I think everyone will agree that any renewable energy source is better than using coal or petrochemicals or nuclear. Wind is certainly a viable resource but we have to face facts that wind has some limitations. Statistically, wind plants have a 25 percent capacity rating – meaning availability of power output – because of their reliance on 9 mph or higher winds. The optimized power output of one wind generator is 275 to 500 kilowatts, or about enough for 50 homes per year. California currently uses 16,000 wind generators to produce 1 percent of their electricity needs – serving about 295,000 homes. The American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) estimates that within the next 30 years, wind energy could produce as much as 10 percent of the nation’s electricity.
When wind is used to supplement other sources, up to about 10 percent of total demand, then the intermittency of wind is not an insurmountable problem but it remains an unsolved issue when wind is used for a larger fraction of demand. Until we solve grid energy storage on a large scale, wind energy will always be a player but, unfortunately, will never be a total solution.
Even if you can get past the aesthetics, safety and environmental issues and discount a rapidly growing energy demand and are able to maximize wind production, at best, we still must meet 90 percent of our energy needs from some other generation source.
2 February 2008
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