Wind industry boom going bust

posted at 4:01 pm on October 25, 2012 by Erika Johnsen

The continuance and/or discontinuance of the wind production tax credit is the subject of much debate among lawmakers and lobbyists at the moment, and it’s an issue President Obama often likes to bring up as a hot talking point on the campaign trail, particularly in when he’s in Iowa. Advocates like to throw around impressive-sounding statistics about how the wind industry is constantly furthering its own potential and providing Americans with an ever-greater proportion of their energy needs, and how the wind industry provides a bunch of jobs. Here’s some of the latest data, via The Hill:

Wind power posted the greatest gain in domestic energy consumption in 2011 as overall energy use dropped, according to an analysis by the Energy Department’s Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL).

Energy consumption from wind power rose 27 percent in 2011 to 1.17 quadrillion Btu (British thermal units), up from 0.92 in 2010, LLNL said, citing U.S. Energy Information Administration data.

Energy consumption from wind could rise in 2012 as well, as newly installed electricity capacity increased 40 percent in the third quarter compared with 2011, the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) announced last week.

But AWEA says investment already is falling off for 2013, with the fate of an industry tax credit hanging in the balance. …

Democrats, led by the Obama administration, call the incentive a jobs issue, citing industry estimates that ending it would cost 37,000 jobs.

Sure, more wind farms have come online and supplied more power in the past couple of years due to sustained government “investment” (tax credits, state renewable portfolio standards, etcetera) while Americans’ overall energy usage has dropped (due to increased technological efficiency across all spheres and, oh yeah, we’re stuck in an almost-recession), but why is it that the moment the wind industry’s biggest source of special federal treatment is called into question, all of this ostensibly marvelous potential seems to suddenly disappear? As RealClearEnergy points out, when it comes to wind, it’s always boom or bust:

The wind energy lives and dies by its tax credit. That’s because there is no money to be made in generating electricity from windmills. They are tremendously materials intensive, consuming steel and concrete in prodigious amounts. Each 40-story windmill produces 2 megawatts at best, so you need hundred of them to equal a conventional power plant. Even then, they generate unpredictably and only 30 percent of the time. The only thing that makes them worth building is the production tax credit. …

With Republicans now in control of the House of Representatives, however, the PTC will probably not be renewed unless Democrats achieve a remarkable victory in November. As a result, windmill construction is about to end almost completely. Layoffs have already begun.

The wind industry and its lobbies are throwing all of the well-monied power and influence they have into the issue, but the problem is that all of these green jobs the Obama administration likes to tout aren’t wind-powered; they’re subsidy-powered. Ergo, they are not productive jobs and they come at an overall cost to our economy, whatever the supposed benefits and trumped-up statistics might say.


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Look, if you think Al Gore is just going to go out and make another $100 million actually working for a living, you’ve got another think coming bub.

JeremiahJohnson on October 25, 2012 at 4:06 PM

The wind energy lives and dies by its tax credit. That’s because there is no money to be made in generating electricity from windmills. They are tremendously materials intensive, consuming steel and concrete in prodigious amounts. Each 40-story windmill produces 2 megawatts at best, so you need hundred of them to equal a conventional power plant.

So many facts and figures. Math is hard.

UltimateBob on October 25, 2012 at 4:07 PM

Hot air (a redundancy)

Don L on October 25, 2012 at 4:07 PM

Not surprising. Virtually every alternative energy program Barry has invested our money in has failed miserably. A loser picking losers.

Slainte on October 25, 2012 at 4:07 PM

About time, too, I say.

JimK on October 25, 2012 at 4:08 PM

There ought to be research, research, & more research before any more are built.
And don’t build any more with tax dollars.
If the windmills don’t actually pay for themselves, if they’re not practical, then they’re wasting our money.
Let the private sector invest in wind if it’s really the energy source of the future.

itsnotaboutme on October 25, 2012 at 4:08 PM

Aside from all of this, as a bird lover, I can tell you that the windmills are referred to as blenders. It’s just horrid to think of how many of these magnificent creatures are killed each year because of Obama’s folly. Where is the outrage from the enviros?

COgirl on October 25, 2012 at 4:09 PM

Erika, this is a really great article. Thanks for tackling this topic. You’re a real asset to Hot Air.

Better watch out, or Ed may put you in charge.

Someday, all this will be yours!

UltimateBob on October 25, 2012 at 4:10 PM

It just kills me when Bambi calls wind the “energy of the future.”

C’mon, it’s a friggin’ windmill!

PackerBronco on October 25, 2012 at 4:11 PM

Whoever said “Failure isn’t an option” never met obozo.

Flange on October 25, 2012 at 4:12 PM

next up is ethanol

Last year we had a drought and couldn’t grow nothing. This year was a bumper crop and the price of corn ran up to almost $8.50/bushel because the midwest first got flooded and then burned up in a drought as well. And we’re burning our food in our gas tanks.

Stop it.

DanMan on October 25, 2012 at 4:13 PM

Hey Barry: go and rehash your windmill on top of the car joke.

bayview on October 25, 2012 at 4:14 PM

GREEN ENERGY has created a black hole… in the nations collective wallet. I have 16 TRILLION reasons to NOT VOTE for Obama/Biden?

ActinUpinTexas on October 25, 2012 at 4:14 PM

Will these monstrosities be good for scrap when they start getting torn down and dismantled?

Fallon on October 25, 2012 at 4:14 PM

Aside from all of this, as a bird lover, I can tell you that the windmills are referred to as blenders. It’s just horrid to think of how many of these magnificent creatures are killed each year because of Obama’s folly. Where is the outrage from the enviros?

COgirl on October 25, 2012 at 4:09 PM

Yeah, that one always gets me too. Wind power is only good for part of the environment.

Bitter Clinger on October 25, 2012 at 4:15 PM

Does anyone remember T. Booone Pickens and his wind energy plan (that depended upon tax credits)? Try this: http://newsbusters.org/blogs/noel-sheppard/2012/04/11/t-boone-pickens-ive-lost-my-wind-power-jobs-are-oil-and-gas-industry

TIdbIT on October 25, 2012 at 4:15 PM

It just kills me when Bambi calls wind the “energy of the future.”

C’mon, it’s a friggin’ windmill!

PackerBronco on October 25, 2012 at 4:11 PM

Why anybody thought it would be a great idea to base an energy sector on something that only occurs part of the time is puzzling.

Bitter Clinger on October 25, 2012 at 4:16 PM

The wind farms look like an apocalyptic wasteland on a cloudy day.

mwbri on October 25, 2012 at 4:17 PM

Funny thing is that, though I was fascinated and impressed the first time I stood under a wind generator in 2006, some very quick research turned up their inability to make a profit. Reliably unreliable. It’s still true. When tax credits expire, the owners usually park the blades, take their write-off and abandon the farm.

ironked on October 25, 2012 at 4:19 PM

Power generation by wind only exists as a tax-subsidized enterprise.

There is NO market for an energy source that is inconsistent, and inefficient.

No or low wind = no power; and, under the best of circumstances, works at 18% of potential capacity.

For an individual, linked to a capacitance system, it can work.

For a general population, without auxiliary generation, brown-outs, and outright black-outs. E.G. — a fantasy in a straight-jacket.

CPT. Charles on October 25, 2012 at 4:20 PM

…not to worry!…JugEars can reimburse the taxpayers with his campaign funds for the waste and tax credits…he gave to the 1%!

KOOLAID2 on October 25, 2012 at 4:20 PM

It just kills me when Bambi calls wind the “energy of the future.”

C’mon, it’s a friggin’ windmill!

PackerBronco on October 25, 2012 at 4:11 PM

Maybe his next book could be titled “The Disingenuous Gentleman Don Kyoto”.

Flange on October 25, 2012 at 4:21 PM

Well it wouldn’t go bust this weekend with Frankenstorm headed for the heart of the east coast. It’s freakout time for the DC and NY media. Imagine the power they could harness from this storm if only they had someplace to store it all.

stukinIL4now on October 25, 2012 at 4:21 PM

Good riddance to this nonsense.

Wind only works 30% of the time; solar power only works at most 50% of the time.

We need 100% conventional for nights and still days. ergo..a colossal waste of resources and money

txdoc on October 25, 2012 at 4:21 PM

It just kills me when Bambi calls wind the “energy of the future.”

C’mon, it’s a friggin’ windmill!

PackerBronco on October 25, 2012 at 4:11 PM

Yup. The Amish use windmills for power. Have for hundreds of years. Will we have horsedrawn Chevy Volts?

katy the mean old lady on October 25, 2012 at 4:24 PM

COgirl on October 25, 2012 at 4:09 PM

The civil war (via lawsuits) between the ‘animal-loving’ Greens and the ‘renewable’ Greens is one of the greatly under-reported news stories of the past half-decade.

It is being studiously ignored by the LSM.

CPT. Charles on October 25, 2012 at 4:25 PM

Since it’s not going to be profitable, why is anyone other than Obama surprised?

tarpon on October 25, 2012 at 4:25 PM

If you want to learn about the scam that gub’ment backed alt energy is.
George Breckenridge at http://www.utterpower.com.
has done in depth study and has documented it pretty well.

esnap on October 25, 2012 at 4:26 PM

In the UK they’re finding that they cannot afford to keep many wind generators running. Lots end up parked or on reduced output to save money. They need a peaking generation station (gas or coal) always turning to make up for the farms unpredictable output. Many planned farms are under heavy protest from outdoor recreation, environmental and tourism groups and may not end up being built. Austerity doesn’t help. It’s a ripe petard to hoist.

ironked on October 25, 2012 at 4:27 PM

Here’s a fairly good study on the issue.

CPT. Charles on October 25, 2012 at 4:29 PM

I admit that I liked seeing the wind turbines on drives through the Southwest and while flying over the Netherlands.

However, seeing YouTube videos of wind turbines exploding is enough to make me wary of them, even beyond knowing the many other problems they cause.

For example, see the exploding wind turbine at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u14tBwO5QVQ

KyMouse on October 25, 2012 at 4:29 PM

Any industry that cannot exist without Federal Funding, is an industry that should never receive Federal Funding.

SWalker on October 25, 2012 at 4:31 PM

As another poster pointed out (with real numbers), these systems are not cost effective…
 
natasha333 on October 13, 2012 at 1:57 PM

 
I’m guessing that you don’t know your a** from a hole in the ground and that middle class people who pay the electric bill every month probably know what they’re paying.
 
urban elitist on October 13, 2012 at 2:06 PM

rogerb on October 25, 2012 at 4:31 PM

So far the only viable market for alternative energy sources is the off-grid market. If I had a cabin in a less than accessible location, damn straight I’d put PV panels on the roof and a small wind turbine in the yard. They’re technologies that don’t scale up to community level well. I’m holding out for the personal Plutonium generator.

ironked on October 25, 2012 at 4:31 PM

ironked on October 25, 2012 at 4:27 PM

Don’t forget the best part… in the UK, during the winter, they usually have a 2-week period where there’s no wind.

That’s when the real fun begins…

CPT. Charles on October 25, 2012 at 4:32 PM

Will we have horsedrawn Chevy Volts?

katy the mean old lady on October 25, 2012 at 4:24 PM

I’m thinking the rickshaw is about ready to make a comeback. Forward!

visions on October 25, 2012 at 4:35 PM

Don’t forget the best part… in the UK, during the winter, they usually have a 2-week period where there’s no wind.

And if they get too much of a storm they have to park them too. Great plan.

ironked on October 25, 2012 at 4:36 PM

Aside from all of this, as a bird lover, I can tell you that the windmills are referred to as blenders. It’s just horrid to think of how many of these magnificent creatures are killed each year because of Obama’s folly. Where is the outrage from the enviros?

COgirl on October 25, 2012 at 4:09 PM

The EPA is presently suing a company for killing twenty birds in North Dakota!

Oh wait, that’s an oil company. Nevermind.

slickwillie2001 on October 25, 2012 at 4:42 PM

T. Boone has lost some a$$.

FlaMurph on October 25, 2012 at 4:45 PM

The only way wind farms could become a consistently reliable form of energy is to clone Joe Biden and station one of him at every wind farm and ask him to answer a few questions.

backwoods conservative on October 25, 2012 at 4:46 PM

But, but, but it would make a ton of money if only we could get oil and gas prices to skyrocket. We need to regulate carbon based fuels out of existence so that clean energy looks affordable.

Connecticut on October 25, 2012 at 4:47 PM

It just kills me when Bambi calls wind the “energy of the future.”

C’mon, it’s a friggin’ windmill!

PackerBronco on October 25, 2012 at 4:11 PM

Wind power was used a long time ago to grind meal. The reason we don’t have windmills all over the place now is a better power source was found. How tough is that to figure out?

Mitoch55 on October 25, 2012 at 4:48 PM

If you could jack gas prices up to $30 or $40 a gallon, the wind power could probably take a 10% cut in subsidies and struggle on.

BL@KBIRD on October 25, 2012 at 4:51 PM

If everyone who reads this calls your congressional rep. and tells them to vote NO on the PTC extension that is being hidden in an omnibus bill put together by the House Ways and Means Comm., the nightmare of the taxpayer funded boondoggle known as wind energy, will die. Even a one year extension will cost taxpayers $12 billion and we know that will have to be borrowed from China. On top of that the bulk of the wind companies receiving our tax dollars are foreign. A few phone calls and we could end wind.

cpasherry on October 25, 2012 at 4:51 PM

Where I am currently residing in, these farms are all over the place.. It’s Green!.. Forget about all those pesky things said above.. Who cares if they don’t pay for themselves?… We will will just steal more money from those evil rich people to cover it.. It’s Green..!!! That’s the important thing, right?.. And we will all live happily ever after..

Al Hall on October 25, 2012 at 4:52 PM

Will these monstrosities be good for scrap when they start getting torn down and dismantled?

Fallon on October 25, 2012 at 4:14 PM

Doubtful. Lots of worthless stuff like fiberglass and carbon fiber. From what I was told there may also be quite a bit of toxic stuff in the generator part. I’ve also been told it’s quite polluting to manufacture all the parts. I’d take that all with a grain of salt as I was told that stuff from a guy that works at a coal power plant.

Frank Enstine on October 25, 2012 at 4:54 PM

It will be interesting to see how the vast number of wind farms in Texas end up doing. Texas is ‘off the grid’ — i.e., other than the far west counties in the state, what is produced in Texas is consumed in Texas as far as electricity goes, and vice-versa, so there’s no sending power out of the state or importing power into it.

The areas around Sweetwater on Interstate 20 and east of Fort Stockton on Interstate 10 are the sites of vast windmill farms, the latter being owned by BP. But the state Public Utility Commission on Wednesday announced it was considering doubling the cap on wholesale electricity prices in hopes of convincing companies to build more generators … which the state needs in part because of the EPA’s war on coal-fire power plants which is threatening to cut Texas’ generating capacity below required levels.

You would think if wind power was the panacea the green energy types say it is, the huge open areas of West Texas would be the perfect spot to put in the wind generators in place of the Obama-disapproved coal-fired power plants. Instead, state residents and governmental agencies are going to face utility rate increases to build oil- and gas-fired plants (there are enough greenies/NIMBYs even in Texas so the utilities are going want to push another South Texas Nuclear Plant battle like the current kerfuffle).

jon1979 on October 25, 2012 at 4:55 PM

Barry could have consulted with T. Boone Pickens, but that would make too much sense.

Cody1991 on October 25, 2012 at 4:56 PM

Where I am currently residing in, these farms are all over the place.. It’s Green!.. Forget about all those pesky things said above.. Who cares if they don’t pay for themselves?… We will will just steal more money from those evil rich people to cover it.. It’s Green..!!! That’s the important thing, right?.. And we will all live happily ever after..

Al Hall on October 25, 2012 at 4:52 PM

Good intentions rather than results are the only thing that matter with libs (especially when they can grab our money).

It’s all about feeling good – for a few.

Cody1991 on October 25, 2012 at 4:58 PM

The plane, the plane

Schadenfreude on October 25, 2012 at 5:03 PM

Surprise!!!!

tomshup on October 25, 2012 at 5:16 PM

Let’s be practical. Anyone can make a small fortune in wind (green) energy.

All you need to do is start with a large fortune.

wukong on October 25, 2012 at 5:26 PM

Aside from all of this, as a bird lover, I can tell you that the windmills are referred to as blenders. It’s just horrid to think of how many of these magnificent creatures are killed each year because of Obama’s folly. Where is the outrage from the enviros?

COgirl on October 25, 2012 at 4:09 PM

An excellent point! Predatory birds like to nest on top of the generator box of wind turbines in flat areas, because it affords them a great view of prey, and the eggs or chicks are better protected from natural enemies than in nests in trees or on cliffs.

Wind turbines usually have vanes to keep the axis of rotation pointed upwind, and birds leaving the nest (like airplanes) instinctively take off upwind in order to increase lift on their wings. In high winds, when the turbines are spinning at 30 or 40 rpm, and typically have three blades, a bird has only a fraction of a second to take off between the passage of the blades.

One mis-timed takeoff and the mother bird is killed, and the chicks starve to death if the mother bird cannot bring them food.

Steve Z on October 25, 2012 at 5:47 PM

Aside from all of this, as a bird lover, I can tell you that the windmills are referred to as blenders. It’s just horrid to think of how many of these magnificent creatures are killed each year because of Obama’s folly. Where is the outrage from the enviros?

COgirl on October 25, 2012 at 4:09 PM

Here in New Hampshire, the enviros are all cheering the new wind farm that was just completed on the southern border of the White Mountain National Forest, directly across the valley from one of the only Peregrine Falcon nesting sites in the entire state. Each of the wind turbine towers is 400 feet tall.

As the same time, these same hypocrites are bitterly opposed to the “Northern Pass” project, which will bring ultra-cheap hydro power down here from Quebec.

Their beef? The towers will be 100 feet tall-or 4 times shorter than the wind towers are!

Del Dolemonte on October 25, 2012 at 5:48 PM

Great! Death to the bird killing machines!

Urban Infidel on October 25, 2012 at 5:52 PM

I keep asking people who think wind power is so great why it’s ok that it kills so many birds and or what their plan is to help the birds.

I have never received an answer.

Jocelyn on October 25, 2012 at 5:56 PM

Each 40-story windmill produces 2 megawatts at best, so you need hundred of them to equal a conventional power plant.

Better revise that hundred number up a bit.

There are 492 coal-fired power plants in the U.S., with an average size of 667 megawatts (MW) and an average age of 40 years.

Source: “Form EIA-860 Database, Annual Electric Generator Report,” U.S. Department of Energy’s Energy Information Administration,
2005 data set. http://www.eia.doe.gov/cneaf/electricity/page/eia860.html

As of 2007, worldwide there were 439 operational nuclear reactors with total capacity of 372,002 MW; making the average output 846 MW. However, the average new reactor can be expected to be larger.

The reactors so far built in the US range up to about 1100 MWe electrical output, but new ones up to about 1500 MWe are planned

Oldnuke on October 25, 2012 at 6:01 PM

I keep asking people who think wind power is so great why it’s ok that it kills so many birds and or what their plan is to help the birds.

I have never received an answer.

Jocelyn on October 25, 2012 at 5:56 PM

Won’t obozo look stupid if Big Bird gets chopped up by one.

Flange on October 25, 2012 at 7:02 PM

“GREEN ENERGY” is the second biggest hoax of this century.
(after “Global Warming”)

Neither wind nor solar equipment lasts long enough to survive its amortization period without the need for replacement of the original equipment: hence, it NEVER achieves “payback”.

Add to this major problem the fact that green generation is horribly inefficient and unreliable…and is extremely ill-suited to providing power to applications requiring reliable 24/7/365 power, and it is doomed to remain a LOSER!!

Note that there has been NO REAL PROGRESS in wind power in the past 100 years: it is STILL unreliable and unsuited to any needs other than local applications requiring only occasional power (like the powering of remote cattle-watering stations).

landlines on October 25, 2012 at 7:04 PM

While Obama was talking wind energy in Denver yesterday, up the road in Greeley, Vesta was busy laying off 800 people.

Common Sense on October 25, 2012 at 7:14 PM

Had Don Quixote known what super-duper high tech power plants they were, he would have treated windmills with much more respect.

scgas on October 25, 2012 at 9:13 PM

I cross the country several times a year by small plane. I’m down low enough to see the many wind farms out there. It’s shocking to see that they are hardly ever turning. 20% operation seems like a good number…Absolute junk. Maybe ok for niche markets that don’t require much energy, but will never work for a Superpower. Someone, somewhere is sitting on horrible electricity production numbers for windpower…

Nozzle on October 25, 2012 at 11:57 PM

I’ve said for years that green energy would collapse when the subsidies are removed.

I was right on the substance but I was wrong on the politics.

Remove the subsidies and wind, solar, bio-fuels, electric cars, and every other green scam would collapse almost immediately because they cost more to build and maintain than they can generate in revenue.

That part I got right.

What I missed was the government’s seemingly unlimited creativity to inflect economic pain on its citizens.

I refer to the government mandate.

All the government has to do to keep it’s political agendas alive is to mandate their use. Take Ethanol for example. The subsidies were removed in January 2012, but guess what? It’s still alive and well because the EPA has mandated that it be used.

In other words, the subsidies are still there its just that instead of paying it with federal revenue, the government is forcing gas prices higher at the pump so that you, subsidize Ethanol directly when you fill your tank.

But it gets worse. The EPA is increasing the amount of Ethanol that must be blended into gasoline. The price of gas will continue to rise since Ethanol can’t compete with fossil fuels for efficiency or price.

So just when you think you might be safe from government stupidity, check to see if the EPA is mandating that you pay for continuing that stupidity. All the EPA need do is to mandate wind, solar, and eventually electric cars in order to keep all the bad policies and ideas alive and well.

Ethanol is the poster child for liberals–simple mandate that people pay for their stupidity.

BMF on October 26, 2012 at 8:38 AM