April 6, 2009
Laura Henderson (202) 621-2951

Fantasy Land: Salazar Announces that East Coast Windmills Could Provide 100 Percent of Nation’s Electricity

WASHINGTON, D.C. – IER President Thomas J. Pyle today issued the following statement in response to Secretary Salazar’s assertion that windmills off the East Coast, “could generate 1 million megawatts of power, roughly the equivalent of 3,000 medium coal-fired power plants, or nearly five times the number of coal plants now in the United States.”

“We were pleasantly surprised to hear Secretary Salazar announce today that East Coast windmills could not only replace the electricity we get from coal, but double it.  According to his estimate, these windmills could completely replace the 1 million megawatt hours of power that coal, natural gas, nuclear, biomass, onshore wind, and other renewable sources provide.

“Unfortunately, upon closer inspection, key elements of the secretary’s claim fail to hold up to scrutiny. For starters, America doesn’t even have 3,000 coal plants in service right now—we don’t have even half of that.  But even if we did, the secretary appears to be suggesting that East Coast windmills could meet well over 100 percent of our electricity needs all by themselves.  Never mind that wind accounts for only 1.3 percent of our nation’s electricity today.  To make the secretary’s claim accurate, we would need to install 309,587 giant 3.25 mw turbines spread over 1,800 miles of coastline (which is the entire East Coast)—or about 172 turbines per mile of coastline—and hope the wind blows 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

“Assuming the wind never stops, and assuming Americans could do without a recreational coastline, we might have a shot at meeting the secretary’s goal.  But it won’t be cheap.  According to the Energy Information Administration, offshore wind power—21 cents per kilowatt hour—is more than twice as costly as just about every other conventional alternative available.”

NOTE: The Cape Wind Project calls for the installation of 130 wind turbines, which have a rated capacity of 420 megawatts of energy.

More from IER:
Blog Posting: Will Renewables Become Competitive Anytime Soon?
Press Release: Hundreds Turn Out in Support of Offshore Energy Development
Fact Sheet: Offshore Energy Exploration: Myths vs. Facts

The Institute for Energy Research (IER) is a not-for-profit organization that conducts intensive research and analysis on the functions, operations, and government regulation of global energy markets. IER maintains that freely-functioning energy markets provide the most efficient and effective solutions to today’s global energy and environmental challenges and, as such, are critical to the well-being of individuals and society.


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