Wind power numbers just don't add up
Sugarland Wind has re ceived local approval to construct a 200 million watt (megawatt) electrical generating wind farm in Florida’s Everglades. They state that, "the 113 turbines will produce clean domestic energy for up to 60,000 homes." This is a nice neat quotable statement that has been picked up by every local media outlet in South Florida.
In east central Wyoming, near Casper, Duke Energy recently completed construction of the Top of the World farm, a 110-turbine 200-mega watt wind farm. This is exactly the number of turbines and total capacity of the Florida Everglades project. Copied right out of their own material, Duke’s promotion for this for this project states, "The 110 wind turbines that comprise the Top of the World project are capable of producing enough electricity to power approximately 60,000 homes."
Check any wind map of the United States and you’ll see that the Florida Everglades is one of the least windy sites in the country and the high plains of east central Wyoming is one of the most windy sites in the country. So is it possible that the same size wind farm can service the same number of homes no matter the wind conditions? If not, which is right, Sugarland’s claim of 60,000 homes or Duke’s claim of 60,000 homes?
The U.S. government publishes numbers for the average electricity consumption of American homes under the Energy Information Agency website (EIA). Using EIA data from their 2011 report, I checked Sugarland’s numbers. The average Florida home consumes about 1,194 kilowatt-hours per month. In order for Sugarland’s 200-megawatt wind farm to supply this much electricity for 60,000 Florida homes the turbines would have to turn 49 percent of the day. That means the wind would have to blow 49 percent of the day at just the right speed, not too slow, not too fast and ideally, unless we like doing laundry at 3 a.m., not blow half of that time in the middle of the night.
Duke operates another 4-year old wind farm not far from the newly completed Casper, Wyoming farm. The 4-year old farm they claim produces 37 percent of the time. I doubt the veracity of their 37 percent but let’s assume it is accurate. From my calculations above it takes 49 percent for a 200-megawatt wind farm to power 60,000 average Florida homes.
Therefore even a wind farm in the windy high plains of Wyoming producing 37 percent of the day cannot make Sugarland’s claim true. This is a far cry from the calm winds of Florida’s Everglades.
According to EIA numbers the average consumption of all U.S. homes is 958 kilowatt-hours per month. This would require the Everglades farm to operate 39 percent of the time. So what home are they using in their numbers?
We get the idea that the Sugarland engineers and the Duke engineers might not bother to pick up a calculator. They’re using boilerplate numbers to promote their wind farms and that’s good enough for us. That’s not only good enough for us we embrace their numbers, republish them and repeat them like they were passed down from Mt. Sinai.
Fact is the wind companies are getting by with murder. They are allowed by eager politicians and a handful of agenda-driven groups to flippantly throw out boilerplate numbers that have no basis in scientific fact. They don’t produce facts because they don’t have to. Wind is in vogue and the uninformed but trusting public is not getting the data to make informed decisions about wind’s appropriate use. A wind farm has no business being built in the Everglades nor in the vast majority of locations they are currently being built.
I’m not going too far out on a limb by predicting that in a few short years we’ll see that the Florida Everglades wind farm will struggle to attain 15 percent production. Thanks to large taxpayer and ratepayer subsidies these wind farms are losers for everyone but the wind companies. The financial and environmental damage that these projects will cause and have caused will take us decades to pay for and undo.
And oh, by the way, neither Sugarland’s Everglades farm nor Duke’s high plains farm is capable of supplying 60,000 homes with electricity.
David Baumann was a regular columnist for The Eagle and a research associate for the American Institute for Economic Research (AIER) based in Great Barrington. He has written extensively about energy and environmental issues and his AIER articles on energy have been re-published in over 50 newspapers. He is also a board member of Green Berkshires a Great Barrington based environmental group that opposes wind turbines. David now summers in the Berkshires and resides in Florida.