Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Question on community wind revenues

Dear Mick,

Just one question for now - how is community-owned wind more efficient that than the industrial turbines, unless it goes into a locally-controlled grid? (I'm not aware that such things exist). I know you also mentioned this with the Mount View project as well, trying to match generation to use.

Doesn't everything go into the New England grid and get sold through contracts to whoever? (eg. I understand the Freedom project has a contract so sell to New Hampshire).


No. That notion applies to big producers like Freedom, who must find wholesale buyers and also make up money selling Renewable Energy Credits (RECS). But for smaller community-owned sites, the Public Utilities Commission of Maine has a series of regulations that allow...

1) Net metering for small energy producers (Title 3, chap 313). Allows small generation facility owners to get retail price credit for power the produce, even power they put into the grid at one place (meter) and use at another "in the vicinity," up to 100KWH. So this creates a value of 12-15 ¢/KWH for facility owners rather than the wholesale price of 0.5 to 2 ¢, up to a point.

2) Aggregation for surplus KWH (Chap 315): Small facilities owners can save up KWH they produce at windy times, and times of low power demand, as credit, and use it at other times. After the maximum allowable, they have to accept wholesale price.

3) Provisional rule on shared ownership (Docket 2008-410). A group of individuals can share in the ownership of a generating facility, as a co-op, a non-profit or for profit corporation, or as a branch of a municipal corporation and use rules 1 and 2 to create and aggregate KWH credits at retail values. That means that you and a bunch of Jackson neighbors, or the town, could put up a turbine in a windy spot and get a high retail value for the power produced, up to a point (100KWH/hour rated equipment), and use it to pay everyone's power bills.

Not as easy as it sounds, quite a bit of small print, but that's it in a nutshell.

And the power generated on site close to homes and other demand sources means that less coal, oil, natural gas, or nuclear power is used elsewhere. Those sources are powered down a fraction as turbines come on line. Also, because production is closer to demand, there are fewer losses to transmission, which losses are considerable, so there's a "double dividend."

Finally, the CO2 produced by the production of wind turbines and their lifecycle use is about 1/100th of that produced by regular power generations systems.

I will post this on my blog, having deleted your name and email, as it's an answer to a series of commonly asked questions.


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