Higher capacity factors in the range of 55 to 65% could soon put wind energy on track to replace coal as the United States’ dominant electricity source, according to an analysis published last month by the U.S. National Renewable Energy Laboratory.
“With current technology, wind turbines could generate more than enough energy at 55% capacity factor to power the entire U.S,” Greentech reports. “However, the real stunner is that near-future turbine technology (i.e. 140-meter towers) could boost that to 65% CF,” compared to an average of about 33% today.
“All other things equal, if a generator runs at a high capacity factor, the economics improve,” Handleman writes. “A three-megawatt wind turbine running at 33% capacity factor and charging $30 per megawatt-hour for electricity will generate about $260,000 in annual revenue. That same turbine running at 65% capacity factor would produce $512,000. Alternatively, it could charge $15.5 per megawatt-hour and end up with the same profits as the 33% CF unit, making it more competitive.”