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Turbine Trouble
Donald Trump and the Aesthetics of Wind

President Trump might turn out to be our nation’s NIMBY-ist in chief, and that could be a death sentence for the country’s nascent offshore wind industry—and, to an extent, onshore wind as well. Well before he set his sights on the Oval Office, Trump tangled with offshore wind developers, calling a planned project off the coast of a golf course of his in Scotland “monstrous.” His aversion to offshore turbines seems to center on their aesthetics—he thinks they ruin views—and he cared enough about the issue to bring it up in a meeting with Nigel Farage last November, shortly after he won the election.

Now the U.S. wind industry is nervously waiting to see how Trump will approach projects off America’s coastline, as Bloomberg reports:

The push to win over the Trump administration comes as offshore wind is on the brink of success in North America after a decade of false starts. Costs are falling dramatically. Deepwater Wind LLC completed the first project in U.S. waters in August. And in September, the Obama administration outlined plans to ease regulatory constraints and take other steps to encourage private development of enough turbines to crank out 86,000 megawatts by 2050. That’s about the equivalent of 86 nuclear reactors. […]

He laid bare his thoughts on the renewable energy source on Twitter in 2012:

But Bloomberg points out that this opposition to offshore wind could be just about protecting his business interest in his Scottish golf club:

Ultimately it’s unclear whether Trump’s 140-character appraisals of wind energy will translate into U.S. policy, or if they were simply reactions to windmills potentially spoiling views from his golf course in Aberdeenshire, Scotland.

Time will tell how friendly the Trump administration is to offshore wind, but there’s plenty of room for growth in the industry, and with that plenty of potential jobs to be had. If greens frame the clean energy source that way rather than trumpeting its climate benefits, they might see better results. Unfortunately, the modern environmental movement seems less and less interested in couching its arguments in economic terms, preferring to moralize instead.

Trump’s NIMBY-ist opposition to wind power shouldn’t be dismissed out of hand, either. It’s probably the single biggest issue facing the energy source, both on land and in the water. Just as fracking operations will spark intense debate in the localities where they’re located, so too will wind farms rile up communities concerned with changes to their landscapes. That’s a tough nut to crack—it’s hard to force someone to change their idea of what is ugly or beautiful—but on this problem, the wind industry might do well to take its cue from shale producers: profit sharing or lucrative lease agreements are capable of overcoming even the strongest NIMBY arguments.

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  • Fat_Man

    The single biggest issue facing wind power is not aesthetics. It is intermitency, which requires the building of a second system that is reliable. One for the price of two is a formula for bankruptcy. Off-shore (i.e. in the ocean) has second major issue. The cost of installation and maintenance are are astronomical because the ocean is a very hostile environment for things that need to stay in one place.

    • ვეფხისტყაოსანი

      Not only in one place, but in one piece!

    • CaliforniaStark

      In addition, wind power by itself is exorbitantly expensive to generate. Denmark abandoned plans to built five offshore wind farms last year because of the excessive cost of the electricity they would produce. Denmark already has the highest electricity costs in the world because of its reliance on wind energy; electricity costs about 20 cents a kwh, versus only about 7 cents a kwh in the U.S. As the article in the link below states: “Danes have paid billions in taxes and fees to support wind turbines, which has caused electricity prices to skyrocket even as the price of actual electricity has decreased. Now, green taxes make up 66 percent of Danish electricity bills. Only 15 percent of electricity bills went to energy generation.”

      https://www.cfact.org/2016/05/13/denmark-says-wind-energy-too-expensive/

      As the government minister indicated: “We can’t accept this, as the private sector and households are paying far too much. Denmark’s renewable policy has turned out to be too expensive,”

      And it is even worse, once built, the amount of energy wind turbines produce rapidly declines. A 2013 study in the U.K. by the Renewable Energy Foundation found that the capacity favor for “on-shore wind farms decline from 24% in the first year of operation, to 15% in year ten, and 11% in year 15. . . In Denmark, output declined from 40% in the first year of
      operation to less than 15% in year 10.”

      Can make many arguments in favor of solar power, but wind turbines are basically just a boondoggle. As Warren Buffett said: “We get a tax credit if we build a lot of wind farms. That’s the only reason to build them. They don’t make sense without the tax credit.” On this one issue, TAI’s blind opposition to Trump is preventing him from exercising better judgment.

  • Disappeared4x

    A better use of the “shore” would be to deploy barges that can turn garbage to electricity, treat wastewater, desalinate – building on existing barge technology deployed to service the North Sea oil rigs. NYC rejected that barge technology twice, during Giuliani, and Bloomberg administrations. Back then, it was barge technology developed by Norway, UK, and Switzerland. Instead, NYC trucks garbage to New Jersey for waste-to-energy incineration. The NIMBYism of waste-to-energy technology is absurd. New Jersey has had that technology in every county since the 1980’s, yet no even talks about that success.

    From 2015: https://www.desalination.biz/news/0/Norwegian-desalination-barge-venture-seeks-Israeli-expertise/7960/

    Vertical-axis wind turbines installed at the point-of-use make so much more sense than offshore horizontal-axis wind farms that might need some sort of battery storage. Basing a post on a 2012 tweet makes no sense.

  • Angel Martin

    “President Trump might turn out to be our nation’s NIMBY-ist in chief, …”

    Correction:

    “With the death of Senator Edward Kennedy, President Trump might turn out to be our nation’s NIMBY-ist in chief, …”

  • Andrew Allison

    TAI has long inveighed against wind and solar power on the basis of their indeterminacy and cost-ineffectiveness, not to mention the bird mortality issues with the former. Amazing that a Trump tweet could change TAI’s mind about their value.

    • Boritz

      And remember that Ted Kennedy opposed a wind farm offshore at Cape Cod for, that’s right, aesthetic reasons.

      • LarryD

        The opinion that wind turbines are ugly is widely shared. And they are nosy. And they kill birds, which would get them shutdown in a heartbeat if greens didn’t swoon over them, demonstrating that Greens concern for wildlife is just a club to beat disfavored development with.

      • Andrew Allison

        True, but that was not the point, namely that Trump’s opposition to something can change TAI’s long-held opinion on it, which I was making.

  • ronetc

    “offshore wind is on the brink of success in North America after a decade of false starts” . . . it must be a really long brink and has been receding from view longer than a decade. I an old enough I have been hearing about this supposed “brink” for thirty years.

    • Andrew Allison

      Mirage: an illusion which remains a fixed distance from the observer, c.f. renewable energy cost effectiveness, peak oil, etc.

  • Jacksonian_Libertarian

    If it can’t exist without subsidies, it doesn’t belong in the energy mix. Modern Technological Civilization requires cheap energy to thrive. This is because muscle power is being completely replaced by other forms of power.

    The stupid lying environmentalists should have to personally pay for these “Bird Blenders” if they want them. There will skiing in the Sierra Nevada’s on July 4th this year, as they’ve already gotten over 500 inches (40+ feet) of snow (Global Warming is BS).

  • ვეფხისტყაოსანი

    The trick is to build wind farms where only poor people can see them. It’s easy to see that there are no rich people anywhere around any fracking operation.

    Unfortunately, rich Americans like to have homes on the coasts and will fight like berserkers to preserve and increase the value of their properties.

    Oddly, nearly all rich Americans also claim to be passionately devoted to doing whatever it takes to save the planet.

    OK, that’s unfair. I should have said, “All rich Americans are passionately devoted to having other people do whatever it takes to save the planet.” Sorry about that — but I’m only human.

    • GS

      Just position the turbines far enough from the shore where they could barely be seen, and the aesthetics of it would disappear. That’s the easy part. Protecting the turbines from the corrosion (saltwater around) and periodic servicing/replacements would present more problems – these would be more costly than dealing with the land-based turbines..

  • Simpatica

    Wind turbines are ugly and kill birds by the thousands. That we do not use nuclear energy for electricity only shows how much the climate change movement is NOT about climate change.

  • Proud Skeptic

    But, they ARE ugly.

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