After reading the letter, “Wind energy is a win-win for all” (www.lasvegassun.com/news/2013/apr/29/wind-power-not-worth-price/#ixzz2RvGVw9bH) I can only say there is nothing further from the truth.
Wind energy is expensive. My latest copy of Wind Power Engineering (sic) states the lowest cost is at 11 cents per kilowatt (sic). That is much higher than the base cost of any other resource NV (Nevada) Energy uses.
Further, what the price doesn’t reveal is that the utility is required to have back-up power, because the wind doesn’t blow every day. So we need that cost added in. And we all know that has been the reason for recent price increases.
Further, wind power has no surge capabilities. This means, for instance, when your air conditioner turns on, it will need 20 amps for a few microseconds which the windmill cannot provide. So the surge power is off-loaded onto the base energy source. This is all fine, until the harmonics caused by more than a 15% unresponsive load creates an outage. A solution is a battery backup.
So let’s get this straight. A windmill produces electrical energy at 11 cents per kilowatt (sic), then we need battery backups which aren’t cheap, and we need to keep gas turbines running. I cannot wait for the true cost of wind energy to hit my bill, but when it does, it will be disguised as plant expansions.
Dear Mr. Schaffer:
Thanks for your comments. I’ll just address a couple issues as accurately as possible.
First of all, all power sources work on a grid so that if one source goes down (say, a nuclear plant scrams or a hydroelectric plant runs low on water) the others can pick up the slack. That means no redundant facilities are needed when a wind farm becomes operational. A wind farm provides more power to a grid so conventional sources using a more expensive fuel can scale back a bit. So if Hoover Dam runs short of water, as it well might, one of its generators can be turned off and other sources in the state – gas-fired electric, wind, and solar – can contribute what they have.
Rate payers pay for the kilowatt-hours consumed. The 11¢ per kilowatt-hour (I think you meant kWh) you mention is about the national average. Here in Ohio, we pay about 11.5¢/kWh. That covers production, transmission, and taxes.
With regard to wind generated costs, the wind farm operators negotiate with grid operators for so much power when it’s available. The contract is called a Power Purchase Agreement or PPA. A lawyer who negotiates these contracts tells me wind power sells to the grid for 4 to 5¢/kWh. The only source that is less expensive than wind generated power is natural gas generated power and maybe hydroelectric. (Here’s a thought: my federal taxes pay to maintain the Hoover Dam, and in effect, subsidizes the power you use). By the way, how much do you pay for power in Las Vegas? I would like to know.
Going on, natural gas fluctuates with the market demand. On April 30, 2013, natural gas sold for $4.15/million BTUs. At about $7/million BTUs, it’s equal in cost to wind generated power. Now if the Federal government let gas companies export it to Europe, which is good for jobs and the U.S. economy, the price of gas will rise and probably beyond the $7 figure, which will make wind power the bargain.
What’s more, if there is an excess of wind power in Nevada, it could be used to run pumps that move water from the Hoover Dam spillway to behind the dam.
In most every respect, wind power is a winner and good deal for everyone. Just think, Mr. Schaffer, right now you know the cost of the fuel that drives wind turbines. You know its cost in 5 years and its cost in 20 years. (It’s zero). That fact helps stabilize your electric bill, not drive it up. What other fuel can make that claim?
Windpower Engineering & Development magazine
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