The heft and feel of a well-worn handle,
The sight of shavings that curl from a blade;
The logs in the wood pile, the sentiment of huge beams in an old-fashioned house;
The smell of fresh cut timber and the pungent fragrance of burning leaves;
The crackle of kindling and the hiss of burning logs.
Abundant to all the needs of man, how poor the world would be
Without wood.

Everard Hinrichs, quoted by Eric Sloane in A Reverence for Wood


Friday, May 15, 2015

Voices of the Future (6) - Wind Turbines are Worth Your Investment

By Todd Techentine 
Forest Science Major, Graduating May, 2016

Over the past couple years the amount of wind farms has increased significantly. In Pennsylvania alone there are 24 operating wind farms with a total of 717 wind turbines. With this increase of wind farms comes a lot of questions. Such questions as “Are they worth building, how long until they pay for themselves, what are the benefits of having then, and etc.” Most of these questions come from taxpayers and people who think they are worthless investments.

The total cost for everything when building a commercial wind turbine comes out to be around four million dollars for a two megawatt (MW) capacity turbine. The 2MW capacity turbine is the one you see mostly for commercial use. Now yes, this is a very high number to install these wind turbines, but compared to commercial solar energy per MW it is pretty cheap. There is no denying that. This money does come from grants from the government and yes also out of taxpayers’ pockets. With this number being so high, it makes people think that there is no way it can pay for itself. But in fact a wind turbine can pay for itself in just one year. This is, however, if it is placed in an efficient place. By that, it has to be able to get wind with no interference. This way it can get the maximum amount of wind hitting the blades allowing it to turn more, thus producing more electricity. With the more electricity produced, the faster it will pay itself back.

Now knowing that they can pay themselves off, let’s look at the many benefits that come with investing in windmills. Some of the advantages include economic, social, and also environmental. One major economic advantage is that the increasing number of windmills also increases the demand for workers. People are needed to build these wind turbines as well as perform maintenance on them when they are built. The biggest advantage, however, is with the environment. As you know coal has been a major supplier of electricity for many years. This is done by burning the fossil fuel in plants called co-generation plants. They burn the fuel which causes a large amount of emissions. These plants also take a longer time to pay for themselves compared to wind turbines.


At first glance it is easy to see why people think wind turbines are a bad investment. It’s not hard to tell that two million dollars per MW is a lot of money. But when you look into the benefits that wind turbines produce, and the payback rate it makes, it is a no-brainer to invest in wind turbines. In time, you may not even have any other choice but to have to invest in them, so why not start now? In a couple years, the major producer is going to either be solar power or wind power. So getting used to investing in wind turbines now will just get you ready for the future., because wind power is the next big thing.

Also, wind turbines are not as bad as people make them out to be. People say they produce a lot of noise, look bad, and hunters say they scare deer out of the area. I disagree with every one of these statements. I live in a little town that recently just put up wind turbines. Now yes, there were some minor problems at first. That’s everyone’s first reaction to something new and different.  Now, after having them up for a couple months they are actually an attraction. As for me personally, I think they are pretty incredible. I know for a fact that they also do not scare the animals around them. I hunt relatively close to these wind turbines and every year I manage to shoot a deer. As for the noise, yes they produce a noise. This noise however can only really be heard when you’re really close to them or just about under them. And the last thing, they do not look bad or cause a lot of damage to build them. I actually think they are pretty to neat to watch them blowing. You can actually see the whole blade spin to catch the wind. So based on what everyone says, it is not necessarily true. If you ever get a chance to see these wind turbines, stop and take a few seconds to admire them instead of just listening to what everyone says about them.


Anonymous said...

Your statement that the payback of a turbine is 1 year is quite misleading. The energy produced by the turbine will replace the energy required to manufacture the turbine in one year or less may be correct. However the entire cost of the turbine in no way will be recouped in one year. Without government subsidies (good or bad-entirely different debate) these wind farms would not be possible as the return on investment for the companies putting them up would be prohibitive. As for the aesthetics again that is up for debate as is the impact on animal life. No mention of the incredible number of birds that are swatted out of the sky.

Anonymous said...

Todd I fly all around our beautiful county collecting digital aerial photography so I've had a chance to see a lot of wind turbines, literally thousands of the things. I've landed at airports in OK & TX where the horizon for 360 degrees is littered with wind turbines. Are they efficient and cost effective? Probably so. Do they create a work opportunity for construction workers? Probably so. Do they pollute the environment? Absolutely Yes! In my opinion, and beauty is in the eye of the beholder, wind turbines represent a new pollution threat... visual environmental pollution. It is nice to look at a high plains view and see the beautiful rolling hills and farm land. It is not beautiful to see the once beautiful high plains views, or any other view in my opinion, polluted by unattractive wind turbines. Are wind turbines here to stay? As long as there is an economic relevance associated with the construction and use of wind turbines we will continue to see them. Thanks for the good article and the opportunity to share my comments.

Black Dog Clancy said...

I too would like to see your analysis run from a cost and life cycle standpoint. What is the initial cost, life to first repair, annual maintenance costs, grid costs, single vs multiple units, burden to the current grid at full production? What is the cost of shutting down lower cost production to accommodate wind?

To be accurate, you will need to run from pure costs without subsidies provided by the government.

Sections should include alternate backup sources of power for calm days as wind is an intermittent force unlike water or nuclear fuel.

A suggestion would be to leave out anecdotal or editorial comments. Stick directly to economic life cycle factors.

One personal question. . "what do wind farms in open land have to do with forest science?"

Good luck. DLTBGA (ask Doc Ray)

BS Forest Engineering - 1980
Oregon State University
( a real forestry school )

Mike Jacobs said...

Despite the article's title, which would suggest the author is going to validate his claim, he presents no data to indicate wind turbines are a worthwhile financial investment. Show me the money! And show it to me without the subsidies, which are artificial and unsustainable. If wind turbines cannot compete with other private sector energy solutions without government subsidy, pay their own way and provide sufficient return to incentivize private enterprise to invest in them, they have no place in a free economy. Further, it seems exceedingly farfetched for the author to claim that, "In a couple years, the major producer is going to either be solar power or wind power." In a couple years? Really? Can this be substantiated at all?

I have now seen thousands of these albatrosses scattered from sea to shining sea and fully agree with Anonymous that they represent visual pollution on our land. Were these wind turbine eyesores made to fairly compete with other energy sources, we wouldn't have to look upon our formerly beautiful lands and see them cluttered up with the things of man, nor look upon the corpses of all the birds they have struck down.

Let freedom reign and let the MARKET decide, not bureaucrats!