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Forbes — Actual life cycle cost for wind energy (guess where wind ranks compared to other sources)

Wind is the most material intensive energy source requiring ten times more steel, copper and cement per MWhr than any other source.


Material needs for each energy source to install 1 MW. Gas has the least requirements, wind the most. Source: Peterson et al. 2005.


James Conca — Forbes — July 1, 2012

(Costs do not include connecting wind to the grid, buffering of the intermittency of wind production to prevent grid crisis, or finding the large physical footprint needed in optimal windy areas, all of which almost double wind’s life-cycle cost and all of which are key to wind’s future success in contributing to a sustainable energy mix. We’ll discuss these in a future post. It is essential that wind energy not be directly put into the grid, even a smart grid, but used as locally as possible.)

Similar to last week’s post on natural gas costs, we can determine a total actual life-cycle cost for wind energy needed to build and operate the number of plants required to produce a trillion kWhrs over their life-span. Key assumptions include the following long-term average commodities spot prices: $70/barrel for oil; $40/ton for coal; $4/tcf for natural gas; $500/ton for steel; $2.50/lb for copper, $70/ton for cement, and $100/lb for yellowcake (U3O8).

Shell Wind Division recently spent $1.5 million dollars apiece for complete wind turbine assemblies that produce one MW during operation at a capacity factor of 27% for the 8,766 hours each year over its 20-year life, producing 47 million kWhrs, more or less.

1 MW x 1000 kW/MW x 0.27 x 8,766 hrs/yr x 20 yrs = 47.3 million kWhrs

That’s it. 47 million kWhrs is what this turbine will produce. To produce one trillion kWhrs over their life span will require building about 20 thousand (21,141) of them at a cost of about $31.7 billion. This is pretty expensive, second only to solar in construction costs: five times that for gas, twice coal, nuclear and hydro; about half that of solar….

Wind and solar are most sensitive to prices of construction materials. As an example, a MW of installed capacity for wind requires 460 metric tons of steel and 870 m3 of concrete compared to the 98 metric tons of steel and 160 m3 of concrete for coal, and the even lower 40 metric tons of steel and 90 m3 of concrete for nuclear. Natural gas is the lowest of all, requiring a little over 3 metric tons of steel and 27 m3 of concrete per MW, the reason gas plants are the cheapest and easiest to build.

(Link to article in Forbes here)

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