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The massive coal-fired plant in Boardman, Ore., is just four years away from being shut down for good – at that point, Oregon coal production will be no more, after the state became the first in the nation to completely ban coal power.
"This is basically a wind mandate," said the Cascade Policy Institute's John Charles, while suggesting alternative energy sources won’t be able to meet the state’s needs. "There's no way wind can physically power the grid because days, weeks on end, wind produces zero."
A major problem could be getting any new power to the grid. A U.S. Chamber of Commerce report, titled “Project No Project,” found 351 recent ventures that never got built -- 140 of the projects were for renewable power. Many were killed due to legal challenges from environmental groups.
One example of this is playing out in Oregon, where renewable power has become more critical due to the coal ban. The 133-turbine, 399 MW Saddle Butte Wind Park proposed for a large piece of land in Eastern Oregon near Boardman has been under challenge for several years. The developer, fed up with the lengthy process, has stopped paying $30,000 in fees he owes the state.
Last year, the wind power subsidy cost federal taxpayers $12 billion. This is more than double the historical average of $5 billion a year. The subsidy provides a direct payment to wind and solar producers, based on the amount of power they produce. For wind power, the subsidy is worth around $23 per megawatt of power, around half the wholesale price of electricity
Warren Buffett, a big investor in wind power, admitted the industry’s reliance on the federal subsidy. “[O]n wind energy, we get a tax credit if we build a lot of wind farms. That’s the only reason to build them. They don’t make sense without the tax credit.”