Posts for April, 2012
- Overthrew the Gbagbo regime of Ivory Coast
- Overthrew the government in Tunisia
- Overthrew Mubarak in Egypt
- Caused unrest in Nigeria and Kenya
- Forced Joseph Kony out of Uganda
- Created unrest in Syria, Bahrain and Jordan
- Overthrew Gaddafi in Libya
- Actively plotting the overthrow of al Assad in Syria
- Pushed for Palestine’s acceptance as a sovereign nation at the UN
The primary reasons that wind power permits have stagnated is two-fold; the cost of electrical power has dropped (lower natural gas cost and less power consumption) and the federal subsidies for wind generation have diminished (energy subsidies have been reduced since the bankruptcies of Solyndra, LSP Energy, SunPower, etc).
Some municipalities are struggling to fund the wind turbines that have already been erected.
The Minnesota Rural Electric Association (MREA) posted a statement on April 19th, stating that the residents of Minnesota paid $70 million more for electricity last year to fund the operations of the wind farms to achieve the ‘Green Energy Mandates’ that were legislated in 2007.
Mark Glaess, MREA executive director, said, “The Renewable Energy Standard (RES) passed by the 2007 Minnesota State Legislature directs electric utilities to ramp up their percentage of renewable energy sales to 25 percent by 2025. Put another way, one of every four kilowatt hours must come from renewable energy by 2025. Unlike many other states, Minnesota does not exempt co-ops and municipal utilities from complying with renewable energy standards. To meet the state’s escalating demands, rural electric co-ops and utilities locked in long-term “take or pay” contracts to purchase power from wind farms.”
When the law was written in 2007, the projected energy use (costs) for 2011was 50% greater than the actual energy costs. The drop in cost is due to the lagging economy and competition from natural gas pushed the price of energy down significantly.
“Dozens of Minnesota co-ops are stuck with higher, pre-recession prices for surplus wind power which must be bought and distributed,” claimed Tom Steward of the Minnesota State Journal.
Most of the wind turbines in Minnesota were erected using government grants. Also most of the turbines are made by GE, the recipient of over $1 billion in green energy credits. The turbines were not a product of necessity or economics but a product of subsidy and regulation.
In FY 2007, wind power received subsidies and support valued at $23.37 per megawatthour. The traditional fossil fuel power plants also received subsidies; of between $0.25 and $1.69 per megawatthour. (http://windfarmrealities.org/wfr-docs/eia-federal-subsidies.pdf)
The extension of the production tax credit (PTC) for wind power since 1992 illustrates the effect of tax incentives. Between 1997 and 2007, nearly 16,000 megawatts (MW) of wind capacity have been installed. From 1997 to 2005 the rate of installation was less than 1,000 MW of wind capacity per year. The Energy Policy Act of 2005 created the PTC to wind facilities placed in service before January 1, 2008. Subsequently, 8,438 MW of wind capacity was placed in service in 2006 and 2007.
Solar subsidies are also significant. California Valley Solar Ranch, a 250-megawatt utility project being built by NRG Energy on more than 4,000 acres of dry, sun-drenched land in San Luis Obispo County, northwest of Los Angeles. The ranch's 1 million solar panels will provide enough power for 100,000 homes, but at the cost of $1.6 billion —all of which, according to the Times, will be paid for by government subsidies.
Steven Mufson, of the Washington Post, noted that from 1961 to 2008 the federal government spent $172 billion on basic research and development of advanced energy — and suggested that we hadn't gotten anywhere near our money's worth. Experimental nuclear plants, synthetic fuels, solar cells, wind energy, hydrogen-powered cars — on the long list of government bets on new energy technology, produced no winners.
Fiscal year 2006; (subsidy defined as tax credits, government ownership of energy production, direct spending, access to federal lands and facilities, liability/risk assumption)
Federal Bio-Fuel subsidies, $92 million
Federal Wind energy subsidies, $457.9 million
Federal Ethanol subsidies, $4,708 billion
Federal Nuclear energy subsidies, $1.187 billion
Federal Coal subsidies, $2.754 billion
Federal solar power subsidies, $382 million
Federal hydro-electric subsidies, $295 million
Federal biomass subsidies, $209 million
Federal geothermal subsidies, $29 million
(This is prior to the explosion in energy subsidies in 2009 and 2010, when ethanol was still in vogue.)
The US is not alone in dealing with energy subsidies and wind energy policy. The British government is teetering on the verge of collapse and was forced to reign in expenses. The first program to get cut was the wind energy subsidies.
Britain had aggressively studied wind power; output production, capital costs and generation rates to justify the cut back in subsidies. According to British figures, the average wind turbine operates to just 23-27 per cent of its capacity – even the industry only claims 30 per cent – and there are some grounds for suggesting that even this is a significant exaggeration. Professor Michael Jefferson, of the London Metropolitan Business School, says that in 2008 less than a fifth of onshore wind farms achieved 30 per cent capacity over any one month period.
One analysis of the government figures indicated that Britain’s biggest wind farm – the 140-turbine installation at Whitelee, near East Kilbride – operated to just 7.3 per cent of its capacity in 2008.
But Professor David MacKay, who is now chief scientific adviser at the Department of Energy and Climate Change, believes that 2008 was an aberration and has pointed out that in autumn/winter 2006/7 there were 17 days when output from Britain’s wind turbines was less than 10 per cent of their total capacity. On five of those days, output was below 5 per cent and on one day it was only 2 per cent. The resulting capacity over the studied period was 24.2 percent of capacity.
John Constable, director of policy at the REF, says: “The Government pays an indirect subsidy, a “renewable obligation”, or RO – and putting up a wind turbine is the cheapest way to collect it. In contrast to better renewable technologies, a turbine is inexpensive to build, perhaps around £2 million, and it lasts at least 20 years.”
The total RO paid to the wind industry in 2008 was £400 million. So each of Britain’s wind turbines earned, on average, £138,000 in subsidies– more than twice the average annual household income in England. Add in the profits from selling the electricity they generate and after construction costs are cleared, you will be making nearly £300,000 per year per turbine, half of it courtesy of the Government.
And one of the reasons so many of Britain’s wind turbines turn so little is that the subsidy doesn’t depend on where you put them. Developers like building wind farms in places such as Lincolnshire, where the countryside is dull and there is relatively little public opposition. Unfortunately, there is also relatively little wind in Lincolnshire.
A typical commercial turbine needs a wind speed of between 6-10mph to start operating – and automatically stops when the wind is more than around 50mph, to protect its mechanisms. Even when the wind is blowing between those speeds, it – and therefore the amount of electricity generated – is variable, and usually below the turbine’s full theoretical capacity. The highest average wind speeds are in the spring and fall; precisely the season when the demand for energy is the lowest.
In England, wind farms have earned the moniker of ‘Subsidy Farms’.
In Minnesota, the MREA is pushing for a change in legislation and de-commissioning the wind turbines to save money. It’s not that they don’t like the wind turbines, but they need traditional power sources to back up the turbines for times when the wind isn’t blowing. The required duplication or redundancy is expensive.
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