Is green investment put to waste?

Dear Editor,

I read the article called “The Greener Option” (PEi December 2000, Vol. 8 Issue 11, p16-20) with great interest. I would like to stress that I am not against any particular form of energy production system, but I believe it must be as environmentally friendly as possible and also affordable.

You mentioned hydropower as a green energy source in the article. News reports have stated that the US government no longer considers hydropower to be a ‘green’ energy source. The reason is well known: its environmental impact.

In the Netherlands, Greenpeace sells solar panels for NLG2000 ($816) each. With government subsidies, the price is reduced to NLG1000 a panel. With a loan at eight per cent this amounts to NLG160 per year. The output of the panels is a maximum of 80 kWh/m2, so the per-kWh cost is NLG2. While there are no maintenance costs, a problem arises over the disposal of old and worn out panels. A 1995 publication on this subject called solar panels the “waste problem of the next century”.

With windmills the situation is even more stupid. From figures which you can obtain from the Dutch Wind Mill Coordinating Centre, it becomes clear that:

  • The average production factor over one year of the wind turbines installed in the Netherlands is 20 per cent. So the average production of a 1 MW windmill is about 200 kW. This means effectively that we pay NLG2 million for a turbine that produces not much more than a truck engine. The investors in and operators of windmill capacity should perhaps mention the average production per unit instead of the installed power.
  • Windmills will generate power only in wind speeds of between Beaufort 4 and 8. They are even driven when wind speeds are less than Beaufort 4, because the public cannot understand why a windmill is not rotating – this would mean that no green energy is being produced!
  • The ‘green’ electricity price never shows the kWh price of the stand-by non-green power plant needed in the case of no sunlight or at night, or in situations of no winds or gales.

So again, I am not against any particular form of energy production installation. But energy technology must be realistic. The generation that is at university today will need all forms of energy production technology available in order to take on the challenges of this century, such as:

  • The doubling of the world population
  • The doubling of world energy consumption and
  • A further increase in the shortage of fresh water.

But they will not benefit by the sort of commercial behaviour shown by the so-called environmental organizations.

Yours sincerely,
G.A.K. Crommelin
Captain (Engineering) Royal Netherlands Navy (ret)
The NEREUS project
The Netherlands

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