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Coal to Remain Key U.S. Source of Electrical Power

Wind has substantial disadvantages. It only blows intermittently. An analysis of Iowa’s wind energy generation, the second largest wind generator, shows that the additional wind and solar electrical generation is unable to keep pace with demands. Iowa’s wind generating efficiency is the lowest of any state at 16.7 percent of its installed nameplate capacity of 2,791 MW. Iowa generated 7 percent of its power from wind in 2008, a 148 percent increase since 2005. However, from 2005 to 2008, Iowa added 6.1 million megawatt-hours of coal-fired-generation while wind added only 2.4 million megawatt-hours. This makes clear that wind either (1) cannot adequately provide the power demanded by economic or population growth, (2) permanent additional electrical generation from other backup sources must provide fill-in power to compensate for intermittent wind power, or (3) both. This inadequacy is true despite of the exceptionally- distorted federal subsidies favoring wind and solar. The U.S. subsidizes wind and solar at $53/MWHr compared to $1/MWHr subsidy to coal and other fuels.

To meet the U.S. Renewable Energy Standard (RES) that wind and solar provide 25 percent of power by 2025 requires construction of 660,740 2.5-MW, or average size, wind turbines occupying 44.3 million acres, larger than the combined areas of Rhode Island, Delaware, Connecticut, Hawaii, New Jersey, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Vermont, Maryland, and West Virginia for towers and transmission facilities. To accomplish this feat, the total required capacity of wind turbines must exceed the combined capacity, in MW, of all existing U.S. power generating installations in use today (coal, oil, natural gas, nuclear, etc.) and Canada’s too. Raw materials required for towers are 119 million cubic yards of concrete and 109 million tons of steel, about two years of U.S. consumption. For nuclear to accomplish the same 25 percent RES needs only an area equal to one- third the area of Poughkeepsie, NY for all plants.

… Since 2005, coal-fired generating growth has slowed while electrical generation from natural gas increased 15 percent. … [S]hort of a massive construction of nuclear power plants, coal and hydrocarbon sources will remain as mainstays of U.S. power generation for the long term.

Download original document: “Coal to Remain Key U.S. Source of Electrical Power [1]

[NWW note: National Wind Watch does not endorse coal or any other source for generation of electricity. This analysis is provided here in acknowledgement that coal isn’t going away any time soon, and its only viable challengers right now are natural gas and nuclear. Instead of spending time and money pursuing the pipe dream of big wind, and destroying without purpose wild landscapes and rural communities in that pursuit, we should focus on using in the most responsible ways possible the energy we actually are using and will continue to use for quite some time, while also developing real alternatives for the future.]