U.S. President Donald Trump mocked renewable energy at yesterday's campaign rally in Michigan.
Implicating Hillary Clinton as part of Big Wind, Trump said, "If Hillary got in...you'd be doing wind. Windmills. Wheeeee. And if it doesn't blow, you can forget about television for that night. 'Darling, I want to watch television.' 'I'm sorry! The wind isn't blowing.'"
"I know a lot about wind," said the president. (Transcript here.)
Last month, Trump took time out of his oratory at the conservative CPAC event to work the same trope.
After suggesting that the proposed Green New Deal from the Democrats would result in “no planes” and “no energy,” the president said: “When the wind stops blowing, that’s the end of your electric.”
Trump played the same role pretending to be a consumer relying on wind power, saying, “Darling, is the wind blowing today? I’d like to watch television, darling.”
This was met with enthusiastic applause by the thousands of attendees.
That's not how wind works
So — given 60 seconds to politely fact-check and counter POTUS’ speech, here’s some evidence you might use to make your argument, taken from the president’s own Department of Energy (DOE), along with statistics from the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) and Wood Mackenzie Power & Renewables.
The DOE has a Wind Energy Technologies Office that “works with electric grid operators, utilities, regulators, academia, and industry to create new strategies for incorporating increasing amounts of wind energy into the power system while maintaining economic and reliable operation of the grid.”
Here’s a Wind 101 fact sheet from AWEA, which includes such nuggets as:
- The U.S. wind industry supported more than 100,000 jobs across all 50 states in 2017.
- Wind energy provided 6.3 percent of the nation’s electricity in 2017.
- Wind projects in 2017 represent $11 billion in private placement.
- There is almost 100 gigawatts of combined wind capacity in the U.S.
Wood Mackenzie Power & Renewables more than doubled its offshore wind outlook last year, projecting a 5.3-gigawatt market by 2026. Bloomberg New Energy Finance found that offshore wind saw a 24 percent decline in levelized cost of energy (LCOE), falling below $100 per megawatt-hour, compared to about $220 per megawatt-hour only five years ago. The benchmark LCOE for onshore wind fell by 10 percent to reach $50 per megawatt-hour for projects starting construction in early 2019.
AWEA would not correct Trump or respond to this fundamental question about their industry. But the answers, essentially capacity factor and transmission, are already on the AWEA website:
“Over the course of a year, modern turbines can generate usable amounts of electricity over 90 percent of the time.”
“Modern wind farms often have capacity factors greater than 40 percent, which is close to some types of coal or natural gas power plants.”
According to the AWEA blog, “Previous cold snaps also showed the value of transmission for increasing resilience and maintaining access to reliable electricity during extreme weather,” evidence of “the value of wind’s geographic diversity paired with a well-connected grid, creating a more resilient overall system.”
Perhaps Rick Perry, DOE Secretary and steward of the U.S. energy fleet, can correct the administration’s mischaracterization of wind power’s reliability and heft. Perry has most recently been in the news for authorizing the sale of unclassified civil nuclear technology to Saudi Arabia.
Trump has EV range anxiety
Like many consumers, the president has electric vehicle range anxiety and perhaps a minor misconception on the range of modern electric vehicles.
Trump suggested that the Green New Deal would result in one car per family, adding, "I don't think one car per family in Michigan plays too well. Do you agree, right, not too well, and it's got to be, of course, that electric car, even if it only goes 160 miles?"
First, American drivers average about 40 miles per day, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation. Long drives are the exception, not the rule. Second, battery performance, and therefore range, is good now and continues to improve with incremental gains in lithium-ion chemistries and new technologies like solid-state batteries on the horizon.
While there are plenty of short-range commuter cars, the 2019 model year has a number of electric models with more than 200 miles of range.
- Tesla Model S: 250 to 315 Miles
- Tesla Model X 100D: 295 Miles
- Audi e-tron: 248 miles
- Hyundai Kona Electric: 258 miles
- Nissan Leaf e+: 226 miles
EV range numbers are estimates and do suffer with heavier loads, higher speeds, steep terrain and colder temperatures. But EV performance is more practical every year, and hopefully we can work through our range anxiety together as a country.