Friday, May 06, 2005

New German Report Claims Plenty Of Available Wind Energy

A new report appearing in the IEEE Spectrum online edition says the German government has recently issued a report claiming there's plenty of wind power available:
In a 514-page study released this February, [the Deutsche Energie Agentur, or DENA] concludes that by 2015—when Germany hopes to have shut down 7300 megawatts' worth of nuclear power—the country can more than double its wind capacity to 36 000 MW, from 16 600 MW in 2004. The study was sponsored by a consortium of German grid operators, transmission companies such as E.ON AG (in Düsseldorf), and wind power interests.

Germany's total grid capacity is close to 120 000 MW, and wind currently supplies 6-7 percent of the country's electricity. (Though wind accounts for about 14 percent of capacity it supplies a smaller proportion of total electricity because of its intermittency.)


One surprise finding is that no additional thermal power plants would be required to ensure sufficient supply when winds are low. In fact, the plan predicts that doubling the capacity of Germany's wind sector actually reduces the overall need for reserve power on the grid by 2000 MW. The reason is that the wind turbines will be broadly distributed and therefore can be expected to continually generate at least 2000 MW of "statistically guaranteed power."

But there's always a fly in the ointment:
German opposition parties point out that, according to the DENA study, cutting CO2 emissions by using wind power will cost more than €40 per ton of carbon, making it less cost-efficient than many energy conservation options. Germany's utility association agrees: "The DENA study shows that the programs for the promotion of renewable energies need to be revised," says Eberhard Meller, general executive manager of the German Electricity Association, in Berlin.
One wonders if this would still be true after GE gets their 7 MW turbines online.