The new issue of the Friends of Windham Newsletter explores the practicalities, policies, and politics of industrial-scale wind: why Grafton and Windham and VT in general are inappropriate for wind; the policies that have brought us our current situation; and the politics of trying to gain control of our futures as towns.
Click here to download and read issue #5. Read more excerpts below, which use figures from the US Energy Information Administration and computations from Renewable Energy expert Ben Luce).
Based on Vermont’s ridgeline wind resource is not adequate to the task of making a dent in climate change. Narrowing the focus to Vermont, our state ranks 27th among states in size of wind resource. Texas ranks number 1, with the next six positions held by mid-western states. The average size of the wind resource among the top 10 states is 281 times the size of Vermont’s wind resource.
In fact, one thousand miles of ridgeline would be needed to produce just 15% of the electricity used in New York and New England….
The 1000-mile figure represents 6.4 times the entire length of Vermont, which is 156 miles long from Canada to Massachusetts.
Q: Why spend millions to install wind turbines in a marginal site such as the Stiles Brook Forest?
A #1: Single landowner. The Stiles Brook Forest is different from many other potential sites in Vermont by virtue of being owned by a single, non-resident landowner. In most other potential sites, developers must negotiate contracts with several different landowners, some of whom do not want turbines on their land.
A #2: Money.
* Tax credits. The federal production tax credit (PTC) is an inflation-adjusted tax credit that is currently $23/megawatt hour for the first 10 years of generation. The PTC will be gradually phased down, although not discontinued, over the next three years. Tax credits, which are paid for by US taxpayers, are an important feature of wind energy development. In 2014 Warren Buffet explained how he reduces his company’s tax rate: “For example, on wind energy, we get a tax credit if we build a lot of wind farms. That’s the only reason to build them. They don’t make sense without the tax credit.”
* Renewable energy certificates (RECs). Purchasers of renewable energy pay the developer for RECs. probably about the same amount as the PTC. This payment is in addition to the agreed-on price for the power, which is probably in the range of $60/megawatt hour. Here is A good discussion of RECs.
* Bottom line: $25 million annually for Iberdrola from the Stiles Brook Forest. Multiply the annual output projected by Iberdrola, which is 233,333 megawatts, by 106 (sale price $60, plus PTC $23, plus REC $23) and round up.