Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Wind and Utilities - How Much is Good?

An item caught my eye the other day while reading Warren Buffett's 2008 annual letter to shareholders of Berkshire Hathaway, his multi-billion dollar corporation where he is Chairman.  Buffett wrote that wind-generated power makes up 20 percent of the power generation in Iowa.   Berkshire Hathaway (BRK) owns a major utility in Iowa, MidAmerican Energy Holdings.  

Buffett wrote: "MidAmerican has maintained this extraordinary price stability while making Iowa number one among all states in the percentage of its generation capacity that comes from wind. Since our purchase, MidAmerican’s wind-based facilities have grown from zero to almost 20% of total capacity."

This is interesting because many people write that wind-power cannot provide more than about 20 percent of a utility's power due to the instability it creates on the grid.  For comparison, California has about 2 to 3 percent of its electric power provided by wind.  It appears there may be significance in word choices here, as Buffett wrote "total capacity," and the total wind-generated kwh is probably one-fourth of that, or roughly 5 percent of total power generated.  

California's goal is to have 33 percent of all electric power sold in 2020 to be from renewable sources of all forms:  wind, solar, biomass, geothermal, small hydroelectric, and wave.  Thus far, geothermal, small hydro, and biomas are predominant, with wind at 2.3 percent and solar at 0.3 percent (2007 figures).  

Way to go, Iowa!  This is especially interesting, since the State of California considers itself a leader in so many things, and proudly boasts of its landmark AB 32 as showing the rest of the world how to conserve energy, go green, stimulate the economy, and create green jobs.   Words to that effect are written into the AB 32 statute.  

And Iowa is leading in the wind-generated power category, as a percent of total capacity.   Meanwhile, Texas is leading all states in total installed wind capacity.  

Warren Buffett is no dummy.  His investment in wind-power in Iowa indicates strongly that wind is a good investment.   Again, way to go, Iowa!   Show California how it is done.  

Roger E. Sowell, Esq.  Legal website is here

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