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Category — Cape Wind project

Cape Wind: The Air Traffic Safety Issue of a Government-enabled Project

“While of course the wind farm may be one of those projects with such overwhelming policy benefits (and political support) as to trump all other considerations, even as they relate to safety, the record expresses no such proposition.”

- Town of Barnstable, Massachusetts v. Federal Aviation Administration, U.S. Court of Appeals (DC Circuit), October 28, 2011.

Earlier this year, Industrial Wind Action Group (home) wrote how turbines sited within fifty miles of U.S. radar installations are now disrupting our navigation aids and impairing U.S. national security.

FAA and military radar experts in the field are well aware of the compromises to radar resolution caused by poorly sited turbines. But with the debate surrounding energy policy dominated by politics and money, they’ve bowed to the pressure.

Last week we learned of another project that poses safety risks.

The D.C. Circuit found that the FAA failed to adequately analyze whether Cape Wind, the controversial proposal to erect 130 utility-scale turbines offshore in Nantucket Sound, would pose a hazard to air navigation. The project’s proponent vigorously defended the agency’s review claiming that for over eight years the FAA repeatedly found the project would pose no hazard. But the record clearly shows otherwise.

In May 2010, the FAA issued identical Determinations of No Hazard for each of the Cape Wind turbines. These determinations were conditioned on implementing a tiered mitigation plan that incrementally upgraded nearby radar systems to correct for any interference the turbines would produce. While the upgrades would limit the impact of the spinning blades, the FAA acknowledged that the “fixes” would reduce the resolution of the radar, and might not work. Like Travis Air Force Base which we previously wrote about, aircraft flying in the area would go undetected or false objects could appear. If, after the turbines go online, the interference was found to be a safety risk, the FAA recommended revising airspace procedures to restrict air traffic to transponder only — also like Travis.

Transponder-only airspace is an unacceptable mitigation option since it relies on pilots complying with the rules. Not all aircraft are adequately equipped and not all pilots may want to be seen. We remind readers that the first thing the 9/11 hijackers did after seizing control of our passenger planes was to turn off the transponders. [Read more →]

November 8, 2011   4 Comments

Windpower Emissions: Kleekamp Critique (Part III – Cost of Wind and Nuclear Plants)

Parts I and II dealt with most of the issues in a recent paper by Chuck Kleekamp and showed the weaknesses of his analysis. This post addresses in detail the question of the costs of electricity generation for nuclear and wind.

Kleekamp says, “If you think wind power is expensive, wait till you have to pay for electricity from a new nuclear plant.” This suggests that nuclear plant electricity is more expensive than that of wind. This is remarkably incorrect. The costs of each according to the EIA along with my adjustments, are shown in Tables 2 and 3 below, which clearly demonstrates the high costs of wind compared to nuclear. As will be seen, the EIA costs are just starting points.

These costs are shown on separate tables for wind and nuclear because they are not really comparable. The reason for this is that nuclear plants produce power, which can be depended upon, a critical factor in the successful use of electricity, and wind plants do not.

The EIA shows capital costs and levelized costs. Levelized costs, expressed in $/MWh are important to understand, because this is the basis on which we use and pay for electricity. However, and as already stated, but repeated for emphasis, comparing the EIA reported levelized costs of wind with conventional electricity generation technologies is not an “apples to apples” comparison, because of the unreliability of wind. Stated another way to the previous paragraph, this is because wind has no capacity value, the details of capacity value are too extensive to deal with in this post. Interested readers can see more information on this important consideration here.

We will first look at actual experience with wind capacity factors in the United Kingdom (UK), an important issue in determining levelized costs, and then at an analysis of the levelized costs for nuclear and wind plants as published by the EIA. Even without consideration of the reliability factor, it will be seen that wind is substantially more expensive compared to nuclear than the EIA reports, and contrary to what Kleekamp appears to suggest. [Read more →]

January 26, 2011   11 Comments

Windpower Emissions: The Kleekamp Critique (Part II – Capacity Considerations)

Part I of this series critiquing an article by Chuck Kleekamp dealt with the more general issues of examples used, one of the major references and electricity markets. There is a lot found to question his analysis. This post focuses on capacity considerations and other miscellaneous issues raised by Kleekamp. Finally, Part III addresses his remarkably inappropriate warning, “If you think wind power is expensive, wait till you have to pay for electricity from a new nuclear plant.”


Availability of Other Generation Capacity

Kleekamp cites the extensive unused capacity in the total electricity system that he claims is available to balance wind. He is incorrect in this notion. This capacity provision is normal, and it is there for a purpose. One of the reasons is the need for reserves as described in Part I and represents about 20% of total capacity.

Another reason is the nature of electricity demand. A large number of plants are used only to meet daily demand rises and peaks, at which point they are all committed, albeit some to reserves. The “excess capacity” is therefore not available for other purposes, which would make it unavailable for its primary, important purpose. It would be “robbing Peter to save Paul”.

Contrary to Kleekamp’s view, the introduction of wind capacity results in additional capacity that would not otherwise be required. [Read more →]

January 25, 2011   6 Comments

Windpower Emissions: Kleekamp Critique (Part I – Introduction)

This post is the first in a three part series that critiques the recently published article “Wind Power Always Replaces Fossil Fuels” by Chuck Kleekamp, which provides material for another in the series of my critiques of wind proponents’ claims. Previously analyzed were papers by Milligan, Komanoff and Gross. My understanding is that this author has previously made notable contributions to environmental matters. Let’s see how he does with respect to wind.

To begin, I cannot help commenting on the inclusion of “Always” in the title. The apparent certainty in this term immediately alerts me to a questionable analysis. Perhaps the author meant to be provocative, and was not serious in the use of this word. If so, this does not give due consideration to the importance of the matter.

This leads to another general comment. In a circulation of a draft of these posts to a panel of reviewers, one commented on the nature of Kleekamp’s article as that of not having sufficient knowledge of the subject, but attempting to appear so. He provides descriptions, but makes errors in the process. Cases in point are his (1) example of the Mirant Canal oil-fired plants and (2) description of electricity system markets and activities of the System Operator of New England (ISO NE). [Read more →]

January 24, 2011   23 Comments

Cape Wind: Spreading the Pain

The headlines were abuzz last month following Energy Secretary Steven Chu’s talk at the National Press Club where he dubbed the global race for clean energy our new “Sputnik Moment” and warned that the U.S. risked falling behind other countries. In this imaginary race, our competition is no longer the Soviet Union, but China, which now leads in the manufacture of wind turbines and solar panels.

The Sputnik analogy is inappropriately applied for obvious reasons. The U.S. space program of the mid-twentieth century was an outgrowth of our military at a time when the United States and Soviet Russia were researching long-range ballistic missiles. The program was a high-cost, high-risk venture that never achieved economies of scale, nor was it intended to. There’s no question the race advanced us technologically and the productization of its research benefited generations of Americans. But, contrary to Chu’s message, it was not a jobs program, its objectives were not imposed on private industry, and its work did not interfere with the lives of everyday Americans.

In the case of energy, we already have a competent and competitive energy market run by the private sector. Its role in not to innovate, but to keep this country reliably powered at a reasonable price so that others can.

Chu’s problem is with the fuels used to power the U.S. and that’s what he wants to change.

He doesn’t hide his agenda to boost wind energy in the United States and he will do what’s necessary to shift the economics in wind’s favor, including sponsoring policies meant to drive up the price of fossil fuels. By teaming up with Interior secretary Ken Salazar, Chu expects to fast-track building hundreds of thousands of megawatts of wind nationwide including the shallow waters just off our eastern seaboard.

The problem for the rest of us is that Chu is an ideologue who, like the department he rules, refuses to publicly acknowledge the cost of his ideas or engage in a fundamental discussion about whether his vision is realistic.

Cape Wind: The Uneconomic Gets More So

While Chu delivered his sermon in Washington, electricity ratepayers in the State of Massachusetts experienced a glimpse of his vision in action. Enter Cape Wind. [Read more →]

December 13, 2010   8 Comments

Cape Wind’s $0.21/kWh: Bad News for Buyers, as for U.S. Taxpayers

The Boston Globe recently reported that National Grid will pay 20.7 cents per kilowatt-hour for Cape Wind electricity production starting in 2013, with increases of about 3.5% a year for 15 years. This radically uneconomic cost figure  challenges the pro-wind studies of the project–and confirms the analyses of authors at MasterResoource.

A Charles River Associates (CRA) report previously indicated that the Cape Wind projects would save electricity customers billions of dollars. This expectation was immediately challenged in a MasterResource post by Glenn Schleede, who documented the study’s out-of-date data, doubtful assumptions, and missing costs. His conclusion was that the electric customers in New England – as well as the taxpayers – deserve a far more complete and objective analysis of the potential cost impacts on them of the proposed Cape Wind project than was provided by CRA and released by Cape Wind. [Read more →]

May 17, 2010   No Comments

The Cape Wind Approval: It’s Not Over Yet

Editor’s note: Notwithstanding some recent gains, e.g. Cape Wind’s Interior Department permit, the projected U.K. Thames Array, and the politically motivated Danish pronouncement of renewed offshore installations, global offshore wind has progressed very slowly, especially in Germany. This article by Ms. Linowes, founder of the Industrial Wind Action Group, provides some of the reasons why offshore wind is such an environmental and economic troublemaker.

After nine years of debate and millions of public and private dollars, the decision to permit America’s first offshore wind project fell on the shoulders of one man, U.S. Department of the Interior Secretary, Ken Salazar. Hindsight notwithstanding, there was no chance Salazar could disapprove the Cape Wind application. Does anyone doubt the Obama administration would dare to ignore the tsunami of political favoritism already bestowed on the project, no matter how unjustified? And given the administration’s stated goal to nurse the U.S. economy back to health through the green movement, a denial of the permit would have unleashed a public firestorm virtually impossible to contain.

Let’s face it, the Alliance to Protect Nantucket Sound had an uphill battle in the message war from the beginning. As early as 2003, even before Windaction.org was organized, everyone knew about the wealthy ‘NIMBYs’ (“Not in my backyard”) on the Cape waging war against the one opportunity in the region to see renewables built in a substantial way.

At the time, New England had less than ten megawatts of wind installed, and most people were convinced Cape Wind represented an environmentally safe, low cost, economically beneficial development that could lead the nation in eliminating our reliance on fossil fuel. The NIMBYs, even those with the Kennedy name, were discredited in the press as little more than self-serving hypocrites unwilling to take one in the view for the betterment of the whole.

 This attitude still prevails today in some quarters but the realities of wind energy’s flaws are beginning to take hold and we believe the Alliance and its supporters will ultimately be vindicated.


The announcement of Salazar’s decision opened an emotional relief valve and pressure built-up over nine years was volcanically released. Stories about Cape Wind’s approval flooded the web with words like ‘Finally!’ splashed across the screen. The public was informed in no uncertain terms that Cape Wind would be built, offshore wind in the U.S. was on the upswing, and the country had officially established itself as a player in the offshore arena.

From my perspective, Salazar’s action was significant, but not for the reasons stated above. Rather, from this point forward, politics and public opinion will no longer drive the discourse. The Cape Wind decision and the public record on which it’s based will be challenged on the facts to determine whether the project is commercially reasonable and whether it will operate in compliance with existing laws. To be frank, there is no assurance Cape Wind will survive the scrutiny. [Read more →]

May 2, 2010   13 Comments

Will Cape Wind Save Billions? Challenging a Study by Charles River Associates

[Editor note: Glenn Schleede wrote this letter-to-the-editor in response to  a news report published in the Cape Cod Times, "Cape Wind Savings Pegged in Billions".]

Dear Editor:

Thanks for the article in your February 11, 2010, edition, but electric customers in New England should not believe the claim that the Cape Wind project will save them “Billions” on their electric bills.

Frankly, the numbers in the slick 9-page “consultant” study released by the developer of the Cape Wind project of $4.6 billion in savings over 25 years just don’t add up for at least four major reasons:

1. Huge Cost of Cape Wind electricity. The true cost of electricity from wind – particularly offshore wind — is huge. No one who is paying attention expects the price that Cape Wind charges for its electricity to be cheap. In fact, over 25 years, the wholesale cost to New England utilities for electricity from Cape Wind apparently will be well over $5.75 billion and probably much more.

The arithmetic is simple: The CRA “study” (table 1, page 6), shows that the developer expects to produce about 1,150,000,000 kilowatt-hours (kWh) of electricity per year. If utilities are forced to pay even $0.20 per kWh, the utilities cost over 25 years would be $5.75 billion. [1] The cost would be $6.9 billion if utilities have to pay the $0.24 per kWh that NatGrid apparently agreed to pay for electricity from the planned Rhode Island offshore “wind farm.”
Does anyone in New England seriously expect that the WHOLESALE price of non-Cape Wind electricity in New England will average $0.20 or $0.24 per kWh over the next 25 years (up from about $0.08 per kWh in 2008. [2]

You would have to believe that it would be well above $0.20 to $0.24 per kWh to believe that electric customers would SAVE $4.6 billion if Cape Wind is built.

2. The CRA “study” used old data. For some reason not explained in the “study,” CRA used the Energy Information Administration’s (EIA’s) 2009 energy forecast (AEO2009 revised) rather than its 2010 forecast (AEO 2010) that has been available since last December. The fact is that a lot has changed since EIA’s 2009 report, particularly on US natural gas resources. As a result, the prices now expected by EIA for natural gas, electricity, and oil are dramatically lower than the outdated forecast used by CRA. [3] Using current data would lower significantly the CRA-Cape Wind claim for savings.

3. Doubtful Assumptions. The “savings” shown by the CRA report are driven by assumptions, including the assumption that Federal legislation will impose a $30 to $60 per ton charge for carbon emissions. Because of the high uncertainty, an objective analysis would have shown results both with and without this dramatic assumption.

4. Missing Costs. The CRA report is silent on who would bear the cost of the transmission capacity that would be needed to bring the electricity from the Cape Wind project to New England customers. Unless Cape Wind is going to absorb those costs within the price it charges, those costs undoubtedly will be passed along to New England’s electric customers and hidden in their monthly bills. [Read more →]

February 13, 2010   4 Comments

Cape Cod’s (Offshore) Wind Economics: Schleede Responds to Clean Power Now

[MasterResource editor] Clean Power Now VP Charles Kleekamp argued in favor of the proposed Cape Wind offshore wind project on economic grounds in guest editorials in the March 6 Cape Cod Times and March 15 Cape Cod Today. In letters-to-the-editor to the same papers (not published), Glenn Schleede challenges Kleekamp’s analysis and describes what information the developer of Cape Wind would need to provide to help determine what the ensuing cost of per kilowatt-hour is likely to be. Still, Massachusetts electric users can be expected to be paying more because such power is bring driven by state’s Renewable Portfolio Standard and the fact that electricity from wind is intermittent.

Mr. Schleede’s analysis follows.

Dear Editors:
Unfortunately, Mr. Kleekamp’s Opinion column in the March 6 issue of Cape Cod Times and March 15 issue of Cape Cod Today presents highly misleading information about the true cost of electricity that would be produced by the proposed Cape Wind project.

Your readers deserve better information about the full potential cost of electricity from Cape Wind, including what is now known and unknown, and who has the most complete information about the potential cost. [Read more →]

April 4, 2009   4 Comments