Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Wind Generation Jumps 29% in First Quarter 2012: Now 4% Of America's Electricity

George W. Bush set the goal of 20% of America's electricity coming from wind power, and America reached the 4% mark in the first quarter of 2012, when wind power produced 38.4 billion kilowatt-hours of the 960.7 billion total.  www.eia.gov/totalenergy/data/monthly/pdf/sec7_5.pdf.  In short, America is 20% of the way toward President Bush's 20% wind goal.

While new construction of wind power for 2013 is being crippled by Congressional inaction to extend the production tax credit that expires at the end of 2012, recently completed wind farms coming on line are boosting sharply the amount of electricity generated by wind farms. 

In fact, the latest EIA data shows that wind generation rose 29% in the first quarter of 2012, compared to same period in 2011.  www.eia.gov/totalenergy/data/monthly/pdf/sec7_5.pdf.

For the whole of 2012, wind is on course to produce about 150 billion kilowatt-hours, a big jump over the 119 billion kilowatt-hours wind generated in 2011.  Assuming a residential account uses 10,000 kilowatt-hours per year, wind will produce enough electricity to supply 15 million homes this year.

15 comments:

  1. "Assuming a residential account uses 10,000 kilowatt-hours per year, wind will produce enough electricity to supply 15 million homes this year."

    This is missleading.
    I suggest a more correct and exact analogy:
    "wind will produce enough electricity to supply 60 million homes this year, part of the time, at unpredictable times"

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    1. The same could be said for any power generation machine. They all break down unpredictably. A typical power plant breaks down for about 4 weeks per year. Then they are out for an additional period of planned maintenance. All generation is backed up by spinning reserves.

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    2. More importantly, at the targeted contribution levels (20%) wind energy will not require additional spinning reserves over current plans. Some analysts argue it could be higher, up to 30% or beyond. However, to arrive at that conclusion requires other conditions be present, such as grid improvements, better demand side activity (demand response, e.g.) and other items.

      Another way of viewing the target is that it allows for taking advantage of "free" wind energy WHENEVER it is available without having to further spend and modify the network. Beyond that, there are private investments being made as we speak to make this true for all regions, by allowing energy generated in, say, IA to be "piped" directly to GA via dedicated transmission lines.

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  2. Wind Power like most all "Green Energy" is the nexus of rent seeking crony capitalists and revenue seeking central planning statist governments at the expense of the taxpayer and ratepayer.

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  3. Last I checked every single source of energy has some "subsidy" for their product. Some tax credit. Some insurance break like limits on damages in the event of a nuclear accident. Some loan guarantee. Some accelerated depreciation provision. Some external cost not included in its price like about $100 billion per year to keep oil flowing from the Middle East. That cost is not paid at the pump. Some environmental external cost not included in the pricing.

    Wind now can produce energy without subsidies at about 5 cents per kwh. It withdraws no "free" water, as do thermal and nuclear plants from rivers all across America. It discharges no heated water.

    With Full pricing wind would be lower cost than just about any energy source, as a result of the massive cost declines.

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  4. Fine and dandy.
    Repeal tax breaks for wind, PTC, subsidies and mandates ("20% from renewable sources"). They are not needed, wind is cheap ! Go for it !

    Compete on a level basis.

    (what about wind's damages or "externalities"? Disfiguring lanscapes, noise, bird chopping?)

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    1. you are right that wind has externalities. Quantify them. Then make sure you quantify the externalities for all the other fuel sources. Make sure you include water usage and disposal. A full accounting will leave wind looking very good.

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    2. There are two basic problems with reliance on externalities as I see it. First, they are indirect, and some of their definitions rely on somewhat politically charged calculations - some of the assumptions drive the politics. So, for example, many ratepayers will/would become excited once they find out a large portion of their increases are owing to, say, bird deaths given that they occur naturally as well and at a much greater rate. Artifacts like noise are real issues and don't seem like an externality to me since their impact is avoidable by proper siting. (I'm ignoring any potential "increased costs" for reducing the site options.)

      Second, and most important to me, once you start down the path of indirect cost accounting it is difficult to find an agreeable limit/stopping point. Consider bird deaths - should we also address buildings and cars/trucks as they kill infinitely more? Should there be a "cat tax"?? (sarcastic but true)

      Land based wind farms are already mostly competitive. The tax credits simply attract more or at least different players who want to (need to?) take advantage of the tax breaks and also might want some PR angle. Without the breaks, and with some local pressure via instruments like renewable portfolio standards (RPS) there is still opportunity and costs will continue to fall. Even when absorbing the cost of additional transmission lines that may be needed to reach the target, it is still on par with nuclear power, to pick one comparison. One caveat - Someone I know who develops wind farms sees the tax breaks as somewhat necessary in order to offset cost associated with the increasing resistance to wind in general - NIMBYs, environmental groups, etc. Delay and legals costs are increasingly non-trivial.

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  5. As long as all externalities are included, and the military costs of insuring the oil lanes are kept open, and all tax advantages are eliminated, then the price signal would be correct. Wind would do very well, given those assumptions. The point is that the market is full of flaws and always will be.

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    1. That military cost you speak of is a bad choice for the US because we get a small percentage of our oil from the Middle East. You could lay off the costs, if so inclined, to cover everything in the US economy. I think it's more of the imperial US mode. Europe and Japan depend more heavily on the area for supply and should be the ones doing the policing! I'm all for a level playing field. Remove all forms of subsidies to all forms of energy and let them compete in the free market and let the winners thrive and losers die.

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    2. Concerned ScientistJuly 5, 2012 at 12:24 PM

      Oil is globally traded. If something happens in the middle east that causes a supply disruption, that has a major impact on prices around the world. Two million barrels a day shortfall in the Middle East will cause the price of oil from Canada, Mexico and Venezuela to go up too.

      As long as we are huge net importers, we will have an interest in all oil-producing countries whether we import from them or not.

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    3. Yes, that is a given. Since we do most all of the policing in the Middle East and the rest of the world, should we send a bill for mercenary services rendered to all countries that benefit either directly or indirectly on the producer and consumer side for the free flow of product from patrolled areas? That way we could recoup the massive tax dollars spent on the military/industrial complex needed to keep the shipping channels open.

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  6. "They all break down unpredictably."

    Comparing an unexpected breakdown of a machine (doesn't happen that often) to the frequent and fully expected phnomen of wind stopping to blow (though the exact timing is unknown)is not a good analogy.

    A better analogy would be if fuel (or gas) supply to conventional power stations was intermittent, available on average about 25% of the time, at unpredictable times, and could not be stored or accumulated. If that were the case with gas powered plants - they would be comparable to wind.

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    1. @Jacob - Not to be argumentative, but an unscheduled/unpredicted outage is a big deal to utilities. With wind (and solar) farms, there are improved methods to predict output capacity a short time in advance. Of course, there are unplanned outages due to failures, too. But one turbine of, say, 30 is a lot less disruptive than an entire fired-turbine plant. It seems you may be considering an either-or scenario between fueled and renewable supply. To be clear, with a target of 20% the short term capacity issues are manageable.

      On the fuel side, you are right there aren't any equivalent short-term impacts due to fuel supply or cost. But there are non-trivial long term impacts which make power network management more complicated given regulatory requirements linked to cost and cost recovery. It isn't the same as planning how to keep all customers happy between hour 1 and hour 2 tomorrow, but it is still an artifact that is true of fueled plants and not of wind/solar.

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  7. JohnInMA
    Your second para is very difficult to understand.
    Are you trying to say that coal power plants are risky because governments could prohibit (or limit) their operation in the future?
    In that case, that is a problem we (man) have control over - it is a self inflicted problem.
    The wind problem is entirely different. We have no control whatever on wind blowing hours. Are you trying to compare these risks?

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