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Letters to the Editor

Wind support

March 26, 2012

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To the editor:

Congratulations to U.S. Sen. Jerry Moran of Kansas for requesting an extension of the wind energy production tax credit that expires at the end of 2012. In a late February letter sent to Senate majority and minority leaders, he and 11 colleagues appealed for a stable tax environment in which the wind industry can operate and develop.

I personally believe we must move toward renewable energy sources. I honestly feel a fee on carbon-based fuels is the quickest way to do so, but with private interests dominating legislative action on carbon fuels, it is probably going to take baby steps. Until we, the public, demand action on carbon, I think we have to let wind and solar incubate in the marketplace. 

This bipartisan effort lead by Moran, a Republican, and Mark Udall, a Colorado Democrat, is encouraging. In their letter they suggest that failure to extend the production tax credit could destabilize the industry before it can demonstrate cost competitiveness. With 400 wind turbine manufacturing facilities in the U.S., tens of thousands of jobs are on the line.  Stability will set a path for the wind industry to move toward a market-based system.

Comments

Ron Holzwarth 2 years, 9 months ago

The 'extension of the wind energy production tax credit' might be necessary if the wind turbine businesses are to remain in operation. It might be like the situation Solandra found itself in, in that once the government money ran out, they went out of business.

But, failure is part of the learning process, according to a former governor of California.

Clipped from: http://blogs.wsj.com/digits/2012/03/23/economics-california-gov-solyndra-failure-is-part-of-learning-process/

"(The following is an update from The Wall Street Journal’s economics conference, which focuses on the business of the environment and runs through March 23. For all the coverage of this conference, check out: http://blogs.wsj.com/digits/tag/economics)

“I thought failure was part of the process,” Mr. Brown said, speaking at The Wall Street Journal’s ECO:nomics conference in Santa Barbara, Calif. “Hell, I was out of office for how many decades? You gotta try things.”

Mr. Brown pointed out that the collapse of Fremont, Calif.-based Solyndra was a sign that solar-power prices were falling, which benefits California, the largest solar-power market in the U.S."

"Mr. Brown said there’s a lot to learn from the Solyndra debacle, including how politics influences energy. But he notes that Solyndra’s failure—which left U.S. taxpayers on the hook for more than $500 million—was “chump change” compared to the recent mortgage meltdown and financial crisis."


Do the taxpayers know that in many cases, their money is being used on experimental technologies?

It seems that at some of the most successful wind farms, about one in four of the wind turbines are not functioning. And of course, at the deserted ones, none of them are. There just wasn't enough money to keep them in operation, apparently. Of course they all could have been saved with more of the taxpayer's dollars.

To see some beautiful photographs of dozens of nonfunctional wind turbines, see the link below.

From Spiegel Online (A German publication), clipped from this link: http://wattsupwiththat.com/2011/03/19/the-reality-of-wind-turbines-in-california-video/

"After the industry’s recent boom years, wind power providers and experts are now concerned. The facilities may not be as reliable and durable as producers claim. Indeed, with thousands of mishaps, breakdowns and accidents having been reported in recent years, the difficulties seem to be mounting. Gearboxes hiding inside the casings perched on top of the towering masts have short shelf lives, often crapping out before even five years is up. In some cases, fractures form along the rotors, or even in the foundation, after only limited operation. Short circuits or overheated propellers have been known to cause fires. All this despite manufacturers’ promises that the turbines would last at least 20 years."

Ron Holzwarth 2 years, 9 months ago

At least one city is starting to crack down on the wind turbine problem. Clipped from the last link in the above comment:

"The permit allowing windmills to go in didn’t say they could sit there broken. Palm Springs is getting tough. If windmills are going to exist in the city they must be operational. A city that has welcomed windmills since it was first approached about them in the early 1980′s is finding that many of those windmills are no longer working and it wants them fixed. The question is who’s responsible for fixing them? Florida Power and Light (FPL), the owner of the inoperable windmills, was allowed to install and operate local windmill farms under a conditional use permit (CUP) stipulating if the windmill does not run for six months, it’s declared a public nuisance and without a hearing, must be abated."

Ron Holzwarth 2 years, 9 months ago

I am not saying wind energy or any other renewable energy source should not be experimented with. Of course experimentation is going to be necessary to develop any new technology.

But, I don't think very many of the taxpayer's dollars should be spent without serious consideration about whether the investment is likely to pay off. There has been a lot of discussion about how wonderful wind turbines are, and the prospects are certainly exciting, but a lot of money has been lost on them. In many cases, fortunately for the executives and investors, it was the taxpayer's money.

There are new and very different wind turbine designs that appear as though they may be game changers in the wind turbine industry. But, most of them look pretty strange!

Clipped from 'Popular Mechanics': http://www.popularmechanics.com/science/energy/solar-wind/4324331

"10 Wind Turbines That Push the Limits of Design"

Clipped from: http://oilprice.com/Alternative-Energy/Wind-Power/Wind-Energy-Breakthrough-Japan-Designs-New-Wind-Turbine-With-Triple-the-Output-of-Traditional-Models.html

"Wind Energy Breakthrough: Japan Designs New Wind Turbine With Triple the Output of Traditional Models"

Ken Lassman 2 years, 9 months ago

Ron, I think you protesteth too much. Kansas is poised to increase its percentage as a net energy exporter of wind energy and the tax credit will only help create Kansas jobs for Kansans. You make it sound like the wind industry is a propped up sham full of broken turbines, set up for tax breaks but no real benefit in terms of electricity generation, but the production figures tell a different story: Check the US Energy Information Agency and you'll find that over 3,754,000 MW hours of electricity was generated in Kansas by the wind in 2011. That's up from a little over 270,000 MW hours in 2005.

The average turbine is not designed to last as long as a centralized power plant, and yet its investment is a small fraction of what a coal or nuke plant requires. I drive my car for 10 years on the average, but do I expect that it will last 30 or 50 years? No. And back to turbines, they pay for themselves quickly in terms of money invested, and produce electricity at rates that are cheaper per kilowatt hour than either new coal or nuclear, so it's no small wonder that wind has been the lion's share of new installed power in the US for the past several years running.

A tax credit is a great way to bring federal dollars back home to boot.

average 2 years, 9 months ago

Ron? How many oil companies, car makers, railroads, and airlines have gone bankrupt over the last century? Must be in the thousands if not the tens of thousands. Were those thus bad ideas?

jhawkinsf 2 years, 9 months ago

I'd rather we invest in it, and then sell that technology around the world than have China invest in it and then we but the technology from them.

jhawkinsf 2 years, 9 months ago

buy, not but.
my brain says one thing, my fingers hear something different.

chootspa 2 years, 9 months ago

It just makes good business sense, doesn't it?

Michael LoBurgio 2 years, 9 months ago

Time to end Big Oil subsidies

The five richest oil companies in the world are grabbing record-shattering profits, and then getting a second payday in the form of billions of dollars in taxpayer subsidies.

In 2010, when 99 percent of working families were scrimping and saving, the top five oil companies sent their CEOs home with a total of $73 million in executive compensation.

  • Rex Tillerson (ExxonMobil): $21.5 million

  • James Mulva (ConocoPhillips): $17.9 million

  • John Watson (Chevron): $14.0 million

  • Peter Voser (Shell): $12.8 million

  • Robert Dudley (BP): $6.8 million

President Obama has called on Congress to vote to end government giveaways to Big Oil. Senator Robert Menendez has answered that call by proposing a bill that ends wasteful oil subsidies and the Senate will vote on it next week.

If you agree that Big Oil should stop getting help and start paying its fair share, please ask your Senators to vote in support of Sen. Menendez’s bill.

camper 2 years, 9 months ago

There are probably other perks not included in those #'s above. The big dogs like to get compensated via capital gains. I would imagine that stock options and other benefits would make those figures much larger.

Michael LoBurgio 2 years, 9 months ago

Tax break’s end is a blow to wind power in Kansas

Wind farm economics The Production Tax Credit was most recently approved in 2009 as part of President Obama’s stimulus effort, although it has largely been in effect since 1992. It provides 2.2 cents per kilowatt hour for utility-scale wind power producers. With the subsidy, said John Graham, CEO of BP Wind Energy, wind-generated electricity is competitive with the least expensive common alternatives.

Read more here: http://www.kansas.com/2012/03/11/2261041/tax-breaks-end-a-blow-to-wind.html#storylink=cpy

gccs14r 2 years, 9 months ago

I've got my electricity usage down to the point where I could easily run the house from a small wind turbine. If I were keeping the house, I'd put one up. The problem is that it's hard to justify the expense when I'm spending only $9 per month on electricity.

gr 2 years, 9 months ago

"I envision something like that used by Zarco at 9th and Iowa."

Now that they've had it for awhile, and since you surely have researched it since you are envisioning having something like it, could you tell us how many kilowatts it's generated and how often?

chootspa 2 years, 9 months ago

I have hope for solar roof tiles once the cost per unit goes down. I'd love to have the grid pay me instead of the other way 'round.

gr 2 years, 8 months ago

"In answer to your question, I would gladly get a generator on my property if the city would let me. I envision something like that used by Zarco at 9th and Iowa."

In answer to your question, I would gladly get a generator on my property if the city would let me, in a few years or even more so. I envision something like that used by Zarco at 9th and Iowa or something a little more efficient which I hope will happen soon and when I get 10+ grand of pocket change.

There. Fixed it fer ya.

chootspa 2 years, 9 months ago

Not really. I'd put one in my back yard.

Flap Doodle 2 years, 9 months ago

There's no paper over here. Could somebody pass me a carbon credit? (from a source)

tomatogrower 2 years, 9 months ago

So Solandra went out of business, probably because it was poorly run. Granted, we gave them some tax dollars, gambling they would succeed, but we didn't win the gamble. So, we are suppose to throw out all alternative forms of energy? Restaurants go out of business all the time, but people still invest in them. If you people give up the first time you fail, then it's no wonder some of you have so much time to comment on the computer.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 2 years, 8 months ago

There wasn't a single cause for Solyndra's failure. And the fact is, it failed for many of the common reasons that any investment, especially in new technologies, fails, regardless of whether the investment capital is from private or public sources.

http://www.wired.com/magazine/2012/01/ff_solyndra/all/1

"Anyone who has heard the name Solyndra knows how this all panned out. Due to a confluence of factors—including fluctuating silicon prices, newly cheap natural gas, the 2008 financial crisis, China’s ascendant solar industry, and certain technological realities"

Cant_have_it_both_ways 2 years, 9 months ago

Wonder how the wind farms will fare the first time a tornado visits them.

tomatogrower 2 years, 9 months ago

I wonder how your business will fare the first time a tornado hits it. At least wind farms won't have a melt down that will do damage for years. What a weird thing to say.

Flap Doodle 2 years, 9 months ago

Let's all jump in our Chevy Volts and go visit a wind farm. First to die in a blazing crash is a rotten egg!

SouthWestKs 2 years, 9 months ago

This is from the Central View of March 12, 2012..

Another rumor: Big Oil gets big tax breaks. According to the Congressional Budget Office, the tax preferences for all fossil-fuels amount to $2.5 billion per year, enough to run the U.S. government for about six hours. Renewable energy gets 68-percent of the tax breaks, fossil-fuels 15-percent, and nuclear energy four-percent. Twelve percent goes to energy efficiency incentives like Mr. Obama’s favorite $50.00 light bulbs, Solyndra solar that gave $370,000 in bonuses to 20 executives and went bankrupt, and the $250,000 per car subsidies for the failed Chevy Volt.

So who is getting all the energy tax breaks?? I will let you do the math..

gccs14r 2 years, 9 months ago

You're forgetting about the trillion dollar per year defense subsidy for fossil fuel security.

tbaker 2 years, 9 months ago

…appealed for a stable tax environment in which the wind industry can operate and develop. Translation: Continued tax-payer subsidies to prop up an otherwise unviable energy source. Were it not for the federal spending our country has to borrow money to do, there’d hardly be any commercial wind generators. Research “cost per kilowatt hour”, and research “net carbon footprint” per kilowatt hour to produce electricity with a wind generator. If you’re concerned about the environment, greenhouse gas emissions, climate change, etc, you’ll see that producing electricity with a wind generator is not only more harmful per unit of energy produced, it is financially stupid.

gccs14r 2 years, 9 months ago

Considering that once a wind turbine is operational its carbon footprint is zero (aside from maintenance items such as lubricants), I'd like to see what source you're using for your assertion. If we had to pay the true cost of conventional and nuclear plants, wind would be very cheap in comparison.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 2 years, 8 months ago

This is an example of why capitalism is unable to address the problem of global warming.

The so-called smart money is still behind fossil fuels, because that's where the highest quarterly profits can be found-- and that's as far ahead as this capitalist culture can see.

Looking five years ahead, much less twenty or fifty or one hundred years ahead is impossible. So, anyone alive in 20, 50, and especially 100 years from now will being paying the price for the choice of the smart money to make a killing now, even if what they're really killing is their kids, grandkids, and great-grandkids. Maybe they just figure that if they're rich enough, that fate will only affect other people's descendants.

Crazy_Larry 2 years, 9 months ago

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John Hamm 2 years, 9 months ago

NONONONONONONO! I'm tired of my tax dollars being thrown at "sustainable" energy industries so they can go out of business after handing those dollars out as bonuses. Take a good look around sometime "green folks" how many days of sunshine does Kansas actually have? I checked the web - Dodge City is the highest with a 70% probability of sunshine rating. How many days does the wind blow hard enough to actually generate usable energy? heck, I couldn't figure their maps out! It's about time to make it "swim or sink!"

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 2 years, 8 months ago

" heck, I couldn't figure their maps out! "

The problem isn't with the maps.

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