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Don Quixote’s Economics

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The world’s largest windfarm has just opened in the U.K. For all the tingles this must give to greenies and various other anti-human factions, in economic terms, it is tilting at windmills:

[taking] courses of action that are based on misinterpreted or misapplied heroic, romantic, or idealistic justifications.

An article in the U.K. Telegraph lays out the silliness hidden behind this particular mega-project:

The first all-too-common mistake in the glowing coverage accorded to the inauguration of this Thanet wind farm by the Climate Change Secretary, Chris Huhne, was to accept unquestioningly the claims of the developer, Vattenfall, about its output. The array of 100 three-megawatt (MW) turbines, each the height of Blackpool Tower, will have, it was said, the "capacity" to produce 300MW of electricity, enough to "power" 200,000 (or even 240,000) homes.

This may be true at those rare moments when the wind is blowing at the right speeds. But the wind, of course, is intermittent, and the average output of these turbines will be barely a quarter of that figure.

Still, that’s enough power for 50,000 homes. But what about the cost:

Our electricity supply companies are obliged to buy offfshore wind energy at three times its normal price, so that each megawatt hour of electricity receives a 200 per cent subsidy of £100.

This means that the 75MW produced on average by Thanet will receive subsidies of £60 million a year, on top of the £30-40 million cost of the electricity itself. This is guaranteed for the turbines' estimated working life of 20 years, which means that the total subsidy over the next two decades will be some £1.2 billion. Based on the costings of the current French nuclear programme, that would buy 1 gigawatt (1,000MW) of carbon-free nuclear generating capacity, reliably available 24 hours a day – more than 13 times the average output of the wind farm.

The greenies are making everyone pay 13 times the necessary cost for their indulgence.

Every green project is touted for creating jobs in some new renewable energy economy. It’s going to be a pretty small economy:

the developers say that only 21 of these will be permanent. These are thus costing, in "green subsidies" alone, £3 million per job per year, or £57 million for each job over the next 20 years.

Opposite the original story, the windmills are monsters. And our governments are lost in fantasies of noble purpose to defend them.


A question I must ask is how much should the U.K become dependant on foreign sources of energy? Their coal and oil sources are pretty much depleted and natural gas also is mostly imported. Nuclear unfortunately doesn't solve this either- the British Isles doesn't exactly have a lot of uranium deposits.Uranium is also a "fossil" fuel of sorts that will go up in price as more countries go nuclear. The simplistic nuclear bad/wind good, or vice-versa found in poor quality papers like the Telegraph doesn't help with the complexity of energy policy for economic basket cases like the U.K and U.S- especially as a lot of the economic problems stem from the faddish 'solutions' touted by such journals for the last sixty years....Glen.H

If you’re concerned about energy supplies and the rise in cost of scarce resources, exporting money to windmill operators doesn’t help at all. Every choice has a price, and with wind you get less than you pay for.

Wind is not a viable substitute or replacement, and it isn’t just a technology problem, it’s a geography problem. Wind is an unreliable supply at significant distance from the demand.

Improved reprocessing of nuclear fuel is the first thing that springs to mind as a better use for the resources wasted on wind. And although there may not be so much fossil fuel left in the U.K., there is still staggeringly huge quantities of the stuff around the world. “Dependence” is quite often an arbitrary line, used for rhetorical effect. Isn’t every customer dependent on their suppliers?