While in Ireland last week, I ran across an article in Britain's Sunday Times written by a Mr. Sam Laidlaw, who runs a wind power company in Britain, arguing for increased subsidies to be paid by conventional power plants to wind energy companies due to the high cost of wind turbines.
Mr. Laidlaw is all for increased subsidies, so he can't be accused of bias against the wind industry. Thus, his economic arguments are very interesting. According to him, offshore wind farms cost over 4 times as much per megawatt of capacity as gas fired plants, and more than nuclear plants.
However, wind farms, unlike conventional power sources, can't produce close to their rated capacity, on average, because of the variability of wind. In fact, on average they produce somewhere between 18% and 25% of rated capacity.
So based on Mr. Laidlaw's numbers, the capital cost per megawatt of effective capacity for wind power is somewhere between 16 and 20 times as much as gas fired plants, and upwards of 4 times that of nuclear plants.
And, of course, that's before you take into account that the conventional plants have to be built anyway, because they're needed for the 100% backup wind requires when it isn't blowing at all.
As the Obama program is to forbid the construction of low cost coal plants using our most abundant energy resource, and switching to wind and solar, which is even more expensive, we'll also be outsourcing more and more energy using industries to China, which is building hundreds of new, low cost coal fired plants.
Please say goodbye to the factory jobs which would have used that energy. Perhaps those ex-workers can all be re-trained to be environmental lawyers - the sort of productive "green" jobs Obama has in mind.
Another very good article on wind economics and environmental impact is here. It's required reading.