BigWind= ‘idiot power’ for Ohio

A quote from Thomas Homer-Dixon, the Associate Director of the Waterloo Institute for Complexity and Innovation has been making the rounds under the heading of “Idiot Power”. We thought the concept was something worth sharing. Consider: “The concept of net energy must be applied to renewable sources of energy, such as windmills and photovoltaics. A two-megawatt windmill contains 260 tons of steel requiring 170 tons of coking coal and 300 tons of iron ore, all mined, transported and produced by hydrocarbons. The question is: how long must a windmill generate energy before it creates more energy than it took to build it? At a good wind site, the energy payback day could be in three years or less; in a poor location, energy payback may be never. That is, a windmill could spin until it falls apart and never generate as much energy as was invested in building it.”

The “good” wind sites are generally to the West and we include below an overview of the various transmission projects being planned to bring “good” wind from Nebraska, Iowa, Texas and Minnesota to relatively poorer wind locations. Could that be Ohio? AEP has just won a victory before the Ohio Power Siting Board in obtaining profit guarantees for aging coal plants. Assisting in the AEP campaign was the Sierra Club which agreed to support them in exchange for a commitment to build 900 megawatts of wind and solar power in the state. Opposing the plan is competitor Dynergy whose CEO “criticized the 900 megawatts as too small. Wind and solar rarely operate at full capacity because of their environmental limitations, he said, so they won’t actually produce the full amount of power.” Will Ohio rate payers be buying “Idiot Power” offered by AEP courtesy of the Sierra Club and OPSB? Perhaps, and if so, consumers will now know what they are paying for their idiot power because utilities are implementing new requirements to disclose the cost of renewable energy on monthly bills….

The Sierra Club betrayed its principles when it dropped its once-fervent opposition to an income-guarantee plan from American Electric Power Company Inc., a rival power company CEO says….

But in December the Sierra Club stopped fighting the PPAs as part of an agreement with AEP that included concessions by the utility to build more renewable energy assets. AEP used the Sierra Club’s logo in a TV advertisement it produced to garner support for the proposal, and the Sierra Club urged its backers to write letters of support for the plan….

A key reason the Sierra Club dropped its popular campaign involved AEP agreeing to build 900 megawatts of wind and solar power in the state. The Columbus utility (NYSE:AEP) also agreed to eventually repower the coal plants involved in its proposal to natural gas or close them.
Dynegy was a loud voice of opposition throughout on the long regulatory process, and a group featuring it and peer power producers became the main adversaries. Nevertheless, Ohio regulators last week approved both utilities’ plans….