Friday, January 22, 2010

Robert Zavadil on "The Eastern Wind Integration and Transmission Study"

How much will increasing wind penetration in the United States grid cost? Is increasing wind penetration really the low cost route to post-carbon electricity? Yesterday, I read with interest, Joe Romm's post titled, NREL study shows 20 percent wind possible by 2024 - Half a million jobs, 25% drop in utility carbon pollution for just 2 cents a day per household. The post was ostensibly a review of a DoE study, Eastern Wind Integration and Transmission Study(EWITS). Joe began his post with an account of a previous DoE report on the cost and consequences of a large scale wind buildup. 20% Wind Energy by 2030: Increasing Wind Energy’s Contribution to U.S. Electricity Supply.” Joe had uncritically accepted the conclusions of the earlier study, but I had some some questions about that earlier study, because it had not focused enough attention on the future inflation of wind construction costs. Plans to dramatically increase energy related construction should assume that their implementation can and probably would exert inflationary pressures on construction costs.

There is a policy issue here. Wind electrical generation receives significant subsidies from the tax payers, and these subsidies are justified by the claim that wind is an economically desirable post carbon electrical source. Wind supporters refer to the high capital costs of of nuclear power, but are the capital costs of wind really lower? The EWITS report did not really address that issue, but I noticed that the report had actually been prepared by EnerNex Corporation of Knoxville, Tennessee, which meant that I could speak to one of the reports authors with a local phone call, so i put on my intrepid reporter cap, and called Robert Zavadil of EnerNex, and asked him about comparisons of wind and nuclear costs. Robert dodged my question by answering that future nuclear costs are something of a mystery, but this is equally the case with the future cost of wind generation.

Thus we are not going to reach anything like a firm conclusion about he relative costs of wind and nuclear, but the EWITS report does contain a lot of hints. For example, the EWITS states,
The EWITS LOLE studies show that when the geographic diversity of the Eastern Interconnection is considered, the capacity credit could increase to 25%.
The lowest cost of the 4 wind scenarios which the EWITS considers envisions the construction of 225 billion watts of wind generation capacity for the Eastern Interconnect. This means that 225 billion watts of wind generation capacity can be expected to typically produce about 56 GWs of electrical output during periods of peak energy demand. About 61 GWs of nuclear capacity would produce the equivalent capacity credit. Thus to start to understand the relative costs of wind an nuclear we could begin by comparing the costs of 225 GWs of wind with the costs of 61 GWs of nuclear generation capacity.

Robert Zavadil acknowledged that the EWITS estimates of nuclear, on shore wind and offshore wind and offshore wind were all to low, although the nuclear estimate was probably about 70% lower than was actually the case, while the wind estimates were off by a far smaller margin. Even given this disparity, the cost of the equivalent wind capacity credit would still be 50% higher than the cost of that of nuclear. And in addition a stable wind entails an enlarged transmission system and
With approximately 22,697 miles of new EHV transmission lines, the transmission overlay for Scenario 1 has the highest estimated total cost at $93 billion (US$2009).
You can buy quite a few reactors for $93 billion, but of course you might also want to spend some of that on transmission system upgrades. Thus while we cannot get exact estimates of the relative costs of large scale future wind and nuclear grid penetration, the analysis presented by the EWITS is consistent with an additional 20% nuclear Eastern Interconnect penetration, rather than the equivalent wind penetration, having a lower costs.


DV8 2XL said...

This is where we have wind and solar by the short hairs - cost. On the technical side they can dodge and prevaricate and claim bias all they want, but when it come to money other analysts, that have no connection with ether side, can be brought in to check the figures.

There is no way these two can come up superior to nuclear on an end-to-end cost bases, and this is also an area the general public has a better grasp of. Attacking renewables on cost must be seen as one of our most important efforts.

Anonymous said...

I agree that cost is the most convincing. Its a good opportunity to remind folks of the higher government subsidies for renewables. In addition to cost other points that ring true with the public include drawing attention the huge amount of concrete and steel required to build wind and thermal solar as compared to nuclear. The fuel energy density argument with nuclear over and against the diffuse and intermittent energy of renewables for fossil fuel replacement gives anyone with half a brain pause to consideration why more mineral resources are required to build these energy sources.


Blog Archive

Some neat videos

Nuclear Advocacy Webring
Ring Owner: Nuclear is Our Future Site: Nuclear is Our Future
Free Site Ring from Bravenet Free Site Ring from Bravenet Free Site Ring from Bravenet Free Site Ring from Bravenet Free Site Ring from Bravenet
Get Your Free Web Ring
Dr. Joe Bonometti speaking on thorium/LFTR technology at Georgia Tech David LeBlanc on LFTR/MSR technology Robert Hargraves on AIM High