Project supervisor Rusty Hurt opens a door at the base of one of the wind turbine towers in Montezuma, Kan. The wind farm contains 170 of the 289-foot-tall towers and can generate enough electricity to power 40,000 households.

AP Photo/Charlie Riedel

Wind is Unpredictable

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) professor Stephen Connors has been studying the interaction of alternative energy and electricity generation since before the term global warming entered the common language.

He said that when looking at the potential of wind power to fuel electricity for the country's automotive electric vehicle fleet, people should see time rather than geography. In short, rather than viewing where the electricity would come from, one should look at when the electricity is needed.

"The big issue with electric vehicles is people want to charge overnight," Connors said.

Currently, most electricity is produced with the use of steam turbines fired through gas, coal or petroleum. Rather than allow the turbines to idle overnight companies keep the generators turning throughout the dark hours, which produces a huge surplus of electricity -- even at reduced capacity -- when people need it the least. Unless, of course, you're an electric vehicle (EV) owner plugging into the grid overnight, then the surplus generation and consequently lower price works to your advantage.

However wind power does not follow this pattern. Instead wind power is reliant less on a predictable clock and more on weather patterns -- only somewhat predictable and not following human patterns.

"There's quite a mismatch in patterns with charging electric vehicles and when wind energy becomes available," Connors said.

Connors said the best time to produce wind energy is in the winter months, when winds are often at their strongest. Within the larger seasonal patterns are day-to-day patterns, too, varying in each weather region of the country. These are the trends that dictate the more immediate wind energy production. In essence, wind can supplement an EV fleet's electrical needs but cannot be the only source based on the seasonal and regional patterns that supply the wind necessary to produce the energy.

"This seasonal component doesn't meet the needs currently," Connors said.