Wind project should be reconsidered



Dear Editor:

This is an open letter to Governor Janet Mills.

Dear Governor:

It is my considered opinion that Maine needs to re-examine the value and merit of the Aqua Ventus Offshore Wind Project with an anticipated capacity of 12 megawatts of electric power.

While admittedly this is among the smallest planned wind projects, its construction and operation will make no meaningful contribution to reduction in U.S. emissions of greenhouse gasses, nor will it have any measurable impacts on world climate.

All it will do is significantly raise the cost of electricity to Mainers, by perhaps a very significant amount, resulting in lower economic growth, and folks who are worse off, by forcibly transferring dollars from consumers and taxpayers to developers of renewables.

The reference for this note is a report by the Manhattan Institute of Aug. 25, 2020, by Jonathan A. Lesser, titled “Out to Sea: The Dismal Economics of Offshore Wind.” (https://www.manhattan-institute.org/dismal-economicsooffshore-wind-energy).

As the paper shows, the arguments made on behalf of offshore wind are invalid. It is not cost-effective, and the forecasts of rapidly declining costs via increasing economies of scale are unrealistic. Subsidies and the need for additional transmission infrastructure and backup supplies of electricity will increase the cost of electric power and reduce economic growth.

Based on European experience, it seems like wind turbines degrade rapidly, and the turbines do not nearly last to their projected life span, perhaps only half. Essentially this means that the costs of a gas-fired combined-cycle power system may be half the cost of offshore wind generation.

One large-scale study of changes in wind turbine output over time was done by Gordon Hughes (2012) of Onshore wind farms in Britain and Denmark, and found that the average output to its stated capacity fell from 40 percent when the units were new to less than 15 percent after 9-10 years. An update to that study on newer larger offshore wind turbines was just half the initial output in 10 years. The performance of newer, much larger, turbines was worse than that of the older ones. Plus, Hughes’ study shows that the likelihood of major outages lasting at least one month increases by at least 10 percent per year. Of course, this means the lost output must be replaced, requiring increased generating capacity held in reserve, and obviously higher costs paid by consumer.

The study shows the Maine Aqua Ventus project will have a real levelized cost ranging from $138.68/MWh to $327.70/MWh (2019$). Compare this to gas-fired combined-cycle generating units with an average price of $38.07/MWh (2019$), a factor of at least one-third that of wind.

Add to these concerns, the increasing grid-related costs to support offshore wind systems, and these costs would be ~$20.51/MWh if offshore wind accounted for 10 percent of the total electricity supply, which compares to just 51 cents/MWh for grid-supported cost of natural gas-fired generators.

So, it may be time to re-evaluate the need for renewable energy, be it offshore or onshore wind, or solar.

Tom Rolfes

Somesville and Cincinnati, Ohio

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