Here’s the $36 billion question: Is wind power an expensive distraction or a key ingredient in the global energy cocktail? It all depends how you move the juice.
The American Wind Energy Association just released its
Doubts over the real contribution of wind power aren’t just an American thing.
It’s true that wind power’s development—in the U.S. and elsewhere—relies almost entirely on subsidies. So do coal, natural gas, and nuclear—if the external costs of greenhouse-gas emissions or nuclear decomissioning were included. And there’s little chance wind farms will ever come close to producing 90% of their headline generation capacity, as nuclear does; the best machines in the best spots now offer about a 35% “load factor”.
But the real question when computing cost doesn’t lie just with the turbines themselves, but rather how to get that electricity onto the grid.
Texans were already disturbed last month by wind power-induced brownouts. Now, the
The transmission question is one that threatens to torpedo even the industry’s great white-water hope: offshore wind farms. MIT Technology Review reports on a
What does the MIT article leave out? Transmission costs—the same that helped sink Long Island’s proposed offshore wind farm and have for years hogtied European offshore efforts. No matter how much cheaper capital costs for turbine installation become, all those spinning blades are just treading water until there’s a cost-effective and reliable way to hook them up to the grid.
Posted by Keith Johnson
3 April 2008
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