The following is from an article that appeared at the online Investors Business Daily, HERE, on February 24/2012. It has been slightly edited for brevity.
In the United States, abundant supplies of environmentally friendly and reliable natural gas are to be found in the vast resources locked up in the Outer Continental Shelf, the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, the Chukchi and Beaufort Seas off Alaska and in the vast shale formations that bless the nation. A nationwide boom in natural gas production is set to fuel nearly 900,000 jobs and add roughly $1,000 to annual household budgets by 2015, according to a study by HIS Global Insight, a Denver energy research firm. It is estimated that we have at least a 100-year supply of the relatively cheap, cleanest-burning fossil fuel.
To the 36 states that, like Massachusetts, have embraced what are called renewable portfolio standards, they will continue pursuing green energy sources despite their heavy subsidies, uneven and unreliable capacity, and the simple fact that you cannot store wind energy for when the wind is not blowing.
After decades of subsidies, wind provides only 1% of our electricity compared with 49% for coal, 22% for natural gas, 19% for nuclear power and 7% for hydroelectric. Wind turbines generally operate at only 20% efficiency compared with 85% for coal, gas and nuclear power plants.
With the Green Communities Act of 2008, the Massachusetts state legislature enacted a clean energy mandate requiring that 20% of Massachusetts’ power come from renewable sources by 2025. A prime source of Bay State wind power is to come from the Cape Wind project, an offshore wind farm that was controversial because it threatened to block the ocean view of the 1% ensconced on the shores of Nantucket Sound.
Governor Deval Patrick saw an opportunity to help meet that goal with the proposed merger of two local utilities, NStar and Northeast Utilities of Connecticut. His administration approved the deal on the conditions that the new utility company must purchase 27.5% of the output of Cape Wind, freeze its rates for the next four years, and distribute a one-time rebate of $21 million to customers.
That rebate turns out to be a one-time check of $13 per capita. Construction on Cape Wind has not yet begun, so a four-year freeze on electricity prices will lapse by the time NStar starts purchasing that 27.5% of Cape Wind power.
As Peter Wilson notes in the American Thinker, Cape Wind has already signed an agreement with another utility, National Grid, to sell electricity for 18.7 cents per kilowatt hour (kwh), with a 3.5% increase every year over the next 15 years. This wind power therefore starts out at more than double the average Massachusetts rate of 8 cents per kwh.
Wilson calculates that the 3.5% increase compounded annually means that at the end of the 15 years, National Grid customers will be paying 31.3 cents per kwh, around four times the current rate. Meanwhile, natural gas prices have plummeted from near $5 per million British thermal units per hour (MMBtu) last summer to around $2.60 per MMBtu.
According to the Energy Department, the energy equivalent of $3 natural gas is $18 per barrel oil. Natural gas would seem to be the obvious choice, not wind.
A 2008 report by the Energy Department’s Energy Information Administration reported that in 2007 while the average subsidy per megawatt hour for all energy sources was $1.65, the subsidy for wind and solar was about $24 per megawatt hour.
Daniel Kish, senior vice president for policy at the Institute for Energy Research, said in an interview with Cybercast News Service that “without government subsidies or mandates, none of these energy sources exist, they just simply won’t. … These energy sources are not as efficient as the sources of energy that the marketplace has picked and the consumers have picked to run the country.”
Massachusetts’ energy answer, like ours, is not to be found blowin’ in the wind.
And as the article also says, the “tilting at windmills continues”. For proof, the reader is referred to the proposed Mill Pond wind turbine farm proposed for Carteret County, NC, by Texas-based Torch Energy.