Monday, June 13, 2011

Wind Power Misrepresentations and Lessons for Hawaii

Wind Power Generation: From the UK to NY State provide ample evidence that even a 27% capacity factor is high.
  • Wind power’s actual contribution to the UK’s energy supply: The findings, based on real-time energy production from Nov 2008 to December 2010–26 months–were sobering. Wind generated at substantially below the 27% capacity factor, and low wind events (defined as output falling below 10% of capacity) occurred over one third of the time.
Much like Hawaii (1) New York state conducted a pre-deployment study: The study concluded that New York could support a 10% penetration of wind into its grid system with turbines reliably operating at 30% average capacity factor or better.

Then NY state installed over 1,200 MW of wind power, which is coincidentally the amount of daily power needed for Oahu. So... what happened?

  • No wind project in New York achieved a 30% capacity factor, and most are operating at well below this figure including Maple Ridge 1 and 2 touted by wind proponents as a premier wind site. Maple Ridge was forecasted to have a capacity factor of 34% prior to construction but has consistently operated around 25% — a significant performance reduction.
  • Noble Environmental’s projects produced at even lower levels. When the company sought community acceptance of its projects in upstate New York, the founder of Noble insisted their projects would operate at 30-35% capacity. In the tax agreement signed with Clinton County, NY, Noble went so far as to sweeten the deal by offering to pay a bonus of $1000/MW every time the annual capacity factor of any of their projects exceeded 35%. Result: Noble’s upstate projects operated with a 20% to 22% capacity factor in 2010.
Companies will misrepresent to get the public contracts. As we will see in the future, this happens in Hawaii as well.

Finally the article clearly describes the future in Hawaii as forecast by NY state, if Big Wind materializes:
  • NY ratepayers who are subsidizing wind development in the State are also receiving considerably less than promised. Square miles of New York’s most rural areas have been transformed into industrial power plants.
Hawaii version:

Hawaii ratepayers are subsidizing large wind farms in the State are also receiving considerably less than promised. Square miles of Hawaii’s most rural areas in Kahuku, on Molokai and Lanai have been or will be transformed into industrial power plants totaling about 500 MW (in theory, of course.)

Note (1) Take a look at my article: Wind Energy for Hawaii: Great for Profits, Not so Great for Power