NY City’s only wind turbine of note, a 100 kw Northern Power Systems (a true champion in its class) installed in Brooklyn (Sunset Park, South Brooklyn Marine Terminal), owned by an Australian company, Sims Metal Management - http://www.nytimes.com/2015/01/16/nyregion/brooklyn-waterfront-is-fertile-ground-for-citys-first-large-scale-wind-turbine.html?_r=0. Too bad it takes a foreigner to do what is right in this state, as no USA oligarchs in NY City have seen fit to do the right thing, despite wallowing in oceans of money that cannot find a profitable home….
This week a new NY Energy Plan got released; it has been in the works for over4 a year:
http://www.capitalnewyork.com/article/albany/2015/06/8571025/state-plan-sets-aggressive-clean-energy-goals?top-featured-3. Over 100,000 comments were received on this effort, but perhaps almost all of those got ignored. A quick summary - “All Hat, No Cattle”, and continued increasing reliance/dependence on/addiction to the Fracksylvania Marcellus shale fields for methane. Even though the “Plan” supposedly covers the 2015 to 2030 time period, odds are this will be obsolete long before 2020 - in other words, when gas prices start rising due to falling drilling levels and rapidly depleting “sweet spots”, this plan is worth loess than burnt toast.
And it’s been 2015 for 6 months now. This is the year that NY was supposed to have achieved 30% of its electricity production from renewables, or 25% (the 25% value was upped by another 5% around 2009). This 2015 goal was set up in 2005, which also set up NY’s pathetically bad but well intentioned Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS). There were also some very aggressive energy efficiency standards/goals postulated, but performance in that area has also been underwhelming. The 25% or 30% values sound impressive, but thanks to hydropower (two major projects and hundreds of smaller ones) we were already at ~ 20% of our electricity from renewables. Anyway, what were the goals of the RPS and how did that work out?
Almost all of the renewable energy capacity installed that tapped the NY RPS as of the end of 2014 has been wind turbines, with minor amounts of hydroelectric (small and medium hydro), some landfill gas/anaerobic digesters a couple of biomass projects and some PV. In terms of delivered capacity, most new delivered renewable energy electricity has been wind, biomass, biogas and hydroelectricity. Less than 56% of target (1086 MW on a delivered basis, or MWd) has been achieved, and even that is a stretch - see http://www.nyserda.ny.gov/All-Programs/Programs/Main-Tier/Documents. In particular, for wind energy, according to NYISO, an average of 451 MW (3956 GW-hr/yr) was delivered from 1735 MW of capacity (MWc), for an average of 26% net output, which is not very good, especially since a lot of the locations where these were installed are in some of the best NY State wind sites. The American Wind Energy Association has a great summary of NY’s wind statistics here: http://awea.files.cms-plus.com/FileDownloads/pdfs/New%20York.pdf
The subsidies offered by NYSERDA have ranged from 1.475 (2007) to 3.495 (2013) c/kw-hr; these have been for 10 years and they are in addition to the Federal PTC tax avoidance (passive income tax credit) and MACRS tax avoidance (State and Federal tax deduction) subsidies. By any standard in the US, these are pretty generous as a combined package - on a 10 year basis these (NYSERDA + PTC + MACRS) can range from 7.1 to 9.1 c/kw-hr. So what weren’t or aren’t those juicy subsidies/incentives enough to cause a giant wind energy stampede? After all, while the MACRS tax deductions and Investment Tax Credit (ITC) work whether the wind farm makes any or no electricity, both the RPS and the PTC are based on the amount of electricity made; the more electricity is made, the greater the subsidy.
The answers to the question involving the poor performance of the NY State RPS and why the really wimpy targets were not met all revolve around the “can’t make any money” to “can’t make enough money” variety from wind turbine installations. The money making aspect involves both the production of electricity as well as the price for that electricity, and whether or no they wind generator gets blocked from selling their product (called economic curtailment). While the “EC” part only amounts to around 2% of the wind energy generated, that is “pure profit avoided”, and it’s importance to profitability is quite significant, especially if profit margins are thin to begin with. One way to improve the profitability is to simply generate more electricity, and there actually there us a way to raise per turbine productivity, though it would involve additional expenditures. Another way to improve the productivity of new turbines (about 270 MW worth are supposed to be installed in the 2015 to 2016 time frame) is to actually install the turbines suited for NY winds, and to install them in a less crowded manner. When too many turbines are installed in too small an area, the overall wind farm productivity drops significantly, as some turbines “rob the wind” from nearby ones located downwind.
The early projections/expectations for the per turbine yields in NY State were based on an assessment of the hub height wind speeds where those turbines were installed - numbers north of 36% were often quoted. In 2014 the average for the state was 26.42%, or about 73% of the expected value. To get5 the same profit rate as was expected, the price of electricity (= subsidies plus NYISO price) obtained by the owners would need to be 38% over what was originally expected due to the craptacular performance of NY’s turbines. And those higher prices never happened; instead, average NYISO prices DROPPED by 40%. This means the NY’s turbine owners got a double dose of bad news. But in some ways, they sort of got what they deserved.
The “wind shadow” effect has been well documented for a long time, and all developers can easily make use of very accurate software that models the effect of wind turbine placement AND topography AND surface vegetation/presence of trees. THEY HAD TO KNOW of the wind shadow effect. But then placing the turbines across more area means more lease payments and bigger installation costs per turbine/more transmission wire per turbine and possibly more headaches signing up people. Overall, this is a “greed equation” and they opted to minimize lease payments and wiring costs. However, they paid big time with poor performance. An example is the Steelwinds farm in Lackawanna, where hub height wind speeds average 7.6 m/s and yet output averages only 30% in a good year (there are also reliability issues with Clipper wind turbines). Those turbines tend to be aligned perpendicular to the prevailing wind, but even with the amazingly directed average direction, you just can’t put turbines with so little space between them (about 2.2 rotor diameters between each tower). The same goes for the turbines in Wyoming County and especially at the Maple Ridge wind farm.
Another factor in the poor financial performance was the high installation cost. An example is poor construction timing and a failure to use rail instead of trucks to transport the heavy components to as close to the location as could be done. hauling heavy towers and nacelles by truck is very expensive - trains are at least an order of magnitude cheaper. This had profound effects in Lackawanna (timing plus transport cost).
Next, there is the tower height. NY tends to be hilly and there are trees just about everywhere, and trees drastically degrade the wind resource, especially at only 80 meters above the found. In NY there are only two wind farms with taller towers - Hardscrabble (100 meter towers, 44 meter blades) and Marble River (95 meter towers, but with ~ 56 meter long blades). Given the large “surface roughness length” of 1 meter or more for any place other than the Lackawanna coastline, going taller taps much faster winds. However, if the goal is to minimize investment while maximizing short term gain, well, that is a conflict. NY’s developers chose the “quick and dirty” route, and they paid for that mistake many times over. It turns out that existing wind farms could utilize taller towers, at least for some of the turbines at a minimal cost, but since zero investment is the order of the day, that’s all that will be done for them. Taller towers also makes for quieter turbines at least as perceived on the found (inverse square law). So going to 120 meter hub heights from 80 meters (by putting in a 40 meter concrete lower section and then putting the 80 meter steel towers on those) would tap winds on average 9% faster that gives up to 30% greater average energy output while at the same time dropping the sound intensity by 2.25 times at the tower base.
Finally, there is blade length. New wind farms tend to use Low Wind Speed Turbines - such as the Stony Creek array (Wyoming County) and Marsh Hill (Steuben County) which use 100 meter rotors for 1.6 MW nacelles. Last year the Stony Creek array produced 33% of its rated capacity, which was 27% better than the NY average in a spot with less than optimal wind speeds.
Of course, in a more ideal world, things like concrete tower sections would be made in NY State, and used for NY wind turbines that were properly spaced apart, used tall towers and LWST design. And for offshore wind arrays in Lake Erie, nearshore locations (where they COULD BE SEEN) combined with concrete “gravity” foundations and using LWST or near LWST. Offshore units should get AT LEAST 40% net outputs and more like 45% given the 8.5 m/s wind resource that exists above Lake Erie.
However, the biggest problem that sunk the NY State RPS was the Casino pricing system for electricity in NY State (alias NYISO pricing or LBMP - Location Based Marginal Pricing). The risk of NOT being able TO KNOW what future prices will be is a killer for wind power project financing. As luck would have it (or maybe luck had nothing to do with it), electricity prices collapsed in NY State following the combination of the Great Recession price crash (June 2008) and the fraudulent “fracking for methane” epidemic that followed, where drillers on average continually sold methane for less than the cost to make it and then drilled even more in an effort to get out of the debt incurred by selling for less than the cost of production. Instead of pegging the electricity price based on the cost to make it plus a reasonable profit, wind turbine owners in NY State have the price of their electricity at the price set by natural gas. For the last several years this methane has been priced not at what it cost to make it but whatever it could be sold for, and then generally has been less than the cost to make it from MOST wells. Using this money losing methane to make electricity makes the electricity a bargain, but it also ruins whatever profitability might exist for alternatives to methane based electricity generation. Normally what “should happen” is that methane suppliers should restrict their output until prices rise to a point where drillers/producers can make a profit, but because of the way these drilling efforts were financed, that is not possible. Drillers have to produce as much as they can as soon as they can and if they go bankrupt in the process due to the conditions of the loans/bonds that were used to get the money to drill and frack those wells… and if the drillers go bankrupt, well, the financiers take possession of the company assets and then they sell them off to someone else, who continues this same crazy business arrangement. Such a calamity was not foreseen by competitors of methane production and usage - that when a glut of methane appeared, production would not be curtailed until prices rose but instead even greater amounts of methane drilling would be pursued. The greater production rates drive the prices EVEN LOWER and until mass quantities of drillers go out of business, the insanity never stops, and as long as the bankers/hedge funds keep providing the money, well, the fun just never ends…. And added to that is the fracking for oil frenzy, as many of the oil shale wells are also prodigious methane producers (Eagle Ford, Niobara, West Texas), dumping enormous amount of methane onto the market as a by-product of oil production.
Because the electricity prices wind turbine owners get in NY State are mostly pegged to methane prices, there is little profit potential to the business. Average NYISO prices have varied between 3 to 4 c/kw-hr since 2009, and not the anticipated 5 to 7 c/kw-hr. This was partly made up with rising REC (=RPS prices) in the bids submitted - the ones in 2013/2014 were 2 c/kw-hr greater than those in 2007-2008. However, they probably need to be even higher. But this also means that NYSERDA wouldn’t make its numbers - the 1086 MWd could not be achieved for the amount of money initially allocated in the 2005 RPS effort.
In addition to that shortcoming, very few wind turbine minor component manufacturing and no major manufacturing has developed in NY State. As a result, the only jobs produced in this effort are a tiny number of maintenance technician ones and some one-time design and construction ones which disappear where the construction phase of the operation has been completed. Contrast this with Quebec (6000 jobs created) and Ontario (~ 12,000 jobs created). Without the jobs and the businesses that employ the workers, there is little incentive to have a serious wind energy policy; after all, almost all the wind turbine manufacturing jobs/business helped by the $3.4 billion worth of wind turbine installs in NY to date were located out of state or out of country. And of course, no one gets held accountable for that, either….
Of course, the “solution”to the lackluster and highly inadequate performance from the wind biz is even more hair brained - divert the money for solar PV installations. In this way, the same quantity of money as would have been spent on wind turbines will produce less than 20% of the electricity that would be made using 26% net output wind turbines, and 13% of that which could be made using 40% net output turbines. The net effect wiki be to replace LESS pollution based electricity with the $1 billion advocated for the NY Sun proposal that is to be stretched out over a decade.
While it is nice that NY State in its various entities subsidize PV (which may even involve purchasing Made in NY State PV systems via Solar City), it is a shame that the “missing” 500 MWd of electricity that was supposed to be created by the RPS will forever be missing in action. The Main Tier of the RPS will be lucky to ever get to 600 MWd even with the proposed 170 MWc of new projects:
- Black Oak wind farm 12 MWc (Tompkins County)
- Jericho Rise wind farm ~ 80 MWc (Franklin County)
- Arkwright Summit wind farm ~ 80 MWc (Chautauqua County)
The two larger projects would be owned by the Portuguese monopoly EDPR, while the smaller one is planned to be owned by some members of the community, which would be quite a milestone for NY State (only 3 of the 1000+ wind turbines now installed in the state are owned by a member of/members of the community - 2 near Rochester and one near a ski hill adjacent to Massachusetts). These will be installed sometime in 2016 to 2017.
Of course, in 2016, the solar PV incentive called the Investment Tax Credit (ITC) expires (http://www.greentechmedia.com/articles/read/What-Happens-When-the-ITC-Expires), so the solar installation plans - all thoroughly dependent unpin this passive income tax avoidance subsidy - may also go up in smoke. At a minimum the Republicans in the House and Senate will “put it up for legislative ransom (stop Obamacare implementation or Ban Abortion or go declare war on a nation with big oil reserves or else the ITC gets the axe!). The Republicans and especially the extremely extreme right wingers in the House will no longer approve ANY subsidies for wind turbines, fully prepared to see a $20 billion/yr industry go “poof” because wind turbines compete with nukes and methane from fracking. Should the PV industry be perceived as providing competition, they too will experience “The Chop”. To avoid “The Chop” they will have to essentially silence their advertising, PR and evangelical promotion efforts, which would be VERY DIFFICULT for a variety of reasons. A lot of PV advocates are of the “true believer” variety, as the subsidies provided to the PV industry are either invisible to them or now seem like a given, a birthright.. To get their subsidies extended, they will actually have to push the belief that they are invisible, and that the PV output in the US is likely to stay a small fraction of the total US demand for electricity.
The wind biz pushed the belief that wind turbines are cost effective against nukes, coal and methane, which is often true, especially if methane prices actually rise to reflect the actual real cost to produce that methane and also include a profit. Once the wind biz became viewed as a player in the electricity supply of this country (soon to be 5% by the end of 2015) and the effect of wind in displacing the consumption of 1.5 trillion cubic feet per year or more of methane became apparent, well, the proverbial gloves of the polluter based electricity biz cam off. Out came the proverbial maces, battle axes, nail protruding clubs, knives coated with poison, electroshock equipment and of course, IEDs. Its a multibillion dollar/yr business, with potential profits of over $1 trillion in a decade, and all is fair. There are only winners and losers, the living or the dead, and no prisoners are allowed. And there is only a decade or so of low cost to make methane left in the continental USA, so this should be prime profiteering time for the natural gas biz. Instead, it is mired in a gas bloat of mostly its own making (well, that and those who financed the fracking frenzy), with prices that are money losers for most in the biz, with methane prices to producers now in the $2/MBtu range. The almost last thing they need is MORE competition from the wind biz, and that problem seems to have been staunched for now with the demise of any extension of the PTC. Would the gas biz and its servants and supplicants the Republican Party allow an new entrant in anything other than a trivial mode? Not likely!. And will the solar PV true believers, many of who cannot compute what the real, unsubsidized cost per delivered mw-hr is, submit to hiding their real intentions (which, lets face it, do have a lot of merit, aside from the really high electricity production cost) of making the PV industry a real player in the US electricity supply? Also not likely.
PV vs. the Fracking Methane Suppliers Analogy:
Unstoppable force meets immovable object. Oh boy…
BTW, the average installed cost of PV in NY for the last 3.5 years is now down to $5780/kwc (http://openpv.nrel.gov). At a money cost of 6%/yr for 25 years (a loan rate virtually impossible for most people or companies to access) that gives a real cost of electricity production of 41 c/kw-hr before any other costs (insurance, property taxes, inverter replacement, etc) and any profit are added in (12.5% net PV output). As long as the money paid to the PV generation owner mostly stays local, the economics of blending in this higher cost energy are not very hurtful, and can be quite beneficial. But when the money gets shipped out of the locality, well, that’s not good. And the high capital cost is either somebody else’s wages or a business owners profit, which in turn provide the basis for the taxes that keep things civilized. But could 41 c/kw-hr PV compete with 8 bc/kw-hr wind or the current grid rate of 3 to 4 c/kw-hr - probably not. So PV needs its subsidies to maintain the illusion that it is competitive, while also employing a lot of installers.
Oh well, interesting times….