The following letter to the editor was published in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette on March 21.
Should Consider Costs
A recent Democrat-Gazette guest column supported the wind power proposed for Arkansas via SWEPCO's Wind Catcher project. Although wind energy has no fuel costs, there are significant costs involved in construction, maintenance and installation of components, and in building new transmission lines. Further, consideration must be paid not only to what wind power costs when it is being produced and delivered, but also what power costs when the wind does not blow and no wind power is available. As the fraction of wind power rises, what do Arkansas customers do when the wind power suddenly falls to zero? Wind power is intermittent and simply not fully reliable or dispatchable. With the (sometime) availability of wind power, there will be pressure to close coal power plants as no longer being required. If Arkansas elects to keep gas-fired or coal-fired plants at standby in order to furnish power when wind fails, this would require that these plants be maintained in operational readiness.
Arkansas may be forced to simultaneously support a new wind-power contract and maintain most of the power capabilities it now has. This would not be a way to decrease electricity costs. An undesirable alternative would be to curtail power delivered to Arkansas customers, possibly on a moment's notice. This important issue should be fully evaluated in any consideration of SWEPCO wind power.
Read more at Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.