THE PRICE OF WIND

May 13, 2010

The ferocious opposition from Massachusetts liberals to the Cape Wind project has provided a useful education in green energy politics.  And now that the Nantucket Sound wind farm has won federal approval, this decade long saga may prove edifying in green energy economics too, says the Wall Street Journal: Namely, the price of electricity from wind is more than twice what consumers now pay. 

On Monday, Cape Wind asked state regulators to approve a 15-year purchasing contract with the utility company National Grid at 20.7 cents per kilowatt hour, starting in 2013 and rising at 3.5 percent annually thereafter.  Consumers pay around nine cents for conventional power today.  The companies expect average electric bills to jump by about $1.59 a month, because electricity is electricity no matter how it is generated and Cape Wind's 130 turbines will generate so little of it in the scheme of the overall New England market, says the Journal: 

  • That works out to roughly $443 million in new energy costs and doesn't count the federal subsidies that Cape Wind will receive from national taxpayers.
  • It does, however, include the extra 6.1 cents per kilowatt hour that Massachusetts utilities are mandated to pay for wind, solar and the like under a 2008 state law called the Green Communities Act.
  • Also under that law, at least 15 percent of power company portfolios must come from renewable sources by 2020. 

Two weeks ago, U.S. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar approved Cape Wind, placing it in the vanguard of "a clean energy revolution."  A slew of environmental and political outfits have since filed multiple lawsuits for violations of the Endangered Species Act, the National Environmental Policy Act, the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act, certain tribal-protection laws, the Clean Water Act, the Migratory Bird Treaty Act and the Rivers and Harbors Act. 

There's comic irony in this clean energy revolution getting devoured by the archaic regulations of previous clean energy revolutions.  But given that taxpayers will be required to pay to build Cape Wind and then required to buy its product at prices twice normal rates, opponents might have more success if they simply pointed out what a lousy deal it is, says the Journal. 

Source: Editorial, "The Price of Wind," Wall Street Journal, May 12, 2010. 

For text:

http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748703880304575236453005869966.html 

 

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