April 04, 2011
Wind Energy Growth Slowed By Lower Demand

A Wall Street Journal article reports on a big drop in demand for new wind power installations. Demand for electric power dropped when recession and economic crisis hit in full force and has yet to fully recover. It is hard for wind to compete against existing power plants. Wind really needs rising total electric power demand to grow. But the US Department of Energy's Energy Information Administration expects wind to become competitive with current low cost leader natural gas electric by 2016 in the windy plains states.

The Energy Information Administration projects that, in 2016, the cost of producing electricity from a new wind farm will be about equal to that from a new gas-fired plant in the windiest parts of America's midsection, such as the Dakotas and Colorado. It forecasts that producing wind power still will cost about twice as much as producing gas-fired power in less-windy places such as the Mid-Atlantic coast and the Southeast.

Natural gas probably has more pricing risk though. If the current low costs of natural gas do not continue then it won't remain the low price leader. Coal and wind would become more viable in the great plains states.

What I'd like to know: What would be the cost of transporting great plains wind electric power to the coasts? Political opposition to a big transmission lines build-out from plains to coasts might prevent this. The opposition comes both from people who do not want high power electric lines built near them and also from owners of electric power plants who do not want more competing electric power sources. But absent that opposition would the long distance transmission lines make economic sense?

In New England electric power costs almost double the costs in the plains states (mostly due to cheap coal from Wyoming and North Dakota and regulations in the Northeast). That difference in costs is not a recent development. Yet the long distance power lines haven't been built to exploit those price differences. Connecticut especially has extremely high electric power prices at over 19.29 cents/kwh. In North Dakota the price is a mere 8.09 cents/kwh.

The fact that (at least in America) the wind blows hardest where electric prices are lowest is a real stumbling block for wind power's growth. But that's not the only stumbling block. Bird lovers celebrate when a big wind turbine farm is blocked.

(Washington, D.C., April 4, 2011) American Bird Conservancy (ABC), the nation’s leading bird conservation organization, today said that the cancellation of the Xcel Energy Inc. 150-megawatt, $400 million wind farm in southeastern North Dakota reflects how serious bird mortality issues are in connection with the burgeoning wind farm industry.

Opposition to wind noise near human populations seems to be growing with local complaints about wind turbine noise and health at many sites.

I'd rather see more geothermal (which to make scalable might require the same fracturing techniques that make environmentalists upset about shale natural gas) and serious development of thorium LFTR reactors. Smaller footprints. There is no ideal energy source.

Share |      Randall Parker, 2011 April 04 11:06 PM  Energy Wind

Brett Bellmore said at April 5, 2011 4:01 AM:

One must make a distinction between the true basis of a complaint, and the pretext. 'Environmentalists' aren't upset about fracturing. They're upset about the fuel being made available. Any practical source of energy capable of powering an industrial civilization will prompt them to find something to complain about, because they don't like industrial society.

"What would be the cost of transporting great plains wind electric power to the coasts?"

Aside from the transmission lines, one of the costs is that the wind power would displace much more economical power sources to a greater extent.

anonyq said at April 5, 2011 11:45 AM:

Displace is the wrong word. It would lead to other power sources to be sold cheaper as there would be less demand for it

Bruce said at April 5, 2011 12:16 PM:

What a joke.

Wind turbines require rare earth magnets. China will not be exporting any rare earth materials by 2016, therefore all the jobs for constructing turbines will go to China.

NG power plants will keep the jobs in the USA.

LarryD said at April 5, 2011 2:04 PM:

Geothermal, like hydro, is currently site-limited. Research to get around that is dying. Nobody wants to take the risk of triggering earthquakes.

RBL said at April 5, 2011 3:15 PM:

The more high voltage lines you build, the greater exposure you have to EMP bombs and Carrington events. The power carried by the lines is expected to cover the debt on their construction. If the power is as fluky as wind power typically is, the wires will be idle much of the time, so how can we finance the $1M/mile costs? Us Coloradans don't want to crisscross our mountains to provide electricity to Californians who refuse to drill their offshore oil or build their own power plants.

morpheus said at April 5, 2011 6:11 PM:

forget about wind - we dont want the treehuger bird lovers heartbroken because some bird got banged by the wind turbine imagine all the suffering this patetic human beings would be saved from so they can go on enjoy there chicken nuggets in peace.

Randall - on a more serious note here are few links that should get u up to speed on Andrea Rossi in no time:



and last but not least :

Randall do some homework make me proud with a nice post:)

anonyq said at April 5, 2011 6:45 PM:


NG power plants also use rare earth magnets


It doesn't make sense to move coal over the Rockies when you could just move electrons over it. You also act like $1M is a lot of money. It simply isn't in the power industry

Bruce said at April 5, 2011 8:29 PM:

anonyq, how many wind turbines do you need to tear down for an NG power plant if there is 2 tons of magenets in the wind turbine?

Bruce said at April 6, 2011 8:05 AM:

Vast quantities of natural gas ...

"The initial estimate of technically recoverable shale gas resources in the 32 countries examined is 5,760 trillion cubic feet, as shown in Table 1. Adding the U.S. estimate of the shale gas technically recoverable resources of 862 trillion cubic feet results in a total shale resource base estimate of 6,622 trillion cubic feet for the United States and the other 32 countries assessed. To put this shale gas resource estimate in some perspective, world proven reserves of natural gas as of January 1, 2010 are about 6,609 trillion cubic feet, and world technically recoverable gas resources are roughly 16,000 trillion cubic feet,largely excluding shale gas. Thus, adding the identified shale gas resources to other gas resources increases total world technically recoverable gas resources by over 40 percent to 22,600 trillion cubic feet."


anonyq said at April 6, 2011 8:31 AM:

So Bruce you want to claim that rare earth minerals can be recycled? I'm shocked and flabbergasted.

Technically recoverable means if money is no object. But money is important otherwise the wind resource in the US would power the world. Most of that shale gas is so expensive that solar is cheaper

Bruce said at April 6, 2011 10:51 AM:

Why build ANY wind farms. They do not work.

" wind generation was below 20% of capacity more than half the time and below 10% of capacity over one third of the time."

"During each of the four highest peak demands of 2010, wind output reached just 4.72%, 5.51%, 2.59% and 2.51% of capacity, according to the analysis."

"The average frequency and duration of a "low wind event" was once every 6.38 days for 4.93 hours, it suggested."

"The report, supported by conservation charity the John Muir Trust, concluded turbines "cannot be relied upon" to produce significant levels of power generation."


Bruce said at April 6, 2011 10:53 AM:

"Technically recoverable means if money is no object"

False. The number is quite conservative and is usually 20-30% of what is actually there. Usually over time the recovery amount is higher.

"The technically recoverable resource estimate for shale gas in this report is established by multiplying the risked gas-in-place by a shale gas recovery factor, which incorporates a number of geological inputs and analogs that are appropriate to each shale gas basin and formation.

The basic recovery factors used in this report generally ranged from 20 percent to 30 percent, with some outliers of 15 percent and 35 percent being applied in exceptional cases. The consultant selected the recovery factor based on prior experience in how production occurs, on average, given a range of factors including mineralogy, geologic complexity, and a number of other factors that affect the response of the geologic formation to the application of best practice shale gas recovery technology."


Bruce said at April 6, 2011 10:59 AM:

I love the greenie excuse for winds abysmal performance:

"However, Jenny Hogan, director of policy for Scottish Renewables, said no form of electricity worked at 100% capacity, 100% of the time."

So instead of going for 100% of capicity for 95% of the time, they lie about wind being 30% and whine when conservationist tell the truth that performance is less than 10% when it is needed the most.

I look forward to many class action law suits when USA data is collected.

anonyq said at April 6, 2011 3:50 PM:

At the moment shale gas is sold for less than the production cost so i'm not the one who is wrong

Hydro is even worse than wind. It has often numbers like 100% for 3% of the time but it is still the type of electricity plant CFO dream about. Oil and diesel generators have numbers even worse than that but it still makes economic sense to keep them. Gas shouldn't make economic sense to run them 100% for 95% of the time.

ps Bruce, thermal plants run much more efficient when it is cold than when it is warm. See for example http://arstechnica.com/science/news/2011/03/using-waste-heat-to-fill-the-bath-desalination-in-abu-dhabi.ars . It talks about efficiency and not capacity but i doubt that a gas plant is still at 100% capacity during a heat wave in the Persian Gulf.

Bruce said at April 6, 2011 4:20 PM:

Shale gas wells produce more than expected for longer than expected and therefore make a lot of money.

"Before 2000, many successful natural gas wells had been completed in the Marcellus. The yields of these wells were often unimpressive upon completion. However, many of these older wells in the Marcellus have a sustained production that decreases slowly over time. Many of them continued to produce gas for decades. A patient investor might make a profit from these low yield wells with slowly declining production rates.

For new wells drilled with the new horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing technologies the inital production can be much higher than what was seen in the old wells. Early production rates from some of the new wells has been over one million cubic feet of natural gas per day. The technology is so new that long term production data is not available. As with most gas wells, production rates will decline over time, however, a second hydraulic fracturing treatment could restimulate production. "


And some of the new shale plays have 3 levels of shale. They can drill into all 3 from one drill location. Saves money.

"Hydro is even worse than wind."

Ha ha ha ha ha ... what a stupid statement to make!

anonyq said at April 6, 2011 6:41 PM:

You start to talk about the fact that wind doesn't deliver 100% all the time as if that fact in itself makes it unwise to do. I give as counter example that most hydro have massively more generating capacity than the water they contain. But than what else should i expect from you

ps Those before 2000 wells are not what is commonly known as shale gas wells and it would be wise if claim something and use a quote to proof it that you use a quote that actually proofs it because nowhere says it that shale gas wells produce more than expected

Bruce said at April 6, 2011 7:37 PM:

anonyq, I think you are infinitely confused about hydro.

And just as confused about shale gas. It isn't new. It is fracking that is new. Shale gas dates from the 1800s.

"According to Curtis (2002), the first commercial gas well in the U.S. was completed in the organic-rich Dunkirk Shale (Devonian) in New York in 1821. Hill and Nelson (2000) estimated more than 28,000 shale-gas wells have been drilled in the U.S. since the early 1800s."

"The first gas production from the Barnett Shale in the Fort Worth Basin was in 1981 by Mitchell Energy and Development Corporation (Curtis, 2002). Until the success of the Barnett Shale, it was thought that natural fractures needed to be present in gas shales."



"The longest producing shale gas wells have been producing for 75 to 80 years. They are from the Big Sandy pool, a Devonian black shale in Kentucky."

Bruce said at April 6, 2011 7:43 PM:

What you don't get about shale gas is this -

"The fact that there is a Barnett boom at all reflects a tectonic shift in thinking. In the past, drillers bypassed the source rock that generated the oil and gas and focused on the reservoir rock, where the resources were easier to extract. Typically, oil or gas exits from the source rock and migrates to places where it is trapped. And those traps—conventional fields—typically do not cover a large area. "

So, its possible that every where there is a convential gas well, no matter how old, there might be shale leaking gas from natural fractures and that gas collected in large pockets that were tapped by conventional wells.

Now they can go back and review the geology and find the source of all the gas. Which will yield huge quantities of gas thru fracking.

And they will find oil too.

Randall Parker said at April 6, 2011 9:29 PM:

Hydro is very useful for load-following. In fact, it is Swedish hydro that makes Denmark's offshore variable wind power practical. The Swedes sell hydro power to Denmark when the wind doesn't blow and buy Danish wind power when the wind blows and stop their hydro water loss while running off of wind power.

The problem with hydro is droughts. That's a big problem in the American west as some big hydro power sources could dry up. But in other areas hydro is rarely affected by drought.

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