CAPE WIND'S DIRTY DEAL
Nonsense Springs Eternal in Gordonville
He has done it again! Boston's Jim Gordon has bent the backs of governments and large utility companies to suit his purposes. Cape Wind and Massachusetts governor Deval Patrick announced yesterday that NSTAR has agreed to a fifteen year Power Purchase Agreement (PPA) accounting for 27.5% of Cape Wind's projected capacity. NSTAR is seen by many as having caved in to political pressure, blackmail: Buy Cape Wind's power or you will never receive approval by Massachusetts and Connecticut to merge with Northeast Utilties.
This is a serious charge to make. Perhaps, but it is also clearly true. Deval Patrick has been a Cape Wind flack since before he was elected to his first term as governor and nothing has changed. For more than a year only half of Cape Wind's power was under agreement. National Grid was the first to drink Jim Gordon's Cool Aid at an astonishing price of 18.7 cents per kilowatt with a compounding annual 3.5% increase over its entire fifteen year agreement. Still, with only half of his capacity sold Jim Gordon was dead in the water, unable to finance his project and start construction. Now he has been saved yet again by that now famous clause he inserts into all his contracts, the Santa clause. This whole deal is one enormous gift to Gordon and his Olympian ego, or greed. It is a tribute to his tenacity as well as to the ineptitude of multiple agencies and the foolishensss of many so-called environmental advocates.
For those who care to wade through the murky and shark infested waters of Cape Wind's written record there are yet new details which some might say prove the claim that something is deeply flawed in Cape Wind's plan. The time table for this project is one aspect that troubles many, myself among them. On January 3 of this year ISO New England submitted comments to the federal energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) as follows -
Re: ISO New England Inc. Docket No. ER12-__ 000
Informational Filing for Qualification in the Forward Capacity Market
COMMENT DUE DATE OF JANUARY 18, 2012 PURSUANT TO THE TARIFF
On page eighteen it is clearly stated that Gordon's operating entity, Energy Management Inc., known as EMI, would fail to bring either of its two proposed power plants into "...commercial Operation by the start of the 2015-2016 Capacity Committment Period." The two projects in question are the 400 MW gas-fired plant planned for Westfield, Massachusetts and the 468MW Cape Wind project in nantucket Sound. ISO New England. Now the region's independent System Operator has denied both of Gordon's projects as they applied for acceptance into the Forward Capacity Market.
In two straightforward paragraphs ISO New England explained that their analysis of data provided by EMI showed serious problems. The most obvious is the lack of credible data to support either power plant being able to produce commercial quantities of energy by June 30 of 2015. The second was that Cape Wind's new power would require a new transmission line from cape Cod to the rest of Massachusetts at a huge cost.
Also, an interesing comment appears regarding Cape Wind's projected capacity. "The Cape Wind Associates LLC project requested to be qualified with a summer Qualified Capacity of 94.170MW in the Southeast Massachusetts Load Zone." However, in a ten page hand-out entitled Cape Wind & Massachusetts Creating jobs and providing Clean power to Massachusetts, dated February 15, 2012, the following claim appears on page five, "Actual hourly wind data shows that the project's capacity factor would have averaged an impressive 76 percent during the region's top ten historic demand hours." Presumably this calculation was done using the wind data Cape Wind has been gathering since 2003 at its data tower in Nantucket Sound, the same wind data which Cape Wind steadfastly refuses to release to the public.
While we could conduct a very technical analysis of wind turbine generating capacities, how much actual electricity is produced by a turbine of a given size, the effect would be to bore most readers. However. some thought on this is necessary. Cape Wind claims its project will have a name plate capacity of 468MW (3.6MW per turbine X 130 turbines). This capacity is reduced to 454MW due to the resistance (line loss) in the six miles of various transmission cables which are part of the project. The project's federal permit is based on a projected 38% actual capacity. 38% of 454MW = 172MW. While Cape Wind now claims that at historic peak demand times it would have produced at 76% of its nameplate capacity, twice the capacity claimed in the federal permit, we do not read what their overall capacity would have been over the past, say five or ten years.
All this is improtant as we watch Massachusetts bully utility companies into buying power from Cape Wind. After all, if this new PPA calls for Cape Wind to provide 129MW of electricity, does this actually mean 38% of 129MW, or 49MW? What if Cape wind actually operates at the same capacity levels we see in Europe's offshore wind farms? There we have actual operating records showing capacities as low as 18%, but averaging in the 20% - 25% range. If National Grid and NSTAR have contracted to receive power from Cape Wind but Cape Wind delivers only half of the expected capacity, who makes up for the shortfall in the region's electric supply? Better yet, since the utility companies would likely be forced to substitute power they would have to buy on the spot market, typically costing five-to-fifteen times the usual wholsesale price, who will pay that premium? This extra charge is generally passed on to the consumer when, for example, peak demand on hot summer days exceeds in-place capacity, forcing the utility company into the spot market to buy extra power. Retail electric bills reflect this added cost and the utility company remians profitable.
So, Jim Gordon, what is it going to be? 172MW? 94.17MW? 38%? 18%? 76%? This is all so confusing and that, I suspect, is how Jim Gordon wants it. But, here is one simple fact: in the years 1919, 1920 and 1921 respectively, three notable physicists made calculations showing how much actual capacity could be excpected from wind trubines. Premier among these was Carl Betz who in 1919 published his findings. The Betz Principle states that under perfect conditions a wind turbine will actually generate 30% of its nameplate capacity. So, a 3.6MW turbine will produce 30% of 3.6MW. This looks to me to be 1.08MW. I am no technical genius, nor is Jim Gordon, but Carl Betz was.
If 30% is what we should expect under ideal conditions, what should we anticipate from a wind farm in Nantucket Sound? And, who will pay for the shortfall which will almost surely occur? It is telling indeed that ISO New England evaluated information provided to them by Cape Wind Associates LLC and based on that information rejected Cape Wind's application for acceptance into the Forward Capcity Market. Somebody needs to have a heart-to-heart chat with Deval Patrick.
Copyright 2012 by Peter A. Kenney