Wind: More Reliable, Predictable, than “Lumpy” Nuclear power

April 17, 2011

We now know that resilient, decentralized wind power successfully road out the disastrous earthquake and tsunami that crippled Japan’s power grid. But it turns out that, even before the catastrophe, wind was quietly churning out more reliable, predictable power than the Fukushima plants.

Paul Gipe reports:

“Critics of wind energy often charge that wind energy is too “unreliable” to generate a large portion of a nation’s electricity and suggest that base load needs “reliable” sources of generation such as nuclear power.

“While wind is a “variable” resource…[it] is far more reliable than the critics charge…[and] is fairly predictable on long time horizons…[like] one year to the next…In contrast, nuclear power is “reliable” until it isn’t…[but the] nuclear disaster still unfolding in Japan isn’t the first time the Fukushima plants have been in the news…Several of the reactors were shut down from 2002 to 2005 for safety inspections as a result of [Tokyo Elecric Power (TEPCO)] falsification of inspection and repair reports.”

“The Fukushima 1 plants generated, on average, 30 TWh per year…[but, despite] nuclear power’s reputation as reliable base load generation…[they] were anything but reliable over the four decades that the plants were in operation. Annual generation was surprisingly erratic or “lumpy” in the jargon of the trade…In 2004 generation [from Unit 6, the most modern unit,] dropped from 4.6 TWh in 2003 to 1.1 TWh,

…Combined generation from Fukushima 1 also fluctuated from one year to the next. The safety shutdown at Fukushima 1 cut generation by two-thirds or nearly 20 TWh from 2002 to 2003. Generation didn’t return to normal levels until as late as 2007.”

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