The Washington State Energy Facility Site Evaluation Council (WA EFSEC) recently recommended approval, with conditions, of 35 turbines as part of the Whistling Ridge wind energy project. Fifty turbines were defined in the original plan submitted to the State. The final adjudicative order can be downloaded through the links at the bottom of the page. Of particular interest, readers are encouraged to reference the concurring opinion filed by the Council's chairman, James Luce, and included in the order. An excerpt of his letter is provided below.
Renewable energy on the Pacific Northwest's electricity grid has increased substantially over the years, and this is leading to a number of problems. For the Pacific Northwest, renewable
energy expansion truly means wind energy expansion because it is the closest to being market-competitive of all renewable energy sources. Wind power, like hydroelectric power, is clean (i.e., carbon-free in its production), and this remains a large part of policymakers' attraction to wind. While the negative aspects of wind power are apparent, they are often overlooked. Ever increasing wind generation will have a significant impact on the reliability and affordability of electricity in the Pacific Northwest that very well might outweigh any of the claimed environmental benefits. This consise report by the Cascade Policy Institute examines the costs and impacts of wind power integration in the Pacific Northwest.
Front page of the Northern Kittitas County Tribune paper featuring the article entitled "EFSEC bias suspected".
This press release provided by the County Prosecutor's office of Kittitas County in Washington State discloses evidence of bias on the part of the Energy Facility Site Evaluation Council in its decision to recommend that Governor Christine Gregoire overrule the local authority and approve the Kittitas Valley Wind Power Project.
The November passage of Initiative 937 adds Washington to the states with renewable portfolio standards. Wind-powered generation is a resource of choice in meeting renewable standards, and it has been highly touted for its environmental benefits. Considered in isolation, the environmental benefits of a wind resource are undoubtedly warranted. However, it is misleading to consider wind on an isolated basis—that is, outside of the context of the full power-supply portfolio that is necessary to serve load. In the context of an integrated portfolio, much of the environmental benefit disappears and may even be non-existent as compared with other resource portfolio choices.
In particular, a full assessment of the impact of wind resources on the environment necessitates a look at the energy consequences of adding wind-generation to an integrated portfolio in the context of meeting load.
Accounting for energy, it is likely that there is no significant environmental difference between a resource portfolio adding wind generation and one adding high-efficiency combined-cycle gas turbines. It is also likely that the wind-based portfolio results in little reduction, if any, in the need for fossil fuels and therefore little reduction in the exposure to their price swings and environmental consequences. That is, the emissions and fossil-fuel impacts of a wind-based portfolio appear little better than a non-wind-based portfolio.
Editor's Note: This paper makes a critically important point re. wind's purported environmental benefits, i.e. "...it is misleading to consider wind on an isolated basis—that is, outside of the context of the full power-supply portfolio that is necessary to serve load. In the context of an integrated portfolio, much of the environmental benefit disappears and may even be non-existent as compared with other resource portfolio choices." In short, wind's environmental benefits (if any) will be grid-specific depending on the emissions generated (if any) of the reliable generating source(s) required to back it up.
The Role of Wind Energy in a Power Supply Portfolio
....Wind is primarily an energy resource that makes relatively little contribution to meeting system peak loads. Even with large amounts of wind, the Northwest will still need to build other generating resources to meet growing peak load requirements.......But wind energy cannot provide reliable electric service on its own.
When wind energy is added to a utility system, its natural variability and uncertainty is combined with the natural variability and uncertainty of loads. This increases the need for flexible resources such as hydro, gas-fired power plants, or dispatchable loads to maintain utility system balance and reliability across several different timescales. The demand for this flexibility increases with the amount of wind in the system.
Editor's Note Presented on October 20th during the 2006 Electric Market Forecasting Conference sponsored by EPIS, Inc. this addresses, in part, the issue of whether emissions are reduced with the addition of industrial wind energy. This is a large pdf file (8.55MB) and is available via the weblink below.
Recent demonstrations have targeted the four lower Snake River dams as unimportant and obsolete. This argument casually discards the fact that the dams generate enough electricity to energize a city the size of Seattle. At a time when concerns about climate change dominate headlines, our dams are emission and fuel free. Electric energy generated by
the federal dams greatly reduces our dependence on imported oil and natural gas. Dams truly are our
region’s home grown renewable energy resource.
There are those who believe that conservation and wind turbines could replace the energy generated bythese dams. While wind is a growing and valuable regional industry, our
region’s wind farms depend upon the certainty of hydropower to “firm’ the load – which means provide energy when the wind isn't blowing. In other words, without hydro's reliability, our region's wind industry would be a whisper instead of a gust.
meansprovide energywhenthe wind isn’tblowing. Inother words,without hydro’s
reliability, our region’s wind industrywould be a whisper instead ofa gust.
What would be the alternative to hydro to back up wind?Coalor naturalgas thermal generationplants would have to be built, adding emissions to our air and furthering concerns about globalwarming.
ROKT (Residents Opposed to Kittitas Turbines) represents several hundred Kittitas County residents and landowners
strongly opposed to EnXco’s Desert Claim windfarm. Our main objection is to the
location of EnXco’s project - a scenic residential area only a few miles out of
town. Other locations maybe acceptable – if there are benefits to the county from
a windfarm then these benefits still accrue wherever it is located.
We are in continued public hearings to consider the application of the Desert Claim Wind Farm. I would like to remind everybody that the record is closed at this point for public testimony. What we are doing this evening is we have taken receipt - and we did that actually midpoint last week - of the revised development agreement for the project. What we intend to do this evening is to engage in Board discussion in terms of setting a timeline for further review and any other comment as the Board deems appropriate and then ideally with instructions to staff in terms of how we proceed from this date.