• Bring on the facts
    March 28,2013

    Bring on the facts

    The intermittent (renewable) power that we get from wind and solar is not as valuable to us as the good baseline, zero-carbon power we used to get directly from Vermont Yankee and we now import from Seabrook. An energy policy that sets a premium on intermittent power generated from Vermont’s difficult-to-predict weather patterns and that needs both a fossil-fueled backup and expensive additional power management hardware makes no sense either from a cost or environmental point of view.

    I have read the VEC position paper supporting a wind power moratorium and as an electrical engineer, I understand and agree. We cannot easily integrate intermittent power sources into the existing power grid without adding new levels of hardware and load management controls to the grid. As a result, wind- and solar-derived power is actually less valuable to us and should not be purchased at a premium.

    Do the non-engineers in Montpelier understand this? Their focus seems to be more simplistic and ideological — “only renewables can save us.” I think it’s time they let the facts get in the way of their opinion.

    Vermonters need to plan now for rising electricity rates. In May, the average kilowatt purchased from the New England grid cost Vermont utilities 2.6 cents; by November that price had jumped to 5.6 cents; and in February it was 12.5 cents, according to data from ISO New England. (In February, the cost of natural gas went way up due to a shortage of winter pipeline transmission capacity.) Also in February, wind-derived intermittent power was priced at about 10 cents, while solar-derived power was priced at about 30 cents. You can see where our electric rates are going if we continue following the path we are on.

    I would have much higher confidence in the future stability of Vermont’s electrical grid and the availability of competitively priced power in Vermont if I knew the policy wonks in Montpelier listened to and understood the engineers who design and run our Vermont electrical grid.

    Reg Wilcox


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