Because electricity must be used the moment it is generated, utility operators perform a complex balancing act to instantly match electricity generation to constantly shifting demand. While maximum demand fluctuates daily, weekly and seasonally, a majority is ever present. This Base Load is supplied by jumbo power plants such as coal, nuclear and large hydro running 24/7. Wind turbines produce too little power to supply Base Load, at much higher cost. But even then, wind still couldn’t replace Brown’s Ferry because the major fluctuations inherent to wind power are unacceptable for Base Load.
To balance the peaks and valleys of demand, utilities use Peak Load generators, which are much smaller, usually gas or oil fired boilers or turbines that can be brought online quickly and throttled up and down easily. But wind is also unsuitable for Peak Load generation, again, due to the fluctuation problem, as well as throttling difficulties.
How then is wind power being utilized? The simple answer is that it is being used to waste fuel. Extra Peak Load units have to be kept spinning, but not generating, in order to rapidly come online to pick up the slack whenever the wind changes. So even when wind produces power, it still doesn’t offset fossil fuel, and greatly complicates management of the grid.
Then there are the environmental drawbacks, such as miles of heavy haul roads to service the turbines, birds killed by the spinning blades, ruination of scenic views, fire hazards and thrumming noise.
We (the taxpayers and ratepayers) are being played for suckers. Big corporations are making a killing from wind subsidies and tax breaks, and we get stuck with higher rates, higher taxes and less-reliable power.
J. Kennon Ledbetter
[Original wording at end of first paragraph restored per author]
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