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‘Gambling With The Grid’: New Data Highlights Achilles’ Heel Of One Of Biden’s Favorite Green Power Sources

New government data shows that wind power generation fell in 2023 despite the addition of new capacity, a fact that energy sector experts told the Daily Caller News Foundation demonstrates its inherent flaw.

Wind generation fell by about 2.1% in 2023 relative to 2022 generation, despite the 6 gigawatts (GW) of wind power capacity that came online last year, according to data published Tuesday by the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA). That wind power output dropped despite new capacity coming online and the availability of government subsidies highlights its intermittency and the problems wind power could pose for grid reliability, energy sector experts told the DCNF.

The decrease in wind generation is the first drop on record with the EIA since the 1990s; the drop was not evenly distributed across all regions of the U.S., and slower wind speeds last year also contributed to the decline, according to EIA. The Biden administration wants to have the American power sector reach carbon neutrality by 2035, a goal that will require a significant shift away from natural gas- and coal-fired power toward wind, solar and other green sources. (RELATED: Renewable Energy Experts Cast Doubt On Biden’s Wind Power Plans)

A table depicting the decrease of wind power generation in 2023 relative to 2022. (Screenshot via U.S. Energy Information Administration)

“Relying on wind power to meet your peak electricity demands is gambling with the grid,” Isaac Orr, a policy fellow at the Center of the American Experiment who specializes in power grid-related analysis, told the DCNF. “Will the wind blow, or won’t it? This should be a moment where policymakers step back and consider the wisdom of heavily subsidizing intermittent generators and punishing reliable coal and gas plants with onerous regulations.”

Between 2016 and 2022, the wind industry received an estimated $18.6 billion worth of subsidies, about 10% of the total amount of subsidies extended to the energy sector by the U.S. government, according to an August 2023 EIA report. Wind power received more assistance from the government than nuclear power, coal or natural gas over the same period of time.

“This isn’t subsidies per kilowatt hour of generation. It’s raw subsidies. If it were per kilowatt hour of generation, the numbers would be even more extreme,” Paige Lambermont, a research fellow at the Competitive Enterprise Institute, told the DCNF. “This is a massive amount of money. It’s enough to dramatically alter energy investment decisions for the worse. We’re much more heavily subsidizing the sources that don’t provide a significant portion of our electricity than those that do.”

“Policy that just focuses on installed capacity, rather than the reliability of that capacity, fails to understand the real needs of the electrical grid,” Lambermont added. “This recent disparity illustrates that more installed wind capacity does not necessarily correlate with more wind power production. It doesn’t matter how much wind you add to the grid, if the wind isn’t blowing at peak demand time, that capacity will go to waste.”

Wind power’s performance was especially lackluster in the upper midwest, but Texas saw more wind generation in 2023 than it did in 2022, according to EIA. Wind generation in the first half of 2023 was about 14% lower than it was through the first six months of 2022, but generation was higher toward the end of 2023 than it was during the same period in 2022.

In 2023, about 60% of all electricity generated in the U.S. came from fossil fuels, while 10% came from wind power, according to EIA data. Beyond generous subsidies for preferred green energy sources, the Biden administration has also aggressively regulated fossil fuels and American power plants to advance its broad climate agenda. (RELATED: Massive Energy Corporation Says Up To 30% Of Its Wind Turbines Could Be Malfunctioning)

The Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) landmark power plant rules finalized this month will threaten grid reliability if enacted, partially because the regulations are likely to incentivize operators to close plants rather than adopt the costly measures required for compliance, grid experts previously told the DCNF. At the same time that the Biden administration is effectively trying to shift power generation away from fossil fuels, it is also pursuing goals — such as substantially boosting electric vehicle adoption over the next decade and incentivizing construction of energy-intensive computer chip factories — that are driving up projected electricity demand in the future.

“The EIA data proves what we’ve always known about wind power: It is intermittent, unpredictable and unreliable,” David Blackmon, a 40-year veteran of the oil and gas industry who now writes and consults on the energy sector, told the DCNF. “Any power generation source whose output is wholly dependent on equally unpredictable weather conditions should never be presented by power companies and grid managers as safe replacements for abundant, cheap, dispatchable generation fueled with natural gas, coal or nuclear. This is a simple reality that people in charge of our power grids too often forget. Saying that no doubt hurts some people’s feelings, but nature really does not care about our feelings.”

Blackmon also pointed out that, aside from its intermittency, sluggish build-out of the transmission lines and related infrastructure poses a major problem for wind power.

“Wind power is worthless without accompanying transmission, yet the Biden administration continues to pour billions into unreliable wind while ignoring the growing crisis in the transmission sector,” Blackmon told the DCNF.

Another long-term issue that wind power, as well as solar power, faces is the need for a massive expansion in the amount of battery storage available to store and dispatch energy from intermittent sources as market conditions dictate. By some estimates, the U.S. will need about 85 times as much battery storage by 2050 relative to November 2023 in order to fully decarbonize the power grid, according to Alsym Energy, a battery company.

The White House and the Department of Energy did not respond to requests for comment.

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