Emissions Nuclear Renewables TCASE

TCASE 12: A checklist for renewable energy plans

Guest post by John D. Morgan. John runs R&D programmes at a Sydney startup company. He has a PhD in physical chemistry, and research experience in chemical engineering in the US and at CSIRO. He is a regular commenter on BNC.

A 10-page printable PDF version of this post can be downloaded here.


Beyond Zero Emissions recently launched their Zero Carbon Australia 2020 Stationary Energy Plan (read the BNC community critique here).  It joins a growing list of renewable energy plans – Desertec, Greenpeace’s Energy [R]evolution, World Wildlife Fund Australia’s Clean Energy Future, Peter Seligman’s Australian Sustainable Energy, and others around the world.

The need to cut ourselves loose from our carbon based economy is urgent, and proponents of these plans are to be applauded.  But, can they work?  Many posts and comments at Brave New Climate have focussed on the hurdles facing large scale renewable power.  Here I have tried to distill these points into a checklist to bear in mind when considering these plans.  The list is followed by some brief exposition of each item. Some of these items refer to some Australian specifics, but similar questions will arise in other countries.

These items are not a set of pass/fail criteria, rather, they are prompts to ask “Did the plan address this point, and how?” The list is not exhaustive – many other questions could be raised, and hopefully will be in the comments.  I have not really considered nuclear power in this list because I am not aware of similar comprehensive attempts to plan carbon free nuclear economies (perhaps there should be) – there would be questions, but unlike renewable energy, we have existence proofs that it can be done.

So, how does the plan check out?

0. The checklist

□     What is the emissions reduction target?

□     What is the budget for the plan?

□     How is the plan to be financed?

□     What is the cost of power if the plan is implemented?

□     What is the CO2 avoidance cost ($/tCO2 avoided)

□     Can the plan scale to 100% emissions reduction?

□     What is the timeframe of the plan?

□     What current and future demand is assumed?

□     What efficiency improvements are assumed?

□     Does the plan include power for electric vehicles, desalination, and industrial use?

□     What are their worst case scenarios for solar and wind generation, and how have they been handled?

□     Is enough wind and solar generation planned to cover their minimum capacity factors and longest outages?

□     Do the wind and solar outputs account for dumped power due to production in excess of demand?

□     Is enough energy storage planned to provide continuous power?

□     Is enough generation capacity planned to charge storage in addition to supplying demand?

□     Are wind and solar assumed to contribute to emissions reduction?  If so, why?

□     What lifetime of wind and solar plant is assumed? Can these estimates be supported by data?

□     What maintenance and decommissioning costs are assumed?

□     Are all proposed generation and storage technologies mature?

□     Can the plan meet National Electricity Market reliability standards?

□     Does the plan increase the NEM mandated spinning reserve from the current 850 MW?

□     Does the plan increase the NEM reserve generation capacity from the current 20% value?

□     How much new hydroelectricity is assumed?

□     How much new pumped hydroelectricity (GW) does the plan call for?

□     How many hours storage does this provide?

□     What sites are proposed for the pumped storage?

□     What power source is proposed for pumping?

□     How much new transmission infrastructure is planned?

□     What power are the transmission lines rated for?

□     How much steel, concrete, land and water are required?

□     What are the proposed sites for the wind and solar installations?

□     Has the availability and cost of labour been addressed? Does it consider transport to remote locations and accommodation?

□     Have the ecological impacts of large scale wind and solar been assessed for the proposed sites?

□     How much natural gas is used?

□     Does the plan cost in large increases in the price of gas?

□     How long is natural gas assumed to last?

□     What will take the place of natural gas when it is no longer economically available?

□     Was nuclear power considered as an option?

1. Scope of Plan

1.1. What emissions reduction is targeted?  Is it sufficiently ambitious?

Climate change is a big issue, and we have to think big.  Unambitious targets will not solve our problem, and risk delaying effective action.  Targets of 40% or 60% cuts to CO2 emissions are not enough.  The endgame is to completely decarbonize our energy system.  Even if the plan does not reach that goal at once, it should have the potential to scale to 100% emissions reductions.

The preindustrial atmospheric CO2 concentration was 280 ppm.  It is currently about 390 ppm, and increasing at about 2 ppm per year.  We need to bring it back down to 350 ppm or less, in a timeframe of decades.  Failure will result in irreversible and extremely damaging consequences for human civilization and planetary ecology. The immediate goal, as proposed by James Hansen, should be to completely phase out coal power by 2030.  An effective plan must be able to shut down coal plants, one by one, until they are all gone.

Unsurprisingly, these topics have been well covered on Brave New Climate:

Target atmospheric CO2 levels, not vague carbon emissions

We need a real global plan for carbon mitigation

Managing catastrophic risk – the six step plan

How to get rid of existing coal

1.2. What is the budget for the plan?

No plan can be credibly advanced without a credible budget.  Is this plan costed, not just for the direct generation plant, but also backup, storage, transmission, maintenance, decommissioning, and so on?  Is the rising cost of the fuel for backup (gas especially) into the future considered?  If not, pass.

1.3. How is the plan to be financed?

Having a budget is one thing. Knowing how the plan will be paid for is something else again. A plan that can’t be paid for can’t be built. There are many ways to do this – does the plan specify a financing model?

1.4. How cost effective is it ($/tCO2 avoided)?

We don’t have unlimited cash to spend on emissions reduction.  We want bang for buck.  We want to be able to measure value for money.  And we want to shop around.  Can I get better value with a different plan?  So, what is the emissions avoidance cost, in dollars per tonne of CO2 avoided?

Environment Victoria is campaigning to close down the Hazelwood coal plant.  Their plan is to eliminate 12 MtCO2 per annum with wind and gas at a cost of $64/t CO2 avoided.  Had they considered gas alone, they could have the same emissions reduction for $22/t CO2 avoided.  If nuclear were available it could be even cheaper.   Choosing the more expensive option virtually guarantees their plan will fail.  This is just one coal plant. Do we want to make the same mistake with nation scale infrastructure, and fail also?

Peter Lang has calculated the emissions avoidance cost here for a number of generation options.

1.5. Can the plan scale to 100% of demand (or more)?

Adding small amounts of renewable energy to the grid is relatively easy (albeit costly).  But it gets harder as we add more.  Can the plan take us all the way to 100% decarbonization?  Or will we fall short, and be left with no other option than to bridge the gap with fossil fuels?

Each power source has its own limits.  Hydroelectricity is limited by availability of suitable sites and adequate rainfall.  Wind power penetration is limited by its effect on the stability and reliability of the grid.  Even coal is limited to less than 100% by its slow response time to rapidly changing demand.

1.6. What is the timeframe of the plan?

Does the plan have a schedule? We should expect to see milestones in such terms as “20% emissions reduction by 2020 through to 80% reductions by 2050”.

I do worry that such goals are a bit amorphous.  Our power supply does not come in continuous percentages, it comes in discrete chunks – the power plants.  So the best schedule would be a list of coal fired power plants, by name, with a date for closure.   Energy Victoria have exactly the right idea with their campaign to close Hazelwood by 2012.  Now can we set a termination date for the rest of these plants?

1.7. What energy sectors are in scope?

Do we just consider the energy sectors that are visible to us as consumers, like household electricity, and driving the car?  A plan that includes household efficiency, ‘green’ electricity, and reduced car usage might then look very appealing. But is it enough?  Can the plan provide

  • Household electricity
  • plus commercial and manufacturing uses of electricity
  • plus desalination
  • plus electrification of transport

and perhaps more, including energy intensive carbon drawdown?

2. Demand and Efficiency

2.1 What current demand is assumed?

The electrical energy demand for Australia in 2009-2010 is a nice round 1.0 exajoule, according to ABARE.  That’s 1018 J, or 280 TWh (1 terawatt.hour is 1012 watt.hours).  It’s the equivalent of about thirty seven 1 GW power stations running for one year.  We have 49 GW installed generation capacity (2008).

Peak power demand in the National Electricity Market is of the order 33 GW (2007).

This demand is not met just by generating this very large amount of energy.  It is met by generating the total power demanded by all customers at all points in time and serving it to customers at the moment it is demanded.  These figures are for electricity as a product which can be sold, not just energy which can be generated.

2.2. What future demand is assumed?

Our current demand will not stand still.  The population will grow, and we will want more air conditioning and larger TVs!  New uses will be found for electricity, including electric vehicles and water desalination.

ABARE projections have Australia’s electricity production increasing to 366 TWh in 2030, without assuming significant adoption of electric vehicles.  What future demand does the plan assume?

2.3. What demand reductions due to efficiency are assumed?

Of course, we could use less energy by being more efficient.  However, plans that rely on a large efficiency component are due some close examination for a number of reasons.

The first is Jevon’s paradox, which observes that when some technology becomes more efficient, the technology is more widely used because it becomes cheaper, and net energy use increases.  Then there is the Khazoom-Brookes Postulate, which holds that energy efficiency allows increased economic growth, also leading to an increase in net energy use.

Efficiency only makes a big difference for uses that are already inefficient.  But very energy intensive activities tend to be quite efficient, as there is a strong economic incentive for them to be so.  Of our 280 TWh/yr of electrical energy, 43 TWh/yr is used in production of non-ferrous metals (29 TWh/yr just for aluminium).  These processes are already close to optimal.

So we are looking for efficiency improvements down in the tail of the Pareto distribution – amongst a large number of smaller consumption categories.  It is harder to achieve these efficiencies as improvements are spread over a diverse array of activities, each with its own special way of saving energy.

If we expect large efficiency gains from behavioural change, we will be disappointed.  Few people are motivated to make large lifestyle changes to support deep cuts in energy usage.  In the big picture, they are a hobbyist population that is of no consequence.  The greater mass will resist inconvenience, strongly, and will resist any political move to coerce such inconvenience.

3. Generation

3.1. Wind and solar

3.1.1. How much redundant capacity will be built?

There are traps lurking in the average capacity factors of wind and solar that can lead us to underestimate the number of power plants required.  Is the planned generation based on:

  • The nameplate capacity?
  • The annual average capacity factor?
  • The capacity factor for seasons of lowest output (eg. the winter capacity factor for a solar plant)?
  • Further derating the capacity factor to account for use of suboptimal sites, if very large scale generation is planned
  • Further overbuild to cover extended periods of low generation that hide inside average capacity factors, such as a run of cloudy days or wind lulls?
  • If we plan to store energy to cover these outages, we can’t use the same generators to service demand and charge up the storage – is additional generation capacity included for the energy we want to store?

TCASE10 discussed a number of issues related to capacity factors and outages.

3.1.2. What are their worst case scenarios for solar and wind generation, and how have they been handled?

The sun does not shine at a constant average rate, nor does the wind blow at a constant average speed.  Averages are not good enough for planning a power generation system.  What is the longest period of low wind and zero wind power that the plan assumes?  What is the longest run of cloudy days?

For instance, the Bonneville Power Authority in the US Pacific Northwest has 1.5 GW nameplate wind over four states, which in January 2009 ran for 11 continuous days at less than 50 MW (3% capacity).  Or you might look at all the wind in Ireland through 2006-07, where you can pick out a number of periods of about a week running at about 10%. These low generation periods need to be covered by alternative generation, use of stored power, or backup generation.

The worst case for generation drives many critical assumptions around scale, storage, cost, backup and emissions.  Does the plan explicitly state, and accommodate, the worst case?

3.1.3. Do the wind and solar outputs account for dumped power due to production in excess of demand?

With enough wind power in the system, sometimes output will exceed demand, in which case the energy is dumped, or sold at negative cost.  This “spilled wind” reduces the capacity factor, or impacts the economics of the generator.  It means that beyond point, perhaps 20% penetration if Denmark is typical, meeting demand by adding more wind to the grid is chasing diminishing returns.  A similar effect is expected for high penetrations of solar power, although not enough solar power has been built to test this.

Does the plan account for this effect, or assume it can simply add wind up to 100% penetration without penalty?

3.1.4. How much storage is planned?

How many hours of storage (for generation at full power) are planned?  Is it enough?

For instance, a solar system should be able to provide some power throughout the night.  You might guess this requires about 18 hours storage.  The Spanish solar station Andasol 1 has 7.5 hours storage, which apparently givesalmost 24-hour operation of the power plant during high sunshine periods.”  Or to put it another way, it can’t provide a full day’s power, even in high summer.  How much storage is required to see us through a cloudy day?  24 hours? 36?  How many continuous cloudy days might we expect?  Better plan storage for those days too.

Similarly for wind, we need to ensure the storage can cover multi-day lulls.  If it doesn’t, we’ll be burning some form of carbon instead.  And the cost of the fossil fuel plant must be paid for by the small amount of energy generated, so the cost per unit energy is very high.

3.1.5. Are wind and solar assumed to reduce emissions?

How much does wind power really reduce CO2 emissions?  Does it even reduce it at all?

We currently back up intermittent wind with fossil fuel plants.  As these plants idle in standby, or follow the variable wind output, they use more fuel, like a car in city traffic, idling and starting and stopping.  Have these additional CO2 emissions been accounted for?  Is there a net reduction in emissions?

In fact, introducing wind into the grid may even increase emissions.  A series of studies on wind integration for the Netherlands, for Colorado, and for Texas have all found increased overall emissions as more wind is added.

The same question has been considered here at Brave New Climate.  Even if wind power does reduce emissions it is not on a watt for watt basis, and the cost of avoiding emissions is very high.

(I suspect a similar situation applies to solar power but to a lesser degree, but am not aware of any studies on this.)

So, does the plan attribute any emissions savings to wind power?  If so, on what basis?

3.1.6. Maintenance, lifetime and decommissioning

Advocates of nuclear power have long been taunted by calls for decommissioning costs and full lifecycle analysis, and rightly so.  And it’s a question that should also be asked for other generators.  So, what does the plan assume for:

  • Lifetime of wind and solar generators
  • Maintenance costs
  • Decommissioning costs

Decommissioning is expensive.  For instance, decommissioning for the Beech Ridge project (West Virginia) was estimated at ~US$100k per 1.5 MW turbine net of scrap value.  With 119 turbines producing ~186 MW that’s about $12m, or $60m/GW.

Offshore wind is more expensive.  One UK study estimates £34m/GW nameplate capacity, or about £100m/GW average output.

Several comments here by Bryen give a great rundown on a number of wind farm life cycle issues. To quote a few of his points:

Wind industry developers suggest a 20 to 25 year lifespan for an industrial wind turbine .. 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 .. Gearboxes in wind turbines are often replaced within the first 5 years .. 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.’

3.2. Hydroelectricity

The Snowy Mountains hydro scheme can generate 3.8 GW sustainably for 1184 hours per year.  It took 25 years to build, and we have neither the rainfall nor the sites for a large expansion of hydroelectricity.

Because of hydro’s rapid response to power fluctuations, introducing variable generators like wind into the grid will increase the demand for hydro.  Do we have enough hydro capacity to serve the proposed renewable generators?

3.3. Immature technologies

Geothermal power, wave power, tidal power, are all potential or actual sources of low carbon energy.  Perhaps these and other generators are included in “the energy mix”.  Are they commercial?  Or are they R&D projects?  Is the plan deploying proven technologies, or R&D projects?

4. Grid Storage and Backup

4.1. System Reliability

The National Electricity Market must meet reliability standards.  Unserved energy must not exceed 0.002 percent of total demand.  The NEM is also required to carry 850 MW of spinning reserve to ensure reliability.

Further, the grid carries about 20% capacity margin in reserve (Australia 2005, US 2004), which is 7-8 GW in Australia. Adding a large amount of intermittent generators to the grid would require an increase in the reserve power to ensure reliability.

Can the plan meet currently legislated levels of reliability?  What happens if it can’t?  How much should the reserve power be increased to ensure reliability?  Does the plan include this additional reserve power?

4.2. Storage with Pumped Hydroelectricity

Renewable energy requires energy storage, and the cheapest large scale storage is pumped hydro.  Questions to consider for pumped hydro are

  • how much power (GW) is needed?
  • how much energy (hours of storage at full power) is needed?
  • how long does it take to pump up the storage?
  • what is the power source used for pumping?
  • where will we put it?

Australia has 2.5 GW of pumped hydro.  1.5 GW of that is the Tumut 3 system which can generate full power for 6 hours.  Then it requires 21 hours to pump it back up again.

The 0.5 GW Wivenhoe facility pumps from midnight to 6am.  It generates for about 7 hours per day, and is on standby for 12 hours. During standby it provides some power to stabilise the grid.  It can’t pump up during daytime standby or generation periods.

Australia’s pumped hydro capacity is a poor complement for wind or solar because pumping requires steady power – it can’t start, stop or ramp quickly.  This means you can’t generate power while charging.  So it generates power during the day, and is pumped up at night.  This is obviously a poor match for solar, and it’s also a poor match for wind. The power for pumping needs to be cheap.  Coal fired base load works, wind and solar would be uneconomic.  But the main limitation on expanding pumped hydro is the lack of suitable sites.

Peter Lang has analyzed a potential pumped hydro scheme using existing reservoirs in the Snowy Mountains scheme on Brave New Climate.  It could provide 8 GW of power for 5 hours a day. It would cost ~$12- to $15-billion.  There is much useful discussion in the comments to this post.

So, does the plan depend on pumped hydro to store energy generated by renewables?  How much storage does it require? And where will we put it?

5. Transmission Infrastructure

5.1.  How much new transmission infrastructure is assumed?

Long transmission lines are needed to collect power from generators far enough apart that local cloud or low wind is averaged out.  The length scale is the size of the continent.

Each individual site will need a transmission link to the trunk, and each individual turbine will need to be connected.  Additional switchgear and control systems will be needed.

So, does the plan have a comprehensive, costed, transmission infrastructure?

5.2. What is the capacity of the transmission lines?

The transmission lines must be sized to handle the nameplate capacity of any wind or solar plant, not the average capacity.  Wind and solar need about three times the transmission capacity of a conventional generator (nameplate/average capacity).

Large scale weather systems impose greater transmission capacity requirements on wind and solar than conventional power plants.  If the east coast is covered in cloud but West Australia is generating, the east-west transmission must be sized to carry the east coast load.  There’s a lot more power ‘sloshing’ across large distances.

So, are the transmission lines sized for the spatial load balancing and high peak loads of wind and solar, or does it just use capacities appropriate to our current generation system?

6. Resource Consumption, Land Use, and Ecological Impacts

6.1. Steel, Concrete, Land

TCASE4 considered steel, concrete and land usage for solar, wind, and nuclear power generation.  The resource consumption of the renewables are stupendous, one or two orders of magnitude greater than nuclear power.  Does the plan address the use of these resources?

6.2. Water for Concrete, Cooling and Washing

Renewable energy has large water requirements. Has water supply been considered?

Has the water supply needed to make the concrete during construction been factored in. Where will the water come from? What is the cost of supplying around 10 times as much water for the concrete for a solar thermal plant than for a nuclear plant of the same capacity?

As explained in TCASE6, all thermal power plants – solar thermal, coal fired, nuclear – have similar cooling water requirements, because they all produce power with steam turbines.  For closed loop cooling, solar thermal and nuclear use about 3000 L/MWh.  Open loop cooling withdraws much more water, about 100 000 L/MWh, which is returned to river, lake or ocean at a higher temperature.  The water lost to evaporation is about the same as used in closed loop cooling.

A particular issue arises for solar thermal if the plant is to be located in the desert – where does this water come from?  It is possible to use air cooling for thermal plants, but the cost is higher, and the thermal efficiency takes a hit, with less energy from a more expensive plant, so the cost effectiveness and investor return is reduced.

So, does the plan include a large amount of solar thermal power?  If so, do the plants use open loop, closed loop or air cooling?  Where does the water come from? Are costs and outputs appropriate to the cooling technology?

Finally, the mirrors in solar thermal plants require regular washing to remove dust, which blocks the sun. Does the plan describe the water supply for these plants, particularly if they are to be sited in the desert?

6.3. Gas

Large scale wind and solar requires lots of gas fired backup, and gas reserves are finite.

Professor Barry Brook has reviewed the availability of natural gas in Australia.  He estimates that our reserves, less exports, if used to serve our full energy requirements, would last perhaps 20 years.  How we actually choose to use it is an open question, but it is clear that gas as an energy source has a limited lifetime.  Brook says:

The UK is now paying dearly for their dash for gas, following the coal mine closures of the 1980s. Their once-abundant North Sea fields are rapidly depleting. Again, Australia should take note of this warning. We must not go down the natural gas-for-coal substitution route. It would be long-term economic suicide.

If we commit to renewables, we commit to expanded use of gas, at the same time as gas prices are expected to skyrocket.  What happens to the price of electricity?  Can we afford renewable power that commits us to dependence on a finite and increasingly expensive resource?  And how long do we have before the gas runs out?

6.4. What are the proposed sites for the wind and solar installations?

Renewable energy takes up an enormous area because the power is so dilute.  Meeting Austraila’s energy needs with 2.5 MW turbines would occupy about 15 000 km2 (a naïve calculation based only on the average capacity factor, without overbuilding).  To give this some perspective, our best wind resource is on our 25 000 km coastline.  Covering Australia’s southern coastline a kilometre deep with windfarms would give us the required area.  If you don’t like this idea, where else should they go?

Similarly, meeting our needs with Andasol-class solar thermal would require about 2000 km2.  Where will these plants go?

What ecosystems will they impact?  Who owns the land now?  On what terms will we negotiate with existing owners for access to their land, or acquisition of it?  What planning processes will be used?  How long will this take?

6.5. Labour

Does the plan consider the workforce that will be required?

Renewable energy is labour intensive in construction as well as maintenance.  And we don’t just need to find the labour, we need to transport the workers to remote areas and accommodate them.  In his Emissions Cuts Realities paper, Peter Lang writes:

To construct the solar thermal power stations in areas throughout central Australia [or remote wind power –jm] will require large mobile construction camps, fly-in fly-out work force, large concrete batch plants, large supply of water, energy and good roads to each power station. Air fields suitable for fly-in fly-out will be required at say one per 250 MW power station.

Does the plan consider the labour resource for remote development?  What cost of labour is assumed?  Is it competitive with the mining industry in similar situations?

6.6. What are the ecological impacts?

Building wind power amounts to light industrialization of the landscape.  The installation requires access roads for trucks, cranes and cement mixers, excavation of foundations and pouring concrete footings, construction of transmission lines and substations, and so on.  The packing density estimated by Professor Brook for a typical turbine would give an average spacing of about 500 m.  These activities are directly damaging to sensitive ecosystems, disrupting soils and causing erosion, and providing vectors for pest plants and animals

Solar mirror fields completely build over the area they occupy, which may mean local destruction of desert ecosystems.

Birds and bats are killed by blade strikes.  While there are many sources of bird mortality, wind turbines appear to be particularly hard on raptors (eagles, hawks, falcons, etc.).  Many other ecological effects have been reviewed in the report for the US National Academies, “Environmental Impacts of Wind-Energy Projects”.

These impacts may appear trivial, or sound like NIMBYism.  But for renewable energy deployments at very large scale, they may be devastating.  Have the direct environmental impacts of the plan been considered?

7. Comparison to the Nuclear Alternative

Constructing a renewable energy plan is like composing a sonnet or a fugue.  The constraints imposed by the form drive creativity and grand ambition.  A fine thing for poetry, but what if we just want to get the job done?

The constraint accepted by so many of these proposals is that we design the system without nuclear power.  What happens if you relax that constraint?  Was this even considered?

If the goal is to avoid disaster in the biosphere, or to do an end run around peak oil, does the fastest, most certain path to a fossil fuel free future include nuclear power, or exclude it?  Is our most effective course of action to pursue large scale renewables, or social and legislative change to enable rollout of nuclear power?

Were these questions even considered?

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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.

109 replies on “TCASE 12: A checklist for renewable energy plans”

Hi, John,

An extremely thoughtful list of checkpoints, I will download, archive, and use them in building my web site’s plans.

I am working on an equivalent nuclear-mostly plan from an engineering feasibility viewpoint.

Being continually posted and revised, it is more of an engineer’s notebook than a work that will ever be complete.


A future price shock for gas may emerge if the heavy transport industry makes a major shift to CNG as a diesel replacement. I believe gas fired generators want to pay no more than $4 to $8 per GJ of gas. Based on 35 MJ/L of diesel I suggest the transport industry will be more than happy to pay $50 per GJ of gas. Currently Australia uses about a million barrels of oil a day, now mostly imported. That is a feedstock for fuel, plastics and other products. Much of that could be replaced by domestic gas.

As for electric transport such as battery vehicles it is not yet clear what the uptake will be. Will owners adapt to time-of-use charging which might absorb wind and solar peaks? It seems both expensive and a stretch of the imagination. Thus I suggest that we should conserve gas for transport, ammonia, process heat and frugal peaking power. Gas fired base and intermediate load and LNG export should be the lowest priority.


A suggestion to include might be:
“Does the plan address both centralized and de-centralized power generation”.

In other words, is the contribution from roof panels and standalone private solar farms included?


John Morgan,
You have raised this check list but just looking at the 16 page summary its fairly easy to answer most of these questions without waiting for the full text

What is the emissions reduction target?
answer: 100% reduction in CO2 emissions

What is the budget for the plan?
answer: 190Billion

What is the CO2 avoidance cost ($/tCO2 avoided)
answer ;need to see full text to calculate

Can the plan scale to 100% emissions reduction?
answer: yes

What is the timeframe of the plan?
answer: 2020( I think this is far to ambitious)

What current and future demand is assumed?
answer: electricity demand increases by 40%, all FF zero.

What efficiency improvements are assumed?
answer: need the full text

Does the plan include power for electric vehicles, de
salination, and industrial use?


Is enough wind and solar generation planned to cover their minimum capacity factors and longest outages?
answer: yes, 60% from CSP with thermal storage

Is enough energy storage planned to provide continuous power?

Is enough generation capacity planned to charge storage in addition to supplying demand?
answer : yes

Are wind and solar assumed to contribute to emissions reduction? If so, why?
answer; yes, replacing all NG and coal fired generation

What lifetime of wind and solar plant is assumed?
answer: need to see full text

What maintenance and decommissioning costs are assumed? answer: full text?

Are all proposed generation and storage technologies mature answer: no/yes, CSP with storage is not mature, most storage is biomass(15GW) and hydro(5GW) both mature.

Can the plan meet National Electricity Market reliability standards? not sure

Does the plan increase the NEM reserve power from the current 850 MW?
not sure

How much new hydroelectricity is assumed?
answer 5GW

How much new pumped hydroelectricity (GW) does the plan call for? answer none, “future will investigate”

How many hours storage does this provide? none

What sites are proposed for the pumped storage? none

What power source is proposed for pumping? NA

How much new transmission infrastructure is planned?
answer: very extensive;92 Billion

How long is natural gas assumed to last?
answer : only to 2020

What will take the place of natural gas when it is no longer economically available? answer: mainly solar and wind with minor biofuels

Was nuclear power considered as an option?
answer: not in detail

You may be trying to give the impression that the report is not going to examine most of these issues in detail. That is not the case. The issues I see are the unrealistic time to build CSP capacity and the unknowns about CSP costs and thermal storage. Wind power beyond 40% would seem a lower cost , faster and safer option until considerable nuclear could be built.


John Newlands

As for electric transport such as battery vehicles it is not yet clear what the uptake will be. Will owners adapt to time-of-use charging which might absorb wind and solar peaks? It seems both expensive and a stretch of the imagination.
I agree with you that NG should be conserved for use in transport( especially large vehicles), but do not understand why you would question owners adapting to variable charging?
Most vehicles are stationary 22 hours per day, when would it be inconvenient to be charging? the cost of demand regulation will be minimal, may only need what is presently done with off-peak hot water in shift to off-peak demand. Not many vehicles are being used from 1am to 4am.
When we have no oil and only expensive NG, I would predict the uptake of EV’s to be very high


John Morgan. Excellent post.

Jim Holm, I’d like to see you checklist for nuclear engineering feasibility. Are you able to post a link to it?

John Newlands, thanks for this link: Very interesting. The politicians have obviously been taking note of all those letters Terry Krieg and I have been sending; and they are dancing to our tune :) As of course they should!!

It will be interesting to see how Labor responds (or should I say ‘spins’ their way out of this one).


Neil I think that’s a wait-and-see. There are other issues such as the price of EVs and smart chargers, the safety consequences of lighter bodied vehicles and availability of charging while parked outside offices. Arguably those commute within battery-only distance could have taken the bus instead. We will need cheap NGVs for the battlers on the rural fringe who have hour long commutes.


Interesting to note that the wind turbine model they have chosen for this study is the Enercon E-126. At 198m high it is just slightly taller than Canberra Black Mountain Tower, by 3m. Interesting they claim this is an “available now” tech. Go to the Enercon website :

It doesn’t yet appear in their “products and services” section. In the news section you’ll see it though :

Its interesting also to note that the tower is made from concrete, which to my knowledge is a pretty new idea for a wind turbine.

Wikipedia has a page too :

Have a look at the link below to see the first wind farm “pilot” expected to use this new turbine. Its currently under construction, at a cost of 6.2 million Euro (@ $9million Aus) and expected to come on-line in July 2012 :

The cost in that Belgium wind farm actually looks a little suspicious to me though, i.e. it looks artificially low. According to BZE synopsis wind cost is $2.2million / MW (in 2011, falling to $1.25 million / MW by 2016), which would make 11 x 7MW = 77MW = 77 x $2.2million = $169.4million. Can someone double check my calculation and confirm or refute this $160million gap in the figures?

I think BZE are being a little optimistic with their choice of turbine though, which has clearly not had any real world field trials as yet. Probably would have been better to go with something like 2 to 3MW turbines. Of course that would at least double the number of turbines required in their plan….

Am looking forward to seeing their detailed plan, at present there is only that synopsis document to go on.


Having read a little more the Belgium “wind park” is a research project. The official web link is here :


“Objective: This action focuses on demonstrating the development of a cost-effective large scale high capacity wind park using new state-of-the-art multi megawatt turbines coupled with innovative technology used to stabilize the grid. A key objective of the 7-MW-WEC-by-11 project is to introduce a new power class of large-scale Wind Energy Converters, the 7MW WEC, onto the market which has the potential to significantly contribute to higher market penetration levels for wind electricity in Europe. The new 7MW WEC will be designed and demonstrated at a large scale: eleven such WECs will be demonstrated in a 77 MW wind park close to Estinnes (Belgium).

The wind park will be the first large-scale on-shore wind park in Belgium and the first in the world that will consist of this mega turbine power class. Key challenges related to wind power will be addressed in this demonstration action ranging from technical issues (network stability and security), to financial aspects (cost effectiveness) to environmental issues (landscape pollution). First, the mega turbines will be developed and installed in series ; this is envisioned to significantly reduce costs and increase the market value. Second, new power electronics technology and improved wind forecasting will be used to stabilize the grid in the high capacity wind park.

Improved forecasting is envisioned to furthermore improve the cost-effectiveness of the high capacity wind park (reduced imbalance costs, improved commercial value). Third, the 7MW turbines will be used to maximize wind energy capacity, while reducing landscape pollution and environmental impact: such a WEC generates more than double the energy in the same given area when compared to conventional 2MW turbines and requires the placement of fewer turbines when compared to conventionally used wind turbines. Lessons learned in developing the high capacity Estinnes wind park will be adapted to a different national context with a weak grid system, Cyprus. ”


So I really do not see how the BZE wind section can really have any credibility at all if they are claiming “commercially available” technologies. The Enercon E-126 turbine clearly isn’t commercially available, and wont be until some time after July 2012 when construction is finished. Then they need to see it running and evaluate its performance, surely a year running at least and then an analysis, that would take us up to the beginning of 2014 just to get an answer. OK then construction can begin,and how long would that take?? They really do need to choose a different turbine, one that is currently available.

These facts alone surely shoots down the 40% wind electricity aspect of their target ?? They will need to completely redo their wind calculations.


Neil Howes,

Is enough wind and solar generation planned to cover their minimum capacity factors and longest outages?
answer: yes, 60% from CSP with thermal storage

I am interested how you know the answer to this question. Could you please take us through the answer?


John Morgan,

I think this is such a valuable contribution that it is worth making a few editorial corrections. I’d like to distribute the link, but feel it would be better to make these first.

1. I think there is a formatting error in the middle of section 1.5. The part from “2.6” on does not seem to belong here.

2. In section 1.3 the text says $64/t CO2 and $22/t CO2. I believe these should say ‘$/t CO2 avoided’. I think it is wrong to leave out the “avoided”. We are not paying for a tonne of CO2. We are paying to avoid the emission of a tonne of CO2.

3. In the check list and in Section 4.1 you say the NEM must carry 850MW of reserve power. This is a requirement for spinning reserve rather than reserve capacity margin. I think the reserve capacity margin is about 20% above peak demand. Peak demand in the NEM is about 35GW so we’d need about 7GW reserve capacity margin. I think we have more than that. Perhaps your statement is OK as is or perhaps needs to be clarified.


Thanks Peter — the first typo re: 2.6 was my own and has already been fixed. I’ll leave John to make the first comment on the other suggestions.

Definitely treat the above as a ‘draft’ that can be improved before we cast it far and wide!


Re Timeframes :

The plan assumes that building will start in 2011. This is highly unlikely. Any wind farm requires a wind monitoring tower to be in place for a minimum of 1 to 2 years to assess the wind resource. This is not done by simply looking at the BoM data for the nearest weather station. No financial backing is feasible without proper wind resource monitoring being done *at the exact site*

So lets be generous and say the first wind monitoring tower gets put in place on the same day the plan is unveiled i.e. 14 July 2010. Lets be very generous and say that by 14 July 2011 all data is in, the wind resource comes out ok, and the Environmental Assessment is ready to go on public exhibition at the Planning Dept. OK, the public then has 30 days to comment as a minimum, which takes us to 14 Aug 2011. Again I’ll be very generous : The proponent then will take a month or two, maybe longer to respond to comments, and then the planning dept will take another couple of months or so to come up with a decision (in reality it takes longer nut lets be generous). We’re now up to the end of the 2011 year / beginning of 2012 before the decisions are in for even the most optimistic / generous timeframe.

How long would it then take to build the first one? Example : Yass Valley wind farm (@150 turbines of 2 or 3MW capacity) is estimated to take 2 to 3 years to build. The 11 turbine Belgian wind park using the new 7.5MW Enercon turbines is estimated to take 2 years to build. The first wind farm in the BZE plan by my reckoning would be expected to come on-line at the beginning of 2014. Hmmm thats 3 years later than the BZE estimate even being extremely generous.


Jim Holm,

Thank you for the link. I didn’t connect your name with this site when I saw your post upthread.

In fact that reminds me of a criticism I was getting when I forwarded links to your site some time ago. people couldn’t find who the author is.


Thank you everyone for the comments so far. I hope that the items in this list can be expanded upon and would certainly be happy to see the post updated with any corrections or additions.

John Newlands, I think the points you continually make here on gas are really important and they were what prompted me to include the gas questions in the plan.

Neil, thanks for checking the BZE plan against this list. It will certainly be interesting to see the details of their plan revealed. I’m not suggesting that these questions aren’t addressed in their plan, either. What I have tried to do here is as described in the intro at the top, namely, for any of these vision statements (not just BZE), ask, were these questions considered? and if so, how were they addressed?

The implicit invitation is to further ask, were they addressed adequately, and the exposition section is intended to flesh out a bit what that might mean.

Chris Sanderson, good suggestion. There are a number of considerations around decentralization as an economic or social context, and solar PV as a technology, that should be discussed. I left these ideas out largely for reasons of time and space, a triage decision made because I think they are not likely to be the mainstay of large scale system proposals.

bryen, thanks for that information on the turbine proposed by BZE.

Peter Lang, thanks for your suggestions, I’d be happy to update the document along these lines.


John Morgan : You’re welcome, thanks for bringing this to my attention. The wind section is pure fairyland stuff! I am quite astounded that they chose a turbine like that, they really have shot themselves in the foot by claiming the BZE plan is :

“achievable using technology that is commercially available today, with
no technical barriers to their deployment.”

This is clearly incorrect for the wind section, and blows 40% of their plan clear out of the water in my opinion. This wind section has to be redone with a real turbine of 2 to 3MW capacity, and some realistic time frames for resource monitoring, planning and construction.

If this were a uni assignment it would be in the bin in tatters. To be honest I’m still in shock that this is being touted to policy makers, its actually quite worrying.


Peter Lang
,I am interested how you know the answer to this question. Could you please take us through the answer?
I have read an early draft, but did not have any input.
Average demand is 46GW, solar CSP 42.5GW capacity, wind 48GW capacity and biomass 15GW capacity with todays 5GW hydro capacity. They envision a flatter daily demand because of EV charging and other load management.
Assumptions are 15% of capacity firm power from wind( Australia wide covering at least X10 greater area than present wind farms, this seems reasonable), CSP with thermal storage(av 52%capacity factor but 90% availability). Seasonal variations in solar output seem to be the biggest problem even with many sites located in N Australia.


I dont see any real difference in using 3MW or 5MW turbines, except that 3MW are a proven technology. Agree that 5MW turbines are not proven technology.
To build 50GW wind capacity would require installation rates X10 higher than over last few years or about what China installed last year.


Hi Neil,

I have read the executive summary and understand the broad assumptions as you’ve outlined them. However, as we have discussed many time on BNC, we cannot use averages. We must be able to handle for the worst case scenario. What are their worst case scenarios for solar and wind and how have they handled them?



It would most likely require twice to three times as many turbines of 2 to 3MW, so the land mass taken up would presumeably be larger by a similar amount. BZE are specifiying a 7.5MW turbine.

As I mentioned above, BZE claim “achievable using technology that is commercially available today, with no technical barriers to their deployment.” The Enercon E-126 is not commercially available, it is still clearly in trial. I think at present they’ve built 2 of these turbines, and according to the press release they are currently operating at 6MW max not the 7.5MW expected, so they are clearly not fully functioning either. From the press release : “Currently, the E-126 models at Estinnes are running at a maximum of 6 MW capacity.” Note that the Enercon turbine they specify required a completely new crane to be built : “At 1600 tonne, the world’s largest crawler crane was developed and constructed specially for lifting the 127 m diameter rotor in one step.” according to the press release on the Belgian wind park. So far then they have only proven they can a build a new crane (one of).

Regarding installation rates, I have mentioned above what is required in the planning process. They still wouldn’t be getting any wind capacity on-line until 2014 at the very best.


Have a look also at Table 3 in the BZE synopsis and their projected wind costs.

In 2020 they say that 2000MW capacity is constructed, and yet they add on another 6000MW just like in the previous year… ? but the cost is for 2000MW.

Year 2012, constructed capacity is 3,250MW, but the operational capacity is 2500MW. Can someone decipher this table for me…?



Also a quick question as you saw an early draft. Was there any cost factored in to the plan for decommissioning?

I think I’m beginning to get a handle on the table 3, the constructed capacity adds up correctly to the planned 48GW. I think they have simply made a mistake in the operational capacity column.


I had a quick look at the Peter Seligman’s “Australian Sustainable Energy” linked at the top of this post. His figure for wind cost is :

Wind : 17.5GW or GWh (hmmm, which is it?) 0.32 capacity factor, 3.00$/peak watt, $53billion total cost.

Compare that to 48GW at $72billion for the BZE estimate. The discrepancy in estimates is quite large! Assuming Seligman is right I calculate :

48/17.5 = @2.74

$53billion * 2.74 = @$145billion. BZE reckoned on $72billion, if Seligman’s figures are correct BZE underestimates by 145-72

=> $73billion underestimation on wind costs for BZE’s wind plan.

Anyone want to check this ?


I have come up with some proposed revisions to John Morgan’s list. Some come from my attempt to adapt the list to North American conditions, and features of renewable energy plans i am aware of. I do not regard this list as final or definitive.

□ What is the emissions reduction target?

□ What is the budget for the plan?

□ What is the CO2 avoidance cost ($/tCO2 avoided)

□ Can the plan scale to 100% emissions reduction?

□ What is the timeframe of the plan?

□ What current and future energy demand is assumed?

□ What efficiency improvements are assumed?

□ To what extent do assumed efficiency improvements ignore Jevons’ Paradox and the Khazzoom-Brookes postulate?

□ Does the plan include power, and heat for electric vehicles, desalination, and industrial use?

□ Do wind and solar generation plans acknowledge capacity factors?

□ Is enough wind and solar generation planned to cover their minimum capacity factors and longest outages?

□ Do wind and solar generation plans consider predictable daily and seasonable variations in wind and solar output?

□ Is enough energy storage and/or fossil fuel backup planned to provide continuous power, given the anticipated minimal output from renewable sources?

□ Is enough generation capacity planned to charge storage in addition to supplying demand?

□ Are wind and solar assumed to contribute to emissions reduction? If so, why?

□ What lifetime of wind and solar plant is assumed? What lifetime assumptions are supported by actuarial data?

□ What maintenance and decommissioning costs are assumed?

□ Are all proposed generation and storage technologies mature?

□ Can the plan meet IEEE Std. 762-2006 reliability standards?

□ Does the plan increase the reserve power available to back up renewable generation facilities?

□ How much new hydroelectricity does the plan assume?

□ How much new pumped hydroelectricity (GW) does the plan call for?

□ How many hours pumped storage does this provide?

□ What sites are proposed for the pumped storage?

□ Will there be resistance to the proposed placement of pumped storage facilities?

□ What are the costs of new pumped hydroelectricity facilities and transmission lines to and from them adequately identified by the plan?

□ What power source is proposed for pumping?

□ What are the efficiency losses with pumped storage and how much will pumped storage and transmission costs add to the cost of electricity paid by the consumer?

□ How much new transmission infrastructure is planned?

□ What power are the transmission lines rated for?

□ How much steel, concrete, land and water are required for the proposed renewable generation facilities? How much for transmission lines? How much for storage facilities?

□ Are other storage technologies proposed?

□ What costs would be associated with proposed storage facilities?

□ What are the limitations of the proposed storage facilities?

□ How much natural gas is used?

□ What form of natural gas generation technology is proposed for use?

□ Are there carbon emission increases associated with the proposed natural gas back up of renewables, compared to simple natural gas generation systems?

□ What range of price for natural gas can realistically be assumed for the plan?

□ How long is natural gas assumed to last?

□ What will take the place of natural gas when it is no longer economically available?

□ Was nuclear power considered as an option?

□ Was the levelized cost of nuclear power compared with the levelized cost of the renewables + storage + natural gas plan?


A further note on my revised list:

I did provide a measure of generation redundancy – that is a measure of how much added renewable generation capacity is required to make the system reliable.

Increased renewable redundancy also increases the waste of generated electricity which occurs when natural increases in electrical generation are poorly matched to consumer demand. There is no measure of electrical generation waste and perhaps there should be.


I look forward to seeing the figures in BZE’s full report for storage and the estimated times that wind is offline.

Capital windfarm (132MW) in NSW has had so many offline events since it went online last year that there is plenty of data to see what happens in the “real world”. (Capital is supposedly 100% powering the Sydney Desal plant)

e.g. offline for about 14 hours! from 28-01-2010 from @21.25pm to 29-01-2010 – 11.25am

*** offline almost 4 whole days from 1st to 5th July 2010!! (just the odd blippette of power, and still going offline after that).

yesterday 11-7-2010, offline for 6 hours from about midday to 6pm. The last two months have been particularly bad for Capital…

These are just a few real world examples using “technology commercially available today, with no technical barriers to their deployment.”

Regulars will know of course the data for all Australian windfarms is publicly available at : (this is an online graph which you can use easily) (this is access to the raw data)

and also for the brave, the raw data is available from the Australian Energy Market Operator :



What are their worst case scenarios for solar and wind and how have they handled them?

This is a very focussed question. I would like to add it to the list.

Neil, just looking again over your run down of the BZE plan’s claims against the checklist, one of the reasons I put this together was to encourage some critical thinking around such claims, in addition to just establishing what claims are made. For instance,

Can the plan scale to 100% emissions reduction?
answer: yes

This may well be the claim, but if you gave this plan to CHOICE magazine for evaluation on behalf of the consumer looking to spend their hard-earned on some CO2 avoidance, would they accept this at face value, or run it through their labs along with the dolphin friendly tuna and the laundry powders with the greenwash claims?



Increased renewable redundancy also increases the waste of generated electricity which occurs when natural increases in electrical generation are poorly matched to consumer demand.

This would show up as reduced capacity factor as penetration increases. The OzEA crowd are doing some pretty interesting modelling of this right now. This is a further mechanism by which the capacity factor should be derated, so I should add the following questions:

* Does the (wind and solar) capacity factor reflect dumped power due to production in excess of demand?

* Does the costing include low or negative price for excess power?


Take a look at the ramp rates reported by the wind farm data on July 10, when those big storms hit SE Australia! Sudden drop outs due to turbine shut off in high winds, then re-ramping rapidly when the wind dropped enough for them to kick back in. Fascinating.

Another interesting point — gusty local conditions that sweep across a region don’t really seem to matter to overall system-wide output (just blips) — geographic spread certain does ameliorate localised drop outs in such conditions. These are not what we need to be concerned about — it’s the long-duration, continental-scale meteorological doldrums that are of real concern.


In the recent long lull Capital wind farm (132MW) spent more time offline, again, on the 12th / 13 July 4am to 4am period. How long ? About 15 and a half hours.

I’m hoping this “real world data” will give a good idea of what timeframes backup and storage is required.

4am to 10am totally offline for 6 hours with two minor blips of generation at :

date / time / MW
12/07/10 8:50 0
12/07/10 8:55 4.33359
12/07/10 9:00 1.33
12/07/10 9:05 0
12/07/10 9:10 0
12/07/10 9:15 1.89999
12/07/10 9:20 0

12:45pm to 16:55pm totally offline for about 4 hours, with one 5 minute blip back online at 16:30 when it produced 3.8MW

22:30pm offline for rest of period to 4am this morning (13th July), about 5 and a half hours with a few minor short blips :

date / time / MW
12/07/10 22:35 0
12/07/10 22:40 0
12/07/10 22:45 0
12/07/10 22:50 0
12/07/10 22:55 0
12/07/10 23:00 0
12/07/10 23:05 0
12/07/10 23:10 0
12/07/10 23:15 0
12/07/10 23:20 6.9952
12/07/10 23:25 8.6256
12/07/10 23:30 0
12/07/10 23:35 0
12/07/10 23:40 0
12/07/10 23:45 6.8892
12/07/10 23:50 6.5648
12/07/10 23:55 0
13/07/10 0:00 0
13/07/10 0:05 0
13/07/10 0:10 3.6004
13/07/10 0:15 2.3976
13/07/10 0:20 6.42
13/07/10 0:25 0
13/07/10 0:30 0
13/07/10 0:35 0
13/07/10 0:40 0.3928
13/07/10 0:45 6.15601
13/07/10 0:50 6.77839
13/07/10 0:55 7.9544
13/07/10 1:00 7.008
13/07/10 1:05 0
13/07/10 1:10 0
13/07/10 1:15 0
13/07/10 1:20 0
13/07/10 1:25 0
13/07/10 1:30 0
13/07/10 1:35 0
13/07/10 1:40 6.3408
13/07/10 1:45 0
13/07/10 1:50 0
13/07/10 1:55 0
13/07/10 2:00 0
13/07/10 2:05 0
13/07/10 2:10 0
13/07/10 2:15 0
13/07/10 2:20 0
13/07/10 2:25 0
13/07/10 2:30 0
13/07/10 2:35 6.028
13/07/10 2:40 6.228
13/07/10 2:45 5.89279
13/07/10 2:50 0
13/07/10 2:55 0
13/07/10 3:00 0
13/07/10 3:05 0
13/07/10 3:10 0
13/07/10 3:15 0
13/07/10 3:20 0
13/07/10 3:25 0
13/07/10 3:30 0
13/07/10 3:35 0
13/07/10 3:40 0
13/07/10 3:45 0
13/07/10 3:50 0
13/07/10 3:55 0



I understand the NSW government claims that the Sydney Desalination plant is powered by the Capital Wind Farm. Do you happen to know if the Sydney Desalination Plant goes off line each time the Capital Wind Farm stops generating?

Furthermore, does the desalination plant’s output vary in accordance with the power output from the Capital Wind Farm?

Sorry for asking. I just need a bit of help to understand this :)


John Newlands,

Last week in Ontario some 1100 MW of wind capacity produced just 14 MW at one point. Peak demand that day was 25 GW. Link.

Australia can up that. A few weeks ago, 1609MW of wind capacity generated negative power on 67 5-minute periods over a period of a month. And that is from wind farms spread over an area of 1200 km (east-west) by 800 km (north-south). On 18 May, all the wind farms (1600MW) combined produced zero or negative power between 01:30 and 05:45.

So much for “the wind is always blowing somewhere”.



Syd Desal has an exclusive license to buy REC green tickets from Infigen. There is a clause that says if Capital is not producing enough, Infigen can transfer REC’s from its other windfarms. They dont shout about this get of jail free card around though.

For example see Section 5.3 on p14 of the REC supply agreement :


“if the Supplier is unable to satisfy the requirements in clause 5.3(a)
(“Supplier obligations if NGACs requested in EC Election Notice”)
by 6 months after receipt of that EC Election Notice, the Supplier
must supply NGACs which are sourced other than from the Wind
Farm and which are in all other respects supplied in the manner
contemplated for supply of NGACs under this agreement. ”


So basically the idea that Capital “supplies” Syd Desal is pure spin, they simply buy green tickets from Infigen. The gov, syd water and Infigen make it sound like Capital is running the desal. Funny because as you now Capital WF is near Canberra, and the Desal plant is in Sydney… as far as I’m aware wind generated electricity can’t directly run a Desal plant from wind. Perhaps you would like to elaborate on that point, as my knowledge of Desal plants is not great. The Syd Desal requires 40MW I believe.

The agreement docs can be obtained as PDF’s for free from :


Regarding Syd Desal, there is a less technical version in the Contracts Introduction & Summary Document, see p6 :

“The ‘environmental credits’ sold by
the Generator must normally be
those arising from the operation of
the Generator’s Capital Wind Farm,
but environmental credits from other
renewable energy sources may be
used if the wind farm’s annual
electricity output is less than the
desalination plant’s annual
consumption (clause 5.11), provided
they satisfy criteria spelt out in
clauses 5.12 to 5.14.
The Buyer may purchase
environmental credits for the
desalination plant from sources other
than the Generator only in
exceptional circumstances (clause
4.2). ”

The final point is important. Not only is there a “get out of jail free card” for Infigen if Capital can’t supply the REC’s, there’s also one for Syd Water if Infigen can’t supply the REC’s.

In reality the Desal is not running on “green energy” its using baseload, it then “offsets” those emissions through green credits. I’d say thats a pretty obvious admission that wind / intermittent and highly volatile renewable power gen cannot reliably supply electricity.



In the recent long lull Capital wind farm (132MW) spent more time offline, again, on the 12th / 13 July 4am to 4am period. How long ? About 15 and a half hours.

I’m hoping this “real world data” will give a good idea of what timeframes backup and storage is required.

No. Doesn’t even go close to giving us an idea of how much storage is required.

As Kent Hawkins and others have pointed out, in most places there is a ‘low wind’ season and a ‘high wind’ season.

I don’t have the actual figures for the duration of the low wind and high wind seasons in Australia nor for the capacity factor that we’d expect in each season. So I’ll make up some figures to demonstrate the concept. I’ll round the figures for simplicity.

Let’s say the low wind season and high wind season are 6 months each. I’ll round the low wind season to 200 days for simplicity.

Within in the low wind season we have ‘very low wind’ and ‘not so low wind’ periods.

Let’s assume the annual capacity factor is 30% across all wind farms. The average capacity factor for the low wind season is 20% and for the high wind season is 40% (that’s in the right ballpark for Australia’s wind farms).

Let’s asume the ‘very low wind season’ is 100 days duration and the capacity factor (worst case) could be as low as 10%.

For the wind farms and energy storage to supply the equivalent of 30% capacity factor throughout the ‘very low wind’ period, we’d need 50 days of storage at the start of the very low wind period. That’s 1200kWh of storage for each 1kW of average power.

At $100/kWh of energy storage capacity, the cost is $120,000/kWh of average power from the wind farm. And that is just for the energy storage; it does not include the cost of the wind farm or the grid system upgrades.

This is the basis of the figure used in this rough estimate:

I am still interested on any feedback on this rough estimate of the cost of wind with energy storage to provide on-demand power at all times.


I’d go further than that and propose that RECs are a kind of government sanctioned fraud. When I last looked RECs were worth about $50 per Mwh ( 5c per kwh) of green electricity. If I understand it right to meet the RET coal and gas generators have to buy enough RECs to cover about 20% of their output. The effect is that the green electricity gets counted and paid for twice. It excuses more emissions rather than displacing them and adds to total power bills. The REC system would seem to guarantee that CO2 increases in lockstep with total Mwh, the opposite of what should happen. Unfortunately I think the new Gillard scheme will probably contain even more gobbledygook.

Another problem I have with wind ‘offsetting’ desal is that if the nominated wind farm underperforms or is uncompleted the government can simply declare that some other long established wind farm is part of the deal ie ‘a retro offset’. I suspect this will be the ruse in Vic as the ‘offset’ wind farm for the Wonthaggi desal (drawing ~100 MW I believe) won’t be completed for years.


Bryen, Peter and Barry,
the ZCA stationary energy plan used modelling based on existing wind farm output in SA,VIC, NSW, TAS ( and I think WA; dont have draft handy). Its assumption was 15% of capacity for the entire continent is firm, ie about X10 the geographic area of the NEM wind farms. It also envisioned 20GW back-up generation ( 5GW hydro and 15GW biomass fuel ) and considerable wind load shedding during summer months.
The critical times are during winter because electricity is also replacing NG heat with heat pumps, so demand is high and solar output is lower. It seems to me that 60% solar( even with 17h thermal storage) is too high, should have been 70% wind and 30% solar, thus using solar mainly for daytime peak. The model doesnt seem to use any hydro storage to even out longer term seasonal variations in solar ( but I am not sure about this). For example nearly all of the small biomass is used in June-July, when hydro would be more than capable of replacing this providing it was not used most days of the year for daily peak demand.



You continually push the idea that hydro can firm wind power in Australia. I thought we’d well and truly put that furphy to bed by now. Australia does not have sufficent hydro capacity for even the basic needs for hydro, let alone wasting what we do have to firm wind power which is an extremely expensive way of generating low value electricity. Any pumped hydro sites we can develop would ben orders of magnitude more valuable backing up for reliable baseload power generators, like nuclear, rather than firming wind. I wojnder why you are ignoring what we’ve already established.

I am still waiting for yours and Stephen Gloors comment on this:


Much as I disagree with Peter on what one may call macro issues, there’s no doubt in my mind that he is right on the role of hydro.

I can’t see that there is a strong cost-benefit argument for building more, but if there is one, it is surely to reduce the need to use fossil resources to cover slews rather than to enable intermittents to deliver something closer to existing load curves.

Anything that reduces the need for redundant fossil capacity and which allows thermal capacity to be operated at its most efficient settings creates an immediate benefit in CO2 intensity reductions and since the lead times are small and fossil thermal availability so high, this is where one can make the biggest difference for the least extra capacity. Building extra hydro capacity simply because intermittents have such volatility must ultimately ensure greater CO2 intensity — the exact opposite of what we want.



Looking at the BZE map (Fig 6 on p5 of their Synopsis) paints a different picture. They have locations such as Cooma and further north which dont even have any wind farms. How did they come up with wind farm figures for there then ??

They also have Crookwell on there, the site of NSW first wind farm and the subject of much controversy as none of the generation data for Crookwell have ever been publically available despite numerous requests for this data. Crookwell is a joke! a bad one. How did they obtain the data for Crookwell, when the long suffering local community has failed to get it? Crookwell is not on the AEMO data, because it is so ultra tiny (8 ancient turbines giving 4.8MW total nameplate capacity)!

I notice Silverton is on their map also. I am not aware of a wind farm there either. There is an approval for it (well part of it, 282 turbines), granted by Kristina Keneally on 24th May 2009, when she was planning minister. Construction for this 600 turbine wind farm has still not begun. Just in case you are interested in timeframes : The first community newsletter went out on Oct 2007, the wind resource monitoring started much earlier. Hmm, Silverton is now at least 3 years down the track… According to the website construction was supposed to start 1st half of 2010, will it ever get built??? Will anyone ever be stupid enough to give them the money.. ? See the latest SIlveton WF newsletter :

“At this time SWFD is not able to confirm the expected time
line for the construction of the wind farm. We are working
hard to complete the current studies of the grid
connection. More news will be provided as soon as it is
available. Please keep an eye on our website for updates.”

available at

hmm, once they do get the approved bit started, allow maybe 3 years for construction…

BZE also have wind farm locations on their map at : Orange, Dubbo, Moree, Stanthorpe, Colinsville, Georgetown and Atherton. According to the AEMO there are no wind farms at those locations.

How did they come up with data for all these non-existent wind farms? How did they adjust their model to account for all this ??


The SIlverton WF timeline is here :

Note : it does not say when wind resource monitoring began, which will have to have been earlier than the specialist studies which look at environmental issues etc. Note they anticipate project completion in 2015, thats at least 7 years from start to finish. Are they on time for this…. short answer no.

Current status with a timeline is here :

Note : they have still not submitted planning app for remaining half of the project. They should call it the SIlverton Wind Farce not farm.

I will be very interested to read in the full BZE report their attention to detail regarding the Planning Application process and construction timeframes. Did you see any detail of that in the draft Neil ?


Another quickie on “real world” timeframes for wind, a brief selection :

Capital WF (132MW) approved on 7-11-06, and went online Oct 2009.
Cullerin WF (30MW) 21-02-07 and went online around mid 2009
Conroy’s Gap WF (30MW) approved 31-5-07 – construction still not begun
Gullen Range WF (up to 84 turbines) approved 26-6-09 – construction still not begun

I haven’t bothered to list all of them. You can subtract at least 2 or 3 years from the approval date to get a generous ballpark for the project start date for WF’s. Some started even earlier e.g. Taralga is nearly 10 years down the track and no spade in site… I’d estimate a generous average timeframe of 6 years, and that’s including the current NSW ” Fast Track” planning process 30 day public exhibition & “3 month turnaround” for Part 3A projects that pretty much cuts out the local community / council.

Note that with planning approval there is a timeframe for construction to start (not finish) of 3 to 5 years. e.g. Keneally gave Silverton 5 years before construction needs to start (developers can always apply for longer anyway if they dont have their act/finances together). I think the official line for “construction to have started” is the arrival of a site hut and a few spades lying around somewhere.

For NSW see Planning Dept :–communications–energy—water/generation-of-electricity-or-heat-or-co-generation/

but a lot of info gets removed after approval. Also check out the developers sites, they usually have time frames. For yet-to-be built Taralga’s 10 year timeframe see :

Feb07 – development approval, construction commencing estimate 2011, thats 4 years after approval (if it gets built).


Bryen said:

Some started even earlier e.g. Taralga is nearly 10 years down the track and no spade in site… I’d estimate a generous average timeframe of 6 years, and that’s including the current NSW ” Fast Track” planning process 30 day public exhibition & “3 month turnaround” for Part 3A projects that pretty much cuts out the local community / council.

Hmmmph! We could have a nuclear plant in that time …. and actually produce some useful electricity and actually cut some emissions !!!


bryen, Peter, John, regarding RECs, and Capital Windfarm powering desal, under point 1.5 I wrote:

I do worry that such goals are a bit amorphous. Our power supply does not come in continuous percentages, it comes in discrete chunks – the power plants. So the best schedule would be a list of coal fired power plants, by name, with a date for closure.

The Capital Wind Farm example is exactly what I was getting at here. There is a dephysicalization that puts an abstraction layer between the power being consumed and the physical generator producing the actual emissions. The abstraction layer means the power system presents to the energy consumer as a continuous power generator. It hides its ‘graininess’, its structure as a collection of discrete generators and fuel burners.

We won’t start to decrease emissions until we shut down the emitting infrastructure, the actual, physical burner units.


Is any BNCer in Melbourne planning to go the BZE launch at Uni of Melb tomorrow at 6pm ?

I see they have someone from wind farm developer Pacific Hydro talking.


Peter Lang – “I am still waiting for yours and Stephen Gloors comment on this:”

No sorry I would rather contribute to OZEA in my own small way.


Excellent post, John Morgan. Your balance between a concise ground for technical analysis/argument and engagment with people (as opposed to confrontation) is exactly what is needed to get more people talking about nuclear power.

Well done!


Peter, I’m trying to verify your statement that NEM requires 20% generating capacity in reserve. Can you provide a source for that, or state it definitively?

Incidentally, the Australian Energy Market Commission’s National Electricity Rules Chapter 4: Power System Security is worth a peruse to see whats involved in keeping the lights on.

I just thought of a really important item for the checklist:

* What is the cost of electricity if the plan is implemented?


* What sites are proposed for the wind and solar installations?

There are a lot of further questions to be asked around the economic model for the plan’s development, but I don’t want to get into financing options (I’m really don’t know enough about it). There are also a lot of timeline and project management questions, which I don’t really want to get into.

What about labour? How many workers? Where will they be accomodated? Maintenance workforce? etc. There are probably some good points to add to the checklist here.

I should also add something on the environmental impacts of the plan.

Tom Keen, thank you for your remarks above.


I stated at the top,

I am not aware of similar comprehensive attempts to plan carbon free nuclear economies

Thats not true. The most ambitious plan I can think of is India’s far sighted plan to transition to a thorium economy through a very clearheaded multiphase reactor development programme. Charles Barton has an excellent writeup on his blog (link, Charles?).


I dont see any decommissioning costs in the report. A quick estimation for BZE’s wind component :

assuming about US$100k per 1.5MW as mentioned here : (note the PDF of the actual report is available at this link)


48,000MW / 1.5MW = 32,000

32,000 x US$100k =


at the current exchange rate of 1 USD = 1.13384 AUD, just checked at, that =

AUS$3,628,282,204 seems a reasonable ball park figure to add to the cost.

This should be required as an A rated credit institution bond up front before construction commences. This was the findings of the USA Beech Ridge wind farm court case.


I don’t have time to look at it now bryen, but does it include a cost for ongoing replacement of turbines as the old ones are decommissioned?


Looking at the summary of the ZCA report I think like a test pilot we have to ask ‘will this thing actually fly?’. The first impression says no. While it’s easy to find fault with some questionable ideas the fact they seem to be on every page is a worry. I think the above checklist may need additional criteria, perhaps by splitting the scalability criterion
– are the build rates achievable?
– is net energy assumed to be close to gross energy?

Thus we have to ask whether it is even physically or economically possible to build 16,000 concrete towered wind turbines in a few years. The assumption that backup power can be provided by burning biomass or from biogas neglects the current reliance on petro-fuels to harvest materials and disperse wastes. Perhaps a critique of the ZCA report needs a whole thread on its own.


John Morgan, thanks for initiating this great discussion. Well done and thanks everyone else for some thoughtful comments. John, in an earlier blog you asked to see my letter to Gillard. I posted it at the end of open thread 4. Have you seen it? I had a letter to the editor printed yesterday[13th] in the Australian. Check it out guys. We are making progress.


I won’t have time to look further until later today. My first impression is wouldn’t sit stably on the ground in dead calm, let alone fly.

Have a look at this :

which is a story by the exceutive director Matthew Wright. Story being the operative word… reeling out the usual suspects e.g. Denmark, Spain and Germany et al we all know what a disaster renewables have been there, didn;t Peter Lang post a bunch of links recently on their renewables cut backs.

I think it should be a separate thread, perhaps Barry might move the BZE specific comments over?


I also mean to add, re decommissioning. This is a serious LCA issue, because decom “actually happening” is always factored in to the final figure. If it doesn;t happen, i.e. because of lack of funds, the LCA needs re-calculating. Remember there are 14,400 abandoned wind turbines after the California wind rush. How much junk will be left in oz after this big green rush / wash? How much left over all around the world too… I

Some more info relevant to wind decom :

Brown, R (2009) “Appeal of Maine final order, Record Hill Wind LLC”, State of Maine Board of Environmental Protection re : Record Hill Wind Project. Available on line at :

Appeal filed by the Concerned Citizens to Save Roxbury (“CCSR”) regarding the industrial scale turbine proposal in Roxbury, Maine. The full appeal includes testimony filed by sound expert, Richard James. Also includes objections to the Decommissioning Plan and makes note of the fact the fact the Deerfield ruling disallowed a deduction for scrap value, see pages 31 to 33 in part 2 of the PDF documents.

Comfrey Wind Energy, LLC, (2007) “Docket Number: IP6630/WS-07-318
Decommissioning – Estimated Cost and Funding Analysis for Comfrey Wind Energy – REVISED, page 31a”, Minnesota Dept. of Commerce. Energy Facility Permitting, Siting and Routing

This decommissioning report submitted on 1st August 2007 is the estimated costs by Comfrey Wind Energy for fifteen Suzlon S88 2.1MW wind turbines, hub height 80m and rotor diameter 88m. Total estimated cost to dismantle & remove turbine per unit without scrap value is US$154,000. No other infrastructure dismantling costs were submitted in this report.

State Of Vermont Public Service Board (2009) “Docket No. 7250, Section VI
Decommissioning Fund”, pages 91-96. Available on line from Government of Vermont website at :

Click to access 7250finalorder.pdf

Some excerpts from the ruling relating to decommissioning:

Finding 331. ”The establishment of a fund to decommission the Project is necessary in the event the Project does not succeed, or to ensure its timely and permanent removal at the end of its useful life.”

Finding 331. “Salvage value for scrap is vulnerable to market price volatility and thus should not be considered a reliable funding source for decommissioning the Project. The amount placed in the decommissioning fund should represent the full estimated costs of decommissioning without netting out estimated salvage value.”

**** I repeat my question above :
Is any BNCer in Melbourne or anywhere planning to go the BZE launch at Uni of Melb tomorrow at 6pm ? Perhaps to engage in some healthy debate after the trumpeting stops.


John Morgan,

Regarding ambitions plans to achieve zero emissions from all energy, here is David MacKay’s Plan C. It requires massive energy efficiency improvements and 70% of the enegy would be generated by nuclear.

Click to access PlanC.pdf

Regarding Reserve Capacity, I’ll look for an authoritative Australian link today and get back to uyou. I saw thes mentions of it yesterday in


Capacity margin, expressed as a percentage, is defined as: Generation capacity – Average Cold Spell (ACS) demand ACS demand. It is generally accepted that a capacity margin of between 12% and 20% is needed to ensure secure power supplies against unexpected events such as a surge in demand, perhaps because of extreme weather conditions, or the unexpected breakdown of a considerable number of generating plants. The precise size of the required margin depends on factors such as access to imports and the fuel mix used for electricity production.


It was often policy to pursue a diversity of supply sources and an excess capacity margin (reaching 45% in Canada, 50% in Spain and 70% in parts of Australia)


I’ll just quickly add this “real world” point, again very relevant to wind, but also to any area/place that is supposed to housing these renewable power stations. Unless the turbines are to be erected on government land or land owned by the developer, there is also the long tricky issue of obtaining the lease agreement’s from landholders. This is what can often add to the timeframe and even make a project never happen, even after planning approval is given. Yass Valley WF again a case in point. Even though the application is in and under consideration, the majority of landholders still have not signed lease agreements. The landholder lease agreements and neighbour easments agreements the power co’s put forward are another whole can of worms that make for quite alarming reading, but more on this later.

As starting point have a look at these lease agreements by Wind Power Pty (in other words Origin) and some others too : (this page also has some comments on the lease agreements) (this one is interesting as it goes all the way back to Enron Wind days, when the big wind scam was first starting to get traction)

Frightening stuff indeed, full of gag clauses, no right of complaint, no public speaking about any ill effects… etc. etc. ever wondered why you never hear from any turbine landholders publicly ??? effected neighbours who shout up are often quickly bought out, e.g. Waubra WF where Acciona have already bought out 4 neighbours, in order to be bought out, the neighbour has to sign a gag clause in the contract so that the wind co can say “why they bought you out”.

Also if you’ve ever wondered why the lease agreements and the wind farm company are never actually Origin, AGL, Pacific Hydro (insert overseas company here) etc. its simple : they make up a little limited liability company to take the flak. In the event of anything “bad happening” the liability seems to evaporate very quickly to the LLC.. hmmm and then to the landholder… nice.

Relevance I hear you scream! Well, the lease agreement minefield is a whole subject in itself… BUT this another reason a project gets delayed or never off the ground, the landholders who take a little extra time, and do their research and are not rushed into things tend to back away at arms length… so file it under “project timeframes”.


Hmmm, ok this is another good one on timeframes :

p36 & 37

“The implementation time is the sum of licensing, site
acquisition, planning, construction and connection to
the grid. This depends on guidelines and the application
process of the responsible agencies, the specific design,
the location and many more aspects of this process. As a
future prediction of these is ambiguous at best, the umbers
in Table 2.3 are estimates arising from previous and current
construction. ”

(They missed out the n in numbers, not me, its not the only thing missing in this report…) Table 2.3 is interesting, they estimate nuclear build at 10 to 19 years. How does that sit with you Peter ? I love the phrase “ambiguous at best”



I hope you can put all your points on the BZE report together in a concise critique, focusing on the most important criticisms of the report.


John Newlands

The assumption that backup power can be provided by burning biomass or from biogas neglects the current reliance on petro-fuels to harvest materials and disperse wastes.

I think the ZCA plan’s dependence on biomass to provide our power when the wind isn’t blowing ,and the sun isn’t shining, is one of the nuttiest ideas of the whole plan. I have this vision of the French Farmers with their tractors blocking every road in France like they used to do when they didn’t want their government to reduce protection and subsidies for their farmers. I can see all Australian farmers having to collect all the biomass they can and take to to the power stations. And the city dwellers having to go out to the country to help – like Russian peasants toiling in the fields to keep the factories running. These ideas are dreamed up by researchers sitting in front of a computer screen – types like Mark Jacobson and Mark Diesendorf.



I certainly will condense my comments down and get them into a concise critique of the important points. My comments of course will mainly focus on the wind energy aspects, as that is the area I know about. I’m pretty busy this morning, but expect more later today.


John Morgan,

I said I’d look for an authoritative Australian source for the rule of thumb that ‘Capacity Margin’ is around 20%. I haven’t found that exactly. I found this AEMO document: and perhaps it is burried in here.

I also found this EIA document: which shows that the Capacity Margin for the USA was 18% in 2004 and increasing. It varies considerably from region to region.


John Morgan,

I’ve just received this email from an insider:


The details are available via the AEMC Reliability Panel and the subsequent adjustments NEM Rules. The system moved from N-1 across to probabilistic planning around the mid 90’s. The basis is the 0.002% long term average (read 10 years) UnServed Energy (USE) standard probably better defined as useless. This is supplemented by what was called the Reserve Trader, an un workable mechanism supposedly designed to deliver short term reserve to cover perceived deficiencies under 6 months and a fall back of AEMC security directions to deliver the required reserves. You’re looking at issues around Lack of Reserves Capacity (LOR) 1, 2 and 3, and the Reserve Plant Margins for each Jurisdiction. In the case of Reserve Levels NSW has a minus Reserve Level of 1430 MW.

This margin is assessed every 5 mins under the NEMDispatchEngine via the pre-dispatch algorithm which also determines whether to invoke an LOR1, 2 or 3 event.

He included section 2.3 from the “Annual Market Performance Review 2009” :


This thread has been a really good read! and very informative on most issues.

I have two questions about wind, questions which don’t seem to get asked or answered:

1. It is well known that large wind turbine blades generate low frequency noise which reputedly has ill effects on human health;
A. What are the audio safe distance parameters for humans?
B. Is this safe distance enforced on the power companies?
C. What are the effects on animals?
D. does anyone have any reference material (eg medical studies)?

2. There have been a number of spectacular failures of wind turbines, essentially caused by the design(?)choice of a horizontal spindle for the turbine. In one incident in Denmark a blade cartwheeled for some distance when it all came off…
A. What is the physical safe distance perimeter around a wind farm?
B. How was it calculated?
C. Is it enforced on the Power companies?
D. Are animals included?

3. I expect that the Greens would be hot on the trail of these environmentally critical issues and hope they will share their extensive knowledge with the rest of us.


Peter Lang, I just found this on the ESAA website, from 2005:

Increases in electricity consumption and in peak demand rates resulted in a decline in the electricity systems reserve capacity margin – the amount of “spare capacity” available at the time of peak demand – from 23.3 per cent to 19.4 per cent.

So the 20% figure is about right, which is about 7-8 GW reserve capacity.


Terry Krieg, yes, sorry for not replying earlier, great letter. Hopefully Julia will get right on it. Keep putting this stuff out there!


John Morgan,

Thank you. ESAA is an authoritative reference. I’d feel comfortable with using that source; even though the figures is a few years ourt of date and the method of defining it has changed, the principle hasn’t. I like the easy rule of thumbe of 20% rather than trying to explain monte carlo simulations and the rest of it.



Some quick answers and useful links :

1A – minimum of 2km, sometimes greater
1B – no, they put them as close as they can
1C – not very well studied, but the noise interferes with animal communication as well as rest, this has been found extensively in the California wind turbine areas.
1D – see links below

2A – some of the turbine manufacturers specify these, depends on size of turbine
2B – same as 2A
2C – sometimes
2D – no

3 – the Greens are actively pushing industrial scale wind energy. They have been told plenty of times of the problems.

Some specific pointers to the noise/health issue, and believe me this is just a small selection to get you going.

Acoustic Ecology Institute :

Wind action’s latest posted document on noise : main is very useful, see their important docs section :

a brief selection :

more later



Some more health related items for you :

Phipps, R (2007) “Evidence of Dr Robyn Phipps in the matter of the Moturimu wind farm application”, Testimony before the Joint Commissioners in the Matter of the Moturimu Wind Farm Application, New Zealand. Available on line at :

Extensive testimony by Dr Robyn Phipps and evidence presented of a peer reviewed survey of visual and noise effects experienced by residents living near the Taraua and Ruahine ranges wind farms. Of the households surveyed in the analysis 80% considered that the wind turbines were intrusive and 73% thought that they were unattractive. Over 52% of households located between 2 to 2.5km and 5 to 9.5km heard wind turbine noise, and 25% could hear wind turbine noise greater than 10km from the wind farm. There are many more disturbing findings in this survey.

In terms of some of the people who have been extensively affected, Mars Hill in Maine, USA is up there among some of the worst. Not for the sensitive reader…


Northern Maine Medical Center (2009) “Health Concerns and the Need for Careful Siting of Wind Turbines” Press Release March 4, 2009

Medical Staff of Northern Maine Medical Center unanimously approved this press release and requested a moratorium on “wind farm” developments.

Nissenbaum, M (2009) “Affidavit of Michael A. Nissenbaum, M.D.” State of Maine Board of Environmental Protection re : Record Hill Wind Project. Available on line at :

Affidavit by Dr. Michael Nissenbaum submitted in support of an appeal filed with Maine’s Board of Environmental Protection against a proposed project that will include 22 industrial scale turbines sited in Roxbury, Maine. Dr. Nissenbaum asserts that industrial wind turbines can cause adverse effects on human health.

McMurtry (2009) “Community-based health survey, Ontario” Report for Wind Concerns Ontario. Available on line at :

“This community based surveillance activity was conducted under the guidance of Dr. Robert McMurtry, the Former Dean of Medicine at the University of Western Ontario. The health survey revealed that out of 76 respondents, 53 people now living near different wind power facilities in Ontario reported that industrial wind turbines were having a significant
negative impact on their lives. The adverse effects range from headaches and sleep disturbance to tinnitus (ringing in the ear) and depression.”

*** The above is just a very small selection *** Here in Australia Waubra wind farm is perhaps ranking up there as one of the worst. So far Acciona the wind farm company have bought out 4 properties and silenced the former owners with gag clauses.



Some more items from my archive/notes relating specifically to noise pollution :

James, R (2008) “Testimony before Wellington City Council RE: noise at Meridian Energy wind project proposal” Available on line at :

Expert testimony of Richard James to Wellington City Council on 2nd September 2008 in regard to modeled noise predictions for a Meridian Energy Ltd. wind energy facility in New Zealand. Covers real measurements, computer modeling, dBA and dBC, WHO, Appendix includes some of his co-authored papers including his Noise-Con 2008 paper with Kamperman.

Kamperman, P & James, R (2008) “The ‘how to’ guide to criteria for siting wind turbines to prevent health risks from sound”, V2.1 published by Industrial Wind Action. Available on line at :

Community noise experts George W. Kamperman and Richard R. James present guidelines for siting industrial wind turbines. This paper focuses on preventing health risks due to sound emissions from the turbines. This paper offers important background information that should be read by all those involved in the siting and approving of wind energy facilities.

Kamperman, P & James, R (2008) “Simple guidelines for siting wind turbines to prevent health risks”, 2008 International Noise Conference (Noise-Con), Dearborn, Michigan. Available on line at :

Reviews sound studies conducted by consultants for governments, wind turbine owners, and local residents for a number of sites with known health or annoyance problems. The purpose is to determine if a set of simple guidelines using dBA and dBC sound levels can serve as the ‘safe’ siting guidelines.

Frank H. Brittain, F & Hale, E (2008) “Some limitations of ray-tracing software for predicting community noise from industrial facilities”, 2008 International Noise Conference(Noise-Con), Dearborn, Michigan. Available on line at :

This paper covers limitations and problems with the sound propagation standard (ISO 9613-2). This standard model is used for noise assessment studies in the NSW environmental assessments. A key point with relation to wind energy developments is that the ISO 9613-2 model can give no estimation of its own accuracy beyond 1km, yet it is routinely used for distances exceeding 1km.

Van den Berg, G. P. (2006) “The Sounds of High Winds: the effect of atmospheric stability on wind turbine sound and microphone noise” PhD thesis available online :

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.

Van den Berg G.P. (2007) “Wind profiles over complex terrain.” Second International Conference on Wind Turbine Noise, Lyon, France.

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. Sound levels can be up to 15dB higher at night relative to the same reference wind speed in daytime. These papers also discuss the flawed methodology of wind induced microphone noise during background sound monitoring.


That lot should hopefully give you some of the info you’re after about noise / health issues. Some other useful sites, both on that subject and in general, highly recommended :


Finally :

National Research Council of the National Academies. (2007) Environmental Impacts of Wind-Energy Projects; The National Academies Press: Washington, DC. Available on line at :

It is important to note also that since this National Research Council report was published in 2007 there have been a number of important papers published on the further negative environmental impacts of wind energy. The report also does not cover human health effects in depth. However, it is a comprehensive and wide ranging report to 2007.

One of the National Research Council authors, Rick Webb, has made the pre-publication version of this important 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


Click to access Wishful-Thinking.pdf



I suppose these recent posts in reply to Fred are really related to your point 6 in the analysis of BZE plan.

“What are the environmental impacts of this plan, compared to alternatives?”

I suggest this be added to the TCASE 12 checklist above, perhaps along the lines of what has to go in the Environmental Assessment (EA) documents that are part of any electricity power generation planning application, which specifically relate to effects / risks on :

Biodiversity / Flora and Fauna
Water / Hydrology
Visual Amenity
Health Risks
Noise Pollution
Visual Amenity
Property value
Indigenous / Cultural Heritage
Community Impacts

See this example EA for Yass Valley wind farm :–communications–energy—water/generation-of-electricity-or-heat-or-co-generation/?action=view_job&job_id=2765


bryen, I’m drafting an update and will certainly include the ecological impact question. Webb’s NRC paper you cite above is a very comprehensive review, very helpful, thank you.


I am overwhelmed! And greatly impressed.
Thank you for these very detailed responses, which I will read with interest.


Slightly off topic perhaps, but I was just trying to find out if ZCE actually had anyone on board with “real world” wind energy experience. But this comment also relates to my comment earlier in this thread on windfarm developers and “ownership”.

Bear with me until the end of this comment, its worth it…

I looked up the wind engineer (Chris Clement) mentioned in the ZCA report on page viii. He works for Wind Prospect. Which reminded me, their UK wing are behind the Deeping St Nicholas, Lincoln, UK wind farm that caused the Davis’s to abandon their home because of the intolerable noise and sue the wind farm owner.

Again as I noted earlier on this thread, there is always a legal layer of abstraction between the developer and the limited liability company that “owns” the wind farm and then land owner who leases to the windfarm company. You’ll notice from the law suit that it is Davis vs Fenland Windfarms Ltd.

See the Wind Prospect page for this wind farm here :

Notice the name of the real company behind Deeping St Nicholas windfarm are called EDF.


What do EDF do mainly…. tsk… naughty people, they sell Gas, Coal and Nuclear!

Hmmm what a tangled web they all weave, shhh don’t tell Greenpeace/FOE etc.


Thanks John,

Yes Rick Webb has done a stirling effort with his website too. He has stated that he didn’t think the NRC report went far enough, he’s right on the frontline. Keep in mind that NRC report was published in 2007, so there has been additional research on impacts of industrial wind energy published since then.


I’ve just sent Barry an update to the main article based on feedback here which I assume will go up soon. The questions could go on forever so a bit of focus is called for. I have updated with the following:

□ How is the plan to be financed?
□ What is the cost of power if the plan is implemented?
□ What are their worst case scenarios for solar and wind generation, and how have they been handled?
□ Do the wind and solar outputs account for dumped power due to production in excess of demand?
□ Does the plan increase the NEM mandated spinning reserve from the current 850 MW?
□ Does the plan increase the NEM reserve generation capacity from the current 20% value?
□ What are the proposed sites for the wind and solar installations?
□ Has the availability and cost of labour been addressed? Does it consider transport to remote locations and accommodation?
□ Have the ecological impacts of large scale wind and solar been assessed for the proposed sites?

and with additional text at:

1.3. How is the plan to be financed?
3.1.2. What are their worst case scenarios for solar and wind generation, and how have they been handled?
3.1.3. Do the wind and solar outputs account for dumped power due to production in excess of demand?
6. Resource Consumption, Land Use, and Ecological Impacts
6.2. Water for Concrete, Cooling and Washing
6.4. What are the proposed sites for the wind and solar installations?
6.5. Labour
6.6. What are the ecological impacts?

I have resisted the temptation to change the title per a friend’s suggestion to “Let’s keep the bastards honest”.

Thank you everyone for the great feedback!


@Bryen: you allege that because EDF has its fingers in various energy pies, there is a “tangled web” of which FOE and Greenpeace are unaware.

Now I agree inasmuch as my experience is of stating to a low-level Federal official of a European environment ministry in 2010 that E.ON and RWE were not only in nuclear but coal and solar and wind. My statement was not welcome. This is because in his country, there is a conceptual break between fossil/nuclear (bad) and renewables (good).

However, given that BNC nerds are, with rare exceptions, incapable of political economy as distinct from business economics, let me say that we have here a clash between fractions of Capital: my European Federal official will, in my experience, have believed in Good Clean Renewabilist Capital represented by firms of up to 500 employees who are thus “unalienated”; the enemy for him is impersonal amorphous Big Fossil and Nuclear corporate groups from which employees cannot gain a life-affirming Sense of Fulfilment, etc.

So we have a (false) perception by Greenpeace and FOE types that small and medium-size enterprise (SME) is clean and good and sustainable and that Big Capital is dirty and dangerous.

Unless BNC geeks realise that the choice between NPPs and wind turbines involves much more than mere techie decisions (F. Barlow has written wisely on this “cultural” problem), they will not comprehend what is going on.


Peter Lalor wrote :

“Unless BNC geeks realise that the choice between NPPs and wind turbines involves much more than mere techie decisions …. ”

Yes agree. This is why I post on environmental, health, noise, planning etc of industrial scale wind energy as well as the tech/cost stuff. I have see BNC accused in the past of only talking about tech stuff (something the ZCA2020 report seems to be guilty of though, apart from the platitudes of course).

I’m staggered by how much the wind industry, the so-called “green” groups and business groups like the Clean Energy Council (i.e. they aren’t really a council in the normal sense), put out “factsheets” which supposedly dispel “myths”. The general public are not scientific researchers, so they have to take what is said in these “factsheets” on trust. Here is a classic example from FOE :

That page really does begger belief!! I am truly astounded by this utter garbage coming from an environmental group. And yes, that is their spelling mistake of “climate-change” in the link not mine :)

Here are some other possibilities for the TCASE 12 list, somewhat amorphous perhaps, but often can quickly give an idea of area’s that can be discounted from proposed plans :

1) Platitudes count, spin, hyperbole to substance ratio. Cut out all the text that is clearly hand waving, compare with what remains (excluding references).

2) Misleading references/statements to other countries and how great they are supposedly doing / how fast they are building / how much they have installed. etc. e.g. Denmark, Germany, Spain, China… And whether this is actually relevant or just plain misleading. e.g. ZCA 2020 ref’s China build rate’s, as I pointed out in comments on the ZCA thread, the story is not as simple as they make out. To an uninformed general / lay reader such info has to be taken on faith…

3) References from “industry funded sources” or so-called “councils” that are basically business consortiums. i.e. not scientific evidence or independently verifiable. I am NOT saying here that these ref’s should be dismissed outright, but they should be scrutinized and recognised that they come from a potentially vested interest.

4) Spotting unqualified assumptions. Usually spotable by the use of the words : “could”, “may”, “maybe”, “might”, “should”, “if”, etc. Note : I am not saying do a word count on these words, I mean that when reading the plan one comes across sentences such as :

“This is due to the blades being manufactured in two sections, allowing for standard transportation, which could predominantly occur on existing rail networks.” (ZCA 2020 p63)

In other words, sentences of this nature allow one to quickly spot a speculation that needs to be researched. The natural question is : is this issue later researched in the plan and does it become an unqualified assumption. This particular sentence is actually a classic example of a “previous assumption” that is then added to an assumption in the sentence itself. Its a double assumption or perhaps we could call it a “compound assumption”. The wind turbine blades in question are from a wind turbine that isn’t commercially available (the Enercon E-126), and yet a key assumption of the ZCA 2020 plan is that it uses technology that IS commercially available. Existing turbine blades are manufactured in ONE piece, are therefore very large and require oversize road transportation, along with all the inconveniences that entails e.g. special routes, different amounts of fossil fuel consumed, tree lopping, road widening/construction… etc.


John Morgan,

The first version (which was posted on another thread) was great. The expanded version that was first posted on this thread was ‘a giant leap for mankind’. This update makes it even better. It’s really good. Thank you.


John Morgan,

I was intending to do the background work so I could answer the questions on the check list. But it’s going to take me a long time to get to that point.

I am hoping someone who is unbiased (eg you) will answer the questions from the information that contributors are posting on the ZCA discussion thread.



Its sitting there begging to be done, isn’t it? I’d like to do it, though time is a bit of an issue at the moment. Will see how I go. In the meantime, I like the start you have made on it and look forward to more work on the cost analysis.

I’ll be sure to let you know if I meet someone unbiased.


I’ve have now done a major update of the above TCASE 12 post, to include a slew of new revisions by John Morgan. It’s probably worth re-reading the whole thing, but look especially at sections 3.1.2, 3.1.3, 4.1, 6.2 and 6.4-6.6 (entirely new).

I’ve also updated the 10-page printable PDF version. Thanks again John.


I see another person has done a documentary on the dodgy side of industrial scale wind energy.


Con with the Wind is a passionate and inspirational look at the myths, facts and lies surrounding big business interests in the Wind Farm Goldrush.
Filmmaker and director Nigel Spence’s gripping documentary, shot in 15 countries over 3 years, exposes the truth and the real human, environmental and subsidy costs of wind turbines; a cost that the youth of today will be paying for the next 25 years.

The other one being “They’re Not Green”,

made in association with physicist John Droz. John Droz’s wind power facts page (highly recommended) :

They’re Not Green also features bird expert Kevin Smallwood on wind turbine & bird problems. Smallwood has probably done the most extensive studies to date on the issue. In order to alleviate the bird deaths at Altamont Pass the wind turbines are shut down for four months every year (Nov, Dec, Jan, Feb)


It looks like we are going to be deluged with the claimed merits of wind and solar in the lead up to the election. That may be a good opportunity to ask the hard questions. I’d keep it simple as in; why does it cost so much for so little? Or; how many coal fired power stations will it shut down?

It might be a good time to trouble the conscience of Middle Australia. As in why does Australia have a hand in 3% of global CO2 emissions when we only have 0.3% of world population? I’m including coal exports here. Elections give a brief airing to clean energy fantasies then we quickly go back to the dirty energy realities. Another waste of taxpayers money that could be spent on real changes.


HERE! HERE! and if we discount exports it’s about 1.5% of global emissions. Would someone care to then state what % of that is from electricity. I do like context.


OK regarding the recent report by the NHMRC on health effects of industrial scale wind turbines, which is utterly inexcusable, the Society for Wind Vigilance has issued this analysis :

Haste Makes Waste – An Analysis of the National Health and Medical Research Council “Wind Turbines and Health A Rapid Review of the Evidence July 2010”

“The vetting and quality of material cited in the “Rapid Review” is at best suspect and at times ridiculous. The “Rapid Review” embraces the ranting opinions contained on “croakey the Crikey health blog” while enigmatically challenging the World Health Organization authoritative position that annoyance is an adverse health effect – astounding.”

Who are they :

“The Society for Wind Vigilance is an international federation of physicians,engineers and other professionals promoting the development of authoritative wind turbine guidelines to protect the health and safety of communities. The mission of The Society for Wind Vigilance is to mitigate the risk of both physiological and psychological adverse heath effects through the advancement of independent third party research and its application to the siting of industrial wind turbines.”


I should have also said who the NHMRC are :

“The National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) is Australia’s peak body for supporting health and medical research; for developing health advice for the Australian community, health professionals and governments; and for providing advice on ethical behaviour in health care and in the conduct of health and medical research.”

Except, it seems, when required to put out an appraisal of the health issues relating to industrial scale wind turbines.


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