I thought commercial wind turbines cost about a million dollars each to get up and running and ready to catch the wind. I didn’t even consider the added cost of getting the electricity transported to the electrical grid. Now I find I was wrong on the cost, it’s more like $3.5 million per wind turbine. That makes Google’s investment of $38 million in wind turbines, which it called its “Renewable Energy Cheaper That Coal” project, look paltry. Thirty-eight wind turbines is a not a large wind farm — each turbine can produce about 2 megawatts of electricity when the wind is blowing, none the rest of the time. At $3.5 million a copy only 11 turbines at the most would be constructed.
But Google’s $38 million was only seed money. Lots of other investors were kicking in. Google hired a guy named Bill Weihl who predicted that “In three years, we could have multiple megawatts of plants out there.” All producing electricity cheaper than coal-fired plants. Sounds good to me.
But like most things to do with green energy, it only sounds good. It’s not actually good at all. It’s not actually possible at all.
So who is putting up all this money for wind farms? You are, that’s who. It turns out the green energy movement, especially the wind turbine portion of it, is little more than fabulous tax shelters for wealthy Democrats. Here’s what the Wall Street Journal said about Googles green energy project at the time”
“Google’s stakes in the wind farms are ‘tax equity’ investments, in which investors buy into a project and use federal tax credits granted to the project to offset their own taxes.”
Oh, and Google also announced at the time that electricity from these wind farms would not be used to power any of Googles several massive data centers. Right. After all, these data centers needs lot of reliable electricity, something wind farms cannot provide.
So now Google has thrown in the towel completely, and Bill Weihl has gone on to other boondoggles.
I used to make part of my living writing legal opinions for tax shelters, back in the days when tax shelters were the rage. In the opening paragraphs I explained how the investment would legally yield tax deductions for investors that they could take against their income from other sources. In the final paragraphs I explained the likelihood of those deductions having to be realized as income in later years if, as likely, their “capital account” in the investment fell below zero. Apparently many of them didn’t bother to read all the way through the opinion letter, or had short memories if they did, because they were often surprised and disappointed when their former tax losses were “recaptured” as income. In some circumstances the recaptured income could exceed the amount of losses previously deducted. Ouch.
I wonder if the rich Democrats making out like bandits on green energy tax shelters have thought of this. Of course, they have probably used their political connections to get the rules written in their favor so they won’t have to face such a prospect.
For more check out Steven Hayward’s piece today, More Green Energy Fail
I also recommend C.J. Box’s Cold Wind, which is a fiction novel. Like all great fiction novels, it contains large kernels of truth.