Sunday, September 5, 2010

Is wind power efficient enough?

Is wind power an economically and ecologically acceptable alternative to cheap fossil fuels such as coal? According to some latest reports relying on windmills to reduce greenhouse gas emissions is not only an expensive energy options but is also doing significant damage to the environment. A recent Wall Street Journal column by Robert Bryce says that wind energy will not help to reduce carbon emissions as many energy experts hope it would. This together with some other drawbacks that wind energy has would make wind power use disputable, to say the least.

Department of Energy has recently issued the study where it says that the intermittent nature of wind means that utilities are forced to either keep conventional power plants running to compensate this loss, or “continually ramp up and down”. Robert Bryce wrote in his column that „the inefficient cycling of generators made to run continuously creates more emissions than running constantly. Also, wind power largely displaces natural gas-fired generators rather than plants burning more carbon-intensive fuels“.


Despite what some may say wind power costs a lot. We only have to look at tax subsidies for wind power that are according to the U.S. Energy Industry Administration around 200 times greater than for oil and gas, based on per-unit-of-energy produced. The „not so bright idea“ of replacing cheap, highly efficient fossil fuels with windmills was best demonstrated in Scotland, where wind farms managed to produce only half of their predicted power output. The reason for this was “calm weather“. Germany, one of the world's renewable energy leaders also has number of people that have expressed serious doubts in wind power efficiency. For instance 40 German top business managers recently complained that mandated renewable energy, including wind power will cause significant extra costs in years to come with 8 billion Euros this year alone.

The main problem with wind energy is the fact that windmills operate at around 40 percent of maximum production level. This is very small compared with 90 percent for coal and 95 percent for nuclear power, and wind energy will have to become much more efficient in years to come in order to compete with fossil fuels and nuclear energy. Wind energy is not the best solution from the environmental point of view either. Large wind farms with fast rotating blades are killing thousands of birds each year and there is also the problem of noise pollution. The best example to how noisy wind turbines are was Oregon where wind-generation company even offered residents $5,000 each to sign a waiver promising not to complain.

Wind energy is not the perfect energy source, we all know that as there is no such thing as the perfect renewable energy source. The meaning of this article is not to promote oil, coal or nuclear energy as acceptable energy sources, the main goal is to outline some challenges staying in front of renewable energy sources.

3 comments:

Wind Turbines LLC said...

The disadvantages of wind industry have already been cited in the article. Yes, it is true that wind energy can be costly and less efficient in this point in time to be compared to the coal and petroleum. However, if we need to stop our dependence to fossil fuels that continues to harm our environment and now scarce and very expensive, we need to invest in renewable sources like wind energy to be able to have a sustainable and cheaper energy source in the future.

Anonymous said...

I have read more on the German deal where installing wind power accually increased the amount of fossil fuels used per Kilowatt hour produce due to the cycling of plants mentioned in the article. The local utilities from SW kansas and the Texas Panhandle( where we have a lot of wind and windturbines) say the same thing.

Anonymous said...

There was a study done in IL stating that there actually isn't any bird loss due to windmill.