Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Generating capacity blown away

Wind is notorious as an energy source owing to its intermittency. When planning grid supplies, intermittent sources of power are a headache. It requires fine management and balancing of loads. Is there a wind shortage? by Tyler Cowen introduces another aspect of wind energy I hadn't particularly given thought to. We are concerned about consumption of nonrenewable resources such as coal, wood, gas, etc. Wind fluctuates day-to-day, sure. But what about when it fluctuates in availability year-to-year?
Electricity generated by US wind farms fell 6 per cent in the first half of the year even as the nation expanded wind generation capacity by 9 per cent, Energy Information Administration records show.

The reason was some of the softest air currents in 40 years, cutting power sales from wind farms to utilities…

“We never anticipated a drop-off in the wind resource as we have witnessed over the past six months,” David Crane, chief executive of power producer NRG Energy, told analysts last month…

Standard and Poor’s put a negative outlook on bonds issued by two wind farm companies as their revenues tracked wind speeds lower.

“Although our current expectation is that the wind resource will revert back to historical averages, at this time it is unclear when that will happen,” the rating agency said.

Wind generated 4.4 per cent of US electricity last year, up from 0.4 per cent a decade earlier. But this year US wind plants’ “capacity factor” has averaged just a third of their total generating capacity, down from 38 per cent in 2014. EIA noted that slightly slower wind speeds can reduce output by a disproportionately large amount.
It may be unreliable, but at least there never will be a wind cartel.

Should be a short term problem, though, as next year is an election year and there should be no shortage of wind in 2016.

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