Monday, June 9, 2008

The Economics of Wind Energy…

It is not commonly known, but wind energy isn’t the golden egg we have been waiting for…YET. This should not come as a surprise, wind and other forms of alternative energy are still relatively in their infancy, and we shouldn’t expect their perfection right away.
The challenges lie in attracting investment, as well as ensuring the sustainable development of wind energy facilities with regard to the natural habitats and landscapes of South Dakota, which are home to many species of wildlife.
Wind energy has no capacity for storage, so instant transmission is the only option. However, transmission lines cost upwards of $1,000,000 per mile, and have to be planned and sited across many states and thousands of acres of public and private land. Energy is also lost during transmission (approximately 10% with increases the further it is transmitted). Also, the appropriate wind speeds must be readily available; between 10mph and 50mph. Outside of these speeds the turbines do not spin and produce energy.
I believe that because of these issues, we should look at wind energy facility development more conducive to smaller communities, and possibly individuals. Wind energy was first utilized on private farms and ranches to help pump water, etc. This may be the course we need to take to make efforts and investments more viable.
Whatever the outcome, we shouldn’t throw away the whole program because it hasn’t been perfected…right now. As with anything, the more it is developed and utilized, the more we will be able to alter our usage and implementation of wind energy facilities on the energy grid…

4 comments:

Douglas said...

Transmission is not the only option. The wind energy should be producing hydrogen for local use in the area of the wind generator and for conversion to methanol as a portable fuel.

The instantaneous "efficiency" would be greater, and the combined efficiency would be less, but the energy would be more useful.

Jim Beddow said...

I am particularly struck with your comments re: the local and individual applications for first generation wind energy. The macro picture can look and be intimidating and discouraging for small towns and rural folks. Obviously, the current, major investments focus on the large scale wind farm concepts. These developments do pose challenges regarding our visions of what rural landscapes might and should be like and look like 10-15 years from now. Engaging national, state, and local leaders around possible visions and scenarios for the future will be important work.
Jim Beddow
Rural Learning Center

RuralFan said...

Great blog! I can’t believe I just stumbled on it today.

As for wind energy, what’s exciting to me is that the rate of technological improvement in the industry seems to be exploding in the last 6-12 months -- largely due to the increased investment in the industry. As the industry matures, wind energy will become a much more attractive energy source for utility companies and rural residents/communities alike.

But electrical systems are complex animals, and we can’t lose sight of the fact that our grid system is already antiquated and tapped out. Even if wind is not an option, we need to invest in transmission lines. Without it neither wind energy development nor traditional power plants like Big Stone II are going to happen. And that’s when electricity costs are going to go the way of gasoline costs.

Joe Bartmann said...

"Small wind," as many call it, is a great strategy. It fits South Dakota and rural communities and families so well.

Thanks for such a great and thoughtful blog Mayor Scott. You are a fresh voice of leadership for South Dakota. Keep it up!

Joe Bartmann