In an earlier post, “Mountain Breezes – Green Energy’s New Coal?,” we spoke of the taking of the coal. For decades past, and likely many decades future, the important, yet much maligned resource has, and will continue to feed the energy requirements of the nation. We discussed how the landscape and the environment have been forever altered by the effort to retrieve the black diamond. In what many feel is a extremely poor alternative, bringing its own set of environmental issues, wind energy has perhaps become the new coal of the Allegheny mountains, except that, unlike coal, wind is an unreliable and unpredictable resource.
As the debate rages, proponents of wind power speak of a clean, renewable energy source able to replace the “greenhouse gas belching” coal-fired plants. Opponents stress that wind energy power facilities are destructive to the landscape and wildlife and due to their inefficient and unreliable operation will not, in fact, replace fossil fuel plants. Opponents to wind power feel that investing money in clean coal, nuclear, natural gas and geothermal, as example, will prove a much wiser investment.
Even Energy Secretary Chu recognizes the concern with wind power’s unreliability. Speaking recently to the Grid Week conference in Washington, Secretary Chu cited Bonneville Power in the Northwest noting ““it gets about one-fifth of its power from wind energy when the wind is blowing.” “But when it stops blowing, that share drops to zero.” (The Wind Energy cart. Will the horse ever catch up?)
Beyond unit efficiency and environmental impact lies a serious questions for citizens of the region … what are the benefits of wind power? It appears to many the answer is “very few.” At issue today, are the tax breaks and subsidies afforded the large wind power companies.
I recently discovered a comprehensive study regarding subsidies of wind power projects and other related issues prepared. The paper was written by Mr. Glenn Schleede and titled, Wind Energy Economics in WV. Subtitled “A description of the environmental, scenic and property value implications and an analysis of the economic benefits and costs associated with existing and proposed “wind farms” in West Virginia.” Written in 2003, the excellent, two part publication remains an important resource to those of us in the region. Mr. Schleede, in granting permission for use of his documents noted that since his study was published, “the tax breaks and subsidies are even greater now than when I wrote the WV paper in 2003. The production tax credit is now $0.021 per kWh and there is a new federal grant program and loan guarantees. (See http://www.dsireusa.org/)”
With all credit and thanks to Mr. Schleede’s courtesy, I’ll offer these links in their entirety with the recommendation that any individual or group with a serious interest in understanding wind energy economics in West Virginia, or the region take the time to read.
“Mr. Schleede is the author of many papers and reports on energy matters. He is now retired but continues to analyze and write about federal and state energy policies, particularly those affecting wind energy.”
“Until retiring, Schleede maintained a consulting practice, Energy Market and Policy Analysis, Inc. (EMPA) Prior to forming EMPA, Schleede was Vice President of New England Electric System (NEES), Westborough, MA, and President of its fuels subsidiary, New England Energy Incorporated. Previously, Schleede was Executive Associate Director of the U.S. Office of Management and Budget (1981), Senior VP of the National Coal Association in Washington (1977) and Associate Director (Energy and Science) of the White House Domestic Council (1973). He also held career service positions in the U.S. OMB and the U.S. Atomic Energy Commission.”
“He has a BA degree from Gustavus Adolphus College and an MA from the University of Minnesota. He is also a graduate of Harvard Business School’s Advanced Management Program.”
Mr. Schleede has contributed many writings to the issue of wind energy, most of which can be found at one of the following web sites: www.wind-watch.org, www.windaction.org, or www.savewesternoh.org. Type his last name (Schleede) in the “search” box on any of the sites to review more of his fine work.