When it comes to total efficiency, there isn’t a power generation solution which currently exists that is able to reach 100% effectiveness. At peak efficiency, however, the average wind turbine operates at 50% efficiency, within a few percentage points. Under regular conditions, the blades may spin a turbine to convert up to 45% of the wind into usable electricity.
At the moment, it is one of the lease efficient options that is available in terms of power generation and efficiency. A coal-fired power plant, for example, may operate at 85% peak efficiency and be able to convert 75-90% of fuel resources into usable electricity.
Why Is Wind Energy So Inefficient?
The issue with wind energy is that each individual turbine is generally evaluated to determine how well it operates. Each turbine operates on a much smaller capacity, often in the 1-5 megawatt range at most, and this increases the reduction in efficiency percentage that can be produced.
Let’s say that a 1,000 megawatt and a 1 megawatt turbine both lose 100 kilowatts of energy due to inefficiencies. For the larger turbine, that drop is a 1% loss in efficiency. For the 1 megawatt turbine, that drop is 10%.
Then we must add in the amount of wind that is not collected. The blades for a wind tower will not generally spin unless wind speeds reach 10mph, but they shut down when wind speeds reach 40-55mph. This means we’re not collecting all of the potential wind sources that may be available.
So Why Is Wind Energy Promoted So Often?
Although wind energy is inefficient compared to other solutions, it is the cheapest renewable energy technology that we currently have. It’s also the only real large-scale deployment renewable solution that is available to use right now. Other renewable energies like solar or geothermal are available, but just are not ready for the mass market right now.
Several countries are already producing over 1,000 megawatts of energy through the use of wind energy. Although that represents just 2% of the power that is created on our planet every year, it is a step in the right direction. Denmark currently receives 20% of its energy from wind power, while even states like Texas are at 10%.
As technologies improves in this area, wind energy will become more efficient. In time, it could be our go-to solution for electricity.