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Submission to the Senate Select Committee on Wind Turbines: Peter Lang

Wind’s effectiveness and CO2 avoidance cost

This submission focuses on the effectiveness of wind turbines at reducing CO2 emissions from electricity generation in Australia and the impact of the effectiveness on the estimates of abatement cost ($/tonne CO2 avoided) by wind energy.

It is often assumed that effectiveness of wind energy is 100%, i.e., 1 MWh of wind energy displaces the emissions from 1 MWh of the conventional energy displaced. But it is usually much less, and values as low as 53% have been reported. To be clear, 53% effective means wind turbines avoided 53% of the emissions that, in the absence of wind, would have been produced by the generators that were displaced by wind generation.

Empirical analyses of the emissions avoided in electricity grids in the U.S. and Europe indicate that (1) wind turbines are significantly less effective at avoiding emissions than is commonly assumed and (2) effectiveness decreases as the proportion of electricity generated by wind turbines increases.

Unfortunately, neither the Clean Energy Regulator (CER) nor the Australian Energy Market Operator (AEMO) collect the CO2 emissions information needed for an accurate empirical estimate of effectiveness. Without good data for the emissions from power stations at time intervals of 30 minutes or less, estimates of emissions avoided by wind are biased high and have large uncertainty, i.e., we don’t know what emissions reductions are actually being achieved by wind generation. …

23 March 2015

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