Today I am just doing a “stream of consciousness” posting.
Some people love wind power and insist it is saving the planet or whatever. They don’t seem to realize the cost and redundancy. So apply the wind scenario to say, a school bus driver. Bob is a wonderful driver, the kids love him, etc. He is very highly paid for his driving, more than any other driver. Bob’s one downfall is he just shows up at work on random days. Because of this, the school pays a “backup” driver 25% of Bob’s wages to be available at all times. In order to keep Bob, the district pays his higher salary plus 25%. Okay, a lot of people might actually think that is okay, since they don’t realize they are paying the salary with their taxes. They don’t see a downside. Let’s try something close to home–your favorite grocery store. You love the employees, the store is conveniently located, and even though the prices are higher than a chain store, you are willing to pay the cost. The store owner decides that coming into work everyday is just a drag, so he/she hires a “backup” person to come in when she doesn’t feel like it. Unlike a part-time employee, this person has to paid 25% of their salary to be available during business hours. Otherwise, they will find another job and may not be available. You notice the prices in the store have suddenly increased rather significantly and inquire as to why. The owner explains about the on-call employee. Now are you happy to pay more?
Wind power works the same way. You pay more for the wind generated electricity in the first place, then you pay a “backup” plant for when the wind does not blow. Of more concern is the reality that there are not enough backup NG plants (or any plants of any kind for that matter) in many areas to cover the wind not blowing. This means new plants must be built, meaning you now pay more for the wind power and you pay more to cover construction of the NG plant. If this was obvious–as in it’s enumerated on your bill– it might not be so welcomed. People are often very enthusiastic about someone else paying for things, but not so much if the individual actually sees the money coming out of their wages. Wind power is not different–stop hiding the real cost and see if the support continues. It is also very important that the cost of the wind be directed at the customers using the power, not spread out among those who did not want the power. Otherwise, you are still forcing people to pay for your expensive choices.
There is a dearth of knowledge about the effectiveness of wind. A recent post on another blog stated the new Cheyenne supercomputer would never have to worry about running out of wind power, clearly implying wind never stops blowing in Wyoming. It is true that in Wyoming, 20 mph wind is considered a breeze. It is NOT true the wind blows 24/7. First, this very hot summer, there was little wind. I have written about this in several places. Second, in 2009, the capacity of wind was 1104 MW but the actual production was 254.1MW, or 23%. Clearly, the wind does NOT blow all the time or the actual output would be over 1000 MW. It’s statements such as the one I mentioned here that give people a very false impression of wind energy and of Wyoming. If people think there is always wind in Wyoming, it seems rational and sensible to build turbines. In reality, if we used only turbines, these people would be sitting in the dark, without power, three-quarters of the time. Even in very windy places, the wind does stop.
Wyoming wind tends to be very volatile. It can go from 5 mph to 30 mph in 5 minutes. It may blow for three or four days and then drop below 5 mph for the same number of days. This yields an average wind speed of 15 mph but means one-half the time, there’s no electricity. Plus, the winds can exceed 50 or 60 mph gusts, which can shut down turbines, depending on the turbine. It also stresses the turbines. Having a windy state does not mean it can magically overcome the extreme limitations of wind energy. It just means so-called environmentalists have no problem planting hundreds of huge towers and littering the landscape that was once something they treasured. Or said they did. Wyoming is not the old west anymore–we’re a pile of nasty, noisy turbines that make Al Gore all warm and fuzzy while destroying open spaces and threatening raptors. If one believes it’s absolutely essential that Al Gore feel all warm and fuzzy, then I suppose supporting turbines makes sense. To the rest of us, no way.
On the subject of wind and turbines, Monday, two of eleven turbines by Casper were not turning. By Tuesday, 10 out of 11 were turning. Friday morning, 10 were turning and one was not. Friday afternoon, the one not turning had recovered and a different turbine was not moving. All of this in 20 mph+ wind. Even when the wind is blowing hard enough for full capacity output, 9 percent is lost to mechanical malfunction. Hardly a bargain.