The post starts well but ends up with Matt Wald and the clueless (Wald) leading the clueless (Plumer).
But first for the interesting part – the Carnegie Mellon study points out that not all renewable generation is equal across the US. Depending on the dispatch characteristics of electricity from different kinds of electricity generation, renewable generation can displace significant amounts of health damaging generation saving lots of money in health costs. The study concludes that solar PV generation or wind generation is much more valuable in WV, where 95% of our power is generated by coal, than in areas with minimal coal-fired generation, such as CA.
Plumer shows this map from the Carnegie Mellon study to illustrate this very important point:
Plumer also includes this map that was apparently used as the basis for the assessment of renewable power potential in the US:
Plumer says about this map: “Here’s a map of the most wind-rich areas in the United States (the redder the breezier).” Except that is not true, as regular readers of The Power Line know. Here is “a map of the most wind-rich areas in the United States”:
See the difference? Plumer’s (and Carnegie Mellon’s) map does not include the richest wind resources in the US which lie off both coasts and the Great Lakes, near most of the US population. Plumer’s map shows that maximum capacity factor for the best land based wind areas is 40% (.4 on the map). This figure is borne out in a recent Synapse Energy Economics report on wind power in PJM. The Synapse report pointed out that the capacity factor for Atlantic Coast offshore wind power (if it is ever harnessed) would be 45%, a clear indication of how much better the offshore wind resource is.
Why does this matter?
Because Plumer ends his blog post with some cheerleading for Matt Wald’s clueless cheerleading for a national ÜberGrid to bring wind power from inferior wind resources to US population centers. Mr. Plumer has joined Mr. Wald in the gallant quest for the one Grid to Rule Them All, against the evil forces of state sovereignty, “our balkanized grid,” and, ultimately, distributed generation and decentralized power.
As an owner of PV generation in WV, I am proud to see my investment choices vindicated in the Carnegie Mellon study. WV regulators and politicians should take note of the quantification of PV’s value, particularly in WV.
But I am highly critical of the mythology that continues to surround the subject of wind power and high voltage transmission and that clings like dog feces to the shoes of the national discussion of renewable power.