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Economics

A sustained reduction in machine prices shows no signs of slackening. Every doubling of wind capacity has been accompanied by a 15% reduction in the cost of turbines. This technical advance has been secured with relatively modest levels of research and development funding. Worldwide, wind R&D funding is well under half that allocated to photovoltaics, despite the fact that wind turbine sales (by capacity) are around ten times those of PV. As energy productivity and reliability have improved, wind electricity prices have fallen. They are down to $0.04/kWh-$0.05/kWh. At the windiest sites, the price of wind is close to that of gas and well below those of coal, oil or nuclear. On remote islands or in sparsely populated regions without mains electricity, wind can often be the cheapest energy option.

There are some clouds on the economic horizon. The liberalisation and restructuring of the electric power industry is likely to prompt the early retirement of some nuclear power units, closure of less competitive coal mines, and an increased share of natural gas in electricity generation, according to a new US analysis. These shakedowns will bring down the overall price of electricity, making it harder for wind to compete.

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