The Pros and Cons of Wind Power

Faculty Lunch talk by E. Carr Everbach

26 September 2001


Pros of Wind Power:

  1. It is immoral for Swarthmore College to cause harm just to save money. Fossil fuel derived power causes deaths, illnesses, and contributes to environmental degradation; wind doesn't.
  2. Wind power purchase would demonstrate Swarthmore's leadership, have PR value, development, recruitment.
  3. Wind power is domestic source -> greater stability and security.
  4. Wind power is more expensive now, but may be cheaper than fossil fuels later.

Cons of Wind Power:

  1. Costs more to purchase. No separate budget for this.
  2. Must trade off against other moral goods we could pursue.



History of the Energy Market in Pennsylvania

3 key players: producers, utilities, consumers


Producers (PECO-Exelon Corp): average PJM wholesale price in 2000 was $28.20 per MWh

52% coal

27% nuclear

9% oil

6% hydro

6% natural gas

< 0.5% renewables


Utilities (PECO)

large transmission HT tariff: $3.50 per MWh

local distribution: $7.70 per MWh


Stranded Cost Competetive Transisiton Charge of $20.20 per MWh through 2010

Demand Charges for Swarthmore in 1998: $9.70 per MWh

Total Cost: $69.40 per MWh for 2002


Swarthmore College uses 12,000 MWh this year, costing $832,800.00.

With new Science Center, will use 15,000 MWh, costing $1,041,000.00 in 2004


Some selected users (MWh):









Field House




(the rest from dorms, classrooms, offices in buildings not listed, off-campus users)

Peak demand occurs daily 1-3 pm and annually in September-October

In USA, electricity industry produces 2% of GNP, but contributes

70% of SO2

30% of CO2

30% of NOx

18% of mercury released

high level radioactive waste

particulates smaller than 10 microns


Emissions based upon PJM Power Pool Data:

Swarthmore College produces 9311 tons CO2, 63 tons SO2, 26.6 tons NOx, radioactive waste, particulates


What's so bad about that?

PA has 4th smoggiest air in the US

PA has the most acidic rainfall in US

PA emits 1% of the world's CO2 (more than 84 countries)


in Philadelphia Metro area, in each year:

997 deaths attributable to power plant pollution (mostly particulates)

654 hospitalizations

19,000 asthma attacks (40% are children)

225 asthma ER visits

593 chronic bronchitis diagnoses

158,000 lost work days

(doesn't include mining, transportation, nuclear wastes, solid wastes)


PECO's output is 23,593,639 MWh for the year 2000, so, if proportional:

997 * 12,000 MWh Swat / 23,593,639 MWh PECO = 0.5 deaths/year


Why do we participate in causing one death every other year? Cost.

1 MWh of electricity cost (in real dollar terms):

$1000 in 1900

$400 in 1950

$100 in 1980

$69 in 2002


Energy costs of new coal plant: $35 - $40 per MWh

but include health costs, then get $55 per MWh


1 MW turbine with design life of 20 years costs $1.5 M. Amortizing this over 20 years at 6-8% interest gives $131,000 to $153,000 per year. Adding annual operation and maintenance leads to an estimated annual cost of $149,000 to $183,000.


A turbine's annual energy output depends on the cube of the mean annual wind speed at 50 m height above ground.

For 1.5 MW turbine, energy produced is 4700 to 5200 MWh each year -> $30 - $40 per MWh.



PA has better wind than Germany, but hardly touched. Land can be used for agriculture, too.

Wind cost to produce (per MWh, in real dollar terms):

$400 in 1979

$40 - $70 in 2000

$25 - $45 in 2005 (projected, based upon signed contracts, economies of scale).


How much would we pay?

whole$ale - CTC - HT transmission - local distribution = "shopping credit"

$69.40 - $20.20 - $3.50 - $7.70 = $38.00 per MWh (what we pay now) note: wholesale price is about $30 per MWh


CMU signed one-year contract for 5% of their total electrical energy load, or 4,778 MWh

at a cost of $17 more per MWh. Total one-year cost: $80,000.


Swarthmore's electric rates have been capped at 1996 levels, so we are paying 15% less for electricity today than in 1996 (in real dollar terms). 100% wind power for Swarthmore could cost 10-15% more than for fossil fuels within 10 years.


Idea: combine conservation (5% possible to acheive, net of fixed costs, or $50,000) with wind power purchase. This would buy 15% to 20% of Swarthmore's power from wind.


Several payment options:

1. "Green Mountain Model" - Buy scheduled power from supplier, billed for delivered power (includes demand charges): 1 year, 2 year, 5 year, 10 year contracts available at fixed rates. The more wind power we buy, and the longer the contract, the cheaper the price.

2. "Green Tag Model" - keep contract with PECO-Exelon, but agree to pay difference between current PJM wholesale price and a fixed price of $52 per MWh for the wind power we draw (20 year contract). Pay for "wind premium" separately.

3. "Think Energy Model" - negotiate directly with wind power producers to have dedicated turbine output dumped into the PJM grid on our behalf. For a few thousand dollars, we could investigate this option.

4. "Stand Alone Model" - buy our own wind turbine, and the land it sits on.



Other possibilities:


Reinvest annually in wind power in an amount equal to 3% of electric bills.

Ramp up purchase of percentage wind power to 100% in 10 years, when CTC comes off.

Optional "dollar added to fees" at Univ. of Colorado


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last updated 10/12/01