With the new year, my wife and I headed to Southern California to escape another January in Oklahoma. While there, I became a “fan” of wind power and its positive impact on oil and gas demand. Here’s what I observed:
Between Palm Springs and Riverside is a valley filled with a thousand or more wind turbines of every shape and size. It is the largest concentration of wind generators I’ve ever seen. We drove through this valley twice ten days apart, both times in a downpour. On the first drive through, none of the fans were spinning. On the second, perhaps 10%.
Driving from Tulsa to Riverside, California and back – 3,000 miles – we saw perhaps 2,000 wind turbines in Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico, Arizona and California. At most, 200 were turning during our 70 mph drive by… and this counts seeing each one twice (there and back).
While the Oklahoma wind turbines were generally spotless, 100% of the observed California turbines were coated with about 30 feet of black lubricating oil oozing down from the propeller shafts and leaking down the tall white towers. The oil pollution from these so-called clean energy machines stood in stark contrast to the moral high ground claimed by their advocates.
Here is what I surmised:
Since demand for energy never ceases, most idle wind turbines had a hydrocarbon-based power generation plant running at full power somewhere over the horizon. And since Southern California was blanketed in clouds and rain for our entire visit, I’m guessing the solar power panels weren’t generating much electricity either.
An enormous amount of energy is required to manufacture, assemble, transport, erect and hook-up the 1,900 idle wind towers we observed. This demand for steel, composites, copper wiring, plastics… is a huge benefit to the oil and gas industry.
More oil is leaking uncaptured from the 1,000 California wind turbines in that single valley we drove through than all the oil leaking – but captured! – from the 1,000 drilling rigs active across the US.
I’ve never been a fan of alternative forms of energy because, well, I’m pretty good at math, plus wind and solar tend to render vast tracts of land unusable for recreation or development. But this trip to California opened my eyes to the probability that, due to the incredible inefficiency of wind power generation – both in the construction of wind farms and in the erratic generation of power – every wind tower appears to generate incremental demand for oil and gas.
Perhaps someday a form of “renewable” power will prove to be a net generator of electricity; for now, every wind tower appears to create incremental demand for hydrocarbons – and that is a reason why the oil industry should love, or at least not-hate, the alternate energy industry.