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Wind-to-Hydrogen project on Long Island

June 15, 2013
Hempstead’s 100-kilowatt wind turbine (image via Aegis Wind)

Hempstead’s 100-kilowatt wind turbine (image via Aegis Wind)

Per an article posted by Pete Danko on Earth Techling, Wind-To-Hydrogen A Winner On Long Island, the wind turbine feeding electricity to a Hydrogen and CNG fuel development facility on Long Island is a “winner”. Unfortunately, this is a pretty loose definition of “winner”.

First, as I indicate in my commentary under the article, I have no problem with the Hydrogen and CNG development as alternative fuels. I don’t know enough to comment on this project, but these fuels in general have merit and I support development efforts. Beyond that, however, the wind turbine itself is nowhere near a “winner”.

According to the figures presented in the article, and the supporting reference information, a total of $765,000 from the taxpayers was spent installing the wind turbine; which is expected to produce approximately 200 MWh of electricity per year. At the very much higher than normal cost of electricity in New York, this translates to approximately $40,000 of return per year.

A simplistic analysis of the payback, ignoring any operation and maintenance (O&M) costs, indicates return on the original investment will occur in a bit more than 19 years. This is not as pathetic as some wind projects, but it is nowhere near anything anyone would call a reasonable return; and considering that the wind turbine probably has a limited life expectancy of 20-25 years it is entirely questionable if payback will ever occur.

The excuse provided is that this wind turbine is “emissions-free” or “zero-emissions”; but we need to look just a little closer at this meaningless claim.

Wind Turbine Generation:

If we allow that the 200 MWh per year from the wind turbine can directly and entirely replace 200 MWh of coal fired electricity (this is really not a realistic assumption); then the wind turbine eliminates approximately 200,000 kg of CO2 emissions per year.

200 MWh x 1,000 kg CO2 per MWh for coal  =  200,000 kg CO2 emissions eliminated

Compare to Combined Cycle Gas Turbine (CCGT) Generation:

If we had spent the $765,000 on CCGT technology (rather than lining the pockets of a wind turbine snake oil salesman); we could have procured roughly 0.6 MW of CCGT capacity at the going rate of $1.1 – 1.2 million per MW for CCGT.

This 0.6 MW could subsequently produce about 4468 MWh per year

0.6 MW x 8760 hours/year x 85% capacity factor = 4468 MWh per year

If we allow that the 4468 MWh per year from the CCGT can directly and entirely replace 4468 MWh of coal fired electricity (this really is a completely realistic assumption); then the CCGT eliminates approximately 2,234,000 kg of CO2 emissions per year, which is about 50% of the coal fired emissions.

1,000 kg CO2 per MWh for coal
500 kg CO2 per MWh for CCGT

4468 MWh x 500 kg/MWh = 2,234,000 kg of CO2 emissions eliminated.

Once again, by investing the $765,000 differently, we could be getting 22 times the electricity and eliminating 11 times the annual CO2 emissions.  Isn’t eliminating 2,234,000 kg of CO2 better than eliminating 200,000 kg of CO2?  Why did we buy a wind turbine???

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One Comment
  1. Ed Ritchie permalink

    Another question worth asking: Is the turbine’s output monitored by the grid operator? This is a critical point for small scale distributed generation, especially from intermittent sources, such as wind and PV. f not monitored, the grid operator does not take the turbine’s electrical production into account and there is no reduction of operations at a coal-fired plant, and obviously, no reduction of emissions.

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