Throwing Caution To The Wind On Wind Power

Posted on Thu 04/30/2009 by


offshore_wind_farmNick Loris.

TonyfromOz prefaces …..

The image here shows an offshore Wind Power Generating  Farm. Here you see 20 huge towers, each with a 3MW nacelle on top. The rated nameplate capacity in total is 60 MW. The power rating operates at 30% efficiency, so, over a full year, it will supply 160,000,000 Kilowatthours (KWH) of usable electrical power to consumers. That exact same amount of power can be produced from a large coal fired power plant with a nameplate capacity of 2000MW every three and a half days, and at one tenth of the price.

That’s the target proposal for a federally mandated renewable portfolio standard RPS (also called renewable electricity standard RES) in which the federal government would mandate to have 25 percent of the nation’s electricity from renewable energy by 2025 – primarily wind, solar and hydro.

During the Congressional hearings last week, Congressman G. K. Butterfield (D-NC) told Chairman Henry Waxman, “Not only is [a 25% mandate] impractical, it is impossible.”

By creating a federal renewable portfolio standard, the government is essentially forcing costlier, less reliable energy on the people. This is particularly true for certain states, especially those in the Southeast, where the conditions are not conducive to wind power. It’s this unreliability that especially concerns Midwest ISO’s grid manager, Rob Benbow:

My biggest fear is if you see 20 percent wind on your system, and then it comes off at a time period where you don’t have resources to replace it – that’s going to, could, result in a blackout situation.

You can put all that wind in, but I still need to have all this other generation that I need to have available – all my coal, nuclear, all the gas – for my peak load day.”

Indeed, even if wind is built, reliable backup from the energy sources that provide most of our electricity is necessary. Reliable electricity is a basic need and this may not be a risk people are willing to take.

NPR’s Elizabeth Shrogan highlights some of the other problems with wind:

Lots of other things about wind frustrate the Benbows of the world – wind blows hardest at night when electricity demand is lowest, there currently aren’t ways to store wind for later use, and you can’t count on it on hot summer days when you need it most.”

That’s not to say doesn’t have a role to play in America’s energy profile. But the central criteria should be that it is cost-effective and able to compete without any subsidies, mandates or special tax breaks from the government.

When happens when the government isn’t there to provide the crutch?

One of the biggest renewable energy manufacturers in Britain announced yesterday it is to cut more than half its UK jobs – blaming the government for failing to support the sector.

In a grave blow to the government’s ambitions to create a “green” export industry, Vestas, the world’s biggest manufacturer of wind turbines, will axe about 600 of its 1,100 UK employees, closing its factory in the Isle of Wight and cutting jobs elsewhere in the UK.”

So far, it’s not passing the test.

Contributing Author Nick Loris writes at The Heritage Foundation and he is a Research Assistant at The Heritage Foundation’s Roe Institute for Economic Policy Studies.

Read more informative articles at Heritage – The Foundry.