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How Much Should 'Free' Power Cost?

Posted June 27, 2011 2:50 PM

The wind is free, but extracting power from it is another story. The wind turbines, and getting them to function in harsh environments, are not cheap, nor is maintenance. The cost of power from the Cape Winds project planned off Massachusetts is double that of conventional power. Is wind power worth it?

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#1

Re: How Much Should 'Free' Power Cost?

06/27/2011 10:49 PM

Maybe 1.1 to 1.2 times as much as conventional power, but almost surely not twice as much.

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#4
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Re: How Much Should 'Free' Power Cost?

06/28/2011 7:35 AM

Last year the Attorney General's office for Massachusetts estimated the cost to be $2.5 billion for the project and the price per kilowatt to be two times current costs for natural gas and oil used.

So, I think that is where the number comes from.

I would expect the construction costs to come in over budget and the actual operational cost to be somewhat less than predicted as oil and natural gas prices fluctuate.

Is it worth it? Well, not so if purely taken on the dollar comparison. However, you do get cleaner air and less dependence on fossil fuel. Costs will be spread out among users and tax payers.

The downside is that the project, while taking up 24 square miles, only produces power to less than 500,000 homes. That may seem like a lot, and there are 2.5 million homes in the state, but that is a comparatively large area needed to generate that power.

That power generation will not be consistent. Wind does not come on demand and there will be maintenance issues that will keep a portion of the windmills offline at any one time. So, it is not a magic bullet.

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#9
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Re: How Much Should 'Free' Power Cost?

06/28/2011 10:53 AM

I lived in Massachusetts for 22 years and sailed off Cape Cod every summer. Summer time winds can be mighty elusive, especially off of Horseshoe Shoals where they are emplacing these turbines. Lots of nice fog though. They'll have plenty of power in the fall and winter when all the vacation homes on the Cape are empty.

Closer to the shore, you can get substantial on-shore breezes due to the warming air over the land mass pulling in cooler ocean air. Go further out to sea and that wind drops off precipitously. I hope I'll be wrong, but I'm afraid this wind experiment is going to be an expensive lesson. The maritime environment is a demanding mistress. She is brutal on man and machine alike. Five to ten years out, they will have all sorts of maintenance nightmares on these turbines in the corrosive salt air environment.

Mark my words.

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#13
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Re: How Much Should 'Free' Power Cost?

06/29/2011 4:31 PM

Here is an interesting take on wind power that few really take into account.

http://tdworld.com/renewables/wind-turbine-challenges-20110501/

There appears to be a headlong rush into wind power without analysis of the unintended consequences. Grid stability is a HUGE issue to the industry that most people give nary a thought because we are spoiled. We have availability rates that are almost unbelievable. Yet, John and Jane Q. Public take it all very much for granted and don't hesitate to scream bloody murder anytime their power is out for ten minutes, let alone a day or more.

If alternative energy resources cause the grids to become unstable and unmanageable, the public will VERY quickly lose their will to support the new alternatives.

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#2

Re: How Much Should 'Free' Power Cost?

06/27/2011 11:42 PM

At a local large scale wind farm in Australia I was told by the elec engineer that the true cost, including capitial, profit etc, is about 3 times the cost of coal fired.

This seems reasonable and is on par with the actual prices charged when you buy green energy.

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#3

Re: How Much Should 'Free' Power Cost?

06/28/2011 1:13 AM

All sources of energy are "free". We didn't make oil or coal, we just found it in the ground. What is charged for is everything in between and profit. Market and politics control profit on the various features of production and supply. Energy, like water and food is essential for life as we know it. So is it fair to profit on things we can't survive without? If so how much? The how much may be the really big question. When you control the market on something people can't do without, what a sweet deal, yes? In some ways I wonder what has changed since feudal times. We have more but a precious few control how much.

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#12
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Re: How Much Should 'Free' Power Cost?

06/29/2011 7:22 AM

<...All sources of energy are "free"....>

Quite.

Shoddy journalism makes blog unbearable.

Shock, horror.

Probe.

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#5

Re: How Much Should 'Free' Power Cost?

06/28/2011 7:42 AM

I could go on and on about the poor ROI of even the largest windmills......but I wont. And no, it's far from free. I think the reason most people find a reason to get behind the windmill push is emission related, there are none. Coal, nat gas, fuel oil, etc all have some level of emission and contribute to CO2 levels. Personally I'm no big fan of wind power. So much of the power is used up just transmitting it. So if you have a wind farm in North Dakota and you want to deliver that power to Miami or San Francisco it costs you. It costs in voltage loss over distance as well as transmission fees as you pass your power through a number of other peoples wires. And if your farm is in the middle of nowhere theres a bit of a problem until you pay big bucks to get high voltage lines run to your farm. Hooking into the grid isn't free either. So unless the windmill is in your backyard there are a lot hands extended demanding payment. The final customer has to pay that.

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#10
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Re: How Much Should 'Free' Power Cost?

06/28/2011 1:17 PM

You've touched on the topic that IMO is almost more important. Generation capacity always seems to be at the forefront of most discussions, while transmission takes a backseat.

I used to work for a power plant in up state New York. Part of the job was keeping track of what real-time power prices were doing. During some of the peak times in the heat of summer I often saw NY city paying just as much for transmission as the power. The worst I've seen was about 9 times the power price, again just for transmission.

Frankly, with the line losses as high as they are it is surprising the environmental movement haven't placed more emphasis on expanding the transmission capacity.

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#11
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Re: How Much Should 'Free' Power Cost?

06/28/2011 1:46 PM

The greens are not really a thinking group. It seems like the leaders drive their Volvos & Audis to the club where they sip on wine and chat about what is going on.

Every once in a while someone brings up an ignored topic and they start to flog that horse for all it is worth for the next period of time.

Anyone that is worried about the mercury should worry more about coal than florescent lamps as pointed out. They should also stay away from seafood.

I doubt one person in a thousand or even ten thousand really has any idea of the cost of a kilowatt at your meter. I don't mean the cost on the power bill but the minute by minute cost for both generation and transportation.

Upgrading the transmission system would be a great step forward.

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#6

Re: How Much Should 'Free' Power Cost?

06/28/2011 9:06 AM

It's interesting that the most vociferous opponent and financial backer of "Save Our Sound" to the Cape Wind project was Bill Koch (the coal monger). According to Bloomberg, not exactly a green weenie organization, "The best wind power projects will cost about the same as new coal-fired plants, said Bloomberg New Energy Finance Chief Executive Michael Liebriech at a conference in New York today. Electricity from new, high-quality wind power projects built today costs about $65 a megawatt-hour, Liebreich said. Power from a new coal-fired power plant costs about $68 a megawatt-hour, including carbon price and project finance risk, fuel prices and environmental controls, he said." http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2011-04-05/wind-power-s-best-projects-rival-costs-of-new-coal-fired-plants-bnef-says.html

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#7

Re: How Much Should 'Free' Power Cost?

06/28/2011 10:04 AM

Does anyone know any home use wind mill, what generating capacity @ what wind speed and @ what price . It would be interesting to know current state of technology?

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#8
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Re: How Much Should 'Free' Power Cost?

06/28/2011 10:16 AM
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#14
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Re: How Much Should 'Free' Power Cost?

06/29/2011 9:39 PM

thx for the lead

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