Emissions Nuclear

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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By Barry Brook

Barry Brook is an ARC Laureate Fellow and Chair of Environmental Sustainability at the University of Tasmania. He researches global change, ecology and energy.

236 replies on “Wind and carbon emissions – Peter Lang responds”

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?



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.


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


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?



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.



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 :


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.


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?



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?



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.


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 :


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 …


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:



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.


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.


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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