Monday, May 30, 2016

Some Wind Energy News & Views - May 2016


At the end of 2015, the wind energy industry was finally given a 5 year incentive package in return for a rather meaningless gift to the oil and methane industry - the ability to export US made crude oil. Since the US still imports 9 million bbls/day from Mexico, Canada, South America and East Africa (plus a bit from the Middle East), one would think this is really dumb, but the thinking behind the oil industry is that not all oil has the same quality. Thanks to fracking, the US produces too much “lites” - too much propane, butane, pentane, hexane and octane, not enough of the “diesel cuts” - so we could export our crude to countries needing such materials while we continue to import crude rich in “middle distillates. But thanks to the Saudi Arabian induced collapse in oil prices (designed to bankrupt US fracking based oil producers as well as Canadian Tar Sand Sludge producers), this is a pyrrhic “victory” to US oil and methane producers. And with US oil and methane production now dropping because the businesses in the fracking biz are going bankrupt/no longer drilling (engaging in capital investments because their expenses exceed their income), oil exports of crude from the US just keep getting less and less likely. Oops…

Meanwhile, the Production Tax Credit (PTC) was extended for 5 years, but with a “phase-out” arrangement. The value of the PTC will start falling at the end of 2016 and go away completely by 2019 ( Projects have to “commence construction” by the end of 2016 to get the full 2.3 c/kw-hr subsidy, and it drops in a regular manner after that:

- by 20% (to 1.84 c/kw-hr) for projects commencing construction by the end of 2017
- by 40% (to 1.38 c/kw-hr) for projects commencing construction by the end of 2018
- by 20% (to 0.92 c/kw-hr) for projects commencing construction by the end of 2019

Of course, wind turbine owners still get the full MACRS tax deduction, which almost always was worth more that the PTC, anyway, and the MACRS is much easier to utilize.

In theory, this is a disaster for the US wind turbine biz, but in actual fact, not likely to be that at all. Thanks to the development of Low Wind Speed Turbines (now THE dominant type being installed in this country, even in high wind energy resource zones), the delivered cost of electricity from wind has dropped by roughly 20% to 60%. And thanks to the end of almost ALL fracking based drilling for methane (prices are now too low to justify the $10 million per well investment, especially in the Marcellus Shale region), methane production rates are already declining. On 5-25-16, methane was selling for $1.48/MBtu at the Pa-NY border, and $1.56/MBtu in NY City. And since it costs roughly $6/MBtu for most fracking gas wells to “break even” - well, that is some bad math indeed. See

Fracking and new wind turbine farm installations both run on credit. When it is perceived (based on lots of empirical evidence) that frackers are horrid credit risks, they won;’t get as much money for loans or via bonds and what money is forthcoming comes at higher rates. Bonds used to finance fracking are now relegated to junk status or lower, and interest rates/yields of much greater than 10%/yr are now needed. And with prices in the pits, money costs now in loan shark territory, that means that is not a good business to be in right now. There are only 85 gas drilling rigs active in the entire country at the present time - less than 5% of the all time high point 8 years ago. And as can be seen in the monthly dry gas shale figure for May of 2016, ALL fracking fields are now on a downward production trend. Especially the biggest of them all, the Marcellus. But, the oil and gas biz is not a charity….

So, a fracking gas well produces roughly 90% of its methane in the initial 5 years. unless drilling rates increase dramatically, the SU fracking based methane production rate could EASILY drop for the present 43 billion cod to less than half of that. And a lot of methane also gets produced as “associated gas” - a by-product of oil production. As oil fracking drilling also spirals downwards in activity, that methane production will also drop. And then methane prices will rise, a result of decreasing supply and more or less constant demand. And when methane prices rise so does the cost of making electricity from methane. All this is going to make wind turbines a very smart investment in 2018-2020. Rising methane prices will mean drastic profit potential for those with the ability to deliver electricity that does not involve methane usage. And since no new coal plants or nukes (aside from 2 in Georgia, the likely last of their kind) are in the works, well, for those pursuing money, this looks like good times ahead for those who have operating wind turbines. Especially in NY State, where Casino pricing rules and long term Power Purchase Agreements seem to be almost impossible to get. Of course, if you are a consumer, prepare for a major fleecing, but then electricity consumers are not exactly on the top of the proverbial food chain.

That 2.3 c/kw-hr tax credit (minus financing costs and legal work, which are not insignificant) is no longer going to be that important when gas prices spike due to decreasing supplies (via no new investments in drilling) and a more or less constant demand, causing electricity prices to spike. In fact, the 2.3 c/kw-hr is likely to be lost in the noise.

Anyway, the US and many other countries are now in a wind turbine “boom” era, which is likely to continue for many years. Employment in the US wind biz, according to AWEA, is now 88,000. It looks like at lest 10 GW per year of new installs is likely for the next 5 years. See for the trend. Average production in February of 2016 was ~ 32 GW and average capacity utilization of the 48,000 operating wind turbines was around 40% (see Of course, February tends to be a windy month, though thanks to El Nino weather, not so good this year. Average wind production was 21.8 GW for all of 2015, or roughly 5% of US electricity consumption. By 2020, close to 9% of US electricity consumption is likely to be wind turbine based.

As far as NY goes, we seem to have been by-passed by this wind boom. Thanks to the Marcellus Shale, NY has some of the cheapest electricity in the country, so why bother with new generation?There are still several wind farms that got their RPS subsidy from NYSERDA in 2013 (Black Oak, Cody Road) and especially 2014 that have yet to be installed, despite the 3.5 to 2.2 c/kw-hr NYSERDA subsidy that goes on top of the PTC and MACRS subsidies. Of note is the Arkwright wind farm proposed for Chautauqua County (36 x Vestas V110 turbines) and the Jericho Rise one in Franklin County (37 x G114 Gamesa). Both are slated for installation by 2017 (commencing in 2016, of course) and both use LWST units of ~ 2 MW capacity. These units are amount the best at extracting electricity from low to moderate winds. Both are being developed by EDPR (Portugal, ex-Horizon Wind), and both should be quite profitable given trends in the methane biz in the US. See and

Closer to WNY, THE happening project of note is actually not in NY but in Ontario - The Niagara Region Wind Farm is now being installed. This is a 230 MW project owned by Enercon and it will use 77 E-101 Enercon turbines installed on 125 to 135 meter tall concrete towers. The project will be located between Port Maitland and Grimsby, and it will straddle the Niagara escarpment/region of Ontario. This project was facilitated by the Green Energy Act/FIT, and it also involves actual local content. The electronic module and concrete tower sections are being made in new factories built for this project; blades will probably come from Quebec. These 3 MW turbines may be visible from Buffalo (land height plus 135 meter tower plus 50.5 meter blade radius. This means that the tips of the blades will be 608 feet above the ground at their highest point. See

On the image, note the placement of cell phone antennae (2 sets) on the tower. Those are situated ~ 200 feet above the ground. So here is a situation where ugly cell phone towers get replaced by a 135 meter concrete tower where they hardly get noticed at all. Will wonders ever cease? Image from

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Reach for the Heights to Do It Right

A picture from 2011 of a Senvion LWST from a few years ago (a 3.4 MW rated unit with a mere 104 meter rotor diameter placed on a128 meter tall tower) - It makes the high voltage/high power transmission tower look small by comparison, and that is probably at leaf 160 feet (50 meters) above the ground…. This company just came out with a 3.4 MW unit with a 140 rotor diameter x 3.4 MW unit, in theory able to tap 81% more air moving through it’s swept rotor area ( than the 104 meter model. That’s some serious cost of electricity production reduction…. However, based on similar scale ups, only 2/3 of this is likely to be realized, which is still a 54% increase in energy output for an identical wind resource.

Over the last couple of years, Low Wind Speed Turbines have now become THE dominant form of new wind turbines that are being sold, especially outside of China (but even in China they are becoming a big factor in the wind biz). Those installing turbines have done the rather simple math surrounding these - for essentially the same installation costs and cost of the turbine, a LWST versus a “medium” or a “high speed” turbine is a better bargain. For essentially the same price/cost, a LWST makes more electricity over the course of a year. This makes the cost to generate the electricity less. And if the cost of the product (electricity from those wind turbines) is more or less fixed and the cost to make it drops, well, that’s certainly better than the situation where the cost is rising and the price stays the same or the cost is constant and the price is dropping. 

For example, consider the 3.4M140 (2015) and the  3.4M104 (2011) turbines. The main difference is that the older unit has a rotor blade that is 50.5 meters long (~ 166 feet) while the new one is is 68 meters long (about 225 feet). Since the mass of these is more or less proportional to the 2.4 power of the length, the new blade weighs about twice as much as the older, smaller one (probably less, as some tricks of the trade have been learned in how to make these blades). If the labor to make these blades is roughly the same as for the smaller ones, but the mass is about twice as much, the cost to make that blade is mostly the cost of epoxy resin and fiberglass cloth. 

An estimation of the cost breakdown for a turbine can be seen in this graph (from 2012):

Using a turbine like the 3.4M104 (a bit ahead of its time in 2011), the blades constituted about 20% of the total cost. The new, seriously more humongous turbine would be more costly to make, mostly as a result of having blades weighing around 30 tons each and not 15 tons. This means that the longer bladed turbine would cost about 20% more than the smaller turbine, and that the blades are now about 33% of the cost of the turbine. But, a 20% increase in cost to get potentially an 54% increase in potential energy output. That’s not too shabby…

Another aspect of these longer blade turbines is that a lot more land deemed windy enough now exists. For example, instead of searching wide and far for the windiest spot of land, the places to search for reasonably windy lands near electrical transmission lines. A recent study by the US Dept of Energy shows the amazing increase in land area that is made viable for wind energy via LWST in combination with taller towers… The “possible” windy area jumps from 1.2 million km^2 to 2.7 million km^2 (110 meter tall towers) to 4.2 million km^2, an increase of 225% to up to 350% at a 40% gross capacity factor.

Going to a large rotor diameter almost necessitates taller towers. For example, putting a 70 meter radius blade on an 80 meter tower would mean that the blade at the low point (10 meters above the ground) in its rotation is getting very little energy to tap while at its high point (150 meters above the ground) a lot of wind pressure would push on the end of the blade. The blade would begin to wobble and set up a horrendous vibration - pushed hard at the top and hardly at all at the bottom. It would be far better to have the blade experience at least decent wind speeds for most of its rotation. With a 130 meter tower, the minimum distance to the ground would be 60 meters, while at the top it would be 200 meters (656 ft above the ground),

The wind resource at a given spot is usually evaluated at the center point of the rotor - also called the hub height. For an area with trees and/or some hills/buildings, hub height matters a great deal. This is because there is a logarithmic relationship between the height and the wind speed. For regions characterized by a surface roughness of 1 meter (very typical for NY State), here is a table relating average wind speed to hub height, as well as the cube of the ratio of wind speeds relative to speeds at an 80 and also 100 meter heights.

Hub Height Wind Speed Ratio, WS cubed

  80 meters 6.00 m/s 1.00 0.86
100 meters 6.31 m/s 1.16 1.00
120 meters 6.55 m/s 1.30 1.12
130 meters 6.66 m/s 1.37 1.18
140 meters 6.77 m/s 1.43 1.23
150 meters 6.86 m/s 1.49 1.28

Tall towers really go good with large bladed wind turbines. They also go good with local manufacture of the “extra boost” portions of these towers, because most of these are made of reinforced concrete sections that are easily transported on trucks, but due to the weight and their ease of manufacture, making these local makes sense. It turns out that steel is just too flexible - even when 1” thick - when it is in the form of a turbo with a base diameter of around 145 feet (~ 4.2 meters), which is as large as can be transported and still fit under bridges that cross over a highway. At present, the nearest concrete tower plants are in Welland, Ontario and in Quebec (to make towers for Enercon turbines), but these are easy to set up. It’s just that the US has not caught up with what has been common in Europe for more than a decade. But hey, better late than never….

BTW, at 6 m/s the likes of a LWST can put out 35% of its capacity on an average basis - see page 8 of A 6500 MW-hr/yr output is 37% of the rated capacity of a 2 MW unit (100% would be 17532 WM-hr/yr), and that's at a 6 m/s hub height wind speed. Not bad...

These days, LWST are now being used in faster wind locations, too, pushing net yields towards the 50% level and higher. As a result of more electricity made for a slightly larger investment, the costs of electricity production form these newer turbines has dropped very dramatically. After all, the bulk of the cost goes like this:

Cost = Capital Cost * Fixed Charge Factor/(Energy made per year) + O&M

Cranking out more annual energy production makes it less expensive to generate electricity.

For example, let’s say the installed capital cost for a 2 MW turbine is $5 million, and the Fixed Charge Factor is 8%/yr but the net output is 40% and the O&M cost is $10/MW-hr. The cost to make this electricity would be $67/MW-hr. But if that turbine used a taller tower to get to a 50% net output (but it cost an additional $500,000), the cost to make that electricity drops to $60/MW-hr.

In the US, most wind turbines are placed on 80 meter tall steel towers, though in some cases towers in the range of 95 to 100 meters are used. That is the limit of how large conventional steel towers can be, because taller towers require a larger base diameter, and a larger base diameter cannot be transported over roads due to the height of overpasses. Towers taller than 100 meters will have to use some other arrangement.

An easy solution is to place a conventional 80 meter tower on a “non-conventional base” - such as one made of multiple steel panels that can be bolted together, or concrete sections. For example, Vestas now has their “Large Diameter Steel Tower” (LDST) system that allows heights of 119 to 137 meter towers to be utilized. But there are a number of ways to make a usable tall tower for a wind turbine. The trick is to do it at a low cost. After all, the turbine owners are expected to make a profit, and this is still a cut-throat business when methane is being sold for less than the cost to make it.

Anyway, the really tall turbines are not needed everywhere - the usual indication is either the presence of trees or hills or both. But in much of the parts of the world where a lot of people live and where it’s not a desert - such as the eastern part of the US - that applies. It also applies when wind speeds are not that great, and especially where there is a hefty wind shear due to a rough surface (especially because of trees!). In fact, there’s the best rule of thumb - if there are trees present, tall turbines (120 meters and taller) are in order. It’s just what you do in this century, especially if you want to forestall Global Warming or at least make a valiant attempt at living without pollution sourced electricity.

So, for much of the US - here’s a map to ponder. With this, the quest as to how to power up America - at least the electricity portion - with renewable non-pollution based electricity - is done, except for some true believers for whom fax don’t mean much at all. The answer was to how to do it fastest and at the lowest cost is via wind turbines. It would take $2.5 trillion worth (maybe less) to do it, and a decade or less if we just bother to do it And for buffering/short term storage, these turbines mesh nicely with pumped and deferred hydroelectric storage. But then some people want to research this subject to death, while others just want no solution to come about (even though it has). Oh well, read it and weep. Or maybe read it and weep because our country shows no indication of bothering to choose this path - we just won’t be allowed to choose this approach of Low Wind Speed Turbines on Tall Towers.

Oh well, on to Paris 2015 for the Climate Talks, all talk and so little action….

Map from which shows the land area of the US with a 35 % gross capacity factor or better that can be tapped for LWST on 140 meter towers (lower for fast wind areas). Cool, eh?

Saturday, July 4, 2015

NY Energy Plan2015/NY Wind Energy in 2014

NY City’s only wind turbine of note, a 100 kw Northern Power Systems (a true champion in its class) installed in Brooklyn (Sunset Park, South Brooklyn Marine Terminal), owned by an Australian company, Sims Metal Management - Too bad it takes a foreigner to do what is right in this state, as no USA oligarchs in NY City have seen fit to do the right thing, despite wallowing in oceans of money that cannot find a profitable home….

This week a new NY Energy Plan got released; it has been in the works for over4 a year: Over 100,000 comments were received on this effort, but perhaps almost all of those got ignored. A quick summary - “All Hat, No Cattle”, and continued increasing reliance/dependence on/addiction to the Fracksylvania Marcellus shale fields for methane. Even though the “Plan” supposedly covers the 2015 to 2030 time period, odds are this will be obsolete long before 2020 - in other words, when gas prices start rising due to falling drilling levels and rapidly depleting “sweet spots”, this plan is worth loess than burnt toast.

And it’s been 2015 for 6 months now. This is the year that NY was supposed to have achieved 30% of its electricity production from renewables, or 25% (the 25% value was upped by another 5% around 2009). This 2015 goal was set up in 2005, which also set up NY’s pathetically bad but well intentioned Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS). There were also some very aggressive energy efficiency standards/goals postulated, but performance in that area has also been underwhelming. The 25% or 30% values sound impressive, but thanks to hydropower (two major projects and hundreds of smaller ones) we were already at ~ 20% of our electricity from renewables. Anyway, what were the goals of the RPS and how did that work out?

Almost all of the renewable energy capacity installed that tapped the NY RPS as of the end of 2014 has been wind turbines, with minor amounts of hydroelectric (small and medium hydro), some landfill gas/anaerobic digesters a couple of biomass projects and some PV. In terms of delivered capacity, most new delivered renewable energy electricity has been wind, biomass, biogas and hydroelectricity. Less than 56% of target (1086 MW on a delivered basis, or MWd) has been achieved, and even that is a stretch - see In particular, for wind energy, according to NYISO, an average of 451 MW (3956 GW-hr/yr) was delivered from 1735 MW of capacity (MWc), for an average of 26% net output, which is not very good, especially since a lot of the locations where these were installed are in some of the best NY State wind sites. The American Wind Energy Association has a great summary of NY’s wind statistics here:

The subsidies offered by NYSERDA have ranged from 1.475 (2007) to 3.495 (2013) c/kw-hr; these have been for 10 years and they are in addition to the Federal PTC tax avoidance (passive income tax credit) and MACRS tax avoidance (State and Federal tax deduction) subsidies. By any standard in the US, these are pretty generous as a combined package - on a 10 year basis these (NYSERDA + PTC + MACRS) can range from 7.1 to 9.1 c/kw-hr. So what weren’t or aren’t those juicy subsidies/incentives enough to cause a giant wind energy stampede? After all, while the MACRS tax deductions and Investment Tax Credit (ITC) work whether the wind farm makes any or no electricity, both the RPS and the PTC are based on the amount of electricity made; the more electricity is made, the greater the subsidy.

The answers to the question involving the poor performance of the NY State RPS and why the really wimpy targets were not met all revolve around the “can’t make any money” to “can’t make enough money” variety from wind turbine installations. The money making aspect involves both the production of electricity as well as the price for that electricity, and whether or no they wind generator gets blocked from selling their product (called economic curtailment). While the “EC” part only amounts to around 2% of the wind energy generated, that is “pure profit avoided”, and it’s importance to profitability is quite significant, especially if profit margins are thin to begin with. One way to improve the profitability is to simply generate more electricity, and there actually there us a way to raise per turbine productivity, though it would involve additional expenditures. Another way to improve the productivity of new turbines (about 270 MW worth are supposed to be installed in the 2015 to 2016 time frame) is to actually install the turbines suited for NY winds, and to install them in a less crowded manner. When too many turbines are installed in too small an area, the overall wind farm productivity drops significantly, as some turbines “rob the wind” from nearby ones located downwind.

The early projections/expectations for the per turbine yields in NY State were based on an assessment of the hub height wind speeds where those turbines were installed - numbers north of 36% were often quoted. In 2014 the average for the state was 26.42%, or about 73% of the expected value. To get5 the same profit rate as was expected, the price of electricity (= subsidies plus NYISO price) obtained by the owners would need to be 38% over what was originally expected due to the craptacular performance of NY’s turbines. And those higher prices never happened; instead, average NYISO prices DROPPED by 40%. This means the NY’s turbine owners got a double dose of bad news. But in some ways, they sort of got what they deserved.

The “wind shadow” effect has been well documented for a long time, and all developers can easily make use of very accurate software that models the effect of wind turbine placement AND topography AND surface vegetation/presence of trees. THEY HAD TO KNOW of the wind shadow effect. But then placing the turbines across more area means more lease payments and bigger installation costs per turbine/more transmission wire per turbine and possibly more headaches signing up people. Overall, this is a “greed equation” and they opted to minimize lease payments and wiring costs. However, they paid big time with poor performance. An example is the Steelwinds farm in Lackawanna, where hub height wind speeds average 7.6 m/s and yet output averages only 30% in a good year (there are also reliability issues with Clipper wind turbines). Those turbines tend to be aligned perpendicular to the prevailing wind, but even with the amazingly directed average direction, you just can’t put turbines with so little space between them (about 2.2 rotor diameters between each tower). The same goes for the turbines in Wyoming County and especially at the Maple Ridge wind farm.

Another factor in the poor financial performance was the high installation cost. An example is poor construction timing and a failure to use rail instead of trucks to transport the heavy components to as close to the location as could be done. hauling heavy towers and nacelles by truck is very expensive - trains are at least an order of magnitude cheaper. This had profound effects in Lackawanna (timing plus transport cost).

Next, there is the tower height. NY tends to be hilly and there are trees just about everywhere, and trees drastically degrade the wind resource, especially at only 80 meters above the found. In NY there are only two wind farms with taller towers - Hardscrabble (100 meter towers, 44 meter blades) and Marble River (95 meter towers, but with ~ 56 meter long blades). Given the large “surface roughness length” of 1 meter or more for any place other than the Lackawanna coastline, going taller taps much faster winds. However, if the goal is to minimize investment while maximizing short term gain, well, that is a conflict. NY’s developers chose the “quick and dirty” route, and they paid for that mistake many times over. It turns out that existing wind farms could utilize taller towers, at least for some of the turbines at a minimal cost, but since zero investment is the order of the day, that’s all that will be done for them. Taller towers also makes for quieter turbines at least as perceived on the found (inverse square law). So going to 120 meter hub heights from 80 meters (by putting in a 40 meter concrete lower section and then putting the 80 meter steel towers on those) would tap winds on average 9% faster that gives up to 30% greater average energy output while at the same time dropping the sound intensity by 2.25 times at the tower base.

Finally, there is blade length. New wind farms tend to use Low Wind Speed Turbines - such as the Stony Creek array (Wyoming County) and Marsh Hill (Steuben County) which use 100 meter rotors for 1.6 MW nacelles. Last year the Stony Creek array produced 33% of its rated capacity, which was 27% better than the NY average in a spot with less than optimal wind speeds. 

Of course, in a more ideal world, things like concrete tower sections would be made in NY State, and used for NY wind turbines that were properly spaced apart, used tall towers and LWST design. And for offshore wind arrays in Lake Erie, nearshore locations (where they COULD BE SEEN) combined with concrete “gravity” foundations and using LWST or near LWST. Offshore units should get AT LEAST 40% net outputs and more like 45% given the 8.5 m/s wind resource that exists above Lake Erie.

However, the biggest problem that sunk the NY State RPS was the Casino pricing system for electricity in NY State (alias NYISO pricing or LBMP - Location Based Marginal Pricing). The risk of NOT being able TO KNOW what future prices will be is a killer for wind power project financing. As luck would have it (or maybe luck had nothing to do with it), electricity prices collapsed in NY State following the combination of the Great Recession price crash (June 2008) and the fraudulent “fracking for methane” epidemic that followed, where drillers on average continually sold methane for less than the cost to make it and then drilled even more in an effort to get out of the debt incurred by selling for less than the cost of production. Instead of pegging the electricity price based on the cost to make it plus a reasonable profit, wind turbine  owners in NY State have the price of their electricity at the price set by natural gas. For the last several years this methane has been priced not at what it cost to make it but whatever it could be sold for, and then generally has been less than the cost to make it from MOST wells. Using this money losing methane to make electricity makes the electricity a bargain, but it also ruins whatever profitability might exist for alternatives to methane based electricity generation. Normally what “should happen” is that methane suppliers should restrict their output until prices rise to a point where drillers/producers can make a profit, but because of the way these drilling efforts were financed, that is not possible. Drillers have to produce as much as they can as soon as they can and if they go bankrupt in the process due to the conditions of the loans/bonds that were used to get the money to drill and frack those wells… and if the drillers go bankrupt, well, the financiers take possession of the company assets and then they sell them off to someone else, who continues this same crazy business arrangement. Such a calamity was not foreseen by competitors of methane production and usage - that when a glut of methane appeared, production would not be curtailed until prices rose but instead even greater amounts of methane drilling would be pursued. The greater production rates drive the prices EVEN LOWER and until mass quantities of drillers go out of business, the insanity never stops, and as long as the bankers/hedge funds keep providing the money, well, the fun just never ends…. And added to that is the fracking for oil frenzy, as many of the oil shale wells are also prodigious methane producers (Eagle Ford, Niobara, West Texas), dumping enormous amount of methane onto the market as a by-product of oil production.

Because the electricity prices wind turbine owners get in NY State are mostly pegged to methane prices, there is little profit potential to the business. Average NYISO prices have varied between 3 to 4 c/kw-hr since 2009, and not the anticipated 5 to 7 c/kw-hr. This was partly made up with rising REC (=RPS prices) in the bids submitted - the ones in 2013/2014 were 2 c/kw-hr greater than those in 2007-2008. However, they probably need to be even higher. But this also means that NYSERDA wouldn’t make its numbers - the 1086 MWd could not be achieved for the amount of money initially allocated in the 2005 RPS effort.

In addition to that shortcoming, very few wind turbine minor component manufacturing and no major manufacturing has developed in NY State. As a result, the only jobs produced in this effort are a tiny number of maintenance technician ones and some one-time design and construction ones which disappear where the construction phase of the operation has been completed. Contrast this with Quebec (6000 jobs created) and Ontario (~ 12,000 jobs created). Without the jobs and the businesses that employ the workers, there is little incentive to have a serious wind energy policy; after all, almost all the wind turbine manufacturing jobs/business helped by the $3.4 billion worth of wind turbine installs in NY to date were located out of state or out of country. And of course, no one gets held accountable for that, either….

Of course, the “solution”to the lackluster and highly inadequate performance from the wind biz is even more hair brained - divert the money for solar PV installations. In this way, the same quantity of money as would have been spent on wind turbines will produce less than 20% of the electricity that would be made using 26% net output wind turbines, and 13% of that which could be made using 40% net output turbines. The net effect wiki be to replace LESS pollution based electricity with the $1 billion advocated for the NY Sun proposal that is to be stretched out over a decade.

While it is nice that NY State in its various entities subsidize PV (which may even involve purchasing Made in NY State PV systems via Solar City), it is a shame that the “missing” 500 MWd of electricity that was supposed to be created by the RPS will forever be missing in action. The Main Tier of the RPS will be lucky to ever get to 600 MWd even with the proposed 170 MWc of new projects:

 - Black Oak wind farm 12 MWc (Tompkins County)
 - Jericho Rise wind farm ~ 80 MWc (Franklin County)
 - Arkwright Summit wind farm ~ 80 MWc (Chautauqua County)

The two larger projects would be owned by the Portuguese monopoly EDPR, while the smaller one is planned to be owned by some members of the community, which would be quite a milestone for NY State (only 3 of the 1000+ wind turbines now installed in the state are owned by a member of/members of the community - 2 near Rochester and one near a ski hill adjacent to Massachusetts). These will be installed sometime in 2016 to 2017.

Of course, in 2016, the solar PV incentive called the Investment Tax Credit (ITC) expires (, so the solar installation plans - all thoroughly dependent unpin this passive income tax avoidance subsidy - may also go up in smoke. At a minimum the Republicans in the House and Senate will “put it up for legislative ransom (stop Obamacare implementation or Ban Abortion or go declare war on a nation with big oil reserves or else the ITC gets the axe!). The Republicans and especially the extremely extreme right wingers in the House will no longer approve ANY subsidies for wind turbines, fully prepared to see a $20 billion/yr industry go “poof” because wind turbines compete with nukes and methane from fracking. Should the PV industry be perceived as providing competition, they too will experience “The Chop”. To avoid “The Chop” they will have to essentially silence their advertising, PR and evangelical promotion efforts, which would be VERY DIFFICULT for a variety of reasons. A lot of PV advocates are of the “true believer” variety, as the subsidies provided to the PV industry are either invisible to them or now seem like a given, a birthright.. To get their subsidies extended, they will actually have to push the belief that they are invisible, and that the PV output in the US is likely to stay a small fraction of the total US demand for electricity.

The wind biz pushed the belief that wind turbines are cost effective against nukes, coal and methane, which is often true, especially if methane prices actually rise to reflect the actual real cost to produce that methane and also include a profit. Once the wind biz became viewed as a player in the electricity supply of this country (soon to be 5% by the end of 2015) and the effect of wind in displacing the consumption of 1.5 trillion cubic feet per year or more of methane became apparent, well, the proverbial gloves of the polluter based electricity biz cam off. Out came the proverbial maces, battle axes, nail protruding clubs, knives coated with poison, electroshock equipment and of course, IEDs. Its a multibillion dollar/yr business, with potential profits of over $1 trillion in a decade, and all is fair. There are only winners and losers, the living or the dead, and no prisoners are allowed. And there is only a decade or so of low cost to make methane left in the continental USA, so this should be prime profiteering time for the natural gas biz. Instead, it is mired in a gas bloat of mostly its own making (well, that and those who financed the fracking frenzy), with prices that are money losers for most in the biz, with methane prices to producers now in the $2/MBtu range. The almost last thing they need is MORE competition from the wind biz, and that problem seems to have been staunched for now with the demise of any extension of the PTC. Would the gas biz and its servants and supplicants the Republican Party allow an new entrant in anything other than a trivial mode? Not likely!. And will the solar PV true believers, many of who cannot compute what the real, unsubsidized cost per delivered mw-hr is, submit to hiding their real intentions (which, lets face it, do have a lot of merit, aside from the really high electricity production cost) of making the PV industry a real player in the US electricity supply? Also not likely.

PV vs. the Fracking Methane Suppliers Analogy:

Unstoppable force meets immovable object. Oh boy…

BTW, the average installed cost of PV in NY for the last 3.5 years is now down to $5780/kwc ( At a money cost of 6%/yr for 25 years (a loan rate virtually impossible for most people or companies to access) that gives a real cost of electricity production of 41 c/kw-hr before any other costs (insurance, property taxes, inverter replacement, etc) and any profit are added in (12.5% net PV output). As long as the money paid to the PV generation owner mostly stays local, the economics of blending in this higher cost energy are not very hurtful, and can be quite beneficial. But when the money gets shipped out of the locality, well, that’s not good. And the high capital cost is either somebody else’s wages or a business owners profit, which in turn provide the basis for the taxes that keep things civilized. But could 41 c/kw-hr PV compete with 8 bc/kw-hr wind or the current grid rate of 3 to 4 c/kw-hr - probably not. So PV needs its subsidies to maintain the illusion that it is competitive, while also employing a lot of installers. 

Oh well, interesting times….


Web Analytics