuous or nearly so wind areas will do their part to create an independence.        

  • MM from Georgia 23.04.2012 10:38 PM

     Amen, Moose – limited govt., America First, dump foreign aid and foreign adventurism.

  • Jim_L_Adrian 23.04.2012 10:49 PM

    Yes,Yes,yes-we must return to and keep close what the constitution actually says!!!!
    Our Constitution has been slowly subverted since the ’30′s. The subversion is in high gear right now.
    If an amendment according to article 5 has not been passed OR ANYTHING ELSE to change the constitution then any and all things contrary to the Constitution are illegal. IT IS THAT SIMPLE! 
    We can take our country back! We just need to stay focused and do what needs to be done! Our map of independence was drawn in 1776. Read it and learn it and we can take our country back.

  • Dlsofsetx 25.04.2012 11:01 AM

    The wind & solar power only work on a small scale at this time.There is a business across the street from me that have both.A woman there told me the local utility company pays them for their excess power they generate & send back to the utility company.However,on a large scale they don’t work well at all.BTW,isn’t it ironic how many environmentalist whackos advocate solar & wind power,then try to stop solar panels or windmills from being put up?

  • Robert L. Huffstutter 28.04.2012 12:11 PM

    The windmills seem much akin to the 5th wheel theory. For those not familiar with the 5th wheel theory, it is adding a 5th wheel to your auto that is used for generating electricity to turn the other four. It sounds like a winner, right?

  • yaki534 02.05.2012 2:56 PM

    Another energy problem is even if they make a viable electric car or another “friendly fuel” for internal combustion engines run, how long is it going to take for all the present cars, trucks and equipment to be replaced? Not everyone is going to be able to afford a new vehicle or replacement power source for twenty years.

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