Location: Pantego, Texas, United States

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Here is a comment from England regarding wind power. There are several problems with wind power. The huge wind turbines are is unsightly, and noisy. The wind doesn't blow strongly enough near where the power is needed, so expensive transmission lines have to be constructed to deliver the power to customers. The wind is intermittent, and tends to not blow when power demand is highest, so backup generating capacity is needed to avoid having brownouts or even blackouts. When the price of wind power is discussed, the expense of the transmission lines and the large reserve generating capacity are never discussed. Here is an example of the usual cost projections for various electricity generation systems: (This is from the April 27, 2009 issue of Forbes Magazine, pp. 110, and is attributed to the Energy Information Administration.)

System, Cost (Cents/kW-hr)

Wind, 9.1

Coal, 7.9

Natural Gas, 8.1

Nuclear, 10.5

Solar, 25.0

There is a 2 cent/kW-hr subsidy for wind at present, which appears to make it competitive. But, these numbers do not include the cost of backup systems or transmission lines. Texas is currently spending $5 billion for transmission lines to bring the wind generated electricity to market. This cost is to be added to everyone's electric bill. In Dallas-Ft. Worth we pay much more for electricity than the 8 cents/kW-hr that would be expected based on the above chart. For that we can thank the state legislature which lets the electric company raise the price of electricity when the price of natural gas goes up (even though about half of the electricity is produced in coal fired or nuclear plants) but doesn't make them reduce the cost when the price of natural gas falls so the price ratchets up when the price of natural gas goes up, but doesn't go down. (Recently natural gas cost $13 per mcf, but now costs only $3.60 per mcf.) I don't know if the electric generating companies management just bamboozled the legislature, or if the members were just not very smart, or if they were paid off. Readers can decide for themselves which is most likely. (TXU management recently sold the company for a huge markup based on this good deal they had gotten from the legislature, resulting in huge bonuses for top management.)


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