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How come every time I drive through Ocotillo the wind turbines are not turning?  

Credit:  By IMPERIAL VALLEY PRESS STAFF | January 11, 2013 | www.ivpressonline.com ~~

Why were they allowed to be constructed in an area with an inadequate wind supply? Pattern Energy is slated to receive a $180 million Production Tax Credit for this unreliable energy source. This money could have been put to better use, such as solar on every house and building; already disturbed lands vs. pristine desert land. – PB, Glendora

This question came in just a few days ago. However, Ocotillo Express wind farm has been operating and producing energy for San Diego Gas & Electric since December.

“Prior to this, the turbines were not energized or able to generate electricity,” said Matt Dallas, spokesman for Ocotillo Express developer and operator, Pattern Energy.

Ocotillo Express is the first renewable energy project to send power over the Sunrise Powerlink transmission line connecting the Imperial Valley to San Diego.

We posed the wind supply question to Dallas, who responded:

“As is true of all wind farms, the turbines at Ocotillo will not be spinning all the time. We also know from our exhaustive research that December and January are the low wind months at Ocotillo, so we expect the turbines to be idle more often during those months, with the wind picking up in the spring,” he said.

Dallas said Pattern’s team of meteorologists conducted three years of extensive wind studies that demonstrated the Ocotillo project site provided an “excellent wind resource.” He said the project site has been identified by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory as the best wind resource in the Imperial Valley.

Meanwhile, there is the question about the reliability and financial viability of wind energy. Some of that is a matter of opinion and some a matter of looking at the record of wind energy and what the Production Tax Credit has provided.

The fiscal cliff bill, among bits and pieces of pork packed into it, included a one-year extension of the PTC. Over its 20-year lifetime, the tax credit has lapsed and been reauthorized several times, as there is no clear-cut political support for it, according to Clifton Yin, a clean energy policy analyst.

Yin quotes a Washington Post piece that points out “even with the tax credit renewal, the wind industry is still likely to slump in 2013 … partly because congressional support for wind is extremely erratic – never steady, and always on the verge of expiration.”

In that same article by Yin, he excerpts an assessment of the tax credit by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Review:

“The production tax credit hasn’t stimulated radical innovation because it encourages wind project developers to stick to proven technology that’s likely to produce a steady stream of power and revenue. What’s more, the credit has typically been renewed only for short periods of time. That makes it possible to plan a new project that uses existing technology, but it’s harder to develop and try out new technologies, says Greg Nemet, a professor of public affairs and environmental studies at the University of Wisconsin at Madison.”

The letter lastly poses the idea of installing panels atop buildings vs. building renewable facilities on pristine lands. We’re not sure what to offer on that one. Solar panels on buildings would likely be cost-prohibitive to individual companies and citizens who would have to bear the cost. Renewable developers are bankrolled for that very thing – to produce renewable energy.

To return to Pattern, that project is not even finished at this point. Ninety-four turbines are up at present, with 18 more to be installed in the spring.

Source:  By IMPERIAL VALLEY PRESS STAFF | January 11, 2013 | www.ivpressonline.com

This article is the work of the source indicated. Any opinions expressed in it are not necessarily those of National Wind Watch.

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