Swapping new solar farms for existing coal & nuclear plants will increase cost of electricity

Wind farm at a moment when the backup gas turbines can sit idle. Picture courtesy of DollarPhotoClub.com
Wind farm at a moment during the day when the backup gas turbines can sit idle. Picture courtesy of DollarPhotoClub.com

The forced push to replace coal and nuclear power with wind will cost consumers dearly.

8/9 – Wall Street Journal – The Price Tag For Uprooting America’s Electric Grid – A new study from the Institute for Energy Research (IER) looks at the cost of constructing new energy sources with the cost from existing sources.

This is a big deal because the EPA’s goal of transforming the power grid will require shutting down a tremendous amount of already-operating plants and replacing that power with brand-new, intermittent, renewable power. That means shutting down existing coal plants and building new wind farms.

Bottom line is we will be shutting down conventional coal that produces electricity at $38.40 per megawatt-hour (mWh) in exchange for new wind farms at an all-in cost of $112.80/mWh.

Here are the costs calculated in the study, in dollars per mWh:


Exist. New    Source
38.4 97.7    conventional coal
48.9 73.4    gas, base load
29.6 92.7    nuclear
34.2 116.8    hydro, in season
142.8 362.1    peaking gas turbine
112.8    wind including backup


Why is new wind capacity 3x the cost of existing coal power?

Most obvious reason is that any new construction will be far more expensive than something that’s already finished. New base load gas is $73.40/mWh versus $48.90/mWh for existing gas plants.

It looks to me like there are two additional factors that make wind power so phenomenally expensive. Massive subsidies reduce the visible contract price of wind power and intermittent energy sources require backup from conventional, peaking sources.

Any market prices you see for wind power exclude the impact of a wide range of humongous subsidies going to the producers and builders. If I’m getting the picture correctly, the IER includes the cost to taxpayers in the cost of electricity. Seems to be that is the way the calculation should be made.

The second factor is when the wind isn’t blowing (which is random and changes without warning), peaking gas turbines need to be spooled up quickly. The wind farm calculation includes the fully expected consequence of having to back up the intermittent power with gas turbines which will have to be geared up and dialed back rapidly as the wind speed increases and drops off. Peaking turbines are far more expensive than running a gas turbine full-out.

The IER disposes of the wind-industry-funded attack on their calculations:  Wind Lobby’s Critique of IER Study Fails on All Fronts.

By the way…if we can dismiss the IER report because they receive  funding from the energy industry, that means we can completely blow off every sentence in the mentioned critique because it is from the wind industry’s lobbying arm which means every penny of their funding is thus funded 100% by the wind industry. Using the logic in place today, that means we can totally ignore their opinion because their objectivity is absolutely, completely compromised.

The comparison we need to make is not $112.80/mWh for new wind versus $73.40 for new base-load gas. We need to compare new wind with the coal plants we will shutter.

The IER analysis shows the massive cost of the EPA’s plan to remake the economy.  The nuclear plants currently producing at $29.60/mWh and coal plants at $38.40/mWh will be replaced with wind at $112.80/mWh.

Expect your electricity bill to rise accordingly.

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