June 3, 2005

Wind turbines as productive as Hoover Dam!

Patty Richards, resource planning director of the Burlington Electric Dept. (BED), wrote in the Fair Wind Vt. discussion list, in response to a May 31 op-ed piece against the easy but misguided acceptance of industrial wind power as "green" in the Burlington Free Press by Hugh Kemper:
If we used that kind of thinking the Hoover dam would never have been built. It too only has a 27% CF.
She cc'd two BED colleagues, communications coordinator Mary Sullivan and customer and energy services director Tom Buckley. It is a surprising comment from someone who should know something about electricity generation and the grid, because the capacity factor of hydropower dams is primarily due to human control -- they are deliberately not used all the time, because they are ideal for quickly switching on when demand rises. This is the opposite situation from wind facilities, whose capacity factor is completely due to variable winds. Even their low average output is not often useful, as the occasional surges of production are unlikely to coincide with an actual need on the grid. If thus speak the "experts" (even to each other, i.e., with no need to fudge the facts) it's no wonder we so often go down the wrong track.

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