New Lab Report: How to Cut the Cost of Wind Energy in Half


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Office of Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy

August 23, 2017

New energy science and technological breakthroughs could cut the cost of wind energy in half by 2030—making it fully competitive with the fuel cost of natural gas.

This new finding is outlined in a report by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) that examines the future of wind power plants—backed by the supercomputing power of the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE’s) national laboratories.

Atmosphere to Electrons (A2e): Enabling the Wind Plant of Tomorrow

Watch and learn more about DOE’s Atmosphere to Electrons initiative

It’s part of DOE’s Atmosphere to Electrons initiative, which focuses on maximizing efficiencies at the plant level (i.e. how wind turbines interact with one another and the atmosphere) rather than treating each wind turbine as an individual unit. The next step is for DOE to apply high-performance computing to this grand challenge of better understanding the complex physics that control electricity generation by wind plants.

The Wind Plant of the Future

According to NREL, the wind plant of the future will use a collection of technologies that allow wind power plants and the turbines within them to not only respond to the atmosphere as an efficient, integrated system, but also to control the airflow within the plant to maximize power production. This approach is made possible by recent advances in supercomputing technology, which turns large sets of atmospheric and wind turbine operation data into a high-fidelity model. Industry can then use these government-driven scientific insights to design new wind turbine components, sensors, and controls. Future wind power plants would include:

  • High-fidelity modeling and state-of-the-art sensors to accurately estimate wind power plant energy production, reducing uncertainty and increasing predictabilty of electricity production;
  • Integrated wind plant design, real-time active control of turbines, and operational strategies to increase reliability and extend turbine lifetimes;
  • Innovative design of wind turbines and components such as rotors and drivetrains to optimize performance and enhance energy capture, including larger rotors and taller towers to capture higher-potential wind energy in the Earth’s upper atmosphere; and
  • Controllable, dispatchable, and predictable grid support services for grid resilience and stability, including precise forecasting of wind energy production for short-term grid operation and planning.


The wind power plant of tomorrow.

Illustration Josh Bauer, NREL

Wind’s Place in Shaping the Energy Landscape

The rise of wind energy over the past decade has been driven largely by technological advances that have made wind turbines more efficient at a lower cost. Wind was the third most-installed source of U.S. energy capacity in 2016 behind solar and natural gas. Between 2009 and 2016, installed project costs for new wind farms dropped 33%, while also generating more electricity per turbine.

Continued cost reductions will become even more important as wind’s main policy incentive, the federal production tax credit, expires in 2019. By leveraging high-performance computing and accelerating energy science R&D efforts for the wind plant of the future, wind energy costs could be cut in half by 2030 or sooner, bringing it below the projected fuel cost for natural gas.

Newly-built wind plants using production tax credits are already cost-competitive with new natural gas plants in some parts of the U.S., especially in the “wind belt” that runs from Texas to North Dakota. New energy science and technology breakthroughs outlined above could drop the unsubsidized cost of wind energy below the projected cost of fuel for existing natural gas plants by 2030.


Levelized cost of energy is the total cost of installing and operating a project per megawatt-hour of electricity generated by the project over its life. AEO projections are from the Energy Information Administration’s Annual Energy Outlook.

Read more from NREL or download the full report.

Liz Hartman

Liz Hartman is the Communications Lead for DOE’s Wind Energy Technologies Office, and formerly (2009–2016) the Communications Lead for EERE’s combined Wind and Water Power Technologies Office.

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HT/Roger Sowell (busy boy)


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There are a lot of people here who hate wind. However, from a simple economic perspective take a look at that cost chart. Natural Gas has substantial upside potential in cost (consider the case in which LNG links Natural Gas in the US to global prices, or another case where Nat Gas is converted to gasoline linking it to $/BTU of oil). Wind installations can serve as a hedge against that upside. A 50% long term price decline might be a bit ambitious just due to the fact that larger rotors and blades are going to have a hard time being shipped to onshore sites, but even in the event of a very small increase in Nat Gas you can imagine wind playing a substantial role simply due to hedging.

Bryan A

Part of the reason though for the pedicted increase in Natural Gas prices may be due to proposed carbon pricing schemes and their predicted increase through 2030. Stop carbon taxation and the price will stay relatively level and stable for many decades. Coupled with the Shale oil revolution and fracking and natural gas pricing could remain stable for more than a century with only cost increases due to inflation.


Also you need to build a natural gas power plant to provide power for every wind farm. Naturally the more wind farms the higher NG prices will go.

Carbon tax is not part of the increase. Exports of US gas as LNG will increase the price of gas across the US economy. Wind energy decreases natural gas demand, helping to keep natural gas prices down.


And who has secured China’s assurance that it will provide the rare earth magnets necessary to run each wind turbine? It takes 40 tons of ore to create a 2.5 Kilo magnet for one wind turbine. ONE. And 40 tons is just Stage One in producing that required magnet. There are four stages, and China is the only country in the world now that has mastered those four stages on a grand scale. We were the world’s vertical leader in 1984, but when the industry fell on hard times and needed government assistance in 1994, Clinton and his ballet dancer said Oh screw it, who needs ’em.
So China now owns 95% of the world’s ore; it bought the last big mines while the Tea Partiers were at Walmart buying lawn chairs in Feb 2009. It’s polluting Mongolia horribly with its Stage Four rare earth factories (producing lakes of thorium poisoning peasants) but it’s cut us off at the knees. More like balz. Killed our manufacturing prowess, now our resources management. Any hope that our Snowflakes would understand this is non-existent.
China cut its exports of rare earths significantly in 2013, and will announce a new five-year plan in 2018. So what genius at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory knows what they’re going to announce? Have any of them thought of it?
Articles like the above are so devoid of any common sense, it’s stupefying.


Wind energy decreases natural gas demand, helping to keep natural gas prices down.

Nope. Increasing wind power means increased need to keep grid stable with quick to respond facilities => gas replaces coal. While replacing coal with gas is not a mistake, it means the price of gas is not gonna sink down. It also raises the price of electricity (and probably taxes) because both the new wind power plants and gas plants need to be paid by the end user.
Export to Europe may increase the price. We Europeans are notorious to always choose expensive energy when able to choose between economic and suicidal. However, Russia is very keen on making Europe use more its gas, for the simple reason that gas pipes are a weapon of political control. Europeans (outside Ukraine) have no idea how dangerous it is to depend on Russian energy.

richard verney

However, Russia is very keen on making Europe use more its gas, for the simple reason that gas pipes are a weapon of political control. Europeans (outside Ukraine) have no idea how dangerous it is to depend on Russian energy.

And that is why Europe should frack.
For far too long Europe has been dependent upon the Middle East, and now more and more upon Russia for its energy needs. Europe should secure its own energy security by fracking, and it appears that there are plenty of good potential sites. Of course the EU dictatorship will not allow that.
Hopefully once Brexit has taken place, the UK will reconsider issues and will take advantage of a freer position and go hell for leather on fracking. Then the UK can supply Europe with its energy needs either by exporting gas, or by building a series of gas powered generators, especially for that purpose, and supply Europe with electricity (from UK fracked gas) via an inter connect.
There is a great deal of opportunity if only the Government was sensible, but then again who has ever heard of a sensible politician and one capable of creating a better world.

Gerry, England

Sadly Richard sensible politicians are extinct in the UK. The few who were left caught a disease called ‘Ultra Brexit’ and went insane.
As to our post Brexit future, if – and it is a big if – there is a trade deal with the EU, then one of the things that will become apparent is how little a trade deal is about trade and that tariffs will barely get a mention. Already you might have heard noises about not allowing us a competitive advantage by doing things such as dumping climate change targets and taxes. The retention of climate change targets could be a clause in the trade deal. Had we chosen the viable route out then that wouldn’t be the case.

I think they should look seriously at making vertical axis wind power more efficient. Low capital costs, no bird or bat deaths, no Chinese rare earths needed, no adverse health effects. There’s a lot to like.
Or of course they could use nuclear power. The only real disadvantage (as opposed to fabricated disadvantages) is that it’s not renewable and would not be able to keep us going for more than another 10,000 years (or so).

Matt Bergin

Wind is a total and complete waste of time and energy. All of the wind generators that are installed now will be scrap by 2030. The power they produce is almost useless due to it’s intermittent nature. Their use requires natural gas peaking plants which cause us to use more fossil fuels than we would without the useless whirligigs. You should see the harmonics in Ontario’s power system. These harmonics cause damage in industrial electrical systems. Wind is worse than useless.

Interesting comment. My company used to make scientific instruments with very sensitive components and analog power supplies for minimum noise. They broke much more often in Canada than in the US, to the extent that we started routinely supplying power conditioners to go between the wall and our power supply. It never occurred to me that too high a percentage of renewables in the mains power could be the issue.

Matt Bergin

We are having a lot of static drive failures with no obvious cause. A few weeks ago during a 12,000 hp sync motor start ( I have to call Ontario Hydro to change taps and lock in the breakers when I start that motor) They were commenting on the extremely high harmonic levels on the incoming feed. The same day we had a lot of computer control and system glitches. When you are the shift electrician days like that are a serious pain in the butt, And it is only getting worse.


So even if the wind is nominally lower cost, it is shifting other costs onto the user in order to use it.


Seems like wind is normally blowing.

Don K

That’s interesting Matt. I’d kind of assumed that the inertia of the blades and turbine would damp high frequency electrical transients from wind variations and that grid scale solar would be more of a problem that way. Sounds like I’m wrong (yet again).

R Taylor

The report would have been more credible if the authors had said they plan to overcome intermittency with perpetual motion.

steven F

Harmonic distortions in the grid can be from multiple causes, dost of which are not related in any way to renewables. The company I work for ships equipment to South Korea, and Taiwan we started seeing problems due to harmonic distortion. The source was the grid. Korea and taiwan don’t have much in the way of renewables (except for Hydro). In another sase in the US we traced the problem to some factory equipment we didn’t make that was connected to the same transformer our equipment was connected to.
Most harmonics are caused by non linear current flow. The heater or incandescent light bulb consume power during the entire AC wave supplied by the power companies. However many of todays electronics run on DC power not AC power. Many of these DC power supplies are cheep and only use power during a small portion of the AC wave. These constant on off on surges of current due to DC power supplies creates a lot o problem and harmonics. Some new power supples are designed not to produce harmonics and utilities often install equipment at substations and power plants (including wind turbines) to compensate for these problems.

No, the lifetime of a wind turbine generator is determined by the increase in operating costs compared to the revenue derived from selling power. When the operating costs increase sufficiently, the wind turbines are shut in.comment image


RS, wind doesn’t blow, it sucks.


I have been aware of electrical “noise” in the electrical power system since my ham radio days in the 50s. I currently listen to AM “talk” radio a bit, at least on days when the electrical noise from the power lines isn’t excessive. My car radio will often get wiped out by simply driving under local power lines, and even just driving into my garage while listening to a 50KW local station. I get this in five different cars with radios ranging from 20 years old to current. I can listen to a portable radio around outside, but when I get 10 feet from a power cord, all I get is noise. You’re now giving me a hint as to what might be causing this.

Paul Penrose

I don’t hate wind power, but it is less than useless for providing baseload power. Anybody that understands how the electric really grid works understands this.

Paul, in the US, 84,000 MW of wind turbine generating capacity disagrees with you. No grids are failing, no blackouts happen, and electricity prices are not rising beyond inflation.

Paul Penrose

84GW of faceplate power does not equal 84GW of actual generation, and you know that as well as I do. So stop trying to mislead people – it won’t work. Average actual capacity for wind is about 20% of faceplate, so that’s more like 16GW delivered to the grid. That’s a drop in the bucket compared to the 3,850 Trillion watts consumed in the US, so at the moment it’s not a big threat. But as the ratio of unreliable/undispatchable power versus reliable/thermal power production increases and spinning reserve is decreased, the grid will become more unstable. It’s simple physics as your lot likes to say. Fortunately there are other countries that are taking the plunge ahead of the US, and should serve as a cautionary tale. Hopefully we will learn from their mistakes before it is too late for us.


Government mandates and subsidies prove that renewables are cost effective and in high demand.

It doesn't add up...

Roger, the reason that most US power prices are not rising is the copious supply of cheap natural gas which is proving even cheaper than coal. As yet, 84GW of wind capacity is not a significant fraction of overall supply at 229 TWh out of 3450TWh in 2016. Be careful what you wish for, though.

It doesn't add up...

Correction: 229TWh out of 4350TWh, or just over 5%.

Tsk Tsk

Newly-built wind plants using production tax credits are already cost-competitive with new natural gas plants in some parts of the U.S.

I’ll trade your hypothetical +2 hamburgers to a reality today.


quite a Wimpy trade

…’using production tax credits’… Say, what do these weasel words actually


If it has to be heavily subsidized, then by definition it isn’t cost-competitive.

Rhoda R

And does the projected cost of wind include the required spinning backup by natural gas?

Not according to EIA. See more details below.

Yes, it does, despite Ristvan’s wrong statement.
All power plants require “spinning backup,” to use your phrase. The industry term is spinning reserve. That simply means that not all plants are operated at their maximum, but at some comfortable point less than maximum. The combined output from hundreds of thousands of plants can increase if and when a single plant drops off suddenly. Having a large nuclear power plant at 1,200 MW requires substantial spinning reserve.
Wind turbines do not appreciably increase spinning reserve. Fuel is conserved at lower operating rates, also.


Roger Sowell replies that all plants require spinning reserve. That is sort of correct, the grid has to have some amount of redundancy or excess capacity, because no generating technology gives 100% uptime.
However the question is what percentage of their output is required as spinning reserve. And what Roger is basically saying is that the amount is no different as between a coal fired plant and a wind farm.
This is obviously false. Wind fluctuates, and it fluctuates very widely and unpredictably. Even were the fluctuations to be predictable it would not help, you’d still have to install capacity to cover them.
The same error comes up with the use of ‘levelized costs’ to compare wind and conventional. We take the total production of both, divide by the NPV of both, and then claim that if the number is lower for wind, this shows wind is cheaper than conventional.
Which is only correct under the assumption that it does not matter over the lifetime of your wind farm you deliver the electricity supply. One hour a day, six months a year, peaks and valleys between 10 and 100 in the course of a day or week, all that is assumed to be fine if over 20 years you produce the same total amount.
It is complete fanatasy. The only way to make these kinds of comparisons is to lay out a standard. This must be of the form: production 24 x 7 within this range, outages for maintenance schedules with a given notice period, and unplanned outages limited to this number of days a year.
When you have wind delivering to the same parameters, you can then compare costs. The problem is that when you do that, you only do it by installing 100% conventional backup, and after you get through costing that you find that its cheaper just to run off it and not install the wind at all.
The makers of wind power are like the man in the Monty Python sketch who goes into a blood clinic and wants to give urine. Finally he asks, OK if I give blood can I give urine?
Can I install wind? Yes, as long as you install the same capacity of conventional, in which case if you really want to install wind at your own expense for your own reasons, please do so. Just don’t pretend to be meeting the demand for electricity while doing it. And don’t ask anyone to pay you to do it on that basis.
What we should ask the wind fanatics to do is just erect the things if they really have this obsession with them. But do not connect them to anything. Spare themselves the expense of the transmission lines, and just let the things stand there and turn. They would do just as much for the planet that way, and spare the grid operators a lot of aggravation.

Don K

“Yes, it does, despite Ristvan’s wrong statement.”
Roger. I’ve read through the EIA stuff a couple of times in the past few years. It’s very complicated. It makes my head hurt. There are vast swaths of it that I probably misunderstand. But one of the few things I’m sure I got right is that LCOE explicitly does NOT include the cost of backup generation. Are your sure that you and Rud are talking about the same thing?


Roger is trying to confuse the issue (again). By claiming that since all plants require spinning reserve, that the cost of spinning reserve doesn’t matter. Completely ignoring the fact that the spinning reserve for fossil fuel is about 1% while the spinning reserve for renewables is closer to 100%,

paul courtney

I do appreciate that Mr. Sowell comments here, takes heat, and maintains civility. But his answer to ristvan is typical. Rist says, “EIA does not include spinning backup”. Sowell says, “yes it does” then completely obfuscates the matter by equating “spinning backup” for intermittent wind with requirements that all systems are backed up. At no point does he even attempt to show where EIA includes the cost of spinning backup of wind power. Coal, gas, nuclear etc. do not operate 31% of the time, needing to tap into the reserve 69% of the time, as ristvan posted below with hard numbers from real wind operations. The more we see of Mr. Sowell, the less persuasive he gets; so please keep coming back.

It doesn't add up...

There are two kinds of reserve that are needed – very short term, on the order of seconds and minutes while other generators are powered up or down, and rather longer term, to cover variations in the weather that can last days or even weeks, and seasonal variations in demand and weather.
So called spinning reserve handles the very short term variations in supply/demand imbalances as motors and lights are switched on and off, and as generation varies because of the gustiness of wind on a timescale of seconds, clouds obscuring the sun sweeping over large solar parks, or rare trips at gas, coal or nuclear power stations – or accidents to transmission lines ranging from falling trees to lightning strikes. These ripples in demand balance are handled in the first instance by the inertia in the spinning generators, which synchronously respond by speeding up or slowing down slightly, converting stored energy to power (or storing more energy in the flywheels that generators are mechanically) until energy input into the turbines alters to restore the balance – which must be done on a short timescale, otherwise the system frequency will get too far out of line, which can cause extensive damage to rotating machinery by operating at frequencies that can set up vibrations rather than being damped. Wind farms lack the ability to provide significant inertia from their generators, which are made compact and light to sit atop a tall tower. When wind forms a significant part of overall generation, the energy stored in rotating generators is reduced, and the time to inject or withdraw extra power to prevent the frequency from getting dangerously out of line is also reduced. This is in fact why grid systems are exploring whether grid scale batteries can provide balancing power (and power absorption) with sufficient reliability and at low enough cost. Think Musk’s big battery for South Australia.
A totally different order of magnitude is in providing backup for those days and spells of days when the wind simply isn’t blowing hard enough to generate any significant power output. The idea that it will be windy somewhere else a) requires enormous investment in capacity and grid transmission capability (much of which would be greatly underutilised most of the time), and b) proves not to be quite as true as some like to suppose – just look at how spiky and sometimes almost absent wind output is across Europe:comment image
The quantities of storage that would be required to turn such variable output into a reliable supply are simply gargantuan: it is much cheaper simply to provide an alternative source of generation – in which case, wind generation becomes superfluous, since you would have a cheaper supply by just investing in the most effective forms of reliable generation and be done with it.

All power plants require “spinning backup,” to use your phrase.
Yes and no. The problem is how much and what kind of backup.
The amount of installed backup is around 10% of the maximum capacity needed for “conventional” power production for in case of a sudden shutdown of the largest unit, plus eventually 10% power supply from the neighbors in case of a sudden shutdown of an extra plant while another is in maintenance.
For solar and wind you need 100% “conventional” backup for every MW capacity installed + the same extra capacity as reserve. That is the case for Germany today, where they have 110% nameplate capacity from solar + wind (but in average some 25% of all production) together with 110% conventional power capacity, mainly coal and lignite,
Further, solar is reasonably predictable and doesn’t change too rapidly: fast for one installation, but clouds are coming in gradually over the regions. Wind is a lot more unpredictable and can change from 100% supply to 10% in less than 15 minutes for a whole country.
Most high yield power plants can change their output with 1-2% per minute. That is the case for coal, gas (STEG) and nuclear. Only single gas turbines (or STEG only for the gas turbine part) can ramp up and down much faster even better for hydro which can go from zero to 100% in minutes.
That means that if a country has not a 100% hydro backup for every MW wind power installed, you need the same capacity installed as fast gas turbines, at a much lower energy yield, or a lot more spinning reserve for slower installations…
Further, wind and solar have not the slightest obligation to regulate the grid. In most countries they have absolute priority on the net and only are (automatically) supressed or disconnected from the grid if the voltage is getting too high. The conventional power vendors must regulate the grid. They may be compensated for that, but in general far too low, while 90% of the backup only is needed solely for solar and wind.
The problem for the latter in Germany is that they lose a lot of money, as nobody wants to pay much for non-producing reserve, spinning or not. One of the reasons for the last South Australia partial blackout, as nobody of the suppliers wanted to give a spinning reserve backup at the price they were offered…
That all are hidden costs that are only caused by the intermittent nature of wind and sun. As long as one doesn’t have a gigantic means of power storage (which currently is only found in hydro), solar and especially wind power are extremely expensive as they divert their real costs to other power suppliers and the general public (who pay for the subsidies, in whatever form)…

For Paul Courtney, re generating assets, capacity factors. The graph below shows monthly capacity factor, by energy source, for 2.5 years 2011 – 2013, from EIA. One hopes this is sufficiently authoritative for you.
“Coal, gas, nuclear etc. do not operate 31% of the time, needing to tap into the reserve 69% of the time. . .”
Coal operates approximately 60 percent, gas (CCGT) approximately 50 percent, and nuclear approximately 89 percent – but only because safety fears force nuclear to run either all-out or be shut down. Hydroelectric runs approximately 40 percent, and wind at approximately 35 percent, nation-wide.
All of the plants require spinning reserve as backup. Every single one of them.comment image


There are a lot of people here who hate wind…..
no, there’s just a lot of people here that know what they are talking about
Making something look good in a computer…doesn’t mean squat

Leonard Lane

Wind power (electricity generated) will always be intermittent and thus cannot provide base load power nor any power that is steady and reliable. This is not opinion nor modeling. Just the basic fact that the wind itself is always intermittent, never can be made to be constant and steady.
In the graph shown, it is not clear if this is capacity factor or actual power generated. If it is based on capacity factor then you must divide by about 0.3 or multiply by about 3 to get the LCOE.
The capacity and actual power should always be stated so as not to confuse the readers or deceive them by a factor of about 3.


What if you combine the wind power with rail cars?

Crispin in Waterloo but really in Bishkek

You get a song: The Last Train Clarkesville Blowing In the Wind.


THis article states that by cutting the cost of wind in half, they will make it economically competitive.
I could have sworn that our trolls have been claiming that wind and solar are already cost competitive.
Who’s lying?

Steve Keppel-Jones

MarkW, both of them 🙂

paul courtney

MarkW- Indeed.


Haha MarkW. The first smart thing you’ve said in ages 😉 this is sadly another case of Americans forgetting that they’re not the world. The answer is obviously that wind is competitive at certain places globally, but apparently not in the US.


Coal has been the traditional offset fuel for high gas prices, lots of coal still available for cheap. There’s a good home for a few of these wind turbines when the subsidies run out, just move em to Etzikom!


“There are a lot of people here who hate wind.”
Perhaps that’s because they have an affection for birds, bats, whales, the sick, the poor and the elderly, all of whose lives are severely damaged by wind power…
And they are aware that every last milliwatt of wind-generated energy must be matched by a milliwatt of energy from a thermal power station.
Two terms for you, base load and <dispatchable.
When you understand what they imply, come back.
Then there are other technical matters such as synchronisation and conditioning.


Read this article if you are not aware of the harm to human health from industrial scale wind turbines.


“Read this article if you are not aware of the harm to human health from industrial scale wind turbines.”
Please point out where I have implied that there is no harm to human health (or the health of any other organism, come to that) from industrial scale wind turbines.
As it happens, I was probably one of the first engineers in any field to appreciate the danger of subsonic frequencies back in the early 1970s when the automotive industry was working on reducing audio frequency sound pressure levels in cars without using the traditional methods of adding heavy sound deadening material by acoustically cancelling different sound sources, creating heterodyne effects and shifting them below the audible frequency.
This caused considerable problems, including massively reduced concentration leading to multiple motorway accidents (not publicised, surprise!) and prolonged exposure could produce real physical distress, such as severe headaches and even vomiting.
Since then of course the ventilation and air conditioning industry has had to investigate the same problems as they are heavily implicated in ‘sick building syndrome’, there is considerable data on such effects in the specifications for ventilation systems.


catweazler666…my apologies if my comment gave the wrong impression . I do understand your opposition and I appreciate the depth of your understanding of why people hate industrial scale wind. I hope that readers will take a look at the link I provided regarding the harm from low frequency noise. In Ontario, this is a very serious problem because turbines have been sited too close to peoples’ homes. This has created an ethical crisis.


I looked. Don’t care. There are many reasons to hate wind. Cost is only one. Economic perspectives only can lead to extremely bad outcomes.


Are you saying you “Don’t care.” about people being harmed?


Here’s a story out of Ontario regarding pile driving and water wells.


Ignoring the economic perspective always ends up getting people killed and never, ever improves their lives.


Sommer: The way comments stack on here is confusing. My reply was to Chadb, at the very top. The replies inbetween came in afterward and my comment shifted way down. I have no idea why.
His comment was “There are a lot of people here who hate wind. However, from a simple economic perspective take a look at that cost chart.” “Take a look at the cost chart” is what I was commenting on.


Thank you Sheri. I understand now.

Sure. Now let’s imagine a world of 4th gen nuclear reactors that don’t destroy the environment. Wouldn’t that be nice?


3rd generation nuclear power plants didn’t destroy the environment either.

A C Osborn

This quote says it all about the real price of wind (and that is without backup costs).
“New energy science and technological breakthroughs could cut the cost of wind energy in half by 2030—making it fully competitive with the fuel cost of natural gas.”
In other words it costs twice as much as gas, enough said.

Bob boder

Then invest all your money in them and stop using my tax dollars.


Nobody hates wind. What we hate is being forced to use expensive unreliable forms of power.
Since your statement once again begins with a lie, the rest of what you say isn’t relevant.


Personally I detest the landscape being reduced to single use, the miles of dirt roads the intimidating scale and sound.

“Newly-built wind plants using production tax credits are already cost-competitive with new natural gas plants in some parts of the U.S., especially in the “wind belt” that runs from Texas to North Dakota. New energy science and technology breakthroughs outlined above could drop the unsubsidized cost of wind energy below the projected cost of fuel for existing natural gas plants by 2030.”‘
There is no easy way to determine the unsubsidized cost of wind due to laws that make utilities “buy” the energy from wind farms. That in turn mandates that the utilities create various types of infrastructure which is not included in the unsubsidized cost. Also, the utilities have to maintain the ability to produce substantially all the electricity needed for times when the wind is not blowing. Thus, the actual cost of wind when all the mandates are included is at least double the figure usually given. If it were possible to find the rare earth magnets to make more turbines as the article envisions and then add more wind farms, the cost of electricity would soar due to the fact that the utilities would have to buy more power from the wind farms, build more infrastructure (which then must be maintained) and still keep sufficient power plants operating to provide all power in case the wind is not blowing. So, the more wind there is as a percentage of the electric mix the higher the mandated costs are to the utility. basically, if you get a peak of 50% of the electricity from wind, the utilities infrastructure costs could more than double and maintenance costs for that more than double. That is mandated costs not included in the calculated cost of wind.

Bill Yarber

We need to ditch the propeller blades for helixical blades like the exhaust fan on your roof! Responds to winds from all directions, even shifting winds, and does not require the entire pod to rotate!

Tom Halla

The cynical view of this study is that even given probably unrealistic conditions, at the best wind costs will only come down about 50%. Add in the cost of storage. .


My suggestion is that they quit running those turbines when the wind isn’t blowing–they really don’t need to generate that Fake Wind.

It doesn't add up...

If they didn’t do that, then the shafts and bearing would suffer uneven wear and stress, which would soon lead to spectacular failures with dramatic vibrations and shedding of turbine blades. When there is no wind, they must use power to keep the blades turning, aside from short periods of stoppage tolerated for maintenance access.

They are going to point windmills into the wind…. WOW!!! isn’t technology grand ???


Not only that but they are going to build them larger.
By doubling the tower heights and rotor sizes they can produce 4X the power output (squared) by using only 8X the materials (cubed) as a regular tower. The savings in costs will be experienced immediately.


And what about the other negatives of wind power generation? Bigger rotors will produce even more subsonic noise and kill even more birds. Great!

Alan Robertson

And they’ll do it with high- fidelity modeling!
Integrated and innovative design make them controllable, dispatchable and predictable.
The wonders of new science.
Or something.


You forget the best part; since it’s going to be bigger it will cost a lot more, and every contractor who gets a cost-plus part of the action is gonna be rakin’ in the profits! Too bad about those poor chumps getting tricked into paying for it.


“they can produce 4X the power output (squared) by using only 8X the materials (cubed)”
Ah, the dreaded square-cube relationship that applies to the turbine bearings too, and they are already pushing the boundaries.


A jungle of skyscapers on the landscape, requiring millions more tons of concrete to keep them from falling on the nearby homes. What could go wrong?


Can you imagine how far the rotor tips will fly each time one of those breaks?

LS, they all already do. SC, good ideal math but physically impossible except offshore, whichnismmuch more expensive. All the the capital decline in onshore wind came from upsizing, not volume. That stopped about 2005, as illustrated in guest post ‘True Cost of Wind’ at Judith Curry’s Climate Etc. Themphysical limit is transportation constraints on larger turbine blades. Secondarily, failure of main axial bearings as turbines grow larger, as the asymmetric bearing loading grows disproportionately with height. Just is.

Don K

A few years ago, somebody (Bombardier I’d guess) maneuvered one of those huge blades down Vermont 15 through Essex Vermont. Presumably it came all the way from Quebec. I’d love to know how they managed the numerous overhead wires North of here, a couple of slow to 15 curves, a short patch of 13% grade, and a couple of rotaries … And what they were planning to do about the overpass a few miles West at Interstate 89.
I’d never thought about it but I’m sure blade size is a huge constraint unless barge transport is feasible.

DK, correct. And barge is never possible innhigh wind areas like Texas panhandle or western Iowa. Is all highway/rail curve limited. That is why size stopped increasing ~2005 and cap costs have increased since.

Crispin in Waterloo but really in Bishkek

Don K
They should use blimps and the transport issue is solved.


COuld they build a double turbine with blades on both ends of the turbine shaft. The blades set so the following blade set is half way between the blades of the leading set?
At least that would cut down the stress on the shaft.

Here’s the link to The True Cost of Wind Electricity:

Can decrease cost of wind power 3x as well: A proposal and a theoretical analysis of a novel concept of a tilted-axis wind turbine
But who cares, if the goal is to cause collapse of the civilization?


Sounds like windfarms will need an even bigger footprint than they have now.


No breakthrough at the storage side in sight? Otherwise, this report reads like the convulsive attempt to save government funds for research into renewable energies also at trump times. Experts at the KIT (Karlsruhe Institute of Technology) and the Fraunhofer Institute see no economical breakthrough on the storage side of renewable energies in the foreseeable future. The only thing that could be done is the better networking of the electricity lines and the abandonment of old habits by the consumer. For example my washing machine may only be thrown if the wind is blowing or the sun is shining. (Smart Grid). If I have time for it, because the normal person works during the day when the sun is shining. And to have a washing machine running during my absence, I would not do because of the fire danger. Our fire brigade had to go out several times because of washing machine fires, even in the house of my daughter. In the traffic side, renewable energy is only to be looked for with a magnifying glass. German consumers simply do not accept electric cars whose costs to buy are 30 percent higher than gasoline or diesel-cars, whose charging conditions are limited, whose range is limited, and manufacturers can not guarantee for the battery a life as long as for the machine and there is no guarantee that the range will be the same in years. In transport, you can forget electricity anyway, except by train.

K. Kilty

Folks, wind turbines already run at about 80% of Betz limit. There is not a lot of gain through more efficiency. The real issue is lowering the cost of construction, erecting towers, materials, etc.


The real cost is going to be storage. Ask South Australia about reliability on the grid.

Capacity factors will maximize at around 40 percent. The improved economics derive from larger turbine generators, therefore fewer to install in a square mile of land. Operations and maintenance will be less per kWh produced.
Then, having many more WTG in an area allows economy of scale for operations and maintenance activities, again reducing costs.


We build half as many, but they cost 4 times as much.
What a deal.

Thin Air

Quoting from the report, this appears to be one motivation.
“Though the wind industry and wind energy technology have advanced
dramatically in recent decades, uncertainty in the science around wind plant physics threatens to
limit future innovation in wind turbine and power plant technology that will make wind energy
cost competitive nationwide.”
They admit wind, as a primary energy source (which they hope reaches 50% of all US produced energy), faces serious challenges, and without some magic from “super computers” it will never over come them.
But they are surely promising more than they know can be delivered.


I am interested in how they plan “to control the airflow within the plant to maximize power production”.
Additional structures such as static vanes, curtains, walls?
Are they planning on making articulated rotor blades with deployable leading and trailing edge devices?

Bryan A

They will place one of these wind machines in front of them

john harmsworth

What happened to the three little piggies?


I just saw pigs flying.


No matter what you do physically, you can’t fool the Betz limit. It’s like trying to pull yourself up by the bootstraps.


That has not stopped people from trying. I find articles on trying to exceed the Betz limit frequently.

The idea is to model the air flow between turbines, under different conditions. Downwind turbines can then adjust to the wind before it changes. Turbulent flow in three dimensions having multiple wind turbines is a complex calculation. Hence, the need for computers.
See this 2011 article on increased wind farm output (vertical axis turbines).


The strategy could boost output a lot. The Battleship Texas, which had an amazing tenure in active duty, had a unique steam-driven (4 stroke) piston engine. There were three sets of pistons, with each set designed to work on lower pressure than the previous. From the first, steam was shunted to the second, set, then third, then back to the boiler. All pistons were double-headed: compression on one side was exhaust on the other. The boiler-generated steam was split and forced to push the most-powerful first piston (each side, alternately), then in 4th cycle of each side the steam was vented to another pair, to either side, making them cycle. Then the exhaust was vented yet again to another set of (yet lower power) pistons. Then, vented back to boiler. Really, something of an afterburner strategy. It is stunning to hear of something so different running the oceans, but it is true. All of this was physically huge, but when floating on water the size was not much of an issue.
This apparently was a worthy way of utilizing energy – the Texas had many opportunities to be retired, but kept going. She was at first a coal burner, then converted to oil. So, it is worthwhile to think that a leading edge of windmills could get most of the power, but well-placed secondary windmills could reap even more energy. In the Texas, you definitely had control of all steam pressure – as long as the pipe could handle 120 psi at 500F- but wind is different – but figuring out little advances like this are fruitful.

Curious George

Roger, that was in 2011. How much of it has been implemented since? What if the wind direction shifts?


More idiot fodder.

NO WIND … even if it cost $0!
Even if you could get the cost of wind down to zero you don’t want that garbage in your area. It’s not just the insidious noise and visual pollution that ruins entire landscapes, but it’s the killing of bats and birds … by the millions.
And it’s BRUTAL. Watch this 35 second video:
Bird killed by green energy:

Gary Pearse

They found that soaring birds like the draft and keep circling back until they are knocked down.

Give it up, people – wind sucks from an energy and environmental standpoint. And the energy technology that it must compete with in the future is neither gas nor coal .It’s molten salt nuclear power and no technology is competitive with that technology. Wind still remains a 19th century generation technology. It was a marvelous energy when clipper ships sailed the seas and you were headed in the right direction. The Chinese must be laughing their heads off at the level of technological incompetence that is prevalent in the US these days.

Curious George

No technology is competitive with a nonexistent technology. I’ll be all for molten salt nuclear power – just show me a working prototype.

Matt Bergin

They a LFTR operating for at least 5 years 25 years ago in Oak Ridge. Proving the concept. So no it is not “PIE IN THE SKY” like fusion power or bulls**t like E-Cat.

Matt Bergin

Make that 50 years ago in Oak Ridge.

MB, it was not a working prototype of the sort required for grid generation. China is building one (5MW IIRC) based on the uranium not thorium cycle. TransAtomic Power (spun out of MIT) has an excellent white paper on the remaining technical challenges and how they might be met. Free download, well worth your reading. But we are far from a powerplant engineered prototype. I am strongly in favor,of giving it a go, but is years and billions from reality. Covered amongst many other nuclear issues in essay Going Nuclear in ebook Blowing Smoke.

Tsk Tsk

MB, it was not a working prototype of the sort required for grid generation.

I don’t know what this means. They reached their designed power goals (thermal). They demonstrated negative reactivity which would permit load following in addition to safe operation. It’s true to say that they didn’t demonstrate a design lifetime for a commercial reactor, but it was definitely a working prototype.
And why not go straight to the source for info:

Tsk Tak, I have actually read the ORNL summary reports–have you?. Suggest you also read the TransAtomic Power MSR white paper that specifies clearly what ORNL did NOT do and remains to be solved, then get back. There is an old wise saying–‘ a little knowledge is a dangerous thing’. You exemplify it.


Working prototype? You mean like the BN-600 reactor in Russia that has been operating since 1980?
560 Megawatts for 37 years with no major incidents is a pretty good record. (Couple dozen minor sodium leaks over the last 20 years.)
Using the words “Safe” and “Russian Nuclear Reactor” in the same sentence? Yes, it seems like they have done it.

NoDak, the BN-600 is not a molten salt thorium reactor.

Gary Pearse

The Canadian CANDU reactor uses unenriched uranium and can also switch to thorium. This tech is highly safe and for many years 600MW units in Ontario were the largest plants in the world. The socialists want to replace them with windmills. BTW, did DOE factor in the killing of eagles at 25 grand per plus put any operators in jail?

Curious George

BN-600 is not a molten salt reactor. LFTR was, but it did require a lot of power for cooling; no power generation. The Technology Review article was written by someone with a zero understanding: “thorium salt reactor was fired” actually means that they started melting salts in crucibles. CANDU uses molten heavy water, but the term “molten salt” means something else.

The facts about the Oak Ridge thorium molten salt reactor.
Oak Ridge MSR Test Project
a) The reactor was small, with thermal output only 7 MWth. The reactor process had no steam generator and no electricity was produced. It ran only a few months.
b) Metal that was used for contacting molten salt developed intergranular cracking; completely unsuitable for commercial reactor use.
c) ORNL then developed (in 1977) an improved and very expensive alloy Hastelloy N for nuclear applications with molten Fluoride salts. In tests, Hastelloy N with Niobium (Nb) had much better corrosion resistance to molten fluoride salts. Hastelloy N has no evidence that it will last for 40 years in a power plant without catastrophic failure.
see “Thorium MSR No Better Than Uranium Process” (the second-most read article of the 30 articles in Truth About Nuclear Power )


Roger Sowell,
The Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) developed its first Thorium Molten Salt Reactor in the late 40s. I have an article in my files somewhere (can’t find it, just spent an hour) of an interview of the guy in charge of that project at the ORNL
The interview with this man who retired from the ORNL after 40 years described why the federal government chose to go with the uranium version, and it wasn’t because the Thorium MSR didn’t work.

Don K

“just show me a working prototype.”
And show us that these modern nuclear thingees can come in someplace reasonably close to budget. The cost of new nuclear power plants looks to be increasing at a rather distressing rate. If I believe Bloomberg ( ) the cost per kw/hr of new capacity has more than doubled in the past two decades. That’s DoD, NASA class cost overrunning. One hopes that the reason for the overruns (basically — lowball the bid.then sneak in the real charges via contract changes) isn’t the same as with government work.


It’s a long way from prototype to full scale production. I’ve lost track of the number of technologies that looked good small scale but were never able to be scaled up.

So by leveraging the use of high power computers for analysis, and accelerating R and D, they could cut the cost of wind power in half…if the computers give the useful info and the R and D achieves breakthroughs? And if I find out how to cost effectively extract gold from seawater, I’ll be rich.


Are these the same computers and modelers that fail to predict the temperature rise due to CO 2 in the atmosphere and are wrong by an order of magnitude.

john harmsworth

No, these are the ones that “lose” all the data after you prove the hiatus wasn’t real!


FWIW, here is how they hope to do it:
• Capital expenditures reduction of 21% through scaling the size of the turbine and a range of other innovations in turbine design and manufacturing
• Annual energy production increase of 22% through scaling, innovation in turbine design, and optimal wind plant design and control
• Operational expenditures reduction of 25% through advancing modeling, sensing, data analysis, and assimilation
• Financing costs reduction of 5% by lowering long-term production risk through advanced modeling, sensing, data analysis, and assimilation
• An increase in wind power plant lifetime to reduce cost of capital by 26% through extension of amortization periods.
Wind turbines are a fairly mature technology for expecting a 50% improvement.

Walter Sobchak

Fairly mature? Considering that they were in wide spread use before the invention of anything, they are ancient.


Walter, good point 15th Century technology abandoned in the 19th century brought back via subsidies and ignorant politicians who don’t care about killing birds.


The use of new materials (high-strength steel and engineering plastics) have allowed us to produce vastly more efficient wind turbines for producing electricity. Computing power has allowed us to design more efficient blades. Old windmills were mostly used to pump water, certainly not generate electricity.
The right question to ask is why we didn’t start building modern wind turbines 50 years ago, when they became technologically feasible. In fact, 5000 turbines were installed at Altamont Pass, CA immediately after the oil crisis in the late 1970’s. Long before anyone heard about global warming and low-carbon energy. From Wikipedia:
“Altamont Pass is still the largest concentration of wind turbines in the world, with a capacity of 576 megawatts (MW), producing about 125 MW on average and 1.1 terawatt-hours (TWh) yearly.[3] They were installed after the 1970s energy crisis in response to favorable tax policies for investors.”
It is this technology that I assert is now “fairly mature” and was skeptical about improving two-fold.

D. J. Hawkins

You scale the height of a turbine and you have two torque loads to worry about; the nacelle and the force of the wind against the pylon as it transfers the force to the base. That overturning force is going up non-linearly, meaning that a tower 100 meters high needs much more that twice the beef as a tower 50 meters high. Kiss your capital savings good bye.
It’s not like folks haven’t already studied turbine placement for optimal power harvesting, and exactly what advances in turbines could be lurking in the wings? 22% is a pipe dream.
It goes on and on. If there’s 15% cost reduction available over current installations, I’d be astonished.

Don K

It sounds to me like they are planning to manipulate the individual turbines to optimize airflow through the turbine complex. e.g. if we aim turbine 1 two degrees clockwise of the angle where it would generate the most power, we’ll get much better airflow at turbines 3 and 7.and x% more power overall.
I’m not completely sure why I think that. Just the impression I got from their verbiage.
And it sounds kind of optimistic
But nuttier sounding ideas like adaptive optics (You’re going to do whaaaat?) actually do work.

Gary Pearse

So you could do the same scaling with a coal plant or Nat gas plant or a dog food manufacturing plant. Do you really need a supercomputer for this. Why don’t these guys consult a non academic engineer? I can just picture ‘gubmint supplying the science to the private sector for design’ to make all these improvements. Isn’t this why are electricity was necessarily going to “skyrocket”.?


One simple question,
If we get rid of cola and gas fire power stations…….
Where is the added atmospheric CO2 going to come from to keep the World’s population from starvation?


cola ? COAL

Brian R

I was thinking there might be a new Pepsi Challenge I didn’t know about.

john harmsworth

I am fueled by Cola!


Things go better with coal.


Yeah, that’s the ticket. Cola and Mentos power plants.


Obviously, this is a UCS symposium. Why wasn’t Kenji invited?

Curious George

A report written by a bunch of MBAs. All speculation. A progress in supercomputers will make wind farms more efficient. Aren’t they 80% efficient already? I am looking forward to a 160% efficiency.


The computer models prove that 160% operating efficiencies are easily achieved by merely welding hinged wind turbines to rail cars then simply transport them en masse to where the supercomputers predict the wind will be.
No extension cords required if you electrify the rails.


But if the wind isn’t blowing how do you generate the electricity to move the railway engine.


Put a windmill on top of the train, then the train can generate it’s own power.


Behind every great disaster, there is at least one MBA.

Walter Sobchak

Same old, same old. They never cost in the fact that we must build a second system that we can use when the wind dies down, a system that will incur capital costs even when they are not producing revenue. Nor do they build in the cost of dramatic expansion of the transmission system to get the power from where the wind blows, like the high plains, to where the people who need it are.
Wind powered eco-crucifixes are unaffordable, unreliable, and blots on the countryside. It will not change.

john harmsworth

Bingo! Those of the Leftist persuasion are never capable of understanding opportunity cost of money or even basic interest. Just borrow and spend until you are surrounded by stuff you can’t pay for. Duplication f capital cost is the arrow through the heart of all these green ideas. The ones that are still twitching after analysis of simple payback at least.

Pat Frank

But what’s the point? Wind farms covering a huge area, wreaking devastation on wildlife, to produce the power of a natural gas plant that covers a few acres.
So what if windmills get more efficient? They’ll never, ever reduce the footprint, relative to any coal, natural gas, or nuclear power plant.
The whole enterprise is useless. Especially when it’s realized that CO2 has had no noticeable impact on the climate. Nor are there any prospects that it will do.


Now, this is common sense.

Bob boder

What if we build one really tall tower and put a whole series of wind mill blades on it than you reduce the footprint.

Pat Frank

Well, Bob, that would be wonderful.
Following the logic of green engineering, the blades of our one windmill should be 8000 miles long, to capture the entire set of northern hemisphere jet streams.

Bob boder

I am sure Griff would say it would work


The claim of halving the cost solely by manage the machines collectively etc sounds like academic fantasy to me. I am a control systems engineer and can not see the potential to go close to that achievement. It sounds like a typical exaggerated claim to attract heaps of grant money!!!! And by the time the morey runs out we will have forgotten about the original claim when they fail to deliver!
The proposal fails the pub test… is illogical nonsense to claim that by pointing a machine away from its optimum orientation that it will generate more overall energy to the system!!!! What cods whallop.


I like ” taller towers to capture higher-potential wind energy in the Earth’s upper atmosphere;” Jack and the wind stalk.

Rhoda R

It does sort of sound like they are planning to tap into the jet stream doesn’t it.


It’s Jack and the Bean Stalk. The wind comes after the beans are eaten.

The current correct LCOE of CCGT is ~$56/MWh. For wind (based on the Texas Ercot grid and its ~10% wind penetration) it is ~$146/MWh not counting the additional ~$7/MWh production tax credit subsidy. Corrections to the deliberately misleading EIA estimates were guest posted in detail, with references, in ‘True Cost of Wind’ over at Climate Etc. So even IF this NREL study were true (it isn’t for simple basic reasons given in the next paragraph), cutting wind LCOE miraculously in half would be $73/MWh versus $56/MWh. A mere 30% cost disadvantage.
The reason this new NREL study is wrong has to do with whatnit does NOT discuss, capacity factor, which no amount of clever future technology can change. Sometimes the wind doesn’t blow, and other times it blows too hard. So for on shore US wind, the past ~15 year capacity factor works out to ~31%. The other 69% of the time, fossil fuel fired backup must be employed to make up on the grid for the loss of wind generation. And that backup cost is not charged to wind, although logically it should be. The more wind generation on a grid, the bigger this hidden cost grows.

David A

Yep,our laws handicap the best players to make others appear better, like cutting off the heads of others to appear taller.

D. J. Hawkins

Kurt Vonnegut, call your office!

Curious George

NREL is a funny lab. They provide free web pages for “renewable energy” companies – advertising pages, as the companies naturally don’t report any problems there. When I complied about a silence surrounding the Crescent Dunes project, I learned that [NREL is an R&D lab and we set up this CSP database to provide information that is accurate and helpful to others. We don’t post proprietary information and we don’t know everything that goes on with all projects (which might include some of what you perhaps snarkily call “inconvenient details”).]

Curious George

Grrrrh … when I complained …

paul courtney

ristvan: Wonder where Mr. Sowell is, guess he couldn’t contrive an evasion on this one.

Zum Bomb

Just Green propaganda. Another dog-n-pony show for Congress (FY18 ends in 37 days. A Conclusion “We Are The Future” in Search of Federal Dollars.
The lowest cost of all:
No Wind (and no turbines) = $0.
Ha ha


The only conclusion I make is that come 2019 when the tax credit finishes the party is over for wind. Unfortunately I fear that globally governments are too pathetic to withstand the renewable vested interests and assistance will continue forever.

john harmsworth

We are told repeatedly that “green jobs” create more employment than regular work, like that is a good thing when the entire history of human advancement has come from reducing labour input to productivity, thus making labour more valuable.
I don’t understand why they don’t have people turning these turbines by hand. Just think of the jobs!!!



old construction worker

“We are told repeatedly that “green jobs” create more employment than regular work,…”
So did building pyramids, but when 60% of the economy depends on government funding the government goes broke.

Bob boder

Yep let’s get rid of tractors too then 90% of us can get jobs in the farming industry! Get rid of computers just think how many more accountants, clerks, telephone operators and the such we will need! Jobs for life for everyone!!!

Brian McCain

Always wondered about the economics of renewables. I got the breakdown of costs for my electric company (can’t find the graphic online anywhere) which said that fuel costs were in the 50-60% range. So how can this compete even with fuel cost of zero when you are employing 79x the number of workers per kwh?


“The only conclusion I make is that come 2019 when the tax credit finishes the party is over for wind.”
I think so, too. My state has already stopped paying subsidies for any future windmill farms, and state legislators are seriously considering taxing current windmill farms, like they tax any other business.
I think windmills will be passed by for better methods of generating electricity and the boom wind has been having will go bust thereafter.
We should stop building windmill farms now, which will make it much easier to scrap this technology. Why keep building machines that won’t get the job done, and are harmful to the environment and its inhabitants?
Windmill Farms are one of the worst ideas evah!

Mainely A Redneck

So what happens then to the eyesores on Mars Hill? Will they just be abandoned to be blown down by some future windstorm? I’m already tired of looking at them, and they are 15 miles away!

Brian Bingham

This is the usual problem of comparing apple with oranges. They are comparing the output of a wind turbine with the output of a gas plant. When you do a cost based on the whole system, the cost of wind goes up.
To simplify the comparison, take two 1000 GW systems. The first one would be several gas plants that produce 1000 GW of power. the second would be enough wind turbines that on average generate 1000 GW of power. you would also need at least 800 GW of gas power plants to back up the wind for calm days or for when there is too much wind. You would need extra transmission lines to connect the wind turbines to the grid.
In case 2, you would save fuel when the wind power is generating enough power to run the system. But, you would still have to pay capital costs and operating costs for the gas plants. Lets not mention the cost of land for all those wind turbines.
So even if these improvements are made, wind still cost more.

BB, YES. Planning Engineer and I ran the real numbers. Orrecting all the EIA cheats in Climate Etc guest post ‘True Cost of Wind’ some time ago.


The computer models clearly show that by installing natural gas burning vectored thrust nozzles on the trailing edges of the rotors the entire need for secondary gas plant backup can be completely eliminated.
The operational inefficiencies of the natural gas vectored thrust nozzles can then be overcome by simply eliminating the onerous carbon tax on all gas used for this purpose.

john harmsworth

Either you are being sarcastic or else you are waaaaay up there in government!


heh maybe we can alter jet flight routes to also spin them during dead times 🙂

Curious George

“Lets not mention the cost of land for all those wind turbines.” I don’t want to live under a wind mill, but corn could probably grow there. Corn can’t run away; cows and sheep can.


Corn requires water. There is not necessarily water available at every wind farm.


Not only that, but by cycling the gas plant up and down, you decrease its efficiency.

Clay Sanborn

Following is an engineer’s perspective on how the DOE Atmosphere to Electrons initiative will be implemented.

Rhoda R

I bet that person had a whale of a grand time pulling that on off. I don’t think I could keep a straight face for the entire spiel.


Ahh, the famous TurboEncablulator! Everyone should own one.

D. J. Hawkins

See below for a cut sheet of this marvelous device.

Dems B. Dcvrs

Meh! That’s old model!
I got the new 2018 SuperchargedEncabluator with Photon Booster Assist.

Sounds like he used a buzz-word generator on engineering terms. Sometimes it almost makes sense.


its not cheap, but i am sure the government will buy it.. haha, i am sure they will.
things is though with the governments ‘hi-fidelity’ computer models, the device could be exponentially improved and made cheaper than a common device and thus saving everyone millions, or about $300 per household per year.

paul courtney

And, after it’s perfected and cost-competitive (but nobody wants one), a report can claim 50% more efficiency on the way! (gotta keep the rubes from moving on to the next tent).


A paltry $750,000,000! He needed a longer scroll.

Even if wind generators were free, wind power would be of no value to the power grid. On a private island, fine. Add solar panels too, so the poor Capacity Factor of wind generation could be slightly improved by the poor Capacity Factor of more predictable solar.
This is a marketing video to help sell continued subsidies from the many to the few to waste resources and the environment on the planet’s flimsiest fluid and least energy-dense source — air currents.
The materials contained in just one prop-generator (they’re not “turbines”) exceeds that needed to make the world’s largest nuclear reactor vessel. Along with several more wind-generator’s materials and we can build a 24/7 nuclear plant that generates hundreds of times more energy at a Capacity factor 3x that of wind’s, and on 1/1000 the environmental damage.
The sad reality for wind power…

Scientists & engineers share an implicit oath to truth and facts for the benefit of society. This plan violates that oath and is a marketing effort to mislead folks and serve GE & others who don’t care about the urgency of wise environmental choices today. As P. T. Barnum said: “There’s one born every minute.” Warren Buffet explained (2014). “…on wind energy, we get a tax credit if we build a lot of wind farms. That’s the only reason to build them. They don’t make sense without the tax credit.”, without the PTC, wind power is useless.
Our descendants are watching from the future.

Dr. A. Cannara
[no phone numbers please ~ctm]

Yeah, this is about right. I have a presentation that includes a Google Earth view of a wind project in New Hampshire of some 25 wind turbines and next to it another image at the same scale of a 750 MW natural gas plant. The latter is so small it’s impossible to identify it.


And this reactor technology would beat even the AP designs:

Thorium Debunked

Lars P.

I try hard to understand how the costs will go down:
1) adding supercomputers and state of the art sensors “to accurately estimate wind power plant energy production,”
a) adding design complexity, not simple turbines but integrated turbines
b) adding real-time active control of turbines,
c) implementing “operational strategies to increase reliability and extend turbine lifetimes;”
3) future inventions and making bigger larger towers:
“Innovative design of wind turbines and components such as rotors and drivetrains to optimize performance and enhance energy capture, including larger rotors and taller towers to capture higher-potential wind energy in the Earth’s upper atmosphere”
4) and investing in the grid, controlling consumption, precise wind forecasting:
Controllable, dispatchable, and predictable grid support services for grid resilience and stability, including precise forecasting of wind energy production for short-term grid operation and planning.
And all this ‘adding’ does not add to the costs?
What to my understanding remains open is the uncertainty of filling the demand.
Below a calculation done for Denmark:
“To fill 100% of demand with wind energy it will be necessary to store the surpluses for re-use during deficit periods, and calculations indicate that about 4TWh of storage would be needed to do this with onshore wind compared to about 2.5TWh with offshore wind. While this might appear to give offshore wind an advantage the issue is in fact academic because it’s highly unlikely that Denmark could ever install or obtain access to this much energy storagecomment image
Meanwhile gas is supposed to be more expensive continuously.
By the way we haven’t even started to explore methane clathrates…
I am still no fan of wind turbines….

The Reverend Badger.

Wind energy costs: Cut it in half ? They must have been inspired by some raptor residue to guess that figure.
And when the wind does not blow for 21 consecutive days in winter who will be the first to say “We’re gonna need a bigger battery!”


Hasn’t Griff spent the last few months claiming that wind power is already economically competitive?


Are wind turbines hurricane-proof? What if all Texas had today were turbines for power. Would Texas have power after the hurricane ended?

Green Sand

Another way is high density det cord.

D. J. Hawkins

Jetcord might be a better choice.

Robert from oz

All have missed the obvious, if you halve the installed amount of wind turbines you’ll halve the cost.

Paul Penrose

Not if all that “added” technology doubles the cost of each turbine.


Doubling the size of the turbine way, way more than doubles the cost of each tower/turbine.

john harmsworth

Then they’ll only be a 100% waste of money!

paul courtney

Robert: No, the obvious is, install twice the WTG to halve the cost. Call it CliSci Math.

Paul Penrose

More models is always the answer to these folks. They must really think we are all idiots.

Pat Frank

They only have to think that Congress critters are idiots, Paul. A much better bet.


So true. Politicians are very easily fooled, especially when it involves profit for them and their donors. Since politicians are most interested in themselves much of the time, people end up with little say in the whole matter.

H. D. Hoese

In less than 2 days hurricane force winds are predicted over the area of the windmill field located north of Corpus Christi, Texas.

Rhoda R

A survey of this field after the hurricane might be interesting. Are there any solar farms in the are as well?

The nuclear power plant at South Texas Nuclear will shut down for Hurricane Harvey – as required under federal law for all nuclear plants that may experience hurricane force winds.
The St. Lucie nuclear plant (Florida) shut down before Hurricane Matthew passed in October, 2016:
“Federal rules require nuclear plants to be shut down at least one hour before hurricane winds hit the site, spokesman Peter Robbins said. FPL closed the Hutchinson Island plant at 11:15 a.m. and will reopen it after the category 4 storm is over. ” – local Florida newspaper (FPL is Florida Power and Light; St. Lucie nuclear is on Hutchinson Island)
ctm, there is a story here. Nuclear power unreliable in a hurricane.

From the Houston Chronicle today, re Hurricane Harvey shutting down the nuclear plant near Corpus Christi, Texas:
“Power plants also began battening the hatches. NRG Energy runs a 2,700-megawatt nuclear power plant (South Texas Nuclear Project) in Matagorda County about 10 miles from the Gulf of Mexico. Spokesman Buddy Eller said the (nuclear) plant has special storm crews working around the clock, on a rotating basis.
Several hours before sustained winds reach 73 mph or greater, operators will start to shut down the plant.”
A photo of the STNP plant, the artificial cooling pond, and the Gulf of Mexico. Texas’ Colorado river at the left.

Patrick MJD

“Roger Sowell August 24, 2017 at 7:49 pm
ctm, there is a story here. Nuclear power unreliable in a hurricane.”
A hardened concrete structure is more unreliable than wind turbines in a hurricane?

Don K

Patrick. If a really BIG storm is going to mess up the cooling or something, you really don’t want to find out about that while the plant is running. For a given plant, a hurricane shutdown is probably at most a twice a century event. Let’s see — a day or two in 50 years = 2/(50*365) = .00012 Looks pretty close to 99.99% availability to me. I think actual historic availability allowing for nuclear power has been in the 75% to 80% range.
Aside from which, given 100mph winds, torrential rains, etc, etc, I don’t think demand along the Texas coast is going to be all that high. A lot of folks are going find their lines down or substation underwater.


Wind and solar unreliable every day


No wind, solar or Nuclear during a Hurricane tells us we need fossil fired power generation? I’m sure wind and solar are down during a storm that is not even a Hurricane level winds which occurs a lot more often. .Refineries normally shut down during a Hurricane along the coast because operators cannot get out to the field, do fossil fuel plants, being different, have a point where they also shut down when they are in the path?


Let’s see which comes back on line quicker after the hurricane?


DonK, sounds like a case of being overly cautious. It is a government regulation after all.
If one of the towers were to collapse during the storm, highly unlikely in my opinion, then the reactor can quickly be powered down. All that’s needed at that point is enough power to keep the cooling water running, being able to pump water directly from the cooling pond should be sufficient.

Another source that documents the shut downs of many nuclear plants as hurricanes approached.
One big concern is the wind sending debris at 75-100 mph into vulnerable areas of the plant. The containment dome is not much of a concern, but the transformers, switchgear, cooling tower (if there is one), all are vulnerable. On Harvey, there are no cooling towers at STNP. The cooling is provided by an artificial lake.
From the power-eng article: “Hurricane Andrew: In 1992, staff safely shut down Turkey Point 3 and 4 in south Florida after Hurricane Andrew, the most powerful hurricane ever to hit a nuclear energy facility, knocked out off-site power and damaged electrical infrastructure. Emergency diesel generators were used for six days.” (note: authors probably should have written “before” instead of “after.” — Sowell)

Curious George

What kind of power plants does NOT shut down in a hurricane?

D. J. Hawkins

@Curious George;
Exactly. Nothing Roger has listed as a vulnerability appears to be unique to nuclear.

The fallacy of wind turbines is revealed with simple arithmetic.
5 mW wind turbine, avg output 1/3 nameplate, 20 yr life, electricity @ wholesale 3 cents per kwh produces $8.8E6.
Installed cost @ $1.7E6/mW = $8.5E6. Add the cost of standby CCGT for low wind periods. Add the cost of land lease, maintenance, administration and the cost of standby fossil power for when the wind does not blow.
Solar voltaic and solar thermal are even worse.
The dollar relation is a proxy for energy relation. Bottom line, the energy consumed to design, manufacture, install, maintain and administer renewables appears to exceed the energy they produce in their lifetime.
Without the energy provided by other sources these renewables could not exist.

That’s it. Without subsidies., w/out back up,
Dark Ages energy.

Thank you Dan that is exactly right they cannot produce enough energy in their life span to produce themselves,ergo they are not renewable. They are parasitic and intermittent as useful as tits on a bull.

Exactly. It costs more to buy a Tesla battery than it costs to buy the electricity it stores over its lifetime. It is cheaper to produce the power from fossil fuel than to store free energy in a battery.

This is just yet another rationalisation for spending other people’s money to solve a non-existent problem in an inefficient, intermittent and environmentally damaging manner. Even if wind-turbines were totally cost-free, they would be of zero value in supplying base-load to the power grid.

DeLoss McKnight

Off topic, but I couldn’t resist. Climate change is increasing rat infestations.

john harmsworth

Ridiculous premise on this one. Weather may effect how fast rats get to their maximal population via breeding rate but not what that maximal population is. The population will expand until they can no longer find sufficient food or shelter. Period.
Resistance to pesticides and indifference by the authorities who attempt to control them will impact the final population as well.

Greg Woods

Too late, Gore droppings are found everywhere…


That’s not a lab report that’s a fairy tale.


maybe I am way off base here but wonder if all the (wasted) money spent on huge under performing wind farms had been used towards POS (dwelling) type mills to power the home and safely augment the grid would we not have been better off?
the issue, in my layman opinion, is wind (and solar) doe not work well under normal economy of scale (ie: large) like most items. IMO something that CANNOT be counted on cannot be ramped up to a large economy of scale model like most things.

Make it as cheap as you like but when the wind don’t blow, the power don’t flow.

My first thought was kill off half the world’s population.
I go read the article now.


The watermelons seek an ‘optimal’ (for them and their buddies) global population of 500 to, at most, 750 million people. Even 750 million is about nine-tenths down on today’s 7,500 million (Plus, and still rising).
This link – – gives 7,527,000,000 plus at 1752Z.

CD in Wisconsin

On top of everything else, doesn’t the wind blow in an effort to equalize air pressure when there are differences in that air pressure between areas? I am not a scientist, so please forgive if I have this understanding wrong.
What are the consequences of harvesting that wind energy on a significant scale and interfering with Mother Nature’s response to the air pressure differences? Have there been any studies in this regard?
I thought the Green Movement was about minimizing human impacts on Mother Nature. Perhaps not.


You’ve never noticed that when trees are not waggling their branches, there is no wind? Obviously wind is caused by aforementioned trees waggling said branches. I plan to write a scholarly paper on this neglected phenomenon. I’ll be needing peer reviewers.


I’ll volunteer, but only if you provide the alcoholic beverages.


With honourable exceptions, the ‘Green’ movement is about socialism, and imposing that onto the part of the population that – for now – lives in ‘liberal democracies’.
We have seen how the UK’s own Liberal democrats do not always speak in a liberal [or democratic] fashion – not least about the Brexit vote.
And those who are able to live on into the ‘Optimal’ population world these socialists want wil find that we are – mostly – slaves or concubines.
Not a good outlook is the ‘New World Order’ comes to pass.
And I see little sign of the [British]Tories actively seeking to prevent this.
The US, at least, has DJT!

Dems B. Dcvrs

“New energy science and technological breakthroughs could cut the cost of wind energy in half by 2030”
They start making breakthroughs, when GW funding comes under the Axe.
Very Interesting.


That doe vid was so full of buzz words it actually became comical 🙂 I tried to count them but could not stop laughing!


“The rise of wind energy over the past decade has been driven largely by technological advances that have made wind turbines more efficient at a lower cost.”
Just think about this opening statement and how false it is and wonder about the accuracy or viability of the claims in the entire article.
Any knowledgeable person knows that the rise of wind energy has to do with subsidies, mandates for renewable, penalties on fossil, restrictions on which energy must be purchased first, free land, excessive regulations on fossil, lease fees and production fees on fossil fuel . Meanwhile fossil fuels are the largest contributor to the US treasury after income tax, how much do the renewable’s pay in taxes?
When I was involved in ASME boiler code activities I was impressed with some of the government labs contribution including their role to advance the development of high temperature materials. They did a lot of testing and played an important role in new materials development.
It seems as though every agency has been totally corrupted in he last 8 years including these once great Laboratories that once were free of political influence. This report is not believable, anyone who has worked in industry and witnessed the development and commercialization of new or improvements of equipment on the ground can smell the political influence in exaggerated and distorted claims.
Even diligent scientists are generally over optimistic and when things get to the real engineering stage the costs inevitably rise.
Consider all extra the cost of steel, concrete, and other materials to make larger and higher turbines, it’s tough to believe the claimed savings are viable. A lot of fossil fuels are required to manufacture the basic materials, fabricate the hardware and erect the turbines especially offshore. They need some common sense Engineering input. ,

John of Cloverdale, WA, Australia

“The material requirements of a modern wind turbine have been reviewed by the US Geological Survey (Wind Energy in the United States and Materials Required for the Land-Based Turbine Industry From 2010 Through 2030). On average, 1 megawatt of wind capacity requires 103 tonnes of stainless steel, 402 tonnes of concrete, 6.8 tonnes of fibreglass, three tonnes of copper and 20 tonnes of cast iron. The blades are made of fibreglass, the tower of steel and the base of concrete.” Then you must build the roads to service these “windmills”.


No roads. Dirt paths.


‘New energy science and technological breakthroughs could cut the cost of wind energy in half by 2030—making it fully competitive with the fuel cost of natural gas.’
A fun game. Why not 90%?
“If you are going to make up a number, make up a big one.” – Gamecock
‘This new finding is outlined in a report’
Good grief! It’s not a ‘finding.’ Output of models is not data; it’s speculation.
‘by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) that examines the future of wind power plants’
Wow! Able to examine the future!
‘—backed by the supercomputing power of the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE’s) national laboratories.’
Can we run cars on supercomputing power?
‘“System Management of Atmospheric Resource through Technology,” or SMART strategies.’
Replacing STUPID strategies, I presume.


Thanks for the comment. while the government paper tigers are talking about cost reductions that are not realistic, the real life engineers and scientists have reduced the cost of fossil fuels especially Natural gas with real technology breakthroughs that have shown up in the real world with significant increased supply and much lower cost. Government mandated Wind turbines will never compete with the free market fossil fuel machine that has made life continuously better throughout many decades even with the table tilted by our governments against them.
At what point is the government going to address the ever increasing problem of slicing and dicing birds as the amount of Turbines increase?


The irony is that wind generators could never have been built without the preexisting fossil fuel energy and could not be built in the future using their own energy source. Wind seems to be nuisance gesture energy.


Let me summarize this report: Poor wind farm performance isn’t due to the wind not blowing. The poor performance is due to the wind turbines not being pointed into the wind.
Thank God for supercomputers, now we know: point wind turbines into the wind correctly.
Who knew!?


If they were not in such a rush to implement inferior technology so hastily and extensively, not fully developed, we would not be suffering from the many inherent pitfalls with wind turbines. Why did they not fix all the problems before recklessly pushing an inferior product on us. BTW while there is some sarcasm in that statement this has been a big problem with biofuels projects I worked on. The Obama government was desperately pushing for commercialization before all the issues were resolved and every project failed.

michael hart

How do you cut the cost of subsidized wind-power in your model? Cut the subsidies in your model! Yes, these people are genii.


Flogging a dead horse. “They” are so intent on making wind produced electricity viable that nothing will stop their march to failure. Soon we will be hearing about “wind storage” as the answer to its’ unpredictability.


The wonderful thing about renewable energy is that it is always going to be 40% more efficient in 15 years time and cheaper than it is now.

So if wnd might cost half us much in 13 years, do we focus on research and stop subsidizing the proliferation of today’s inferior technology? How can you justify subsidizing wind facilities that will soon be dinosaurs which wll be taking up prime wind supporting real estate? Expensive wind would not seem to be the best option to bridge the transition to cheaper wind. Justifying today’s wind takes big subsidies and assumptions of long term value.

You could probably cut it more than half if you just did away with it…just sayin…


So what are they going to do to prevent the major health impacts from Infrasound on rural residents who are forced to live with and in the vicinity of the bird life, human health, environment, scenic view destroying wind turbines?.
It is now well established that the 20 hertz or lower infrasound well below the threshold of human hearing, activates the hairs in the liquid filled ear canals that provide the sense of balance.
Constant agitation of these tiny hairs particularly in the 20% or so of very suseptible individuals in the population is the equivalent of motion sickness continuing 24 hours a day for days at a time with all the health and mental consequences that type of continuous low grade torture brings on.
An Irish family sued and won, with more cases still to come, a major compensation claim from an Irish turbine company which refused to go to court but rather paid up than have what is becoming an turbine generated infrasound created health epidemic opened up for legal examination.
A turbine created infrasound health epidemic that the politicians and greens refuse to recognise and accept as highly destructive of the health of those forced through no fault of their own to live in the vicinity of newly erected turbines.


Thank you ROM for addressing the “low grade torture” issue. In Ontario, the refusal for the government to acknowledge this issue has become an ethical crisis.
In a study authored by Jerry Punch and Richard James, titled “Wind Turbine Noise and Human Health: A Four Decade History of Evidence that Wind Turbines Pose Risks,” the authors do not take a pro-wind or anti-wind position but, rather, advocate for a “pro-health” perspective. They describe this view in their conclusion:
“A pro-health view is that there is enough anecdotal and scientific evidence to indicate that ILFN [infrasound and low frequency noise] from IWTs [industrial wind turbines] causes annoyance, sleep disturbance, stress, and a variety of other AHEs [adverse health effects] to warrant siting the turbines at distances sufficient to avoid such harmful effects, which, without proper siting, occur in a substantial percentage of the population. … It is our belief that the bulk of the available evidence justifies a pro-health perspective. It is unacceptable to consider people living near wind turbines as collateral damage while this debate continues.”