By Andrew Walden
Bankrupt Europe has a lesson for Congress about wind power.
The sound floats on the winds of Ka Le, this southernmost tip of Hawaii's Big Island, where Polynesian colonists first landed some 1,500 years ago.
Some say that Ka Le is haunted -- and it is. But it's haunted not by Hawaii's legendary night marchers. The mysterious sounds are "Na leo o Kamaoa"-- the disembodied voices of 37 skeletal wind turbines abandoned to rust on the hundred-acre site of the former Kamaoa Wind Farm.
The voices of Kamaoa cry out their warning as a new batch of colonists, having looted the taxpayers of Spain, Portugal, and Greece, seeks to expand upon their multi-billion-dollar foothold half a world away on the shores of the distant Potomac River. European wind developers are fleeing the EU's expiring wind subsidies, shuttering factories, laying off workers, and leaving billions of Euros of sovereign debt and a continent-wide financial crisis in their wake. But their game is not over. Already they are tapping a new vein of lucre from the taxpayers and ratepayers of the United States.
The Waxman-Markey Cap-and-Trade Bill appears to be politically dead since Republican Scott Brown's paradigm-shattering Massachusetts Senate victory. But alternative proposals being floated by Senator Byron Dorgan (D-ND) and others still promise billions of dollars to wind developers and commit the United States to generate as much as 20% of its electricity from so-called "renewable" sources.
The ghosts of Kamaoa are not alone in warning us. Five other abandoned wind sites dot the Hawaiian Isles -- but it is in California where the impact of past mandates and subsidies is felt most strongly. Thousands of abandoned wind turbines littered the landscape of wind energy's California "big three" locations -- Altamont Pass, Tehachapi, and San Gorgonio -- considered among the world's best wind sites.
Built in 1985, at the end of the boom, Kamaoa soon suffered from lack of maintenance. In 1994, the site lease was purchased by Redwood City, CA-based Apollo Energy.
Cannibalizing parts from the original 37 turbines, Apollo personnel kept the declining facility going with outdated equipment. But even in a place where wind-shaped trees grow sideways, maintenance issues were overwhelming. By 2004 Kamaoa accounts began to show up on a Hawaii State Department of Finance list of unclaimed properties. In 2006, transmission was finally cut off by Hawaii Electric Company.
California's wind farms -- then comprising about 80% of the world's wind generation capacity -- ceased to generate much more quickly than Kamaoa. In the best wind spots on earth, over 14,000 turbines were simply abandoned. Spinning, post-industrial junk which generates nothing but bird kills.