Jonathan Lesser

Post image for Production Tax Credit: High Cost Subsidy for Low Value Power

In Wind Intermittency and the Production Tax Credit: A High Cost Subsidy for Low Value Power, economist Jonathan Lesser finds that “the vast majority of the Nation’s wind resources fail to produce any electricity when our customers need it most.” He also cautions that the wind energy production tax credit (PTC), which would add $12.2 billion to the federal deficit if Congress extends it for another year, adds billions of dollars in hidden costs to ratepayers “while undermining the reliability of the grid.”

Lesser’s analysis is based on nearly four years of data from three interconnection regions that account for over half of total U.S. installed wind capacity: Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT— over 10,000 MW of wind capacity), the Midwest ISO (MISO — almost 12,000 MW of wind capacity), and PJM Interconnection (PJM — over 5,000 MW of wind capacity).

In all three regions, over 84% of the installed wind generation infrastructure fails to produce electricity when electric demand is greatest.

In MISO, only 1.8% to 7.6% of wind infrastructure generated power during the peak hours on the highest demand days. In ERCOT, 6.0% to 15.9% of installed wind generated power, and in PJM, between 8.2% and 14.6% of wind produced power.

Demand for electricity is highest in the summer, especially during heat waves. But that is often when the wind stops blowing. The July 2012 heat wave is a case in point:

The July 2012 heat wave in Illinois, where temperatures soared to 103 degrees in Chicago, provides a compelling example of wind generation’s failure to perform when needed most. During this heat wave, Illinois wind generated less than 5% of its capacity during the record breaking heat, producing only an average of 120 MW of electricity from the over 2,700 MW installed. On July 6, 2012, when the demand for electricity in northern Illinois and Chicago averaged 22,000 MW, the average amount of wind power available during the day was a virtually nonexistent 4 MW.

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