Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Government tax breaks and state renewable power mandates support wind generation with a goal of reducing CO2 and other air emissions. However, actual EPA emissions data indicates that in the Bonneville Power Authority (BPA), CAISO and ERCOT, wind energy saves very little CO2 and has only minimal impact on other air emissions. In the Midwest ISO, wind energy is currently more effective as an emission control strategy. In none of these areas, however, are the savings sufficient to justify the federal tax credit that underpins the technology.

EVERGREEN, CO (July 19, 2011) – For years the wind energy industry and numerous state and federal politicians have claimed that increasing the use of wind power to produce electricity will result in huge reductions in CO2 and other emissions. These claims rest on the results of dispatch models that predict not only emissions, but also fuel costs and generation levels for individual utilities and utility grids. A new Market Alert from BENTEK Energy, The Wind Power Paradox, presents findings that show these claims to be significantly overstated and that actual CO2 reductions are either so small as to be insignificant or too expensive to be practical.

BENTEK’s study is the first to systematically assess the emission reduction performance of wind generation based on hourly generation and emissions data. The analysis finds state and federal programs that support wind generation with a goal of substantially reducing pollution instead lead to slight or no emissions savings, along with increased costs for utilities and ultimately ratepayers. When power plants on a regional power grid are “cycled” to accept wind energy, the plants run less efficiently, leading to significant emissions and higher plant maintenance costs. The Market Alert reveals that equal or greater emissions reductions could be achieved at lower cost and with greater reliability by replacing existing coal-fired power generation with natural gas-fired generation.

“BENTEK has used actual hourly wind generation and emissions data to test the hypothesis that wind energy is an effective tool to control CO2 and other air emissions,” said BENTEK President Porter Bennett. “Policy makers should take note: the actual emissions data over a three-year period refutes these claims. This report requires reassessment of wind as an emission control strategy.”

The Wind Power Paradox is based on an independent study that uses detailed hourly data on wind generation and emissions from plants in four regional power areas across the United States. The modeling, done in conjunction with Dr. Daniel Kaffine of the Colorado School of Mines, examines the interaction among wind, coal and natural gas-fired generation within each region and the resulting changes in emissions in response to wind generation.

The study consists of more than 300,000 data points, including actual wind, coal and gas generation and emissions data for the years 2008, 2009 and 2010. All emissions data are taken directly from the Environmental Protection Agency, while wind generation data comes from the regional power areas. It differs from traditional analyses of wind power that are based on dispatch models. Dispatch models optimize or otherwise analyze generation options based on numerous unit level assumptions about such things as generation costs, demand and emissions rates. This new analysis does not rely on such assumptions; its conclusions reflect what actually happened in each system. This analysis also takes into account both exporting wind to other regions and any power plant dispatch changes in response to wind generation.

BENTEK’s 2010 wind, coal and gas study, How Less Became More, identified cycling issues in the ERCOT region (Texas) and Public Service Company of Colorado’s (PSCo) operating area. The Wind Power Paradox follows up that Market Alert, which concluded that emissions reductions thought to be achieved by wind generation in ERCOT and PSCo were either minimal or nonexistent in those territories.

For more information about BENTEK’s The Wind Power Paradox Market Alert and to see more market insight, log on to or call 1-888-251-1264.