White elephants for Searchlight

A 200-megawatt wind energy project near Searchlight has been approved by the federal government.

Interior Secretary Ken Salazar announced Wednesday that 87 giant wind turbines will be built on almost 19,000 acres of Bureau of Land Management land about 60 miles southeast of Las Vegas.

The project will occasionally generate enough electricity to power 70,000 homes, according to the Interior Department.

It’s expected to create about 275 jobs during construction and 15 jobs for operations — and to generate about $18.6 million in property and sales taxes for local government, the agency said.

Any local construction project is welcome in the face of Southern Nevada’s ongoing economic doldrums, of course. And wind energy projects are essentially “two-fers” — if it takes 275 workers to build these giant bat-killers, it will presumably take almost that many workers to tear them down, once a combination of post-subsidy economic reality and environmental lawsuits over bird slaughter lead to the whole project being idled, as has already happened to thousands of windmills in Hawaii and California.

Mind you, no one could possibly object to private entrepreneurs buying land and erecting wind farms if they believe they can make a profit on such a venture, absent government subsidies and mandates that utilities buy the power regardless of cost — which is just a different kind of subsidy, with the cost passed on to all of us in our electric bills.

In fact, it would be interesting to compare that supposed $18.6 million in property and sales tax revenue to what state and local governments might receive if this 19,000 acres were sold off to private developers (as all Nevada BLM lands should be sold to private parties), who were then allowed to build profitable, modern, coal- or natural gas-fired power plants.

At least such coal-fired plants wouldn’t have to be backed up by an equivalent capacity in quick-fire natural gas turbines, always needed to replace the loading of wind generators when they go off line.

“Literal beacons of the ‘green’ energy movement, giant wind turbines have been one of the renewable energy sources of choice for the U.S. government, which has spent billions of taxpayer dollars subsidizing their construction and use across the country,” Jonathan Benson wrote for Naturalnews.com, a Taiwan-based nonprofit collection of public education websites, in November 2011.

“But high maintenance costs, high rates of failure, and fluctuating weather conditions that affect energy production render wind turbines expensive and inefficient, which is why more than 14,000 of them have since been abandoned,” Mr. Benson continued.

Well, that and the environmental lawsuits, attempting to reduce the killing of hawks, eagles, owls and bats.

“Before government subsidies ... were cut or eliminated in many areas, wind farms were an energy boom business,” Mr. Benson offers. “But in the post-tax subsidy era, the costs of maintaining and operating wind turbines far outweighs the minimal power they generate in many areas, which has left a patchwork of wind turbine graveyards in many of the most popular wind farming areas of the U.S.”

Andrew Walden, writing for the American Thinker, picks up the account: “Thousands of abandoned wind turbines littered the landscape of wind energy’s California ‘big three’ locations, which include Altamont Pass, Tehachapin and San Gorgonio, considered among the world’s best wind sites,” Mr. Walden writes. “In the best wind spots on earth, over 14,000 turbines were simply abandoned. Spinning, post-industrial junk which generates nothing but bird kills.”

In England, Britain’s wind farms are wearing out far more rapidly than previously thought, making them more expensive as a result, reported Robert Mendick for the London Telegraph on Dec. 30, 2012.

“The analysis of almost 3,000 onshore wind turbines — the biggest study of its kind — warns that they will continue to generate electricity effectively for just 12 to 15 years,” Mr. Mendick reports.

The wind energy industry and the British government had based all their calculations upon turbines having a life span of 20 to 25 years. That means routine wear and tear will more than double the cost of electricity being produced by wind farms over the next decade. “Many more will need to be built onshore if the Government is to meet renewable energy targets by 2020, with the extra cost likely to be passed on to households, which already pay about 1 billion pounds a year in a consumer subsidy added to their electric bills.”

And this follows the same newspaper’s December 2008 report that the “wind farm industry has been forced to admit that the environmental benefit of wind power in reducing carbon emissions is only half as big as it had previously claimed.”

But it’s OK. It’ll all be subsidized by Uncle Sam, who gets all the money he needs simply by printing it, with no inflationary impact on the economy, at all. Gasoline and groceries don’t cost any more today than they did in 2008, right?

By the time they’re done building these windmills, maybe the Burning Man kids can be brought in to bring them down. When you’ve got lemons, make lemonade.