The United States is blessed with abundant inexpensive energy. We should use it to make America and the world a better place. I recognize global warming is happening because we use oil, natural gas, and coal for fuel. But that has been a necessary tradeoff for the inexpensive energy needed to power our economy.
I believe in conversion to nuclear power as the answer to global warming. It can replace coal as the principal energy source for generation of electricity. Nuclear power produces electricity without any carbon dioxide emissions. Nuclear waste has been stored safely for decades.
Because it’s carbon dioxide free, wind generated electricity will remain part of the long –term solution to global warming. But because wind is unreliable, fossil fuels and nuclear will be forever needed as base and backup. The industry is now viable because of federal production tax credits, loan guarantees for construction, and mandates for use. I favor phasing out this government intervention so the wind power industry can find the pricing points and productivity levels necessary to be competitive.
The long-term economic benefits of wind energy are weak. I’m a numbers guy so I’ll give you my thoughts on wind in megawatts, permanent jobs created, and landowner lease payments. The total US demand for electricity is about 480,000 megawatts (MW). The engineering experts say, because of the atmosphere and distance from demand, wind can’t be counted on to supply more than, at the absolute most, 25 percent of electricity end-use or 120,000 MW. In 2015, wind energy supplied 4.9 percent of total electricity used. The capacity utilization rate is about 33 percent. So, the US needs 360,000 MW of wind capacity to deliver 120,000 MW of end-use. The country now has about 80,000 MW of wind electricity capacity. This means additional construction of 280,000 MW of capacity is required. Because of our location and weather, the Kansas share won’t be more than 5 percent of the 360,000 or about 18,000 MW. We now have 3,900 online. Kansas is 14,100 MW short of our share – each new generation tower produces 1.5 MW – so 9,400 more towers are required to reach usable capacity.
After we get to capacity, the only two permanent sources of wind income are operations and maintenance jobs and landowner lease rentals. According to the economic analysis that I’ve studied, each 1,000 MW requires 110 full time employees for repairs and upgrades. This is a total of 1,980 permanent jobs for Kansas. Landowner lease payments will be $5,100 per MW per year or $91.8 million per year for the entire state of Kansas. This $91.8 million is spread over about 12,000 leases so each landowner will receive roughly $7,650 per year or $638 per month. If that were shared with the entire 2.85 million population of Kansas, we each would get a $32 check each year. Against this backdrop, we need to consider whether the benefits of these two sources of income outweigh the higher utility bills Kansans are going to get hit with to pay for the transmission lines needed to get our wind generated electricity to the populated areas of the United States.
Many states, including Iowa, Colorado, Nebraska and Oklahoma are going full bore into wind energy because of the smorgasbord of available subsidies. There appears to be no overall coordination at any level to match production capabilities with our economy’s capacity to use wind energy. This industry is headed to overcapacity which will not be sustained without continual federal government assistance. I’m not going to push for more wind energy beyond 25 percent of total US electricity end-use.