The American Wind Energy Association (‘AWEA’) claims big wind had a spectacular 2015, but we looked past the slick advertising and found the same boastful AWEA rhetoric, this time with extra pixie dust applied.
In December, 2015, the New Hampshire Site Evaluation Committee (‘SEC’) adopted new rules governing the siting of energy projects in the state, including wind energy facilities. The new rules represent the culmination of 2+ years of intense focus by stakeholders with widely varying interests. In that time, the SEC conducted months of hearings and deliberative sessions, all open to public, where thousands of pages of detailed comments were debated and ultimately distilled down to standards intended to better quantify the data presented by applicants, reduce subjectivity and lead to more informed, and more consistent decisions on energy facility siting.
Windaction.org has updated its database of US wind production and capacity factors to include the years from 2011 through to 2015. The data are based on monthly energy output figures released by the U.S. Energy Information Administration. Aggregate annual capacity factors for each state and for the nation can be found here. A spreadsheet of each project for which production is reported can also be downloaded from the page.
Our representatives know that the PTC is wildly unpopular. They’ve heard all the arguments. ..A stand-alone floor vote on the PTC would have put an end to its nonsense, but Congress preferred instead to coddle this costly giveaway safely in the corpulent folds of other, must-pass extender language.
“Offshore wind is essentially a government-made market that would not exist in the U.S. but for a massive intervention from Washington and an ‘at-any-cost’ mentality at the state level. Of the alleged 15,650 MW of offshore wind in DOE’s pipeline, a very small fraction represents projects proffered by private entities.”
Accepting these mitigation measures without fully understanding their effectiveness could place the lives and property of Nebraskans at risk.
Contrary to claims about fossil fuel being heavily subsidized for decades, no traditional source of electric generation has ever received an open-ended, unlimited subsidy like the PTC for every kilowatt hour of energy put on the grid.
Last April, Reuters and others reported poor winds in some western states during the first quarter of 2015. We checked the preliminary production data released by the Energy Information Administration for that period and, sure enough, the production numbers were way down. The attached spreadsheet compares Q1'15 performance against the same period in 2014. A summary of the capacity factors for the states reporting wind project information is provided below. The full data can be accessed by downloading the attachment on this page. Texas, California, Iowa, Oklahoma and Illinois, which account for 50% of total installed wind in the US, each experienced significant reductions in output for the first quarter. NextEra Energy confirmed the reduction in Texas performance during its first quarter earnings conference call.
The output of DOE's models are easy to promote but reality paints a very different picture. DOE's Vision assumes 7 GW of wind built per year between 2014 and 2020, followed by 12 gigawatts per year between 2020 and 2030, and 17 GW every year after until 2050. The Agency points to the progress since 2009 as proof that a more aggressive wind roll-out is possible. But in many ways, the success of U.S. wind in those years is the very reason wind development will not grow, but continue to slow.
“Before Americans are asked to pay more billions for an energy resource that still, after 23 years, cannot stand on its own two feet, Congress should ask DOE to get out of the vision business and report on the practicality of wind energy reaching even 10% of the U.S. power market.”
Clearly, the interpretation of what constitutes “begin construction” is important, yet at no time during the two years since the PTC was extended with this wording did the IRS bother to seek public comment under the Administrative Procedure Act ("APA"), the federal statute that requires federal agencies to provide notice and an opportunity to comment before promulgating rules.
Cape Wind was the wrong project, at the wrong time, and the wrong place. It was too big and costly. Its impacts were poorly mitigated and its benefits highly questionable. In the end, it was the regulatory arrogance of the Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick and the Obama Administrations that did the most harm. A lot of people were offended and willing to stand up to the abuses. Remember, it was Massachusetts’ spirit that triggered the Revolutionary War.
The Canadian government is correct that there is a need to understand ‘the potential health impacts and community concerns that underscore public resistance’ to wind energy. But Canadians and others will not be Grubered by phony studies.
The debate is no longer about the fear of change or aesthetics. It’s about preserving the health, safety, and welfare of communities from developers hell-bent on sticking turbines on every free acre with transmission access no matter who’s in the way. More than twelve active lawsuits are pending against wind projects in as many states, and more are sure to follow.
The true intent of AWWI's study is not about accurate mortality estimates. It's about deflecting the problem. The fact is, many more birds (and bats) are dying at operating wind plants than we know. Now is not the time to relax our concern. Rather, we should be demanding that the industry be held accountable for bird mortality once and for all!
The wind PTC/ITC expired on January 1, 2014. The Senate Finance Committee passed the EXPIRE Act which would extend the wind PTC/ITC and dozens of other tax credits/deductions worth close to $85 billion. Senator Harry Reid does not have the votes to bring EXPIRE to the floor of the Senate and has, thus far, refused all efforts to amend the bill. He is aware that Senate Republicans, in part, intend to remove the PTC/ITC from the bill. Senator Reid has made bold promises to the wind crowd about votes during the lame duck session to bring back the PTC/ITC but he is not in a strong position to deliver on his promises. Democrats are on the defensive and may well lose control of the Senate come November. If that happens, there is no certainty the wind PTC will make a return.
The U.S. Department of Energy is touting that wind energy pricing dropped precipitously in 2013, but the report cited by the DOE presents a different story. We examine some of the trends in wind energy development in this latest essay.
Last month when GE's Chief Financial Officer, Jeff Bornstein, complained that rules defining 'begin construction' were still too vague and holding up delivery of 400 to 500 turbines. "We expect that clarification to come from the Treasury ...We’ve seen that clarification and we think it is helpful.”
After years of debate there is still disagreement and uncertainty regarding appropriate safety setback distances. This uncertainty has benefited the wind industry. Thousands of turbines are erected that are dangerously close to where people live.
The U.S. Energy Information Administration provides monthly and annual production data for over 1,900 power plants including wind-powered facilities. Windaction.org filtered the data for the years 2011-2013 looking for wind projects only and determined the capacity factors for each project in EIA's sample list with at least one full-year of production. The below map shows the average capacity factors by state for 2013. (Click the map to see a larger image.)