For years now I’ve been arguing that wind power is excessively expensive, and doing huge damage to energy prices and economic competitiveness – never mind the damage to households and pensioners affected by high energy prices. Recently the wind industry has been claiming that its costs have gone down, and that they are “cheaper than coal”. If this is the case, it’s difficult to see why the industry in the UK is so upset at government proposals to reduce its subsidies. If they’re cheaper than coal, they don’t need subsidies.
There is a whole series of cost factors that the industry fails to take into account. Most notable is the cost of back-up. You need to invest not only in wind, but in back-up fossil fuel capacity (usually gas), for when the wind drops. Worse yet, the back-up is run intermittently, and therefore inefficiently. It uses more gas, and costs more, per megawatt, than would be the case if run properly. So the cost “benefits” and emissions savings of the wind turbine are partly offset by the inefficiencies exported to the back-up.
Then there’s the cost of grid connection. Our grid was structured around a small number of large power plants (originally coal). Connecting a large number of relatively small generators, geographically dispersed, is a huge task costing many billions. Balancing the output of intermittent wind and solar with existing base-load and back-up is another expensive headache.
Then there is emerging evidence that wind turbines degrade and become less efficient over time (partly because of the blood and feathers of birds that adhere to the blades). The industry bases its costs on a new turbine, and ignores the fact that after few years output drops significantly.
I’ve often quoted figures, for example from the work of Professor Gordon Hughes of Edinburgh University. But I’ve not seen a comprehensive analysis. So I was pleased to find a paper from the University of Utah which analyses these costs, and proves my point.
When I drew attention to this report on Twitter, I was immediately attacked on the grounds that the Utah University study had been funded by sponsors with oil industry connections. A typical alarmist response – shoot the messenger. They seem oblivious of the fact that the alarmist reports we read are funded by the Green Blob – often by commercial organisations with interests in “green energy“. It is notorious in academic circles that only true believers in climate alarmism can expect funding or publication or tenure. Science used to be done on the basis of facts – like the lack of global warming for nearly twenty years. Now it seems to be done more like religion – based on the consensus of true believers.