Wind and carbon emissions – Peter Lang responds

The following is a response from Peter Lang to various comments made in the post “Does wind power reduce carbon emissions?

Energy Storage

Energy storage, at the scale required to make wind power a reliable source of dispatchable power, is uneconomic. This link provides comparative costs of energy storage technologies.

Even without energy storage wind generation is uneconomic. Wind must be mandated by governments and subsidised, otherwise it would not be built. Wind power is high cost for low value energy. It has low value because it cannot be controlled and called up on demand. It requires high cost upgrading to the grid in remote areas and requires costly systems to maintain power and frequency stability on the grid. Wind generators need $90/MWh to $140/MWh to be viable. As well, the electricity distributors and the national grid operator all incur substantial additional costs as a result of being forced (by government regulation) to buy wind energy. For comparison, the cost of new entrant baseload power is about $40/MWh.

Barry Brook will soon be posting another paper which provides insight into the amount of energy storage that would be required and just how far from being economic are intermittent, not dispatchable renewable energy generation technologies with energy storage. These technologies are not just 10% or 20%, or even 50% from being economic. Solar PV with energy storage, for example, would be some 20 times more costly than nuclear power to provide the electricity we demand. We have been researching and developing solar PV for the same time as nuclear power, and wind power for three times as long. Yet these renewables are still totally uneconomic. The advocates are making the same sorts of statements now as they were making in the early 1990s about the economics of these generation systems – “they are economic now if the government would just subsidise them and mandate them more”.

Regarding plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEV’s), there are many technical and cost issues to be solved before these become economic and widely used. However, together with substantial nuclear power generation, some energy storage with PHEV’s may make sense in the future. With some 80% of electricity generated by nuclear (as in France), and the remainder from gas and renewables (mainly hydro), then PHEV’s may make sense. They could allow wind and solar to make a genuine, economic contribution to electricity generation.

The fallacy of Dr Mark Diesendorf’s “The Baseload Fallacy”

Dr Mark Diesendorf claims that “the wind is always blowing somewhere”, so, with sufficiently wide spread wind farms, wind power is dependable. Figure 1 demonstrates that this claim is wrong. Figure 1 shows the total output for wind farms in NSW, Victoria, Tasmania and South Australia for June 2009. The conclusion: wind power is unreliable, not dispatchable, and often zero when needed, no matter how large the area over which the wind farms are distributed.


Many comments on the previous thread refer to Mark Diesendorf’s paper “The Base-Load Fallacy”. For example Barry Brook in Post 7, in responding to a comment, replied as follows (the original comment is in italics and Barry Brook’s response is normal text):

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.”

I would argue that average capacity factor is not valid for determining the amount of back-up generation capacity required. The total generation system 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 sufficient conventional generator capacity to provide the peak demand. This is because electricity demand must be matched by supply at all times. In other words, wind power cannot displace much, if any, conventional generator capacity.

As already noted, the chart I have included above shows that the total power output of the major 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 false.

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 offset virtually any capital cost for conventional generators in a system that has a substantial proportion of wind generation capacity.

The GHG emissions are the total of the full life cycle emissions from the wind farms, from the operation and maintenance of the wind farms and the enhanced grid, from the embedded emissions in the conventional generator systems, and from 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).

Short responses to the main concerns about the safety of civil nuclear energy

The risks (and perceived risks) with the safety of civil nuclear power relate to:

1. the risks of accidents (like Chernobyl)

2. nuclear waste disposal

3. accidents during the nuclear life cycle (power station and other facilities construction and decommissioning, mining, processing, waste disposal)

4. emissions and contamination from the routine running of nuclear facilities

5. production of fissile materials for making nuclear bombs

Here are a few words on each:

1. Accidents – very low probability of occurrence as demonstrated by 50 years of civil nuclear power station operation (12,700 reactor-years of operation) and only 31 people killed in a major civil nuclear accident plus an estimated 4000 probable future deaths from contamination over a period of 70 years in a population of 200 million. The risk is very small, and the consequence of an accident is much less than from the normal operation of fossil fuel power stations (see Figures to the right [from here] and below).


2. Nuclear waste disposal – the quantities to be disposed of are miniscule. There is also an unwillingness to permanently dispose of the nuclear waste because the current reactor technology has used only about 10% of the available energy. In the future it may become economic to recycle the once-used fuel. Some reactors already do so.


3. Accidents in construction, mining etc – are far lower for nuclear than for coal and renewables for several reasons: first, the amount of material mined, processed, fabricated, transported and constructed is much smaller than for fossil fuel and renewables per unit of electricity generated; second, the greater safety culture in the nuclear industry.

4. Radiation Emissions from nuclear power stations during routine operation are negligible. Even the leaks are inconsequential (except in public perception terms).

5. Use of civil nuclear power stations to produce bombs. This concern is a furphy. Fissile material for bombs is produced in dedicated military installations. The processes for producing weapons grade material are quite different from the civil processes. The relation of civil and military uses of uranium are about as unrelated as the use of oil to make plastic explosives and petrol. Civil nuclear power stations use un-enriched uranium (for Canadian reactors) or uranium enriched to 3.5%to 5% U235 for all other reactors. For bombs uranium 235 and plutonium must be enriched to over 90%. Therefore dedicated establishments (military) must be used to produce fissile materials for bombs. If we want to argue that uranium should not be used for civil nuclear power because it is also used for making nuclear weapons, then surely we should argue that oil should not be extracted because it is also used for making plastic explosives and for powering the ships and planes that drop bombs in conventional wars (like Iraq, Zimbabwe, etc). Saying we should not use nuclear power to generate electrcity because uranium is also used for nuclear weapons is an illogical and inconsistent argument.

Comparison of greenhouse gas emissions from electricity generation technologies

The following link summarises the GHG emissions from electricity generation technologies from authoritative studies. However, note that the figures for wind and solar power do not include the emissions from back-up generation.


The following link shows what is included in full life cycle analysis of the GHG emissions from nuclear energy.


Regarding life cycle emissions from nuclear power, I (Barry Brook) asked Peter the following question:

Have you been able to pin down the reasoning for Lenzen’s ISA analysis coming up with the CO2 figure of 60g/kWh for nuclear, when none of the studies you cite in Table 1 (or that I’ve seen elsewhere) come close to that. I suspect it involves placing too much weight on SLS-type ‘analyses’ and too great a focus on low-grade U ores – but I’d certainly like to get to the bottom of it. The issue was explored somewhat in the comments of this thread.

Peter’s reply was as follows:

The UK White Paper (PDF link) looked at the ISA and the Leeuwen and Smith studies in detail. Their conclusions are written up in several places in this document (e.g. 2.12, 2.13, 2.17-2.20, pp48-51).

There are several issues with the ISA study:

1. They used a ratio of 30%/70% for centrifuge to diffusion enrichment because they argued that is the ratio currently being used averaged across the world

2. They made naive assumptions about the quantity of uranium available

3. They added back end and front end emissions on top of what is already included in the LCA analyses

4. They did not use properly comparable methods for evaluating LCA emissions from wind, PV and nuclear. They were very generous to the renewables

I understand why ISA took this approach. It was a political report and all concerned wanted to minimise the opportunities for the report to be drawn into endless arguments about minor points. They wanted the report to focus on what is important, not get lost in arguments about minutiae. I feel the UMPNE is an excellent report considering the very short amount of time they had to prepare it. I also feel the commissioned EPRI report on the costs of nuclear in Australia is excellent, although the costs of all the major baseload technologies have risen substantially since it was written.

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  1. Pingback: Does wind power reduce carbon emissions? «

  2. ” Figure 1 shows the total output for wind farms in NSW, Victoria, Tasmania and South Australia for June 2009.

    Is this the output of all operating wind farms? Could you display the individual locations?
    If so it would indicate that the maximum production is 650MW about 48% of the >1376MW installed as of 2008, when there was 739MW in SA, 379MW in VIC, 142 TAS and only 16MW in NSW so this aggregation is really manly coming from a small region in SA and actually 431MW coming from two locations Lake Bonney SA (239MW) and Waubra VIC(192MW) separated by 300km, but in a direct line of westerly weather systems.
    The capital wind farm in NSW(140MW) started late July, 2009 so would not have been included, but possibly other farms were which would indicate either some farms were not included or this period was a very low wind time of the year.

    Peter hasn’t included the least expensive pumped hydro used in Tumut3( 3 x 200 MW turbines attached to 3 generators ), using the same dams, pipes, turbine and accounting for half of Australia’s pumped storage.
    The other cheap storage is the several years supply of water stored in Lake Eucanbene more than adequate to backup 50% of wind capacity( the highest amount expected) for periods of several days low wind.


  3. Neil, why are you constantly spruiking this useless, failed technology? What in the world are you hoping to accomplish? Why should anyone anywhere bother with it when nuclear power is available now in the world, vastly more reliable, genuinely effective at cutting CO2 emmissions, scaleable to nearly any need, and independant of most environmental factors?


  4. Neil,

    The wind farms included are:

    Woolnorth, Tas (140MW)
    Cathedral Rocks, SA (66MW)
    Challicum Hills, Vic (53MW)
    Canunda Wind Farm, SA (46MW) <— New
    Cullerin Range, NSW (30MW) <— New
    Lake Bonney, SA (81MW)
    Mt Millar, SA (70MW)
    Starfish Hill, SA (35MW)
    Waubra, Vic (192MW)
    Wattle Point, SA (91MW)
    Yambuk, Vic (30MW)

    Total capacity = 834MW

    Average output was 226MW which is 27% of installed capacity.


  5. Peter Lang’s post above, as well as his previous one, fundamentally misunderstand the difference between energy and capacity. Here’s a full discussion of that topic, for those who are interested:

    Click to access 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:

    Click to access Backup_Power.pdf

    Michael Goggin
    American Wind Energy Association


  6. Powering the world from renewables such as wind and other technosolar can never occur, because any nation which goes down that path will be at the mercy of those which do not.In time of crisis or war, national power and muscle must be based on the highest power density energy technologies available, and flexibility is paramount. Even if all the world could be made to agree to eschew both fossil fuels and nuclear power in favour of ‘renewable’ power, that concensus would crack at the first instance of international tension. Prospective combatants would revive or rebuild high-power fossil-fuel systems as quickly as possible in support of their objectives. Any nation which did not would be conquered or overawed, and the lesson would sink in with a vengeance.


  7. Finrod,
    “Powering the world from renewables such as wind and other technosolar can never occur, because any nation which goes down that path will be at the mercy of those which do not
    That sounds like a reason why all nations will have nuclear weapons. If course many nations are obtaining power from wind and solar and many nations have chosen to not develop nuclear weapons.
    Returning to FF such as oil in times of war may be tricky if all oil is imported from your potential enemies.
    Energy density? How is this relevant?


  8. Without pre-empting Barry’s paper I believe there are possible major savings in energy storage. These are
    1) unregulated wind power and direct pumped storage
    2) thin film PV and compact household batteries.
    Without knowing costs the scope is hard to predict so they will have evolve on their merits.

    The public likes wind power so I think it should expand to its comfortable niche of x% of installed generation. That’s x% without feed-in tariffs or preferential purchasing. That way people can feel assured wind power has been given every opportunity. I recall helicopter shots of the Tour de France showing both wind farms and nuclear plants in the background. To me that looked clean and balanced. No smokestacks or grimy coal heaps.


  9. Looking at the combined wind farm output plot (Figure 1 above) recalls an uncomfortable thought that occurred to me when I linked to similar plots for wind in the US northwest, Ireland and Germany in the comments to Peter Lang’s first post (under comment #3), which was this:

    The fluctuations in wind power looked roughly the same for each data set (now including the oz example), despite both the power scale (0.7 Gw – 23 GW) and the area scale (Ireland up to a good chunk of southeast oz) spanning over an order of magnitude. What if this is the nature of wind at all scales – that however much area you add, or however densely you pack turbines in a given area, the power spectrum will still look roughly the same? Its got a very fractal, self similar feel to it, and wind is just the kind of driven dynamic system you would expect to exhibit such properties.

    In that case it wouldn’t really matter how big an area you use for catchment, the fluctuations are in the nature of the resource, and would never smooth out. As well as ‘the wind always blowing somewhere’, its also true that the lulls will always overlap sometimes.

    I’ve no data to support this, maybe it does eventually smooth out. But it would seem to be on a geographic scale bigger than any of these wind systems.


  10. It would be interesting to know if the wind electricity output graph above corresponds to what minimal wind speeds. Wind turbines are changing, getting bigger, and learning to function on less and less wind.

    Check this theoretical Gigawatt beast that can function on winds as low as 1.5 m/s. A continent with a few of these beasts positioned at the right locations has GOT to affect that electricity graph above.

    (If you guys can rave about future generations of modular nuclear power plants that haven’t been built yet, and haven’t been demonstrated to be economically viable yet, why can’t I do the same for wind? ;-)

    Besides, I’m STILL not trying to argue that wind alone will provide baseload power. You seem to be debunking a 100% wind grid, when many renewable experts I read talk about decentralised and highly diverse smart grids of the future, and devises that take advantage of intermittent power. EG: Freezers with compartments that convert the abundant windy afternoon electrons into ice that keeps the freezer cool when the smart grid warns of lower power… and dozens of examples like that.

    EG: What about Smart-EV’s, etc? I work from home. 98% of the time my car just sits there. It could be charging during peak power supply and then selling electrons back to the grid during peak demand or during low-power supply moments. (It would be programmed to only sell down to a certain minimum distance to the nearest Better Place Battery Swap station, where I could grab a fresh new battery in an emergency).

    There are more and more people like myself working from home over the net. Imagine the assistance to the grid all those cars could give, and WE bought them to use anyway… they are grid-backup for free! (Apart from purchasing the electrons off us at a premium… we’ve got to make *some* money to make it worth our while).


  11. All wind farms whose output is available through the AEMO site ( were included.

    Below are the current set of wind farms available through AEMO and the date of earliest available data:

    CAPTL_WF (Capital Wind Farm) 2009-06-30
    CULLRGWF (Cullerin Range Wind Farm) [before June]
    CATHROCK (Cathedral Rocks Wind Farm) [before June]
    CNUNDAWF (Canunda Wind Farm) [before June]
    LKBONNY1 (Lake Bonney Wind Farm) [before June]
    MTMILLAR (Mt Millar Wind Farm) [before June]
    STARHLWF (Starfish Hill Wind) Farm [before June]
    WPWF (Wattle Point Wind Farm) [before June]
    WOOLNTH1 (Woolnorth Wind Farm) [before June]
    CHALLHWF (Challicum Hills Wind Farm) [before June]
    PORTWF (Portland Wind Farm) 2009-07-10
    WAUBRAWF (Waubra Wind Farm) [before June]
    YAMBUKWF (Yambuk Wind Farm) [before June]

    Some wind farms do not yet have full, advertised capacity installed (Capital and Waubra off the top of my head).

    Some wind farms do not show on AEMCO site because they are included within the distribution authority’s network and some are included under ‘scheduled’ generators.


  12. Eclipsenow,

    We do not know what will become commercially viable in the future. In the 1990’s we were told that solar power and wind power were almost economic at that time – they were just 2 to 6 years from being fully competitive with conventional generation – they would be able to provide all our electricity needs in the near future. We are being told the same still, and are little closer to these statements being correct. Demand side management and smart grids were going to solve our problems within 10 years. Look back at the Ecologically Sustainable Development reports to see what was being said at the time.

    However, what we do have available now is nuclear energy. It is a proven, mature, commerically viable technology. It is about the safest of all electricity generation technologies and the lowest GHG emitter on a full LCA basis when all emissions from back up properly attributed to the technology that requires the back up.

    France’s installed capacity of nuclear power plants is about twice Australia’s installed capacity of baseload plant. Nuclear power provides about 76% of France’s electricity demand and also exports large amounts to the neighbouring EU countries, including UK. France commissioned these plants over about two decades. So Australia could commission half that amount over two decades if we need too. Realistically, Australia could replace all its coal fired power stations as they reach the end of their economic lives. This could be done between 2020 and 2050 if we were to start setting up the regulatory environment and education facilities now.

    On this basis Australia’s electricity generation could be near emissions free by 2040 or 2050.

    It’s worth addressing one myth about nuclear power – i.e. that it is baseload only and cannot follow load. NPP’s can be designed to follow load. The French NPP’s have always had load following capability. The EPR (a Generation III+ design being built in Finland, France and China and also soon to be built in UK, Italy, and several other countries) has excellent load following capability. It can operate at anywhere between 25% and full power and can ramp at 5% per minute. That is, it can ramp at 80MW per minute. Although this plant is too big for Australia’s system, it does demonstrate that NPP’s have excellent load following capability if designed to do so. Nuclear power could provide most of Australia’s electricity needs with some gas, hydro and other renewables.


  13. Regarding the above gigawatt-rating super-wind-turbine, it uses neodymium-iron-boron permanent magnets throughout. How much neodymium is needed to construct one of these things? Even with existing wind turbines, neodymium supply is a limit to the extent at which wind turbines can be manufactured.


  14. Peter Lang – “As already noted, the chart I have included above shows that the total power output of the major 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 false.”

    I can only see one on the 27th where are the others. Also because you have included wind farms that vary by a factor of two in your comparison the graph does vary greatly as different size wind farms cut in and out. Additionally the amount of backup required critically depends on what time of day the zero output occured.

    Additionally what was the sun doing at the time? Nobody suggests that wind is the complete answer. Solar thermal power plants with a reasonable amount of thermal storage can complement the wind.

    Finally you are neglecting demand management. Peak times can be managed with smart demand management so that when renewable output is low non-essential services can be remotely controlled to turn off. This is already done now in the fossil fuelled grid where large customers pay a lower tariff if they agree to be cut-off at short notice. Often fossil fuelled generators fail at the worst possible times and there are measures already in place to cope with this.


  15. I might add that even North American NPPs can load follow and some would need extra-long fuel rods to do so. It is a ‘myth’ sort of based on the reality of the economics when it was argued, by the old AEC and, the utilities, that if you want nukes, they have to run flat out so pay us for it, blah, blah.

    I understand *why* they did this especially into the late 1970s when interest rates went to 20% and the constructions costs became downright stupid.

    But a well planned development of nuclear power plants as an energy infrastructure would include load flowing. Even the Republican plan for 100 new NPPs doesn’t include this.

    Again, France: 1. US: 0.



  16. Stephen,

    I think you are missing the big picture. The chart demonstrates the fallacy of what Mark Diesendorf and other wind power advocates have been saying for decades. Mark Diesendorf’s work was based on modelling he did at CSIRO some two decades ago. The actual data accumulating from wind farms around the world shows that Mark Diesendorf’s key premise is false. Wind power changes rapidly and frequently drops to zero or near zero.

    Regarding the mix of renewable energy technologies and demand management, I’d suggest we need to know the cost of such a system to meet our needs. Why would we want to mandate and subsidise wind power and other intermittent, unreliable renewable energy technologies, when we have a cheaper and better option in almost all respects?

    If we want China, India and the other developing nations to reduce GHG emissions quickly we need the lowest cost, low-emissions electricity system available. Renewables cannot achieve that either now or in the forseable future. Nuclear can. Nuclear can also be much lower cost than the grossly over-engineered systems we’ve been forced to build during the past 40 years by the irrational anti-nuclear advocacy groups.

    There is another reason why the world needs least cost electricity. The lower the cost of electricity the faster electricity will replace fossil fuels for heat (gas) and land transport. So the faster we can reduce GHG emissions from burning oil.

    In short, we need least cost electricity. Renewables cannot provide that. So when people suggest these pie-in-the-sky ideas, I believe they should estimate the cost of the total system in today’s dollars before suggesting them.


  17. Peter Lang – “Dr Mark Diesendorf claims that “the wind is always blowing somewhere”, so, with sufficiently wide spread wind farms, wind power is dependable. Figure 1 demonstrates that this claim is wrong.”

    Also one graph for one month does not disprove Dr Mark Diesendorf claim. Though the sites that you graph are widely dispersed there are only 11 sites over a huge geographic area. The wind could have been blowing 500km from one of the sites and not been captured by the next.

    You would have to present far more compelling evidence than this to refute the extensive computer modelling studies of Mark Diesendorf.


  18. Not true. One point is sufficient. However, we have several points in just the last month. And similar behaviour is being recorded all over the world.

    The modelling is theory. The data is the empirical evidence to test it. It fails.

    The chart is consitent with experience being produced from around the world. The chart is diagnostic evidence that the key premise of Mark Diesendorf’s “Base-load fallacy” is false.


  19. Peter Lang – ‘I think you are missing the big picture. The chart demonstrates the fallacy of what Mark Diesendorf and other wind power advocates have been saying for decades.’

    As I say below (I posted that one before I read this) it does not such things. It simply shows for the month of June 2009 there was one day when the output of these 11 windfarms dropped to zero. How many times a year did the power to a city in Australia drop to zero in the same time due to failures and outages?

    “Nuclear can also be much lower cost than the grossly over-engineered systems we’ve been forced to build during the past 40 years by the irrational anti-nuclear advocacy groups.”

    So you say however that is just one of the claims of pro-nuclear people. The premise is that the pesky safety regulation foisted on them have made nuclear power more expensive. Part of the truth lies in that some very dodgy plants were built that forced regulators to check the industry very closely to ensure standards were being adhered to. When this was done lo and behold nuclear stopped being commercial and new commercial plants stopped being built.

    Perhaps you can explain, seeings as nuclear is so cheap, why Bruce Power has
    “abandoned its grand vision of building new reactors in Nanticoke and at its existing site near Kincardine, another sign that the nuclear “renaissance” is not emerging as planned.”

    “Economics : There are currently 22 reactors operating in Canada, with eight of these in long-term shutdown. Nuclear power generated only 12% of Canada’s electricity in 1998, and this has come at a very high cost. The total subsidies (1952-2000) for Canada’s state-owned nuclear company, Atomic Energy of Canada Limited (AECL) were $16.6 billion ($Cdn 2000) [4]. This does not count hidden subsidies such as federal nuclear liability protection, tax breaks, and provincial debt guarantees for nuclear utilities.”

    Or even
    “The massive power plant under construction on muddy terrain on this Finnish island was supposed to be the showpiece of a nuclear renaissance. The most powerful reactor ever built, its modular design was supposed to make it faster and cheaper to build. And it was supposed to be safer, too.

    But things have not gone as planned.
    After four years of construction and thousands of defects and deficiencies, the reactor’s 3 billion euro price tag, about $4.2 billion, has climbed at least 50 percent. And while the reactor was originally meant to be completed this summer, Areva, the French company building it, and the utility that ordered it, are no longer willing to make certain predictions on when it will go online.”

    Hardly promising for nuclear power in Australia.

    “So when people suggest these pie-in-the-sky ideas, I believe they should estimate the cost of the total system in today’s dollars before suggesting them.”

    I completely agree. So when you suggest a nuclear powered future for Australia how about you include the enrichment and fuel fabrication plant and the geological waste disposal facility in the total cost.


  20. Cheaper and better? Lester Brown says no.

    “In an excellent recent analysis, “The Nuclear Illusion,” Amory B. Lovins and Imran Sheikh put the cost of electricity from a new nuclear power plant at 14¢ per kilowatt hour and that from a wind farm at 7¢ per kilowatt hour. This comparison includes the costs of fuel, capital, operations and maintenance, and transmission and distribution. It does not include the additional costs for nuclear of disposing of waste, insuring plants against an accident, and decommissioning the plants when they wear out. Given this huge gap, the so-called nuclear revival can succeed only by unloading these costs onto taxpayers. If all the costs of generating nuclear electricity are included in the price to consumers, nuclear power is dead in the water.”

    Even if we eliminate the waste due to this futuristic modular Gen4 reactor that we KNOW is coming out (winks — that wiki still says 2030), we still have the economics of insuring, say, the unthinkable, a successful terrorist attack on a nuclear plant that means we have to abandon, say, half of Victoria? (Not Sydney! Let’s not irradiate the most beautiful harbour city in the world please).

    But I’m just an emotional hippie… let’s get real you say? When the REAL risks are so low, why would we insure against such a thing? Risk management means insuring against a truly horrible scenario, even if it is unlikely. Are there even insurance companies that would insure against, say, the small matter of “losing Sydney” and having to move 4 million people?

    No. Brown answers for the USA context at least: “The collective cap on nuclear operator liability is $10.2 billion. This compares with an estimate by Sandia National Laboratory that a worst-case accident could cost $700 billion, a sum equal to the recent U.S. financial bailout. So anything above $10.2 billion would be covered by taxpayers.”

    So there it is. Nuclear accidents / terrorist attacks are effectively uninsurable. The the insurance policy for nuclear covers just a tiny percent of the potential actual damage, and then you and I just have to ‘wear it’… a bankrupted nation after a worst case scenario terrorist attack, with incalculable cultural loss and emotional trauma.

    Yep, makes heap of economic sense.

    What happens if a terrorist blows up a wind turbine or solar plant again? ;-)


  21. Just a general note on load following I wanted to throw out there. I think it’ll help us all understand more about how some of this works. I work as a power plant operator so I’m familiar with every sort of load following there is. Not a nuke but a conventional natural gas fired thermal unit.

    Cycling operations include:

    1. startup/shutdown operations

    2. Distpatcher/ISO load requests based on:
    a. Day ahead bid awards. This is when the plant was bid for this or that amount of power and you have to follow this load schedule by being at a certain load at a certain point, usually at top of the hour.
    b. Hourly ahead bid awards that are deviations to the point a. above and under the same conditions.
    c. 10 minute bids, same.
    d. Emergency load ramps when generation is tripped off line (a big transmission line goes down from a large hyrdo or central power station) or load is tripped off line (a large disribution or transmission line goes down to a load center like a city)

    3. Frequency MW changes. This is true load following…frequence drops ever slow slightly/goes up ever so slightly and governor valves on the turbine open or close in response to the shaft-felt speed droop or increase to keep the frequencey at 60hz (or 50hz in Austral.?) This sometimes, rarely, requires a very fast 30 to 100 MW/min change.

    4. Automatic generation control (AGC), this is related to point as well as some digital systems can use a central system operator frequency clock to send out signals to the generators to dow what pt. 3 above does. But it also gives the ISO or system operator total control over load changing per the reasons for all stated above. Control Operators like myself *hate* AGC because we always gotta be on our toes to start and stop auxiliary equipment and monitor more things.

    Now every one of the items above constitute what is called, in the U.S., “ancillary services” and there are, now, monetary advantages for all these services being available. They essentially distill all the reasons why load changes or how it changes. It all comes down to the load and it’s *demand* which rules all of us, all the time. This is the fundamental reason that any ISO, if you get them alone in a hallway, *detest* wind generation services. For political reasons many won’t say this on the record.

    [Obviously there is a whole Fortune 500 investment in technology that mitigates, some, the intermittency of wind. It comes with huge tremendous subsidies as well. Especially in Europe.]

    But that was a … political digression … to the point. These ancillary services are really what makes a true baseload grid function. Without it all breaks down. If there is a large region based on wind, and you get one of those hot summer days that, in the US can encompass almost a million square kilometers, then you are up shit’s creek without a paddle.

    The high level of intelligent folks here all understand that of course so we mix in wind with CSP w/storage. But costs really go up now. And when you add so-called SG tech and HVDC, and the need to overbuild as Peter has pointed out, the economics of this are simply silly *unless* you have a real edge to grind against nuclear energy because nuclear looks better and better *all the time* when you take into all the needs of the grid.

    David W.


  22. So tell me, eclipsenow, how exactly do you imagine a terrorist is going to ‘blow up’ a nuclear power station? I’m curious about the plausibility of the scenario you envisage — cause and result. That’s what the scientific concept of ‘risk’ is all about, after all, probability x consequence. So I’d like to briefly hear what you have to say on these two components.


  23. “(If you guys can rave about future generations of modular nuclear power plants that haven’t been built yet, and haven’t been demonstrated to be economically viable yet, why can’t I do the same for wind? ;-)”

    Go for it, tell us about it, and if it turns out good no one will be happier than I.

    “Besides, I’m STILL not trying to argue that wind alone will provide baseload power. You seem to be debunking a 100% wind grid, ..”

    Not at all. I, and I presume most others, are thinking in the context of a diverse mix of renewables. I don’t think debunking is really the right word, either. A critical and pragmatic examination would be a better description.

    The reason why it might look like we’re talking about a 100% wind grid is that in most renewable grid proposals, wind is going to be a or the major contributor (along with other major sources like CSP, or hydro, or geothermal). And while the problems of wind variability might be softened somewhat, the basic critique still applies. That is, PL contends you need 100% backup available in the rest of the grid to cover wind outages, whether its fossil fuel or a mix of renewables. And if you can do that, then, what benefit does the wind capacity really offer?

    It reminds me of an old bushman’s recipe for galah soup* (a notoriously tough bird):

    Boil your billy, prepare your galah and throw it in, along with a rock. When the rock is soft, its done. Throw away the galah and eat the rock.

    What I’m hearing is a recipe for wind soup.

    *I am not advocating the eating of galahs


  24. After the quotes Stephen Gloor found, I’m not sure that it does look “better and better”, especially with the legislation required to make private cost-cutting companies to actually do the right thing, and, um, spend some extra money making them safe?

    Also, if nuclear plants expect the taxpayer to pick up the tab if there’s an accident, surely we can agree that governments could provide some leadership and contribute a little to the development of a HVDC grid, something that seems to need doing anyway.

    The larger the grid and wind area, the higher the penetration of reliable wind energy we can have, as this Stanford Study shows.


  25. Peter Lang – ‘Not true. One point is sufficient”

    I hardly think this correct. This is similar to the climate change denier “its cold today therefore global warming is wrong” argument and just a fallacious.

    “The modelling is theory. The data is the empirical evidence to test it. It fails. ”

    Only on your very limited dataset. I don’t think any reputable scientist would conclude what you did from such limited data. Again you are squarely in denier territory in claiming computer models do not reflect reality.

    Please show more complete data before making such claims.


  26. David Walters – “If there is a large region based on wind, and you get one of those hot summer days that, in the US can encompass almost a million square kilometers, then you are up shit’s creek without a paddle.”

    Except if it is hot and sunny the solar thermal plants being built now with storage can cover the loss of wind. Also as elements of the grid are upgraded from the 1900s to the 21st century with automatic digital controllers hating AGC should be a thing of the past.

    Mind you as I have said on many occasions wind farms should be mandated to have larger ride-through capability with notice of shutdown of a minimum of 1 minute at full output and 5 minutes at half. This should make your job a bit easier.


  27. And, as this is some years in the future, let’s not forget that in this scenario oil has already peaked, driving up the demand for “Better Place” style EV’s, and many hundreds of thousands of private motor vehicles can become a form of giant battery supplying power back to the grid.

    And with oil peaked, communities are realising that they’ll have to be far more concerned about energy than they ever were before, and just do what it takes to ensure their energy needs are met. And some communities might decide they want nuclear, and want it bad, and build it “overnight” while others might just decide they are going “off grid”, earthship (or Mike Stasse) style, and society will adapt and react. And that could involve the super-fast construction of as much wind & solar thermal & EV’s & biomass backup & Biochar gas storage & efficiency measures find unimaginable right now.

    (Especially if the Export Land Model is as *fast* as some say it will be… Michael Lardelli was talking about 50 to 60% reductions in oil supply to the world oil market by 2020. Ouch. Peak oil = less oil being produced each year, but the E.L.M. measures who’s actually selling their precious oil to the world market and who is now keeping it at home to satisfy their growing domestic demand. I personally disagree that ALL exporters will decide to keep their oil at home to satisfy domestic demand because some economies will NEED good trading partners… but it is a fairly frightening question!)

    The other effect of being the other side of peak oil will be that this conversation will move from a bunch of bloggers having a debate on this blog to THE screamingly urgent message of the nightly news.

    Expect senate enquiries, constant media interviews with the latest energy study, community forums, mad-people getting on TV advertising their magnetic over-unity machine (perpetual motion machine) and then a week later being debunked, etc…

    In the meantime some kid in a garage may have just put together THE new nano-particle thingemyjig for making batteries that are 10 times faster and cheaper.

    Or else some new combination of off-the-shelf technology comes together in an integrated system that we haven’t forseen, such as “Better Place’s” battery swap system for EV’s (which I suggested years ago in a forum and was laughed off the stage but now has 2 billion invested in it).

    My point?

    Studies that “debunk” a mere 11 wind farms really need to take a long, hard look at themselves.


  28. The way it will work will be a one line/one meter…a star point where all the wind power goes into an main bank transformer and regulated on the way out into the grid. Scheduling will work (and this is done now) not at whatever the output is, but at a ‘safe lower output’, say 10% less than whatever the high is but below the “predicted” average so that load can then be “dispatched” more or less at will until the wind dies down, drops away or goes up. It’s never really predicted but the wiggle-room, so to speak, is not hard to deal with on a minute-by-minute basis. Dispatching out to an hour is going to have mandate fees based on a very light fine for not delivering or the wind farms will go out of business rather quickly.

    My AGC experience, while not unique, is already addressed with better digital controls.

    Solar thermal has yet to achieve a 24 hour on demand storage capability. Dollar figures per KW are flying around like crazy and for *now* it’s still very expensive, per the Spanish experience. ST is simply more appealing because daylight is easier to predict, especially in the summer as you note.

    But costs. ah the costs. Lots, especially as if storage prices are going to be as high as they are now. It’s just not happening I think. CSP is far more elegant than wind, more reliable, etc.

    I doubt any of them will function with permanent high tariffs and subsidies though.



  29. Peter, I notice you are using real wind-farm generation figures, which are rather small samples. Have you considered using meteorological data for presentation instead? Instead of N~10 wind farms, you could predict the individual output of N~10,000 hypothetical farms, using historical weather station data (hourly windspeeds @ 10 meters elevation). Such a much larger data set would yield more robust conclusions, and would more directly address the scenarios the wind advocates envision.

    I’ve taken a cursory look at this, and the results seem similar to what you see for small numbers of wind turbines. I am guessing that the key thing is, it is not the number of wind farms that matters, because their output is strongly correlated even over hundreds of miles separation. (E.g. the central limit theorem does not apply, because the variables are far from being independent. So multiplying wind farm count by N does NOT reduce the relative fluctuations by a factor of sqrt(N) as you’d expect.)

    I haven’t found any existing study that takes this approach. Here’s some preliminary graphs I’ve done myself using meteorological data (there are severe methodological issues I haven’t addressed, so take this with a barrel of salt):

    It appears there are at least three important timescales of fluctuations, from diurnal (strongly periodic day/night cycle) to multi-day (chaotic – large-scale weather patterns?) to annual (again strongly periodic). The shorter-term (minutes-hours) fluctuations seem to have reduced variance, but this may be a sampling artifact.

    Anyway, I think this would be a very productive road of inquiry, were anyone to pursue it further. (But then I’m biased, since I’ve spent several hours on it myself.)


  30. Check this theoretical Gigawatt beast that can function on winds as low as 1.5 m/s. A continent with a few of these beasts positioned at the right locations has GOT to affect that electricity graph above.

    No, this is a fallacy. The total kinetic energy flux is \propto the cube of wind speed (air flux is \propto v, KE density \propto v^2; product v^3). As a result, only a tiny fraction of wind power is that of 1.5 m/s winds. Harnessing this power makes trivial difference.


  31. Peter Lang – “This is an excellent explanation. The readers are lucky to have such a contributor – a detailed explanation drom someone who is at the ‘coal face’ so to speak.”

    I completely agree as people at the coal face usually have a better picture of what is really going on than upper management and consultants that get a filtered view.

    I am disregarding what David says as renewables do have hurdles to cross to become better grid citizens.

    I only disagree with your view on wind variability and relative costs. However I think that it is pointless to debate it further to avoid a case of Ender fatigue (ask Barry what that is). We will just rehash all the renewable V nuclear arguments that have been done to death already.

    I do think that it is inevitable that nuclear will play a valuable part in the future global energy mix. My preference is for small nuclear large renewable proportion. I am prepared to accept that your mix would be different however the future will provide the answer.


  32. “some are included under ’scheduled’ generators”

    With respect, that is no reason to exclude from the analysis those wind farms which are registered with AEMO as scheduled generators (eg Hallett 1 & 2, Snowtown, Clements Gap, Lake Bonney St 2 in SA). The dispatch data for all registered generators is publicly available on the AEMO website if you bother to look for it.

    Obviously the fewer generators included in this sort of analysis the peakier the production curve becomes.


  33. Eclipsenow states: ““The Nuclear Illusion,” Amory B. Lovins and Imran Sheikh put the cost of electricity from a new nuclear power plant at 14¢ per kilowatt hour and that from a wind farm at 7¢ per kilowatt hour.”

    Lovins and Sheikh have been discredited. Numerous critics poked holes in “The Nuclear Illusion,” last year. After a brief attempt at defending his arguments, Lovins withdrew from a debate last year and has offered no response to his critics since.

    The US EIA estimates the levelized cost of onshore wind in 2016 to be 141, while the levelized cost of nuclear during the same year is estimated to be 107.


  34. “That sounds like a reason why all nations will have nuclear weapons. If course many nations are obtaining power from wind and solar and many nations have chosen to not develop nuclear weapons.”

    You are connecting two dissimilar concepts in a dishonest manner. Nuclear weaopons are desireable for some countries but not for others. They are an excellent shield against invasion by a conventionally superior adversary, but sufficiently alarming to one’s neighbours to eschew their development unless they are considered a pressing existential necessity.

    Yes, many nations do obtain some piddlingly tiny amount of energy from wind and solar, but they are forced to obtain the bulk of their power from sources with enough muscle for the job.

    “Returning to FF such as oil in times of war may be tricky if all oil is imported from your potential enemies.”

    There’s more than enough coal around to sustain intense mechanised warfare for centuries.

    “Energy density? How is this relevant?”

    The denser the energy source the less valuable resources are required to tap it. this is critical in a protracted war.


  35. Hmmm, what about “higher wind”, flying wind kites that have access to more wind, more of the time, generating more power per investment dollar?

    100 thousand of these kite planes per year (as per the WW2 emergency economy) and America could be nearly wind powered in 10 years. (According to Saul Griffith’s at TED anyway).


  36. I’ve read about the kitegen approach – a very elegant and appealing technology. Its still prototypical, so lets see how it develops.

    But there’s two separate considerations here – the harvesting technology, and the underlying resource itself. The kite might be a tremendous wind energy harvester, but if the resource itself is unreliable, it doesn’t help. The most advanced fishing rod won’t catch your dinner if the fish aren’t there. Maybe high altitude wind is more reliable …

    The most important parts of Saul Griffith’s talk, though, were his inspiring images of retooled civilian US factories on a war footing churning out airplane parts in WWII. That really shows that the energy transformation required is possible, and only requires courage and will, and puts the lie to any counsel of despair. Success or failure is a choice, not destiny.


  37. The most important parts of Saul Griffith’s talk, though, were his inspiring images of retooled civilian US factories on a war footing churning out airplane parts in WWII. That really shows that the energy transformation required is possible, and only requires courage and will, and puts the lie to any counsel of despair. Success or failure is a choice, not destiny.

    Agreed! That IS the kind of emergency economy many have been arguing we need all along. I was confident that we could do it and peak oil was not really that great an issue… then I realised that some calculate the Export Land Model as cutting the world oil market in half by 2020.

    That would be a tight race against the clock! But we’ve yet to see peak oil itself clearly, let alone all nations behaving as predicted and not doing something “radical” and actually restricting oil consumption at home (by installing EV’s?) so they could sell some oil to those countries still trying to wean off the stuff.


  38. Interesting discussion.

    Can’t help thinking that people are arguing at cross-purposes. I’m not sure why, but it reads like a nuclear versus wind debate, and I think this is unhealthy.

    Bear with me while I try to synthesise some of this.
    The need for extra backup generating capacity for wind power- when it gets past a certain fraction (I’ve heard 20% for UK) of overall capacity- seems pretty clear. Also that this makes it very expensive, and if that backup is fossil fuel based, it negates much of the CO2 gains from having it there in the first place. Am I right in thinking this is the essence of Peter’s argument?

    But up to that fraction, the on-demand backup is coming from power stations whose fixed costs have already been paid (hydro or gas)- and the extra CO2 is only that required for short periods when the gas station output is ramped up to compensate for lack of wind. In a primarily fossil-fuel based grid, there is a real CO2 saving. If nothing else, fossil fuel-derived electricity has been reduced by ~20% (or whatever the amount the current grid can cope with).

    Smart grids and investment in pumped storage might bump up that fraction some, but it’s clearly a long way from a complete fix. What else can we do?

    Cue nuclear- something that Peter and Barry are clearly very keen to push. Having followed this site for a few months, I’m a partial convert. Rolling out more current Gen III reactors sounds a reasonable stop gap answer. Gen IV sounds great- in fact the IFR sounds almost too good to be true… just a shame it hasn’t been built yet.

    From a risk management perspective, the case for nuclear power seems pretty sound- after all, it’s the chance of a terrorist incident or future adverse exposure to low level nuclear waste, versus unmitigated climate change or societal collapse after running out of fossil fuels.

    I would like to see more nuclear.

    Yet… Wind is a proven technology. It just takes people to cut the steel and put up the turbines (and for govts to provide the subsidies, and the NIMBYs to quieten down, of course). If it doesn’t fix the problem, it least makes the problem smaller by whatever fraction of intermittent renewables the grid can handle.

    My issues with nuclear power are twofold:
    1. Unproven- that it can be done cheaply enough and quickly enough, and that gen IV will work at all on a full, commercial scale. (I’m starting to come round, though. France is compelling, for gen III at least).
    2. Discomfort about putting all the eggs in one basket- it promises cheap electricity in abundance, so no need for technosolar, hydro, CCS or whatever. The temptation is to push for an all-nuclear option, whereas I think a diversity of technologies is prudent, for all sorts of lengthy reasons.

    I realise that a large part of Peter’s argument relates to cost. I think we have to take it for granted that any FF alternative is going to be costly- either because the energy source is low density (wind) or because complex technology is required to extract it (nuclear). The point is that current electricity supply entails a huge cost (CO2 emissions) that is currently going unpaid. I’m pro-nuclear, pro-wind, and pro-anything else that cuts down fossil fuel use, in whatever fractions are most practicable, timely and cost-effective to deploy for the nation/region in question.

    There’s clearly a good argument here that using wind as a large scale replacement for fossil fuel is not going to work, but I don’t see any convincing argument that we shouldn’t use wind at all. I’m worried that this distinction might be lost on some readers. Lots of numbers being bandied around here and elsewhere, but we’ll never know how the costs and technologies work out on a large scale until we try. This applies to wind and nuclear, but at least we can get going with wind quicker- at least up to the fraction that the current grid can handle.

    We need to get building.


  39. I am surprised to read a wind energy rep. clarifying the general confusion between electrical capacity and generation. I strongly agree that such confusion detracts significantly from public assessments of available energy options to any degree of depth.

    The powers that be in NSW for example are continuously quoting capacities when speaking of wind’s ability to displace a coal plant (or power a desalination plant) of equivalent capacity or demand.

    Mr Goggin’s post however is silent on the demand side of the issue. Simply put, demand is… well, what it is. Utilities unable to satisfy demand are forced to load-shed (a la California USA a decade or so ago). The graph above clearly demonstrates wind will not cover demand 100% of the time. Some other reliable, back-up technology is required.

    Expanding the scope a bit, energy demand is expected to increase significantly in many developing countries over the coming decades. I’m sure many of these communities, currently desperate for power, would gladly accept the energy production peeks and dips shown above.

    Have a read of the the United Nations Human Development report (2007) for more on this specific challenge.

    A logical approach would be to plan for the optimum energy production mix to satisfy forecast demand (plus tolerance, if any, for load-sheds). ‘Optimum’ considering the unit energy cost, emissions, reliability and quality. For many countries around the world, that mix will include wind, nuclear and a host of other energy sources. I’d love to see the carbon-free energy advocates align better to promote the deployment of different no/low technologies where it makes economic sense to do so.

    Coal is the Goliath in the room.


  40. Load following nuclear? That’s new to me. Sorry to sound a bit presumptuous, but 20 years in the nuclear industry – over half of that in the control rooms of operating nuclear power plants – and I have yet to hear of a load following plant.

    In my day, the challenges from iodine and xenon transients as well as the potential for longer term uneven fuel burnups didn’t make it worth the effort. However, I realise France has a greater nuclear share and therefore the cost / benefit for them could be different.

    Additional data / information would be much appreciated.


  41. Hi Ed, so you were on the board as well. Nice.

    There two areas where load following…dispatched load in one case and true on demand load “as it happens” occurs…and you might be familiar with one. Nuclear subs. They go from no knots to 30 plus as fast as possible. They use HEU of course, and, they can use temperature to take care of those nasty Xenon poisons. Heat up the water or steam, I don’t know which, and they solve the problem.

    Secondly, the EPR uses extra long control rods, along with something called ‘gray rods’ that have a limited control ability, to follow system load. EDF also uses a rotational guide for units as to whether they have been recently fueled or not. WNA has a fairly short concise explanation of how they do this in their country document for France.

    Could we use say, any plant for load following? Nope. The sturdier more numerous control rods, water temp controls, etc would have to be added. And, of course, newer, load following digital controls as well.

    Newer generation plants would low follow very easily. I don’t know about the IFR discussed here often but the LFTR and any MSR should be able to do rapid load following because the liquid fuel allows for very quick vacuuming of neutron poisons.



  42. Economics aside, wind can work with nuclear. As Jerome of Paris has argued (a wind investor and lover of large subsidies for it :) having large nuclear stations anchoring a HVDC/SG network makes lot of sense since you will never have true capacity penetration over 35%. You let nuclear have baseload (defined here as the average minimum load over a year) out to 100%, load following nukes for about 20% more and the rest for wind and solar and whatever is needed. Nukes can be seen as any base load with wind and solar supplementing it (or, nuclear supplementing wind and solar depending on you you prioritized grid access and other factors).

    I think the argument you seen here on the pro-nuclear side, as Charles Barton repeatedly makes, correctly in my view, is there simply is no *need* for new tech renewables given that nuclear, especially new nuclear, can handle it all, as the French have demonstrated continually (siting nukes on oceans is much more preferable than on rivers, obviously).



  43. Uvdiv,
    Your graphs of wind power based on wind velocity adds valuable additional information.
    You data supports most statements that dispersed wind variation over time periods less than 2 hours is small. This is important for grids operating on 15min, 30min and 1h forecasting of demand and supply.
    Longer term variations ( daily) are much more important if wind is to provide >25% of the total power.
    Your results would indicate an average wind production of say 80 units( in US data) could mean only 40 units or up to 160 on a regular daily basis. Those extra 40 units would effectively mean back-up would be required for about half of the expected average daily wind production, and up to 100% of daily average production (160-80) dropped off the grid or used by storage( pumped hydro) or by vehicle charging.
    For the N American grid( US and Canada)of a total 1100GW capacity there is 100GW of “on demand” hydro capacity and 20GW of pumped storage peak that only has a few hours supply. Most of that 100GW hydro can run for weeks, but only an average of 50% capacity factor for the year. A lot of Canadian capacity is running at 80% capacity factor. The cheapest expansion of daily storage would be to add additional turbines( often space has been made for this in construction) and where possible add reversible turbines to increase pumped storage capacity.
    This would mean more HVDC from northern Canadian dams OR more wind built at the very good sub-arctic locations using the same transmission lines to provide either hydro or wind.Canada has another 100GW of un-developed hydro and Alaska 45 GW outside national parks.


  44. Finrod said
    15 August 2009 at 8.47

    Hasn’t CSP been sold as an attempt at solar baseload? Won’t using it for peaking compromise it’s main mission?

    Finrod, it depends on the company. Some are openly out to make money from the afternoon peak period, but some are marketing themselves as getting into the overnight long haul as a total replacement for coal. I guess with all the new approaches and technologies, it is about scaling up and getting one’s foot in the proverbial door, before then seeing what other market opportunities develop in the next few years, especially with regards to any tax breaks that come out. This is from BZE. In iTunes subscribe to “Beyond Zero Emissions” because they interview the latest renewables technologies from all over the globe… it’s a Melbourne Radio show, not just some kids in their garage putting out a “podcast”. Great show.

    2 off-topic comments:

    1. What IS it with energy companies and tax breaks anyway? In a world of climate change, why does the Australian government give fossil-fools up to $10 billion in tax breaks? There IS no such thing as a “free market” for energy, especially if one considers the taxpayer funded highway and roads system. Oil has got to be the most over-subsidised product in human history!

    2. Imagine if we’d gone down the village-town concept and just got around on trolley buses in a “more European than European” city model. There would BE no oil crisis! Anyone go to TEDx Sydney this year? If not, this guy spoke on a development he’s doing South of Sydney. Check it out… his presentation to the University NSW is a 15 minute movie at the top of this webpage. Car-free walled villages, local economics, but going mainstream — not hippie ecovillages! Coming soon. Who’d find this attractive? Please check the movie before commenting.


  45. One scientist’s critique of Lovins for you Eclipsenow:

    Thanks Ed! Will have a look, but how am I to know if this guy is right or not? I’m an activist, not a scientist, trying to “peer over your shoulder” at the “Executive Summary” claims of various competing technologies. I’d need to read Lovins response to him or people like him, google various claims independently, etc… and in all this I’m playing a serious game of “catch up”.

    AND I’m passionately interested in how we’re going to wean off the fossil fuels fast enough, but am just not that technical. If I’m having trouble weighing up the claims on the best way to go, with quite an interest in it, imagine the debate you pro-nuclear guys are going to have to have to win over the average Aussie housewife or RSL member or Yuppie?


  46. Hey ED, you are aware that I’m already having trouble taking that guy seriously because he seems to be a global warming denier?

    “Since then, I have become free to inveigh against perceived abuses of — or shortcuts around — scientific methodology, particularly as revealed by exaggeration of radiation hazards, misplaced opposition to plutonium demilitarization, chronic bias against nuclear power, and overconfidence about global warming causation.”

    Sorry, try again. He’s just sounding like a redneck at the moment.


  47. Oh gosh there’s more!

    ” Inappropriate or inadequate statistical characterization is unfortunately true of the on-going debate about the scale of anthropogenic contribution to global climate change. (See my Knol on “Global Climate Change: Statistical Expectations and Humanistic Perspective.” I do not know where the technical debate on anthropogenic contributions will take us, but in that Knol I identify statistical data-treatment deficiencies and inconsistencies in the voluminous and comprehensive IPCC report, despite its impressive compendium and constituency.)”


    This guy doesn’t just have an axe to grind with Lovin’s treatment of Nuclear, he’s got an axe to grind with everyone that wants to do something about climate change! I’d find someone else to quote if I were you.


  48. Hey Barry, ever thought of adding BBpress to this great blog? Comments can then be far more streamlined. I’m finding it annoying to click on the email and then search for the particular comment I wish to respond to.

    BBpress is a fully fledged forum designed to fit in with WordPress, and has tutorials on how to install it etc.

    There’s also BBsync, which once installed lets you turn the main WordPress blog comments OFF and automatically copies this wordpress blogpost as main Forum post conversation starting point, and then people can have all the power of a forum to discuss this quite complicated material in.

    What do you think guys… like to see Barry plug in a forum?

    (Barry, if you can’t surely you can find a hacker friend who would love to for you? This seems to be quite an important conversation. I’m no great hacker myself, but love the power of forums to facilitate “tidier” conversations.)


  49. Hi Matt,

    Thank you for your comments. However, I do disagree with several points you make. In summary, my concerns are:

    1. The cost of wind power (it is much more than just the cost of the wind farms)

    2. Wind power avoids little GHG emissions – nowhere near what is claimed by wind power advocates (see the paper)

    3. The cost of avoiding emissions is very high compared with nuclear (see the paper)

    4. The money and human resources spent on R&D and for subsidising wind power diverts attention and resources from working on solutions that can have a genuine and large effect on cutting GHG emissions (and providing many other benefits)

    5. We should not mandate nor subsidise electricity generators

    6. The externalities costs of nuclear are about the same as wind, so externalities cost is not an argument to favour wind power over nuclear. (Refer ExternE)

    Responses to a selection of Matt’s particular comments:

    Matt says: “The need for extra backup generating capacity for wind power- when it gets past a certain fraction (I’ve heard 20% for UK) of overall capacity- seems pretty clear”

    PL: No. Back up is required for all wind power – even when penetration is 1%. The rapid changes in wind power output make it clear why this is the case. Wind power must be backed in Australia now. The back up generators are being operated in an inefficient manner. The conventional generators sell less electricity for their capital investment. So they must bid a higher price to remain viable.

    Matt: “But up to that fraction, the on-demand backup is coming from power stations whose fixed costs have already been paid (hydro or gas)- and the extra CO2 is only that required for short periods when the gas station output is ramped up to compensate for lack of wind. In a primarily fossil-fuel based grid, there is a real CO2 saving. If nothing else, fossil fuel-derived electricity has been reduced by ~20% (or whatever the amount the current grid can cope with).”

    PL. I disagreee with several of these statements.

    1. The fixed cost have not been paid for. The fixed costs are ammortised. Revenue from sales is paying off the debt and ROI for these costs. Reduced sales means higher price to break even.
    2. If hydro energy is used to back up for wind there is no CO2 saving, but a very high value resources is consumed – wasted. Then coal fired power stations must be used, and emit CO2, to pump the water back up again.
    3. Matt says: “the extra CO2 is only that required for short periods when the gas station output is ramped up to compensate for lack of wind “. PL says: The gas generators are not just operating for short periods. Because the wind power fluctuates so much (often from 80% of capacity to almost 0% capacity – see chart for June) the back up is running for much of the time in an inefficient manner. It produces more CO2 per MWH generated when the “throttle” is fluctuated like a bad Sydney taxi driver continuclly accelerating and decellerating.
    4. “Matt says” If nothing else, fossil fuel-derived electricity has been reduced by ~20% (or whatever the amount the current grid can cope with). PL says: No. This is not correct. The CO2 emissions savings are small – see the paper for details.

    Matt says: “Wind is a proven technology”.

    PL: We are beginning to realise the real cost of wind power and that it makes little contribution to cutting emissions. The UK, EU and USA are all realising this.

    The EU countries with the highest emssions from electrcity have the highest penetration of wind power. Those with the highest penetration of nuclear have the lowest emsions from electricity.

    Many do not realise the cost of the grid enhancements that are required to handle wind power. Wind farms are located in areas where the transmission grid is sized for rural users. Without enhancements it is not robust and and has frequent outages. To accpet wind the grid must be greatly enhanced – at high cost. The transmissions system must be sized to carry the maximum output from the wind farm. Yet the average power transmited is about 30% of the maximum. So, again, higher costs for wind energy.

    Matt says: “Discomfort about putting all the eggs in one basket”. We currently have 80% of our electrcity provided by coal. So why should we be concerned about 80% nuclear? France has 76% of its electricity provided by nuclear. It is reliable and low cost as demonstrated by the fact it exports nuclear gerneated electricity in large quantities to the EU.

    This chart might help to provide some persptive:

    Click to access 29ELEC.pdf


  50. eclipsenow, Finrod is correct. You have to ask yourself “if it is such a good idea and easy to implement, why isn’t *serious* R&D going in to deploy it? Why isn’t it deployed?”

    I’m a wait and see sort of guy. When this came up for San Francisco where I live, the price…and this last year…was so ridiculous, with so much maintenance involve, it was quickly dropped.



  51. Actually, I just went and read the CETO briefing papers (Exec. Summary and Milestones). It’s interesting technology. I will try to follow this to see if can be commercially deployable at the relatively low MWhr costs (about $75 per MWhr or 7.5 cents KWhr) they state in the summary. Fascinating technology.



  52. Another point about ‘back up’. Most people consider combustion gas turbines as ‘the back up’. However, these CCGTs, either in simple cycle (jet engine to generator) or combined cycle (jet engine to generator, waste heat used to make steam for a second generator) can not be simply started and stopped, willy-nilly. Most only allow about 4 starts and stops in a 24 hour period or you tear the internals up. They are not a light switch.

    Secondly, what back up *really* means are coal and conventional gas fired plants that can move load around. With both these sources of power, you have to *leave them ON*. You can’t turn them off *at all* as they take as long as 8 hours to shut ’em down or start ’em up. So…they chug along steaming, so to speak, sending out emissions, using dangerous fossil fuels.



  53. All but two Australian coastal cities are going in for major desalination. I understand that it takes half the electrical pumping effort to incorporate multiflash distillation in thermal plant cooling compared to high pressure reverse osmosis. The heat is used not ‘wasted’. Numbers if I recall were 3-4 kwh per kilolitre for RO and 1-2 kwh for MF.

    Trouble is the punters want suburbs with green lawns but no nukes.


  54. Peter,
    “The gas generators are not just operating for short periods. Because the wind power fluctuates so much (often from 80% of capacity to almost 0% capacity – see chart for June) the back up is running for much of the time in an inefficient manner. It produces more CO2 per MWH generated when the “throttle” is fluctuated like a bad Sydney taxi driver continuclly accelerating and decellerating.

    The data you have provided doesn’t show this. The faster “ramp down” would be from about 12noon , 21 June to 6am 22June, dropping from 620MW to 100MW; this is an 18 hour decline time showing the movement of a weather system through SA and VIC.The preceding peak about 12 hours at 600MW. The grid demand and supply is monitored on 30min and 1h advance sales. The magnitude and rate of wind power change is on the same order as peak demand, ie 6-12 hour changes.In fact your data of the 11 sites would look very similar to Uvdiv’s presentation of US data modeled on wind speed over widely distributed sites.
    Rather than the analogy of a Sydney taxi driver it’s more like a long distance truck trip from Sydney to Brisbane, it starts off at 40kph and winds up to highway speed of 110kph in an hour after leaving city traffic and keeps on going for 12 hours before slowing down to 80kph and then 50kph at city limits. fairly predictable just like wind power.

    Any very short term “fluctuations” less than 1hour time scale will be evened out with 50 widely dispersed locations( say 2GW capacity; 10-15 wind farms in each of SA, VIC, TAS and NSW( and possibly WA and QLD). Even the 11 sites does a good job considering they are not of equal size and not evenly dispersed.

    Your other statement
    “If hydro energy is used to back up for wind there is no CO2 saving, but a very high value resources is consumed – wasted. Then coal fired power stations must be used, and emit CO2, to pump the water back up again.
    This doesn’t follow at all;(1) some hydro is saved on days such as the 12/06, 13/06 and 20/06 because it would not be needed for usual peak demand.(2)if pumped hydro was used why would the energy come from coal, have you forgotten we have many days with a surplus of wind power. In fact on windy days a lot of NG peak would also be saved. The same would apply with using nuclear, it would be run at 100% capacity all the time( the most economical because fuel cost are low) and surplus off-peak used for pumped hydro or to reduce FF use.


  55. Neil,

    I’ve just looked at the AEMCO 5 minute output data for July 2009. The maximum rate of change in total wind power output for these wind farms (spread over 4 states) was 83 MW over five minutes. It occurred at 12:05 on 28 July 2009.

    The problem of the rapid and frequent change in wind power output is widely known and confirmed here. This problem occurs everywhere, eg in USA, EU, UK. It is widely reported.

    Regarding your point about hydro pump storage, ‘have you forgottent’ you cannot use variable power output for pumped hydro? I suggest upu go and visit Tumut 3 and consider consider what would be the effect of changing power on those pumps.

    Message for Barry Brook: The ‘Solar Power Realities’ paper might help some of the contributors on this web site to understand the realities of energy storage and of variable power output of renewable energy generation.


  56. The blog is interesting in that it highlights the underlying agenda behind so much of the RE advocacy.

    One additional point the author could have made is that the solar capacity replaces NO nuclear capacity. If we add solar we must still have ALL the nuclear capacity to provide power through the night. So the solar is simply an additional cost to the system – and a very high cost addition as the author points out. Saying that solar can replace any nuclear power on the basis of comparing the average power output is nonsense. We must compare on the basis of the minimum output. Similarly, saying that solar or wind can power x houses or take y cars off the road is complete nonsense – unless of course we have sufficient energy storage to provide continuous power through the period of minimum output.


  57. UVDIV,

    My apologies for taking so long to answer this comment.

    You asked: “Have you considered using meteorological data for presentation instead? Instead of N~10 wind farms, you could predict the individual output of N~10,000 hypothetical farms, using historical weather station data (hourly windspeeds @ 10 meters elevation).”

    I haven’t done such research and I can’t offer any contribution. I have briefly looked at many statistical and other studies, but it is outside my area of expertise.


  58. In reply to this post, ‘Observer’ said: “The dispatch data for all registered generators is publicly available on the AEMO website if you bother to look for it.”

    Perhaps ‘Observer’ would like to reproduce the chart with “ALL” the wind farms included. I hope he does so. Once he tries to do so hew will realise what a time consuming task it is to extract that data from the AEMO web site.

    I look forward to seeing the chart posted here. The character of the variability will be virtually unchanged. So this comments is simply nit-picking in an attempt to doivert from the very clear message the chart presents – Wind output is highly variable even when aggrogated over large areas!


  59. @Peter Lang
    ‘you cannot use variable power output for pumped hydro’. I suggest a change in approach whereby cheaper turbines are located on ridges and coastlines near dams. Largely unregulated current is sent via short transmission to pumps driven by variable speed electric motors. The motors should be capable of black starts any time and the pumps would be positive displacement such as helical rotor. The water column won’t run backwards if the pump slows.

    However as Charles Barton points out the windy and rainy times of the year largely coincide so dam heights might have to be raised. Tasmanian dams are near bursting at the moment not sure about the Snowy scheme. I think the key is lower cost (if possible) and to proveably displace coal or gas.


  60. Eclipsenow, I will happily respond to your request on “Nuclear Green” within a few days. The comment section for Barry’s blog would hardly be an effective place for its presentation, and it will take some time for me to collect a list of criticisms of Lovins work to which Lovins has not responded.
    However the following link to David Bradish’s summery of his critique of Lovins’ contains links to numerous other criticisms of Lovins,
    During the two Gristmill “debates” between Lovins and Bradish,
    Lovins and Sheikh offered no response to numerous critical comments.

    At the end of their second Gristmill post, Lovins and Sheikh stated: “We will address Mr. Bradish’s forthcoming posts on “nuclear and grid reliability” and “costs” as they appear.” In fact those responses never appeared. I take the Lovins and Sheikh refusal to respond to comments and the failure to post the promised responses as abandoning the field.


  61. Peter,
    “you cannot use variable power output for pumped hydro?
    I didn’t suggest you use variable power for pumped hydro, it uses grid power which is regulated including the use of 800MW spinning reserve(some form hydro).Part of the regulation is scheduling when to use power to pump and when to use water to generate power.
    Variations of 83MW over short times are not an issue, when you consider what happens if a 800MW coal fired plant drops off the grid or a 1,000MW nuclear plant has an unscheduled shut-down.
    The issue is the big variations you show from 620MW to 50MW “down ramping” of power. Since these changes take 12-24 hours they can be planned. The short term(<1hour) "fluctuations will be ironed out with more dispersed wind farms. With just 11 farms you could have a 9-20% drop in power if one farm dropped out for technical reasons other than wind. Same with 11 coal fired plants or 11 nuclear plants. Obviously the more separate generators you have the less effect any one dropping off will have on short term fluctuations.


  62. John, Have you calculated the costs of such a scheme? Why would you prefer this to nuclear? Is it just ideolology?

    Don’t you think every project is done at lowest cost (given all the constraints imposed)? How do you think we can cut costs by factors of up to 20 and more? Do you realise how much water would have to be pumped up each day and to what height to provide our electricity needs. Here’s a scoop: three Sydney harbour volumes of water raised 150 m every day during the hours the wind is blowing. Of course, because the wind does not blow for several days at a time on some occasions, we’d need sufficient storage to power our needs for several days.

    Try costing your proposals. Or look up the results of others that have.

    It sometimes helps to clarify the options if we consider the extreme cases.

    Objective: Provide Australia’s current electricity demand with near zero GHG emissions at least cost (all externalities included).

    Option 1: 80% nuclear, 10% hydro (including pumped storage), 10% gas.

    Option 2: 80% Solar + wind + energy storage, 10% hydro (including pumped storage), 10% gas

    Try doing the cost estimates on those two extremes. It will make it very clear how totally uneconomic is non-hydro renewable energy.


  63. Neil, your statement “The issue is the big variations you show from 620MW to 50MW “down ramping” of power. Since these changes take 12-24 hours they can be planned” is not correct. Firstly, the rate is often much faster than this, as can be seen from output all over the world. Secondly, they cannot be planned.

    However, even if your statement was correctg it still means we need the full capital cost of the entire conventional system PLUS the capital cost of the wind farms. And all this to save burning some fuel (moslty gas) and to save very little GHG emissions (see paper).

    I don’t understand why you would advocate such a solution instead of nuclear, other than because of ideological beliefs.


  64. I happen to live in a region with over 15 GW of undeveloped hydro. We are mostly on diesel electric power generation. You can’t even get them to discuss hydro – it is a taboo. You would have to deal with native land claims, right-of-ways through national parks (not allowed), flooding of large regions which will set affected residents in a furor. Pumped hydro is even worse, you need two huge reservoirs instead of one and you have to raise and lower those by maybe 100 metres each cycle – try getting that through environmental hearings. Where I am I can absolutely guarantee you, that you would have a much easier time getting nuclear approved – if anybody was allowed to sell the small nuclear reactors that are commonly used on Naval ships, submarines and Russian Icebreakers. The NRC (Nuclear Refusal Commission) doesn’t allow the sale of such things.

    Pure Craziness. Carve out long strips of land through our forest to put in thousands of miles of ugly quadruple oversized transmission lines. Flood large areas of valuable land for pumped hydro storage sites. Strip barren large areas of forest and pristine wilderness to put ugly industrial Wind Turbine monstrosities on every hilltop, which only last for 20 years and then will probably be abandoned. And what do we get? An unreliable energy supply which is lowest in the summer & winter when energy needs are highest. Cannot store energy beyond a few days – that at great expense. Wind patterns will change with climate change in an unpredictable way. A huge centralized power system located far from the cities where most power is consumed, which will be extraordinarily vulnerable to earthquakes, hailstorms, solar storms, tornados, hurricanes, ice storms, EMP weapons & terrorism. And at a cost exceeding $10,000 per delivered avg kw. A scheme that would be a pure fantasy in developing nations where most energy consumption growth will be. They can’t afford or maintain such a huge capital investment. They will burn wood & coal instead, in the cheapest, dirtiest smoke belchers they can lay their hands on.

    Why not just replace Coal Burners with Pebble Bed Nuclear Reactors, for $1000 a kwe & $500 a kwth, if CHP is used (i.e. for desalination plants)? They’re basically just a tank with TRISO pebbles in it, self regulating, intrinsically safe, shut all controls off and it just maintains normal temperature. Will run the existing Coal Steam turbines, keep the same infrastructure, same location, just replace the burner. An $18, 8 oz pebble with 9 gm of fuel, will replace 30 tons of coal worth about $1500. See:


  65. I have no idea how much it would cost to raise the height of dams but here goes. It may be possible to build simple direct current wind turbines for $2 a watt. Similar figure for pumps. Transmission would be under 50km in Tas. Energy losses 20% so it could work out at $5 a watt. A gigawatt for maybe $5bn. Australia’s first 1000MWe reactor will probably cost double that.


  66. More on pumped hydro. Low cost sites exist they just need the right incentives. The mothballed 250MW Heemskirk wind farm near Corinna, Tas planned to use the same transmission as the 231 MW Reece hydro. The 442 MW Gordon Dam has vacant slots in the turbine room for two 150 MW units. It is just 45 km from the windy west coast albeit separated by park. Therefore I believe at modest cost Tasmania could supply hundreds of megawatts of continuous pumped hydro possibly even in drought years. Getting it to the mainland is another problem though.


  67. David,

    Hydro electricity generation has excellent load following capability. Probably the best of all the options.

    However, hydro pumped storage neads constant, reliable power for pumping. Look at this photo:

    The pipes are 5.56 m diameter, 490 m long, and the hydraulic head is 155m. Consider the mass of water being pumped up these pipes and the intertia. Once the pumps start they need to pump for hours at a time.

    Also, because the round trip efficiency is only about 80%, we need to use cheap energy. That is why we use baseload power stations running between about 1 am and 5 am when demand is at its lowest. We can use energy generated at around $10-20/MWh by baseload power stations, and then generate peak power worth some $200/MWh from the hydro station. That difference can make pumped storage economically viable in some, rare, situations.

    Tumut 3 is Australia’s largest pump storage system. It can store for re-use the equivalent of about 440 MWh of energy – the equivalent of a 1 GW nuclear power plant running for about 25 minutes.

    We have just two significant pumped storage stations in Australia. This gives a clue as to the economic viability of building them. And hydro-pumped storage is about the least cost energy storage (at the scale required). So that gives a clue to the viability of RE that depends on energy storage.


  68. John,

    You say: Low cost sites exist they just need the right incentives”

    And “Therefore I believe at modest cost Tasmania could supply hundreds of megawatts of continuous pumped hydro possibly even in drought years”

    What are these beliwfs based on. Have you ever seen the costings? Have a look at my answer to David’s question about pumped hydro at the end of post #17.

    Your statements are rather like the statements Mark Diesnedorf, David Mills and others were making in the early 1990’s and ever since: “Wind and Solar power are economic now and can provide all our electricity needs if the government would just mandate them and provide enough subsidies”.


  69. Peter,
    “Since these changes take 12-24 hours they can be planned” is not correct. Firstly, the rate is often much faster than this, as can be seen from output all over the world. Secondly, they cannot be planned.
    I am using the data you provided for June 09 and the 11 wind farms. In Denmark the ramping rate is faster, because its a much smaller area. If we were considering significant capacity 250km west (Ceduna)and 600Km north of Goulburn(Tenterfield) we would expect even slower ramping as the weather systems take another 5-10 hours to travel across this larger area.
    If you were to provide the separate 11 sites it would be easier to see how synchronized different locations are in power output. Hopefully Barry will discuss this issue in his promised posting.

    The CO2 savings are replacing all coal with mothballed coal plants( no additional capital costs) and having sufficient hydro and NG capacity for peak demand.


  70. Tumut 3 is Australia’s largest pump storage system. It can store for re-use the equivalent of about 9,145 MWh of energy – the equivalent of a 1 GW nuclear power plant running for about 6 hours
    Only 3 of the six 250MW turbines have return turbines(200MW each) , so I presume the 9,145MWh storage could take up to 15 hours to fill( the longest off-peak period). Thus Tumut3 delivers 1,200MW peak power, and can do this much longer than 6 hours but only about 7.5 hours using previously pumped storage. It could run several months at 1,200MW but using some of the storage from (Lake Eucanbine? I think that’s where the water originates).


  71. I’m not totally against nuclear, I’m just not sure it can compete. The extra money required to make nuclear safe and secure *probably* means it is more expensive than the alternatives.

    The following technology means you are just plain WRONG that wind cannot be base-load and reduce Co2 emissions.

    This system does not require rare hydro-schemes to backup the wind, and can be done on-site.

    The ONLY question now is expense, and we’ll only know that after we see what price the “modular Gen4” reactors are going for in other countries compared with scaled up deployment of wind + graphite thermal storage.



    “In 2006 the electricity was produced from 51.4 gigawatts (GWe) capacity, of which 56% is coal-fired, 18% hydro and 22% gas. ”

    Option 1.

    11.2GW gas – already installed

    31GW Nuclear – 30 AP-1000 at 8 Billion each – $240 billion
    Delivery if started today 2020 to 2030

    Geological Waste Disposal Plant
    36+ Billion (based on Swedish waste disposal for 12 plants – we would have double that amount)

    Enrichment Plants
    5 billion for two

    Fuel Rod Fabrication
    2 billion for 4 plants

    Grand Total – 283 billion for a nuclear solution including waste disposal from current costs.


    Click to access EconomicsNP.pdf

    “In November 2008 TVA updated its estimates for Bellefonte units 3 & 4 for which it had submitted a COL application for twin AP1000 reactors, total 2234 MWe. It said that overnight capital cost estimates ranged from $2516 to $4649/kW for a combined construction cost of $5.6 to 10.4 billion. Total cost to the owners would be $9.9 to $17.5 billion.”
    “Sweden has 12 nuclear power plants and the Swedish nuclear waste program is estimated to cost about 80 thousand million SEK or approximately nine thousand million euro.”
    “Cost estimates for the new plant, to be built at Piketon, Ohio, have been revised as the result of a comprehensive review, from an initial cost estimate of $1.7 billion. The new target estimate of $2.3 billion is still subject to change to reflect the market price of materials and commercial scale component manufacture.”


  73. Peter,
    The pipes in the photograph lead into the 6 x250MW turbines. I believe that they can ramp up and down in a matter of minutes, though when being used as return pumping it would be most efficient running continuously.
    The 80% efficiency return trip means it is cost effective to use power even slightly lower cost than peak, but most economical to use cheap coal off-peak, because coal cannot be turned off so is very low price. Replacing coal with wind or nuclear off-peak is going to be just as cheap because very little demand at 3am. The wide use of electric vehicles and smart meters will be a game changer for off-peak costs, probably never be as low as $10/MWh as it is at present


  74. Peter

    I don’t see why you advocate such a massive amount of redundancy. Surely about 5-10% of installed capacity would be adequate?

    I don’t advocate a 100% wind solution, by the way — I’sd like to see a mix of biomass (including gas from sewage and landfill), hydro, wind, tidal,wave, concentrating solar etc …

    I’d like to see each installation have about 5-10% redundancy built in and as pumping and treating water is a basic urban service, using this to leverage pumped storage sounds pretty cost-effective to me.

    Frankly though, even if if you made it your business to ensure that you would have 100% redundancy in pumped storage, it could be justifiable because you always need water and the pressure is always for more dams as conurbations grow. These facilities can have very long effective lifetims and can improve even fossil energy profitability.


  75. Yes, you pointed out the terrible conversion losses of electrons to heat, and I responded that (according to the Beyond Zero Emissions podcast) they are going ahead with it on King Island anyway…. last I heard. I’m keen to hear if this pans out or if they go with something else.

    But as you suggested last time, mechanical storage probably makes more sense. What would the losses be of storing it with this thermal device compared to storing wind energy in a bank of maglev flywheels?

    Sometimes the marketplace chooses less efficient means of doing things if it is more economical. I don’t know which is cheaper, but if storing heat in big blocks of graphite is significantly cheaper than storing mechanical energy in a bank of high-tech flywheels, then the marketplace might go with that solution, even if the final solution is less efficient.

    I never did physics… I’m here as an activist interested in the conversation and what various experts are saying on various blogs. How big would the efficiency difference be between thermal storage over flywheel storage?

    Anyway, if TOO inefficient then obviously it is not really acting as a battery at all. So again, all eyes turn to King Island to see if it unfolds there as advertised.


  76. John,
    Many dams have additional slots where it was planned to extend dam capacity with additional turbines. The reason TAS HYDRO has not installed pumped hydro is because they have 2,200MW capacity and only 500MW capacity on the Bass-Link to take advantage of peak sales.
    With no additions to dams TAS could support about 3,000MW of wind and export an additional 1,000MW with a new Bass-Link HVDC connection. No OCGT back-up needed.


  77. Finrod
    Your comment
    “I think it’s pretty clear that we’re not going to reach Professor Sackett’s cutoff point for serious reductions. Too much time has been wasted, and we cannot build the necessary infrastructure by the target date.
    I think you mean;” we could not build the necessary nuclear infrastructure by the target date”
    Building sufficient wind power would be a possibility, not much time has been wasted it’s being built as we argue about the merits of wind in reducing CO2.
    Lets hope for similar future success with nuclear.


  78. I don’t think you’ve demonstrated that wind has any capacity to achieve serious reductions in CO2 emmissions. Wasting time with it has delayed necessary movement on nuclear, and you are still attempting to hold up the impimentation of the only serious solution.


  79. And with good reason. The values that drove that action are durable and just as valid today as then, and leave me very uneasy with a discussion that envisages a massive expansion of hydro power and pumped storage in order to accomodate the “environmentally friendly” wind solution.


  80. Finrod and John,
    The opposition was to new dams. Note I said; “With no additions to dams TAS could support about 3,000MW of wind and export an additional 1,000MW with a new Bass-Link HVDC connection. No OCGT back-up needed.
    The existing dams would be used more effectively to store wind power for days or weeks( if needed).


  81. Most of this discussion has dealt with the pros and cons of using grid connected wind and, to a lesser extent, CSP in respect of both costs and CO2 emissions reductions. I am being persuaded that a renewable approach to grid electricity on a global scale is going to be a hideously expensive and probably unattainable. However, I still have qualms over nuclear costs. I fully accept that these have been ramped by regulatory ratcheting etc and expect that such issues will be corrected in the future. I am more worried by the fact that AREVA’s advanced Generation 3 plant in Finland is not being constructed on time or on budget. This seems to be very bad news for the pro nuclear lobby. I appreciate that this plant may be the first of its kind and therefore liable to glitches. Nevertheless, it has often been stated that metal cooled 4th generation reactors will be significantly more costly (though more sustainable) than existing types. The great promise of the former is to outcompete coal on price and thus offer a genuine, long term global solution for global warming. If that promise is not fulfilled, it seems to me that the combination of peak oil, climate change and population growth will result in a calamitous future.

    Concerns over nuclear safety and proliferation have been addressed and appear to me to pale into insignificance relative to the risks posed by running out of affordable energy. I suppose that, until we have a commercial sized 4th Generation reactor to evaluate, we cannot entirely rely on the fact that it will supply energy that is affordable. Meanwhile, wind and CSP look ever less affordable.


  82. If we accept Peter Lang’s thesis that even relatively small percentages of grid connected wind fail to make any significant reductions in CO2 emissions (and I am reluctantly persuaded), can I ask those with more knowledge to address the potential benefits of stranded wind.

    At present, most of the power we use is not supplied in the form of electricity. Could stranded wind be used, for example, to provide fuel for transport in an economic manner? I am not merely thinking in terms of battery charging of electric vehicles. It seems to me that most industrial processes have been designed to run with predictable and sometimes continuous power inputs. How many could be modified to work with more intermittent supplies? Even if there were associated losses of efficiency, would these necessarily be greater than those associated with attempting to feed more renewable energy into the grid?

    Essentially, what I am asking is whether wind and CSP power couldn’t be more viable if we forgot all about plugging it into the grid and used it, instead, to reduce overall demands on the grid.


  83. Peter

    Thank you for the answer. I lack the technical expertise to have a meaningful discussion about the assumptions in your paper (relative efficiencies of different gas generation technologies, the need for 100% back up capacity required) so your paper and responses here are really helpful.

    I’m not sure how much weight to put into the cost/market-driven arguments, particularly in a comparison with nuclear power- in many (all?) countries the fixed costs of nuclear R&D and construction have been paid (or at least underwritten) by governments.

    Why should we not mandate nor subsidise electricity generators? This smells like an ideological argument. It depends on what your society wants to do, and how it chooses to do it. France chose to pursue nuclear power at a time when it was falling out of favour in other countries, and subsidised it with public money (Areva is still a public company). In a system where the external costs of the apparently cheapest form of electricity (FFs) are not accounted for, surely the market is hopelessly distorted anyway?

    For me, the most damning part of your report concerns the counter-intuitively poor CO2 savings from wind. As stated above, I lack the background to contradict this. I hope it’s not true, because if so (current) wind becomes a less viable fossil fuel alternative. Certainly, I’d accept that the current grid using current management strategies and backup generation technologies doesn’t allow wind to make a meaningful contribution to reducing fossil fuels. But it’s a different thing entirely to say we should never build wind turbines, or pursue technologies to make it work better.

    You say- ‘The money and human resources spent on R&D and for subsidising wind power diverts attention and resources from working on solutions that can have a genuine and large effect on cutting GHG emissions (and providing many other benefits)’

    I don’t think this follows. There is no fixed pot of money and human resources which will only be spent on wind, or only spent on nuclear. There is a lack of public recognition of the existence of- and political will to solve- the energy supply and climate problem. When the scale of the problem is recognised and the money starts to flow, the chips will fall as they may. In the meantime, if wind turbines can be installed incrementally at a relatively low fixed cost per turbine, subsidised or otherwise, what’s the problem with building them now up to the point that extra installed fossil fuel capacity is needed? They may not do much good, but neither will they do much harm- essentially, they are inconsequential to the nuclear argument, which would be best made on its own merits. If wind has any advantage, it may be as a barometer of public/governmental recognition of the problem. It’s interesting that France is still pursuing wind- up to its 20% renewable target (the other being 80% being nukes of course)

    With so many uncertainties in costs and future technological feasibilities being discussed, I think planning the new grid with diversity of supply in mind is a sensible way to go, even if it actually ends up being loaded in a particular direction. Certainly, I’m not swayed by current public acceptance of a largely coal-based system as an argument to embrace an all-nuclear option.


  84. “.. it has often been stated that metal cooled 4th generation reactors will be significantly more costly .. than existing types”

    Has it? Relative to LWRs, the gen IV IFR design:

    – would not have the large pressure vessel
    – would not require a containment structure capable of containing a steam explosion
    – has a generally simpler primary coolant loop
    – does not require isotropic enrichment facilities (purex) to break out of the once-through fuel cycle, instead having on-site electrolytic reprocessing of metal fuel
    – lends itself to mass production

    The odds are good this design can be considerably cheaper than current designs. (LFTR advocates insert their own list.)


  85. Pingback: Solar power realities – supply-demand, storage and costs «

  86. “…There is no fixed pot of money and human resources which will only be spent on wind, or only spent on nuclear…”

    Actually capital is extremely tight and any funds spent on renewables is a diversion from funds spent on real solutions. The fossil fuel industry is bankrolling and using its political influence to push unrealistic solutions to distract effort away from Nuclear. The Hydrogen Fool Cell car was a prime example – there would be millions of EV’s on the road now were it not for that scam. And now the big propaganda on nonexistent Clean Coal.

    “…It’s interesting that France is still pursuing wind- up to its 20% renewable target (the other being 80% being nukes of course)…”

    France is pursuing Wind because it is required to do so by the brain-dead EU, which is using the Renewable Portfolio Standards scam to force EU countries to install mostly Wind Turbines. A cowardly way to create a hidden subsidy of Renewables.


  87. It should be mentioned that the version of “The Nuclear Illusion” available at the RMI web site is a draft of a paper to be published in the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences journal Ambio. It was submitted in May 2008 and it has not yet appeared in the journal. Give that it is now August 2009, I would conclude that it is in peer review limbo and that it will never be published. I don’t find this at all surprising as the draft is filled with dodgy reference, unsupported conclusions, and blatant opinions. The draft in any thing like its current form would never pass peer review in a good journal.


  88. The current cost of Pumped Hydro – if you can get it approved – a really big if – is about US$2000 per pk kw for 6 hrs storage. With factory produced Nukes coming in at US$1000 to $1500 per kwe and $500 to $750 per kwth, who needs those environmentally destructive Pumped Hydro facilities, which actually release substantial GHG emissions due to rotting vegetation in their huge reservoirs.


  89. John,
    See my response to Peter’s solar PV article. Where two dams with differing heights are close by, as is the case in the Snowy and Tasmania, then a lot of power can be stored at very minor additional cost( mainly transmission line upgrades and some additional turbines and pumps).

    Remember, unlike purpose built pumped storage, the dams exist, the turbines, the pipes and most importantly if the pumped capacity is exhausted you use the original dam flow and pump it back later or saving what would have been used over the next weeks or months. In a purpose built scheme once the 6 hours or so storage is exhausted that’s it no more water is available until after the next “pumping phase”.
    The main storage in the Snowy Lake Eucumbene has 4.8 million ML at about 1200 m elevation while the present Tumut3 pumped storage is 150,000ML volume(10m variation in height) with 155 m difference between Lake Blowering and Lake Talbingo( 9GWh energy storage).So in theory could store >1000GWh.


  90. Ha! That article quoted the same “study” discussed here, one month on 11 wind farms.

    Continent wide debunking? Hmm, if you’re referring to him “glancing at the weather report each night”, yeah, that’s won me over. (Nudge nudge, wink wink, say no more! Say no more. Please).

    Barry, that’s not the only shame… it’s a shame it refers to the same dubious study referred to here. It is basically what we call a “meme spreader” not actually a study of any repute. It’s an anti-wind rant with a global warming denialist piece at the top. Yep, won me over. ;-)


  91. If by “unproven” you mean not yet deployed on a MASSIVE commercial scale, yes, CETO is “unproven” in that sense. However there has been enough development to commit Carnegie to it on a large scale. Development:

    * 2007 – 2008CETO II
    o Commercial design development commences
    o Validation of computational models through in-sea trials
    o Finalisation of CETO design development and testing
    o Pre-commercial prototype array operating at Fremantle

    * 2009 – 2011CETO III
    o First commercial site selection and approvals
    o Commencement of site works
    o CETO manufacturing & deployment
    o Commissioning and operation of commercial operation
    o Production and sales of zero-emission power and desalinated water”

    “In May 2009, Carnegie Corporation (ASX: CNM) and Renewable Energy Holdings Plc (AIM: REH) announced by way of a binding Heads of Agreement, that Carnegie will purchase the CETO IP and Global Development Rights off REH in return for REH taking a 35% shareholding in Carnegie. This transaction is subject to Carnegie shareholder approval. Carnegie will now jointly develop CETO Wave Projects in the Northern Hemisphere with EDF EN. ”

    As for my overall position? I’m still looking. I’d need to see a lot more “consensus” before adopting the view that nuclear is the only real answer.

    EG: This recent UK study kind of blows away others before it.

    “In fact, research by Oxford University’s Environmental Change Unit shows that low speed wind events affecting 90 per cent of the country only happen for, on average, one hour every year (pdf). ”


    “Now, at the moment this backup would be provided by the coal, oil and gas fired power stations that are used to back up electricity generating capacity of all types, but it would only be needed for short periods so it would only mean a loss of 1 per cent of the carbon savings gained from wind power. That still represents a massive reduction in emissions from what we have today. ”

    Actual study here in PDF


  92. The actual PDF also states:

    “This extra uncertainty means that additional short-term reserves are needed to guarantee the security
    of the system. The extra cost of these reserves — with wind providing 20% of electricity consumption
    – is unlikely to be more than £1.20/MWh on electricity bills (a little over 1% on domestic bills). With
    40% of electricity provided by wind, the corresponding figure would be £2.8/MWh.”

    That’s a 33 page PDF to debunk, go for it! (With technical details, not name calling and tongue poking).


  93. Note that he said “energy mix”. The PDF is more detailed… and explains the assumed number of EV’s in the Denmark mix at 15% of vehicles, not unreasonable considering “Better Place” are starting there soon.

    “6.2 Denmark
    Denmark has, for many years, promoted decentralised electricity, particularly wind power and CHP.
    In 2007, wind energy accounted for around 26% of the electricity consumption in western Denmark. It is sometimes argued that this is a misleading statistic, as western Denmark has transmission links with Germany, Sweden and Norway and the power exported over these links often mirrors the wind energy production.

    The capacity of these links is 2900 MW, slightly less than the installed capacity of the thermal plant. Roughly speaking, therefore, the plant capacity available to the System Operator is almost doubled due to the existence of the links and so it could be argued that the ‘effective’ wind energy penetration level is halved — to about 13%.

    This is still higher than anywhere else in the

    The System Operator has made a number of estimates of the ‘costs of variability’; the study that ignored the existence of the transmission links suggested that the extra cost to the electricity consumer of absorbing 50% wind was about €6/MWh25, which is very close to the estimates for the GB system.

    Although wind power growth in Denmark has slowed recently, it is not halting though and plans to increase its wind energy penetration level to 50% by 2025. It is envisaged that electric vehicles and heat pumps will absorb wind power surpluses and that demand-side response will be a crucial feature of the electricity system in the future.

    It is assumed that electric vehicles constitute 15% of the traffic.”


  94. Oh, and that study is a comprehensive summary of the findings of studies that looked at 3 to 4 YEARS of actual wind data across the whole of the UK, and for later “super-grid” discussions across the whole of Europe.

    Not 1 month with a mere 11 wind farms.

    Get it?


  95. Since you’re fond of quoting Greenpeace, here’s something else from them:
    This passage from the article is of particular interest:
    Denmark is the world’s fifth biggest importer of coal. Its main sources of coal imports – South Africa, Columbia, Russia, Poland and Australia – all suffer the unacceptable costs of coal mining. Greenpeace’s new report, “The True Cost of Coal”, shows how the market price of coal is just part of the overall story. External costs – all too often paid for by the poorest communities in society -include explosions, pollution of water resource, toxic waste, displacement of local communities, and affects on human health.

    From the ‘Responsibility’ page of the DONG site:

    Coal in the Danish energy system
    In Denmark, coal is also an important energy source in the generation of power and heat. In the long term, it would be desirable if renewable energy formed the basis of energy production and if thermal power plants could be used as flexible capacity when the wind is not strong enough or water levels are low. In the foreseeable future, however, most energy produced in Denmark will continue to be based on coal and other fossil fuels.


  96. “That’s a 33 page PDF to debunk, go for it!”

    This is a truly awful study. There are some pieces of work where you can have reasonable arguments around assumptions or interpretations or methodologies, but do so with integrity. Then there are others that appear to fall into a category beyond simple error, that seem to attempt wilful deception. This work from Greenpeace falls into the latter category.

    The debunking of this work – and in this case “debunking” really is the correct term – has been done by uvdiv here and here. Please read these critiques as the point they make on intermittency is critical to understand for what we are talking about here.

    I appreciate that you don’t have a physics background, but this doesn’t require an understanding of the physics to grasp – it really just requires the ability to add up, and the willingness to approach the data with integrity. The Greenpeace author does not, and its pretty easy to see through. Take another look at it.


  97. Barry,
    Thanks for the link, this adds value having the 4 states output weighted. However I have since found that two of the sites Lake Bonney(81MW) and Canunda(46MW) are at the same location, Yambuk(30MW)is 250 km east at Portland, Challicum Hills (52MW) and Waubra(192MW) are in the Ararat region 200 km NE of Portland and 300Km east of Bonney/Canunda, while Starfish Hill,Cape Jevis(35MW) is 130 Km west of Bonney/Canunda. So all of VIC and about half of SA capacity(436MW out of a total of 834MW) is in a triangle covering 40,000 sq km.

    The TAS and NSW sites are a good distance even though both single sites.

    The article estimates the need for 2,000Km of grid connections, certainly not if the plan was for expanding wind in the SE of SA and SW of VIC.

    “This means that to supply an average of 6,000 MW of power requires installing 20,000 MW of wind power, taking the average output to be 30 percent of installed power. This would be a building programme of 10,000 2 MW wind turbine towers. This is building three each day for ten years.
    About 2.5 times present build rate, doesn’t sound impossible

    Something wrong with the logic in this statement:
    “But again because of intermittency, at times of peak demand wind can only be relied on to deliver 10 percent of its installed power. So, for the target set by NEMMCO of 11,000 MW and wind only being good for 2,000 MW at peak demand times, a total of 9,000 MW of gas turbine generators will be needed.
    So if wind is to provide an average of 6,000MW out of a target of 11,000MW, 5,000MW would have to come from another energy resource anyway. If 2,000MW is firm power from wind(seems about right) then would need 4,000MW back-up for wind(6,000-2,000) not 11,000MW. The Tumut3 pumped storage provides 1,500MW peak capacity so would need about 3 other pumped storage locations of similar size or expand Tumut3 by X3 as many turbines.


  98. Hi Peter,

    I would urge you to make a submission to the NSW Rural Wind Farms inquiry ->

    time is tight, submissions are due tomorrow!!! Fri 21st Aug, would have said sooner but I only just found this site. I would say at the very least put in your paper and the data/text you have written here + the Miskelly and Quirk study.

    Also a very enlightening paper has just been published. The recent research and testimony to US House of Representatives of Professor Jay Apt, the executive director of the Electricity Industry Center at Carnegie Mellon University’s Tepper School of Business and Distinguished Service Professor in the Department of Engineering and Public Policy, addresses the issues of lack of emissions reduction by gas power stations used to mitigate the variability of industrial wind power stations. In a research paper co-authored with Warren Katzenstein, “Air Emissions Due To Wind and Solar Power”, Environmental Science & Technology (2009) Vol 43 No 2 pages 253-258, their research shows :

    “Renewable energy emissions studies have not accounted for the change in emissions from power sources that must be paired with variable renewable generators”

    “In many locations, natural gas turbines will be used to compensate for variable renewables. When turbines are quickly ramped up and down, their fuel use (and thus CO2 emissions) may be larger than when they are operated at a steady power level. Systems that mitigate other emissions such as NOx may not operate optimally when the turbines’ power level is rapidly changed.“

    “Carbon dioxide emissions reductions from a wind (or solar PV) plus natural gas system are likely to be 75-80% of those presently assumed by policy makers. Nitrous oxide reduction from such a system depends strongly on the type of NOx control and how it is dispatched. For the best system we examined, NOx reductions with 20% wind or solar PV penetration are 30-50% of those expected. For the worst, emissions are increased by 2-4 times the expected reductions with a 20% RPS [Renewables Portfolio Standards] using wind or solar PV.”

    “We have shown that the conventional method used to calculate displaced emissions is inaccurate, particularly for NOx emissions. A region-specific analysis can be performed with knowledge of displaced generators, dispatched compensating generators, and the transient emissions performance of the dispatched compensating generators. The results shown here indicate that at large scale variable renewable generators may require that careful attention be paid to the emissions of compensating generators to minimize additional pollution.”

    The paper is available at ->

    Click to access katzenstein_apt_emission_savings.pdf

    In fact this chap has done a very good website, go up a level to :

    You should also check out Jay Apt’s testimony :In Apt‘s testimony to U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Energy and Environment’s Hearing on The American Clean Energy Security Act of 2009 “Panel on Low Carbon Electricity, Carbon Capture and Storage, Renewables and Grid Modernization” of April 23, 2009 he states :

    “Even in good areas, the wind doesn’t blow all the time. Looking at all the wind power plants in Texas in 2008, we find that in a quarter of the hours during the year Texas wind production was less than 10% of its rated capacity. That means that when a wind farm is built, some other power source of the same size must be built to provide power during those calm hours. Our research shows that natural gas turbines, that are often used to provide this fill-in power, produce more CO2 and much more nitrous oxide (as they quickly spin up and then slow down to counter the variability of wind than) than they do when they are run steadily.”

    “The point is that wind and solar can lower the amount of fossil fuels used for generation, but they don’t lessen the need for spending money on always-available generation capacity, nor do we get all the air emissions benefits we once expected.”

    “Wind farms can affect climate downwind, reducing precipitation. Massive reliance on wind energy would take energy out of the wind, changing the Earth’s climate. All power generation options have feet of clay. There is no generation utopia. But just because there is no free lunch doesn’t mean we can’t eat: we just have to acknowledge the issues honestly so that we are not faced with a public backlash later on.”

    Apt and colleagues have recently published in the American National Academies of Science Fall 2008 on-line journal “Issues in Science and Technology” a paper titled “A National Renewable Portfolio Standard? Not Practical” covering issues regarding problems with wind energy :

    “Producing sufficient wind turbines would require a major increase in manufacturing capacity. Demand (driven by state RPSs and the federal renewable production tax credit) has already stretched supplies thin, creating an 18-month delivery delay for wind machines. It has also emboldened manufactures to reduce wind turbine warranties from five years to two.”

    “Among the disadvantages of wind systems are that they produce power only when the wind is strong and that they are most productive at night and during spring and fall, when electricity demand is low. The capacity factor (the percent of maximum generation potential actually generated) of the best sites for wind turbines is about 40%, and the average capacity of all the wind turbines used to generate utility power in the United States was 25% in 2007.”

    “…if wind supplied 15% of the electricity, it would save less than 15% of fuel because other generators backing up the wind must often run at idle even when the wind is blowing and because their fuel economy suffers when they have to ramp up and slow down to compensate for variability in wind.”

    “Variability also requires constant attention, lest it threaten the reliability of the electric system. On February 26, 2008, the power system in Texas narrowly avoided a breakdown. At 3 p.m., wind power was supplying a bit more than 5% of demand. But over the course of the next 3.5 hours, an unforecast lull caused wind power to fall from 2,000 MW to 350 MW, just as evening demand was peaking. Grid operators declared an emergency and blacked out 1,100 MW of load in a successful attempt to avoid a system collapse. According to the Electric Reliability Council of Texas, “This was not the first or even the worst such incident in ERCOT’s area. Of 82 alerts in 2007, 27 were ‘strongly correlated to the drop in wind’.””

    “Finally, wind energy is a finite resource. At large scale, slowing down the wind by using its energy to turn turbines has environmental consequences. A group of researchers at Princeton University found that wind farms may change the mixing of air near the surface, drying the soil near the site. At planetary scales, David Keith (then at Carnegie Mellon) and coworkers found that if wind supplied 10% of expected global electricity demand in 2100, the resulting change in the atmosphere’s energy might cause some regions of the world to experience temperature changes of approximately 1ºC.”

    Also I highly recommend Apt’s testimony is also available from there at ->



  99. Announcement

    I’ve decided to kill comment nesting. It was causing more problems than it was worth. It had the advantages of being easily able to ‘reply’ to another comment, but I’ve decided this is offset by 3 big disadvantages:

    1. It’s tough keeping track of what is new and what is old, when the comments aren’t in simple chronological sequence.

    2. There is a bug in WordPress that, under certain circumstances, can cause the comments to start appearing in random order — this is extremely difficult to fix without editing headers etc.

    3. Depending on your screen size (laptops are a problem), the nested comments can get very compressed in width.

    I liked the advantages of nested comments, but as with most things in life, it’s a trade-off, and I’ve now decided that the old, simpler system, wins.

    This may cause a few issues with old threads where people replied to another comment without indicating its comment # (i.e. they didn’t say “Finrod #159: response”) or quoting the relevant text. Henceforth, you’ll have to do that when you intend to reply to someone.

    Barry Brook


  100. Forgot to mention :

    In December 2004 REF commissioned and published a report titled : “Reduction In Carbon Dioxide Emissions: Estimating The Potential Contribution From Wind-Power”. This report is freely available at : and includes an executive summary. The final word :

    “In conclusion, it seems reasonable to ask why wind-power is the beneficiary of such extensive support if it not only fails to achieve the CO2 reductions required, but also causes cost increases in back-up, maintenance and transmission, while at the same time discouraging investment in clean, firm generation.”

    The REF also commissioned a recent study into the effectiveness and reliability of industrial wind turbine power stations to produce 16% to 18.8% of nationwide electricity supply in the UK : Oswald, J., Raine, M. and Hezlin, A., “Will British weather provide reliable electricity?” Energy Policy 36(8), August 2008, pages 3212-3225 available at :

    The REF also publishes all the uk wind farm (& other renewables) data in easily digestable form :

    We could do with this here for our AEMO data.

    Also -> The Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research published a report as part of their research project “Ensuring new and renewable energy can meet electricity demand: security of decarbonised electricity systems”. The final report is, Nedic, D. P., Shakoor, A. A., Strbac, G., Black, M., Watson, J., and Mitchell, C. (2005) “Security assessment of futures electricity scenarios”, Tyndall Centre Technical Report 30 availble at :


  101. re : AEMO data. I have just found this page which is a handle into some of the data at AEMO :

    You can put in a from-to period and select different wind farms and other generators, its not complete but it is a quick in road into looking at the data. I loaded the data straight into excel and knocked up a few graphs of the wind farms at Cullerin Range and Capital/Bungendore very easily. I dont think we can attach pictures to these posts though ??? The graphs show very large variation in output, as you would expect from a poor quality intermittent source such as wind.


  102. Bryen,

    Thank you for your three excellent contributions (#141, 144, 145). The picture is so clear to me, I don’t understand why the diehard RE advocates can’t see it. The picture has been clear in Australia for at least two decades, but our R&D effort is overwhelmingly tied up in RE. Meanwhile politics blocks progress towards implementing nuclear power in Australia. What a waste of 20 years – and it continues.


  103. Refer Figure 1.9 “Carbon intensity of electricity production (gCO2 per kWh of electricity)”

    Note that France (83 kg CO2/MWh) is first on the list and Denmark (881 kg CO2/MWh) is last. France has the highest proportion of electricity generated by nuclear (76%) and Denmark has the highest proportion of electricity generated by wind power (13%).

    In fact, the countries (on this list) with the highest proportion of wind energy are the worst CO2 emitters from electricity.

    CO2 emissions from electricity generation (kg CO2/MWh)
    France 83
    Sweden 87
    Canada 220
    Austria 250
    Belgium 335
    European Union 353
    Finland 399
    Spain 408
    Japan 483
    Portugal 525
    United Kingdom 580
    Luxembourg 590
    Germany 601
    USA 613
    Netherlands 652
    Italy 667
    Ireland 784
    Greece 864
    Denmark 881


  104. Is it possible to upload images here? If not I can send you the figs I made for Cullerin Range and Capital Bungendore. They have only just come online so its only really possible to look at about 1 and half months. The July 20 to August 20 period shows close in time lulls + very fast peaks and dips using 5 min data intervals. I’m not sure how far apart geographically they are, at least an hours drive perhaps more… I would have to check. Bungendore is outside of Canberra and Cullerin Range is on the side of the Hume Highway between Yass and Goulburn.

    I agree that politics are behind these industrial wind power stations (they are power stations not farms). A misinformed public happily drive past them and think “somethings being done”. Also having experienced the divisive tactics and downright lies of the wind industry first hand in rural NSW, with these companies trying to get farmers to sign onerous long term lease agreements, the reason for these things being built is crystal clear : ITS ALL ABOUT THE MONEY! i.e. the guaranteed market the gov makes with OUR tax dollars for them. I dont really want to get bogged down in politics, in any case the real facts on industrial wind power stations speak for themselves.

    I agree, thats a great book by David MacKay I’ve been reading bits of it since about March, but still have to get through it all. I hadn’t spotted that fig. its well worth knowing.

    He covers fluctuation and storage too, in particular wind see ->

    the whole chapter is a good read. He also has a number of chapters just on wind energy. I would say that anyone looking at pages of this book read his 10 page synopsis first ->

    Click to access synopsis10.pdf

    the whole book can be downloaded for free as a pdf, see the homepage ->

    well done on him I say. I dont agree with his comments about birds and cats in the wind energy chapter, there is no breakdown of species or location. This is something the wind industry happily trots out, but I haven’t seen any studies. Personally I dont see many domestic house cats roaming around the countryside. I’ll forgive him that though as the rest of the book is excellent. In any case the domestic cats etc v birds is another smokescreen from the wind industry to divert attention away from the real issue which is the ineffectiveness of wind energy to significantly reduce emissions or provide reliable electricity supply.

    For another excellent study check out these papers and links at ->

    in particular the Tom Adam’s papers ->

    Click to access keynote-for-peo-may-2009-transforming-ontario_s-power-system.pdf

    Tom’s wind energy research is at ->

    I’ll quote a few interesting points below.


    Tom Adams and Francois Cadieux “Wind Power In Ontario: Quantifying The Benefits Of Geographic Diversity” presented at the 2nd Climate Change Technology Conference, May 12-15 2009 which specifically looks at the aggregated output of multiple industrial wind power stations states :

    “Average wind output is high in winter and low during the summer, whereas demand is highest in summer. This imbalance represents a key limitation with respect to reliance on wind power in Ontario. The seasonal wind output pattern observed in Ontario is very similar to that of wind farms across Canada and throughout central and northern Europe.”

    “Measurements presented here based on wind outputs from major wind developments in and near Ontario indicate that distances over 250 km between wind farms are required for hourly output correlations to drop to 50%, and distances over 350 km are required for daily correlations to drop to 50%. Moreover, the results presented here suggest that correlation coefficients will be positive over distances greater than 800 km and are not likely to be negative over conceivable distances within the province. The modest benefit of diversifying locations is illustrated when one large wind farm located more than 360 km away from another group of nearly equal capacity was added: the standard deviation in output decreased by only 2.7% of installed capacity. Other studies present similar results for Europe, although distance appears to be less effective in mitigating variability in Ontario than in Europe.”

    “Thus, to meet the policy objective of maximizing wind’s penetration of Ontario’s electricity generation mix while minimizing grid impacts, any new wind power capacity should thus be installed far away from other wind farms. Conversely, allowing concentrated wind development, either by co-locating wind farms or building relatively large farms, reduces the total wind capacity the system can accommodate within a given level of load balancing expenditure.”

    Although adding a distant wind farm to an existing fleet fills the valleys of average output and drops the standard deviation of output by a small fraction, it also increases the magnitude of overall output swings. Large overall wind output swings are inevitable because wind farms within the province are statistically more prone to increase and decrease generation synchronously due to the nature and size of the meteorological fronts that largely drive wind speeds. In other words, if wind power output swings or peaks challenge the load balancing capacity of the power system, distance between wind farms does not help.

    “Ontario has made a policy commitment to encourage extensive wind power development supported by only a preliminary understanding of the potential power system impacts of a large wind power fleet. Wind power’s consumer impacts – incremental transmission, energy storage, ramping generation requirements, and grid reliability service costs such as automatic generation control and operating reserve – may be insignificant at low wind penetration of the overall electricity supply but will rise as wind capacity rises and may become significant. Additional research on the output variability of wind power, grid reliability mitigation measures, and the load carrying capacity of wind power is thus necessary.”


    Adam’s Keynote Address for the Professional Engineers of Ontario Annual General Meeting May 9, 2009 “Transforming Ontario’s Electricity Paradigm:
    Lessons Arising from Wind Power Integration” also reports on this Canadian research :

    “Advocates and sometimes even government engineers assure us that wind power is
    decentralized energy, that wind power can help replace coal, that wind volatility is
    smoothed by distance, and that wind can supply a large fraction of our electricity needs
    without imposing significant indirect costs on consumers. Although I wish it were
    otherwise, the data is uncomplimentary to this loose talk.”

    “Getting wind power to consumers when they want it will be a challenge. Unfortunately
    wind and load are out of sync across several dimensions.”

    “Other researchers have identified that Ontario tends to get most of our wind output at
    the wrong time of day and that the daily wind pattern tends to decline in morning when
    load is rising and ramp up in evening when load is declining.”

    “Unfortunately distance provides little smoothing benefit:

    Considering hourly correlation coefficients, 250 km cuts the cross correlation by only
    50%. No matter how far apart they are, wind farms in Ontario east of Wawa will be
    positively correlated. This means that the more wind capacity we add, the more output
    volatility the aggregate fleet will yield. Adding a distant wind farm fills the valleys of
    average output and drops the standard deviation of output a little but also increases the peaks of output. If output swings or peaks are challenging the system, distance
    doesn’t help.”

    “Some of these factors are also significant in terms of wind power’s ultimate
    environmental footprint. No one in Ontario can realistically estimate these factors
    right now, in part because the commercial impact of the GEA [Green Energy Act] is still very difficult to estimate but also in part because much more technical
    homework is needed.”


  105. OK. But America has a fleet of something like 280 million cars.

    Unless governments across the Western world “see the light” and start ramping up trolley buses and New Urbanism, this fleet has to change over the next 16 years to EV’s. I’d love to see the electricity storage capacity of 280 million vehicles, especially given some of the expected improvements in battery technology in the coming years. So *if* western nations head down this EV path, there’s the potential for a fleet of vehicles (and backup batteries in swap-out-stations) to be charging whenever the wind IS blowing and the sun IS shining.

    I’m not claiming this makes the problem go away, just saying that it is a factor that increases demand whenever the wind IS blowing, and makes that electricity more useful and economically synchronised. It gives it a very real market. So statements that ‘wind is a product looking for a consumer’ just do not seem to take the emergence of EV’s into account.


  106. RE : post 150

    One thing that a lot of the world should be doing is promoting people to exercise more, not just switch from petrol to electric and continue on with their unhealthy reliance on wheels instead of feet in urban areas. Urban planning should be gearing towards more pedestrianisation. I dont mean people should walk everywhere, of course people need vehicles, but how many people do you see driving to the newsagent down the road etc…? Of course walking is free, but obviously we pay for the upkeep of pavements through our hard earned tax dollars.

    There are a lot of “ifs” in the EV’s powered from unpredictable & intermittent renewables idea. Its a lovely thought and another unproven idea that the wind industry trots out all the time. When the wind IS blowing it is still highly variable and unpredictable. Wishful thinking and computer forcasting however does not change the “actual” weather.

    The most recent study I know of in this electric vehicles on the grid area is again at Carnegie Mellon Electricity Industry Centre. If you sign up to their system they send you links to the latest papers, and you can then download all their working papers etc.

    I received this via email just this morning :

    The Carnegie Mellon Electricity Industry Center has posted a new Working Paper on its website (

    POSTED ON: 8/21/2009

    TITLE: The Economics of Using PHEV Battery Packs for Grid Storage
    AUTHOR: Scott Peterson, Jay Apt, and Jay Whitacre
    ABSTRACT: We examine the potential economic implications of using vehicle batteries to store grid electricity generated at off-peak hours for off-vehicle use during peak hours. Hourly electricity prices in three U.S. cities were used to arrive at daily profit values, while the economic losses associated with battery degradation were calculated based on data collected from A123 Systems LiFePO4/Graphite cells tested under combined driving and off-vehicle electricity utilization. For a 16 kWh vehicle battery pack, the maximum annual profit with perfect market information and no battery degradation cost ranged from ~$140 to $250 in the three cities. If the measured battery degradation is applied, however, the maximum annual profit (if battery pack replacement costs fall to $5,000 for a 16 kWh battery) decreases to ~$10-$120. It appears unlikely that these profits alone will provide sufficient incentive to the vehicle owner to use the battery pack for electricity storage and later off-vehicle use. We also estimate grid net social welfare benefits from avoiding the construction and use of peaking generators that may accrue to the owner, finding that these are similar in magnitude to the energy arbitrage profit.


    I got a copy of the paper, its at the draft stage of a working paper which requests that quotations or citations from the paper not be made, so I have only posted what they have said in the email abstract (this is abstract is posted on the web link below so is ok to repeat, just not the content in the paper). Note there is no link to this paper yet from their publications page, they probably will update that page in the coming week.

    You have to sign up to get a password to download their files, which is easy. The best way is to go to this link ->

    which takes you to the paper abstract and you click on a link that page to get a password request page. Its very easy you just supply your email address and you get your password pretty much immediately.

    I haven’t had time to read the paper yet, just a quick glance at the conclusions, which are not very hopeful of it being cost effective. I would be interested to hear of other studies, I know also that David MacKay discusses this in his Without Hot Air book.


  107. I meant to add in post 144 ->

    regarding the Tyndall study, some specific points they made :

    “The performed capacity adequacy studies for the mid-term future UK electricity scenarios clearly show that the capacity value of wind generation plant is limited. Analysis was carried out for a wide range of wind penetrations to examine the generating capacity of conventional plant that can be displaced by wind, while maintaining a specified security level. We observed that wind generation only displaces a relatively modest amount of conventional plant, which means that in order to maintain the same level of security, a significant capacity of conventional plant will still be required.”

    “Due to a disproportion between the conventional capacity and the energy substitution by the wind source, a considerable number of thermal plants will be running at low output levels over a significant proportion of their operational time in order to accommodate wind energy. Consequently these plants will have to compromise on their efficiency, resulting in increased levels of fuel consumption as well as emissions per unit of electricity produced.”


    The REF study I mentioned earlier also : “Reduction In Carbon Dioxide Emissions: Estimating The Potential Contribution From Wind-Power”

    The executive summary contains some other points of note :

    “Renewable electricity has become synonymous with CO2 reduction. However, the relationship between renewables and CO2 reduction in the power generation sector does not appear to have been examined in detail, and the likelihood, scale, and cost of emissions abatement from renewables is very poorly understood.”

    “Wind turbine technology has been developing in Europe for nearly twenty years, and ample experience has been gained to show wind generated power to be variable, unpredictable, and uncontrollable. In fact, the European experience shows conclusively that the annual production is routinely disappointing, and this does not augur well for the UK’s chances of achieving significant emissions abatement.”
    “Indeed, the accommodation of the variable output from wind turbines into the transmission system is complex and the technical challenges are barely understood outside professional circles. Fossil-fuelled capacity operating as reserve and backup is required to accompany wind generation and stabilise supplies to the consumer. That capacity is placed under particular strains when working in this supporting role because it is being used to balance a reasonably predictable but fluctuating demand with a variable and largely unpredictable output from wind turbines. Consequently, operating fossil capacity in this mode generates more CO2 per kWh generated than if operating normally. This compromising effect is very poorly understood, a fact acknowledged recently by the Council of European Energy Regulators.”

    “Thus, the CO2 saving from the use of wind in the UK is probably much less than
    assumed by Government advisors, who correctly believe that wind could displace
    some capacity and save some CO2, but have not acknowledged the emissions impact
    of matching both demand and wind output simultaneously. As a result, current policy
    appears to have been framed as if CO2 emissions savings are guaranteed by the
    introduction of wind-power, and that wind power has no concomitant difficulties or
    costs. This is not the case.”

    “With this level of disagreement between governmental authorities and trade bodies it
    is hardly surprising that there is general public confusion over the issue. This uncertainty is most undesirable, not least because of the economic implications of an erroneously reasoned choice of carbon abatement technology.”

    “Market forces will fix wholesale electricity prices at a level that discourages new
    investment in modern plant, and the focus on wind power for new generating
    capacity is likely to lead to the retention of old, low efficiency, coal-fired plant for an extended period.”

    “In conclusion, it seems reasonable to ask why wind-power is the beneficiary of
    such extensive support if it not only fails to achieve the CO2 reductions required,
    but also causes cost increases in back-up, maintenance and transmission, while at the same time discouraging investment in clean, firm generation.”


    Also the Oswald paper mentioned “Will British weather provide reliable electricity?” Energy Policy 36(8), August 2008, pages 3212-3225 :

    This is the entire Section 7 : Conclusions ->

    A model of a large and distributed installation of wind
    generators has been produced for the UK and used to analyse
    the power output characteristics for each January in the last 12
    years. It suggests that

    􏰘 Although the aggregate output of a distributed wind
    carpet in the United Kingdom is smoother than the output of
    individual wind farms and regions, the power delivered by
    such an aggregate wind fleet is highly volatile. For example,
    if 25 GW of wind turbines had been installed, with full access
    to the grid, in January 2005 the residual demand on the
    supporting plant would have varied over the month between
    5.5 and 56 GW.

    􏰘 Wind output in Britain can be very low at the moment
    of maximum annual UK demand (e.g. 2 February 2006); these
    are times of cold weather and little wind. Simultaneously,
    the wind output in neighbouring countries can also
    be very low and this suggests that intercontinental trans-
    mission grids to neighbouring countries will be difficult to

    􏰘 The volatile power swings will require fossil fuel plants to
    undergo more frequent loading cycles, thus reducing their
    reliability and utilisation.

    􏰘 Reduced reliability will require more thermal capacity to be
    built to compensate, whilst achieving the same level of system
    reliability. Cost of wind calculations would be more accurate if
    they included this factor.

    􏰘 Reduced utilisation will encourage generators to install lower
    cost and lower-efficiency plants rather than high-efficiency
    base load plants. These have higher CO2 emissions than high-
    efficiency plants. Carbon saving calculations would be more
    accurate if they included this factor.

    􏰘 Power swings from wind will need to be compensated
    for by power swings from gas-powered plants which
    in turn will induce comparable power swings on the
    gas network as plant ramps up and down. This will
    have a cost implication for the gas network. Calculations of
    cost of wind would be more accurate if they included this



    In addition to the papers already mentioend The National Academies (Science, Engineering and Medicine) in the USA published a recent study relating to the mid-Atlantic region in 2007 “Environmental Impacts of Wind-Energy Projects” available at : which is a 394 page report and a 33 page executive summary. On page 5 of the executive summary regarding the issue of displacement of coal power stations it states :

    “However, because current and upcoming regulatory controls on emissions of NOx and SO2 from electricity generation in the eastern United States involve total caps on emissions, the committee concludes that development of wind-powered electricity generation using current technology probably will not result in a significant reduction in total emission of these pollutants from the electricity sector in the mid-Atlantic region.”

    On page 8 of the executive summary is a section regarding ecological impacts :

    “The construction and maintenance of wind-energy facilities also alter ecosystem structure through vegetation clearing, soil disruption and potential for erosion, and noise. Alteration of vegetation, including forest clearing, represents perhaps the most significant potential change through fragmentation and loss of habitat for some species.”

    A selection of quotes from the Preface of the report on page ix states :

    “The generation of electricity from wind energy is surprisingly controversial. At first glance, obtaining electricity from a free source of energy—the wind—seems to be an optimum contribution to the nation’s goal of energy independence and to solving the problem of climate warming due to greenhouse gas emissions. As with many first glances, however, a deeper inspection results in a more complicated story.”

    “Building wind-energy installations with large numbers of turbines can disrupt landscapes and habitats, and the rotating turbine blades sometimes kill birds and bats. Calculating how much wind energy currently displaces other, presumably less-desirable, energy sources is complicated, and predicting future displacements is surrounded by uncertainties.”

    And from Preface page x :

    “The benefits of wind energy depend on the degree to which the adverse effects of other energy sources can be reduced by using wind energy instead of the other sources. Assessing those benefits is complicated. The generation of electricity by wind energy can itself have adverse effects, and projecting the amount of wind-generated electricity available in the future is quite uncertain.”


    I’ve summarised with a few quotes what many of these papers say, but I strongly urge people here to read all the papers I’ve mentioned so far. All of the papers I’ve mentioned span from 2004 to the most recent paper that has just come out the Apt & Katzenstein, “Air Emissions Due To Wind and Solar Power”, Environmental Science & Technology (2009) Vol 43 No 2 pages 253-258 mentioned in post 141. As Peter mentioned in an earlier these problems have been known about for LONG time.

    How do you feel about integrity of your government and these power companies now ?

    Of course there’s also the world famous E.ON Netz wind reports which will have to wait for another post…


  108. Hopefully not too off topic here as the title of this page is wind and carbon emissions, but what the hell…

    The “homes powered” figures that are constantly portrayed by the wind industry, government and in the media are very misleading for the general public.

    e.g. MacKay in his book (2008) “Sustainable Energy — without the hot air”, UIT Cambridge Ltd discusses this problem :

    “The “home” is commonly used when describing the power of renewable facilities. For example, “The £300 million Whitelee wind farm’s 140 turbines will generate 322 MW – enough to power 200 000 homes.” The “home” is defined by the British Wind Energy Association to be a power of 4700 kWh per year.”

    The “home” annoys me because I worry that people confuse it with the total power consumption of the occupants of a home – but the latter is actually about 24 times bigger. The “home” covers the average domestic electricity consumption of a household, only. Not the household’s home heating. Nor their workplace. Nor their transport. Nor all the energy-consuming things that society does for them.“

    + from the REF site ->

    In the UK the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change, the Rt Hon Ed Miliband MP recently published a prominent article in The Times (27.04.09) regarding number of homes powered by wind energy. Following an enquiry from a member of the public, REF wrote an open letter (07.05.09) to Mr Miliband with regard to this, and published the correspondence on the REF website at : Mr Milliband stated in his article that :

    “To all those who scoff at the idea of wind making a difference, my reply is that last
    year enough power for all the electricity for two million homes came from wind

    Some of the REF’s comments help to clarify matters :

    begin the quotes from this correspondence —->

    “…you should not in any case use the homes equivalent figure, which is misleading to the public since domestic houses typically use only 30% of national electricity, and because the comparison suggests that the turbines could take this many houses off-grid, which is not the case.”

    “… so1.8 million homes equivalent rather than 2 million. (Incidentally, most of this increase appears to be from offshore wind, confirming a long-standing REF argument that given the capacity limit for wind in the UK system, perhaps 10 GW, it makes sense to seek high yielding sites.)”

    “However, the real issue is that there are good reasons for not employing the homes equivalent calculation and presentation method:

    Explaining Energy Quantities to the Public

    In fact, the concluding and main point of my letter goes unaddressed in your response.

    I wrote:

    8. Further, in my view, you should not in any case use the homes equivalent figure,
    which is misleading to the public since domestic houses typically use only 30% of
    national electricity, and because the comparison suggests that the turbines could take
    this many houses off-grid, which is not the case.

    9. It would be much more accurate to express the significance of wind’s generation in
    terms of national consumption (roughly 390 TWh in 2007):

    5,777,249 /390,000,000 = 0.015.

    My point was that “in any case”, i.e. regardless of what exact figure is used, 1.2m,
    1.8m, 2m, the “homes equivalent” calculation is potentially very misleading
    and not helpful in giving clear guidance as to progress towards meeting the
    2020 targets.

    Specifically, the “homes equivalent” figure is likely to lead to a misperception of significance, and particularly so should the public wish to understand the value for money offered by the Renewables Obligation. Assuming a ROC price of about £48 in 2007, wind cost the consumer about £278 million in indirect subsidy, a very substantial sum, so it is important to be clear about the scale of the value returned.”

    “In my view, and I know this view is shared by many observers, a better method of expressing the output of a generator, any generator in fact, is as a fraction of total electrical energy generation, as noted above. (Despatchable generators can also be described as a fraction of peak load, as a means of estimating their national significance, but this option is not open to wind in any straightforward way.)

    Some would go further and say that since electrical energy is only roughly a third of total
    national energy consumption, it would be best to express the wind energy generated as a fraction of Final Energy Consumption (i.e. all energy, heat, electricity, and transport), which is very roughly 1,745 TWh per year at present. Taking the 2007 figure for wind generation we can calculate:

    5,777,249 MWh / 1,745,000,000 MWh = 0.0033

    In other words wind generated 0.3% of UK Final Energy Consumption in 2007, at a
    cost in subsidy of £278 million.”

    “I hope you will agree that this is a great deal less misleading than any homes equivalent figure which I really hope you or your department won’t use again, however calculated.”


    This correspondence puts things in perspective a bit more when considering what all these industrial wind power stations are contributing to the big picture i.e not much in this case.

    However, wind turbines are very visible to the voting general public when they drive around the countryside, and as they drive home I assume a warm feeling of “something being done” settles in their mind as they park the car, flick on the kettle and turn on the TV.


  109. Again I hope this is not too off topic.

    The Proceedings of the 2008 Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) “Scoping Meeting on Renewable Energy Sources” contains some information on problems associated with industrial wind energy ( This document reports ongoing research and investment into all renewable energy sources, conducted by Working Group III, and will conclude with a Special Report in December 2010. This report discusses renewable energy options and issues, in parallel with the IPCC’s other documents leading up to the 5th Assessment Report in 2014.

    It is worth noting that in the chapter “Status and Perspectives of Wind Energy” authored by Prof. A. Zervous, President, European Wind Energy Association and Chairman, Global Wind Energy Council in Section IV Challenges and Perspectives on page 117 he admits that :

    “This agenda for research should be seen as only the first edition of an ongoing identification process, which is currently being updated through the European Technology Platform for Wind Energy. The Priorities listed below are divided into three categories: showstoppers, barriers and bottlenecks”

    i) Showstoppers : “These are the key priorities, which is to say that they are considered to be issues of such importance that failure to address them could halt progress altogether. Thus they need special and urgent attention.”

    ii) Barriers : “Barriers are defined as being principal physical limitations in current technology, which may be overcome through the opening up of new horizons through generic / basic research over the medium to long term.”

    iii) Bottlenecks : “Bottlenecks are problems which can be relatively quickly overcome through additional short or medium term R&D, i.e. through the application of targeted funding and / other resources.”

    These 3 areas are discussed over several pages. Among the 5 “showstoppers” it should be noted that these include the requirement for research into wind farm energy storage systems, which as yet do not exist, to make up for variability and unpredictability of wind resource. The current storage systems for wind energy are conventional fossil fuel power stations, which have to be kept running as a back up to cover variability in wind resource, which places the conventional plant under greater stress and leads to greater inefficiency, and no meaningful reduction in emissions. Also important are the need for research results on the effects of wind turbine power plants on ecological systems and public support. Ecological research and public support are also discussed again in regards to barriers and bottlenecks, as are the need for standards and certification, wind resource studies, grid integration and other issues.

    A later chapter in this IPCC Scoping Report is titled “Global Investment in the Renewable Energy Sector” by Eric Usher, Head, Renewable Energy Finance Unit, United Nations Environment Program. Fig 5 on page 153 shows that Venture Capital and Private Equity places wind energy in 3rd position, with solar 2nd and biomass 1st. The overwhelming majority of the investment for wind is installing wind turbine capacity only, leaving a very large shortfall for future research needs. Fig 8 on page 154 shows Global Asset Financing by Sector for the period 2004 to 2007. In 2004 the $12bn total was mainly taken up by wind, but as overall renewable energy financing increases in the following 3 years wind shows a reduction in proportion and by 2007 is roughly 45% of the $56bn total.

    Its interesting to see that the wind industry doesn’t care much about the future, because it invests so little in the research needed to find out if this technology is even viable over the coming years.


  110. + a final question and thoughts from me before i go to bed….

    -> Specifically Michael Goggin of the AWEA

    You posted some bold statements on the 14th August in post 9.

    You are a member of the AWEA and have pointed us to 2 advertorial type documents you have written which claim wind energy’s greatness. How about a bit of substantiation of those bold claims. Provide us with some empirical evidence / hard data that emissions are meaningfully reduced by industrial scale wind power stations, not just figures plucked randomly out of the air.

    What are your views on the recent paper by Jay Apt and colleagues?

    We haven’t heard a peep from you since. Are your taking part in this discussion?

    Here are some more laws of physics and wind turbine facts and information you may want to add to your factsheets and some information you may want to take on board (along with previous posts on this page) ->

    The “nameplate” capacity of a wind turbine represents the theoretical maximum MW output. In order to estimate the actual output of each turbine a Load Factor (LF) figure of 20 to 30% of nameplate capacity is often suggested, due to the high variability of wind speed and the turbines power curve. It should be stressed that 20 to 30% is a very generous estimate of efficiency, and the majority of wind installations do not reach this capacity, especially those with relatively poor wind resources such as inland NSW. It is highly unlikely that NSW industrial wind power stations will attain a 30% Load Factor.

    This reduction in efficiency is due to a fundamental physical law relating the electrical output to the cube of the wind speed for a wind turbines power curve, usually between about 4m/s (metres per second) and 12 m/s wind speed. This demonstrates how sensitive a turbines output is to wind speed. If the wind speed is below 4m/s (its minimum speed) no power at all is generated from the turbine. If a turbine reaches its maximum capacity at around 12m/s any further increase in wind speed will not result in more power being generated. If the wind speed eventually increases above the turbines maximum rating, often around 25m/s, the turbine is shut down to prevent mechanical damage and no power is generated. Also, if the operating temperature is above 40C wind turbines are shut down to prevent turbine failure. Or in some cases it will burst in to flames and the 200 gallons of oil or so contained in the nacelle, and similar quantities in the base will continue burning until all of said oil burns itself out. During this time a fire crew will usually watch the fireshow and attempt to put out spot fires on the ground and in the vicinity, as wind turbine manufactures advice is to let it burn itself out. After all a rural fire truck doesn’t usually come equipped with an 80m ladder, even the new one (note the singular) that the windpower co has given as a panacea to an uninformed rural fire service.

    There is another fundamental physical law, derived by the German physicist Albert Betz in 1919 that further compounds the inefficiency of wind turbines. This law relates to the amount of energy in the wind that a rotor blade can convert. The power extracted from the wind can be no more than 0.59 of the total incoming wind energy. This is due to the fact that the wind is slowed down, but it is not completely stopped. This law puts a fundamental limit on the energy extracted from the wind, resulting in further losses for industrial wind energy.

    David MacKay covers these basic physical laws in his Without hot air book mentioned in earlier posts ->

    These two fundamental unchanging physical laws, coupled with variability and unpredictability of the wind has prompted some illuminating studies around the world. I recommend examining documents at the Renewable Energy Foundation (REF) ( who have commissioned independent reports from leading consultants and scientists. In 2006 the REF produced the UK Renewable Energy Data files ( which presents publicly available data regarding renewable electricity generation since 2002 (wind, biomass, hydro, landfill gas and sewage gas) in the UK. The raw data for this project is obtained from the Ofgem Renewables Obligation Certificate Register (, which publishes data concerning the issue of Renewables Obligation Certificates to renewable electricity generators. These documents present the Ofgem wind farm data in an easily readable form together with summary, review and comparison to some other European countries.

    The average national Load Factor for the UK is 27.4% for 2005 to 2007 compared to Germany 22.6%, Spain 20.2% and Denmark 26.2%.

    The first chapter of the Proceedings of the 2008 Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) “Scoping Meeting on Renewable Energy Sources” mentioned in Section 2 of this submission, “Renewable Energy and Climate Change An Overview” by William Moomaw, discusses and identifies the 3 primary categories of renewable energy sources. The 3 categories are solar, geothermal, and gravitational energy. Solar energy directly provides heat for ocean and land surfaces, drives wind and wave resources, produces biomass and fuels via photosynthesis, and provides energy for the hydrological cycle. Table 1 on page 6 of that paper gives a good overview of the potential of renewable energy sources. The annual flux of global energy use is roughly between 450 and 500 EJ per year. 1EJ = 10^18 joules. To put this in perspective, the amount of renewable energy available from solar is 3,900,000 EJ per year, for wind it is 6,000 EJ per year and for geothermal it is 140,000,000 EJ per year.

    Some important points to consider with electric power, particularly in light of potential climate change effects on infrastructure, are noted on pages 7 and 8 of the IPCC chapter :

    “Another important aspect of the cost of electric power production is the transmission and distribution systems. According to IEA, approximately 55% of the capital cost of electric power systems is in the “wires” and only 45% is invested in the generation technology. Hence if on-site, distributed generation is utilized (whether fossil fueled or building integrated solar or renewable technology), the transmission costs are generally zero, and the marginal cost of distribution if grid connected is much lower since most of the electricity is utilized where it is generated. This fact needs to be taken into account when comparing costs of alternatives. There are few studies to date that account for this sizable cost component.”

    Wind industry developers suggest a 20 to 25 year lifespan for an industrial wind turbine, which involves continuous monitoring and maintenance requiring unlimited 24 hour / 7 days per week / 365 days per year access to the leased land. However, due to the majority of these installations being new developments, few turbines have been around to test these lifespan assumptions under real world conditions. Regarding wind turbine warranties Apt and colleagues state in the American National Academies of Science Fall 2008 on-line journal “Issues in Science and Technology” in a paper titled “A National Renewable Portfolio Standard? Not Practical” that :

    “Demand (driven by state RPSs and the federal renewable production tax credit) has already stretched supplies thin, creating an 18-month delivery delay for wind machines. It has also emboldened manufactures to reduce wind turbine warranties from five years to two.”

    Turbine failures and engineering problems are an occurrence that has also affected my decision not to host wind turbines. For example, TrustPower’s Snowtown installation was built and is maintained by India’s industrial wind turbine manufacturer Suzlon Energy Ltd. Suzlon have experienced problems with blade failure which has impacted on their share price recently. The 25th October 2008 Wall Street Journal article “Windmill Mishap Weighs on Suzlon” at ( reported on a blade failure incident which drove down the Suzlon shares by 39%. This report tells of a 140ft (42.67m) long turbine blade snapping off and being thrown 150ft (45.72m) from the tower. This is a known problem with Suzlon’s turbine blades :

    “Earlier this year, Suzlon, of Pune, India, said it would strengthen or replace 1,251 blades — almost the entire number it has sold to date in the U.S. — after cracks were found on more than 60 blades on turbines run by Deere and Edison International’s Edison Mission Energy.”

    Suzlon has been in further trouble as seen in a recent Bloomberg news report on 16th April 2009 “Suzlon Falls Most in 3 Months on Faulty Blade Report“ ( Suzlon shares fell 84% last year, with further losses already in 2009. These technical problems are experienced across the whole wind industry and are not just limited to Suzlon. An article in Business Week, 24th August 2007, “ The Dangers of Wind Power” discusses the global rise in the number of accidents and failures ( Gearboxes in wind turbines are often replaced within the first 5 years. Wind turbines can stand idle for up to 18 months waiting for replacement parts. Also in this report Jan Pohl of insurance firm Allianz in Munich, who faced about 1000 claims in 2006 stated : “an operator has to expect damage to his facility every four years, not including malfunctions and uninsured breakdowns.”

    Land leases also commonly have options to renew for a further term, meaning that leases can be tied up for up to 50 or more years. This is similar to the contracts that the wind industry are currently urging landholders to sign. Leases are often on-sold to other companies, bearing in mind that a wind energy company will expect to have profited from their investment well before the lease expires (tax breaks / rapid depreciation etc).

    For the landholder attempting to judge the lifetime of an industrial wind plant it is also vital to consider research on the effects of climate change on energy infrastructure. In Chapter 11 (Australia and New Zealand) of the IPCC Working Group II Contribution to the 4th Assessment Report “Climate Change 2007 – Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability” it is worth noting the following in Section 11.4.10 Energy on page 523 :

    “Climate change is likely to affect energy infrastructure in Australia and New Zealand through impacts of severe weather events on wind power stations, electricity transmission and distribution networks”.

    Later in the same section an assessment of potential risks for Australia found, among other risks, that :

    “increased peak and average temperatures are likely to reduce electricity generation efficiency, transmission line capacity, transformer capacity and the life of switchgear and other components”.

    This potential for future failures coupled with the known unreliability of wind energy further diminishes the financial returns of industrial wind turbines.

    Other studies have shown that there is also the potential for climate change to impact directly on wind resource : Sailor, D.J., M. Smith, and M. Hart, 2008. “Climate change implications for wind power resources in the Northwest United States,” Renewable Energy, 33 (11), pages 2393-2406. This paper concludes that wind generated electricity in the area studied could be reduced by up to 40% through climate change. This research builds on their earlier study Breslow, P., and D.J. Sailor, (2002) “Vulnerability of Wind Power Resources to Climate Change in the Continental United States”, Renewable Energy, 27 (4), pages 585-598. In this work they estimate a 1% to 3.2% reduction in wind speeds in the area studied over the next 50 years, and a 1.4% to 4.5% reduction over the next 100 years. As mentioned above, turbine power output is greatly affected by any small change in wind speed on the power curve, so even small reductions in future wind speeds can have a significant effect on maintaining industrial wind turbine power station viability.

    It seems to me Michael that industrial scale wind just doesn’t cut it as a quality emissions reducer which is supposedly why they are being built. Or in terms of security of supply. Unless of course its purely about making money from a guaranteed market that has been made for you and your industrial wind industry associates?


  111. To Bryen re: post 153:

    I think it is misleading to argue that wind has to be able to take those 2 million homes “off grid” as if wind were the *only* power source required. That is misleading, and not the kind of grid people like Mark Disendorf and Herman Scheer are visualising. Every nation has the potential for some form of 24/7 renewable baseload, such as CETO wave, biochar, hot rock geothermal, and solar thermal.

    The larger the grid, the more stable (or so the experts are telling us in their reports).

    Wind has a high ERoEI and can just act to “top up” the grid with high ERoEI power drawn down into storage mediums like EV’s. But check this graphic for a European super-grid and where various sources of energy might come from.

    Debunking the “hot air” about a UK renewables grid might be easier than debunking this concept!


  112. Eclipsenow # 156

    “I think it is misleading to argue that wind has to be able to take those 2 million homes “off grid” as if wind were the *only* power source required.”

    I don’t think that is Bryen’s argument.

    I think the point he was making was that claims such as – “last year enough power for all the electricity for two million homes came from windpower.” make it sound, to the general public, like they really are taking 2 million homes off the grid, when they are not. It is deceptive, deliberately so IMO.

    I agree with Bryen. Talking in terms of *millions of homes* sounds very impressive, but a figure like – 0.3% of national final energy consumption – not so much.

    It comes down to which you think is the more honest representation.



  113. Eclipsenow -> 156

    You have not addressed any of the real documented findings I have posted apart from the “homes powerered” post.

    Future dreams of vehicles and super-grids are not evidence against what is happening *now* and has been happening for many years from industrial scale wind energy development.

    In other words, whether these new ideas happen large scale or not, it does not change what has happened and continues as a result of industrial scale wind energy developments.

    To summarise ->

    Greenhouse gas emissions are not appreciably reduced, in particular NOx emissions increase.
    “The wind is blowing somewhere” : by taking the aggregate of geographically dispersed output, a small amount of smoothing can occur, however output usually remains correlated. In addition by taking aggregate output we see even larger volatile swings in MW output which is an additional burden.

    *****The wind industry and our governments ignore these facts and clearly misinform us about these issues. The gov likes to look green and big tall wind turbines can be seen from a long way and people get the impression that “something is being done”. The power co’s then rake in our money from the artificially manufactured market in green electricity.

    The fraction of “total energy” that industrial wind farms contribute is minute, e.g. for the UK in 2007 0.3% of total energy use, to put things in perspective.

    *****I repeat, how does that make you feel? How do you feel about being willfully mislead?

    Lets look at some other real problems caused by the wind industry that is denied by them and governments.

    — Health ->

    A further example of the environmentally negative impacts is the many health problems caused by industrial wind turbine power stations. Among the increasing worldwide reports of negative health effects of industrial wind turbines read the work of many health professionals who have produced papers and studies on this issue.

    The National Academy of Medicine of France in their March 2006 report “Repercussions of the Operation of Wind Turbines on the Health of Man” requested the necessity of epidemiological studies, these issues have been systematically ignored and denied by the industrial wind industry and governments :

    Dr Nina Pierpont MD, PhD (, who has recently published a book and several articles on the detrimental health effects. Dr Pierponts research and observations are reiterated in the press release by the Medical Staff of Northern Maine Medical Center ( These issues of are of considerable concern for landholders, neighbours, residents, the general public and particularly for young children and the elderly. According to Dr Pierpont the symptoms of Wind Turbine Syndrome include :

    1) Sleep problems: noise or physical sensations of pulsation or pressure make it hard to go to sleep and cause frequent awakening.
    2) Headaches which are increased in frequency or severity.
    3) Dizziness, unsteadiness, and nausea.
    4) Exhaustion, anxiety, anger, irritability, and depression.
    5) Problems with concentration and learning.
    6) Tinnitus (ringing in the ears).

    A very recent paper has demonstrated new results on human sensitivity to low frequency vibration, offering substantial support for Dr Pierpont’s work : Neil P. McAngus Todd, Sally M. Rosengren, James G. Colebatch, “Tuning and sensitivity of the human vestibular system to low-frequency vibration”, Neuroscience Letters 444 (2008) pages 36-41.

    One of the most recent reports (June 2009) is by Dr Christopher Hanning MD on “Sleep Disturbance and Wind Turbine Noise”.

    Hanning founded, and until retirement, ran the Leicester Sleep Disorders Service, one of the longest standing and largest services in the United Kingdom, and he has 30 years of experience in the field. Hanning’s report is very comprehensive and some points are mentioned here :

    “There can be no doubt that groups of industrial wind turbines (“wind farms”)
    generate sufficient noise to disturb the sleep and impair the health of those
    living nearby.” Section 2.1.1

    “The swishing or thumping noise associated with wind turbines seems to be particularly annoying as the frequency and loudness varies with changes in wind speed and local
    atmospheric conditions. While there is no doubt of the occurrence of these noises and their audibility over long distances, up to 3-4km in some reports, the actual cause [of the wind turbine noise] has not yet been fully elucidated.” Section 2.2.4

    “Unfortunately all government and industry sponsored research in this area has used reported awakenings from sleep as an index of the effects of turbine noise and dismisses the subjective symptoms. Because most of the sleep disturbance is not recalled, this approach seriously underestimates the effects of wind turbine noise on sleep.” Section 3.1.2

    Hanning later refers to this issue in Section 3.5 in relation to a 2006 UK DTI report :

    “The lack of physiological expertise in the investigators in not recognising that noise can
    disturb sleep without actual recalled awakening is a major methodological flaw rendering the conclusions unreliable, as is the short recording period. It is well recognised also that not every resident affected by a nuisance such as noise will actually register a complaint. Many will not be sufficiently literate or confident so to do and others may wish to avoid drawing attention to the problem to protect property prices. They may assume also that protest is futile, which seems to be the experience of many with wind turbine noise.
    Recorded complaints are thus the tip of the iceberg.”

    “In my expert opinion, from my knowledge of sleep physiology and a review of the available research, I have no doubt that wind turbine noise emissions cause sleep disturbance and ill health. “ Section 3.8.3

    A recent study, the Ontario Health Survey, was made public on 22nd April 2009 by Wind Concerns Ontario. Of the 76 respondents, 53 people living near industrial wind turbine generators have reported significant negative impact and adverse health effects. The Ontario Health Survey reports problems associated with both humans and animals such as birds, cats, dogs, farming livestock, horses, ponies and wildlife, as well as stress related problems due to decline in property values. In conjunction with this study is a Deputation to the Standing Committee on General Government by Dr. Robert McMurtry M.D., F.R.C.S (C), F.A.C.S. Both documents are available at :

    Pathologist Nuno Castelo Branco MD has been conducting extensive research on Vibroacoustic Disease (VAD) since 1980, including in relation to wind turbine generators. VAD is detailed in Castelo Branco NAA, Alves-Pereira M. (2004) “Vibroacoustic disease”, Noise & Health 2004; 6(23): pages 3-20. VAD specifically related to industrial wind turbines is reported in Castelo Branco NAA, Alves-Pereira M. (2007) “In-Home Wind Turbine Noise Is Conducive to Vibroacoustic Disease”, Second International Conference on Wind Turbine Noise, Lyon, France. The VAD study in relation to wind turbines discusses a rural property in an agricultural area occupied by 2 adults and a 10 year old child, with four 2MW wind turbines which began operation in Nov 2006. A section from the paper follows, note that ILFN stands for Infrasound and Low Frequency Noise, and WT stands for Wind Turbines :

    “ILFN levels contaminating the home of Case 2 are amply sufficient to cause VAD. This family has already received standard diagnostic tests to monitor clinical evolution of VAD. Safe distances from residences have not yet been scientifically established, despite statements by other authors claiming to possess this knowledge. Acceptance, as fact, of statements or assertions not supported by any type of valid scientific data, defeats all principles on which true scientific endeavor is founded. Thus, widespread statements claiming no harm is caused by in-home ILFN produced by WT are fallacies that cannot, in good conscience, continue to be perpetuated. In-home ILFN generated by WT can lead to severe health problems, specifically, VAD. Therefore, real and efficient zoning for WT must be scientifically determined, and quickly adopted, in order to competently and responsibly protect Public Health.”


    —- Noise ->

    Contrary to statements by wind industry proponents, industrial wind turbines are noisy. A major issue with industrial wind turbines is noise pollution and the ongoing setting of standards to mitigate these effects. There has been much independent research indicating the failure of current legislation and the potential for this to be changed in the future. This will have a direct effect on the number and location of any wind turbines near residential homes and property boundaries, or their operation and potential for being shut down once built. It will also impact upon and limit any future land use within the vicinity of wind turbines once they are erected. Noise pollution is also directly linked to the adverse health effects described by Dr Pierpont and others in the previous section of this submission.

    Noise measurements are an important part of an industrial wind turbine power station development. These are conducted before, during and after construction at residential properties in the local area, as well as at properties hosting turbines. A recent paper by community noise experts George Kamperman and Richard R. James, was presented at the 2008 International Noise Conference held in Dearborn, Michigan “Simple guidelines for siting wind turbines to prevent health risks” available at (

    Also noted are the unique aspects of wind turbine noise, which are different from other common forms of noise such as traffic and industrial factories. Their review shows that residents as far away as 3km can experience sleep disturbance. The study specifically makes note of wind industry claims that turbine noise is masked by background noise. However this is not the case and due to atmospheric effects, particularly at night, the wind speed at the turbine hub height can be high but almost no wind can be experienced at nearby dwellings : “This is the heart of the wind turbine noise problem for residents within 3 km (approx. two miles) of a wind farm.” This was first noted by G. P van den Berg in his PhD thesis “The Sounds of High Winds: the effect of atmospheric stability on wind turbine sound and microphone noise” and associated papers. G. P van den Berg’s thesis is freely available online ( The research of van den Berg shows that there are significantly higher levels of noise pollution at night than are experienced in the daytime, and the effects of complex terrain such as hills are different to flat terrain. This research was first published in : Van den Berg G.P. (2004) “Effects of the wind profile at night on wind turbine sound”, Journal of Sound and Vibration 277 (4-5), pages 955-970. More recent research relating to complex terrains as opposed to flat terrains is discussed in : Van den Berg G.P. (2007) “Wind profiles over complex terrain.” Second International Conference on Wind Turbine Noise, Lyon, France.

    On the 29th Feb 2009, the REF obtained data under the Freedom of Information Act relating to work conducted in 2007 by the University of Salford who were under contract to the Department of Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform: Research into aerodynamic modulation of wind turbine noise ( This work indicates that current UK regulations on noise pollution relating to wind turbines “(ETSU‐R‐97) is not fit for purpose, is failing to protect the amenity of neighbours and is urgently in need of revision.” A summary of wind turbine noise studies with links to articles is also available at (

    More recent research was presented at the 3rd International Conference on Wind Turbine Noise held in Denmark in June 2009 (, and the previous two conferences also contain research documents relating to negative impacts of wind turbine noise ( and ( The 4th International Conference on Wind Tur2bine Noise is scheduled for 2011. You would think that if industrial scale wind turbine noise is not a problem there would not need to be a 2 yearly international conference on the issue.


    Again I urge everyone to go and get those documents and read them. Put aside future dreams of vehicles and super-grids, look at the big picture and what this industry (assisted by governments) has done to the planet in the name of being “green”. And then ask yourself, “how do I feel about that?” “How do you feel about being willfully mislead?”

    Sure vehicles and super-grids “might” one day exist, but at present this is not the real issue we should be discussing. It takes our attention away from the real issues. Look at the damage thats being done, to both environment and peoples lives by the wind industry.

    A good collection of documents can be obtained at ->

    & also at another very good site -> also there is a specific page here on CO2 savings ->

    And then ask yourself, “How do I feel about this?” How do I feel about an industry that continues to deny what’s happening and mislead the public. All in the name of being green. They are not charities, neither is any other power co for that matter : solar, nuclear, gas, coal, hydro

    Lets not kid ourselves that industrial scale wind energy developments are here to save the planet out of some altruistic gesture. They are not. They are just like any other business, they want to make a profit. There’s nothing wrong with wanting to make a profit, but when it done to the detriment of others and the environment it is immoral, ethically unsound and unsustainable.


  114. Regarding Renewable Energy Targets & strategies, I would like to point readers to this briefing note from the REF. It makes the very valid point that setting targets in percentages is problematic, because these are percentages of unkown quantities. Again the REF in the UK makes this quite clear and in this briefing note in response to the UK governments 2009 strategy the issues are made quite plain. This briefing note, published on 27-07-09 is available from

    A few selected highlights I found of interest :


    “It should be noted this target is focused specifically on obtaining quantities of energy and does not bear directly on green house gas emissions reductions targets, though it is related at one remove with climate change policy.

    “In the following discussion we show that, regrettably, the UK Government is probably
    mistaken with regard to the size of the target. This error arises since the target is 15% of an unknown quantity, namely Final Energy Consumption in 2020. In our view Government estimates of FEC in 2020 are overly optimistic. The potential error is large, and the target will probably be around 20% greater than that for which the government is planning. This has significant implications for feasibility and cost.”

    “At the lower levels Government admits that these targets will be very difficult to achieve. At the higher levels they are almost certainly infeasible. Indeed, there are reasonable doubts about the attainability of the lower quantities. For example, the levels of wind currently suggested (upwards of 25 GW) as necessary for the lower target would confront the UK with unprecedented balancing and grid management problems…”

    “So the Renewable Energy Strategy would deliver annual savings of 7% of UK emissions and just 0.1% of current world emissions at extreme costs, and additional fiscal strain on already fragile economy. Clearly, this is not a good bargain, and reinforces the point we have often made that renewables are poor emissions reducers, whatever other virtues they might have.”

    “For example, subsidised and mandated wind power on the scales currently contemplated by government will impair the economics of other plant but fail to provide compensating value. Investors in the still indispensable firm capacity needed to meet peak load (60 GW at 5.30 on a winter’s day) will have no option but to minimise their risk by seeking the least capital intensive generation, which is gas-fired.”

    “…in the electricity sector the very aggressive wind policy (26GW of installed capacity) will ensure that for economic and technical reasons no other generation capacity except gas can be built, thus deepening and compounding UK gas dependency rather than alleviating it.”

    “It must be emphasised that contrary to Government assertions the renewables
    policy is a gas policy in disguise.”

    “… renewables on the irrational and politically driven scale outlined in the Renewable Energy Strategy will become a dangerous liability. Distressed and painful policy corrections are inevitable.”


    I find these very interesting and valid points regarding renewable energy policy.

    Also note the statement about renewables being poor emissions reducers, something that people have to recognise about wind energy. I hope that the selection of papers and reports that I’ve mentioned are taken into account when assessing Peter Lang’s paper and posts regarding industrial winds poor greenhouse gas emissions reduction. Clearly he is not alone in saying this, nor is he the only one who has done studies refuting “the wind blows everywhere” idea put out by the wind industry, as the research papers & links I have posted show.


  115. Marion @ 157
    Very pertinent point! I understood it to mean 2 million homes off the grid and thought – well that’s impressive! Percentage figures such as you suggest are more honest about the impact on the grid and demonstrate how little we are achieving.


  116. Hi Peter,
    hows the wind consistency at 2000 feet?

    From the TED talk.
    In WW2 one fridge factory started producing 100 thousand planes a year. In a “war-time effort” like this they could have all America’s electricity from kitewind in just 10 years.

    “Today, prompted by climate change and the need for cheap, clean electricity, they can generate upwards of 10 Megawatts per kite, with larger wind power kite farms projected to generate 100 Megawatts or more. In fact, current projects claim that a single farm, or array of wind power kites, could generate the same electrical output as a Nuclear power plant.”


  117. Eclipsenow re post 162 :

    Please contribute something useful to this discussion. All you are doing is side stepping the issue on this thread and posting future dreams. The issue under discussion is industrial wind energy (in its present form) and its lack of significant greenhouse gas emissions. Industrial scale wind turbine power stations are a real problem that has and continues affect people and the environment negatively. Even if all these dreams get built at some unspecified time in the future, it does not alter the facts regarding the negative impacts of existing industrial wind turbine technology and power stations.

    And now that the NSW State Government (and other Governments around the world) have decided to fast track “wind farm” planning applications and in NSW waive the up to $3million application fees (now a mere $50k) the problems are only going to get worse. Worse because a slackening of planning laws will clearly take precedence in the aim of winning the misinformed urban “green” vote, rather than protecting the public and the environment.

    For example, the decommissioning of wind turbines is laughably being passed through planning applications, both in Australia and around the world by the developers stating in their applications that decommissioning will be covered by scrap value. This is simply not true. And many farmers hosting turbines in Australia and overseas are under the impression that they will get the scrap value when the project is at the end of its useful life. But this is not the case, farmers and/or the local community will end up with a VERY LARGE BILL to remove the turbines, or has happened in other developments they will simply be abandoned on site. See this recent report that was commissioned in USA regarding the 124 turbine Beech Ridge development->

    The report found that there was a $10million underestimate by the developer, and this was due to the developer trying to hide the true cost. So given the amount of industrial wind turbine developments and this is common practice by the industry to claim that decom is covered by scrap, there are going to be a heck of a lot of abandoned turbines in the future.

    Here a nice picture of abandoned turbines in Hawaii ->

    To see if this practice is being perpetuated in Australia just have a look at the planning applications, for example in NSW :

    Harden / Yass Preliminary Assessment document Chapter 4, Page 13, Section 4.5.3 available at–communications–energy—water/generation-of-electricity-or-heat-or-co-generation/?action=view_job&job_id=2765

    Then go up a level and look at all the under consideration or approved applications and look up the decommissioning :–communications–energy—water/generation-of-electricity-or-heat-or-co-generation/


  118. Peter, you have a major problem actually addressing salient points. This wind-kite technology DOES exist, just as much as any “economical breeder reactor” exists, but it just has not been deployed yet. According to the TED talk they are already testing the megawatt scale kites.

    Now, stop saying “Look at the terrible wind stuff over there!” and indeed, forget this thread all together because you still haven’t addressed Stephen Gloor’s questions on the solar thermal thread.


  119. Irrespective of whether wind-kite technology exists and may some day be developed to the stage when it is deployed :

    it doesn’t change any of the facts regarding the wide scale negative impacts of industrial wind power stations. Which, sadly, do exist and are continuing to be built.


  120. I was completely surprised when the Scientific American podcast on a “Solar Grand Plan” (just google SCIAM + that phrase) explained that our coal, gas, and oil infrastructure used SO much land in pipeline infrastructure, mountain top removal, and gas topping power plants and pipelines that even a full-scale solar replacement for ALL fossil fuels would only about equal the amount of space.

    So instead of removing beautiful mountains and forests to get to coal, we’ll be using up a small percentage of our deserts for solar thermal, using some CETO wave power which is good for marine life and invisible to beachgoers and doesn’t affect shipping, and yes, some wind power in windy locations. But with CETO wave power being baseload and estimated to be quite economical, I can’t see that we’ll be getting ALL our power from wind, even if these megawatt scale kites ARE baseload.

    Basically, our fossil fuel system not only “clutters the landscape” but causes unbelievable toxic pollution and global warming. We’d be replacing that infrastructure for another infrastructure that was clean and green.

    So once again: IF nuclear power can be demonstrated to be TRULY “walk away safe”, with no “Black Swans” waiting to get us, then from what I’ve read there’s no technical reason that it will not be simple economics that decides the final winner/s.


  121. This message, just received, relates to earlier discussions about sudden iterruptions to wind power.

    Cullerin and Capital wind farms both shut down at around 02:00 this
    morning as winds became gale force. This meant the sudden disappearance
    of >100MW of generation (which has probably since reappeared just as
    suddenly – I only have data to 4am). Once the numerous other proposed
    wind farms in the area have been constructed it may mean the sudden
    disappearance of several hundred megawatts.

    Perhaps windy months lead not only to higher capacity factors (I expect
    August will be >40% across all wind farms) but also to an increased risk
    of severe intermittency problems. Difficult to forecast whether the shut
    down threshold may or may not be met as well.


  122. 1. How would geothermal sites and solar thermal sites and CETO wave sites be doing today Peter?

    2. With enough of these, how catastrophic would it be if the wind DID stop for a few hours, and then came back on again later, especially if the wind energy was smoothed by Better Place EV’s? In other words, do I really care if 10 or 20% of my car battery is charged at home overnight or a bit more during the day at work, as long as I have enough charge to get to work? And if I don’t, and I pull up at the Battery Swap station (which is faster than fuelling up), how is that different to countless other trips to work where motorists are inconvenienced by a few minutes fuelling up?

    3. How regular and predictable is wind at 2000 feet for the kite generators?

    4. (For Bryen) How much noise pollution is there from a kite flying up at 2000 feet?

    5. How many times do renewable energy advocates have to paint a picture of a grid with substantial baseload power that is mainly “topped up” by wind, with a job of mainly charging the private electric transport sector? In other words, how many times do we have to point out that wind’s intermittency might not be that big a deal considering the nature of the market it will probably be selling to?


  123. Eclipsenow re post 168

    re point 4) when they release some specifications and measurements we’ll all know

    I think its a shame that you do not seem to take any of the real issues I have mentioned seriously.


  124. When the straw-manning stops, I just might be able to.

    Until then…
    * keep on debunking a 100% wind grid that no-one is suggesting we build,
    * keep blasting away about the sound when many wind farms (in Australia at least) are away from population centres,
    * and keep pushing discussions about how wonderful the next generation nuclear plants will be while ignoring the next generation of higher capacity HIGHER wind power.


  125. Eclipsenow re post 170 :

    No one here is “straw-manning”.

    Last time I looked the wind was nowhere near 100% wind on the grid (& neither has been proposed by gov, the wind industry or anyone else for that matter), the problems of existing and planned wind turbines on the grid however remain and industrial scale wind turbine power stations makes things worse. The wind turbines that we are discussing are the ones that are actually being deployed at present.

    re : * keep blasting away about the sound when many wind farms (in Australia at least) are away from population centres,

    tell that to the poor people in rural Australia and around the world who DO have to live near them (along with all the other problems they cause), just to provide a measly bit of unreliable power to population centers elsewhere, with no significant reduction in greenhouse gases to show for it.

    You are somewhat mistaken about them being away from population areas, and plenty of people in rural towns have to live with them, and the latest one near a city is slated to go up at Adelaide fringe.,27574,25966853-2682,00.html

    “Wind farms” have gone up on the outskirts of cities in New Zealand with much outcry. And plenty of “wind farms” have been built right next to people homes, within a few hundred metres. Just a handful of quick examples,28124,25970616-5005200,00.html,25197,25964195-5013404,00.html

    See the document I mentioned by Dr Christopher Hanning MD on “Sleep Disturbance and Wind Turbine Noise”.

    you might discover that industrial wind turbines are actually being inflicted on people at close range all over the world.

    Regarding nuclear read David MacKay’s chapter, that will put things in perspective, it did for me, and that is my sum total knowledge of nuclear (you’ll notice I have not made a single comment regarding nuclear as I do not feel I have adeqwuately researched the subject yet) :

    If you have nothing to contribute to this thread topic, then you should be posting somewhere else on what you hope will happen regarding wind energy in the future. I think geothermal and solar thermal (particularly the Lloyd Energy graphite system) have great potential, but that is a different thread and I will post my views on that elsewhere.

    The topic of this thread is about wind energy and emissions reductions i.e. wind energy that is installed using present technology turbines. This is not “straw-manning” as you imply, but a real problem facing real people. If you are not happy with this, why don’t you ask Barry to set up another topic on future wind technologies? Just dont forget about the cube limit and the Betz limit :

    I am honestly addressing the topic and based on the research I have read and posted about extensively above :

    Industrial wind turbines in their present incarnation i.e. so called “wind farms” provide no significant reduction in greenhouse gas emissions and come with an additional lengthy list of real problems that need to be addressed.


  126. Industrial wind turbines in their present incarnation i.e. so called “wind farms” provide no significant reduction in greenhouse gas emissions and come with an additional lengthy list of real problems that need to be addressed.

    Wow, all those gigawatts of energy delivered worldwide just disappear.


  127. OK, there’s a fair bit that you say that I’m not as hostile to as I sound. I AM sympathetic to the plight of people with wind farms next to them. I AM disturbed by *some* placements of wind farms that mean service roads have to go through what was previously nice wilderness. Just as I’m disturbed by mountain top removal for coal.

    But please don’t ignore the fact that all that wind could end up supplying the Better Place model. Your contention that wind turbines do nothing to reduce Co2 doesn’t really take this into account. You are going to be SHOCKED by the sudden appearance of a whole new market in cars. I predict gasoline cars will be almost impossible to sell worldwide within 10 to 15 years, maybe sooner.

    This talk is an absolute must to understand Shai Agassi. If you haven’t seen the TED talk on Better Place, don’t bother, watch this one instead.

    Warning: It’s 190 megabyte file… I hope you have broadband. 50 minute talk.


  128. OK, watch it right through to the Q&A at the end where he says….

    (drum roll…)

    “Every 50 thousand of our cars is equivalent to a 1 gigawatt power plant”.

    There’s more, but I’ll let him tell you. It’s an AMAZING TALK!


  129. Peter re post 167 :

    Thats interesting, I drove past Cullerin range on my way to Sydney today, at about 10am, and again at about 4.30pm. It has been extremely windy in the area and the blades were going round the fastest I’ve ever seen. As other readers may or may not be aware, industrial wind turbines have a limited operating wind power curve.

    This is the reason the amount of output per turbine must be carefully calculated and it should be noted the “nameplate” capacity represents the theoretical maximum MW output e.g. 1MW, 2MW etc. so when you read about a 30MW “wind farm” such as Cullerin Range, it doesn’t produce 30MW all the time. In order to estimate the actual output of each turbine an average Load Factor (LF) figure of 20 to 30% of nameplate capacity is often suggested, due to the high variability of wind speed and the turbines power curve. It should be stressed that 20 to 30% is a very generous estimate of efficiency, and the majority of wind installations do not reach this capacity, especially those with relatively poor wind resources such as inland NSW. It is highly unlikely that NSW industrial wind power stations will attain a 30% Load Factor on average.

    This reduction in efficiency is due to a fundamental physical law relating the electrical output to the cube of the wind speed for a wind turbines power curve, usually between about 4m/s (metres per second) and 12 m/s wind speed. This demonstrates how sensitive a turbines output is to wind speed. If the wind speed is below 4m/s (its minimum speed) no power at all is generated from the turbine. If a turbine reaches its maximum capacity at around 12m/s any further increase in wind speed will not result in more power being generated. If the wind speed continues to increase above the turbines maximum rating, often around 25m/s, the turbine is shut down to prevent mechanical damage and again no power at all is generated. Also, if the operating temperature at any time is above 40C wind turbines are shut down to prevent turbine failure.

    These issues can lead to catastrophic failure, potentially resulting in fire or tower collapse for example, which does happen. The most recent turbine fire was with a brand new turbine :

    Note that the second news story states that it is the “first of its kind” -> “What they have told us is that this particular platform, the V90 turbine, has not had a fire like this that has just happened on its own,” Edworthy said.
    What they are referring to here is the model V90, Vestas have had fires with their other turbines, as have other manufacturers :

    Someone caught a bit of this one on video :

    There have been others, in fact one in South Australia reported in Adelaide Sunday Mail 12 February 2006 :

    Suzlon turbine failure examples :

    I am pretty sure the Suzlon models as shown are the same as Cullerin Range and Bungendore. Snowtown definately has the Suzlon S88 model in the photos.

    It will be interesting to look at the power output for Cullerin and others in this period. I will do so when I get time. I am pretty busy with my other things, its a shame there is so little funded research.


  130. Bryen – “It should be stressed that 20 to 30% is a very generous estimate of efficiency, and the majority of wind installations do not reach this capacity, especially those with relatively poor wind resources such as inland NSW. It is highly unlikely that NSW industrial wind power stations will attain a 30% Load Factor on average.”

    Firstly I would urge you to read this – if you are going to make technical comments about wind power they should at least be informed ones:

    Your are confusing efficiency and capacity factor. Wind turbines are quite efficient converting up to about 30% of the available energy in the wind into electricity. CF is not a measure of efficiency but is a measure of how much the energy resource generates. For instance a 55% efficient COGEN plant used as intermediate power is not inefficient because it has an CF, in operation, of 40%. This is just a measure of how much it is used.

    “This reduction in efficiency is due to a fundamental physical law relating the electrical output to the cube of the wind speed for a wind turbines power curve, usually between about 4m/s (metres per second) and 12 m/s wind speed.”

    There is no reduction in efficiency as this is set by a physical law called Bentz’s law ( The electrical output of a wind turbine does vary by the cube of the wind speed however this is not a problem but how the wind works. It simply means that wind farms should be in areas where the wind blows at higher velocity more often as this wind has more energy to extract than lower wind speeds.

    When a wind site is evaluated a measure device is placed at the site measuring wind speed every 10 minutes or so. This data is then plotted in a wind speed/frequency diagram that characterises the site. If you actually read the reference I posted you will see an example of one. In it the areas under the graph, which represents the energy available, to the left of 4 m/s and to the right of 25m/s are less than 1% of the total area of the graph for a good wind site. This means that wind speeds less than 4 m/s and greater than 25m/s are very rare for a good wind site and do not result in much loss of energy.

    “If a turbine reaches its maximum capacity at around 12m/s any further increase in wind speed will not result in more power being generated. If the wind speed continues to increase above the turbines maximum rating, often around 25m/s, the turbine is shut down to prevent mechanical damage and again no power at all is generated. Also, if the operating temperature at any time is above 40C wind turbines are shut down to prevent turbine failure.”

    OK a turbine does reach is maximum at a set wind speed but are you trying to say that this is a problem? This would be the same as thinking that a coal plant had a problem because you could not stoke up the boiler and get another 100MW from it.

    The cut-in and cut-out wind speeds are entirely dependent on the design. Turbines such as these:

    have a cut-out wind speed of 30m/s and are specifically designed for gusty high winds. Also not all wind turbines shut down at 40deg – again this is design dependant.

    Wind farms here in WA regularly top 40% CF. I suggest that the site in Rural NSW that have low wind should be investing in solar instead of wind.


  131. Re Eclipsenow posts regarding Better Place

    We need a “Better Plan” for the Better Place :

    The Better Place sticker saying “my next car will run on the wind” should also come with a large print warning, a bit like on cigarette packets saying “Caution : Wind energy can be harmful to the public and the environment”


  132. Stephen, re post 176 :

    My use of the term efficiency. Yes, sorry I’m not confusing it, it was a slip of the typing, I should have written CF instead of efficiency.


    Re other points :

    The majority of industrial wind turbines in use e.g. GE, Vestas and Suzlon etc have the characteristics I described, e.g. power curve, cut out speed and temp shut off. These are the most common to my knowledge. How many of the windflow turbines are in use at “wind farms” ? They are a 30metre 500kw turbine, most industrial scale “wind farms” are being built with 1, 2 and higher MW turbines and are hub of height about 80 metres and total; height around 125m or higher.

    How many of the Windflow 500 are installed or planned ?

    re : “OK a turbine does reach is maximum at a set wind speed but are you trying to say that this is a problem? This would be the same as thinking that a coal plant had a problem because you could not stoke up the boiler and get another 100MW from it.”

    I was just making sure that people realise that the stronger the wind the higher the output does have a limit. There are farmers I know that think that the faster the wind the more money (= power generated), and they are considering hosting turbines, this type of information is not exactly made common knowledge when they are thinking of the profit. They are certainly not thinking of emissions reductions.

    Stephen I will further address your comments in a later post, am out of time now.


  133. Bryen – “They are a 30metre 500kw turbine, most industrial scale “wind farms” are being built with 1, 2 and higher MW turbines and are hub of height about 80 metres and total; height around 125m or higher.”

    Yes they are and they have specific design features for the conditions in New Zealand. I only posted them to make the point the the cut-out wind speed is a design choice not a fundamental limit.

    “I was just making sure that people realise that the stronger the wind the higher the output does have a limit. ”

    I am sure that people that can look at a wind turbine output graph and interpret it can see this as it is published with every turbine sold. If farmers who are installing them do not know this then they perhaps should get some independent advice.


  134. Stephen, re the remaining points :

    “Wind farms here in WA regularly top 40% CF.” & “In it the areas under the graph, which represents the energy available, to the left of 4 m/s and to the right of 25m/s are less than 1% of the total area of the graph for a good wind site. This means that wind speeds less than 4 m/s and greater than 25m/s are very rare for a good wind site and do not result in much loss of energy.”

    I do not dispute that at a good wind site this is the case. However, as has been seen around the world, the good wind sites do not always coincide with easy grid access, and as a result economics is the significant driver. Unfortunately easy grid access also often coincides with rural or semi-rural community locations. This has led to a reduced CF (or Load Factor LF as sometimes abbreviated) due to poorly sited industrial wind facilities. For example in the UK REF report :

    Click to access wind.overview.2008.pdf

    For UK in 2007 = 27.4%, 2006 = 27.1%, 2005 = 28.2%

    This document gives a full breakdown by region also, the regions vary from 18.2% to 32.5%

    This report compares UK to some average European CF for 2007 :

    Germany 22.6%
    Spain 20.2%
    Denmark 26.2%

    Regarding WA regularly reaching 40% : what are CF are other times as this will affect their annual CF. How does this break down per wind power station in WA?

    “I am sure that people that can look at a wind turbine output graph and interpret it can see this as it is published with every turbine sold. If farmers who are installing them do not know this then they perhaps should get some independent advice.”

    Regarding the Windflow turbines, their rated maximum is at 13.5m/s, so the power curve remains flat from that to cut out at 30m/s. The turbine is also much smaller at 30 metres. On reading their page on installed turbines :

    Gebbies Pass : prototype site of 1 turbine

    Te Rere Hau : Stage 1 consists of 5 turbines (2.5 MW), which were installed in September 2006.
    Stage 2 (28 turbines, 14 MW), will be completed in 2009.
    Stage 3 (32 turbines, 16 MW), will follow straight on after Stage 2 is completed, as the civil infrastructure (roading and construction pads), was competed during the construction of Stage 2.
    Stage 4 (32 turbines, 16 MW), was ordered in September 2008 and will be delivered to the site following the construction of Stage 3.

    Long Gully : Still in proposal stage, up to 25 turbines

    So at present (according to their web site) they have a total of 6 turbines installed in NZ. As for any other 3rd party projects their site does not say, I imagine it would if any were being planned, but maybe not. I have not looked at the figures for installed turbines in NZ, I can investigate when I have time, but Windflow are not the sort of turbines that TrustPower, Meridian and the large companies are installing.

    So the Windflow turbines represent a a tiny amount compared to the number of industrial scale wind turbines planned or installed for wind power stations, whether in NZ, Australia or overseas.

    This page in particular is worth looking at in NZ of the plan of Manawatu area where the Te Rere Hau Windflow turbines are proposed, click on the image for the high res with distance scale and number of turbines. Note that all the other turbines there will not be Windflow :

    Note the number of turbines proposed and the distance from the population centre in that link. Also note the location of the water catchment and state national park.

    For NZ and in particular the Manuwatu area (including the Te Rere Hau installation of Windflow turbines) I recommend reading this report by Harvey Jones : “Wind farms and their impact on the local community” :

    Also for example in NSW (and elsewhere) one can assertain from the planning docs for electricity power stations which turbines are proposed, a selection of just 2 of the NSW proposals :–communications–energy—water/generation-of-electricity-or-heat-or-co-generation/

    Silverton / Broken Hill up to 598 turbines, turbine hub height up to 105 metres with 55 metre blades. Rated between 1.75MW and 3.6MW.

    Gullen Range : up to 84 turbines at 3.3MW maximum tip height 135 metres

    The problem is that most farmers/landholders :

    a) are not technically minded in this regard and are not inclined to look at such figures

    b) many wind power companies that sign them up offer very little in terms of information, very often information is given verbally so is not legally binding

    c) do not want to spend additional money on technical advice, they leave that to the power co, they’ve already spent enough on solicitors looking at the contract

    d) are specifically concerned with $ figures, again non-legally binding verbal estimates have the potential to influence their decision. The best they do sometimes is work out a bottom line per turbine, again based on non-legally binding verbal estimates given by the power co’s before wind monitoring has taken place. That is something the wind industry should NOT be doing. The biggest problem is that once a farmer has signed a contract, which occurs BEFORE monitoring, they cannot get out of the contract. So they simply work out the estimated bottom line and not trouble themselves with the technicalities.

    e) if they are installing their own turbines, then I agree they should get a qualified independent technical and legal consultant

    The problem of so many poorly sited industrial scale wind power stations, both in Australia and overseas, is that they compound their ineffectiveness and are poor greenhouse gas emissions reducers.


  135. Re Peters post : 167 on Cullerin & Capital shutting down

    I’ve looked at the AEMO 5 minute data in Excel for the period 23-08-09 : 01:42 – 2009-08-26 : 08:42 for both Cullerin Range and Capital / Bungendore. Also of note they both simultaneously dipped earlier : Capital offline, with Cullerin offline and just beginning coming back up a few minutes earlier than Capital, on 23-08-09 at 17:55 to 20:25. In fact if you type in those dates (23-08-09 : 01:42 – 2009-08-26 : 08:42) at :

    and get the 5 minute data for both, plot the charts in Excel you will see these two near simultaneous off line events.

    Also of note is that Capital was running at 50% anyway when it went completely offline, it was peaking flat at around 76MW, and this is a 141MW plant according to AEMO. So maybe half of it was shut down earlier in any case due to the high winds… either that or its not fully operational yet, which it is supposed to be. It definately reached around the 100MW mark very briefly. The July 20 to August 20 data shows that Capital had a very brief period around 100MW, the rest looks pretty poor. Both Cullerin and Capital were extremely variable for that July 20 to August 20 period as mentioned above in post 149.


  136. Some other useful resources on wind and poor emissions reduction :

    From this site by John Etherington a professional environmental scientist, formerly Reader in Ecology at the University of Wales.

    Click to access The%20Case%20Against%20Wind%20%27Farms%27.pdf

    His page that covers just emissions is ->

    also see ->

    Etherington is also publishing a book later this year :


    “The WInd Farm Scam

    John Etherington

    The spectre of global warming and the political panic surrounding it has triggered a goldrush for renewable energy sources without an open discussion of the merits and drawbacks of each.
    In The Wind Farm Scam Dr Etherington argues that in the case of wind power the latter far outweigh the former. Wind turbines cannot generate enough energy to reduce global CO2 levels to a meaningful degree; what’s more wind power is by nature intermittent and cannot generate a steady output, necessitating back-up coal and gas power plants that significantly negate the saving of greenhouse gas emissions.

    In addition to the inefficacy of wind power there are ecological drawbacks, including damage to habitats, wildlife and the far-from-insignificant aesthetic drawback of the assault upon natural beauty and the pristine landscape, which wind turbines entail.

    Dr Etherington argues that wind power has been, and is being, excessively financed at the cost of consumers who have not been consulted, nor informed that this effective subsidy is being paid from their bills to support an industry that cannot be cost efficient or, ultimately, favour the cause it purports to support.

    John Etherington – THE AUTHOR:

    John Etherington was a Reader in Ecology at the University of Wales , Cardiff . Since his retirement from the University in 1990,
    he has devoted himself to researching the implications of intermittently available renewable electricity generation, in particular wind power.
    He is a Thomas Huxley Medallist at the Royal College of Science and a former co-editor of the International Journal of Ecology.

    300 pages, Paperback
    125x200mm, Portrait
    Available from September 2009.

    ISBN-10: 1905299834
    ISBN-13: 9781905299836
    Price £9.9


    Another source is from the

    There are number of interesting articles and papers at this site relevant to this discussion.

    Eric Rosenbloom has written a document titled “A Problem With Wind Power” (featured in At Issue: What Energy Sources Should Be Pursued, Greenhaven Press, 2005,
    and Opposing Viewpoints: Global Resources, Gale, 2007)


  137. I know this is the wind thread, but you’re all continually and repeatedly and stubbornly ignoring the fact that:
    * other baseload renewables exist, wind will not be on its own
    * wind can “top up” energy supplies to sectors of the economy that can “smooth” wind’s erratic supply. EG: Smart appliances such as bulk Freezer rooms that store the energy as ice for moments when the refrigeration cannot run, and the smart device turns off, and the soon to be MASSIVE electric car industry.

    Sorry to harp on about it again, but the constant repetition of “intermittent” above requires constant repetition of “irrelevant” below.

    Just think about some of the factors that will help this new EV paradigm roll out exponentially! From the wiki…

    “In March 2008, Deutsche Bank analysts reportedly concluded that the company’s approach could be a “paradigm shift” that causes “massive disruption” to the auto industry, and which has “the potential to eliminate the gasoline engine altogether.”[29] Three months later, the same institution issued a second report, finding “electric vehicles destined for much more growth than is widely perceived”. The same report states that “[i]mprovements in battery technology will allow for increased power, increased electrical propulsion, and bigger gains in fuel economy.”[30]”

    Add to the list that Better Place is also rolling out across San Francisco and 25 other locations around the world. These EV networks are simply going to be the new car standard! Other car manufacturers would be suicidal to resist the battery-swapping standards that will give consumers a car that is

    Log into to get your sticker that says “My next car will run on wind”, I have!


  138. Eclipsenow : This issue is not irrelevant, far from it.

    Do you have shares in Better Place or something ??

    And your reply to the issues on harm to the environment and people on the Solar Power Realities thread post 276 “Sorry mate, I’m not in control of all that. ” represents the worst attitude I’ve ever seen. If you’re going to talk about how great and environmentally friendly wind is you should make sure the company you’re buying it off are “in control of that” and just green washing you.

    Sure get suckered in by an advert and request for donations and money and buy a bumper sticker for something that “could”, “might”, “may”, “is going to be”. Just don’t drive through a rural town near a “wind farm” with it on your car is my advice.

    In the meantime the real environmental problems still exist.


  139. Pingback: Jennifer Marohasy » Energy Targets Versus Nuclear

  140. In addition to the recent studies mentioned in my earlier posts, a number of new studies I’ve just found are worth checking out ->

    Click to access Wind_energy_-_the_case_of_Denmark.pdf

    Part 1 covers “The real state-of-play and its hidden costs”

    A quick quote : “The wind power that is exported from Denmark saves neither fossil fuel consumption nor CO2 emissions in Denmark, where it is all paid for.”

    Part 2 covers “Wind energy’s effect on employment”

    & their site is very good too :


    This doc (Aug 2009) from Health Canada pulls up a wind developer who states that there is no peer reviewed papers on health effetcs.’s-response-to-the-digby-wind-power-project-addendum-digby-nova-scotia/

    I would also add to their list of ref’s the peer reviewed papers :

    Graham Harding, Pamela Harding, and Arnold Wilkins, (2008) “Wind turbines, flicker, and photosensitive epilepsy: Characterizing the flashing that may precipitate seizures and optimizing guidelines to prevent them” Epilepsia 49(6) pages 1095-1098


    Castelo Branco NAA, Alves-Pereira M. (2007) “In-Home Wind Turbine Noise Is Conducive to Vibroacoustic Disease”, Second International Conference on Wind Turbine Noise, Lyon, France.


    Also on the wind-watch doc page is a good new doc (Sept 2009) just out about wind farm’s negative effect on property values :


    There is also the need for research into large scale wind farms effect on local climate, to date there has been very little research :

    Somnath Baidya Roy, Steve Pacala and Robert L. Walko (2004) Can Large Windfarms Affect Local Meteorology? J. Geophys. Res.-Atmos. VOL. 109, D19101.

    available at


    David W. Keith, Joseph F. DeCarolis, David C. Denkenberger, Donald H. Lenschow, Sergey L. Malyshev, Stephen Pacala and Philip J. Rasch (2004). The influence of large-scale wind-power on global climate. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 101, p. 16115-16120.

    Click to access 66.Keith.2004.WindAndClimate.e.pdf

    David Keith et al were investigating whether large scale wind will affect global climate, not local climate. In terms of local climate effects Keith states on this web page :

    “It is plausible, however, that significant local climate change could occur in areas where wind farms are concentrated even if wind supplies a small fraction of global electricity demand.”

    See also Jay Apt’s quotes in my earlier post #141


    The very recent POYROY report “Impact of Intermittency” is also very interesting reading :

    A freely available summary report is here :

    Click to access Intermittency%20Public%20Report%202_0.pdf

    The press release :

    Click to access Poyry%20Wind%20Study%20Press%20Release.pdf


    Energy Sprawl, which covers issues related to renewables such as biofuel, solar, and wind among others +, nuclear + fossil fuels->

    McDonald RI, Fargione J, Kiesecker J, Miller WM, Powell J, 2009 Energy Sprawl or Energy Efficiency: Climate Policy Impacts on Natural Habitat for the United States of America. PLoS ONE 4(8): e6802. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0006802

    available for free download from the Public Library of Science :


  141. From SCIAM:

    Among the leaders is a Massachusetts company that plans to use hundreds of “flywheels” to store 20 megawatts of electricity, enough to power 200 homes for a day. Beacon Power Corp. is working with a $43 million federal loan guarantee for its $69 million storage project in Stephentown, N.Y., which is scheduled to break ground by year’s end.


  142. Pingback: Can Wind Power Be Stored?: Scientific American « Eclipse Now

  143. Pingback: Questions about 100% renewable grid « Eclipse Now

  144. The latest interesting paper on negative environmental effects of industrial wind energy on wildlife is in the journal Biological Conservation :

    Carrete, M., et al. Large scale risk-assessment of wind-farms on population viability of a globally endangered long-lived raptor. Biol. Conserv. (2009), doi:10.1016/j.biocon.2009.07.027

    Abstract :

    “Wind-farms receive public and governmental support as an alternative energy source mitigating air pol-
    lution. However, they can have adverse effects on wildlife, particularly through collision with turbines.
    Research on wind-farm effects has focused on estimating mortality rates, behavioural changes or inter-
    specific differences in vulnerability. Studies dealing with their effects on endangered or rare species pop-
    ulations are notably scarce. We tested the hypothesis that wind-farms increase extinction probability of
    long-lived species through increments in mortality rates. For this purpose, we evaluate potential conse-
    quences of wind-farms on the population dynamics of a globally endangered long-lived raptor in an area
    where the species maintains its greatest stronghold and wind-farms are rapidly increasing. Nearly one-
    third of all breeding territories of our model species are in wind-farm risk zones. Our intensive survey
    shows that wind-farms decrease survival rates of this species differently depending on individual breed-
    ing status. Consistent with population monitoring, population projections showed that all subpopulations
    and the meta-population are decreasing. However, population sizes and, therefore, time to extinction sig-
    nificantly decreased when wind-farm mortality was included in models. Our results represent a qualita-
    tive warning exercise showing how very low reductions in survival of territorial and non-territorial birds
    associated with wind-farms can strongly impact population viability of long-lived species. This highlights
    the need for examining long-term impacts of wind-farms rather than focusing on short-term mortality, as
    is often promoted by power companies and some wildlife agencies. Unlike other non-natural causes of
    mortality difficult to eradicate or control, wind-farm fatalities can be lowered by powering down or
    removing risky turbines and/or farms, and by placing them outside areas critical for endangered birds.”

    This is a particularly good paper, and also particularly relevant to Australian wind energy development in view of our Wedge Tailed Eagle population that is currently in danger of such developments. It is interesting to note that should a wind turbine kill a Wedge Tailed Eagle the fine is a mere $1500, assuming it is recorded, whereas the fine for an individual would be in the order of $5000.

    It is interesting to note that the wind industry constantly plays down the effect of wind turbines on birds by making such meaningless statements as “more birds are killed by cats than wind turbines” which is a completely meaningless statistic as no consideration is given to species type. Cats aren’t generally known to roam around taking out eagles.

    Another good paper which looks at the real issues relating to wind energy and wildlife, and how simple statistics like mortalities per turbine do not present a meaningful picture see ->

    Kuvlesky et al, (2007), “Wind Energy Development and Wildlife Conservation: Challenges and Opportunities, Journal of Wildlife Management, 71(8), pp2487-2498 (Invited)


    “Wind energy development represents significant challenges and opportunities in contemporary wildlife management. Such challenges include the large size and extensive placement of turbines that may represent potential hazards to birds and bats. However, the associated infrastructure required to support an array of turbines—such as roads and transmission lines—represents an even larger potential threat to wildlife than the turbines themselves because such infrastructure can result in extensive habitat fragmentation and can provide avenues for invasion by exotic species. There are numerous conceptual research opportunities that pertain to issues such as identifying the best and worst placement of sites for turbines that will minimize impacts on birds and bats. Unfortunately, to date very little research of this type has appeared in the peer-reviewed scientific literature; much of it exists in the form of unpublished reports and other forms of gray literature. In this paper, we summarize what is known about the potential impacts of wind farms on wildlife and identify a 3-part hierarchical approach to use the scientific method to assess these impacts. The Lower Gulf Coast (LGC) of Texas, USA, is a region currently identified as having a potentially negative impact on migratory birds and bats, with respect to wind farm development. This area is also a region of vast importance to wildlife from the standpoint of native diversity, nature tourism, and opportunities for recreational hunting. We thus use some of the emergent issues related to wind farm development in the LGC—such as siting turbines on cropland sites as opposed to on native rangelands—to illustrate the kinds of challenges and opportunities that wildlife managers must face as we balance our demand for sustainable energy with the need to conserve and sustain bird migration routes and corridors, native vertebrates, and the habitats that support them.”

    Something to bear in mind when looking at the locations of the wind farm precincts in NSW that NSW Premier Nathan Rees has announced without consulting any of the local populations.


  145. The Wind Farm Scam by Dr. John Etherington

    Communities and Politicians Should Welcome This Contribution

    Thank goodness for this timely contribution. As a professional engineer and academic I was recently faced with the task of educating myself and fellow villagers on the numerous issues surrounding industrial wind turbines. We needed to rapidly acquire and assimilate the information on turbine capital costs, electrical output, revenue streams, subsidies (including the Alice-in-Wonderland ‘renewables obligation certificates’), health issues (particularly noise) and claimed contributions to carbon-reduction.

    All this was required to counter the ‘steamroller’ tactics of developer and lobby groups, both apparently determined to despoil the new South Downs National Park landscape and (as it transpired) to charge us for the privilege! We spent many weeks collating information, then promulgating to residents and planning authorities and at public inquiry. Dr. Etherington’s monograph would have dramatically eased and speeded our learning experience.

    Etherington’s book will surely come to be recognised as the immediate source of reference for communities such as ours when faced with proposals for industrial wind turbine farms. From painful experience our community now knows that they are indeed a ‘scam’.

    Hopefully ‘The Wind Farm Scam’ will also be required reading for all MPs in the 2010 intake; particularly so for ministers who thus far have failed spectacularly to grasp the scientific and environmental issues which John Etherington so adeptly assembles and analyses.

    It is no exaggeration to say that none of our legislators (with the honourable exception of Lord Lawson) has thus far grasped the futility of wind turbine economics. If appropriate early action is taken to modify current policies it would save our nation tens of billions of pounds that we can ill afford – and all this with no harm to the environment!

    We all owe Dr. Etherington a debt of gratitude for his timely publication – let us not waste the opportunity to revise our strategy.

    Dr. Tony Parker
    East Sussex, UK


  146. Just for interest, have a look at this :

    Notice how for most of the past week, the contribution from wind power has been close to zero.

    More importantly, notice that at times of peak demand (Nov, 2, 3 and 4) wind’s contribution is zero or near zero.

    This is just one more example of what is being found from all over the world from the real data. Wind is intermittent, unreliable and generates near valueless energy. The theoretical analyses that researchers like Jacobson and Diesendorf have been propogating for decades, is being shown by the actual data from wind farms to be complete nonsense.

    I wonder how long until this site is also removed from the web. The German wind power monitor used to show a chart like this for all Germany’s wind turbines. It was removed because it was displaying charts just like this one.


  147. the report from the NSW rural wind farm inquiry is out. anyone worried about our government not understanding the full implicaitons of industrial scale wind energy development should read it. particularly relevant is the governments total misunderstanding or ignoring of the issues regarding winds poor GHG reduction, among other things.

    some good did come though, among other things, deccommissioning, 2km setbacks and 90 day exhibition periods for Environmental Assessments were recommended. so a few lights have been shone on the bad behaviour of developers and the NSW dept of Planning.


  148. Bryen,

    Thank you for posting this. I haven’t read it yet. Does it say that ll future wind farms are to be built in State Parks, National parks and World Heritage areas. I recall a recent discussion here or elsewhaer that proposed that since they have ‘no significant ecological foot print’.


  149. many of the proposed/approved wind farms in NSW are in critically endangered box gum grassy woodland areas.

    this page lists all the planning apps for electricity :–communications–energy—water/generation-of-electricity-or-heat-or-co-generation/

    For example take a look at Harden / Yass / (part of the Conroys Gap development),

    Epuron put Harden / Yass on exhibition for a mere 30 days :–communications–energy—water/generation-of-electricity-or-heat-or-co-generation/?action=view_job&job_id=2765

    This project is being “Fast Tracked” under the new legislation, and the developerwould not have to pay an application fee.

    Have a look at the Environmental Assessment that most people have found out about 2 weeks into that process. Hmm thats an extensive and large set of documents to get through in 2 weeks, just before Christmas!


  150. ps : the total number of wind turbines for that dev is 215, including Conroys Gap, and the Carrolls Ridge section which got removed for a separate app because they found certain bats in that section.

    Have a look at the diag on page 37 of the main EA Fig 3-8, which also shows other windfarms planned or approved. Hmmm not a lot of geographical distance between them is there ???

    Is this good planning ?


  151. Re Conroys Gap I lived in that area 1994-2004. Dare I suggest there is a feelgood factor in having motorists on the Hume Highway see the blades turning as opposed to hiding them in the boondocks. When they tried to build a natural gas truck fuelling station on the highway at Yass it was knocked back. It seems imaginary carbon savings beat real ones.

    On feelgood factor I wonder if the SA government has been stung by criticisms that wind power does not load follow in summer. They want solar panels on every public building regardless of cost.

    On parks I think they are meant to reflect pre-European arrival. That’s why we accept the culling of cute exotic animals and weeds because they are alien. Same goes for wind turbines.


  152. anyone interested in where the renewable energy ghettos are planned for should see p25 of the NSW inquiry report

    sorry posted the wrong link earlier (that was a link to sub 81), the inquiry report is here ->

    there is also a one page media release on that page.

    The homepage for the inquiry, with links to subs, hearings etc is here ->


  153. Barry,

    Bryen said:

    “This project is being “Fast Tracked” under the new legislation, and the developerwould not have to pay an application fee.”

    Perhaps we could suggeest that nuclear be fast tracked too. The precedent has been established: fast track electrcity generation to reduce CO2 emissions.

    Here is another idea. The government has agreed to accept all the risk for CO2 leeaks for Carbon Capture and storage.

    So the precendent has been set: the government accepts the commerical risk for industrial accidents for new electrcity generation technologies that reduce CO2 emissions.

    These precedents, if applied, should help us to implement low-cost nuclear in Australia.


  154. This points out how completely uneconomic is wind power in Denmark and much more. The emissions avoidance cost is $124/MWh.

    Click to access Wind_energy_-_the_case_of_Denmark.pdf

    When all this is known, why are we making the same mistakes in Australia. And it is wrose here, beacuse we don’t have the enormous hydro resources of Norway and Sweden to back up for our wind power nor the very large European greid attached, with all its nuclear power, to absorb the disturbances contributed by wind power.

    Will someone please tell our governments


  155. Time frames for industrial scale power station construction often get quoted on on BNC. Some notes on the process as I’ve seen it ->

    For the Conroys Gap wind farm section approval was given on 31 May 2007 by Frank Sartor MP, who was NSW Minister for Planning at the time, he is now : NSW Minister for Climate Change and the Environment Minister Assisting the Minister for Health (Cancer)

    Our new NSW Premier, has also approved some, I think she did Cullerin.

    As far as I’m aware no construction work has begun yet at Conroys Gap, and the Environmental Assessment (EA) and wind monitoring would have taken 1 to 2 years minimum, + the developer than has to sell it on, this one went to Origin, as did Cullerin to portfolio partner with their gas power stations presumably.

    So this coming May 2010, would make that about 5 years pre-construction time (some wind farms take longer). Then it has to get built, Conroys Gap is for 15 turbines, but integrated with whole Yass wind farm of 215 turbines, construction would likely be > 2 to 3 years, in fact in the EA for Yass section alone (152 turbines) the estimate is 24 – 36 months (p70)

    The reality of industrial wind is that any tinpot speculating developer can throw together an app, with no cash support whatsover or hope to build the thing, get approval, and then breeze around for a while looking for a project buyer as the planning approval gives them 3 years to begin construction (unless they write to the gov and ask for longer), see the Determination doc for Conroys Gap, see p5 “lapsing of approval” :–communications–energy—water/generation-of-electricity-or-heat-or-co-generation/?action=view_job&job_id=140

    Prior to this process above the wind farm speculators have to trundle around the countryside signing up landholders within a turbines spin of a powerline (a process which is potentially extremely murky and is arguably a higher priority than wind resource from a developers perspective). We can easily add on another year or so for this, and wind monitoring towers require a contract of some form to be signed before they can be erected.

    At present the public, local communities & affected neighbouring landholders are given 30 days public exhibition time in which to read and digest the information contained in the Environmental Assessment. In many cases it can be some time into this exhibition period before they are made aware that such a development is being proposed. I challenge anyone to receive such a document with associated Appendices, data images etc. in the midst of their life/business and be able to make a satisfactory comment in such a short space of time. All this given that the developer and the paid consultants has been involved in getting it to that stage for several years

    It is important that issues of “sustainable energy” recognise the communities where they are being placed. How much electricity does the ACT consume? In the NEM, ACT appears within NSW, as yet I have not found any figure for electricity consumption in the ACT. It would be interesting to overlay the NSW RE precinct map with geographical electricity consumption seeing as how Sydney, most of the developed coast and the ACT are excluded. Perhaps then apply the Causer Pay idea and think about where things should be built.

    Personally I think the Fast Tracking process is flawed and too open to abuse, as is clearly the case for industrial wind development. At the very least it needs VERY close monitoring and independant peer review / evaluation of all Environmental Assessment documents before any planning decision is made.

    So lets add some of that up in a quick back of the envelope fashion & say, 1 year for negotiating with a landholder and getting a monitoring tower up, 1 year of monitoring (assuming a quick buck developer, 2 to 3 years for more reliable info), 1 year for doing & writing EA, 30 days for public comment (a blip so we can ignore this), 3 years to get buyer / funding and start construction, construction (depends on size e.g. Yass section 152 turbines @ 2.5MW = 380MW = 2 to 3 years).

    = 5 to 6 years assuming immediate buyer (develop & sell)
    = 8 to 9 years assuming time wasting / develop & delay strategy

    note : develop & sell / develop & delay as an industrial scale wind strategy is outlined in :

    Kann, S (2009) Overcoming barriers to wind project finance in Australia, Energy Policy 37 p3139-3148
    This paper is from the Centre for Sustainable Energy Systems @ ANU

    The above development time figures are quick calcs, I encourage people to read the Planning Apps, Env Assessments and approval docs to get a realistic handle on dates to come to an independant idea of how long it takes to build industrial scale wind power stations, and some of the process involved in siting, and what the local environments/ecologies where they are constructed are composed of.

    If people value critically endangered ecosystems, and the plants and wildlife they contain, peoples rights and health, particularly in Australia, I would suggest looking through some of these EA development application documents for industrial scale wind power stations. Try and assess for yourself what kind of an impact they will have. If you are not in a position to do this yourself, give yourself 30 days to find someone at your expense who can offer a critical and credible opinion that you trust.


  156. ooops

    I left out approval time from the Dept of Planning. With the Fast Track process this is generally thought to be between 3 and 4 months following the 30 day exhibition period. So that should be added on to the above figures. This would previously have been about year for anything not classed as Critical Infrastructure, which as we all know in NSW has been downgraded from 250MW to a laughable 30MW, so for a 30MW wind farm @ 30% CF who wants to put down the answer for its final MW, MWh and annual GHG reduction (in real physical units not mythical ones like houses or cars) for such a piece of “critical infrastructure” ?

    Did I also mention that this 30 day exhibition period is critical, because once approved under 3A legislation for crit infr, as far as i am aware, there is NO right of appeal to the Land & Environment court on merit reasons (e.g. wildlife, environmental, health, property value, visual amenity, neighbouring land holder future plans-i.e. constructing a building or farm shed may not be allowed in certain areas because turbines are to close to your property boundary, or any other reason ). Apparently appeals to the L&E court can then only be made on process, which I have been told can simply be overturned by the planning minister. I would value anyone who is familiar with these L&E court aspects to post a comment or further information.


  157. Bryen,

    Thank you for this summary.

    My reaction is this: If this is the case for wind power (and I accept it is), imagine what would be involved in getting approval to build an NPP.

    It is the regulatory and approvals process we need to address in Australia if we want low-cost, low-emissions electricity any time soon.


  158. I if we want to lower our CO2 emissions we should use the electricity technologies with the lowest CO2 output per kWh.
    We can’t avoid the fact that we use carbon to remove oxygen from alumina to make aluminium, plus a lot of energy. The same applies for iron , steel and other minerals which Australia supplies to the rest of the world.
    The Australian Labor Party”s Emissions Trading Scheme [ETS] wanted the nation to submit to a system reliant on the trading of carbon credits to solve the problem of global emissions. The ETS in Europe was a failure, created profits for traders and had no impact on global emissions other than hot air from ploiticians and NGOs.
    Australia’s ETS or CPRS {cardio-pulmonary resuscitation system, or carbon pollution reduction system} has about 600 pages of legislation and regulation which will require the recruitment of a host of public servants to police the act and its regulation.
    Maybe these will be called green jobs.

    Finland has a population of about 5.3 million, has 4 nuclear reactors making its electricity, is building another and has plans for yet another. Australia, with a population of 22 million, a huge amount of nuclear fuel which it sells to the world and refuses to adopt nuclear electricity as a means of lowering its high per capita CO2 emissions.
    Why? Labor Party dogma and the hope of “green ” preferences at election time.

    I speak as a former member of the ALP


  159. If you look at the end of the NSW wind farm inquiry report, Appendix 6, you will notice that ALL 3 of the ALP members of the panel dissented and did not support the 2km set backs from residences. Gives you an idea of the level of compansion floating around….


  160. I posted the You Tube link to “They’re Not Green” in an earlier post. This is a documentary on some (!!certainly not all by a long way!!) of the problems/issues with industrial scale wind energy development.

    The website says its made in association with physicist Dr John Droz.

    The doco also features long standing California bird researcher Dr Smallwood, who has published many articles on wildlife problems / fatalities.

    Doco website ->

    A good doco to open peoples eyes!

    Dr John Droz website ->


  161. Peter,

    To answer your question about wind farms & state forest some recent announcements for wind farms are getting pretty close :

    Adjungbilly wind farm, which is just down the road from Yass and all the other wind farms being proposed in NSW renewable energy ghet, er I mean Precincts. And also Shannons Flat at Cooma some details here from the developer CBD Energy (which should give you an idea how far away they will be sleeping…) :

    Click to access 10:09:2009%20CBD%20Initiates%20new%20NSW%20wind%20farm.pdf

    Click to access CBD%20Signs%20Wind%20Turbine%20Supply%20Agreement%20with%20Tianwei%203%20pages.pdf

    Click to access 13:10:2009%20Receives%20Report%20on%20Shannons%20Flat%20Wind%20Farm.pdf

    Note the agreement with China for turbine supply, hmmmm wonder if they;ll make them here or over in China, that would certainly affect any Life Cycle Analysis conducted by an independent peer reviewer. If you read the press releases, they sound pretty confident they’re going to get approved…

    Yass and others are also in Critically Endangered Box Gum Grassy Woodland, along with associated flora and fauna, some of which are also endangered or otherwise on the way down…

    The Molonglo Ridge one would have been very close to, but it was shelved, however with the new incentives the residents there are of course still worried as the project could of course be onsold :


  162. The wind farm dev at Broken Hill called Silverton Wind Farm, which will be for about 600 wind turbines, hmm imagine that lot going offline at once, I think its slated for around 1.2GW, some recent research.

    This was signed away by the new NSW Planning Minister Tony Kelly, our Planning Minister :

    “On 30 June 2009, Minister of Lands Tony Kelly signed a lease agreement for one of the largest onshore wind farms. This agreement will secure jobs and investment in western NSW. It is one of the major steps in securing the development of the largest farm in the southern hemisphere, which will be built on 32,000 hectares of crown land.”

    There was I heard some recent change due to finding some ultra rare legless lizards I think, which knocked some turbines off.

    They’ll need to get those backup Gas plants ready!

    As many will know, Broken Hill is a bit of a film area too.

    I wonder how this will effect the film industry / tourism industry there?

    Anyone interested in the Stage 1 Environmental Assessment with 182 turbines can go here :–communications–energy—water/generation-of-electricity-or-heat-or-co-generation/?action=view_job&job_id=1617

    Wow the public got 60 days to respond to that one, just a few documents…

    I do urge people to have a look at these planning documents.

    Remember :

    Its your government

    Its your money subsidising all this :

    renewable energy targets, waiver of planning application fees which is a substantial saving for developers, 4 month fast track turnaround… plus it also ends up on your electricity bills too, have missed anything else ??

    Its your landscape, your cultural heritage, your ecosystem

    Page 50 of the Environmental Assessment states :

    3.4.4 Phase 4: Wind turbine decommissioning
    Should a turbine fail and it is not commercially viable to replace the turbine, the turbine would be decommissioned.
    Decommissioning would involve similar road access arrangements to construction, and would require access for large
    cranes and transport vehicles to dismantle and remove the turbines. All underground footings and cable trenches would
    remain in situ and made safe, and all other equipment would be removed from site. The decommissioning period is
    likely to be significantly shorter and with significantly fewer truck movements than the construction phase.
    It should be noted that the scrap value of turbines and other equipment is expected to be sufficient to cover the majority
    of the costs of their dismantling and site restoration.

    NO! wrong! decommissioning will be very expensive… who will end up paying for that… oh thats right — you and me! again see the NSW inquiry report on wind turbine decom & this ->

    Ask yourself the questions : Does this look like responsible renewable energy development? What is sleek and majestic about an abandoned wind farm? An eagle however is sleek and majestic! The current approval documents are putting a price to the wind farm owners of $1500 per eagle, look up what would happen to you if it was you that did the deadly dead on the bird…

    A final note… community development funds… do they think we are that simple that they can bribe us with our own money?


  163. Peter,

    Some more regarding closeness to state forests. Have a look at the Planning Application ->–communications–energy—water/generation-of-electricity-or-heat-or-co-generation/?action=view_job&job_id=3272

    From the docs ->

    “125 wind turbines and ancillary 
    structures on an area of the high altitude plateau of the Monaro Plains, located within the Bombala 
    and Cooma‐Monaro Shire Council boundaries, approximately 6 kilometres (km) west of the township 
    of Nimmitabel, New South Wales”

    The website Wind Prospect ( run for the Boco Rock Wind Farm is :

    which for some inexplicable reason only provides a link to the main planning website :

    & not actually to the place on the site where the application documents are, which I have just given above. I have just checked this now as at 5.05pm 22/12/2009.

    Publics got 60 days to read the documents and send a submission, closing date is 03/02/2009, well less now of course as the opening date was 09/12/2009. Of course as its the Christmas period many people are busy, so time will be shortened further for most.

    The maximum blade height on the turbine is 152m. To give an idea of scale that is taller than Sydney Harbour Bridge, and somewhere in the middle to Black Mountain Tower at Canberra (except there will be 125 of these and they’ll be rotating for part of the year).

    Maybe my browser isn;t working properly because at :

    which shows the predicted views I could not see any pictures ?

    However they are educating the locals ->

    Note that on this page ->

    which gives the wind farm development process, near the end we have ->

    Landscape and visual impact assessment Nov 2009 Study
    Civil engineering assessment Early 2010 Study
    Planning Decision Mid 2010 Milestone


    Note that this implies that the environmental assessment process would still be ongoing in early 2010!!! but no, the EA is actually on exhibition now! I have just checked this now as at 5.23pm 22/12/2009.

    Also examine the dates here ->

    and compare them with the actual dates in the Environmental Assessment.

    Also note from part of the visual assessment that the company signed that off on 5th September 2009, so it was already completed well before Nov 2009 :

    see the first section of the the 5 part appendix 6 :

    Click to access 08%20A6%20Landscape%20and%20Visual%20Impact%20Assessment%20Part%201.pdf

    I would appreciate someone checking these docs and times as a sanity check, because this does not look like adequate community consultation to me.

    ***Remember this is classed as “critical infrastructure” as is Broken Hill, Yass etc, anything >30MW that is listed at :–communications–energy—water/generation-of-electricity-or-heat-or-co-generation/

    So with “critical infrastructure” there is NO right of appeal to the Land & Environment Court after the planning decision has been made. Any objection must be made before the end of the on exhibition date for these projects.


  164. For the Boco Rock Wind Farm decommissioning :

    All decommissioning work would be the responsibility of the Project owner and is a provision within 
    the lease arrangement. Experience in Denmark and The Netherlands shows that sale of the scrap 
    metal and other valuable items salvaged from the turbines and electrical components would more 
    than meet the cost of decommissioning. 

    see p54 :

    Click to access 06%20Chapter%203%20Project%20Description%20Part%203.pdf


  165. ALSO : note that this recent turbine collapse at Fenner was built by ENRON (we all know what happened to them dont we? see last link below) ->

    Enron Wind ended up being bought by GE Energy (General Electric)

    To get a handle on the Enron Scandal go to ->

    So of course the Life Cycle Analysis for this wind farm will have to be altered, I wonder if a re-analysis will know take place?


  166. Bryen,

    My point about wind farms and state forests is that, if wind farms have no detrimental environmenta effects as is claimed by their advocates, then why dont these same advocacy groups recommed that the wind farms be sited in the state forests and heritage areas rather than in places where they cause so much havoc to the people who live where they are being sited?

    Of course, the full cost of the network upgrades and the increased costs of across the entiore system that results from mandating wind energy whousl also be carried by the wind fr owners.


  167. Peter,

    Regarding state forests, I’m sure its only a matter of time… but of course when it comes time to decommission the state would be liable, rather than a landholder, so perhaps they are hedging their bets there… ?

    One of the National Research Council authors of the 2007 study, Rick Webb, has made the pre-publication version of the important NRC 2007 report available for free on line at :

    Webb has also summarized his personal concerns regarding lack of emissions
    reductions in SO2 and NOx, and the cumulative impacts to wildlife, available on line :

    Click to access Key_Points_About_Wind_Development.pdf

    Rick Webb specifically states in this doc that :

    Additional impacts to birds, bats, and other wildlife will occur due to forest fragmentation and habitat alteration
    related to access roads, transmission corridors, and turbine sites associated with wind power development, especially
    on forested ridges.

    and also see :

    Click to access Wishful-Thinking.pdf

    His main website is of course :


  168. I thought it would be an interesting exercise to see just what Australia’s current wind farm fleet means in terms of GHG reduction for Australia and globally. We often see on the planning apps and press releases that so many million tons of CO2 will be saved per year, but what does this really mean?

    The current installed wind capacity in the NEM (NSW, Vic, Tas, SA, there are none in Queensland lucky people) is 1609MW (1.6GW) see Andrew Miskelly’s excellent site :

    Note this does not include the handful of small wind farms <30MW, which will be insignificant in terms of GHG reductions in any case.

    Lets be generous & say they are all running at 35% Capacity Factor (CF) which gives :

    0.35CF x 1609MW = 563.15MW

    MWh per year :

    563.15 x 8760 = 4,933,194MWh/year

    To obtain the GHG reduction I will again be generous and say it is displacing gas at 0.36tCO2/MWh and not worry about the Katzenstein and Apt's recent results which state that this is now an overestimation, and NOx emissions may also increase. See : Katzenstein, W & Apt, J, “Air Emissions Due To Wind and Solar Power”, Environmental
    Science & Technology (2009) Vol 43 No 2 pages 253-258

    So in a year for Australian wind farms connected to the NEM that would be 0.36 x 4,933,194 = 1,775,949.84 tons of CO2 saved per year.

    According to Australia's GHG emissions for 2007 without including LULUCF (Land Use, Land Use Change & Forestry) were : 541,178.7 GgCO2 equiv & Rueters have reported it at as being 576 million tons. if we include LULUCF the Australian annual figure rises to 825,884 GgCO2 equiv. Lets sit somewhere in the middle of this , ignore LULUCF, and round it to 550 million tons, and express current NEM connected wind farms contribution as a percentage :

    (1,775,949.84 / 550,000,000) * 100 =

    A grand total of 0.32% reduction of total Australian GHG emissions (not including emissions due to LULUCF)

    If we include LULUCF :

    (1,775,949.84 / 825,884,000) * 100 =

    A grand total of 0.21% reduction of total Australian GHG emissions

    How does that stack up globally ?? According to this web page :

    the world total CO2 emissions in 2006 were 29,195,000,000 tons

    (1,775,949.84 / 29,195,000,000) * 100 =

    A grand total of 0.006% reduction of global CO2 emissions by currently installed Australian wind farms.

    Disclaimer : Dont just take my word for it, maybe I've made some mistakes here… These are quick "back of the envelope" calculations & I would welcome Peter, Barry & others to check these figures for any errors in calculation and post their results back here for discussion.

    Also try the figures with additional wind capacity, e.g. NSW has about another 2GW in the approved stage or applied for in the planning dept stage. So slap another 2GW into the figures and see how it changes. 2GW = 2000MW = an additional 1000 wind turbines of 2MW capacity. Find out what is planned/approved for the remaining states in the NEM. What is installed/planned/approved outside of the NEM in WA and NT? How would these additions affect the above figures?

    Also try the figures out with other more generous CO2 displacement values e.g. :

    0.43t for a "mix"

    heck why not even agree with the IPCC wind industry spin and try 0.6t as the mix figure, why not boost up the capacity factor to 40% or 45%.

    Does this sound like good value for money for the Australian tax payers, or a sensible way of meaningfully reducing GHG emissions given the amount of *demonstrable environmental problems* created by industrial scale wind power station developments?

    A final thought : When Kevin Rudd officially opened the Capital/Bungendore 132MW wind farm in NSW it was generating …… 2MW…. On many occasions since it has managed to generate 0MW for considerable periods of time. Nov and Dec have been particularly poor, have a look at the data.


  169. Had a little more time to search this morning for GHG emissions figures. These can be obtained from ->

    Also I would urge people (especially Australians) to read these pages in David MacKay’s book ->

    This page discusses the “causer pays principle” which it should be noted is cited in planning apps and also in the recent NSW Inquiry into Rural Wind Farms as a reason for building wind farms.

    From MacKay page 14 :

    “But it isn’t the rate of CO2 pollution that matters, it’s
    the cumulative total emissions; much of the emitted carbon dioxide (about
    one third of it) will hang around in the atmosphere for at least 50 or 100
    years. If we accept the ethical idea that “the polluter should pay” then
    we should ask how big is each country’s historical footprint.”

    From MacKay page 21 note 14 ->

    “In total terms the biggest historical emitters are, in order, USA (322 GtCO2), Russian Federation (90 GtCO2),
    China (89 GtCO2), Germany (78 GtCO2), UK (62 GtCO2), Japan (43 GtCO2), France (30 GtCO2), India (25 GtCO2), and
    Canada (24 GtCO2). The per-capita order is: Luxembourg, USA, United Kingdom, Czech Republic, Belgium, Germany,
    Estonia, Qatar, and Canada.”

    Note the massive change from the world leader (USA) to the 2nd place (Russia). As yet I have not located information for Australia’s historical emissions to get an idea of where we are in the “causer pays” ranking. Does anyone have a figure on that?


  170. Bryen,

    I believe you are being overly generous regarding the emissions avoided by wind generation with gas back up.

    The emissions factors for the fossil fuel generators in the Australian Electricity Market (NEM) are provided here:

    Click to access 419-0035.pdf

    The emissions avoided wind with gas back up can be estimated with this calculator:

    This paper has some major simplifying assumptions:

    Click to access katzenstein_apt_full_report.pdf

    For example, it assumes the same generator with and without wind. That is not the situation that will occur in practice. If we do not have an MRET or any other form of policy intervention to distort the market, then the most efficient gas generators (i.e CCGT) will be built to supply power for the intermediate load. If we have an MRET, investors will invest much more in OCGT than in CCGT. That means we invest in OCGT with emissions intensity of about 0.75 kg CO2-e/kWh rather than CCGT with emissions intensity of about 0.45 kg CO2-e/kWh.

    By the way, I think your emissions intensity figures are too low. I’d suggest you use the emissions intensity ‘sent out’ electricity.

    Based on these sources, the emissions avoided by wind are much less than you have calculated, and perhaps zero or negative.

    It is also interesting to calculate the cost of emissions avoided.

    Nuclear avoids close to 1 kg CO2-e/kWh compared with existing Black coal fired power stations. The capital cost (settled down cost after about the first 5 reactors have been commissioned) is estimated at about $4000/kW.

    Let’s compare this with wind and gas back up.

    To produce the same average power with wind and gas back up would cost:

    Wind = $2611/kW
    Transmission = $1000/kw
    OCGT = $985/kW (say 50%)
    CCGT = $1368/kW (say 50%)
    Total capital cost = $4787/kWh

    So the capital cost of wind power with gas back up is more than for nuclear power. Wind provides low quality power (unreliable, intermittent power with power and frequency fluctuations). Wind with gas back up emits some 50 times more CO2 than nuclear on an LCA basis.

    So why bother with wind?


  171. Peter,

    Thanks for those figures. I was being generous on purpose really, just to show that even being generous the figures are just astoundingly poor!!

    Indeed I agree, why bother with wind, its a pure waste of time.

    Also, even with those generous figures I gave above, the % GHG reductions that wind would achieve are not even lifted out of the “noise floor” of +/-3% error of the Australian govs figures!!

    According to the section titled “Uncertainty Analysis” on Page 16 of “State and Territory Greenhouse Gas Inventories 2007” available at ->

    this states that :

    “Uncertainty is inherent within any kind of estimation. Uncertainty assessments at a sectoral level are
    reported in the National Inventory report. Overall, at the national inventory level, the uncertainty of the
    emissions estimates has been assessed at ±3%. While no quantitative estimates have been produced, the
    Department assesses that the uncertainties for emission estimates for these inventories, particularly the
    smaller states and territories, will be somewhat higher than for the national inventory. ”

    Regarding LCA of wind farms, at some point in the future I would like to discuss these further, as they are highly optimistic to say the least.


  172. Some more recent news items on the NY Fenner wind turbine collapse :

    also closer to home, some Australian stories :

    Tasmania’s $350 million Musselroe wind farm is finally under construction, after more than four years of delays.

    The last story is about fire danger, and the problems of firefighting when wind farms are built in bush fire prone areas.

    Note that in the recent NSW inquiry a couple of the submissions detailed issues with aviation, and of course the lack of ability to fire bomb bush fires from the air near & within wind farms :

    No. 79, Aerial Agricultural Association of Australia Ltd, represents Australia’s aerial application industry, including crop protection spraying, fertilizer application and firebombing. Specifically addresses aircraft/pilot safety issues and economic impact on aerial applicators :

    No. 76, Superair Australia Lonoaks Pty Ltd, largest aerial top dressing company in Australia. Covers the negative impacts of industrial wind turbine developments to their industry regarding reduction in safety, loss of income, loss of jobs, decrease in efficiency and accuracy of aerial spraying, decrease in pasture productivity as result of decreased spraying accuracy, increase of flying time and costs, additional expense to property owners for aerial spraying near industrial wind turbines, failure of wind industry and environmental assessment firms to discuss these issues :


  173. I’ve just noticed your site. Love the engineering and energy economy focus.

    I was just wondering if there were any easy way of working out what the installed cost would be of installing wind plus pumped hydro storage capacity to cover Brayton cycle gas on the white start lead time.

    If for example you have 1Gwe of wind @ 35% CF and you want to ensure that you get at worst that output, you could install 350MWe of pumped hydro storage for whatever the the ideal lead time was for CCGT — let’s say it was 5 hours …

    so you have the cost of the wind, plus fiver hours of pumped storage plus the standby gas …


  174. Hi Ewen,

    Gene is correct, wind and pumped hydro are not a good fit. Wind and hydro (not pumped hydro) is an excellent fit, butr Australia does not have the potential for significant hydro development where needed. There are many posts discussing pumped hydro on this thread and on these:


  175. Ewen,

    Further to my previous post, here are some very rough figures on the cost and some of the constraints.

    A pumped hydro facility connecting the existing Tantangara and Blowering reservoirs in the Snowy Mountains scheme could produce 8 GW power and store and generate 24 GWh of energy per day. The capital cost would be roughly $15 billion.

    But here are some of the issues.

    1. To be economically viable, the sell price of the electricity from pumped hydro needs to be about 4 times the buy price of the electricity for pumping. This is possible with cheap off peak power from conventional baseload plants during the night. But is not viable using gas generation or wind energy.

    2. The pumps need to run continuously with constant power supply for several hours at a time – e.g. 5 to 7 hours. Wind power is totally unsuited for this purpose.

    To get some perspective of why this is so, consider the power required to start the mass of water flowing and to maintain it. The volume is three tunnels each 14 m diameter by 53 km length and with 900 m hydraulic head. This must be accelerated to 2.5 m/s velocity and maintained. So start and stop is not an option. This is the case even with low head pumped hydro schemes, such as Wivenhoe near Brisbane.


  176. Meant to post the summary too ->

    New Evidence Shows that Government Suppressed Expert Advice to Lower Wind Turbine Noise Limits Intended to Protect Residents

    New evidence released by the Dept. of Energy and Climate Change under a Freedom of Information request shows that Government suppressed a recommendation by its own acoustics consultants to tighten current noise regulations on wind turbines in order to protect local residents from night time noise. This does little credit to the Department, and must be corrected immediately.


  177. Thanks to Peter Lang for pointing me to this latest research on wind & carbon emissions over email ->

    This work expands upon the work of Katzenstein & Apt, and others on carbon emissions due to wind. Here is the summary from part II ->

    “In summary, relative to CCGT plants operating alone with the same capacity as the wind plants:

    In the high range of possible annual capacity factors for wind, at 28 per cent, with the introduction of OCGT gas plants and reduced efficiency considerations for the wind shadowing/backup, the calculator shows that the presence of wind results in:

    Almost zero gas savings; and
    An increase in CO2 emissions of 12 per cent.

    In the low range of possible annual capacity factors for wind, at 20 per cent, the above results become:

    An increase in gas consumption of 10 per cent; and
    An increase in CO2 emissions of 25 per cent.”

    & also linked to this work is ->

    The above research is ongoing, and I’m sure Peter will be posting some comments at BNC on this in the near future.

    It is clear to me that the more we look at the issues of industrial scale wind energy & claimed carbon emissions reductions, the more impossible it is that wind will ever help in reducing emissions (certainly in the wind/gas backup context). And this work & the work of others (Peter included) is showing that industrial scale wind is really not helping in emissions reduction.

    Of course the companies building the wind farms (i.e. the gas companies Origin, AGL et al) love wind, as the high spot price peaks from intermittent wind mean they’ll make a killing from their gas power stations, over and above the mandatory renewable energy credits market they are also guaranteed.


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