Past wind farm deployments and advances in the wind energy sector have worked to open up new areas primed for future deployment. As tower heights rise from 50 meters to 80 meters above the ground, turbine can capture more wind captured at one time (higher wind speeds are usually present away from the ground) as well as during more parts of the day.
The result is that instead of 7.4-8.4 m/s wind speeds, new turbines can capture 8.5-10 m/s winds (see map below (gif source & pdf). This translates to a 1.2 cent reduction per kilowatt-hour of wind energy: 10.8 cents, down from 12.0 cents. My utility currently charges 4.6 cents per kilowatt-hour of energy. The utility’s energy mix as of 2010 was: 61.31% coal, 26.88% natural gas, 10.26% wind, ~1% rest). They are also filing for a 5.99% increase in electricity charges.
Unsurprisingly, the cost of wind continues to fall as deployment accelerates and R&D is performed. This happens while corporate welfare for dirty energy still dwarfs the subsidies for clean energy. It is remarkable that the renewable energy sector grew at the rate it has while it has faced a relatively hostile policy environment. Imagine what the clean energy industry (and our environment) would look like if we were serious about it 40 years ago.
I’ll have more of my thoughts on this kind of news going forward. Transitioning from 61.31% coal, 10.26% wind and 0.29% solar to a clean energy-dominant mix will prove incredibly difficult, for instance. Some good policies have been implemented to help that happen, but I wonder if the scope of the problem has been accurately assessed.