April 17, 2009

More coal for less electricity -- due to wind?

We have been informed that the current North American Windpower trade magazine includes an article reporting that the amount of electricity generated from coal dropped by 2.7% from November 2007 to November 2008, while electricity from wind increased between the same months by 42.4% (or 46.6% by my calculations: see "Net generation by other renewables" from the Energy Information Administration (EIA)).

In the big picture, however, the record installation of more than 8,000 MW of wind turbines last year increased its share of electricity generation by less than one-half percent. Coal's share went down just over two-thirds of a percent. Total electricity generation declined 1.3%.

But here's the hidden information: The EIA also reports how much coal is actually used for electricity. Although electricity from coal declined by 2.7%, coal consumed for electricity declined only 1.5%. That is, more coal was required per KWh of electricity that it generates.

Also see earlier posts: "U.S. coal use for electricity, 2002-2006" and "U.K. fossil fuel use for electricity, 2002-2006".

This appears to be evidence that the burden of wind -- an intermittent, highly variable, and nondispatchable source of energy -- introduces inefficiencies that cancel much of its theoretical benefit of reducing fossil fuel use.

wind power, wind energy, environment, environmentalism