As a consumer, you pay for electricity twice. Once when you pay your monthly bills and a second time when you pay taxes that finance subsidies for inefficient wind and some other energy producers.
The full cost of wind energy may be more than you think. The subsidies shield you from the truth of just how much wind power costs. Some proponents claim it costs just $59 to generate a megawatt-hour of electricity through wind power. But, the actual price is higher than two and a half times that.
Even the expected environmental gains of relying on wind power are dubious because it is unreliable as the power of wind may not be always sufficient. So, you must always have a stable backup power source that can take over during periods of calm.
With that in mind, the subsidies also make the US energy infrastructure more tenuous. Since the artificially cheap electricity prices can push reliable producers out of the market. When you rely more on wind for power, it increases the risk of blackouts and the costs will soar.
The Estimated Cost of Wind Energy
Wind energy is considered to be one of the cheapest ways to generate new electricity. Since 2009, the prices of wind turbines have dropped down by 30% to 40%. The total cost of installation has also reduced along with lowered wind turbine prices.
In addition, advancement in technology leads to the harvesting of more wind from the same old sites with new turbine technologies.
In 2016, the weighted average electricity cost of new wind farms was between USD 0.05 to USD 0.12/kWh depending on the region. But in cases of competitive projects without any financial support, this cost can go as low as USD 0.03/kWh.
Due to continuous growth in hub heights or swept areas and continuing pressure on wind turbine prices, the average costs will continue to decline, which will later result in higher capacity factors for wind.
However, offshore wind is considerably more expensive and can cost between the range of USD 0.10 to USD 0.21/kWh for projects in 2014–16.
International Cost Trends
The cost of electricity generated by wind turbines has decreased dramatically. A recent analysis by Lazard highlights the extent of cost reduction (in US$).
The analysis by Lazard also highlights how cost-competitive wind energy is in comparison with other forms of electricity generation.
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The Lawrence Berkley National Laboratory has published the results of a global survey that involved 163 wind energy experts. The baseline cost was expected to decline by 25% and go from $79 MWh to $58.50 MWh by 2030. It is also expected to decline further down to $50 MWh by 2050.
Even when the cost of offshore wind remains significantly higher than onshore cost. More substantial reductions are forecasted offshore i.e, 30% by 2030 and 38% by 2050 down to $100MWh.
FAQs on Wind Energy
Wind power is known to be cost-effective because the electricity generated from wind farms has been traded at a fixed price for a long period of time (about a decade or two). It mitigates the uncertainty factor in the price of traditional sources of energy.
Wind is the lowest cost large-scale renewable source of energy. Even though the advanced rooftop solar panels are highly competitive with retail electricity prices, both conventional coal, gas as well as wind and large-scale solar technologies shall converge to a common range from A$50 to A$100 per megawatt-hour.
Along with solar energy, wind energy will also be built in massive quantities globally. It is good, as its negative externalities are much lower and close to non-existent compared to the current sources of energy. Every MWH of wind energy can easily displace a MEH of electricity generated by fossil-fuel.
All estimates for wind power consist of the total cost of purchasing capital, paying for operations and maintenance of wind turbines. However, many estimates do not include costs associated with the unreliability of wind power, mandates, and other government subsidies.