Breaking wind power myths

You already know that wind power falls well short of its advocates’ hopes, but the latest National Review offers more evidence:

Britain’s experience with wind power illustrates how engineering truths always triumph over green dreams. Proponents admit that erecting the turbines and other necessary equipment is expensive, but say that once installed, it generates clean energy with no fuel costs and no carbon emissions: a windfall, so to speak. The problem is that the wind bloweth where it listeth, not to mention when it listeth, and if there is no wind, you have to replace the lost power with something else. So Britain’s largest power company is set to build 17 natural-gas generating plants, at a total cost of 10 billion pounds, for the specific purpose of backing up wind generation. This makes windmill power even less economical. Still, if it doesn’t save money, at least it will reduce carbo emissions, right? Not so, it turns out. To be available at a moment’s notice, gas generators need to run on standby — burning fuel but producing no power — 24 hours a day, and the emissions from this more than outweigh the savings from using wind. So eve accepting the environmentalists’ most optimistic estimates and most dire assumptions, wind power doesn’t make sense as anything except a feel-good measure for sentimental greens.

Mitch Kokai / Senior Political Analyst

Mitch Kokai is senior political analyst for the John Locke Foundation. He joined JLF in December 2005 as director of communications. That followed more than four years as chie...

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