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.)
...the wind turbines involved in the accident were never posted on the navigation charts! Roughly 40,000 utility-scale wind turbines are operating in the United States today and every project is required to be shown on the aviation charts. How many other turbines are missing from the sky maps?
By the end of 2013, wind energy represented 94% of the fuel used to meet New York State's RPS mandate. Twenty wind power plants are operating in the state with an installed capacity of 1,730 megawatts. We've been tracking NY's wind production figures since 2009 and its performance has not improved.
Negative prices are not the goal of any healthy economy, yet the PTC fosters this behavior at the expense of other, reliable generation. Building more infrastructure to correct for this problem is exactly the wrong thing to do.
“We have a long way to go before Chairman Camp’s tax reform bill is final and, no doubt, the debate over tax-extenders will be rigorous. But this is a rare opportunity for American taxpayers to once and for all eliminate the near-permanent temporary tax credits.”
“The combination of the federal PTC and state RPS policies has shielded wind developers from the basic supply and demand forces present in a healthy competitive market. As a result, we are fast-tracking the construction of expensive renewable resources that are variable, operating largely off-peak, off-season and located long distances from where the energy is needed.”
AWEA's CEO Tom Kiernan bellyached last week that his people were exhausted by the "boom-bust" behavior sparked each time the industry faced possible withdrawal of the PTC. He showed no remorse that big wind was still economically impotent despite decades of public handouts meant to stimulate self-growth. Instead he dug in and insisted the PTC be extended.