Windy Interior


I shouldn’t be so hard on Environmental Leader, I suppose, since Interior Secretary Ken Salazar has repeatedly committed the same blunder (or pulled the same sleight of hand) — something Robert Peltier has pointed out in Power magazine [adapted for Master Resource]:

Salazar stated that 1,000 GW of East Coast offshore wind turbines could replace 100% of our nation’s electricity supplies (approximately 1,000 GW). He gave the same estimate of offshore wind power potential in testimony to the Senate’s Energy and Natural Resource Committee on March 17. But a typical offshore wind park along the Atlantic coast would have a capacity factor of less than 30%, compared to a capacity factor for our coal and nuclear fleet in excess of 80%. That means to replace 1 kW of coal or nuclear capacity, you would need nearly 3 kW of rated wind capacity — and that’s not even considering the obvious production timing issues.

What about the cost of offshore wind power? The Ocean Energy Institute, a self-described “independent think tank,” about a year ago proposed a giant 5,000-MW offshore wind farm in the Gulf of Maine estimated to cost $5,000/kW or a total of $25 billion. Extrapolating that estimate to perhaps the million wind turbines Salazar proposes produces an estimate with so many zeroes my calculator gave me a zero overflow error.

Let’s do that math, then: 5,000,000,000,000 — trillion, with a T.

Peltier generously describes the capacity factor as “less than 30 percent,” Chris — but I note that commenters on the piece put the capacity factor lower, and the capacity value lower still.


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