Narrow minds and shortsightedness are the bane of the wind industry. The afflictions have surfaced again in a bill to repeal the Ohio mandate for utilities to find 25% of their power from renewable and so-called “advanced-technology” sources by 2025. The current law states half of the mandate, 12.5%, must come from renewable sources such as wind, solar, and landfill gases, and the other 12.5% from advanced sources which the bill oddly defines as nuclear and cleaner-coal technology. The mandate would become history under a recent bill introduced by State Sen. Kris Jordan, who proposes stripping the requirement from Ohio’s renewable-energy standard.
“With one of the worst recessions in recent memory still fresh in our minds, the last thing we need to do in Ohio is drive up the cost of energy for Ohio families and its businesses,” said Sen. Jordan. “That’s exactly what the Alternative Energy Portfolio Standard does.”
The cost argument, however, is myopic because no matter what happens in the energy industry, its costs are headed up. Ohio’s two aging atomic plants will need significant maintenance to remain operational. The 33-year-old Davis-Besse was commissioned in 1978 with a license expiration date of April 2017, while the 24-year-old Perry Plant, commissioned in 1987, has a license expiration date of March 2026. Building new atomic power plants would be so time consuming (more than a decade) and costly (at least $50 billion each), that the atomic era may be passing. Such plants also consume a great deal of water when operating, though not so much of an issue near Lake Erie, and all generate atomic waste that must be attended to for decades.
Clean coal plants are possible but much more expensive than conventional coal plants with about 30% of their output consumed to operate their scrubbing equipment, which will increase costs to consumers. What’s more, coal mining is life threatening from cave-ins and dust-borne diseases such as progressive massive fibrosis or black lung. Wikipedia says there is no treatment for the disorder.
Removal of the renewable-energy mandate will further impact northwest Ohio where a solar-panel industry has been growing and partly counting on a state market for its product. Ohio is said to be the second-largest solar manufacturer in North America, due to the law Senator Jordan wants to repeal, according to Brian Kaiser of the Ohio Environmental Council.
Former Governor Ted Strickland agrees: “It’s Neanderthal thinking, frankly, to try to turn back the clock on something that’s having a positive impact on Ohio’s economy.” About 59 MW of wind power is planned for a mid-western part of the state and 20 MW more for offshore Cleveland.
Republican Gov. John Kasich generally voiced support for the standards during the campaign. The current law contains a 3% cap to any cost increase tied to the alternative energy standards. There is cost-increase cap tied to conventional power generation.
The bill would be backtracking on the progress the renewable industry has made in Ohio and the advantages that have come from it. To withdraw the alternative energy standards would be shortsighted and foolish. Organizations such as the Great Lakes Wind Network are working to bring wind-component manufacturing to the state. Repealing the Ohio RES is a slap in their face and to all who work in it, slowing the State’s recovery.
Sen. Jordan suggested the focus on green-energy jobs has been misplaced. “Studies show that in countries such as Spain, similar efforts have led to the destruction of 2.2 jobs in other sectors for every one of these ‘green jobs’ created,” he said.
But we’re not Spain. If Ohioans deserve the best efforts to lower energy costs for all consumers, and a positive environment for job creators to move Ohio’s economy forward, then let the power sources compete. One idea is to cancel all subsidies to power producers (there are plenty hidden in the nooks and crannies of in the Federal budget) and let power prices float. Then let people decide where their power will come from: wind, atomic, coal, or gas.
We are still in the Model T era of wind turbines. Every generation improves on the last. So consider this for the cost debate: At this moment you can predict the cost of fuel that drives wind turbines in 5, 10, and 50 years. Can you say the same for coal, atomic, or gas? May the best source win, but let each have a chance.
Windpower Engineering & Development
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