What bugs me about conferences and other wind-industry annoyances
As I approach my ninth year reporting on the wind industry, it becomes necessary to point out several things that bug me. Most of these observations are in the friendly spirit of self-improvement and they pertain as much to the industry as to things that surround it. Let’s begin with wind-industry events.
An enormous amount of effort goes into organizing events, such as the recent AWEA Windpower 2018 conference, and into lining up speakers and inviting attendees. Of course, the presentations range from dull to eye-opening. But the problem is that many of the best are never captured. A good idea in a presentation that never got to print might have saved a company or two from financial ruin. The presentations are heard by a few eager ears and then…vanish. At Windpower Engineering & Development, we have found it easy to turn the best of them into feature stories and columns where they will remain online for many years.
A frequent comment is that Europe’s offshore wind industry is 20 years ahead of that in the U.S. That is comparing apples to oranges. Offshore wind farms are outrageously expensive to build and maintain. Per megawatt, they easily cost twice that and more of those onshore. Those costs will find their way to ratepayers.
Europe is running out of usable land so building offshore there makes sense. To make their matters worse, the anti-atomic crowd is forcing a shut-down of the European nuclear industry well before its time. This punishes European citizens with excessive power rates, often $0.50/kWh and more on peak versus about $0.14/kWh (generation and transmission) around-the-clock in the U.S. (except in California). Those high costs punish people who struggle to pay their bills. In the UK, power costs are so high they are called the second rent. How is it progressive to promote such high utility costs? We should be happy to just learn from their mistakes. To Europe’s credit, it’s willing to share.
It annoys me to see useless comments in articles such as, “The turbine stands 12 stories tall and makes enough power for 50,000 homes.” Neither the height nor the power description mean much. Such comments usually come from nontechnical people trying to make sense of a technical topic. They are forgiven. Report, instead, the hub height, rotor diameter, and power rating. And drop the inflated house counts altogether. Such figures are based on a wind facility working at full capacity, a rare event. Also, the power-use-per-home is too low. For example, a recent 9.5-MW turbine was said to provide power for 8,000 homes, or 1,187 Watts-per-home. That is not enough to power a Vitamix. The nameplate on our reads: 120V, 11.5 Amps, or 1,380 Watts.
Another exasperating tendency is the lack of respect for tax-payer dollars. This should annoy us all. Solyndra is the prime example, although waste is still rampant in most government budgets. Recall that around 2011, Solyndra had received about $500 million from the DOE by the time it declared itself bankrupt. Was anyone from the Federal government fired for making that lousy funding decision? Was the check immediately canceled? It was breathtaking to read several solar-power advocates defending the subsidy. “So what?” went one inane response. “Companies go bankrupt all the time.” A few more recent examples of waste are here: https://tinyurl.com/fed-waste.
The wasting of half a billion tax-payer dollars should be grounds for dismissal. It is near traitorous to give short-sighted wind industry critics more ammunition for attacks. The loudest voices in defense of fiscal responsibility should have come from the renewable-energy industry, which was mostly silent.
On a personal note, I will be retiring with this issue and wish all of you faithful readers good fortune and high health. Keep up the good fight, too, for more home-grown wind generated power. The best of luck to all of you because you and this great country are well worth the labor.