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Beyond Wind Spin: Miami Herald Should Get It Right

“I would suggest that the owners of the “wind farms” that may not be able to sell all their output don’t deserve a lot of sympathy. They should have known the risks of investing in an industry that exists only because of massive tax breaks and subsidies and other unwise government policies.”

Mr. Graff: Thanks for your probably well-meaning [August 5th] story that bore the headline, “Newly Available Wind Power Often Has No Place to Go.” However, I wonder if you realize that the story was quite one-sided and likely misleading.

That tends to happen, unfortunately, when a “news” story is based heavily on information fed to reporters by lobbyists — in this case from the wind industry’s Washington-based lobbyists, the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA).

Please consider the following points:

Market Distortion. Completely missed in your story is the fact that construction of wind turbines to generate electricity is not driven by normal electricity market requirements or by benefits for electricity users. Instead, construction of “wind farms” is driven by two principal market distorting forces:

1. State “Renewable Portfolio Standards” (RPS) that force electric distribution companies to provide from “renewable” sources certain dictated shares of the electricity they sell — even though that electricity is very high in true cost and low in true value.

2. Massive federal and state tax breaks and subsidies for “wind farm” owners.

As explained in more detail below, electricity from wind turbines is high in true cost and low in real value.

Transmission Capacity. Contrary to the implication of your article, the electricity industry spends a lot of money on the transmission system; in fact, $14.1 billion in 2012 (Electric Light & Power, July 31, 2013). The fact is that building expensive transmission to serve “wind farms” doesn’t deserve high priority among competing needs for expanding or upgrading transmission capacity.

Ordinary electric customers end up paying the cost of building transmission capacity and building such capacity to serve “wind farms” is seldom in electric customers’ best interest; for example:

1. Such capacity is expensive because “wind farms” tend to be located distant from areas where electricity is needed, resulting in high cost and greater “line loss” of electricity.

2. “Wind Farms” use transmission capacity inefficiently, particularly because their output is intermittent and volatile and wind turbines seldom produce at their rated capacity.

Misleading terms. Your use of “wind-generation capacity” mirrors the misleading use of such terms by AWEA representatives. The rated “capacity” (megawatts or gigawatts) of wind turbines is much less important than:

1. The amount of electricity they actually produce (measured in Kilowatt-hours, megawatt-hours or Gigawatt-hours). Unlike reliable generating units, wind turbines produce electricity only when wind speeds are in the required range. (They start producing when wind speeds are about 6 MPH, reach rated capacity around 32 MPH and cut out around 55 MPH.). Their production on average is less than 30% of their rated “generating capacity.”

2. When they produce electricity. Wind turbines tend to produce at night and in colder and shoulder months, not when electricity demand and real value is high, such as on hot weekday afternoons in July and August. Thus the real value of their output is low.

3. The unreliability of their output. Wind turbine output is intermittent, volatile, and unreliable. Therefore, when wind turbine output is forced into an electric grid, reliable generating units must always be available to compensate for the unreliable wind turbine output in order to assure that the electric grid is kept in balance (voltage, frequency, demand & supply).

Faulty Government Policies. The fact that federal and state government policies promoting wind energy are not in the interest of ordinary citizens, consumers, and taxpayers is illustrated by the headlong drive by New York state governors and political leaders to force electricity from wind into New York’s energy supply. (The underlying points in this example apply equally in the U.S. “heartland” that is the focus of your article and elsewhere.) Consider two alternatives:

1. Wind Energy: New York’s first 15 “wind farms” have a total rated (or nameplate) capacity of 1,273.9 megawatts (MW).[1] During 2012 these 15 “wind farms” produced 2,321,500 megawatt-hours (MWh) of electricity. [2]

Assuming very conservative capital cost numbers, the capital cost of the 15 “wind farms” in NY was probably around $2 billion. The predominate demand for electricity in New York State is in the New York City – Westchester County area. However, NY’s “wind farms are located in upstate and western New York so the output from the wind farms” must be transmitted to the NYC area, adding to the cost and adding environmental damage when additional transmission capacity must be provided.

2. Alternative: A single 450 MW gas-fired combined cycle generating unit (or two 225 MW units) located near NYC, operating at only a 60% capacity factor, could have supplied just as much electricity — actually 2,365,200 MWh [3] – with about one fourth of the capital cost and with less overall cost to consumers and taxpayers when fuel and O&M costs are added.

Furthermore, the gas-fired generating units would be reliable and dispatchable and thus available when needed, including times of peak electricity demand. As indicated earlier, electricity is available from wind turbines only when wind speeds are in the “right” range. They are highly unlikely to produce much electricity during times of peak demand, so they ., they have little or no “capacity value.”
Also, there would be no need to add transmission capacity to bring wind-generated electricity to the NYC area from upstate and western NY. Finally, a gas-fired generating unit would provide more jobs than the “wind farms.”

*********

Mr. Graff, I recognize that you probably do not have the time to understand the complexities of the electricity industry or of the distortions resulting from unwise government policies that have led to the construction of “wind farms” when the money could have been spent much more productively elsewhere.

I would suggest that the owners of the “wind farms” that may not be able to sell all their output don’t deserve a lot of sympathy. They should have known the risks of investing in an industry that exists only because of massive tax breaks and subsidies and other unwise government policies.

I hope you will work to learn more of the facts before writing more articles about wind energy that have great potential to mislead fellow reports, the public and government officials.

And, please, don’t rely heavily on information supplied by lobbyists such as the AWEA. They serve a purpose but it is not the interests of ordinary citizens, consumers and taxpayers.

Thank you,

Glenn Schleede (Ashburn, VA)


[1]2013 “Gold Book” issued by the NYISO and windaction.org Analysis of NY State Wind Generation by Project, April 29, 2013.

[2]Ibid.

[3]450 MW of capacity x 8760 hrs per year x .60 (capacity factor) = 2,365,200 MWh.

.

8 comments

1 john { 08.06.13 at 6:04 am }

Well written , Glen. Just FYI, last night Deepwater Wind withdrew its plans for their underwater cable to rung through a town beach. The withdrawal was (according to my source) was announced as the town of Narragansett was going to shoot it down anyway.

http://www.providencejournal.com/breaking-news/content/20130805-deepwater-withdraws-cable-application-with-narragansett.ece

(link is pay walled but I added it anyway).

in other news (propaganda):

http://www.bostonglobe.com/opinion/editorials/2013/08/06/with-deepwater-wind-lease-takes-deep-plunge-into-offshore-renewable-energy/tYjubBaTLjrf3O2jFswriI/story.html

2 Miner49er { 08.06.13 at 12:36 pm }

Numerous distributed intermittent and unsynchronized power sources use grid capacity inefficiently. They require far more hardware and labor just to transport and condition their energy into a form that users expect.

Despite progressives’ criticism, central station power sources deliver clean marketable energy, ready to be transmitted and delivered. Therefore all incremental investment in so-called “smart grid” capacity should be charged to the distributed power sources that make in necessary.

Another problem with wind power, according to a German study, is that wind farm output declines 85% after five years, ironically the same decline rate as shale gas wells.

3 Jerry Graf { 08.06.13 at 6:33 pm }

Glenn,

I like your comparison to CCGT generation in the NY example. I often take the comparison a step further.

Using your figures, the $2 billion could have purchased four 450 MW CCGT generating units, for a total capacity of 1800 MW. This CCGT capacity could easily produce 13,402,800 MWh per year at an 85% capacity factor.

1800 MW x 8760 hours/year x 85% = 13,402,800 MWh/year

This is 5.8 times more electricity than the wind turbines produced.

If the eco-alarmist’s goal is to reduce CO2 emissions from the evil boogey man Coal, this means that the CCGT generation can displace at least 5.8 times more coal fired electricity than the wind turbines can, which would eliminate 2.9 times the CO2 emissions (considering CCGT emits about 50% less CO2 than coal). Also, this could be said knowing that this statement contains some unrealistic assumptions that are actually far too generous to the wind turbines.

For the same money we could generate far more electricity, closer to the need, in a more reliable and repeatable fashion; and at the same time eliminate far more CO2 emissions.

Why did we buy the wind turbines??

4 Mary Kay Barton { 08.07.13 at 10:25 am }

Thank you Glen Schleede for your continued efforts to educate people about the industrial wind scam!

Could you and Mr. Graf give New York State Governor Cuomo, and NYS Senator George Maziarz (R) – Chair of the Energy Committe, a call, and ask them WHY they are ripping off NYS ratepayers and taxpayers by supporting this taxpayer/ratepayer SWINDLE?!?! Then again, I think they already know, and just don’t care. Worse yet – Big Wind is probably enriching their campaign war chests, so why would they want to upset their personal profits to better serve the public?!?

5 Kenneth Haapala { 08.10.13 at 10:04 am }

Glenn,
Great overview of why wind farms are not an inherently profitable investment. The investors in sub-prime energy deserve all the sympathy as investors in sub-prime mortgages.

6 Vermont Yankee closing - Page 2 - City-Data Forum { 08.27.13 at 3:15 pm }

[...] Originally Posted by arctichomesteader My family's been here since before it was a state so I didn't move here. The people moving up here from the cities like NYC have about doubled our population since the 60's, and that is the source of the development destroying the state. Chittenden County has been ruined by the sprawl and pollution associated with it. No I am not okay with those mcmansion developments gobbling up the land. We don't need to become another NJ or MA. The line needs to be drawn at some point. When these developers started to target semi-wilderness areas in the NEK (i.e., Ferdinand) they crossed a line that should never have been crossed. If the people of Chittenden County want to pretend they're "green" despite living in a mcmansion on land that was field or forest 10 or 20 years ago, put them up in Burlington, Charlotte and Shelburne, in their backyards. I'm not sure if you've followed the news this summer about the Lowell wind project being ordered to stop producing power at times because these wind sites cause grid instability, but these wind turbine projects do little except line the pockets of developers with government subsidies and tax credits at our expense. The grid operators have opposed the seneca mountain project because of grid issues but that hasn't stopped the developers (NH's trailer park king as I understand he's known) from pushing forward to destroy the wildest part of Vermont for some government handouts. Wind power is most effective on a small scale. I'm for decentralizing power production and more solar and wind on individual homes. For the centralized power production needs that remain, I don't think we need to jump up to destroy our mountains and wildlife. I think thorium nuclear reactors offer some potential for fairly safe nuclear power, and VT Yankee could have been replaced with it. Very well said. To add to the wind power argument is this very informative article. Beyond Wind Spin: Miami Herald Should Get It Right — MasterResource [...]

7 The New York State wind wars | Freedom Features { 09.19.13 at 8:35 am }

[...] is actually needed) would provide more power than all of New York State’s wind farms combined, at one-fourth the capital costs – and would significantly reduce CO2 emissions, while creating far more jobs than all those wind [...]

8 The New York State wind wars - Eco-Imperialism { 09.19.13 at 11:37 pm }

[...] actually needed) would provide more power than all of New York State’s wind farms combined, at one-fourth the capital costs – and would significantly reduce CO2 emissions, while creating far more jobs than all those [...]

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