A new Cascade Policy Institute–Reason Foundation study finds that wind energy is not suited to be the lone or primary source of a grid’s total electricity, due to its variable nature. If used to produce more than 10-20 percent of a system’s electricity, wind power increases operating costs because it requires expensive storage facilities or continuously available carbon dioxide-emitting backup power generation facilities.


In the Pacific Northwest, the backup to wind power has been provided by the Columbia River hydro system. However, hydroelectricity has even less carbon dioxide associated with it than does wind power. Displacing hydropower from the grid in favor of wind is actually a step backwards from the standpoint of reducing greenhouse gas emissions.


Two factors drive Oregon’s policy preference for wind power: subsidies to producers and Senate Bill 838’s Renewable Portfolio Standards. The Renewable Portfolio Standards force large utilities to procure 25% of their total power from politically designated “green power” sources by 2025. Both policies amount to a multi-billion-dollar tax on ratepayers, with net negative benefits for environmental quality.


As this study shows, policies favoring wind power are a mistake from both an environmental and an economic standpoint. Oregon legislators should repeal SB 838 and all wind power incentives in 2013.


John A. Charles, Jr. is President and CEO of Cascade Policy Institute, Oregon’s free market public policy research organization.

4 thoughts on “Wind Energy Can’t Stand Alone

  1. Question. In your study of electricity, if we were hit by an EMT, would wind sources still transmit electricity? It’s one thing to be energy independent, but it seems that it will make us more vulnerable to EMT attack. Is there any source of electricity that wouldn’t be affected by EMT attack.

  2. If there was ever an EMT attack against the USA that hit relatively nonessential Oregon, it would come from China or less likely, Russia. Such an attack would be part of a full blown war featuring every type of WMD, including nuclear. Whether or not wind generated electricity was feeding into the power grid would pale in comparison to the importance of a backyard underground bunker and several 55 gal drums of water, rice, flour, canned goods, etc.

  3. Noted error above. It is EMP, NOT EMT…I copied the initials from the ltr above mine without noticing the mistake. It is electro magnetic pulse. It requires a nuclear detonation in the atmosphere to create one.

  4. This paper does an excellent job describing how you can be prepared for an EMP attack. @Neil, no bunker is truly safe without weapons and lots of ammo.

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