How to make wind farms a worse idea – put them offshore

The Economist points out the astounding costs of building wind farms in the ocean – Rueing the waves – Britain is a world leader at something rather dubious.

England has over 1,000 turbines offshore. It gets more electricity from offshore than all other countries put together, according to the article.

By 2020, just seven years from now, the country is committed to generating 30% of all electricity from ‘renewable’ sources. Oh, nuclear doesn’t count in the calculation. Currently Britain is at 13% according to the article.

The cost of offshore turbines is staggering.

The article quotes an economist at Oxford, who says offshore turbines are…

 “among the most expensive ways of marginally reducing carbon emissions known to man”.

To induce suppliers to build offshore, the article says the government is guaranteeing providers £155 per megawatt-hour. That’s $250 for 1,000 kilowatts or $0.25 per kilowatt-hour.

I did some calcs on my current electricity bill.  Here in expensive California, I just paid $0.177 per kilowatt-hour (that is an average based on a sliding scale for different ‘tiers’ of usage). Most of that is for delivery of the electricity.  The generating portion of the electricity is $0.087 per kilowatt-hour. That $0.087/kWh at retail is in contrast to the guaranteed $0.25/kWh for British offshore turbines at wholesale.

The article says the guaranteed rate is triple the wholesale price of electricity.

Here are a few of the technical challenges mentioned in the article making offshore so expensive:

Ten-metre waves and salty gales are just two of the hazards that keep offshore costs high. Second-world-war bombs on the seabed are slowing new projects in Germany; in December Scottish Power, an energy firm, scrapped plans for 300 turbines on a site filled with basking sharks.

I mentioned the basking sharks here.

Article also says the offshore turbines are only generating electricity one-third of the time. That would be 8 hours a day. Conventional power sources must be in place to pick up the slack on a moments notice.  That extra capacity is another cost of wind power, albeit indirect.

Hat tip: Via Meadia – The Economist Rips Offshore Wind. Cost will continue to be high. At some point, the British government might want to ask themselves if this is such a good idea:

Britain may imagine itself as a first-mover in a potentially lucrative field, but it’s worth looking around and questioning why so few other countries have made the effort to invest in offshore wind. Unless and until the technology and economics of the situation change dramatically, these farms will remain a burden for the governments that subsidize them.

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