The Great Green Energy Boondoggle

by Jon Fournier | August 23rd, 2018

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The Great Green Energy Boondoggle

On Sep­tem­ber 16, 2016, Gov­er­nor Char­lie Baker of Mass­a­chu­setts signed an exec­u­tive order titled Estab­lish­ing an Inte­grated Cli­mate Change Strat­egy for the Com­mon­wealth. One of the main pur­poses of that exec­u­tive order was:

To fur­ther posi­tion Mass­a­chu­setts to meet the state’s envi­ron­men­tal require­ments under the Global Warm­ing Solu­tions Act, the Exec­u­tive Order directs the Depart­ment of Envi­ron­men­tal Pro­tec­tion (Mass­DEP) to engage stake­hold­ers, exam­ine emis­sion lim­its from a range of sec­tors, and out­line a time­line to pro­mul­gate reg­u­la­tions to ensure the Com­mon­wealth meets statewide car­bon reduc­tion tar­gets. In addi­tion, the Baker-​Polito Admin­is­tra­tion will work with state and regional trans­porta­tion lead­ers, and envi­ron­ment and energy agen­cies to out­line addi­tional steps nec­es­sary to develop regional poli­cies to reduce trans­porta­tion sec­tor emis­sions. The work will be con­cur­rent with efforts to con­tinue to lead on reform of regional elec­tric energy mar­kets so that power gen­er­a­tors can all com­pete to meet the state man­dates for clean energy. The state will also com­plete a com­pre­hen­sive energy plan that will enable forward-​looking analy­sis of energy demands and strate­gies for meet­ing these demands that include con­ser­va­tion, energy effi­ciency and other demand-​reduction resources.

With this exec­u­tive order they are try­ing to reduce elec­tric rates, along with com­bat­ing cli­mate change. Is that par­tic­u­lar exec­u­tive order going to pro­duce the desired results? The answer to that ques­tion is a resound­ing no. Clean energy plans of this type have been tried over and over again with neg­a­tive results when it comes to mak­ing elec­tric­ity cheaper. This arti­cle from Wattsup​with​that​.com doc­u­ments what the results would be when a North Car­olina com­mu­nity called More­head City builds a large solar array.

A 600-​MW capac­ity coal, gas or nuclear plant oper­ates 9095% of the time. Its actual out­put will thus be 540 to 570 megawatts – from 300 acres (or less): 1.8 to 1.9 MW per acre, reli­ably and affordably.

Wilkin­son would the­o­ret­i­cally gen­er­ate 74 MW from twice as much land. That’s 0.12 MW per acre – or 8.1 acres per MW. How­ever, North Car­olina aver­ages only 213 sunny days per year, and per­haps 9 hours of good, electricity-​generating sun per day.

Instead of 9095% effi­ciency, Wilkin­son would bring only 20% effi­ciency. The 288,120 pan­els would pro­duce elec­tric­ity only about 20% of the year. That is unpre­dictable, unre­li­able, less afford­able energy…As Solar Mania and Solar Sprawl spread, elec­tric­ity con­sumers would see their rates climb: from the 9 cents per kilowatt-​hour aver­age they now pay in North Car­olina and Vir­ginia, ever closer to the 16 to 18 cents per kWh that res­i­dents pay in “green energy” states like Con­necti­cut, New York and California.

The increase in elec­tric rates expected in this one attempt has occurred when­ever green energy plants are built. Here is a Finan­cial Post arti­cle that doc­u­mented a par­tic­u­larly dis­as­trous attempt to go green in Ontario:

Con­sumers watched their elec­tric­ity com­mod­ity costs dou­bled to 11 cents a kWh this year from 5.5 cents in 2006 — plus ris­ing trans­mis­sion and dis­tri­b­u­tion costs — with more to come in future years. The aver­age unit cost of elec­tric­ity ser­vice rose at an annual nom­i­nal rate of 6.4 per cent.

Why do elec­tric rates from green energy rise dra­mat­i­cally? Accord­ing to the same article:

Expen­sive wind and solar sup­ply needs to be backed up by expen­sive new gas plants that in turn oper­ate at a frac­tion of opti­mal capac­ity. The new capac­ity came at the wrong time of day or sea­son, forc­ing cur­tail­ment in which pro­duc­ers were paid for elec­tric­ity that wasn’t needed.

This Amer­i­can Thinker arti­cle explains in great detail the root causes of increased elec­tric rates asso­ci­ated with green energy:

With­out sub­si­dies, and in loca­tions with good wind or sun­shine, the cost of pro­duc­ing wind or solar elec­tric­ity is about seven cents per kilowatt-​hour. By coin­ci­dence, the cost is almost equal for the two tech­nolo­gies. These tech­nolo­gies don’t require fuel. Most of the cost is the amor­ti­za­tion of the cap­i­tal invest­ment. If an instal­la­tion has a use­ful life of 20 years, the annual, amor­tized cost of the elec­tric­ity pro­duced is essen­tially the annual pay­ment on a 20-​year mort­gage to finance the project. Seven cents per kilowatt-​hour is com­pet­i­tive with coal or nuclear and more expen­sive than nat­ural gas. But, unlike con­ven­tional gen­er­at­ing plants, wind or solar pro­duces erratic elec­tric­ity, that comes and goes, depend­ing on wind and sunshine.

Wind or solar plants can­not dis­place con­ven­tional plants because the con­ven­tional plants have to stay in place as backup plants to sup­ply elec­tric­ity when the erratic wind or solar is not pro­duc­ing elec­tric­ity. Although it is often claimed that wind or solar is replac­ing con­ven­tional gen­er­a­tion, it only reduces the oper­at­ing duty cycle of the con­ven­tional plants. The backup plants are usu­ally nat­ural gas plants, because nat­ural gas plants are agile and able to fol­low the rapid ups and downs of wind or solar bet­ter than other types.

The eco­nomic ben­e­fit of wind or solar is fuel sav­ings in the backup plants when backup plant elec­tric­ity is dis­placed by wind or solar elec­tric­ity. The cost of fuel for a nat­ural gas plant is about two cents per kilowatt-​hour. The dif­fer­ence, the seven-​cent cost of gen­er­at­ing wind or solar elec­tric­ity, less the two-​cent ben­e­fit for fuel saved, is a five-​cent-​per-​kilowatt-​hour sub­sidy for wind or solar.

Solar arrays and wind farms keep get­ting built even though they greatly increase the cost of elec­tric­ity. There are two rea­sons for this. The first being gov­ern­ment man­dates to fight the myth­i­cal mon­ster known as cat­a­strophic man­made cli­mate change. The sec­ond is lots of free money from the gov­ern­ment. There exists a 30 per­cent Fed­eral Tax Credit for solar and wind farms from the Busi­ness Energy Tax Credit. The State of Mass­a­chu­setts is work­ing on mas­sive incen­tives for green energy. These State Incen­tives are still in the works but here is here is a list of those that are expected.

What about the envi­ron­men­tal costs asso­ci­ated with these green energy arrays? The land for large solar arrays is stripped of all trees and bushes. How much CO2 is absorbed by all of the veg­e­ta­tion that once existed there? Isn’t com­bat­ing global warm­ing sup­posed to be about reduc­ing CO2? What about all of the ani­mals dis­placed and runoff into streams and rivers from the clear cut land? Envi­ron­men­tal­ists are strangely silent on all of this.

On September 16, 2016, Governor Charlie Baker of Massachusetts signed an executive order titled Establishing an Integrated Climate Change Strategy for the Commonwealth.  One of the main purposes of that executive order was:

To further position Massachusetts to meet the state’s environmental requirements under the Global Warming Solutions Act, the Executive Order directs the Department of Environmental Protection (MassDEP) to engage stakeholders, examine emission limits from a range of sectors, and outline a timeline to promulgate regulations to ensure the Commonwealth meets statewide carbon reduction targets. In addition, the Baker-Polito Administration will work with state and regional transportation leaders, and environment and energy agencies to outline additional steps necessary to develop regional policies to reduce transportation sector emissions. The work will be concurrent with efforts to continue to lead on reform of regional electric energy markets so that power generators can all compete to meet the state mandates for clean energy. The state will also complete a comprehensive energy plan that will enable forward-looking analysis of energy demands and strategies for meeting these demands that include conservation, energy efficiency and other demand-reduction resources.

With this executive order they are trying to reduce electric rates, along with combating climate change.  Is that particular executive order going to produce the desired results?  The answer to that question is a resounding no.  Clean energy plans of this type have been tried over and over again with negative results when it comes to making electricity cheaper. This article from Wattsupwiththat.com documents what the results would be when a North Carolina community called Morehead City builds a large solar array.

A 600-MW capacity coal, gas or nuclear plant operates 90-95% of the time. Its actual output will thus be 540 to 570 megawatts – from 300 acres (or less): 1.8 to 1.9 MW per acre, reliably and affordably.

Wilkinson would theoretically generate 74 MW from twice as much land. That’s 0.12 MW per acre – or 8.1 acres per MW. However, North Carolina averages only 213 sunny days per year, and perhaps 9 hours of good, electricity-generating sun per day.

Instead of 90-95% efficiency, Wilkinson would bring only 20% efficiency. The 288,120 panels would produce electricity only about 20% of the year. That is unpredictable, unreliable, less affordable energy…As Solar Mania and Solar Sprawl spread, electricity consumers would see their rates climb: from the 9 cents per kilowatt-hour average they now pay in North Carolina and Virginia, ever closer to the 16 to 18 cents per kWh that residents pay in “green energy” states like Connecticut, New York and California.

The increase in electric rates expected in this one attempt has occurred whenever green energy plants are built.  Here is a Financial Post article that documented a particularly disastrous attempt to go green in Ontario:

Consumers watched their electricity commodity costs doubled to 11 cents a kWh this year from 5.5 cents in 2006 — plus rising transmission and distribution costs — with more to come in future years. The average unit cost of electricity service rose at an annual nominal rate of 6.4 per cent.

Why do electric rates from green energy rise dramatically?  According to the same article:

Expensive wind and solar supply needs to be backed up by expensive new gas plants that in turn operate at a fraction of optimal capacity. The new capacity came at the wrong time of day or season, forcing curtailment in which producers were paid for electricity that wasn’t needed.

This American Thinker article explains in great detail the root causes of increased electric rates associated with green energy:

Without subsidies, and in locations with good wind or sunshine, the cost of producing wind or solar electricity is about seven cents per kilowatt-hour.  By coincidence, the cost is almost equal for the two technologies.  These technologies don’t require fuel.  Most of the cost is the amortization of the capital investment.  If an installation has a useful life of 20 years, the annual, amortized cost of the electricity produced is essentially the annual payment on a 20-year mortgage to finance the project.  Seven cents per kilowatt-hour is competitive with coal or nuclear and more expensive than natural gas.  But, unlike conventional generating plants, wind or solar produces erratic electricity, that comes and goes, depending on wind and sunshine.

Wind or solar plants cannot displace conventional plants because the conventional plants have to stay in place as backup plants to supply electricity when the erratic wind or solar is not producing electricity.  Although it is often claimed that wind or solar is replacing conventional generation, it only reduces the operating duty cycle of the conventional plants.  The backup plants are usually natural gas plants, because natural gas plants are agile and able to follow the rapid ups and downs of wind or solar better than other types.

The economic benefit of wind or solar is fuel savings in the backup plants when backup plant electricity is displaced by wind or solar electricity.  The cost of fuel for a natural gas plant is about two cents per kilowatt-hour.  The difference, the seven-cent cost of generating wind or solar electricity, less the two-cent benefit for fuel saved, is a five-cent-per-kilowatt-hour subsidy for wind or solar.

Solar arrays and wind farms keep getting built even though they greatly increase the cost of electricity.   There are two reasons for this.  The first being government mandates to fight the mythical monster known as catastrophic manmade climate change.  The second is lots of free money from the government.  There exists a 30 percent Federal Tax Credit for solar and wind farms from the Business Energy Tax Credit.  The State of Massachusetts is working on massive incentives for green energy.  These State Incentives are still in the works but here is here is a list of those that are expected.

What about the environmental costs associated with these green energy arrays?  The land for large solar arrays is stripped of all trees and bushes.  How much CO2 is absorbed by all of the vegetation that once existed there?  Isn’t combating global warming supposed to be about reducing CO2?  What about all of the animals displaced and runoff into streams and rivers from the clear cut land?  Environmentalists are strangely silent on all of this.

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