Dienstag, Januar 29, 2008

Wind Power Redux...And A Return To The Planned Economy?

Christian Bartsch, who writes for the FAZ, has an article here, unfortunately behind the "pay me" firewall.

It's an important piece, albeit short, as it dismantles the idea that wind power is an alternative energy source.

Put simply: Germany, right now, has an installed base of 21.5 Gigawatt (21500 Megawatt) of wind power. Bartsch took the trouble of taking a look at what that installed base actually generated, and it is, put very bluntly, pathetic.

The industry itself calculates that you can only "count" on the installed base providing an average of 10%, i.e. from 21500 MW down to 2150 MW. But this is highly misleading: if you take a look at the real performance for October, you get two days - that's 2, the number between 1 and 3 - where, for a few hours, 1/3rd of the installed base actually delivered electricity, and another 2 days where ca 20% of the installed base was generated. The rest of the time? Under 20%, and there were several days where no electricity was generated, either because it was too windy or not windy enough.

This was even worse during the transition from 2007 to 2008: on 29 Dec., for a few brief minutes - !!! - 50% of the installed base generated electricity, after that a sharp decline to virtually nothing as weather inversions kept winds down. There was a jump on 2 Jan, but the windmills had to be closed down because a storm was brewing on the North Sea, resulting in zero energy being generated.

Now, this fairly pathetic performance is going to get worse: current installation plans call for another 3100 MW capacity to be installed by 2012 alone in the North Sea, with 10 wind farms with 660 wind mills. Since these are off-shore, they have to be cabled: 1900 km (!) of cable will have to be installed. Since installing such cable in the North Sea costs close to € 8 mn/km, this is ... ca € 15'000 mn, just for the cable alone.

In order to pay for this, wind energy is paid for with a 30% additional fee on the average cost of a generated kWh. Since more wind power is due to be installed, this means that energy prices, for Germany, will continue to climb regardless of the price of oil or coal.

Given that Germany is supposed to turn off its nuclear and coal-powered plants in 2020, this also means that Germany will have to import energy, with the enormous irony that this energy will come from French and Czech nuclear power plants.

Bartsch also looks at some of the alternatives: sun energy, for instance, costs the German consumers 50 cents per kWh, and even the German environmental minister acknowledges that sun energy in Germany is a dead-end street.

But what are the alternatives?

Biomasse costs 14 cents per kWh; wind power - when it deigns to deliver - 9 c/kWh; burning garbage is 6 c/kWh.

Coal? Lignite or brown coal is 2.5 c/kWh, as is nuclear; hard coal is 5 c/kWh. Sure, the purported "commons costs" are not included here, but the costs of current standards for air cleanliness and the like are.

Renewable energy is raising the costs of energy and reducing living standards in Germany, since sharply increasing energy costs means that you have to spend money on energy, rather than on consumption of other goods.

But there is something more important, and fundamentally more sinister, going on here, as Bartsch points out:

This points, to a large extent, to the end of energy markets in Germany, if not throughout Europe. The principles of supply and demand are being systematically dismantled.

If wind energy were even fractionally as promising as the wind energy fanatics would have you believe, then why are there no wind-powered ships on the oceans? They were abandoned the moment that steam-powered ships made it clear that shipping was no longer dependent on the vagaries of the wind.

The same is true for electrical energy generation: wind energy is simply to flighty and unstable to be truly considered an alternative.

The real problem is that this is now being regulated by law. The Renewable Energy Act in Germany (Erneuerbare Energiegesetz or EEG) is dismantling the free markets, replacing them with regulations and control mechanisms with punishment for failing to break the laws of physics.

Germany, one of the strongest economies in the world, an industrial country with 82mn population and a very high standard of living, is, via laws like the EEG, driven by politicians whose ignorance of the natural sciences is more than outweighed by their quasi-religious belief that they are going to be viewed by future generations as the saviors of mankind, is on the best way to becoming the first planned economy of the 21st century.

And that despite the obvious failure of any and all planned economies. People have a way of finding the loopholes to exploit the system.

And more fundamentally, I find it bizarre and a clear sign of a complete and total ahistoricity that this is even a topic for discussion. Climbing energy prices means that food will become more expensive and that the German industry will increase its move overseas to more conducive environments.

The environmentalists are increasingly watermelons: green on the outside, red inside. As I've said before, it's all about control: if they can't control the economies directly, they will do it indirectly, with, as far as I am concerned, a single goal.


But for what?

Nothing less than becoming a permanent parasite. These watermelons aim at becoming the tapeworm in the belly of capitalism, taking the best nutrients and passing on the remnants to the host, of thriving and spawning at the cost of the host becoming lethargic and apathetic. These watermelons aren't interested in raising the standards of living and improving the lot of the common man: they hold up the chimera of future generations and demand their wergeld.

PS: just saw that a total of 15 off-shore wind parks have been approved for the North Sea and 3 in the Baltic; installed capacity of 6'000 MW with a total of 1200 wind mills @ 5 MW... all of which makes the waste involved even worse.


Scott hat gesagt…

I personally think all the windmills are a huge eyesore. They absolutely destroy the beauty of the German countryside, IMO. I'm amazed that more Germans don't feel the same way. Especially, since it's no secret that they are a lousy alternative source of energy.

John F. Opie hat gesagt…

Hi -

Agree whole heartedly.

I always ask, when someone touts wind power, why they want to install so many fans. Is the countryside so hot that they want to use fans to cool things down? Wouldn't an air conditioner work better?