…Objective Analysis of Wind Energy…
In response to a question about why I seemed to denigrate wind energy, I responded as follows.
Unless noted, these comments apply to land-based, not off-shore wind,
Wind provides very little electricity for the investment
The capacity factor (CF) for most of the wind turbines installed around the United States rated 1 to 3 MW, is around 30%. This compares with the capacity factors for baseload power as follows:
- Nuclear: Over 90%
- Coal-fired: Over 80%
- Natural gas combined cycle (NGCC): Over 80%
Unfortunately, the inclusion of wind and solar on the grid has resulted in NGCC power plants operating in a load following manner which has lowered the reported CF to around 60%.
Even so, the amount of electricity produced by a baseload power plant is two to three times more than that produced by an existing wind turbine.
Wind turbines installed where the wind is most favorable, primarily in areas immediately east of the Rocky Mountain front range, have CFs somewhat higher, say around 38%. But this has necessitated the construction of very expensive transmission lines to bring the electricity to where it can be used.
Wind turbines are expected to last for 20 to 25 years before they need to be replaced.
Baseload power plants last a great deal longer.
- Nuclear power plants are expected to operate for 80 years.
- Coal-fired and NGCC power plants are expected to last for 60 years.
Less investment is required for NGCC plants
- Wind turbines cost around $1,500 per KW to build.
- NGCC plants are being built for a cost of $1,000 per KW.
Unfortunately, coal-fired power plants can no longer be built in the United States due to EPA regulations limiting CO2 emissions. China is building a large number of the latest design high efficiency low emissions (HELE) coal-fired plants and is gaining a leadership position in this technology. China is also constructing HELE power plants in other countries.
Wind turbines need to be replaced every 20 to 25 years, which results in a cumulative investment roughly four times greater than for an NGCC power plant for an operating lifespan of 60 years.
Wind turbines are also being coupled with battery storage because of their intermittency, which increases the investment requirements for wind turbines.
Levelized cost of electricity (LCOE)
There is considerable misinformation on this metric with respect to wind generated electricity.
The media reports endlessly that the LCOE for wind is lower than for nuclear, coal-fired and NGCC power plants. One source for this has been information provided by Lazard. A close analysis of Lazard’s cost projections show they make assumptions that cannot be justified. See, Misleading Costs for Wind and Solar
EIA information is also used to justify wind LOCEs, but for the past several years the EIA hasn’t reported actual CFs, but have reported estimated CFs for a few years in the future. Estimated CFs require making assumptions, and assumptions are not facts.
The fact that it takes three iterations of investment for wind turbines to reach the same lifetime of operation would suggest that wind cannot have lower LCOEs.
Additionally, the cost of battery storage, a necessity for wind and solar, is not included in LCOE calculations.
Pollutants from coal-fired and NGCC power plants have been dramatically reduced since smog was an issue.
Wind turbines are killing thousands of birds and bats every year.
Blades from wind turbines cannot be recycled and must be disposed of in landfills. Given there are three blades per wind turbine, the number of blades that must be disposed of is huge.
Wind cannot be relied on to provide electricity when needed.
Only baseload power, i.e, nuclear, coal-fired and NGCC power plants, can provide electricity 24/7.
Wind turbines are inefficient, costly, and unreliable, with few benefits.
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