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Wind and solar power need dependable backups

“Wind industry needs stable U.S. tax policy” (Point of View, Aug. 25) advocates support for the federal Production Tax Credit, touting its benefits for Oklahoma. Denmark had 72 wind-powered electric generators in 1908, yet wind power remains noncompetitive. Federal electric power subsidies in cents per kilowatt-hr (kWh) in 2010 were: gas and oil, 0.064; coal, 0.064; nuclear, 0.314; hydro, 0.082; wind, 5.63 and solar, 77.56. OG&E charges me 11.87 cents/kWh. Only subsidies keep wind and solar alive.

Because wind and sunshine are fickle, every megawatt of wind and solar power capacity must be backed by a megawatt of dependable capacity. The “capacity factor” is the percentage of power capacity actually of use. The Electric Reliability Council of Texas uses 8.7 percent for wind power. Twenty percent of Denmark’s electricity capacity is wind power, but only 3 percent of its power usage is wind. This is a 15 percent capacity factor, but they’ve been at it longer. Denmark’s average electricity rate is 32 cents/kWh. They haven’t reduced carbon dioxide emissions significantly, because coal generates much Danish power.

With more than a century of development, wind isn’t a new technology. It’s time that wind – and solar – stand or fall on their merits. Natural gas and nuclear power, plus higher efficiency and conservation, offer the best low-emissions solution. What doesn’t is President Obama’s “all of the above.”

Elliott Doane, Oklahoma City