Five key reasons to pull plug on wind subsidies

The production tax credit is taxpayer charity (sic) to the the super rich

A tax reform plan drafted in part by incoming Trump administration Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin bodes poorly for wind industry lobbies hoping once again to extend current federal production tax credits (PTCs) which are set to expire by 2021.

Now set at 2.3 cents per kilowatt-hour, the original subsidy intent was to “level the energy market playing field” by stimulating technology development to achieve competitive costs, reduce fossil fuel “climate pollution,” and advance American energy independence.

None of these goals are really any closer to realization now than when these subsidies were first enacted in 1992.

Here are some key reasons:

Remote possibilities with fickle trickles

First, consider that even gargantuan wind installations covering thousands of acres generate only small amounts of unreliable power. The most ideal wind locations are remote from large urban and industrial regions where power demands are highest. This results in large transmission infrastructure costs and power loss inefficiencies.

The quality of that power isn’t any bargain, either. Unlike coal and natural gas-fired plants which provide reliable power when needed — including peak demand times — wind installation output varies substantially with local daily, monthly, and seasonal weather conditions independent of demands. This intermittence trend favors colder night-time periods rather than hot summer late afternoons when power is needed most.

Texas, one of the most promising wind energy states, averages only about 16.8% of the installed capacity.

Shadowy backup juggling and grid balancing acts

Those intermittent outputs require access to a “shadow capacity” which enables utilities to balance power grids when wind conditions aren’t optimum . . . which is most of the time.

Anti-fossil energy promoters aren’t eager to mention that those “spinning reserves” (which must equal the total wind capacity) are fueled by the same sort of coal or natural gas turbines that those friendly breezes were touted to replace.

Second-by-second grid management to insure uninterrupted power transfer becomes increasingly complex and inefficient as more and more intermittent sources are added to the power supply mix. Fossil-fueled turbines must be constantly throttled up and down to balance the grid, and wind energy overloads produced on blustery days must be dumped when regional power systems don’t have room for it. This introduces big inefficiencies… much like driving a car in stop-and-go traffic.

Short on longevity, long on maintenance

A major study of nearly 3,000 on-shore British wind farms found that the turbines have a very short –12- to 15-year–  operating life, not the 20- to 25-year lifespans applied in politicized government and industry projections. The report also concluded that a typical turbine generated more than twice as much electricity during its first year than upon reaching 15 years of use. Performance deterioration for off-shore installations is even far worse.

The author, an Edinburgh University economist and former World Bank energy advisor, estimated that routine wear and tear will more than double the cost of electricity produced by Britain’s wind farms in the next decade in order for the government to meet present renewable energy targets.

Environmental and neighbor opposition

Along with high life-cycle investment and operations costs, let’s also add environmental costs to the mix. As with all other energy sources, many self-proclaimed environmentalists aren’t all keen on wind turbines either. A Sierra Club official described them as giant “Cuisinarts in the sky” for bird and bat slaughters. Nearby landowners are fighting them in the courts for un-neighborly human offenses.

“Not in My Backyard” (NIMBY) opposition typically arises from an aesthetic perspective where turbines and associated transmission lines dominate scenic vistas. Other local wind critics have legitimate health concerns about land-based installations. Common symptoms include headaches, nausea, sleeplessness, and ringing in ears resulting from prolonged exposure to inaudibly low “infrasound” frequencies that even penetrate walls.

Competitive free market fictions

The existence of the entire wind power industry depends upon federal subsidies. As Warren Buffett, a

big wind power investor has admitted, “[O]n wind energy, we get a tax credit if we build a lot of wind farms. That’s the only reason to build them. They don’t make sense without the tax credit.”

Production tax credits were first enacted to provide a “temporary boost” for fledgling wind and solar industries 25 years ago. That federal charity cost taxpayers $12 billion in 2014, amounting to around $23 per megawatt of power produced . . . about half the wholesale price of electricity.

This was about 50 times more subsidy support than received by coal and natural gas combined, yet wind and solar together produced less than 5% of total U.S. electricity. Wind farm hand-outs are even more generous when state and local tax credits are factored in.

No, wind is certainly not a “free,” reliable or economically competitive energy source. Nor is it a sustainable charity we can continue to afford blow money into.


About the Author: Larry Bell

Larry Bell

CFACT Advisor Larry Bell heads the graduate program in space architecture at the University of Houston. He founded and directs the Sasakawa International Center for Space Architecture. He is also the author of "Climate of Corruption: Politics and Power Behind the Global Warming Hoax."

  1. Brin Jenkins

    What we never see is the installed capacity and the contribution to supply. This would show the % efficiency obtained. Germany did produce a fig of 16% but that was considered exceptional with an average of only 12% from others. These statistics seem to be carfuly hidden to avoid critiscsm now.

    • Ralph Bynon

      did you not read the article?
      This was about 50 times more subsidy support than received by coal and natural gas combined, yet wind and solar together produced less than 5% of total U.S. electricity. Wind farm hand-outs are even more generous when state and local tax credits are factored in. Wind and solar need to invest in their own R&D to make them more efficient. I looked at solar and the cost was 25% than my current bill. The rep told me the tech for panels has not changed much in years.

      • Dano2

        …and yet total dollar amounts to old, mature, highly-profitable fossil dwarf those to clean, modern energy.



      • Li D

        I suspect a true apples to apples subsidy comparison is vastly different than your
        ” fifty times “.
        Uncertain of specific USA figures but world wide subsidies of fossil fuels in
        REAL terms is about USD Five Trillion per annum.
        Thats what the IMF worked out anyhow.
        I understand you are referring to a strict fiscal subsidy regimen.
        Im not having a go at you, just trying to add perspective.

        I note Larry Bell mentions bird deaths, which is a valid point on environmental grounds.
        Everyone loves birds.
        How many birds does coal kill? Surely a valid question on environmental grounds, but Larry didnt mention a figure.

        Li D

        • Li D

          Apologies for spelling and grammar errors in above post. Long day at work and
          teensy little keyboard on phone. Its an odd format here as well to write in.
          Li D

        • Don55Clifford

          The “subsidies” you refer to are subsidized fuel to the local population. They have food subsidies for their people, too. Just a form of welfare.

    • Pam Dunn

      Hey dano0; Been a total left winger moron, idiot and gullible fool long or just all of your life?

    • Li D

      Stop fossil fuel subsidies????
      You got some big goolies suggesting that at CFACT.
      Talk about kicking Peabody when their down! Lol. You big meanie!
      But its a very fair point to make
      and id be interested if Larry can
      validate existing subsidies for the various fossil fuel industies.
      Perhaps its a genuinely good deal for the taxpayer who gets more than he/she subsidises back. Dunno.
      Do a spiel on it Larry. A nice
      little fair, impartial, balanced, honest and factual spiel without
      bias or agenda.

    • Don55Clifford

      The only fossil fuel “subsidy” is for ethanol. Yes, get rid of that too. It’s not a forced choice.

  2. This one being the biggest and oldest reason why we must unplug from faux wind power.

    June 22, 2014 Shut down costly slush fund: Opposing view

    Export-Import Bank’s actions are nothing more than market-distorting subsidies. What do Solyndra, Enron and Mexican drug cartels have in common? The answer may come as a surprise to most Americans. It’s a little-known agency called the Export-Import Bank, a government-sponsored slush fund that gives taxpayer-backed loans and loan guarantees to foreign entities to buy U.S. exports. Solyndra, Enron and even Mexican drug cartels have benefited from these wasteful subsidies.

  3. reagangs

    I have often wondered about the cost of producing, transporting, assembling and maintenance of the wind turbines. From what I understand, some of the components are made in other countries, so, that leaves out the US work force. Expensive transporting, with conventional petroleum based fuels, requires multiple trips for the base, stand, generator and props. There is the issue of the massive Earth penetrating concrete/rebar base and the expensive erection equipment. All of this must cost a fortune and without subsidies, would have a ROI well beyond the life cycle of any and all turbines, if ever.
    The same with solar cells. Very expensive to manufacture with the complicated processing and environmental concerns of toxic waste products. Their life cycles are in terms of maybe a decade with declining efficiency over time. Again, without subsidies, their ROI is well beyond their life cycle.
    And to top it off, we hard working Patriotic American tax payers are footing the subsidies bill.
    It’s time to cancel all subsidies and future “green” energy projects and do a cost/ROI study without the tax payer subsidies. I have a feeling that many industry, lobbyist and politicians will be shamed for covering up the REAL cost of these boondoggles.

      • dje3

        ROFL. no way that oil based doubles every 22 months..not even CLOSE. Heel the cost of fuel today is 50% of 8 years ago. The cost of wages less than 50% of 8 years ago. The cost of metals DOWN. Everything is CHEAPER today than 8 years ago.

        If someone is telling you (officially or otherwise) that the costs are higher, then I guaranty you that is a LIE and that there is just a HELL of a LOT more profit and or executive income.

        Go do your research, stop just showing us someone else’s propaganda.

          • wally12

            @Dano: Either you ignore or are not clear in your thinking. If the subsidy of solar and wind are eliminated. these two energy sources will drop to only a few locations where either wind is constant or where the sun shines for the maximum time per day. Try making solar pay for itself in the Arctic where the sun shines only six months of the year. Wake up.

            • Li D

              Thats not the problem with solar in the arctic or antarctic.
              The problem can be easily surmised by why its comparitivly cold in
              the first place even during 24 daylight/summer.
              But i would suggest wind would be worth a looksee
              in both places for sure.

              • wally12

                @Li D: I have no problem if someone wants to build a wind installation in either the Arctic or Antarctic. What I object to is using subsidies of the US tax payer to pay for them. Solar and wind need to stand on their own.

  4. Lynda Van Horne

    We here in Ontario Are paying huge Electric Bills .We have these huge windmills and if they aren`t broke down only half are running. We are dumping power into the USA for free . They Cost millions and Millions to in stall and they will never pay for themselves in a million years. We have people here that have to turn off their heat now in the winter time. Because they they have to juggle their income to pay rent, feed their kids now. These people will never be able to pay or catch up to paying their hydro. They the “Government “have put on this added cost for hydro passing by your house which costs us sometimes twice as much as our use of hydro. They asked us to save hydro by not using it at peak times of day!! We did so well they didn`t get enough money to pay their cost of hyro??

  5. efred1

    The most basic and important question to ask about these ‘green’ energy sources, is: What is the lifetime cost of the energy source?

    Several years ago, I read a study that said that the lifetime cost of these huge windmills was $.35 per kWh. What do you pay for electricity now?

    • Dano2

      What is the lifetime cost of the energy source?

      Your info is old. And you should also know that the top ten states in Renewable Energy Standards have the lowest electricity prices and the cost of electricity rises slower than other states without strong RES.



      • efred1

        I’m not sure what these costs are; they appear to be simply $/MWh, and I don’t know if that takes into consideration the cost to build, put up, implement, maintain and replace at life’s end the total cost of production per kWh; it doesn’t say. Lifetime cost is simply that – the total and complete cost of using a power generating system over its lifetime. And it doesn’t take into consideration what do you do when the wind dies down, or is that old data? And solar panels can only produce electricity for at the best, twelve hours a day, not including fog, overcast, stormy days, or does that not happen anymore? Also, windmills are the single largest killers of raptors, i.e., hawks, owls, bald eagles. It is a violation of Federal Law to inadvertently kill any of these, but especially eagles, but windmills get a free pass. I also did not mention the noise generated by windmills causing mental and physical distress on a significant portion of the people living around them. And windmills are also causing local weather changes; they are changing the weather patterns downwind of them.

        The states that use RES have the lowest electricity prices because all the states are subsidizing their use, creating a false low on the price, like E10 gasoline, or better yet, E85. We’re all paying considerably more in our income taxes to pay for an artificially low gas price at the pump.

        • Peter Osborne

          With gasoline it is worse. not only do we pay more at the pump, but we pay MUCH more for FOOD, feed costs the cattlemen MUCH more because the food is changed to alcohol and then we burn it getting LOWER fuel economy as alcohol has only 80 percent of the energy by volume than does 100 percent gasoline. It is getting too stupid for words…..

          • efred1

            Not to mention the water resources needed to make the alcohol.

            Well, on the upside, the corn farmers were making money hand over fist.

            • dje3

              not the little guys, only the monster conglomerates really make the money. little guys can’t do it any more.

            • Dano2

              Biofuels were a ‘get midwest state voters’ strategy way back when. Now we’re dealing with the fallout.



          • Dano2

            Also, if you go into a bigbox or hardware store, you’ll see products that prevent ethanol from ruining your lawn mower engine too. Hidden costs everywhere.



            • wally12

              @Dano: Wow! I am surprised at you. I would have thought you would defend ethanol. There is still some hope for you.

        • dje3

          E85 and E10 take more energy to make the E portion than is produced by the fuel in a vehicle. In fact, if you care to look it up, the EU has banned such fuel production as not sustainable nor in the interests of ecology or society, not in the interests of food costs.

          Ever wondered why a beef steak costs 10-15 per pound when fuel is only 2.15 a gallon? Think about it. All the food used to “finish” beef is corn and grain products and we don’t make enough to provide for the need commercially because our corn is used making fuel instead of being food!

          You may want to look over Monsanto and its influence as well. The corn being grown in the midwest now is highly GMO (thank you Monsanto) and possibly dangerous to the entire planet…but Monsanto got farmers and the FED to buy into its program…add ethanol to our fuel….guaranteed income to Monsanto and no suits for what go does to our bodies…. and work for all without any need for it. WIN WIN WIN FOR ALL EXCEPT THE PLANET AND THE PEOPLE.

          In other words E fuels are NOT sustainable and again SUBSIDIZED by the fed and passed into law and required in Most of our fuel. This reduces the average vehicle MPG significantly over 12% average…. If you don’t believe me go find non E added fuel and run a few tanks taking careful fuel use records. You will be amazed at how poorly your vehicle runs on E added fuels.

          • efred1

            Not to mention the damage they do to older vehicles; a few years back, the government, along with some farm lobbying groups wanted to up the ethanol level to 15%. E15 damages the fuel systems of vehicles older than 2000; what is the percentage of vehicles still on the road that would be affected by this fuel change?

            Now, if this went through, within 6 months these vehicles would be rendered junk, and all of these people would either have to buy a newer car, or go without. The vast majority of people with these older cars could be considered the working poor, and cannot afford anything much more expensive than what they have, and maybe not even be able to replace it.

            There are roughly 253 Million vehicles on the road, with the average age being 11.4 years old. For the sake of argument, let’s just say that about 95 Million vehicles are 17 years old and older. Since many of these owners are in rural areas where there is no public transportation and there is over a 20 mile drive to and from work, they’re going to have to buy newer cars.

            What would happen with a sudden demand for cars newer than 2000? Their price will skyrocket, leaving many people unable to afford a newer job. And since they can’t afford a car, they’ll have no way to get to work, and be forced to lose their job and go on welfare, leaving the rest having to support their burden on society. It would also stifle the economy, because these people won’t be buying as much, and there will be a cascade failure of epic proportions.

            All because some educated moron in the EPA wanted higher levels of ethanol in the gasoline.

        • Dano2

          The states that use RES have the lowest electricity prices because all the states are subsidizing their use,

          Thanks, you can’t show that is true.



    • Kevin

      Another metric one should mention is the number of acres required to generate a given amount (e.g., kW-hr) of energy. This is a very important thing to consider when you want to expand the generating capacity as the population grows. (We only have a finite amount of land area, and as implied in the article, off-shore generation becomes much more expensive due to accessibility, distribution, maintenance, etc.) Wind and solar are astronomical in this area as compared to coal, gas, and nuclear. Central generation power plants generate large amounts of concentrated power for not that many acres taken up by the plant. As an example, four additional nuclear reactors are currently under construction by Westinghouse (Vogtle units 3 and 4 and Summer units 2 and 3), are each 1100 MW reactors, being built at existing nuclear plant sites, thus proving how capacity can be expanded significantly using existing sites. So, how many acres does it take to generate 4400 MW of power? I’m sure the environmentalists would not want to admit to that answer!

      • dje3

        That is a questionable statement. Land area is 2d. Wind turbines are 3d. We can “layer them” if we are smart. however it is a losing proposition no matter what at this time.

        Unless a company can contract the land, contract the sale of energy, build the turbines, substations, control centers, transmission lines and install and maintain WTG’s without subsidy as well as make acceptable return on investment then the entire process is a losing proposition.

        This is a textbook statement defining sustainability. The current WTG system is NOT sustainable, period.

  6. MarcJ

    California’s Altamont Pass wind farms, comprising about 80% of the world’s wind generation capacity back in the 1990’s, ceased to generate any electricity. In the best wind spot on earth, over 200 huge turbines were simply abandoned. Spinning, post-industrial junk which generates nothing but bird kills. According to the Golden Gate Audubon Society, some 100 Golden Eagles, 380 Burrowing Owls, 300 Red-tailed Hawks, and 330 American Kestrels (falcons) are killed by those now useless Altamont turbines annually. The July, 2008 study by the Alameda County Community Development Agency points to 10,000 annual bird deaths – from those once wildly touted Altamont Pass wind turbines now deader than those Don Quixote’s wind mills. Onward to the past! Backward to the future! Green energies! Renewable energies! Sorry, ladies and gentlemen, comrades in arms, friends of the environment – but I am thoroughly confused and will stop writing right here. Another 20,000 such wind turbines
    all across the country have similarly been abandoned. The company I worked for
    –Bechtel -installed those Altamont wind turbines; following a strange drop-off
    in output Bechtel engineers visited those wind turbines; they found up to 6
    feet of dead birds around each one; they said the stench was unbearable.

  7. Brad Gillespie

    I’ve always been suspicious about the maintenance costs of wind power — but have never really read or heard anything about it. That figures of course, since that’s really only negative noise for the eco-frignoids. I would not have guessed they have a shelf life of 12-15 years; that’s just absurd. I would have guessed at 25 or so, just to make some sort of economic sense. This makes none. This article actually says that nothing about wind power makes any sense at all. It’s a feel good fantasy of those who worship at the alter of renewable power.

  8. J T

    Comments, D(r)ano? Imbecilic attributes, maybe? Or just more plain stupidity from one so familiar with losing?

  9. Ima Denier

    Wind turbines begin to make some sense in countries where there is peak load demand in the daylight hours especially in Germany where there are many electric trains and gas, diesel and nat gas are almost impossible to acquire….

  10. dje3

    I was involved in building one of the first wind parks, 120 units at 50kw per. I can tell you that in the right places smaller units WORK and take little maintenance. The bigger the unit the more engineering, control, maintenance and wind velocity needed. Today we are trying to produce Mw equipment. That is probably the worst decision, I have not performed a recent cost analysis, however I would bet that it is cheaper to manufacture, install, maintain and manage 50 to 100 kw units and that the return on investment of energy would be higher overall. Hell, we used available parts from catalogues such as vacuum pumps, air pumps, disc brake systems, control systems ….virtually everything was available in the market place already except the tower, base, nacelle and blades.

    Bottom line, we could never have built the first generation without tax advantage, however the tax advantage should have ENDED when it was first scheduled to. There was NEVER any intent by government nor industry to have continual tax advantage (above normal equipment depreciation schedules). That is until the “Warren Buffets” of the world influence pedaled. The idea was to inject an industry with engineering ability not to pay for fraud as is done today.

    Don’t believe that Buffet is “just using” those advantages, I will pretty much guaranty you that he directed millions paid to lobbyists to assure politicians gave his companies tax advantage at OUR expense. Yes he will use it but HE and others like him abused you and me to do it.

  11. Waz

    There will be a stat somewhere that shows how many elderly and disadvantaged people die for each windmill that is erected.

  12. EDMH

    This article with its diagrams summarise the combined percentage values for all six nations, showing an overall analysis between Green energy and conventional generation:

    • green energy, (Solar, Wind power and Biomass), accounts for only about 8% of the electricity produced.

    • the actual installations were about 16% of the total in terms of installed Gigawatts

    • the capital costs amounted to about 17% of the total.

    • the long-term costs for green energy approached 25% of the long-term generation expenditure.

    • the burning of fossil fuels amounts to some 65% of electricity generation but about 52% of the longterm cost.

    • the 1.2% power contribution from Solar energy is minuscule in spite of the massive subsidies and the support of governments and the ongoing costs of existing world installation of more than 10% of the long term generating costs.

    • wind power produces almost 4% of total power output but costs more like 10% of the long-term generating investment.

    • overall Hydro power and Nuclear energy make up ~26% of the combined generation capability and ~23% of the long term costs. Of course these conventional technologies are dispatchable but do not emit CO2.

    • burning fossil fuels account for some 66% of all global generation and 52% of the longterm costs, including their fuel costs.

    • overall the use of gas-firing is currently limited to about 12% of all generation. This is in spite of its capital costs and long term running costs including fuel being comparatively cheap.

    If the reduction of CO2 emission were a desirable objective, the use of gas for electricity generation is very effective, as has already been shown in the USA.

    The spread of the Fracking revolution means that gas for electricity generation is likely to be available throughout the world at reasonable prices for the foreseeable future.

  13. Tuaca1107

    Oil is not a fossil fuel. It is renewable!! They tell you it is a fossil fuel so they can control who can go how far in their cars or stay warm in their homes or pick one over the other. Des is scumbolia!!!

  14. Hap Brindle

    Mid-American Energy did an extensive study of wind turbine generation along the ridge that forms the divide along the Mississippi/Missouri watershed. It concluded that wind power wasn’t feasible even though Florida Light & Power was collecting leases as fast as they could get them signed. It frightened Warren and his cronies that they might be left out, so they obtained even greater tax subsidies to make it profitable for the near future. Warren isn’t in it to create clean power, he already runs multiple coal-fired power plants. He’s in it for the subsidies and to lock up the land that his competitors coveted.

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