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The Wind does NOT Blow "Only 1/3 of the Time"

May 8, 2009
by Craig Severance

There are some things that "Everybody Knows" because we have all heard them from (parts of) the popular media:

  • "Everybody Knows" Barack Obama is a Muslim Socialist. [He's a Christian, locked in an FDR-like struggle to save capitalism.]
  • "Everybody Knows" America has all the oil we need, and environmentalists have kept us from drilling for it.  [America's production of crude oil in the lower 48 peaked in 1970-71  because of geological limits predicted in advance by renowned oil company geologist M. King Hubbert.]
  • "Everybody Knows" the wind only blows one third of the time.

Right.

The phrase "the wind only blows one third of the time" has been repeated so many times in blogs and interviews by nuclear hawks and Big Oil apologists, it has become "common knowledge". 

I have even seen this phrase creep into articles written by proponents of clean energy.  A cacophony of voices is now lamenting the intermittency of wind energy, leading many in the public to believe wind cannot offer a serious contribution to U.S. energy needs.      

20% of U.S. Electricity Needs Can Be Met by Wind by 2030.  This was the conclusion not of some Hollywood celebrity, but of the Bush Administration's Department of Energy, in a landmark study published in July 2008. 

DOE projects that U.S. wind energy can grow from installed capacity of 11.5 Gigawatts (1 GW = 1 million Kilowatts) supplying 0.8% of U.S. electricity in early 2007, to a total of 305 GW of capacity by 2030.  These wind farms would supply 20% of projected U.S. electricity needs in that year.   

The remarkable thing about the DOE study was that it envisions a major expansion of wind energy without any advancement in "energy storage" technology to "make up for" the intermittency of wind by attempting to store it for later use.

How can we do this when everyone knows "the wind does not blow all the time"?  Won't the lights go out on a calm day? 

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