NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Wind Power Doesn't Work When Needed Most

August 24, 2011

Wind energy turbines are not as effective at reducing carbon emissions as people have hoped.  The current Texas summer has been extraordinarily hot, and the state's vast herd of turbines proved incapable of producing any serious amount of power, says Robert Bryce, a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute.

  • On August 2, one of the hottest days of the summer in Texas and by no means an anomaly, wind energy was able to provide only about 2.2 percent of the total power demand even though the installed capacity of Texas's wind turbines theoretically equals nearly 15 percent of peak demand.
  • When considering that $17 billion has been spent installing wind turbines in Texas and that another $8 billion has been allocated for transmission lines to carry the electricity generated by the turbines to distant cities, the wind turbines haven't been the best use of taxpayer money.
  • That money could have been better spent on 5,000 megawatts of highly reliable nuclear generation capacity or as much as 25,000 megawatts of natural-gas-fired capacity.

Even though wind energy is being called an alternative to conventional electricity by its proponents, its output is generally low when demand is at its highest.  The incurable intermittency and extreme variability of wind energy requires utilities and grid operators to continue relying on conventional sources of generation like coal, natural gas and nuclear fuel.

Source: Robert Bryce, "The Wind-Energy Myth: The Claims for this 'Green' Source of Energy Wither in the Texas Heat," National Review, August 19, 2011.

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