Although wind turbines do not appear to have changed much over the years, the technology behind them has gotten considerably more sophisticated. This has led to the increase in the amount of electricity wind turbines can generate and has lowered the cost of wind power.
General Electric’s 2.5-120 wind turbine is a leader in the new turbine technology. In the past, general turbine output has been 2.85, but GE’s is 2.5 megawatts while generating 15% more kilowatt hours. GE attributes this efficiency to sensor arrays and more sophisticated algorithms that account for better operating and monitoring the turbine to keep it spinning long past the point of shutdown for other turbines.
Wind power is now as inexpensive as fossil fuels and is becoming increasingly competitive with them. For instance, in 1991, wind power costs approximately 15 cents per kilowatt hour. Now it is 6.5 cents per kilowatt hour. For comparison’s sake, this year new natural gas plants will generate electricity at 6.5 cents per kilowatt hour.
In January, a report released by the Electric Reliability Council of Texas demonstrated that latest data on wind turbine performance and costs suggests that wind power is likely to be more cost-effective than natural gas over the next 20 years.
Initially, the council expecting the findings to sway in the direction of natural-gas plants not wind power but later conceded that wind power will account for the majority of the new generating capacity added to Texas.
Wind power is quickly becoming a competitor with fossil-fuel power, but the scale will be limited to the grid’s ability to handle the current intermittency.