President Biden’s plan to install 30 gigawatts of offshore wind capacity by 2030 appears headed into the same dark Atlantic waters as the Titanic before it.
Last fall, Orstead scuttled plans to build its Ocean Wind 1 and Ocean Wind 2 installations off the New Jersey coast. The projects could have generated a combined 1.1 gigawatts of electricity. That would be approximately enough to power 500,000 average homes, at least when the wind is blowing in unpredictable spurts. In truth, it might have come to 3,500 hours of intermittent electricity during an 8,760-hour year.
Earlier this year, Equinor and BP deep-sixed their Empire Wind 2 project off coastal New York. This one supposedly had the potential to generate 1.26 gigawatts, enough for 575,000 homes — that is, as long as the wind blows just hard enough for maximum electricity generation, but not so hard that the turbines have to be shut off to avoid blade breakage.
Avangrid also sank its Park City Wind Project off Connecticut, which promised to deliver 800 megawatts, albeit with similar caveats.
That leaves Revolution Wind (off Connecticut and Rhode Island), South Fork Wind (New York), a couple of struggling projects off New York and Maryland, and the big Coastal Virginia Offshore Wind project. If it’s ever actually finished, Virginia’s installation of 176 enormous 14.7-MW turbines might generate 2,600 MW, again with all of the usual caveats.
These are all major setbacks for the White House and for certain self-promoting northeastern governors. They’ve been touting massively subsidized offshore wind as the vanguard of their government-mandated transition from fossil fuels to “clean, green, renewable, sustainable” electricity.
Now, the companies, politicians, and media resort to blaming “macroeconomic factors,” such as inflation, rising interest rates and “supply chain disruptions,” leading to “unexpected” cost increases over the last three years.
But there are some factors they don’t want to discuss. First, 30 gigawatts of capacity would require an incredible 2,500 gigantic 850-foot-tall 12-megawatt offshore turbines. It’s also barely enough to power New York State alone, even assuming permanent ideal weather conditions that are warm and windy, but not too windy.
As unlikely as that may seem, it all becomes even more doomed as team Biden and climate-obsessed states like New York try to force families and businesses to convert from gasoline cars and natural gas stoves, furnaces, and water heaters to electric models that will nearly double electrical demand. And so New York, all on its own, will soon enough need 5,000 of those 850-foot-tall windmills, in addition to impossibly ideal weather conditions at all times, to say nothing of what would be required to meet national electricity demand.
Wind energy is intermittent and unpredictable. So every megawatt must be backed up with reliable alternative power sources. But energy overseers are shutting down coal, gas and even nuclear power plants. In some places, they are even promising to shut down hydroelectric dams. That leaves grid-scale batteries for backup. In order to recharging them constantly, we would need to double the already-doubled number of wind turbines.
New York plans to purchase 24,000 megawatt-hours of battery storage; that’s barely enough for 45 minutes of electricity on a sweltering, windless day, not accounting for the increased demand that the push to “electrify” everything will bring about. Installing grid-balancing and backup batteries for the entire U.S. could cost up to $290-trillion — again, based only on today’s electricity needs.
No one in the Biden administration, Congress, the New York or Virginia legislatures, or anywhere else has a clue how many offshore wind turbines and batteries would be required to power and back up the entire nation under all-electricity, all-wind-and-solar schemes. It would likely approach a quadrillion dollars. Electricity costs would reach the stratosphere.
Climate extremists also ignore the enormous environmental problems involved. Offshore wind turbines require fourteen times as much in raw materials per megawatt as a modern combined-cycle natural gas power plant, yet only the latter generates electricity reliably and affordably and doesn’t require backup. Add in batteries and extra transmission lines for offshore wind power, and we are talking about 20 to 30 times more metals, concrete and other materials.
Extracting those materials would require mining at a scale unprecedented in human history. Copper for 30 gigawatts of offshore wind would require extracting some 65 million tons of overlying rock and ore, then running the ore through crushers, refiners and other processes.
Cobalt comes mostly from the Congo. Its production involves extensive child and near-slave labor and, like most other metals and minerals for “renewable” technologies, it is controlled by Communist China.
Toxic pollutants from unregulated overseas operations severely impact air and water quality. Their greenhouse gas emissions will likely exceed any reductions in carbon from offshore wind.
Offshore wind installations also threaten marine life. Climate campaigners say “there is no credible evidence” linking offshore wind farms to whale deaths. But even industry environmental impact applications recognize that wind turbine installations and operations cause noise that can interfere with whale, porpoise and dolphin navigation and communication, which may explain why they get disoriented, run aground and die.
In short, wind, solar and battery power are not the clean, green, renewable, sustainable or affordable solution they are cracked up to be. Converting to these technologies would also result in the production of insufficient energy to power modern societies.
These programs are not only likely to sink like the Titanic, but deserve to do so.
Craig Rucker is president of the Committee For A Constructive Tomorrow.
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