$2.6B offshore wind park “needs subsidies to be economic”

This Bloomberg Business reporter doesn’t appear to recognize that she is openly disparaging the London Array Project, and renewable energy in general, as incapable of competing without billions of pounds in subsidies.

As she gushes over the development of the London Array Project, listing various statistics about how many homes it will power, the companies that are involved, etc., she openly admits (at about 45 seconds in) that the wind farm would not have been built without these handouts from European governments (read: taxpayers).

Her exact words were,

The investors — E.On, Dong, and Masdar — were attracted to investing in the UK offshore wind sector because the UK provides subsidies for offshore wind; like nations including Germany. As a relatively young technology, it needs these subsidies in order to be economic, and they provide investors with long-term guaranteed cash flows.”

The problem with her argument is that wind energy has been referred to as a “new technology” for over a century.

A quick look at wind power, however, shows that it has been used since the 9th century to power machines for various purposes (agricultural, irrigation, etc.).

Human use of wind to generate electrical power dates back to the late 19th century. As Wikipedia notes,

In Denmark there were about 2,500 windmills by 1900, used for mechanical loads such as pumps and mills, producing an estimated combined peak power of about 30 MW. …
The first windmill used for the production of electricity was built in Scotland in July 1887 by Prof James Blyth of Anderson’s College, Glasgow (the precursor of Strathclyde University). Blyth’s 33-foot (10 m) high, cloth-sailed wind turbine was installed in the garden of his holiday cottage at Marykirk in Kincardineshire and was used to charge accumulators developed by the Frenchman Camille Alphonse Faure, to power the lighting in the cottage, thus making it the first house in the world to have its electricity supplied by wind power. Blyth offered the surplus electricity to the people of Marykirk for lighting the main street, however, they turned down the offer as they thought electricity was “the work of the devil.” Although he later built a wind turbine to supply emergency power to the local Lunatic Asylum, Infirmary and Dispensary of Montrose the invention never really caught on as the technology was not considered to be economically viable.

Interesting that over one hundred years after that first attempt at wind generation, we’re still hearing that this “new technology” isn’t economically viable (without billions in government subsidies).

Wikipedia continues, describing a larger American attempt that was built around the same time to produce electricity from wind. The project was initially successful, but …

The machine fell into disuse after 1900 when electricity became available from Cleveland’s central stations, and was abandoned in 1908.

Once again, more efficient, more affordable means of producing electricity were developed and, without subsidies to prop it up, the technology was abandoned.

There’s a not so “relatively new” French saying that was penned by Jean-Baptiste Alphonse Karr in 1849 that describes this very situation … “plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose.”

22. July 2013 by Jason Hayes
Categories: Energy, Marketplace Information, Utilities | Tags: , , , , , | Comments Off on $2.6B offshore wind park “needs subsidies to be economic”