I wrote earlier today
about grumbling at a Greenbuild session on life-cycle assessment, and I assigned the blame to bad news delivered by Stanley Rhodes of Scientific Certification Systems
The biggest shocker might have been Stanley's analysis that a given unit of electricity produced by wind resulted in increased greenhouse gas emissions compared with a unit of electricity produced by traditional fossil fuels (unfortunately he did not name the specific wind project analyzed).
Because wind begins and ends abruptly and unpredictably, it delivers a fluctuating amount of electricity. Power companies therefore need to be prepared to spike the power grid with electricity from conventional power plants like those using natural gas. These plants need to be on "hot standby" to be ready for this spike, which is an inefficient way for them to operate, hence resulting in increased emissions, according to the analysis.
If this is true, why would any power company use wind power? One answer would be renewable portfolio standards, which require a certain percentage of power from renewable sources. Another is customers who buy wind credits to "green their electricity" (discussed in the EBN
feature article "Greening Your Electricity
"). But I bet there's a lot more to this story.