NatGas v Wind – No Contest, NatGas Wins

You hear a lot about wind these days, not so much about solar, as an alternative to nasty fossil fuels like natural gas. But is wind really “all that?” We spotted an Associated Press story bragging about “the nation’s first offshore wind farm” opening off the coast of Rhode Island. Deepwater Wind built five turbines producing 30 megawatts of electricity (enough electricity to power 17,000 homes) 3 miles off Block Island–at a cost of $300 million. That’s about $10 million per megawatt to construct the facility. Let’s compare that to building a natural gas-fired electric plant. Natgas plants cost about $1 million per megawatt (10x less). This past year the very first built-from-scratch natgas plant built to use Marcellus Shale gas, called Panda Liberty, went live (see First NatGas Power Plant in Marcellus, Panda Liberty, Goes Online). Panda Liberty is an 829-megawatt Marcellus gas-fired electric generating plant in Asylum Township, Bradford County, PA. While Panda Power doesn’t release financial details, we believe we’re on solid ground by estimating the cost to build the plant at $829 million. Here’s the kicker: Panda Liberty’s 829 megawatt plant supplies enough electricity to power 1 million homes! Let’s see, spend $300 million to supply 17,000 homes, or $829 million to supply 1 million homes. Hmmm, tough one. We know, it’s not an exact apples to apples situation. The wind farm continuously gets its energy source (wind) for free, and the gas that powers Panda Liberty is not free. But honestly, there’s not enough ocean, or hilltops, to site those big, ugly turbines to take the place of clean-burning natural gas. In our book, there is no comparison. Natgas wins, hands down…

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