Wind Power for Electricity Generation, Costs, Practicality
There are many renewable forms of energy accessible today and their usage is the best way to make them more efficient. However, they need more study, especially in terms of their expenditures and practicality. There are areas where wind is significantly strong, as in the case of wind power, it can potentially drive a turbine and essentially generate electricity. Over this, there should be no question, but the prices and practicality of wind power for electricity and other relevant problems need to be better clarified.
The most usable energy on earth is wind. Everywhere we travel, the presence of the wind is there. The life everywhere can be mild and its impact is so heavy in other areas that one can dream of exploiting its maximum capacity. Windmills have been used for water injection, grain grinding and other activities for decades. What seems interesting about this windmill is that it is viewed as an instrument to produce mechanical power. Today, windmills are considered wind power due to its capacity to create electricity.
Wind power producers such as Nordpool electricity market and the Danish wind power production are maximizing profit for wind power electricity, an implication that there is a good business for this alternative energy source (Holttinen 2052). There was an optimal market for wind power electricity. This means that the ability of wind power as an alternative energy source to provide electricity has become widely recognized and become important in the economy.
Delarue, Luickx and D’haeseleer (1450) were able to find out the effects of wind power around the expense of producing power and CO2 pollution. They found that per mega watt of installed wind power capacity in a year, fuel reduction cost is around €56 thousand and 1.26 kilo ton of CO2 emission reduction. However, their wind forecast errors do not have significant impact on the cost reduction and CO2 emission.
There are some important reasons why wind-based generations have become so common especially to some deregulated power system (Olsina et al. 1257). Environmental concerns are widely viewed to be significant factors prior to finding for energy source capacity. Aside from these, the issues on fuel price uncertainties have added to the intense need to go for alternative power source. Strong subsidizing programs are said to be driving forces that ensure rapid wind development in some countries. It was also added in the problem that the isolation of wind investments from market signals create a high wind installed capacity leading to the distortion of power prices and eventually loss of social welfare. To somehow address these claims, it was found from the simulation conducted that the wind investment rates for gasoline, implementation and funding costs are said to be influential factors on the optimum wind capacity to be accommodated in a market-based approach (Olsina et al. 1257).
In electricity generation system, wind power is viewed to significantly create impacts considering that it replaces other forms of electricity generation and the bottom line of this is to lower the overall fuel costs and greenhouse gas (Luickx, Delarue and D’haeseleer 2019).
Considering that the wind power may vary due to its intermittency and unpredictability, its full potential may not be fully realized (Luickx, Delarue and D’haeseleer 2019). This is the reason that there must be some other important moves in order to create sufficient supply of electricity from wind power even if there is low power output.
It is in line with this that the proponent tries to emphasize the developments made in generating electricity from wind power, its growth, its in this area, current situation and other relevant topics. Below, more of these specifics are discussed.
Advantages and Disadvantages of Wind Power
The benefits and drawbacks of wind energy are as follows: (Asplund 126-128). It is an inexhaustible source of electricity with no waste or greenhouse gas emissions, minimal operational and maintenance costs, onshore or offshore construction of a wind turbine, accessible surrounding property, generating employment and diversifying the source of energy. In the other side, its related drawbacks are the following: its intermittent strength, its output it has high potential at less than maximum capacity costs, its position determines its efficiency, it may be hazardous to biodiversity and it has communities with associated noise and visual disturbance.
Wind is produced through atmospheric pressure, regular rotation of the earth on its axis, effects from the land and sea, and varying differentials between weather systems. For as long as these natural activities continue to be part of life on earth, wind is always in its inexhaustible supply. The impact of wind power as an energy source is clear. Since wind towers operate in mechanical process to produce electricity, wind power does not need to make use of chemicals and any combustion. This implies that wind power is a potential energy source due to constant availability of wind and at the same moment, there is no such term as corresponding pollution and greenhouse gases involved.
Every power plant requires operating and maintenance costs in order to continue its production of energy. It is entirely different from wind power since it does not require any fuel just to produce an ample amount of electricity. As mentioned earlier, wind power does not need any chemicals or combustion in its process of creating electricity. What it only needs is enough supply of wind to turn on its wind turbine so as the mechanical process of production of energy will take place. This what makes the total operating costs for wind power substantially lower than fossil fuel plant. According to Asplund (126) the average total operating cost between 2000 and 2005 for wind power is 0.8 cents per kilowatt-hour. This is almost the same with 0.81 cents per kilowatt-hour for the average operating cost of a fossil fuel power plant. However, this 0.81 cents of average total operating cost in fossil fuel plant does not yet include the fuel purchase cost. It is therefore implied that the operating and maintenance cost is substantially lower in wind power compared to a fossil fuel power plant.
The good thing about wind power farm is its versatility of installation from either onshore or offshore. However, it is known that wind is much stronger somewhere at the sea. This provides an idea that it is better to have the wind power farm constructed somewhere offshore. However, it is known that construction of wind power farm offshore is substantially expensive than having it constructed onshore. The reason for this is the higher initial capital required and maintenance cost. This consideration involves the fact that offshore construction of wind farm requires much durable material and even highly advanced so as to fight adverse natural conditions. For example, it is important to have wind turbines that are highly resistant to rusting. This is just one of the considerations needed implying that it requires a substantially high capital for offshore construction of wind power farm so as to make it effectively operate in the long run. In fact, most wind power farms find their way for onshore installation in most countries and only a little number of them can be found at sea in Europe (Asplund 126).
Explicitly, there is a need to actually go for lager wind turbines and eventually huge wind towers in order to consequently generate large amount of electricity. This means that vast area of land is required for wind power farms. The good thing about this is that the area between large wind towers can be substantially used for farming purposes and other related productive activities that cannot affect the operation of wind power. Somewhere in the US, some farms are constructed with wind towers and at the same time farming and livestock grazing activities are taking place at the same time. Asplund (126) reported that the annual estimated income of farmers who allow energy operators of wind powers to lease their farms is at an estimated $55 per acre. This is viewed as a substitute income for depleted oil well in Texas farms for instance.
Wind power industry substantially creates jobs. At some point, this is another business form which would also rely on manpower prior to the implementation of its entire business plan. There is a higher market in the US for jobs and thus the government is encouraging more private sectors to open up jobs for everyone. The government itself is trying to maximize its effort to provide jobs for its citizens. This is to consider that jobs are important for everyone prior to maintaining a healthy status of the economy at its both micro and macro level. Thus, the existence of wind power industry is a good opportunity to create jobs for the people. This is not only to provide additional source of energy, but creation of job is another highlight that the wind power industry is trying to offer. This is a good news then and the bottom line of this is a substantially positive impact for the economy in the long run. Asplund (126) reported that every megawatt for every installed wind capacity creates corresponding direct and indirect 15 to 19 jobs or approximately 60 person-years of employment this is also according to European Wind Energy Association (EWEA).
The law of supply and demand emphasizes that when there is higher demand for a certain product or service, its supply will most likely run out. In this case, in order to cater this need, the producer takes advantage by increasing the price of the offering. It guarantees that only those who can manage it can such price increase will most likely to have the opportunity to take hold of the product or service offering. In this case, the government may try to implement its power so as to continue regulate the right price for all. The same principle is applicable to the availability of energy sources. The more available energy sources, it is more advantageous for the consumers since they have variety of choices to choose from. The availability of wind power can diversify energy sources. Its availability and even its dominion can try to raise the price of energy source at its most convenient or affordable point. Thus, the diversification of energy sources of a country through wind power can further create economic and political advantages (Asplund 126).
On the other hand, wind power is considered energy source with intermittent power. Wind turbines for wind towers are relatively large enough that it requires substantial speed for wind in order to move them in a way it is enough to produce electricity. Wind speed is one of the most important factors in the availability of electricity using wind power. If wind speed is too slow, no electricity can be generated because wind turbines will not move. If wind velocity is, on the other side, too fast, the wind turbines will be turned off to prevent corresponding damages that may take place. By picking the right one, this can be fixed location where it is conducive for smooth energy production. It is also of great consideration to take into account electricity storage system which can be capable of allowing constant output. In the event that there is intermittent production of electricity from wind power, power producers will correspondingly tap independent wind plants just to have enough access to electricity to be distributed across a specified demand.
Other than the intermittent operation in the production of energy, wind power operates at less than of its full capacity. Wind power operations depend on the average wind speed as stated earlier. Consequently, there is a desire to know the best location as possible. The problem is that not every location can be suitable for wind towers. This specific constraint adds up to the additional problem on the creation of enough numbers of wind towers to generate enough supply of energy source from wind power. According to Asplund (127), wind turbines operate only at 65 to 80 percent of the time and it operates at full capacity only at 10 percent of the time. Thus, even if the right location is found for wind powers, there is still no enough assurance that wind turbines will operate at its full capacity. The entire activity of producing energy through wind power depends on the wind speed. However, it is also implied that the right location is identified for wind towers so as to at least hit the highest possible performance of wind turbines.
Wind power is associated with its high cost for the following reasons: high installation costs, power transmissions line costs and intermittency increases costs for the power grid (Asplund 127). Wind towers are noted to require strong foundation from an architectural point of view. Most of modern wind towers stand high as average of 440 feet and others stand higher than this. Not only that strength of the blades for wind turbines must be ensured and therefore the needed materials must be specialized and of exceptional strength. This actually is the reason why there is a need to spend much for the start up cost of wind power. There is a need, as stated earlier, to find for the best location suitable for wind towers. There are some cases in which the wind towers are found in remote locations because there is substantial wind speed somewhere there. In this case, the consumers are to pay for the power transmission line. The usual issue regarding this will always boil down between the power producers and their consumers. On the other hand, as reliance on wind power increases and considering its intermittency nature, there is a tendency of increase costs as the law of supply and demand supplies it. On the other hand, the intermittency increases costs for the power grid because power producers will try to find for energy source from independent wind power suppliers. This eventually will increase the price for power grid as the power producers will try to integrate mark up costs to gain at the expense of consumers.
What do North Dakota, Texas, Kansas, South Dakota and Montana have in common is their capacity to be productive for wind power output due to their availability of sufficient wind speed for wind farm. As mentioned earlier, in finding the location for wind farm, it is of primary consideration to choose the most suitable site. Unfortunately, not all sites can be suitable for onshore wind power production plant. This means that for wind farm or for wind power, location determines output (Asplund 127). It is one of the most noticeable weaknesses in wind power because not all places on earth have sufficient wind speed. In consideration of this, not all places can have access to wind power. Wind power, unlike any other alternative sources of energy requires the perfect location. For instance, the solar panels do not require the best location for as long as there is sufficient amount of energy that can be accessed coming from the sun. Geothermal power plant is implied to be installed somewhere in waterfalls that have sufficient amount of water speed and volume. In other places where waves are of considerable strength, power plants can eventually be created in order to produce considerable energy source.
It was reported that birds and bats are occasionally caught dead from wind turbines (Asplund 128). Birds play an important part in the food chain and in the ecosystem in general. Birds are capable of maintaining the health of the ecosystem. Birds are known to help in the production of plants and trees by scattering seeds that could go somewhere for shelter of other important organisms. Birds have other important roles and if they are momentarily caught dead from wind turbines, this will become a threat to their population. Although the number of birds caught dead from wind turbines is of only small amount, the impact of such from a biological point of view is significant. In the same way as birds, bats as mammals also have important biological functions. Killing them momentarily at some point will contribute to the decrease of their population. In fact, a one bat killed in wind turbines might be capable of reproduction. This means that killing a bird or two or a bat or two would mean possible reduction of the number of their future population. Thus, from a biological point of view, wind power is a mere threat to wildlife at some point.
Other power plants create noise and visual nuisance to communities. This is true with the case of hydro power plants where there is considerable level of noise prior to the production of energy source. In the same way, wind power is considered noisy, has destructing flickering shadows and has negative effect in local valuation (Asplund 128). These are just some of additional disadvantages of wind turbines. Wind power plants can be both destructing to eyesight due to its flickering shadow or either too noisy. However, the advancement of modern technology can probably help eliminate these problems. There are specialized materials that can be used as wind turbines and will only produce minimal level of noise. These technical products, though, do not come at a cheap price. As their names suggest, prior to producing them as raw materials ready for any commercial application, advanced means must be involved in additional processes.
The Economic Point of View
Cost and practicality of wind power are always among of the most important considerations prior to investing in it. Asplund (133) pointed out that a 3-megawatt wind tower can sustain electricity to 825 homes. Today, the capacity of produced electricity by a wind tower can even be increased more than 3-megawatt due to advancement in modern technology. However, this will always be dependent on the wind speed considering the following: the cube of the wind speed is the electricity output from a wind turbine (Asplund 134). Thus, this only implies that the wind speed is indeed an important factor. By considering these facts, the case of practicality might be one of the most important issues at hand in line with the consideration of wind power as energy source. This may sound very practical in places where there is considerable wind speed. Thus, those countries with considerable wind speed can actually invest in wind power and make it as one of their best energy sources.
As also mentioned earlier, wind tower requires a high initial investment but since it does not need a fuel, its operating and maintenance costs are actually low. Thus, adding the project’s costs and dividing it by the expected electricity output over a life-time of the equipment is actually the expected cost of electricity produced by the wind farm (Asplund 135). However, the initial investment, operating and maintenance are not only the costs that need to be considered in wind power production.
The costs of raw materials, transmission costs and utility stemming costs are other important considerations particularly in the US (Asplund 135).
The rising cost of raw materials for wind power production plant raises the costs of electricity per kilowatt-hour in the US especially in 2006 (Asplund 135). However, due to US federal government’s Production Tax Credit (PTC), the price did not rise to an average of 7 cents or from the range between 5.0 to 8.5 cents per kilowatt-hour.
Transmission cost is a real problem because every time a new operator is involved for the transmission system, additional cost is incurred which is payable by the consumers. These new operators will add up cost which will always reflect to the actual electricity payment. This is a real problem especially in remote areas where there is potential wind speed. In this case, there is enough amount of energy from wind power but consumers are to shoulder the expense due to transmission cost involved.
The intermittent nature of wind power to supply electricity creates cost for utility stemming. The lack of wind speed forces the power producer to get enough power supply somewhere else from independent wind power producers to meet the demand. This eventually will add up to the cost since the power producer needs to pay for additional energy source involved.
The Environmental Point of View
On the other hand, wind power is known to help reduce greenhouse gases emission and by such, it is viewed as a good way to help the environment fight the adverse green house gases effects.
Shown in Table 1 are different countries with corresponding amount of greenhouse gases emissions such as carbon dioxide, sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxide. All of these countries have been using fossil fuel-based electricity generation.
As pointed out by some environmental experts, the emitted green house gases into the atmosphere are the responsible factors for the global warming issue. Countries that believe on this fact are now trying to reduce production and emission of green house gases. Sad to say, most of these countries in Table 1 are depending on their energy source from a fossil-based electricity generation. This is a dilemma on their part knowing that they need to produce enough amount of electricity to help their economy but they cannot also compromise the environment on the process. Global warming issues involve the entire life on earth and the balance of ecosystem in general. Global warming is said to be the reason of increase of sea level, typhoons, change of migration patterns of animals, reduction of the balance in ecosystem and more. Humans eventually cannot afford to loss their homes by focusing only on a certain need. Thus, there must always a way out prior reducing the production of energy dependent on fossil fuels. One of the most commonly argued way to help this problem is the use of wind power as a way for electricity generation.
Table 1. Specific average emissions (CO2, SO2, NO2) from fossil fuel-based electricity generation in the different EU-27 Member States in 2007 (European Wind Energy Association 375)
Shown in Table 2 are the possible fossil fuel-based electricity that can be replaceable or avoidable by wind energy. It shows that the natural gas or derived gas can be the primary energy source that can just be replaced by wind power. Since they can be replaceable by wind energy, this means that some economic and other considerations are already taken into account.
Table 2. Fossil fuel-based electricity generation replaceable/avoidable by wind (and other renewable electricity generation technologies) in the EU-27 Member States in 2007 (European Wind Energy Association 378)
Shown in Table 3 is significant information showing that wind energy can eventually help avoid total emission of greenhouse gases from fossil fuel-based electricity generation. The large amount of greenhouse gas reduced by wind energy is the carbon dioxide primarily because fossil fuel is known to emit large portion of this type of gas once it is ignited. This shows a higher level of practicality considering that at present situation, the world is between the issue of balancing its economy and at the same time the environment. These two need to be harmoniously balanced and the wind energy has been proven to help reduced green house gases from a purely fossil fuel based of electricity generation. This is a matter of evaluation and data primarily suggest that there is a good reason to employ wind energy from an environmental point of view. However, it is always implied that not every country can be sold out to this knowing the fact that wind speed is not the same to all nations. On the other hand, aside from environmental considerations, there are also economic considerations that need to be taken into account.
Europe is known to aggressively support the global warming issue. In its own way, reduction or even total elimination of green house gases emission is one of the best option to help save the environment from further future destructions. There is a sense of practicality then for Europe to implement wind energy because it can play a significant part in its goal to help save the environment. However, not every nation is now ready and willing to be part of the goal that the European nations have on the environment. Some are actually still attached to their economic activities and even disregarding the probable impacts they might contribute to the environment.
Table 3. Total emissions (CO2, SO2, NO2) from fossil fuel-based electricity generation already avoided by wind energy in the EU-27 Member States in 2007 (European Wind Energy Association 380)
It is not only for the sake of reducing green house gases emission that can be pointed out by wind energy. Some external costs can also be avoided through electricity generation by wind energy. This can be illustrated in Table 4. This sounds a bit practical considering that the cost of energy produced by wind energy is substantially lower due to the fact that the maintenance and operating costs for wind towers are eventually low. Thus, not much of amount can be passed on to consumers.
Table 4. Distribution of avoided external costs (average values) through wind generation in the EU-27 Member States in 2007 (European Wind Energy Association 383)
Let us take it closely now from the general perspective. Shown in Table 5 is the total percent of electricity derived from wind which is 0.90% in 2006. In the US alone, only 0.80% of electricity is derived from wind since 2006. What do these figures imply? It seems wind energy is not the best priority of the US. However, a remarkable higher percentage from Denmark can be observed.
The implication of these figures lies on the fact that wind speed is the main determinant of wind power. The involvement of other citizens, on the other side, alternative energy sources makes wind power not a primary consideration particularly in the US considering that only 0.80% of its electricity is derived from wind. Thus, there must be substantial sources that could still outweigh the advantages of wind power. As of the moment, it can be said that the status of wind power in the US is purely as an alternative and it is not as primary source in which the entire country could depend on.
Table 5. Percent of Total Electricity Derived from Wind (2006) (Asplund 135)
It is without question that wind power is a potential energy source. It finds its way in other countries as potential source of electricity; it cannot be denied that there is a maximum use of it considering that it gets a certain percentage in the derivation of electricity. However, it cannot be denied that the wind speed is one the primary consideration in choosing the best location for wind farm. Considering that there is a staggering high amount for capital investment in wind power, investors must always ensure higher return of investment. However, such can only be defined by understanding how consumers would actually react on the cost of electricity they are paying from wind power. Considering that there are other alternative energy sources available, wind powers must always ensure low cost in order for them to succeed in the market. This is quite achievable. However, the unpredictability of wind speed does not ensure consistent amount of price to be paid for electricity derived for wind power. This is a significant consideration prior to creating a market for electricity derived from wind energy.
In other countries, their total dependence on wind energy comes from the fact that there are major environmental concerns they need to take into account. This is true in most of European countries where there is a need to consider the amount of green house gases emission. These countries have long been relying on fossil fuel to generate energy. What seems to be the most important issue in here is the ability to save the environment while not actually compromising the healthy flow of the economy.
When the government tries to consider wind power as an alternative energy source by giving substantial support for it, independent producers might be encouraged to go for it. Thus, creating more supply of electricity derived from wind energy. The more supply means affordable energy source of electricity for all. This cannot actually be implemented without proper understanding the true nature and characteristics of wind power in the first place. The bottom line is that the practicality and affordability of wind power depends on the chosen location and the level of understanding towards it. Thus, it is of great importance to create more related studies for wind power as another potential source of alternative energy.
- Asplund, Richard W. Profiting from clean energy: a complete guide to trading green in solar, wind, ethanol, fuel cell, power efficiency, carbon credit industries, and more. New Jersey: John Wiley and Sons, 2008.
- Delarue. Erik D., Patrick J. Luickx, and William D. D’haeseleer. “The actual effect of wind power on overall electricity generation costs and CO2 emmissions.” Energy Conversion and Management 50 (2009): 1450-1456.
- European Wind Energy Association. Wind energy – the facts: a guide to the technology, economics and future of wind power. UK: Earthscan, 2009.
- Holttinen, Hannele. “Optimal electricity market for wind power.” Energy Policy 33 (2005): 2052-2063.
- Luickx, Patrick J., Erik D. Delarue and William D. D’haeseleer. “Impact of large amounts of wind power on the operation of an electricity generation system: Belgian case study.” Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews 14 (2010): 2019-2028.
- Olsina, Fernando, Mark Roscher, Carlos Larisson, and Francisco Garces. “Short-term optimal wind power generation capacity in liberalized electricity markets.” Energy Policy 35 (2007): 1257-1273.