It’s sad that we have to “fact check” everything coming out of Washington these days, and recent statements by our Congressional representative are no different.
Congressman Sam Graves was quoted in the June 11, 2017 St. Joseph News Press with remarks about wind energy. To summarize that article, Congressman Graves stated “Wind turbines are horribly inefficient…..you can’t store that energy, you can’t store it at all…..you have to transfer it over longest distances across the country….we subsidize wind energy at higher cost than the entire cost of coal-powered electricity….coal is the cheapest and most abundant source of energy we have in the United States.”
I must respectfully disagree with Congressman Grave’s statements, and will also remind him of his prior positions on this topic.
Graves: “Wind turbines are horribly inefficient”
The measuring unit for wind energy production is called the capacity factor. It is the amount of power produced, represented as a percentage of what could be produced if a wind turbine ran every hour of the year.
Certainly the wind does not blow 100% of the time, that’s why wind farms are built in areas to maximize that measured predictable capacity factor. Accurate scientific site selection both increases revenue for the project, while lowering the cost of the power sold to the utilities. Congressman Grave’s district offers by far the best wind resources found in all of Missouri. I thought he would know that.
When looking at energy subsidies, we shouldn’t forget that the Black Lung Disability Trust fund is a multi-million dollar federal healthcare subsidy for the coal mining industry.
In 2008, capacity factors for wind farms in northwest Missouri were 25-35%. With recent advancements in turbine technology, blade design and improving efficiency, that has been increased to over 50%. (that’s according to Keith Logtin, wind products manager at General Electric)
Energy is released when coal is burned and heat is created. Of that energy, only 33% to 35% is utilized for electricity production; while the remaining 65% to 67% of the energy released is simply waste heat; hence the need for cooling towers and vast water resources at coal plants. So by that measurement, coal isn’t very efficient either.
Graves: “You can’t store that energy”
This may be the only correct statement Congressman Graves made in the article, but he left out a very important point. We don’t store electricity at a commercial scale, from any source of production, whether its from coal, nuclear, solar, hydro, natural gas or wind.
Commercial scale energy storage of electricity would represent a major breakthrough for our power infrastructure, and many technologies are being explored. None are economically efficient at this time.
The limitations with energy storage are not specific to generation from wind energy alone. I thought he would know that.
Graves: “You have to transfer that energy over long distances”
Once again, Congressman Graves is only partially correct, but fails to mention that nearly all electricity production, from all sources, is transferred onto the electrical grid and connects, and interconnects, to end users hundreds of miles away.
A new KCPL transmission line going through Congressman Grave’s district recently connected the coal plant in Sibley, Missouri to the coal plant in Nebraska City. That new coal-to-coal line is 180 miles long.
Iowa’s Mid America Energy purchases power from the Cooper Nuclear Station. That transmission line also goes across farms in Congressman Grave’s district, and delivers nuclear generated electricity into Iowa. I thought he would know that.
One notable exception would be the Loess Hills Wind Farm, which puts electricity directly into the Rock Port Municipal Utility system, and it’s called distributed generation.
Graves: “We subsidize wind energy at a higher cost than the entire cost of coal powered electricity”
While there is currently a production tax credit for wind energy, it expires in 2020. Numerous studies and articles demonstrate that wind energy production is currently cost competitive without any subsidy. Long term wind farm development is occurring without consideration of these soon-to-expire tax incentives.
It’s interesting to note that Congressman Graves voted to extend these wind energy tax credits in 2002, 2005 and 2006. In 2008 Graves also co-sponsored HR 197 to extend these tax credits for five years.
In April of 2008, Congressman Graves spoke at the dedication of Loess Hills Wind Farm.
His remarks are as follows: “As a long standing supporter of wind energy, I am proud that the first wind powered community is in the Sixth Congressional District of Missouri. Wind power is a critical component of weaning ourselves off of foreign oil. I am committed to extending the wind production tax credits.”
Congressman Graves supported HR 5866 which would have streamlined the approval process for wind farms.
It seems Congressman Grave’s opinion changes like the direction of the wind.
I’m not actually sure how wind farms wean us off foreign oil, since very little oil is used in electricity production. I thought he would know that.
Aside from the incorrect statements Congressman Graves made; he apparently fails to recognize the significant positive economic impact that wind energy has had on his home county in Missouri.
When the current construction of Rock Creek Wind project is completed, Atchison County will host 251 wind turbines. Those are all placed on farmland leased from willing landowners. When you combine the new property taxes, land lease payments, employment and purchasing dollars, wind energy will represent millions of dollars in countywide economic impact each and every year.
Congressman Grave’s Tarkio High School will benefit substantially from increased valuation and new property taxes paid into the district. I thought he would know that.
Congressman Graves represents the only region in Missouri to host commercial wind farms. I thought he would be better informed on issues that so significantly impact his very own district.

  • Eric Chamberlain