• Not on the way out
    January 10,2013

    Not on the way out

    There was a recent letter to The Times Argus on how a number of European countries had stopped subsidizing wind power and were even dismantling installations. Germany and Spain were among the countries the writer listed. I found that very curious, since on recent trips to Germany and Spain, we saw many hundreds of wind turbines in fields and on ridgelines, and even quaint little German villages with their red-tiled roofs sported solar panels on nearly every house.

    Spain ranks second in producing electricity from wind. Generous government subsidies led to overproduction of wind farms, and they have more power than they can consume or sell. The Spanish government is now taxing power production more heavily in an effort to slow it down. The U.S. does not have this problem.

    Germans are phasing out their nuclear plants and have accelerated the process since Fukushima. Over 25 percent of the nation’s electricity is now generated by renewable resources. Environment minister Peter Altmaier recently announced the official goal is to reach 40 percent by 2020.

    German law empowers every home and/or business to generate their own electricity and sell the surplus to the grid at a guaranteed rate. As a result the push for greater renewable energy sources comes from private investment rather than government subsidies. Groups of townspeople have banded together to create citizens’ wind farms that provide power to their members and then earn them some cash by selling the surplus. Ratepayers pick up the tab for buying the privately generated power. Even with the surcharge, German households still pay slightly less for their power than their American counterparts do.

    On Dec. 14, the German parliament passed a law making it easier to invest in offshore wind turbines. Far from dismantling, they are encouraging growth of wind farms.

    Germany produces power so cheaply, it causes problems with its neighbors. Where German power can cross borders, it competes with the more expensive local power. Czechoslovakia, which had been selling nuclear-generated power to Austria, is losing business to Germany’s cheaper wind-generated power.

    It seems the facts do not support the assertion that wind power is on the way out in Europe.

    Tommy Walz


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