NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

WIND POWER WHIPS THROUGH TEXAS

May 9, 2008

The Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) recently estimated that billions of dollars in investment will be needed to transmit wind-generated electricity from the areas of Texas most suitable for wind generation, and the costs will be borne by Texas ratepayers, says Drew Thornley, a policy analyst at the Texas Public Policy Foundation.

Wind's percentage of total U.S. net generation was only 0.77 percent in 2007, while wind accounted for 2 percent of Texas total generation in 2007 according to the Energy Information Administration.  Other hurdles:

  • ERCOT's estimates for transmitting West Texas wind energy, under four different scenarios, range from $3.78 billion to $6.28 billion.
  • ERCOT transmission costs were estimated using a best-case-scenario approach and, as such, should be considered the absolute (and unlikely) minimums.
  • Add to this ERCOT's estimates of $410 million to $1.03 billion for connecting wind generation to the new collection substations.

Wind's variability and its lack of correlation with peak demand highlight a major challenge for wind energy, says Thornley.  Presently, there is no adequate storage system for wind-generated electricity -- though progress is being made on updating older technologies, and on refining newer ones.

Wind energy also comes with legitimate environmental concerns, says Sterling Burnett, a senior Fellow at the National Center for Policy Analysis:

  • Most of the fossil fuel power stations required to supplement wind turbines are not redundant,' but must run continuously, even if at reduced levels.
  • When combined with the CO2 emitted and pollutants released in the manufacture and maintenance of wind towers and their associated infrastructure, substituting wind power for fossil fuels does little to reduce air pollution.
  • Wind farms also require vast tracts of land, disrupting farming acreage and animal habitats; and, turbine blades kill thousands of birds each year, including protected species.

Source: Drew Thornley, "Wind Power Whips Through Texas," National Review, April 22, 2007.

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