Wind Power Facts

Jenny asks…

What costs more, nuclear power or wind power?

What costs more per kwh, nuclear or wind power? How should I debate nuclear over wind?

Windmill Farms answers:

Nuclear has a higher up front cost to build (for obvious reasons), but lower cost per kwh when compared to wind.
If you are debating this though, try this approach.
Nuclear power is a base load power supply system. That means it will always run 24/7 and supply large amounts of electricity (average for Generation II plant is about 1000 MW)
Wind power could never be a base load provider for the fact that it is so unpredictable. Also, when the wind does kick in, utility companies have to ramp up or down their systems to accommodate for this extra power coming into the grid. This makes wind cumbersome when compared to nuclear which will always run when asked and not change rapidly.
Wind could maybe be a peak load system, but the wind doesn’t really blow much when electric demand is peaking (wind usually blows at night.) Wind, while it looks good on paper, isn’t very friendly to utility companies due to the constant ramping up and down of base and intermediate load systems. Everyone is so caught up in the green revolution though that they want to see more wind turbines though.
To wrap this up….Nuclear has a higher initial cost for construction, but very low cost per kwh. Very reliable, no pollution except for waste (average Nuclear power plant will produce about a refrigerator full of waste a year, AND THAT’S IT!). No CO2, no SOX, no NOX. Nothing but water vapor and waste.
Wind is cheaper up front, and has no variable fuel cost, but is unpredictable. Not as efficient in the long run.

Helen asks…

How expensive is wind power?

How expensive would wind power be to the USA if we started using it as a primary resource? And also, how much could it save us?
If someone can answer this, please site a source. Thanks!

Windmill Farms answers:

Hey Lucky, your question is a little broad based, but I’ll take a stab at it. Renewable energy seems to have an incredible following of misinformation. Having used solar and wind to power our own home for the last 11 years, I’m always amazed at how many people are willing to offer their advice on wind power, having never even laid their hands on a turbine. Wind power will probably never be our primary source of grid energy in the US, but not for the reasons listed here. There is enough wind energy in North and South Dakota to run our entire country, that’s a fact you can look up in several places. But it would be stupid to do that because you would have to completely reconfigure the grid to make use of it. It does however put to rest the idea that we need millions of square miles of them. The best source of power for our country is a diverse one, some wind, some solar, some hydro, biomass, and even coal and nuclear should be in the mix.

One of the great things about wind energy is that its spread pretty evenly over the middle third of our globe, which just happens to be where all the people are. Having to put them in the middle of nowhere isn’t true at all, just take a look at Amsterdam, Ne. They have over 60 working wind turbines including the offshore units, all within 25 miles of the city center. There is even one right on the property where their large coal fired power plant is. The last 4 times I was there, they were all running, and nothing was coming out of the coal plants stack. This clearly illustrates what they were made for. Back in the US, we are rapidly building new farms. Virginia has a new farm on the foothills that will boast over 120 turbines when it is complete in 2 years, the story is true in about 37 of our 50 states right now. This explains how wind power is doubling every 2 years right now.

Cost is a bit more nebulous to ascertain, but consider this. Nuclear advocates have been claiming low cost electricity for 30 years now, yet if you look at our grid source to unit expense ratio, the highest cost electricity is always where the nuke plants are. Chicago is classic, they have 13 operating plants around the city (usually 8 or 10 of them are running) and they boast the second highest utility rates in the country at almost 25 cents per kwh. The cheapest happen to be in the Pacific Northwest, home of the highest percentage of hydro sourced grid power. There was a fantastic article in The Wall Street Journal earlier this year comparing nuclear to wind. It didn’t look at cost estimates, only historical data. For the first time, wind came in under the cost of nuclear based power last year, and the spread is continuing to widen. It will take a few more years to get wind below the cost of oil or coal, but it will one day get there. This is why all the new turbines are suddenly going up, the utlitiy companies have finally figured out what many of us have known all along. Once you build a turbine, you don’t have to feed it anymore. It will need maintenance, but then so do all those coal and nuke plants.

None of this even addresses the environmental aspects of wind power, but if you’re curious about that, click on my avatar and check out some other answers I’ve posted. On a smaller scale, our little home sized turbine is rated at 900 watts, and we have a 1.4 kw solar array. The two combined provide us with about 85% of our homes electricity, the rest comes from the grid. All the equipment cost us about $13,000 11 years ago, some of that we got back in tax incentives and grants. But our electric bill since then has always been around $5 per month. There is also the fact that our home has not been without electricity for even a minute in all that time, hard to put a price tag on that. So to answer your question, what is the cost? It’s a little hard to quantify. If you’re curious about it, my suggestion is don’t waste your time asking hacks like me online for information, go to the source, I will list several below. Good luck Lucky, and take care, Rudydoo

Donald asks…

need help with calculating power generation for thermodynamics class?

the question reads: 2 sites are being considered for wind power generation. site : the wind blows steadily at 7m/s for 3000 hours per year. site 2: wind blows at 10 m/s for 2000 hours per year. assume wind velocity is negligable at other times of the year. it say hint: note that the mass flow rate of air is proportional to velocity.
i have not found an equation in my text to enable me to solve it. i would like to see the equation and steps to solve it.

Windmill Farms answers:

Calculating the power that can be generated by the wind requires a bit more
analysis then a simple formula.

The power generated by the wind on a wind turbine is given by:

P = M?


moment of blade: M = r x F_m

relative wind velocity: ?,
which I believe is the vector difference of the
linear velocity of the blade and the wind velocity.

Moment force of the blade: F_m
which is a vector sum of the lift force F_l and drag force: F_d
F_m = (F_l)sin? – (F_d)cos?

Blade radius(i.e., moment arm of the moment force): r

lift force: F_l = ½ ? A?²C_l
drag force: F_d = ½ ? A?²C_d

Other considerations are conversion efficiency, blade
design, height of structure.

So you see that it is a bit more complicated to arrive
at a accurate determination of the power generated.

Notice however, that in the first formula stated above:
P = M?, that the higher velocity the higher the power
generated. In fact, the force of the wind is proportional
to the square of the velocity and since power in general
is the product of force and velocity, then: P = Fv => v³.

So that, the power of the wind is proportional to the
cube of the velocity. And therefore, the site having
higher windspeed; possibly due to higher elevation
would generate the most power.

Then again the other site offers 1000 more hours per
year of wind generation and if you could build a taller
tower to attach the blades so as to increase the wind
speed, then perhaps this site would be the better choice.

Hope this helps!

John asks…

Is it worth my while investing in natural energy for my home?

I was thinking about investing in some Solar Panels and a small Wind Turbine to power my home.
I live alone and do not consume lots of electricity.

From what I hear I am looking at waiting at least 10 years before I see them pay for themselves.
Is this true? Are they really more trouble than they are worth?

Because if the cost-benefit ratio is too unbalanced, I might as well just stick to nuclear power.

Windmill Farms answers:

Hey X, what you’ve been reading is basically correct, you are looking at probably 10 + years for your financial payback. If that is what you are after, probably better to spend a few dollars making your living space a bit more efficient, which will cut down on your current electric bill, and put the rest in long term bonds. You’ll get your money back faster with the investment.

We live in a home that is completely powered by the wind and sun. It still has the utility company connected, which I now use as my storage battery for excess power, and then I can draw on them if I need extra down the road. There is a small fee for that too. The original reason we got involved is because at the time, our power was always going out at inconvenient times, and later for environmental reasons. If, as you say, the cost benefit ratio is too unbalanced, you might as well stick to nuclear, then I’m guessing environmental benefits are not of interest to you. Lots of people grow tomatoes in their garden even though it’s easier and cheaper to buy them at the store, or the farmers market if you want fresh. For them it’s therapuetic to make something of their own, and provide at least a sustainable patch of green grass in a world of commercial vegetable fields. The only difference between them and us is we just grow electrons in our garden, even though it is probalby cheaper to buy them commercially, from the nuclear plant, or someplace else. There is also the fact that our home has not been without power for even a minute the last 13 years now, but it’s hard to put a price tag on something like that.

If you really think you might want to get involved a little without having to bet the farm, try starting small like we did 13 years ago. A couple of golf cart batteries, one 70 or so watt panel and a few miscellaneous parts and we were lighting our kitchen and bath and running a few small electronics, like a radio, cell phone charger and so on. And within months when the next power outage came, those items continued to function, free of charge or gasoline. Home Power Magazine liked our small starter idea so much years ago they ran a small article on it. If you subscribe, you can use their online archive search engine and look for an article called, “Small System First.” If you’re handy with stuff around the house, it might be a good project for you. Check out the magazine and some other sources below. Good luck X, and take care, Rudydoo

Joseph asks…

Where does the energy to power appliances come from?

Where does the energy that powers electrical appliance’s in one’s home come from?

Windmill Farms answers:

The fact of the matter is that the overwhelming majority of electrical power generated in the USA is generated by burning fossil fuels. Of the fossil fuels, coal is the predominant fuel. Hydroelectric power is a distant second to coal. There is some power being generated by nuclear power plants, but it has been many years since a new plant has been built. Other more environmentally friendly electrical power generation methods include wind powered turbines and solar energy which are considerably more expensive sources of electricity at this time. There are also some small power generating plants that run on combustible material otherwise destined for landfills and some small projects burning the methane gas captured in landfills.

I hope this information helps.

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