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Why wind power does not substantially reduce emissions 

Author:  | Emissions

Several analysts (links below) have examined the consequences of fossil fuel–fired generators, particularly natural gas, having to modulate their output and frequently start and stop to balance the highly variable infeed from wind turbines so that electrical supply is stable and reliable. The question is to factor in the increased emissions from operating the generators in that way compared with operating them more steadily, i.e., if they were not required to cope with the fluctuating contribution from wind turbines: How do the extra emissions of running the generators less efficiently compare with the emissions saved by running them less?

Since natural gas–fired generators are best able to respond quickly enough to balance wind energy, they have been added almost in parallel with wind (see graphs provided by the Department of Energy’s Energy Information Agency), so it is not wind replacing coal-generated electricity, but wind plus its necessary partner natural gas (which, fracking and methane release aside, is much cleaner than coal). Might it not only be much cheaper and less land-intensive, but also even reduce emissions more to replace coal with natural gas only?

The hidden fuel costs of wind generated electricity” by K. de Groot and C. le Pair

The impact of wind generated electricity on fossil fuel consumption” by C. le Pair and K. de Groot

Wind integration: Incremental emissions from back-up generation cycling (Part V: Calculator update)” [with links to Parts I–IV] by Kent Hawkins

Big wind: How many households served, what emissions reduction? (a case study)” by Kent Hawkins and Donald Hertzmark

Integrating Renewables: Have Policymakers Faced the Realities?” by Kent Hawkins

Integrating Wind Power: Wind Fails in Two Important Performance Measures” by Kent Hawkins

Analysis of Ontario’s electricity system” by Kent Hawkins

Air emissions due to wind and solar power” by Warren Katzenstein and Jay Apt

Cost and quantity of greenhouse gas emissions avoided by wind generation” by Peter Lang

Calculating wind power’s environmental benefits” by Tom Hewson and David Pressman

Reduction in carbon dioxide emissions: estimating the potential contribution from wind-power” by David White

Less than one-fourth of projected fuel savings from wind on Falklands

This material is the work of the author(s) indicated. Any opinions expressed in it are not necessarily those of National Wind Watch.

The copyright of this material resides with the author(s). As part of its noncommercial educational effort to present the environmental, social, scientific, and economic issues of large-scale wind power development to a global audience seeking such information, National Wind Watch endeavors to observe “fair use” as provided for in section 107 of U.S. Copyright Law and similar “fair dealing” provisions of the copyright laws of other nations. Queries e-mail.

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