Grid can’t rely on renewables alone

Thank you for printing the story “County site boosts wind electricity record” (Dec. 9). Readers are hereby introduced to the website published by New York Independent Systems Operator (NYISO) where real-time fuel use of the State’s electricity generators can be viewed at www.nyiso.com.

The story highlights two recent days, Dec. 6 and 8, on which the state’s wind turbines produced power close to their maximum capacity on the Dec. 6 and close to none on Dec. 8. Also included are comments by representatives of two state energy authorities — the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority and New York Independent Supply Operators.

NYSERDA’s comment is of concern since they are advocating for placing wind turbines in the waters of Lake Erie off Dunkirk’s shores. The statement from NYISO reflects the realities of depending on wind power to maintain our energy security. The story begs a deeper dive into the resources of NYISO’s real-time dashboard where the power generated by wind energy and other fuel sources can be observed day-to-day in five minute increments and historically through an archival record.

On Dec. 5, the day preceding the record breaking 1,808 MW production, the state’s wind turbines spent the morning struggling to produce 100 MW. Production ramped up later that afternoon into the 1,000-plus range leading to its eventual record peak of 1,808 MW the next day. Following the record peak on Dec. 6 production sank slowly back to less than 100 MW where it languished into Dec. 8.

The record production of Dec. 6 represents an 82.5% efficiency of the state’s wind turbine fleet. An audit of the NYISO dashboard archives from January through October, shows only nine days like December 6 where the efficiency exceeded 60%. But there were 62 days like Dec. 8 where the turbines could not produce 100 MW for most of the day.

There were 235 days where the machines functioned at less than 30% efficiency, about 660 MW. An average day of in-state total power generation from all fuel sources ranges from 14,000 to 16,000 MW per five-minute period. The dashboard also reveals the total daily power consumption statewide at 16,000 MW to 18,000 MW, meaning that on average 2,000 to 4,000 MW must be imported from out of state to meet demand. The current wind production does not even offset the daily import, much of it generated by fossil fuels.

The point of all this number crunching is to illustrate that no matter how many wind turbines NYSERDA promotes in our lake or on our lands their energy is an insufficient, unreliable and fossil-dependent source of power.

Whether the goal is to maintain a modern economy or to reduce the emissions of greenhouse gasses contributing to climate change wind turbines can’t do the job. But we wouldn’t know that from the comments in the story by the president and CEO of NYSERDA whose board of directors contains 12 members.

Six of these represent financial investment firms that feed off the guaranteed rates of return from wind turbine subsidies. A seventh member is the chairman of the governor’s appointed wind turbine siting board. The NYSERDA CEO stated “renewable energy has a critical role to play in both growing our green economy and combatting the very real threat of climate change.” The NYSERDA chief is thrilled to announce a record-breaking day of wind turbine productivity. But readers should not expect an apology for the more meaningful days of little or no generation.

NYSERDA’s intention to sacrifice Lake Erie’s economy and ecology can be seen in the record of a failed source of power production. NYSERDA’s promises are based on the fickle wind, here today and gone tomorrow.

The story’s quote from the president and CEO of the state’s power grid management non-profit corporation NYISO contains a more honest message. While recognizing the record wind turbine power output of Dec. 6, the NYISO chief stated, “It is also a reminder of the rapid change impacting the bulk electric system and the need to carefully manage this transition. Timely development of new energy resources is critical to meeting the state’s renewable investment and decarbonization mandates while maintaining reliability.”

Reliability in this case meaning the need to keep other generators like natural gas and nuclear reactors running full time to keep our vital power grid alive every second while wind turbines take minutes, hours or days off. Neither NYSERDA nor NYISO can state the true avoidance of fossil fuel emissions even when the wind turbines are working. These machines are in effect giant electric appliances which need power from other fuel sources to produce electricity to feed back into the power grid. Chautauqua County can not risk the health and economy of Lake Erie on this obsolete technology which shows no promise to meet our energy needs or our climate concerns.

Mark Twichell of Fredonia is a member of the Citizens Against Wind Turbines in Lake Erie.


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