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Misleading DOE August 6, 2013, press release and report on wind energy  

Credit:  Glenn Schleede, August 7, 2013 ~~

The highly misleading August 6 DOE press release and report claiming that, in 2012, wind was “the fastest growing source of power in the United States” raises two questions:

  1. Why does the highly trained scientist heading the US DOE allow such a misleading claim to be issued by his Department?
  2. Why do some many reporters and editors repeat such misleading claim?

Electricity Generation vs. Capacity. With respect to question 1, Secretary Moniz must know that there is a huge difference between wind generating capacity (measured in megawatts – MW) and the amount of electricity that wind turbines actually generate (measured in megawatt-hours – MWh). There is a huge difference because wind turbines produce electricity only when the wind at the turbine is blowing at the right speed (i.e., in a range of roughly 6 to 55 MPH). In fact, the output of electricity from wind turbines is, therefore, intermittent, highly variable, and unreliable – unlike the output from reliable (dispatchable) generating units powered by natural gas, coal, oil, nuclear energy and, perhaps, biomass.

In fact, natural gas – not wind – was the “fastest growing” source of electricity generation in 2012 as clearly demonstrated in the table below which is based on data from the US EIA.

Electricity Price per kWh vs. Value. The misleading DOE press release and LBNL report also claimed that the price of electricity from wind under 2011 and 2012 power purchase contracts “…averaged 4 cents per kilowatt hour – making wind competitive with a range of wholesale electricity prices seen in 2012.”

Secretary Moniz must know that the value of a kilowatt hour (kWh) of electricity produced by wind turbines is much less than the VALUE of a kWh of electricity from reliable generating units because:

  1. Wind turbines tend to produce electricity at night and in colder and shoulder months, NOT on hot weekday afternoons when electricity demand and true VALUE is high.
  2. As indicated above, wind turbine output is intermittent, volatile, and unreliable.
  3. “Sale price” for electricity from wind does NOT take into account the huge federal and state subsidies for “wind farm” owners that permit them to sell their electricity at artificially low prices – which subsidies are much higher per KWh for wind that for conventional energy sources.

The sale price of electricity per kWh produced by wind turbines cannot validly be compared to the price of electricity from reliable generating units that can be counted on whenever needed, including during peak demand periods when the output of wind turbines is often at or near zero.

Quite likely, Secretary Moniz also knows that the claimed $25 billion “investment” in wind turbines (heavily subsidized by taxpayers) could have purchased a lot more generating capacity and electricity generation if it had been invested in combined cycle generating units. They would also have provided many more jobs over a much longer period and the final cost of the electricity to electric customers would have been less. Further, the generating units could be built near populated areas where the electricity is needed, thus avoid the need, cost, and adverse environmental impact of transmission lines that would be required to move wind generated electricity from remote areas.

With respect to question 2, it’s a sad fact that many reporters and editors either don’t have the capability to evaluate claims made by government officials, lobbyists, and/or organizations producing biased reports and press releases. Instead, they repeat misleading claims and help mislead the public, other media, and government officials that make policies that add unnecessarily to costs borne by ordinary citizens, consumers and taxpayers.

Glenn Schleede
Ashburn, VA

Comparison of US Electricity Generation in 2011 & 2012 (thousand megawatt-hours)

Year

Natural Gas

Wind

All sources

2011

1,013,689

120,177

4,100,656

2012

1,230,708

140,089

4,054,485

Change

217,019

19,912

(46,171)

% Change

21.4%

16.6%

−1.1%

% of Total electricity generation

24.7%

2.9%

30.4%

3.5%

Change

+5.7%

+0.6%

Source: US EIA

Source:  Glenn Schleede, August 7, 2013

This article is the work of the source indicated. Any opinions expressed in it are not necessarily those of National Wind Watch.

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