[Mayflower Analysis] Is Wind Energy Really that Reliable? Part 1: New Hampshire Wants It While Texas Suffered From It

Mayflower Writer Team | Reporter: Amy Q | Editor & Publish: Jamie          

On February 23, New Hampshire held a public online meeting, discussing developing offshore wind energy in the state and also in the New England regions. The forum was broadcasted on Zoom and was also live on Facebook. During the discussion, all panelists explicitly presented the benefits of offshore wind energy: meeting the climate goal of reducing pollution and carbon emission, while satisfying the energy demands, and creating “tens of thousands of jobs.”

In the meantime looking at it worldwide, early in the year of 2018, China and the U.S. have respectively taken up the first and second place of Top 10 Wind Energy Producers by Capacity, according to Clean Energy Ideas:

But is this wind energy really that promising? Just a week ago, Texas experienced massive and severe power outages during the unbearable freezing weather, dozens of lives were lost during the outages. With no precaution in advance, the wind turbines, which are supposed to generate electricity, got frozen during the state’s coldest temperatures in over 30 years.

Power outages across Texas. Source: USA TODAY analysis of over 50 power companies across Texas

Though some might refuse to admit it, the frozen wind turbines were de facto one major cause of the outages. Early on January 12, Dr. Joshua D. Rhodes, a Research Fellow at the Energy Institute and the Webber Energy Group at the University of Texas at Austin, posted a graphic chart of Fifteen years of fuel mixes in the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) on Twitter.

Source: https://t.co/a30xujVa1l?amp=1

In 2020, the wind became the second-largest energy generator in Texas, took up 23 percent of all. Think about if wind turbines freeze, how many households would be influenced?

Source: ERCOT via Joshua D. Rhodes, from Statista

With Texas’ example, people have to think twice about wind energy. As a matter of fact, there are many uncertain elements about the offshore wind industry which is hoped to be developed in New Hampshire.

First, as many panelists claimed, offshore wind is only in the planning phase. Estimated by the Bob LaBelle, former Deputy Director Associates of Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM), this phase would take one to two years to complete. What’s more, it takes “potentially seven years to reach the point of beginning construction.”

Though offshore wind could bring “tens of thousands of jobs” in various related positions, Joe Casey, International Representative of International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW), told us that “Offshore wind is going to take a lot of early training. Out there on the ocean is a whole different story.” Not to mention the problems of “seasonal construction.”

“Seasonal construction” means that the workers would be only working for three seasons – spring, summer, and autumn. When winter comes, the construction would be paused, and the workers would be sent home. So, the question is, where should these workers find jobs during the winters? Will the construction companies pay these people during the winters when they are not working? If not, how can they make a living during the winters?

Apart from all the other unanswered questions, if “our men” haven’t had the “skills they are going to need to work on these,” then who has? In another way, whom the U.S. can seek help from? Whoever that is, it must be a country that’s much more developed than the U.S. in wind energy.

Based on the analysis chart “Offshore wind capacity H1 2020, by country,” published by Madhumitha Jaganmohan on Feb 17, 2021, the total installed capacity of Chinese offshore wind turbines in operation accounted for around 6.3 gigawatts, with 1.4 gigawatts added in the first half of 2020.

The capacity of offshore wind turbines. Source from Statista

China is obviously well developed in the wind energy industry. Does this imply that China and the U.S. have any connections in wind energy? Stay tuned, and we will answer the question in the next analysis article!

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