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Ohio’s Blue Creek Wind Farm – Disappointing performance is not surprising

November 24, 2013

Blue Creek Pic

Many people point to the mandates of Ohio Senate Bill 221 or other such legislation in other states, which require the use of fashionable generation methods for electricity, as justification for subsidizing investment into economically questionable energy generation projects. To me this is an exercise in circular logic, mandating that we have to use more expensive means of generating electricity, and then using the rising cost of electricity to justify subsidizing more expensive means of generating electricity.

J. Graf – Effective Energy Strategy – March2013

In an editorial response appearing in the Fort Wayne Journal Gazette on 10/21/2013, four co-authors make the following points with regard to the Blue Creek Wind Farm and wind energy in general. I have taken the liberty to re-arrange their words for brevity in covering the main points here, but I certainly suggest the reader should seek this letter on the Journal Gazette website and read it in full:

Electricity from wind is very high in true cost and low in true value……………… Electricity from wind turbines is low in value because it can’t be counted on to be available when needed, and it is most likely to be produced at times when it is least needed. Wind turbines tend to produce most of their electricity at night in cold months, not on hot weekday afternoons in July and August when demand for electricity is highest. Furthermore, the electricity from wind tends to be low in value because the output can’t be counted upon to be available at the time of peak demand, unlike reliable (“dispatchable”) generating units that can be called upon to produce whenever needed.

Wind turbines produce electricity only when wind speeds are in the “right” range. Other generating units, powered by conventional energy sources (such as natural gas, coal, oil, hydropower, nuclear energy, and perhaps biomass) must always be immediately available to compensate for the intermittent, volatile output from wind turbines. This necessity adds to the true cost of using wind energy, and the unreliability of output from wind turbines adds to the burden on grid managers in keeping electrical grids in balance (supply and demand, voltage, frequency).

The principal reasons that companies such as Iberdrola build wind farms (including Blue Creek) are generous government tax breaks and subsidies provided to wind farm owners………….The cost of government financial subsidies for wind energy is borne by taxpayers, including Ohio taxpayers, and is in addition to the cost of electricity from wind that shows up in electric bills.

Tom Stacy, Glenn R. Schleede, Joan Null, and Larry Long –  Wind farm endorsement blows past facts  – October 2013 

Digging deeper into the subject of the Blue Creek Wind Farm; there is now evidence the 304 MW (nameplate capacity) wind farm in western Ohio is producing at a capacity factor of only 29.7%. In other words, the actual electricity produced in a year is only 29.7% of that which would be expected if the 304 MW facility produced at nameplate capacity around-the-clock for 8760 hours per year. In practical terms, this means we can expect that the wind farm is only capable of providing around 790,000 MWh of intermittent electricity per year. Please refer to the production information provided by the US EIA in EIA-923 2012 Data and also EIA-923 2013 Data ; and also refer to my Blue Creek Wind Farm Analysis.

The real output capacity factor of 29.7 % stands in contrast to the projected and advertised capacity factor of 34.7% (see AMP Presentation); although one wonders why anyone was ever excited about 34.7% in the first place.

The Blue Creek Wind Farm required an investment of $600 million, touted as the largest investment in wind in Ohio in 2011. This was offset, in part, by a federal stimulus grant for more than $172 million; and other government dictated incentives, such as Ohio’s SB 221 renewable energy mandates, played a key role. Unfortunately, once again, there is no hope of paying back the $600 million investment thru the sale of useful electricity at market rates (please see cash flow ROI in Blue Creek Wind Farm Analysis). As always, there must be heavy doses of subsidies from the taxpayer and individual customers to offset the losses and provide Iberdrola with a profit.

Despite their supposed presentation as power sources for average everyday power needs, wind turbine projects are often granted special Power Purchasing Agreements (PPAs) which allow prices for their electricity that are guaranteed and higher than average wholesale price. It is disconcerting that large portions of the feasibility studies and the on-going discussions are often devoted to proposals making the projects appear viable with public spending and it is evident that, to make these projects work, massive government subsidies and large increases in the cost paid for electricity will be required to offset the investment losses and attract investors.

Once again, other than the damage to the economy of the waste itself, the real problem with mandating and subsidizing non-viable energy technology projects is that this distracts us and diverts resources from other efforts to improve our energy production strategy. In how many different ways could we have spent this money and committed these resources, to produce far more reliable electricity and, at the same time, improved our energy strategy and reduced emissions of pollutants into our atmosphere?

There is no doubt that we in the USA need to alter our energy strategy. The question of how we will change it, however, needs to be determined by scientific evaluation of fact and logical analysis of performance and economics; not by emotion, political considerations, and “feel good” methodologies.

  1. Congrats with this excellent blog! Enjoyed reading it.
    My blog also deals occasionally with wind and solar energy, but you clearly have given it more thought than I did.
    I like the balanced way you write about the issue and the thorough way of investigating the things that other take for granted. Nice.

  2. Thank you for reading and commenting. I have taken a look at some of your entries as well, and find your perspective to be very insightful. It is very interesting to me to see the perspective of a man-on-the-street ( or “layman” as you put it) from Europe. Often, my information is limited to what I see and read in the USA and North America; and my information about other areas of the world is limited to what I can get from the major media (which is often slanted).

    I have a background in engineering, but I am certainly not an expert on energy generation. My interest in this subject took hold a few years ago when I realized that my local, state, and federal governments were spending large amounts of money of alternative “green” energy development (solar panels and wind turbines), but nobody seemed to know how much energy they would actually produce. They were failing to ask the basic questions.

    I will return to your blog and read some of your other posts. I look forward to seeing new posts from you, and continuing our correspondence.


  3. Thank you for sharing your compilation of information. This windfarm is in the process of acquiring more land to expand into another 13,000 acres and 150MW. Later this week, in fact, the media will be abuzz with tremendously large $ checks for area schools. The handful of individuals opposed to this project grow weary and are hopeful that SB34 will gain momentum and that the PTC will finallly die. Again, appreciate your efforts to inform!

    • What will the additional 150 MW cost?
      Who is paying for it?
      Where is the money for the schools coming from?
      It can be conclusively shown that the money CANNOT be coming from the sale of electricity at fair market rates; so where is it coming from???

      Please keep asking the questions, and let me know if I can help address the “media buzz”.

  4. Mary Klausing permalink

    Hello Jerry,
    You published an article December 3, 2013 regarding VW County’s Blue Creek Wind farm and its underperformance. It was a very interesting story. I was wondering if you would happen to have the figures for Blue Creek 2014 performance/capacity factor? We are trying to get the word out to Van Wert County citizens that we do not want Iberdrola Renewables Dog Creek project to start. I would like to put some letters to the editor in several newspapers with information that citizens need to know from the Blue Creek project. Any current information you may have would be grateful.

    Thank you,

    • Mary – Thank you for reading and asking. According to information published by the EIA at ……the Blue Creek Wind farm produced only 766,489 MWh of electricity in calendar year 2014. This is less than the it produced in the one year period mentioned in my earlier analysis, and indicates a Capacity Factor of only 28.8% in 2014.

      • Mary Kay Klausing permalink

        In 2013 The Ohio State University signed a letter of intent with Iberdrola Renewables to purchase 50 megawatts (MW) of wind energy capacity from the Blue Creek Wind Farm, located in Van Wert and Paulding counties in Ohio. They were expecting to save $ 1 million on its energy bill for that year. Do you know what the actual savings were or if there were any at all? Did the natural gas price decline affect the savings?

      • Mary – No. I’m sorry, I don’t have any information regarding this agreement with OSU or their electric bill.

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  1. Disappointing performance by Ohio’s Blue Creek Wind Farm | saveourskylineohio
  2. Ohio’s renewable grade card? C+ | saveourskylineohio

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