New Report: Wind Energy Benefits Overblown

  • Date: 04/02/13
  • Adam Smith Institute

The report ‘The Limits of Wind Power”, released today (MONDAY) by the Adam Smith Institute and US’s Reason Foundation, reveals that the heavy investment in wind power in the UK and US is misguided. Wind energy will never be suited as the lone or primary source of grid electricity due to its variable nature and will not deliver the environmental benefits expected.

The study looks at the limitations of wind power and argues that wind energy needs either expensive energy storage facilities or reserve power generation facilities to provide for users needs. Wind energy is intermittent and therefore these back ups are needed to avoid blackouts or brownouts.

Reserve power would have to come from facilities that use fossil fuels, which must operate even when not being used to ensure the reliability of the electrical grid. This undermines the supposed environmental benefits of wind power.

In light of this, the UK government is overinvesting in onshore and offshore wind farms. Not only is investment in wind power expensive, but it will also fail to provide a reliable source of energy for grid users. The Adam Smith Institute paper argues that the practical upper limit for wind power’s contribution to an electricity grid is 10% of the total energy mix. At the moment the government is hoping that between 8% – 15% will be generated by offshore wind alone by 2020, an unachievable target.

“Very high wind penetrations are not achievable,” said William Korchinski, author of the report. “As wind’s share increases, system reliability will be adversely affected disproportionately – unless adequate reserve power is available. That power reserve is expensive and lowers any possible environmental benefits.”

Full report here