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Somerset wind project doesn’t add up  

Credit:  The Baltimore Sun | April 29, 2014 | www.baltimoresun.com ~~

I’d like to respond to the several articles, opinion pieces and letters addressing the topic of wind turbines in Somerset County (“Gone with the wind farm?” April 20).

Do the math. Reporters, editors and readers should question the claims of Pioneer Green. First, take a look at any U.S. wind energy map. There is hardly any wind in Maryland, especially compared to states where wind energy has a solid foothold. That is why Pioneer Green seeks to install turbines 100 feet higher than any other turbines approved by the Federal Aviation Administration. The much-maligned U.S. Navy across the Chesapeake Bay does not even make the decision, the FAA does. This project is so extreme that the FAA does not yet even have marking and lighting standards for turbines that tall. And consider the significant risk in terms of the wind available at that height. There are no reliable metrics.

Second, you cannot get 150 megawatts out of 25 turbines even if you had good wind! Put another way, you cannot get $200 million out of 25 turbines. Texas produces more wind energy than any other state in the U.S. Check out this National Renewable Energy Laboratory study on the economics of wind turbines. That study used 1,000 MW as a baseline. Even if you used the fictitious 150 MW target of this project, you cannot get to the revenue stream Pioneer Green is claiming. Averaging the initial construction cost over the doubtful 20-year life, you get $10 million a year. Take your last electric bill and divide the total cost by the number of kilowatt-hours used. You’ll get about 15 cents per kilowatt hour. But the energy producer, called the “Standard Offer Service” on your electric bill, gets only about two-thirds of that or about 10 cents. Let’s give Pioneer Green the benefit of the doubt on all their claims: 150 MW, $200 million, and who knows what capacity rating they are applying but let’s be generous and give them 25 percent (meaning that for 6 hours out of every day of the year, the wind is blowing strong enough to get the optimum juice out of all their turbines). That would give them $657 million over 20 years. What? My numbers don’t add up. (In addition to the NREL document cited above, see how to make these calculations at https://www.wind-watch.org/faq-output.php. Maybe Pioneer Green is being conservative. Maybe they know there is very little wind and have tried to be “realistic.” Sure, that’s it. OK, maybe they are not planning to put up 6 MW turbines. Why would they? There are no other 6 MW turbines in the U.S.

Are my figures and assumptions correct? I am not here to tell you they are but before you attack my numbers and methods, challenge Pioneer Green to provide theirs. They are the “experts” painting a rosy (and green) picture for our neighbors in Somerset County and for Gov. Martin O’Malley.

So, third, what has Pioneer Green spent $4 million on? Lobbyists? Pre-payments to the struggling farmers to win them over (but to later abandon when they flip this project)? How about that $5,000 contribution to President Obama from the president of Pioneer Green (Andy Bowman)? Or his many other political contributions? Not much in the scheme of things, but politics is a money-centric game. It adds up.

Lastly, as a firm run by lawyers, take a look at Pioneer Green’s wind farm successes. According to their web site, “they” have developed 2,760MW of energy with 2,042 turbines since 1999, with the latest “success” being in 2009. The company was not founded until 2009. Who are “they” anyway? (Yes, at least three of the top people are lawyers.)

Do the math. Dig a little deeper.

Ron Docker, Princess Anne

Source:  The Baltimore Sun | April 29, 2014 | www.baltimoresun.com

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

The copyright of this article resides with the author or publisher indicated. As part of its noncommercial effort to present the environmental, social, scientific, and economic issues of large-scale wind power development to a global audience seeking such information, National Wind Watch endeavors to observe “fair use” as provided for in section 107 of U.S. Copyright Law and similar “fair dealing” provisions of the copyright laws of other nations. Send requests to excerpt, general inquiries, and comments via e-mail.

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