My Turn: Energy’s future is in the wind
Concord Mayor Jim Bouley is correct in saying that nuclear power “must be part of our energy mix” (Monitor Forum, Aug. 3). However, he fails to mention that the organization of which he is a member (Clean and Safe Energy Coalition) was founded and is funded entirely by the Nuclear Energy Institute, the industry trade association. Thus, he is not exactly presenting an independent, disinterested view.
Bouley cites an example that took place 10 years ago in New York City when millions lost power on a hot summer night. Fortunately, times have changed. Demand response programs are now in place to ensure reliability during tough conditions.
When peak power consumption across New England drove near-record demand for electricity to 27,377 megawatts or 85 percent of its capacity on a recent Friday afternoon, ISO triggered demand response to maintain a safe supply cushion in case a major power station was unexpectedly knocked out of service in the region.
Within a half hour, dozens of major energy users turned off lights, raised thermostats, etc., to save 200 MW, enough to power about 200,000 homes which relieved pressure on the grid.
There are 2,000 facilities in the region that can save a total of up to 500 MW of power when called upon under demand response. That is the equivalent amount of energy produced by a medium-sized power plant.
Meanwhile, wind has quietly become the workhorse of renewable energy. There are currently 60,000 MW of wind capacity installed in the United States, compared with 10,000 MW of solar. In 2012 nuclear power produced 94,000 MW, its lowest level in nine years due to drought and heat restrictions placed on the plants which will only be exacerbated in the future due to climate change.
Google has invested more than $1 billion in renewable energy projects, including several wind projects. Among them is the Atlantic Wind Connection, a transmission project designed to spur the offshore wind industry off the mid-Atlantic coast.
Once completed, the AWC backbone will stretch 250 miles along the coast from New Jersey to Virginia, enabling the connection of up to 7,000 MW of offshore wind power, which could produce the equivalent of that used in 1.9 million households.
Warren Buffett’s MidAmerican Energy, based in Iowa plans to spend $1.9 billion to install hundreds of wind turbines by the end of 2015. Billionaire Philip Anschutz plan to build the largest wind energy farm in the country in Wyoming, starting in 2014, with hopes to export its power to energy-hungry markets in the Southwest, including California.
According to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, 41 percent of new U.S. electricity generation capacity in 2012 came from wind power installations as compared with 33 percent for natural gas.
Given the amount of wind energy projects already in the pipeline, coupled with those on the horizon, wind should continue to be No. 1 in new U.S. electricity production for years to come.
Closer to home, Maine had 431 MW of installed wind capacity in 2012 with about 1.26 gigawatts of capacity in the pipeline. However, Maine’s real untapped energy profile is its offshore wind which, according to the U.S. Department of Energy, has a potential of 156 GW. For comparison purposes, the Seabrook nuclear reactor produces 1.2 GW of electricity at full power or less than 1 percent of Maine’s off-shore wind potential.
Although many nuclear and coal plants should remain in the energy mix, it must be realized that the retirement of some of these aging plants will become imminent. Wind has and will continue to be a win-win.
(Jim Hadley is a Northwood selectman and grants manager for Massachusetts state energy programs.)