In January 2009, Gov. Deval Patrick set a goal of developing 2,000 megawatts (MW) of wind power capacity, enough to power 800,000 Massachusetts homes, by 2020. This post addresses unrealistic expectations of that goal in terms of onshore wind turbines. Please see the post of April 5 for other onshore wind energy issues. (The offshore case is treated in separate posts.)
Business Development Issues
At best, electricity generation from onshore wind will be a small fraction of the total electricity generated in Massachusetts and will power only 17 percent of the consumers claimed (see “Wind Energy, Onshore Case—Wind Turbine Growth and Homes Powered by Homes in Massachusetts“). The anticipated rate at which wind turbines will be installed between 2010 and 2020 is probably not realistic. Unless the capital cost of onshore wind turbines decreases significantly, Massachusetts may feel compelled to support this industry beyond current expectations. If the economy does not improve, this economic assistance may be problematic.
Further, the life expectancy of wind turbines is 20 to 25 years. They will have to be either decommissioned, replaced with new wind turbines, or refurbished with subsystems (such as, overly stressed gearboxes from wind gusts), and thus incur costs that may have been ignored by policy analysts.
In the future, the cost of wind energy may seem less expensive compared to, say, coal when the heretofore unpaid costs of coal are factored into its price. These costs include climate change, air pollution, water shortage, wastewater, soil pollution, and land degradation.Tags: Decommissioning, Deval Patrick, Electricity, Electricity Capital Costs, Homes, Hub Height, Massachusetts, Tax Breaks, Unpaid Costs, Wind Energy, Wind Locations, Wind Speed