Is Big Wind just another face of Big Oil?
Much is said and repeated about wind turbines being necessary because of the evil effects of Big Oil on the environment from drilling, fracking, pollution, supplies running out, etc. But are wind turbines being touted to relieve our dependence on Big Oil or to get us further addicted?
Until recently, almost all electrical generation was being fueled by coal and nuclear, with a small amount of natural gas for peaking during the time of day when load is the greatest. So even though Big Oil produces all the natural gas, it was a bit player when it comes to electrical generation.
But then two things happened over a relatively short period of time. One was the wind turbine fad catching hold and the second was fracking, which greatly increased the available supply of natural gas. Since it is difficult to export, the huge supply of gas sent prices for it plummeting. Big Oil was not going to capitalize on its new treasure unless it could find a new market, and it had to be a big one.
Few people realize the output from wind turbines is very inconsistent; sometimes they produce a lot, sometimes a little, sometimes none. This effect is not completely overcome even if turbines over a large area are viewed as a single source, because there is a limit on how far you can send electricity and weather systems tend to be very large. The output can vary rapidly, and another form of generation has to be ready to fill in the gaps immediately. Coal and nuclear generators cannot adjust their outputs quickly enough to do the job, but single-cycle natural gas generators are well suited for this. So the net effect of installing more and more wind turbines on the grid is to require more and more of the remaining generators to be converted to gas (and away from coal and nuclear) so they are ready to back up the intermittency of wind turbines.
Wind turbines produce electricity on average about one third of what they would if they ran continuously at full power. If Big Wind is successful in covering the planet with turbines as it proposes, then it will necessitate natural gas filling in the dips in output. The net effect is the defacto takeover of two-thirds of our electrical generation by Big Oil, which produces the gas.
What could possibly go wrong at that point? Well, because fracking causes problems and natural gas is a limited resource, Big Oil could decide to decrease production and let the price rise dramatically. Economical batteries with only a few hours of capacity at grid scale are decades in the future. Since no other source exists to back up wind turbines then the price of electricity would go through the roof if the price of natural gas rises significantly. We could end up with affordable electricity only being available intermittently, with very high surcharges if you want power at times when the wind isn’t blowing sufficiently.
It is not uncommon these days to see news articles about how Big Oil is finally acknowledging how great renewable energy is and making big investments in it. Perhaps the real reason for them to promote intermittent output renewables is so they can take over two-thirds of a market that they previously had little participation in.
So, when you hear someone saying we have to build more wind turbines to get away from evil Big Oil, remember what is really happening. Big Oil’s marketing genius has co-opted the Big Wind movement for their own expansion and profit.
If wind energy was consistent and reliable as some believe then this would not have been possible. Whether you realize it or not, to be pro-wind is to be pro-Big Oil. It’s time to recognize which side of this the Koch Brothers are really on.