Thursday, August 09, 2012

Less to Wind Energy Milestone Than Meets the Eye

Early this morning, the American Wind Energy Association pushed out some data that caught our eye:

Electricity generated by the doubling of the U.S.’s crop of giant wind turbines in the past four years now equals the output of 11 nuclear power plants, according to the American Wind Energy Association, a trade group representing manufacturers and developers.

After a big build up since 2008, the U.S.’s total wind output currently totals 50,000 megawatts, or 50 gigawatts.

It looks like AWEA has the calculations correct. Fifty gigawatts (GW) of wind at a 30% capacity factor generates about 131,400,000 megawatt-hours of electricity in a year. This is roughly equivalent to the annual generation from 11 new nuclear reactors with an average capacity of 1,400 MW, each operating at a 90% capacity factor. It’s also equivalent to the annual generation of nearly 17 nuclear reactors with an average capacity of 1,000 MW, each at a 90% capacity factor.

This is a great milestone for the wind industry, however, they need to increase their capacity by roughly another 250 GW to equal the annual generation of the U.S. nuclear fleet. For those who haven’t seen our infographic, the amount of land needed by wind to produce the same amount of electricity as nuclear in a year is equal to an area the size of West Virginia.

It’s also worth noting that the quality of power from 50 GW of wind is much different than the quality of power from 11 nuclear reactors. Wind is intermittent, only available in certain locations, requires significant amounts of transmission, and produces the least amount of electricity in a year during the summer and winter months because the heat and cold stifle wind flow.

Nuclear is just the opposite. It produces continuous power 24/7, can be located anywhere, helps maintain grid stability, and produces the most amount of electricity in a year during the summer and winter months (pdf). ‘Nuff said.

3 comments:

jim said...

Again, among other more technical drawbacks, Wind at what price to our peaceful scenic beauty and heritage? Our children growing up used to monstrous towers springing from miles and miles of countrysides and hillsides and seashores and farmland as though they're born of the landscape? After the first few days of their freshly built novelty, who can really find this plague of whirligigs romantic or lovelier than what they're despoiling?

Japan and Vermont take notice!

James Greenidge
Queens NY

seth said...

Wind advocates always omit the fact that these abortions have to be backed up to 100% nameplate with fast spooling low efficiency gas plant run inefficiently. Less gas, less carbon/ far less money, replacing the wind/inefficient gas backup scam with nukes or high efficiency gas.

Vivere Pericoloso said...

Adding to what jim and seth said, another factor that could affect wind power effectiveness is the state of the U.S. electrical grid. There must be a major overhaul in U.S. electric infrastructure (in some parts of the country the grid are almost 100 years old according to a House Science subcommittee hearing in 2009), before this so-called renewable energy could reached, its, if any, potential.