Tuesday, April 9, 2013

New Windpower Cheaper Than Coal

Did you know that windpower energy is cheaper than coal in some countries? Consequently when countries are choosing their next generation of power stations, weighing up risk and environmental issues as well as costs, many should be contemplating wind turbines.
Due to investment in research and development  into better designs, building wind farms can now be cheaper than building new gas or coal power stations. But don’t take my word for it; Bloomberg New Energy Finance have recently released figures that show that this is a fact in Australia.  Any wind farms built now would generate electricity for between A$80  and A$113 per megawatt-hour, whereas new coal plants would cost A$176/MWh. This is partly due to Australia’s tax on fossil fuels generating carbon emissions, but the figures show that new coal power stations would still cost A$126/MWh even in the absence of the tax.
Guy Turner of Bloomberg New Energy Finance says:
“For wind it’s more about the technology.” 
“Investors are nervous about building a new coal plant. 
“While renewable sources are increasingly favoured by governments, fossil fuels face an uncertain future as countries try to cut greenhouse gas emissions.”
And we have seen longer blades, taller stands and improved gearing which have all boosted wind farm efficiency. It’s been known for some time that the second and subsequent tier of wind turbines in a farm get adversely affected by the wind turbulence created in the lea of the turbines that are on the outermost edge. But the use of improved fluid dynamics modelling has helped arrange  turbines in a much more efficient manner. A recent analysis found that careful staggering them created higher wind speeds and less turbulence, compared with the old traditional straight rows of turbines.
But Australia’s example is not universal by any means. Take China. Whilst they may be a major wind turbine manufacturer and investor, building coal-fired power stations in China is relatively cheap.  Nevertheless encouraging signs are coming from other parts of the world. In Brazil, a recent Government-invited bid for power generation has shown bids for new wind farms being cheaper than fossil fuel power stations.
The trend seems to be global. The amount of wind capacity rose by almost a fifth last year (2012) according to the Global Wind Energy Council in Brussels. While coal may still be cheaper to produce power in existing power stations, that does not seem to be the case when preparing to build new energy-generating stations.