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Increased Canadian Hydro Energy to Grow New England's Economy

Willem Post's picture
President Willem Post Energy Consuling

Willem Post, BSME'63 New Jersey Institute of Technology, MSME'66 Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, MBA'75, University of Connecticut. P.E. Connecticut. Consulting Engineer and Project Manager....

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  • Apr 22, 2015

The main purpose of this article is to show a large quantity of hydro energy can be obtained from Canada at much less cost and environmental damage to the New England economy and environment than building out wind energy on ridgelines. In this article, I assumed the ISO-NE energy from wind would be either 100% on shore, or 50% offshore and 50% onshore.

Most New England coal, oil, and nuclear plants likely would be phased out over the next 20 – 30 years. Those 3 sources were 38% of total NE energy in 2014 (pg. 14). Eventually, even gas energy may become a lesser percentage.

That means something major, and low in cost/kWh, would have to replace the 38%, and solar, biomass, small hydro, etc., would likely not be major enough, would take tens of billions of dollars and several decades to build out, and would produce high-cost energy as well, all to the long-term detriment of the New England economy, which already has average electric rates of 20+ c/kWh, including all taxes, fees, surcharges, about 7 c/kWh greater than the US average.

It likely would take about 20 – 30 years to phase in about 40% wind energy, equivalent to the energy from about 22,050 MW of wind turbines, equivalent to (7,350) 3 MW turbines.

Regarding gas, ISO-NE had about 50% gas energy on its system in 2014 (pg. 7 of below URL), up from 20% in 2000. A future of 55% – 60% gas energy is entirely reasonable.

ISO-NE: “With plentiful, inexpensive supply from the Marcellus Shale in Pennsylvania and New York right at New England’s doorstep, natural gas continues to be the fuel of choice for new power plant construction in the region.” (pg. 12).


In 2014, RE fed into the New England high voltage grid was:

Wood/Refuse……………….. 3,965 GWh, or 3,965/108,357 x 100 = 3.66% of NE generation

Other Refuse………………….2,577 GWh, or………………………………..2.38%

Wind…………………………….1,929 GWh, or………………………………..1.78%; after 10 years of subsidies  

Landfill Gas……………………..477 GWh, or………………………………..0.44%

Solar*………………………………330 GWh, or………………………………..0.30%; after 10 years of subsidies

Misc………………………………….80 GWh, or………………………………..0.07%

Total RE………………………….9,358 GWh, or……………………………….8.64%

Hydro……………………………..7,305 GWh, or……………………………….6.74%

Imported^……………………….20,696 GWh, or 20,696/127,176 x 100 = 16.27% of NE consumption

* ISO-NE does not “see” any solar energy fed into distribution grids, but the utilities do, if the PV system is grid-connected.

^ Imported = 13,267 GWh from Hydro-Quebec + 3,520 GWh from New Brunswick + 3,908 GWh from New York. H-Q exports to New York, New England, New Brunswick and Labrador. H-Q exports about 30,000 GWh/y, of which about 15,000 GWh/y is exported to New England. H-Q exports about 15,000 – 13,267 = 1,733 GWh/y to New England via New Brunswick.


The below URL has a graph of household electricity cost, c/kWh, versus installed wind + solar capacity, W/capita, for 18 European countries. The graph shows the more wind + and solar capacity/capita, the higher a country’s household energy cost/kWh!! The graph is based on BP-2015 and Eurostat data.

RE aficionados have been claiming RE system costs, $/MW, and renewable energy costs, c/kWh, would be coming down, because of efficiencies, but the graph shows that, despite those efficiencies, OTHER RE-related costs increases have resulted in higher household energy costs, c/kWh, and likely resulted in higher costs of some other goods and services as well.

This should give pause regarding proceeding with decades-long, heavily subsidized, RE build-outs in New England, such as wind turbines, when another RE alternative, i.e., low-cost, near-zero-CO2-emitting hydro energy from Canada, is available in 2019 (after the planned 1000 MW, New England Clean Power Link is in service), at much less capital cost, much lower energy cost, and much less environmental impact, as is clearly shown in this article. See URL, Euan Mearns’ comment, August 6, 2015, at 5:39 pm.


ISO-NE RE Projections: New England generated 108,357 GWh in 2014, of which, according to ISO-NE, about 15.3% was Total RE. ISO-NE expects about 21% RE by 2022 (pgs. 14, 27). That means, RE other than hydro, increased from about 5% in 2004 to 8.6% in 2014, after at least 10 years of subsidies, would increase to 14.3% in 2022, after another 8 years of subsidies. Very slow growth indeed, if one is on a mission to “save the planet”!! Total RE could be 35% by 2022 with additional hydro from Canada. See below table.


………………………………………………ISO-NE………More Hydro from Canada



Total RE…….13.6…………15.3…………….21.0………….35.0

– The additional hydro energy to New England would be = (0.207 – 0.067) x 108,357 GWh/y = 15,170 GWh/y, which could be provided by 15,170 GWh/y/(8,760 h/y x CF 0.50) = 3,463 MW of hydro plants.

– Hydro-Quebec is planning to add 5,000 MW of hydro plants during the 2015 – 2025 period.

– This 15,170 GWh/y would be in addition to the existing 15,000 GWh/y of H-Q exports to New England. As a result H-Q would supply 100 x (15,170 + 15,000)/127,176 = 23.7% of New England’s 2014 consumption.

Energy Available From Hydro-Quebec: At end 2014, H-Q’s 62 generating plants, all but one are hydro plants, had a capacity of 36500 MW. H-Q ADDED 5000 MW of hydro capacity during 2004 – 2014 period, and is planning to ADD 5000 MW during the 2015 – 2025 period.

H-Q is building four new hydro plants, with a total capacity of 1,550 MW, which could produce about 1,550 MW x 8,760 x CF 0.50 = 6.8 TWh/y, enough electricity to serve 1.36 million New England homes with each home using about 5,000 kWh/yr.

At present, H-Q exports to New England, New York, Ontario and New Brunswick. H-Q has 30 TWh/yr of hydropower available for export, about half of which is contracted to supply utilities in New England.

The home-grown build-out of expensively subsidized RE systems, that produce expensive, mostly variable, intermittent wind and solar energy at about 2-3 times wholesale prices (subsidized), at about 3-5 times wholesale prices (unsubsidized), is really a short-sighted way to go, as a much better renewable energy source, that is LESS costly/kWh and emits LESS CO2/kWh, is readily available from Hydro-Quebec.

Remember, that energy source:

– Requires NO diversion of scarce capital costs to build-out RE systems

– Causes NO adverse environmental impact in Vermont

– Requires NO subsidies, such as a carbon tax

– Rrequires NO expensive, ponderous, government bureaucracy to manage the power sector.

Hydro Energy, a High ERoEI Energy Source: Hydro is a very important energy source. It should be maximized, wherever feasible, throughout the world, because it is:

– Renewable, as it is made from rainwater

– Very low in CO2 emissions/kWh

– Very low in waste products and environmental impact/kWh, compared to wind and solar.

– Available 24/7/365, unlike wind and solar, which are weather-dependent.

– Steady, not variable, not intermittent, like wind and solar

– Very low in energy cost/kWh; in case of New England, likely about 5 – 7 c/kWh, tied to annual average New England WHOLESALE prices which have averaged about 5 c/kWh for the past 5 years, due to an abundance of nearby, DOMESTIC, clean-burning, low-CO2-emitting, low-cost, natural gas.

– Another major benefit is the output of hydro plants can be quickly varied, at minimal cost, and with no CO2 emissions, to balance any variable wind and solar energy. If natural gas-fired, gas turbines do the balancing they have to inefficiently ramp up and down, at part-load, i.e., more Btu/kWh, more CO2/kWh. See Notes.

– A high ERoEI, due to the typical 100-year lives, and its

– ERoEI is not decreasing, compared with those of fossil fuels.

NOTE: Just as Denmark requires major grid connections to hydro plants of Norway and Sweden to balance its wind energy, so would New England need major connections to the hydro plants of Quebec, New Brunswick and Labrador.

NOTE: Here is a website showing HVDC lines for load balancing between Denmark (a wind and thermal energy system) and Norway (a 98% hydro system). If it can be done between Denmark and Norway, likewise Hydro-Quebec could do load balancing for New England.

NOTE: By using HVDC lines, the issue of frequency differences between grids is moot, because the AC energy of the ORIGINATING grid is converted to DC, which does not have a frequency, and then converted to AC at the frequency of the RECEIVING grid. The HVDC lines would negate any asynchronous conditions of the grids. The operators of the grids would continue to supervise the regulation functions on their grids.

Proposed HVDC Transmission Lines: Getting a significant quantity of hydro energy from Quebec, New Brunswick and Labrador would involve:

– About $5 – $7 billion in new HVDC transmission lines for all of New England,

– NO significant grid changes,

– NO significant generator mix changes, plus

– The wholesale cost of the hydro energy likely would be 5 – 7 c/kWh under 20-year, market-based, contracts. A MAJOR LONG-TERM plus for the New England economy.

– By using HVDC lines, the issue of frequency differences, etc., between grids is moot, because the AC energy from the ORIGINATING grid is converted to DC, which does not have a frequency, and then converted to AC at the frequency of the RECEIVING grid. The operators of the two grids continue to supervise the regulation functions on their grids.

NOTE: HVDC lines have very little loss/mile compared to HVAC lines. There are dozens of onshore and offshore HVDC lines in Europe. Just Google. Here is a URL, go to page 49, and you will see HVDC transmission adds less than 1 c/kWh to the cost of energy.

Four proposed HVDC lines to connect Quebec, New Brunswick and Labrador to New England:

– Blackstone, a Venture Capital Firm, is planning to build a $1.2 billion, 154-mile, $7.8 million/mile, 1000-MW, HVDC transmission line that would run beneath Lake Champlain. The line, called New England Clean Power Link, would carry hydroelectric and wind power generated in Canada to metropolitan energy markets in the Northeast.

– Eversource Energy is planning to build a $1.6 billion, 192-mile, $8.3 million/mile, 1090-MW, HVDC transmission line, called Northern Pass, which would run mostly through New Hampshire to provide energy to Southern New England markets.

– Champlain Hudson Power Express, a $2.2 billion, 333-mile, $6.6 million/mile, 1000-MW, HVDC transmission line under Lake Champlain and the Hudson River to New York City.

– Northeast Energy Link, a $2 billion, 230-mile, $8.7 million/mile, 1100-MW, underground, HVDC transmission line from Orrington, ME, to Tewksbury, MA.

These four transmission lines could import into New England = 4300 MW x 8760 h/y x CF 0.75 = 25.3 TWh/y, or 25.3/127.2 = 22.2% of New England’s total consumption in 2014. The lines are more than adequate to supply the above-mentioned, additional 15,170 GWh/y. More energy could be imported with additional lines.


Making Room for RE: Vermont utilities have significantly decreased their low-cost, renewable, near-zero CO2-emitting, hydro energy, which is cleaner than wind and solar energy, and replaced a major part of VY nuclear energy with Seabrook nuclear energy.

Utilities bought about 1.87 million MW of H-Q energy in 2011, or 31 percent of utility purchases in 2011. See page E.8 of URL. This is projected to decrease to about one million MWh at the start of 2017 and beyond, or 16.6 percent of utility purchases. The decrease of 0.87 million MW serves to “make room” for RE. See graph on page E.7 of DPS URL, and page 3-29 of GMP URL.

Vermont Yankee, now shutdown, provided 2.17 million MWh in 2011, or 36 percent of utility purchases. That decrease will be partially offset by about 526,000 MWh of nuclear energy from Seabrook in November 2018. The decrease of 1.64 million MWh of nuclear energy serves “to make room” for RE. Thus, the total “room for RE” would become about 2.51 million MWh, or 41.6 percent of utility purchases.

Summary of Energy Supply Contracts: Utilities buy some of their energy under the following three contracts. The terms of the contract clearly show how “making room” for RE was accomplished. See page 3-17 of GMP URL.

1) Contract HQ – Vermont Joint Owners, 1989 – 2016, provides 230 MW of power. About 1.6 million MWh was supplied in 2013, about one third of GMP’s energy requirements of about 4.7 million MWh, plus about 250 thousand MWh was supplied to other utilities, for a total of about 1.85 million MWh (supplies fluctuate from year to year). About two thirds of the energy was delivered during on-peak hours, the rest during off-peak hours. About 90 percent of the contract expires in October 2015, and 10 percent in October 2016.

2) Contract HQ – US, 2012 – 2038, was started at 8 MW of power. About 42 thousand MWh was supplied in 2013. The contract will increase to about 148 MW of power and will supply about one million MWh starting in November 2018 and beyond. See page 3.18 of GMP URL.

3) Contract NextEra/Seabrook, 2012 – 2034, was started at 15 MW of power. About 131 thousand MWh was supplied in 2013. The contract will increase to about 60 MW of power and will supply about 526 thousand MWh in January 2016 and beyond.

Behing-The-Scenes Energy Decisions: These major, “making room”, energy decisions did not take place by chance; a few people carefully planned them. Even the utilities had minimal input! These decisions were, more or less, forced onto Vermont utilities. Utilities are beholden to the Public Service Board oversight and control, as it approves their rate increase requests, and other submittals.

These decisions were the result of behind-the scenes, more or less, secret deliberations, without any meaningful public discussion or input, i.e., “constituent service” by some leading legislators, including Shumlin, Smith, Campbell, Klein, Bray, etc., working with the Department of Public Service, and RE lobbies, etc., to further promote Vermont’s RE sector, i.e., homegrown, environment-damaging, expensive, variable, intermittent, weather-dependent, wind and solar energy plants, on pristine ridge lines and in meadows, while running roughshod over local control and Act 250 concerns.

90% RE for All Energy by 2050: The Vermont Comprehensive Energy Plan has a goal of 90% of all energy to be from RE by 2050, not just electrical energy which is about 35 percent of all energy. To keep our energy dollars circulating in Vermont, it should be mostly from homegrown, RE systems. The intent is to make Vermont “energy independent”, and have Vermont be a leader regarding “fighting global warming and climate change”. In 2014, world CO2 emissions were about 37,700 million metric ton, Vermont about 8.3 million metric ton. If Vermont were to disappear, it would make no difference at all. The plan:

– Is much more extreme than of any nation, except Denmark.

– Is unilateral, i.e., regardless of what other New England states do.

– Would divert large quantities of scarce capital to heavily subsidized RE systems that mostly produce high-cost, variable, intermittent, wind and solar energy at 2-3 times wholesale prices (subsidized), 3-5 times wholesale prices (unsubsidized)*.

– Would require for its implementation a regressive carbon tax to ultimately raise about $500 million per year by 2027.

– Would introduce additional inefficiencies into Vermont’s economic structure that would adversely affect future economic growth.

*Utilities are required to buy that expensive energy, even though New England wholesale prices have averaged about 5 c/kWh for the past five years, due to an abundance of nearby, domestic, low-cost, low-CO2-emitting natural gas.

Apparently, nothing is to stand in the way of the Plan, regardless of the damage to the near-zero-real-growth Vermont economy and to already-struggling households and businesses, as it would:

– Cripple Vermont’s economy by burdening it with higher-cost energy than necessary.

– Significantly alter the Vermont landscape and ambiance.

– Damage the environment far beyond what would have been allowed by Act 250*.

*RE proponents did foresee problems with Act 250, so they made sure they were inoculated by having a law that essentially exempted RE from Act 250 requirements, and left all such matters, more or less, up to the PSB. As it turned out, impacted Vermonters and others rebelled, as predicted, and some legislators are finally beginning to see reality. Change is coming, hopefully at the ballot box as well.

Increased H-Q Hydro Energy a Better Approach for Vermont: As part of the Blackstone plan to build a 1000 MW power line to bring H-Q hydro energy to New England, Vermont utilities have the option to purchase 200 MW of power “should they want it in the future”. Rational people would think Vermont utilities would jump at the chance to buy clean, low-cost, near-zero CO2-emitting energy to minimize the cost of electricity for their ratepayers, unless they were under political pressure not to do so. Whereas, this option was mentioned in the below July 21, 2015 URL, it was not in the December 8, 2015 URL. Is it being erased from the public mind to make room for RE?

The 200 MW would provide up to 1.3 million MWh per year. This would be in addition to the above one million MWh per year, for a total of 2.3 million MWh, or about 31 percent of future utility purchases of about 7.4 million MWh in 2050, as projected by the Energy Action Network report, January 2015 revision. H-Q has ample, already-built, spare capacity to provide the hydro energy. See URL.

This is far from “putting all eggs in one basket”, as the 200 MW would merely restore the above 31 percent. It would be a much lower-cost approach to quickly implement the CEP, i.e., there would be lower future energy costs/kWh, and less need for regressive carbon taxes, and onerous fees and surcharges.


Wind energy has the biggest potential. That is why so much capacity, ME 431, NH 171, VT 119, MA 106, RI 9, CT 0, totaling 836 MW at end 2014, has already been built in New England.

Let us look at some numbers to see what it would take to implement 15,170 GWh/y of wind energy in the NE energy mix. We will also look at implementing 40% of 127,176 = 50,870 GWh/y of wind energy in the NE energy mix to replace retiring coal, oil and nuclear plants.

New England Future Consumption: New England consumed about 127,176 GWh in 2014, of which Vermont’s consumption was about 5,600 GWh/yr. With more heat pumps, mostly Japanese, and plug-in electric vehicles, as part of “phasing out fossil fuels”, those levels of consumption would become about 1.5 to 2 times greater, even with significantly increased energy efficiency.

NOTE: Household electricity consumption would become at least 3 times greater, if a household had 2 plug-in electric vehicles, each driven 12,000 miles/yr, consuming 2 x 12,000 mi/yr x 0.30 kWh/mi = 7,200 kWh/yr, which could be produced in New England by 6 kW of PV panels, 24 panels, mostly Chinese, @ 250 W each, at an installed cost of about $21,000 – $24,000. If such a household also had 2 Japanese, wall-mounted, ductless, cold weather heat pumps, at an installed cost of about $8,000, at least 8,500 kWh/yr would be required for space heating and domestic hot water to displace the heat input of about 70% of the fuel oil or propane. A back-up heating system, such as a thermostat-controlled, propane-fired stove, would be required during cold temperatures when heat pumps have lower efficiencies, and in case of a power outage.


From government and ISO-NE records, we know, the New England annual average onshore CF is about 0.26 for RECENT installations, and, for this study, the annual average offshore CF is assumed at 0.40, and New England’s consumption, MWh/y is assumed to be unchanged; some installations have higher CFs, others lower CFs.

NOTE: The annual average 2014 New England capacity factor = 1,928,000 MWh/(836 MW x 8760 h/y) = 0.263. In prior years, it has been as low as 0.24. Most proponents of wind energy, including in Montpelier, VT, stubbornly keep proclaiming wind energy has a capacity factor of 0.32 or better, whereas all New England production evidence of the past 5 years proves otherwise.

If Wind Energy Were 100% On-shore: Wind turbine capacity required in New England = (15,170,000 MWh)/(8,760 h/y x 0.263 = 6,574 MW.  These systems, on 2000 – 2500 ft. high ridgelines, must be near suitable capacity high voltage lines, to minimize grid disturbances.

Capital cost = 6,574 x $2.8 million/MW = $18.41 billion, plus about $4 billion for NE grid upgrades, plus about $4 billion for HVDC transmission to Canada for balancing part of the variable wind energy, plus about $2 billion for changing (retiring, building new) the mix of the OTHER generators for balancing part of the variable wind energy, AND to provide energy when wind energy is inadequate, including as low as 1 or 2% of energy on the NE grid system*.

* Germany, et al., have similar, low wind energy outputs during more or less UNPREDICTABLE periods throughout a year.

If Wind Energy Were 50% Onshore + 50% Offshore: Capital cost = (15,170,000/2 MWh)/(8,760 h/y x CF 0.263) x $2.8 million/MW + (15,170,000/2 MWh)/(8,760 h/y x CF 0.40) x $4.0 million/MW = $17.86 billion, plus about $4 billion for NE grid upgrades, plus about $4 billion for HVDC transmission to Canada for balancing part of the variable wind energy, plus about $2 billion for changing (retiring, building new) the mix of the OTHER generators to enable balancing part of the variable wind energy, AND to provide energy when wind energy is inadequate, including as low as 1 or 2% of energy on the NE system.


If Wind Energy Were 100% On-shore: Wind turbine capacity required in New England = (50,870,400 MWh)/(8,760 h/y x 0.263 = 22,046 MW. These systems, on 2000 – 2500 ft. high ridgelines, must be near suitable capacity high voltage lines, to minimize grid disturbances.

Capital cost = 22,046 MW x $2.8 million/MW = $61.73 billion, plus about $12 billion for NE grid upgrades, plus about $6 billion for HVDC transmission to Canada for balancing part of the variable wind energy, plus about $2 billion for changing (retiring, building new) the mix of the OTHER generators to enable balancing part of the variable wind energy, AND to provide energy when wind energy is inadequate, including as low as 1 or 2% of energy on the NE grid system.

If Wind Energy Were 50% Onshore + 50% Offshore: Capital cost = (20% x 127,108,000 MWh)/(8,760 h/y x CF 0.263) x $2.8 million/MW + (20% x 127,108,000 MWh)/(8,760 h/y x CF 0.40)  x $4.0 million/MW = $59.90 billion,  plus about $12 billion in NE grid upgrades, plus about $6 billion for HVDC transmission to Canada to balance part of the variable wind energy, plus about $2 billion for changing (retiring, building new) the mix of the OTHER generators to enable balancing part of the variable wind energy, AND to provide energy when wind energy is inadequate, including as low as 1 or 2% of energy on the NE system.


Below is a summary of the estimated capital cost and energy costs of the 15,170 GWh/y alternatives; $billion.

………………………………100% ridge…….50% ridge/50% offshore


Grid upgrade in NE……….4.00……………………………4.00

Transmission to CA………4.00……………………………4.00

Generator mix………………2.00……………………………2.00


Below is a summary of the estimated capital cost and energy costs of the 50,870 GWh/y alternatives; $billion.

……………………………..100% ridge…….50% ridge/50% offshore


Grid upgrade in NE……..12.00………………………….12.00

Transmission to CA………6.00……………………………6.00

Generator mix………………2.00……………………………2.00


The WHOLESALE cost of the wind energy likely would be about:

Onshore: 10 – 15 c/kWh, WITH existing subsidies; about 15 – 20 c/kWh, WITHOUT such subsidies.

Offshore: 20 – 25 c/kWh (based on Cape Wind, et al., projections), WITH existing subsidies; about 25 – 30 c/kWh WITHOUT such subsidies.

NOTE: NE wholesale prices, at which utilities buy some of their energy, have been about 5c/ kWh during the past 5 years, due to an abundance of nearby, low-cost, DOMESTIC, natural gas.

NOTE: Wind energy proponents claim the cost is 9.5 – 10 c/kWh, but those spreadsheet results are based on too high CFs of 0.33, too low capital cost/MW, too low O&M costs/MWh, and too long 25-year useful service lives.

NOTE: About 50% of the onshore wind turbines likely would be US-built; GE. The other 50% likely would be foreign-built; Denmark, Germany, Spain. Almost all of the offshore wind turbines likely would be foreign-built; Denmark, Germany, England. Europe has about 15 years of experience and the US has ZERO experience with offshore wind turbines installations.


This article is partially about two alternatives to provide hydro energy from Labrador, New Brunswick, and Quebec to serve ALL of New England. Investments of about $5 – $7 billion would be required for HVDC transmission lines in New England. The other HVDC lines would be by Canada. These new HVDC lines would be owned by private investors, who charge transmissions fees, just as VELCO does in Vermont.

Canadian hydro energy likely would be available at about 5 – 7 c/kWh, near New England WHOLESALE prices. The Canadians are eager to sell. They are a friendly people. They have been our ally in war and peace since 1940, or earlier. They are not out to hose New England. It would be out of character.

New Brunswick, Labrador and Quebec have a large, ALREADY-BUILT hydro plant capacity, MW, that is underutilized, because, more than 30 years ago, greater demand growth was planned for, but it did not occur during the past 10 to 20 years.

Various government entities, et al., know this, but prefer to be in denial, and instead cater to state RE sectors by promoting heavily subsidized, home-grown renewable energy at 2 – 5 times NE wholesale prices, per Vermont Department of Public Service records of energy costs/kWh of the heavily subsidized, dysfunctional SPEED program.

Clearly, H-Q hydro energy is a much better for the Vermont and New England economy than all other RE alternatives. Chaining poor Vermont to high-cost, in-state-generated RE would be extremely adverse for its weak economy, which has been in near-zero growth mode during 2011, 2012, 2013, and 2014, with tens of thousands of households and businesses just barely making it.

For New England to build out variable, intermittent, high-cost/kWh wind energy, at such enormous investment costs, and to downplay, for political reasons, the obtaining from Canada a large quantity, but higher quality, low-cost/kWh hydro energy, at a much lesser investment cost, shows a lack of responsibility and vision that is beyond rational.

NOTE: If New England were to build out wind turbines on ridge lines and offshore to achieve 40% wind energy due to the future shutdown of coal, oil, and nuclear plants (they provided 38% of NE energy in 2014), the existing gas turbines and hydro plants in New England could not possibly balance the variable wind energy. Just as Denmark requires major grid connections to hydro plants of Norway and Sweden to balance its wind energy, so would New England require major connections to the hydro plants of Quebec, New Brunswick and Labrador. It would be utterly irrational to spend about $80 billion over several decades to build about 22,046 MW of wind turbines on ridge lines + balancing connections to Canada to produce expensive wind energy for the low-growth New England economy, when large quantities (MWh/yr) of low-cost (likely about 5-7 c/kWh), near-CO2-free, renewable, hydro energy (made from rainwater), at about $6 billion of HVDC lines, could be available to New England starting in 2019.

NOTE: If only 50% of the above 40% were generated on ridge lines, then (0.20 x 127,108,000 MWh/y)/(8760 h/y x CF 0.263) = 11,023 MW of wind turbines, or (3674) 3 MW units, and, at 6 units per mile, about 612 miles of ridge line would be required. At present, NE has about 836 MW of wind turbines (about 300 units), which took about $2.2 billion and 10 years to build. Where will the subsidies come from to build 12 times more units on ridgelines, and to build all of the offshore units? New England household electric rates may become as high as Denmark, i.e., about 30 eurocent/kWh. No rational person would want to go that route.


The Conservation Law Foundation is an RE industry-supported entity that advocates local development of subsidized RE that produces expensive energy and harms the environment. Therefore, it is opposed to HVDC transmissions lines, is opposed to running transmission lines at the bottom of Lake Champlain and the Hudson River, is opposed to counting hydro energy as RE, even though hydro energy is made from rainwater, is opposed to anything to prevent renewable, near-CO2-free, low-cost, STEADY hydro energy from gaining market share in New England’s economy, which needs low-cost energy to survive and thrive. Irrational, narrow-minded, special interest RE advocacy appears to have no limits even among intelligent people.


Below is a table of federal subsidies for traditional and renewable energy for 2013. RE received 72.5% of the subsidies, but produced only 13.1% of all the energy. 


………………………………million $…..billion kWh


Gas + Petro Liq……………690…………..1141



Total Trad………………..3251……………3536




Solar, Utility + Distr……4393………………19


Other RE……………………594

Total RE………………..11678…………….533

Trad + RE………………14929……………4069

Smart Grid + Trans……..1184


A subsidy dollar to nuclear is (60 y x CF 0.90) / (25 y x CF 0.14) = 15.42 times more productive than to PV solar.

A subsidy dollar to nuclear is (60 x 0.90) / (25 x 0.30) = 7.2 times more productive than to wind.


Wind turbine systems would:

– Cause major environmental damage to New England’s mostly pristine ridgelines.

– Be highly visible, and highly damaging to tourism and New England’s ambiance. 

– Expose tens of thousands of people to excessive noise, affecting their sleep, health and overall wellbeing.

– Have high capital costs/MW compared to Great Plains and Panhandle

– Have high O & M costs/MWh compared to Great Plains and Panhandle

– Have low capacity factors compared to Great Plains and Panhandle

– Have short useful service lives (15 – 25 years) compared to traditional power plants (40 – 100 years), i.e., high replacement rates.


Regulation of frequency on a grid is usually performed by one or two small capacity OCGTs, because they are quick-ramping units. Balancing may involve many units, quick- and slower ramping, depending on the energy quantities to be balanced. The more wind turbines, the greater the energy quantities to be balanced. One can readily see why Denmark and Germany ran out of balancing capacity, not regulating capacity. Most lay, and some not so lay people, do not understand the difference between regulation and balancing; one is fine tuning small energy quantities, the other deals with large energy quantities.

With increased wind energy on the grid there would be reductions in fuel consumption and CO2 emissions, but to a significant extent they would be offset by:

– The increased inefficient, part-load operation of the traditional generators.

– The increased inefficient ramping operation, while at part load, of the balancing generators, such as CCGTs and OCGTs.

– The increased hot, synchronous spinning requirements of the traditional generators.

– The increased less-efficient scheduling of the traditional generators.

Most CCGTs become unstable, if operated below 40% of rated output; a practical limit is about 50%. Ergo, CCGT generators, in balancing mode, would need to operate at about 75% to be able to ramp up 25% and ramp down 25%. This significantly reduces their ramping range. The efficiency of CCGTs significantly decreases at less than rated output. Usually, CCGTs require at least 1.5 hours for warm-up-from-a-cold-start to safely and without damage reach rated output. Future CCGT-based plants would need to consist of multiple smaller units (not as efficient as bigger units), so the grid operator can order them, depending on balancing requirements, to be in:

– Cold standby mode

– Hot standby mode, i.e., synchronous spinning mode (minimal energy fed to the grid)

– Part-load, ramping mode

Stationary diesel plant generators largely maintain their efficiency at part-load, and can be efficiently ramped up and down. Hydro plant generators can be efficiently operated at part-load, and rapidly ramped up and down, without increasing CO2 emissions. Typically, to maximize stress-free, stable, efficient operation, coal plants and their air quality control systems are operated at near-rated output. Typically, to maximize stress-free, stable and efficient operation, nuclear plants are operated at near-rated output.

Example: New England, if foolish enough to invest about $80 billion in wind turbines to have about 40% percent of its annual energy from wind, would need major HVDC connections to the Quebec, Labrador and New Brunswick grids for peaking, filling-in and balancing of its wind energy. Doing it with NE gas turbines would require them to operate inefficiently due to ramping up and down, at part-load, i.e., more Btu/kWh, more CO2/kWh. In any case, the existing NE gas turbine capacity would be inadequate for peaking, filling-in and balancing.


Ireland had an island grid with a minor connection with the UK grid until October 2012. Eirgrid, the operator of the grid, publishes ¼-hour data regarding CO2 emissions, wind energy production, fuel consumption and energy generation. Drs. Udo and Wheatley made several analyses, based on 2012 and earlier Irish grid operations data, that show clear evidence of the effectiveness of CO2 emission reduction decreasing with increasing annual wind energy percentages.

The Wheatley study of the Irish grid shows: Wind energy CO2 reduction effectiveness = (CO2 intensity, metric ton/MWh, with wind)/(CO2 intensity with no wind) = (0.279, @ 17% wind)/(0.53, @ no wind) = 0.526, based on ¼-hour, operating data of each generator on the Irish grid, as collected by SEMO.

If 17% wind energy, ideal world wind energy promoters typically claim a 17% reduction in CO2, i.e., 83% is left over.

If 17% wind energy, real world performance data of the Irish grid shows a 0.526 x 17% = 8.94% reduction, i.e., 91.06% is left over.

What applied to the Irish grid would apply to the New England grid as well, unless the balancing is done with hydro, a la Denmark.

Europe is facing the same problem, but it is stuck with mostly gas turbine balancing, as it does not have nearly enough hydro capacity for balancing.

Fuel and CO2 Reductions Less Than Claimed: If we assume, at zero wind energy, the gas turbines produce 100 kWh of electricity requiring 100 x 3413/0.5 = 682,600 Btu of gas (at an average efficiency of 0.50), then 682600 x 117/1000000 = 79.864 lb CO2 are emitted.

According to wind proponents, at 17% wind energy, 83 kWh is produced requiring 83 x 3413/0.50 = 566,558 Btu of gas, which emits 566558 x 117/1000000 = 66.287 lb CO2, for an ideal world emission reduction of 13.577 lb CO2.

In the real world, the CO2 reduction is 13.577 x 0.526 = 7.144 lb CO2, for a remaining emission of 79.864 – 7.144 = 72.723 lb CO2, which would be emitted by 621,560 Btu of gas; 621560 x (117/1000000) = 72.723 lb CO2.

To produce 83 kWh with 621,560 Btu of gas, the turbine efficiency would need to be 83 x 3413/621560 = 0.4558, for a turbine efficiency reduction of 100 x (1 – 0.4558/0.50) = 8.85%.

Below is a summary:

Ideal World…………………………..Btu…………CO2, lb…….Turbine Efficiency

No Wind gas generation………..682,600………79.864……………0.5000

17% Wind gas generation……..566,558……….66.287…………..0.5000


Real World

17% Wind gas generation……..621,560……….72.723…………..0.4558


Actually, Ireland’s turbines produce much more than 100 kWh in a year, but whatever they produce is at a reduced efficiency, courtesy of integrating variable wind energy.

For example, in 2013, natural gas was 2098 ktoe/4382 ktoe = 48% of the energy for electricity generation; see SEIA report. This likely included 2098 – 2098/1.0855 = 171 ktoe for balancing wind energy, which had a CO2 emission of about 171 x 39653 million x 117/million = 791.4 million lb. This was at least 791.4 million lb of CO2 emission reduction that did not take place, because of less efficient operation of the balancing gas turbines.

The cost of the gas was, at $10/million Btu, about 171 x 39653 million x $10/million = $67.6 million; it is likely there were other costs, such as increased wear and tear. This was at least $67.6 million of gas cost reduction that did not take place, because of less efficient operation of the balancing gas turbines.

In 2013, the fuel cost of wind energy balancing was 5,872,100,000 kWh/$67.6 million = 1.152 c/kWh, which will become greater as more wind turbine systems are added.

It must be a real downer for the Irish people, after making the investments to build out wind turbine systems and despoiling the visuals of much of their country, to find out the reductions of CO2 emissions and of imported gas costs, at 17% wind energy, are about 52.6% of what was promised*, and, as more wind turbine systems are added, that percentage will decrease even more!!

*Not included are the embedded CO2 emissions for build-outs of flexible generation adequacy, grid system adequacy, and storage system adequacy to accommodate the variable wind (and solar) energy, plus all or part of their O&M CO2 emissions during their operating lives; in case of storage adequacy, all of O&M CO2 emissions, because high wind and solar energy percentages on the grid could not exist without storage adequacy.

NOTE:  Gas turbine plant efficiencies are less at part load outputs. If gas turbines plants have to perform peaking, filling-in and balancing, due to variable, intermittent wind and solar energy on the grid, they generally operate at varying and lower outputs and with more start/stops. Such operation is less efficient than at steady and higher outputs and with fewer start/stops, just as with a car. Operation is unstable below 40%, hence the practical limit is about 50%, which limits the ramping range from 50% to 100%. Here is an example:


Simple Cycle………………….100%……….38%……………..40%………….26%

Combined Cycle……………..100%……….55%……………..40%………….47%

Australia’s Power System: The Wheatley report states, with 4.5% wind energy on the grid, CO2 reductions were about 3.5%, which means the effectiveness was about 3.5/4.5 = 78% in 2014. The Wheatley report states, if wind energy were 9%, it would be about 70%. By extrapolation, if wind energy were 13.5%, it would be about 62%, and at 18%, it would be about 54%, i.e., the more wind energy, the less its effectiveness reducing CO2 emissions and fuel consumption. This would be similar to the effectiveness of 52.6% at 17% wind energy of Ireland’s power system. The laws of physics apply to Ireland, Australia, etc.


A few percent wind energy on LOCAL HV grids can cause all sorts of problems, despite interconnections.

Interconnection keeps wind percentages low, less than a few percent, i.e., the wind energy irregularities (and losses) stay buried in the noise of the system. This allows the AWEA, et al., to claim the losses are just a few percent.

High wind energy generated in Iowa is not a problem, because the exported energy is sent on dedicated HV lines to Illinois, where it becomes just a few percent on a much larger system, which is doing the balancing; i.e., the wind energy irregularities (and losses) stay buried in the noise of the Illinois system.

Denmark’s own system can do SOME of the balancing, but it uses the much larger Norway and Sweden systems to do most of the rest, i.e., the wind energy irregularities (and losses) stay buried in the noise of the Norway and Sweden systems.

Ireland is an ISLAND system. As a result the wind energy irregularities STAY IN IRELAND, and with the proper data, the losses can be quantified, as has been done by Drs. Udo and Wheatley; their study results were corroborated by the lack of reduction of gas imports with increasing wind energy.

In 2012, Ireland commissioned an underwater, 500 MW HVDC connection with the UK grid (Dublin County to North Wales) to spread its very significant wind energy irregularities to the much larger UK system, which does the rest of the balancing, i.e., the wind energy irregularities (and losses) stay buried in the noise of the UK system.


Phasing out the above 38% of energy on the NE grid will eliminate the grid stability (frequency, voltage, phase) provided by the SYNCHRONOUS inertia of their large, rotating turbine generators. Frequency dynamics are faster in power systems with low rotational inertia, such as when significant wind and solar energy has been added, making frequency control and power system operation more challenging.

Performance Curve of a Wind Turbine: Wind turbine manufacturers publish wind turbine performance curves with the familiar shape. At a given wind speed, there is a given energy output. In reality, the wind speed AND direction are constantly changing, especially in hilly areas, such as on ridgelines.

The published performance curve of a wind turbine shows:

– Zero output for wind speeds of 0 to about 7 mph; 1 mph = 0.44704 m/sec. Wind energy intermittency is unpredictable, as it can occur anytime the wind speed is less than 7 mph. The intermittency of traditional generators is highly predictable, except in the rare event of an unscheduled outage.

– Continuously variable output with the cube of the wind speed for wind speeds from about 7 mph to about 33 mph, the maximum speed to achieve rated output.

– A near constant output from about 33 mph to 55 mph.

– A shutdown speed of about 55 mph, which can occur during wind gusts, which are unpredictable and can occur at any time.

Wind Speed and Direction: Whereas an 8” anemometer quickly indicates wind speed and direction, that is not the case with a multi-ton nacelle quickly reducing the yaw angle to perpendicularly face the wind, and 175-ft long blades of a 373-ft diameter rotor quickly changing speed and pitch.

As a result, the wind turbine output is constantly changing at a indicated anemometer wind speed. The resulting performance curve is a scatter diagram that has the shape of the published performance curve, but may have output variations of plus or minus 20% for an indicated anemometer wind speed. Adding such scatter diagrams gives a scatter diagram as the output of a multi-turbine installation.

Variable updrafts and downdrafts upstream of the rotor, common in hilly areas, also add to output variations; nacelle and blade adjustments would not be effective to reduce those additions to output variations. Grid stability would be made worse by phasing in increasingly larger quantities of such variable, intermittent wind energy.

To reduce excessive output variations and grid disturbances of a wind turbine installation, various output control strategies are being developed and tested using some later model wind turbines. The strategies attempt to control output variations within preset limits by continuously varying the nacelle orientation, and the speed and pitch of the blades

As an alternative, synchronous-condenser systems, upstream of the substation that feeds into the high voltage grid, are used to “clean up” frequency and phase variations, as with the $10.5 million, 62-ton, synchronous-condenser system for the Lowell Mountain wind turbine installation in Vermont.

NOTE: Grid stability would also be made worse by phasing in variable, intermittent solar energy to distribution and high voltage grids. Solar energy is particularly variable during variable-cloudy weather, common in New England.


– Denmark has built its entire wind turbine set-up around the hydro plants in Norway and Sweden, which balance its wind energy; Denmark has the highest household electric rates in Europe, about 30 eurocent/kWh.

– Ireland expensively balances its wind energy with gas turbines; the gas is imported.

– Spain and Portugal expensively balance their wind energy with gas turbines and pumped-storage hydro plants; the gas is imported.

– Germany expensively balances its wind energy with flexible coal plants, gas turbines and “borrowing” the spare balancing capacity of nearby grids; the gas is imported.

– Germany has the second highest household electric rates in Europe, about 29.5 eurocent/kWh, due to the ENERGIEWENDE program.


Wind and solar energy is weather-dependent, variable and intermittent, i.e., therefore not reliable, high-quality, energy sources.

Example of Lack of Reliability of Wind and Solar Energy in New England:

– Wind energy is zero about 30% of the hours of the year (it takes a wind speed of about 7 mph to start the rotors), minimal most early mornings and most late afternoons, about 60% of all wind energy is generated AT NIGHT.

– Solar energy is zero about 65% of the hours of the year, minimal early mornings and late afternoons, minimal much of the winter, and near-zero with snow and ice on the panels.

– During winter in New England, solar energy, on a monthly basis, is as low as 1/4 of what it is during the best month in summer; 1/6 in Germany.

– Often both are at near-zero levels during many hours of the year. See URL, click on Renewables. In the Fuel Mix Chart you see the instantaneous wind and solar %.

– Germany has excellent public records for the past 12 years showing the variability and intermittency of wind and solar energy, i.e., denial/obfuscation of the facts is not an option.

That means, in Germany and in New England, ALL other existing generators, usually gas turbines, must be kept in good running order, staffed, fueled, and ready to go. They have to operate inefficiently (more Btu/kWh, more CO2/kWh, as in Ireland), while providing energy for peaking, filling-in and balancing the variable solar and wind energy 24/7/365. The end result: Two energy systems to do one job!

As an alternative, the hydro plants of Canada could be used for near-CO2-free peaking, filling-in and balancing, but that would require 1000 – 1500 MW HVDC transmission lines (underwater, overhead or underground).

However, Canada, our friend and ally, could do much more than that. It has huge quantities of EXCESS hydro energy, which it is EAGER to sell to New England. As a result, New England would not need to spend tens of billions of dollars and desecrate its environment and ambiance with thousands of 500-ft tall wind turbines on ridge lines and many square miles of solar PV panels in meadows; the wind turbines often imported, the solar PV panels often made in China with dirty, inefficient COAL plants


The current Northeast Kingdom, NEK, grid in Vermont is perfectly adequate to serve the NEK demands, but feeding variable (voltage, frequency, phase), intermittent wind energy into that grid would cause excessive instabilities, as was found with the Lowell project.

It is well known by various government entities, the NEK would need at least $300 million of grid upgrades before significant variable, intermittent, grid disturbing, wind energy could be added. Just adding the cancelled SENECA system would have cost $86 million in grid upgrades. GMP had to spend a total of about $20 million to connect the Lowell system to the grid, including a $10.5 million, 62-ton, synchronous-condenser system.


The instant renewable energy is fed into a distribution grid or high voltage grid, it immediately becomes part of the existing mix of the grid, and the NEW mix spreads as electromagnetic waves, at near the speed of light, and gets consumed along its many ways. The electrons migrate very slowly, at less than one inch per second; mostly they vibrate in place at 60 Hz.

There is nothing local about energy after it has been fed into the grid, as moving at near the speed of light means from northern Maine to southern Florida, about 1,800 miles, in 0.01 second. Depending on the quantity of RE fed into the grid, it could be consumed, as part of the NEW mix, almost anywhere within 10, 50 or 200 miles.

Some RE promoters absurdly claim a state, such as Vermont, has its very own energy mix!! Their claim locally-generated RE fed into the grid is locally consumed is a feel-good, RE-promoting ploy to make lay people think they are consuming their locally generated RE. Those claims have nothing to do with physical reality.

Government entities even use that ploy as a basis for making analyses to show off the benefits of RE, and for awarding subsidies, or giving other preferential treatment.


Economically viable energy storage systems, other than hydro, have not yet been invented, and would take many billions of dollars and decades to deploy AFTER they are invented. At present, using batteries for energy storage during the day and using the energy at night costs about 23 c/kWh JUST FOR STORAGE, per a David Hallquist study for the DOE. See URL.


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Bob Meinetz's picture
Bob Meinetz on Apr 22, 2015

Willem, thanks for bringing this issue to light once again, in which Vermont politicos replaced a prime New England source of carbon-free energy – Vermont Yankee Nuclear Generating Plant – so that a Canadian gas distributor might be able to buy out Green Mountain Power, the state’s generation monopoly.

What are Vermont’s per capita carbon emissions since the plant closed at the beginning of this year? We won’t know until next year, when residents have been so thoroughly brainwashed to believe their useless ridgeline wind turbines and hydro generation are responsible for their electricity they won’t even care.

Bruce McFarling's picture
Bruce McFarling on Apr 23, 2015

“It is available 24/7/365”

Hydropower is available 24/7/365 until you hit the total available supply, then you have to start budgeting how much you use when.

So the question is, does the Quebec hdyro have excess supply, or is it fully booked? If its fully booked, who will be taking less of their hydro capacity because NE is taking more? And what will used to replace it?

If the Quebec hydro is market constrained, so they can generate more hydro if they gain connection to more customers, that’s likely to be the most cost effective source of new sustainable, renewable energy available.

If the Quebec hydro is supply constrained, so that NE buying more hydro power is swinging the power from somewhere else, the net impact depends on what that power is. It could be putting more coal online, it could be putting more natural gas online, it could be putting more western Great Lakes wind online … quite possibly a mix of all three.

But moving ahead with onshore NE wind before talking to Quebec about what supply is available seems silly.


Willem Post's picture
Willem Post on Apr 23, 2015


You raise good points.

I am looking into the present capacity factor of Quebec’s hydro plants and what it could be. That difference could be exported to New England.

When I know more, I will add paragraphs to the article, as needed.


Willem Post's picture
Willem Post on Apr 25, 2015


Energy a by-product of power?  

Thermal, hydro, wind, solar, etc., are SOURCES of energy. All can be converted by variouis means to electrical energy.

Energy, MWh = Power output, MW x Time, hr 


Willem Post's picture
Willem Post on May 16, 2015


What the German experience shows is that wind power is a bonus for NG plant operators and France’s load-following nukes and a problem for poorly dispatchable antiquated coal plants.”

You make good points, each of which would take an article to respond to.

In Germany, some of the most efficient CCGT plants are on life support. Owners are demanding capacity payments. Gas is very expensive.

It is not a bonus to not operate their plants in a base-loaded mode, but instead in inefficient, variable-output mode, because subsidized wind and solar energy are crowding their energy off the grid.

Germany is building load-following, rapid-ramping coal plants (low-cost domestic fuel) to replace most of its gas plants (high-cost, from Russia fuel).

Nathan Wilson's picture
Nathan Wilson on May 16, 2015

The notion of spinning inertia makes no sense when applied to solar or wind generators that use inverters

When we talk about spinning inertia and frequency regulation on the grid, we refer to the need for generators to vary their output to meet fluctuating demand over a time scale of seconds.  With much of grid power coming from rotating synchronous generators, the first symptoms of a power imbalance is a frenquency and voltage deviation.  Yes, a grid with lots of wind and solar still needs to meet fluctuating demand; that’s why utilities are investing in grid-scale batteries with only 30 minutes of storage. 

These sources can actually improve power quality by providing frequency and voltage regulation and power factor correction.”

Power factor correction requires energy storage only for 1/120th of a second, so yes solar inverters and wind farms can potentially help with that (but so can grid capacitors, the usual solution).  But only storage on a time-frame of seconds to minutes (or actual spinning inertia or fast throttling generators) can help with voltage and frequency;  wind and solar don’t help with these, and divert revenue away from energy sources that do.

Willem Post's picture
Willem Post on May 16, 2015


You are right.

With more minute-to-minute, variable wind and solar energy on the grid, there needs to be a certain quantity of rotational inertia to maintain voltage and frequency.

There are other ways that can be done, all of which are very expensive. Borrowing inertia is much less expensive.

Germany has been borrowing intertia by tying into nearby grids and importing/exporting at the same time.

The exporting usually is at very low, or negative wholesale prices, after subsidizing that ENEGIEWENDE energy at a legacy cost of about 20 eurocent/kWh!!

Read this article. You will have a lot of fun.

Several rather complicated articles involving non-linear control theory, have been written on the subject of rotational inertia. Most commentators have not a clue what is involved, but comment with inanities anyway.

To provide that rotational inertia, more generator capacity, MW, will need to be kept in synchronous mode, not to produce power, but to provide inertia and stability.

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