Sunday, August 03, 2008

Wind won’t solve energy crisis

No it won't - but in conjunction with novel storage and state of the art transmission infrastructure - it would certainly help.
The disadvantage of wind-generated electricity is poor reliability because the weather doesn’t always cooperate. The most demanding need for energy is in the afternoons and during air-conditioned summers, but wind works best at night and during the other seasons, though intermittently. Even when the wind is blowing, it takes a 13 mph wind to power a large turbine.

Kansas has 364 megawatts of wind energy. But most of the year the wind is not blowing nearly hard enough to make 364 megawatts.

Last year wind generators nationally produced only 30 percent as much energy in a year as they would if they ran at full tilt, every hour of the year, a measure called “capacity factor.” Unlike nuclear power plants such as Wolf Creek, which achieve capacity factors of 90 percent or more, the wind operator cannot decide when the wind generator will run.

Texas has more wind energy than any other state, and bigger problems as a result. Last year the Electric Reliability Council of Texas said that wind power could be counted on as being reliable only 8.7 percent of the time during periods of peak demand. The rest of the time electric utilities were forced to use backup power generation, usually high-priced natural gas.

During a summer heat spell two years ago in California, another state with a lot of wind energy, wind generators operated at only 5 percent of capacity or less, setting off a Level 1 emergency in which people were asked to conserve power by using less air conditioning. Blackouts were barely averted when utilities decided to use gas turbines to provide emergency power.

Another problem with wind farms is their location. Where the wind is best is often hundreds of miles from cities that most need the power, so high-cost transmission lines must be built to transmit the electricity.
Instead of fantasizing about homes outfitted with Nocera electrolysis systems, the effort should be directed toward deployment of industrial scale hydrox plants that can safely handle the hydrogen, compress it, liquify it, and burn it as a useful clean energy transport and storage medium during non-peak production periods from equally clean solar and wind based energy production sources.