An article posted on WRAL.com today discussed the highlights of a public meeting held in Buxton (an Outer Banks community) on the possibility of an offshore wind farm in the area. According to researchers:
“If all the usable waters are fully developed, offshore wind farms could supply 130 percent of all the power used by North Carolina in 2007.”
Yes, I’m sure if we spent a few million dollars on tax subsidies for the construction of several hundred turbines (not to mention system upgrades, underwater cables, etc.) and spread them out over several hundred square miles, we would likely generate a fair amount power. But at what point does the actual cost outweigh the perceived benefits?
“Wind generates about 1 percent of the country’s electricity but is the fastest-growing type of renewable power.”
Let’s just say there’s a reason it’s only 1%. According to the American Wind Energy Association, the capacity factor of the conventional power plant ranges between 40 – 80%, while the average wind facility’s capacity factor ranges between 25 – 40%.
Meaning, that when you look at what a plant was capable of generating over a year, a wind facility generates roughly 25 – 40% of that amount. Why? Well because wind, by nature, is intermittent and thus it’s impossible to count on it to blow at any consistent rate over any amount of time.
Supporters of wind energy will claim that it’s not fair to compare the capacity factor of wind to other types of energy, say nuclear for example, because they’re are too different. However, just for reference, the average nuclear plant has a capacity factor of 93%. In this case, I’d say “different” is better.
Wind power is only “growing” in popularity because of new and continued tax rebates and government subsidies (including funds from the Obama administration’s stimulus package).
So short answer: Yes, offshore wind energy costs far too much to be truly good.