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Clean Power

Published on July 18th, 2012 | by Adam Johnston

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Wind Energy More Energy Efficient than Fossil Fuels

July 18th, 2012 by  


 
Here’s something that may surprise you. Wind energy is more efficient than carbon-based fuels. That’s despite all the best efforts of the dirty fuels industry to trick us into thinking that wind energy can’t match the efficiency of fossil fuels in producing electricity.

Photo Credit: wind turbine in Whitemoor, Cambridgeshire, UK via Shutterstock

A recent article I read on the matter pointed to some very interesting information. The article’s talking points came from UK government data. The article pointed out that renewable energy supplies 4%, or 14 Terra-Watt hours (TWh), of the nation’s electricity. What is even more interesting to note was that, despite renewable energy only providing a small fraction of Great Britain’s electricity, not even 1% of its energy is lost. In other words, wind and (and other renewable energies) are VERY, VERY efficient.

Now, contrast that to fossil fuels used to supply the electricity. Gas supplies about 48% of the country’s electricity needs, with 372 TWh. However, gas also loses 54% of its energy as heat.

The article notes it’s a very similar picture for coal and oil. Coal supports 28% of the UK’s electricity supply (297 TWh), while losing 66% of its energy as heat. Oil only supplies 3%, but it loses even a bigger chunk, 77%. Nuclear power supplied 16% of the U.K.’s electricity, while it lost 65% of its energy as heat.

Zoe Casey, from the European Wind Energy Association, and author of the article, made some interesting points as to why the fossil fuel industry has it wrong with regards to wind energy and efficiency:

“Wind energy opponents centre their arguments on the ‘capacity factor’ of a wind farm. The capacity factor of any power plant is a measure of the amount of energy it actually generates compared to its theoretical maximum output in a given time. No power plant operates at 100% of its capacity.

Wind farms do not operate at wind speeds of less than 4 metres per second, and they are shut down to prevent damage during gale force winds of 25 metres/second or more, or for maintenance. But conventional power stations also do not operate all the time – they stop generating electricity during maintenance or breakdowns.

Comparing the outputs of both sources does show that conventional power stations produce power at a level compared to their theoretical maximum that is currently higher than the level for wind energy. Wind power’s capacity factor is around 30% onshore and 40% offshore, increasing year on year as more wind turbines come online and technology improves. Meanwhile, data from the German Association of Energy and Water Industries (Bundesverband der Energie und Wasserwirtschaft) shows that fossil fuels are often below 50%, even in winter.”

Furthermore, as noted above, converting wind to electricity doesn’t result in the staggering losses of energy as heat.

Wind energy’s cost are coming down, while the United Kingdom and other places get a big bang for its buck with wind energy. Let’s hope that trend continues.

Source: Renewable Energy World


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About the Author

is expected to complete the Professional Development Certificate in Renewable Energy from the University of Toronto by December 2017. Adam recently completed his Social Media Certificate from Algonquin College Continuing & Online Learning. Adam also graduated from the University of Winnipeg with a three-year B.A. combined major in Economics and Rhetoric, Writing & Communications in 2011. Adam owns a part-time tax preparation business. He also recently started up Salay Consulting and Social Media services, a part-time business which provides cleantech writing, analysis, and social media services. His eventual goal is to be a cleantech policy analyst. You can follow him on Twitter @adamjohnstonwpg or check out his business www.salayconsultiing.com.



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