Much was written here this past weekend about solar power. So, I thought it only fair to give “equal time” to wind power. It seems that recent studies are showing that any reduction in carbon emissions from the use of wind power to generate electricity is, nominal at best.
Before you dismiss this statement as “right wing” propaganda, please read on. It will soon make perfect sense.
Two laws of nature are at play here which cannot be altered by either good intentions, or government edict. First, wind does not blow 24 hours a day, 365 days of the year. And second, to produce power efficiently, traditional coal or gas powered generators are designed to run continuously. As to the second, think of it this way.
An automobile that operates at a constant speed—say 55 miles per hour–will have better fuel efficiency, and emit less pollution per mile traveled, than one that is stuck in stop-and-go traffic.
Because we expect that the lights will actually go on when we turn on the light switch, electricity generators must make sure that power is always available. This leaves the electricity generator who relies on wind power to supplement its power supply with two options. It can either “power down” it’s, let’s say coal fired plant, when it is receiving a great deal of wind powered electricity, and then “power up” the plant when the wind stops. Or, it can leave the coal powered plant running continuously.
The former option (rush hour traffic) results in more CO2 emissions than running the generators continuously, but the latter option doesn’t reduce CO2 emissions from those levels that existed before the wind “supplement”.
Perhaps it comes down to what Kevin Forbes, the director of the Center for the Study of Energy and Environmental Stewardship at Catholic University, [said] ‘Wind energy gives people a nice warm fuzzy feeling, that we’re taking action on climate change…the reality is that it’s not doing much of anything.’
No one disagrees with the concept of clean energy. It is something we should foster. But, as my engineer friend said today, the issue is dependability and predictability. In other words, we expect the lights to go on when we push the “on” switch.
And, government can’t legislate dependability and predictability, or, suspend the laws of nature for that matter, no matter how hard it tries.