Does wind power reduce carbon emissions?

Update: Peter Lang, author of the wind study referred to below, responds here.

If renewable or nuclear energy is going to be successful in decarbonising our electricity supply (and, ultimately, all energy use), it needs to hit a couple of fundamental benchmarks:

(i) its life cycle energy inputs must be low compared to its ‘clean energy’ output; and

(ii) it must be able to displace fossil fuels — with elimination of carbon emissions from stationary energy being the first major objective.

Regarding life cycle emissions from nuclear power, I’ve already touched on the issue, but will be exploring this in more detail in the future. But this post is about wind.

To tackle this topic, I profile a recent analysis circulated by retired engineer Peter Lang, called “Cost and Quantity of Greenhouse Gas Emissions Avoided by Wind Generation“. Peter has 40 years experience on a wide range of energy projects throughout the world, including managing energy R&D and providing policy advice for government and opposition. His experience includes: coal, oil, gas, hydro, geothermal, nuclear power plants and nuclear waste disposal (6.5 years managing a component of the Canadian Nuclear Fuel Waste Management Program). Click on the title of the paper to download the 14 page PDF.

Okay, so what does he say? Let’s start with the bottom line and then work back:

1. Wind power does not avoid significant amounts of greenhouse gas emissions.

2. Wind power is a very high cost way to avoid greenhouse gas emissions.

3. Wind power, even with high capacity penetration, can not make a significant contribution to reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

Strong statements, to be sure. Here’s the justification.

Peter looks at the issues of variability and back-up generation. Energy storage in the form of batteries is dismissed as uneconomic for the amount of energy required. For hydro, he says:

We have insufficient hydro resources to provide peak power let alone provide back-up for wind power. Hydro energy has high value for providing peak power and for providing rapid and controllable responses to changes in electricity demand across the network. So our very limited hydro resource is used to generate this high value power.”

Pumped hydro is obviously an alternative route, if you are willing to accept the energy conversion losses in going from electricity from wind turbines to mechanical energy (pumps) to potential energy (water stored in the dam) to kinetic energy (falling water to turn the turbines) and back to electrical energy. But let’s focus for now on the most touted (and widely used) form of back up for wind: natural gas (that is, fossil methane) using open cycle gas turbines (OCGT).

To calculate the true cost of wind back up, one must include the following sort of items (an incomplete list): cost of maintaining back-up plants, costs of holding large amounts of spinning reserve, costs of rapid power-ups and power-downs, use of high value hydro for balancing,  costs imposed on utilities in managing variable supply and meeting government mandated purchases, etc. In capturing some of these, Lang concludes that the total cost for wind with OCGT back up at a capacity factor of 45% is $121 per MWh (versus $60/MWh if back-up costs are ignored). See Option 2 on page 7 of his analysis.**

He then looks at the critical issue of emissions of CO2e avoided by installing wind with back up. The baseline comparison is made against combined cycle gas turbines (CCGT), for which the emissions intensity (EI) is 577 kg CO2e/MWh (for reference, it’s 750 to 1400 kg for various coal grades and non-CCS technologies).

The conclusion he reaches is rather startling (see pg 8-9). For wind power without back up, the EI is a mere 18 kg CO2e/MWh (mostly coming from materials and energy used to construct the steel and concrete turbines). Yet for wind with adequate OCGT back up, the EI is 519 kg CO2e/MWh.

Thus, the emissions avoided by wind amount to a grand total of 5.8 kg CO2e/MWe. This estimate seems ludicrious at first pass, but it turns out to be similar to one derived independently by the UK Royal Academy of Engineering, which put the figure of emissions avoided at an ever so slightly less trifling 9 kg CO2e/MWe.

From there, it’s straightforward to do the sums on the cost per tonne of CO2e avoided by installing wind power. It’s a whopping $830 to $1,149…

On the basis of the above, Lang concludes with the following:

These calculations suggest that wind generation saves little greenhouse gas emissions when the emissions from the back-up are taken into account.

Wind power, with emissions and cost of back-up generation properly attributed, avoids 0.058 to 0.09 t CO2-e/MWh compared with about 0.88 t CO2-e/MWh avoided by nuclear. The cost to avoid 1 tonne of CO2-e per MWh is $830 to $1149 with wind power compared with $22 with nuclear power. If the emissions and cost of back up generation are ignored then wind power avoids about 0.5 t CO2-e/MWh at a cost of about $134/t CO2-e avoided. Even if the costs of and emissions from back up generation are ignored, wind is still over six times more costly that nuclear as a way to avoid emissions.

A single 1000 MW nuclear plant (normally we would have four to eight reactors together in a single power station) would avoid 6.9 million tonnes of CO2 equivalent per year. Five hundred 2 MW wind turbines (total 1000 MW) would avoid 0.15 to 1.3 million tonnes per year – just 2 to 20% as much as the same amount of nuclear capacity. When we take into account that we could have up to 80% of our electricity supplied by nuclear (as France has), but only a few percent can be supplied by wind, we can see that nuclear can make a major contribution to cutting greenhouse emissions, but wind a negligible contribution and at much higher cost.

So, do you believe that this analysis is all a load of old cobblers? Can you point to the obvious (or subtle) flaws in this assessment? I’ve tried, and I can’t fault the logic, but perhaps a savvier analyst than me is up for it. I look forward to the feedback in the comments.

** I had one question for Peter, which I asked him by email:

“In the wind study, on p7 you present a table under option 2. I’m having trouble following how the top 3 rows contribute to the bottom line. Could you explain this to me in a little more detail, as I think it’s critical for understanding, and indeed for interpreting the emissions table on the following page. Basically, why is the wind cost not just row 2+3 (and then how do you derive the 45% CF)? I know I’m probably being thick, but it just doesn’t click, despite re-reading this a dozen times.”

… to which Peter replied:

“The table you referred to is not well explained in the text. Here is the explanation.

First, the reason for the 45% capacity factor is that, that is the average capacity factor given in the ESAA paper for intermediate load (CCGT). I wanted to stay consistent with the ESAA figures so I could continue to include to use them for comparison with the other studies. Refer: Figure 2, p12 in

http://www.esaa.com.au/images/stories//energyandemissionsstudystage2.pdf

Let me know if you need more explanation in answer to this part of the question.

Second, what is the Option 2 about. We want 45% capacity factor for intermediate load. The output must be provided on demand, not just when the wind is blowing. Assuming the capacity factor for wind is 30%, we will get 2/3 of the required 45% of the energy from Wind with OCGT back up, and the other 1/3 of the required 45% of the energy from OCGT.

Row 1 – OCGT at 15%/45% CF x $105/MWh = $35/MWh

Row 2 – Wind at 30%/45% CF x $90/MWh = $60/MWh

Row 3 – OCGT operating in back up mode for wind at 30%/45% CF x $39/MWh = $26/MWh

I do need to find a better way to explain this in the paper. Any suggestions greatly appreciated.”

If you wish to ask Peter any questions yourself, perhaps he’ll be happy to reply in this thread — I’ll certainly alert him to the fact that it’s now posted.

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256 Comments

  1. I’m out of bandwidth right now to look in detail, but I think the most basic assumption is flawed, or incomplete, or at the very least, apparently unaware of sophisticated work done elsewhere. Of course, he may be quite right if he’s talking just about South Australia.

    “Wind power is intermittent, so either energy storage or constantly, instantly available
    back-up generation is required to provide constant power.”

    But when something *starts* like that, I’m very worried…

    1) See Stanford’s Archer & Jacobson, Supplying Baseload Power and Reducing Transmission Requirements by
    Interconnecting Wind Farms
    , and Evaluation of global wind power.

    Maybe they are wrong, but one might Google Scholar archer jacobson for related papers and citations. I think I’ve mentioned them before. Of course, teh US Midwest is a really good place for distributed windpower, given that turbines and farms are a great combination, don’t requite building at sea, already have roads, etc. That might not fit Australia so well.

    2) Again and again, I see analyses that ignore the effects of smart load management, like what EnerNOC does, or our local utility PG&E does, or the various kinds of smart-grid efforts coming for homes, or the likely Vehicle-to-Grid ideas being prototyped. PG&E serves 15M people, not too much smaller than Oz.

    Analyses that *assume* load is immoveable, or that people don’t shift usage in response to pricing … just don’t seem very relevant to me … although many utility folks (not here) traditionally think that way.

    3) I certainly think that nuclear has a role to play, especially 4th-gen, but I’m not very convinced by an analysis that starts like this did. Maybe he’s right, but this analysis isn’t convincing, because I think the basic assumption isn’t. At least, in Oz, you’re lucky to have a good combination of choices among {solar, wind, nuclear}, which many places do not. Maybe that helps compensate for the water issue.

  2. This is why the public’s eyes glaze over on discussions of energy economics. They want to see a few wind turbines on their Sunday afternoon drive and if there are coal stations hidden away so be it.

    Dividing by the capacity factor is a proxy for the required overbuild. Thus a CF of 33% implies an overbuild of 3X. It may not be relevant to some calculations. A better approach may be weighted averages eg
    (W(0) + G(.5))/(W + G) for CO2 per average Mwh. Of course if the ratio of wind to gas output is high the average improves. As gas depletes (G->0) that ratio will have to increase. That seems unlikely barring a storage or demand shifting breakthrough.

    The analysis suggests that wind power will not displace coal since it makes little dent on gas. Yet we are supposed to both greatly increase renewables and cut CO2 within the next decade.

  3. As someone who has opted to get 50% of their electricity from renewable sources, (in my case from wind energy) the above posting is pretty demoralising stuff. According to my electricity accounts, the 50% Green Power option I’ve chosen, saves roughly half a tonne of greenhouse emissions per quarter.

    The ACCC is currently taking a hard look, at the whole issue of Green Energy accreditation, not before time. In the meantime what would happen to our greenhouse emissions, if power consumers like me, suddenly decided it was all too hard, and dumped their green power option? What would happen to investment in the renewable energy sector? There are approximatelly one million Green Energy consumers out there.

    A lot of space on this forum has been devoted to promoting fourth generation nuclear power. Fair enough. But it is not yet a reality in Australia or for that matter the rest of the world. For the next ten to fifteen years the amount of greenhouse emissions saved from nuclear power in Australia will be zero. Meawhile what are the environmental and ethical options for discerning power consumers out there?

  4. Thank you very much for this discussion. It is worth having. As aesthetically pleasing as the concept of windpowerr is to me, I am on energy policy as on most matters a utilitarian. If a dollar spent on installed wind capacity doesn’t produce as much net public benefit as the filthiest lignite plant known to humanity, then I prefer the lignite plant. I set a great store by the value of the commons though, and when evaluating this public good I prefer, where there is doubt, to risk erring on overvaluing it.

    That noted I do wonder what methodology was used to assess the CO2 footprint of the nuclear option. What assumptions were made about the ore bodies from which the feedstock was drawn? What is the footprint associated with the around the clock security that nuclear plants require but windfarms do not? And given that we are not merely discussing Australia’s energy needs but also those of countries with unstable governance, what are the public policy implications of seeking to tool these regimes up to make good use of nuclear (as opposed to wind)? One might also ask about the equity implications. Much of the cost of wind power relates to rent on land and on access roads, on council rates and so forth. These payments tend to stay with local communities, whereas the costs of nuclear tend to settle in urban areas, where there are most jobs. Whereas a semi-skilled tradesperson can carry out service on a turbine, and the engineering can be done locally, this won’t be so for a nuclear plant. One might ask also about build times. Self evidently, if installed nuclear capacity is to make an impact it will need to displace large swathes of installed coal capacity — and do so in a very short space of time.

    What would be the economic implications of such a massive capital intensive programs of conversion from coal-fired to nuclear? Can one assume that the costs of the capital raising implied would be unaffected by an attempt to increase by one order of magnitude the world’s installed nuclear capacity at the expense of coal? Who would bear the sunk cost losses on retired capacity?

    Don’t get me wrong. I do agree that nuclear can and will be an important factor in some markets, but I’m skeptical that this can be done on a timeline that would make it very important when it needs to be. Moreover, even if opposition to nuclear capacity as a matter of principle is irrational (I’d agree that it is) until such time as most share my view, are we not bound to accept that development of new nuclear capacity cannot proceed?

    Now personally, I do favour pumped storage and as one other poster suggested, V2G to manage slews. Pumped storage could be designed also to do desal and so the costs should be applied acorss more than redundant capacity backup. Moreover, careful siting of wind, making use of elements of the existing built environment can substantially imporve capacity factors while lowering cost, which would obviously lower the levelized costs of wind over its effective lifetime and even on replacement. There are places where CFs in the mid-forties could be obtained and where the costs of grid connection would be trivial. And of course, there are major utilities — the pumping of water for example, desal, power for aluminium smelting — where wind’s intermittency would be moot. Also overlooked is the capacity to use wind power to produce syngas from waste biomass, which could then be used to fire thermal plants or converted to liquid fuels. No redundant capacity would be needed at all.

    It does seem perverse that given that wind energy is abundant, clean and apparently inexhaustible that we would not find ways of haervesting it reliably at low cost, especially when the effort maps so well to the needs of those living in countries where grids do not exist or are unreliable and where power could be delivered and maintained locally without passing through the medium of often unsavoury urban elites.

    Fran

  5. Barry Brook – So why does this study get attention when other studies come to the exact opposite conclusion – like this one?

    http://www.sustainabilitycentre.com.au/Wedges_final.pdf

    Where it is shown that wind help to significantly reduce emissions because:

    “Wind power from geographically dispersed sites, with occasional back-up from peak-load gas turbines, can provide 24-hour power and is therefore base-load generation (Diesendorf 2007a and c).”

    This is from peer reviewed research. As far as I can see the study that you presented assumes that a 30% CP of wind means that in all cases the other 70% comes from other sources. This is not true.

  6. “That noted I do wonder what methodology was used to assess the CO2 footprint of the nuclear option. What assumptions were made about the ore bodies from which the feedstock was drawn? What is the footprint associated with the around the clock security that nuclear plants require but windfarms do not?”

    Does it matter? The EROEI for nuclear power is so huge that the CO2 footprint is already lower for anything possibly bedides hydro. As more and more power generation is derived from nuclear, that footprint will shrink to zero.

    “And given that we are not merely discussing Australia’s energy needs but also those of countries with unstable governance, what are the public policy implications of seeking to tool these regimes up to make good use of nuclear (as opposed to wind)?”

    Whatever they are, you may be sure that we will have little say in the matter. If we couldn’t stop North Korea from building a reactor to produce weapons grade plutonium, we’re not going to stop any other underdeveloped country from following its nuclear ambitions. This is a non-issue.

    “Self evidently, if installed nuclear capacity is to make an impact it will need to displace large swathes of installed coal capacity — and do so in a very short space of time.”

    Even if nuclear power cannot be rolled out in time to allow a passive solution to atmospheric CO2 buildup (trying to solve the problem by simply not adding any more CO2, and letting natural processes gradually reduce the excess, a most dangerous and foolhardy gamble), we shall certainly want it available to power large scale ACTIVE CO2 amelioration measures, such as large-scale geoengineering projects, perhaps as GRL Cowan advocates. It is thus worthwhile to roll out nuclear power as swiftly as practicable, even though we may for a time overshoot safe CO2 levels.

    “What would be the economic implications of such a massive capital intensive programs of conversion from coal-fired to nuclear?”

    Whatever they are, they will be less than trying to manage with technosolar (wind included), which are effectively a means of continuing coal burning business-as-usual with green windowdressing.

    “It does seem perverse that given that wind energy is abundant, clean and apparently inexhaustible that we would not find ways of haervesting it reliably at low cost, especially when the effort maps so well to the needs of those living in countries where grids do not exist or are unreliable and where power could be delivered and maintained locally without passing through the medium of often unsavoury urban elites.”

    Denmark is a fine example of what can be expected from wind… ridiculously expensive power with NO reduction in coal burning.

  7. The linked document gives no more details than what you’ve cited (from p14), so I’ll need to go back to Diesendorf 2007a and 2007c to assess his assumptions). The figure on pg 14 of 8 GW installed wind power capacity yielding 21 TWh of energy per year is simply a capacity factor of 30%. There must be more to it than that, but I’ll have to get back to you.

    Note that I’ve read Disendorf 2007a (Greenhouse Solutions with Sustainable Energy – the book) and 2007c (The Base-Load Fallacy) and don’t recall an analysis that showed this to be true on any scale larger than replacing a single coal-fired power station. But I guess I’ll have to go back and have another look see.

    Note that Diesendor 2007c is not peer-reviewed — at least it does’t appear in a peer-reviewed journal, so it’s no more peer-reviewed than Peter Lang’s analysis. This is not a basis to dismiss it, but it is equally not a basis to favour it over Lang 2009.

  8. Okay, after another look at Diesendorf 2007c, I see that the analysis is for a single coal-fired power station replacement.

    It claims you need 2600 MW of installed capacity to generate an annual average output of 850 MW. That is a capacity factor of 33%. Fine. The area of land ‘actually occupied by the wind turnbines and access roads is only 5–19 square km, depending upon wind speed’. Again, no problem with this. But he then says this quite remarkable thing:

    “Although a single wind turbine is indeed intermittent, this is not generally true of a system of several wind farms, separated by several hundred kilometres and experiencing different wind regimes. The total output of such a system generally varies smoothly and only rarely experiences a situation where there is no wind at any site. As a result, this system can be made as reliable as a conventional base-load power station by adding a small amount of peak-load plant (say, gas turbines) that is only operated when required.”

    There are no calculations here, so we must take it as a matter of faith. What does ‘rarely experiences a situation where there is no wind at any site” mean? Is that 1 day per year? 10? What about when the wind delivers power at some sites, but not others, so that capacity factor is below 10%? 10 days per year? 30? 50? How dispersed are these turbines? Spread over 100 km of coastline? 500? 1000? The area actually occupied by the turbines is quite different to this. How does this scale up, when we are no longer talking about replacing a single-coal fired power station, but a nation of them?

    He does then say:
    “[computer simulations show that] to maintain the reliability of the generating system at the same level as before the substitution, some additional peak-load plant may be needed. This back-up does not have to have the same capacity as the group of wind farms. For widely dispersed wind farms, the back-up capacity only has to be one-fifth to one-third of the wind capacity. In the special case when all the wind power is concentrated at a single site, the required back-up is about half the wind capacity.”

    Now we get to the crux of the matter. He is talking about averages (he must be, or he could not say that a single site can be substituted by half the wind capacity). Is that relevant? What to do when well below the average? Go without the power? What about when it’s delivering 50% of the wind’s average from the backup? Do the other 50% of homes reliant on this scheme turn off? Is demand forced to decrease by 50% across the grid? What about when it is well above the average? What do we do with excess electricity? Dump it? Sell it off cheap? Use it to desalinate? Store it in pumped hydro?

    There is certainly nothing in Diesendorf 2007c to counter Lang’s claim that wind cannot ultimately displace any carbon emissions, at least when you are talking on regional or national scales (which is ultimately going to be all that counts). Anyway Stephen, I’ll need to re-borrow Diesendorf 2007a before I can come back with those answers, but thanks for raising the criticisms — this is all grist for the mill.

  9. Thanks Fran. The carbon footprint methodology of both nuclear power and wind power that Lang uses come from the ISA group at the University of Sydney: http://www.isa.org.usyd.edu.au/publications/documents/ISA_Nuclear_Report.pdf

    Yes, it does seem perverse that wind might not be displacing much carbon. Obviously, this is a topic that all of us who have interest in this area must look at very carefully, if we are to appreciate the hard-nosed implications of this conclusion, or alternatively if we are to effectively counter this argument if it turns out to be invalid.

    People fret a lot about timelines of nuclear vs wind build outs, but they do so from a fundamental misunderstanding of how the climate system operates. It is not about timing per se, it’s about ultimate carbon budgets.

  10. Yes, it’s demoralising. No, 4th gen nuclear is not an instant fix (though a synergy of Gen III and Gen IV roll out over the next 40 years, through to total replacement of energy generation, is a medium-term fix). The next 10 to 15 years only matter in the sense of whether we put the systems in place to ultimately constrain the total carbon budget — see my response to Fran in another comment in this thread.

    In the meantime, your major ethical option is to (a) practice energy efficiency and conservation if you wish to make a personal contribution at keeping the carbon budget in check (although my personal view, not shared by many others, is that this will be ultimately a pointless endeavour), and/or (b) do everything you can personally to promote REAL solutions to sustainable energy growth, such that they are available in time to make a real difference.

  11. Thanks John, yes, I’m aware of the Archer and Jacobson work, thanks to your earlier comments and some further digging to follow up. The key issue is NEITHER baseload replacement OR ultimate wind resource — it’s about adequately managing variability (supply and/or demand — both can work).

    Jacobson’s work on distributed wind and vehicle-to-grid backup have been savaged by Charles Barton at Nuclear Green. Charles has a barrow to push — the LFTR — and is unashamed about this. Fine. But they two key questions to me is (a) why is Barton wrong?; and (b) why won’t people publish such critiques in the peer-reviewed energy literature (if they are not, as it seems to me, obviously wrong)? Here are the major Barton critiques of Jacobson, please do read them:

    http://nucleargreen.blogspot.com/2008/12/review-of-masrk-z-jacobsons-review.html
    http://nucleargreen.blogspot.com/2009/03/would-vehicle-to-grid-battery-storage.html
    http://nucleargreen.blogspot.com/2009/03/comments-on-mark-z-jacobson-from.html
    http://nucleargreen.blogspot.com/2008/10/on-cost-of-wind-reliability.html

    I’d be interested (sincerely!) in knowing where Barton is wrong. As I’ve said elsewhere, I’m not headhunting wind or other renewables. I just want the full implications of these alternative energy plans mapped out and clear. Right now, it’s all a haze, but the arguments for distributed technosolar look to fall WAY short of what is required. I need clear, scientific evidence to turn this around, and right now, I’m not getting it.

  12. I said:

    And given that we are not merely discussing Australia’s energy needs but also those of countries with unstable governance, what are the public policy implications of seeking to tool these regimes up to make good use of nuclear (as opposed to wind)?”

    You responded:

    Whatever they are, you may be sure that we will have little say in the matter. If we couldn’t stop North Korea from building a reactor to produce weapons grade plutonium, we’re not going to stop any other underdeveloped country from following its nuclear ambitions. This is a non-issue.

    Too dismissive. North Korea does not have unstable governance. Repressive? Absolutely, but unstable? Nope. There are deals to be done, especially if the CDM comes up with serious cash to disburse and nuclear remains expensive.

    Waving your hands about in a tone of high dudgeon is not a contribution to serious discussion.

  13. “Waving your hands about in a tone of high dudgeon is not a contribution to serious discussion.”

    I’m not sure what you mean by that.

    “Too dismissive. North Korea does not have unstable governance. Repressive? Absolutely, but unstable? Nope. There are deals to be done, especially if the CDM comes up with serious cash to disburse and nuclear remains expensive.”

    Unstable governance isn’t the point. The point is that the days when the First World was able to impose its will on the rest of the globe in this matter are past, and obstructing the uptake of nuclear power here in some mistaken belief that we will thereby set nuclear power policy elsewhere is self-defeating, and, lets face it, rather pathetic.

  14. Barry

    While I understand the reasoning behind the view that personal contributions to energy efficiency/avoidance make no difference, I think symbolism, particularly when it is tangibly connected to some desired object, does make a difference.

    When people make adjustments and a new culture arises on this basis, a more powerful foundation for political change is laid. Since much of the work that needs to be done lies at the feet of government, one can argue that it does make a difference.

    Earth Day is a good example. People switching off their standby appliances and lights for an hour probably makes little practical difference to GHG emissions. Yet the business of breaking the cargo cult mentality surrounding use of energy, the sense of community, its operation as a kind of real time world wide consumer plebiscite, the fact that many choose to go out and look at the stars and do community events — as was the case in my neighbourhood where I went about and collected some of the older vulnerable people we know through neighbourhood watch for a picnic in the park where we discussed what life was like in mediaeval times without power — these things matter and leave an impression on the children, who, after all, are those who will have to run with this stuff when the failings of our generation fall heavily upon their heads.

    Fran

  15. You don’t know what ‘high dudgeon’ and hand waving means or you don’t know how they apply?

    You do seem to be a fan of the strawman, of sweeping claims that purport to define and end discussion when the conclusion is not supported. You imply I’m advocating some sort of First world compulsion on the developing world based on … nothing. You imply that the developing world is a homogenous entity with uniform interests based on less than nothing.

    Very disappointing.

  16. More musing on the topic of unstable governance…

    Nuclear power plants are complex, high-value capital-intensive beasts. They cannot be built without a certain level of governmental stability in the first place, so to some extent, the problem is self-correcting.

    Could an apparently stable country build a fleet of nuclear power plants and then destabilise? Of course, but in that case, it would still be unreasonable to assume that they would do something stupid to or with their nuclear power plants. radical mobs are more likely to besiege the offices of government than the local nuclear power station or hydroelectric plant.

    Do you percieve that the danger is in a radical group within a country seizing power and then going on a nuclear rampage? This is the popular image of peril presented in cases such as North Korea, or a potentially nuclear-armed Iran. There is, however, a history of this sort of thing already existing for us to refer to. Consider China. during the 1950s, Mao repeatedly attempted to provoke the Soviet Union into a nuclear exchange with the US in the belief that world communism would arise from the radioactive ashes of WWIII. The Russians would have none of it, of course. as we know, Mao obtained nuclear weapons in the 1960s. He did not then launch an attack when he obtained the means, because the fact of actually possessing the weapons forced a very thourough appraisal of the consequences of using them… such as the destruction of his homeland.

    It’s not much fun being the dictator of a pile of rubble (especially when your bones are fused into it). Mao realised this, and his policy was adjusted accordingly.

    The chief military use of nuclear weapons is not their utility for a first strike in a war of aggression. That will only result in your country being destroyed. Theier chief use is as a deterrent to military invasion by a much stronger adversary. No matter the size and sophistication of your enemy, if you have a few nukes in reserve they will always have sixth, seventh and eighth thoughts about sending their valuable army and navy within range of them. This is the real reason countries like NK and Iran want nukes. It makes them virtually invulnurable to invasion.

  17. “You imply I’m advocating some sort of First world compulsion on the developing world based on … nothing.”

    How else are we to interpret your words?

    “You imply that the developing world is a homogenous entity with uniform interests based on less than nothing.”

    Now that comment is truly offensive. Kindly show where I have said or implied any such thing.

  18. ’tis a strange world we live in. Apparently if they can get geothermal to work it will power the nearby Beverley uranium mine with untainted energy
    http://www.news.com.au/adelaidenow/story/0,22606,25898602-2682,00.html
    Resources Minister Ferguson says consequently there is no need to even consider ‘nuclear’ power. I presume he means controlled fission not radioactive decay which is OK despite radon gas in the steam. Mind you Climate Change Minister Wong also says geothermal and wavepower will provide baseload. PM Rudd gave a speech on CCS at the G8 conference and Treasurer Swan says coal exports will balance the Budget. Does this inspire confidence in our political leaders?

  19. “Earth Day is a good example. People switching off their standby appliances and lights for an hour probably makes little practical difference to GHG emissions. Yet the business of breaking the cargo cult mentality surrounding use of energy, the sense of community, its operation as a kind of real time world wide consumer plebiscite, the fact that many choose to go out and look at the stars and do community events — as was the case in my neighbourhood where I went about and collected some of the older vulnerable people we know through neighbourhood watch for a picnic in the park where we discussed what life was like in mediaeval times without power — these things matter and leave an impression on the children, who, after all, are those who will have to run with this stuff when the failings of our generation fall heavily upon their heads.’

    Fran, I’m going to have to take issue with you over this. I quite regret the necessity of doing so, because in spite of our current argument elsewhere on this thread, I consider you to be one of the more sensible and thoughtful commenters here, and would much rather have you as an ally than an adverary.

    I’ve been actively opposed to Earth Hour because of what I consider to be it’s inappropriate message of despair.

    The whole idea of energy conservation as a primary virtue is terribly flawed. If something is good, and its use empowers people, improves their lives, increases their options and raises their living standards, then it is the case that the more of it is used, the better. If that commodity is in short supply, then there is a case for conserving (rationing) it in order to extend its utility to people. Conservation is therefore a secondary virtue in the case of such a shortage, because it facilitates more effective impimentation of the primary virtue.

    Does Earth Hour promote such secondary facilitation? I would argue that it does not.

    Energy conservation of this sort would only make sense if there were no practical alternative to continued fossil fuel use. I take it as axiomatic that energy consumption is Good.

    (I know there are those who use the opposite axiom as their starting point, but I have no interest in engaging them… in my opinion they should all be charged with Attempted Genocide and hanged (well, not so much their misguided followers, perhaps, but the key ideologues, certainly)).

    If however there is a practical alternative which can enable people to consume as much energy as required or desired without causing the negative effects which suggested the need for rationing in the firat place, then Earth Hour must be cast in the opposite light. It is not a call to extend a primary virtue by means of a secondary, but a callous and decietful attempt to negate the primary virtue on false pretences, and as such, the path of virtue lies in exposing this matter for all to see, and strenously opposing the event. this is where I’m at.

  20. Barry:
    I wouldn’t believe *any* single-site replacement models. People certainly argue with archer+jacobson, which is why I phrased that as I did. But load-shifting and demand management are really, really important in some (but not all) places, and some people really do have a lot of experience with it.

    One cannot assume the characteristics of coal or gas and require that some other source must act exactly the same. Taht is just so 20th-century :-)

    1) It is hard to find generalizations that work everywhere, because the *mix* of power, the demands, and the ability to demand-shift really matter.

    For example, {solar|wind} & hydro are very complementary in places like CA, since solar is load-following, win is whenever it is (and we don’t have a lot), and hydro is dispatchable. Suppose we had a lot of wind. What would we do? Use every KWh from wind, and jiggle hydro around as needed to cover low times. Likewise, wind+gas are pretty good, since gas peakers are flexible.

    Again, this is not to say ‘wind is THE answer”, just that one has to make rational assumptions about the way people use them.

    Opinion: given Australia’s huge dependence on coal, maybe people don’t think this way?

    2) According to EIA, Oz ~ coal, with some gas, a little hydro.

    3) If you’re running a (current) nuclear power plant, sized for the day, what do you do at night? Likewise big coal plants?
    A: sell electricity cheaper.

    (Certainly this is one reason gas is nice, because gas plants are much easier to turn up and down.)

    In warm climates, people do load-shifting by freezing water during low-electricity-cost periods, like Honeywell, or see other examples.

    Do people do this in Oz?

  21. I can’t agree with your axiom Finrod … nor do I think it is fundamental enough to be in the axiom category.

    I start from a goal that we should minimise our impact on the other species with which we share the planet. That means leaving their habitat alone, which means choosing a lifestyle which minimises our appropriation of habitat. Some people don’t share this goal, so they won’t agree with its implications.

    One implication is that energy use of itself isn’t the issue, it is the impacts of its production which matter. e.g. I can heat my house when I’m cold by using energy to run a chain saw to cut down trees to provide heating fuel … generally bad but can be locally sustainable … or I can run an oil heater … destroys less habitat but not climate friendly.

    I can reduce the habitat impacts of both forms of energy by insulating my house … while recognising the habitat and energy impacts of producing the insulation.

    I agree entirely that a principle aim of all policy should be to provide a reasonable living standard to every person on the planet, which means a whole lot more energy is required. But we have to do this while minimising our impact on other species.

  22. Most of those commenting on Peter Lang’s paper appear to have concerned themselves with the relative proportion of back up required. I would respectfully suggest (I’m being respectful because I might have got the wrong end of the stick) that this is to miss the most important statement in his paper. On page 13, he states; “Even if the costs of and emissions from back up are ignored, wind is over six times more costly than nuclear as a way to avoid emissions.” If this statement is close to correct, I , as an erstwhile advocate of land-based wind power, would feel that my NIMBY friends, who constantly assure me, from a basis of profound lack of technical expertise on the subject, that wind power is useless are, in fact, correct. Further, given that many so-called experts are of the view that onshore windpower is the cheapest among our new renewable options, I am beginning to think that all money spent on clean power that is not spent on nuclear is money wasted.

    I have often read the warnings of John Mashey and others that it is dangerous for governments to back winners from a suite of emerging technologies and, to an extent, sympathise with this proposition. However, one can be almost certain that the ERoEIs of all forms of nuclear power will vastly exceed those of renewable power and, given that 4th generation nuclear can almost be guaranteed to solve and even capitalise on the so-called nuclear waste problem in the mid term, wouldn’t it be sensible, financially constrained as most are, for governments to prioritise the nuclear option, even at the expense of alternatives?

  23. “I can’t agree with your axiom Finrod … nor do I think it
    is fundamental enough to be in the axiom category.”

    Well I didn’t intend it in the sense of a fundamental axiom of philosophy so much as a starting point which reasonable people should be able to agree on with a minimum of fuss. Not precisely an ‘axiom’ in the strict technical sense of the word, I know.

    “I start from a goal that we should minimise our
    impact on the other species with which we share the planet.
    That means leaving their habitat alone, which
    means choosing a lifestyle which minimises our appropriation of
    habitat. Some people don’t share this goal, so they won’t
    agree with its implications.”

    I very much agree with this goal, and I have become convinced that nuclear power is far and away the best tool we have to achieve it.

    “One implication is that energy use of itself isn’t the issue, it
    is the impacts of its production which matter. e.g. I can heat
    my house when I’m
    cold by using energy to run a chain saw to cut down trees
    to provide heating fuel … generally bad but can be locally
    sustainable … or I can run an oil
    heater … destroys less habitat but not climate friendly.

    I can reduce the habitat impacts of both forms of energy
    by insulating my house … while recognising the habitat and
    energy impacts of producing the insulation.”

    Efficiency and conservation can be private virtues insofar as they maximise the benefits we obtain from our resources, but I don’t think they should be pursued to unreasonable levels.

  24. Perhaps real world data may help.

    The 2007 State GHG Inventory for South Australia

    http://www.climatechange.gov.au/inventory/2007/pubs/state_territory_inventoryv.pdf

    gives stationary energy emissions for SA as just over 14MtCO2, up about 16% from 1990 (12Mt) with just a 6% population increase and with wind providing about 20% of the State’s power (Wikipedia). Overall in Australia, emissions from stationary energy since 1990 are up about by over 40% on a population increase of about half that, so wind doesn’t seem to be even a magic water pistol in SA, let alone a magic bullet, and yes, I’ve been paying extra for green power also for some years.

  25. Good point. And remember, the % contribution of wind power in South Australia went from 0% in 1990 up to 20% recently (most capacity being installed in just the last few years), so it’s not as though wind was always present. If wind was displacing fossil fuels in stationary energy generation, we should have seen a drop of the last few years. There has been emissions growth.

    At the very least, wind in SA is not displacing growth in energy demand, and growth in demand is outstripping growth in population. The data for 2008 have been reported somewhere now (a journo cited them to me recently) and they were up for stationary energy on 2007, so nothing much is changing.

  26. The point about South Australia is that it simply doesn’t have the fossil fuel reserves any more unless you count deep damp coal like the Arckaringa Basin north of OD. SA may be the most vulnerable state for both energy and water. The Pt Augusta coal stations (540 and 240 MWe) are not worth upgrading. Cooper Basin was until recently advertising underground space for rent for CO2 or whatever. A backup gas line to Victoria was thought necessary for the 1280 MWe Torrens Island gas fired baseload plant, steam cycle only. From memory there are several combined cycle gas and co-generation plants. When both SA and Vic gas reserves are gone the alternatives will be to ship LNG from WA or connect the Moomba pipeline to coal seam gas in Queensland. Now there will be two desals and the OD expansion. A decision, any decision, has to be made soon.

  27. I reckon that quite a bit of the explosion in energy demand in Australia
    over the past 2 decades has been due to the demand for “green” energy saving appliances. eg the reasoning in the shop goes like this: “Lets do our bit for environment and buy this new energy efficient 5 star fridge … actually we can keep the old one in the garage for beer” … so for every 10 who buy a new fridge a few will end up running 2 and no-one ever seems to count the manufacturing emissions.

  28. To be precise, I am against governments picking winners too early in the process, rather than doing disciplined R&D portfolio management, as per R2-D2.

    When it comes to costs, I simply do not have a firm enough grip upon real costs of nuclear.

    As it stands, there aren’t any 4th-generation plants that you can buy off the shelf, and some things just take time. the old Bell System used to think in the same timescales, and that meant that we did long-term R&D towards thing we hoped would work, and meanwhile, deployed what we already had. We didn’t put a 20-year hold on electromechanical switches in the (real) hopes that we’d develop electronic ones.

    (That means: accelerate R&D on 4th Gen to the extent that is possible, but do not keep building coal plants while you do it.)

    Whether land-based windpower is a good idea or not *really* depends on where you are, the existing power mix, and the plausible future mix.

  29. Excellent work, thanks.
    Peter Lang,
    I wonder if the figures given for the UK are based on the land wind turbines.
    It should be noted that out of the projected 33GW nameplate of power that the Government wants to install, all but about 7GW is to come from off-shore wind.
    Since it is cheaper, most of this is supposed to be fairly close inshore, and so the projected capacity factor is not greatly higher than that for on-shore.
    Since the installation cost of off-shore is around three times that of on-shore then it seems to me that the future costs for the UK of CO2 savings will be much higher than that shown in the report.
    This does not take into account the likely heavy maintenance costs of off-shore turbines – Vestas recently stopped supplying them due to concerns on this, and now only Siemens is carrying on.
    I appreciate the primary focus of the report is the situation in South Australia, but nevertheless perhaps, if the time can be found, a note could be made of the situation for off-shore wind.

  30. Barry,
    I have delayed a response to the article by Peter Lang, to be sure I understand his reasoning.
    Peter seems to have little idea about wind power or how hydro and coal fired power operate. His scenario is “100MW of wind power capacity would need to have 100MW of OCGT capacity as back-up“. Wind farms only produce power at maximum capacity for a few hours per year, and dispersed wind farms would rarely provide more than 50% of capacity. This would be used for planning maximum output even if wind power was to provide half of total electricity. On the rare occasions where wind would be providing more than 50% capacity ie high wind periods between 1am and 5am when only coal base load is in operation excess wind power would be shed or coal power shed.
    Peter seems to be making several errors; 1)assuming the need for 100% back-up of wind capacity and 2) assuming that OCGT cannot operate at less than 45% capacity 3) assuming that wind would displace only OTCG and not coal.

    Peter has also made an error of fact on wind capacity in NSW. The Capital wind farm just completed by Infigen(140MW) has an estimated capacity factor of 35.8% according to their stock market update issued last week.

    In Australia and the US, hydro is used at about 30% capacity to provide peak power. Pumped hydro is a way of using surplus off-peak power from coal(or wind)allowing hydro to supply peak power for a longer period. Adding a large amount of wind capacity would shut down coal fired capacity and have it replaced by OCGT capacity BUT with a lower capacity factor.In the US OCGT operates at 10-22% capacity factor, so this would seem practical. In SA OCGT and CCGT combined presently operate at a 35% capacity factor.

    For planning purposes if wind power was to provide 50% of the electricity, would need wind capacity of 0.5 x100/35 x30GW average demand(45GWc). The maximum wind power would supply would be 50%(22.5GW) and the minimum about 5% of capacity(2GW). This would mean that all coal fired power would be replaced. How much extra OCGT capacity would be needed?.
    In WA virtually all power is presently provided by OCTG and CCGT. No additional OCTG would be needed but present OTCG would be run at a much lower capacity factor.

    In the NEMCO grid in E Australia, about 20%(8.5GWe) of the capacity is provided by hydro including 1.2GW pumped hydro.Peak demand is about 45GWe(average 25GW) so if wind was to provide an average of 13GW would expect 1.5-18 GWe would need to have a total of 35GW OCGT or add additional turbines to Snowy and Tas Hydro.
    OCGT would be providing an average of 12GW or 33% capacity factor(12/36).
    So in WA we would be saving about 1.5GW average OCGT operation(0.75tonnes Co2/MWh) and in E Australia would be saving 13GWa coal (1.2 tonnes CO2 /MWh) and requiring 35 GW OCGT capacity but using it much less.Coal provides an average of 22GW so as well as the 13GW replaced by wind an additional 9GW( at 1.2tonnes CO2/MWh ) will be replaced by OCGT( at 0.5-0.7 tonnes CO2/MWh). Peters estimates of 45% capacity.

    Adding pumped hydro capacity(2GW) to TAS Hydro(using existing dams and existing turbines) would be a low cost option to allow more wind capacity in Tasmania and lower OCGT operation and a small reduction in OCGT capacity.

  31. Geoff,
    “so wind doesn’t seem to be even a magic water pistol in SA, let alone a magic bullet
    The argument that because CO2 emissions have been rising “proves ” that wind isn’t cannot reduce CO2 emissions is as illogical as saying the same thing after we install the first 1GW nuclear reactor.

    Each year wind capacity is growing by about 0.6GWa or 1,700GWh/year(1,700,000 tonnes less CO2) from coal each year. So far that’s 1.7million tonnes more additional savings than nuclear. We would need to add one nuclear plant every 5 years to match those yearly additional savings.Hope it happens, but meanwhile last week the 140MW Capital wind farm started operations outside Canberra doubling(I think) NSW wind power. Also a 500MW farm has been approved about one month ago near Broken Hill( will triple expected NSW wind power), so growth rates of 0.6GW/year may be conservative

  32. Barry, If Mark Z. Jacobson thinks I am wrong, he hasn’t said so, nor have any other pushers of the renewable view. My methods are simple, simply assume what Jacobson and other renewable advocates state to be the case, and simply push the analysis in directions they have not taken it. The results quite often turn out to demonstrate less than satisfactory aspects of the renewables case.

  33. But since wind power does not in fact result in much of a reduction in CO2 emissions, and experience has shown that wind contributions above a few percent destabilises the grid it feeds into, any talk of the growth of wind capacity is meaningless. It’s a failed technology, and the sooner this is acknowledged, the better.

  34. “My methods are simple, simply assume what Jacobson and other renewable advocates state to be the case, and simply push the analysis in directions they have not taken it. The results quite often turn out to demonstrate less than satisfactory aspects if the renewables case.”

    Yes Charles, let’s do some of that. What follows is part of a post for my blog which I never got around to finishing. It was going to be a larger essay on the subject of proliferation, but I never quite managed to make it gel to my satisfsction:

    Proliferation concerns are overstated.

    One of the more common arguments being put forward to derail the re-emergence of nuclear power is the concern about weapons proliferation. It is argued by anti-nuclear propagandists that an increase in the use of civilian nuclear power will directly increase the threat of nuclear war by flooding the world with easily accessable fissionable material. One critic of nuclear power, Prof. Mark Z. Jacobson, has taken it on faith that the causal pathway between civilian nuclear power reactors and all out nuclear war is so strong that he includes the CO2 contribution to the atmosphere from burning cities which have been subject to nuclear attack as a serious carbon cost of civilian nuclear power. Jacobson’s paper can be found here:

    http://www.cleanairalliance.org/files/active/0/EnergyEnvRev1008.pdf

    The relevant section concerning nuclear power is as follows:

    4d. Effects of Nuclear Energy on Nuclear War and Terrorism Damage
    Because the production of nuclear weapons material is occurring only in countries that
    have developed civilian nuclear energy programs, the risk of a limited nuclear exchange
    between countries or the detonation of a nuclear device by terrorists has increased due to
    the dissemination of nuclear energy facilities worldwide. As such, it is a valid exercise to
    estimate the potential number of immediate deaths and carbon emissions due to the
    burning of buildings and infrastructure associated with the proliferation of nuclear energy
    facilities and the resulting proliferation of nuclear weapons. The number of deaths and
    carbon emissions, though, must be multiplied by a probability range of an exchange or
    explosion occurring to estimate the overall risk of nuclear energy proliferation. Although
    concern at the time of an explosion will be the deaths and not carbon emissions, policy
    makers today must weigh all the potential future risks of mortality and carbon emissions
    when comparing energy sources.

    Here, we detail the link between nuclear energy and nuclear weapons and
    estimate the emissions of nuclear explosions attributable to nuclear energy. The primary
    limitation to building a nuclear weapon is the availability of purified fissionable fuel
    (highly-enriched uranium or plutonium). Worldwide, nine countries have known
    nuclear weapons stockpiles (U.S., Russia, U.K., France, China, India, Pakistan, Israel,
    North Korea). In addition, Iran is pursuing uranium enrichment, and 32 other countries
    have sufficient fissionable material to produce weapons. Among the 42 countries with
    fissionable material, 22 have facilities as part of their civilian nuclear energy program,
    either to produce highly-enriched uranium or to separate plutonium, and facilities in 13
    countries are active . Thus, the ability of states to produce nuclear weapons today
    follows directly from their ability to produce nuclear power. In fact, producing material
    for a weapon requires merely operating a civilian nuclear power plant together with a
    sophisticated plutonium separation facility. The Treaty of Non-Proliferation of Nuclear
    Weapons has been signed by 190 countries. However, international treaties safeguard
    only about 1% of the world’s highly-enriched uranium and 35% of the world’s
    plutonium . Currently, about 30,000 nuclear warheads exist worldwide, with 95% in the
    U.S. and Russia, but enough refined and unrefined material to produce another 100,000
    weapons.

    The explosion of fifty 15-kt nuclear devices (a total of 1.5 MT, or 0.1% of the
    yields proposed for a full-scale nuclear war) during a limited nuclear exchange in
    megacities could burn 63-313 Tg of fuel, adding 1-5 Tg of soot to the atmosphere, much
    of it to the stratosphere, and killing 2.6-16.7 million people . The soot emissions would
    cause significant short- and medium-term regional cooling . Despite short-term cooling,
    the CO2 emissions would cause long-term warming, as they do with biomass burning.
    The CO2 27 emissions from such a conflict are estimated here from the fuel burn rate and the
    carbon content of fuels. Materials have the following carbon contents: plastics, 38-92%;
    tires and other rubbers, 59-91%; synthetic fibers, 63-86%; woody biomass, 41-45%;
    charcoal, 71%; asphalt, 80%; steel, 0.05-2%. We approximate roughly the carbon
    content of all combustible material in a city as 40-60%. Applying these percentages to the
    fuel burn gives CO2 emissions during an exchange as 92-690 Tg-CO2 . The annual
    electricity production due to nuclear energy in 2005 was 2768 TWh/yr. If one nuclear
    exchange as described above occurs over the next 30 years, the net carbon emissions due
    to nuclear weapons proliferation caused by the expansion of nuclear energy worldwide
    would be 1.1-4.1 g-CO2/kWh, where the energy generation assumed is the annual 2005
    generation for nuclear power multiplied by the number of years being considered. This
    emission rate depends on the probability of a nuclear exchange over a given period and
    the strengths of nuclear devices used. Here, we bound the probability of the event
    occurring over 30 years as between 0 and 1 to give the range of possible emissions for
    one such event as 0 to 4.1 g-CO2/kWh. This emission rate is placed in context in Table 3.

    Perhaps Jacobson thought it would sound scarier or more impressive to use Teragrams as the unit expressing the mass of fuel and CO2. One Tg is, of course, one million metric tons, so accepting Jacobson’s figures, we see that his worst-case scenario results in the death of about 17 million people and releases about 700 million metric tons of CO2 from the burning of 313 million metric tons of fuel. Interestingly, this is a very similar figure to the production of saleable coal in Australia for 2005-06. Of the three hundred million tons of saleable coal produced that year in Australia, about 233 million tons were exported, the remainder being used in local coal power plants. Since coal plants produce about 80% of Australia’s electrical power, the number of people served by that remainder (about one quarter of the total production) is very close to the scale of the worst-case scenario fatalities cited by Jacobson.

    All of this rule-of-thumb, back-of-the-envelope figuring indicates that if the nuclear strike resulting in these casualties were launched against a population which used coal power to achieve a per capita power output on par with Australia’s, then the results of the strike would be carbon-neutral in four years, and carbon-negative thereafter.

    I must now emphasise that I absolutely do not support nuclear attacks on the civilian populations of coal-dependent First World nations as a greenhouse gas emmission abatement measure! The assumption that a sustainable future can only be secured at the cost of immense death and suffering is the language and currency of the opposition, and I shall not tarry in that territory. I merely explore the consequences of Jacobson’s thinking to point out its absurdity.

  35. Come to think of it, since Jacobson is so convinced that nuclear war is going to be a popular pastime in the future, perhaps it behooves us to consider the possible motives for such.

    Although the suggestion seems absurd now, perhaps if we do find ourselves approach an undeniable climate change tipping point, nuclear powered and armed nations may well end up issuing an ultimatum to recalcitrant fossil-fuel dependent countries: Cease your CO2 emissions at whatever cost to your economy and well being immediatly, or face complete destruction.

    Since Jacobson believes in the inevitability of future nuclear war in a nuclear powered world, and much of Asia at least is setting up to be nuclear powered, hadn’t we better go nuclear ourselves to avoid just the sort of crisis I’ve outlined here?

    Just going of Prof. Jacobson’s insights here…

  36. Mainstream neoclassical economics seems to think that energy doesn’t matter much to economic growth.

    Jevons, et al have originated during a unique era in human history, in which fossil fuels seemed inexhaustible. Ignore climate for the moment. How many more decades do cheap fossil fuels last?

    (Assuming this is like assuming that because Moore’s Law has worked for semiconductors for decades, that it will last forever.)

    See The Oil Drum, hunt down for “mashey” posts.

    Better: get your library to get Ayres & Warr – The Economic Growth Engine, and see comment on p.196-197 especially, but in context of rest of book.

    I have to defer digging in on Barton’s stuff for a while (busy), but sooner or later… As noted, peer-reviewed work would be nice.

  37. Barry Brook – After re-reading Peter’s paper I get completely what he is talking about. His main premise is that wind will not displace baseload thermal coal because thermal coal is non-despatchable so basically wind will be displacing the intermediate power that can be varied and therefore will not save much greenhouse emissions. In that he is completely correct and actually this is exactly what happens in practice. This quote from a case study into the wind/diesel system installed in Esperance is a very small scale:

    “Three years of operational experience and a system load which has grown by about 30%, have led to changes to the original farm operational criteria. At times, the farm has had an average penetration level as high as 50% – including
    instantaneous readings of 70% – without system stability being compromised. Interestingly, the amount of penetration and spinning reserve have become dependent on the individual power station operator. Some operators believe Ten Mile
    Lagoon’s output is predictable and operate the diesels with a limited spinning reserve and high wind penetration. Others prefer to run with a greater safety margin and maintain the 100% spinning reserve.”

    Before the gas turbine was installed with automatic controls is was up to individual operators as to the balance of the energy mix. Now:

    “The wind farm includes a control system based on a Master Controller, which talks directly with the gas turbine control system to manage the wind farm output. Due to the distance of the wind farms from the power station, the system incorporates sophisticated high reliability communications equipment using digital radio modems and fibre optic within the wind farms.

    The wind farms generate about 22% of Esperance’s electricity. Maximum instantaneous penetration is just over 65%.”

    I quote Esperance because it is an example of a isolated system in small scale where a wind/gas system is acting as baseload and the wind, which comprises 18% of the generating capacity, actually contributes 22% of the energy generated. In this case, because the gas can be modulated automatically, the 22% that the wind generates is emission free and results in savings. Esperance and Albany are both excellent wind sites with measured CPs of 40% so this is why the savings are larger here.

    The problem I have with Peter’s paper is that just because at the moment we cannot displace baseload with wind there is no technical reason why thermal coal baseload cannot be displaced in the very near future with an Esperance system of automatic controls connected to well dispersed wind. I agree that the reference I posted was not peer reviewed however the statement:

    “Although a single wind turbine is indeed intermittent, this is not generally true of a system of several wind farms, separated by several hundred kilometres and experiencing different wind regimes. The total output of such a system generally varies smoothly and only rarely experiences a situation where there is no wind at any site. As a result, this system can be made as reliable as a conventional base-load power station by adding a small amount of peak-load plant (say, gas turbines) that is only operated when required.”

    is a summary of his (I think) peer reviewed work in the following papers:
    http://www.sustainabilitycentre.com.au/82epes.pdf
    http://www.sustainabilitycentre.com.au/80ssa.pdf
    http://www.sustainabilitycentre.com.au/80we.pdf

    and is the summary of his extensive modelling work and personal experience.

    In his view baseload can be displaced by wind/gas and/or solar thermal with storage. What Peter misses is the rise of interconnected systems. As I sit and type this on my wireless laptop in my living room connected to millions of computers all round the world I find it strange that the idea of distributed small scale energy systems connected into a ‘virtual’ power station is so hard to grasp. I am completely used, as an IT person, to distributed systems and I am completely comfortable with them. I can also see how an automatic wind/solar/gas system would work. If you couple this with weather prediction and smart demand management there is no reason why baseload cannot be displaced. Like the operators of the Esperance wind/diesel system it is dependant on bodies like the NEMMCO building up operational experience with wind and starting to trust it.

    The other impression in Peter’s paper is that the spinning reserve and peaking power exist solely for wind. No mention is made that the required peaking power to support wind is already in place and very little extra would be required. The concept of spinning reserve has been largely replaced with “reserve capacity”. This is fast reacting generating capacity that can act to cope with the loss of a large generator and is currently 800MW for the NEMMCO. As there are no wind farms much bigger than 100MW the current operational reserve can cope with the loss of almost any single wind farm. If the wind can give the operations control 5 minutes notice and the latest wind farms can then the reserve capacity would be made up of off-line gas that is not using any fossil fuel when it is not needed. There would have to be a major expansion of wind to seriously trouble the current operational reserve of the NEMMCO system.

    I have no problem with Peter’s paper as its conclusions from his assumptions are correct and are borne out with current experience. What I do have a problem with is the desire to make the future exactly like the very distant past. Dropping in baseload nuclear is very attractive to people unable or unwilling to accept the idea of distributed small scale generation coupled with advanced automatic controls. Also renewable people generally start with EE&C and that also makes people uncomfortable as an mention of EE&C is seen as going back to the caves.

    I see Peter’s paper in the same light as I a failure of nerve straight out of Arthur C Clarke’s “Profiles of the Future”. It is much the same as Simon Newcomb approx 1900 essay that concluded that:

    “The demonstration that no possible comination of known substances, known forms of machinery and known forms of force can be united in a practical machine by which men shall fly long distances thorugh the air, seems to the writer as comlete as it is possible for the demonstration of any physical fact to be”

    Peter’s failure of nerve is his premise that variable renewables cannot replace ‘reliable’ baseload.

    Ref:
    http://www.horizonpower.com.au/environment/renewable_energy/wind/wind_nine_mile.html

    http://www.daws.com.au/pdf/Paperon_10_mile_lagoon_for_Fiji_1997.pdf

    http://www.sustainabilitycentre.com.au/publics.html

  38. Barry,
    Your questions about how long low wind power conditions apply to E Australia has been studied by CSIRO by Davy and Coppin
    http://www.environment.gov.au/settlements/renewable/publications/windstudy.html
    using just 3 locations. They have data on projected duration of low and high wind events. The NEMCO grid extends over a much wider region than these 3 locations, and especially in Tasmania with high capacity wind sites on the West coast. This is also true of the SW of WA, but would require a 1500 km HVDC link to E Australia to take full advantage of this, about the same cost of the Bass Link to Tasmania. Thus the Davy and Coppin paper just gives the extremes expected about 3 years ago not with a wider system of wind farms presently being built with much wider geographic separation or what could be done if 50% of our power was to come from wind.

  39. Barry,
    “I’d be interested (sincerely!) in knowing where Barton is wrong.
    Charles Barton has detailed knowledge of nuclear energy, but he either doesn’t understand wind power or how electricity grids work or he intentionally tries to miss-represent wind energy. When he stops calling wind turbines “wind mills” ( after all they do not mill grain) it may be an indication that he is prepared to look objectively at wind power.

    What the Archer and Jacobson 19 location study showed that within a 850 x850 mile area( about the size of NSW) 79% of the time wind power was generating more than 47% of expected output(about 15% of capacity). Calculating the need to overbuild wind by X50 is as ridiculous as needing to overbuild nuclear by 100% because any one plant is off line 10% of the time. Even NG can have supply and reliability issues( such as occurred in WA following loss of 2/3 NG supply), that’s why all electric power has to have redundancy and alternative back-up. Even mothballed dirty coal-fired electricity can have value as long as it’s only used a few weeks per year.

    Wind energy seems to attract almost as vociferous opposition as nuclear fission energy, could be because both energy resources are actually likely to be used widely in the future. We don’t see much opposition to wave power, nuclear fusion, space based PV.

  40. But Neil, you’re missing the point of Lang’s analysis, which is what Geoff was commenting on.

    Lang says you are WRONG to state “that’s 1.7million tonnes more additional savings than nuclear” because according to his calculations, the wind power has saved virtually zero CO2. Please focus on showing why Lang is wrong in this, rather than waxing lyrical about growth rates of wind farms.

  41. I thank you Finrod, for your recognition that I have something worthwile to contribute. In some respects, it’s clear that I share some of your methodology — the desire to ground policy in well informed human-centred instrumental reasoning. An exemplar, both of your soundness and your error would the this:

    The whole idea of energy conservation as a primary virtue is terribly flawed. If something is good, and its use empowers people, improves their lives, increases their options and raises their living standards, then it is the case that the more of it is used, the better.

    This analysis arrives at an incorrect conclusion by poor execution of the right first principle.

    Adancing human well-being entails getting right two basic elements — the goal and the process. While it’s certainly possible to set and achieve worthy goials through poor process or conversely establish good processes that fail to achieve worthy goals, the optimum for humans entails having an ongoing interplay between the specification of process and the setting of goals. Means and ends are inseparable.

    While the use of energy has literally as well as figuratively empowered people the processes involved have skewed the culture in ways that have socially marginalised and jeopardised the life chances of whole swathes of the human populace. One nedds very little knowledge of recent history to see that the dual role the advent of rich carbon energy has played in human afairs: boith beneficent and pernicious and at some point, at the margins, ther costs and risks began to exceed the benefits. Moreover, in cultural terms, that which is most important to human progress, the sine qua non — our sense of connectedness to each other and to the work we do — is subverted by the compartmentalisation of daily life. This in turn is the leaven for parochialism, xenophobia, fundamentalism, communalism and all manner of misanthropy. One sees this not only in the undeveloped satraps in the least wealthy lands where humans exist, but in Australia, the US and Europe too.

    Knowledge of the connectedness of interest of every human with every other is a starting point for understanding ho to go about making rational choices about the use of energy, the value of the biosphere and much else.

    To present energy consumption as an inherent good, as you seem to imply, is flawed. We get no marginal benefit from waste, and indeed, the ways in which we waste energy often turn out to harm us individually and collectively as a species.

  42. Thanks Neil, yes, I’ve read the Davey & Coppin study — it was one of those referenced extensively by Trainer 2007. My question was partly rhetorical, and partly illustrative — why aren’t renewable energy planners talking more explicitly about these extremes, rather than means?

    For instance, as a spin-off from your point that Australia’s wind farms are now widely dispersed. What is the % of time that these wind farms are delivering 10%, or 5%, or 1% of their rated capacity? What % of time are they delivering 100%? These are crucial figures to know, to understand about the extent of overbuilding and energy storage that will be required to meet your speculated 50% of our power from wind.

    I know there is a graph that shows the output of ALL German wind farms combined, and one which aggregated everything for Ireland. The results were somewhat depressing. But what about a huge country like Australia? This is badly needed, if it doesn’t exist.

  43. Neil, the power rating of the pumped hydro is only part of the story, of course. You need to be talking about the energy storage (say, in GWh), or these figures don’t mean a lot.

    Where was Lang assuming that OCGT cannot operate at <45% capacity? He states quite clearly that it can operate at any capacity factor, but that 45% is the cost 'sweet spot'. I found the points in your 5th and 6th paragraphs rather hard to follow — I wonder if you wouldn't mind re-stating them in a simpler (or more clearly laid out) form?

    “Peter seems to have little idea about wind power or how hydro and coal fired power operate.”

    Go re-read his bio.

    Anyway, I’m sure Peter Lang will appreciate your criticisms, and I do sincerely hope he is able to respond here.

  44. Fran, you can, however, present energy consumptions as scientifically good, via a loss of life expectancy (LLE) analysis. Cohen does it very well, very clearly, here.

    Look at the LLE related to “energy conservation measures” in Figure 1, and then look down the text to the paragraph starting “The final alternative to nuclear power is conservation” and read on for 7 more paragraphs, to understand what is being argued.

  45. I would also like to point out that renewable operators are not completely off the hook and should not get a free ride forever. Wind farms SHOULD have 5 to 10 minutes of reserve available and this should be legislated so that wind cannot connect to the grid without it. There are too many people that see wind as yet another money making subsidy that they can milk for their own gain and are not interested in the long term future of energy in Australia. It is up to governments to set the long term goals and wind farms with better ride-through capability will enhance the reputation of wind to the NEMMCO operators.

    Such storage would also allow variable speed wind turbines to use gusts more effectively. It would consist of no more than ultracapacitor modules such as these
    http://www.maxwell.com/ultracapacitors/products/modules/bmod0094-75v.asp
    that should not add too much to the cost of the overall farm and should last the life of the farm with low maintenance. Variable speed wind turbines already have sophisticated electronics to control the output so adding what is effectively more filter capacitors would be at minimal expense.

  46. I think the vanadium redox battery that fills a shed on King Island would have to be regarded as a disappointment. It buffers wind generated electricity for just an hour or two. However some businesses on the island have threatened to close unless power bills reduce. I believe the state govt pays twice for those bills; directly as a revenue bailout and indirectly via the capital subsidy on the battery.

    There are perhaps several reasons why pumped hydro is unattractive in Tasmania. Firstly there will be only one revenue stream not two for separate wind and hydro, especially if direct wind power gets guaranteed sale. Secondly the physical infrastructure may be difficult to expand. Catchment areas should get over 3 metres of rain in 2009 and are at full tilt. In wet years pumping would have to wait. Thirdly Rudd’s delayed/weak carbon cap and unlikely RET don’t create an incentive. Spot prices for peak hydro get top dollar ($10 a kwh briefly last summer) via Basslink HVDC cable which also enables coal power to be cheaply re-imported over autumn.

    That coal power needs to be more expensive, pumped hydro needs to count towards a strict RET or wind power should no longer be guaranteed automatic sale. I doubt that PS in mountain dams could provide more than 3 or 4 GW Australia wide. It could help but it’s not enough.

  47. “While the use of energy has literally as well as figuratively empowered people the processes involved have skewed the culture in ways that have socially marginalised and jeopardised the life chances of whole swathes of the human populace. One nedds very little knowledge of recent history to see that the dual role the advent of rich carbon energy has played in human afairs: boith beneficent and pernicious and at some point, at the margins, ther costs and risks began to exceed the benefits.”

    I’m aware of the problems asssociated with carbon-based energy. This is why I support nuclear energy.

    “Moreover, in cultural terms, that which is most important to human progress, the sine qua non — our sense of connectedness to each other and to the work we do — is subverted by the compartmentalisation of daily life. This in turn is the leaven for parochialism, xenophobia, fundamentalism, communalism and all manner of misanthropy. One sees this not only in the undeveloped satraps in the least wealthy lands where humans exist, but in Australia, the US and Europe too.”

    I find it difficult to agree with this. Most of those, negative elements you mention were abundantly present in pre-industrial life, probably more so than now.

  48. John, the point about hyro companies wanting to sell to the peaking power spot market, rather than to support wind fluctuations at any time, was also made by Lang. It is a crucial one, I think. Hyro is so damned useful because of its incredibly rapid slew rate. Does this perhaps imply that wind farm owners would have to collectively purchase and/or construct new pumped storage facilities, because existing hydro owners won’t have a bar of selling their precious resource to the baseload market (unless forced to by legislation)? Interesting issue.

    Here is what Trainer says about the vanadium battery:

    The vanadium battery: http://ssis.arts.unsw.edu.au/tsw/RElo.html (there is an expanded discussion in his 2007 book)

    “Electrical energy can be stored using vanadium solutions. An 800kWh system is in use on King Island in Bass Straight, Australia. (Skylass-Kazacos, n.d.) However the energy density is quite low and for very large scale storage the materials, energy and dollar costs would be very high. About 70 litres are needed to store 1 kWh. (Personal communication, Cougar energy; see also http://www.vrbpower.com.) Petrol is about 850 times as energy-dense.

    For a PV power station to store energy equivalent to that which a coal-fired station would provide for the 16 hours when the sun is not shining, i.e., 16 million kWh, 1,120 million litres would be needed. This would require 53 tanks of 30 metres diameter and 30 metres high. A renewable energy system would need the capacity to store for many days.

    The cost of the 800 kWh King Island system is very high, $4 million, although if mass produced cost per kWh would be much lower. If we assume half of this for the storage part of the system, i.e., $2,500 per kWh, then the cost of the 16 hour storage task for a 1000 MW power station would be $40 billion, and for a four day storage task would be $240 billion…when a $1.2 billion coal-fired plant would do the same job (or $3.7 billion including coal fuel for its lifetime.)

    Then there is the cost of the bulky “engine” to produce electricity from the stored solution. According to figures from Cougar Energy, a 1000 MW power station would probably require about 30,000 tonnes of materials.

    These numbers are uncertain and costs are likely to fall considerably with development, but it would appear that the extreme dollar and embodied energy costs would prohibit very large scale use of this technology.”

  49. Barry …

    Re: your reponse above that began:”Fran, you can, however, present energy consumptions as scientifically good, via a loss of life expectancy (LLE) analysis …

    I haven’t read this line by line but it doesn’t seem to contradict anything that I’d oppose, The methodology is utilitarian and (allowing for the limitations that always attend epidemiological anthropology) fair enough.

    The broader point though is one level above this. Is consuming energy intrinsically good or a reliable measure of how well off people are?

    Certainly, there is a compelling inference that certain of the most important goods and services that underpin human well-being demand energy — and lots of it — high per capita energy usage is correlated with high levels of wellbeing. As is ofgten noted though, cum hoc ergo propter hoc — correlation is not causation.

    If future societies find ways of reliable delivering needed goods and services at optimal quality and great ubiquity while cutting total energy usage, they will be doing better than a notional society that does the same but uses more energy, and not merely because most energy production depends on feedstock that is finite, but because any work, including the work of producing and harvesting energy entails, as Cohen notes, risk of harm. It also involves a human footprint on systems that are complex and which we don’t entirely understand. To do that without some corresponding advantage or purely notional advantages is irrational, in utilitarian terms.

  50. Finrod

    Your post concluding “I find it difficult to agree with this. Most of those, negative elements you mention were abundantly present in pre-industrial life, probably more so than now.”

    This objection has the same structure as the “climate has changed before SUVs” run by the denierati and suffers from the same problem.

    More than one set of circumstances can conspire to produce the undesired outcome.

  51. Barry,
    I think Peter Lang’s analysis must be wrong, because every kWh produced from wind would have been produced by either nuclear( we don’t have any), coal( we have surplus capacity except during peak demand; most likely replacement) or from NG( during peak demand periods).
    You can’t have it both ways, if wind power is being produced when there is surplus capacity coal power is what is turned down(coal can range from 70-100% capacity) otherwise wind is being produced when demand is high( in which case NG is saved). Both of these alternatives produce 0.5-1.5 tonnes Co2 per MWh depending upon if brown, black coal or NG is used. No other sources use just 0.05 tonnes CO2/MWh ( except wind and solar)
    Extra NG capacity doesn’t create CO2 when it’s not in use!

  52. Barry Brook – “Does this perhaps imply that wind farm owners would have to collectively purchase and/or construct new pumped storage facilities, because existing hydro owners won’t have a bar of selling their precious resource to the baseload market (unless forced to by legislation)? Interesting issue.”

    Perhaps there should be a levy on wind to provide a least some of the peaking required. It does not have to be pumped hydro.

    “Here is what Trainer says about the vanadium battery:”

    Why would anyone store 16 hours of energy? The PV plant hopefully would not be isolated and at night chances are the coal plant would be shut down anyway during off-peak. The main storage for renewables will turn out to be in my opinion thermal storage in molten salts and stored gases from biomass or hydrogen production.

    If the VRB is no good then the NAS battery is already being installed to smooth the grid right now.

    http://ieeexplore.ieee.org/Xplore/login.jsp?url=http%3A%2F%2Fieeexplore.ieee.org%2Fiel5%2F4584435%2F4595968%2F04596161.pdf%3Farnumber%3D4596161&authDecision=-203

    http://www.jase-w.eccj.or.jp/technologies/pdf/electricity/E-4.pdf

  53. Barry,
    Is anyone except Trainer seriously considering batteries for 16 h storage of power on the NEMCO grid? Perhaps to iron out 5min fluctuations at individual wind farms.

    You question about time amount(GWh) of storage is important, but with the exception of the two small purpose built pumped hydro just south of Sydney and west of Brisbane, most other hydro has months of storage. The pumped capacity(GW) is the limiting factor to absorb off-peak and in Tasmania the 500MW Bass-link would be a limitation if they had any reversible turbines installed.

    The bottom line is we could build a lot more hydro peak without building any more dams, just adding reversible turbines and extra transmission capacity. I am sure Snowy Hydro will sell power at any time if the price is right, more wind will add infrequent but profitable sales.

  54. “Your post concluding “I find it difficult to agree with this. Most of those, negative elements you mention were abundantly present in pre-industrial life, probably more so than now.”

    This objection has the same structure as the “climate has changed before SUVs” run by the denierati and suffers from the same problem.”

    I was attempting to be polite. I see the effort has been wasted. Let me state the case in more certain terms.

    “Moreover, in cultural terms, that which is most important to human progress, the sine qua non — our sense of connectedness to each other and to the work we do — is subverted by the compartmentalisation of daily life.”

    You appear to be objecting to specialisation and the division of labour. If you find these things objectionable, well, that is your business, but what possible relevance could it have to the topic at hand? Most people are practical enough to appreciate the advantages this ‘compartmentalisation’ has bestowed, and would frankly laugh in your face at the suggestion that it is even an issue.

    “This in turn is the leaven for parochialism, xenophobia, fundamentalism, communalism and all manner of misanthropy. One sees this not only in the undeveloped satraps in the least wealthy lands where humans exist, but in Australia, the US and Europe too.”

    A world of low energy consumption is a world of disconnected and impoverished villages, small communities of uneducated, fear-driven peasants who have so little that they begrudge anything to anyone slightly better off, and imagine cosmic malice directed at them by unpopular neighbours as the cause of their many misfortunes. Greater specialisation and organisation supercharged by high energy use has elevated us out of that miserable life. Xenophobia and various misanthropies still exist, but they are flaws which can be addressed, rather than inescapable existential conditions of life.

  55. Stephen,
    Your personal first hand knowledge of the Esperance wind farm adds great value to the discussion.
    Just a note about coal-fired power there is some flexibility in operating from 70-100% of capacity. We have 28GW of coal capacity but most evenings only use <20GW from about 1-5am. Some of this is mothballed power plants but not all.

  56. Going back to the(rather hesitant) discussion of whether nuclear war would ameliorate climate change, I was reminded of Kurt Vonnegut’s novel ‘Cat’s Cradle’, which featured a one-man group called ‘Poets and Artists for Immediate Nuclear War’. I wonder if environmentalists are allowed to join…

  57. As a transition metal with a bunch of oxidation states I’d give its toxocology due respect:

    “The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) has recommended that 35 mg/m3 of vanadium be considered immediately dangerous to life and health. This is the exposure level of a chemical that is likely to cause permanent health problems or death.”

    Sure, there’s a lot of worse things than that. But its not non-toxic. And if a million tonnes of a solution of the stuff got dumped in the watershed of an island where I was, say, a high value added dairy product manufacturer, I’d be shitting myself rather concerned.

  58. I think separate return pumps would be located near the outfall. They have to be near low water level to prevent cavitation (ie push water not suck) and also use safer lower voltage. The heights of spillways may have to be raised to impound both river level and pumped flows in flood times. This is a significant capital cost.

  59. Neil Howes strikes me as confused. Mr. Howes seems to confuse raising issues derived by the simple application of logic – a basic analytic tool – with bias. This is a frequent recourse of renewables advocates when their flawed reasoning is pointed out.

    First using Jsacobson’s own figures I calculated that the “Jacobson grid” would require a 5X windmill redundancy, not 50X as he asserts. We are talking here about the redundancy required to reach Jacobson’s 79% reliability figure. But if we substitute natural gas for wind generated electricity during some of that 79% are not we lowering our reliability figure? We can’t have it both ways, that is we can’t burn natural gas and then count the time we burn it as wind generation time.

    I assume a post carbon grid – that is a grid in which no electricity is produced by burning CO2 emitting fossil fuels, because climate scientists tell us that we need to reduce CO2 emissions by 80%, and it is far easier to reduce those emissions from the grid, than from some other economic sectors. Stipulating that a large percentage of our electricity is going to come from burning natural gas is to already surrender to global warming.

  60. Barry,
    Re-phrasing:
    For planning purposes if wind power was to provide 50% of the average electricity consumption of 30GWa, would need wind capacity of 45GWc (0.5 x100/35 x30GW). The maximum wind power expected would be 50% of this 45GWcapacity(22.5GW) and the minimum about 5% of capacity(2GW). This would mean that all coal fired power(average 24GW) would be replaced by 15GW average wind and the balance(15GW average) by OCGT. How much extra OCGT capacity would be needed?.
    In WA virtually all power is presently provided by OCTG and CCGT. No additional OCTG would be needed but present OTCG would be run at a much lower capacity factor, all OCTG shut down in off-peak periods(when wind was blowing).
    In the NEMMCO grid in E Australia, about 20%(8.5GWe) of the capacity is provided by hydro including 1.2GW pumped hydro.Peak demand is about 45GWe(average demand is 25GW) so if wind was to provide an average of 13GW(2GW in WA) would expect 1.5-20 GWe of wind power would need to have a total of 35GW OCGT(the other 10GW of peak demand coming from 1.5 wind, 8.5GW hydro under the lowest wind conditions but usually a lot less OCGT than 35GW).
    OCGT would be providing an average of 12GW(25GWtotal-13GW wind) or 33% capacity factor(12/35).

    Incidentally, the same situation would exist if 50% power came from nuclear, most coal(3/4) would be shut down because it would not be needed 6hours each evening and is still more expensive to run than the fuel saved by reducing nuclear. During peak, OCGT and hydro would have to supply the additional capacity(about double nuclear at peak demand)

  61. I was referring to your 3rd OCt, 2008 post where you say “in order to have that wind generation by 2030 would have to build 360Billion GW’s..”. following the paragraph where you say the capacity factor of wind in Texas and California in the hottest days of summer was 0.02. The California event was not surprising because 50% of California’s wind capacity was at that time in one location.
    Now if you mean that you wouldn’t use the 0.02 capacity factor because it was a very rare event, then I think “360Billion GW” is a little large. If you meant 360GW x100/0.2 (1800GW)that would seem more reasonable.

  62. More specifically on the question of conservation however, Cohen says:

    But while many people think that doing without energy is the safest strategy, it is probably by far the most dangerous.

    A more careful analyst might have substituted “can be” for “is probably” and predictably he then proceeds to cherrypick his choices to suit the claims.

    One energy conservation strategy is to use smaller cars, but we have shown that this has an LLE of 60 days, many times that of any other energy technology.

    Firstly this ignores the health impacts larger vehicles have on populations. Pedestrian and bicycle traffic, more pollution, vision obstruction at turns etc — a very culturally ‘American’ perspective since one focuses only on one’s own interests rather than those of others.

    Of course, Morton’s fork applies. The alternative to larger cars is not simply smaller cars, but public transport, which was destroyed in the US by the collaboration of Standard and American Oil and GM/Ford as they ripped out public transport from the major cities during the 1930s and thus laid the basis for urban sprawl, long commutes, drive in ‘convenience’ food, and the bariatric lifestyle attending it. Cohen’s single factor analysis misses the notion of connectedness and feedback (no pun intended). This really is energy waste on a gigantic scale and massive life-year loss as a result.

    He then attacks bicycle riding as unsafe but again says nothing about potential separation from traffic. Apparently it is bicycle riders who are primarily responsible for this morbidity!

    Similarly he attacks insulation because — astonishingly — this ‘locks in radon’, which is in the air because? He doesn’t say … and just as well. [wry smile]

    And on it goes, sounding more like special pleading with each line:

    Still another conservation strategy is to reduce lighting. Falls now give us an LLE of 39 days; thus if reduced lighting causes 5% more falling, it has an LLE of 2 days.

    But does he offer any evidence beyond supposition for this 5% figure? No.

    Nor does he drill down and ask what ‘reduced lighting might amount to in practice. Perhaps reduced lighting means lighting that is motion sensitive — switching on when a motion detector senses movement and off after a delay in detecting movement of a few minutes.

    If reduced lighting increases the number of murders by 5%, this would give an additional LLE of 4.5 days.

    But does he offer any evidence for the casal link between reduced lighting andf murder beyond the possibility that 5% is a seemingly unobectionable number? No.

    Most motor vehicle accidents occur at night, although most driving is done during the day; if reduced road lighting increases accidents by even 2%, this gives an additional 4 days of LLE.

    Again, can he show that the absence of streetlighting represents the theshhold difference in diurnal road trauma etiology? Isn’t it more likely that higher rates of alcohol consumption, human circadian rhythms, less intensive policing, changed traffic patterns permitting more risk taking etc might predispose this diurnal difference? Of course not. It’s the lights.

    An important potential danger in overzealous energy conservation is that it may reduce our wealth by suppressing economic growth. Just to keep up with our increasing population without increasing unemployment, we must provide over a million new jobs per year for the foreseeable future. We have been succeeding in keeping up for the past several years, but that requires increasing supplies of electricity. The tragic health impacts of unemployment were outlined earlier in this chapter.

    Ah yes … but surely, one could provide this ‘employment’ by having people marching about the country in smart new uniforms helping elder folk to corss the street? Not much electricity required there.

    Consider this. If for argument’s sake, total world production of armaments fell by 50% per capita in every jurisdiction and the duration of armed conflict and the numbers of troops involved fell similarly.

    It is clear that not only energy, but building and construction, the extractive industries, health and engineering would all decline sharply.If to compensate, the displaced persons were given contracts to stay at home and compose treatises on the human condition, is it not plain that the associated fall in energy and resource usage would be associated with an increase in quality life-years and philosophical irony?

    I’d say so.

  63. I was attempting to be polite. I see the effort has been wasted. Let me state the case in more certain terms.

    I’m glad you are dispensing with disingenuous civility, if that is indeed what it was. Candour is always preferable, even at the cost of manners.

    You appear to be objecting to specialisation and the division of labour

    You appear to be misreading. I am, amongst other things, a Marxist. I’d scarcely object to that, and if I had I’d have been plain. Compartmentalisation is here about the narrowing of one’s vision to the banalities and ennui of suburban life.

    I doubt that many people would ‘laugh in my face’ raising it. That children widely believe that milk comes from a carton and water from a tap may be urban apocrypha, but the idea underlying it troubles most.

    While you are right to reject agricultural village life as a source of enlightenment about the wider world it does not follow that the construction of suburbia is its antithesis. I read recently that it is still the case that most Americans believe god had a hand in human creation and that angels play a role in their lives. They think in large numbers that Muslims are out to get them. Neither nuclear power nor TV changed that.

  64. I haven’t read this line by line but it doesn’t seem to contradict anything that I’d oppose,

    Oops … Should have read:

    I haven’t read this line by line but it doesn’t seem to propose anything that I’d oppose …

    At that stage, I’d not found the passage on conservation …

  65. The “Meta-analysis of net energy return for wind power systems” by
    Ida Kubiszewski, Cutler J. Cleveland, and Peter K. Endres, suffers from the worst flaws of a meta-analysis approach. The problems with the nuclear studies are obvious: “The comparison with nuclear power is complicated by a number of factors. The system boundary looms large for nuclear power because the fuel cycle has many steps, and because many of the important stages are upstream (mining, milling, enrichment) or downstream (decommissioning, waste disposal) from the generation stage.

    The data presented in Fig. 3 are from Lenzen’s comprehensive survey of the life cycle energy and greenhouse gas emissions of nuclear energy based on 52 unique analyses. . . . Readers should also note that two-thirds of the analyses in Lenzen’s nuclear review date from 1980 or earlier, and thus do not represent nuclear power plants currently being built, or any plants that will be built in the future. Suffice it to say that there remains significant uncertainty regarding the energy costs associated with nuclear power.”

    It should be noted that 2/3 of the energy input into nuclear power generation prior to 1980 went into the now obsolete gaseous diffusion uranium enrichment technology. The new generation of nuclear plants will used uranium hat is enriched by new technologies that are 50 times more energy efficient. The energy efficiency of uranium mining technology has also improved. Prior to 1980 reactors were expected to operate no more than 40 years. Today that period has extended to from 60 to 80 years, with even 100 years possible. Thus assumptions about the EROEI for nuclear power 30 ago are no longer valid. What is the value of those old studies in determining future nuclear EROEI? Absolutely none. Thus there is no valid basis for the claim the wind EROEI is superior to nuclear EROEI on the basis of meta-analysis.

    Given the methodological problems which Kubiszewski et al admit for the meta-analysis of wind powered systems, can any more confidence be given to their over all conclusions?

    Barry points out my analysis of the Archer & Jaconson base wind study. The redundancy requirements for base wind are nearly 5X name plate output for the wind generators. Thus assured output for a 5 MW windmill equals the output from 1 MW of nuclear capacity. Thus the cost of the base wind facilities using the Archer & Jaconson base power system is considerably more expensive than that of a nuclear plant of equivalent output, even excluding the added cost of hundreds of miles of electrical gathering and transmission lines. The nuclear plant will still be more reliable, and downtime can be scheduled rather than at a whim of mother nature.

  66. We seem to be leading the thread to issues of transport energy. I’m also a big believer, having grown up in NYC, of public transit. It’s the reason the NYC has the lowest per capita carbon footprint of any major city in the US.

    But suburbs are not going to go away, even with massive free public transportation. Only 6% of Americans use pubic transport. The carCULTure is real, to use nnadir’s term. It’s not going away because people have access to mass transit. So long as half the population lives in suburbs, cars will dominate. Hell, people *drive* to the mass transit, not walk or bicycle.

    So we need a massive expansion of public transport, without a doubt. As Fran knows, I too am a Marxist, italics and all. But we are not pol-potists either. It will take an epoch to change this in many countries.

    Nuclear energy provides the material basis for the vast expansion of public services, health care, and generally raising the standard of living of the world. From what I remember, Fran, you are a big advocate of algae-based bio fuels. What better way to power the distillation of such fuel than with nuclear?

    David Walters

  67. … he attacks insulation because — astonishingly — this ‘locks in radon’, which is in the air because? He doesn’t say … and just as well.

    If it were just in the air, locking in air would not increase its radon concentration over that of the outdoors. However, as I guess he assumed everyone knew, it comes continuously out of the ground, and has a lifetime of a few days.

    So if it emerges into a house basement and then spends its few days in that house, the equilibrium concentration in the air of that house will exceed the equilibrium concentration in the whole atmosphere by the ratio of the atmosphere’s 8-km height* to the 3-to-6-metre height of the captive air column within the house.

    (How fire can be domesticated)

    * That is the height an atmosphere of uniform density would have. 1.2 kg per cubic metre, its ground-level density, times 8 km makes 9600 kg per square metre, the same areal density as the real atmosphere has even though it extends much higher.

    Actually 8.6 km looks like a better approximation. Sometimes called the “scale height”.

  68. Barry

    I’ve heard wind firming costs are under $20/MWh. My understanding is that improvement in wind prediction methods will push this number down. Shorter market clearing cycles will also push this number down.

    Try sending off some emails to wind energy traders and ask them what the current firming rates are.

  69. There’s no needf David, to drag in nuclear’s potential role in transesterification. I am as noted above, someone who acknowlewdges that in some markets, nuclear is going to be an indispensible factor if the net public good is to be best served.

    In Australia however, no party would contemplate advocacy of nuclear power because the other party would beat them to death with it. In the foreseeable future, the ALP will hold office for at least the next election federally, and most likely the one after that and they have an even stronger anti-nuclear consensus than the Coalition, who as noted won’t camapign in 2013 for it.

    So we are not talking nuclear here for at least a decade and double that until the fiorst might get built.

    That’s the reality here.

    Fran

  70. On most pumped storage the “pumping turbine is on the same shaft as the generator to use it as a motor. Sometimes a separate turbine sometimes a reversible turbine.
    In some cases a lower dam can be used in others a lower short term reservoir needs to be built to hold just a few hours of peak water( not months as a normal dam is required to store). Regions with a lot of hydro like Tasmania don’t do this because they have 2.2GW of capacity and only need 1.8GW at peak. During the off-peak period they can shut down all turbines and draw on Bass-Link, HVDC to Victoria and reverse the process in the daytime. To expand this the major capital cost would be for an expanded Bass-Link.

  71. @Neil upthread
    Basslink was sold to a Singapore firm for $1.2 bn so that is a ballpark figure for constructing a second underwater cable. Add wind power at say $3 a watt, extra transmission and dam works and we’re looking at a lazy three billion or so. This won’t happen while the RET and the ETS carbon cap have all the impact of a fluffy duster.

  72. Neil – “Your personal first hand knowledge of the Esperance wind farm adds great value to the discussion.”

    I am sorry if I gave the impression that this was first hand knowledge – perhaps I did not reference my post correctly.

    The first quote starting with “Three years of operational experience and a system load which has grown by about 30% ….” came from:
    http://www.daws.com.au/pdf/Paperon_10_mile_lagoon_for_Fiji_1997.pdf

    And the second starting with “The wind farm includes a control system based on a Master Controller,….” is from:
    http://www.horizonpower.com.au/environment/renewable_energy/wind/wind_nine_mile.html

    I just want to make it plain that none of the knowledge I presented is from personal experience, it is only from the references presented. If I gave that impression it was not intentional and I will make sure that I reference my posts properly in future.

  73. [radon] comes continuously out of the ground, and has a lifetime of a few days.

    So if it emerges into a house basement and then spends its few days in that house, the equilibrium concentration in the air of that house will exceed the equilibrium concentration in the whole atmosphere by the ratio of the atmosphere’s 8-km height* to the 3-to-6-metre height of the captive air column within the house.

    Well if it’s a problem you simply flush the air once per day/per week as needed.

    Result: marginally less thermally efficient but still a lot more than currently

    In any event, this would presumably apply only to ground dwellings.

    Sheesh …

  74. Whatever Jacobson proposes it seems to me that the overbuild for wind need be no higher than the CF would imply for 100% of nameplate.

    So assuming a CF of, say 35% (the starting point for feasibility IMO) the overbuild should be no more than *2.84 so that taken together the farm’s reticulated components produce the output almost all the time. Only on those occasions where

    a) there was a decline in output below the anticipated output

    AND

    b) demand implied the anticipated output

    would redundant capacity be brought online. Ideally the sites in question would be highly predictable on 2 hours notice.

    Order of call would be

    a)demand management measures

    and/or

    b)pumped hydro/V2G

    and/or

    c)NG

    Note that NG need not be a fossil fuel — waste biomass from ADs or syngas from CSP usaage are options

  75. Fran – “Well if it’s a problem you simply flush the air once per day/per week as needed. Result: marginally less thermally efficient but still a lot more than currently
    In any event, this would presumably apply only to ground dwellings.”

    It becomes a non-problem if you apply PassivHaus design principles that include heat exchanged ventilation of a sealed house. The outgoing air’s heat is scavenged by a ventilation system so that proper ventilation is not thermally less efficient. It would completely eliminate any radon problem.

    You can read about it here:
    http://www.passivhaus.org.uk/index.jsp?id=668

  76. Stephen Gloor said
    10 August 2009 at 15.12

    Thanks Stephen, you’re quite right. I notice that the Cohen paper was 1990, and a good deal of the things that are now being done in thermally efficient housing would have been in their infancy.

  77. Whatever Jacobson proposes it seems to me that the overbuild for wind need be no higher than the CF would imply for 100% of nameplate.

    In some cases that may be very high. For instance, the Bonneville Power Authority has 1.5 GW nameplate wind, which in January this year, ran for 11 continuous days at less than 50 MW (3% capacity). So the overbuild need be no higher than about 30x.

    Or, within that lull, more than 8 continuous days at less than 10 MW. So the overbuild need be no higher than 150x.

    Or you might look at all the wind in Ireland through 2006-07, where you can pick out a number of periods of about a week running at about 10%, so you’d need not overbuild Irish wind by more than a factor of 10x.

    A similar lull occured in Germany a month or so ago, with about a week of about 10% or less CF. So the German overbuild might only need to be 10x or so.

    Now, obviously those overbuilds are mitigated by storage etc. – your options a-c above. But these extended lulls over whole countries seem to me to be a real problem. I don’t think its feasible to build a week’s worth of storage into a system, so then what?

    The capacity factor is a useful average, but what would be really interesting is the frequency distribution of lulls by duration. What’s the longest period of 10% CF you’d have to cover in a year, with 95% probability, say?

    The BPA site above has some of this sort of data, and a recent post at The Capacity Factor also looked at this. It doesn’t seem very encouraging. I’ve no idea how Australia’s wind resources would look according to such an analysis.

  78. John D Morgan up thread

    In some cases that may be very high. For instance, the Bonneville Power Authority has 1.5 GW nameplate wind, which in January this year, ran for 11 continuous days at less than 50 MW (3% capacity). So the overbuild need be no higher than about 30x.

    All that says is that this particuar site was radically unfeasible for wind. As I said, 35% is a starting point. If useable wind can drop that low for that long then you pass and look elsewhere. It’s not as if there is a shortage of places that would nearly always have enough wind to meet 35%CF with minimal downward slew.

    There’s a four storey block of flats not far from where I live where a friend and I put an anemometer in 2006. The windspeed up there during the day has averaged 10m/s and 12m/s at night without ever dropping below 5m/s. For about 30% of the time it was 16m/s and above. I’d love to put turbines up on major buildings and see how they’d go on CF and slews.

  79. Fran, that’s simply not true. The downtimes John describes are a common feature of ALL wind sites — it may be worse in some than others, but locally, any site can have extended periods with no or very little wind. I don’t know what is wrong with that anemometer of your friend’s, but I can guarantee you that it has had plenty of nights with windspeed below 5m/s.

    I assume you also know how capacity factors are figured out for wind turbines at a site? One key consideration (though not the only one) is the size of the generator to attached to the turbine, to achieve a given CF. After all, you could stick a 100 kW generator on a 2 MW turbine, and achieve a CF in excess of 80% in some places — doesn’t help the economics of that turbine, of course, but the CF would look beaut.

  80. The broader point Barry is getting the analysis of every site right. While wind can be volatile what you need is to work out whether the wind resources of which you can be certain (within a mimimum time window)justify the levelized costs. If they do, then you are on something worthwhile.

    I can’t comment on my friend’s anemometer, and obviously we didn’t stay up every night trying others to compare it with, but we were inspired to try by the persistent windiness of the top of his building. We were curious as much as anything.

    I understand that offshore wind is quite good — though installed cost goes up. Last figures I saw (2006) for onshore were $US1600 per Kwe based on 1Mwe turbines. Since that time, turbines have got a lot bigger — 5-7Mwe and there’s even an experimental Chinese MagLev turbine (a VWAT) that allegedly can operate in light breezes and 145km/h winds — and is rated at 1Gwe!

    As I said above — it ill-behooves us to cast aside such a valuable resource merely because it’s not as despatchable as coal or nuclear.

  81. The Bonneville projects are not a particular site. It 1.5 GW capacity distributed over four states in the US northwest (Montana, Oregon, Washington and Idaho, as best I can make out from their materials). I don’t think they’d be investing in radically unsuitable sites – quite the reverse. Apparently the wind isn’t always blowing somewhere, in this sampling.

    Likewise the Irish example – 745 MW capacity over 60 wind farms, from MacKay’s data at the time. Is Ireland radically unsuitable for wind?

    And Germany. Serious scale now. 23 GW capacity in 2008. But the sum of all German output ran at a tenth or less for about a week in June. Is Germany radically unsuitable for wind? Just how many countries do we need to integrate over before the fluctuations start to smooth out?

  82. I might add Barry, that I’d be very happy (assuming the accounting methodologies were sound) to have every energy source costed by CO2 emissions at an indicative price of about $AUS100 per tonne.

    Then let the chips fall where they may. At that price the nutbags proposing CC&S would have no excuses for not going ahead, because AIUI that;s about how much is needed to make that technology feasible.

    I’m betting we’d get a lot more wind, tidal, solar thermal, hydro, waste biomass and NG. We might get second gen biofuels too

    Fran

  83. Would notice really help? My point was that its not 10 hours, its 100 hrs or more of pretty much no power you need to cover. Conventional thermal would cover demand, but only by backing up the missing wind at full 100%/CF MW per MW. Not a cheap way to reduce emissions, or even very effective (read Lang’s analysis)

  84. John D Morgan – “Likewise the Irish example – 745 MW capacity over 60 wind farms, from MacKay’s data at the time. Is Ireland radically unsuitable for wind?”

    Without knowing if these were put in the most favourable site or like in Germany put anywhere to get the generous feed in tariff. Germany is actually a bad example as there are many older wind turbines in areas that normally would not have wind except for the subsidies. It shows that too much subsidy can actually be a bad thing.

    I would like to see some figures from offshore wind sites or even Esperance. I have written to Western Power (or whatever they are called this week) several time for information on the Esperance wind farm and never received even one reply. I guess I could have another go.

    It would be interesting if I could get data from Albany, Esperance and Geraldton all of which have CPs of 40%

  85. I’d be very interested to see such data if you can get it.

    I’d always assumed a sufficiently large catchment would see wind fluctuations cancel out, but that hasn’t been the case in the (limited) data I’ve seen. As well as the short term lulls in the three examples I gave, there’s also the long term seasonal variation. The Capacity Factor has a post on a PNAS paper looking at the annual variation in the US wind potential. His comment:

    “Wind potential varies over the year by a factor of two. There’s absolutely no reasonable way of storing half a year of electricity on a grid scale. So these huge seasonal variations are terminally bad – either you build enough wind capacity to function through the August nadir, and throw away the excess in other months – at huge loss – or you run natural gas turbines for half the year – with huge CO2 emissions. Or both.”

    Another post looks at the problem of lulls (sinking the boot into Greenpeace in the process).

    These issues beg for a detailed analysis of the spatial and temporal structure of the noise in wind power.
    I’d be interested in seeing any studies on this.

  86. Further support for the high price of carbon emission reductions is provided here:
    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/newsbysector/energy/6001259/Governments-green-energy-plan-may-cost-17-times-more-than-its-benefits.html
    ‘According to the document, while the expected cost will total around £4bn a year over the next 20 years, amounting to £57bn to £70bn, the eventual benefit in terms of the reduced carbon dioxide emissions will be only £4bn to £5bn over that entire period. ‘
    The relevant figures can be found here:
    http://www.decc.gov.uk/en/content/cms/what_we_do/uk_supply/energy_mix/renewable/res/res.aspx
    And the pdf:
    http://www.decc.gov.uk/Media/viewfile.ashx?FilePath=What%20we%20do\UK%20energy%20supply\Energy%20mix\Renewable%20energy\Renewable%20Energy%20Strategy\1_20090715120705_e_@@_UKRenewableEnergyStratey2009OverallImpactAssessmenturn09D683.pdf&filetype=4
    On average they seem to be referring to around £4.2bn per annum as costs, and £0.3bn as benefits, defined as reduction in carbon emissions at current trading prices.
    Unfortunately I have not managed to find the Annex they refer to to specify the price per ton of carbon used in the Analysis.
    Since much of the anticipated savings are proposed to come from wind, then this report seems at least tangentially relevant to the present discussion, and in any case may interest some here.

  87. Yes, notice would help John. If you have notice then the only cost is the levelized cost of providing the back up resource. Substantial notice allows you to schedule load-significant events (e.g pumping water to catchments) away from the slews. You could also use smart metering to shut down usages of very marginal utility, or run existing thermal capacity that would have been backed off longer.

    To take a simple analogy, if one runs a restaurant, it may well be uneconomic to open it on a Tuesday evening at 8pm, so one would schedule that time as closed, but if one had a booking that made it economic to stay open one would invite staff to stay on. The extra cost would only be the marginal cost of keeping the place open instead of closing it.

    Having significant pumped storage would be very useful precisely because improving, storing, and pumping water in cities is a major essential function that is energy intensive and yet can be scheduled as intermittently as slews in power output — if you have enough. You don’t need to strore ‘half a year’s power’ in this way — just enough to bridge the gap between a major decline in output below that required to meet demand that you can’t defer or cover by extending the operation of other capacity or drawing down other stored power.

    Remember that redundancy is already built into the system to cover thermal plants going offline on short notice or for scheduled maintenance.

    So notice is very important.

  88. I assume that would have as much notice as local weather reports would allow. But again, that doesn’t seem to be the point to me, and I wonder if we’re talking at cross purposes.

    I’m approaching this from the perspective of eliminating co2 emissions, which for this discussion means ‘can wind displace coal, and gas, economically?’. If wind power even over geographically extensive catchments is still prone to lulls of 5-11 days, then storage and demand shifting won’t cover that gap, and you need alternative generation capacity, which you described as thermal, by which I assume you mean coal or gas.

    And if you’re obliged to keep enough coal/gas capacity available to cover the loss of wind, then you have all the capital costs and maintenance costs and fuel and operating costs to keep these systems on standby, as well as the co2 emissions associated with keeping the turbines spinning, etc. In which case the investment in wind looks like it displaces much less co2 than you’d think, and at a much higher cost.

    Which is basically what Lang’s paper says, with numbers.

    Your argument makes sense to me but only if you’re taking the narrower view of assuring continuity of supply and not reaching for complete decarbonization of energy. If so, you can assume you’ve got coal and gas to fall back on, and its not a big deal to fire them up. I want to go much further than that.

  89. John D Morgan – “If wind power even over geographically extensive catchments is still prone to lulls of 5-11 days, then storage and demand shifting won’t cover that gap, and you need alternative generation capacity, which you described as thermal, by which I assume you mean coal or gas.”

    Lulls of 5 – 11 days over Ireland is not too unexpected as Ireland is quite small in the scheme of things, as is Denmark.

    The idea of renewables is to first reign in demand with efficiency gains and conservation then connect different types of renewables into a cohesive system.

    Also what time of day are most of the lulls? If they are at night then demand is low at this time and far less backup would be required assuming Ireland is isolated from any other source of renewables.

    If the wind was low at the same time as it was cloudy and the same time as the slack tide and the sea was calm then this would be a problem. However as renewables are moving into solar, tidal and wave generation then the problem of wind’s variablity becomes smaller. Also if countries can tap into renewables a long way away then this can mitigate the effects of local lulls.

    Most authors such as McKay and Trainer isolate various renewable systems and consider problems with them as if they were the only source connected rather than seeing them as a complimentary system.

  90. I have several complaints about the way Lang calculates the cost of wind’s emission savings.

    His claim that wind would be backed-up by OCGT is contradicted by the 20% wind report by the US Dept of Energy and the American Wind Energy Assoc. Because the wind energy output can be predicted sufficiently far in advance to throttle a CCGT (combined cycle turbine), most wind energy would be used to replace (and therefore be backed-up by) normal CCGT generation. OCGTs are used only for fast throttling (and summer peaking), and while more are required with 20% wind, they contribute only a small percentage of the total gas generated electricty in either case. (In the US, CCGTs are typically operated at only a 5% capacity factor.)

    What this means is that Lang’s cost argument is incorrect. A kWh of wind energy will display almost as much CO2 as a kWh of nuclear (depending on the coal vs gas displacement question).

    The argument that is much more compelling to me is that nuclear is much more scalable. Going nuclear means 70-90% of electricity is clean. Going with renewables (20-30% being the realistic max) means that 70-80% of electricity must come from fossil fuel backup.

    The renewables only make sense in a political environment that is hostile toward nuclear.

  91. John D Morgan – Have a look at the graph of wind potential in the link “His comment”.

    The scale on the left, onshore wind potential, is 10 times the right hand scale. Monthly demand from the graph varies from 400 to 300 TWhr per month whereas onshore wind potential varies from 7500 TWhr to 2500 TWhr per month. So even in winter there is enough onshore wind potential to supply 5 times the winter demand.

    I don’t see what he is talking about here unless the graph is mislabeled.

    If this modelling is correct the USA needs to build enough wind and solar to supply the winter peak of 400TWhr per month which from the wind potential graph would only take 1/5 of the potential on-shore wind.

  92. John D Morgan – forgive me for being so southern hemisphere. You have a summer peak in demand coinciding with a lull in wind. Which is a perfect synergy with solar as it runs almost exactly the opposite way.

    In this case the summer lull in wind energy could be met with the summer peak in solar energy.

  93. John D (upthread)

    And if you’re obliged to keep enough coal/gas capacity available to cover the loss of wind, then you have all the capital costs and maintenance costs and fuel and operating costs to keep these systems on standby, as well as the co2 emissions associated with keeping the turbines spinning, etc. In which case the investment in wind looks like it displaces much less co2 than you’d think, and at a much higher cost.

    The costs for keeping fossil thermal in blackstart readiness is very modest and entails no significant emissions. As Nathan notes above, with adequate notice, use may be made of CCGT and OCGT. Even those might use as their feedstock methane from waste biomass via anaerobic digesters or possibly syngas from heliostatic CSPs — making the fuel carbon neutral. If fossil fuel usage fell to 5% of current, I’d be pretty happy with that, and I’d wear the overheads of keeping a handful of anthracite plants ready to fire up on the rare occasions it would come to that because neither demand shifting, nor pumped storage, nor V2G, nor CSPs, nor tidal nor wave nor geothermal nor waste biomass nor NG could cover it.

    Let’s be clear. Nuclear is not coming to Australia anytime soon, whatever my opinion of it.

    I’m also sceptical it’s going to sharply expand its proportion of internatyional electricity supply anytime soon either. the world’s 400+ nuclear plants are on average about ten years from decommissioning. So even building 5 or 6 each year as is happening at the moment (none were completed in 2008) is not going to change output much. Moreover, current uranium harvests are typically 80% or less of Red Book forward estimates and well short of what would be needed to produice existing capacity were it not for materiel from decom of nuclear weapons. In the long run unless there is substantial increase in harvests, a flowering of commercially viable breeder reactors and possibly a resort to Thorium, nothing much will change.

    When will this happen? Not soon one imagines, and yet the crisis is now. Worse still, more coal capacity is being built, placing more impediments in the way.

  94. Here is some actual off-shore wind output data for the UK at Scroby Sands:
    http://www.berr.gov.uk/files/file46398.pdf
    It should be noted that the c.28% capacity figure is almost exactly the same as it is for on-shore builds in favourable sites in the UK.
    The reasons for this are that off-shore builds tend to be relatively close in-shore, to reduce transmission costs and make maintenance easier – the better the wind regime, the tougher it is likely to be to maintain the equipment in the winter storm season.
    Maintenance however is still more difficult than on land, and both more costly and involves more down-time – Vestas withdrew from the market for off-shore turbines for a time due to reliability issues.
    With increased experience some capacity increase is to be expected.
    The main problem though is the stonking costs, which run at around 3 times that of on-land:
    http://www.bloomberg.com/apps/news?pid=20601072&sid=a13LR4eaklOw
    It should be noted that the optimistic projection here of future cost reductions are not showing much signs of happening, as suppliers are leaving the market rather than entering, and even with massive Government subsidies many of the institutions offering finance are withdrawing:
    http://www.guardian.co.uk/business/2008/may/01/royaldutchshell.oil
    Tanking an optimistic 30% capacity factor, then the £3.1million/MW nominal of the Bloomberg article becomes around £10.3/MW for power generated – and that does not include most of the costs of upgrading the grid, providing backup etc.
    It also does not include the heavy maintenance costs of off-shore wind.

  95. “The idea of renewables is to first reign in demand with efficiency gains and conservation …”

    Absolutely.

    “… then connect different types of renewables into a cohesive system.”

    OK, sure. Lang’s case is that the cost of avoiding emissions by this strategy is extreme. About $1000 per tonne co2 avoided, compared to about $20 for nuclear. Is he right? If so, what does the $980 per tonne co2 wind premium buy me? If he’s not, where’s he wrong? Errors in excess of an order of magnitude tend to be logical clangers that are fairly easy to spot.

    “Also what time of day are most of the lulls?”

    All of them. These are continuous lulls over multiple days. I can see numerous storage options that can smooth out diurnal fluctuations, but these aren’t diurnal fluctuations, they’re multiday lulls which still look like a big problem to me.

  96. Wind forecasts are about 95% accurate. That’s not far from load forecasts which are about 98% accurate. Considering the relatively early stage of wind forecasting I think the variability of wind is being overblown.

    Here’s another angle. Hydro is a variable resource. When you forecast hydro you look at multiple ranges of data – Multi-year, yearly, monthly, weekly, daily, real-time. These forecasts are best estimates done by several layered engineering teams. For some odd reason, the same sort of forecasting isn’t accepted with wind. That’s curious to me.

  97. This issue is not about the forecasting accuracy of lulls (extremes). It’s about (a) their lack of scheduling control (they are blowin’ in the wind), (b) their duration, which can amount to many days on end and so create substantial energy storage demands — which is the point John D Morgan is correctly hammering right now, and (c) the differential seasonal averages.

    Points (b) and (c) are pretty irrelevant when wind (or solar) penetration is 10 % of the energy market, and potentially crippling when it is 50+%. This is (one of) the points we are getting at.

  98. Re: Stephen Gloor

    So you are effectively saying that wind has significant problems for Ireland (on the windy Atlantic), and is not a sensible solution for Denmark or Germany (despite huge effort and subsidies) and yet it is the energy panacea for Australia? And how much overbuilding does your connected and complementary system imply?

    Even if we can make it work here, by duplicated geographically dispersed installations across our huge, sparsely populated continent, with a network of HVDC, smart grid management, severe energy conservation and so on, how exactly does that help the problem of GLOBAL carbon emissions, which is what is driving climate change? What do we achieve by ‘leading’ the world down a dead end, if it’s not going to work everywhere (or even most places)?

  99. Barry, I have looked at the problems of wind from a number of perspectives. The Archer-Jacobson system would need approximately 5X replication of wind facilities to achieve around 80% reliability. To this you could add the cost of gathering and transmission of wind generated electricity. Wind advocates tend to ignore transmission costs. At any way the Semi-reliable wind with the Archer-Jaconson system will cost substantially more than a nuclear system of equivalent reliable output. We can refer to this extra cost as the “green premium.”

    I have evaluated several other systems for increasing wind reliability including pumped storage, batteries, and Compressed Air Storage. In all three cases the cost of Wind plus storage carries a large green premium.

    In addition, none of the studied systems could generate electricity during a prolonged, multi-day wind lull.

    Electricity must be found for the 20% of the time which the Archer-Jacobson system does not provide electricity. It has been suggested that we rely on solar generated electricity during windless daytime hours. in which case the cost of the solar generation facilities must be added to the already substantial green premium of our reliable wind generation system.

    Even with solar backup there may be substantial periods when wind lulls will creat outages that cannot be covered by solar backup systems.

    Some renewable advocates claim that we can fall back on fossil fuels, but such a system would continue to create climate hazards, and is simply not sustainable.

    A conventional nuclear back up system is both sustainable and reliable, but would be a very expensive back up, but the cost of the system could be greatly lowered by simply cutting out the wind generators and running the reactors as the primary generation system.

    Using LFTR technology would in all likelihood substantially lower the cost of the nuclear facilities. Thus it would appear that reliable wind generating systems entail higher costs than nuclear generating facilities, and are still cannot compete with nuclear in terms of reliability.

  100. Stephen, I think you’re right about the graph being mislabelled – good catch.

    What I took to be the import of this graph was that, as the sum total of the available wind in the US, the seasonal variation shown will be mirrored in the capacity factor of any wind programme large enough to make a real dent in the US energy supply. If you make enough power to make a difference, then you’re building wind farms that sample enough of the US that this variation will show up in the instantaneous capacity factor throughout the year.

    What this means is, suppose an extensive wind programme has a CF of 30%, annual average. A good chunk of the year its blowing at 40% capacity, but then for another 3 or 4 months its blowing at 20% capacity.

    So if you’ve planned to deliver a certain number of GW with wind, you have to overbuild by quite a lot more than even your average CF would imply. Either that, or you make up the shortfall with coal etc.

    Nameplate power gets downrated by the average capacity factor (say 30%)
    Capacity factor gets further downrated by seasonal variation (factor of 2x in the US)
    Then add short term storage capacity to cover diurnal variability
    Then do – well, to be perfectly honest, I don’t know what you do – to cover outages of a week when they turn up.

    Coping with the variation on these four distinct timescales – immediate transients, diurnal variations, multi day lulls, and annual seasonal variation – seems to me, again, to be a real problem if you want to displace an amount of fossil fuel power that actually matters. At this point you can pick up Lang’s paper to find out the cost and fossil fuel backup requirements. And even then I think he’s just assumed a flat average CF so its an underestimate because it doesn’t downrate the CF due to seasonality.

  101. Barry,
    The issue with Ireland, Denmark and Northern Germany is that these regions are each very small, SA alone is X20 larger in area. E Australia has a grid 1000km in width and 2,000 in length, wider than Ireland to Moscow.

    The big CO2 emitters are US and China both of these countries have a large geographical area about the size of Australia and both have a lot of hydro capacity that can supply power for much longer than 5 days. The problems with integrating wind in the US, China and Australia are very similar and hydro is going to be an important back-up more so in China than Australia because China has a lot less NG peak power.

  102. These more concrete figures enable a capital cost comparison. A 5X overbuild without new transmission suggests an 80% reliable watt from wind power will cost say 5 X $3 = $15. That compares to Gen III nuclear of say $6 per watt. I’ve seen that cost disadvantage factor of 2.5 both on the BBC website and in comments on The Oil Drum.

  103. Charles,
    “In addition, none of the studied systems could generate electricity during a prolonged, multi-day wind lull.

    That probably because you have not looked at expanding hydro capacity at existing dams. The US has 60GW capacity from existing dams as well as purpose built pumped storage( built for short term peak ). As well the US has access to another 50GW Canadian capacity with plans to expand this when long term supply contracts are signed with US utilities.

    The dams in US and Canada have months of supply, not days. Attaching pumped storage where practical would allow a lot more short term peak power to be added at low cost.

    These facilities will be needed with more wind or more nuclear. The back-up of last resort is the 350 GW of hopefully mothballed coal fired plants that could be used a few weeks a year in SE of US during the hottest months or if there is a major grid failure, a design flaw shutting down one nuclear design or wide-spread drought.Back-up doesn’t create CO2 if it’s not being used!

    Saying we can’t use wind power because it will not replace 100% of FF is as ridiculous as saying we should not persue energy efficient lighting because it will only save 80% of CO2 emissions.

  104. You don’t necessarily downgrade because of seasonal variability. It can involve an upgrade due to usage patterns.
    For example, in the UK the wind is stronger in the winter by around a factor of 2.5 as against the summer.
    This is good as peak demand is in the winter, and it mirrors this nicely.
    However, midwinter is also a time when you can get a week or so of a high with very cold air resting over the UK.
    This would cause real problems in a system with a high wind proportion of the grid.
    In Texas midsummer is very calm, which is unfortunate as demand is high then for electricity for cooling, and this is on a consistent basis so you would really be using very large amounts of gas to make up for it.
    So for wind the exact weather profile of the area can greatly alter practicality.

  105. So the point still remains that only the huge countries that are well endowed with renewable resources have any (small) hope whatsover of living off their own renewables (if they significantly overbuild). Again, not a global solution, not equitable, unlikely to be economic, and not conducive to national energy security.

  106. Barry,
    Here is a link to the DOE 2008 Wind power review.

    http://www1.eere.energy.gov/windandhydro/pdfs/46026.pdf

    It has a lot of details on capacity costs and cost of integration. A number of utilities have 20-35% wind capacity as total of peak capacity in their systems(ie higher than Denmark) and report on costs of $5-10/MWh. Weighted wind costs are $43/MWh, and 2008 installed wind $51/MWh so the cost of integration would be 10-20%.
    Nuclear would also have some integration costs( for peak demand) but less than for wind.
    You may want to compare these costs with the leveled cost of nuclear expected to come on line in 2016(EIA article you had a month ago.
    The other interesting fact is that 300GW of wind is in the grid connection line-up compared to 38GW nuclear.

    Your comment about huge( land area) countries and renewable
    energy, should not forget that nearly all CO2 is produced by the EU(multi-country grid), US, China,Canada, Russia, Brazil, India, Australia.
    Japan is the only small land area major CO2 emitter that isn’t connected to a wider grid. They will need to go 90% nuclear or build a HVDC to Russia or both.

  107. Neil Howes, Dams in the United States are limited by their storage capacity and their flood control/recreation/wildlife preservation/water conservation missions. At present, hydro in the United States is committed to peak electricity generation. During the summer many American reservoirs are drawn down due to a dry summer climate and peak electrical demand. Prolonged wind lulls are also most likely to occur during summer months. Thus the use of dams to provide backup electricity for flagging wind generation systems is likely to interfere with one or more of the dam’s primary missions.

    Thus he commitment of hydro systems to multi-day wind backup might jeopardize other conservation goals.

  108. Barry Brook – “So you are effectively saying that wind has significant problems for Ireland (on the windy Atlantic), and is not a sensible solution for Denmark or Germany (despite huge effort and subsidies)”

    No I am saying nothing of the sort. The point being made was lulls in wind energy and the reply was that Ireland is quite small and subject to single weather systems as is Denmark. Germany is a special case where wind turbines have been installed in non-optimum wind areas and has a lot of older turbines.

    “And how much overbuilding does your connected and complementary system imply?”

    As much as is necessary. Wind needs some degree as does solar for thermal storage.

    “Even if we can make it work here, by duplicated geographically dispersed installations across our huge, sparsely populated continent, with a network of HVDC, smart grid management, severe energy conservation and so on, how exactly does that help the problem of GLOBAL carbon emissions, which is what is driving climate change? What do we achieve by ‘leading’ the world down a dead end, if it’s not going to work everywhere (or even most places)?”

    Duplicated geographically dispersed installations????? Are you saying that it is inefficient to duplicate installations? The network of HVDC is necessary no matter what we do and no amount of nuclear can disguise the fact that our grid needs upgrading.

    How does nuclear help the world energy situation when there are so many countries that cannot be ‘trusted’ with nuclear technology and lack the basic infrastructure of peaking plants and power lines to distribute power from central power plants? At least renewables are applicable at a village level and do not need any infrastructure. Nuclear does not work everywhere for a variety of reasons either.

    I guess in the end we will end up with nuclear baseload and renewables on top of this as nothing I say will stop nuclear so there will be a certain amount of it around so I may as well get used to it.

    However the one country in the world that stands the greatest chance of not needing nuclear is Australia and that it what I can work toward.

    Additionally there was the ‘hair shirt’ reference with the severe conservation comment. We waste heaps of energy Barry. Industries in Australia have found a balance of efficiency/cost that suits them with current energy prices. That does not mean that there can be more efficiencies gained. There are thousands of residential and commercial processes where dramatic energy savings can be made with sufficient motivation. I have left nuclear safety issue behind so can I request that in future tat you leave the hair shirt references out?

  109. “The point being made was lulls in wind energy and the reply was that Ireland is quite small and subject to single weather systems as is Denmark. Germany is a special case where wind turbines have been installed in non-optimum wind areas and has a lot of older turbines.”

    So to clarify, you hold the view that it is possible to use wind power to provide the majority of these countries’ needs, and that the energy storage issues they face are solvable? Or must they look to other renewable alternatives, such as solar power from deserts, given their limited domestic options? I’m interested (sincerely) in your vision for them.

    “can I request that in future tat you leave the hair shirt references out?”

    It is not about anti-hair shirters, and you are putting words in my mouth. That is a personal lifestyle preference that is irrelevant to the problem at hand. Energy growth is about reality. Tell me, Stephen, how does one achieve an all-electric society (required for decarbonisation) without at least a tripling of electricity production? (as one example)

    “Are you saying that it is inefficient to duplicate installations?”

    If the duplication means massive overbuilding to ensure that each of these geographically dispersed locations can meet all, or at least a reasonably high fraction of the nation’s power needs, on their own, then YES, that is exactly what I am saying.

  110. I agree, why does Lang penalize wind with 50% of the emissions and cost of a OCGT for all of the time wind is producing? He claims this is to compensate for the fact that wind power output might suddenly fall, but then why doesn’t he add any similar cost to the CCGT or nuclear? Is it because none of them have ever stopped unexpectedly? Of course they have.

    All power plants can stop unexpectedly and spinning reserves are usually in place to cover the loss of the largest generator in the system. Unfortunately for Lang, the largest generators are often nuclear and not wind. While Lang may have long experience with power plants, it seems he does not have similar experience regarding power grids and a system wide view.

  111. Stephen – do not be concerned about remote locations only being able to utilise renewables,such as wind. Check out this Utube about Toshibas’ new portable nuclear option, which does not need re-fuelling for 30 years, requires no maintenance and has an automatic safety shutdown process.

    I got this from Barry’s Twitter link re nuclear batteries. It really looks encouraging and I urge other bloggers to check it out too.

  112. Let’s not forget the old “Super-grid” concept that some have been banging on about for years. Add in PHEV’s and ‘smart grids’ and a bunch of solar thermal with backup as well. Experiment. Survive the odd blackout and learn from it, rinse and repeat.

    *****from the wiki*****

    A series of detailed modelling studies by Dr. Gregor Czisch, which looked at the European wide adoption of renewable energy and interlinking power grids using HVDC cables, indicates that the entire European power usage could come from renewables, with 70% total energy from wind at the same sort of costs or lower than at present. [10] This proposed large European power grid has been called a “super grid.” [64][65]

    The model deals with intermittent power issues by using base-load renewables such as hydroelectric and biomass for a substantial portion of the remaining 30% and by heavy use of HVDC to shift power from windy areas to non-windy areas. The report states that “electricity transport proves to be one of the keys to an economical electricity supply” and underscores the importance of “international co-operation in the field of renewable energy use [and] transmission.” [10][66][67]

    Dr. Czisch described the concept in an interview, saying “For example, if we look at wind energy in Europe. We have a winter wind region where the maximum production is in winter and in the Sahara region in northern Africa the highest wind production is in the summer and if you combine both, you come quite close to the needs of the people living in the whole area – let’s say from northern Russia down to the southern part of the Sahara.” [68]

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Intermittent_power_source#Storage_and_demand_loading

  113. Once again we have proposed a highly replication wind generating system which also calls for extremely expensive “super grid,” and relies on electricity produced from politically unstable North Africa. The system would also rely on breakable undersea electrical cables in earthquake prone regions.

    We also have a “Devil in the details” question of overlap. A system with would provide overlapping electrical sources 98% of the time would still leave us without electricity seven days a year. Thus we have yet another of expensive, poorly thought out Green solutions to the renewables reliability issue.

  114. You’re right, symbolism does matter.

    I happen to live in a country that gets ~40% of electricity from hydropower and ~45% from nuclear and the rest from a combination of CHP district heating(mostly in winter) and wind turbines. In so far as efficiency makes economic sense I’m all for it; if on the other hand it comes at the cost of further turning towards a deindustrialized service economy it is extremely dangerous and must be fiercly resisted.

    That’s why I had 4 cheap 500 W halogen lights blaring out of my window last Earth day. Hopefully some proponents of Earth day got the message.

  115. Forecast accuracy has everything to do with scheduling control. i.e. If your prediction tool is 95% accurate you can schedule wind in real time with reliable results. Plenty of energy get’s scheduled in real time so adding more wind scheduling is hardly a deal breaker.

    50+% penetrations? What’s the point of looking out that far?

  116. Thats the point, and I’m amazed you’ve missed it. The whole exercise is pointless unless you can replace 100% of the fossil fuel energy production with carbon free power. A 20% reduction in carbon emissions, say, is useless unless its just a step along the path to 100% reduction. And if we were to do it with renewables, then we’re certainly looking at 50%+ wind. Anything less and you simply may as well not bother.

    Whether wind, or solar, or nuclear, or some combination, is a technology that can carry all the way through to complete decarbonization is the only question that really matters, if we’re to make a large and long term investment in re-engineering our energy systems. The problem with wind thats turning up in this discussion is that, even though you can integrate some wind into the grid, if Lang’s paper is to be believed its not going to greatly reduce emissions, and if you go for a scale that matters, the grid breaks.

    So thats the point of looking out that far.

  117. Charles Barton,
    What you are forgetting is that additional wind power also contributes to peak power most of the time thus saving hydro power to be used on those infrequent periods when very little wind is available. The same thing with more nuclear, it contributes to power during peak times as well as off-peak.

    The US and Canada have another “ace up their sleeve” and that’s Lake Onario/Lake Erie each 18,000 sq km and 100 meters height difference. A 1meter change in lake levels( the amount of natural fluctuations) could provide all of the peak power for US and Canada.
    You would need to pump back some of this during off peak but it’s a nice natural pumped storage reservoir. Canada is using this now but only exploiting <0.01% of the potential.

    Australia could build an equivalent system( on a much smaller scale) using some of the large dams in the Snowy and Tasmania but presently NG peak is cheaper. Pumped hydro doesn't have to be just a 1-6 hour storage medium where large reservoirs are available.

    Your argument that we will eventually have to eliminate all FF is correct but not a reason to exclude using wind for the next 20-50 years while coal is being phased out and nuclear is eventually built. We will need the pumped hydro eventually with nuclear or wind.

  118. No it’s NOT the main point because who said wind HAS TO run 100% of the renewable grid? You forgot solar thermal (different peak time of day), and the baseload providers (geothermal, CETO wavepower, solar thermal — mostly, hydro-large and small, proposed kite-power wind, etc).

    Mix and match, add some standbye biomass at various solar thermal plants for backup, done.

  119. Coal plants take a great deal of time to respond. This leads to a tendency to overproduce electricity if the wind picks up rapidly and there’s no gas to turn down.

    Fuel efficiency is highest when the gas turbine or coal plant is operating at 100%.

    Singly cycle gas turbines are a little more than half as efficient as a combined cycle turbine. They’re never the less prefered when there’s a lot of wind on the grid because they respond faster and they’re cheaper if they have to be replaced from wear and tear(from cycling up and down so rapidly).

    Spinning reserve consumes a good deal of fuel even if you aren’t producing any power just to keep things warm and keep the disconnected turbine spinning and synchronized with the electrical grid.

    There is an economic trade-off between waste and infrequently used transmission capacity; you pay for the power-lines 100% of the time, even if you just use 30% of their capacity on average. The economically rational thing to do is to undersize the power-lines by some amount, clipping off peaks in wind power production.

    This whittles away at the CO2 savings of wind power and the effects grow far worse at higher wind penetration levels.

  120. “.. you pay for the power-lines 100% of the time, even if you just use 30% of their capacity on average ..”

    Likewise the gas pipelines.

    Soylent says:

    “Spinning reserve consumes a good deal of fuel even if you aren’t producing any power just to keep things warm and keep the disconnected turbine spinning and synchronized with the electrical grid.”

    Fran says:

    “The costs for keeping fossil thermal in blackstart readiness is very modest and entails no significant emissions.”

    Can anyone quantify this point?

  121. Barry Brook – “So to clarify, you hold the view that it is possible to use wind power to provide the majority of these countries’ needs, and that the energy storage issues they face are solvable?”

    No not at all. Each country will find the balance of renewables that works for them. In windy countries wind will predominate. In sunny countries solar will predominate and countries with neither will either get energy from other countries or use nuclear or LFTRs as a last resort. The energy storage issues are solved for solar thermal. Batteries are being placed in the grid today at an economical price to cope with fossil fuel grids.

    “It is not about anti-hair shirters, and you are putting words in my mouth.”

    I know that and I am not putting words in your mouth. I am using a term ‘hair shirt’ to describe people that think EE&C means that we go backwards and have to give up technology. It is not a lifestyle decision at all. I am asking you to consider the possibility that large gains in energy efficiency can be made to reduce the growth in energy demand without giving up technology. ie that EE&C does not mean savage cutbacks in our lifestyle but simply wasting less to do the same job.

    “If the duplication means massive overbuilding to ensure that each of these geographically dispersed locations can meet all, or at least a reasonably high fraction of the nation’s power needs, on their own, then YES, that is exactly what I am saying.”

    So why would they have to do that? If they are dispersed and connected then they can supply each other exactly as they were intended to do. The NEMMCO stretching the length of the East coast was created for fossil fuelled generators so that when outages occur the demand can be met from other sources. Are you suggesting that nuclear is so reliable that it can make this interconnection obsolete?

  122. Fran

    Upthread you said-

    “While the use of energy has literally as well as figuratively empowered people the processes involved have skewed the culture in ways that have socially marginalised and jeopardized the life chances of whole swathes of the human populace. One needs very little knowledge of recent history to see that the dual role the advent of rich carbon energy has played in human affairs: both beneficent and pernicious and at some point, at the margins, ther costs and risks began to exceed the benefits.”

    Can you give some examples to cement what is otherwise a sweeping statement. Show how “whole swathes of the human populace” were any *more* marginalised by the processes involved in supplying energy than say, those involved in growing and harvesting cotton in pre-Civil war America, or in supplying the household of the feudal lord with goods and services. I would argue that until recently the majority of the population had very few life chances and that with “the advent of rich carbon energy” that majority has, over the last two hundred years, shrunk to a relative minority.
    In cultural terms the negative effect coal mining and power production had on the population was just another of the litany of disservices some of humankind has perpetrated against the rest of humankind since time immemorial. Whats more – in both cultural and physical terms – it was not the energy produced which caused the negative effects but the way it was produced and the side effects (such as pollution) of it’s production. If we can make energy production safer and cleaner these negative effects will be mitigated without having to relinquish the positive.

    “While you are right to reject agricultural village life as a source of enlightenment about the wider world it does not follow that the construction of suburbia is its antithesis. I read recently that it is still the case that most Americans believe god had a hand in human creation and that angels play a role in their lives. They think in large numbers that Muslims are out to get them. Neither nuclear power nor TV changed that.”

    And yet the rise in living standards, attributable to our increasing ability to harness rich sources of energy, has led to an educated society willing to pass laws against discrimination in it’s many forms. As a woman I am glad to be living now and in the West, than in any one of the low energy third world nations or in the pre-industrial past.

    Marion

    PS. I hope it’s clear who said what here, I haven’t worked out how to do block quotes etc yet.

  123. Dear Barry,

    There are two major and a number of minor fallacies implicit in your questions to Stephen.

    It is not necessary for each country (state, household) to be self sufficient in energy (or wine or wheat as David Ricardo pointed out so eloquently about two centuries ago). ‘Massive overbuilding’ is not needed in a world in which comparative advantage and trade are allowed. Why can’t Ireland export whiskey and Algeria export sunshine in return? If overbuilding means a nameplate capacity greater than actual usage or less than one hundred per cent utilization of capacity then we are all sinners already. Better shut down those gas peaking and hydro plants quickly to get out purity back – or maybe some overbuilding is acceptable?

    Bulk electricity storage is not required when the costs of CO2 are ignored. If we accept that CO2 imposes costs then the only question about electricity storage is its cost relative to the cost of CO2 – emitted or captured. Pumped hydro costs about 30% in real terms, CCS costs 100% (numbers approximate). A number of very bright and motivated people (still with adrenalin in their system) see electricity storage as one of the biggest money pots going – and the US government is paying them to put their hands out and their minds to work. Do we need the lower cost storage solution today or will it be useful in five or ten years’ time?

    Why do we need to triple electricity production to decarbonise the economy? Even David MacKay only suggested an extra twenty five or thirty per cent to electrify transport – and he was (unintentionally) overstating the numbers.

    Kind regards,

    David Murray

  124. Barry Brook – “Or must they look to other renewable alternatives, such as solar power from deserts, given their limited domestic options? I’m interested (sincerely) in your vision for them.”

    I have said on numerous occasions that I do not have a plan. I really do not think that anything will be done in time as the main preoccupation in the world is making money. Anything else, including incredibly important issues like climate change, are so far secondary to this as to make real change impossible. So token efforts like our 5% target and ETS will continue to be the norm until something happens to make the climate the number one objective of the world.

    For example China. Currently its electricity demand is doubling every 10 years. They expect to roll out 70GW (22% PA increase)of nuclear and about 100GW(30% PA increase) of wind by 2020 which will be an incredible feat if they can do it. This will be about 30% of 2020 demand so despite this massive effort 70% of their energy will still come from coal. These are actually our emissions by proxy as the normal Chinese person uses a small proportion of the products from China’s industries. In 2030 Chinese demand will double again and even if the nuclear and wind keep pace there will still be 40 or 50% of electricity demand from coal. So for the next 20 years or more, no matter what we do, China will be emitting CO2 in vast quantities.

    If there is one country that can roll out nuclear fast it is China. NIMBYS don’t exist or disappear and they are cashed up from us buying consumer goods. Their nuclear regulation and approval process is not subject to any independent scrutiny and they do not have an independent press or protest movement to get in the way of a nuclear expansion. As far as I can see they will be the fastest installers of nuclear in the world and they will only get to 70GW by 2020 or so they think.

    One thing that is sure fire to work is economic collapse. This has been demonstrated in Eastern Europe where the collapse of the Soviet Union lead to dramatic emission drops from the former Soviet republics as their economies went into the toilet. The total collapse of Western economies would probably save the climate far better than renewables or nuclear. One of your previous statements about being serious about climate change could be wrong. If you are really REALLY serious about the climate then you should be advocating total economic collapse as this is almost sure fire to work to get emissions under control and save the climate.

    Please do not get the impression that I am advocating this. It is obviously ridiculous however it does illustrate that we want to save the climate however we want to do it preserving our lifestyles and for the vast majority, lifestyles and jobs are more important than the climate. So unless we make our lifestyles a bit more sustainable then may be nothing we do can really save the climate. I noticed that people gave Mike Stasse a hard time when he posted here however if we all lived like him there would not be such a problem. Also he is pretty correct when you look at the numbers that there may be nothing we can do and we are heading for a climate event despite massive rollouts of nuclear and renewables.

    My support for renewables comes from my belief that in the next 40 years or so we are headed either for a climate event or an economic event that will disrupt business as usual and lead to a new set of priorities. I believe that Mike Stasse is wrong in thinking that a single person can survive such a change. What it will take is resilient communities co-operating and preserving elements of society. Distributed renewable energy is far more resilient to changes than centralised nuclear. Each community can have a largely independent power source that will operate at least part of the day. I am not a doomer as this change may not lead to total collapse, just a reordering of priorities, however at least we will have a resilient system to cope with whatever happens if anything actually happens at all.

  125. Stephen Gloor,
    I don’t think that 100GW will be an incredible increase. In 2008 they installed 6GW,and seem to be planning on >9GW in 2009, so just maintaining a little more than that for another 10 years would get them to 100GW installed.
    If the developed world is aiming for 20% reductions by 2020 then they would be looking for China to stop net new coal and China may go for that anyway because of supply problems( BHP and RIO are major coal exporters).

    It would seem that at 30% growth rate (assuming 9GW added in 2009) China could have 240GW by 2016(adding 60GW/year by 2016) and at least be starting 10GW of nuclear per year after 2015. China may also close down aluminium exports and start importing more LNG.

  126. Also, on the economics of just increasing coal use don’t forget that coal will become more expensive as global competition for it hots up to a manic pace after peak coal. (Not that peak coal acts soon enough to solve global warming for us. Heck, just burning the remaining oil, let alone the gas and coal, will send us past the old 450 barrier which of course is way past the 350 barrier many are advocating now.)

    But it will hopefully change the economics of coal more seriously than our silly carbon-trading coal REWARDS schemes do!

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Peak_coal#People.27s_Republic_of_China

    “People’s Republic of China

    The People’s Republic of China is the world’s largest coal producer and has the second largest reserves after the United States. The Energy Watch Group predicts that the Chinese reserves will peak around 2015.[4] The EWG also predicts that the recent steep rise in production will be followed by a steep decline after 2020. The US Energy Information Administration projects that China coal production will continue to rise through 2030.[5]”

    Then…

    “World peak coal

    * 2150 M. King Hubbert

    M. King Hubbert’s 1956 projections from the world production curve placed world peak coal at 2150.[13]

    * 2025 Energy Watch Group

    Coal: Resources and Future Production[14], published on April 5 2007 by the Energy Watch Group (EWG), which reports to the German Parliament, found that global coal production could peak in as few as 15 years.[15] Reporting on this, Richard Heinberg also notes that the date of peak annual energetic extraction from coal will likely come earlier than the date of peak in quantity of coal (tons per year) extracted as the most energy-dense types of coal have been mined most extensively.[16]

    * Institute for Energy

    The Future of Coal by B. Kavalov and S. D. Peteves of the Institute for Energy (IFE), prepared for European Commission Joint Research Centre, reaches similar conclusions and states that “coal might not be so abundant, widely available and reliable as an energy source in the future”.[15] Kavalov and Peteves do not attempt to forecast a peak in production.

    * US Energy Information Administration projects world coal production to increase through 2030.[17]“

  127. Neil Howes There are limitations to the Hydro-wind synergy. First many areas with better wind resources, lack matching hydro resources. Secondly, hydro resources are not be sufficient to compensate for the seasonal variation in wind resources. Your Lake Onario/Lake Erie scheme would be hugely expensive, have significant environmental consequences, and would require an enormous and enormously expensive wind array to power the pumps. Nuclear power would be far cheaper.

  128. Pingback: Wind and carbon emissions – Peter Lang responds « BraveNewClimate.com

  129. David Murray, The issue is not overbuilding, but its cost, and whether alternative technologies are available that cost far less to implement. The issue with wind is reliability and power on demand. The overbuilding with wind comes because it is unreliable, and because it cannot be tapped for electricity when the electricity is needed. This problem is aggravated in many areas because the season of minimal wind performance corresponds to the period of peak electrical demand.

    Since Nuclear power is far more reliable, it requires far less overbuilding. Thus the cost of meeting customer demand for electricity would be less with a conventional nuclear system, than with a wind powered system. Electrical storage systems are also expensive. I have done case studies for the cost of wind plus storage, including pumped storage, compressed air storage and batteries. In every case a wind plus storage system costs were higher than the cost of a nuclear system for base electricity. Further, the wind + storage system would have been less reliable.

    If the object is controlling CO2 emissions, then nuclear generated electricity is clearly the more efficient and reliable means of doing so while meeting human energy needs.

  130. Charles ,
    The DOE_2008 Wind Energy review( see link above) gives the 2008 cost of new wind as $51/MWh.Integration costs where wind is 20-30% of the utility capacity is about $5/MWh(using todays NG prices). The EIA gives the estimate for nuclear that would come on line in 2016 (ie started today) as $107/MWh. I don’t know what the integration costs for nuclear are at present, but there would be a cost. Wind may be even more expensive in 2016 but if you start wind today it will be completed in 2010 not 2016( or later). No wonder 300 GW of planned wind projects are lining up for grid connection priority and only 38GW of nuclear( higher priority because they have been lined up much longer).

    None the less I think we should go ahead with all planned nuclear (and solar) even if it is twice as expensive because every GW of nuclear or wind or solar completed is just so much less coal being used.

  131. Further to Barry’s comments, and the quotes from Mark Diesendorf’s paper, average capacity factor is not valid for determining the amount of back-up generation capacity required. The generators must be able to provide peak power when there is no output from the wind turbines. When wind power is zero, or near zero, at the time of peak demand, we need total back up for all the wind generators. This is because electricity demand must be matched by supply at all times.

    The chart, included in my response to comments on this thread, shows that the total power output of all the wind generators in NSW, Victoria, Tasmania and South Australia in June 2009 was zero on several occasions during the month. This demonstrates that the underlying premise of Dr. Mark Diesendorf’s paper “The Base-Load Fallacy” is wrong.

    With wind power, we need the full capital cost of 1) the wind farms, PLUS 2) the conventional generators, PLUS 3) the transmission capacity for the full power output for each wind farm (despite the fact they produce, optimistically, just 30% of their rated power output on average), PLUS 4) the enhanced power and stability control systems. The cost of the wind generators does not offest any capital cost for conventional generators.

    The GHG emissions comprise the full life cycle emissions from the wind farms, PLUS from the operation and maintenance of the wind farms and the enhanced grid, PLUS the embedded emissions in the conventional generator systems, PLUS the emissions from the fuel combustion in the conventional generators operating in back up mode (which are higher per MWh than when operating at their optimum).

  132. With wind power, we need the full capital cost of 1) the wind farms, PLUS 2) the conventional generators, PLUS 3) the transmission capacity for the full power output for each wind farm (despite the fact they produce, optimistically, just 30% of their rated power output on average), PLUS 4) the enhanced power and stability control systems. The cost of the wind generators does not offest any capital cost for conventional generators.

    Do we? What about if wind is only 30 to 40% of the supply, and 24 hour solar thermal, biochar syngas, 24 hour CETO wavepower, hydro and micro-hydro, Solar PV on rooftops etc all fed into the grids at either consistent rates (like the TRULY baseload wavepower) or at their different peak supply rates (such as Solar PV on a hot afternoon, right when all the air conditioners are turning on).

    It seems to me that you’re asking wind to do something that no single coal power station has ever had to do: be the whole power supply 100% of the time!

    Granted, wind is intermittent and coal isn’t.
    Granted, maybe Australia isn’t the best place to have higher penetrations of wind supply, unlike some European countries. Don’t generalise a few days in Oz to the whole planet please!

    But even coal plants are shut down periodically for servicing etc. Do they experience blackouts then? IS THERE A WHOLE NEW COAL PLANT just sitting there idle, the “backup plant” just waiting for its time in the sunlight and seeing some action?

    You make out every wind turbine in every location requires all of it’s supply to be completely backed up, and I don’t think that is an honest appraisal of what the renewable grid experts are arguing, and one could even use similar arguments to try and “debunk” the coal industry.

    (EG: “But we’d have to have a whole new power plant every time we shut one of these down to service it! It would be too expensive!”)

    I think Herman Scheer and Disendorf would just come in here and laugh at this one.

    Also, re grid sizes, read the analogy of the lake.

    http://www.trec-uk.org.uk/csp/questions.htm

    Also, there are economic reasons to go for a mix. Wind might be cheap (if we don’t count the transmission cost and forms of backup, which you guys of course scrutinise while turning a blind eye to nuclear’s insurance bill), yet what if solar thermal is so cheap it could become cheaper than coal WITH transmission lines and its thermal backup systems included?
    http://www.trec-uk.org.uk/reports.htm

    Even google seems to have fallen for this one!
    http://www.google.com/intl/en/press/pressrel/20071127_green.html

    So if solar thermal is that cheap, won’t wind ever just be adding to the grid, not supplying the whole grid? Seems only fair to be honest about what baseload renewable guys are actually saying and not construct strawmen.

  133. Neil Howes, Yet another example of how renewables advocates use apples to oranges comparisons to prove nuclear is more expensive. The EIA’s levelized 2016 cost for nuclear is as you say 107,3. but you did not mention the EIA’s levelized cost estimate for onshore wind which is 141.5. For offshore wind the estimate is 229.6. This levelized cost estimate does not include additional system investment as back-up power that are required to insure grid reliability.
    http://www.instituteforenergyresearch.org/2009/05/12/levelized-cost-of-new-generating-technologies/

  134. The numbers presented in this post are entirely wrong, as they are based on a fundamental misunderstanding of the difference between energy and capacity. In reality, the electricity produced by a wind plant offsets an equal amount of electricity that would have been produced by another source, as well as the full carbon emissions associated with producing that electricity.

    Here’s some background on the difference between energy and capacity, which provides an important basis for understanding the rest of my comment:
    http://www.awea.org/pubs/factsheets/Baseload_Factsheet.pdf

    Emissions are only associated with the production of electricity, i.e. they are a matter of energy, not capacity. Electricity produced by a wind plant offsets electricity being produced by another source on a 1-for-1 basis, as well as the emissions associated with the production of that electricity. The laws of physics state that this must be the case, otherwise frequency on the power system would deviate from 60 Hz, or energy would somehow be destroyed in violation of the laws of thermodynamics.

    Having a natural gas plant to provide capacity does not cause even a noticeable increase in emissions. Capacity is an issue of having enough power plants built and capable of operating during the few peak hours per year when electricity demand is extremely high. Since a peaker power plant is only operating for a few hours per year, the emissions produced by that plant are entirely inconsequential.

    One could make a slightly more valid argument that, when looking at the day-to-day or hour-to-hour operations of the power system, the variability in wind’s output would cause a slight increase in emissions (although still a significant net decrease relative to a system without wind energy) because spinning reserve power plants would need to operate inefficiently by regularly and drastically changing their output. In reality, changes in wind power output, particularly for wind plants spread over a broad region, occur very slowly and are forecastable, meaning that these changes can be accommodated without the use of spinning reserves. For those how are interested, here’s more discussion of that topic:
    http://www.awea.org/pubs/factsheets/Backup_Power.pdf

    Michael Goggin
    American Wind Energy Association

  135. Charles,
    Not so, I am comparing costs to start building today, todays cost for wind($51/MW) with nuclear started today, completed in 2016.
    If we start building wind today, 2016 prices are not relevant for wind, because it will be completed by 2010, these are the expected prices for nuclear “completed by 2016″.
    Who knows what prices will be for nuclear started in 2016 and completed in 2024?.

  136. Forecasting energy use patterns that far into the future is pointless. I’m surprised you don’t know that and by all the other things you guys don’t know about power plant operations/costs and grid management in general. Is that rude enough for you?

    I don’t think Lang’s paper is correct. His $40/MWh figure for wind firming is off by a factor of 2.5. That shoots all of his figures off. His choice of single cycle turbines to level wind is also suspect.

    Evidence out of ERCOT indicates wind is displacing FF use although it’s too early to tell how things will ultimately develop.

    Wind was running $2/watt in 2008 and it will probably run around $2/Watt this year due to legacy contracts. Starting in 2010 wind will probably trend down. If costs do trend down then it will make sense economically to build out more wind. It will also make sense from a carbon offset standpoint despite all this delirious hogwash.

  137. Michael, if you can’t win the argument on facts, you can attempt attempt to win it by offering new definitions to hide your problems. But the American Wind Energy Association does not change the facts about wind. You hide the fact that wind is unreliable, by claiming that it does have some capacity. In fact ERCOT assigns a theoretical capacity of less than 10% of rated capacity to Texas windmills, while the ERCOT staff has argued that the real capacity of Texas windmills is only 2%. In fact Texas wind produces the least energy just when the Texas grid demands the most power, on hot summer days. Wind can nether produce electricity when it is most in demand, or produce a consistent reliable amount of electricity. Wind output constantly fluctuate. The fluctuation is not simply for a single turbine, but over an entire wind generating system stretching hundreds of miles in every direction.

    The American Wind Energy Association must be joking about the flexibility of wind. Frequently in Texas, wind producers pay the grid to take unwanted power. Great flexibility is required of other components of the Texas Grid to manage the inherently unstable output of wind generators. Michael, is it too much to expect honesty and candor from the American Wind Energy Association?

  138. Charles,China started the foundations of the first AP1000 in April 2009, about 3-4 years after contracts were tendered and scheduled for completion in 2013. I count that as at least 7-8 years, so bring us to 2016-17 if contracts were put out tomorrow.

    http://www.neimagazine.com/story.asp?storyCode=2050696
    After public pressure from the USA, Westinghouse eventually won out in the tender in a tentative agreement announced by the Chinese in December 2006.

    Do you think any western country could have a <4 year planning and <4 year construction?

  139. Neil, You said start construction, construction starts when the first spade of earth is turned. You grossly underestimate the ammount of time wind mill coonstruction takes. Permits may require several years to win approval. Windmill orders were reportedly on a 5 year back up at the factories last year. Thus your 2009 wind mill order may not begin producing power until 2016 or even later.

  140. “construction starts when the first spade of earth is turned“.
    I said
    “I am comparing costs to start building today
    Are you serious? Do you think building a nuclear reactor starts when the first spade hit the ground, or that you could go out and start that tomorrow? What about pressure vessels and components, they are not all made on site.there are some serious back-order issues with nuclear.

    Windmill construction stopped about 100 years ago, when grain was ground by electric mills, but wind turbine’s were back-ordered last year, this is now only a few months back-orders not 5 years.
    The actual “spade hitting the ground construction time” for wind turbines is weeks to months depending upon wind farm size, grid hook-up time. Building the components( ie what has to be done if you decide to start today) takes about 6 months, that why I said “by 2010″ not 2009.

  141. Charles,
    Lake Ontario/Lake Erie is being done bu Ontario hydro on a small scale. The major cost is tunneling and flow through a tunnel goes up much faster than tunnel diameter or cross-sectional area. What are the environmental consequences? these lake levels are already regulated and as long as the maximum variation is 1meter this is the variation now. Also for longer low wind periods have very considerable storage in Lake Superior/Michigan/Huron( just 10 cm would do the trick).

    The best wind conditions in Canada are in winter when less hydro is available because the snow has not melted. Areas with good wind but lacking hydro would need to export power via HVDC,(losses are 2%/1000km) for example the central plains. Mountain areas generally have good wind and hydro resources available.

    For peak summer demand, mothballed coal plants could be used for a few weeks until the time that another another 400GW of nuclear, 100GW to replace existing and 300GW to replace most of the coal-fired. At present rates this will be at least another 30 years after contracts and financing have been signed and providing China hasn’t booked up all future large forging capacity or perhaps Gen IV could by-pass this need. Fortunately wind and NG can fill in the gap while we await for solar and nuclear( a better long term fit if costs are not too high).

  142. Neil Howes 400 GWs of nuclear would provide the United States with all of its 24/7, 16/7, and 16/5 power needs. All you would need from your wind-great lakes scheme would be peak electricity. You would need to ring at least 800 to 12000 GWs of generating capacity from this. In the summer most of the power would have to come from pumped storage. You would have to draw a tremendous amount of water from Lake Ontario in order to generate 800 GWs of peak electrical power. It is doubtful that you could generate enough electricity from windmills to pump all that water back at night. I will leave it to the experts to work out the math of the problem, needless to say it would much cheaper to generate peak electricity with 10,000 cheap factory built 100 MW LFTRs.

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  144. German wind energy production updated daily: http://reisi.iset.uni-kassel.de/bilder/dyn_pics/Erzeugte_Energie_aus_Wind_de.png

    Some weeks(such as now) there are completely flat sections that can last for days.

    I’m not sure how they are meant to be interpreted, but it could be anything from a glitch in the reporting of data to wind generators being disconnected from the grid for one reason or another(such as when there is already an oversupply from thermal units).

  145. This is an excellent article, and accords completely with the actual experience in Europe. The “dispersed wind stations make up for each other’s variability” hasn’t proven true anywhere in the world; wind doesn’t come in nicely random pieces. UK and German studies both show that windy or calm weather tends to dominate very large areas at the same time.

    Furthermore, the problem isn’t just “windy vs calm”, it’s the inherent variability: a breeze gusting from 40 to 50 kph, for example, will cause the turbines to instantaneously double their output, then quickly fall back. Drives grid engineers nuts. (Output is proportional to the cube of wind speed.)

    Moreover, in considering CO2, you have to also allow for siting variables — tearing up agricultural land for roads releases CO2 from the soil, in addition to the tons upon tons of cement needed to support the towers. Not to mention pure stupidity — in Wales, for example, turbines have been built in peat bogs, assuring that they could never save their cost in CO2 if they operated at full capacity for half a century!

    There is also the incredible environmental damage and loss of wildlife habitat. In the US, wildlife — deer, bear, even squirrels and raccoons — simply clear out for about five miles in all directions from wind plants. Offshore plants in England are causing baby seals to be born dead or abandoned by their overstressed mothers (low-frequency turbine noise travels hundreds of miles in water).

    Plus the vandalism of the scenery. I really cannot believe that any self-respecting environmentalist enjoys the sight of an army of 140-meter monstrosities marching across a peaceful wild or rural landscape. And the things require upwards of 25 hectares per megawatt, well over 500 times the area needed by a conventional plant (fossil or nuke). Since when is the very land itself a “renewable resource”?

    Turbines are an absolutely unmitigated disaster. They produce no useful power and succeed only in sucking subsidies and tax breaks from a gullible public into the pockets of utilities and fat cat financiers.

  146. Here is something from Denmark that agrees with Peter’s calculations above:

    Wind reduces CO2 emissions at a subsidy cost of about $124 per tonne — one of the most expensive plans in the world: http://bit.ly/3K54ps

    In order to keep industry competitive, the Danish government protects industry at the expense of consumers. Electricity to industry is hardly taxed at all, making for an outsized disparity between what householders and industry pay for their electricity — Danish householders pay 2.5 times more than Danish industry. Even before taxes, the average consumer price for wind-generated electricity is 50% higher than that from fossil fuel generated electricity.

    It’s worth reading the whole article.

  147. Barry,

    Replace ‘Ontatio government’ with ‘Australian federal and state governments’ in this sentence from the article you linked:

    Partly mesmerized by Danish wind industry propaganda, the Ontario government has embarked upon a similar exercise in economic and environmental folly.

    and it describes our situation exactly.

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  151. What about next generation wind power plants?

    What you can harvest from wind will reach about 160MW/km³ and a CF of up to 90%.

    There will be Windplants rated at 100MW-6GW.

    There is a 27MW windfarm in Italy we made from 9 kitegen stem that will be operating at 100% for over 5000h a year. In higher highs and going west up to 8000h/a.
    Thats the first generation of working kite plants.
    They will work on ships, swimming platforms, power ships (like done by the German kitesails.info)
    All for very cheap. 1GW installed carousel is calced for 80Mio€.
    Current generation Stem is calced 2Mio/9GW with 4-5 times the net output energy compared to wind turbine.

    EROIE is calced 375.
    Average EROEI of all nuclear is only 6-9 i read.

    If making energy would be done by community we would save all money to spent on more plants and running the plants. We need all community to built their own plants. All industry built its own plants.
    Make new plants in factory everywhere on earth and get the plans and know how to poor countries to built their own, cheap and sustainable plants that need little energy to built.
    Make it like credit market you have huge over capacity in some years.

    GB could be exporting wind energy to france that needs it because they have old reactors that can not supply power needed in france in summer and when the water is frozen.

    Also the kitegen is much cheaper.
    4.5GW/1Billion.
    Will be cheaper in china production or local production of parts.
    Will also have impact on local economy better than nuclear.
    Kites are high up, not seen, no noise, no bad for bird, no fuel, no space (can be used for farming….so much farmland to use we could only use some % of all farmland with kitegen and have all energy). It is also not needed so much kiteenergy. All glass windows can use thinfilm solar (EROIE over 30).
    There is also new space solar…powersat.

    Ok…but energy must be saved too.

  152. I guess the last comment sums it up pretty well.
    Wind is the cheapes power available today.

    If someone comes along and developes other solutions that is fine…but please use private money for that. I have to pay for my own bills too.

    That kitegen would be interesting for NY too.
    They will built a huge offshore windpark. Why not make it 20 times cheaper with good technology.
    Congrats to that idea.

  153. Marus

    Wind is the cheapest power available today

    Er … No. Wind power is very expensive. Furthermore it needs fossil fuel back up to shadow wind an provide the power when the wind isn’t blowing. The fossil fuel used to back up is about the same as if the fossil fule generators were supplying all the power on theoir own – i.e. without wind. So wind power saves little or no GHG emissions and is very expensive. Wind power in Australia costs around $90 to $140/MWh. For comparison electrcity from our coal fired plants costs around $30 to $40/MWh. If we got sensible with nuclear, electrcity from it would cost around the same as from coal. And nuclear would not need fossil fuel back up, so there would be near zero emissions from nuclear. Wind and solar power are a total waste of money. The el;ectrcity they generate is low value (it can’t be controlled) at very high cost and saves negligible GHG emissions when the emissions from back up are included.

  154. Peter.
    Thats why the italian guys improve wind energy.
    Same with thinfilm solar.

    You seem to believe that developement is stagnating but all you have to do is take a plane to Italy and see for yourself.
    You have to take a better look at the historical data to see how fast wind and solar technology is developing.
    1MW/50€

    With the kitegen there is enough overhead with existing backup plants and other renewable solutions that are available today.

    Try to recalc you windy theorie on the kitegen and do a little search what is available to get you facts right.

  155. There is a 27MW windfarm in Italy we made from 9 kitegen stem that will be operating at 100% for over 5000h a year. In higher highs and going west up to 8000h/a.

    Ah, well there’s the catch. The will be bit.

    So how much power have working, fully deployed Kitegen systems delivered to date?

    How many MW.h were delivered by them worldwide in 2009?

    As for thin film solar, that’s been hyped for over a decade. The proof of the pudding is in the eating. Don’t sprinkle your snake oil around this website and expect anyone to be impressed.

  156. Fin.

    The question is how much energy it can produce in the near future.
    We are seeking a solution to power a post carbon society if you don`t mind.

    The critisism was about wind turbines…now another technology is offered that does what the turbines fall short off.
    It is technology that works and is cheap.

    If there is any other solution that can produce clean, cheap power and can be deployed fast why don`t you come forward with that?

    And please give us something that works in very poor countries and has no huge capital cost.

  157. Anyone wishing to examine the current status of kitegen ->

    http://www.kitegen.com

    but get ready for a lot of words starting with could, might, estimated… etc.

    Marcus your comments are almost straight off their FAQ page. Not much seems to have happened with it since 2007, except ->

    http://www.kitves.com/

    which is researching its use on ships. See http://www.kitves.com/state_of_art.aspx

    60kW maximum power based on the expected results from the demonstrator realized in this proposal exploiting wind in altitude.

    It appears that so far one (count them) kitegen demonstrator has been made.

    From this page :

    http://www.kitegen.com/en/products/stem/

    we can see the current “actual” status the “one test” of this one prototype :

    “In 2006 Kite Gen Research has built a first prototype, codename KSU1, tested at an altitude of 800m with the authorization of ENAC and ENAV (Italian Civil Aviation Authorities).

    Beyond the verification of the theoretical data, the KSU has produced energy, thanks to the unwind/rewind cycle: 5kW average and 30kW peak, with a ground of 4.5 m/s.”

    Notice the use of term “kW” not MW or GW for the current model.

    Good luck to them I say, but I don’t think they’ll powering many homes for a while to come yet.

  158. Marcus,

    Have any commercial contracts been awarded yet? If not, how do you know they are cheap? What is the external;itiy cost of the area that must be excluded from aircraft flights? How will this be internalised? What is the insurance cost? What is the cable spacing and over what are per GW of capacity? How is the extra cost of managing the flight paths of aircraft been factored into your “cheap” cost?

  159. If there is any other solution that can produce clean, cheap power and can be deployed fast why don`t you come forward with that?

    And please give us something that works in very poor countries and has no huge capital cost.

    You’re the one peddling fantasies here mate, not me.

  160. I do see that none of you have bothered to go any deeper on the subject.
    You would have found that a commercial plant is due to be finished in 2010.
    Therefore the cost for planing, construction and all legal cost including insurance are known figures.

    Traktion power of kite systems are known devices. 160m² kites are commercialy deployed for some years already.

    The second developent, the carousel, is yet to be worked out in depth. But the prospect of 15€/MWh should put the conservative 5cent for the stem into perspective.
    When 20 times more cost effective than a wind turbine is too much for you you can start with a factor of 5 or 6.

    For an serious article on wind energy I would at least have expected a side note on these developements.
    You might need to get in contact with people instead of just reading what you can find on the internet.

    For now I am satisfied when Australians take note of this developement and maybe get to built some of these for further evaluation.
    Flightpath are very limited you already need a permit to fly as low as 1000m over and around inhabited area.
    Airspace is not really the issue in Australia.
    You would need that for nukes too. I guess most people would prefere a kite when it comes to aesthetics.

    Maybe Autralians are working on some high altitute wind system too…the Swiss, Americans, Dutch and the Chinese are.

    The fantasie of power for poor people is right now working with diesel generators or human/animal power for tasks like pumping water or lighting a bare bulb.

    Thats pure physics and not some kind of unknown source of energy such as blacklight or other adventures where millions are sunk without working proves.

  161. Maybe you would like to point us to the sources of your claims regarding KiteGen? Because the company making them doesn’t have any information.

    The only thing I could find was a 3D graphic computer model ->

    http://nextbigfuture.com/2009/04/1-mw-and-20-megawatt-kitegen-wind-power.html

    which is dated 7 April 2009.

    It claims :

    “A new KiteGen prototype is expected to be built in the next 24–36 months to demonstrate the energy-generation capabilities of the carousel configuration. In particular, a carousel structure with a single kite steering unit mounted on a cart riding on a circular rail will be considered. To collect the energy produced by the wagon motion, the wheels of the cart are connected to an alternator. Such a prototype is expected to produce about 0.5 MW with a rail radius of about 300 m. According to scalability, a platoon of carts, each one equipped with a kite steering unit, can be mounted on the rail to obtain a more effective wind power plant. This configuration can generate, on the basis of preliminary computations, about 100 MW at a production cost of about 20 €/MWh, which is two to three times lower than from fossil sources.”

    As far as I can tell this is dependent on KiteGen getting the 15million Euro funding. Have they got this ? Even so, this will still be a “0.5MW prototype” and it will have to prove itself, which I imagine would take more than 1 year. Add that to the 2 to 3 year build, thats about 4 years or more away just to prove the concept with a 0.5MW prototype. A computer model suggesting it will scale up is simply that, a model, reality is different thing, and only building it and substantially testing it for more than 1 year will give anything like a credible answer.

    Can you provide any evidence of these new KiteGen’s being built? i.e. a document emailed to Barry Brook who runs this blog or a credible on-line website to direct people to some documentation / specifications? Note : computer simulation / 3D model pictures are not evidence of reality.

  162. Addendum : Further down on that link I gave is an update on what the money will be spent on :

    “Using the first 4 million euro a 1 megawatt prototype kitegen will be built. The remaining 11 million euro of the public contribution will be used for a 20 Megawatt version. It will be constructed on the old nuclear reactor site at Trino (VC). The area is ideal because already it is protected by a “no fly zone”, will be dealt, in this case, of Aeolic of high quota. In any case, it is believed that the technology of the generators to vertical axis, when mature, will supplant that to horizontal axis, as of the rest it is already, partially, happening.”

    As I said before, good luck to them, but the reality is clearly that this technology has long way to go before it is out of the “prototype stage” in any way, shape or form. I suggest you send them an email and ask them for an estimate of when they expect this technology to realistically be available on a global basis.

  163. You can find parts of the information you want in italien newspapers and on italien websites.
    http://nova.ilsole24ore.com/nova24ora/2009/07/aquiloni-energetici.html

    The artikles about the 27MW park are only found in italian language. It is built in Berzano S. Pietro in the province of Asti.
    Some artikles are also available in German.

    This is a commercial demonstration plant.

    I am working on getting the second kitegen Stem windpark built.

    (parts about the carusel)
    The scalability of the Kite Gen power plants comes without significant structural and cost constraints because of the design’s modularity. For example, it would allow adding winches and kites to produce energy from a larger diameter
    The theoretical boundaries of such configuration appears to be a ring of about 25-km diameter, which would be the stator on which rotates a magnetically levitated Kite Gen. The tethered high power kites in such a size would fly at up to 10 km in a controlled formation, generating more than 60 GW.

    You can find more information here:
    http://www.theoildrum.com/node/5538
    and here
    http://europe.theoildrum.com/node/5554

    I can`t answer your questoin of how fast you could get production to a global level.
    If you start building 20 factories today or start building the parts in existing fabs and given the high ROI and EROIE we could expect a built rate multiple times that of wind turbines.
    You would have about 3-5time the capacity per € and could start financing the next park 10-20 times earlier.
    Sell a plan to the Chinese and they will have built them within month.

    If you would be interested in the technology you could start your own project. Contact them yourself and get the first Australian kitegen built.
    It is like with any other new technology. The more people that start using it the faster it gains momentum.
    This one is also a chance for communitys.
    Where I live a community/regionproduces 150% of their electricity on renewables. They are virtually independent with the use of biomass, solar, wind, small hydro.
    They even got solutions for process heat and attracted industry. The best part of it is that the region was EU developent region and is now thrieving…people are moving there and not away anymore.
    People are comming from everywhere in the world to visit them. Most of the visitors are from Asia. There is almost no interest from the US but they all seem to know that this can not work….

  164. Well Marcus, best you come back in a few years when you have some solid data with which to assess the real world viability of this approach. Good luck with it. I hope it really does turn out to be superior to nuclear power. That would be great. Keep in touch.

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  166. This guy asserts wind power is too cheap for utilities to like it…

    ****
    http://www.eurotrib.com/story/2010/4/25/62541/6173

    Spanish power prices fell an annual 26 percent in the first quarter because of the surge in supplies from wind and hydroelectric production

    This tidbit of information, which will hopefully begin to contradict the usual lies about the need for hefty subsidies for the wind sector, has been publicised by EWEA, the European Wind Energy Association in a report on the merit order effect (PDF). This is the name for what happens when you inject a lot of capital-intensive, low-marginal-cost supply into a marginalist price-setting market mechanism with low short term demand elasticity – or, in simpler words: when you have more wind, there is less need to pay to burn more gas to provide the requisite additional power at a given moment.

    I’ve long argued that this was one of the strongest arguments for wind (see my article on The cost of wind, the price of wind, the value of wind from last year), and I’ve pushed the EWEA people to use it more – so this study (which I was not involved in) is most welcome.

    The key thing here is that we are beginning to unveil what I’ve labelled the dirty secret of wind: utilities don’t like wind not because it’s not competitive, but because it brings prices down for their existing assets, thus lowering their revenues and their profits. Thus the permanent propaganda campaign against wind. But now that this “secret” is out in the open, it’s hopefully going to make one of the traditional arguments against wind (the one about its supposed need subsidies) much more difficult to use… The argument remains true for solar, and to a lesser extent for offshore wind, but the utilities are going to complain much less about offshore wind given that they are investing so much capital in that sector right now. The reality is that wind power brings prices down for consumers, even taking into account the cost of feed-in tariffs or other regulatory support mechanisms, which means that these regulatory schemes are not subsidies, but rather smart corrections of market inefficiencies for the public good.

  167. @ Finrod re: Kitegen & thunderstorms…

    the weather warning has the Kitegen winch the kites back in, just as there are various emergency and maintenance routines for any other baseload power station. What’s the big deal? One station in Sydney goes offline, while the geothermal, solar thermal, CETO wave and wind power all continue doing their respective things in their respective other locations.

  168. One station in Sydney goes offline, while the geothermal, solar thermal, CETO wave and wind power all continue doing their respective things in their respective other locations.

    I’d say that you’ve learned absolutely nothing, but I reckon you actually know exactly what you’re doing. By the way, the only reason you’ve been addressed with relative tolerance lately is because of Webs & Weavers. She made you look reasonable by comparison.

  169. This guy asserts wind power is too cheap for utilities to like it…

    ****
    http://www.eurotrib.com/story/2010/4/25/62541/6173

    Spanish power prices fell an annual 26 percent in the first quarter because of the surge in supplies from wind and hydroelectric production.

    I suppose we shouldn’t be too suprised to learn that a heavily subsidised power source will occasionally (when it’s actually working) undercut the viability of sources which can pay for themselves. I was under the impression, though, that the Spanish renewables adventure was turning into a complete fiasco.

  170. Come on, even you have to admit the article above was eyebrow-raising! Even I was surprised by it, and I’m sympathetic to almost any electricity generating system that isn’t coal or gas!

    So assume with me for the moment that the above article is well sourced, not deceitful, not ignoring some vital bit of cost-externalising or other methods of hiding real costs that we so often hear about.

    Also assume that Beyond Zero’s claims that a wide-enough wind grid can have about 40% penetration sufficiently reliable as baseload.

    Would you be happy with a 40 / 60 wind / nuclear split? I’m talking costs now… don’t worry about the claims that wind doesn’t blow when we need it, as at 40% penetration over a wide enough area it’s BASELOAD! (Although the remaining 60% of a hypothetically fluctuating nation wide wind grid is an interesting technical challenge… I wonder if Better Place V2G EV’s could store enough energy and, more importantly, sell enough back to round overall wind penetration up to 50%? 60%? It’s an interesting prospect!)

  171. I suppose we shouldn’t be too suprised to learn that a heavily subsidised power source will occasionally (when it’s actually working) undercut the viability of sources which can pay for themselves. I was under the impression, though, that the Spanish renewables adventure was turning into a complete fiasco.

    Sources these claims would be great. Want to spell out how subsidised this wind is? Why is this guy lying? By how much is he lying?

    And the Spanish renewables fiasco… nice to have a source on that as well.

  172. And the Spanish renewables fiasco… nice to have a source on that as well.

    The following is excerpted from a comment I made the other day on Diesendorf’s article in Crikey. Sources are wikipedia’s Spanish solar entry, Barry’s TCASE7 article, an article from The Capacity Factor and a solar industry market report cited by uvdiv.

    —————————–

    Spain appears to be on its way to 3 GW of solar power. Thats 3 GW capacity. But the capacity factor is only about 20%. So the actual power delivered is only on average about half a GW.

    Most of this 3 GW is solar photovoltaic, and includes no storage backup. What powers Spain at night time, or on cloudy days? I’ll give you three guesses.

    Worse, Spain paid US$26.4 billion dollars for 2.5 GW of this capacity. Apply the capacity factor, and Spain is purchasing solar electricity for about US$50b per 1 GW. Thats US$50b for a GW of power that won’t be delivered at night time and won’t be delivered on a cloudy day. I shudder to think of the cost if any sort of realistic backup was included. Of course, the backup here is baseload fossil fuel, that cost of the order $1b/GW, and which is sitting burning in spinning reserve even when the sun is shining.

    For reference, the Australian electricity market wants about 25 GW. For further reference, the cost of AP-1000 nuclear plants in china is about $2b/GW now, with cost targets of $1b/GW later in the decade. Thats for continuously reliable power, at capacity factors in excess of 90%, not sunny day only power at 20% capacity.

    The solar power in Spain that does include backup are solar thermal plants. The biggest of these is Andasol 1 rated at 50 MW peak, but 20 MW average. It cost about AUD$500m, or about $25b/GW.

    But its only got 7.5 hours storage. The problem with this is not just that you can’t get continuous 24 hr power. The problem is that, as a generation system, you are going to need to cover a string of cloudy days. Does it ever rain for a week in Spain? I’ll bet it does. But lets say you just want to cover the eventuality of three days. 72 hrs. Thats about ten times the storage requirement of this plant. The plant already cost $25b/GW with just 7.5 hours storage. What do you think the cost would look like with 72 hrs storage, plus the additional generation capacity to energize that storage? How many hundreds of billions of dollars per GW?

    ————————

    Thats just solar. Spanish wind is not looking too flash, either.

  173. @ Peter, thanks, I’ve bookmarked them and they’re on my reading list.

    @ John, the Solar I was referring to was of course solar thermal, not solar PV which I mainly see as a space technology. (And maybe some *remote* and isolated applications here on earth).

    Solar thermal systems can easily be built as a hybrid natural gas / biogas plant. *IF* the world were to go renewables (and I’m talking about politics, not just raw cost / GW, remember) then the 3 days of cloud is not such a big deal.

    But as they say, each region will have its own speciality, and what’s the cloud cover rate for the Sahara? ;-)

    Also, on storage, once again: What’s the storage capacity of 15 million V2G EV’s across Australia? They’re coming… with peak oil so close, they’re inevitable. And the cost to the utilities is only the cost of the power they’re buying back from us… the battery is paid for when we buy the car. (And if we’re buying Better Place vehicles, then we don’t even buy the batteries, they maintain ownership of the batteries to enable the battery-swap stations business plan.)

  174. John D Morgan

    The solar power in Spain that does include backup are solar thermal plants. The biggest of these is Andasol 1 rated at 50 MW peak, but 20 MW average. It cost about AUD$500m, or about $25b/GW

    While your general point is fair enough I’m not sure about your figures.

    Iberdrola Renovables opens first solar thermal plant – €200 million, 50 megawatt capacity

    This would imply a cost of about $AUS288 Million or $5.76 billion per installed GW. The article doesn’t specify CF or availability but merely speaks of abating 90,000 tons of GHGs per year (without saying how that was calculated)

  175. Thanks Ewen. The figures are right inasmuch as they are for Andasol. I was unaware of the Puertollano plant. Obviously I should spend more time in Spain.

    As you say though, the general point stands.

    eclipsenow, I agree with you that solar pv is not suitable for large scale generation. But the fact remains that nevertheless, Spain just dropped over $25 billion dollars (!) on it. So it certainly is a fiasco.

    The disturbing question is the procedural one. What decision making process was followed that produced the result that spending $25b on solar pv was a good idea? Is that process still being used today? Is the type of options analysis that produced this result common amongst governments making such enormous investments in their energy infrastructure? If so, do we have any confidence that other choices, like Spain’s solar thermal, are not appallingly bad decisions?

  176. John D …

    What I would like to see is that when decisions to abate CO2 (or other pollutants) caused by energy systems were being considered the unit cost per tonne of CO2/other pollutant permanently abated be cited, with the modelling. If (as in the case of CC&S, soil carbon schemes) the abatement is not permanent, I’d like to see the cost expressed in CO2 tonne-sequestration years. M<erely saying "abates 90,000 tonnes each year tells us little useful.

    Andosol (and even Puertollano) on this metric would surely have been hideously expensive.

    Plainly, if the maximum most people are willing to pay is $20 per tonne, then any energy system has to abate at this cost because if it doesn't this puts a cap on the quantity of abatement anyone can roll out. CC&S (and all renewables I've ever heard of that work at industrial scale) fail this test, so its advocates, whether they know it or not are in effect arguing for less abatement.

    They either have to argue for a higher price or cheaper abatement technologies (and probably both). I'd be happy with spending $100 per tonne on abatement, but I'd still like the costs of the abatement technology to be as low as possible.

  177. John D Morgan
    The solar power in Spain that does include backup are solar thermal plants. The biggest of these is Andasol 1 rated at 50 MW peak, but 20 MW average. It cost about AUD$500m, or about $25b/GW

    Ewen Laver

    While your general point is fair enough I’m not sure about your figures. Iberdrola Renovables opens first solar thermal plant – €200 million, 50 megawatt capacity

    This would imply a cost of about $AUS288 Million or $5.76 billion per installed GW. The article doesn’t specify CF or availability but merely speaks of abating 90,000 tons of GHGs per year (without saying how that was calculated)

    This is easy to calculate. Assume a coal-fired power station produces 1 tonne CO2 per MWh. Also assume (generously) that they ascribe 0 tonnes CO2/MWh to the solar plant (when generating). That means the 50 MW solar plant will produce 90 GWh per year. This yields a capacity factor of 20%. Given a cost of $AUD 288 million for 50 MW capacity, this works out to be $28 billion per average GWe. This is perfectly in line with John Morgan’s estimate of $25 b/GW.

  178. Using your methods Barry and assuming

    a) there are zero emissions associated with the plant
    b) there are zero running costs from the plant
    c) 20% CF = 3650MwHe p.a.
    d) the plant last 40 years
    e) decommisioning costs zero emissions and is free

    (Highly heroic of course)

    This works out at $5.06 per tonne of abatement

    Presumably a scaled nuclear plant that had a 90% CF, operated for 40 years, was decommissioned for free and with no CO2 would be about 1/9th this cost

  179. I would not call it a fiasco if you invest billions in infrastructure and local/EU industry.
    Better than selling anything that you can dig up like Australia does.
    In that other discussion about the OD mine you assume that the mine needs power…Just ask yourself if that mine needs to be operated.

  180. The last time anyone said something so careless and clueless Marie Antoinette got her head chopped off.

    First, the money does not go to the people, it’s taken from the people and given to the developers of these installations. The people are poorer – significantly poorer.

    Second, for their $25b purchase, Spain has only bought 500 MW of power, which can only be used when the sun is shining. They could have had ~10 GW of solid power, emissions free, for the same price. This is an appalling choice.

    Third, these solar installations will displace next to no greenhouse emissions. For a country to have budgetted $25b for emissions reduction, and spent it without having achieved anything substantial, is criminal.

    Fourth, “its only money”? Are you serious? $25b is the people’s hospitals, schools, medicines, food and quality of life. But you obviously don’t think that matters. Your attitude is simply callous.

    Fifth, its not my money, but it is my atmosphere so I do give a damn. For a country to so profligately squander its capability to cut emissions directly affects me. This is $25b less that Spain now has to transition to a clean energy supply, an opportunity cost of about 18 million tonne of CO2 that will now be pumped into the atmosphere, by my reckoning.

    Jesus, Marcus, get a clue.

  181. Good points John but please calm down.

    Marcus, I’m a greenie that’s only recently started to reconsider nuclear power (IF it comes to that). I think there *might* be other options if various surprises in renewable energy synergies eventuate, but the emphasis is on those synergies, as no one technology can do it all alone.

    So Marcus, what I’m trying to say is that even I don’t see solar PV as one of our main weapons against energy decline and global warming, except in some very unique lifestyle choice situations.

    EG: Instead of a massive McMansion with extra rooms to clean, some people like to pay the same money to go a bit smaller and get an “Earthship” styled ecohome that is off grid and saves money over the long term. There’s the hippie version:
    http://earthship.net/

    There’s the more urban version (that my sister-in-law helped design).
    http://www.urbanecology.org.au/christiewalk/

    So these guys have all their own off-grid water, power, sewer, etc… and aim to save money over the long term, but require a very specifically designed home to do that.

    There’s a place for that, and I truly admire the energy saving technologies and devices and designs that enable this, but it’s not for every sector of the economy.

    That’s where more baseload, large scale concentrated solar power and wind power renewable applications might be able to pull their weight if society decides it doesn’t like the associated risks of large scale nuclear power deployment.

  182. John.
    We live in another world than poor Marie.
    Nobody will get his/her head get chopped off for any money relatetd bussines ;)

    All your whining does not do anything in the face of 29 spanish billions or 150 Euro billions for Greek or any other money spent in europe or any other part of the world.

    Keep phantasising. Life is too short to let go of things you have fun with.

  183. I’ve just been looking at this chart showing the South Australia demand and the wind farm contribution during the November heatwave:

    http://windfarmperformance.info/documents/analysis/windpower_sa_200911_heatwave.pdf

    Notice that whenever the load is rising the wind farm output is dropping and when the demand is falling the wind farm output is rising.

    Also notice that in the days when the demand peaked, the wind farm output was lowest.

    That’s why we call wind power “the real Aussie bludger”. It doesn’t show up to work when most needed!

    It also explains why the electrciity industry considers wind power a damned nuicance. When demand is rising, the grid operators and generators not only have to compensate for the rising demand, they also have to make up for the wind power output dropping (running away and hiding under a bush when the load gets heavy!).

    Then when the demand drops, the wind power guys show up to work and expect to get paid.

    ‘The real Aussie bludger’ describes wind farms very well!

  184. I also note in that chart Peter the high correlation between SA wind power and total Australian wind power. The peakiness does not appear to have been smoothed at all by averaging over a more distributed set of wind farms.

  185. John Morgan,

    Yes. Excellent point. And this is made very clear in these charts (select for the month you want from the list on the right):
    http://windfarmperformance.info/

    Note that the demand is in MW but the wind output is in capacity factor. The reason for this is that the total capacity changes as new capacity is added, and this is too hard to explain on a single chart. For those who want more, they can download the data in csv and chart it how they want.

    The point you make does not seem to be getting through to many people who seem to accept the argument from the wind advocates that “the wind is always blowing somewhere. These charts consistently show this is not the case in practice. And the wind output across the grid regions in USA, Europe, UK and Ireland are all demonstrating the same wildly varying output as these charts show.

  186. Peter a couple of years back when Adelaide was 46C the rellies went to Yorke Peninsular to take the sea airs at the foot of the cliffs. They emailed me a phone photo. At the top of the cliffs was the Wattle Pt wind farm (about 90 MW I think) which was becalmed.

    I believe ETSA want to bring in ‘odds and evens’ air conditioning whereby radio controllers switch houses in half hour segments during hot weather. At one point SA drew so much interstate power the demand tripped the converter on the Basslink HVDC cable. Where will they get the 690 MW for the Olympic Dam expansion?

  187. Peter, I’ve not seen much rigorous testing of the scale required to smooth fluctuations, but this study has just come out in PNAS looking at wind up the US east coast. The power correlation coefficient between any two stations d kilometres apart is exp(-d/430 km). So you need to span about 1500 km before the correlations become random in this system. I’d love to know what it is in oz.

  188. John Morgan,

    Thank you for this Abstract.

    I seem to recall someone, I think it was Tom Quirk, pointed out that the weather systems that pass over eastern Australia are of sufficient size that an area with diameter 1200 to 1500 km can have similar weather conditions – all can be calm at the same time. I’ll think about this some more and see if I can recall where I saw it.

  189. Here you go:
    http://www.environment.gov.au/settlements/renewable/publications/pubs/windstudy.pdf

    ‘However it was found that seasonal variations were similar across the south east of the
    continent and hence large scale aggregation would have little effect on the annual
    seasonal cycle in wind power output.
    These results indicate that variability in total wind power output can be reduced to some
    degree by wider distribution of numerous wind farms but remains substantial because
    synoptic patterns have a strong influence over the whole region. (Synoptic patterns are
    broad-scale wind patterns associated with the movement of low and high pressure
    systems across the continent.)’

  190. Thank you David Martin. You must be right on top of this subject since you posted this paper so soon after the discussion. I reckon you probably know a lot more about this subject than I do, so I’ll sit quietly and listen.

  191. Peter:
    I am not an expert – I just googled the info up!
    Ewen:
    The real hassle with solar is twofold:
    1.Variation in annual solar incidence, rather than diurnal, for which it is possible to store power.
    Even at the latitude of Cairo, you only get around 30% of the amount of sunshine in the winter that you do in the summer:
    http://www.powerfromthesun.net/chapter1/Chapter1.htm
    See figure 1.6
    This makes it OK for peak power in hot climates where the main need is for cooling, not heating, but difficult to use for base power anywhere outside of around 20 degrees north or south of the equator, so it would be OK in the northern territories but no good in Sidney.
    You end up with huge transmission schemes from the north otherwise – totally ineffective cost wise.
    Here are cost estimates for the UK to build a super-grid:
    http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/environment/article6980846.ece

    This is to integrate around 33GW of wind, actual average output around 11GW.
    This is just for the grid, not the turbine. For that money you could build nuclear with an average output of perhaps 3*1.6GW*90% = 4.3GW and do without the super grid.
    2. Areas of good solar insolation are by definition almost areas of severe water stress, and thermal needs just as much cooling as a coal or nuclear plant, but you can put those by the sea.
    The only way out of that is to use pv, but that is ridiculously expensive still, for all the talk of cost reduction.

    We already know how to reliably, cheaply and safely produce baseload low carbon electricity.
    Nuclear power is what works.
    These ‘cunning plans’ for renewables are not in the realm of practical and economic engineering.
    Land-based wind is fine for around 2-5% of the grid, anymore than that and it’s intermittency causes more problems than it is worth.
    Denmark pays around $0.42 US kwh for it’s heavily wind-powered supply.
    Many places in Australia have better wind resources, but OTOH Denmark is dependent on vast Scandinavian hydropower resources for back-up, which is not available everywhere else.
    As for off-shore wind, the base price of that is around 2-3 times nuclear, before most of the transmission, back up and so on:
    http://www.pbpoweringthefuture.com/pdf/pb_ptf_full_report.pdf

  192. Electricity prices are only half the truth. Economic balanc of renewables is better over all…more jobs, more export, more wealth, better education, better society.
    Thats the reason Danmark is using wind energy and setting standards worldwide.

    Better stop whining about renewables. I know they are all over you but they are not the enemy. I also understand your fears that expensive nuclear will never make it.

    And please just stop useing so much power when it is expensive to you.

  193. More jobs? This is typical of the Alice through the Looking Glass economics of ‘renewables’
    Not only do renewables use much more labor, they also consume around 10 times the material that a nuclear plant does, and that is without the huge amounts of resources including copper for the bloated transmission system needed, as at ~33% capacity you have to over-rate it by a factor of 3 or throw the extra power away when the wind does condescend to blow hard.

    Here is the effect on Danish jobs:
    ‘The Danish Wind industry counts 28,400 employees. This does not, however, constitute the net
    employment effect of the wind mill subsidy. In the long run, creating additional employment in
    one sector through subsidies will detract labor from other sectors, resulting in no increase in
    net employment but only in a shift from the non-subsidized sectors to the subsidized sector.
    Allowing for the theoretical possibility of wind employment alleviating possible regional
    pockets of high unemployment, a very optimistic ballpark estimate of net real job creation is
    10% of total employment in the sector. In this case the subsidy per job created is 600,000-
    900,000 DKK per year ($90,000-140,000). This subsidy constitutes around 175-250% of the
    average pay per worker in the Danish manufacturing industry.
    In terms of value added per employee, the energy technology sector over the period 1999-2006
    underperformed by as much as 13% compared with the industrial average.
    This implies that the effect of the government subsidy has been to shift employment from more
    productive employment in other sectors to less productive employment in the wind industry.
    As a consequence, Danish GDP is approximately 1.8 billion DKK ($270 million) lower than it would
    have been if the wind sector work force was employed elsewhere.’

    http://www.cepos.dk/fileadmin/user_upload/Arkiv/PDF/Wind_energy_-_the_case_of_Denmark.pdf

    This is despite the still comparatively trivial amount of power it generates:
    ‘Denmark generates the equivalent of about 19% of its electricity demand with wind turbines,
    but wind power contributes far less than 19% of the Nation’s electricity demand.
    The claim that Denmark derives about 20% of its electricity from wind overstates matters. Being
    highly intermittent, wind power has recently (2006) met as little as 5% of Denmark’s annual
    electricity consumption with an average over the last five years of 9.7%.’

    So wind is very good at consuming resources, including labor, but shockingly bad at providing any benefit – this is supposed to be a good thing?

  194. http://tinyurl.com/24feplv

    You can observe the impact of renewables on local economies all over the world. Regions that where doomed are wealthy now…because of renewables.
    You could learn that in Güssing or learn something about co-ops from Mondragon.
    There is no reason this would not work in many other places.
    Its just not that convinient for the cartels to controle when energy becomes democratic.

    In Germany also renewables have a positive effect. Just like in this video that eclipsenow posted in the open t. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_ikDjh8tDx8

    Why not put in some or much more substitutes in something that is good for us all.
    We could just have extra taxes of 10-30€ and pay for all renewable built up.
    Thats 3 (France) to 6 (Spain) beer a month…you can also count in bigmacs of you wish to.
    Thats atop of heavy carbon tax.

    Your out of of context % do not show the whole picture.
    There is also no proof that a nuclear based szenario woul work out better. Just because something is cheaper does not say anything about the effects, it just shows that you do have a biased and very narrow view.

    Theres also a new movie about renewables. “The 4th Revolution – Energy Autonomy”
    http://www.energyautonomy.org/

    I wonder how expensive NPPs could be community owned. They just extend the life off utilities that rip off consumers anyways. Like E-ON in Germany…the rais prices every year and extend profits every year. What do they do for us?
    I buy non privatly traded windenergy stocks…that way my money is used to generate some 50MWh of clean wind energy every year.
    Others are free to invest in nuclear energy…if you believe it got anywhere to go.

  195. It seems that it is necessary to stand on your head to evaluate renewables then.
    Being more costly in manpower and materials is a good thing!
    Presumably it is an even finer thing that ‘renewables’ build in fossil fuel burn which they in practice need to make up for their intermittency, and make it’s burning far less efficient as it has to be at the beck and call of this utterly fickle power source.
    You are better off not bothering with the wind mills and using the gas or coal in combined heat and power units.
    Still, I am done discussing this with you, as it is apparent that neither rationality nor numeracy inform your prejudices.

  196. There are much more problems that could be fixed cheaper than building new plants.
    90 percent of nuclear power in the former Soviet Union could be saved by simply stopping up the leaks in gas pipelines in the former S.U.! And if this natural gas were put to efficient use, more than 100 percent of the current atomic power share could be covered! That shows that atomic power could easily be avoided altogether if this money were stuffed in the proper holes.
    There is also Kitegen and other high altitude technologies.

    Unlike the French they have more efficient gasplants in Germany. They can also run on biogas btw.
    Thousands of small community owned biogas plants, windturbines, PV-farms, small hydro and everything is fine.

    Renewables are not more costly in materials if you take EROIE for example.
    The nuclear fuel cycle is also a dirty/expensive beast.
    Here is some more information:
    http://www.ratical.com/radiation/WorldUraniumHearing/PeterBossew.html

  197. Still, I am done discussing this with you, as it is apparent that neither rationality nor numeracy inform your prejudices.

    Most people reach this point with Marcus before too long. His Bizzarro-World take on things, where paying more for less and doing more work for less, as well as the mystical transformation of the imposition on average consumers of having to manage their own local generating capacity for the grid and having to make do with power whenever it’s available into a positive (laughably referred to as ‘empowerment’), has proven impervious to any and all rational critique.

  198. Get in contact with Güssing. They also offer seminars in their renewable academy. Thousands of cities could go the same route.
    Most people do not show the will to learn and accept these realities.
    I also don`t think that you would not have the finanzial power to come up with 10-30€ a month for a switch to distributed renewables.
    All of the contributers here live in the richest countries but yet they are greedy as hell and unwilling to reduce their own use of power.
    Everyboy could reduce use of energy by over 50% without losing any standard of living. With clean distributed (democratic) energy you can raise anybodys standard.

    Did you see the movie?
    http://www.energyautonomy.org/

  199. Finrod can not accept that there are other idiologies than his failing nuclear based turbo capitalism concept.
    Fin…you never informed youself about Güssing or other renewable model regions. Keep on dreaming about Australien nukes…
    Just because renewable solutions are possible does not mean that you have to fight them…
    Whats your reason for hateing renewables that much?

  200. Are you frustrated by that?

    No. My enemies in this matter are people. Yours is physics. The victory will ultimately be with the pro-nuclear side. The question is how swift that victory will be.

  201. Finrod,
    There is no point responding to Marcus. It just clutters up the thread even more.
    Hopefully the data and links I have provided are useful and I welcome any discussion by rational observers on them or their implications.

  202. There is no point responding to Marcus.

    I occasionally do it for amusement.

    By the way, have you heard about my new renewable power scheme? I’ve come up with a way of doubling the efficiency of hydroelectric dams. It’s so simple I fon’t understand why no-one ever thought of it before. You know how hydroelectric stations use water flowing downhill to spin a turbine to create electricity? Well, that water could create just as much electricity by flowing back through the system and spinning the turbine the other way. Hidebound conservative engineering types will no doubt bleat that water doesn’t flow uphill, but this just represents the kind of cloistered thinking which has held the advance of renewable power for so long. Water will flow uphill if you give it enough of a push. It will require a bit more involvement in the power production process from the local community than people are used to, but that’s all part of the consiousness-raising lifestyle revolution which renewables will bless us with. A great new social dynamic shall unfold as the land reverberates to a new cry for a new age: “Push it uphill!”

    For more details on my plan and to find out how YOU can invest in this great opportunity, please visit my site at http://www.pushituphill.com.

  203. Fitted to every kitchen sink in the country, this should generate enough surplus power to run all homes.
    The fitting of electricity generating shock absorbers in every shoe should enable industry to be powered.

  204. David Martin,

    In terms of value added per employee, the energy technology sector over the period 1999-2006 underperformed by as much as 13% compared with the industrial average. This implies that the effect of the government subsidy has been to shift employment from more productive employment in other sectors to less productive employment in the wind industry. As a consequence, Danish GDP is approximately 1.8 billion DKK ($270 million) lower than it would have been if the wind sector work force was employed elsewhere.’

    Interesting. I wonder what the cost of our electricity market distortions are in Australia. (RET, feed-in-tariffs, subsidies for renewables, government funding for RE research, extra transmission systems, extra grid stabilisation, and diversion of labor from viable industries to subsidised industries). What is the impact on our GDP and our future GDP growth. For the ordinary person, what does that translate into in terms of hospital waiting times, bus and train transit times and higher fares, etc.

    In Spain, subsidising the renewables energy industry has caused 2.2 real jobs to be lost for every ‘green’ job created (and subsidised from taxes).

    It seems that once someone has caught the RE bug, their ability to think rationally departs.

  205. Not bad Finrod … I quite like the idea of fitting people with tremblers. If they get cold, their shivering runs a tiny pumps attached to permanent magnets that wirelessly transmit power to an electric coil that heats them up …

    You know it makes sense … ;-)

  206. Pingback: TCASE 12: A checklist for renewable energy plans « BraveNewClimate

  207. Pingback: Does wind power reduce carbon emissions? Counter-Response « BraveNewClimate

  208. Kent Hawkins has just posted the first article of a four part series:
    http://www.masterresource.org/2010/10/denmark-part-i-intro/

    This series is an extensive technical analysis of wind electricity in Denmark. The intent is to develop: (1) plausible conclusions without resorting to extensive mathematics (except that provided by others), and (2) a framework within which to evaluate other claims of emissions relating to wind backup from fossil plants.

    According to wind proponents, Denmark is a model of wind energy use for electricity generation to be emulated. It is claimed or suggested that:

    - Denmark gets about 20% of its electricity from wind. [Note: This number is generation, not usage, which is a crucial distinction with negative implications for the wind lobby's argument.]

    - Reduction in CO2 emissions is due in large part to increased wind electricity production.

    These conclusions are superficial at best and invalid at worse. The analysis required to show this, however, is extensive and technical because the Denmark power market is very unique and wholly unlike the market in the U.S. or the UK.

    The message in this post is that Denmark is a very unique situation. It is not one that can be reproduced virtually anywhere else. Further, as will be shown, Denmark does not enjoy, and should not be credited with, the benefits often claimed for it.

  209. I just posted a link to this discussion on my FB page and someone wants to know if Peter Lang’s work was peer-reviewed. I am guessing it was not but please put me right and any links to others doing research in this field of analysis would be helpful too. What has to be shown is that some vested interest has not been paying for this work and that it is recognized by other scientists, in addition to all/any professional researchers here. I am not the one who needs this reassurance in order to believe the work of Lang. Am simply passing along a skeptic’s initial response. Thanks!

  210. Caroline Webb, Peter Langs posts on Brave New Climate are the subject of an open science review, a process which is in some respects more exacting than a typical peer review for a professional journal. Scientists, engineers and other interested parties do offer criticisms of Peter’s work here. The questions your skeptical friend should ask are not about who, if anyone, paid for Peter’s work. Your friend should be interested in questions such as, “did Peter base his study on well attested facts?” “Was his account of the facts comprehensive?” “Was his reasoning about the facts based on the rules of logic?” Peter’s critics of BNC attempt to uncover flaws in Peters account of facts and in his logic, and peter as well as others offer revisions or counter defenses of his views. Your skeptical friend, in some respects appears to be asking the wrong questions. One of the advantages of an open science debate is that one gets to look at the evidence, the criticisms, and the responses and then make up his or her mind.

  211. Hi Caroline Webb,

    No. The articles I have posted on BNC are not published in peer reviewed scientific literature.

    The pdf article attached to this thread “Cost and Quantity of Greenhouse Gas Emissions Avoided by Wind Generation” is based on (mostly) authoritative reports and studies conducted under contract to government agencies and research institutions (Australian and overseas). The sources are cited in the text. The article was reviewed by a number of engineers in the Australian electricity supply industry and are senior and competent in the areas they reviewed. It has also been commented on by engineers with relevant expertise in the industry in Australia and overseas.

    No vested interest is paying me. I receive nothing. I am retired. Note the contrast between my position and the position of the wind energy advocates most of whom do have a vested interest in promoting renewable energy – i.e. their careers and their livelihood and maintaining ongoing public funding to support their work!

    My purpose is to help to educate intelligent, interested, non specialists and therby to assist Australia to make economically rational decisions about how to cut GHG emissions, increase energy security and improve health, safety and environmental effects of electricity generation.

  212. But, as Charles Barton quite correctly pointed out, one of the principal role for evidence-based open science blogs like BNC is to conduct ‘peer review’ out in the open, for all to see. Peter’s work has gone through multiple rigorous rounds of this. Open science is also the theme of my other website, oz-energy-analysis.org. In my humble view, this methodology is a major component of the future of science.

  213. Thank you Barry, Peter and Charles.

    I would like to see every electricity utility that has built wind power provide a running summary of each week’s delivery of power to the grid on their websites for customers. This would aid public awareness a great deal. The data needs to be visible so a realistic evaluation of performance can be done and the public become more educated. At present it feels as though people are operating on a wish and a belief about wind power. I am referring to the sustainability movement in general. It is not enough.

    With respect to the process of ‘reviewing’ science through such a website as this, I am all for it. I can see that this methodology is sound and I support it. I am aware that it will not be seen as enough for those who want to see the usual protocols of science practice with journal publication. The climate of thinking today is not an easy one for anyone to navigate, let alone non-scientists who are quite frankly floundering but hanging on like hell to particular positions. This is why I made the suggestion above that it is high time for full transparency about wind power being delivered by utility companies to hit the airwaves. I have no idea how much extra work that would entail however, and therefore extra costs.

  214. Pingback: Renewables and efficiency cannot fix the energy and climate crises (part 2) « BraveNewClimate

  215. Pingback: Kapasiteettikertoimen muutos ja sen vaikutus energiapaletissa « PassiiviIdentiteetti

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