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Nebraska Official Winds Race for Stupidist on 8-11-2010

by nb41 Sun Aug 15th, 2010 at 12:03:42 PM EST

With apologies and thanks to Keith Olbermann, whose nightly vigil "World's Worst Person" is just so informative and I guess, for some, inspirational.

It seems that in just about every day in the USA of late there has been this intense race to the top...of "the Stupid Bowl". Granted, people like Glen Beck, Laura Ingram, Sharon Angle (probably the one with the most native talent in this regard), Sarah "The Paleocon (servative)" Palin  or our local favorite - Carl "Put 'em in Work Camps" Palladino - just seem to be so immensely talented in this regard that newbies almost never stand a chance to be the winner of the Stupid Bowl for the day. But, move over, you professional incompetents, here comes the Nebraska Public Power District (NPPD), and their big cheese, one Ron Asche.

Here's the money quote, as reported by Adrian Sanchez in the Columbus Telegram (McClatchy-Tribune Regional News) on August 11 in the article "NPPD head: Wind not enough to Sustain state's energy needs":

"If the Nebraska landscape was covered with wind farms, the energy  produced would not sustain the state's energy needs, according to Ron  Asche during a presentation Tuesday to the Columbus Noon Rotary."

The whole story is reprinted below.

Maybe Nebraska has plans to use a lot of energy, but seriously, just how much is enough? Talk about a rabid energy jones.... a lust of energy that seemingly knows no bounds.... Is this dude really serious in that presentation of his, or was he just doing a delayed April Fools Day prank? Well, he seems serious... probably a remaining Nordic trait of really dry humor, if any.

Anyway, some background is in order. Nebraska is one windy Great Plains state - the air that is pushed up over the Rockies cools significantly, and cold air is denser than warm air. The air becomes a roaring river of air over the Great Plains as it descends from the Rockies, and Nebraska is in the path of it, with very little in the way of surface obstructions. According to the new US Wind Map, just using only windy regions that are not state parks, wildlife reserves, etc, the potential electricity production for this state would be 3,540,370 Gigawatt-hrs/yr, or an average of 403 GW. That is amazingly close to the average current U.S. consumption of ~ 410 GW. On the map, Nebraska has a higher percentage of "purple" (~8.5 m/s at 80 meters) than just about any state. And that only uses wind turbines on 80 meter towers, too - not much need to stretch to 100 meter heights. The study done by AWS Truewind for the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) estimates that 917,999 MW of wind turbine capacity could be installed across the state in the citizens of Nebraska wanted to get serious about their energy production potential. These units would have net operating rates of 44% (403/917.8), which, by NY State standards, is astoundingly good. Maybe good by European standards, too.

Anyway, let's say that the publicly owned NPPD (their equivalent of that ultra-socialist idea of NYPA) just wimps out big-time and installs only 1% of their potential. That would still be 4 GW of electricity as an average output, requiring only 9,200 MW of installed wind capacity (presently they have about 150 MW of wind turbines installed). What would that do for them?

According to the US Energy Information Agency, the electricity consumption of Nebraska residents was an average of 3.28 GW ( 28,810,989 MW-hr/yr for 8784 hours). Nebraska actually produced an average of 3.69 GW but it exported a net of 0.41 GW to other states (probably Illinois via Iowa); it also gets the use of some super-cheap hydroelectricity from dams in South Dakota (Missouri River, dating from the 1930's). It has 6 coal powered electricity plants, 7 natural gas ones and two old nukes. Almost all electricity generated in Nebraska is made via NPPD and OPPD (alias socialist and Nebraska is noted for its conservative, Rethuglican bent) owned facilities, and this is a contributing factor in the low average cost of delivered electricity in the state (NPPD also owns most of the transmission lines). The average delivered price of electricity was ~ 7 c/kw-hr vs an average of nearly 10 c/kw-hr for the country and over 15 c/kw-hr in NY State (much of the transmission costs are yanked upwards via property taxes on electric lines/substations/transmission lines by small towns and rural counties). Since NPPD and OPPD (Omaha Public Power District) are  state owned, taxes are not an issue.

About 2/3 of Nebraska's electricity is supplied by coal mined in the Powder River basin (Wyoming and Colorado), which retails for $10/ton these days; Nebraska is located next to America's largest, cheapest coal reserves, and the primary cost to NPPD and OPPD is the train fare for this coal. As a result of the consumption of 13.8 megatons of coal (almost all for electricity), the state's CO2 pollution was 24.5 megatons CO2/yr just for electricity. Adding in the ~ 19 megatons CO2/yr from oil consumption and 10 megatons CO2 from methane (natural gas) consumption gives a state per capita CO2 pollution rate of 29.7 tons/person/yr. This is about twice that of a NY resident, though since we have 19.5 million people and Nebraska has 1.8 million people, we in NY still emanate more CO2 pollution.

So, Nebraska has dirt cheap electricity, arising from those old polluting coal burners that use cheap and nearby Wyoming coal, along with a couple of old nukes (Cooper = 800 MW, 36 years old, Fort Calhoun, 500 MW, 44 years old). It is a big, largely unpopulated state, with most people living near the Missouri River, with a N-S width of 210 miles, and an E-W width of nearly 410 miles. To the north is South Dakota, also an incredibly windy state (similar dimensions of Nebraska), wind turbine potential of at least 389 GW, and to the south is Kansas, also similarly dimensioned and also incredibly windy (wind energy potential of 416 GW or more).

According a recent study by Archer and Jacobson and in an earlier study a large group of wind turbine arrays distributed across a large region of windy area (and the Kansas-Nebraska-South Dakota region most definitely fits that bill) behaves more like a baseline production facility. These studies also assumed no energy storage (deferred hydro, pumped hydro, compressed air storage) was employed, and such systems can significantly level out any variability, as well as  deal with varying peak demands. The required area in the mid-west of the U.S. needed to achieve base-load characteristics was 400 miles x 400 miles (Kansas and Nebraska) without any energy storage. To deliver reliable base-load power, approximately half of the yearly average output of the arrayed wind farms could be relied upon.

For Nebraska, this means that 6600 MW of wind farm output could be used to deliver the average of ~ 3300 MW needed for Nebraska's electricity (probably less, as this also has some peak power usage in this number). At an average of 44% capacity, this would require 15,000 MW of wind farms scattered across Kansas and Nebraska; less if the pumped hydro and deferred hydro capabilities/capacities in South Dakota (Lakota Sioux lands, notably) were employed. The 15 GW of wind farms would cost about $30 billion, and involve 480,000 job-years of direct employment, mostly in manufacturing. And since that is manufacturing, there is a job multiplier of about 4 to 5 associated with those manufacturing and construction jobs, somewhere (obviously, it would be good for Nebraska to capture as much of them as is possible). At an average wind turbine rating of 2.5 MW, about 6,000 turbines would be needed. Since 84% of Nebraska is assumed to be "turbine suitable", and there is 77,421 square miles in the state, land area should not be much of a problem. As for the extra electricity...it would be exported out of state, and used in places like Denver, St Louis and Chicago.

Besides, wind turbines go great with farming, or on prairies where Buffalo or cows are apt to wander around. The $5,000 to $10,000 per turbine per year for land leasing is also a plus for whoever owns the land.

Due to the incredible wind resource of Nebraska, the actual production cost would be  as follows:

O&M/lease/insurance/warranty   ................ 1.0 c/kw-hr (per recent NREL study)
Capital/Debt* repayment @ 10%    ............... 5.2

Sum of costs   ................................................. 6.2 c/kw-hr

* Assumes a loan at 8%/yr for 20 years

Of course, if NPPD and OPPD had the inclination, they could borrow money at 4% for 20 years at the present time. Total costs would then be something like 4.8 c/kw-hr  .... call it 5 c/kw-hr, and this is with NO subsidies like the REPI, PTC and/or MACRS, or sale of Green Tags to guilty rich people located mostly in the money centers of the world.

So, to recap, more income for farmers (about $60 million/yr), a hefty addition to  manufacturing job ranks (presently 92,000) in the state of up to 24,000 in direct jobs possible, and the retention of close to $400 million/yr otherwise spent for coal and associated rail costs. But, electricity prices might rise slightly on a delivered basis, to nearly 10 c/kw-hr from 7 c/kw-hr over a 10 to 20 year period (over the time to phase in non-polluting electricity/phase out polluting coal and nuke derived electricity).

And of course, one more thing. Nebraska's climate is considered "semi-arid"; irrigation is needed to grow crops like corn and soybeans. The predictions of almost all global climate models is that more CO2 in the atmosphere will lead to a warmer average temperate in the atmosphere, and a significantly hotter and drier Nebraska. In other words, all that cheap electricity made from coal has another cost to farmers - a conversion from semi-arid to arid, and essentially no more farming other than cactus and sagebrush. As for a price to that - I guess that's priceless. Think Moscow, Russia in the summer of 2010 as a future for Nebraska, which would leave the vast majority of the state essentially completely uninhabitable, devoid of water in the summer.

Back to Mr. Asche. A good question to him might be what's the price of cheap pollution derived electricity. Not that he would ever provide a coherent answer. He seems positively inebriated with that super-cheap (at least, in the short term) electricity. Yum. Hey, dude, why not have another shot of that cheap juice, stolen from the prospect of a viable future... at least while the climate permits it.....

Oh well.... Don't ya let that deal go down ... maybe even Nebraska has a responsibility to be a part of the planet, and not  just those with the cheapest electricity. Ditto for its leaders.


The article in question:

NPPD head: Wind not enough to sustain state's energy needs
Aug 11 - McClatchy-Tribune Regional News - Adrian Sanchez  Columbus Telegram, Neb.

If the Nebraska landscape was covered with wind farms, the energy  produced would not sustain the state's energy needs, according to Ron  Asche during a presentation Tuesday to the Columbus Noon Rotary.

Providing Nebraska Public Power District's (NPPD) position on  energy generated from wind, Asche, NPPD president and CEO, highlighted  reasons  wind energy may provide supplemental support, but it will never  become a primary source for generation.

"Look outside, there is not a lot of wind. You can guess where this is going," Asche said to the crowd of about 50 people. "There are high loads on the system today, but no wind," he said.  "Wind is not a very stable generation facility" as wind speeds and  patterns can vary significantly from hour to hour and day to day,  affecting energy production.

Read on...

Ron Asche background:
Mr. Asche was named NPPD President and CEO on February 18, 2006. Prior to being named to this position, Mr. Asche was NPPD Vice President of Finance, Risk Management & Rates/Chief Financial Officer. He graduated from the University of Nebraska in Lincoln in 1971 with a bachelor's degree in Business Administration, and joined NPPD in February 1976 as Accounting Systems Supervisor.

Lifetime employee of NPPD. Obviously steeped in District culture. Appointed from within by the current Republican Governor, Dave Heineman. Three executives of NPPD each made $500 donations to AMERICAN PUBLIC POWER ASSOCIATION PUBLIC OWNERSHIP OF ELECTRIC RESOURCES PAC. Renewables are identified with some Democrats, fossil fuels with most Republicans.

It is fortunate that he has not yet managed to "privatize" NPPD.

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."

by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Sun Aug 15th, 2010 at 05:43:04 PM EST
[ET Moderation Technology™]

Article quoted at the end has been edited to comply with our quoting guidelines. See New User Guide on offsite material.

Readers can follow the link to read the full article.

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Mon Aug 16th, 2010 at 02:55:06 AM EST
a few,

Thanks for the touch- up.


by nb41 on Mon Aug 16th, 2010 at 05:50:50 PM EST
[ Parent ]
European Tribune - Nebraska Official Winds Race for Stupidist on 8-11-2010
Nebraska is located next to America's largest, cheapest coal reserves

You said it. Asche is shilling for coal with the usual: "Oh, look! The wind isn't blowing today!".

Unfortunately, the unsuspecting and gullible swallow it. Mission accomplished?

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Mon Aug 16th, 2010 at 03:01:17 AM EST
"If the Nebraska landscape was covered with wind farms, the energy  produced would not sustain the state's energy needs, according to Ron  Asche during a presentation Tuesday to the Columbus Noon Rotary."

Two problems in this quote, the obvious lie is about potential power generation, which has been thoroughly destroyed in the post.

The second one is the choice of language "landscape covered in wind farms" implies that the land would be covered in windmills. This misleading description is designed to create a false image in peoples minds of the result of building the wind farms in Nebraska.

Truth is most of Nebraska, especially the purple part depicted in the US wind map linked in the post, is empty. Western Nebraska, along with Western Kansas, South Dakota and even further south, are areas that have been steadily losing population since the 1970's. Wind Power offers a measure of economic uplift to areas that have abandoned farming because it's too dry.

Wind power is a full win for everyone in this region of the US, and it is a crime that coal industry prostitutes like Ron Asche get to spout their BS in public.

by US Blues on Mon Aug 16th, 2010 at 12:56:53 PM EST

Wow, well said. This state has the motherlode of a wind resource, and it's still not going to do squat about tapping it.

As Jerry was known to say, "got two good eyes and still can't see..."


by nb41 on Mon Aug 16th, 2010 at 05:56:21 PM EST
[ Parent ]
ditto above...it is simply staggering how blindly self-destructive republican ideology is.

let's hope the utter untenability of their retrogressive stance on this (and so much else) has become fully visible to voters, come november!

'The history of public debt is full of irony. It rarely follows our ideas of order and justice.' Thomas Piketty

by melo (melometa4(at)gmail.com) on Mon Aug 16th, 2010 at 07:28:14 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Let's not forget that logic and rational discourse are not a part of this debate. This is about controlling the flow of money for an essential modern human need.

I'd bet there isn't one farmer or rancher in the entire state of Nebraska who wouldn't welcome turbines + revenue on his spread, unless he was already bought, or insane.

Though the coal industry does attract people who get off on real equipment, and think monster trucks are just for the rubes.

"Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one's courage." - Anaïs Nin

by Crazy Horse on Tue Aug 17th, 2010 at 04:37:19 PM EST
[ Parent ]

Any possibility that a syndicate of wealthy Euorpean's bored of playing with derivatives and currency speculation might make an offer for the western part of the state? Too bad 300 GW can't be exported across the ocean. Maybe some exotic lease for most of the state? Just saying....


by nb41 on Tue Aug 17th, 2010 at 10:06:40 PM EST
[ Parent ]
You've got me thinking. I've been wondering about such a structure for some wind projects on Lakota lands (to the north of Nebraska, and stronger winds) for some time now.  Hmmm.

"Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one's courage." - Anaïs Nin
by Crazy Horse on Wed Aug 18th, 2010 at 02:03:59 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Republic of Lakotah - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
The Republic of Lakotah is in negotiations to establish its own energy company, and hopes to develop solar and wind power and sell surplus electricity to the United States. This would represent a continuation of projects in the past that have sourced renewable energy on tribal lands.[6]

"The future is already here -- it's just not very evenly distributed" William Gibson
by ChrisCook (cojockathotmaildotcom) on Wed Aug 18th, 2010 at 05:34:02 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I read a report on the efforts of the Lakota to start a wind farm. Here is a quickie on their awesome wind resource: http://www.osti.gov/bridge/servlets/purl/951198-QqTMUr/

It turns out that there is one one 115 kv line that goes through the Lakota lands, and that goes from the Missouri River (a dam run by the US Army Corps of Engineering) into Nebraska. NPPD owns the line, and are the customers for the electricity. The Lakota were trying to get the wind based electricity down to 2.9 c/kw-hr to meet the maximum price NPPD would tolerate. They came close but couldn't quite get there.

NPPD could have upped their price a touch to make up for past genocide, but no dice. So, no Lakota wind farm as there is just no way to get the electriciy product off to market. Oh well...


by nb41 on Wed Aug 18th, 2010 at 09:31:59 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I cannot find clear, readable maps showing the North American Grid but, from what I can see it seems that eastern S. Dakota is a regional hub and there are connections to Minneapolis. There is significant population density in Minnesota and it might be feasible to upgrade lines from South Dakota and finance lines from the reservation to the South Dakota hub. That could be a very green way to warm the hearths of Homo Minneapolis in very cold winters. Upgrade a few more lines and you have a way to cool hot summers in Chicago.

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."
by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Fri Aug 20th, 2010 at 03:59:58 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Here is a low resolution grid map:


There is an intersection of 230 kv and a 345 kv in the center of South Dakota next to a big dam on the Missouri River. And all the coal burners in the region also need to be near a river for cooling water. And it is those coal burners that hog the output of the transmission lines, plus the dams on the Missouri.

What there really is a need for is a choice. Should those wires be used for existing, largely pollution based electricity, or renewables. And will the Missouri River be allowed to be the source of the water for pumped hydro storage, as well as deferred hydro.

And so looks like coal wins for now... It owns the lines..


by nb41 on Fri Aug 20th, 2010 at 09:39:53 PM EST
[ Parent ]
And so looks like coal wins for now... It owns the lines..

That was a good move for coal. But in California the PUC forced the utilities to sell the transmission infrastructure, if I recall correctly. Of course that was a dark side move to enable profiteering, a la Enron. Seems like such moves work so much better when done for dark side motives.

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."
by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Fri Aug 20th, 2010 at 11:32:03 PM EST
[ Parent ]
... Gordon Ingram, manufacturer of machine pistols for just about every fascist goon-squad and hitman in Latin America?

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Sun Aug 22nd, 2010 at 07:09:25 PM EST

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