Windy cities

Earlier I criticized Cities: Skylines for portraying wind power so poorly that it is nearly the exact opposite of reality. Which is to say as cheap, reliable, and powerful. Perhaps the developers are too focused on highly detailed traffic simulators to accurately depict the other elements of city building. More likely, they were pushing an agenda, which is not a very nice thing to do in the sim genre.

A reality check into the actual world of wind power was circulating this week in the conservative blogosphere (how I hate that word) with this incredible title:

“Costly Broken Wind Turbines Give College Whopping Negative 99.14% Return On Investment”

I say it’s an incredible title because, in addition to being hard to believe, everything about the story is right there. The article itself is just a series of footnotes in which you’ll find many depressing examples of how unworkable green dreams aren’t confined to video game developers. I’m pretty sure the turbines in Skylines didn’t cost millions of dollars of taxpayer money. Then again, the turbines in Skylines work, too. That’s the rub.

The college estimates it would take another $100,000 in repairs to make the turbines function again after one of them was struck by lightning and likely suffered electrical damage last summer. School officials’ original estimates found the turbine would save it $44,000 in electricity annually, far more than the $8,500 they actually generated. Under the original optimistic scenario, the turbines would have to last for 22.5 years just to recoup the costs, not accounting for inflation. If viewed as an investment, the turbines had a return of negative 99.14 percent.

Would have it killed them to say: “Sorry, we blew your money.” No. It’s a ‘learning experience.’ Once upon a time if an official entrusted with the public funds had covered himself in this kind of infamy, he would be slathered with pine tar, tied to a log, and carried out of town. That treatment would surely induce a little humility in even the most shameless of the bobble-headed mandarins who populate our bureaucracies.

Perhaps these particular wind turbines were mismanaged, in a bad location, or of poor construction quality. Their problems seem to mirror those of larger wind farms, though: underused, hard to maintain, and expensive.

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