Windmills Are Losing Their Wind

In 2008, billionaire T. Boone Pickens unveiled his ‘Pickens Plan’ on national TV, which calls for America to end its dependence on foreign oil by increasing use of wind power and natural gas. Over the next two years, he spent $80 million on TV commercials and $2 billion on General Electric wind turbines.

Unfortunately market forces were not favorable to Mr. Pickens, and in December 2010 he announced that he is getting out of the wind power business. What does he plan to do with his $2 billion worth of idle wind turbines? He is trying to sell them to Canada, because of Canadian law that mandates consumers to buy more renewable electricity regardless of cost.

On his website he says this about 2011-

We’re not going away. If I’ve learned anything during the many years of my business career it is this: No one has ever accomplished his or her goal by quitting or failing to meet and overcome a challenge. You reach your goal by hitching up your pants and wading back into the fight.

That’s what I’m going to do in 2011. And I know you’ll be with me.

Likely the market forces will have a say.


And in Spain a Slow Down in Underway

The Spanish Wind Power Association (AEE) predicted that 1,000 megawatts of wind parks would be built this year, compared to 2,459 MW last year.

“Just like every time legislators have modified the regulations (2004, 2007), promoters last year made an effort to execute projects whose investments were made in the light of prior rules,” an AEE statement said.

“While the industry has lost 5,000 direct job losses in the second half of 2009 due to canceled orders, promotion will really show the impact of unnecessary bureaucratic obstacles.”

Also in Germany

(from BBC World Service)

Germany is the world’s biggest user of wind power, and it has ambitious plans to build even more wind turbines.

However, some observers are now questioning whether all the investment in wind power makes economic sense.

Growing demands

Alsleben is a small market town in eastern Germany on the banks of the Saale river.

It’s a quiet place surrounded by rolling farmland, but for the past few weeks the people here have been getting used to some new neighbours.

On the hills above them are 37 giant wind turbines. Alsleben is now the site of one of the biggest wind farms in the country.

Close up the engineering is impressive. The blades for these wind turbines are longer than the wing of a Boeing 747 jumbo jet. They are all built in the shape of aerofoils to make best use of the wind, and can withstand wind speeds of up to 270 km an hour.

The site is owned by the US industrial conglomerate, General Electric. It is convinced that wind energy makes economic sense. GE reckons the demand for wind power in other European countries will grow in the same way that it has in Germany.

Cost estimates challenged

But a row is brewing over the cost of building the power lines which will be needed. Germany’s energy agency says this will cost 1.1bn euros ($1.4bn; £750m) or an extra 17 euros a year for each household.

But energy specialist Professor Wolfgang Pfaffenberger, of Bremen International University, says these figures are too low and it will be domestic customers who will foot the bill.

Wind versus conventional power

Alsleben’s new wind farm is designed to supply electricity to 30,000 homes, but when the wind stops blowing, the blades stop turning and the power output falls to zero.

Critics say this underlines one essential drawback: you can’t depend on wind for energy. Even if you build wind farms you still need conventional power plants in case the wind fails.

“We face many hours a year with more or less no wind,” says Martin Fuchs, chief executive of one of Germany’s biggest electricity grid operators, E.On Netz. “We can save only a very small number of conventional power stations. Most will have to be available to insure power is supplied when there is no wind. “

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