Wind Power Breakthrough

Mountaintop wind farm in West Virginia.

Mountaintop wind farm in West Virginia.

Virginia could finally get a wind farm.

In a unanimous vote, the Botetourt County Board of Supervisors voted Tuesday to grant a permit to build 25 wind turbines on the ridge of North Mountain, clearing the way for construction of the first wind farm in Virginia. The 550-foot-tall turbines had sparked objections that they would be a noisy eyesore and harm wildlife. As a condition of receiving the permit, project owner Apex Clean Energy must abide by 17 conditions that limit the height of the turbines and how much noise they can make, reports the Roanoke Times.

Botetourt County arguably was the biggest obstacle but the Rocky Forge Wind project still needs to obtain state and federal regulatory approval. The Federal Aviation Administration has said that the turbines could pose an aviation hazard.

Rocky Forge is expected to generate 75 megawatts of electricity, enough to power 20,000 homes.

— JAB

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13 responses to “Wind Power Breakthrough

  1. Homes consume kWh. How many kWh will these 75 MW turbines produce per month? I could not find any information about the kWh production.

    • Over and above the question of how much power the turbines produce is the question of whether they generate electricity when it is most needed (late afternoons) or least needed (at night). I figure the guys at Apex are smart enough to have considered these questions, and they have calculated that, one way or the other, the wind farm will generate a respectable return on investment.

  2. “…the guys at Apex are smart enough to have considered these questions, and they have calculated that, one way or the other, the wind farm will generate a respectable return on investment.”
    The return on investment will be paid by government subsidies and higher electric rates for all users. The poor and middle class will give them a return on their investment; the investment will not come from the high-cost inefficient provision of electricity by wind turbines.

    • It goes without saying that wind power projects in Virginia would not be viable without the subsidies. Same with solar. Same with nukes. (Actually, nukes might not be viable even with loan guarantees.) Even carbon fuels get subsidies in the form of accelerated depreciation. But we also have to consider the cost of externalities (primarily pollution) to consider, which we all pay as well, even if we don’t know it. It gets very complicated.

      • I don’t know if “it goes without saying that wind power projects in Virginia projects in Virginia would not be viable without subsidies”. We have noted before that wind power in the Great Plains is the cheapest source of new generation in the U.S., with or without subsidies (except for energy efficiency). But wind power is related to the cube of wind speed. So the output is very dependent on the nature of the wind. That is why we need to use ridgetops and tall towers in Virginia to increase the wind velocity and power output.

        However, the wind subsidy is a production credit not a tax credit as with solar. And is has been removed before and replaced again. I suspect that this development might be cost effective without any subsidy but without the transparency that you call for, it is hard to tell. I think the difficulty in Virginia is the shortage of good sites that can be approved. We have many ridgetops in the Shenandoah Valley but they are also our scenic vistas and most would rather see them unspoiled. It was the views that curtailed wind development in Hawaii, not the lack of wind.

        You are correct to point out that the subsidies for nuclear, coal and oil are far higher than they are for wind and solar. Most people overlook that fact. I would prefer that except for subsidies to launch a new industry, that subsidies be removed so that price signals could steer the choices. But the nuclear industry would not exist without their subsidy, and the fossil fuel industry has enjoyed the nation’s largest single tax break for nearly 100 years and they are not likely to give it up. So to remove the moderate subsidy for wind and solar would be like imposing a substantial penalty compared to the other options. Plus, they do not have the health and environmental effects that are not priced into the other options, which also amounts to a subsidy.

        The tax credit for solar was extended. Partly, I think, to help meet the CPP requirements. We can’t do it all with gas, it emits too much CO2.

  3. the per capita health cost of using coal is about $1000.00 per person per year in Virginia. That’s quite a subsidy,

  4. not all is wondermuss –

    “Botetourt wind farm would be a hazard to aviation, FAA says in preliminary report”

  5. I would like to see an unbiased, definitive analysis of the subsidies associated with each of the energy sources — and with the $1000 per person per year ($8B per year) health costs due to coal. Do any of you have references? The only references I have seen are by environmentalists who seem biased against fossil fuels.

  6. ECONOMIC VALUE OF US FOSSIL FUEL ELECTRICITY HEALTH IMPACTS

    http://www.pubfacts.com/detail/23246069/Economic-value-of-US-fossil-fuel-electricity-health-impacts

    there are others… also… from credible sources.

    Full Cost of Coal $500 Billion/Year in U.S., Harvard Study Finds
    (google it)

  7. I will look into these, but I want to see the data. I am not much influenced by opinion, even if from “experts.” I want to see cause and effect well identified and the data linking them. Thanks for the references. By the way, do the authors put a value on life and years lived?

  8. it’s not hard to find the science… it’s fairly well settled…

    the problem is most folks are unaware and/or discount the pollution and effects…. even after the EPA has provided the evidence from numerous independent studies that underlies it’s regulations.

    “Scientific Evidence of Health Effects from Coal Use
    in Energy Generation”

    Erica Burt, MPH
    Peter Orris, MD, MPH
    Susan Buchanan, MD, MPH
    University of Illinois at Chicago School of Public Health
    Chicago, Illinois, USA

    https://noharm.org/sites/default/files/lib/downloads/climate/Coal_Literature_Review_2.pdf

    so you put a real dollar cost on it when comparing it to the more perceived “subsidized’ energy – and it challenges a lot of preconceived views about the true cost of energy.

    there should be no mistake – people – are suffering billions of dollars of economic damage to their health from burning coal. It primarily affects the young, the elderly and those with compromised immune systems.

    those costs are pretty much already “baked” into our existing health care costs so it’s not perceived as a “subsidy” at least not in the same way that other fuels are.

  9. Wind power is not cheap as claimed above.
    I was formerly one of the biggest supporters of wind power and could not understand how people could ever oppose it.
    Do the research. You will see why I changed my mind.

    The costs of building the turbines and huge blades, the cost of transport and construction (and the pollution caused by all of the above) takes a long time to merely break even with the electricity provided. (Not even including the miles of transmission lines).

    Then, unfortunately, they do not provide “free electricity” because(1) they take constant maintenance (which is dangerous, difficult and expensive at several hundred feet in the air), (2) breakdown relatively quickly with bad weather (3) their claimed life is relatively short-20 years–and even that seems optimistic and, (3) since they provide intermittent power—gas, coal or oil plants must be constantly running as a back up to keep the grid from crashing.

    I wish all this wasn’t the case but, when you review everything, except in very limited locations (like parts of Texas), wind power is more of a problem than a solution.

  10. I don’t think I ever thought wind power was “free” … all the costs you cite are true – but they’re also true for any other energy source.

    but I still disagree about the “intermittent” issue. It’s really quite similar to how baseload will not provide 100% power 100% of the time unless you want to burn coal at max output 100% of the time and just idle the turbines when the demand is less than max.

    so what they do is use gas as a complementary fuel. to use it supplementally – and variably to complement coal.

    you’d do the same thing with wind/solar – when wind/solar reduce their output – you ramp up gas to make up the short fall.

    in both cases – supplementing baseload and supplementing wind/solar – it works the same way because gas has the ability to vary it’s output – in response to other fuels that are not that flexible.

    the real difference is that there are a much smaller number of baseload plants to use gas to load-balance – whereas wind/solar are distributed across the grid at hundreds/thousands of locations and probably harder to monitor and match – really can’t have one gas plant for each wind/solar site…

    the grid is not “nimble” in adjusting to such dynamics. A plant scheduled to go offline or even one dropping out – is a specific location that can be compensated for but wind solar or wind across entire regions “flickers” it’s not one physical location that they can identify and compensate for.

    it will take much more widespread monitoring and modelling to know what’s up and what’s down on an aggregate basis per “areas” without fixed boundaries as one could expect with known locations of existing powerplants and known areas with historic demand data.

    but every power source has costs and has maintenance issues and advantages and disadvantages… that’s part of the job of the utilities and PJM in their mission… there is no one monolithic source with one switch on it…

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