Beyond the complex technical issues and jargon, the wind debate is filled with emotion, politics, and financial issues that make it very difficult to have an informed dialog and make rational decisions. Confucius said, “Any man can make long journey, takes smart man to know which direction.” Agreeing on reasonable and realistic goals is an essential prerequisite to any energy discussion.
In his letter on Dec. 12, Bob Walker mentioned a state goal of “90 percent renewable power by 2050.” If he was referring to achieving 90 percent of the total Vermont average baseload – about 900 megawatts (MW), then according to the Vermont Energy Partnership (VTEP) website, that goal is unachievable. VTEP reports that about 82 square miles of Vermont land is suitable for installing wind towers and that if all of that land was used (about 320 towers), it would provide only 10 percent of Vermont’s total needs.
The financial incentives mostly come from the state’s Standard Offer Program that mandates that the utilities must buy any power generated by wind or solar at eight times the current market price. This is on top of the 1.8 cents/kW federal subsidy. A single 1.5 MW-rated tower could earn $405,000 in power sales plus $675,000 in subsidies per year. Reduced by actual load factors still generates a low of $356,000 per year, per tower.
There is a reason why Germany, Denmark, Spain, Japan and six other countries have stopped wind subsidies, cancelled projects and even dismantled existing sites. Wind uses the most land, has the lowest capacity factor, the highest costs, and the highest ongoing maintenance per usable kilowatt of any energy source.
We need renewable energy sources but we also need to be smart enough to move in the right direction.
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