Saturday, March 12, 2011

What’s Next for Wind?

Wind power is cheap. At around 7 cents per kilowatt-hour (kWh), including subsidies, wind turbines can already compete with natural gas combined cycle plants that produce power at 6 to 9 cents per kWh. So why are utilities still building gas plants? In the U.S. in 2009, natural gas plants represented 43% of all new generating capacity installed, and wind represented 39%.

The intermittent nature of wind power puts it at a major disadvantage: gas plants can provide power 24 hours a day. Compressed air, batteries or other types of storage can offset this liability, but at around 5 cents or more per kWh, storage isn’t cheap. But if wind could get down to 4 cents per kWh, and storage continues to lower its cost, wind with storage could eventually dominate the electricity generation market.

So how do we get there?

Based on a basic cost breakdown for a traditional 2.5 MW turbine, the most promising areas for shaving costs are the blades, gearbox, generator, and tower, which combined represent 53% of the total turbine capital cost. Of all these pain points, the gearbox, and the potential for direct drives, has garnered quite a bit of attention. After all, 24% of the total turbine cost relates to the gearbox and the generator.
joint effort by General Electric Ecomagination and Greentech Media

by Brett Prior
March 11, 2011 

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