NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Wind Power Fails to Deliver

February 23, 2004

Wind power is expensive, doesn't deliver the environmental benefits it promises and imposes substantial environmental costs. Accordingly, it does not merit continued government promotion or funding, says H. Sterling Burnett, Ph.D., a senior fellow with the National Center for Policy Analysis.

While the price of wind power has indeed fallen, it still costs more than spot market electric power (3.5 to 4 cents kwh). Furthermore, the price gap between wind and conventional power production is actually greater, since the federal government subsidizes wind power through a production tax credit of 1.8 cents per kwh.

Thus, when the 1.8 cent kwh tax credit lapsed in 2003, new wind power projects suddenly became uncompetitive. As a result:

  • California's Clipper Windpower abandoned already approved plans to build 67 windmills in Maryland.
  • As of January 8, 2004, orders for wind towers from the builder Beaird Industries ground to a halt, costing the company 200 jobs.
  • Vestas Wind Technologies shelved plans to build a manufacturing plant in Portland, Ore.
  • More than 1,000 megawatts of wind power that would have been added in 2004 will not occur due to the expiration of the tax credit, according to the American Wind Energy Association.

Likewise, notes Burnett, promised air quality improvements have failed to materialize. Because wind is an intermittent resource, wind farms must rely on conventional power plants to back up their supply. When there is too little wind, the towers don't generate power; but when the wind is too strong, they must be shut down for fear of being blown down. And even when they function properly, wind farms' average output is less than 30 percent of their theoretical capacity.

Source: H. Sterling Burnett, Ph.D.,"Wind Power: Red Not Green," Brief Analysis No. 467, National Center for Policy Analysis, February 23, 2004.

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