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Clean Power projected cost drops in wind

Published on October 5th, 2011 | by Zachary Shahan

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Wind Energy Webinar — Interesting Information & Graphs

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October 5th, 2011 by Zachary Shahan
 
An occasional writer here on CleanTechnica and the #1 wind power expert I know, Chris Varrone, let me know about a global webinar on wind energy last week that he was one of the presenters for. I was able to attend the webinar and got a few things out of it that I thought I should share here with you all.

World Wind Power Growth & Projected Growth

As reported previously here on CleanTechnica and shown on our world wind power page, installed wind power worldwide has grown at a fast pace in recent years. This was discussed in the webinar by Shruti Shukla, Policy Director of the Global Wind Energy Council (GWEC) as an intro. As a refresher, here are a couple graphs (which she also shared):

Newly installed world wind power capacity by year 1996-2010

click to enlarge

Cumulative installed wind power capacity worldwide 1996-2010

click to enlarge

Now, new to me, from 2011 to 2015, the Global Wind Energy Council (GWEC) projects that wind will continue growing strong and will reach 459 GW by 2015. (This is if wind power policies in key countries remain at, at least, the level they are today.)

Projected Wind Energy Growth to 2015 (CLICK TO ENLARGE)

The biggest projected growth is expected to occur in China (of course), North America, India, Brazil, and Europe.

She also touched on the clear increases in clean energy investment around the world in recent years (note that wind energy got about 40% of that in 2010):

And especially in China:

And now perhaps my favorite slide of the whole event — perceptions of the cost of wind and coal versus cost realities:

cost of wind versus cost of coal

Wind has gotten cheaper and cheaper while coal is getting more expensive (and that trend isn’t expected to change) — but people seem stuck in the past with regards to their cost perceptions (no surprise if they haven’t seen updated information).

Now, Shruti’s summary slide:

On the last bit there, Shruti was emphasizing that “for wind to become the answer for our problems of energy security, our issues with clean energy growth, we definitely the need to focus more and more on national and regional markets and to see that there is a long-term legislative framework in place for wind.”

I think it was clear that a key national/regional market she was referring to was the U.S./North America, given it’s importance and current policy uncertainty. More on that here:

U.S. Wind Power Policy

U.S. policy instability was brought up several times in the webinar. This is something we write about a lot here on CleanTechnica, due to its critical importance to the industry. Despite not getting anywhere near the subsidies nuclear and fossil fuel energy sources got in their early years, a number of folks in the U.S. are trying to kill any subsidies for wind on the unfair assertion that important energy sources should not receive any help from the government.

Overcoming this opposition to putting wind on equal playing ground is critical to the US’ clean energy economy future (and its placement in the global economy).

historical energy subsidies nuclear oil renewable energy

energy subsidies

The need for fair subsidy/government policy was also mentioned numerous times in CleanTechnica’s interview with Tom Kimbis, SEIA’s Vice President of Strategy and External Affairs, last night. Fair government policies across the energy arena are critical to renewable energy’s continued rapid growth and success.

Wind & Natural Gas

Now, one last thing I wanted to touch on in this piece is natural gas. Chris was focusing on the need for continued innovation in his part of the webinar and brought up some interested graphs and topics regarding natural gas.

1. While wind power hit grid parity in recent years, a sharp drop in the cost of natural gas took that away.

Note that the figure on the right should be $25-40/MWh (not kWh), and that while wind was cheaper than natural gas for several years but got undercut by rapid drops in the cost of natural gas a couple years ago, the price of wind has gone down again and it is at or below grid parity in many markets in 2011.

2. The price of natural gas is expected to rise pretty sharply again in the near future. (see graph at the bottom of this page)

And, combining that with continued improvements in wind turbine technology, wind power should be cheaper than natural gas again before too long, perhaps getting down to 3.5-4 cents/kWh. (The specifics regarding aerodynamics, drive trains, and intelligent operation are things Chris focused on in his talk as well — maybe that’s something we could get him to do a guest post on here on CleanTechnica.)

3. However, Chris mentioned that we should realize that the most promising and growing markets are in the developing the world. There, wind is not competing with the low cost of natural gas in the US, but is competing with coal, nuclear, and diesel (which are easier to compete with). But even in the US, the cost of natural gas is projected to be easier and easier to compete with (see the projected increases in price below).

Also, (as a number of people in this field do) Chris advises us that natural gas can sometimes be a friend of wind rather than a foe, especially in the US. Natural gas, due to its quick-ramping capabilities, can help us transition to wind, solar, geothermal, a smarter grid, and cheaper energy storage options. Something to consider. (I’ve been considering it for quite awhile, from a policy point of view, and am still on the line, but lean towards agreeing with Chris on the matter.)

 

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About the Author

spends most of his time here on CleanTechnica as the director/chief editor. Otherwise, he's probably enthusiastically fulfilling his duties as the director/editor of Solar Love, EV Obsession, Planetsave, or Bikocity. Zach is recognized globally as a solar energy, electric car, and wind energy expert. If you would like him to speak at a related conference or event, connect with him via social media. You can connect with Zach on any popular social networking site you like. Links to all of his main social media profiles are on ZacharyShahan.com.



  • Parichag

    The graph on actual dollars of subsidy to the O&G industry is misleading. If you look at the actual amount of energy produced or weight carried by Oil and Gas, it would seem to be a good investment. On a strait dollars and cents comparison, of course O&G gets a lot more. It’s the actual output of the industry that should be compared and that is not a simple answer because many would argue that climate change should be factored into the argument. Lets just understand that a comparison of subsidies does not show the true picture of productivity and output of the industry compared to the cost of the subsidy. I think O&G would win hands down based on a percentage of the energy produced in the whole economy. This is difficult to quantify because O&G are used for other things than energy production and this has to be factored in as well. These numbers are simplistic and help politicians to understand but an standard baseline is also needed for the renewables to get the help they need.
    I’m all for renewables becasue they need subsidies to survive and thrive, governments have to help nascent technologies to flourish. If we look at potential successes in this industry it behooves us to support this industry with subsidies, customers, and good reporting.

    • Anonymous

      Yes, there are other important things that should be considered.

    • Anonymous

      The oil industry is wildly profitable. It is a very mature industry which can finance its own future development using a very small percentage of its profits.

      Why should we use taxpayer dollars to support an industry which is fully capable of standing on its own?

      IMO we should use valuable taxpayer dollars to assist promising technologies grow to the point where they can stand on their own two feet and not as profit-enhancers for mature, successful technologies.

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