The Fredonia Reactor — Could it Hand You Profits of 1,099%?

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If you’ve been swabbing the decks on the good ship Gumshoe for more than a few weeks, you probably know that I’m a sucker for a good made-up name — so I couldn’t very well resist writing about the Oxford Club’s Fredonia Reactor, could I?

Now, if the letter had been signed Rufus T. Firefly and asked us all to pledge allegiance to Freedonia, I’d have been utterly powerless and would have written about it on the first day, vacation be damned — but now we’re a few days into this big marketing push and I’m eager to dig in, Groucho or no.

And to make it even nicer, they made up another name, too — the Fredonia reactor will be the most tremendous power plant in the world, we’re told, but it’s owned by a company that they’ve nicknamed “Smart Electric Co.” Here’s the P.S., which is almost always the best part of a sales letter:

“The ‘Smart Electric Co.’ is in the early stages of ‘firing up’ a massive new ‘power plant’ 62 times stronger than a nuclear reactor. And the government just handed them the opportunity to generate up to $6.8 billion a year by connecting the Fredonia Reactor to major U.S. cities. This event could send plays on Smart Electric soaring 1,099% or more. I urge you to act on this information quickly. Once the mainstream media picks up on this story, the big gains will be long gone.”

And hopefully you’ve noticed, my good Gumshoe students, that “fired up” and “power plant” are also in quotes — there’s a good reason for that. Let’s dredge some more clues from the morass, shall we?

“Cheaper Than Oil… Stronger Than Nuclear… Cleaner Than Hydro… It’s 62 times stronger than a nuclear power plant… But releases zero emissions…”

Sounds like magic, no? There’s more …

“Imagine a power plant so huge it covers more than 100 square miles…

“With capacity 62 times stronger than a modern nuclear reactor…

“One powerful enough to light up 49 million American homes across the Midwest… Or run 217,000 football stadiums continuously for a year.

“That would easily make it the strongest power plant on Earth.

“It would dwarf the world’s current number one. The enormous Three Gorges Hydroelectric Dam in China generates 18.2 gigawatts of electricity.

“This power plant would triple that.

“Perhaps more amazing, this plant won’t depend on traditional fossil fuels.

“It runs on what the International Energy Agency calls ‘the most advanced of the ‘new’ renewable energy technologies.’”

So that’s what they call the “Fredonia Reactor” — what is it? Well, the reason that they put that in quotes and also throw quotes around words like “power plant” and “fired up” is that this “Fredonia Reactor” isn’t really a reactor at all, or even, in its broadest sense, even a single power generation site. As far as I can tell when they talk about the “Fredonia Reactor” they’re using that as a catch-all phrase for the wind power resources of the upper midwest — particularly the Dakotas, which are the northern end of the wind belt that has many folks calling the United States the “Saudi Arabia of Wind.”

Insert your own jokes about a big lentil dinner here.

And this would be a good place for your mention of the fact that, as the Gumshoe currently resides in Washington, DC, we’ve already laid claim to the “Saudi Arabia of Windbaggery.”

But back on point — essentially, this massive potential power source is really more powerful than any one nuclear reactor, though that’s perhaps not the fairest comparison (there are plenty of nuclear reactors within the broad geographic area of these “Fredonia Reactors”), and you can probably twist and turn a bit and make those teaser numbers work just fine.

And the Department of Energy did estimate that wind power could provide about 20% of our electricity within 20 years (and estimates since are only increasing with better mapping and taller turbines — a Harvard study assumed using bigger windmills, and using more of the wind-prone areas for generation, and said that the total potential for wind energy generation in the lower 48 states is 16 times current U.S. electricity demand).

There are hiccups in wind power development, of course — it’s probably the furthest along of the “newer” renewable energy sources (ie, it’s further along and usually far more cost effective than solar), but it’s still expensive and it still relies on having a lot of wind turbines on massive towers, sometimes in places where folks would rather not have their views obstructed or their birds confetti’d … or, and this gets to our point, in remote places where they’ve got to build a lot of infrastructure to get the electricity to population centers.

And that brings us to the stock they want to use to profit from this “Fredonia Reactor” — it’s a company that will build new, high efficiency transmission lines to connect the wind resources of the Dakotas and other nearby areas to the national grid and to population centers like Minneapolis and Chicago.

Here’s how they describe this “Smart Electric Co” …

“On April 10, 2009, one tiny company from Michigan received government approval to begin connecting this mammoth power source to cities across America.

“When it does, it’ll tap into an unprecedented surge in annual profit potential.

“This tiny company says that at full capacity, it can transmit 12,000 megawatts of electricity in an hour. In a year, that amounts to 105 million megawatt hours.

“And electricity prices are soaring in America. Wholesale prices for a megawatt hour of electricity have gone as high as $129.48 in cities like Houston. At that market rate, 105 million megawatt hours would sell for roughly $13.6 billion.

“Now this company won’t get every penny of that. But even if they only took in half of those revenues, they’d end up bringing in $6.8 billion more every year.

“That’s 11 times greater than current revenues!

“Certain plays on this company could easily rise 1,099%.

“But that’s just the beginning. With plans to connect more and more cities to the ‘world’s strongest power plant,’ gains could rise to 4,270%… or even 8,132% based on projected earnings alone.

“No wonder Wall Street’s biggest players are buying in ahead of time.

“Along with insiders, firms like Blackrock, Morgan Stanley and Vanguard now own 94% of what could soon be the most important energy company in America.”

This is an interesting company, I’ll give them that — but I just want to note, before I forget, that the idea of the owner of a transmission line getting half of the wholesale price of the electricity they transmit sounds a little far fetched to me (doesn’t mean it’s impossible, I’m no expert on power contracts). The company that wants to build these transmission lines did get their rate incentives approved last April by the feds, but those incentives come out to an effective regulated rate that will allow the project to have return on equity of about 12%.

Before I go any further I should probably tell you who this “Smart Electric Co.” is, right? It’s a company called ITC Holdings (ITC — click here for the free trend analysis on this one), and it is relatively small, about $2.5 billion in market cap, and based in Michigan.

The project that’s being teased here is the planned “Green Power Express,” a high voltage transmission grid that will enable efficient integration of many of those high-density wind areas of the midwest into the grid — and yes, they do project that this totals up to roughly 12,000 megawatts.

This project may well go forward — it sure does seem like we need it — and it may well create a great revenue stream for ITC and their limited partnership that will own the Express … but it’s also worth noting that ITC’s aggressive plan for the project has them putting the Green Power Express in service in 2020, ten years from now. This is still a development-stage project, and it has a long way to go before they could even begin construction (the feds approved their rate structure and incentives, and seem to be supporting the project, but there is a huge amount of state and local regulatory stuff to get through before the final project and routing can be agreed upon, and many utility partners to bring on board, to say nothing of the $10-12 billion that they think this buildout will cost.

Which means that even if the Oxford Club’s fairly rosy-looking projection is accurate (that it could bring in $6.8 billion per year if they got paid a ridiculous amount to transmit this power), the actual revenue from this project is a loooong way off.

Just to square the circle, here’s why the Oxford Club folks are touting the safety of this investment:

“Why the Government Must Legally Get This Done Now…

“The new administration has already mandated 25% renewable energy by 2030.

“The States are joining in too…

“Minnesota is requiring 25% renewable by 2025… Illinois is mandating 25%… Pennsylvania joined in with 18%… Ohio 22%…

“By simply connecting this completed network of powerful turbines to the grid, it’ll instantly be halfway to their goal.

“Perhaps this explains why they gave Smart Electric such an unprecedented deal.

The Contract That Ensures YOU Get Paid

“As you probably know, electrical transmission is a highly regulated business.

“So when the executives at ‘Smart Electric’ made their deal with the government – outlined in a mind-numbing 595-page tome – they left nothing to chance.

“The contract includes…

“A FERC guarantee of the rates Smart Electric will receive for each megawatt transmitted.

“A ‘Cost Recovery Mechanism’ effectively allowing Smart Electric to send the construction bills for its smart grid to the government.

“A litany of tax incentives giving it an edge over all competitors.

“But perhaps the most important element of the contract is the insurance policy in Section G, part 2.

“In this section it states that, should anything go wrong, Smart Electric will receive back: ’100% of prudently-incurred costs associated with abandoned transmission projects if the abandonment results from reasons outside the control of management.’

“I know that sounds complicated. But here’s what it means.

“If the government decides to back out, for any reason whatsoever, it has to pay back 100% of Smart Electric’s expenses.”

That sounds like a reasonable, though probably overly skewed to the positive, interpretation of the deal that ITC has for the Green Power Express so far — they basically get to include all the construction costs when they calculate rates that match their mandated return on equity, which is a very similar ROE to what ITC earns now (their ROE for the past year was 13%, a hair higher than the rate agreement for this project)

ITC is a real company and has many other projects, they are profitable and they pay a dividend (a fairly ordinary 2.4%, they’ve been paying out about half of their earnings in dividends), and I agree that it’s probably worthwhile to consider owning good energy transmission companies with the immense need to revamp and rebuild the grid nationwide … but though I suppose it’s possible that “certain plays” on this could rise more than 1,000%, as teased (that would have to be pretty aggressive call options, I imagine), I wouldn’t hold my breath for fast and dramatic returns. If you think that the moment when they “switch on” the grid and connect the “Fredonia Reactors” to the transmission lines will bring a sudden profit burst that drives investors wild with lust for ITC shares, you’ve still got a decade or so to patiently wait for that to happen (and of course, it may not happen as planned).

ITC does a pretty good job of explaining the Green Power Express, including their plans and projections, with plenty of details in their FAQ section here if you’re interested in delving a bit deeper, and their “conceptual map” of the project is here. That site also lists their other major projects/businesses, the ones that actually make them profitable and are the current core of the company.

ITC recently refinanced some debt, they have about as much debt as equity overall (not bad for this kind of company), and they’ve provided projections that they’ll earn between $2.60 and $2.70 per share in 2010 … which means they have a PE ratio of 19 or so — analysts think they’ll grow just a couple percent next year, but they also imagine a future of high-teens annual earnings growth for the next five years, so if that comes through the shares seem pretty reasonably valued. ITC is not quite a utility, since they do wholesale transmission, but compared to most traditional utilities they’re pretty expensive and have a pretty low yield — the SPDR ETF for utilities, for example, has a PE of 12 and a dividend yield of over 4%, even after a nice run for utilities thanks to the renewed enthusiasm of risk-averse investors for boring old utility stocks.

So what do you think? Interested in ITC’s growth potential and fairly solid footing? Think the tease is perhaps a bit overdone? Let us know with a comment below.

And if you’ve ever been an Oxford Club member and read their Communique newsletter, feel free to jump over to the Reviews site and let us know what you thought (or check out the opinions of your fellow subscribers). Thanks!

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40 Responses to The Fredonia Reactor — Could it Hand You Profits of 1,099%?


  1. Putting fundamentals aside, technically this looks like a good time to buy. ITC has been in a tidy rising channel for almost a year, broke out mid-December, backtested the breakout line yesterday, and bounced today. This allows a nice tight stop (just below the backtest price, say $50.80), and a target of $57 (which also matches last year’s high). Good risk/reward from a technical standpoint.

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  2. Additional comments –
    Wind energy projects are considered good if they generate over 30% of the time (wind doesn’t always blow), so the annual total will be less than 40million MWH, not the 105Million quoted by Oxford.
    Also, supporting Stock Gumshoe’s statements, the average wind energy project will need to keep transmission costs below 5% of revenues to have a healthy return for itself.

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  3. I have been a subscriber to Oxford, and generally have been impressed with their conservative approach to stock selection and stop loss.
    It is interesting to me that the “hype writers” for this teaser are using the term “reactor,” and attempting to make comparisons to the nuclear power plants.
    I live in an area where we have had nuclear power generation for decades, safely bringing power to the Northwest. Recently, a move to aggressively introduce “wind farms” has gotten a lot of local attention. An Eastern Washington newspaper ran an editorial describing the blight on the pristine lands and mountains from these “noisy machines.” I believe that within years, we will begin to hear opponents suggest: “wind power energy may work, but just not in my neighborhood!”
    It may be helpful for each person to do their own research into wind power before making an investment. One of the biggest issue found is reliability of the power generation. When people need the power the most (winter heating and summer cooling), we simply cannot count on wind power for consistent generation of power. As the CEO of Anadarko Petroleum stated on CNBC the other day, natural gas is THE clean alternative energy source for the country UNTIL Nuclear can be brought online! YES, he is aware that nuclear is the only safe, reliable and clean energy that we can count on. Unlike natural gas, the supply is unlimited and continues to be developed. Nuclear goes beyond the arguments for renewable, alternative energy. Recent developments include the $ 20+ Billion contracts for nuclear power plants in the UAE, along with other multi-billion dollar contracts to South Korea! IF the USA does not begin to support the nuclear energy development in this country, our former leadership position in nuclear energy will be further eroded. France, Korea and other countries are taking the lead in this needed energy source. At a time when the US is concerned about jobs and losing our “edge” as a country, why are we letting other countries take the lead in nuclear power?

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  4. Thanks for the great article, Gummy, but “the Saudia Arabia of Windbaggery”? Com’n Travis…how could you say that about our esteemed elected officials?

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  5. A disruptive technology in Wind turbines is magnetically levitated bearings that use neodynamium – a rare metal essentitally controled by China. Maglev bearings will make make wind power an order of magnitude cheaper. So any wind power company is a good place to put your money right now.

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  6. Did he say nuclear energy is unlimited? Is he talking fission? Granted there is enough uranium around to keep plants going for some time, but the fact that so many countries are now planning more plants (dozens just in China) that it means uranium will be used up at a rate much quicker than current consumption. Only place I know to get it is to dig it up, it doesn’t keep renewing like the wind or sunshine. And once “spent”, it doesn’t just go away up the cooling tower (usually; that’s the “clean” part about it).

    My vote would be to develop fusion, much cheaper, totally clean, and much simpler than that Tokamak fiasco. And there are interesting possibilities. Check this out:

    http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=1996321846673788606#

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  7. While this may be a good investment, hyping it with statements like possible 1099% increase in your investment with a chance of 8,321% and “Blackrock, Morgan Stanley and Vanguard now own 94%” make them sound like they are hustlung people. 13.2% of ITC’s stock is owned by the Board and Ronald Baron, so the Wall Streeters can’t own 94% of their stock.
    So why does Oxford say that when they know it isn’t true?

    This stock has gone up 100% in value, but it took it 4 1/2 years to do so.
    Yet Oxford thinks it will do 11 times that much “shortly”? They are spending about 1/2 billion a year on capital improvements so needing to spend 12 billion would take them 24 years if they don’t speed up their capital improvement spending.
    While it would be great to buy this stock at $51 a share and see it grow to $561 a share in short order (and a pipe dream that it would grow to $4,244 a share, another Google) don’t ho;d your breath waiting for either to happen.
    Even short optioning it won’t get you near either figure in my belief.

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  8. The “Oxford Club” is wrong about the Fredonia reactor. Wind power doesn’t come free. What happens when you put all those wind turbines up and take kinetic energy out of the air stream to generate electricity? Simple physics has the answer. When you extract this energy, you cause a corresponding reduction in the air velocity of the trade winds down stream from the turbines. Communties that depend on those trade winds will need to increase their air conditioning. Global temperatures will rise. The growth and polination of farm fields and forests will also be affected. Countless important birds and insects will lose their lives on those turbine blades. And the endless, monotonous, sub audible droning noise will drill it’s way into the foreheads of any person unfortunate enough to be nearby.

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  9. First time to your web site. Well said about Fredonia Reactor. I guess almost anyone with good words can tease anyone. It may be good like you said, but a long way off. Also like one of the comments, wind turbines do make lots of noise, and affect birds and trade winds, etc. I live in Alberta, Canada, and there are lots of wind turbines, and most people don’t want them in ther back yard.

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  10. ive noticed that you mentioned that the way to invest in this would be with agressive call options, first could you explain what the details of the options should be and secondly why would you not go long. please reply to yittis@gmail.com

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  11. I would venture that for every bit of power that hte wind energy farms produce; a similar amount of power has to be available when the wind stops or you have a power failure!

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  12. I am a new reader and first time commenter. Read thru a lot of the comments above. I have some technical training in power plants and nuclear power. I would say that we all will need to become a lettle more flexible and accommodating in our thinking in the future about our energy usage. The truth is that we need to aggressively pursue a mix of strategies, only one of which is wind. Nuclear is another. The big cahuna that we must eliminate in the mix is Arab oil. We do that by building a power infrastructure that utilizes natural gas, hydroelectric , geothermal, coal (using goal-to-liquids and coal gasification), wind, solar, nuclear, and eventually fuel cells. No one technology is going to be the ultimate…but we need to accept them all and allow them to evolve in order to keep any semblance of our current standard of living. That's my take anyway.

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  13. Why does'nt the world wise up! We are sitting on a massive energy source…geothermal.
    Heat produces power, by simply converting heat that is already existing in the earth into steam which then drives the turbine which in turn drives the generator producing unlimited electricity. Sounds simple…and yes it is! Drilling technology has now advanced to a level that can allow deep penetration into the earths crust to tap into high temperature levels.
    The heat is constant and does not fail as do wind and solar, produces no environment hazards and is free. Oil will eventually run out as will other fossil fuels but we have a heat source that will never fail and it is there now to be tapped.

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  14. An additional obstruction (as it were) to wind has recently surfaced. A very large wind farm extension (supposedly to become the largest in the world) is being blocked by the FAA. Publicly FAA is arguing it is a hazard to air traffic control, due to the copper in the blades interfering with a radar 50 miles away. The elevation of the wind farm puts it in “ground clutter” for most air traffic that radar might detect. It appears there is an unstated air defense objection.

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  15. Maybe the Fredonia Reactor is not so far fetched after all. I work for Bruce Power, 1 of the dauhgter companies of the old Ontario Hydro. All the MWs made from our nuclear units need to be sent down long transmission lines towards the city of Toronto. In our electrical switchyard we have three large devices that act as capacitors which helps stabilize the (550KV) voltage & push the power towards the city. Those devices are called reactors.

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  16. We must keep exploring and eventually we shall by our group efforts get closer to our solution.There are many sources. Each source has got to be fully exploited and use it. A time will come when we will be able to solve our energy problem, or at least get closer to it.
    I am sure battery power can be further explored to run cars and other equipment. I think different possibilities can be to experimented and can be hybrid to produce useful and economical results.

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  17. Thank you for your enlightenment on the "Fredonia Reactor." It saved me from wading through 16 pages of Oxford Club's lack of usable information. I will put you on my favorites list. A.

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  18. I get a lot of mail requests to subscribe to Investment Newsletters with offers to provide free reports on stocks that are about to skyrocket in value. Thanks for the low down on Oxford and "Fredonia" . My experience with stock recommendations is "Do your own homework on the stock before you invest" . There are no get rich quick schemes in the stock investment game. As for ITC, it might go up 10 times its value in 10 years but people like myself can't wait that long for a spectacular return on their investment. My advice is "Slow and steady wins the race".

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  19. It has been a while since I posted a comment here – - I am impressed with the knowledge and interest from readers, and wanted to offer some clarification regarding nuclear energy. There is a new generation of nuclear power systems being developed. Terra Power, a NW based private company, is designing a reactor to run on reprocessed fuel. In addition, once the fuel is placed into the reactor, it does not need to be replaced for the life of the reactor. Imagine some of the world issues regarding nuclear that could be solved!
    I encourage all of you to go to the Terra Power website and check out this technology for yourselves. It is important to note that Bill Gates is reportedly one of the financial backers for this new technology. Because of the lack of understanding by the public of the safety record and advancements in nuclear technology, it is likely that the first Terra Power reactor will be built in another county. What a shame Also, as a private company, it is unlikely that this will be an investment opportunity. Another shame!

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  20. I don't understand why car companies do not design cars that run on oil,nat. gas or electric batteries at the choice of the driver, by flicking a switch. Cars runing on oil or nat. gas exist in backward country like Bulgaria at least 3 years ago. Natural gas is cheap and much cleaner than oil.

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  21. >>Natural gas is cheap and much cleaner than oil.

    Nat gas is big with several stockpickers now. There's too much nat gas floating around, so no pricing power. It's down, if not out… so CHK, for example, is looking mighty good and priced right. Any thoughts on Tesla Motors?

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  22. As a retired power plant engineer/constructor, mostly nuclear, I have some perspective that you might want to consider. Nuclear will almost certainly be way too expensive, even if all the safety questions with the new generation of reactors seem better able to handle emergency design criteria. Wind and solar will have their place but of course because they depend on mother nature are somewhat unpredictable hour to hour and day to day – not good for base load operation. I believe that deep well geothermal power will defeat all others in the race to clean, reliable, renewable, “INEXPENSIVE”, technical deployability now. USA has about 10,000 MWe in operation right now and per Prof. Jefferson Tester of MIT and editor of DOE’s report on availability is ready now.

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  23. The statement “I believe that within years, we will begin to hear opponents suggest: “wind power energy may work, but just not in my neighborhood!” can also be applied to nuclear. I personally do not want one near me.

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  24. Nuclear will only work if it works for everyone.
    When developing a global energy solution, you really need one that you don't mind your enemies having (e.g. Iran).
    Also energy that requires you to aquire, process and transport poisonous material as fuel doesn't seem all that sensible when there are other realistic alternatives (which there are).

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  25. Nuclear is safe? Chernobyl anybody?! Nuclear is clean? Then why doesn't any state want to store the nuclear WAIST?! If you are from Eastern Washington then you are familiar with the Hanover reactor site and the fact that is is a declared toxic clean up site and will be for generations!! Why do people who work there have MUCH higher rates of cancer?.
    I don't know what you are smoking my friend but to say nuclear is clean and safe is patently absurd. Nor do we need it with solar and wind coming on line now. Will I take a windmill in my back yard? Yes ! Compared to a nuclear dump zone where cancer runs rampant I will take a windmill any day!

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  26. To the factual contrary, wind turbines makes very little noise per the advancements in technology. they are much different from the ones put up in the 70′s era. I have been around many of them and had the opportunity to climb on top of one. These things produce very little noise. You have to be very close to hear much of anything.

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  27. Well said Conrad. I work for an Ipp in Texas. Just last week we were sitting here dead in the water when the sun went down and west Texas lost over 1000 MW of power because the wind stopped blowing. We had to start two units right then to make it up. That power sold for $265 a megawatthour. Plus we get paid just for being here able to put power on the grid in less than 30 minutes. I like wind power as well as anyone, but you have to be able to back it up quickly.

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  28. There is a small town in south central North Dakota named Freedonia. I bought a 1928 Ford car there back in 1971 for a hundred bucks. The car ran great, I haven’t been back to the town since.

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  29. Oil is not a major factor in electrical power generation. While I agree with your proposed power infrasture mix will not reduce the use of oil. We must reduce the use of oil used in transportation by converting to natural gas and electric vehicles. Also, conservation and energy efficiency improvements need to be in the strategic mix.

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  30. Jim;
    How can you possibly suggest that Fuel Cells are an answer to anything, they merely transfer electrical energy to a storage device (hydrogen tank) to allow use of the electricity in a mobile mode. Fuel cells are not an energy source like solar, wind, oil, gas, coal, etc.
    wpkinter

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  31. Enter text right here! From what I recently read I agree that geothermal could be an interesting player in the energy game but as in life with every up there is a down. I have also read that the caution with drilling for geothermal is the possibility of initiating seimic activity exists. I am not sure how you eliminate that factor to a degree of certitude which would make large scale geothermal acceptable. Sounds a bit scary to me and elimination of such ar isk must be seriously considered I should think before jumping into geothermal with both feet. As they say no easy answere or free rides.

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