Del. Ken Plum: Doing More With Wind Energy

by Del. Ken Plum July 30, 2015 at 1:00 pm 11 Comments

Del. Ken Plum/File photoWith the federal Clean Air Act requiring higher air quality standards, many fossil-fuel power plants will be closing or converting to other fuel sources.

On trips to the western part of our country and abroad, especially to Germany, I am reminded of the significant role that wind plays in being used to generate clean and sustainable electricity. In 2014, wind power added significantly more new electricity for consumers than any other source in the United States, according to the U.S. Department of Energy.

According to an American Wind Energy Association announcement last year, the United States has more wind energy supplying its grid than any other country, enough to power 15.5 million American homes. Wind is the fifth-largest electricity source in the U.S., generating 4.4 percent of all the electricity in this country.

In Denmark, wind-produced electricity provides just under 40 percent of the nation’s power. Scotland has enough wind-produced electricity to supply all its homes. Wind power is the leading source of Spain’s electricity and is the largest component of Germany’s renewable sources that now constitute a quarter of its power. China leads the world in investments in wind power.

Among the states Texas, Iowa, California, and Oklahoma, each generated enough electricity from wind to power more than a million homes. Other states with significant wind capacity include Kansas, Illinois, Minnesota, Oregon, Colorado, and Washington.

Virginia and other eastern states do not make the list because they do not have as significant a wind resource. For Virginia, only off-shore and in the mountains mostly in the southwest is there wind sufficient to site a wind turbine farm.

Dominion, the largest power provider in the Commonwealth, has invested in wind-powered electricity generation in West Virginia, Indiana, Illinois, and in Virginia where it holds a lease from the federal government for off-shore wind development.

The success of wind-produced electricity in Europe has been realized from a feed-in tariff system that has effectively subsidized investments. In the United States, the Production Tax Credit has been the primary federal tax incentive for wind energy. As all countries look for ways to save money these incentives are in danger at a time when wind energy is beginning to demonstrate its value.

Virginia is the first state to secure a wind energy research lease to build and operate turbines in federal waters. Dominion’s plan to build a pair of 6-megawatt test turbines about 24 nautical miles off-shore from Virginia Beach seems to be in trouble as bids to build the turbines are about twice that projected. The expectation has been that eventually there would be 300 turbines in the off-shore area. Stakeholders are currently at work to identify options to salvage the project.

Wind energy needs to be a part of the renewable mix of energy sources in Virginia and the nation. Congress needs to extend the federal tax credit that keeps our development of wind energy competitive with the rest of the world. Consumers need to be open to buying wind and other renewable energies even if there is a cost premium. Our air quality depends on it.

Del. Ken Plum represents Reston in Virginia’s House of Delegates. His opinion does not represent Reston Now.

  • Emmanuel Goldstein

    I see a lot of hot air and wind in this “article”.

  • Sheik Yerbouti

    Only 15 years until the next ice age could start, you might want to keep those nuke and coal power plants online. I doubt windmills work very well when they are coated with ice.

    I know you just want an excuse to funnel tax money to your political party’s shell companies, but you will have to be more creative than that.

    • Ricky Spanish

      It is a common misconception that nuclear power is dirty power. In fact Nuclear Power has perhaps the lowest environmental impact that any other power source. Nuclear energy produces zero green house gases while in use, and produces some 64 percent of all energy. And areas
      surrounding nuclear energy plants have been known to provide habitats for plants
      and animals to thrive.

      Conversely, Wind Turbines murder hundreds of thousands birds each year. And only produces a fraction of the energy compared to nuclear power.

      • Emmanuel Goldstein

        If the turbines killed tigers maybe more people would be involved.

      • Greg

        More like 11 percent, not 64 percent, but the rest is spot on.

        Nuclear Energy Around the World. As of July 2015, 30 countries worldwide are operating 438 nuclear reactors for electricity generation and 67 new nuclear plants are under construction in 15 countries.Nuclear power plants provided 10.9 percent of the world’s electricity production in 2012.


      • Guest

        Low environmental impact . . . right up to the second they start melting down from, say, tidal wave, terrorist attacks, coolant leaks, mismanagement, etc.

  • Greg

    Wind turbines might kill more than birds… https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CqEccgR0q-o

  • vdiv

    We may not have much wind, but we do have a whole lot of rooftops, surface parking lots, and sunshine. Could use some solar panels.

  • The Donald Notsomuch

    Wow. Below 80 viewers and 8 comments! That is 10% of all readers commenting! What a popular post, but no surprise here, it’s our favorite local democrat. What a great piece of writing, Ken, we love you ♡♡♡♡♡

  • Mike M

    Here is a Liberal thematic analysis for you that may need it.

    1) Wind Power is good because Ken saw it in Germany. The unspoken logic at work here is that if you see it in Europe it has to be right because Europe is not the filthy despicable US. As most Liberals do, Ken knows Europe is superior to the US because he went there on vacation.
    2) The Europeans subsidize it, so we should too. Because, we should follow Europe in everything.
    3) Sure, we’re going broke, but don’t mess up the federal subsidies for yet another feel good set of programs we can use to enrich special friends.

    What’s missing? Cost-benefit analysis on any level.

    Look for some of the same themes in future Plum statements, and in other Democratic blather. There are only a handful, but they get lots of play.

  • John Higgins

    A thoughtful piece. The use of tax credits is not novel, but it is troubling. First, today’s “incentive” sounds reasonable, but it will become tomorrow’s “loophole”. When corporations do as we wish using tax dollars, you can be sure that in the future they will be berated for profiting on our dime. (A better choice would be to tax wind-energy revenue at lower rates.). Second, given the low percentage of citizens who actually pay an income tax, it turns out that only about half the beneficiaries of this better energy will pay for its development. Many will find this unfair.


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