I Like It! to Idea The Wind Number
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The Wind Number

Most Americans don’t like being told what time of day they should use electricity, even though meeting their demand is going to get expensive as more renewables are integrated into the electrical grid. Popular reaction to load shifting ranges from procrastination to disinterest to outright rejection of the very idea of it. Yet survey after survey indicates that Americans would choose clean energy over fossil fuels if it costs less. Why wouldn’t they? Energy storage and additional natural gas power plants will be needed; why not offer a more compelling value proposition instead of making the expensive capital investment?


Sabreez is a Green Button App that shows people how much clean energy they use so that they can use more, and save money on their utility bill. Wind power is the lowest cost form of electricity, and natural-gas-peaker plants are the most costly form of electricity, so using power when wind is strong at night instead of in the middle of the day when demand is high, saves money. Therefore, the resulting “Wind Number” is a measure of a User’s clean energy consumption and their savings.


Sabreez uses power generation data provided by the California ISO to produce a database of “Wind Numbers,” which is the systemwide ratio of wind over fossil fuels on an hourly basis. When a user registers, they can download their hourly data in an xml format to their desktop using the green button connect feature of their utility. When the user then uploads the xml file into the program, their hourly consumption is matched with the hourly Wind Number, and their Wind Number for the period is presented.


The User can display the results at www.facebook.com/windnumber to win a box of LEDs. People that have not given much thought to their energy usage have the lowest Wind Numbers. Just by shifting energy consumption to the evening and morning hours, Wind Numbers can increase substantially. Charging an electric car at night vs during the day is a much larger increase. Using solar increase the Wind Number even more, because consumption is decreased or reversed in the middle of the day when Wind Power is absent and fossil fuel use is peaking. All the smart grid technologies increase your Wind Number.


Your Wind Number is a metaphor for your clean energy consumption, and your impact on the environment. It differs from programs that return your carbon footprint in that it’s a positive message that appeals to a broader market segment. It can be marketed as conspicuous consumption. Moreover, since every smart meter in California has a Wind Number associated with it, and it’s based solely on the time of day that you draw electricity from the Grid, it can be used as a form of normative reporting. Rather than shaming people into using less electricity, it encourages people to consume more of something good, and should have more effective reach to a broader market segment than current programs. Using Wind Power Sabreez.

Submitted by in Jul 2014

Comments (13)

  1. I really like the concept of Wind Number as a metaphor for clean energy consumption. Also, I like how this concept is explained in the video.
    in Aug 2014
  2. I'm voting for Scott Hoppe
    in Aug 2014
  3. This is a forward-thinking idea. It comes at a good time. It's practical and smart. I like the positive-reinforcement aspect.
    in Aug 2014
  4. SaBreez is thinking "outside the box", and way ahead of the rest... ingenious concept, that can really make a positive impact/change! I vote for SaBreez!
    in Aug 2014
  5. In your description you say "Wind power is the lowest cost form of electricity". But then you also say "meeting their demand is going to get expensive as more renewables are integrated into the electrical grid". This seems like a contradiction to me. If it's cheaper, why would things get more expensive? My understanding is that Wind is one of the most expensive forms of energy, not the cheapest. Can you provide a source for your statement that Wind is the cheapest form of energy?

    A study by Dr. Giberson (found here http://instituteforenergyresearch.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/10/Giberson-study-Final.pdf) revealed that most estimates of Wind energy costs are biased and don't take into account the true cost. Sometimes Wind appears cheaper, but this is only because the whole cost isn't being considered in these cases. Most Wind farms operate at a loss and only survive because of government subsidy. Absent government subsidy, private investors regard Wind an abysmal loss. Ignoring construction costs, yes, Wind is cheaper. Wind is free, whereas fuel costs money. But when you take into account construction costs, transmission infrastructure, maintenance costs, lifespan, and then the cost of natural gas plants, (because for every wind farm you also have to build a natural gas plant right next to it), Wind is a big loser. If you look in deregulated energy markets, why are Wind-based renewable plans always substantially more expensive than all the others?

    Look at http://www.newyorkpowertochoose.com/

    Looking at just 12month fixed plans, wind renewable plans are ALL more expensive than fossil-fuel counterparts. And that's even with government subsidies lowering the cost behind the scenes.
    in Aug 2014
  6. scott Idea Submitter
    I get comments like that a lot, Michael. Here is one source of leveled cost of energy data. http://www.eia.gov/forecasts/aeo/er/electricity_generation.cfm
    in Aug 2014
  7. scott Idea Submitter
    The EIA solar and wind data is not up to date. Wind is the cheapest form of power generation, about the same as CCNG Plants; but NG Combustion turbines are the most expensive now that solar has dropped so much.

    From the system operators perspective, purchasing that last MWh from a Natural Gas plant is more than $200 on most Summer weekdays. The cost savings gets passed through to the consumer using a time of use rate tariff. Likewise, Wind Numbers are consistently higher between the hours of midnight and 5 am when wind may be dropping generation, but power consumption is dropping as well.
    in Aug 2014
  8. scott Idea Submitter
    The argument that Wind Power (which is based on mother nature's schedule) is worth less than power from natural gas (which can be controlled) is valid, and that's why I created the Wind Number. To save people money using more clean energy.
    in Aug 2014
  9. I’m not sure you understand that EIA report. You’re presenting the data out of context. This report describes how much MORE expensive wind is than everything else. Here’s an updated version of the report which is what I’ll reference.


    There are so many points to respond to, so I’ll try and keep things simple.

    1) This report is exactly the sort Dr. Giberson’s study is about.

    2) EIA makes all sorts of assumptions which are of questionable accuracy. It’s a projection, which is also somewhat politicized and not reflected directly in the numbers. For instance at the beginning of the report it reads, “In LCOE terms, the impact of the cost of capital adder is similar to that of an emissions fee of $15 per metric ton of carbon dioxide (CO2) when investing in a new coal plant without CCS, which is representative of the costs used by utilities and regulators in their resource planning”. So in other words the cost of $95.6 that they are reporting for coal is actually $80.6 (based on some quick math of lbs CO2 per MWh), which puts it at a dead heat with wind, but with almost 3 times the capacity factor. So in reality the wind is more expensive relative to goal, but rather than just showing this, they arbitrarily make coal appear more expensive than it really is.

    3) These are projections in 2018-2019, with a lot of assumptions being made about construction costs, interest rates, and other things which are of questionable accuracy. These numbers don’t reflect true construction cost for TODAY. For instance, right now (I just checked on ercot.com) the wholesale price of electricity is going for about $49 in Texas (during peak hours). So what this report is saying is that if we replaced our current infrastructure with wind, we would double our current electricity costs in a few years. In other words, wind is MORE, not less expensive.

    4) Note the fine print below table 1. “New wind... plants are eligible to receive either: (1) a $21.5/MWh…inflation-adjusted production tax credit over the plant’s first ten years of service or (2) a 30% investment tax credit, if they are under construction before the end of 2013.” I’m not totally clear on which of these is being reflected in the table, but this impact is there. I think they are only considering 2/3 of the construction cost. So in reality the $80.3 they report is MUCH higher. Cost to the consumer may be $80.3 (again this is a made up projection, not real world), but if so this is only because of subsidy, which means cost IS higher, we the collective are still paying for it. This projection also assumes the future government will honor this subsidy.

    5) Do a quick google search, look at how all the wind farm constructions were halted when Congress started talking about doing away with wind subsidies.



    If wind is cheaper, why the subsidy?

    6) You didn’t address this point, but I’ll again ask, why are wind-based plans on deregulated markets MORE expensive than the others?

    7) Other assumptions on here are also questionable. Coal is presented as having a capacity factor of 85%, but in reality it’s closer to 90+%. Nuclear is reported at 90, but it’s really closer to 98%.

    8) Per this model wind appears cheaper only because there are no variable O&M + fuel costs. It’s a narrow view, only construction is being considered. And those costs are being jimmied based on various assumptions, like a carbon tax, and a wind tax credit.

    9) Cost of wind also isn’t considering the impact of NG power plant costs for 70% of the day, and during peak hours, when wind isn’t blowing, and the cost of NG plants on standby while wind is in use.

    10) Notice how high wind construction is despite lack of redundancy considerations. A nuclear plant for instance, instead of having one million dollar backup generator, will have 3, simply for sake of redundancy, whereas wind doesn’t design like this. The actual per energy unit construction cost of wind is substantially higher, and you end up with less reliability and a capacity factor of 1/3.

    11) If wind blew all the time, it would be cheap, but it doesn’t and is unpredictable. But the per unit energy cost doesn’t change. The windmill has a fixed price. Maintaining it has a fixed price, etc. And there are also unpredictable costs that aren’t properly reflected on here. A very rosy picture is being assumed, but I won’t go there. Summing all this up, as a rough rule of thumb, wind generation generally only produces at night, which is when demand is down. So at night, when the wind is blowing, it’s undercutting the profile margin of the cheaper forms of energy. At night when wind is reliable, it undercuts them. And because demand is also low at night, wind is selling at a loss and able to keep operating because of subsidies. EIA’s projected wind costs are HIGHER than current market costs during PEAK hours.

    Look at ERCOT prices at night. They’ll be in the $20s. If we replaced purely with wind consumers would be paying $80 at night instead of the $20 they are now. So true cost even at night is higher, but it’s being paid in the form of taxes (rather than direct bill to the utility) and also in the form of increasing daytime prices. This hurts the cheaper forms of energy and destabilizes prices.

    For example by comparison a nuclear power plant operates 24/7. It can’t “shut off.” So during the night it has excess power with nothing to do with it. There are times of the year when you can actually see negative prices on the TX market. Yes, they PAY to put power on the grid. And they’ll do this because they will get some kind of a credit for it, so they make money off of it. And the excess power is there, because it costs so much money to turn off the plant, so they just keep going. So what’s the impact of this. Since the nuclear plant has excess power and nothing else to do with it, might as well give it away for a really low cost. A little bit of revenue at a loss is better than no revenue at a bigger loss. So this can have the impact of forcing wind to lower their prices, which then causes them to lose money during the night, which is when they are supposed to actually be productive. Now wind is losing money.

    But then the reverse can happen as well. If wind is able to operate cheaper at night than other plants, which can’t shut down, or cost to shut down is high, then it forces them to sell at a loss, or a greater loss than they would otherwise, which then means they have to recover this loss during the day when they aren’t competing with the wind. End result, day prices go up, consumer pays more.


    Long story short, there are different perspectives to consider. For certain types of consumers, depending on when they are consuming power, etc., wind could be a benefit for that individual consumer based on the current market. At a higher level though, in the grand sense, wind has a net effect of causing everybody’s prices to go UP UP UP. If the subsidies were removed, and if the environmental taxes (real and anticipated) on other forms of energy were removed, wind is tremendously expensive. The only way wind can be argued to be cheaper is if you toss out the actual real cost of the energy production and delivery and only focus on what you’re charging a particular customer at a particular narrow window in time after all the taxes and subsidies have done their work to shift the burden around to other places. Now don't get me wrong, I'm not anti-wind, and I'm not anti-environmentalism. If an environmental argument can be made for wind, I'm all for it. Paying more may be the right thing to do, but that's a separate subject. I'm just analyzing the cost by itself. In my view it's a bit dishonest to present wind as being the "cheapest" when that just isn't the case. It's a fantasy land. If we feel like everybody needs to pay more so that we produce less CO2, ok, say that, but wind isn't cheaper. Wind construction will cause prices to go up. And even right now today, wind is more expensive on deregulated markets. If I buy a wind-based plan in NY or TX, it will cost me more.
    in Aug 2014
  10. scott Idea Submitter
    The Wind Number solves two problems Michael. It saves people money, and it helps integrate renewables. I'm honestly not even going to read your comment, because I deal with direct data all the time. This is not a political contest.
    in Aug 2014
  11. Great simple idea. It's a win/win for the consumer and the environment!
    in Sep 2014
  12. I vote for Scott Sharp
    in Sep 2014
  13. scott Idea Submitter
    Sabreez has launched our Fall fund-raising campaign! https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/using-renewable-energy-sabreez/x/8443985#home
    in Oct 2014

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