Guest “Ha Ha!” by David Middleton
‘No more wind.’ WA state utility questions efficacy of wind farms for power generation
BY BILL VIRGIN CONTRIBUTING WRITER
SEPTEMBER 19, 2020
Renewables, a category that also can include solar and more exotic forms like geothermal or tidal, will, so the theory goes, help “de-carbonize” the region’s generating portfolio of coal and natural gas, leading eventually to an “all-green” electric grid.
Achieving that goal will require a whole lot more solar and a whole lot more wind, which makes it all the more interesting that one utility is breaking with energy orthodoxy by saying, “No more wind.”
(I)n a recently released report, “Wind Power and Clean Energy Policy Perspectives,” the utility’s commissioners say they “do not support further wind power development in the Northwest.”
More large-scale wind farms they say, will “contribute very little to keeping the regional power grid reliable and will not help Benton PUD solve our seasonal energy deficit problems” (when it needs to purchase additional power for winter and summer peaks), will drive up customer rates, won’t make a significant contribution to reducing greenhouse gases that contribute to climate change, will hurt revenues that utilities like Benton receive from the sale of surplus hydropower and will needlessly clutter up the “scenic hillsides, canyons and desert vistas in our region for little if any net environmental benefit.”
“We are continuing to sound the alarm regarding the unacceptably high risk of power grid blackouts in the Pacific Northwest being precipitated by overly aggressive clean energy policies and deepening dependence on wind power to replace retiring coal plants,” the commissioners say in a news release. “Benton PUD is calling on Governor Inslee and our state legislators to learn from California’s experience and to believe what utilities in Washington State are telling them. Rolling blackouts jeopardize the health, safety and well-being of all citizens and cannot be accepted in a region that, thanks to hydropower, is the envy of the nation when it comes to clean and low-cost electricity …
“While development of wind farms may be politically fashionable and appeal to many in the general public as a harmonization of nature with electricity production, the science and economics indicate powering modern civilization with intermittent generation resources like wind and solar power comes at a high financial and environmental cost.”
But as the Benton PUD report illustrates, just because those wind-turbine farms are self-proclaimed “green” resources doesn’t mean they are exempt from pointed questioning as to just how much the regional grid, consumers and businesses that are being asked to rely on wind really ought to.
The News Tribune
“No more wind.”
Residential electricity rates in Washington average 9.85¢/kWh, second lowest in the nation.
The state of Washington’s wind resource is rather lacking…
Washington wind resource map. NREL
For comparison, here’s Texas’ wind resource map…
Texas wind resource map. NREL
Even with its world class wind resource, Texas only generates an average of 20% of its electricity from wind power.
Texas 2019 electricity generation by source. ERCOT
With minimal onshore wind resource, abundant hydroelectric resource and one of the lowest electricity rates in the nation, the Benton Public Utility District is demonstrating wisdom by saying “No more wind.”