To the editor: There has been a lot of talk about the environmental impact of wind turbines, but very little on the actual efficiency and long-term viability of wind power.
There is a term in the wind energy world called “Betz’s Law.” It states that the maximum efficiency possible for wind energy is 59.3 percent. This law only takes into account the conservation of mass and momentum, not the reality of electrical losses in power generation. Commercial wind turbines are expected to achieve 75 to 80 percent of Betz’s limit, or 44.475 to 47.44 percent, if they are running at full capacity.
Since wind is not always blowing, the actual output of a wind turbine is dramatically less, the U.S. Energy Information Administration estimates it at 33.9 percent of the specific tower’s rated capacity in 2014. This is known as the capacity factor.
Worse, over time, the components of a wind turbine, specifically the bearings and the methods of power generation, wear, resulting in what a study by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council said to be up to a 1.6 percent +/- 0.2 percent loss of production each year, raising the cost of electricity produced by 9 percent over a 20-year cycle.
In contrast during 2014, according to the EIA, geothermal averaged a 68.8 percent, solar photovoltaic averaged 27.8 percent and landfill gas (yes, our trash generates power) averaged 68.9 percent.
In summary, wind power is hardly better than solar power. I encourage anyone who feels emerging technologies are a better route to research MIT’s recent development of fission based solar panels.