Tuesday, January 26, 2010

The 'green' lining developers' pockets

Donald Alexander and the Jefferson County Industrial Development Agency have decided to continue their unseemly push for the Galloo Island wind project, lest the developer and his Wall Street friends lose an opportunity to grab another $150 million of taxpayer's money.

Not being satisfied to walk off with only $150 million, the developer demands further concessions from Jefferson County taxpayers in a payment-in-lieu-of-taxes agreement negotiated with the JCIDA. The developer hides behind the "green" cloak, pretending it is doing something wonderful for the environment, while it is really all about the "green" they stuff in their pockets.

Developers speak of "clean energy." The power produced by wind turbines is, however, unpredictable and highly variable. The power is proportional to the cube of wind speed and, thereby, wind's natural variability is magnified. In order to accept wind power and its variable and unpredictable nature, the electric utility must have generating capacity that can ramp up or down quickly to accommodate the variability of wind power, while supplying uniform power to the grid.

The only commonly utilized generators that can accommodate wind's inherent variability are simple-cycle gas turbines. These machines are flexible in output, but at the sacrifice of efficiency, being only 35 percent to 40 percent efficient. If the utility did not have to accommodate wind and its variability, it could utilize combined-cycle gas turbines with an efficiency approaching 60 percent.

The combined-cycle gas turbine, without wind turbines, produces the same amount of power as the simple-cycle turbine augmented by wind turbines, at a fuel saving of at least 14 percent. The use of wind turbines, with their highly variable and unpredictable output, actually increases the usage of fuel and resulting emissions from the system.

The increased usage of fuel when wind turbines are added to the system, plus the added investment for two underutilized power plants — wind typically produces about 25 percent of its rated power and the necessary gas turbine backup produces the other 75 percent will raise electrical rates for residential and commercial users.

Increased electrical rates will make it more difficult to attract or retain real businesses providing lasting employment. Another benefit of the more efficient combined-cycle gas turbine generator is that it can be located where the power is needed without the need for additional distribution lines.

We must ask our county legislators to vote against this blatant giveaway to Wall Street at the expense of Jefferson County residents and businesses.

Albert H. Bowers III


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