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News Analysis

A Twenty-Fold Increase?

Fortnightly Magazine - May 1 2000

turbines in the field today, and are expected to improve as wind technology continues to advance."

Back in 1992, the Utility Wind Interest Group, a consortium of utilities supporting wind development, had predicted that wind energy eventually could supply 20 percent of U.S. electricity needs. The UWIG continued, "To provide 560,000 million kWh per year, 0.6 percent of the land of the lower 48 states would have to be developed with wind power plants. This area, about 18,000 square miles, is about the size of four counties in Montana."

Swisher added, "Bill Richardson and DOE deserve credit for a far-sighted and intelligent proposal."

"You Would Never Know It Was There"

When asked whether FPL Energy had backed down on its claim of emissions reductions achievable at its wind energy project proposed for Addison, Wis., spokesperson Gail Trinka had no idea where Schleede's numbers were coming from.

In Schleede's March report, "Is There a Better Alternative for the People of Wisconsin than the Large Wind Farm Proposed for the Town of Addison, Wisconsin?" he had described FPL's project as comprising 33 windmills with a total capacity of 29.7 MW assuming 750 kW for each unit. Schleede said that FPL in March had cut its claims of the project's avoided emissions from earlier claims offered in December. The new figures from FPL, according to Schleede, were 273.2 tons saved from the project each year in SO2 emissions (45 percent less than claimed before), 170.3 tons for NOx (11 percent lower), and 46,6884 tons for CO2 (lower by 48 percent).

Moreover, Schleede suggested that in evaluating the value of the project, any analysis should add back the cost of backup power, given the relatively low capacity factors for wind turbines vs. conventional fossil-fired generation.

When asked for comment, Trinka said she had no idea where those claims or numbers could have come from in avoided emissions. According to her, the only numbers FPL had put forth were figures for avoided emissions for a single 750-kW wind turbine, prepared by the AWEA as a guideline or industry standard. Those numbers were 1,179 tons for CO2, 6.9 tons for SO2, and 4.3 tons for NOx. Multiplied by 33 (the number of turbines proposed for the project), they still wouldn't match Schleede's figures.

She explained that FPL had not yet filed its application for a conditional-use permit by April 10, and was only then "getting close to the point when we'll have an agreement with landowners," so that it was not yet clear how many wind turbines might be constructed, or of what size.

Trinka added, "The leaders of the town have seen the wind turbines in other communities. So if they didn't feel comfortable, I'm sure we would never have gotten this far with the project."

Trinka emphasized the flexibility of FPL's wind farm project: "Suppose 20 years from now that fuel cells come along. Will we really need this wind farm then? Probably not. But at that time, we can restore the land so that you would never know it had been there."