UK towns blow millions on wind turbines with 190-year payback periods

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Michael Bastasch DCNF Managing Editor
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Towns all over Britain are blowing millions of dollars on wind turbines that are generating almost no revenue and will take hundreds of years to pay for themselves, reports the UK Telegraph.

The Telegraph reports that UK localities are spending hundreds of pounds installing wind turbines in an effort to boost renewable energy generation and fight global warming.

“Some turbines generate so little energy they would take hundreds of years to repay their original value,” reports the Telegraph. “Experts argue that the failure of some wind turbines to recoup their value shows how small wind turbines are a poor way to generate renewable energy.”

In fact, only three out of a handful of localities that responded to the Telegraph’s inquiries had wind turbines with payback periods of less than ten years.

The locality of Eastleigh, Hampshire spent nearly $50,000 installing a wind turbine in 2005, but the inefficient turbine only generates about $21 worth of power every month — meaning the payback period on this turbine is 190 years.

In Leeds, officials spent about $102,000 on a wind turbine in 2009 at an inner city sports facility, but the turbine did not generate any power last year. In Derbyshire, a $147,000 turbine was built in 2004 but has not produced power since September 2011.

“Wind energy is an experiment, and sometimes the lessons learnt are hard and dearly bought,” Dr. John Constable, director at the Renewable Energy Foundation, told the Telegraph. “The truth is that foolishly ambitious targets and silly levels of subsidy have overheated the wind industry, resulting in defective technologies and poor installations.”

Constable added that smaller wind turbines were only expected to last up to 15 years, meaning that virtually none of the ones the Telegraph investigated would pay for themselves.

However, this isn’t even the longest payback period a UK town has ever had to face on a turbine. One Welsh turbine was sited in such a calm area that it only generates about $8 worth of electricity every month — a 452-year payback period.

“If this project had been started when Elizabeth I was on the throne, it would only be reaching break-even point now, sixty years into the reign of Elizabeth II,” Jonathan Isaby, political director of the TaxPayers’ Alliance, told the Daily Express. “It would seem that the turbine’s installation was nothing more than an obscenely expensive vanity project, with unwitting taxpayers footing the bill.”

The Labour-controlled Welsh government contends that the turbine has mechanical problems, but the company that built the turbine said that the location the government decided to put the turbine in is too calm and has little wind.

“The problem is quite simple — it’s been put in the wrong place,” said Paul Burrell, a wind turbine expert. “It’s very important with any wind turbine to ensure it’s in the most exposed location possible. They need unobstructed access to wind from all directions.”

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