I am writing in response to the Feb. 28 letter to the editor, “Wind farm capacity not the same as efficiency,” by Gary Davidson, Horizon Wind Energy’s public affairs manager. I knew statements made in Davidson’s letter were inaccurate, so to get the story straight, I contacted Mr. Tom Tanton, Senior Fellow with the Institute for Energy Research in California for 37 years (probably longer than Communications major, now Public Affairs Manager for Horizon, Gary Davidson has been alive). Many will remember Mr. Tanton from the presentation he did in Stafford, NY, back in April 2006, “Economics of Wind Turbines,” which was attended by Horizon sales reps who neither rebutted nor questioned a single thing Tanton said.
Mr. Tanton stated, “Davidson is right that ‘efficiency’ is irrelevant, and for financial purposes the only correct metric is capacity factor. I believe he may also be correct that most developers already account for the assumed ~30% capacity factor (though this is an assumed number, nothing that has been verified by any actual output numbers) when making assertions about how many homes are powered by the stated number of turbines, but that is fundamentally wrong to begin with.”
Tanton explained, “Capacity factor and kilowatt-hours are not pertinent … the only measure that is for this application (‘how many homes …’) is capacity credit, also sometimes referred to as capacity value. Capacity credit is the percentage of nameplate capacity (applies to all types, not just wind) that can be counted on every and any hour of the year. It is most important during ‘peak’ hours, which can be summer or winter depending on the region.”
Tanton emphasized, “Capacity credit is a statistically determined number, but for most wind facilities is between 0% and 10%. In essence, industrial wind turbines – regardless of how many, power no homes at all because it is not there when it’s needed. There is a vast difference between power and energy.”
Mr. Tanton further elaborated, “The car analogy that Davidson used was also way off the mark. It doesn’t matter at all how fast they may be capable of going according to their speedometer. Unlike an automobile, which operates at a high rate of reliability (it usually operates when called upon), ‘windmobiles’ often times have ‘dead batteries’ [no wind] when called upon and may not move at all.”
The constant skittering flux that is wind energy could also cause the car to speed up and slow down uncontrollably, or run out of gas in the middle of rush-hour traffic. Since the grid must balance supply and demand precisely on a less than second-to-second basis, this constant skittering “wind flux”, in addition to “demand flux”, creates additional instability on an already seriously outdated grid system.
Consumers fail to recognize that the same conventional power sources used to balance “demand flux”, are also necessary to balance “wind flux” – but this will be on top of – in addition to – the operations necessary to balance demand flux, at increased costs in both dollars and CO2 emissions because all the other, reliable, baseload power sources are being run “off-design” in order to accommodate wind on the grid. Truth be told, consumers end up paying twice – once for the wind energy, and again for the compensatory energy that must remain “on”. Turns out the “windmobile” is nothing more than the most expensive lemon on the dealer’s lot.
Mary Kay Barton
Batavia Daily News
28 March 2008
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