Graph of the Day: US Wind Resources

March 22, 2011

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How much is there? More than we thought.

According to Dennis Elliott, NREL’s (National Renewable Energy Laboratory) principal scientist in wind resource assessment, “areas with gross capacity factor of 30% and greater are generally considered to have suitable wind resource for wind development with today’s advanced wind turbine technology. The new estimates for 80-m height and capacity factor of 30% and greater indicate about 10,500 gigawatts (GW) developable potential in the contiguous United States, compared to previous estimates of 7,000 to 8,000 GW for 50-m height and power Class 3 and greater.”

How much is that?

Well, a very large nuclear reactor might put out one gigawatt.


14 Responses to “Graph of the Day: US Wind Resources”

  1. neilrieck Says:

    The cost per kilowatt hour for nuclear is kept quiet by most utilities as well as the governments who sponsor them with subsidies. Because of this, the layman has no other recourse than believe the numbers published by other groups. I tend to rely on the numbers published by technical groups like the IEEE ( ). It has been more than a year since I saw a chart comparing various power generation technologies (and I don’t currently have the link at my finger tips) but the IEEE chart indicated that the typical cost of wind power was 11 cents per kilowatt-hour while nuclear power was typically 15 cents per kilowatt-hour “provided that the nuclear plant is installed on time and under budget”. When nuclear plant construction goes over time and over budget, government loan guarantees kick in which stick the tax payer with overrun costs.

    (p.s. anyone with any memories of the early 1960s might remember hearing “that nuclear power would be too cheap to meter”. Since then, Ontario residents have been told that nukes produce electricity for around 5 cents per kilowatt-hour but this number doesn’t take into account government subsidies and loan guarantees; this government money is borrowed and never seems to be paid off)

    As I understand it, the whole point of the latest TEA-Party philosophy is “Taxed Enough Already”. If citizens stand by this, then government should not be giving any taxpayer dollars to public or private investors (including big oil). With no government subsidies or loan guarantees it is unlikely that any private investors would ever build a nuke. Why? A new nuke might not generate power for 5-7 years and this length of time with of money going out but nothing coming in makes the investment too risky. Meanwhile, the same investors could put up wind generation plants and have them connect to the grid, producing power, in 3-6 months (depending upon the amount of cooperation provided by local utilities).

    • greenman3610 Says:

      You have stated the problem succinctly. Here in Michigan, the currrent cost of wind is about 8-9 cents/kwh. New Coal comes in at 12-13, minimum. Nuclear goes way up from there.
      The additional problem for utilities is the carrying costs of the financing over the 5, or more likely, 10 or longer years of construction. They need to start charging higher rates up front, so called “construction work in progress” while the plant is being built. This gives plenty of time for their biggest customers to install conservation practices that dampen demand —> less revenue —-> need for higher rates —-> dampening demand further……

  2. Beam me up Scotty Says:

    “As of 2008, nuclear power in the United States is provided by 104 (69 pressurized water reactors and 35 boiling water reactors) commercial nuclear power plants licensed to operate, producing a total of 806.2 TWh of electricity, which was 19.6% of the nation’s total electric energy consumption in 2008.[1] The United States is the world’s largest supplier of commercial nuclear power.”

    Let’s see, 806 x 10 to the 12th divided by 104 ~ 8 x 10 to the 12 or about 8 Twh on average for each of the 104 reactors, 8000 gwh.

    I didn’t think you could be off by so much so I investigated further

    “Diablo Canyon Power Plant is an electricity-generating nuclear power plant at Avila Beach in San Luis Obispo County, California. The plant has two Westinghouse-designed 4-loop pressurized-water nuclear reactors operated by Pacific Gas & Electric. The facility is located on about 750 acres (300 ha) in Avila Beach, California. Together, the twin 1,100 MWe reactors produce about 18,000 GW·h of electricity annually, supplying the electrical needs of more than 2.2 million people, sent along the Path 15 500-kV lines that connect to this plant.”

    Trust me, I’d rather use wind, solar, geothermal over nuclear, but the comparisons between nukes and wind is a false one.

    Compare nukes to coal. Because if we don’t build new nuclear power plants we will continue to burn coal. We shouldn’t, but we will

    • greenman3610 Says:

      sorry, you are mixing up gigawatt HOURS, which is energy produced, with gigawatts of CAPACITY, which is what the article is talking about.
      So I wasn’t off, you simply didn’t read the article, or do not understand the issue.

      • Beam me up Scotty Says:

        Is this capacity you speak of?

        Typical capacity factorsWind farms 20-40%.[10][11]
        Photovoltaic solar in Massachusetts 12-15%.[10]
        Photovoltaic solar in Arizona 19%[12][13]
        Hydroelectricity, worldwide average 44%[citation needed], range of 20% – 75% depending on water availability
        Nuclear energy 90.5% (USA 2009) [14]

        And you’re saying that the new factor for wind is 30%. while for nuclear it’s 90%?

        I’m not a troll, I just don’t understand how you got 1 gw for a nuclear reactor.

        • greenman3610 Says:

          Not sure I understand your question, but let me make a stab.

          The average new nuclear plant is probably going to be in the 700 MW to 1200 MW range. For instance, the Watts Barr project, that last nuclear plant to be completed in the US, has a capacity of 1,167 MW.

          This means that at any given instant, such a (1,167 mw, say)
          reactor will be putting out something like 1,167 mw, or 1.167 GW.
          if you measure the output over time, you get into units of Gw/hrs.

          For utility planners, there is a difference between “nameplate” capacity, and actual capacity. In a wind farm, if you have 10 turbines of 2GW capacity, that is, 20 GW total capacity, they might operate only 30 to 40 percent of the time at that level. This is a well known characteristic of renewables like wind and solar.

          A nuclear plant that is available 90 percent of the time – MUST shut down for 6 weeks or so every 18 months to refuel. It will also shut down for safety issues, under some conditions like a major blackout, a storm, or other influence, much like a conventional power plant.
          So both forms of power are ‘intermittent” in that utilities must plan for the times they are down.
          One is not necessarily better than the other.
          Windfarms tend to slow down their production gradually, and with good weather forcasting, predictably, while large nuclear or coal plants can trip off line instantaneously and unexpectedly. Utilities have to plan for this.

          Much is made of the idea that nuclear is “baseload” power, but this is not considered a real issue by longterm observers of the industry.
          If you watch my videos, you’ll see several energy storage technologies currently in use, and others on the way.
          Scientific American published a pretty good piece envisioning how transition to a totally renewable planet might go, that I think discusses some of these issues.

    • BlueRock Says:

      > Because if we don’t build new nuclear power plants we will continue to burn coal.

      10+ years for *one* nuke. What do you think will happen in the period that we wait for each nuke (assuming it doesn’t suffer the very common multi-year, multi-billion $$$ overruns)?

      Compare it to wind:

      * Wind farms can be deployed in months. “Erection of the offshore wind turbines on the foundations commenced on 10 May 2003, and the first turbine was in place the next day. Less than three months later, all turbines were up on their foundations. The last offshore wind turbine was erected on 27 July 2003, and all 72 wind turbines was thus in place. That same day, 10 of the wind turbines were already operating. The entire offshore wind farm started commercial operation on 1 December 2003.”

      That was eight years ago. I guess they’ve got even better at deployment now. Although, they do lose some credibility points given the name of their energy company….

  3. Should be to evaluate the performance and efficiency for each region thereof. Obviously there are many.

  4. Alec Sevins Says:

    This graph is useful for those who want to minimize the chance of scenery being shot to hell by faux green giants and/or have their lives ruined by noise, which this supposedly Green character calls “bullsh-t” by ignoring evidence and only accepting industry claims as valid.

    What sort of environmentalist normally trusts foxes to report chicken counts? Old moral tenets get ditched when it comes to wind power. Someone decided that only carbon is evil, therefore all dissenters are either whining NIMBYs or climate deniers. It shall be so per the Big Book of Big Wind!

    Getting back to that map: live where the wind blows the least and you might retain peace of mind. Those who favor wind turbines almost never live near them or bother to visit those who do. The least the wind mob can do is spare mountaintops, which are being ravaged along the same lines as coal mining.

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