Why Wind Technology Is Problematic The addition of wind as a quixotic supernumerary will displace a portion of some conventional fuel

, thereby reducing income for the owner/operator of that fuel. This reduced income must be compensated for, either in the form of higher prices or, eventually, in the closing of the plant itself, highly unlikely given the requirement for capacity value. Despite the presence of around 100,000 industrial-scale wind turbines in the world, no conventional plant has yet been shuttered because of wind energy. The operative wind speed ranges for a typical wind project begin at speeds of about 9 mph and reach the project's rated capacity at 33-34 mph. Within that range, any power depends upon the cube of the wind speed, thereby accentuating the project's fluctuating volatility. It's one thing to consider the requirements for compensatory generation when the wind isn't blowing in the necessary speed range; and it's another to understand the dynamics involved even when the wind is blowing within it. When, for example, a wind project with a rated capacity of 1000MW is only producing 50MW--or nothing--at peak demand times, conventional generators must fill this breach. And when that same wind project is producing 600MW one minute, 500MW the next, 550 the next, 450 the next, and so on, instant compensation from conventional generators is required. Given the conditions imposed by the cube of the wind speed, this is business as usual. However, at times the wind energy will ebb and spike precipitously, causing wide and rapid changes that also must be compensated for by large scale dynamics--typically inefficient thermodynamics caused by the increased heat rates incurred by continuous ramping. Wind volatility increases and intensifies the mechanisms used to balance demand fluctuations, which by themselves impose significant financial costs. Adding wind flux can only add to those costs, not decrease them. Increased costs are not simply arithmetic but rather exponential: as more wind penetrates the system, integration costs cascade. All the ways in which wind flux can be compensated for by conventional thermal plants-natural gas, coal, oil-- on a routine operational basis results in substantial CO2 costs. Optimally, open and closed cycle gas units working in tandem with wind energy, could result in CO2 system offsets that achieve about 15% greater yield than would be achieved by the gas units alone, without wind. Using only open cycle gas turbines, there would be little or no savings. Using coal and oil as the primary means of wind integration would increase system CO2 emissions beyond the levels produced without the addition of wind. Engineers, using many of the same techniques designed for balancing demand fluctuations, can integrate wind volatility at varying levels of penetration. If it's only a few percentages of total supply, no additional conventional supply seems to be necessary. Beyond this, as the level of wind threatens marginal safety reserves, additional conventional supply must be considered for grid security. No matter what engineers do, however, they cannot escape increasing financial costs substantially. And they cannot avoid increasing the thermodynamics. In most cases, they are faced with the prospect of actually producing more CO2 than would be generated without any wind at all.

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