american wind energy association

Post image for Why Can’t We Get All Our Electricity from Wind?

Wind energy advocates often point out that a State, the U.S., or the entire world has enough wind energy to supply all of its electricity needs many times over. Writing in Scientific American, for example, Mark Jacobson and Mark Delucchi note that the world in 2030 is projected to consume 16.9 trillion watts (terawatts, or TW) of power, with about 2.8 TW consumed in the U.S. Total wind flows worldwide generate about 1,700 TW, and accessible wind resources total an estimated 40-85 TW. 

Based on such math, the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) argues, for instance, that Arizona has enough wind to meet 40% of its electricity needs, Michigan wind resources could meet 160% of the State’s electricity needs, and wind in Oklahoma could provide nearly 31 times the State’s electricity needs. Yet despite ratepayer subsidies, special tax breaks, and renewable energy mandates and goals in 37 States, wind supplied 2.2% of total U.S. electric generation in 2010. Why don’t we get lots more of our electricity from this ’free,’ ‘non-polluting’ ‘renewable’ source?

The chief impediments are wind energy’s inherent drawbacks. First, wind energy is intermittent — at any given time the wind may blow too hard or too soft or not blow at all. Second, wind is non-dispatchable. When Shakespeare’s Owen Glendower boasted, “I can call spirits from the vasty deep,” Henry Hotspur replied: “Why, so can I, or so can any man; but will they come when you do call for them?” Like Glendower’s spirits, the winds answer to no man. The wind is not ours to ’dispatch’ as electricity demand rises or falls. 

There are three main ways of compensating for wind’s intermittency and non-dispatchability — pumped storage (pump water uphill when there’s too much wind relative to demand; let it run downhill and drive turbines when there’s too little wind), natural gas backup generation, and wind dumping (idle the turbines when demand is low). Incorporating those techniques to keep supply in balance with demand adds to the cost of wind electricity, which is typically more costly than coal- and gas-generated electricity even without storage and backup.

What’s more, according to a new Reason Foundation/Independence Institute report, the storage, backup, and idling costs become prohibitive as wind’s share of total generation increases beyond 10-20%. [click to continue…]

Post image for Another Skewed Poll ‘Finds’ Voters Support Green Agenda

An opinion survey commissioned by the Sierra Club supposedly shows that Oklahoma voters overwhelmingly favor the expansion of wind and solar power and the phase out of coal-fired power plants. An obvious implication is that Oklahoma Sen. James Inhofe, the Senate’s leading critic of the Obama administration’s anti-coal policies, is out of step with his constituents.

This is an old trick (see my post on a similar, NRDC-sponsored poll of Michigan voters in House Energy and Commerce Chairman Fred Upton’s district). When a pollster asks leading questions, he can usually elicit the answers his client is paying for.

In the Sierra Club-sponsored survey of 500 registered Oklahoma voters, 78% of those polled said they generally support expanded use of renewable energies like wind and solar power, and 62% said they would support phasing out some of the State’s coal-fired power plants.

The Sierra Club’s polling strategist waxed enthusiastic about the results, Greenwire reports:

“The results of this poll are remarkable,” Sierra Club polling strategist Grace McRae said in a statement.

“Across the nation, support for clean energy is high, but in Oklahoma, nearly 8 out of 10 voters support expanding use of clean energy resources like wind and solar. Oklahoma’s leaders and utilities should take note: Oklahomans want clean energy.”

Okay, let’s look at how the survey reaches those ”remarkable” results. [click to continue…]

Post image for Ted Turner: Bass-ass Backwards on Wind

Media mogul and climate alarmist Ted Turner addressed the American Wind Energy Association’s annual gala this week. The highlight of his speech, as reported by the Huffington Post, was when he told the audience, “Let’s go out and kick their asses. That’s what they need, a good ass-kicking.” The antecedent of “their” and “they” was the coal industry.

Turner’s machismo seems to have been lost on the wind folks. The day after Turner called for an ‘ass-kicking,’ AWEA representatives held a conference call with reporters, in order to publicize their plea for an early extension by the Congress of the Production Tax Credit, the lifeblood subsidy of the wind industry. Without this ultra-generous taxpayer give-away, there would be no wind industry in America, because there isn’t a utility in the country that would pay full cost for intermittent, expensive energy.

Needless to say, Ted Turner’s tough talk comports poorly with the AWEA’s begging for a handout.

Two weeks ago, my colleague Chris Horner and I coauthored an oped about the renewable energy industry’s dependence on taxpayer subsidies. To make our point, we listed a number of examples of renewable energy executives warning that massive layoffs were imminent, unless the Congress passed or renewed green energy giveaways.

-Biomass Power Association President Robert Cleaves (February 2010): “Thousands of jobs in the biomass power industry could be lost if Congress fails to extend the production tax credit.”

-American Wind Energy Association CEO Denise Bode (July 2010): “Manufacturing facilities will go idle and lay off workers if Congress doesn’t act now” to impose a federal mandate for electricity produced by AWEA members.

-Solar Energy Industry Association President Rhone Resch (September 2008): “Unless Congress promptly returns to complete their unfinished business, the solar industry will suffer with the loss of 39,000 jobs.”

-Renewable Fuels Association CEO Bob Dinneen (November 2010): “Allowing the tax incentive to expire would risk jobs in a very important domestic energy sector and across rural America.”

Currently, the Congress is deliberating whether or not to extend a particularly generous subsidy that was established by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, a.k.a. the stimulus. It’s called the Treasury Department section 1603 tax credit, and it allows renewable energy projects to receive up to 30% of their capital costs up front. The Congress created this subsidy because the 2008/2009 financial crisis rendered ineffective the production tax credit, which had been the renewable energy industry’s primary means of remaining economically viable. The production tax credit was based on corporations having profits and therefore a tax liability. The financial crisis, of course, wiped out corporate profits. So the Congress included the section 1603 program in the stimulus. Now, the renewable energy industry wants to keep both subsidies alive. When it comes to government goodies, the more the merrier.

In this context, the American Wind Energy Association yesterday issued a press release that lends further credence to the point made by Chris and me in our oped. Consider,

TENS OF THOUSANDS OF LAYOFFS IN AMERICAN WIND ENERGY SEEN AT STAKE IN TAX EXTENDER PACKAGE

In the process of preparing year-end numbers on the industry, the American Wind Energy Association reports that tens of thousands of Americans could lose their jobs or not get called back from layoffs without the 1603 investment tax credit for renewable energy that hangs in the balance as Congress and the White House work to settle a tax package.

“We have people being laid off right now, and we expect to see more without fast action on the tax extenders now being negotiated,” said Denise Bode, CEO of AWEA. “The 1603 tax credit extension would help bring them back as soon as possible.” According to the trade group’s research, there are over 15,000 jobs in the manufacturing pipeline alone. “We are risking those jobs by not sending a clear signal that America remains open for business in wind energy,” Bode said.

The 1603 tax investment credit saved 55,000 jobs in wind energy, as estimated by Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. Overall employment has reached 85,000 in the American wind industry, as installed capacity has grown 40 percent in each of the past two years. Wind now generates 20 percent of the electricity in Iowa; and on Oct. 28, high winds pushed wind power to 25 percent of the electrical generation in Texas.

As Chris and I conclude,

Of course, it is only natural for aid-dependent industries to warn that they would suffer without the continuation of aid. Employing this circular logic, taxpayer funded renewable power has remained the “energy of the future” for decades. But American taxpayers simply cannot afford to subsidize industries that are forever-nascent.