We want to pick up on a point we’ve raised before, how much wind does North East really have and is it enough to run an efficient and productive wind energy plant or is it just a project to qualify for government handouts, sort of a “wind welfare” project.
Way back on June 15th of 2011, an article in the Erie Times by Valerie Myers titled Property Owners Sign on for Wind Farm, said this:
Other wind development companies have looked at the area — and then looked away after measuring wind capacity, township Supervisor Dennis Culver said.
“Two of them have come in since I’ve been here, one out of Canada and another out of New York state, ” Culver said. “They did their studies, and that was the end of it. What they found in the past is that, while the wind blows like hell sometimes, it’s not steady, ” Culver said.
Let’s see some numbersWell, that’s fine, but wouldn’t you like to see something a little more specific? We did, so how about looking at a map of actual wind speeds in the area, in this map (shown above at the beginning of this article) and drawn up by the National Renewable Energy Lab for the Department of Energy. The map (from here) shows wind speeds of “marginal” to “fair” or 12.5 to 15.7 mph. Marginal to fair? That doesn’t sound so good, but what do wind energy companies think?
Wind Energy America, “a publicly traded energy company that is focused solely on the renewable resource of wind energy,” says this on their FAQ page:
Modern turbines typically begin generating power at wind speeds of 9 miles per hour (mph) and output increases up to 28 mph. Utility scale wind farms need average wind speeds of at least 14 mph to economically convert wind energy into electricity.
So it looks like North East just squeaks in at the bottom end of the scale in the areas where they want to build these turbines, which goes along with what Dennis Culver said above about those other energy companies who looked at this area and left.
Hmm, … couldn’t be money could it? Say it ain’t so …
So why would they want to build them here if the wind isn’t very good? Could it be those government incentives? Well, remember this post a few months back? Both the CEO of a wind energy company and the Department of Energy agreed, that government incentives were encouraging developers to build in places where it didn’t make a lot of sense.
After the 2009 subsidy became available, wind farms were increasingly built in less-windy locations, according to the Department of Energy’s “2011 Wind Technologies Market Report.” The average wind-power project built in 2011 was located in an area with wind conditions 16% worse than those of the average project in 1998-99.
The Department of Energy admits that this trend is due at least in part to the 2009 federal subsidy: Because the grants that companies receive aren’t based on how much power they produce, “it is possible that developers have seized this limited opportunity to build out the less-energetic sites.” Meanwhile, wind-power prices have increased to an average $54 per megawatt-hour, compared with $37 in 2005.
This is certainly beginning to look like someone is after the “wind welfare” money, wind or no wind, which is what we’ve thought all along, but you are free to form your own conclusions.