Thursday, May 9, 2013

The Windy City

Mayor William Hallenbeck announced at the press conference yesterday that, beginning next month, the City of Hudson would be using wind energy exclusively for its electricity. Joe Gentile has the story in today's Register-Star: "City plans shift to wind energy in June." The switch to wind energy is expected to save the the City $40,000 a year, and the mayor made the point that such savings are helping to prevent increases in the City's property taxes. According to Hallenbeck, Hudson will be "the only municipality statewide to be exclusively powered by wind energy," and he called on other municipalities to follow Hudson's lead. 

The wind energy provider is Viridian Energy. Curious to know where Viridian's wind farms are located, Gossips sought the answer on the Internet. No information about the location of wind farms was discovered, but what was discovered is that Viridian has a referral program. People who switch to Viridian can become independent associates and start their own Viridian business, earning residual income by referring others to Viridian.

Can we surmise then that Patrick Manning, who represented this district in the New York State Assembly from 1994 until 2006, when he lost in the Republican primary to Marc Molinaro, and who is identified in the Register-Star article as an "independent Viridian Energy associate," will be getting residual income from Hudson's switch to renewable wind energy? Probably. Can a municipality be an independent associate? If other communities follow Hudson's lead and switch to wind energy, can Hudson derive residual income from their participation? Probably not.

The photograph that accompanies this post shows the Maple Ridge Wind Farm in Lewis County, NY. Credited to the National Renewable Energy Lab, the photo appears on the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation website. Gossips makes no claim--explicit or implicit--that this wind farm is or is not in any way connected with Viridian Energy. For Gossips' purposes, it's just a wind farm in the rural landscape.

8 comments:

  1. A reader emailed me to say that Viridian Energy is not an energy producer but a broker--purchasing power from a producer and selling it to the consumer. The implication was that it made no sense to wonder about the location of Viridian's wind farms because they had none.

    While I appreciate the clarification, I think the question is still valid. Wind energy has to be produced somewhere, and at the end of the line, there’s a field of turbines turning in the wind. Since there has been some controversy about siting wind farms in scenic landscapes, I remain curious to know where the ultimate source of wind energy for Hudson will actually be.

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  2. There are a number of questions here.

    Is the previously announced solar project with Lotus Energy (a Hudson based business) at the Central Fire Station still going forward? That project had a 25% discounted rate over National Grid's rates built in for the life of the contract.

    What are the touted savings for wind power based on? Are there guarantees of future savings? For how long? According to the Viridian website, after the first month Viridian can bill their "current variable rate". That rate may not provide any savings. Did the city actually do any cost/savings analysis.

    Their website says that 100% renewable energy costs roughly $6 per kilowatt hour. Their 20% renewable energy product costs roughly $4 per kilowatt hour. Does it make economic sense right now? What is the city paying now?

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  3. A good idea might be to install banks of solar panels on the hillsides where the old dump used to be. I heard one of the towns over in Mass. did just that and is generating their own electricity. Lots of sun over there.

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  4. It will be interesting to see the actual savings 12 months into the contract. Actually, it would be interesting to see the contract.

    With regards to the wind farm location. Here's my guess: Much of our energy, including wind, is a traded commodity. Virilian is an energy retailer that purchases wind energy on the commodities market. The energy that Hudson is about to get will still come through the same regional grid, and will not necessarily actually be "green energy". You need a dedicated wind farm to guarantee that. Over time, however, these contracts should, theoretically, increase the amount of wind energy in the energy grid mix.

    I think the solar plans mentioned by Victor make more sense. The energy produced by solar panels on top of a building doesn't have far to go before its used, so little is lost. On the other hand, wind energy produced and transported through the grid is lost as rapidly as that which is produced by coal.

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  5. I have done a FOIL request for the contract and correspondence surrounding this deal. I will let everyone know what I find out.

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  6. hmmm ... if it sounds too god to be true - it usually is

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    Replies
    1. thats "good"

      god is another story

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  7. WAMC just posted a tiny piece on this deal. Of note:

    "Eric Rosenbloom with National Wind Watch points out that Hudson will be getting exactly the same electricity as before. He points out that the city is buying the right to "claim" the wind energy on the system, even though they are not actually getting anything different from their neighbors."

    http://www.wamc.org/post/city-electricity-goes-green-june

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