Bradley's take on wind power
(Posted December 16, 2007)
Robert Bradley, in his seminal policy paper entitled Renewable Energy Not Cheap, Not "Green"
, discusses the Department of Energy's 1976 study which estimated wind power could supply nearly 20% of the U.S. electricity by 1995. By 1996, wind represented 1/10th of 1 percent share with clear signs the market was in decline. In 1997 Enron entered the picture with its purchase of Zond, one of the largest developers of wind generation. This, coupled with new state and federal restructuring initiatives that funneled billions into new subsidies for wind and other renewables, resuscitated the near-dead market.
Yet, the inherent flaws of wind energy that made it economically unviable in the 1990's still exist today. Bradley wrote "because wind power's high up-front capital costs and erratic opportunity to convert wind to electricity more than cancel out the fact that there is no energy cost for naturally blowing wind. Low capacity factors, and still lower dependable on-peak capacity factors, are a source of wind power's cost problem." Much of Bradley's paper applies today and it's well worth reading.