Proceedings of the 1st International Doctoral Consortium on Technology, Policy, and Management · 2002

Is the Answer to Climate Change Mitigation Blowing in the Wind?

J. F. DeCarolis and D. W. Keith

The use of fossil fuels to produce electricity generates significant environmental impacts, and has led to an intense interest in a cleaner and more affordable electricity supply. Electricity from wind power provides an alternative to conventional generation that can yield significant reductions in carbon dioxide emissions and fossil fuel use. Discussions of large-scale wind must address the problems posed by the spatial distribution and intermittency of the wind resource. The greenfield analysis presented in this paper provides a first-order economic characterization of wind in a baseload system in which long-distance electricity transmission, storage, and backup gas capacity are used to supplement the variable wind power output to meet a fixed load. The utilization of wind to help meet a fixed load simplifies the analysis and provides a useful proxy for a model that incorporates the complex supply and demand dynamics that characterize electricity markets. The results of this preliminary model indicate that baseload wind is capable of effecting deep cuts in carbon emissions at a cost competitive with other zero emissions energy technologies such as nuclear or coal with carbon capture.

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