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. 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.
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 (
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.