Mr. Campbell’s op-ed is marred by numerous false statements and a serious misunderstanding of how the power grid operates. One only need to look to Iowa or Texas, which last year produced 15 percent and 8 percent of their electricity from wind turbines respectively, to see that adding wind energy to the grid actually improves power system reliability.
Moreover, there is no need to "back up" wind farm output as he claims. How is this possible? The output of wind farm plants is aggregated with all of the other changes in electricity supply and demand on a massive interstate power grid. Even though many of those sources of supply and demand are changing unpredictably (think of factories coming on and offline, people turning air conditioners on and off, fossil-fired power plants breaking down unexpectedly), together their combined output is stable and manageable.
Compared to these other changes, both onshore and offshore wind farm plants are relatively easy for grid operators to integrate, as changes in wind energy output occur slowly and are predictable. In fact, it would be far more appropriate to talk about the need to back up large fossil and nuclear power plants. They are the ones that experience large, immediate, and unexpected outages, requiring grid operators to keep 1,000-plus megawatts of fast acting, expensive and inefficient standby generation ready 24/7 in case one of those plants goes down.
U.S. Department of Energy data conclusively show that states that have ramped up their wind energy output over the last several years, like Colorado and Texas, have seen major reductions in air pollution emissions. In addition, every independent grid operator that has examined the issue has found that adding wind energy to the grid results in significant reductions in fossil fuel use and emissions.
Michael Goggin, Washington. The writer is manager of transmission policy for the American Wind Energy Association. www.awea.org/