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Bottled wind, or where are our electrons going to go?

It is likely there will be both economic and regulatory pressure for those projects to piggyback on the Galloo Island transmission line. ...And the wind farm developers get to optimize their returns and the landowners who are negatively affected by all this will get squat. And the taxes the developers will save with their PILOT agreements will help pay for all this - which is a lot more sad than ironic.

The New York Independent System Operator, the company that regulates the flow of electricity around the state, has just issued a report called "Growing Wind - Final Report of the 2010 NYISO Wind Generation Study." The 120-page report is packed full of statistics and science and math, making it less compelling than, say, a telephone book. But if you're willing to wade through it, it offers some interesting insights into how New York state will deal with the growing production of wind energy.

While the study focuses on systemwide issues, the word Watertown appears a lot - more, actually, than any other single community. Why Watertown? Because a study of the state's transmission facilities reveals that the Watertown electric infrastructure is one of those with the least unused capacity in the state. How convenient, considering the number of wind farm proposals on the table that may be looking to this infrastructure to get power from Hounsfield and Cape Vincent and Clayton and wherever else into the transmission system. The study concludes that infrastructure improvements in Jefferson, Lewis and northern Oneida counties would cost about $204 million to provide sufficient capacity to handle... more [truncated due to possible copyright]  

The New York Independent System Operator, the company that regulates the flow of electricity around the state, has just issued a report called "Growing Wind - Final Report of the 2010 NYISO Wind Generation Study." The 120-page report is packed full of statistics and science and math, making it less compelling than, say, a telephone book. But if you're willing to wade through it, it offers some interesting insights into how New York state will deal with the growing production of wind energy.

While the study focuses on systemwide issues, the word Watertown appears a lot - more, actually, than any other single community. Why Watertown? Because a study of the state's transmission facilities reveals that the Watertown electric infrastructure is one of those with the least unused capacity in the state. How convenient, considering the number of wind farm proposals on the table that may be looking to this infrastructure to get power from Hounsfield and Cape Vincent and Clayton and wherever else into the transmission system. The study concludes that infrastructure improvements in Jefferson, Lewis and northern Oneida counties would cost about $204 million to provide sufficient capacity to handle wind-generated production from the north country. That is serious money.

An e-mail from National Grid spokesman Alberto Bianchetti said "Currently, the regulatory policy is not in place that would enable National Grid to move forward with any of the recommendations of the NYISO Wind Study; however, National Grid believes it is a priority for such regulatory policy to be established."

Without the upgrade, about 15 percent of the wind energy generated here would be "bottled" - the system operator's phrase for undeliverable. With the upgrade, it would add $22.79 per megawatt hour to the cost of power generation, according to the report. Somebody would have to pay for that, and my experience with utilities is, they're very good at passing their costs on to the customers. (Actually, they call us ratepayers. Customers is such a personal word, implies some connection between you and the company ...).

National Grid will not, however, have to pay for upgrades. According to both Mr. Bianchetti and system operator spokesman David Flanagan, any upgrades required for either reliability or excess transmission would be the responsibility of wind farm developers.

So it would seem developers are caught between two extremely difficult choices: have 15 percent of their output go unused and unpaid for, or spend around $200 million to clear up the transmission logjam. Ouch! Kind of makes you wonder why wind farms in Jefferson County are so attractive to developers, doesn't it?

Which brings us to this: back a few months ago, when the Jefferson County Legislature was ramming the Galloo Island Wind Farm payment-in-lieu-of-taxes agreement through, some legislators got the developer to agree to look into running the project's transmission line along Route 12E to the Coffeen Street substation. Yet it is clear those same developers knew of the bottleneck at that transmission point. So why did they do it?

Probably, and I'm only speculating (but if it walks like a duck...), because when they made their submission to the Public Service Commission, they knew they would present transmission options that included both the Coffeen Street route and the route through Jefferson and Oswego counties to Mexico. From there it would go a very few miles to Scriba, where, at least in the NYISO report, there is no bottleneck. PSC staff will look at both lines, see 15 percent bottled production in one route and perhaps 3 percent in the other, and they'll decide where the line is going to go. And it isn't to Coffeen Street.

So while the legislators might think they had an impact on where the transmission line from Galloo Island is going to go, it's highly likely that they did not. While the Legislature was playing politics with the PILOT, the developers were playing politics with the Legislature. How deliciously ironic.

Meanwhile, the Cape Vincent wind farm proposals are moving ahead apace. Horse Creek in Clayton and Orleans is sleeping, but far from dead. When the towers in western Jefferson County are up, however many there end up being, it is likely there will be both economic and regulatory pressure for those projects to piggyback on the Galloo Island transmission line. The one that will probably end up going through Henderson and Ellisburg and Sandy Creek and Richland to Mexico. And the wind farm developers get to optimize their returns and the landowners who are negatively affected by all this will get squat. And the taxes the developers will save with their PILOT agreements will help pay for all this - which is a lot more sad than ironic.


Source: http://www.watertowndailyti...

OCT 19 2010
http://www.windaction.org/posts/28483-bottled-wind-or-where-are-our-electrons-going-to-go
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