A Tale of Two Turbines

By Mary McCleary

Green energy projects often fail to live up to the promises of manufacturers, politicians, and special interest groups.  Not only do they under deliver, they spend large sums of money to do so.  With each government subsidized green energy investment, taxpayers get a little poorer.

Lordstown, Ohio has awakened to this reality.  The two wind turbines the village installed in 2011 only operated at three percent capacity last year, as reported by the Youngstown Vindicator.  The village expected to save $300 to $500 per month on its electric bill due to the turbines, but instead it only shaved off $557 in 2012.

Even though the turbines cost $131,700 total, the mayor has indicated that the village may dispose of them after a 10-year grant agreement expires since they are effectively non-functioning.

Lordstown, though it only paid for 10 percent of the turbines, will likely never recoup its costs.  Regardless, the project will still be a boondoggle for Ohio taxpayers, who foot the bill for the state and regional grants that funded the rest of the project.  If energy production doubles in 2013, it will still take over 100 years to achieve a positive return on the investment.  Since the average life span of wind turbines is only 20 to 40 years, it will be impossible.

Aside from current performance, projected performance in the planning stages should have been enough to halt the project.  Under the best-case scenario, the turbines would not have paid for themselves in term of saved energy costs for 22 years.  Under the worst-case performance estimate, which of course ended up being grossly unrealistic, the turbines would not have paid for themselves for almost 37 years.

The math doesn’t add up and it likely won’t for any wind project in Ohio.  Wind energy costs about twice as much per kilowatt-hour as traditional energy.  If wind projects were economically viable, private companies would be willing to construct them without government assistance.

Ohio’s governments at all levels, particularly the state level, need to stop throwing tax dollars away and wasting resources on green energy programs.  If the state spent the amount of time and resources protecting and promoting Ohio’s traditional energy as it does subsidizing green energy projects and legislating green energy mandates, Ohio’s economy would receive a nice boost.

Due to the Utica Shale, Ohio has an opportunity to experience a much-needed economic boom, with the poorest part of the state receiving the most benefits.  Unfortunately, when it comes to energy, politicians on both sides of the aisle have a history of gambling with our state’s future.

Though Ohio’s traditional energy appears to have weathered the latest attack in the form of Governor John Kasich’s proposal to quadruple the severance tax, the state has already suffered from reduced investment because of it.  According to a Fraser Institute study, Ohio dropped from second to fourteenth in attractiveness for energy exploration after the tax hike was suggested.

When Ohio stands behind traditional energy, all Ohioans win, not just special interest groups. When Ohio actively undermines those who seek to develop the state’s natural resources or subsidizes and mandates green energy projects, all Ohioans lose.  If our leaders wish to rectify some serious energy wrongs, they should bury the severance tax issue for good and repeal the state’s alternative energy standards.

Let Lordstown be a lesson, not only to the state, but also to local governments all over Ohio:  green energy projects, more often than not, are flops.  Even if projected energy production is accurate, the projects are still cost prohibitive with or without grants from other government entities to help defray the expense.

If municipalities are serious about improving energy efficiency, they need look no further than the light bulb aisle at their local hardware or grocery stores.