Is wind power worth the expense?

Posted: August 8, 2018

Last week, Governor Cuomo appealed to U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke to lease at least four new wind energy areas (WEAs) to support the state’s offshore wind power and continue to add more renewable sources as dictated in New York’s Clean Energy Standard.

The New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) began research for WEAs, which are estimated to generate 90 megawatts of power by 2022, following the implementation of the Clean Energy Standard in August, 2016, .

While the designation of WEAs is a pivotal step towards New York’s renewable energy generation, it’s important to consider all the implications of wind power, include the massive costs of these projects.

Between 2013 and 2015, the New York State Thruway Authority installed five wind turbines close to the Lake Erie shore. The generation from these turbines was expected to lower electricity costs in the western region by about 30 percent.

However, after spending an estimated $5 million on the turbines and installation, only one of the five turbines is currently operating. According to the Thruway Authority, these four turbines require replacement parts; Vergnet, the French company that constructed the turbines, declared bankruptcy in 2017.

Aside from potential operating issues, wind power is contingent on whether the wind is blowing. States like Texas that experience frequent gusts are able to consistently produce energy. For New York State, high winds are much less frequent.

Wind turbines also require a large amount of space to generate the same amount of power as a nuclear or fossil fuel plant. To replace Indian Point’s 2,000 megawatts, for example, New York State would have to reserve 520-750 square miles of wind turbines. That’s roughly the size of Westchester County and a third of Putnam County combined.

New York should look to energy sources that generate power consistently and use land space and financial resources conservatively. While wind power can certainly be considered as an addition to baseload power, promoting it as a leading energy source is wishful thinking.