Is Industrial Wind Good for Anything?
In Germany, the country with the most wind power in the world, grid operator E.ON Netz predicts by the year 2020, 48,000MW of wind power will be able to replace only 2,000MW of traditional power production, most of which runs on fossil fuel. See Wind Report 2005 at (p. 9). That is, industrial wind can displace fossil-fuel powered plants at a rate of no more than 4% of its installed capacity -- and that's in the future. To get there Energy Secretary Dr. Steven Chu explains that a massive new transmission capacity is needed because the wind (and the sun) is unreliable, so it must integrated into a much larger wired system. That way, when the wind dies down in one place, it can be tapped in some distant location where it hasn't died down. The cost: about $1 trillion of the public's money. But is devoting such massive public resources to achieve this goal good policy?
With such a dismal prospect for a return on our investment, can there be other uses for industrial wind that avoid the transmission problem? Well, yes:
These uses for industrial wind are not dependent on transmission lines, so the current intrusion into residential rural areas just because they happen to be near an existing transmission line would not need to be supported by state and local governments.
Of course, if governments and developers can find sites where nobody lives, there will be no opposition to a 1,000-turbine wind farm requiring 500 square kilometeres. That's exactly what Sweden has done. The key to Sweden's success is that only three people live near the project area.