Tuesday, June 10, 2008

No Fuel Costs or CO2 using Wind Turbines

Dave Bradley of the Buffalo Wind Action Group wrote informative answers to questions asked about my post, Clean Coal: More Expensive, Less Desirable. The answers are in the comments section below that post, but in case you missed them, I decided to post them here:

Question: How much of that $1.5B cost for Huntley is government subsidy?
Answer: Most of that $1.5 billion (and it could be $2 Billion) is the cost of constructing the facility AND the Air Separation plant(s) to supply it with O2 instead of air. The subsidies come from allowing the CO2 pollution to occur, and also from the long term power purchase agreement that would take place between NRG and the New York Power Authority (NYPA). The price stability (very hard to find in NY) would protect it from competition from lower cost generation, such as onshore wind turbines.

There may also be certain subsidies from either NY State or the Dept. of Energy for this initial trial plant (though other such projects have been done on a slightly smaller scale). But the main subsidies are the essentially cost free allowance to pollute our atmosphere with fossil fuel derived CO2, not including the costs of coal mining (like mountain top removal), and the preferential stability that a Power Purchase Agreement gives (wind projects get no such treatment from NYPA in NY). That will lower the financing insecurity, and save the owners billions in higher interest costs that would otherwise happen if NRG has to sell this power on the NYISO at whatever rate NYISO goes for at any given time - the so-called free enterprise route.

Question: And how much solar or wind generating capacity could that much money buy? 680 MW?
Answer: As for the $1.5 billion in capital, that could buy 750 MW of installed onshore wind capacity - a very decent sized wind farm, or set of farms. With an average of 33% output (typical NY value), this would deliver an average of 250 MW of power. However, most of the costs would be involved in paying down the debt - no fuel costs for wind turbines. That avoids this terrible fate.

The Huntley plant was built for $40/ton coal, and so far this year, prices are now near $108/ton, with this just the early part of summer. The coal price spike is due to oil and natural gas prices going up, as well as the devaluation of the dollar, which allows Europeans (Euro currency) to buy our coal cheap (to them) and the increased demand just spikes U.S. prices. The one virtue of coal used to be its cheapness - and that is also fading away.

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