Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Kumkum Dasgupta -no wind in those windmills

The moment I lay my eyes on this article on windmills by Kumkum Dasgupta in today's Hindustan Times, I just knew that it would be strong on uninformed tosh and unquestioning credulity. I was not disappointed(or rather was-  that this large article was no different from thousands of others).Here is the gist of it-

A little bit of push from the government always helps, as it did for Samsoe, which is located in the middle of Denmark, a country of 406 islands and peninsula Jutland. Thanks to its geographical position, the Viking explorers once used Samsoe as a meeting point. Today, it has become the centre of the country’s renewable energy (RE) programme. Thanks to a community initiative, the island now runs on 100 per cent RE.

That Samsoe’s contribution is part of Denmark’s larger plans of moving from fossil fuels to RE is clear: by 2025, Denmark wants at least 30 per cent of its total energy consumption to be powered by RE. As of today, RE accounts for over 15 per cent of the country’s gross energy consumption and about 27 per cent of the electricity that is generated.


The residents responded wholeheartedly: they gave up their oil-burning furnaces for centralised plants that burned leftover straw or wood chips to produce heat and hot water. They bought shares in new wind turbines. Then they invested in 11 large land-based turbines, enough to meet their electricity needs.

They also supported the construction of 10 massive offshore turbines. Banks backed the resident-investors because the Danish government assured the price of electricity for 10 years.
“We care about the production, because we own the wind turbines. Every time they turn around, it means money in the bank.

And, being part of it, we also feel responsible,” Hermansen said in an interview to a newspaper.
The spin-offs have been enormous: the islanders not only saved on its fuel/electricity bills but Samsoe became an island for eco-tourism


We care about the production, because we own the wind turbines. Every time they turn around, it means money in the bank. And, being part of it, we also feel responsible,” Hermansen said in an interview to a newspaper.

Ok, we get the narrative - a green island paradise that is now teaching the world how to give up completely it's dependence on fossil fuels, a sort of renewable energy kibbutz that actually works and makes money, grassroots collective action for nature and for profit.

Kumkum Dasgupta, following to a T other 'environmental' writers' techniques, raises no doubts, interviews no contrary voices, questions nothing.The truth, alas, is often not found in a newspaper article -a strange and tragic irony.

Ms. Dasgupta, here some facts that you seem to be unaware of -
The answer is that the president's (repeat) claim that "Denmark produces almost 20 percent of their electricity through wind power" is false. Denmark actually produces much less of its own electricity from wind, as low as 4 percent depending on the year, with the recent average of 9.7 percent. This despite a massive buildout of what they flatteringly call the "wind carpet," on some of the most hospitable terrain for wind power in the world.

It is also in return for its households paying the highest eletricity rates in Europe. With a substantially lower per-capita energy use. That means, to get half of what Obama seeks, the U.S. would have to carpet itself twice over — which means lots of windmills where birds fly and Kennedys live — and pay Danish-style rates.

Oh. Wait. That still won't do it. Apparently Denmark's experience isn't even scalable to Scanadanavia. It turns out that, if the Norwegians and Swedes tried to replicate Denmark's expensive folly, well, it would blow the system up. Here's why. Denmark took advantage of long-since-paid-for interconnectors between Jutland and Norway, and the island on which Copenhagen sits and Sweden. It made a political decision that windmills would be their "national champion" industry, and as you will hear to no end throughout the Copenhagen COP, a big part of their national identity. So they built a lot of windmills, and started a mythology.

This buildout was only possible because the Norwegians and Swedes use enormous percentages of hydropower and nuclear, both of which can be dialed up or down according to the whimsy of the wind. When the wind does deign to blow, Denmark sends fully half of its very expensive, ratepayer subsidized wind power to its neighbors at cut rates, in return for said neighbors indulging Denmark's wind mill image-making by dialing up or down its hydro power or nukes at other times (which, most of the time, means "up").

When the wind picks up, the story gets worse. On top of subsidizing their neighbors' electricity and allowing them to go without building more of their own, it turns out that increases in wind generation, under the current buildout, are shipped nearly 100 percent and at a considerable below-cost discount right out of the country. With its politicians now vowing to massively increase installed wind ("50 percent of our elecricity" — how about getting to 20 percent first?), that means Denmark will be sending even more domestic wealth to its neighbors.

Because it is displacing carbon-neutral electricity — as a condition precedent even to deploying the machines, mind you, so this is not something that can be changed — you can kiss claims to massive CO2 reductions (or reduced fuel use) goodbye.

When it comes to Obama's claim that Denmark, not discredited Spain, is the model to follow: waiter, the food was horrible, and the portions too small. You can't replicate Denmark's model — and its a good thing, too.

Although, I'm informed that the Danish wind industry admitted the problems to the media this morning before muttering about needing further (ratepayer) investment, expect the American wind power industry to spin wildly in coming days. Which, incidentally, is more than we can say about their products.

So, the merry islanders are laughing their way to the bank while rest of Denmark pays the highest energy bills in Europe. Denmark has to ship out it's wind-generated electricity at a loss to it's neighbors. And to top it all, the alleged CO2 reductions are a myth.

And this you say, Ms.Dasgupta, is model for the world to follow. Really?

(emphasis mine)

Update -
missing links added.

Update 2-


        BBC refuses to air a film not duly worshipful of windmills

       Artists against windmills