Adrian LaTrace urges U.S. Utilities to Embrace Wind and Reduce Energy Bills
CHICAGO and DUBLIN, Aug. 6 -- Mainstream Renewable Power, the global renewable energy company, has announced the appointment of Adrian LaTrace as chief executive of North America operations. LaTrace is the former vice president and general manager of Acciona Windpower North America. The appointment follows the company's recent acquisition of a portfolio of wind farm projects in the state of Illinois with a potential capacity of 787 megawatts. It is expected these projects will be fully operational by 2013 and will produce enough power to supply almost 200,000 homes in the U.S.
Commenting on the appointment, Mainstream's Chief Executive Officer Eddie O'Connor said, "We are witnessing the beginning of a meaningful diversification in the U.S. to incorporate clean energy sources for new power generation. Adrian has the right experience and the entrepreneurial spirit to help Mainstream Renewable Power drive the transition from fossil fuels to renewable wind energy. North America needs to develop its large-scale wind resources to capitalize on the long-term, sustainable benefits for utilities, economies and ultimately for consumers. More wind energy means lower energy bills; it's as simple as that."
LaTrace has more than 25 years of management experience in the wind energy, aerospace and electronics industries. In his role as vice president and general manager of Acciona Windpower North America, LaTrace had direct responsibility for business development, manufacturing operations, supply chain management, installation/commissioning and O&M services. LaTrace helped establish Acciona's wind turbine manufacturing business in North America by leading the site selection, construction, and staffing of Acciona's first wind turbine manufacturing facility in the U.S. His team built three wind farm projects in the U.S. totalling more than 400 megawatts. LaTrace has been a strong advocate for the industry on the benefits of wind power for the North American economy and environment.
"The biggest risk facing global utilities today is price uncertainty for commodities such as fuel," LaTrace commented. "Mainstream's experience and strong track record of funding and developing large-scale wind projects around the world makes us an ideal partner for utilities to help build out new wind capacity. Increasing the amount of indigenous, renewable energy to the generation mix provides a hedge against fuel price volatility, and has proven to drive down costs of the overall system. Utilities then can pass those savings onto consumers, decreasing their electricity bills."
Mainstream's business model involves selling operational wind farm assets to utilities, which LaTrace believes offer a natural home for these cash generating assets.
"It benefits them in three ways; first, it allows them to comply with either state or federal laws to increase the portion of renewable energy in their generation mix. Secondly, it offers a hedge against carbon-reduction compliance. Thirdly and most critically, because the fuel cost is fixed at zero, it replaces the more expensive fossil fuel generation and simultaneously reduces the demand for and price of fossil fuels," said LaTrace. "We've researched extensively on the value of wind to generation systems and the conclusion is more wind means less cost."
The Value of Wind
There is a perception that increasing the deployment of renewable generation will increase the price of electricity for consumers. However, the reality is the reverse: adding significant amounts of wind capacity to a country's generation portfolio leads to lower overall generation costs, and to lower bills, while increasing energy security.
Wind is a free source of fuel. When the wind blows the electricity system has access to this free source and the power generated is automatically accepted onto the system. That electricity system is a combination of generation plants using different fuels and technologies, each with its own marginal cost. Operators bring plants on line in an ascending order of marginal cost and employ the same methodology when reducing output. In short, the most expensive plants are the last to be brought onto the system and the first to be shed.
When introduced, wind displaces this "low merit" or "peaking" plant. This is the "merit order" effect, where wind reduces both the marginal and average cost of power. Recent studies in Germany have shown the consumer benefit of this effect, in that the reduction in domestic electricity prices brought about by this fossil fuel displacement exceeds the amount paid out by the consumer in support mechanisms for renewable generation.
When wind energy is available in significant quantities it causes the demand for fossil fuels to fall and if it continues to blow for a prolonged period, as frequently happens in northern Europe, the expected future market price of electricity also falls. This phenomenon was clearly seen in Spain over the early months of 2009 where prices paid for electricity on the spot market were reported to have dropped by over 10 percent as production from wind plants increased relative to demand. A longer term study in Denmark has shown that between 2004 and 2007 the cost of power would have increased by up to 12 percent if wind had not been available on the system.
Where wind production is increased, units burning fossil fuel will have their input price reduced because the inclusion of wind reduces demand for fossils. Thus there is a leverage effect on the value of each unit of electricity made from wind. It does not just have a very low marginal cost; it lowers the cost of every other unit of fossil fired electricity as well.
One of the greatest benefits of wind power is that it reduces our exposure to fuel price volatility. Energy security considerations generally focus on the threat of abrupt supply disruptions, such as Russia's closure of its gas pipeline to the West. However, there is another aspect of energy security: the risk of unexpected fossil fuel price increases. Energy security is reduced - and prices increased - when countries hold inefficient portfolios that are overexposed to fossil price risks. Diversifying a country's generation portfolio by growing the supply of wind energy increases energy security and serves to lower the overall generation portfolio cost - again reducing electricity prices.
Opponents of renewable energy have been allowed to frame the debate around the economics of wind power by concentrating on its high capital cost, rather than its low and stable fuel cost, the benefits it brings in terms of lower energy market prices and its contribution to energy security. Maximizing the opportunity to develop large-scale wind resources will have clear, long-term, sustainable benefits for our economy and for domestic and commercial electricity consumers. Wind energy means lower bills; it's as simple as that.
About Mainstream Renewable Power:
Mainstream Renewable Power, based in Dublin, Ireland, was founded in February 2008 by Dr. Eddie O'Connor and Mr. Fintan Whelan, former chief executive and corporate finance manager of Airtricity. Its core business is to develop, build and operate wind energy, solar thermal and ocean current plants by partnering with governments, utility companies, developers and investors across North America, South America, Europe and South Africa.
Since its inception, Mainstream has:
For more information, visit http://www.mainstreamrp.com/
Olivia Mata of Edelman for Mainstream Renewable Power
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