This exchange between Melissa Francis of the Fox Business Channel and Denise Bode of the American Wind Energy Association is an instant classic. The interview is titled Wind Energy Tax Credit a Help or Distorting the Market? and can be viewed at the link.
Among the tired old boilerplate served up by Ms. Bode in an effort to reach into your pocket for even more cash to benefit the wind profiteers is this gem in which she names both natural gas and industrial wind the “new flexible affordable generation.” The implication is, of course, that both sources are far superior to nuclear and coal which cannot be easily ramped up and down to manage variations in demand.
But what is “flexible?” Flexibility is defined as the ability to adapt to new, different, or changing requirements such as, in this case, demand for electricity.
Natural gas power plants are, in fact, flexible in that they can quickly come on line to meet variable requirements. Natural gas is a demand driven fuel and can serve as both base load and in support of nuclear and coal. Demand driven … as in, when you flip on the light switch you can start reading your book.
On the other hand, industrial wind is fully at the mercy of the wind. Stating that industrial wind is “flexible” to meet demand is absurd and, of course, intentionally misleading. The wind – the fuel supply for the industrial wind electricity generator – is on its own schedule creating a supply side flexibility … as in, flip the light switch and wait for a breeze.
Does Ms. Bode believe that people are actually stupid enough to accept her “flexible” generator suggestion? The answer is … yes … she does!
And she’s right! Just take a poll of your congressional, state and local officials. A large number are willing to continue to toss more of your tax money at this energy impostor in the form of subsidies such as the Production Tax Credit. After all, as lobbyists know all too well, filling campaign coffers with tons of cash has the effect of lowering a politician’s IQ.
Oh … I said yesterday I’d keep to topics a little closer to home! Well, last month, the mental giants in Washington wrote a check in the amount of $44,184,807.00 on your taxpayer account to corporate giant Edison for simply building a wind project above my home town of Keyser, WV. And they don’t really give a damn if the 23 turbine facility actually produces any electricity.
Again, please take a few moments to view the discussion: Wind Energy Tax Credit a Help or Distorting the Market?
For the Keyser residents, this summer how many times did you look up to see the Pinnacle Wind Project, dead because there was no wind? Were only a few units operating? Were all units operating? Did you notice less than 30 minutes later, that the units were lifeless?
Edison Mission Energy (EME) Edison Mission Energy (EME) selected this MODEL because of its ability to operate efficiently. They units are taller (418 feet) it capture greater wind.
Model = http://www.mpshq.com/products/wind_turbines/pdf/MWT95_24.pdf
On May 18, 2012, I asked EME following,
Today, May 18, 2012, at 11:30 AM I noticed only 2 turbines were operating and these were slowly operating in different directions. Why does this occur? At 1:00 PM, all the turbines were not operating and were facing in different directions. They are now beginning to align and turn again.
My suspicion is that this event, which occurs regularly, and at similar times, is consuming electricity from the grid which makes me question if the net effect is that very little electricity actually reaches the grid during times when the grid can actually accept that which is generated.
At best, this routine exercise, unless for a purpose other than a change in wind direction is counter to what I was led to believe … that turbines are somehow singly, independently and effortlessly guided toward the ever-changing breeze.
Will you please provide an explanation to my question? It is important. Thank you. I look forward to hearing from you.
EME Response: Mr. O’Hara,
I have tried over the last several months to answer whatever questions I can regarding Edison Mission and our operations at Pinnacle and throughout the United States. As you know from previous communications, EME is an SEC registrant and by law, not able to provide anyone with information that is not in the public domain. I will not provide any information that has not been publicly disclosed about any of our projects. Operational data would be considered data that is not available to the public.
Vice President, Public Affairs
Edison Mission Energy/Midwest Generation
From my viewpoint, It not about wind capture or efficient operation, its capturing US Treasury dollars. Now that Edison Mission has received over $44 million dollars, where is the project accountability and transparency? Taxpayers and consumers deserve answers.
I set here each morning with my computer, looking out the front window at the majority of the 23 wind turbines on Green Mountain. I too have noticed that quite often, none are turning at all. Most of the time there are 1, 2 and sometimes 3 turbines down at any one time. I seldom notice turbines turning while facing in dissimilar directions. I can imagine turbines operating from wind from two different directions, assuming the turbines involved are spaced pretty far apart. I believe it’s impossible for turbines spaced close together to operate from wind from two different directions. I don’t recall ever seeing this. Equally difficult to imagine is a turbine operating from the grid power. The turbine blade shaft is connected to a gearbox which increases the shaft speed by a factor of 10 before reaching the generator.. To operate this in reverse would create an extremely high torque load on the shaft and gear box. I’m not sure this is feasible.
The problem(s) here is that there is no factual information available on the capabilities of the system, from the blades to the switchgear which connects the system to the grid.
My conclusions, since I really have no way of really finding out, is that the Green Mountain wind farm is still in the “shakedown” mode. At the times that all turbines are idle, I have concluded that they have been deliberately shut down for reasons known only to the operators. I find it difficult to believe that there are times that NO wind blows across Green Mountain.
Thank you for your very reasonable comment. If only it had come Mr. Charley Parnell, Vice President, Public Affairs, Edison Mission Energy/Midwest Generation, when the issues you attempt to address were posed directly to him in the spring of this year. Instead, this was his reply, “As you know from previous communications, EME is an SEC registrant and by law, not able to provide anyone with information that is not in the public domain. I will not provide any information that has not been publicly disclosed about any of our projects. Operational data would be considered data that is not available to the public.”
Unfortunately, the lack of transparency regarding what I believe to be reasonable questions of an profit based corporation which received $44 million taxpayer dollars only leads you and I to conjecture, biased by our sense of whether industrial wind is a viable energy alternative or not.
Not answering straightforward questions which in no way place their corporation in legal jeopardy only raises suspicion in those of us who express doubt in the technology. The unnecessary secrecy also arms those of us who do believe industrial wind has a place in our energy mix with little other than our own theories to defend the technology.
The result of limited factual information ultimately allows emotion to rule and pits fellow citizen’s against each other.
I don’t know if the Mitsubishi turbines can or cannot be driven by the grid. I am aware of units which are turned by electricity from the grid, and I am suspicious of the Pinnacle turbines when I see a cloud of fog drift over slowly rotating blades in a direction perpendicular to the lead face of the turbine. While I would agree that across a distance the wind could be coming from two directions, however, it seems impossible to me that the wind could be moving in two directions at the same point. Relative to the ability of the grid to drive turbines, you might find this link of interest – http://alleghenytreasures.com/2010/02/08/how-much-electricity-does-it-take-to-run-an-industrial-wind-plant-no-thats-not-a-trick-question/ – which I placed at this blog some 2 1/2 years ago. It would be appreciated if you would not only read the post and embedded links, but also the comments at the end. They are telling in that, again, lack of transparency on the part of the industrial wind industry leaves us to our own “conspiracy theories” and emotional debate, where facts would, perhaps, end the discussion or better, extend the discussion to a more reasoned debate.
As far as turbine shutdown, your suggestion of a “shakedown” mode is a perfectly acceptable explanation and one that Mr. Parnell could have responded with and not been guilty of spilling company secrets. Not doing so leads me to suspect a result other than that which you offer. I posed the stalled turbine question to a local “in the know” individual and was told, in a whisper as though divulging trade secrets, that when the grid was receiving too much electricity, the turbines were halted. I was astonished by this reply because, were it true, and the turbines are shut down so often due to too much electricity for the grid, why in the world are there plans to build more wind plants across the Alleghenies? My suspicion was that the individual was so heavily involved in public support for the project that any other answer that might imply performance issues would not be acceptable to the tale that was told. The times I’ve seen the complete series of turbines stop, it appeared as though all were being rotated to capture the prevailing wind and, once in position, began again. This process, if true, seems highly inefficient. My understanding from other publications by the wind companies was that technology allowed units to read wind shifts and individually continually seek the optimum breeze. Again, without facts, we can only develop our own theories.
Until three years ago I supported industrial wind. I was not bothered by the appearance and, like most, felt the additional “free” electricity from a “green” source which had the side benefit of “creating” jobs was worth the sacrifice of a little ground and a few bats and birds. You can read about my conversion to the “dark” side at this link – http://www.masterresource.org/2012/01/turned-against-windpower/ – so I won’t bore you here. Suffice it to say that it would be a lot easier to be on the other side of the argument.
The intent for writing the Allegheny Treasures blog was to challenge the wind industry to account for the statements they have made. I don’t have answers, I’ve been searching for answers and, along the way, found a number of very reasonable folks from all walks of life with no financial investment in the outcome of industrial wind who have reached the same conclusion – the benefits of industrial wind do not outweigh the sacrifice.
I’ve expressed several times that I can be won over. All that is required is for the industry to be accountable and transparent to the public which funds it and, if the evidence proves my suspicion incorrect, I will gladly accept the outcome. In either case, whether as rate payers or tax payers, we certainly deserve to have an accounting on our investment.
There is an argument to be made that when a corporation spends its own money it is only accountable to the owners/shareholders and it’s not the business of the public. Mr. Parnell used this argument to deflect the questions you and I are now discussing. The problem Mr. Parnell and Edison face now is that they have accepted $44 million dollars of taxpayer money and they must now accountable to us. We are, in effect, shareholders.
It is unreasonable that folks should have to take sides based on theory when the facts to help resolve debate are available. And it seems to me that an industry which prides itself as the technology of the future would beg for the opportunity to lay the facts before us if only to silence the nagging critic I and others have become. Perhaps if you find time, you could review my open letter last year to our officials from whom, unfortunately, I’ve received no comments – http://alleghenytreasures.com/2011/08/17/6574/. My suspicion is that, for some, were they to answer honestly, election day might be a lot more interesting.
Again, thank you for your excellent comment. I hope you will continue to read, comment and, with me, insist we receive factual information so we can make a reasoned decision when the next project is placed before us. Pinnacle is in place, and, according to the Edison Mission Group and the US Treasury which released the cash, operational. As much as the complainers complain, Pinnacle won’t be coming down any time soon. All I’m suggesting is that we measure the results in terms of jobs, environmental and economical impact on our community and performance against the benefits we were promised to determine if we are willing to permit additional turbines to top our migratory flyway.
I appreciate you visiting the blog and look forward to your next comment. I hope you and others will help me find answers.
Allegheny Treasures Blog
Good commentary, Morgan. Further to the idea that wind is a flexible generation source I would like to make two points:
First, Bode implies that wind plants could be turned off at times of low demand, but for large coal and nuclear plants, this is impractical and illegal, respectively. It is impractical for large coal plants to adapt to demand modulation because A) they take many hours to turn off, B) many more hours to turn back on, and C) waste significant amounts of emissions-intensive fuel in both actions. For nuclear plants, ramping is not permitted by the NRC – for some good reasons and with good economic ramifications that ultimately benefit rate payers. So yes – large base-load plants are inflexible, and the more they run interrupted at optimal levels, the better their fuel and economic efficiency, and the lower our electricity bills and the cleaner our air.
Second, that Bode implies wind energy plants could be turned off to help match demand modulation may be true, but wind owners fight – and win – to make sure their output is NEVER curtailed. The most recent example is found in the case filed by Idaho Power claiming wind at low demand times was unfairly squashing the feasibility of operating their base load plants. Ultimately FERC ruled in favor of wind remaining a “must take” resource at the expense of Idaho Power’s base load plant planned utilization rates and profitability. So even though wind “could be” curtailed, it is clear that it WON’T be curtailed – even in clear cut cases that it should be. This makes Bode’s comment about “flexibility” all the more distastefully dishonest. We hope the public sees it and votes accordingly.