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Wind energy concerns

I have read the Hub’s recent feature on wind energy. There are some problems with wind energy which need more attention, and are not much discussed among wind promoters.

The article emphasized the role of transmission of wind energy, but failed to mention that wind energy is an inefficient user of transmission capacity. The transmission lines, substations, etc., must be built with the capacity for the nameplate capacity of the generators, but in operation only about 35 to 45 percent of that capacity is used over an annual basis. The rest of the capacity cannot be used by other generation; it must be reserved for the infrequent times when the wind generation needs it all.

While I was serving on the Board of Nebraska Public Power District, I was reluctant to invest heavily in transmission solely for wind because I do not believe wind has a long term future. It has too many problems, and as soon as other alternatives are available it will be discontinued, and the ratepayers will be stuck with making payments on bonds on a stranded investment for wind energy.

Boiling water to make steam to turn turbines will soon be replaced by the fuel cell. The fuel cell is up to 80 percent efficient. Very simply put, the fuel cell separates the electron from the hydrogen atom and sends it out over the line. Hydrogen can be produced from water (H2O), so wherever water is available hydrogen can be refined and is a potential generating site.

This allows “distributed generation” and eliminates the need for much of the present day transmission system. The fuel cell also has the very great advantage of being absolutely without polluting emissions; therefore, all the regulatory costs now being experienced for thermal emissions control will not exist.

Wind is not controllable. Wind energy has little value at night. At times it is even sold for a negative price, which means that the utility must pay some other utility to take it.

So the ratepayer who uses it at peak times must pay all the on peak costs, plus the costs for the off-peak negative revenue losses.

If there was a way to store this low-cost off-peak energy, and sell it at times with high demand, then wind might become more practical and lower cost. Today such a small part of generation is coming from wind that it is not apparent, but as more wind comes on line it will become more noticeable that the ratepayers are paying for two sets of generation equipment.

Maybe wind machines can be made more reliable, but they require considerable maintenance, which translates into increased costs.

I do not see a great demand from other states for Nebraska wind energy. They want the development in their own states, even if the total costs are greater than for Nebraska wind energy.

Darrell Nelson,
Broken Bow,