Germany produces more wind generated electricity than any other country. A company by the name of E.ON Netz, a part of E.ON Energie, is responsible for integrating almost half of the wind power generated in Germany into the grid. E.ON Netz has just released its 2005 Wind Report which identifies the technical challenges of turning wind into useful electricity.
E.ON Netz has found that wind does not and can not replace existing power plants. Excess wind energy can not be stored to use later. There always must be 'ready-to-use' power available when the wind is less than predicted and there must be a way to use the excess power when the wind is greater than predicted.
Even though it uses the most sophisticated weather forecasting methods, E.ON Netz has found that wind power feed-in can only be forecast to a limited degree. Wind feed-in capacity can change dramatically in just a few hours. When there is unexpected excess power, it may have to be exported to other countries or some of the turbines may be shut down.
Netz has found that a very substantial expansion of high voltage grids is required in order to transport wind power. High voltage transmission lines are both expensive and ugly. E.ON Netz does not advise using underground cables because of their cost and high failure rates. Until the high voltage transmission lines are built to handle the power, some wind generation must be shut down and not used.
By 2020, German wind power capacity is expected to increase three times over what it was in 2004, yet E.ON Netz forecasts that that the relative contribution of wind will fall continuously from over to 8% in 2003 to about 4% in 2020. "The more wind power capacity is in the grid, the lower the percentage of traditional generation it can replace." (Wind Report 2005, p.9)
For me it is scary to realize just how little wind power will be able to help us conserve fossil fuel. Industrial wind proponents, by fooling us into thinking that we are solving the energy crisis, simply promote more energy consumption and use up subsidies that could be spent on technology (such as improving automobile efficiency) that might do more to reduce the use of foreign oil and fossil fuels.
Because government subsidies guarantee huge profits, industrial wind developers have large advertising budgets to promote their business. As the problems with industrial wind have become more evident, a wind developer in the North East Kingdom has even had to go so far as to hire public relations firms to convince residents that industrial wind is a good thing for the community.
Because it is difficult to understand the technicalities of industrial wind, it is easy for wind promoters to sell us on what we would like to believe . . . but, as always, . . . buyers must be aware and learn all the facts before agreeing to any deal.
We need to learn both the pros and the cons of industrial wind development. Since conventional and reliable power sources are required to meet our peak energy needs, wind energy is only a supplemental energy source. Our choice is to have nuclear or fossil fuel plants with wind turbines or to have nuclear and fossil fuel plants without wind turbines.
For me, it makes no sense to industrialize our communities and ridgelines with new roads, high voltage transmission lines and 400 foot lighted turbines for a power source that will not replace conventional power plants. It makes no sense to ignore the experience of others.
The subsidies for wind are a misuse of public money. The "benefits" from industrial wind are a fantasy and an escape from our energy problems. For me, believing that industrial wind will solve our energy problems is a little like believing the Tooth Fairy will pay my heating bills this winter.
(Editor's Note: the E.ON Netz Wind Report 2005 is available in the NWW Resource Library/Documents)
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