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One More on Wind
Jamais Cascio, 15 Nov 05

This is a short entry, but it's notable enough to warrant a main column position.

With the recent increase in natural gas prices, services using gas as a fuel have correspondingly become more costly. This is most visibly reflected in the cost of home-heating (customers in California have been warned that winter heating costs could double), but it affects electricity as well, used in many regions as fuel for power generation. Combine this with improvements in wind power technologies in recent years, and we get this somewhat startling (but very good to see) entry at the Green Power Markets page at the US Department of Energy:

November 2005 - Utility customers participating in green pricing programs that offer some form of protection from fossil-fuel price changes are finding that their green power premiums are shrinking or even turning negative. For example, as of November 1, Colorado customers participating in Xcel Energy's Windsource program are paying 0.66¢/kWh less for wind energy than for "regular" electricity because of an increase in the utility's energy cost adjustment (ECA). Since the ECA announcement, Xcel has sold out of its remaining available wind energy supply and has established a waiting list for new program signups.
In Oklahoma, OG&E Electric Services customers purchasing the OG&E Wind Power product now pay 0.13¢/kWh less for wind energy than for traditional electricity and customers of Edmond Electric's pure&simple wind power program now pay 0.33¢/kWh less.

In a growing number of regions across the US, wind power is now officially cheaper than the baseline electricity rate. The state-by-state ranking of green power programs still shows the October data; it's the page to keep an eye on to see how the "negative premium" scenario spreads.

(Thank you for the tip, Joseph Willemssen, who notes that Xcel Energy spokesmodels still reflexively claim that wind is more expensive.)

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Comments

I was actually noting that I didn't think that the way National Grid (upstate NY), and my green power provider billed was fair. No matter how the cost of electricity varied, I am charged a additional 1.5 cents/kWh for green power.

This doesn't take into account what the actual price of the green power is, it just adds a surcharge. Shouldn't there come a point where there is a negative premium? Especially if, in my case, a kWh is nearly 50% higher than last year?

I don't mind paying the extra 1.5c per kWh, that I choose to do. But it seems to me that the billing scheme is flawed.


Posted by: baloghblog on 15 Nov 05

Bahloblog: that definitely sounds like an issue a lot of environmental groups could take on.

It's nice to see that Xcel now has a waiting list. I had been opposed to the whole idea of green power as something bought separately- thinking utilities should have a certain quota (the renewable portfolio standard). Maybe that wasn't the best idea after all.

If green energy was to reflect the actual cost of its production, it would afford individuals some form of insurance against price increases. I think a few large institutions could be convinced to buy a portion or all of their energy if they had that advantage.


Posted by: Daniel Haran on 15 Nov 05

Despite the Windpower waiting list, Xhell continues to work against those groups who are trying to increase the utility's renewable energy portfolio percentage. Even when the voters mandated it, Xhell has been trying to find loopholes or debates the intent of the new law.


Posted by: Erik on 15 Nov 05

Well the main issue with wind and solar still stand too much in any one area and the power swings can cost the company alot of money in damaged equipment and wear and tear on power lines and transformers. Far worse then a brownout is a long lasting surge.


Posted by: wintermane on 15 Nov 05

Good post.

As liquid fuel costs rise, the wheat will separate from the chaff in the energy sector.

Wind is looking better all the time. Sure, it can be sporadic. Outside energy inputs to maintain are minimal once the capital is invested.

On a long enough time scale, petroleum has the same problem.


Posted by: Jon S. on 15 Nov 05

Opponents have earned wind an undeservedly bad reputation for being unreliable -- there's usually wind somewhere. When you average out wind sites in various locations the aggregate output is reliable and less likely to cause a brownout than the occasional failure of coal-fired power plant (therefore wind may be more reliable, it certainly offers lower cost & emissions for redundancy than the ageing power plants that remain in use for backup and peak loading).


Posted by: Sun Flower on 16 Nov 05

Actauly the reason wind is able to be a bigger part of power gen now then 10-20 years ago is both that the generator itself is more reliable and that the energy system itself has in many places been upgraded to handle more rapid swings in power usage and delivery,

But still there are limits to hat all those gizmos can handle and not every company has installed all the gizmos.

And thats what conservatives have always been saying. Tech in the end gives you the tools you want to do the jobs you need the way you want it done.


Posted by: wintermane on 16 Nov 05

I had heard about the Xcel story (actually blogged about it here) but I hadn't heard that Oklahomans where now getting wind power for cheaper than regular electricity as well. I guess it was only a matter of time and I was expecting the spread of areas this winter where wind is cheaper.

In my home town of Eugene, I've been purchasing wind power for my apartment for a couple years. Its still a bit more expensive (largely because my utility EWEB is a public utility district and thus non-profit and our rates are pretty low because of it) for me. However, that is because I use very little electricity. EWEB has a tiered rate structure for residential customers where the first 800 kWh or something like that cost less than the next 800 which are less than the next 800 etc thus encouraging people to conserve/be efficient. However, the wind rate structure (if you buy 100% wind power) is not tiered so if your house is an energy hog and you are paying third teir prices, it may actually be cheaper or at least a wash to go 100% wind. I bet other areas have a similar program.

Anyway, wind power will continue to spread and its clearly become competitive with traditional methods. These stories are great news. Keep them comin' when you find 'em.


Posted by: Jesse Jenkins on 16 Nov 05

One of the problems that grid managers have with wind is that they are not using DSM.  Measures as basic as throttling water heaters up and down to correspond to variations in supply (and other demand) don't seem to even be in the works, let alone used in practice.


Posted by: Engineer-Poet on 16 Nov 05



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