Goldman Likes Wind. The Kennedys and DoD Don't?

Goldman Sachs has bet long on Green investments over the last few years. Investing in wind farms, solar energy and ethanol producers, building up a $1 Billion stake in renewable energy investments. The NY Times Editorial Page calls for more incentives to reward "green" investments. With the former CEO Henry Paulson of Goldman set to become the Treasury Secretary, it might be that rewarding green investments is an idea whose time has truly come.

If Washington is smart, it will throw its weight behind these efforts by providing the necessary incentives, whether as loans, direct grants or targeted tax breaks. But Washington is dawdling; several excellent bills designed to advance the development and wider use of various alternative fuels, cleaner cars and carbon-free power plants are languishing in the election-shortened legislative year.

I would add that perhaps setting some type of standard of what "green" is would be a big help, since I don't think there is very good evidence that ethanol from corn grown on factory farms is very environmentally friendly.

And wind should be a no-brainer for incentives, except the current incentives may expire this year if it is not renewed.

It is no less important to preserve good programs already on the books. For example, a tax credit to encourage wind power is set to expire next year, at a time when high energy prices are raising interest in that clean technology.

Except that that the Defense Department (despite an Army report on Peak Oil) has halted a number of wind projects within 40 miles of a military base because a study of the impact on radar equipment which was supposed to be complete in April has not finished and there is no timetable for it's completion.

The de facto moratorium on windmill farms could end up costing those developing them millions of dollars in federal tax credits that expire at the end of 2007. Perhaps more important, the DOD/DHS opposition to the farms has disrupted momentum in a shift from development of gas and coal-fired plants to wind power, which is regarded as the cheapest form of alternative energy. Wisconsin has at least 10 projects stalled by the study and it has proponents worried. "This is the worst possible time to place roadblocks in the way of wind development, when Wisconsin is making critical decisions about building new generation," Katie Nekola, program director for Clean Wisconsin, told "Wind energy is by far the best choice we have, and has to be an available option."

Could this be a coordinated assault on the development of wind farms in favor of continued reliance on gas or coal fired power plants? Sort of like the folks Who Killed the Electric Car? Or maybe it's an unholy alliance between Sen. Edward Kennedy and the DoD?

The study is threatening not only the Cape Wind project off the coast of Massachusetts, but other wind farm projects around the country as well.

The study was inserted in the 2006 Defense Authorization Act by senators who want to block Cape Wind, according to wind farm developers cited by the Washington Post.

"This legislation was intended to derail Cape Wind, but it has a boomerang effect and affected a lot of projects around the country," Michael Skelly of Horizon Wind Energy, which is building the nation's largest wind farm near Bloomington, Ill., told the Post.

Wind turbine facilities in the works in Wisconsin, North Dakota, South Dakota and Illinois have received word from the federal government that the projects must be put on hold while the study is ongoing.

Whatever is hold back the wind is fighting a losing battle as the benefits of wind power seem to be self evident to regular folks on the ground. Just look at this editorial about a victory for Wind Power in Kennebuc, Maine:

Last week, voters in Freedom who were in favor of building a three-tower wind energy project on Beaver Ridge outnumbered opponents two to one. While the vote was not binding, wind power developers Competitive Energy Company of Portland had said they would not build their project in a town whose residents did not want them.

The tide was decidedly in the opposite direction when a day earlier, the Land Use Regulation Commission allowed a number of organizations opposed to a western Maine wind farm to intervene in their consideration of a permit for that project. The groups include Maine Audubon, the Appalachian Mountain Club and other environmental organizations; they say the region's ridgelands are the wrong place for the development, where they claim it poses threats to rare plants and animals as well as to the scenic quality of the landscape.

The conflicts over wind power development here mirror similar conflicts over construction of a large wind farm in Nantucket Sound as well as other projects in Vermont and Maryland. In many of these cases, the battles resemble internecine warfare as one group of environmentalists is pitted against another. One camp says, "These projects will kill important species, make too much noise and scar the view," while the other side says, "There won't be any animals left for you to defend if we don't do something to stop global warming."

There is a difference between a project like Freedom's and a project like the one in the Western Mountains of Maine. Freedom's development includes three turbines; the other one calls for 30 turbines. One is virtually a backyard development; the other is an industrial-level project that will affect an entire region. We believe both are necessary.

The evidence is mounting that global warming poses a critical threat to our planet's wellbeing and that its effects are likely already being felt. The migration routes of animals have been altered, which may affect their survival; glaciers are melting; our weather is changing. We need to take measures now to stem global warming's progress; wind power offers a way to do that.

In the best of all possible worlds, this country would conserve its way out of our addiction to burning fossil fuels, which is the largest human contribution to global warming. We would discourage consumption and heavily subsidize the development of alternative, non-polluting energy sources. We'd have a president who set an example for all of us, who wore sweaters instead of turning up the heat and whose motorcade consisted entirely of hybrid cars and not gas guzzling SUVs.

Yet we must act long before that dream becomes a reality.

Wind power must be a significant element in our fight to counter the effects of global warming. We cannot and should not fight every development, in a war of attrition that will ultimately discourage the use of this important alternative energy source. We understand the feelings of those who lament the loss of a beautiful view, the potential damage to wildlife species and the industrialization of a largely untouched landscape. But not developing wind power carries an even higher price, a price we should not be forced to pay while we argue over the one place in this state where we might be willing to place a turbine.

Perhaps Mr. Paulson can lend his voice of reason and fiscal fortitude within the current ailing Administration to get renewable incentives on the agenda.

Peakguy said: "I would add that perhaps setting some type of standard of what "green" is would be a big help, since I don't think there is very good evidence that ethanol from corn grown on factory farms is very environmentally friendly"

This is going to be a very, very complex question. Few solutions are purely good, more have trade offs. You can find something wrong with ethanol, Kennedy can find something wrong with wind.

I do agree that setting some kind of green standard is important, but trying to state quantitatively whether nuclear is better than ethanol or electric vehicles, etc. will be impossible.

I think there is a significant contingent of people who don't want to see any solutions, others hold out for perfection. I hope for a middle path that lets people continue to live modern lives with as little damage as possible.

Now you can say that modern lives is the problem, but that is an opinion and one not shared by most people, which pretty much eliminates democracy as a route to your solution. I would rather eliminate perfection.

I agree that you shouldn't only shoot for perfection (which doesn't really exist, or at least not on a useful scale) but should encourage all the intermediate steps. Or you could put everything on a scale like the LEED ratings given to green buildings.
I think that the key here is that the method that is IMO the most sensible, and at the same time business friendly (ergo most likely to be supported by Sec [designate] Paulson [sp?]) is a cap and trade system that is likely, as you point out, to disfavour the more politically sacred projects like H-fuel cells and Corn ethynol.
Instead of rewarding 'green' you could punish 'brown' with carbon taxes or better still cap-and-trade. At the same time remove subsidies. The results could be unpredictable. If as claimed corn ethanol is really 80% fossil energy then it could bomb. Reputed villains like CTL could find a niche through electricity co-generation.

BTW all out windpower is not optimal because of the costs of load integration, the need for backup generation (carbon taxed fossil fuel or nukes) or energy storage. I'm not sure what optimal windpower build is but I see hints that Germany may have exceeded it.

NYSERDA and NYISO have studied the question of the degree to which NYS could rely on wind power. NYSERDA reported that world experience indicates that 10% of peak load could be wind power without adverserly affecting system reliabilty (although Denmark apparently manages to get 62% from wind). That means 3300MW of wind vs. NYS peak load of 33,000MW. Wind power above 10% peak load would require changes to the grid and the number and way fossil-fueled generators are dispatched.

As far as I know, NYSERDA didn't determine the absolute maximum wind component to maintain system reliability. It might be 15%, 20% or higher. However, they identified the maximum available wind capacity in NYS at 10,000MW (about 30% of current peak demand). Of the 10,000MW, less than 800MW is available south of Albany (154MW north of NYC and 600MW off the coast of LI).

The 10% figure is just lowballing.  We'll be able to integrate much more than 10%, other countries, as you note, have already done so.  
A few points.  The first is that wind power generates electricity which will do nothing as concerns our "oil addiction."  Second, the massive Cape Wind project is said to provide 3/4 of the electricity for Cape Cod and the islands.  Cape Cod and the islands are relatively sparsely populated so we would be devastating a large area of the coast for little profit--a single nuke plant could provide all that electricity and more while taking up a fraction of the footprint.  Third, all of this is irrelvant when the country is adding millions of people each year, there is no way renewable energy can keep up with the demands due to population growth; until population growth is brought to zero, any thought of supplanting fossil fuels with renewables is, um, tilting at windmills.
How many years to build a nuke.  Ten?  Wind generators can be on line relatively quickly.  Devastate the coast?  I don't think so.  If you want to see devastation, go to West Virgina and check out what used to be mountain tops.  The fact that renewables can't do it all doesn't mean we shouldn't maximize them.  
Getting the government permits has been a major contributor to long construction cycles.  The Japanese have built plants in ~5 years in a favorable political environment.

Look for an announcement before the end of June for a 6 year licensing and construction period for a new nuke(s) in the US albeit on an existing site.  Criticality in 2012 and commercial operation in 2014.  I will admit that this schedule looks ambitious.

There will be many more new US nuke orders to follow as utilities and energy hedge funds race to get early placement in the hardware procurement queues.  The critical bottlenecks  are usually the special steel ingots required for the reactor vessels and the forging thereof. This is a global constraint that could take two or three years to mitigate and additional capacity to come on-line.

Getting a place in the NRC license queue can also be a critical path issue domestically since they are short of nuclear experienced engineers.

In fact, can you spell N-U-C-L-E-A-R and pass a pre-employment drug screen?  If so, there may be career opportunities awaiting you!  

Congress recently passed a massive subsidy for the next 6,000 MW of new US nuclear power.  What you are seeing is a queueing to get that subsidy.

Will any nukes be built beyond 5 or 6 to use up that subsidy ?

IMHO, none going commerical before 2020 and perhaps 2025.  The subsidy losers will wait and see how things develop fro the pioneers (whilst lobbying for more subsidies).

Meanwhile, existing wind farms have been expanded within 12 months of a financial deciaions, and 30 months is "standard" for green field wind farms.

Nuclear has a place, but it FAR behind wind (with some pumped storage at a later stage).

I am truly embarressed by the nuclear production tax credit and can not offer a justification for it.  The credit was originally for the FIRST 6,000 MW of capacity to come on line but last I read it was to be split prorata amongst all units operational before a certain date.  This may have not made it into the final IRS rule.

The nuclear schedule insurance is something that is justifiable as it compensates for government incompetencies only.

This DOD and FAA concern about wind turbines has put on hold many midwest wind farms.  This is a big deal out here in the hinterlands.  

There is great consensus that wind is a viable, patriotic option to importing mideastern oil.  Ten years ago the pundits said wind wouldn't be viable, 5 years ago the coorporate money thought only a few places would be profitable.  Now, with high energy prices every wind turbine is making money and careful site selection has enabled very large wind farms to produce electricity almost round the clock with little impact on the environment.  The big wind farms are sited in corn fields and they farm right around them.  This fosters multi use and multiple income streams for land owners.  This is not an intermittant energy source like a little fan on your roof.  These turbines are out in the open up high where the wind always blows.  Pretty much as many alternative energy people visualized 30 years ago.

Now rich people and the government are getting concerned about the view, radar coverage and bird deaths?  Give me a break.  These turbines are in lots of small town in Iowa and the ground is not littered with dead birds all around them.  The towers are shorter than many smokestack and definately shorter than 100 story buildings.  Ugliness is in the eye of the beholder and even minimum cooperation between groups will solve the radar interferance issues.  

This is a fight over who has power.  A small number of rich, influential people or the general communitay at large.  In the town I live in there is a raging debate about Smart Growth vs conventional growth.  The conventional Growth crowd label Smart Growth as 'No growth' because Smart Growth disagrees with unrestricted mall and housing development.  At the same time the Conventional Growth people are very anti alternative energy installation and approaches.  They strongly dislike any ordinance or code that raises the bar on energy efficiency, in ground heat pumps, passive solar design, energy efficient appliances in new homes, etc.  These are all considered to restrictive "Government can't tell me where or what to build, it's a free country" is often cited.  

Now this same mindset is preventing one of the greenest energy sources from being developed creating jobs and improving local economies.  We live in strange times indeed.

I guess these people would rather have a coal plant spewing garbage all over their landscape. Give me a break.  The biggest disappointment is Robert F. Kennedy, Jr.  There is a difference between environmental impacts and esthetic impacts. I am surrounded my mountains with trees (for now, but global warming may kill the trees).   I wouldn't mind having some wind generators situated amongst the trees.  In a perfect world, I wouldn't want the wind generators.  But every turn of those blades represents less carbon being emitted into our precious atmosphere.

Let's put a coal plant right next to Kennedy's estate and see whether or not he'd rather have a few wind generators off his precious coast.

A little wind power is a tourist attraction; a lot of wind power is basically corporate welfare.  Wind developers and investors know how to build allies - spread some money around.  That's what they are doing in the Midwest with giving farmers a piece of the pie as ground rents.

Since wind mills make electricity and very, very little US electricity is made with imported oil (60% of 2%?), arguments about wind saving oil are false.

Frankly, I see wind as a waste of capital, a wealth transfer from taxpayers to developers, and a nuisance for grid operators.  Plus, they are unattractive.

For a case study of the downsides of wind power from an operational viewpoint, see this report from E.On, the world's largest operator:

Note that to meet the becalming of Europe, the utility needed 4 to 6 large nuclear or coal plants on standby to pick up the load.

Only a nut thinks that there will be any one solution to the energy situation. Wind is great for a lot of the country-electricity can be used in transportation, plug-in hybrids and (gasp) electric railroads. And If wind is ugly, so  are the coal strip mines. What has destroyed more birds, windmills or stripmines? Get real, not just throw stones at something that is really beginning to make a positive difference.
The specifics are that wind is more capital intensive amortized over output ($/MWh) than conventional power sources.  Plus wind is not dispatchable, has a low capacity factor (25% nationally and in California), and requires almost 100% backup power.  Here in Northern California due to local meteorology, our wind resources are almost always off-peak, further reducing their usefulness.

Sorry, but I'm unconvinced that wind power is largely  a waste of money and a diversion from real solutions.  My criticisms are founded on hard numbers, real facts, and professional experience.  I will grant that they reduce demand for natural gas to fuel electric generators which we've gone overboard building in the first place.  

Remove the subsidies coming from my pocket and I'd be happy to see wind developers compete and prove me wrong.  I just council against depending on wind as a critical component of our energy policy.

Can't argue with about the ugliness of coal strip mines!

No no. First, eliminate the billions of dollars of subsidies for the fossil fuel industry, especially coal and then we can start talking. The cost of wind power has decreased tremendously over the last couple of decades.  At least, they are apparently doing something with those subsidies. And, while we're at it, charge the fossil fuel industries for all the external costs for the pollution they cause, including global warming, and then we can talk about a level playing field.

We need to keep pushing the envelope on wind.  As far as off peak power goes, we need to move to strategies for using that off peak power by recharging sources that don't need steady power.  If I can recharge my plug in at night, I don't care whether or not that power was intermittent.

The capital costs per kwh are coming down as well so at least progress is being made.  One thing is for sure, coal will destroy much of what is good about this planet if things continue as they are.  


Fine - go ahead and "move to strategies" all you want.  At least that costs next to nothing.

In the meantime, I have to worry about keeping the lights on.

Here's an interesting discussion on energy "subsidies" from June 11:

We will need all the wind power we can get.  Wind displaces fossil fuel use and is competative with fossil fuels on cost. Every other non-polluting source of energy will be needed in as large quantities as possible.  Solar hot water heating is a great one.  Until every house is required to have a solar hot water heater we will not be serious about PO.  

But we need to be cautious about our choices as many of them are energy intensive to make.  Wind turbines, with their tall steel masts, carbon fiber blades, steel gears and generators, require lots of high quality heat, transportation and machine tools to make.  

We need to push on all fronts, rationally evaluating costs and benefits, discarding those we can't get to measure up.  It can be done if we have the time.  

"Wind turbines, with their tall steel masts, carbon fiber blades, steel gears and generators, require lots of high quality heat, transportation and machine tools to make. "

I believe wind turbines pay back their overall energy investment in 3-4 months, for a E-ROI of about 80:1.  Can't beat that.

Combine dispatch of wind with hydroelectric (Bonneville has a lot close by + PG&E locally) as Norway & Denamrk co-operate. (Actually more complex with Swedish & Finnish nukes, etc.)

Build some pumped storage.  Good for wind, good for nukes (see Raccoon Mountain).

Nukes are as poor, if not poorer, solution than wind since they are all base load and prone to common design faults (all of one design get forced off-line for months & years at a time w/o warning).  Nukes will take a decade, minimum, before first new US goes commerical.  Wind can come on-line in as little as 12 months after a commerical decision to build is made.

Wind IS a viable solution.  Adapt yourself to it, and not the other way around.

"The specifics are that wind is more capital intensive amortized over output ($/MWh) than conventional power sources."

Sure, wind is capital intensive.  But what matters is overall cost/MWhr, and on that measure wind does very well.

wind..has a low capacity factor (25% nationally and in California)"  

Do you have a source for that?  The AWEA says 29% overall for the US.

wind..requires almost 100% backup power. "

Not so.  I've seen  wind described this way ac couple of times, here and by an Irish analyst (for a similar, very small system).  It seems to me to be a clear sign of prejudice against wind, as it is a very misleading way to describe wind's contribution to system capacity.

Wind generators have a rated capacity (e.g., 3 Megawatts) which is designed to be substantially higher than the normal operating range, in order to maximize energy capture. A reasonably well placed wind turbine might have a capacity of 3 MW, and utilization of 33%, or an expected average production of 1 MW. A coal or nuclear plant would be considered to be badly failing it's design goals at 33%, but a wind farm very likely would be considered quite successful.

This means that the maximum contribution to peak capacity expected from such a wind farm would be 33% of capacity. You could describe a 2GW wind farm as requiring backup capacity of 1.33 GW, and you would be describing a successful system. It wouldn't sound like it, though.

A 2 GW system that required 1.8 GW backup would be providing .2 GW capacity contribution, or 10%. That would be roughly 1/3 of what would be ideally expected.

In this case E.on gets a 9% contribution from a 18% capacity factor.  At 50% that's half what you would want. It's not ideal, but not bad for such a small, isolated system.

Let's be clear: describing wind as needing backup for it's maximum output is misleading. The correct way to phrase it is that wind's capacity contribution is a % of it's maximum, rated output.  That % should be the same as it's capacity factor, though that will fall off as market share rises above, say 10-20% (under current conditions).

In the longrun wind's potential market share will rise. As PHEV's and EV's grow that share will rise symbiotically.

As to national wind capacity factors and wind output, look to the 2003 EIA statistics (last complete year):



From these you'll see that there was 6,000 MW of wind capacity in 2003.  The total net generation (output) for wind in 2003 was 11,200,000 MW-hours.  Since 2003 was not a leap year, it had 8,760 hours in it.  If wind mills worked with 100% capacity factor in 2003, they would have produced 52,560,000 MW-hr.

Divide actual by possible (11,200,000 / 52,560,000) and one gets 21.3% capacity factor.

I was being generous.  One can dig some more at EIA and get state-by-state breakdowns.

As to backup power, I called the generation manager in Austin, Texas about this earlier this year to develop a response for an Econbrowser thread I was involved in.  Their answer was that the ERCOT system in Texas allowed on a very few percentage of wind capacity to be considered in system reliability calculations.

For a case study of the need for backup generation for wind, read E.On's report on wind generation in 2005 here:

Almost 6,000 MW of wind dropped off the grid between Christmas Eve and 12/26.

Granted that actual $/MW-hr is important but since there are no fuel costs with wind, just considering capital cost amortization is, again, being generous to wind since it ignores O&M costs.  It also deducts most of the tax effects and production credits etc and so attempts to level the playing field a bit.  That also reflects the lack of capacity payments for which wind is not creditable.

Why did you choose 2003, instead of the last year in the series, 2004?  The value for 2004 is significantly higher: 26.2%. The year before, 2002, was 26.9%.

It's interesting data.  There is a very strong increase from 1989 to 2004, starting with 16% in 1989 and ending up with 26.2% in 2004.  There's a very strong growth trend: a linear regression indicates a straight line between those two points with an r squared of .64, which is pretty strong.

The AWEA for 2004 gives slightly different numbers: a capacity of 6,740 MW, and "more than" 17 Twhrs, which gives 28.7% capacity factor (or more: I don't know how much "more than" equals..).

I have to say that EIA and DOE data for renewables doesn't seem to be very high quality - I don't rely on them if I don't have to.  As an example, they don't include distributed solar in their solar stats, so no matter what happens with distributed PV, you won't see it here.

As for E.On, please read my post about them elsewhere(and my thoughts about utilities and TSO's at the end): they don't seem to be a very helpful source.  You would expect them to have trouble with wind intermittency, given their very small size and transmission isolation.

"capital cost amortization is, again, being generous to wind since it ignores O&M costs."

I would disagree.  Precisely the opposite: ignoring fuel, operation and maintenance costs (FOM) favors generation sources with relatively high FOM, and penalizes wind, a source with essentially zero FOM.  Very low FOM is precisely wind's strength: ignoring that gives a distorted comparison.

Finally, it appears that ERCOT's approach is extremely conservative.  If you look at the approaches of comparable organizations around the country, it appears that some give wind much more credit for capacity contribution, up to 32.9% (essentially 100% of capacity factor as measured during peak periods).

I think the best thing to say about that is that the whole problem of how to value wind is pretty new to utilities, TSO's, and ERC's, and that many of them are going to be conservative until they get more experience with wind.  After all, utilities as an investment (or as an industry) are synonymous with conservative....

I used EIA's 2003 data because it was the last complete year.  2004 was still tagged as preliminary - I didn't calculate the 2004 capacity factor from the preliminary data so I don't know if it is better or worst than 2003.

Are you claiming that an industry advocacy group's data is better and more reliable than official US government data?  Maybe yes, maybe no but I know from personal experience that EIA reporting forms are pretty precise and definitive.  EIA data collection is also consistent across generation types and subject to user and provider comments.

As to costs, comparing wind's capital costs against other generation forms' total costs still ignores wind's maintenance costs and remains advantageous to wind.  People always ask me why are all those wind mills on the Altamonte Pass not turning?  My guess is that they cost too much to repair for the electricity they produce.  If that wasn't true, someone could make money by fixing them.

I saw your response on E.On's report.  My understanding is they are the WORLD'S LARGEST operator of wind mills.  They dropped 6,000 MW of generation over 36 to 48 hours because the wind stopped blowing.  Other generation had to be brought on-line to pickup the electrical load. Assuming stable load, that means that 6,000 MW of other generation otherwise idle had to come on line to cover the static wind mills.  That idle generation costs big capital plus it is difficult for thermal units to raise steam that fast meaning that the backup power has to be spinning reserve or in hot standby further increasing system fuel costs.  I guess you could use gas turbines burning oil or natural gas.

Allocating capacity credit to wind mills is indeed a new issue for system operators.  The bigger the grid and the more dispersed the wind sites, the better assuming strong transmission.  The fact remains that continental becalming can and does happen.  Maybe the current capacity credits are too large?

Germany has, in toto, about 18 GW of wind (nameplate).  E.ON owns a fraction of that, I could believe 1/3rd, i.e. nameplate 6 GW.

NO ONE assumes that wind turbines will produce 100% of naemplate 100% of the time.  Germany is exploiting poorer sires, so an AVERAGE output of 1.5 GW would be good.

A reasonable assumption would be a bit less than 1 GW capacity from wind, with contingency plans with a pumped storaged unit, Swiss, Austrian or Norwegian hydro, or a pumped storage unit (usually working with French nuke at night).

So you have erected an inflated straw man in an attempt to discredit wind energy, our BEST option for the future.

BTW, there are contingency plans for nukes as well.  Some design fault is discovered and EVERY unit a utility owns can go down for YEARS without warning.  FAR worse a problem than wind.

Wind does not suddenly becalm everywhere all at once.  It is a gradual decline over some minutes for each wind turbine, and even longer, slower decline for each wind farm, depending upon the depth of the wind farm in the direction of the prevailing wind.

And when there are multiple wind farms in a region, geographically dispersed (and modern, on-line weather stations everywhere) there is plenty of time to bring a steam plant on-line.  But gas CT plants are probably a better choice.  They are rapidly becoming surplus (limited fuel) and a duty cycle of 20 hours/year average as wind backup would be a productive use of this other wise wasting and useless asset.

"Are you claiming that an industry advocacy group's data is better and more reliable than official US government data? "

Sure.  First, their renewable data tends to be quite old.  2004 data shouldn't be preliminary in June of 2006.  I've seen many monthly and weekly oil & gas timeseries from the EIA/DOE, but renewable data? Not so much.  Of course, some of their other data on conventional stuff is also out of date - I was looking at some stuff on coal & gas pricing the other day that was embarrasingly dated.  Sigh.  On the other hand, some of my most interesting wind related data I've found on the Nuclear Energy Institute.  So you never know about "industry advocacy groups".

"EIA data collection is also consistent across generation types "

And that can be virtue or a vice.  When the standards are geared toward conventional generation, i.e., they exclude small, non-utility operated generation, they'll discriminate against distributed renewables, including wind and solar (especially solar).

"comparing wind's capital costs against other generation forms' total costs still ignores wind's maintenance costs and remains advantageous to wind."

No, I'm suggesting comparing total life-cycle costs for each form of generation.  Wind will do very well.

"People always ask me why are all those wind mills on the Altamonte Pass not turning?  My guess is..."

Well, let's not guess.  My guess is that you're seeing normal idle time.  Or that the operator of Altamonte doesn't want to put a lot of investment into something that may be at least partially shutdown because of bird problems (the only windfarm in the country to have this problem in a serious way, btw).

I think Alan has helped answer the question about E.On.  Just remember, being the largest doesn't make it the best - It's a geographically very small system, and it's isolated transmission-wise.

"The fact remains that continental becalming can and does happen"

Do you have a source for this?  A recent large study in the UK said that this was not the case just for the UK.  Seems unlikely at a continental level.

One example of gov't data bias.  

The EIA SUBTRACTS the losses from pumped storage units* from hydroelectric generation totals; thereby severely understating the contribution from the best renewable resource.

* It varies a bit from site to site, but 100 MWh in and 78 MWh out would be a reasonable # for a good unit.

So negative value from pumped storage (according to EIA stats) and a shrunken Hydroelectric.

A better analysis would be to reduce nuclear power generation #s by pumped storage ;psses, since pumped storage is often used to shift 3 AM nuke power to peak power.  See TVA nukss & Raccoon Mountain.

Another thought about Texas:  I believe that at the moment the Texas system is isolated, unlike the rest of the country.  That may make Texas more conservative about wind's capacity factor, as they don't have other regions of the country to trade with, and reduce their variance.

Nevertheless, Texas as a state is being very agressive about expanding wind, much more than any other state.  I think they understand the importance of energy, they see turbines as at least as attractive as the derricks that blanket Texas, and they hate being a net energy importer...

Much of the 6,000 MW of wind was not installed on 1/1/03.  The growth rate of wind is, fortunately, quite high.

There are debates that I am aware of within ERCOT for allowing specific wind farms to get a higher capacity factor after several years experience, perhaps with a seasonal adjustment.

So far, the "Wind Rush" has been justified by the high cost of natural gas.  In order to displace coal, capacity factors for reliable power will have to be raised.

The way that utilities operate needs to be changed to allow for higher penetration from wind; rather than limiting wind because it does not conform to the behavior of hydro, natural gas. coal or nuke.

BTW, Texas has VERY limited hydro, winds best friend.

One of the conclusions in the NYSERDA wind reports (see my previous post) is that wind power in NYS is more likely to offset natural gas consumption. The reason being that peak wind power production occurs during the winter, when natural gas supplies are stressed and prices are higher.

And coal, too, hence the funding for the enemies of wind. Plus, wind turbines are not nearly so capital intensive as coal plants, gas plants or nuclear plants. If local communities are using a cheap renewable the big capaitalists are threatened.
E.On's competitor, Vattenfal, has a better solution, a 1,060 MW pumped storage unit Goldisthal in Eastern Germany.
E.on's service area is very small, about the size of W. Virginia (.7% of the US), and 26% of the UK. Further, they have very little long-distance transmission (having built up their system around local plants), and transmission capacity is so limited that some new wind plants can't even be connected.  They give 18% as their wind utilization (compared to 29% in the US): Germany is exploiting lower quality locations than most other countries. Location, location, location.

I suspect that this isolation reflects Germany's pre-E.U and pre-unification history. In any case, they'd have a lot more flexibility with more transmission capacity and interconnections with other countries, and could reduce generation and demand variance substantially.

For wind utilization, see, which gives 29% overall for the US. Offshore windfarms should have substantially higher utilization than land-based, which would favor the US coasts, and the UK, but not help the germans so much.

Way back in the Ice Age (1972) I was in radar school at Great Lakes Naval Base, Illinois.  We would use the skyscapers of Chicago as a test in determining range(28 miles to the Hancock Building).  To the north of the base was the Zion nuke plant with a 72kv line running to Chicago. On days when power went through that line it showed as a very bright line on the radar. The towers barely showed.  Wind generators 300 feet above ground could show much larger than their true size due to the electromagnetic field generated.  DoD is probably concerned with the ability to track shipping lanes south of the planned windfarm. There are ways around the problem if it really is there.
So, Tom, from what you say, it sounds like this is indeed an evil  conspiracy.  DoD needs to adapt to wind power, not the other way around.  
I'm all for cutting the DOD budget in half. The DOD has proved how worthless it is in Iraq. I'd rather have $100 billion spent on wind power than on a war designed to enrich criminals.
In Japan, there is a problem that the local power company doesn't want to buy wind power. Don't know wexactly what the issue is though.
wind power - may help in future...