Published in 2011, this study estimates, in a conservative manner, the full life-cycle cost of the US's reliance on coal for electricity. Its main finding is that the true cost of coal for electricity is between 9 and 27 cents per kWh (best estimate: 18 cents/kWh), considerably more than competently developed wind power. Taxpayers are paying this price, although it doesn't show up on our electric bills.
The EIA's 2013 Annual Energy Outlook with Projections to 2040 is available here. The projections are not favorable for the environment and the fight against global warming. We must do better. The EIA projects that coal will continue to be the top source of electricity even in 2040, and that it will produce more electricity at that time than it did in 2011. Here's a graph from the report.
Published in 2012, this report examines the hidden costs (subsidies and externalities) of each of the following electricity industries in the U.S.: Biomass, Coal, Natural Gas, Nuclear, Solar, and Wind. Thorough and well-researched.
This forthcoming study, led by GE Energy, also shows many positive impacts of large amounts of renewables:
- lower systemwide production costs
- lower wholesale energy costs
- lower average locational marginal prices (LMPs) and lower zonal prices
- lower emissions of criteria pollutants and greenhouse gases
A 7-year study of the impact of wind development on Greater Prairie Chickens came out in May, 2013 with the suprising result that wind development has no negative impact on the population of the birds. In fact, it found evidence of positive impact on the suvival of the females. A summary of this study is here, and its official write-up is here.
Highly regarded scientist Paul Kerlinger, who specializes in birds, has written an insightful piece (published Aug. 1, 2013) supporting the relative safety of wind turbines for bald eagles. Writes Kerlinger: "If an eagle is found dead at a wind facility, turbine owners must insist that the federal authorities allow the carcass to be analyzed to determine whether lead poisoning was involved. Eagles having even slightly elevated lead levels can be weakened and fly erratically, causing them to collide with various objects. In the event that the bird has elevated lead levels, the ultimate responsibility for the fatality may not be the turbine. Instead the agency [U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service] that funded and licensed the lead dispersal should accept responsibility." The full article is here, and we recommend it also for the other insights it contains.
Near the end of September 2013, the National Renewable Energy Lab published a Western Wind and Solar Integration Study which showed conclusively that wind and solar energy reduces net pollution emissions on a virtually 1 for 1 basis. Anti-clean energy forces have spread the lie for years that because wind and solar are intermittent sources, just as much fossil fuel energy is still needed, thus resulting in no lowering of harmful emissions. NREL's study uses real world data demonstrating, as honest observers have noted, that wind energy directly displaces the output of the most expensive power plants, which are almost always the least efficient fossil-fired power plants.
In addition, the report concludes that boosting renewable production in the West to 25% of energy would save consumers billions of dollars.
An excellent summary of the report's highlights by Michael Goggin is here, and the NREL link is here.