NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


April 25, 2007

Wind power is global, clean and environmentally safe, and should be part of our energy mix, says Pete du Pont, Chairman of the National Center for Policy Analysis and former governor of Delaware.

Nevertheless, wind turbine electrical generation faces a serious challenge, says du Pont -- inconsistent supply:

  • Offshore wind turbines in Europe illustrate the problem -- they start generating electricity when the wind speed reaches nine miles per hour and have to shut down if it exceeds 55 mph.
  • According to an analysis by Denmark's Incoteco energy consulting firm, in 2002 there were 54 days in western Denmark on which the wind power systems supplied less than 1 percent of demand.

In addition, wind power systems are less efficient than other power sources:

  • For half the days in Germany in 2004, wind plant output was less than 11 percent of rated capacity; in California, at the time of peak demand in July 2006, turbines generated 10 percent of capacity, and Texas generates about 17 percent.
  • In contrast, coal and natural gas plants generate at a little better than 70 percent of capacity and nuclear plants at more than 90 percent.

If our electricity was generated only by wind turbines, such inefficiencies and variability in the electrical power supply would be routine and entirely unacceptable, says du Pont. Yet using wind with other forms of energy can provide substantial benefits:

  • First, they produce electricity with less pollutants than oil, coal and natural gas fired plants.
  • According to the Alliance to Save Energy, a 600-megawatt offshore wind farm would annually save the emission of 2.5 billion pounds of CO2, 29 million pounds of sulfur dioxide and nine million pounds of nitrous oxide.
  • Another reason is the cost advantage of wind -- turbine wind power is too variable to be the base supply of our energy system, but it does generate electricity, and wind is free.

Source: Pete du Pont, "Air Power,", April 25, 2007.

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