Monday, November 26, 2012

Wind in Vermont is Oversold. Guest post by Willem Post.

Since I recently posted a video on Vermont wind, I thought it would be good to follow that post with a more technical post on the subject.  Luckily for me, Willem Post had just sent me an email about wind energy in Vermont. Here is his email, which he kindly turned into a guest post for this blog.

For a more complete version of this information, I recommend Post's letter to the Public Service Board in favor of Vermont Yankee.  A copy of this letter was published in True North Reports today, and contains more detailed information on capacity values (different fro capacity factor) and so forth. 

Industrial wind turbine (IWT) facility developers usually use estimated capacity factors (CFs) of 0.32 - 0.38 for IWTs on 2000-ft high ridge lines. These CFs are used to obtain financing from banks and investors, approval from government regulators, and to"sell" the project to legislators and the public.

The estimated CFs are based on proprietary wind testing reports that are sometimes given to the PSB, if requested, but not to ordinary, tax-paying citizens. This serves to keep people ignorant regarding wind energy.

Real world experience shows these CFs usually are overestimated, not just in Maine and Vermont, but elsewhere as well.  See below.

However, by law, the quarterly production data must be reported by IWT facility owners to the Federal Regulatory Energy Commission, FERC.

Below is a URL with quarterly production data reported by the IWT facility owners in Maine. The results are dismal, much less than the estimated CFs used for "selling" the project.

It is clear that these heavily-subsidized IWT facilities on 2000-ft high ridge lines are not economically viable, not even with the present huge subsidies.

Maine is not the only entity with such poor results. I have a spreadsheet showing the 2006 - 2011 average CFs for Germany (0.187), Denmark (0.251), the Netherlands (0.228), the US (0.289), Texas (0.225), Ireland (0.283), New York State (0.249).

How Is This Relevant to Vermont?

GMP will likely NOT rue the day it spent $160 million to put 63 MW of these IWTs on the Lowell Mountain ridge line, plus about $10 million, required by ISO-NE, for equipment to integrate the variable wind energy to the grid. GMP was going to place the burden on the other energy suppliers to the grid, but the ISO-NE follows the "user pays" rule, well familiar to all utilities, including GMP. Not a problem for GMP; it just rolls its extra cost into rate schedules.

GMP will charge ALL of its additional costs to the captive rate payers in its service area, 70% of Vermont households and businesses, which are already stressed, because of the Great Recession, AND rising prices of goods and service, AND stagnant/declining real household incomes since 2007, AND a near-zero-growth economy, AND financing heavily-subsidized RE follies.

Whereas, GMP may have been grossly misled and engaged in self-deception, it certainly had the resources to determine the facts before proceeding, unlike legislators and lay-public.

Independent energy systems analysts, with decades of experience, had advised against the Lowell Mountain IWT facility, but were shoved aside, ignored, even belittled.

Laurel Mountain Wind WV

Other Choices

GMP could have started with one 3 MW IWT to see how it would perform, but that was not impressive enough, as multi-millionaire Governor Shumlin wanted to proceed as quickly as possible, build as many IWTs as possible, destroy as many ridge lines as possible, to get as much state and federal subsidies as possible for Vermont's wind energy oligarchy, which consists mostly of multi-millionaires in the top 1%. It appears the Northest Kingdom area of Vermont has been targeted for several new IWT facilities, in addition to the ones on the Sheffield and Lowell Mountains.

New England annual average grid prices are about 5 c/kWh, nearly unchanged for the past 3 years, and likely to stay that way, because of a long-term, abundant, domestic supply of natural gas.

Hydro-Quebec energy is available under long-term contract at about 6 c/kWh. It is steady, CO2-free, available 24/7/365, rain or shine, windy or not windy.

Vermont Yankee's energy is available under long-term contract at about 5 - 6 c/kWh. It is steady, CO2-free, available 24/7/365, rain or shine, windy or not windy.

Lowell Mountain energy, heavily-subsidized with state and federal subsidies, is available at about 10 c/kWh, per GMP. Its cost would be about 15 c/kWh, unsubsidized, per US-DOE, not counting the extra costs of grid modifications and wind energy integration to the grid. GMP will just roll its extra cost into the rate schedules of already-stressed households and businesses.

When the Wind Blows and When It Doesn't Blow

In New England, with fair-to-good wind conditions only on 2,000-ft or higher ridge lines, about 30 percent of the hours of the year, near-zero wind energy is produced, because wind speeds are insufficient (less than 7.5 mph) to turn the rotors, or too great for safety, as during stronger weather fronts or tropical storms, such as Sandy and Irene, passing over the ridge lines.

About 60% of the wind energy is produced during about 30% of the hours of the year, mostly at night, and mostly during winter. During summer, with peak demands, almost no wind energy is produced. When IWTs produce near-zero energy, they draw energy from the grid.

Wind energy is variable and intermittent and requires quick-ramping gas turbines to operate in part-load-ramping mode, i.e., ramp down with wind energy surges and ramp up with wind energy ebbs to maintain a stable grid. This requires extra fuel/kWh and emits extra CO2/kWh, and causes extra wear and tear on equipment.

Winter nights have high wind energy
but low demand for electricity
At greater annual wind energy percentages on the grid, these extras mostly offset what wind energy was meant to reduce, i.e., wind energy is not a viable CO2 reduction technology, and it acts as a disturber of the grid which makes the grid less efficient and less stable, and it is very expensive.

The above indicates, there are many hours during a year when near-zero wind energy is produced. Therefore, almost all conventional generator units would still need to be kept in good operating condition, and staffed 24/7/365, and fueled, to serve the daily demand when near-zero wind energy is produced.

See below URLs which have had about 10,000 views till now.

About the Author

Willem Post is a member of the Coalition for Energy Solutions, and an internationally-known expert on wind energy.  He also proved his good taste by choosing to live in the town of Hartford, Vermont. 


jimwg said...

There's another unsung cost to be paid; the cost of a ruined landscape/seascape in heritage and real estate values. That Laurel Mountain wind pix is one of the most obscene slurs of a pristine panorama I've ever seen. Bad enough residing by and traveling down roads and seeing those monstrous whirligigs despoiling your horizon so, but how about discouraging tourists from enjoying natural hills and mountains in autumn or summer, Vermont? You right go ahead and scar your lovely vistas the same way just to keep the shrill implacable nuclearphobes happy and see whether the sacrifice was worth it.

What would Ethan Allen say??

James Greenidge
Queens NY

Anonymous said...

"as multi-millionaire Governor Shumlin wanted to proceed as quickly as possible, build as many IWTs as possible, destroy as many ridge lines as possible, to get as much state and federal subsidies as possible for Vermont's wind energy oligarchy, which consists mostly of multi-millionaires in the top 1%."

You're aren't helping your cause when you host opinions like this.

If you don't want to do the research yourself, don't post about it.

Meredith Angwin said...


I do find it interesting that Willem Post and I share our names and stand behind what we write, while you give advice on what should be published..from the high ground of anonymity?

Willem Post is an authority on wind, and I could never catch up to his expertise by "doing the research myself." I asked him to write this guest blog. He usually writes about wind world-wide, and I am pleased he wrote about Vermont this time.

Willem is a guest blogger, and if he choses to share his political opinions as well as his wind opinions, I am okay with that.