Wind Turbines Are Beautiful...But a Tad Expensive

According to the U.S. Department of Energy's Energy Information Administration (EIA), if one includes all the capital, operating and fuel costs, electricity from wind still costs about 50 per cent more than conventional coal and 100 per cent more than natural gas, says Ronald Bailey, science correspondent with Reason Magazine.

Proponents point out that the costs of turbines are coming down, but the costs for the considerable infrastructure needed to manage wind are still daunting.

  • The wind, even at favourable sites, doesn't always blow, so the facility produces power at about 38 per cent of its actual capacity, or roughly about 51 megawatt hours of electricity on average.

  • The equipment is reliable – their operational life is 20 years, but John Bacon, onsite manager of the 90-turbine Judith's Gap wind farm in Montana, expects that they will actually continue to work for more than 40 years.

  • But reliable equipment isn't enough to bring prices down to competitive levels, says Bailey.

    The Department of Energy projects that wind power production capacity will more than double by 2014, fuelled by federal tax subsidies, economic recovery stimulus spending and state renewable energy mandates. This means that thousands more gleaming stately spinning towers will soon rise above the amber waves of grain in the heartland of America. Beautiful, says Bailey, but costly.

    Source: Ronald Bailey, Wind Turbines Are Beautiful...but a tad expensive, Reason Magazine, September 14, 2010.

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    First published by the National Center for Policy Analysis, United States

    FMF Policy Bulletin/ 28 September 2010
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