Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Wind Power: Looking Ahead

For those feeling snowed under, or just plain snowed, by the factoids (like the price of electricity in the Netherlands) flying around on wind power, take heart. Between now and the end of November, we will have much more information to consider.
The Public Service Commission (PSC), Controller General, DNREC and Office of Management & Budget will soon have a new staff report, comments and draft agreements to consider:
October 29: The staff delivers its report on the term sheets to the PSC and other agencies.
November 12: Comments on the term sheets and the staff report are due from participants.
November 20: The PSC and the other agencies meet to discuss the staff report and comments.
November 30: Draft Power Purchase Agreements are due from Delmarva Power, Bluewater Wind, Conectiv and NRG.
After the PPAs are presented, the PSC and other agencies will have something on the table on which to act. Here's where it gets hairy.
Prominent legislators have asked Controller General Russ Larson to refrain from ratifying an agreement without consulting them first. Without consensus among the leadership in the General Assembly, Larson may be compelled to abstain from acting until legislators reconvene in January.
There is also the pending threat of litigation, already filed, from Delmarva Power to nullify the entire process.
So how do we as citizens evaluate the proposed wind farm? While there is plenty more analysis yet to come, I am increasingly convinced it will come down to this: If the price of coal and natural gas remain flat for the next thirty years, we will pay a premium for wind power of about five dollars a month. This is highly unlikely.
The price of natural gas has tripled in the last decade. The expense of imposing carbon controls on coal powered plants will drive costs up at least 20 percent according to an MIT study. Finally, the peak oil phenomenon will sharply increase demand for other power sources.

With more relevant data coming, we still have more homework to do to understand how these factors will shape our energy future.

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