Monday, February 19, 2007

The Problems with Wind Power (Opinion)

The American Spectator:
But the real question about windmills is whether they are producing any useful electricity at all. A modern electrical grid is a very delicately balanced high-wire act. Supply and demand must be kept in balance at all times. The National Electrical Reliability Council estimates that voltage levels can vary about 5 percent before trouble begins. Computer geeks talk about the "high 9's," meaning current must remain consistent within a range of 99.9999 percent to avoid erasing data. In Digital Power, Peter Huber and Mark Mills report, "Some years ago, a Stanford computer center found its power fatally polluted by an arc furnace over one hundred miles away." As the Industry Standard once put it: "Blips as brief as 1/60th of a second can zap computers and other electronic gear, and blackouts can be catastrophic."

The problem with wind energy is that it is always fluctuating. The physics of windmills make it worse because output varies with the cube of the velocity. A 20 percent increase in wind speed will double output in a few minutes. Under these circumstances, large numbers of windmills are viewed by grid operators more as a liability than an asset.

Unfortunately, where the wind is predictable, it doesn't co-ordinate very well demand. The wind blows strongest at night and in the spring and fall. Electrical demand peaks in the daytime and summer and winter.