Buoyed along by "green is good" propaganda, big wind players battle with each other to capture a bigger share of your monthly electric bill. At its most basic level, it's not about stopping climate change, it's about getting rich by capturing the political market for green energy. Being first to build and secure customers makes a winner in today's wind war.
The amount of energy we use hasn't changed much over the last decade. While we have more electronic gadgets than ever before, they use less electricity. Power hungry manufacturing operations have been shipped overseas. Any gains are offset by increased efficiency and conservation. While traditional electric utilities are struggling, a new crop of wind energy peddlers have emerged to claim that they can shut down fossil fueled energy plants and completely remake our energy system. This isn't necessarily true, and the price to do so is mind boggling. We simply can't afford it.
While that debate publicly rages, big wind's internal war doesn't receive much notice. Land based wind is at war with offshore wind to fuel eastern renewable energy requirements. While offshore wind may be more expensive to build, it's conveniently located close to eastern load. And while land based wind may be cheaper to build, it requires billions of dollars worth of contentious new transmission lines to get to eastern markets.
Land based wind has enjoyed quite the hey day over the past decade, but populations near land based wind's most prolific locations have reached saturation. There's only so much wind our energy system can reliably use. The companies who struck it rich cluttering the Midwest with wind farms, and pocketing billions in tax subsidies for their efforts, now need to create new export markets for their product in order to continue shaking the energy piggy bank for all its worth.
Offshore wind has struggled over the last decade, with high prices and political opposition to local energy infrastructure. The east coast has enjoyed plentiful cheap energy for the past 100 years at the expense of states in the Ohio Valley, who were only too eager to plunder their own communities to become energy exporters. Now that the will to continue to foul their own nest has softened in the Ohio Valley, eastern states must look elsewhere for energy. What's closer and more reliable than their own backyard? Government-created wind maps consistently show greater wind energy potential offshore. Offshore wind has greater potential. "Offshore wind resources are abundant, stronger, and blow more consistently than land-based wind resources." The only thing missing has been the political will to get started.
America's first offshore wind farm is scheduled to go online this month off the coast of Rhode Island. And Rhode Island is reveling in the economic benefits of producing its own renewable energy, rather than sending its energy dollars out of state to import power from other areas.
The wind farm is a construction story, involving three of Rhode Island’s major ports — in Providence, Quonset, Point Judith — and more than 300 blue- and white-collar workers.
Jen McCann, the director of United States coastal programs at University of Rhode Island’s Coastal Resources Center, says the northeast is “considered the Saudi Arabia for wind.” J. Timmons Roberts points to the fact that Rhode Island imports more than $3 billion a year in fossil fuels to meet its energy needs. “So that’s $3 billion pouring out of our economy to Pennsylvania for fracked natural gas, or to Texas or Saudi Arabia or Venezuela,” he says. “Think of how many jobs you can make for $3 billion,” he says. The United States Department of Energy is already doing some of those calculations. In a recent report, the DOE has predicted the United States will have 32,000 offshore wind-related jobs by 2020 and more than 170,000 by 2050.
While offshore wind digs in a toehold, Midwestern wind ratchets up a hysterical campaign to capture budding eastern renewable markets through the building of thousands of miles of new high voltage transmission lines to the east coast. Calling themselves "the Saudi Arabia of wind," Midwestern states are eager to export their wind energy to the east and suction economic development and energy dollars out of those states. The Midwestern media continues to pump out propaganda insinuating that the Midwest is a superior energy source and that new transmission to export it will rebuild an aging transmission grid to increase reliability.
A wind resource map, published by the U.S. Office of Renewable Energy, illustrates the windiest real estate in America. A vertical violet streak down the nation’s midsection indicates persistent, intense winds concentrated in places like western Kansas, Oklahoma, and Texas. And a private company, called Clean Line Energy Partners, plans to tap that for electricity it can immediately transport to utilities requiring a bolus of alternative energy in their portfolios.
Clean Line Energy Partners, LLC — established in 2009 and headquartered in Houston — has laid out five 600-kilovolt, direct current power transmission lines across the U.S. CLEP aims to bolster our aging national power transmission grid starting with The Plains & Eastern Clean Line that's designed to deliver 4,000 megawatts of wind energy from western Oklahoma to the Tennessee Valley Authority for distribution to southeastern markets.
Eastern states are already thick with west to east transmission lines that have imported Ohio Valley power to load centers for decades. With a new source of power located within 10 miles of shore, very little transmission work needs to occur to interconnect offshore generators to the existing system and begin shipping power from east to west. The tricky part may be bringing offshore generation to interconnection points on land.
...Narragansett officials resisted plans for the wind farm’s cable to run underneath its town beach. Deepwater Wind, the company building the wind farm, eventually got clearance to send the cord under Scarborough State Beach instead.
Who's protecting consumer interests here? It's not the wind industry. It's not the U.S. DOE. And it's not regional grid planners. In many instances, it's the consumers themselves. Landowners across the Midwest are firmly opposed to the taking of their homes and farms to make way for thousands of miles of new transmission headed to the east. Opposition has delayed these bad projects for years and is showing no signs of weakening any time soon. But consumers in eastern states need to do their part, too. We should be encouraging and supporting the burgeoning offshore wind industry which will bring economic development to our states and keep our energy dollars at home. Let's end this wind war in our own best interests.