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Will Ireland's Wind Energy Export Plan Work?

Willem Post's picture
President Willem Post Energy Consuling

Willem Post, BSME'63 New Jersey Institute of Technology, MSME'66 Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, MBA'75, University of Connecticut. P.E. Connecticut. Consulting Engineer and Project Manager....

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  • Jul 30, 2012

Ireland’s long-term plan is to reduce its dependence on imported gas for producing energy. As wind speeds in Ireland are among the best in Europe, it has built about 2,000 MW (end of March 2012) of wind turbines during the past 10 years to supply energy to the Irish grid which uses gas turbine plants to balance the wind energy. Very little of this energy is exported to the UK.




The export of wind energy is about to change, because Element Power, a wind turbine project investor/developer, has made a proposal to locate 3,000 MW of wind turbines, say 1,000 @ 3 MW each, arranged in ten 300 MW clusters of 100 wind turbines each, in the Irish Midlands by the end of 2018.


The wind turbines would be about 459-ft tall and have 373-ft diameter rotors. The wind turbine clusters would be in the counties of Meath, Westmeath, Laois, Offaly and Kildare. All of the wind energy would be exported to the UK. 


Element Power estimated the useful service life of the proposed system at 25 years. Element Power stated the proposed system would be entirely independent of the Irish grid.


The wind turbines would be tied together with several hundred kilometers of underground cables for connection to two 2,500 MW HVDC cables under the Irish Sea to two points, Pentir, North Wales, and Pembroke, South Wales, to enable the UK to import 3,000 MW x 8,760 hr/yr x overall capacity factor (after all losses) 0.33 = 8,672,400 MWh/yr of variable, intermittent wind energy; there would be additional losses within the UK. The wind energy balancing would be performed in the UK. The grid in Wales would need to be modified to accept up to 2,500 MW at either connection in the event of an HVDC cable outage.


Note: This proposal would not reduce Ireland’s dependence on imported gas. It would provide a few hundred permanent jobs, but permanently blight the landscape with several hundred kilometers of new maintenance and emergency vehicle access roads to every wind turbine, and adversely affect the scenic beauty and quality of life of the Midlands.


Project Capital Cost and Completion Date: Element Power claims an estimated total project cost of 8 billion euro and claims a completion date by the end of 2018. This estimate appears low compared to similar projects in the US. See URL.


– Wind turbine plants, roads, tie-ins to transmission systems = 3,000 MW x 1,800,000 euro/MW = 5.4 billion euro.

– HVDC system from Irish Midlands, via Irish Sea, to Wales = 2.6 billion euro.


Element Power does not mention the levelized (owning + O&M) cost of:


– reinforcing the Wales onshore grid to take the additional energy and, 

– the UK OCGT/CCGT wind energy balancing operations, etc. 


Likely, they will be “by others”, i.e., UK rate payers.


Comparison With US Great Plains Wind Energy: The Greenwire project can be compared with a NREL/US DOE proposal to transmit US Great Plains wind energy to population centers on the US East and West Coasts.


The Great Plains are sparsely populated and have excellent wind speeds that enable an overall capacity factor of about 0.38, as measured at the wind turbine, and of about 0.28 after all losses to the point of consumption, to yield a quantity of energy arriving at consumers of 300,000 MW x 8,760 hr/yr x  0.28 = 736 TWh/yr, about 19.4% of annual US consumption in 2011.


The wind energy balancing would be performed on the coasts. Most of the wind turbines would be on easily-accessable farmlands. The wiring to collect the wind energy from each wind turbine would be mostly underground to minimize impacts on farming operations. The wind energy would be transmitted for 1,500 – 2,000 miles with multiple above-ground HVDC lines on 135-ft tall towers. The coast grids would need to be modified with the addition of north-south trunk lines to accept the power at several points for distribution to existing grids. These north-south trunk lines would also accept power from any offshore IWT systems on the East Coast.


If 736 TWh/yr is to arrive at consumers, the capital cost of Great Plains wind sourcing would be about $0.8 trillion:


Wind turbine installed capital cost = 300,000 MW x $1,800,000/MW = $0.54 trillion

Roads, transmission and other installation costs = $0.26 trillion


The project completion would be by about 2050. 

Payments to Locals, i.e., Bribes: Element Power claims annual payments of about 50 million euro/yr to: 


– local landowners, mostly farmers who would receive lease payments of several thousand euros/MW to put up with the adverse health, noise and visual impacts of wind turbines near their residences and animals. 


– local authorities in the Irish Midlands to defray the costs of additional government operations and enlargements, instead of having to tax residents.


The 50 million euro/yr appears to be the trade off, i.e., bribe, for further blighting the Irish landscape and spreading adverse health, noise and visual impacts onto people and onto bird and other wildlife. 


As at many other locales in the US, including Maine, Ontario, Cape Cod and elsewhere, the uninformed, lay Irish farmers, etc., are smooth-talked about all the wind energy plusses and readily agree to have wind turbines on their land and to sign up for a 20-year flow of monthly checks. 


They find out too late they have made a mistake, i.e., their quiet, peaceful, rural lifestyle has been replaced with the industry-type low frequency noise, LFN, 20 – 200 Hz, and health-damaging infrasound, less than 20 Hz, blade flicker and strobe lights of 1,000 wind turbines all connected with hundreds of kilometers of new maintenance and emergency vehicle access roads. 


Whereas, the annual rental income of the “lucky” farmers/landowners will increase, the quality of life and property values of the “lucky” farmers/landowners and all nearby neighbors will significantly decline.


Cluster Exclusion Zones: If the wind turbines of a cluster are arranged in an array that approximates a square to minimize underground interconnection costs, the spacing between 3 MW wind turbines with 373-ft diameter rotors should be at least 1 km for minimal turbulence interference, i.e., a 100-turbine cluster would cover a minimum area of about 81 sq km. 


Other wind turbine arrays, such as on a ridgelines, could have closer spacing, about 4 units/km, but there would need to be about 3-4 km between ridgeline arrays, if people were to live between arrays. For minimal turbulence interference, the ridgelines should not have a similar direction as the prevailing winds. 


People should not reside within a cluster, as they would be on average about 0.7 km from 4 wind turbines which is much too close to avoid adverse health impacts. 


Setbacks from residences, schools, communities, etc., should be at least 1 mile to minimize health, noise and visual impacts, i.e., nobody should live in a residence, go to school, etc., within or near a cluster. 


Thus, the minimum cluster exclusion zone would be 11 km x 11 km  = 121 sq km, i.e., 1,210 sq km for 10 clusters. The exclusion zone would become undesirable/unsuitable for habitation by people affected by health-damaging infrasound; less than 20 Hz. It likely would still be suitable for farming crops and maybe for sheep and cows.


Noise, Blade Flicker, Strobe Lights, Property Values: As at many other locales in the US, including Maine, Ontario, Cape Cod and elsewhere, the uninformed, lay Irish farmers, etc., are smooth-talked about all the wind energy pluses and readily agree to have wind turbines on their land and to sign up for a 20-year flow of monthly checks. 


They find out too late they have made a mistake by aiding, abetting, “profitting from” the installation of 1,000 wind turbines all connected with hundreds of kilometers of new maintenance and emergency vehicle access roads. Their quiet, peaceful, rural lifestyle has been degraded by:


– low-frequency noise; LFN, 20 – 200 Hz 

– health-damaging infrasound; less than 20 Hz 

– blade flicker

– hundreds of night-time strobe lights per cluster 

– visual blight.


Whereas, the annual rental income of the “lucky” farmers/landowners will increase, the quality of life and property values of all nearby uncompensated neighbors will significantly decline. It is becoming common practice for wind turbine owners to buy houses that are too close to wind turbines to avoid negative publicity and law suits.


Health Impacts: At less than 20 Hz (infrasound) and above 20,000 Hz (ultrasound) most people do not “hear” noise, but a person’s ears and body are sensitive to infrasound which cause nausea, headaches, insomnia, elevated blood pressure, palpitations, tinnitus, imbalance, dizziness, lack of concentration, moodiness, irritability, anxiety, etc., in SOME people who live about 1/2 mile or less from large, say 1.0 MW, utility-size wind turbines. 


The infrasound and low frequency noise, LFN, is harmful to humans. Humans should reside, work, study, play, etc., at least 1 mile from 3 MW wind turbines, especially households with pregnant mothers, babies, infants and school-age children to avoid genetic damage impacts, and members with heart disease to avoid aggravating their condition. 


Infrasound and LFN also is harmful to wildlife and livestock. Domestic and wildlife animals are reported to be skittish near wind turbines. Animals with genetic defects have been found near wind turbines. Little data has been systematically gathered about the issue, but there is anecdotal evidence indicating problems. These symptoms are collectively known as “Wind Turbine Syndrome”.

Ireland’s Historic Capacity Factors: The 2011 average installed capacity of 1,531 MW of wind turbines produced 4,380 GWh of wind energy, for a capacity factor = 4,380 GWh/(8,760 hr x (1,440, end 2010 + 1,631, end 2011)/2 MW) = 0.326; Ireland’s capacity factors of the past 6 years were 0.298, 0.270, 0.284, 0.287, 0.233, 0.326, for an average of 0.283.


Energy production is measured at each wind turbine. It should be reduced by the: 


– wind turbine parasitic (self-use) energy; parasitic demand, MW, is normally about 5% of rated output, up to 15% in cold climates, such as on ridgelines in New England.  

– extra line losses to gather the energy from the dispersed wind turbines before feeding it into the grid. See section 5.2.2 of




The benefits of wind energy projects often are overstated by promoters, such as Element Power, to attract funding from private investors and to impress/mislead local governments and people who will, in many cases, eagerly sign away their quality of life for a few thousand euros/MW to put up with noisy, health-damaging wind turbines near their farms and livestock, and near their communities.


Here is an example of German wind and PV solar energy gone wrong. 


People “living” less than 1 – 2 km from wind turbines will regret their decision soon after the wind turbines are in operation, especially at night when background noises are least, wind speeds are greatest and wind turbine noises are loudest.


Below are six examples overstatements:

Overstating Useful Service Lives: Element Power assumed wind turbine useful service lives at 25 years, because the longer the lives, the lower the lifecycle cost of energy, LCOE, the more attractive the project to investors and pro wind energy legislators.


The Element Power useful service life estimate was likely obtained from Vendors’ brochures. The estimate may be unrealistic, arbitrary and deceptive, as almost no wind turbines have been in service that long. An estimate of 20 years, or less, would be more realistic, based on actual field experience with wind turbine replacements in Denmark.


The 20-year wind turbine useful service life should be compared with those of CCGTs (35 – 40 years), coal plants (40 – 60 years) and nuclear plants (50 – 60 years). 


Denmark’s experience has been to replace most wind turbines after they have been in service less than 15 years. The replacement wind turbines usually are taller, more efficient, have greater capacities, MW, but usually emit increased audible noise and infrasound which have been a cause of increasing complaints and demonstrations by nearby Danish people.


In 2010, the Copenhagen Post reported “state-owned energy firm Dong Energy has given up building more wind turbines on Danish land, following protests from residents complaining about the noise the turbines make.” The newspaper quoted Dong CEO Anders Eldrup as saying, “It is very difficult to get the public’s acceptance if the turbines are built close to residential buildings, and therefore we are now looking at maritime (offshore) options.”


Overstating Wind Energy Production: Element Power is claiming the wind energy production would be 10 TWh/yr, for a CF = (10 TWh/yr)/(8,760 hr/yr x 3,000 MW) = 0.381. Installations in Ireland and other areas do not have anywhere near such high CFs. 


It appears Element Power is excessive hyping its project, trying to turn the heads of lay people and legislators, creating a rah-rah atmosphere, to get the project going. The 10 TWh/yr is faithfully and mindlessly repeated by the uninformed mass media.


The estimate assumes an unrealistically high CF and implies zero percent of the wind turbines are out of service for maintenance and repair during a year. The same overstatement happened in:


– New York State where governments and people were told CFs would be around 0.30 – 0.35, whereas, in fact, the 2006-2011 average CF is 0.249


– Texas which has very good wind speeds in Western Texas (Panhandle) that should yield CFs of 0.30 or greater. Texas had installed 10,377 MW of wind turbines at the end of 2011, an increase of 686 MW from the end of 2010.

The 2010 energy production was (10,089 + 10,377)/2 x 8,760 hr/yr x CF 0.29285 = 26, 251,410 MWh

The CFs were 0.205, 0.215, 0.179, 0.224, 0.235, and 0.293 from 2006 – 2010, for an average of 0.225; the 2010 CF was due to above average wind speeds.

Overstating Capacity Factors: Relatively recent analysis of wind turbine operating records shows a degradation of capacity factors, CFs, of about 1-2 % per year, due to wear and tear and increased maintenance outages as the years progress, as with an older car getting less mileage and needing more maintenance. 


At an assumed CF degradation of about 1.0%/yr, the Element Power assumed Greenwire project CF could become 0.381/1.28 = 0.297 at the end of the 25th year. 


The Element Power assumed project CF of 0.381 for 25 years, likely taken from vendor brochures, is highly optimistic. Even the assumed NET CF of 0.33, used in this article, likely is also too optimistic. 


Such high CFs are usually used by project promoters to attract financing/investors for the project and to impress/mislead largely-uninformed local people and government officials regarding the merits of the project. Government officials are even easier to mislead, and will assist in the misleading, especially if it accords with their agendas.


Whereas the economics of the Greenwire project may appear more favorable with the high CFs, after a few years the economics become less and less favorable, as less and less energy is generated. 


This is exactly what occurred with the Mars Hill wind turbine project in Maine, USA, which shows an output decline of about 2.1% per year during the 5 years of its operation. Because of favorable wind conditions, Mars Hill had an as-new CF of 0.44, which could become 0.44/1.68 = 0.262 at the end of the 25th year, i.e., Mars Hill could become unprofitable at some point during its 25-year life, unless helped by rising grid prices and/or additional subsidies. See URLs.


Parasitic energy (self-use energy), turbulence interference between wind turbines and line losses due to collecting the energy from dispersed wind turbines further degrades the Greenwire’s project NET CF. All these factors are known to wind turbine vendors, but likely not to the average lifecycle cost of energy, LCOE, analyst employed by Element Power. 


Overstating CO2 Emissions Reduction: The UK wind energy balancing for the Greenwire project would be mostly with gas turbines in inefficient part-load-ramping mode, as in Ireland, the Netherlands, etc., and would have a similar CO2 emission reduction effectiveness, i.e., at least 50% less than claimed by wind energy promoters. 


As annual wind energy percent increases on the UK grid, more and more gas turbine capacity, MW, will be in inefficient part-load-ramping, spinning and start/stop operating mode which will mostly offset the fuel consumption and CO2 emissions that wind energy was meant to reduce. 


Example: In the Netherlands, with only 3.3% annual wind energy on the grid in 2010 (after a 35-year “build-out”), the variable, intermittent wind energy had a CO2 reduction effectiveness of about 70%. See URLs.

Overstating Job Creation: Element Power claims up to 3,000 permanent project and “ancillary” jobs would be created in Ireland and the UK.


Claims of job creation usually are overstated by wind energy promoters and governments to impress the gullible, uninformed lay public and legislators. 


Irish experience: A quick check of existing permanent O&M jobs at Irish wind turbine facilities reveals the 3,000 MW of wind turbines would require about 15-20 jobs per cluster (100 units @ 3 MW each), or 150 -200 for all 10 clusters. The underground and undersea transmission facilities would require a minimal number of O&M jobs.


US experience: Shephart’s Flat wind turbine facility has 35 direct jobs for 845 MW = 12.4 direct jobs/300 MW; in the same ball park as the Irish experience. 


Note: Irish workers get more vacation per year AND work less hours per year than US workers.


It appears, the proposed system is not a significant PERMANENT direct job creator.


People should clearly understand subsidized RE build-outs increase jobs in RE sectors and suppliers to these sectors, but decrease more jobs in non-RE sectors, for a NET JOB LOSS. 


Heavily-subsidized RE build-outs divert resources (funds, materials, labor, etc.) to inefficient ways of producing energy, which increases electric rates and the prices of goods and services and lowers NET job creation, thereby LOWERING the living standards of working households and reducing profits for non-RE businesses, instead of using these resources for more efficient ways of producing goods and services and increased energy efficiency, which decreases the prices of energy and goods and services and increases NET job creation, thereby RAISING the living standards of working households and increasing profits of non-RE businesses; per Economics 101. 


Overstating Merits of Export Revenue: Element Power claims Ireland would have export revenues of 1.2 billion euro/yr, which are, in fact, the gross revenues to Element Power and wealthy partners. The energy would have to be sold to utilities at a price of (1,200,000,000 euro/yr)/(8,672,400,000 kWh/yr) = 0.1384 euro/kWh. 


Note: The current annual average UK grid price is about 6 euro cent/kWh; it is the average spot price at which utilities buy a small fraction of their energy.


These type export revenues are least beneficial to the Irish economy, as almost all equipment and specialized services (greater than 65% of the project cost) will be supplied and installed by foreign countries, and future maintenance and replacement parts will likely be foreign-sourced. This means most of the permanent RE job creation will be in foreign countries, not in Ireland.


Overstating Merits of Irish Wind Energy vs UK Offshore Energy: Element Power  claims UK consumer savings of 9 billion euros compared to sourcing the same quantity of energy offshore, or 25-year savings/25-yr production = 9,000,000,000 euro/216,810,000,000 kWh = 0.0457 euro cent/kWh.


For the Element Power claim to be true, the offshore energy cost would need to be = 0.1384 + 0.0457 = 0.1841 euro/kWh, in line with other estimates of offshore energy costs. See URL.


By comparing the Irish onshore wind energy with even more expensive UK offshore energy, Element Power proclaiming “savings” is deceptive PR to promote a project of dubious value to the Irish and UK people.




UK 2020 Wind Energy Targets: During an unfortunate moment of irrational exuberance fueled by ignorance and the prospect of loss of “face”, i.e., being totally outdone by the much richer Germans, the budget-deficit-ridden, cash-strapped UK government committed itself to meet various 2020 RE targets, including 28,000 MW of wind turbines by 2020, having no idea what it would cost and what it would lead to.

Note: Many energy systems analysts had a fairly good idea, but were not heeded, or were derided and became afraid to speak up.


Here are some examples of the consequences:


In June 2011 several UK energy companies, including Centrica, advised the UK government 17 NEW gas-fired, OCGT/CCGT plants with a total capacity of about 10,000 MW, costing 13 billion euro, would be required by 2020 to perform wind energy balancing and act as back-up for wind energy. Depending on wind speeds, the output could be as low as about 560 MW (2% of 28,000 MW) and as high as about 19,600 MW (70% of 28,000 MW) at any time during a year.


Note: Low-cost OCGTs are used for quick-ramping. CCGTs cannot be quick-ramped as the thermal stresses will damage the steam turbine and HRSG. They also cannot be operated below 50% of rated output. They can be slow-ramped (i.e., following the daily demand curve), but their ramping range would be limited from about 75% to 95% and from 75% to 55% of rated output to minimize the damage that would shorten their useful service life. 


However, as the new UK OCGT/CCGT plants would be operating in part-load-ramping mode year-round, which is highly inefficient, they would require “capacity payments” to attract capital to build them and improve their LCOE economics. These “capacity payments” would be in addition to the existing subsidies to meet the 28,000 MW wind turbine target by 2020. 


In addition, as about 10,000 MW of EXISTING OCGT/CCGTs would also be operating in inefficient, part-load-ramping mode year-round, they would also require “payments” to improve their LCOE economics, because the more wind energy on the grid, the less these OCGT/CCGTs would be producing and that production would require more Btu/kWh and emit more CO2/kWh, thereby adversely affecting their LCOEs.


The UK Rethinking Onshore Wind Turbines?: Mr. Hayes, the recently-appointed energy minister, said he had ordered a new analysis of the case for ONSHORE wind turbines which would form the basis of future government policy. The primary reason for the new analysis is:


– the excessive cost of construction and the wind energy

– the public opposition to the visuals and noise of wind turbines.


Germany’s Experience: As typical Atlantic Ocean low pressure weather systems move across Ireland, the UK, the Netherlands, Denmark and Germany, similar wind output, MW ,variations occur in these lands, including in Northern Germany. 


Germany’s excess wind energy is often dumped into the grids of the Netherlands and Poland which have to balance the unwanted wind energy with inefficient, part-load-ramping operations of their generators. They have protested Germany’s use of their grids for this purpose. Poland has threatened to disconnect from the German grid, if dumping is detected.


Germany has began to deal with its variable, intermittent wind energy generated in the North. It appears, as a minimum, the following expensive build-outs to support wind energy are required: 


– new OCGT/CCGT plants (about 11,500 MW, 15 billion euro) for backup and balancing its onshore and offshore wind energy. 

– new transmission systems (about15 billion euro) to connect its offshore wind turbines to the grid.

– new, highly visible, North-South transmission systems; NIMBY is the major holdup.


Other nations with wind energy, including the UK, should learn from Germany’s experience.



– Spain, a recent economic miracle turned, seemingly overnight, into a total basket case, has significantly reduced/eliminated subsidies for new RE projects, effective 1 January 2012, and is considering similar reductions for existing projects.

– The Netherlands, because of budget constraints and public opposition to more and more wind turbines, has cut RE subsidies by about 65%.

– Public and business opposition to the ENERGIEWENDE is rapidly building in Germany and subsidies for Germany’s expensive foray into PV solar have been drastically scaled back; about 200 billion euro for capital, subsidies and feed-in tariffs from 2000-2011 yielded about 3% of German annual production in 2011.


Public Opposition to Wind Energy: In accordance with past UK practice, any extra costs would be added mostly to household electric bills. This causes the UK government having to deal with:

– increasing opposition to the quality-of-life blight inflicted by onshore wind turbines

– demands to increase/preserve funding of social programs which would likely mean decreased wind turbine subsidies

– demands to slow rapidly increasing household electric rates.


Capital and Energy Costs: The UK had about 6,000 MW of wind turbines installed at the end of 2011. A build-out to 28,000 MW, 60% offshore and 40% onshore, would cost about 22,000 MW x (0.6 x 4,000,000 euro/MW + 0.4 x 1,800,000 euro/MW) = 68.64 billion euro, plus grid modifications of at least 25 billion euro from 2012 – 2020.


Despite claims by wind energy promoters about wind energy LCOE parity with grid prices being just a few years in the future (to keep the subsidies flowing), the reality is otherwise.


Latest UK estimates indicate an UNSUBSIDIZED UK offshore LCOE of 16.9 pence/kWh, or 21.46 euro cent/kWh, or $0.264/kWh. This compares with US DOE estimates of UNSUBSIDIZED US offshore LCOEs of $0.191/kWh. The US DOE estimate includes transmission systems, but not the cost of wind energy balancing. etc. See below under “Wind Energy Integration Fees”.


Greenwire Grid Connection: Because the Greenwire project would require little spending by the UK government (the extra costs of subsidies, etc., would just be added mostly to household electric rates, following more than a decade of past practice), and because the wind turbines would be located in Ireland (no visuals, noise, etc., in the UK), the UK government eagerly welcomed the proposed project.


Element Power and National Grid UK hurriedly signed a grid connection agreement to feed up to 3,000 MW of power into the UK grid to give the project the appearance of “une fait accompli” and to defuse/deflate/discourage potential public opposition.



US Government Support: The financing of the project would be primarily by Element Power’s wealthy partners, almost all of them in the US, who use LLC-type entities created by financial sector firms on Wall Street and in London to enable wealthy individuals and others to take tax credits and depreciation write-offs  to reduce taxable incomes. By special provision, almost the entire project can be written off in 5 years; so-called “5-year accelerated depreciation”.


All others, i.e., the other 99% of households and smaller businesses, would bear the brunt of the health, noise and visual impacts and the energy generating inefficiencies that would cause their electric rates to increase more than they would have without the Element Power project. See below. 


Note: Instead of the US government collecting proper taxes from these wealthy individuals, it would rather have greater budget deficits by subsidizing  wind turbine build-outs and creating jobs abroad, instead of in the US. 


Element Power’s wind turbine project is an example of the undesirable outcomes of combining inequitable US income and wealth distribution policies, flawed US energy policies and ineffective US economic development policies.


Private-Equity Funds: Element Power is owned by Hudson Clean Energy Partners, a US-based, private-equity firm catering to wealthy US investors aiming to reduce their personal income taxes. 


It has 340 MW of wind and solar capacity either in operation or under construction, including nearly a dozen completed PV arrays in Spain, and wind energy projects in Sweden and Poland. 

http://Element Power-project/#1 


US investors in private-equity funds, including George Romney, presently running for US President, pay a personal income tax rate of only 15% or less on their fund incomes. Their private secretaries should be this privileged. 


US Federal Tax Breaks for Wind Turbine Owners: Tax breaks do not show up directly in electric bills but, nevertheless, are part of the full cost of wind energy. These tax breaks shift costs from the owners to the other taxpayers. Important tax breaks include:


– federal Production Tax Credit: Available for the first 10 years of operation of the wind turbine facility; currently $0.022/kWh, but the rate is adjusted for inflation. 


– five-year Double Declining Balance Accelerated Depreciation (5-yr., 200% DB): Allows an owner to recover the full amount of his capital investment in 5 to 6 years through depreciation deductions from taxable income. 


This compares with 20-year, 150% DB accelerated depreciation for most other generating units. Open cycle gas turbines qualify for 15-year, 150% DB.


The depreciation deductions by tax year for commercial wind energy facilities are:


Year 1, 20%; Year 2, 32%; Year 3, 19.2%; Year 4, 11.52%; Year 5, 11.52%; Year 6, 5.76%                


Accelerated depreciation produces huge income tax avoidance benefits in the first few years of project ownership. What happens to the wind turbines, etc., after those years is of little concern to the owners, as they would have recovered their investments, plus dividends, and likely would have sold the project to others by then, because most of the project’s income tax reduction benefits would have been used up.

Greenwire Project Tax Savings for Wealthy Owner/Partners: The 3,000 MW wind turbine project has an estimated capital cost of 8 billion euros. Assuming all wealthy owner/partners file US income tax forms, they can take a 1.6 billion euro depreciation deduction from their gross taxable incomes for Year 1, which, at a rich people’s tax rate of, say 20%, would cost the US government about 320 million euros in Year 1, plus 155 million euro in PTC (see note), for a total of 475 million euro of foregone tax revenues; an example of how the US government racks up trillion dollar deficits each year. 


Note: The wind turbine facility would produce 3,000 MW x 8,760 hr/yr x CF 0.33 = 8,672,400 MWh/yr. The PTC would be 8,672,400 MWh/yr x $22/1.23/MWh = 155,116,000 euro, say 155 million euro.


Assuming owner/partners’ income taxes would have been 200 million euro without subsidy benefits, then, with subsidy benefits, their income taxes would be 200 – 155 = 45 million euro; that is how the rich get richer, and almost everyone else treads water. 


Subsequent years deliver similar benefits to owner/partners. Various states have additional tax breaks.



It appears the UK government, Element Power and foreign suppliers, and indirectly the US government, are using their combined technical and financial power to get about 95% of the project benefits, leaving Ireland with about 5%, plus significant degradation of the Midlands environment and the quality of life of its flora and fauna, including its people. Such ratios are typical of colonial exploitation, i.e., Ireland being exploited as if it were a de facto colony of the UK.


Will Ireland and the UK be saving the world from global warming and climate change? The answer is no, because if all of Europe’s CO2 emissions were to instantly disappear, the growing CO2 emissions of rest of the world would make up for it in about 7 years.



The grid price is entirely different from the rate payer price. Utilities buy almost all of their power under long term contracts and add mark-ups, including the costs of distribution and profit, plus taxes and fees, to arrive at the current UK household price of about 17 euro cent/kWh. The industrial price is kept at about 9.2 euro cent/kWh for international competitive reasons, as is the practice in Denmark, Germany, etc.


As shown above, offshore wind energy costs about 18 euro cent/kWh to produce, bring to shore and feed into shore grids. Utilities will average expensive onshore and offshore wind energy into their other, much less costly, energy purchases, i.e., “rolling wind energy into the rate schedule”, to arrive at the cost basis for their mark-ups. The greater the wind energy percentages, the greater the cost basis and the greater the household electric rates.




Dispatch Value: Wind energy is significantly different from conventional gas, coal, nuclear and hydro energy. Conventional generators are controllable and dispatchable on short notice,whereas wind energy is a product of weather-dependent, variable wind speeds, i.e., its supply is unpredictable and uncontrollable, and therefore, it has zero-dispatch value to a grid operator.


Real-time wind speed prediction has become more accurate in recent years. It gives a grid operator a few hours notice regarding wind speed changes, which will give him time to more efficiently order the starting or stopping of OCGTs and CCGTs to maintain adequate spinning and ramping capacity at all times. This “juggling” of generators to accommodate wind energy is less efficient, i.e., consumes extra fuel/kWh and emits extra CO2/kWh, than without wind energy.


Capacity Value: A grid operator needs to have available an adequate mix of generating capacity to serve peak demands for long-term planning purposes. The mix varies from grid to grid. Wind turbine systems have a capacity value in this mix.


Example: For summer peak capacity planning, ERCOT, the operator of the Texas grid, counts 8.7 percent of the Texas wind turbine rated capacity as dependable capacity at peak demand, in accordance with ERCOT’s stakeholder-adopted methodology. According to ERCOT, the capacity value is a statistical concept created for generator planning purposes. It is based on multiyear averages of wind energy generation at key peak demand periods.


ERCOT’s capacity planning value of 8.7% does not mean the ENERGY of 8.7% of wind turbine rated capacity would be available at any specified “time-ahead” period. Because of the randomness of wind speeds, no one can accurately predict available wind energy at any future time. Hence, it’s not available “on-demand”, i.e., not dispatchable.


Variability: Because wind energy increases by the cube of the wind speed, any change in wind speed creates significant surges and ebbs of wind energy. If such energy were fed into the grid, it would create chaos.


Thus, wind energy cannot stand on its own, has no value on its own, is completely useless, unless the grid has an adequate capacity of quick-ramping gas turbines and/or hydro plants that are required to inefficiently operate at part-load to be able to ramp up when wind energy ebbs and ramp down when it surges, which happens at least 100 times per day, to maintain grid frequency and voltage within required limits. If a grid does not have adequate capacity of such ramping plants, it either must acquire it, or connect to grids that do have it and do not need it for their own variable wind and solar energy.

During periods of high wind energy generation, many grids, such as of Germany, the Bonneville Power Authority, Texas, Colorado, Germany, Spain, etc., do not have a sufficient capacity of such quick-ramping generators. As annual wind energy percents on the grids increase, the grid operators are unable to balance the wind energy and need totransfer it to neighboring grids for balancing, if possible, and/or implement curtailments, which upsets wind turbine owners, because subsidy payments may be at risk; in the US, the production tax credit, PTC, is 2.2 cent per kWh produced.


Example: German wind power output peaked at about 12,000 MW on July 24, 2011, four days later the peak was 315 MW. Germany’s wind turbines are located mostly in Northern Germany which lacks adequate transmission facilities to Southern Germany, where the unpredictable, excess wind energy is likely not needed, because it usually occurs at night when demands are minimal. 


Intermittency: Wind energy usually is minimal during summer (almost nonexistent in New England), moderate during spring and fall, and maximal during winter. Almost all the time, it is maximal at night. 


In the US Great Plains, with good/excellent wind conditions most of the year, about 10-15 percent of the hours of a year wind energy is near zero, because wind speeds are insufficient (less than 7.5 mph) to turn the rotors, or too great for safety. During these hours, wind turbines draw self-use (parasitic) energy FROM the grid, and also during hours with slowly turning rotors when self-use energy exceeds the generated energy. Rotors are often kept turning with grid energy to prevent the rotor shaft from “taking a set”, or to not disappoint visiting lay public, including legislators, etc.


New England, with good wind conditions only on 2,000-ft or higher ridge lines, about 25-30 percent of the hours of the year no wind energy is produced, because wind speeds are insufficient, or too great for safety.


Offshore, New England wind energy production is technically feasible, but its subsidized energy cost would be at least 20 c/kWh, 2 times ridge line energy cost/kWh; this compares with New England annual average grid prices of about 5 c/kWh, unchanged for the past 3 years.


The capital costs of an offshore project is about $4,200,000/MW, of which about 35% is the capital cost of new transmission systems to connect the offshore wind turbines to each other and to shore, plus the cost of reinforcing the onshore grid to take the additional energy. See URLs.



For a proper evaluation of wind energy cost, the total would have to include not only the LCOE of the wind turbines, but also all or part of the LCOEs of:


– Increased regulating plant operation for grid stability; extra fuel and CO2

– Increased spinning plant operation; extra fuel and CO2

– Increased start/stop operation; extra fuel and CO2

– Increased part-load operation; less efficient, extra fuel and CO2 

– Increased part-load-ramping operation; less efficient, extra fuel and CO2

– Increased wear and tear of equipment of generating units  

– staffing, fueling and operation of most of the existing generating units 

– less than optimum economical scheduling of plants with wind energy than without

– less economical operation of existing plants with wind energy than without

– expanded transmission systems with wind energy than without

– increased grid management systems, staffing and operation 

– increased weather and wind speed forecasting systems, staffing and operation


Rarely are any of these costs identified, quantified and charged to wind turbine owners as wind energy integration fees, i.e., they are getting a free ride.  


The above costs are not yet separately identified and quantified by grid operators, generator owners and utilities, because heretofore they have been relatively minor. But as wind energy percent increases, they would become increasingly greater expenses, as experienced by other grids with greater than about 3% annual wind energy.


Grid operators typically add their extra costs to the invoices sent to utilities and generator owners that supply the grid.


Utilities typically add their extra costs to their other costs to justify rate increases. How generator owners would be compensated for the adverse impact of wind energy on the economics of their generators remains an open question.


Legislators, who wear the “RE” label to get votes, and utilities, dependent on rate increases from legislatures, are loathe to investigate, as it would be considered adverse to RE. They usually work together to make these costs “disappear”, i.e., socializing them, by rolling any RE costs mostly into household rate schedules. 


Denmark, an RE role model, has done it for decades and Danish households “enjoy” the highest electric rates in Europe (about 31.5 euro cent/kWh), Germany’s households “enjoy” the second highest rates (about 27 euro cent/kWh), France enjoys the lowest (about 12 euro cent/kWh).


The lowest-cost wind energy balancing is with hydro plants. Higher cost wind energy balancing is with gas-fired, quick-ramping gas turbines. It is highly unlikely all of the above costs are included in the below wind energy integration fees.


– Denmark, “borrowing” Norway’s hydro plants, claims the cost at about 1 – 4 euro/MWh

– Hydro-Quebec, using its hydro plants, charges wind turbine owners $5/MWh. 

– The Bonneville Power Authority, BPA, using its hydro and gas turbine plants, charges $5.7/MWh.

– The Netherlands, using its gas turbine plants, charges 10 euro/MWh. 


The above costs are grossly under-representing the actual costs. It is similar to EirGrid grossly under-representing CO2 emission components in its published data.





There are two much less costly alternatives to the above wind energy proposal: one 1,100  MW nuclear plant, or two 550 MW, 60% efficient, combined-cycle gas turbine plants. The capital cost savings over the wind energy proposal could be invested in increased energy efficiency for energy consumption and CO2 emissions reduction.


One 1,100 MW Nuclear Plant   


A standard-size, 1,100 MW nuclear plant, located in the UK, would produce 1,100 MW x 8,760 hr/yr x CF 0.90 =  8,672,400 MWh/yr.


The energy would be nearly CO2-free, relatively low-cost, steady, 24/7/365 energy with a nearly 100% “on-demand” capacity value, whereas wind energy is variable and intermittent (zero or minimal about 10-15 % of the hours of a year), and has zero “on-demand” capacity value. 


The capital cost would be about 4 million euros/MW, or 4.4 billion euros. That is 3.6 billion euros less than the wind turbine system.


The alternative attributes are:


– the same quantity of energy as the wind turbine system

– no expensive transmission systems would be required

– no extra fuel consumption and CO2 emissions due to balancing with fossil plants 

– the useful service life would 50-60 years vs 25 years for the wind turbine system 

– it would take about 10 years to build vs 6.5 years for the wind turbine system

– minimal subsidies would be required

– 4 billion euro capital cost savings would be available for increased energy efficiency

– 25-year energy cost savings: {(0.1384 + 0.01, wind energy integration fee) – 0.1104} euro/kWh x 216,810,000,000 kWh = 8,238,780,000 euro.


If the cost of O&M, fuel, etc., for the wind energy proposal and the nuclear alternative are assumed about equal, say 0.09 euro/kWh, then the cost of amortizing: 


– 4 billion euro with 60-yr bonds @ 4%/yr for the nuclear alternative would be 4 billion euro/22.62 annuity factor = 176.8 million euro/yr, or 0.0204 euro/kWh, and the cost of energy would be 0.09 + 0.0204 = 0.1104 euro/kWh, in line with US DOE estimates.


– 8 billion euro with 25-yr bonds @ 4%/yr for the wind energy proposal would be 8 billion euro/15.62 annuity factor = 512.2 million euro/yr, or 0.0591 euro/kWh, and the cost of energy would be 0.09 + 0.0591 = 0.1491 euro/kWh, in line with the Element Power estimate of 0.1384/kWh. 


Note: The Element Power estimate does not include any wind energy integration fees which, if properly accounted for, would be at least 0.01 euro/kWh. 


Two 550 MW Combined Cycle Gas Turbine Plants


Two 550 MW, 60% efficient CCGTs, located in the UK, would produce 1,100 MW x 8,760 hr/yr x CF 0.90 =  8,672,400 MWh/yr.


CCGTs with an efficiency at rated output of 60%, Lower Heating Value, or about 54%, Higher Heating Value, would consume (3,413 Btu/kWh)/efficiency 0.60 = 5,688 Btu/kWh and emit 117 lb of CO2/(million Btu x 1 kWh/5,688 Btu) x 1 kg/2.205 lb = 302 g of CO2/kWh, much less than coal. 


The energy would be about as CO2-free as the wind energy combined with balancing plants, relatively low-cost, steady, 24/7/365 energy with a nearly 100% “on-demand” capacity value, whereas wind energy is variable and intermittent (zero or minimal about 10-15 % of the hours of a year), and has zero “on-demand” capacity value. 


The capital cost would be about 1.5 million euros/MW; 6.35 billion euros less than the wind turbine system.


The alternative attributes are:


– the same quantity of energy as the wind turbine system

– no expensive transmission systems would be required

– no extra fuel consumption and CO2 emissions due to balancing with fossil plants 

– the useful service life would 40 years vs 25 years for the wind turbine system 

– it would take about 5 years to build vs 6.5 years for the wind turbine system

– minimal subsidies would be required

– capital savings of 6.35 billion euros would be available for increased energy efficiency

– 25-year energy cost savings: {(0.1384 + 0.01, wind energy integration fee) – 0.0796} euro/kWh x 216,810,000,000 kWh = 14,916,528,000 euro.


If the cost of O&M, fuel, etc., for the wind energy proposal and the CCGT alternative are assumed at 0.09 and 0.07 euro/kWh respectively, then the cost of amortizing: 


– 1.65 billion euro with 40-yr bonds @ 4%/yr for the CCGT alternative would be 1.65 billion euro/19.79 annuity factor = 83.4 million euro/yr, or 0.0096 euro/kWh, and the cost of energy would be 0.07 + 0.0096 = 0.0796 euro/kWh, in line with US DOE estimates.


– 8 billion euro with 25-yr bonds @ 4%/yr for the wind energy proposal would be 8 billion euro/15.62 annuity factor = 512.2 million euro/yr, or 0.0591 euro/kWh, and the cost of energy would be 0.09 + 0.0591 = 0.1491 euro/kWh, in line with the Element Power estimate of 0.1384/kWh. 


Note: The Element Power estimate does not include any wind energy integration fees which, if properly accounted for, would be at least 0.01 euro/kWh. 

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Rob Flynn's picture
Rob Flynn on Aug 1, 2012

"The current annual average UK grid price is about 0.06 euro/kWh."



Where did you get this figure from?
Currently researching this area and thats around 30% of what I'd put the average UK grid price at.

Rob Flynn's picture
Rob Flynn on Aug 8, 2012

Gah, Willem


Thank you for your replies.

Could I ask where you are getting figures for the wholesale market price of electricity being sold to the UK National Grid?
I'm having great difficulty finding them.



Rob Flynn's picture
Rob Flynn on Aug 9, 2012

Much appreciated Willem

Rob Flynn's picture
Rob Flynn on Aug 9, 2012


Could it be that they are effectively betting on electricity prices rising by that much then?

The project isn't scheduled to begin supplying energy until 2017/2018 and energy prices are exactly forecasted to be going down any time soon?

Would there be any merit in that argument?

Rob Flynn's picture
Rob Flynn on Aug 9, 2012

I wasn't speaking of costs. I was referring to the discrepancy between the price required to raised 1.2bn euro per annum (calculated by you as 0.1384 euro/kWh.) and average spot price paid at present (your figure is .06 euro)


Mike Barnard's picture
Mike Barnard on Aug 15, 2012

As always, Mr. Post references himself and anti-wind lobbyist organizations, in this case, as the primary sources. And also as always, his deep bias against wind farms is on full display. As always, he throws the kitchen sink in with whatever argument he is trying to make.

Unsurprisingly, his analysis finds that Ireland, like a hundred countries world-wide that are investing heavily in wind energy, is irrational and not operating on sound economic principles.  Odd how that works. Odd how energy professionals almost universally don't agree with him.  Odd how health professionals almost universally don't agree with him.

There are roughly 165,000 wind turbines world-wide generating clean, safe, reliable, CO2e-neutral electricity, displacing significant amounts of fossil-fuel related CO2e from the atmosphere.  You would never know it to read Mr. Post.

Jean-Marc D's picture
Jean-Marc D on Sep 3, 2012

willem, your document is old, from 2009.

You will find the updated RWE data here :

The spot price on EEX is not necessarily that signifiant since as RWE makes abundantly clear in both the 2009 and first half 2012 report, they sell most of their energy on future contract to protect themself from too much variations on the spot market.

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