2010-02-11 / Letters to the Editor

Wind energy numbers not worth the risk

In my view, the real cost of erecting two wind turbines in Jamestown is understated and discounts, if not ignores, the expense of getting this generated energy to the power grid. Obviously, if the town still has any of the $300,000-per year electric bill, the project provides no stated relief to taxpayers.

The Jamestown Press article dated Feb. 4, 2010, “Council deadlocks on turbines” reported that “the town will earn $9.9 million in profits from two, 1.65-megawatt turbines financed almost entirely by a zero-interest federal loan – or $6.4 million, if the town issued a 5% bond to finance most of a twinturbine scenario.” On the surface, who wouldn’t want wind power? What’s wrong with investing taxpayer monies in the proposed wind turbine project?

Answer: Risk.

In business, the risk of a project is always quantified in order to mitigate possible and unforeseen expenditures (costs) to the company (taxpayers) for the life of a project. For sake of argument, let’s assume the town’s electric bill is covered by the numbers detailed from the town council meeting and determine the financial feasibility of this 20-year project:

Wind project = Revenue – (cost + risk)

$9,900,000 – Revenue from two 1.65-megawatt turbines at 23% of stated capacity.

($9,500,000) – Cost documented and undocumented

($1,900,000) – Risk 20% of cost

Cost SWAG: $6,400,000 documented cost for two wind turbines, site maintenance, warranty, insurance, grid connection. $3,100,000 is undocumented costs of power and personnel. Justifi- cation: $2,500,000 power from grid to operate turbines at 25% of output (revenue). Sources have recorded up to 50% of generated capacity used in electricity to power: Hydraulic brakes, yaw device (keeps the 92-ton device pointed at the wind), cooling, dehumidifying, filtering, heat, lights, sensors and communication to name a few. $1,600,000 is salary and benefi ts ($80,000) of dedicated town employee to manage and monitor generation.

Risk SWAG: $1,900,000 is 20% of the cost, which includes, but is not limited to:

• Rated generating capacity decline from wear and tear through time, not salt water influences

• 5% more power from grid needed to power wind turbines

• Lost revenue from downtime, due to maintenance both scheduled and unscheduled

• Cost of end-of-life tear-down and land restoration

• New or modified town facilities cost to house monitoring equipment

• Unit delivery cost (documented or not)

• Fire department: New emergency equipment and training. Google: Wind turbine accidents fire

Additional risk not measured: Can you include grant monies from a state that is almost bankrupt or from a federal government that will reach its debt limit by the end of February? How much of the town electric bill of $6,000,000 exists? Can we implement a project without any governance? Will Ft. Getty camper revenue be affected? Also, what is the cost of running power lines from wind turbines to where? How much of this cost is going to be passed on to electric customers?

Are the visual costs, possible environmental costs, noise or any other subjective measurement worth a small government-subsidized profit at best for this experiment in wind power generation?

I contend that the value of this project is a large negative number, when including an honest risk guesstimate. Unfortunately, variable power-generating wind turbines are not worth the risk to taxpayers or to Jamestown.

Source: Jamestown Wind Feasibility Study, California Energy Commission, AWEA, AWEO, nowindfarms.com
Blake Dickinson

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