Deval-ued Wind Power- Heavy Costs
Posted in the Newton Forum
#1 Dec 4, 2012
December 3, 2012 4:00 A.M.
Deval-ued Wind Power
Green-energy delusions inflict a heavy cost on a Massachusetts town.
By Kevin D. Williamson
Masschusetts governor Deval Patrick is as green-power mad as any up-and-coming Democrat, and he has set an ambitious goal for the commonwealths utilities: begin producing 2,000 megawatts of power from environmentally preferred sources by 2020. Patricks green dreams are way up in the air; on the ground, things look starkly different.
Last September in the tiny town of Princeton, Mass., the general manager of the local utility authority sent out an extraordinary little memo that is one part standard bureaucratic posterior-covering and one part cry for help, noting that a modest wind-energy project already has lost nearly $2 million a whopping number for a community of only 3,413. For perspective, consider that those losses occurred despite all of the subsidies the utility received for its wind-energy work; when the cost of those credits is accounted for, the real losses are even higher, but of course subsidy expenses are not borne in full directly by Princeton residents. Nevertheless, customers of the Princeton Municipal Light Department now pay more than a third more for their electricity than does the average Massachusetts residential customer, adding some $774,000 to their power bills in 2011. The financial position of the PMLD has been weakened, and there is little hope for significant improvements under current conditions.
As best I can look into the future, general manager Brian Allen wrote,I would expect the wind turbine losses to continue at the rate of around $600,000 a year. This assumes current wholesale electricity rates, no need for extraordinary repairs, and that both turbines continue operating. If any major repairs are required, this will be an additional expense for the PMLD. The original warranties on the turbines have expired, and extended warranty options are not available.
Those warranties are an acute concern: After becoming operational in 2010, one of Princetons two wind turbines broke down in August 2011 and was not back online until nearly a year later. Princeton had a warranty from the turbines manufacturer, the German firm Fuhrländer, but the usual political cluster of agents and subcontractors meant that the whole mess still is in litigation. If Princeton does not prevail in its lawsuit, it will suffer hundreds of thousands of dollars in additional expenses. The cost of replacing a gearbox on one of the Fuhrländer turbines is estimated at $600,000.
Those breakdowns are real concerns. According to the trade publication, Wind Energy Update, the typical wind turbine is out of commission more than 20 percent of the time and regularly scheduled maintenance accounts for only 0.5 percent of that downtime. The group also estimates that some $40 billion worth of wind turbines will go out of warranty by the end of 2012, leaving the Princetons of the world looking at a heap of expensive repair bills. In Europe, the largest wind-energy market, operations-and-maintenance expenses already are running into billions of dollars a year.
So where does that leave our friends in Massachusetts?
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