Has Wind Reduced Dependence on Fossil Fuels? Not in Europe, New Study Shows

One of the main talking points used by renewable energy advocates in Minnesota has been that building wind turbines will reduce our dependency on fossil fuels, but a new study of ten European countries shows that wind has failed to reduce the need for fossil fuels in the European Union.

The study, which appeared in the academic journal Energy Policy, examined real-world data from 1990-2014 and found that installing more wind has preserved the need for fossil fuels because the part-time nature of intermittent renewable sources (as opposed to hydro, which is far more dependable) means the energy system must maintain, and in some cases increase the number of fossil-fuel power plants to provide electricity when the wind isn’t blowing.

Increasing the amount of power plants has resulted in an increase in idled power plant capacity -either the wind turbines are idle because there isn’t enough wind, or the fossil fuel plants are idle because the wind is blowing- and this has made the whole electricity system less efficient and more costly.

You can read the conclusion from the study below:

“In short, the results indicate that the European Union’s domestic electricity production systems have preserved fossil fuel generation, and include several economic inefficiencies and inefficiencies in resource allocation. On the one hand, as renewable energy sources (RES) deployment increases, the idle capacity of RES increases by the same amount. This generates idle capacity and electricity production systems have to maintain or increase the installed capacity of fossil fuels in order to back up the RES, thus generating installed overcapacity in fossil fuels too. On the other hand, both the electrification of the residential, industrial and services sectors and consumption peaks also require fossil fuels, because RES are unable to satisfy them without resorting to fossil fuels.”

“In fact, RES cannot satisfy electricity consumption without resorting to fossil fuel electricity generation. This has hindered the shift from fossil fuels to RES, and has cancelled out the advantage of the shift to electrification, because of the need to burn fossil fuels”

So the next time someone says building more wind turbines will reduce Minnesota’s need for fossil fuels, kindly ask them how that’s working for our friends across the pond.

Make sure to check out Minnesota Blows Billions if you haven’t already.