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Big Green for Little Wind? Alec Baldwin Eyes $0.40/kWh Power

“I want to build something that is environmentally forward-thinking. I’m not building a satellite dish so I can watch the Knicks game.”

- Alec Baldwin, quoted in “Actor Tilts at Windmill,” Wall Street Journal, July 16, 2012.

“‘We’re behind big wind,’ [Mike] Bergey [of Bergey Windpower] said, with small-turbine technology having advanced just a couple of iterations from its early days, while the more mature big-wind technology has pushed forward eight or nine times. A little more help on the R&D front — some of that government solar money, say — would be appreciated, he said.”

- Peter Danko, “Alec Baldwin Turbine Puts Small Wind In Spotlight,” Ecotech Institute,  July 20, 2012.

Alec Baldwin, the Hollywood movie star, has worked to preserve the charm and character of the Town of East Hampton on Long Island (Suffolk County, New York). But his plan to build a 120-foot-tall wind turbine on his Amagansett property is misguided and temps other people to make the same mistake.

If TV antennas on house roofs look bad, these small wind turbines will look much worse–and make noise.

Mr. Baldwin said he is trying to “escape” high electric rates and draw attention to renewable energy with his Bergey Windpower Excel 10kW turbine.

image

However, as most other, well-meaning “visionaries,” he is doing the Long Island economy a disservice by touting small wind turbines, which is an inefficient choice within an inefficient technology to begin with. It is unfortunate also because of other well-meaning people with much less money to waste could follow his flawed example.

Payback and KWh Cost

Mr. Baldwin’s 15-year revenue = 10,000 kWh/yr x $0.25/kWh x 15 yr = $37,500; the $0.25/kWh is assumed to be the 15-year average rate. (Note: The 15-year average cost of electricity was obtained by escalating a starting rate of $0.187/kWh at 4%/yr. )

Capital cost  $97,050
- LIPA rebate $38,185
- Federal PTC $17,360
Net capital cost = $41,505

If the net capital cost is borrowed from a bank at 4%/yr and paid off as a mortgage, the annual payments would be $3,699 for 15 years, for a total of $55,983.

With the total mortgage costs of $55,983, maintenance at 0.5%/yr of the capital cost, escalating at 3.5%/yr, would come to $4,004 over 15 years.

With a total cost of $59, 987 (55,983 + 4,004), Mr. Baldwin could have bought the 150,000 kWh from the “expensive”
utility for $37,500, or $0.40/kWh.

On a simple payback basis, it would take 16.6 years for Mr. Baldwin to recover his $41,505 on the wind turbine. (Periodic maintenance, at several hundred dollars per event, would lengthen the payback period.) Without subsidies, the simple payback would be 39 years.

These calculations are conservative. It is quite possible, if not probable, that this small wind turbine will not have a useful service life beyond 10 years. It is high-risk to have your capital asset naked in the elements.

Conclusion

“The bottom line is, this technology is going to come,” Baldwin stated in the face of the controversy. “There are going to be wind turbines everywhere in this country.”

Probably not. Residential wind power systems are very expensive and have negative externalities for neighbors. Grassroot opposition will grow and speak with truth to power. Meanwhile, governments and other entities enacting subsidies for such projects need to perform more due diligence before earmarking other people’s money to such projects.

18 comments

1 Isaac { 07.24.12 at 6:35 am }

“The bottom line is, this technology is going to come,” Baldwin stated in the face of the controversy. “There are going to be wind turbines everywhere in this country.”

If the energy economy collapses and we go back to pre-industrial technology, we really will have windmills everywhere, and it’ll be a terrible thing to see. Windmills and waterwheels. And then the environmentalists will want to take those away too.

2 Mike { 07.24.12 at 8:28 am }

Anybody else disgusted by the $55,545 subsidy for this 1%er and his unashamed willingness to accept it?

3 Jon Boone { 07.24.12 at 8:33 am }

Nice work, Mr. Post. Facts are such stubborn things, so inconvenient, even in Hollywood. And, Issac, in the unlikely (but very Hollywood) scenario we return to a pre industrial condition we will not have giant wind turbines made from alloyed metals buoyed by rare earth minerals. We’ll have the Don Quixote variety, perhaps complemented by labor saving mechanisms like slavery.

4 Ed Reid { 07.24.12 at 9:29 am }

“The bottom line is, this technology is going to come,” Baldwin stated in the face of the controversy. “There are going to be wind turbines everywhere in this country.”

Perhaps, but the technology is clearly not here yet, in terms of real world economics; and, despite Baldwin, it might well never be here.

Spot on, Willem.

Isaac (@1)

The US energy economy is not likely to collapse on its own, but the federal government appears “hell bent” on helping it along. :-(

5 Ed Reid { 07.24.12 at 9:55 am }

Jon (@3),

Please remember that; “All animals are equal; but, some animals are more equal than others.” (H/T: George Orwell) I guess slavery might be considered a form of being less equal. (sarc off)

Alec Baldwin as Sancho Panza is an image, however. :-)

6 Mike { 07.24.12 at 5:27 pm }

This from twitter:

@ScotClimate: Scottish Government found to have lied on key figure. Is the Scottish Climate Bill dead?. Will the minister resign? http://bit.ly/OwkVl1

The Scottish government lied to politicians about key financial data which was central to the argument for the bill when they passed the Scottish Climate Change Bill. The government citing Stern said that the economic cost of a 2-3°C rise would be “between 5-20% of GDP”. In fact Stern suggests there may not be any net economic harm quoting figures of 0-3%

The figures are so key to justifying the bill, that it really is difficult to see how this bill could withstand a legal challenge.

… but the scandal gets worse. The Scottish paper (The Courier) which broke this story seems to have been lent on to remove the story. Presumably by someone in government.

This is about as bad as we can get. It appears the world’s most enthusiastic government for climate change is now embroiled in lies & cover-up.

7 Willem Post: Big Green for Little Wind? Alec Baldwin Eyes $0.40/kWh Power | JunkScience.com { 07.25.12 at 1:59 am }

[...] See the payback & kWh cost calculations at MasterResource Share this:PrintEmailMoreStumbleUponTwitterFacebookDiggRedditLike this:LikeBe the first to like this. This entry was posted in Clean energy and tagged energy infrastructure, energy subsidies, government subsidies, really stupid idea, Wind power. Bookmark the permalink. ← China’s Canadian Energy Play [...]

8 PR { 07.25.12 at 2:40 pm }

If all you care about is money the article is correct. If your head isn’t in the sand and you listen to the scientists of the world (who by definition know more than you do) we have to clean up our act. Not sacrifice lifestyle, just clean it up. The article should cost in the per capita price of abandoning the US coastline (NYC, Boston, DC, LA, Seattle,etc)in 200 years time. You might scoff at this, but either way the simple analysis above is just that, way too simple

9 Jon Boone { 07.25.12 at 11:14 pm }

Assuming PR is right, why would he or anyone who believes the apocalyptic climate scenario support the wind enterprise in any form, particularly one as demonstrably goofy as Baldwin’s wind contraption. If PR wants to engage in serious discussion, he should leave such nonsense at the door. As many folks, including Willem Post, have shown, all wind can do is make the situation PR describes, on his own terms, worse.

10 David { 07.26.12 at 3:53 am }

I agree that putting a 120 foot tower in your backyard is inappropriate, with or without three large blades swooshing through the air constantly, endangering any coastal birds that might happen to fly too near.

Baldwin is an actor. Actors like to showboat. This is not about saving money. This is about showboating his “concern” for the energy crisis.

I disagree that the economic analysis is “conservative”. Mr. Baldwin is wealthy enough to pay $40K by writing a check. Why bother with the mortgage? It adds to the cost of the project, making it appear to be even less economically viable than it actually is. But to those who are able to discern this subterfuge, it makes the entire calculation appear unreliable. Baldwin won’t be “tempting” too many others to follow his example when the entry price of joining his club is a $40K capital investment (actually nearly $100K outlay before tax write-offs), plus maintenance, so the whole thing is pretty moot.

11 Willem Post { 07.26.12 at 7:09 am }

PR
 
http://theenergycollective.com/willem-post/83704/reduce-co2-and-slow-global-warming

I think there is no way mankind can alter the present GW trends.

With hindsight, we can now say mankind got onto the slippery GW slope sometime about 1900, maybe even earlier, such as about 1865. In 1870 Bismarck wrote the terms of victory over France, which along with Great Britain, were declining, while Germany was rising.

The results were 2 world wars which were fought over resources and a cold war which was also fought over resources. Remember Russia is loaded with resources and has few people. If Russia had no atomic bombs, China would be marching into Russia, etc.

Without mankind, soon 10 billion, the current GW momentum and the ongoing/strengthening positive feedbacks would be playing out over at least a century or much longer.

With mankind, there is no hope, as proven by 35 years of useless conferences.

RE promoters would like people to believe otherwise, as it is to THEIR economic advantage to keep the RE momentum going. However, it is too late; the money will be wasted.

12 UzUrBrain { 07.26.12 at 1:42 pm }

A few years ago I retired from the local electric utility. 20 years ago a co-worker put up a 5kw wind generator on his property. The local IEEE chapter even was impressed and toured his setup. He lives on a bluff overlooking the nearby river valley. From this vantage point he had excellent access to reliable wind currents. He often bragged about how small his electric bill was. A few years ago I discovered that he had taken it down. A while back I ran into him at a company event. The only reason it lasted 15 years was that he was a electrical maintenance technician and knew how to repair everything that broke and could buy the parts at wholesale prices. Otherwise, he would have spent twice what he paid for the tower, generator and controller on maintenance of the system, i.e., he would have lost money. Can you fix a windmill, generator, anti-reversing relay/controller? Do you have an electrical license? (you need one in many states to work on electrical wiring/equipment, check with your local city/county electrical inspector) To give you an idea of the maintenance costs, what does it cost to get your furnace ready for winter? Well double that for a wind turbine – every year. And his was on a large farm type tower which made installation and maintenance easy. Just like a car, things worked great for the first few years, after that he had to fix something about every 3-4 months. Does anybody ever explain this to the people that spend $20,000-50,000 on a backyard wind generator/solar panel or that say “distributed system are the way to go?” Now that he is retired, he retired his windmill also.
PR – Nuclear power makes ZERO CO2.

13 Willem Post { 07.27.12 at 1:47 pm }

UzUr Brain,
Great post.
That is exactly the experience of a neighbor.
So proud, so smug, so green, etc.
The thing is still up there , but not spinning; it lacks a blade that fell off in the second year.

14 The Truth { 10.28.12 at 8:21 pm }

For one thing, wind turbines make very little noise. For another, kudos to Mr. Baldwin for at least trying to help the environment (even though he might not have made the best choice). And finally, would you prefer a coal-powered plant on Long Island over a few wind turbines? I didn’t think so. (source of information: http://www.home-alternative-energy.com/wind-power-pros-and-cons.html)

15 rbradley { 10.29.12 at 8:56 am }

Truth:

If no new capacity was needed and Baldwin just added the wind machinery, then every kilowatt hour in the making of that machinery is incremental pollution. It is not that new coal capacity would be needed to be built…. I would also imagine that natural gas is the marginal fuel for the kWhs that Baldwin would get for his windpower.

16 Willem Post { 10.29.12 at 8:35 pm }

Truth,
“And finally, would you prefer a coal-powered plant on Long Island over a few wind turbines?”

1) Standard-size new coal plants are about 600 MW, capital cost about $2.4 billion.

Production about 600 MW x 8,760 hr/yr x capacity factor 0.85 = 446,760 MWh/yr; steady , 24/7/365, low-cost energy.

2) Two standard-size new CCGTs are about 2 x 300 MW = 600 MW, capital cost about 0.9 Billion.

Production about the same as the coal plant; steady , 24/7/365, low-cost energy.

3) 180 standard-size 3 MW wind turbines, 459 ft high, 373-ft diameter rotors are about 180 MW x 3 MW each = 540 MW, capital cost about $1.08 billion in Kansas, etc., about $1,35 billion on ridge lines of New England, about $1.89 billion offshore.

Production about the same as the coal and gas plant; variable, intermittent, high-cost energy that requires an adequate capacity of gas turbines to ramp up with wind energy ebbs and ramp down with wind energy surges which requires extra fuel/kWh and emits extra CO2/kWh; the extras offset most of that wind energy was meant to deduce.

As wind energy is absent about 10-15 % of the hours of the year in Kansas, etc. (25-30% in New England), and as energy cannot be stored, all OTHER conventional generators on the grid will need to be staffed, fueled, and kept in good operating condition to provide energy when wind energy is absent.

The below article explains all in detail.
http://theenergycollective.com/willem-post/89476/wind-energy-co2-emissions-are-overstated

17 Willem Post { 10.29.12 at 8:45 pm }

Correction:
The coal and gas plant production is 4,467,600 MWh/yr
Wind turbine production: 1,700 MW x 8,760 x o.30 = 4,467,600 MWh/yr
1700/3 = 567 wind turbines @ 3 MW eachwould be required at a capital cost of 3.4 billion

18 Build Your Own Solar Panels | Alternative Energy Facts { 12.29.12 at 11:04 am }

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