To justify the destruction of Maine’s landscapes with his wind turbines, Angus King repeats the familiar claim that “there would be a 1-to-1 reduction in greenhouse gases because existing plants would be throttled back whenever the turbines are in operation.”
This is simply not true. To understand why, consider that the grid is like the generator many of us have for emergency or camping use. If you plug a 1,500-watt space heater into a 1,000-watt generator, you have overloaded it by 500 watts and the circuit breaker will trip. Plug the same heater into a 2,000-watt generator and you have 500 watts of unused capacity. Unused capacity in the electrical grid is known as “spinning reserve.”
The grid operator maintains enough spinning reserve at all times to ensure that if one of the largest generators suddenly fails, or demand increases unexpectedly, there will be no tripped circuit breakers. The grid operator therefore does not have to precisely balance supply and demand as the wind industry claims.
It is not necessary for some generator to “throttle back” when a wind turbine “throttles up.”
The grid does not react to every flick of a light switch, it simply provides more than enough generation at all times. The grid operator is not required by any rules to reduce fossil fuel generation when the wind blows.
His primary job is to provide us with reliable electricity. The regional power agency ISO-New England has been studying the problems of integrating uncontrollable wind power for several years and has not found a successful fossil fuel reduction program that works.
Wind power, when available, simply adds to the safety buffer known as spinning reserve. In grid terms it is “spilled,” as in spilled milk.
co-chair, Citizens Task Force on Wind Power
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