CA, Wind energy at virtual standstill : LUSENET : Grassroots Information Coordination Center (GICC) : One Thread

Wind energy at virtual standstill

Firms still owed money not eager to expand

By Lukas Velush

The Desert Sun May 10, 2001

This week’s rolling blackouts would have been less severe if hundreds of new windmills planned for installation by this summer had actually been built.

Wind energy companies from the Coachella Valley and across the state had planned to add up to 1,000 megawatts of wind capacity this year. A megawatt is enough power for 1,000 homes.

That plan was derailed when Southern California Edison and the state’s other major utilities did not pay the wind companies for power generated from November to March.

Edison owes renewable energy producers $450 million for power generated during that span. Most of the valley’s windmill companies are owed some part of that total. Several local companies are owed several million dollars.

Edison started paying for wind power on a going-forward basis in April, but wind energy companies say they need to be paid the back pay owed them before they can afford to expand.

"Nobody trusts these guys going-forward until they come up with the past due," said Kelly Lloyd, chief financial officer of enXco, one of the larger wind-energy companies in the valley. "Investors and banks look at investing in California almost like investing in a Third World country."

Last year Gov. Gray Davis had set up an incentive program hoping to get up to 1,000 megawatts of new power on-line by this summer to help avert blackouts.

Instead, only one major windmill project will be built by this summer, a 66-megawatt project currently under construction in the Coachella Valley.

SeaWest, a San Diego-based windmill company that is installing 111 windmills in the San Gorgonio Pass. The power generated there won’t be sold to Edison, it will be sold on the open market.

Davis has been negotiating over the past week with windmill operators and other power producers that haven’t been paid by the larger utilities.

His main goal is to get a series of natural gas-burning plants back on-line as soon as possible, but he also wants windmill companies to get paid so they can stabilize their operations and possibly expand.

The natural gas-burning qualified facilities had about 1,300 megawatts of capacity off-line during this week’s blackouts, said Lorie O’Donley, a spokeswoman for the California Independent System Operator, which controls the state’s rolling blackout program.

About half were off-line because those companies couldn’t afford to stay open because they hadn’t been paid. The other half were undergoing normal maintenance.

"The governor has made it his top priority to get the (qualified facilities) back on line," said Steve Maviglio, a Davis spokesman.

The state looks at wind energy as a bonus, but doesn’t include it when it projects how much power the state needs because wind power -- by its very nature -- isn’t dependable, O’Donley said.

Windmills across the state were producing about 700 megawatts on Monday and Tuesday afternoons, when the state had to turn to rolling blackouts because the amount of power available statewide had dipped to levels unsafe to maintain the integrity of the region’s power grid.

There are about 1,500 megawatts of wind capacity in the state. Because the wind doesn’t blow all the time, windmills usually only operate between 25 percent and 50 percent capacity.

There are about 2,300 windmills in the Coachella Valley’s San Gorgonio Pass. Local windmills generate about 300 megawatts of power at peak capacity.

-- PHO (, May 10, 2001


The following quote says it all.

"Investors and banks look at investing in California almost like investing in a Third World country."

Let's hope the rest of the U. S. does not follow Californisa's lead.

-- K (, May 11, 2001.

Moderation questions? read the FAQ