Wind turbine output a lie (Vermont & NY)

Jan 5, 2012

Engineer demonstrates the “dis-connect” between wind developer claims and actual energy output

—Willem Post *

Kibby Wind Power I and II, a 132 MW windplant, capital cost $330 million, is owned by TransCanada and was built, after a lot of destruction, on one of the most beautiful ridgelines in the State of Maine.

TransCanada and Vestas (the Danish turbine manufacturer) claimed the capacity factor would be 0.32 or greater. According to the Natural Resources Council of Maine, “66 MW [became] operational beginning October 16, 2009 and the remaining 66 MW [became] operational beginning November 1, 2010.”

Its Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) designation is Trans Canadian Wind Development, Inc., in case you wish to look up the data, below.

In 2009 and 2010, the facility had a lot of startup problems and its energy production was negligible.

In 2011, it had a capacity factor of 22.5% for the first 9 months.

For the 3rd Quarter of 2011, it was 14.42%.  Monthly capacity factors were as follows:

July 18.48%

Aug 12.31%

Sept 12.41%

Why are the CF’s (Capacity Factor) so low?

Winds on ridgelines have highly-irregular velocities and directions. This does not show up when one does wind velocity testing for feasibility, but when rotors are 373 feet in diameter, one part of a rotor will likely see a different wind velocity & direction from another part.

This results in highly inefficient energy production and CFs. Wind vendors (sellers) are very familiar with this, but neglect to mention it. However, all is explained in this article. I recommend the Vermont Dept. of Public Service and (Vermont) House Environment and Energy Committee, and all others, finally read this article, before “leading” Vermont into an expensive energy La-la-land.

The Bolton Valley Ski Resort wind turbine CF also does not live up to claims.  (Click here.)

The New York State wind turbine CF’s also do not live up to claims. The Vendor promises were for capacity factors of 30% to 35%, before installation.  The reality, after installation:

Installed capacity, MW: 1035.5 in 2008; 1,274 in 2009: 1,274 in 2009; 1,348 in 2010

Production, MWh: 1,282,325 in 2008; 2,108,500 in 2009, 2,532,800 in 2010

Capacity factors: 14.1% in 2008; 18.9% in 2009; 22.7% in 2010

The above data were obtained from the 2011 New York ISO (Independent System Operator) Gold Book.

Because no wind turbines were added during 2010, the 22.7% capacity factor of 2010 is the best proof of the lack of performance of the New York State wind turbine facilities.

This reality is not unique to Maine, Bolton Valley and NY State. It has replicated itself in The Netherlands, Denmark, England, Germany, Spain, Portugal, Ireland, etc. The production is invariably less than promised. Add this to the fact that the CO2 emissions reduction is much less than claimed, as shown in these articles (click here and here and here and here and here), and further investments in wind energy clearly become an extremely dubious and expensive proposition.

* Willem Post BSME (Bachelor of Science in Mechanical Engineering) New Jersey Institute of Technology, MSME (Masters of Science in Mechanical Engineering) Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, MBA (Masters of Business Administration) University of Connecticut. P.E. Connecticut. Consulting Engineer and Project Manager. Performed feasibility studies, wrote master plans, and evaluated designs for air pollution control systems, power plants, and integrated energy systems for campus-style building complexes. Currently specializing in energy efficiency in buildings.


  1. Comment by Brad Blake, Cape Elizabeth, ME on 01/07/2012 at 1:06 am

    It is true all over. Just another example: from the FERC data, Stetson I & II in northeastern Maine has achieved only 22% as its highest quarterly output in second quarter of 2010, which includes the windy month of April when the seasonal change creates rapidly changing (windy) weather patterns. Yet the developer, First Wind, got away with building the Rollins project in Lincoln Lakes, just 15 air miles away. They planned the Bowers and Oakfield projects in the same cluster. These sleazy developers go through the motions of generating data from Met towers and then never divulge any of it, hiding behind the cloak of “proprietory information”. From my perspective, if you take millions of taxpayer dollars, that information should be made public record! I am cynical enough to think they don’t actually gather data, that putting up Met towers is just a ruse, as they will inevitably say “our data indicates there is a good wind resource up there”.

    Just recently, a group called PEAT (Peak’s Island Environmental Action Team) announced that their study of wind potential on breezy Peak’s Island in Casco Bay, Maine showed the wind resource was not enough to justify erecting and industrial wind turbine and realizing their dream of bringing wind power to Peak’s Island. They made their Met tower data public. They showed integrity in saying no rather than finding some justification to go ahead and do a project that these folks really wanted to see happen. The NREL wind map of Maine shows colorful bands of moderate to good wind along Maine’s coast and off-shore. Where the above-named industrial wind sites are located is all in the “white” color zone, meaning the poorest wind potential. PEAT proves that First Wind lies about wind potential and it is no surprise to see such lousy capacity factor. But we all know that developing industrial wind sites is more about sucking up tax subsidies and tax breaks and selling RECs through an LLC (so they can walk away when the gravy train ends) than it is about generating electricity or saving the planet.

    It is absurd to pay subsidies and create mandates for such a fickle trickle of output and have the further injury of the devastating huge footprint and the noise and health problems where turbines go in where people live.

  2. Comment by sue Hobart on 01/07/2012 at 5:40 pm

    Take heart, Vestas stock is down by 80 %… Maybe their lies are catching up with them…
    This whole thing still remaims the biggest scam ever … With much more dire consequences than a dead company…

  3. Comment by Richard Wakefield on 01/10/2012 at 3:23 pm

    Wind turbine output is actually much worse. Capacity Factor is the AVERAGE output over a long period of time, months or even the year. Average is assumed to be the halfway point. That is half the values are above and half the values are below. That’s what someone thinks of when one uses average. Problem is average in that context assumes a normalized bell curve. Wind output does not follow a bell curve with respect to the number of hours at each Hourly Capacity Factor; that is what its output is as a percent of their capacity for each hour.

    When you plot these hourly output values for each percent name plate, what you get is a decay curve. That is, the vast majority of hours are to the low end of output. Thus the Capacity Factor is useless with such output profiles. The better measure is the median capacity factor. This is where half the hours of the output as a percent nameplate are above and below. Median Capacity Factors are less than HALF Capacity Factor. For example, in Ontario, in the summer, the Median Capacity Factor is only 7%. This means HALF THE HOURS are below 7% name plate.

    Another important measure is the Zero Capacity Factor, which is the number of hours turbines produce nothing at all. For Ontario it’s 30% of the time they produce nothing.

    See detailed analysis here.