Friday, November 6, 2009

Texas Wind Rips off Taxpayers and Rate Payers, Money to Flow to China

In 2006, the Electrical Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) published a study that showed that while West Texas Wind resources were considered among the best in the United States, they were poorly matched to the needs of Texas Electrical consumers. The ERCOT staff reported:
These data indicate that the representative areas in West Texas have their highest monthly capacity factors in the spring months and in late fall. . . . None of these patterns has a high correlation with the typical ERCOT monthly energy demand pattern, with maximum electric demand occurring in July and August.
Not only did the ERCOT staff find that West Texas wind was the most productive during seasons of slack consumer demand, but that the West Texas Wind blew blew was the most productive during the hours of the day when consumer demand was low.
during the month of April, typical wind resources in West Texas have significantly higher average output in the early morning hours in April than during the afternoon. . . . for July, . . . typical wind generation in West Texas peaks in the early morning hours.
These findings pointed to an inescapable fact, West Texas wind would be least available when electricity in the ERCOT system would be most in demand, on hot summer afternoons. Other ERCoT studies showed that based on a review of historical data of actual wind turbine generation during ERCOT system peaks (from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. in July and August), the average output for wind turbines was 16.8% of capacity. However, the data also showed that for any hour during these months, the output of the wind turbines could range from 0% of installed capacity to 49% of installed capacity. Because of wind's intermittency, the ERCOT Technical Advisory Committee, considered recommending a wind capacity value of 2%. This problem was by no means localized to Texas, and has been observed for New England Off shore wind, the upper Great planes, Tennessee, California, and Canada.

Last year T. Boone Pickens was interviewed by Fast's David Case. Pickens was candid
Pickens: "I'm not going to have the windmills on my ranch. They're ugly. . . ."

Question: "So whose land is it going on?"

Pickens: "My neighbors', . . ."

Question: "What happens if Congress doesn't extend the $20-per-megawatt-hour Production Tax Credit for wind -- set to expire December 31? On a project this size, that's an $80,000 deduction every hour at full capacity."

Pickens: "Then you've got a dead duck. It would be hard to go without a subsidy."

Question: "What about when the wind doesn't blow?"

Pickens:"That's the problem with wind generation. You've got to supplement it with a gas-fired or coal-fired source so whoever buys it gets continuous 24-7 generation."

So West Texas Wind is not about meeting consumer demand, it is about subsidies. This was amply illustrated by Michael Giberson, who discovered that during the first six monthsof 2008, West Texas Wind
prices were below zero nearly 20 percent of the time. During March, when negative prices were most frequent, prices were below zero about 33 percent of the time.
Giberson observed,
ven if the market value of the power is zero or negative, the subsidies encourage wind power producers to keep churning the megawatts out.

Evidence from market data suggests that wind power producers will accept prices down to about negative $35 MWh before they shut down, since marginal operating costs are very low for wind power we can conclude that the subsidies are worth about $35 – $40 for each MWh of wind output.
Giberson in another post noted,
Unfortunately for wind power producers in the region, their output was higher during times that the price was low and their output was lower during times that the price was high.

Well of course. Wind generation is not about making money from the market, it is about subsidies as T. Boone Pickens admitted.

So do the tax payers get good value in terms of the dollars they spend on C02 mitigation by wind? Not according to Australian engineer Peter Lang, who has researched cost and benefits of wind generation. Lang found that the cost of wind generated electricity, with natural gas back up was 224% higher than the cost of natural gas generated electricity alone, Thus not only does wind electricity at the wrong time, and thus the heavy lifting of electrical production with wind has to be performed by fossil fuels, but electricity generated by wind and fossil fuels costs far more than electricity generated by fossil fuels alone. But how much CO2 does the use of wind save us? The answer is very little. Lang looked at three estimates, the first, suggested by Lang himself, suggested with a wind and gas combination CO2 savings would be in the order of 0.058 tons of CO2 per MWh id electricity generated. A second estimate from an Australian government report determined that wind without considering back up, would lower CO2 emissions by 0.5 tins of CO2 for every MWh of electricity generated. Finally Lang turned to a Royal Academy of Engineering report that found wind with fossil fuel backup lowered CO2 emissions by 0.09 tons per MWh generated.

Given this data Lang calculated that given his assumptions, using wind to mitigate CO2 emissions cost $1,149 per ton of CO2 eliminated, while using the Royal Academy of Engineering's estimate using wind backed by natural gas would cost $830 per ton. The United States Energy Information Agency estimates that the levelized cost of nuclear power will be 107 in 2016. That would yielded a cost of around $100 per ton of CO2 saved. (Lang reported a lower estimate for nuclear based on older Australian studies. Lang concludes
Only nuclear and the fossil fuel technologies with carbon capture and storage can make substantial reductions in emissions.
Well there you have it. Earlier this week, I reported on an absurd scheme to build windmills in West Texas, using wind generators made in Chinese factories and 30% paid for by U.S. stimulus funding. Electricity produced by the turbines would be heavily subsidized. Most of the jobs created by this project would go to Chinese workers, and profits created by tax payer subsidies would flow to Chinese investments. Is anyone else outraged?


LarryD said...


It's been obvious to me for a while now, that "Wind power" is about mining the taxpayers' pockets, not reducing CO2 from energy production.

The Natural Gas Industry also benefits, since wind and solar need a more conventional system to backstop them, and natural gas turbines have the needed quick response time and are reasonably cheap.

And some idiots think NG isn't a fossil fuel. The methyl hydrates in the ocean floor might not be, I don't know that anyone has run a C-14 analysis to date the carbon, but that's not a source we know how to tap yet anyhow.

Frank Kandrnal said...

What can I say? Screwing of America continues at rapid pace. We have the finest politicians money can buy and Chinese now hold our cash.
All what is happening would qualify as a treason, however, the public is fed propaganda about great future for America that will ride on wind/solar energy utopia.
When will the politicians finally remove their green glasses so they can clearly see the true numbers about wind and solar energy, coming from Germany, Denmark, Spain and other places. Alternate energy dreamers just refuse to admit their scheme is a losing proposition leading the country to disaster.
If our administration had any balls at all, true patriotic attitude and at least a little bit of common sense they would quickly abandon the ridiculously expensive, material resource gobbling unworkable solution. The collection of hard data is already starting to show what was very clear to many of us 5 decades ago. There is no substitute for nuclear power!
No other scheme no matter how nicely wrapped in "green" camouflage can match nuclear power, not even remotely. We had no computers 5 decades ago, nevertheless, we were able to calculate this fact with a simple slide rule (does anyone in young generation know what slide rule is?)
Unfortunately, our politics and society is descending into the age of dictatorial idiocracy. We are forced to do everything what makes no sense.

The North Coast said...

Thanks to the Federal subsidy mill, political considerations way outrank economic considerations, or even ecological concerns.

Almost every industry in this country is to a greater or lesser extent subsidized, starting with our massive auto infrastructure, and markets are skewed by these subsidies.

It would be interesting to see what form of power generation would prevail if oil, gas, wind, solar, and hydro subsidies were removed. It would also be interesting to see how long most median-income Americans could live 30 miles from work and maintain 3 cars per family.

Sans subsidies and political obstructions, our utilities would be going feverishly nuclear, and the LFTR would be in production, I believe. There would be many other massive alterations in our economic landscape as well, far too numerous to list here and not relevant to the subject under discussion, but solar, wind, biomass, and geothermal would be definitely off the menu.

LarryD said...

EIA report on Federal energy subsidies, based on 2007 data.

Levelized cost of new electricity generating technologies. Note that these are sans subsidies.

Natural gas is the cheapest, then coal. There's good reason why coal is the major fuel for generating electricity in this country. With the new gas recovery techniques, NG would be the favored fuel for new capacity.

The next tier consists of advanced nuclear and biomass, closely followed by geothermal and hydro. Of these, only advanced nuclear could be deployed widely, biomass has scaling issues, hydro has been pretty well developed to its limit in this country, and geothermal is also site restricted.

If the criteria are minimal carbon dioxide and minimal cost, then advanced nuclear is the only practical choice.

If I red the chart correctly, then the capital costs of wind equal the total costs of advanced nuclear, the capital costs of offshore wind exceed the total cost of wind by a sizable margin, solar thermal's capital costs match offshore wind's total cost, and solar PV capital costs exceed solar thermal total costs by a large margin.


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