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Wind Energy Distortions

January 15, 2013

People deserve to know the truth when it comes to the cost of wind energy.

Would you believe that the Governors’ Wind Energy Coalition, made up of 23 governors, would distort the facts?

Would you believe that the Energy Information Administration, EIA, would distort the facts?

Here is a chart used by the Governors’ Wind Energy Coalition showing the cost of wind energy compared with the cost of electricity generated from coal, etc. This was used to educate Congress on the value of wind energy. The headline is misleading, at best.

Wind Cost From Governors' Wind Coalition

Cost Chart with Distorted Wind Cost

It’s necessary to go to the fine print to see that they selected the lowest possible levelized cost of electricity, LCOE. This cost is from isolated cases, areas where there are unusually strong winds, hundreds of miles from where the electricity can be used.

I have seen no other comparison that goes to such an extreme to try to prove that wind energy is economical. Congress should be insulted to be given such a distorted picture of the cost of electricity from wind.

Even the EIA doesn’t go to such an extreme to distort the LCOE of wind.

However, the EIA chooses to distort the comparison between the LCOE from wind and coal, in an attempt to show that wind is competitive with the cost of electricity from coal.

Here is the table from the EIA, showing LCOEs from various sources.

Levalized cost from EIA

LCOE from EIA

The LCOEs from the EIA’s table are 97 $/MW-hour for wind, and 94.8 $/MW-hour for conventional coal.

The EIA arrives at this distortion by adding a charge for CO2 emissions to the capitalized cost of constructing coal-fired power plants. It’s equivalent to $15 per ton of CO21. It also uses a capacity factor of 34% for wind, when actual land-based capacity factor is 30%, at best, and this helps lower the cost of electricity from wind.

Why is it necessary for the Governor’ Energy Coalition and the EIA to distort the cost of electricity from wind?

The answer is simply to fool people, including Congress, into thinking that electricity from wind is cheap – when it isn’t.

NOTE:

  1. From the EIA web site: “While the 3-percentage point adjustment is somewhat arbitrary, in levelized cost terms, its impact is similar to that of a $15 per metric ton of carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions fee when investing in a new coal plant without CCS.”

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10 Comments leave one →
  1. Tom Tanton permalink
    January 15, 2013 10:42 am

    The main distortion when comparing wind and other technologies is in pretending that the electricity is anywhere near comparable. Intermittent energy only (wind) does not provide the same value as dependable/dispatchable energy and capacity, something that EIA has recognized in their most recent (2012) estimates (they separated the technologies in the newer version of the table you’ve shown from the Dec. 2010 report.) However there are also costs truly the responsibility of wind which have been off-loaded to others or to society at large: balancing (note different than ‘back-up’) wind’s volatility, extra-distant low capacity factor transmission, etc. Those costs are listed and estimated at http://www.atinstitute.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/12/Hidden-Cost.pdf

  2. January 15, 2013 11:11 am

    Great comment.
    The capacity factor for wind is very low when compared with coal, natural gas etc.
    Wind also requires running backup so that power can be provided when the wind stops blowing.
    There is also the cost of dedicated transmission lines where society incurs the cost to bring wind from distant locations to where it can be used.
    Solar also incurs these costs that don’t normally show up in an LCOE calculation.
    Thanks for bring these up and the link to additional information.
    Donn

  3. January 15, 2013 2:29 pm

    Taunton’s comment is quite accurate. And his reference to ATI is perfect. I have scanned
    through that essay and will keep it around for later….it’s so, so informative!
    California’s http://www.caiso.com. Is a good place to understand electricity here, now and into
    the future. We are piggybacking, as explained in ATI. And we can do this for a long time,
    mainly because wind is such a small part of it, but also we’ll need so little more electricity
    way on out. To illustrate, January 6th was wild, wild with wind, 10.2 percent of use was
    wind. It was easily accommodated, because we have such a large total capacity. Two
    days later wind produced 0.18 percent of total use…to illustrate its wildness.
    We can stand some more wind/solar if someone has the guts to spend money without
    subsidies..which should be our way forwards.
    Donn…see my comments on your last blog.

    • January 15, 2013 3:00 pm

      Thanks.
      I believe I have responded to your comments. if not, tell me on which article I missed your comment.
      I looked at the caiso.com link. Thanks for referencing it.

      • January 15, 2013 3:24 pm

        Donn…you are doing the right thing…
        I would like to send some stuff to you, alone.
        Sincerely, Vern

  4. April 1, 2013 10:31 am

    With havin so much content and articles do you ever run
    into any problems of plagorism or copyright infringement?
    My website has a lot of unique content I’ve either created myself or outsourced but it looks like a lot of it is popping it up all over the internet without my agreement. Do you know any techniques to help protect against content from being stolen? I’d really appreciate it.

    • April 1, 2013 10:50 am

      Comments that refer to business sites aren’t usually approved. I’m making an exception in this instance because it asks important questions concerning plagiarism and copyrights.
      All of my writing is original, or where copied, has quotation marks around it.
      Pictures are mostly taken by me. A few are copies of pictures that are in the public domain, primarily from the federal government.
      All of my material is copyright protected, however I am pleased when people copy my material because I am attempting to provide as many people as possible with factual information about energy issues.

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