Tom Horton's recent commentary on nuclear energy is excellent and provides the beginning of a rational discussion of green energy in Maryland ("Embracing nukes," May 23). He includes data which shows that wind farms on average operate at 30 percent of design capacity versus 90 percent for nuclear power. Solar power systems operate on average at 15 percent of design capacity. Wind and sun power are erratic. Nuclear plants operate constantly, and the 90 percent utilization factor is due to planned maintenance.
There is no current capability to store power on a large scale. In order to produce reliable power, generating companies that are forced to take wind power must have thermal backup power and cycle or spin their turbines, inefficiently wasting steam to instantaneously replace sudden decreases in wind power. Denmark, the poster child for offshore wind farms, shows essentially the same level of carbon dioxide emissions from 1999 when the country's frenzied construction of wind mill capacity began to 2007 with zero population growth. No thermal plants were shut down in Denmark when the wind farm was built.
The United Kingdom is another country where wind power can be isolated. Stuart Young Associates analyzed wind power from November 2008 to December 2010. During the study period, wind generation was below 20 percent of capacity more than half of the time, below 10 percent one-third of the time and below 2.5 percent of capacity one day in 12.
In 2011, in a comprehensive study of U.S. wind power, "The Wind Power Paradox," Bentek Energy assessed emission reduction performance based on actual generation and emissions data across a variety of regions of the country. This study shows that actual carbon dioxide reductions through wind generation are either so small as to be insignificant or too expensive to be practical.
Denmark and Germany have high levels of subsidized wind and solar power with costs including taxes of 43 and 30 cents per kilowatt hour respectively, compared to an average of 11 cents per kWh in the U.S.
France is Europe's lowest cost power producer at about 6 cents per kWh before tax and 19 cents after tax. France has the world's most sophisticated energy policy, producing 75 percent of their power with nuclear plants. France reprocesses its spent fuel rods and is the leader in high speed electric rail transportation. France is also Europe's lowest producer of carbon dioxide on a per capita basis at about one-third of our production.
Wind farms provide no reduction in carbon dioxide. Nuclear power shorn of legal impediments is the cheapest form of green energy. Maryland's energy strategy is obvious, and it's not the sun and wind.