A reasonably nice, slightly compressed 180 degree panorama of the dock at Rondeau Provincial Park.  I think I used a tripod here. And that's me on the left.

Suspect Information, Ideas, and Opinions - rarely updated and of dubious quality.

This was from 2006. Things are probably different now.

an old-fashioned windmill representing the Federal Government sponsored Alternative Energy project

Am I crazy? Sometimes I read stuff and I think I’m finally losing it. Let me tell you this story and, please correct me if my math is wrong.

Thursdays in my town is flyer day. That’s when the local paper comes stuffed with that week’s flyers. The usual routine is that I wrestle them away from my wife and settle down to browse through them. This week, a page in the Crappy Tire flyer caught my eye. There was a headline: “Take control of your energy” followed up with the tagline: “Produce it, Conserve it, Store it.” And there was a fine selection of solar panels and, get this, wind generators!

You gotta love the modern age. For the paltry sum of just $2999.99 I can now purchase a Whisper 950W wind generator for my home. The flyer promised that my Whisper generator would “quietly deliver renewable energy with little maintenance”. And get THIS! Ontario utilities now pay 42 cents/kW for my excess solar power!

I thought, “The windmill is sure expensive but wow! Freedom from the bloodsuckers at Hydro One! So I started doing some mental math to try to calculate the breakeven point on such a purchase.

Here’s what I came up with. In order to make this happen, I would to need the Whisper 950W wind generator of course. And there is a 30A Charge Controller listed below the generator so I guess I would need one of those too. Inspecting the ad revealed that these two items would probably cover only the “generation” part of the whole setup. I would also need multiple “deep-cycle” batteries strung together into a battery bank. That would be the storage part. Next up would be the part that converts all that DC battery power into usable AC power for my home. For that I would need an Eliminator power inverter. And though I think I’m pretty handy, the ad warned that I should leave the installation to professional installers. No problem. I’m sure professional installers for wind generated energy systems are easy to come by.

I want it! And I want it now! But let’s add up the costs first:

Whisper 950W wind generator $2999.99

30A Charge Controller $129.99

A bank of 6 deep-cycle batteries $599.94

Might as well go for the 3000W inverter. $499.99

Let’s say I can find someone to install the whole shot for $500

And even though the government talks a mean game telling me to conserve, be a good citizen of the country and the planet, and to explore various “power solutions”, they’ll still help themselves to $662.19 in sales taxes, no doubt to motivate me.

Grand total? $5,392 A reasonable one time investment. I say “one-time” because the wind generator requires only “little maintenance”, no doubt by a “professional installer”. That cost is sure to be so negligible as to be non-existent, right?

Now, what do I get for my 5k? Let’s be slightly optimistic and say that the wind generator will run at full tilt for 24 hours a day, 365 days per year. Let’s also assume that the entire system is 105% efficient and faithfully generates an even 1000 whole watts of delicious power for me and my family. That’s reasonable, right?

OK, based on that I will be generating 24 kWh of electricity per day, 168 kWh per week, and 8,736 kWh per year! I only use ~11,000 kwH per year (I’ll elaborate on that in a second) so my overall consumption will drop to only 2,300 kWh per year! Sure I won’t be able to take advantage of Ontario utilities 42 cents deal, since I will still be using more power than I generate, but man, what freedom!

Now, there really is no need, but again just for comparison’s sake, let’s look at what it would cost me to continue to generate my electricity the old-fashioned way (by paying for it directly to the godless heathens at Hydro One) hmm…let’s see…I know that even though my bill says I pay only ~6 cents per kWh for hydro it’s actually much more thanks to regulatory and delivery charges, and the worthwhile “debt retirement charge” that I see on every bill. So by simply taking my total bill including taxes and dividing it by the number of kWh I used last month, let’s say a kWh of hydro costs me: 11 cents per…times 8,700 kWh I would be generating thanks to the folks at Crappy Tire and our Canadian gub-mint…$957 per year.

Based on the above, in just over 5 and a half years, the system will pay for itself.

That’s great. I’ll race you to the store to get a system before they all sell out. But first, let’s correct our calculations using a new mathematical principal called reality.

You’ll be lucky if the damn windmill runs 50% of the time.

You’ll also be lucky if the whole deal is even 60% efficient.

You’ll be very lucky if you get away with 5% of your total purchase price in annual maintenance costs.

And even if the whole thing lasts 10 years, the technology will improve so much over that time and the costs will drop so much, that at the end of the 10 years, you’ll still have a dinosaur on your hands.

And of course, don’t forget that if you took the initial 5k and invested it conservatively on something else, you could realize around a 5% gain.

So based on that, you’re now looking at 50% of 8,736 kWh, and then only 60% of that. (2620 kWh) And your total costs are now 10% higher than before ($6,000)

And the 42 cents the government will give you for your extra power? That’s a typo. They’ll give you 4 POINT 2 cents, and then only if you’re off the grid and selling them the excess. Your break even point now?

20 Years. (and you’ll never generate a single watt of excess)

I think it was that jerk McGuinty (the premiere of Ontario) who said that an average family of four can live quite well on a 900 kWh per month. Well, could somebody please take off this guy’s helmet, pull him off the back of the short bus and read this article to him? I live in a 1000 square foot house, practically in the f%#ing DARK; every single appliance that can run on natural gas does, in fact, do so. I have nothing but Energy Star appliances yet I still use 950 kWh per month. I am so far below average in this respect it’s disgusting, yet I still use more power than that pinhead says I should be using?! Dayum.

This whole homegrown energy fad is the latest last gasp of the idiot spin-doctors who have yelled themselves hoarse, shouting at us from the rooftops to conserve! conserve! conserve! They’ve finally realized that we’ve already replaced every light in our home with $5 lightbulbs, and every shower already has a low-flow shower head (This allows us to enjoy that thrice-weekly European style dribble that is considered a shower…in Ethiopia maybe)…now they want each household to install their own power generation system! And they promise we’ll be generating so much that they’ll buy it back from us! Morons. Have they never heard of economies of scale? How can little household generation plants utilizing ancient technologies ever hope to be as efficient and economical as massive power plants utilizing truly alternative (nuclear) power solutions? What’s next? Should I trade in my blender for a mortar and pestle? They should pour their marketing dollars into research to find ways of generating power from large scale renewable energy projects, and not con and coerce me into pissing away yet more dollars I can ill afford just to appease some minor yet vocal group of tree-hugging retards demonstrating at Queen’s Park.

This was from 2006. Things are probably different now.

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Maybe read No Big Deal, a story I consider to be the very best thing I ever wrote.