September 19, 2007

Wind energy on the grid is not green

An associate has written to the Climate Trust's, regarding their support of wind energy green tags from Bonneville Environmental Foundation:

"The electricity generated by the co-funded wind facility displaced electricity that otherwise would have been generated by burning fossil fuel at other power plants."

That may or may not be the case (if the amount of wind is a small enough percentage, the grid most likely just allows the line voltage to rise withing tolerable limits). Isn't the true measure, however, the amount of fuel burning that is reduced? The calculation of displacement has to account for: 1) the preference of hydro to balance wind; 2) switching thermal plants to standby, in which they still burn fuel to stay warmed up and ready to switch back to generation; 3) the extra fuel necessary for more frequent ramping or less efficient operation of those plants that are able to switch more quickly; and 4) the likelihood that the addition of wind energy is simply absorbed as a tolerable rise in line voltage.

These factors may explain why there is no evidence from anywhere in the world that wind energy on the grid actually reduces fossil fuel use or emissions, despite more than a decade of extensive experience, and casts serious doubt on wind's green credentials.

wind power, wind energy, environment, environmentalism