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Wind and Solar in Perspective

January 8, 2016

The media continuously promote renewables, reporting on job creation, payments to farmers and other supposed benefits.

Unfortunately, the media ignores higher costs to consumers, the use of tax payer money for subsidies, the loss of jobs in the coal and related industries, and how it is the poorest among us who must pay the penalty for the higher cost of electricity caused by wind and solar.

Inevitably, the media promotes renewables so as to cut CO2 emissions, on the false assumption that renewables can replace the electricity generated by fossil fuels.

This table, from the Energy Information Administration, shows the percentage of electricity generated in the United States by source.

  • Coal = 39%
  • Natural gas = 27%
  • Nuclear = 19%
  • Hydropower = 6%
  • Biomass = 1.7%
  • Geothermal = 0.4%
  • Solar = 0.4%
  • Wind = 4.4%
  • Petroleum = 1%
  • Other gases ~ 1%

Two-thirds come from fossil fuels.

Wind generates only 4.4% of the electricity generated in the United States, after spending roughly $132 billion on wind turbine installations with an installed capacity of 65,879 MW.

The installed cost of these wind installations was approximately $2,000 per KW, which is twice the installed cost of a natural gas combined cycle power plant. And this doesn’t include the hidden costs of backup generation for when the wind doesn’t blow, or for the billions of investment in new transmission lines to bring wind generated electricity from where it’s generated to where it can be used.

It’s interesting to compare the residential cost of electricity in California, 15 cents per kWh, the state with the most emphasis on renewables and the highest renewable portfolio standards (RPS) of 33%, with the residential cost of electricity in Arkansas, 10 cents per kWh, where nearly 70% of the electricity is generated by coal and natural gas and where there is no RPS.

338-foot-tall wind turbine collapse, Scotland, 2015, from BBC Screenshot. Debris was widespread, but no residential buildings were nearby.

338-foot-tall wind turbine collapse, Scotland, 2015, from BBC Screenshot.
Debris was widespread, but no residential buildings were nearby.

The residential cost of electricity will inevitably rise much faster in California than in Arkansas, based on Germany’s experience with energiewende, where the cost of electricity is roughly 4 times as much as in Arkansas.

It’s also important to note that Germany, with its huge investments in solar and wind, has still only reduced its CO2 emissions by approximately 25%. Compare this with Obama’s stated goal of cutting CO2 emissions 80% by 2050, only 35 years from now.

When comparing the pitifully small amount of electricity generated by wind, solar and other so-called renewables, it’s obvious that trying to replace all the electricity generated by fossil fuels with renewables is a fool’s errand.

* * * * * *

The new book that explains why CO2 isn’t to be feared, and why fossil fuels can last a thousand years for the benefit of mankind.

Book Cover, Nothing to Fear

Book Cover, Nothing to Fear

The opening paragraph of Nothing to Fear sets the tone:

“Nothing to Fear explains why mankind has the ability to withstand nearly everything mother nature may throw at it, so long as mankind doesn’t institute policies that cripple its ability to respond to potential threats.”

Nothing to Fear is available from Amazon and some independent book sellers.

Link to Amazon:

* * * * * *


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17 Comments leave one →
  1. January 8, 2016 1:48 pm

    It is actually worse than that because the cost of installed capacity must consider the capacity factor and the duration of the plant typically 20 years for unreliable wind power. It would be 2000$/25%fc=8000$ KWe c.f compared to say 5000$/kWe new nuclear , 90% capacity factor and lasting 60 years. No contest.

    • January 8, 2016 3:36 pm

      You are correct. Thanks for making your comment.

  2. Tom Stacy permalink
    January 8, 2016 1:48 pm

    I like the book cover and opening statement, Donn, but I won’t do business with Amazon for the very reasons you state in this post. How else can I buy it?

    Cost per MW is a meaningless term unless the compared sources have equal capacity value which, in the case of wind and solar, they don’t. You need to use $/MWh for wind and solar and include in the figure the fixed cost imposed on the underutilized dispatchable fleet required to remain operational to maintain the status quo capacity reserve margin. This is the clean way to value compare intermittents to dispatchables.

    • January 8, 2016 3:33 pm

      I understand what you are saying, but wanted to emphasize the cost of building each of these facilities. Wind has a capacity factor that has been 30% or less up until now. Concentrating solar has efficiencies of roughly 35%, possibly slightly higher with salt heat sinks. PV solar is a horse of a different color, with efficiencies that range between 15% and 25%. The problem with cents/kWh is that LCOEs tend to not provide a fair comparison, unless the factors used, such as interest rates, useful life etc. are fully understood. The EIA lists cents per kWh, but they are distorted by how these factors are used in their equation. Wind turbines have a life of 20 years, while NGCC power plants have a life of 40 years, and so far as I can determine this difference in life isn’t accounted for.
      People have a hard time understanding the cost of electricity because of the cents per kWh promoted by the EIA and organizations promoting wind and solar.
      People do however, understand the cost to construct these facilities.
      There is also little agreement on the hidden costs, such as the cost of underutilized dispatchable fleet.
      The Heartland Institute is also selling the book, as are some independent book sellers. You may want to ask an independent book seller near you whether they will get the book for you.
      Barns & Noble won’t handle books from independent publishers. At least that has been my experience with my two previous books.
      If you still aren’t able to buy a copy, let me know.

    • January 9, 2016 7:38 am

      I ordered mine through the Heartland Institute. They use PayPal.

  3. Neil Jones permalink
    January 8, 2016 2:16 pm

    “Perspective” is another informative column. The Energy Information Administrations table is particularly enlightening. Thanks.

  4. January 9, 2016 1:28 am

    “… long as mankind doesn’t institute policies that cripple its ability to respond to potential threats.”
    That’s what makes me go through sleepless nights in fear for my children. Do you believe in the collective rationality of Human kind to act in time?

    • January 9, 2016 10:20 am

      I hope people will understand that the threat is to cripple our ability to respond to nature’s threats by attempting to cut CO2 emissions.

  5. Stephan permalink
    January 11, 2016 4:03 am

    Hi Donn,

    I like your blog and would be interested in the book, I’d just prefer to buy a Kindle version rather than pay international shipping. Any chance of that happening?


    • January 11, 2016 8:55 am

      Thanks for asking. Several people have asked about a Kindle version of Nothing to Fear. I initially was thinking about doing a Kindle version six or seven months from now, but, based on these requests, I may do a Kindle version sooner than that. It’s something I haven’t yet decided.

      • Stephan permalink
        January 12, 2016 8:50 pm

        Great, if/when you do release a Kindle version, I’ll be more than happy to buy one! Just include it in one of your blog posts so we know when the kindle version is available.


    • May 1, 2016 5:10 pm

      I have been traveling and just returned home. I’ll say something about this soon as it is a huge waste of money.


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