David Feldman

Myths of Energy - Wind Power is Far Too Unreliable

Blog Post created by David Feldman Champion on Nov 24, 2016

Yes, it’s true, wind power is intermittent; that’s the way nature works.  Due largely to the unpredictability of weather, turbines typically generate only about one-fifth of the energy they'd make if they actually ran 24/7. That said, energy planners have devised tactics to make wind power reliable.


One of the best ways to balance wind's intermittent quality has been to construct grid connections between different regions of the U.S.  George Van Hoesen, a managing partner at Global Green Building, an environmental consulting firm in Missouri, explains how it works, "We have monitoring systems that show us the winds as they proceed through different regions.  We understand the currents and the flows."  It’s this information and computer models, that utilities use to shunt surplus power generated in one part of the country to other areas that need it.


A Stanford University study found that when many wind farms are interconnected through the grid, about one-third of the electricity they generate can be counted on as a reliable source of around-the-clock power.  And a University of Delaware study concluded that an offshore grid, connecting wind generators along the East Coast, could provide relatively stable output. They even did a simulation where over a five-year period, power never petered out entirely.


Still, even the best grid connections have their limits. The most optimistic projections calculate that wind can supply about 30 percent of the planet's electricity by 2030, so power sources like nuclear, hydropower and solar will be needed as supplements. It might not be a great idea to place all bets on wind, but with the latest turbines able to generate pollution-free electricity at less than 5 cents per kilowatt-hour, it wouldn't be smart to let wind go by the wayside while we invest in less sustainable fuels, either.