Sunday, October 29, 2006

Wind Plays Prominent Visual Role in Campaigns

Political campaign season is full upon us, and candidates' minds are evidently turning to thoughts of . . . wind?

Yes, that's right, complaints about the ugliness of wind turbines by a noisy minority seem to be falling on deaf ears as the 2006 campaign rushes toward its close. A number of candidates have chosen to portray themselves in front of rotating wind systems or to use them as symbolic of a commitment to a cleaner energy future. Here are a notable few (there may well be more).

New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson (D), a former U.S. Secretary of Energy

U.S. Senator Hillary Clinton, D-N.Y. (wait for the signup window to go away, then view the ad on the front page of the site)

U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell, D-Wash.

Colorado gubernatorial candidate Bill Ritter (D)

In addition, Massachusetts gubernatorial candidate Deval Patrick (D), who currently has a wide lead in the polls, endorses the Cape Wind project in a video clip on energy policy, and there is a nice photo of U.S. Senator Richard Lugar, R-Ind., with a wind turbine model. According to the Lafayette, Ind., Courier & Journal, "At a stop at an office here of [wind energy developer] Orion Energy LLC, Lugar said people need to change their thinking about energy. He said too many have the mentality that 'there'll always be oil or natural gas -- there won't be. ... We need to forge our own energy dependence.'

It's great to see so many politicos showing the vision to line up with wind!

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Wind Power Doesn't Reduce Emissions????, Part 2


My letter of 10 October 2006 to: Danish Energy Authority, Danish Wind Manufacturers' Association, DONG Energy (Danish utility and successor in part to ELSAM):

The following statement was made yesterday on the Web by a U.S.
anti-wind-energy campaigner.

"As Flemming Nissen, Head of Development for the utility Elsam in Denmark, has stated, 'Increased development of wind turbines does not reduce Danish carbon dioxide emissions.'"

You can find it at in the "comments" section at

It seems difficult to reconcile with Danish Energy Authority statistics showing a steady decline in adjusted CO2 emissions and the particularly sharp decline in CO2 emissions associated with the generation of a kilowatt-hour of electricity in 2004 compared with 1990.

Do you have any information on whether this statement was actually made, and if so, what it is based on?


Reply received today, 12 October 2006, from Ms. Louise Muenter at DONG Energy:

Thank you very much for your interest in Danish energy and our company. Regarding the comments you refer to, it seems that they have been taken out of context.

During the past two decades the Danish energy system has developed radical. From an oil and gas importing country in the late 1990's to being the only oil exporting country among the EU25. This has been achieved as a result of three trends.

Denmark has in the period from 1990 til 2005 managed a) to stabilize the national energy consumption - b) and at the same time increase the amount of renewable energy production by 250 pct. - and c) increase production from our national resources in the North sea - The result is 16 pct. renewables in our energy consumption and an amazing energy self supply pct. of 155.

According to statistics published by the Danish Energy Authority - - The total energy consumption in 2005 was 844 PJ (compared to 820 PJ in 1990) - Renewables accounted for 134 PJ in 2005 (compared to 55 PJ in 1990) - The CO2 emission in [1990] was 61 million ton (compared to 51 million ton in 2005).

The development has led to economic wealth, environmental sustainability, security of energy supply and finally high employment with Denmark as world market leader when it comes to production, demonstration and implementing wind turbines.

Wind power turbines have played a major role in developing the Danish energy system of today. Wind is accounting for more than 20 pct. of the electricity consumption and the amount is increasing. There are still opportunities for increasing the amount of wind power in the Danish energy system; in some locations it will need investments in the grid and infrastructure.

Denmark is located as a transmission gate in between the central European market and the Scandinavian market, leading to strong interconnections with our neighbors Sweden, Norway and Germany. The national system still has flexibility for introducing more wind power, and with the strong interconnections, the market for electricity produced on wind is covering more than 100 million consumers.

Introducing cost effective wind turbines will lead to a reduction in coal and natural gas fired electricity production, planning and integration with the energy transmission system is important - but in general electricity produced on wind; and the economical, environmental and security of supply benefits as a result is achievable for the years to come.

On behalf of DONG Energy,

Best regards

Louise M√ľnter
Head of Media Relations - Pressechef
Corporate Communications - DONG Energy A/S

Monday, October 09, 2006

Wind Power Doesn't Reduce Emissions?????

Wind generators operate mechanically to convert the kinetic energy in the wind into electricity. No fuel is burned and nothing is emitted--no air pollution or global warming pollution. Therefore, greater use of wind-generated electricity, if it substitutes for fossil fuels, will reduce a utility system's emissions. Right?

No, not according to anti-wind zealots, who seemingly will believe most anything, no matter how outlandish or contrary to common sense, provided it criticizes the energy source they oppose.

The no-emissions-benefit theory is nicely discussed and disposed of in a Frequently Asked Question (FAQ) from the Yes2Wind Web site, which is a joint project of the major environmental groups Friends of the Earth, Greenpeace and the World Wildlife Fund, all of whom share a common concern about global warming.

It rests on three pillars, all of which turn out to be made of sand:

(1) Because the wind is variable and sometimes does not blow, backup generation must be kept ready at all times to replace it. The backup power plants emit pollution anyway, so no pollution is avoided.

(2) Because the wind is variable, when it displaces coal-fired generation, the coal power plants are forced to adjust their electricity output. When they do, they are less efficient than if they can run at constant output, and the extra emissions that result from this reduced efficiency more than offset the gains from using wind.

(3), not mentioned at the Yes2Wind site: The country of Denmark, which currently obtains about 20% of its electricity from wind, has not experienced a reduction in carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions as a result. See, for example, the TurbineAction anti-wind site in the U.K., where the following bald-faced statement is made: "Denmark, which has more wind turbines per capita than any other country, has publicly admitted that there has been no savings in carbon dioxide emissions." (This statement was excerpted from the site today, 9 October 2006.)

With regard to (1), the Yes2Wind site correctly notes that backup is needed for the whole system anyway, in case other power plants experience unexpected outages (in fact, the largest part of backup requirements is often for nuclear reactors, which are larger than other power plants). A bit more must be added for wind, but only a bit.

With regard to (2), coal-fired power plants do indeed run at slightly lower efficiency, but this effect is trivial. See, for example, Assessment of Greenhouse Gas Abatement from Wind Farms in Victoria, a recent study that explicitly takes this issue into account yet still finds large CO2 offsets from adding wind to the utility system.

And finally, with regard to (3), the latest emissions data from the Danish Energy Authority show CO2 emissions--after adjustment for weather variations and exports or imports of electricity--peaking at about 62 million metric tons in 1991 and then declining steadily to approximately 51 million metric tons in 2004.

Says the Energy Authority, "Gross energy consumption has been more or less constant over the last 10 years; however, the fuels used have changed considerably. The shift from coal to natural gas and renewable energy etc. has meant that, year by year, less CO2 is linked to each unit of fuel consumed. Thus, in 2004 each GJ of adjusted gross energy consumption was linked to 61.2 kg CO2, against 74.2 kg in 1990. This corresponds to a 17.5 per cent reduction.

"One kWh of electricity sold in Denmark caused 526 grams of CO2 emissions in 2004. In 1990, CO2 emissions were 937 grams per kWh of electricity sold. This corresponds to a reduction of almost 44 per cent. This large reduction is attributable to fuel conversions in electricity production and the growing significance of CHP [combined heat and power] production and wind power." [emphasis added]

I sincerely hope this drives a stake through the heart of this particular piece of disinformation.
Quotable Quote File

“Wind Energy will account for more than a third of the CO2 emission reduction planned in Denmark for the year 2005 (7 out of 20 per cent decline compared to 1988). In the future wind will play an even larger role, according to current plans.”—Offshore Wind Energy: Full Speed Ahead, Soren Krohn, Managing Director, Danish Wind Industry Association, World Energy Council, Proceedings of 17th Congress, 2004.

“A modern on-shore wind turbine can reduce CO2 emissions by 5500 tons/year. In Denmark the use of wind energy saves 4.5 million tons/year.” Wind Power Briefing, undated (but includes references dated June 2006), Patrick Corbett, Energy Academy, Heriot-Watt University, UK., p. 1.

“Today one third of the Danish Kyoto commitments to reduce greenhouse gas emissions are being met due to wind energy, and wind supplies 18 per cent of Danish electricity consumption.”--Wind Energy Policy in Denmark: 25 Years of Success – What Now?, Soren Krohn, Managing Director, Danish Wind Industry Association, February 2002, p. 6.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Wind Power Action

Altogether, U.S. wind resources are enough to provide several times our current electricity use, although other sources (or storage) would still be needed because of the variability of the wind.

The key ingredient for wind's continued expansion? Continuing the federal wind energy production tax credit (PTC), which reduces a wind farm owner's tax payments by 1.9 cents for each kilowatt-hour of electricity the wind farm generates during the first 10 years of its operation. The PTC is currently scheduled to expire at the end of 2007. If the credit is extended for several years, we will see much greater use of this clean energy resource. For smaller turbines, the key incentive is a Small Turbine Investment Credit, something that doesn't yet exist. Readers can help support these and other pro-wind laws here.

Also, plug-in hybrid autos can be manufactured with technology available today. They'll get 80 or so mpg, and they will allow wind energy (for example) to take a bite out of our oil imports. Readers can support this concept through Plug-In Partners.

Friday, October 06, 2006

Wind Energy and Utility Systems

One of the favorite whipping boys of anti-wind (and pro-nuclear) groups and individuals today is the claim that "wind cannot substitute for a baseload electricity source" or "wind is not reliable."

I've spent some time in dialogue with one of our in-house experts on these issues (a guy who is talking with utilities, regulators, and transmission system operators on a daily basis) and the following brief discussion is the result.

I know it will be boring and overly technical for some, so apologies in advance for that, but it's gotta be done, otherwise the mis- and disinformation will just continue to spread. Anyone with questions, feel free to contact me at tgray [at] awea [dot] org.


The terms "baseload," "intermediate," and "peaking" (often used to describe various types of power plants) are convenient shorthand, but they are not fully accurate, and in some ways, looking at the utility system as made up of only these three types of systems is an obstacle to understanding how wind fits into electricity generation.

For example, a "baseload" plant is one that is designed to run inexpensively as much of the time as possible at full output, and utilities commonly plan on having approximately the same amount of baseload capacity as their minimum daily demand. The theory here is that such plants can then basically operate around the clock. However,

- All power plants, even baseload plants, require scheduled maintenance and sometimes experience unexpected outages due to equipment failure. No plant runs 100% of the time.

- While wind power plants are not baseload, they can and do displace electricity from baseload plants for some hours of the day if there is enough wind generation on a utility system and the wind is blowing. This is because utilities use the cheapest power available during the day, and since wind power plants use no fuel, they are often the cheapest option available. As wind farms start up during the day, they first displace the most expensive power being generated (peaking, if peaking plants are being used), then the next most expensive (intermediate), and finally baseload.

The issue, therefore, is not whether wind fits neatly into one of the traditional utility pigeonholes (it doesn't), but what happens when wind power plants are added to the utility system, in terms of how many kilowatt-hours are generated by wind at what times of the day and year. That in turn varies from utility to utility, depending on the times when the wind typically blows and how fast it blows (the "profile" of wind speeds), and how well those times match up with the profile of customer demand.

The question of overall system reliability is similarly confused. How can adding an "unreliable" generator like a wind power plant to a utility system INCREASE, not decrease, its reliability? (It does.) It increases reliability because it reduces the probability that, at any given time during the day or year, the utility will be unable to supply the amount of electricity that is needed--and that probability (formally called Loss of Load Probability, or LOLP), is how utilities measure reliability.

In a typical utility system, the utility will need to have enough power plants that are ready to run to meet 115% or 120% of peak projected customer electricity demand. This is because, as stated above, no power plant runs 100% of the time, and so by having more power plants than are normally needed (a "reserve requirement") utilities reduce the probability of failing to meet demand to very low levels. Wind is a variable source of electricity, and a wind plant runs far less of the time at full capacity than fueled power plants. Even so, if there is a 10% or 20% chance that a wind farm will be producing electricity during a peak demand period, it improves the likelihood that a utility will be able to meet demand.

So, returning to our original two questions:

Can wind substitute for a baseload electricity source? Yes, but with reservations. It's probably not the most efficient substitute, because it will take a lot of wind capacity to achieve the same reliability benefit as adding a baseload unit.

Is wind reliable? Yes. In spite of the fact that it's variable, adding wind to a utility system increases that system's overall reliability.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Lining Up to Buy Clean, Secure Wind Power

Lots of encouraging developments on the wind power front in recent days. Safeway, the grocery chain; Wells Fargo & Co., the banking firm; and Kettle Foods, the maker of natural potato chips, all announced plans to buy wind power.

Safeway will buy 174 million kilowatt-hours per year, Wells Fargo 550 million, and Kettle 8.75 million. Total? 732.75 million kWh annually, equivalent to the output of about 280 megawatts (MW) of wind generating capacity (there are currently about 10,000 MW installed nationwide and that number should jump to 12,000 by the end of this year).

Good to see members of the business community stepping up to play their part in supporting clean energy and slowing global warming.

Whoa! Looking at Google News, I see that New York University has just announced plans to purchase 118 million kWh of wind power annually.

Remember, you too can buy wind or other green electricity. For info on green power suppliers, see "Your Electric Choices" at This site includes a clickable map of the U.S. which will show you the choices in your state.

If you don't feel that you can afford to go 100% wind, a very inexpensive option is to buy 10% or 20%. For the average household, the cost will be 5-10 cents a day . . .

[Update 30 November 2006: The Port of Houston will buy 5% of its electricity from wind power for the next three years.]

[Update 7 October 2006: The Town of Frisco, Colorado, will go 100% wind, buying 1.4 million kWh of wind-generated electricity annually.]