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Wind power can't match coal potential

A staffer at the Helena-based Montana Environmental Information Center recently professed mystification over state energy policy. “I don't know why we're not putting as much energy behind wind development as we are to coal development,” he said. The answer is simple. Most people want the lights to come on when they flip the switch, and they don't want to go broke when they do.

SUMMARY: Americans need economical, dependable electricity - and plenty of it. For the time being, that means coal.

A staffer at the Helena-based Montana Environmental Information Center recently professed mystification over state energy policy.

“I don't know why we're not putting as much energy behind wind development as we are to coal development,” he said.

The answer is simple. Most people want the lights to come on when they flip the switch, and they don't want to go broke when they do.

Wind-generated electricity has a place in the overall mix of energy sources upon which we rely. For example, it produces no emissions and relies on an inexhaustible supply of wind. Environmentalists are enamored of wind power, so installing wind generators is less likely to involve protracted regulatory and court battles.

But let's get real here. After quadrupling the amount of energy produced by wind turbines in this country over the past six years, America's now getting a whopping 1 percent of its energy from wind power - about 10,000 megawatts.

That power is more expensive and less reliable than electricity from coal-fired generating plants, which offer nearly 336,000 megawatts of generating... more [truncated due to possible copyright]  

SUMMARY: Americans need economical, dependable electricity - and plenty of it. For the time being, that means coal.

A staffer at the Helena-based Montana Environmental Information Center recently professed mystification over state energy policy.

“I don't know why we're not putting as much energy behind wind development as we are to coal development,” he said.

The answer is simple. Most people want the lights to come on when they flip the switch, and they don't want to go broke when they do.

Wind-generated electricity has a place in the overall mix of energy sources upon which we rely. For example, it produces no emissions and relies on an inexhaustible supply of wind. Environmentalists are enamored of wind power, so installing wind generators is less likely to involve protracted regulatory and court battles.

But let's get real here. After quadrupling the amount of energy produced by wind turbines in this country over the past six years, America's now getting a whopping 1 percent of its energy from wind power - about 10,000 megawatts.

That power is more expensive and less reliable than electricity from coal-fired generating plants, which offer nearly 336,000 megawatts of generating capacity or some 51 percent of the electricity actually used. Over the next 25 years, coal's share of electricity production is forecast to increase to 56 percent as demand for power rises by 40 percent or more. Right now, there are more than 150 new coal-fired generating plants totaling some 27,000 megawatts of generating capacity planned for construction around the country.

Traditional coal-fired plants churn out pollution, as well as electricity. New technology promises to reduce emissions, but not eliminate them. Yet, objections of the Montana Environmental Information Center notwithstanding, coal is generating growing excitement in energy-policy circles. Why? Easy: It's America's most plentiful and, Btu for Btu, the cheapest. Coal-fired plants offer what can never be obtained with windmills - economy of scale. Coal power is the only source of energy, other than nuclear, that could possibly supply growing needs while reducing dependence on oil and foreign suppliers.

Montana's largest utility, NorthWestern, now obtains about 7 percent of the electricity needed to serve its 310,000 customers from a 90-turbine, 8,300-acre wind farm near Judith Gap. For wind turbines to even rival coal generators, we'd need turbines on every ridgetop in Montana. Goodbye open space! Even then, the electricity would cost consumers more, and they'd still have to have coal, hydro and natural gas power as a backup for when the wind isn't blowing.

As we say, there's a place for wind power in Montana's and America's portfolio of energy supplies. A diversity of sources helps hedge against drought, fuel shortages and price increases, and technological problems. There are obvious benefits from renewable and low-polluting energy sources. But at the end of the day, what we need most is power we can count on and can afford. It's foolish to approach this as a question of wind vs. coal. The fact is we need coal and wind - and hydro, nuclear, biomass, solar and other energy sources.

And that's why folks are putting more energy into development of cleaner-coal technology than wind power. Since we're going to continue relying on coal, it only makes sense to devote greater attention to finding ways to develop coal in the least environmentally harmful way possible.


Source: http://www.missoulian.com/a...

NOV 26 2006
https://www.windaction.org/posts/5975-wind-power-can-t-match-coal-potential
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