Objective Analysis of Wind Energy

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.

Life Expectancy

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.

Investment requirements

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.

Environmental Factors

Pollutants from coal-fired and NGCC power plants have been dramatically reduced since smog was an issue.

Chart from EPA Website, July, 2021

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.

Reliability

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.

Conclusion

Wind turbines are inefficient, costly, and unreliable, with few benefits.

. . .

 

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7 Replies to “Objective Analysis of Wind Energy”

  1. Section 3 of ElectrifyingOurWorld.com shows how simply turning off wind turbines allows Combined Cycle Natural Gas plants to operate at peak efficiency, rather than using backup on/off mode peaker natural gas turbines, LOWERING CO2 emissions overall.

    • Thanks for the information. Interesting. I’ll look at your reference. Many thanks.
      After reviewing the referenced site, I’l make three additional comments.
      1. I see that you were an instructor at Dartmouth’s Osher Lifelong Learning Institute. Great. And good for you, especially with your background.
      2. The site furthers the idea that CO2 is an existential threat, which I believe is unsubstantiated. For example: Dr. Happer has demonstrated that a doubling of CO2 in the atmosphere will not have a very large effect on temperatures. While Dr. Cristy has demonstrated that the IPCC models overstate warming by at least two times. Dr. Curry has agreed. In addition Roger Pielke Jr. has established that the scare scenarios of sea level rise, more and stronger hurricanes, etc. are invalid.
      3. I would suggest that the nuclear industry should stop hanging its hat on climate change to justify new nuclear power plants, and should focus, instead, on why they are safe and can be built at an acceptable cost. After all, the pro climate change disaster crowd is shutting down nuclear power plants with their support of wind and solar, while many environmentalists are continuing to claim that nuclear power is unsafe.

  2. Thanks for your continued research on energy and wind turbine issues. There are two other aspects of wind turbines that needs to be brought to the attention of the public. One is the litigation that is generated due to health impacts and the other is aesthetics despoiling vistas.

    • Thanks. Excellent observations. These two items should be included under environmental impacts. I recognize that beauty is in the eye of the beholder, but wind turbines are not esthetically pleasing in my view. (Play on words)

  3. Pingback: Weekly Climate and Energy News Roundup #462 – Watts Up With That?

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