Wind Energy - price per watt

Those of you who've looked for facts about wind energy prices on the internet will probably agree with me that there's still too much opinion and not enough data on-line. It's four years since I wrote about this, and nothing much has changed.

I guess if the news was good, it would be plastered everywhere.

However a small amount of price information is available on the 'Cape Wind' offshore wind project in Nantucket, USA, by combining information from different sources. The wind project site itself gives no price estimates.

An article in the Boston Globe estimates that the hardware price for the Cape Wind project, including installation, is $2.5 billion. It states that the estimate came from the office of the Massachussetts Attorney General.

The Cape Wind website says that the annual output will be 170MW. ( SOURCE. )

Dividing the price by the megawatts gives 2500/170 or $14.70;

equivalent to about 9.55 per watt.

This compares with estimated costs for new nuclear in the USA being around $3.5 per watt or about 2.26.

The wind power cost does not include the price of the spinning reserve which must be maintained in the background in case the wind drops.

These prices are in broad agreement with the figures I calculated in 2006, and indicate that wind power is about 4.2 times the price of nuclear.

Note that many sites give the price in millions of pounds per megawatt or billions of pounds per gigawatt. These are numerically the same as pounds per watt.

    Another commment from a physicist ....

    Wind energy is good for grinding corn and pumping water when you can store the results of the energy put in.

    It is less good for feeding power into the National Grid because there is no reasonably priced way of storing the electrical energy until you need it.

    As for the price:

    The capital cost of nuclear power is around 1.4 billion / gigawatt, according to Prof David MacKay.

    The newly commissioned wind array off Thanet cost 0.78 billion and is rated at 0.300 gigawatt.

    Using a generous load factor of 35%, it would produce an average 0.105 gigawatt.

    In capital cost terms, using these figures, offshore wind costs 0.78/0.105 billion / gigawatt

    - about 7.5 billion / gigawatt. (=7.50 per watt; compare article above)

    This is 5 times the cost of the equivalent nuclear production.

    The capital cost of wind ignores the additional cost of the spinning reserve as well as the costs of continuing feed-in tariffs, estimated at about a further 1.2 billion over the 20 year life of the project.

This morning (1 Jan 2011) the demand for electricity on the grid is being met by:

Coal fired plant: 33.3%
Gas-fired plant: 31.2%
UK Nuclear: 26.1%
French Interconnector (mostly nuclear): 6.3%
Wind: 1.8% (from 3,000+ turbines)

ND, habitat21 website

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