Despite more turbines, Minnesota wind production in 2019 was still below 2017 levels

If you build them, the wind won’t necessarily come.

I’ve recently reported that wind facilities in Minnesota produced less electricity in 2018 than 2017, and newly-released data from the U.S. Energy Information Administration shows electricity generation from Minnesota wind facilities was about one percent less in 2019 than 2017, although 2019 saw more generation from wind turbines than 2018.

The decline, relative to 2017 generation, occurred despite the fact that there are about 3.6 percent more wind generation capacity installed in Minnesota today (3,843 megawatts) than there were at the end of 2017 (3,699 megawatts), according to the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy.

Renewable energy advocates would no doubt argue that some year-to-year variation in wind output will be normal due to weather conditions, but this is exactly the problem: we are depending on the weather for our electricity generation, rather than relying on forms of electricity like nuclear, natural gas, and coal, that can be turned on or off whenever we need them.

Anyone who has ever lived on a farm knows the worst part about it is the powerless feeling you have when you’re entire livelihood is depending on the weather.

Growing up on a small dairy farm in Wisconsin, I can’t tell you how many times my parents or grandparents said, “Gee, we could sure use a rain right now.” This is why many farmers install irrigation systems on their land, and why virtually every wind-powered sailboat also has a gas-powered engine aboard. This also why we shouldn’t be building an electric grid powered by weather-dependent sources of energy.