NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Nevada Energy Windmill Program Generates Rebates, Little Electricity

April 13, 2012

The state of Nevada has been experimenting with its nascent wind energy potential through a number of statewide programs that encourage the installation of turbines, specifically in rural areas.  However, one such program, started in 2007, is fraught with unintended consequences that will likely prove costly and unproductive in the long run, says the Las Vegas Sun.

Clean Energy Center managing member Rich Hamilton warned the Public Utilities Commission that the law, which provides rebates to customers upon the installation of turbines, would likely fail because it failed to place requirements on the installation.

  • Hamilton specifically points out that rebates were made available to customers regardless of whether or not the turbine actually produced electricity.
  • This encouraged installations with no concern for the potential output of the project and no consideration of average wind speeds at the site.
  • So far, statewide, about 150 turbines have been installed through the 2007 law.
  • Furthermore, the program has run at a cost of about $46 million thus far.
  • The city of Reno alone, which invested substantially in the turbines, received rebates equivalent to $150,000 for turbines that netted the city $2,800 in energy savings.

Additionally, a number of incidents of shoddy construction and/or installation have been reported.  In one event, a turbine rated for winds up to 110 miles per hour (mph) fell apart in a 105-mph gust.

Jason Geddes, who runs the city of Reno's renewable energy program, is looking to the future of such a program and has made several recommendations about how to proceed with an effective and efficient rebate program.

  • He argues for research about wind behavior to be conducted at proposed turbine sites before expensive construction is begun.
  • However, he opposes the broad use of vague wind charts that yield average wind speeds in certain areas, stating that these studies are often misleading, inaccurate or misinformed.
  • Rather, he advocates the use of anemometers, which could be used to take readings for a full calendar year to ensure that turbine installation would be beneficial.

Source: Anjeanette Damon, "NV Energy Windmill Program Generates Rebates, Little Electricity," Las Vegas Sun, March 30, 2012.

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