Apr 19, 2014 fbook icon twitter icon rss icon

Wind Energy Industry Hits Milestone, Still Needs Improvement

Early this morning, the American Wind Energy Association pushed out some data that caught our eye:

Electricity generated by the doubling of the U.S.’s crop of giant wind turbines in the past four years now equals the output of 11 nuclear power plants, according to the American Wind Energy Association, a trade group representing manufacturers and developers.

After a big build up since 2008, the U.S.’s total wind output currently totals 50,000 megawatts, or 50 gigawatts.

It looks like AWEA has the calculations correct. Fifty gigawatts (GW) of wind at a 30% capacity factor generates about 131,400,000 megawatt-hours of electricity in a year. This is roughly equivalent to the annual generation from 11 new nuclear reactors with an average capacity of 1,400 MW, each operating at a 90% capacity factor. It’s also equivalent to the annual generation of nearly 17 nuclear reactors with an average capacity of 1,000 MW, each at a 90% capacity factor.

This is a great milestone for the wind industry, however, they need to increase their capacity by roughly another 250 GW to equal the annual generation of the U.S. nuclear fleet. For those who haven’t seen our infographic, the amount of land needed by wind to produce the same amount of electricity as nuclear in a year is equal to an area the size of West Virginia.

It’s also worth noting that the quality of power from 50 GW of wind is much different than the quality of power from 11 nuclear reactors. Wind is intermittent, only available in certain locations, requires significant amounts of transmission, and produces the least amount of electricity in a year during the summer and winter months because the heat and cold stifle wind flow.

Nuclear is just the opposite. It produces continuous power 24/7, can be located anywhere, helps maintain grid stability, and produces the most amount of electricity in a year during the summer and winter months (pdf). ‘Nuff said.


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