Waking Up That Wind Isn’t The Solution

Wind power, like nuclear power, has incorrectly been described as a key part of the solution to electric generation in the USA. T Boone Pickens, the famous wildcatter, had a plan to develop large wind generating plans across the central US. Back in mid-2009 he folded his tent, noting that there wasn’t any prospect of building transmission lines to bring wind power from where the wind is best to the cities where the demand resides, as I noted here. Anyone remotely familiar with the actual capabilities of financing transmission nowadays knew it was a fools errand, since routing a transmission line literally takes over a decade of permitting and routing is often very inefficient, such as in this case.

The Chicago Tribune finally awoke to this situation in a decent article in the Sunday paper, titled “Putting Wind Generated Power Where It Is Needed“.

In the near term, companies are opting to harness wind power closer to existing transmission lines, usually near urban areas, to avoid the lengthy and costly process of building new lines. Aside from pockets of strong winds in the midsection of Illinois, however, some of the most powerful wind in the U.S. stretches from the upper Midwest, south, into Texas.

In order to integrate and move that alternative power east through Illinois, the grid would have to be expanded and upgraded, say transmission experts and utility companies.

The estimated cost to move that wind power east could range from $64 billion to $93 billion in 2009 dollars and would require 17,000 to 22,000 miles of transmission lines to be built in the eastern half of the country alone, according to the Eastern Wind Integration and Transmission Study (EWITS) published in January and prepared for the National Renewable Energy Laboratory.

The Chicago Tribune even included a nice graphic that is in the post above; it clearly shows where the prime wind territory resides (west of the population centers in the Midwest) and the lack of transmission to bring this power to market.

“In many instances, interconnection studies indicate that adding a new power plant would overload transformers and transmission lines hundreds of miles away,” the American Wind Energy Association and the Solar Energy Industries Association concluded in a white paper published last year. “…Its owners must pay to upgrade all of the transmission equipment, often at a cost approaching or exceeding the cost of the power plant itself.”

While the journalist at the Chicago Tribune has finally stumbled upon the truth, which is that the best territory for wind generation is not located near population centers AND the cost and time of setting up the transmission grid far surpasses any reasonable possibility that this would reasonably occur, the writer fails to reach the logical conclusion of the situation, which is:


Thus, the reasonable conclusion is, we ought to stop talking about wind power in the Midwest and move on to more practical options.

Too bad that isn’t going to happen and journalists are going to keep talking about wind power like it is viable, because they don’t know any better, and most readers will keep reading it as if it’s true.

Cross posted at LITGM

20 thoughts on “Waking Up That Wind Isn’t The Solution”

  1. T. Boone Pickens had a plan to collect government subsidies, nothing more. He was rent seeking plain and simple.

    This article assumes that wind power is meant to be a solution for power generation. LOL. It’s simply a method to control the population by hobbling the production of electricity – and that’s only one method. In ten years, you’ll be begging your congressman to get your dying child bumped up on the medical wait list and scraping together money to go to Asia for treatment.

    On the one hand, informing the population like this is necessary to cause the population to revolt before it’s too late. On the other hand, the same population just elected the Orcs of Mordor to a super majority in congress and the Orc army just gave them the middle finger in response to the revolt against the Health Care Destruction bill. So, I haven’t much hope that anything will change for the better until the bullets start flying and we have another civil war.

  2. Methinks,

    Don’t be so despondent. Think how bad things looking in 1975. Things turned around in 1980 and by 1985 it was morning in America (everywhere but the oil field states.) We then had nearly 20 years of solid growth and we won the Cold War.

    America has impressive self-correcting abilities.

  3. Part of the transmission problem is the relative tax treatment of depreciation for transmission.

    A developer can depreciate his investment in wind generation using a 3.5 year MACRS schedule (Modified Accelerated Cost Recovery Schedule).

    That’s a gravy train for the investor.

    Investments in electric transmission have a 30 year schedule.

    For each $1 billion, as an example, the wind developer gets to write-off $286 million in year two of operation. The investor in a transmission line gets only $33 million to write off.

    For a corporation taxed at the maximum rate of 35%, that results in after-tax cash flow difference of $88 million to the advantage of the $1 billion investor in wind compared to the investor in the transmission line to bring the power with the wind mill to the customer. That’s $88 million that can pay dividends.

    Little wonder that T. Boone Pickens and other investors ONLY want to buy the wind mills and to leave the other expenses to others (ie the suckers).

  4. Shannon,

    I am despondent. I don’t know what 1975 was like because I didn’t arrive until 1976. In 1976, America seemed like the land of the free and optimistic to me, compared to the Soviet Union and Western Europe (which itself seemed so much better than the Soviet Union.

    Anyway, I think this health care legislation pushed the U.S. beyond the tipping point. Crap and trade, green energy – all of that can be rolled back. The health care monster is a permananent black hole.

    That said, you have no idea how much I WANT TO BE WRONG about what’s coming. I know that I’m not wrong about the intentions of politicians, so I hope I’m wrong about the patience and complacency of the American people.

  5. Tatyana,

    I think we’re more despondent because we know exactly what’s coming. It’s only theory to everyone else – sort of like the pain of childbirth without anesthesia. Only, it never ends and you don’t get anything for your pains. And the path the U.S. is taking leads to worse things than the depressing life of Western Europeans.


  6. Methinks,
    -childbirth sans anesthesia: check (mmm…should I mention cleanup after miscarriage w/o anesthesia, too? naugh, too graphic)
    -getting work exclusively through “blat”, or personal connection: check
    -not getting into a good college, even with excellent HS diploma due to “protected ethnicity” quotes: check
    -paying under the table for all supposedly free government services (in absence of private ones): check
    -losing trust in one’s neighbors, friends and family, since anyone might be a government snitch: check
    -developing an internal censor, as well as high tuning to “Aesopian language”: check
    -turning to drink for escape:…not “check”, actually, but I’ve seen so many dying before reaching 45 from it – it remains a solid possibility.

    Etc, etc.

    Yes, it’s only theory to anyone else. A good thing, on one hand, and unfortunate, on the other. I am afraid I didn’t prepare my son for the life that’s coming – could never think he’ll need that knowledge. It will hurt him more than me: I know what to expect.

  7. Joseph – good comment on the depreciation for transmission. I didn’t think about that but it makes sense.

    The real issue in transmission is that there isn’t a means of financing large scale transmission investments other than adding them on the bills of the individual investor-owned utilities along the way. And as we both know getting permits for this would take an eternity, even if somehow financing was obtained. It is a decade or more to get anything significant built, if you are working on it RIGHT NOW.

    No one figured out much of anything when we “de-regulated” (really regulated differently) and basically just threw in price caps but we ESPECIALLY didn’t make much headway on transmission.

    The only states that have a prayer on transmission are those that didn’t really deregulate – at least they can make rational decisions on a total cost basis on whether or not this makes sense – states like Wisconsin and South Carolina.

    As far as the other thread with childbirth… out of my expertise :)

  8. No, no, Tatyana.

    It’s part and parcel of our Brave New World! Fun for the whole family.

    Hey, you forgot to mention that first you have to have connections to get to the right person to pay for all of those “free” government services! What didn’t Russians turn to? Drink, drugs, sex – anything to temporarily escape the hellhole.

    Life expectancy is still in the mid-50’s. But, as one proud Russian doctor giving a speech in Washington declared – we have very low rates of colon cancer. Ha! If we can kill them off five years earlier, we’d wipe out colon cancer in Russia entirely!

    And, you know….it’s not even as much fun as you and I are making it out to be. That’s the sad thing.

  9. No, not fun at all.
    I just found this article (h/t to commenter on Neoneocon thread – didn’t know about the author before), Perspective of a Russian emigrant by S.Kunin, and I was nodding my head at every sentence.

    Sorry once more, Carl. I hope we, two yakhne, didn’t annoy you too much!

  10. I have been saying for a year if Obama wanted a legacy and his face on Mt Rushmore he would – instead of spending a $trillion on healthcare, would announce a plan to build 100 nuclear plants and associated transmission and distribution systems. Could you imagine the innovation and the industry which would flock to the USA if we had basically free electricity!

  11. For an American who has never traveled to Russia I am pretty well informed on history and culture there, which unfortunately is a low bar. A friend of mine dated a Russian girl for a while and I asked her about a million questions. Due to a background in military history in particular I know the WW1, WW2 and cold war history… I even know Gosplan and how the economy functioned.

    So it is interesting stuff and I learn a lot on these threads. Just not on childbirth…

  12. Carl,

    Here’s what you need to know about childbirth….imagine passing a watermelon out of your anus. Sorry to be so graphic, but desperate times call for desperate measures. Makes you wince, I know. But, until you experience it, it’s all theoretical. When you ACTUALLY experience it, you cannot believe human beings can survive something this heinous and it makes all the things you imagined it to be (bad as you imagined them) seem like cute fairytales. That’s the kind of daily pain you experience in the Soviet Union, only every day and without anything as cute as a baby to look forward to.

    Now, you are up on the childbirth connection. You’re educated, you’re well informed, you know people who have experience with it and yet you still have no idea what it’s really going to be like – and that’s the whole point. And you know what? I hope you never have to find out, because it turns people into animals and it’s not something I wish I had experienced and I’m sure Tatyana feels the same. I wouldn’t wish it on anyone. Except Obama – he’s just asking for it.

  13. Not sure childbirth is a great analogy here, unless you’re thinking of the Yeats variety:

    And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
    Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?

  14. MeThinks…yeah, I understood the point about unimaginable pain. There are lots of other things that involve great pain but *don’t* lead to a desired result at the end.

  15. Svetlana Kunin writes in Perspective #6:

    “Of course, it is not fair to compare our current American democratic leaders with the Bolsheviks.

    Yes, they both use the same slogans in their speeches.

    Yes, they both stir up envy and class warfare to distract from their failures.

    Yes, both political movements sought control of the banks as the foundation for their new egalitarian vision.

    And yes, they are both opposed to free speech, as was made clear by the reaction of American leftists to the recent Supreme Court decision.

    But you would never find a Czar anywhere in the Soviet government.”

    Thank you Tatyana for pointing out this woman’s work. I suspect Leftists behave as they do because they have too much self-esteem. Self esteem is a powerful sustitute for knowledge, compassion, and honesty – indeed it can replace every virtue.

  16. Back to the original issue, I see that they have laid out the high velocity wind regions, with a view toward generating power from that wind. I wonder if they noticed that their map neatly overlays that of Tornado Alley. Oops.

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