Just for starters, lets say it so everyone knows where this posting is coming from:
Because Windpower energy is unreliable and thus cannot be scheduled as necessary for transmission to customers, it does not make any significant addition to the US energy supply base. Presently, it thrives only because financial slight of hand (subsidies) and legislative mandates requiring that it be part of the utility’s energy mix. Moreover, and somewhat ironically, it does not result in a reduction of CO2 from fossil fuel burning; in fact it usually requires additional fossil fuel based generating capacity to provide the backup.
Until such time as reliable and economic energy storages systems are developed wind energy will be an expensive burden to the ratepayers. If the government wants do spend my money to develop alternative energy sources, put it where it will have real value—energy storage.
Jon Boone posted “Oxymoronic Windpower (Part II:Windspeak)” on the MasterResource site and lists reasons why windpower is not presently a viable energy source:
Let’s examine the evidence.
1.Despite more than 100,000 huge wind turbines in operation around the world, with about 35,000 in North America, no coal plants have been closed because of wind technology. In fact, many more coal plants are in the offing, both in the US and throughout the world. Moreover, a Colorado energetics company, Bentek, recently published a study about wind in Texas and Colorado showing, in its study areas, that wind volatility caused coal plants to perform more inefficiently, “often resulting in greater SO2, NOx, and CO2 emissions than would have occurred if less wind energy were generated and coal generation was not cycled.” Further examination of fuel use for electricity in both states during the time of inquiry suggested that wind caused no reduction in coal consumption.
2.Unpredictable, undispatchable, volatile wind can provide for neither baseload nor peak load situations. It can only be an occasional supplement that itself requires much supplementation. Consequently, as Australian engineer Peter Lang once wrote, since “wind cannot contribute to the capital investment in generating plants… [it] simply is an additional capital investment.”
3.Wind technology does NOT represent alternate energy. Since wind cannot provide controllable power and has no capacity value, it cannot be an alternative for machines that do provide controllable power and high capacity value. Wind therefore is incapable of entering into a zero-sum relationship with fossil-fired capacity—that is, more wind, less coal. All other conditions being equal (demand, supply, weather, etc), more wind generally means more coal.
4.None of the considerable public subsidies for wind, indeed, not even state renewable portfolio standard (RPS) laws, are indexed to measured reductions in carbon dioxide emissions and fossil fuel consumption. Consequently, there is no transparency or accountability for how wind technology will achieve the goals set forth by those policy initiatives. This means that corporations with a lot of fossil-fired marketshare to protect have no obligation to replace it with wind. And they don’t. Because they can’t. Freedom from responsibility is a child’s fairy tale dream come true.
5.The work of a number of independent engineers—Hawkins, Lang, Oswald, Le Pair and De Groot—suggests that even the most effective fossil fuel pairing with wind, natural gas, will very marginally reduce overall natural gas consumption beyond what would occur using only natural gas generators, without any wind whatsoever.
6.Because oil provides barely 1% of the nation’s electricity, wind represents no threat to oil’s marketshare.
Regarding point no. 2 above, the operator of the electrical distribution system has to provide power that meets the customer’s quantity demand very precisely at a steady voltage and frequency. With coal, natural gas or hydro the base load can be managed. To manage the demand peaks and valleys, natural gas turbines are often used as they can be brought on line or taken off line rather rapidly. These facilities are under the control of power plant operations. Wind however is not controllable. Sometimes the wind blows, sometimes it doesn’t and it can change in a matter of minutes from high speed wind to medium speed wind to no wind and vice versa.
If a reliable and cost effective energy storage system were available, the windpower unit could direct its production into that system. The storage system would allow the windpower unit to take advantage of the days when the wind was blowing forcefully and store the power. This would significantly raise the ratio of delivered power as a function of rated power. The electrical distribution system operators would know how much power was available and could schedule it from the storage system.
Alas, no such energy storage system is currently available.