A new study by the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) illustrates just how unreliable wind power is. The study touts wind power surpassing hydropower this year as the renewable power source with the most generation capacity. Nevertheless, wind power is so fickle that it still trails hydropower in terms of power actually produced.
“American wind power is now the number one source of renewable capacity,” said AWEA CEO Tom Kiernan, according to The Hill.
The AWEA study cited electricity capacity statistics for 2015. According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA), wind power generated 190 million megawatt hours of electricity in 2015. Hydropower, however, generated 249 million megawatt hours. The large gap between wind and hydro power generation occurred despite renewable power mandates in 28 states requiring utilities to purchase and distribute wind power.
According to the EIA, wind turbines generated power at only 32 percent capacity in 2015. Wind power falls short of full capacity for a variety of reasons. The wind may not be blowing at all at a given time. The wind may be blowing too strongly to safely operate wind turbines. The wind may be blowing too light to generate much electricity at a given time. In short, when the wind power industry issues a press release stating a wind power facility can generate enough electricity to power X number of homes, that is the case only in the rare times when the wind is blowing at optimal speed. The true number tends to be less than a third of the wind industry’s claims.
Nuclear power, according to the EIA, operated at 92 percent capacity in 2015. Natural gas and hydropower also operated at higher capacity than wind power, even though these power sources were scaled down to make room for wind power whenever the wind happened to be blowing.
The wind industry seeks to have the American public define the success of wind power by the number of wind turbines built rather than the cost and usefulness of the wind power generated. Wind power remains expensive and unreliable. Policymakers concerned about air pollution and carbon dioxide emissions should recognize there are much more affordable, effective options to wind power – namely nuclear power, hydro power, and natural gas. Nuclear power and hydro power emit no pollution while being more affordable and dependable than wind power. Natural gas emits minimal pollution while being cost-effective with coal power.