The key to understanding Wind farming technology is to break values of the power produced down using simple arithmetic. Indeed, all energy production is a numbers game with each source of power having its appropriate initial and ongoing cost. Factored with these costs must be the price we all pay in terms of CO2 and other greenhouse gas emissions. Just as we universally share in the cost of health care due to cigarette smoking we similarly all pay for any damage done to the health of our planet.
At the present time, wind farms in the United States produce electricity at a rate of over 20 billion Kilowatts of power. This is enough to provide electricity for 4.9 million households. Not too bad is it? But this same total of power can be produced by just two nuclear plants or if you prefer 40 coal fired power plants.
In terms of hydroelectric power, the Hoover Dam produces just under 3 billion watts of power. 7 Hoover dams equals all the combined US wind power. So why not just build more giant hydroelectric dams or spread nuclear plants all around the earth?
Debate over safety from nuclear power plants is ongoing and intense. And the amount of greenhouse gas emissions from each of those 40 coal fired plants equals around 3 million tons a year. There are many conclusions we can draw from all of our wind farming arithmetic.
The first is that even though we have barely tapped into the viability of using wind power to heat, cool and light our homes, the progress thus far shows that the feasibility is proven. We have the land and we have the wind. If we had ten times as much wind power generation we could provide power to 50 million homes or if you prefer 150 million people. No, this doesn’t mean that our overall energy needs could be so easily met. Industry uses far more energy than housing. Cars, buses, trains, planes and those coal fired power plants themselves massively chew up power and spit out pollutants.
Nuclear power releases one fiftieth as much greenhouse gas into the atmosphere than does a coal fired plant. A hydroelectric dam just 10% of that and a wind farm half of the CO2 emissions of the dam. By comparison, greenhouse gas emissions from wind farming is minuscule.
But as long as we are doing some math, the accountants will have us calculating the cost of building our wind farm. This is pretty simple. It costs around 5 million dollars to make a one million watt producing wind turbine. This is a cost of five dollars per watt. Coal firedplants have initial costs of around $1.50 per watt. Solar power bounces between 3 and 7 dollars per watt and nuclear power comes in at a cost of a whopping 11 dollars per watt.
Now what makes wind turbine technology the most feasible of all of these is two things. The first is the already mentioned clean emissions standards from wind power. The second reason that wind farming is the future for power production worldwide is that once you produce a large enough wind farm the price per watt will plummet drastically. A 100 megawatt wind farm can be built for 100 million dollars, or… a dollar a watt.
Want to see proof of how strong an energy source wind power can be? Let’s take a look at the largest wind farm in the world. You won’t find it offshore in the ocean. Although there is a pretty nice wind farm off the coast of Copenhagen. And this working wind farmis not lost in the Australian Outback, even though there are several 200 megawatt windfarms in southern Australia.