Saturday, July 2, 2011

Wind Power's Unfortunate Limitations

The report, drawn up by its national laboratories said that meeting this target presumed some important assumptions. It would require improvements in turbine technology, cost reductions, new transmission lines and a five-fold increase in the pace of wind turbine installations. What exactly does that mean in terms of real, available kWh generating output? Actually, it means very little if merely a minor percentage of that technical feasibility provides electricity when needed.
To be extremely optimistic, let’s assume that actual average output would be 25% of that projected installed capacity. In that case, the real output would be less than 5% of the country’s electricity, and more realistically, about half of even that amount under optimistic circumstances.
Output volatility due to wind’s intermittency varies greatly according to location and time of year, typically ranging from 0% to about 50%. Texas, one of the most promising wind energy states, averages about 16.8% of installed capacity, yet the Electric Reliability Council of Texas assigns a value of 10% due to unpredictability. Only about 20% of that capacity is generally available during peak demand periods (about 5:00pm), while average generation during off-peak time averages about 40% of capacity.

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