More Turbulence for Wind Energy


A couple of weeks back (10/30/07) I noted that dreams of wind power’s unlimited potential was running into the reality: the nightmare of unreliability of the technology (the tendency of wind turbines to breakdown in spectacular — potentially dangerous — fashion). As a result it was no surprise when The Herald of Glasgow, Scotland reported yesterday that three windfarms were being shutdown after one tubine bent in half during heavy winds. They aren’t even sure if the turbine was turning or operating at the time. Three entire farms are being shut down while they inspect the other turbines to determine the risk of similar collapse. As I mentioned before, this could the a portent of the future in the U.S.

In addition, further proof that wind power doesn’t pay its own way despite generous subsidies and state mandates in the form of renewable portfolio standards comes out of Kansas. It seems that thirteen potential wind farm projects are endangered, get this, because state regulators rejected plans to build two new coal fired power plants in Western Kansas. And I quote:

“New transmission lines were to be part of the $3.6 billion Sunflower Electric Power Corp. project, which was rejected by Rod Bremby, the state’s secretary of health and environment. But with the fate of that project in doubt, several western Kansas officials say their projects aren’t feasible without the additional transmission capacity.

’”I’d say this decision pretty much halts wind development in western Kansas,”’ said David Snyder, economic development director in Ness County. “We need transmission lines, and we need the coal plants to get them.”

Snyder said it’s not economically practical for transmission lines to be erected for wind alone because of the erratic nature of that power source and the expense of the lines.

Building transmission lines costs about $1 million per mile.

’”It’s bad enough that we face shortages in power and the loss of a sizable amount of money already invested in preparing for the construction of the plants, but now we could lose our wind project, as well,”’ said Neal Gillespie, economic director for Stevens County in far southwest Kansas. See the full story.

The decision to not grant permits for the two new coal plants was already controversial due to the arguable need for energy and jobs in Western Kansas and the surrounding regions, so much so that the legislature has threatened to step in and override the state agency’s ruling. This unintended consequence for wind power should only add fuel to the coal-fire in Kansas.



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