We've moved!

Social Icons

twitterfacebooklinkedinrss feed

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Replace Big Stone II Output with Home Wind Turbines

Senator John Thune is on the radio grousing that his friends at Heartland and the other utilities have killed thousands of jobs by cancelling Big Stone II. Surely this means Senator Thune will change his mind about fighting "with every fiber of my being" climate change legislation that could bring South Dakota 5000 sustainable energy jobs.

It sounds to me like Senator Thune needs to get back to what I said back in September when Russ Olson set out on his now-failed sales pitch: Quit whining, build wind! For today's wild scheme, check out this new-fangled home wind turbine from Honeywell:

This gearless wind turbine can crank out 2000 kilowatt-hours of electricity a year in areas with Class 3 wind. Class 3 is about as low as the wind gets in South Dakota. These 6-foot, 170-pound turbines generate power in winds from 2 mph to 42 mph—that's about as close to power every day as you're going to get.

Instead of sinking $1.6 billion (and I've read that was a 2006 estimate; the cost may have been up to $2 billion) into a massive capital project that no one utility could finance on its own, Heartland and the other utilities could each fund their own programs to help small farms and businesses install small wind turbines like these (along with solar panels!) that would help the utilities meet local peak demand without building more expensive generating facilities. And instead of waiting six years or more for a big coal plant to start belching electricity and air pollution, Heartland and homeowners could have a big network of on-site turbines and solar panels up and running within months. Senator Thune could help out by supporting federal support for such investments, the same way the feds are helping Black Hills Power and my own Sioux Valley Electric install smart meters and other energy-saving smart-grid tech. Invest now in the energy tech of the future, and 30 years from now, as we sit warm and cozy in our energy-self-sufficient communities, we'll look back at BSII as a wisely avoided boondoggle.

Yes, Senator Thune, Otter Tail and market realities handed the BSII dreamers some lemons. Now let's make some lemonade.


  1. Whoa! Whoa! Whoa! Your reasonable suggestion is out to destroy the corporate, monopolistic business model. Utilities that dared to venture forth into the brave new world of small, distributed power are now back-peddling as fast as possible as they see demand shrink instead of grow. http://thephoenixsun.com/archives/1367

    Likely the corporate-beholden PUCs will follow their masters and do what they can to dash the consumer or self-reliant home energy provider. Corporations, by LAW, exist to maximize shareholder profits. Helping the self-reliant, energy producing consumer is anti-corporate profit. You wouldn't want to be responsible for taking the profits of the utility companies, would you? If they lose profits, then how will they donate to their favorite politicians?


    John Kelley

  2. Thanks, Cory. I've registered for their e-mailings. Looks like this one is worth further investigation.

  3. John: corporate profit versus self-reliance—that's a tough nut to resolve! How do we lessen their grip? Revoke corporate charters?

    Stan, let me know what you learn! I'm always attracted by the unusual, and this design is quite different from the traditional turbine. A commenter at Popular Mechanics said similar designs back in the 1970s were vulnerable to high-wind pressure and stress.

  4. Steve Sibson11/05/2009 4:55 PM

    "How do we lessen their grip? Revoke corporate charters?"

    No Cory, by reducing government regulators. For example Cap & Trade will benefit Big Ag because they have the resources to implement expensive green energy to create the credits. The small guy will be forced to buy the credits and will not survive. The big guys gobble up the little guys, and you have corporate monopoly power...all thanks to Big-Government Progressives like you Cory.

  5. Cory is for self reliance? How about the same for health care??

  6. [Clever, Linda. You show me the economic model where every citizen can make a million dollars to ensure their financial security in the face of catastrophic out-of-pocket medical costs, and I'm with you. I'm not sure what the income level is for being able to afford every medical bill that comes your way, but I'm betting more than a majority of working Americans can't afford to go without health insurance... i.e., relying on the collective to pay their medical bills.]

    The difference here on self-reliance: small communities and even individual homeowners can put up wind turbines and solar panels and other alternatives to provide their own power. Individuals and small communities can't float viable health insurance policies -- you've got to spread the risk through larger pools.

  7. Dusty Johnson11/05/2009 8:27 PM

    Go small wind! I'd like to see a lot more of it. The PUC has plans to introduce a number of significant tax incentives in the legislature this year. Our five point small renewable energy initiative can be found here: http://puc.sd.gov/SmallWind/default.aspx

    Distributed generation will play a much larger role in our energy mix in the future. The cost curve still needs to come down a ways, but it will, and we want to have the policies in place to be supportive for when the time in right. Some folks are already making the investment, after all.

    Dusty Johnson

    P.S., Corporations are prohibited from making political contributions by state law.

  8. Hey, these little guys won't disrupt the migratory patterns of my foul friends. I'm liking this idea!

  9. To be fair, I think Kristen means fowl. (Always the English teacher... ;-) )

  10. And did you catch that? A state official speaking up in favor of distributed power generation? I'm encouraged! So encouraged that I'll even pass on debating Commissinoer Johnson's legal parsing (yes, yes, SDCL says so) against Mr. Kelley's practical corporate cynicism. Go small wind—I second that!

  11. Steve Sibson11/06/2009 5:58 AM


    Why does wind did "tax incentives" if is such a great deal?

  12. Dusty Johnson11/06/2009 8:02 AM


    Great question. First, your suspicion is right . . . small wind isn't economical today. When a person invests in distributed generation, they are paying a (sometimes substantial) premium. People are still choosing to do it, though, and there are in some cases benefits to the greater electrical system when the landowner makes that investment.

    That is reason #1 why I think the tax breaks are okay. To the extent we can internalize some of those system economic benefits, that can help with more appropriate market signals to consumers.

    Reason #2 is that we have already cut taxes to big wind development substantially (by 80%) in SD to encourage development, and it has worked. It seems fair in this instance to treat the little guys and the big guys the same, so we'd like to reduce small wind taxes, as well.

    I think reasonable people can disagree, incidentally. I am usually a "low rate, broad base" kind of guy myself, so tax cuts can rub me the wrong way ("why can't everyone pay the same low rate?"). In this case, though, we feel like it is worth leveling the playing field.


  13. Fowl. Yes, thanks Cory! I was sitting near my dirty laundry when I wrote that. :)

  14. I'm writing a conservation article for a club I belong to and noticed it was stupid question time. I've done some checking and am still confused enough to be shy about making an actual statement in my article and I am thinking this blog gets enough attention to get an answer.

    I need a definition of Net Metering.

    Is Net Metering the action of rebates or credits dollar for dollar?

    Or is Net Metering the physical meter that has the ability to run backwards?

    I know SD is going for fair price, but I still need this defined.

    I'm all for small wind. I have wondered if it was possible to go smaller and have multiple units. If wind could be measured like signals for satellite TV. Put a couple on top of the house. A couple hanging upside down from the eaves to catch the wind gusts between the houses and such.

  15. Hi, Ms. Schave!

    Net metering is the latter. From Uncle Sam:

    "Net metering programs serve as an important incentive for consumer investment in renewable energy generation. Net metering enables customers to use their own generation to offset their consumption over a billing period by allowing their electric meters to turn backwards when they generate electricity in excess of the their demand. This offset means that customers receive retail prices for the excess electricity they generate. Without net metering, a second meter is usually installed to measure the electricity that flows back to the provider, with the provider purchasing the power at a rate much lower than the retail rate."

    Think net: the meter measures power in, power out, and reads the net flow, positive (you pay them) or negative (they pay you).

    I'd love to see the Whittier neighborhood dotted with wind turbines. But can you get steady enough wind in the big city, amidst all those trees and buildings and such?

  16. Actually, there is already a map somewhere out there, formed by some committee. It looks like our neighborhood is ready to go and clear of the airport to install tall wind turbines.

    Gary Hanson did come to one of our club meetings (not a Whittier meeting) and it was brought up but not discussed that it is possible to create our own co-ops for energy production. It would be awesome if we could install our own personal energy systems and all of us overshoot our needs to create a commodity to be traded.

    This is the same meeting where a few of us heard two different things, now there is a debate going on and the article you provided is same article that I read where I am inclined to believe that it is both. In the end I just don't want to say when installing personal energy systems you need to also install a net meter so your out put can be measured. Or if I have to add the word program when talking about crediting you account. I can hear the fuss already....

    The wind map puts us at about a 2 or a 3, so we would also have to look at solar.

    I love trees, but we have too many of them. Prevents us from planting native grasses. Plus they block the view and prevent us from seeing tornadoes. Maybe that is what brings us down to a 2 on the wind map.

  17. Steve Sibson11/06/2009 8:43 PM


    Instead of asking the taxpayers to help out the little wind guy, have the taxpayers stop helping out the big wind guys...and the oil guys, and the ethanol guys....etc.


  18. Solar might be a better urban application. No moving parts means no noise. Plus, you don't need to get as high up as you might to get your turbine away from wind turbulence from nearby trees and buildings. And solar can work here on the prairie!

  19. OH, I know... Ever since I have seen the solar shingles on the news a couple of years ago and I see someone replace a roof around here... I see lost potential. Its going to be another 10-20 years before they need to replace it. Same with lawns... Are they installing a low maintenance variety?

    Coming into town on Minnesota Ave., in the 70's and 80's there used to be a house with PV panels on the roof. It was after Landscape Garden Center and the old Lakeside Barn. So I know it is possible to do this in SD. But there are no billboards or ads that say. "Get your Photo Voltaic here!" So its very hard to compare and find your best option.

    I just found something... If I hit the "link to the blog" will your feeds start coming up on my blog?
    Its already in my reader.

  20. PV shingles -- go get 'em! Such an easy solution: no towers, just replacing existing construction material with energy-generating material. Wow!

    ["Link to the blog"--is that the "Create a link" link below the comments? I've actually never used that. I think if you want the feed to come up in your blog, you need to add a widget in your sidebar. if you'd like help, e-mail me [coralhei -at- lakeherman +dot+ org] and I'll send you some screen shots showing how.]

  21. Wait there is more! There is a fully integrated system where they took metal roofing, then for the solar water heater they ran it through those raised troughs where the metal is pieced together... I think they may have used pex tubing to run it through. Then they took PV material that was adhered to a rubber sticky back... like carpet tile... but on a roll, not cut into squares... put that down the valleys of the metal roof. The COOLEST thing about this. They WERE STANDING ON IT in their WORK BOOTS! Stomping on it as men do when considering that there is a job well done.
    No worries about hail damage there!

    Then of course enters the argument for efficiency. It would sure help if the industry was here so we could go comparison shopping. I did go looking for the shingles on the net, there weren't any outlets near us. Then the manufacturing websites said that this product isn't for DIY people. Need qualified professionals to install.

    Then of course there is price. I saw your other post... if my blog brings in less than a quarter of that you'd bet I'd be more active in pursuing it. Until then I have to wait until the industry comes to us. Hopefully, if we get an active group together that holds an interest in actually getting this stuff installed, maybe Whittier can make some noise to attract some of the industry.


Comments are closed, as this portion of the Madville Times is in archive mode. You can join the discussion of current issues at MadvilleTimes.com.

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.