The article (Official gives explanation for idle wind towers – Sunday June 15) raises the issue that is central to the argument of the many people working to keep industrial wind out of our last wild places.
Wind turbines simply do not produce much power in our area because our winds are not consistent enough to keep them turning throughout the year. Mr. Don Walukas and others are now seeing this first hand. Fact is, there has never been an industrial wind power plant east of the Mississippi that has produced even 30 percent of its rated capacity – ever.
Capacity is an interesting fundamental concept that the wind industry does not want to talk about. “Capacity,” in the wind power game, refers to the electricity generating potential of a particular turbine or group of turbines. At the Casselman Wind Project there are 23 turbines that are rated at 1.5 megawatts. That means that this wind plant has the “potential” to produce 34.5 megawatts of power if all turbines operate at their optimal capacity all of the time.
In order to operate all of the time the turbines need wind, within a fairly narrow velocity range, all of the time. The problem in the mountains of Pennsylvania is that our winds are intermittant – they do not blow consistantly and are almost non – existant in summer when electricity demand is at its peak.
At the windiest sites in Pennsylvania wind turbines normally operate at around 25 percent of their stated capacity ratings. Therefore, although the Casselman wind project may have the potential generating capacity of up to 34.5 megawatts of electricity (23 turbines at 1.5 megawatts each), in actuality the cumulative output of this 34.5 megawatt project is only about 25 percent of 34.5 megawatts – just 8.625 megawatts – because of the intermittancy of the wind, which does not blow most times of the year within the range necessary to generate the turbines’ optimal amount of power. That’s why we have all these wind turbines standing idle. In reality the actual amount of electricity generated by wind turbines in our area is around 25 percent of what we are being told by the wind companies – at best.
The reason wind turbines are being built here has more to do with government subsidies than it does with generating electricity. The subsidies, which are funded by every taxpayer, are so staggering that very little power needs to be produced by wind turbines to make them profitable. Subsidies include accellerated depreciation which allows wind turbines to be depreciated fully over five years as opposed to the normal 20 years.
Wind is also given an unlimited production tax credit that lets developers recover up to 70 percent of the cost of the turbines in 3-5 years. Rates are also subsidized by our tax dollars – wind sells its power into the grid at more than twice the rate paid for coal and nuclear produced power. It is, by far, the most expensive source of electricity.
Finally, these giant industrial machines, which cost around $3 million each, are exempt from property tax- that’s right – they pay zero state, county, local and, most importantly, school property tax. That burden is placed on the backs of working individuals and property owners who are footing the bill for industrial wind.
While subsidies may make sense in parts of the country where the wind blows consistently (Great Plains, off shore), here, they are largely a political tool. We must be careful how this tool is used. Although wind power is clean, the footprint of an industrial wind power plant is immense. Because these plants produce relatively modest amounts of power in our mountains, we must be very careful where we build them. We must absolutely keep them out of our few remaining last wild places.
The benefits we gain from the small amounts of power they generate are greaty outweighed by the environmental destruction they cause if built in these fragile untouched areas. Its just not worth it.
Shaffer Mountain Property Owner
17 June 2008