Sunday, December 1, 2013

No "Moore's Law" for wind turbines

This blog has a stylized windmill blade on the header.  Not surprisingly, I am a huge windpower fan and have been for a long time.  Having spent part of my childhood in North Dakota, I have long thought that harnessing the wind was the heart of any strategy for a conversion to renewables.  In parts the world, the winds are relentless and harnessing the winds has been the hallmark of advanced civilizations for most of recorded history.  Wind it is.

On the other hand, solar cells have been so expensive for so long, I never really treated them seriously.  They were the sort of thing that only well-funded  government agencies like NASA could afford.  Even worse, the early solar cells required so much energy to manufacture, they would never produce enough electricity to cover that cost.

The world has changed.  Solar cells are now so cheap that soon, governments will stop subsidizing them.  Turns out that solar cells are finally demonstrating their own version of Moore's Law—the economic principle that makes my desktop more powerful that all the computers in the Pentagon when I was in college.  Wind turbines will never have their own Moore's Law so the day when PV finally passed wind was probably inevitable.

Windy areas are pretty inhospitable.  Very few people want to live in windy places.  On the other hand, most of the world's populations live in sunny places. My guess is that wind is on its way to permanent secondary status in the world  of renewable energy.

Perhaps the time has come to redesign my blog's header.

The World Built More Solar Capacity Than Wind Capacity For The First Time Ever This Year

ROB WILE NOV. 29, 2013 REUTERS/Stringer

For the first time ever, the world will have ended the year installing more new solar capacity than wind, according to Bloomberg New Energy Finance.

Photovoltaic plants will add about 36.7 gigawatts globally in 2013, a 20% jump from last year. Wind will only add 35.5 gigawatts, down from 25% in 2012.

“The dramatic cost reductions in photovoltaics, combined with new incentive regimes in Japan and China, are making possible further, strong growth in volumes,” said Jenny Chase, BNEF’s head of solar analysis.

Meanwhile in the U.S., the amount of new solar capacity installed in 2013 through October — 2,528 megawatts — is nearly double the amount installed for wind, at 1,027 megawatts, for the same period, according to FERC.

And in terms of net generation, solar's 6,407 megawatt hours through September is 92% higher than it was through September 2012. For wind, the figure is just 22% higher, according to the EIA, though at 123,978 megawatt hours the overall amount of power generated by wind remains several orders of magnitude larger than solar. Monthly solar net generation growth in 2013 averaged 17% through September; for wind, monthly average growth was 0%. Here's the chart:


1 comment:

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