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Assessing costs of wind power

A recent opinion piece stated, “Wind is the lowest cost electricity in the U.S. today, about four cents/kWh.” Below is a summary of studies that refute that claim.

From Wikipedia – Levelized cost of electricity (LCOE) is a measure of a power source which attempts to compare different methods of electricity generation on a comparable basis. It is an economic assessment of the average total cost to build and operate a power-generation asset over its lifetime divided by the total power output of the asset over that lifetime.

From a 2014 Energy Information Administration report. (3 percent was added to the cost of electricity produced by coal to placate the greenies) Costs are in 2012 US dollars per MWh. Conventional Coal $95.6, Natural Gas $66.3, Advanced Nuclear $96.1, Biomass $102.6, Onshore Wind $80.3, Solar PV $130.0, Solar Thermal $243.1, Hydro $84.5

The following is information published by OpenEI, a group sponsored jointly by the US DOE and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory. Figures are Maximum, Median & Minimum. Onshore wind 120/ 60/ 20, Solar PV 590/280/150, Solar CSP 300/200/60, Hydropower 120/20/20, Natural Gas Combined Cycle 70/50/10, Coal, pulverized, scrubbed 120/50/10, Coal pulverized unscrubbed 40/40/40, Coal integrated gasification combined cycle 180/80/60, Nuclear 120/60/40.

A combination of two Australian studies, which I don’t think were fudged to include costs of carbon emissions, gave the following results, in Australian dollars per megawatt hour. Nuclear 75-105, Coal 28-38, Coal IGCC+CCS 53-98, combined cycle gas 37-54, combined cycle gas + CCS 53-93, wind with high capacity factor 63, solar thermal 85, photovoltaics 120. (IGCC-Integrated Coal-Gasification Combined Cycle, CCS-Carbon Control Sequestration)

From the EIA report wind produced electricity costs 20% more than that produced by natural gas. The report uses a “capacity factor” for wind of 35 percent even though the best average actually achieved in the US is 32.3 percent.

From the OpenEI data the median cost of wind produced electricity is also 20% more than natural gas, it is even 20 percent more than that produced by scrubbed, pulverized coal.

From the Australian study even with a “high capacity factor” (I couldn’t find what they considered a high capacity factor.) electricity generated by wind was far more expensive that than generated by gas and in the range of that produced by coal+IGCC+CCS.

Bert Dirschel, Centertown