Wind Economics


Report touts renewable energy's economic benefits

NMBW Staff 2005 American City Business Journals Inc.

New Mexico could save consumers $570 million and create 4,760 jobs if utilities increased their use of renewable electricity by 20 percent by 2020.

Those are the conclusions of a study released by the Union of Concerned Scientists, which is pressing Sen. Pete Domenici, D-N.M., to increase the development of renewable energy sources such as wind and solar power. Domenici is chairman of the Senate Energy Committee.

The analysis found that a national renewable electricity standard of 20 percent would create 4,760 high-skilled jobs in manufacturing, construction, operation, maintenance and other industries and $1.6 billion in capital investment. There would be $117 million in property tax revenues for rural communities and $57 million in payments to ranchers and rural landowners from wind power leases and the production of biomass energy

California Energy Commission found that in just seven years, capital costs of wind power plants have been halved while performance (energy output per installed kW) has almost doubled (p. 170, Berger)

The cost of wind energy is dropping faster than that of conventional generation. Wind has dropped by 15% with each doubling of installed capacity worldwide, and capacity has doubled three times in the 1990s. Wind power today costs about one-fifth what it did in the mid 1980s. This should decline by another 35-40% by 2006 ("Expanding Wind Power: Can Americans Afford It?", Renewable Energy Policy Project, Chapman,
et al., 1998)

John Berger, in his book "Charging Ahead", noted the following reasons for the fizzling interest in developing renewables:

Oil shocks in the 1970s prompted government to invest in alternatives to fossil fuels; unfortunately, much investment was misspent (e.g., on gasification of coal, poorly designed wind turbines)

Oil prices declined sharply over the next two decades to prices in real terms less than those in 1974 (following the first price hike) Supplies of fossil fuels have risen, and ways of finding more has become even more efficient

As a result, interest in renewables (developing new technologies) declined - nevertheless, technologies have improved both in efficiency and reliability - viable renewable energy options include solar cells, geothermal power, biomass, and wind power

The issue of finite natural resources is second to the ones of pollution and long-term health/environmental risks; also, the general public has shown a marked interest in protecting natural resources and environmental health, and are willing to spend more to do so.

(Photo by Green Mountain Energy of 10.4MW wind Farm in Garrett, PA)


Fuel type

Costs (¢ per kWh) 1996

Coal

4.8-5.5

Gas*

3.9-4.4

Hydro

5.1-11.3

Wind

4.0-6.0

Wind w/Tax credit

3.3-5.3