I Aloha Molokai, a group that opposes the Big Wind project, issued a press release last week that said an Arizona utility company has decided not to develop any more wind projects because solar is a better choice. The group cites Arizona as an example of why Hawaii shouldn’t be pursuing wind energy.
I Aloha Molokai accuses the Hawaii government of “promoting costly and inefficient industrial wind farms just as the rest of the country is abandoning them.”
“Do we really need to repeat Arizona’s mistake, or can we learn from it?” the group asks in the press release.
I Aloha Molokai says that Arizona Public Service has abandoned plans for wind energy because solar is a better option.
Specifically, this is what the press release states:
Arizona Public Service (APS), the state’s major electric utility, has announced it will discontinue development of any further wind energy projects because residential and commercial rooftop solar provide a far better solution for both cost and time-of-day energy production. APS will now utilize solar alone to meet a state renewable energy mandate.
To verify the claim, Civil Beat spoke with Kanohowailuku Helm, I Aloha Molokai’s president, to find out what the information in the press release was based on.
Civil Beat also called Arizona Public Service in Phoenix.
Helm provided Civil Beat with a story that ran in the Arizona Daily Sun, a small newspaper in Flagstaff. The story says that “at least for now” more wind farms in Arizona are unlikely, that the cost of solar is lower than wind energy, and that wind energy doesn’t provide enough energy on hot summer days when it is particularly needed.
But APS, which currently purchases energy from three wind farms — two of which are in New Mexico where there are stronger wind resources — hasn’t decided that wind energy isn’t worth pursuing. APS is the largest electric utility in Arizona and is the primary supplier for the Phoenix metro area.
Asked if it’s true that the utility had decided to forgo wind energy, Jenna Shaver, a spokesperson for the utility, said “it’s not, actually.”
“Wind is the biggest addition to our renewable energy portfolio, currently,” she said. “It’s not that we are never planning on or investing in another wind farm in the future.”
She said that the utility proceeds with energy projects that are best for the industry at the time.
Recently, the cost of developing solar has taken a dive, making it a particularly attractive option for the Arizona utility. Shaver noted a 2012 report by APS that shows the price of solar power was about 11.5 cents per kilowatt hour, as opposed to wind energy which is 18 cents per kilowatt hour.
“Currently solar is more affordable than wind, but this is not to say that we aren’t going to invest in wind in the future,” she said.
BOTTOM LINE: I Aloha Molokai’s claim that Arizona Public Service “would discontinue development of any further wind energy projects” is false. While the electric utility says that solar has become an increasingly attractive option, with prices dipping below that of wind, this doesn’t mean that it has abandoned wind energy.