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Realities of the Modern-Day Grid Cancel Some of Wind Power’s Carbon Savings

Update: following the publishing of this piece, we got the following important note from AWEA, which I am reposting in full here before the original article:

A recent analysis from Argonne Laboratory has generated some press interest for its conclusion that adding current levels of wind energy to the grid yields even greater reductions in emissions of harmful pollutants than expected, but that at levels of wind energy several times higher than are on the grid today, the incremental pollution savings of adding wind energy to the grid are somewhat smaller than they are at lower levels of wind. Unfortunately, this study’s findings have been misreported in the press, so we’d like to set the record straight:

– Much of the press coverage of this study is incorrectly reporting that the study finds that wind energy does not reduce pollution, or that the pollution savings are always smaller than expected. The study is explicitly clear that neither of those interpretations is correct.

– “The study finds that at the wind energy levels of today and the foreseeable future, wind energy’s emissions savings are even larger than expected (12% carbon dioxide emissions savings with 10% of the electricity on the grid coming from wind, 21% carbon dioxide emissions savings at 20% wind).”

– The study acknowledges that its findings are a theoretical exercise based on the assumption that power plants in Illinois are operated in isolation from those in other states, and as a result the study’s conclusions have little to no bearing on how the actual utility system works, particularly at high levels of wind generation.

– The study also acknowledges that it uses very outdated and unreliable estimates for making assumptions about the efficiency of fossil-fired power plants at different output levels.

– Other analyses using more accurate assumptions and more reliable sources have found that wind’s emissions savings are as large or larger than expected.

– Real-world data confirms that states that have added significant amounts of wind energy, such as Illinois, have seen fossil fuel use and emissions decline by as much or more than expected.

– Finally, analysis of readily available DOE data puts to rest the idea that wind energy has a significant negative impact on the efficiency of fossil-fired power plants.
Wind energy is one of the most environmentally friendly ways to generate electricity. Wind energy emits no pollution, creates no hazardous waste, and uses virtually no water. All of these advantages are beneficial to wildlife, and they are not shared by any non-renewable energy source.

For a more detailed analysis of the Argonne study, please see here:…


The realities of the modern day power grid are the problem behind the inefficiencies created when more wind power is connected, says a new report released by researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Argonne National Laboratory.

Argonne scientists modeled the Illinois electric grid in an effort to determine how wind energy affects carbon dioxide emissions by testing how more wind power added to the grid would affect the system. They found that having to adjust for the inclusion of wind power adds inefficiencies that cancel out some of the carbon dioxide reduction.

Illinois Wind Farm

The problem?

The older technology running in the background is what hampers wind’s carbon-dioxide-reducing properties. Because wind doesn’t blow all the time, the grid operators sometimes have to turn on extra fossil-burning plants to keep up with the demand.

“Turning these large plants on and off is inefficient,” explained study author Lauren Valentino. “A certain percentage of the energy goes into just heating up the boilers again.”

“Illinois gets its strongest winds at night, when demand is low,” said co-author Audun Botterud, an Argonne energy systems engineer. “At the same time, we have a high fraction of very large, inflexible power plants in the system.”

Botterud notes that the best solution would be to find a way to store unused energy created when the wind is blowing and use it for peak times when the wind may have died down, but there is not yet a good and cheap way to store such energy.

Source: Argonne National Laboratory
Image Source: Tom/shock264

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I'm a Christian, a nerd, a geek, and I believe that we're pretty quickly directing planet-Earth into hell in a handbasket! I also write for Fantasy Book Review (, and can be found writing articles for a variety of other sites. Check me out at for more.


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