From 2001 until present time, wind turbine installation in Massachusetts (MA) has proceeded at a glacial pace. This fact raises serious issues for public and private policy analysts in MA. For example:
- During this 10 year period, only 38 MW of wind turbines has been installed with a potential of 1000 MW. (See Additional Wind Potential Tables in this link). At that rate, 1000 MW of installed wind power will be reached in about 250 years.
- Assuming maximum wind power is available, the resulting energy production is 3 kWh/person/day compared with retail consumption of 20 kWh/person/day in MA. This wind energy generation would be only 15 percent of the requirements of more than 2,600,000 retail electric energy customers in MA. (Please see backup calculations below)
- Installed wind power of 1000 MW would occupy nearly 51,000 acres. In contrast, a gas fired power plant would be confined within 30 acres.
- Two gas fired power plants would generate over 1000 MW at 60 acres, nearly the same as 1000 MW of wind turbines occupying 51,000 acres
- Capital cost of on shore wind turbines is approximately $2400/kW. Compare with capital costs of combustion turbines ranging from $700/kW to $900/kW.
A Path Forward
Given these wind energy results from the past ten years, does it make sense to continue with Renewable Energy Credits (REC), Renewable Portfolio Standards (RPS) and a host of tax incentives in MA? Where is the business case for wind energy in MA? Although wind energy generation in MA is not promising, it is possible for MA-based industries and universities to import electricity from other states. For example, Harvard University concluded an arrangement with First Wind in Maine to become the largest institutional buyer of wind energy from a renewable source in New England. First Wind will supply more than 10 percent of Harvard’s electricity. Implicit in this arrangement is the fact that Maine has nearly 10 times more available land area (556,000 acres) for wind, as well as 10 times greater potential wind capacity (11,251 MW) than Massachusetts. Encouraging technical advancements in wind turbine design may increase the viability of wind energy technologies so that they can be competitive with their fossil fuel counterparts and not require government subsidies.
MA On Shore Electricity Production from Wind
On shore wind = 1000MW > 1000MW [(1kWh/d)/40W]/2,647,529p ~ 9 kWh/day*persons
Capacity factor ~ 0.33 > on shore wind electricity production = 0.33 x 9 kWh/d*p = 3 kWh/d*p
MA Retail Electric Consumption
(618 kWh/mo*p) (12 mo/365d) ~ 20 kWh/d*p
The use of the conversion factor, 1 kilowatt hour/day/40 watts (1kWh/d/40W), stems from a fellow physicist, David JC MacKay, who wrote, Sustainable Energy — without the hot air (2009). This conversion factor is intuitively reasonable because it is expressed in kWh, which most folks recognize from their electric bills. For example, the average retail electric bill in MA is 618 kWh/month.Tags: Capital Cost, Electric Generation, Installed Wind Turbine Power, Massachusetts, On shore Wind Energy, Retail Electric Consumption, Wind Energy