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front paged on Booman Tribune

Via World Changing, this great tidbit noted by the Dept. of Energy's Green Power Network:

Green Pricing

November 2005 - Utility customers participating in green pricing programs that offer some form of protection from fossil-fuel price changes are finding that their green power premiums are shrinking or even turning negative. For example, as of November 1, Colorado customers participating in Xcel Energy's Windsource program are paying 0.66¢/kWh less for wind energy than for "regular" electricity because of an increase in the utility's energy cost adjustment (ECA). Since the ECA announcement, Xcel has sold out of its remaining available wind energy supply and has established a waiting list for new program signups.

(Go to original article for links to all the individual utilities and their programmes)

In Oklahoma, OG&E Electric Services customers purchasing the OG&E Wind Power product now pay 0.13¢/kWh less for wind energy than for traditional electricity and customers of Edmond Electric's pure&simple wind power program now pay 0.33¢/kWh less. Both utilities adjust their fuel charge monthly. Finally, in September, Austin Energy announced an increase in its fuel charge, which will bring the rate for its most recent GreenChoice product offering to near parity with the standard electric rate.

The great advantage of wind is that its cost of production is VERY predictable. You need to spend a significant chunk of money upfront, but after this, the production costs are very low and extremely predictable (technical maintenance, replacement of some part after a number of years, full stop).

You cost over the long term thus depends on the financing terms you can get to cover that initial investment and "spread" it over a number of years. Typically, it is possible today to get 15-year financing for that upfront investment.

With current prices for turbines and ancillary equipement (about $1m for 1MW as a rule of thumb, a bit more currently because of the ongoing boom in demand in the USA), and depending on the wind available at your site, your initial investment will cost about 3-4 c/kWh in debt repayment. Add to that approx. 0.5c/kWh in operatiing costs (increasing over the years to 1c/kWh), and you get power that will cost you 3.5-5c/kWhwith absolute certainty over the next 15 years, and much less after that (turbines are considered to have at least a 20-year life).

Coal-fired plants generate 2-3c/kWh power in today's conditions, but they are sensitive to coal prices (which doubled in the past year), and they could (and should) be hit by carbon taxes which will increase their price.

Natural gas-fired plants, the great new thing of the industry in the late 90s, used to have 3c/kWh costs as well, but that was predicated on 3$/mbtu gas. With natural gas currently at 14$/mbtu, and not currently expected to go below 7$/mbtu in the next 5 years, gas-fired plants are currently providing 6-8c/kWh power.

As I explained in an earlier diary, gas-fired plants usually being the marginal producers, they effectively set the level of wholesale prices for electricity, which have thus increased, slowly bringing retail prices up with them.

Until recently, the expectation of long term wholesale electricity prices arouns 3c/kWh made wind power uncompetitive, thus requiring a support mechanism, the PTC, to make it possible for investords and lenders to put long term money in that sector. And the 1.8c/kWh for 10 years provided by that taw mechanism have been enough (when available, which it was with irregularity in recent years) for the industry to be financed and to develop. Despite current high prices, banks are not yet willing to bet on such prices remaining high for 15 years, and thus still requite the support of the PTC to provide finance, and it would still kill the industry to do without it for now. (Disclaimer - yes, I work in banking and I finance wind farms, so this may sound self-interested, but (i) I don't work in the USA and (ii) it's still true). But eventually it may become unnecessary - basically as soon as utilities decide that they are willing to take that risk and sign fixed price purchase agreements with wind farms at high enough prices - like 5c/kWh - prices which, being fixed, will end up being very cheap for the utilities if the alternative is 8c/kWh gas-fired.

The gist of all this is that there is no rational reason today not to promote wind power today - it will be the most economic source of power in the long term - it already is in the short term.

And I have an additional bit of good news. The International Energy Agency, hardly a loony green outfit, has just published a new report (Variability of Wind Power and Other Renewables (pdf), which basically says that the impact of the  intermittent nature of wind power on grids has been overestimated and can be managed reasonably well with well-known technical solutions.

That means that investing in wind power will NOT require additional investment in gas-fired or coal-fired standby capacity to cover times of low production - these can easily be managed by the grid.

As the issue of birds inevitable pops up each time I write about wind power, I will refer you to previous discussions of this topic:

Wind Power - Impacts on Wildlife and Government Responsibilities for Regulating Development and Protecting Wildlife (pdf)  from the GAO.

This diary summarises a few scientific studies and quotes the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds on the topic:
Wind power: birds, landscapes and availability (I)

Other discussions on birds, with various sources:

The conclusion is that, while the wind farm in Altamont, Ca has killed a number of raptors, and care should be taken in all cases to site windfarms away from migratory pathes and other potentially hazardous locations for birds, the overall impact of wind farms on bird is extremely low.

Overall, wind power is cheap, reliable, and mostly harmless. These things cannot all be said of all the alternatives, so wind deserves to be promoted a lot more than it currently is - and it will actually be profitable!

Originally posted to Jerome a Paris on Sun Dec 11, 2005 at 05:40 AM PST.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Tip Jar - Dec. 11 (4.00)

    In the long run, we're all dead (Keynes)
    Read more on the European Tribune - bringing dKos to Europe

    by Jerome a Paris on Sun Dec 11, 2005 at 05:40:15 AM PST

    •  And don't forget (4.00)

      In the long run, we're all dead (Keynes)
      Read more on the European Tribune - bringing dKos to Europe

      by Jerome a Paris on Sun Dec 11, 2005 at 05:41:43 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  umm isn't window for recommends 24 hrs (none)
        and why does it need further recommends at this point?  Not a complaint, just curiosity about the request.

        Those who can, do. Those who can do more, TEACH!

        by teacherken on Sun Dec 11, 2005 at 05:46:45 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  well, (none)
          if it is to have any weight, it should be recommended more than usual...

          In the long run, we're all dead (Keynes)
          Read more on the European Tribune - bringing dKos to Europe

          by Jerome a Paris on Sun Dec 11, 2005 at 05:49:22 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  Jerome pour le président, ou pagineur avant! (none)
            Sorry, my French is beyond horrible.

            Do not feel safe. The poet remembers.
            You can kill one, but another is born.
            The words are written down, the deed, the date.

            Czeslaw Milosz

            by Chris Kulczycki on Sun Dec 11, 2005 at 08:57:22 AM PST

            [ Parent ]

          •  Jerome, (none)
            I didn't comment on your diary yesterday because I needed some time to think about it. You know I love you honey, and I read absolutly everything you write, at least if I see it. Besides, I firmly believe that Bushco et al are actually a symptom of Peak Oil, and that Peak Oil is the backstory behind Iraq and much else. However, I don't think you should be a frontpage poster. As others have pointed out, this is a cite devoted to Dem politics number one. More importantly though, you put way to much effort into your diaries and they are too important to scroll off the page as quickly as front page stuff does.


            We are all wearing the blue dress now.

            by PLS on Sun Dec 11, 2005 at 11:40:40 AM PST

            [ Parent ]

    •  This is good news (none)
      Thanks for the update.

      As you pointed out in a Eurotrib thread, people tend to demand far higher standards from wind and nuclear than from any of the energy sources we use.

      It would be interesting to learn the statistics on bird deaths from coal pollution.  If in the US it kills 26,000 humans each year and makes hundreds of thousands more ill--what is it doing to animals?

      We can't solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them. -Albert Einstein

      by Plan9 on Sun Dec 11, 2005 at 11:23:15 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Pardon my ignorance... (4.00)
    ...on this issue, but I have a silly question that you may be able to answer.

    Is it possible for a single individual to use wind power to power their house?  Of course if you had a few acres of land to set up a whole mess of mills, sure.  But in a suburban situation is it possible?    Is there anything going on that might provide that kind of alternatives for a common schmuck like myself?

    Again, rather an ignorant question, but I'm bored and wanted to bug someone.  :-)

    •  I doubt zoning will permit it... (none)
      There are small wind turbines available, but I think it's highly unlikely you'd be allowed to set one up in the city or suburbs.  I'm pretty sure zoning regulations wouldn't allow it and the neighbors would probably complain.  

      In Britain they admit to having royalty. In the United States we pretend we don't have any, and then we elect them president.

      by Asak on Sun Dec 11, 2005 at 06:12:01 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  I know very little (none)
      about micro power plants, as I work only with the big industrial-size stuff. In suburbia, you are probably better off investigating ways to save energy use in your home (solar panels, better insulation, solat heaters, etc...). We'll write about these in the next installment of Energize America.

      In the long run, we're all dead (Keynes)
      Read more on the European Tribune - bringing dKos to Europe

      by Jerome a Paris on Sun Dec 11, 2005 at 06:15:54 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  For individuals (none)
      wind power is mainly useful for heat.

      Water heater elements and electric baseboard heaters could easily be hooked up to a wind powered generator.

      An air conditioner could have its compressor magnetically coupled to a wind driven rotating element. It is not something someone could easily do by themselves.

      Appliances need 120 volts at 60 cycles per second and this can be done, but it is more complicated.

    •  Yes (none)
      My partner and I have been investigating wind power for our home for about a year.  We live on an exposed hilltop in southern Wisconsin, with strong and consistent winds, 1070 feet elevation.  Jerome is right about the upfront cost.  For us, it would be about $55K, and depending on how many gas appliances we converted to electric (which the wind turbine generates), we'd pay for that in 12 to 17 years -- and that's at today's energy rates.  If some predictors are correct, it'd pay for itself much faster.  So now, the decision is about whether or not we should drop that kind of money into the wind turbine, or something else.

      For those of you in Wisconsin (and some other states) the incentives and rebates for wind conversion are pretty good.  Contact your local energy provider for details.  

      FYI, the $55K set-up would produce 160% of the electricity our house uses, and the excess would be "sold" back to the local electric company.  If anyone is interested, I'd be happy to share portions of the wind power proposal we received for our home.

      •  How did you figure out .. (none)
        that you had a piece of land that was in the right spot?  Did you measure it over some amount of time or are you working off of wind maps?

        How tall is your windmill?

        •  The First Tip-off (none)
 that this rural subdivision is called "Windmill Ridge"!  But, no one has a windmill -- yet.  We built the house here 3 years ago.

          Being high up, fully exposed in all directions, with two acres of land, led us to believe it was a good site.  So for $50, we had a wind assessment.  The assessor came back and said yes, the site was ideal for a wind turbine.  His report was very interesting -- partly using wind maps, and partly using my own weather station readings (since I'm a bit of a weather geek).  

          Note: most states offer these wind assessments at a discount.  The assessor charges $200 for the visit and report, and Focus on Energy (Wisconsin's renewable energy leader) pays 75% of that.  Good resources at this website, if you're interested:

          •  thanks (none)
            I work with a company that has vast land holdings and a section of ground out on the east end of the state was used for I've been wishing I had something out in the area I work with, and recently found out that I potentially have a piece - I'm told it shows up on windpowermaps.  So my next thought was how to figure out if it is worth investment.  I'm not talking just one - I'd like to get as many as I could (on a little over 500 acres).

            So I start with the power company?  Someone's got their large transformer lines pretty nearby.  I figure the infrastructure costs might be lowered somewhat because of the convenience of that.

            •  Commercial (none)
              You're talking about a commercial wind farm now, where essentially, you're generating massive amounts of electricity for your local energy company.  Pricing, zoning and KwH selling rates are very different for commercial wind farms, but again, there are lots of incentives and tax breaks for doing so.  What state do you live in?  I can check with my Focus on Energy contacts and find out your best starting point.
        •  By the way... (none)
          If we go forward with this, the turbine will be 120 feet tall.
        •  National wind maps (none)
          There are several.  The NWTC is just one.

          In the practice of tolerance, one's enemy is the best teacher. Dalai Lama

          by leolabeth on Sun Dec 11, 2005 at 08:29:31 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

    •  Unless you can put up a very tall tower (none)
      or have very few lower obstructions around you (trees, houses), you're unlikely to be able to tap into a high-quality stream of air.  To be sure, there are lower-end generators and one can get some power, but if you want cost-effectiveness, you'll want a good windresource in your area combined with the ability to tap into it well above obstructions.

      Example:  a friend in a rural part of the state had a reasonable  wind resource but lots of cottonwoods on his farm.  His tower was probably 60 or 80 feet ... and he found it didn't come close to clearing the turbulence caused by the trees, some of which probably approached 60 feet.

      Let's get serious about renewables and efficiency. It's time to Win the Oil Endgame.

      by by foot on Sun Dec 11, 2005 at 07:32:09 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Easily Demonstrated by Flying a Kite (none)
        Most days in suburbia, the force will increase significantly after about 100 feet up or so. It's not just tree height; there's also a boundary layer as the high speed higher wind is increasingly slowed by drag against the turbulence and slower moving wind along the treetops.

        We are called to speak for the weak, for the voiceless, for victims of our nation and for those it calls enemy....--ML King, "Beyond Vietnam"

        by Gooserock on Sun Dec 11, 2005 at 11:26:13 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

    •  If you can't set up a windmill or two (none)
      but are interested in using wind power, check with your utility company.  In many areas, power companies are now required to offer customers alternate sources (deregulation of the power industry)--green energy and competing traditional suppliers.

      If you're willing to pay for it, and it's usually more expensive although this diary is pointing out that that's changing, you can buy green energy.  In our area we can choose between wind, soloar, traditonal and various mixes.  Of course, when you buy green, it's not like every watt of electricity that comes to your house was produced by wind.  However, your electricity demand is designated as 'wind-produced' and your distribution company pays a green producer or consortium for it.  The end result is that you are supporting green producers by increasing the demand for their product.  

      "Going to church does not make us Christians any more than stepping into our garage makes us a car." --Rev R. Neville

      by catleigh on Sun Dec 11, 2005 at 07:38:31 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  breaking wind.... (none)
    I've been very disappointed in the reaction to wind power here in Western New York. The bird thang and the perceived "ugliness" factor have people up in arms. Such a shame. We are a relatively high wind area, but people are fighting it tooth and nail.
    •  I think an integrated strategy is required (none)
      First bring back DDT to get rid of the birds,

      Then, bring in the windmills.

      OK, DDT ain't that popular anymore, so why not get a few more cats, who already kill hundreds of millions of birds each year in the USA?

      Then, bring in the windwills?

      Perhaps others have better suggestions on how to get rid of the birds (I'm open to all options) and make things safe for wind power?

      In any event, about the ugliness thing, why not just paint the windmills dignified colors?  Or disguise them as giant trees somehow?

      •  wonderful snark (none)
        Windmills kill so few birds compared to cats.
        •  I'd rather have a cat... (none)
          ...than a wind turbine any day.

          Perhaps a better way to think of it, from a homeowner's standpoint, is not how MUCH electricity you are using but HOW you are using it.

          -- convert to compact flourscent light "bulbs"
          -- lower your thermostat
          -- don't leave your computer running
          -- buy a flat screen monitor
          -- think solar (even in cloud country)
          -- turn off the lights when you don't need them
          -- turn off all those little micro-use items that are on ALL the time like TVs (even when they're off, they on), cell phone chargers, circulation pumps, flatbed scanners, your printer, etc.
          -- don't run the air conditioner (if you live in wind country, just open the window instead)
          -- turn down the temp on the waterheater a bit

          We've converted about 90% of the house to compact flourscents this last year and our electric bill has dropped substantially. a 100 W bulb equiv. in compact flourscent draws about 25-30 W of juice. That right there cuts your electrice usage for lighting by 66-75 percent. Sure, they're more expensive but they'll pay for themselves.

          It's not that hard to save a bunch of electricity.

          Badges? We don't need no stinking badges!

          •  Do you hate Cat-killer Frist? (none)
            I'm not that fond of cats because they kill millions of birds each year, but I'd like to know how you and other cat fanciers feel about the "Video Diagnosis" Doctor who practiced his surgery on adopted shelter cats.  

            Is there any organized group of Cat owners who have taken out billboards against this evil person?  Do the folks in Tennessee even know about Frist's lying cruelty in pretending to provide a home for these cats to get them from the shelter, then dissecting them for his pleasure?

            The compact fluorescent bulbs really are nice, they save even more energy during the times your house is  being cooled since the A/C does not have to remove all the waste heat from edison type bulbs.

            Try the LED flashlights also, they save batteries.

          •  As a fellow homeowner I agree (none)
            As a fellow earthling I care more about reducing carbon-emitting sources of energy.

            We can protect the birds easier than we can sequester carbon.

        •  Yes But the Think-Tank Sponsors Aren't (none)
          threatened by cats.

          We are called to speak for the weak, for the voiceless, for victims of our nation and for those it calls enemy....--ML King, "Beyond Vietnam"

          by Gooserock on Sun Dec 11, 2005 at 11:27:11 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

      •  Windows (none)
        Windows also kill millions of birds each year.

        Arlington, Virginia

        by ScienceMom on Sun Dec 11, 2005 at 10:32:32 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  Windows are a good illustration of the complex (none)
          issues we face.

          As you point out, windows kill lots of birds - thereby making it OK to situate bird-killing windmills nearby (since the birds are already dead).

          But, at the same time windows reduce the need for power-generating windmills (by trapping heat inside the house, thereby requiring less power than if no windows were used at all).

          It's all so very very confusing.  Like Elsa said in Casablance, I think I'm just going to let somebody else do all my thinking for me from now on (guess that means I'm going to have to leave DK and go start posting on FP . . . )

  •  As a potential new wind power customer (none)
    I am glad to see that the cost differential has decreased.

    I have a summer-home on an island at the junction between Lake Ontario and the St. Lawrence river. The island has been undergoing wind studies for three years, and has finally gotten provincial (ON) approval to go forward. No doubt, it will take several more years for the windfarms to get built; there is the tricky deal of laying underwater electrical cables to Kingston, ON, the nearest city.

    I confess that I am a NIMBY, but I am not near the areas on farms that have been deemed acceptable. I don't think that I would like to view turbines all the time, and I do worry that the island is a migratory flyway and that there may be more bird kills. Some articles say that the kill is less that with previous windmills, and that research is ongoing to deflect bird paths with the turbines. When I retire, I may want to look at this problem myself. I am a biologist, and wannabe naturalist.

    I am a US citizen who owns property in Canada. I have always been surprized at the cost differences for power in ON vs. NY. Up there, the wind is fairly constant, and would well serve the island residents, both year-round and seasonal. In the winter, it is mostly farming community, doing beef and seasonal crops like strawberies in the summer.
    The farms remind me of Indiana farms, where I grew up.

    Anyway, I am excited about the prospect of our island getting wind-generated power. The energy produced would also flow into Kingston and their grid, and has the potential of supplying much of the energy needed. Of course, we also have hydro energy there (and nuclear).

  •  Birds at Horicon Marsh (none)
    It looks like our wind farm is a done deal, they were not able to prevent construction  close to the Horicon Marsh.  I think they will be building within 2 miles of the bird refuge, this will be an excellent test case.  

    I am opposed to siting this close to the bird flyway and to the very large bat hibernaculum, but that point of view lost the debate.  I promise to keep everyone updated on the result.  If it turns out not to be a killing field for birds and bats, I will step up and apologize and admit my mistake.  And then become a voice in other locations.  

    But if it is what we fear, then I will do what I can to spread the word and prevent the carnage elsewhere.  Here's hoping I am wrong and the birds and bats can safely coexist with the wind.

    •  Please do (4.00)
      I certainly want to know that the projects we are financing have only a limited impact on the environment.

      But the standard should be to take also into account the damages that would be caused by whatever energy source is eliminated thanks to that wind farm - i.e. the pollution, carbon emissions and deaths from coal mining and burning or other alternatives.

      In the long run, we're all dead (Keynes)
      Read more on the European Tribune - bringing dKos to Europe

      by Jerome a Paris on Sun Dec 11, 2005 at 06:36:38 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Yes (none)
    As you can see here and particularly here, 20 miles from my home, we are working on it.
  •  Colorado (none)
    After the Denver Post wrote an article in October about wind power being cheaper than natural gas this winter, subscription to wind power is way up, and now is actually fully subscribed. Wind power has been a huge success for the town of Lamar, and a new, large wind farm is being built in the Eastern plains of Colorado.

    Pointless, incessant barking since Mon Feb 9, 2004 at 3:05:52 PM MST

    by Blue the Wild Dog on Sun Dec 11, 2005 at 06:42:48 AM PST

  •  Florida Power & Light (none)
    has one of those green pricing programs. It adds about $10 to the monthly bill. I've been considering it for some time. It's good to hear they're becoming popular.

    "How freeing it must be to walk through this world heeding neither conscience nor soul." - the rude pundit, 5/4/05

    by pattyp on Sun Dec 11, 2005 at 07:11:31 AM PST

  •  I wish OG&E were in my part of OK (none)
    I have electric service by Public Service of Oklahoma, a subsidiary of American Electric Power, which doesn't offer individual customers the right to purchase wind-based electricity.  So, other than complaining to customer service, I cannot have the same market effect as individuals opting into wind-based power generation.

    Any suggestions on how to make my utility dollars change AEP's behavior towards more wind projects or allow wind power opt-ins?

    -1.88, -6.62 I'm only a lib'rul in Oklahoma.

    by Prof Dave on Sun Dec 11, 2005 at 07:21:42 AM PST

    •  I've Been a 100% Windpower Customer... (none)
      ...for a couple years now (OG&E is my power company).

      It was a nice bonus starting a couple months ago to see that I was also saving money with wind power.

      Preserving the old ways from being abused/Protecting the new ways for me and for you/What more can we do

      by GreenSooner on Sun Dec 11, 2005 at 12:05:20 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  You can buy wind power, no matter where you live (none)
      You don't really need to buy wind power from your local utility.  It's not as if they'd hook up a special wire connecting the wind turbine to your house!

      Really, the power from all wind turbines just gets dumped onto the general grid.  The fact that you signed up to buy "green" power is about the accounting on the back-end, not about where the electrons flow.

      So check out an outfit like
      Native Energy, which is selling shares in wind turbines being built on Indian reservations.  Or just buy some CO2 offsets from a company like TerraPass.  It will have the same net effect -- companies producing clean power will get paid a little extra, to make up for the massive subsidies and the long-since paid-off capital costs of the mature fossil fuel technologies.

      You could also write to your state's public service commission, asking them to require your utility to offer a green alternative.  But advocating for state-level change is obviously a longer-term and more political animal, not just a direct personal choice.

  •  On Cape Cod (none)
    An all-renewable power option was made available here (prior to current Katrina related spikes in fosil fuels) and very few customers opted in.  Undoubtedly, the cost differential was a major problem as the program would result in something around a 20% increase in the bottom line.

    I decided to participate both at my home and my business, looking at my increased cost as a form of seed money or contribution to a cause I believe in.  The fact that my supplier costs will hold, since hydro solar and wind generation are not impacted by spiking LNG and oil prices, mitigates the cost differential but does not change my calculus for making my original choice.

    We need put our $$ where are beliefs are when we make choices.  Renewable energy is likely to remain a more "expensive" option in the short term, but is in reality our only viable long term option.  Supporting renewable energy NOW helps us responsibly prepare for the future.

  •  In a similar vein... (none)
    For off grid applications, the cost of electricity generated by a photovoltaic system is now cheaper than electricity from a diesel generator.
  •  Long run economics (none)
    "The gist of all this is that there is no rational reason today not to promote wind power today - it will be the most economic source of power in the long term - it already is in the short term."

    I'm not sure this will turn out to be accurate.  There are some major advances coming in solar power that could make it cheaper, or at least essentially the same cost as wind.  But for large installations I think wind is still preferable.

    I'm not anti-wind; hell, I'm about as pro-wind-power as people get.  But I think it's true that we're headed for a mix of renewables: Utility scale wind in the form of the typical 3-bladed turbines, institution-scale wind via vertical-axis wind turbines (VAWT's), and building-scale solar.

    See the entry "December 8, 2005: The aesthetics of wind turbines" on the front page of my site ( for my thoughts on the aesthetics issue and a link to some nice photoshopped images of simulated VAWT installations.

    •  Solar is certainly the long term future (none)
      but in the short and medium term, it will repain expensive (for now, still an order of magnitude more than wind or conventional power).

      Solar PV makes sense on a small scale, i.e. individual users that can benefit from retail prices and notwholesale prices or isolated areas where the cost of connection to the grid is significant.

      Solar as a source of centralised power (50 MW stuff or more) is happening, but need to be subsidised for now. As prices go down, its share will increase.

      The advantage of wind is that it is competitive TODAY for industrial scale power production - the 50-500 MW wind farms that are being built these days - and it can only get more competitive as technology improves and the competition faces increasing costs (fuel, whether gas or coal, and carbon taxes).

      In the long run, we're all dead (Keynes)
      Read more on the European Tribune - bringing dKos to Europe

      by Jerome a Paris on Sun Dec 11, 2005 at 10:33:13 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  A lot of people assume Solar == PV.. (none)

        And this doesn't have to be the case.  There is a company in California building two largish solar plants (~500MW and ~300MW) based upon the Stirling engine.  Essentially they capture the heat of the sun and convert to electricity.  They claim that the cost will be < 10 cents/KWh.

        Each individual dish is supposed to produce roughly 55,000-60,000 KWh per year.

  •  investment opportunity? (none)
    Jerome, suppose someone (i.e., someone of my general height, weight and build) had a little extra money and wanted to invest it.  Suppose further that this same someone liked the idea of investing in renewable energy--an industry that does the world good and looks poised to enter a period of growth and profitability.

    As a banker who works in financing wind power projects, would you know the names of any funds or companies that our hypothetical would-be investor might want to look closely at?


    We Democrats are deciduous. We fade, lose heart, become torpid, languish, then the sap rises again, and we are passionate. -- Garrison Keillor

    by Evan on Sun Dec 11, 2005 at 08:44:56 AM PST

  •  windpower is great if you can get it (4.00)
    As Blue the Wild Dog noted, Xcel's Windsource is fully subscribed. Thousands of potential customers (myself included) are on waiting lists.

    From Xcel Says: Screw You Colorado at Unbossed last week:

    I find Xcel's timing for a natural gas rate increase curious, at best, and suspicious, at worst.

    To connect a few dots, this manuever is coming on the heels of putting thousands of customers who have requested Windsource, Xcel's wind-turbine electric service, on waiting lists.

    The company says it can't keep up with the demand for Windsource >>

    Curiously, Xcel also can't pass along the natural gas price increases to customers with alternative energy-based service. Those with traditional electric service can and will be assessed the natural gas surcharge.

    Hmmm, wonder why they don't want to switch folks over to renewable energy....?

    Unbought, the new ass-kicking little sister of Unbossed, seeking activist bloggers.

    by em dash on Sun Dec 11, 2005 at 09:46:34 AM PST

    •  tin foil (none)

      The quoted article is tin foil hat material. Obviously it is a conspiracy on the part of the power companies. After all, we know that new wind turbines can be installed overnight. Seriously, there aren't enough wind turbines today because not enough people bought green energy yesterday. Therefore, there are fewer installed turbines and less production capacity for new turbines.

  •  Rooftop wind system (none)
    From the Sunday Times of Scotland:
    Rooftop wind turbines on urban horizon
    Jason Allardyce

    THE Scottish executive is to force through new planning rules to allow residents to put wind turbines on their roofs.

     The generators, about the size of a television satellite dish, are expected to become a common urban sight. They will cut electricity bills and also help the executive to meet its ambitious renewable energy target.

     Ministers are to issue new planning guidelines, telling local authorities to approve the turbines. Costing about £1,000 if a government grant is obtained, these can produce enough electricity to run most domestic appliances and provide up to a third of all power needs.

     Among their supporters is Brian Wilson, the former Labour energy minister, who has one at his home in Glasgow.

     Charlie Silverton, a director of Renewable Devices, the Edinburgh-based firm that manufactures the silent rooftop turbines, said they had been designed like spinning wagon wheels to be easy on the eye.

     Each turbine has five rotor blades encased in an outer rim and sits just above the house, producing up to 1.5kw of power...

    Check this link, Scottish Executive (Scotland's devolved government), for a description of the rollout of a trial of rooftop wind turbines on five primary schools in Fife. In spring 2004 the price per unit was 10,000 British pounds, but Renewable Devices apparently believes that they can reduce the price to 1500 in the foreseeable future.

    In October 2004, Scottish and Southern Energy announced plans to acquire a 20% interest in Renewable Devices Swift Turbines Ltd:

    Renewable Devices Swift Turbines is an Edinburgh-based technology company which was founded in 2002. It has developed what is believed to be the world's first feasible rooftop-mountable wind energy system, which is designed to be quiet running, planning-compliant and capable of delivering significant amounts of energy to businesses, offices and homes. It is estimated that around one quarter of all the UK emissions of CO2 and greenhouse gasses comes from household use of fossil fuels and the technology incorporated in the Swift Rooftop Wind Energy SystemTM assists in reducing these emissions by generating electricity on-site. There are Clear Skies and SCHRI grant schemes available to assist customers wishing to install small-scale renewable energy technologies such as Swift wind turbines.

    Under the agreement, SSE and Renewable Devices Swift Turbines will work in partnership to manufacture, market and install the Swift Rooftop Wind Energy SystemTM to gas and electricity customers throughout the UK. SSE expects to place around 2,000 orders for the system, worth up to a total of £9m, over three years. The joint project therefore represents a multi-million pound investment by SSE which will enable them to take this innovative new technology to the market in conjunction with Renewable Devices Swift Turbines. The Swift augments existing electricity systems, is rooftop-mounted and not space-intensive, is simple to install, demands no user-management and should be available at a fraction of the costs of existing comparable systems. A typical device should provide about 30% of the electricity needs of a typical semi-detached house, reducing carbon dioxide emissions by around 1.8 tonnes per annum...

    Renewable Swift estimates an average generation of 4200 kWh per rooftop unit, which is in the ballpark (3,080-5,480 depending on family size) of annual household use as estimated by the U of Strathclyde.  

    Keep in mind that Scotland is a windy country.

    Mother Nature bats last.

    by pigpaste on Sun Dec 11, 2005 at 09:58:48 AM PST

  •  bird mortality is not insignificant (none)
    I agree that the bird mortality problem is major, but researchers are finding ways to reduce mortality with the right planning and better turbine and blade design. Just turning off turbines seasonally could reduce mortality adequately.

    I remember that the NIH funded a bunch of researchers from U.of Maryland to find out how to keep raptors from tuning out turbines while they hunt (raptor eye and ear physiology is really amazing, so NIH was interested)...I'd like to find out their results.

    Here's a short  report about how Altamont Pass, CA, could do better toward reducing mortality, and perhaps ideas for other locations.

    Another thing, turbines are really pretty, clean lines and useful looking. Aesthetically, it seems people could get used to them, but I guess that people need to be convinced.

    •  preserves open space, too (none)
      Another good thing about wind power is that it preserves open space, space that would otherwise be tract housing or something (definitely what would happen in Altamont, right next to Pombo country).

      It's extremely sad to lose golden eagles and burrowing owls, but it's good to have kit fox habitat and red-legged frog habitat preserved with the option of managing the raptor mortality at an acceptable level.

    •  yes it is insignificant (none)

      If you put a denominator on the number. Compare the number of bird kills to the number of birds killed by cats or buildings. Compare the number of bird kills to the number of birds migrating through the wind farm (1 in a million at one site).

      Also, the raptors that are killed at altamont are typically killed because they are in the process of killing squirels.

  •  PEPCO in DC has that program (none)
    where you can specify green energies for your electricity.  Right now "trapped methane gas" seems to be the highest source specified on my bill.  Not so much wind, but still pricing is comparable and sometimes cheaper than regular non-green sourcing.

    I think there are ways that you can pre-pay for your green electrical therms and save more.

  •  I Love It! WAITING List for Cheaper Wind Power! (none)
    But there must be some mistake because I've watched all the Sunday talk now, including the business reports, and nobody's mentioned such a radical development.

    We are called to speak for the weak, for the voiceless, for victims of our nation and for those it calls enemy....--ML King, "Beyond Vietnam"

    by Gooserock on Sun Dec 11, 2005 at 11:34:32 AM PST

  •   A point or 3 (none)
    * "The great advantage of wind is that its cost of production is VERY predictable."

    The operative word, however, is cost. Electricity production, otoh, is wildly unpredictable. Wind fields can be accurately modeled, so finding a good location initially isn't a problem. But there are no guarantees it'll stay a good location. If an upwind developer decides to put an office building or housing complex even a few miles away, that could change everything. Or if the gov't puts a highway perpendicular to your prevailing wind flow, unless your turbines are very tall, welcome to the boundary layer and non-linearity.

    * "Add to that approx. 0.5c/kWh in operatiing costs..."

    I hope you've included realistic transportation/transmission costs in there. Here, I could be wrong, but I'm assuming wind power cannot provide "real-time" electricity. Given the wide variability in rate of production, I assume that means providing customers stored electricity. One big hurdle for wind and solar power is the space they need to produce energy on a large scale. That means the energy tends to be produced and stored far from where it is needed most, i.e. densely populated areas. Energy from fossil fuels has an inherent advantage because of energy density. Squish dead organic material at high temps for 10 million years, and it packs a lot of punch when you burn it. Wind, otoh, converts mechanical energy to power. That means kinetic energy and momentum, both of which depend on mass, and well...wind doesn't weigh a whole lot.

    So industry prefers fossil fuel and nuclear power because of the bang for the buck. I'm guessing your operating costs are way off, and I'm guessing it probably has something to do with the rate of supplying energy to consumers.

    * "As the issue of birds inevitable pops up..." should inevitably ignore it. Yes, birds will die, especially those birds who are predisposed to flying into whirling blades of death. That sounds like evolution to me. Birds used to be dinosaurs for christ's sake. I suspect they're pretty adaptable.

    But wait...! If more birds die, cats will have fewer birds to eat and more cats will die. But if more cats die, then more birds will survive to fly into propellors. And then more cats will die.

    "So...if...she...weighs the same as a duck, she's made of wood.

    "And therefore--?"

    "A witch! A witch! A duck! A duck!"

    Probably the best solution to this ecological disaster is to count the number of bird strikes during the first year. Then, midway through the second year, fling the same number of cats into the turbines.

    Ah, equilibrium.

    -- "Enlighten the people generally, and tyranny and oppression...will vanish like evil spirits at the dawn of day." -- Thomas Jefferson

    by Todd Johnston on Sun Dec 11, 2005 at 01:40:12 PM PST

  •  but in Texas (none)
    we don't get the benefit of cheaper wind power. Why is that the case when we have a growing number of West Texas wind farms and when wind is cheaper to produce than the "dirty" alternatives?
    Near as I can tell the energy company selling clean energy and those who sell mainly fossil fuel-based energy but offer a clean energy option seem to get a real kick out of preying on civic minded Texans who choose wind power over pollution.
    As the price of fossuel feuls has been rising, every damn one of these companies has jack up the price of "green energy" to exceed the cost of fossil fuel, thanks I guess to a phony deregulation here.

    Texans have been suckers for the oil companies and their shills in state and federal government.

    I hear well-respected former judge and Texas congressional representative Bob Gammage is running for Governor with a plan to straighten out education and everything else that's been f....d up under the Bush Republicans. Let's get behind his effort either financially or as volunteers. Let's ask him to look into cheaper, cleaner energy.

  •  Excellent article (none)
    I too have spent some time in the wind industry writing reports on the subject and this is a solid article.  What's also great about renewable energy is that when it lowers cost in the long-run, it helps poorer people who generally are hurt the worst by increasing energy and fuel costs because they pay a larger percentage of their income for these goods.  
    Altamont has been very problematic for the wind industry, but it is the most extreme case of bird deaths.  Tehachapi, which is in Central California, produces about as much wind energy as Altamont, and causes barely any bird deaths.

    For Virginia blog news, check out:

    by DanfromRaisingKaine on Mon Dec 12, 2005 at 06:49:41 AM PST

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