MacIver Partners with Reason Foundation on Alternative Energy Study

Finds Wind Power Cannot Cost-Effectively Be a Large Grid’s Main Source of Electricity

Study indicates hit-and-miss aspect of wind power causes operating costs to rise and environmental benefits to decrease as its market share grows

October 4, 2012

[Los Angeles, California and Madison, Wisconsin]– Wind energy is an unreliable source for our nation’s power grid, according to a new study released today by the MacIver Institute and the Reason Foundation.

Wind energy, because of its variable nature, is not suited to be the lone or primary source of a grid’s total electricity, according to a new MacIver Institute-Reason Foundation study. If it is used to produce more than 10-to-20 percent of a system’s electricity, wind power increases operating costs due to the need for expensive storage facilities or continuously available CO2-emitting backup power generation facilities.

“Very high wind penetrations are not achievable,” said William Korchinski, author of the study. “As wind’s share increases, system reliability will be adversely affected disproportionately–unless adequate reserve power is available. That power reserve is expensive and lowers any possible environmental benefits.”

The new MacIver Institute-Reason Foundation report uses a full year’s worth of hour-by-hour power grid data from PJM Interconnection, which manages the electrical grid in part of the Eastern United States, to simulate how wind would’ve supplied the necessary power to customers in 2009. Reason’s models show wind power would’ve failed to supply all of the electricity PJM customers needed over 50 percent of the time.

Thus, if wind is going to produce a large percentage of a grid’s electricity it will be necessary to build expensive energy storage facilities or reserve power generation facilities to supply power when there is not enough wind to meet energy demands at any given time and to prevent brownouts and blackouts.

“It makes no sense to borrow money from China and elsewhere to finance construction of windmills when they cannot possibly be the foundation of our energy supply,” said MacIver Institute President Brett Healy. “We can’t wish wind into reliability no matter how hard we try.”

The study shows that as more reserve power is needed, the environmental benefits of wind power decrease due to the C02 emissions from those facilities, which rely upon fossil fuels and must operate even when not being used, in order to ensure reliability of the electrical grid.

The study concludes that, given the costs involved, the practical upper limit for wind power’s contribution to the electricity grid is 10% of the total energy mix. This would result in a 9% reduction in CO2 emissions.

Full Study Online

“The Limits of Wind Power” is available online here.

About Reason Foundation

Reason Foundation is a nonprofit think tank dedicated to advancing free minds and free markets. Reason Foundation produces respected public policy research on a variety of issues and publishes the critically acclaimed Reason magazine and its website For more information please visit

About MacIver Institute

The John K. MacIver Institute for Public Policy is the Free Market Voice for Wisconsin. Located in Madison, it is a think tank that focuses on issues pertaining to free markets, individual freedom, personal responsibility and limited government. For more information please visit