If you’re a resident of Falmouth, you’re almost certainly aware that opponents of the town-owned turbines scored at least a temporary victory when the board of selectmen agreed to shut down the controversial Wind-1 turbine, which some maintain is causing a variety of health issues for nearby residents. Wind-1 and its companion Wind-2 will operate on a somewhat limited basis for testing purposes.
Meanwhile, a special committee will meet on Wednesday to review its findings to date on the Cape and Vineyard Electric Cooperative, which has been catching seven shades of hell for alleged improprieties in administration, financing, and transparency. Those within and close to the organization claim some of CVEC’s critics are in fact bent out of shape over CVEC’s efforts to fund onshore wind projects across the region.
And of course, there is Cape Wind. Good old reliable always-good-for-raising-hackles Cape Wind.
What do these three issues have in common, besides the obvious? One argument that has been repeated by turbine foes time and time again is the claim that wind is not as cheap as its supporters say it is, that other forms of renewable energy are cheaper.
Time to set that record straight, and the fact of the matter is two out of three of these projects blow solar out of the water.
This year the Energy Information Administration, part of the US Department of Energy, published a “levelized cost comparison” for new energy technologies. This looks at the overall cost of constructing and and operating a power generation facility for its lifespan (however long that may be for the respective technologies), including the cost of its fuel.
Focusing on the renewable energy generation options, here is the breakdown in order of the total levelized system costs per megawatt hour (expressed in 2009 dollars):
- Hydropower: 86.4
- Onshore wind: 97.0
- Geothermal: 101.7
- Biomass: 112.5
- Solar – photovoltaic: 210.7
- Offshore wind: 243.2
- Solar – thermal: 311.8
So, for those of you arguing for solar power over onshore wind because of the economics, the Department of Energy begs to differ. Cape Wind, however, is not looking so hot compared to everything except thermal solar energy.
There you go, wind critics. Have at!