Why Wind Power Has Not, and Will Not, Replace a Single Conventional Power Plant

(p. A17) After decades of federal subsidies–almost $24 billion according to a recent estimate by former U.S. Sen. Phil Gramm–nowhere in the United States, or anywhere else, has an array of wind turbines replaced a single conventional power plant. Nowhere.
But wind farms do take up space. The available data from wind-power companies, with which the Environmental Protection Agency agrees, show that the most effective of them can generate about five kilowatts per acre. This means 300 square miles of land–192,000 acres–are necessary to generate the 1,000 megawatts (a billion watts) of electricity that a conventional power plant using coal, nuclear energy or natural gas can generate on a few hundred acres. A billion watts fulfills the average annual power demand of a city of 700,000.
. . .
The promise that wind and solar power could replace conventional electricity production never really made sense. It’s known to everybody in the industry that a wind turbine will generate electricity 30% of the time–but it’s impossible to predict when that time will be. A true believer might be willing to do without electricity when the wind is not blowing, but most people will not. And so, during the 30% of the time the blades are spinning, conventional power plants are also spinning on low, waiting to operate during the other 70% of the time.

For the full commentary, see:
JAY LEHR. “OPINION; The Rationale for Wind Power Won’t Fly; Physical limitations will keep this energy source a niche provider of U.S. electricity needs.” The Wall Street Journal (Tues., June 18, 2013): A17.
(Note: ellipsis added.)
(Note: the online version of the commentary has the date June 17, 2013.)

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