Wind power is fiscally responsible
To the Editor:
I am writing to correct some of the inaccurate and misleading statements in Mr. McKay’s recent letter to the editor, entitled “Wind is a fiscal disaster.”
Mr. McKay has plagiarized and used information out of context from an article by a Dr. F. David Doty on February 2nd, 2011 in Greentechmedia.com (http://www.greentechmedia.com/articles/read/guest-post-kicking-oil-addic...). In this article, Dr. Doty describes a product he is developing to use off-peak energy to recycle CO2 into gasoline. Dr. Doty’s premise is to make gasoline using energy from wind farms in the West and Midwest that are being curtailed due to inadequate transmission.
Sounds interesting, and maybe even promising, but you won’t read about that in Mr. McKay’s article. You will only read that “25 TWh (yes, terawatt-hours) of wind energy was curtailed (idled) in the U.S. last year ...” Not only did Mr. McKay fail to cite his source, he also took it out of context.
Mr. McKay then goes on to compare the amount of “unreliable wind power” the country will “waste” with how much power Maine will use in 2011, as if they are somehow related. He then rants about paying for power that isn’t being used (in the Midwest?) and even bailouts to “save this wind fad.”
Wind power is no fad, and is certainly not in need of bailouts. All of this is pure rubbish.
Now, it is true that there are places in Texas and the midwest where there is so much wind power potential that transmission lines have not kept up with the pace of new wind project development. This may present an opportunity for people like Dr. Doty who are looking for creative ways to use make use of this bottleneck.
However, contrary to what Mr. McKay might lead you to believe, this actually demonstrates that wind projects in that part of the country are cost effective, since they are able to attract financing and commence operations even though the existing transmission system will only allow them to deliver part of their full potential, at least until power lines are upgraded.
Fortunately, we don’t have this problem in Maine, or in New England for that matter. When there is more available power supply than demand, generators with the highest operating costs are not selected to operate – typically these are natural gas fired plants in New England – that way the demand for power is supplied by the lowest cost generators.
Wind power has very low daily operating costs because the wind is free, so wind power is typically selected to operate under normal grid conditions. This is not the impression one would come away with after reading Mr. McKay’s misleading article.
If there is curtailment of generation resources in New England, wind included, this is not done to “…keep the off-peak energy price from frequently going negative…,” as Mr. McKay’s source suggests. Rather, generators in New England may be curtailed during off-peak periods (like the middle of the night) when electricity demand is so low that allowing all of the generators to continue running would harm the reliability of the regional (and neighboring) electric system.
This happens infrequently, but when it does it first impacts non-baseload power sources like hydro, wind, natural gas, and oil; if further reductions are needed, baseload power plants like nuclear or coal might need to ramp down. This has nothing to do with wind power; it is simply the way the grid maintains reliability under minimum load conditions.
Mr. McKay is certainly entitled to his opinions about wind energy. However, in his letter it’s clear that he is reaching, throwing out anything he can think of (or copy from someone else) that makes wind power sound like a bad idea.
Mr. McKay should do his research before putting pen to paper and remember to cite his sources, instead of distorting information and misleading others who want to make informed decisions.