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Published on May 26th, 2015 | by Jake Richardson


New Wind Turbine Capacity Factor Could Increase From 40% To 60%

May 26th, 2015 by  

The engineer and economist Bernard Chabot has written an article explaining how wind power capacity factors for new wind turbines could increase from about 40% to 60%.


The article is titled, “The fast shift towards the « silent wind power revolution » in USA and the related huge energy and economic benefits.” You can read the 59-page PDF file, if you like.

On page 4, he says, “Using the new SWR wind turbines models in the 35 States with a potential of less than 60 GW with the 2008 models and a minimum gross capacity factor of 35 % would dramatically increase the aggregated areas suitable for wind power development (cf. slides 23-25): analysis from NREL shows that the aggregated areas suitable for a minimum gross capacity factor of 50% is increased from zero to 2 million km2 by shifting from the 2008 wind turbines to the 2013 SWR wind turbine (Su > 4 m2/kW), and that with the near future SWR technology (Su > 6 m2/kW), there are 2 million km2 available to deliver more than 60 % gross capacity factors. At a minimum 35 % gross capacity factor, the increase of potential aggregated GW in those 35 States is from 178 GW to respectively 2,913 GW and to 6,160 GW.”

On a previous page he mentions, “average annual US onshore capacity factor at 32.7 % in 2014”. So, would an increase in capacity factor from 32.7% to 60% would be a nearly doubling. He says that new technology, “future SWR wind turbines models with a reference Su value of more than 6 m2/kW and a hub height of up to 140 meters,” can generate these higher capacity factors.

Of course, it makes sense that increasing a turbine’s swept area and hub height would be advantageous. Energy.gov has a very concise summary of the growing effectiveness of wind turbines, “For example, the average nameplate capacity of newly installed turbines in 2013 was 1.87 megawatts (MW), up 162% since 1999. The average hub height of turbines installed in 2013 was 80 meters, up 45% from 1999. Also, 75% of installed turbines had a rotor diameter of 100 meters in length or more. Increased hub heights and larger rotors allow turbines to generate more renewable electricity, in part by taking advantage of the stronger, more consistent winds that are often found at higher altitudes.”

Wind power critics sometimes reference capacity factors that seem to them too low, but the criticism may be poised to undergo some erosion, if these factors are increased very much. Plus, many still quote 20% or so when the average now is obviously much higher.

And how efficient are fossil fuels if they cause climate change and air pollution that kills millions of people every year?

Image Credit: Musial, W. D.; Sheppard, R. E.; Dolan, D.; Naughton, B. (Note: the image refers to offshore standards.) 


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