Energy companies and entire countries seem to blow hot and cold on wind energy. Three years ago the German government's energy ministry said wind was too expensive. Better to simply conserve energy. Yet figures show Germany continues to expand its use of wind for generating electricity. And out in Kansas where they're still fighting over those two coal-fired plants that may never get built, an anti-coal writer cites Germany as an example of using wind to create the baseload power needed to run a national power grid. One widely-spread myth is that only nuclear or coal or natural gas can provide the kind of baseload supply of electricity needed to keep our refrigerators and alarm systems humming while we sleep.
The German wind industry is organized and growing in importance. Here's some rhetoric from their website: "Boosting investment in energy efficiency, renewable energy and new technologies has wide-reaching benefits and would contribute to the EU’s strategy for growth and jobs. Such an initiative would cut import spending, provide many longterm employment opportunities, and improve the EU’s economy as a whole. Such investment would also help expand knowledge in this field via research and development in new energy technologies. The EU is already the global leader in renewable technologies – it has, for example, 60% of the world market share in wind energy. In fact, these technologies account for an annual turnover of €20 billion and employ 300 000 people in Europe. Now the EU has the potential to lead the rapidly growing market for low carbon technologies, combating global warming while pushing international research forward...
"This means transforming Europe into a highly efficient, low CO2 energy economy."
It must be pointed out that NONE of the world's major oil companies is German-owned so Big Oil has very little clout in German politics. Sound unfamiliar?
Germany is not the only Euro-nation to get windy: I recently blogged about Spanish companies being important globally, along with an American company based in Florida.
No Wind Without Politics
Because wind power's freely available, battles over wind farms and turbines center on land use and placement. In Maryland the governor has just banned turbines on state-owned land. His quote: "While we must continue to explore and make progress on creating a more sustainable and independent energy future for Maryland, we will not do so at the expense of the special lands we hold in the public trust." No wind turbines at your favorite Maryland state park.
Here's a look at the politics of wind power in New Jersey, and along its shore. There the governor is pushing for offshore turbine farms. And similar political battles may be fought in Wisconsin, where both land and lake locations for turbines get some negative attention. On the other shore of Lake Michigan, utility companies are eyeballing both the lake and its shoreline for wind farms in Michagan.
You can check Google news for your state, and chances are strong you'll find some recent story about somebody proposing or opposing wind farms there. The winds of change are blowing through the energy industry.
We know what's fuelling this windblown turbine turbulence: oil prices. Last week, for the record, crude ended at over $112 per barrel. Yet some analysts were predicting a drop in prices due to lower demand caused by economic woes around the world. Perhaps all the way down to $90. You got it, down to $90.