At the G7 summit in France, President Trump made it clear again that he will not be supporting renewable energy efforts. Despite the U.S. adding enough wind energy to power more than half the state of New York since his inauguration, Trump has claimed that wind energy has not been working well.
Trump also claimed windmills could cause cancer and kill eagles. Although he rarely brings up such health or environmental concerns when talking about coal power.
Has wind been working well?
Wind energy is quickly becoming one of the world’s cheapest renewable energy options. A study commissioned by Castle Wind LLC found that adding offshore wind to California’s energy mix could save up to $2 billion in energy costs.
Third-party studies also confirm the rapidly declining cost of wind power. The US Department of Energy found that the average cost of wind energy has dropped from $70/MW-hr in 2009 to $20/MW-hr in 2018. Without any tax-incentives or subsidies, its cost is around twice as high at $40/MW-hr.
However, even without subsidies, wind energy is about $10 cheaper to produce than burning natural gases. Furthermore, it is expected to get cheaper and cheaper as turbine technology improves.
Why hasn’t wind taken off?
Ultimately, wind power suffers many of the same problems as other renewable sources. Windmills can’t operate efficiently in areas with little wind, so it is somewhat geographically limited. However, offshore windmills are improving the reach of wind power. Windmills can generate electricity incredibly efficiently along the coastline as well as in the Great Lakes.
It is also somewhat intermittent. When winds are blowing quickly, windmills generate a lot more energy. A lack of consistency in the energy grid has been a huge fear holding back both solar and wind energy. More cost-effective energy storage is key to making a 100% renewable energy grid viable.
As it stands right now, a combination of both renewable energies and coal power is usually the most cost-effective approach. However, a 2017 report by the International Energy Agency estimates that lithium-ion battery storage prices could drop to $145 per kilowatt-hour by 2030. At that price, a purely renewable energy grid could be cost-competitive with both coal and nuclear grids.
While wind and solar may not be completely cost-effective right now, they are definitely “working well.” And as storage technology improves, we can expect it to be key in securing America’s future.