Energy debates in Wonderland

My position on wind energy is quite ambivalent. I really do want it (and solar) to play an effective role in displacing fossil fuels, because to do this, we need every tool at our disposal (witness the Open Science project I kick started in 2009 [and found funding for], in order to investigate the real potential of renewables, Oz-Energy-Analysis.Org).

However, I think there is far too much wishful thinking wrapped up in the proclamations by the “100% renewables” crowd(most of who are unfortunately also anti-nuclear advocates), that wind somehow offers both a halcyon choice and an ‘industrial-strength’ solution to our energy dilemma. In contrast, my TCASE series (thinking critically about sustainable energy) illustrates that, pound-for-pound, wind certainty does NOT punch above it’s weight as a clean-energy fighter; indeed, it’s very much a journeyman performer.

The following guest post, by Jon Boone, looks at wind energy with a critical eye and a witty turn of phrase. I don’t offer it as a comprehensive technical critique — rather it’s more a philosophical reflection on past performance and fundamental limits. Whatever your view of wind, I think you’ll find it interesting.


Energy debates in Wonderland

Guest Post by Jon Boone. Jon is a former university administrator and longtime environmentalist who seeks more more informed, effective energy policy in ways that expand and enhance modernity, increase civility, and demand stewardship on behalf of biodiversity and sensitive ecosystems. His brand of environmentalism eschews wishful thinking because it is aware of the unintended adverse consequences flowing from uninformed decisions. He produced and directed the documentary, Life Under a Windplant, which has been freely distributed within the United States and many countries throughout the world. He also developed the website Stop Ill Wind as an educational resource, posting there copies of his most salient articles and speeches. He receives no income from his work on wind technology.

March Hare (to Alice): Have some wine.

(Alice looked all round the table, but there was nothing on it but tea.)

Alice: I don’t see any wine.

March Hare: There isn’t any.

Alice: Then it wasn’t very civil of you to offer it.

March Hare: It wasn’t very civil of you to sit down without being invited.

— From Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland

Energy journalist Robert Bryce, whose latest book, Power Hungry, admirably foretells an electricity future anchored by natural gas from Marcellus Shale that will eventually bridge to pervasive use of nuclear power, has recently been involved in two prominent debates. In the first, conducted by The Economist, Bryce argued for the proposition that “natural gas will do more than renewables to limit the world’s carbon emissions.” In the second, an Intelligence Squared forum sponsored by the Rosenkranz Foundation, he and American Enterprise Institute scholar Steven Hayward argued against the proposition that “Clean Energy can drive America’s economic recovery.”

Since there’s more evidence a friendly bunny brings children multi-colored eggs on Easter Sunday than there is that those renewables darlings, wind and solar, can put much of a dent in CO2 emissions anywhere, despite their massively intrusive industrial presence, the first debate was little more than a curiosity. No one mentioned hydroelectric, which has been the most widely effective “renewable”—ostensibly because it continues to lose marketshare (it now provides the nation with about 7% of its electricity generation), is an environmental pariah to the likes of The Sierra Club, and has little prospect for growth. Nuclear, which provides the nation’s largest grid, the PJM, with about 40% of its electricity, is not considered a renewable, despite producing no carbon emissions; it is also on The Sierra Club’s hit list. Geothermal and biomass, those minor league renewables, were given short shrift, perhaps because no one thought they were sufficiently scalable to achieve the objective.

So it was a wind versus gas scrum played out as if the two contenders were equally matched as producers of power. Bryce pointed out wind’s puny energy density, how its noise harms health and safety, its threat to birds and bats, and how natural gas’s newfound abundance continues to decrease its costs—and its price. His opponent carried the argument that wind and solar would one day be economically competitive with natural gas, such that the former, since they produced no greenhouse gasses, would be the preferred choice over the latter, which does emit carbon and, as a non renewable, will one day become depleted.

Such a discussion is absurd at a number of levels, mirroring Alice’s small talk with the March Hare. One of the troubling things about the way wind is vetted in public discourse is how “debate” is framed to ensure that wind has modern power and economic value. It does not. Should we debate whether the 747 would do more than gliders in transporting large quantities of freight? Bryce could have reframed the discussion to ask whether wind is better than cumquats as a means of emissions reductions. But he didn’t. And the outcome of this debate, according to the vote, was a virtual draw.

Ironically, the American Natural Gas Association is perking up its louche ad slogan: “The success of wind and solar depends on natural gas.” Eureka! To ANGA, wind particularly is not an either to natural gas’s or. Rather, the renewables du jour will join forces with natural gas to reduce carbon emissions in a way that increases marketshare for all. With natural gas, wind would be an additive—not an alternative—energy source. Bryce might have made this clear.

What ANGA and industry trade groups like the Interstate Natural Gas Association of America (see its latest paper) don’t say is that virtually all emissions reductions in a wind/gas tandem would come from natural gas—not wind. But, as Bryce should also be encouraged to say, such a pretension is a swell way for the natural gas industry to shelter income via wind’s tax avoidance power. And to create a PR slogan based upon the deception of half-truths. Although natural gas can indeed infill wind’s relentless volatility, the costs would be enormous while the benefit would be inconsequential. Rate and taxpayers would ultimately pay the substantial capital expenses of supernumerary generation.

Beyond Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass

The Oxford-style Economist debate, which by all accounts Bryce and Hayward won with ease, nonetheless woozled around in a landscape worthy of Carroll’s Jabberwocky, complete with methodological slips, definitional slides, sloganeering, and commentary that often devolved into meaningless language—utter nonsense. It was as if Pixar had for the occasion magically incarnated the Red Queen, the Mad Hatter, and Humpty Dumpty, who once said in Through the Looking Glass, “When I use a word, it means just what I choose it to mean – neither more nor less.” Dumpty also said, “When I make a word do a lot of work … I always pay it extra.”

Those promoting “clean” were paying that word extra—and over the top, as Hayward frequently reminded by demanding a clear, consistent definition of clean technology.

Proponents frequently defined clean energy differently depending upon what they chose to mean. At times, they meant acts of commission in the form of “clean coal,” wind, solar, biomass (although ethanol was roundly condemned), and increased use of natural gas. Indeed, natural gas in the discussion became reified, in the best Nancy Pelosi/T. Boone Pickens tradition, as a clean source of energy on a par with wind and solar. At one time, clean also referred to nuclear—but the topic quickly changed back to wind and natural gas. At other times, clean referred to acts of omission, such as reducing demand with more efficient appliances, smarter systems of transmission, and more discerning lifestyle choices.

Shifting definitions about what was “clean” made for a target that was hard to hit. Bryce mentioned Jevon’s Paradox. Bulls eye. So much for increased efficiency. Hayward demonstrated that the US electricity sector has already cut SO2 and NOx emissions nearly 60% over the last 40 years, and reduced mercury emissions by about 40% over this time, despite tripling coal use from 1970 to 2005. Zap. All this without wind and solar. Green jobs from clean industry?  It would have been fruitful to have invoked Henry Hazlitt’s Broken Window fallacy, which illustrates the likelihood of few net new jobs because of the opportunities lost for other, more productive investment. Also welcoming would have been remarks about how more jobs in the electricity sector must translate into increased costs, making electricity less affordable. Such a development would substantially subvert prospects for economic recovery.

In arguing against the proposition that clean energy could be a force for economic recovery, Bryce and Hayward did clean the opposition’s clock (they had, as everyone agreed, the numbers on their side). But they also let the opposition off the hook by not exposing the worms at the core of the proposition. Yes, the numbers overwhelmingly suggest that coal and natural gas are going to be around for a long time, and that they will continue to be the primary fuels, along with oil, to energize the American economy.** They can be, as they have been, made cleaner by reducing their carbon emissions even more. But they won’t be clean. Outside Wonderland, cleaner is still not clean.

The proposition therefore had to fail. Even in Wonderland.

Example of the twinning between natural gas and renewable energy - unacceptable from a greenhouse gas mitigation perspective

Capacity Matters

These arguments, however, are mere body blows. Bryce should have supplied the knockout punch by reminding that any meaningful discussion of electricity production, which could soon embrace 50% of our overall energy use, must consider the entwined goals of reliability, security, and affordability, since reliable, secure, affordable electricity is the lynchpin of our modernity. Economic recovery must be built upon such a foundation. At the core of this triad, however, resides the idea of effective capacity—the ability of energy suppliers to provide just the right amount of controllable power at any specified time to match demand at all times. It is the fount of modern power applications.

By insisting that any future technology—clean, cleaner, or otherwise, particularly in the electricity sector—must produce effective capacity, Bryce would have come quickly to the central point, moving the debate out of Wonderland and into sensible colloquy.

Comparing—both economically and functionally—wind and solar with conventional generation is spurious work. Saying that the highly subsidized price of wind might, maybe, possibly become, one day, comparable to coal or natural gas may be true. But even if this happens, if, say, wind and coal prices become equivalent, paying anything for resources that yield no or little effective capacity seems deranged as a means of promoting economic recovery for the most dedicatedly modern country on the planet.

Subsidies for conventional fuels—coal, natural gas, nuclear, and hydro—make sense because they promote high capacity generation. Subsidies for wind and solar, which are, as Bryce stated, many times greater on a unit of production basis than for conventional fuels, promote pretentious power that make everything else work harder simply to stand still.

Consider the following passage from Part II of my recent paper, which is pertinent in driving this point home:

Since reliable, affordable, secure electricity production has historically required the use of many kinds of generators, each designed to perform different but complementary roles, much like instruments in an orchestra, it is not unreasonable for companies in the power business to diversify their power portfolios. Thus, investment in an ensemble of nuclear and large coal plants to provide for baseload power, along with bringing on board smaller coal and natural gas plants to engage mid and peak load, makes a great deal of sense, providing for better quality and control while achieving economies of scale.

Traditional diversified power portfolios, however, insisted upon a key common denominator: their generating machines, virtually all fueled by coal, natural gas, nuclear, and/or hydro, had high unit availability and capacity value. That is, they all could be relied upon to perform when needed precisely as required.

How does adding wind—a source of energy that cannot of itself be converted to modern power, is rarely predictable, never reliable, always changing, is inimical to demand cycles, and, most importantly, produces no capacity value—make any sense at all? Particularly when placing such a volatile brew in an ensemble that insists upon reliable, controllable, dispatchable modes of operation. As a functional means of diversifying a modern power portfolio, wind is a howler.

Language Matters

All electricity suppliers are subsidized. But conventional generation provides copious capacity while wind supplies none and solar, very little. The central issue is capacity—or its absence. Only capacity generation will drive future economic recovery. And Bryce should say so in future debates. Birds and bats, community protests, health and safety—pale in contrast to wind technology’s lack of capacity. And Bryce should say so. Ditto for any contraption fueled by dilute energy sources that cannot be converted to modern power capacity—even if they produce no carbon emissions. Clean and green sloganeering should not be conflated with effective production.

Moreover, even if the definition of clean and/or renewable technology is stretched to mean reduced or eliminated carbon emissions caused by less consumption of fossil fuels, then where is the evidence that technologies like wind and solar are responsible for doing this? When in the debate former Colorado governor Bill Ritter claimed that the wind projects he helped build in his state were reducing California’s carbon emissions, why didn’t the Bryce/Hayward team demand proof? Which is non existent.

It’s not just wind’s wispy energy density that makes conversion to modern power impossible—without having it fortified by substantial amounts of inefficiently operating fossil-fired power, virtually dedicated transmission lines, and new voltage regulation, the costs of which must collectively be calculated as the price for integrating wind into an electricity grid. It is rather wind’s continuous skittering, which destabilizes the required match between supply and demand; it must be smoothed by all those add-ons. The vast amount of land wind gobbles up therefore hosts a dysfunctional, Rube Goldbergesque mechanism for energy conversion. Bryce and his confreres would do well to aim this bullet right between the eyes.

Robert Bryce remains a champion of reasoned discourse and enlightened energy policy. He is one of the few energy journalists committed to gleaning meaningful knowledge from a haze of data and mere information. His work is a wise undertaking in the best traditions of journalism in a democracy. As he prepares for future debates—although, given the wasteland of contemporary journalism, it is a tribute to his skills that he is even invited to the table—he must cut through the chaff surrounding our politicized energy environment, communicating instead the whole grained wheat of its essentials.

Endnote: You might also enjoy my other relatively recent paper, Oxymoronic Wind (13-page PDF). It covers a lot of ground but dwells on the relationship between wind and companies swaddled in coal and natural gas, which is the case worldwide.


** It was fascinating to note Hayward’s brief comment about China’s involvement with wind, no doubt because it seeks to increase its renewables’ manufacturing base and then export the bulk of the machines back to a gullible West. As journalist Bill Tucker said recently in a panel discussion about the future of nuclear technology on the Charlie Rose show, China (and India), evidently dedicated to achieve high levels of functional modernity, will soon lead the world in nuclear production as it slowly transitions from heavy use of coal over the next half-century.


  1. Here you can see the total wind output of all wind turbines in Ireland, one of the windiest countries of Europe:

    That is a lot of uncontrollable variability, even for a windy country with considerable geographical spreading between turbines.

    It is convenient to burn natural gas to back this up. This is not the 90% CO2 cut we need to make over the next several decades.


  2. Diversity in any system strengthens the whole and helps that system absorb external shocks or internal stresses and allows for that system to bounce back more quickly. A diverse energy portfolio mitigates peaks and troughs between capacity and peak demand. It mitigates market volatility for commodity prices — the future of fossil fuels. It is going to take everything we have to do both, meet voracious energy need and cut Co2 emissions. As much as I love wind and solar, I know that renewables cannot do it alone, not even close.


  3. Cyril R. wrote:

    Here you can see the total wind output of all wind turbines in Ireland … That is a lot of uncontrollable variability … It is convenient to burn natural gas to back this up.

    I suppose it depends on where the demand curve is located. If all of this variability is above the demand curve, you’ll be exporting or storing a great deal of energy (and probably lowering costs for consumers and making profits as an energy utility). If below the demand curve, you’ll be drawing down hydro reservoirs (since some back-up in Ireland is hydro), importing energy from elsewhere, and spinning up NG reserves. Newer interconnection standards (low voltage ride-through requirements) and reactive power capability (doubly fed induction motors) make voltage control a non issue with wind. A megawatt is a megawatt. The back-up conundrum isn’t getting as much press these days as it did of yore (I think it was always pretty much over-blown and political in nature). Saying wind needs “back-up” is exactly the same as saying wind and solar, or any other variable energy resource, displace natural gas (or other spinning reserves) when they are generating electricity. And truth be told, private utility companies like it this way: they make lots of money from a fuel source with a high marginal cost (such as natural gas) and a transmission grid with lots of congestion (peak demand pricing). It is far less appealing to them (unless regulatory agencies looking after grid reliability mandate it) for them to turn to low marginal cost approaches for dealing with wind and solar variability: increased transmission, distributed generation, power sharing agreements on imports, storage, conservation and efficiency (aka “demand management”), better forecasting models (through pilot projects and regional integration studies) , and other approaches.


  4. The greens have a religion. Their religion tells them that only renewable energy is “good” and all other energy is “bad.” Their definitions of good and bad are in their minds. They are the useful idiots, if you will, of those who wish to continue the status quo of carbon-based fuels. Wind and solar are stupid little toys; they will forever remain toys. They will never power an advanced civilization. They are a waste of our economic resources, our attention and our time.

    Every day that passes while we fiddle with these dead-end technologies, is another day closer to the day we cannot meet our energy demands, or push the climate over the edge.


  5. What a blanket statement ‘diversity in energy portfolio strengthens the whole’. This is not-backed-up unscientific drivel, innumerate quasi-environmentalism. Politically correct, intellectually dishonest. Meeting the demand at all times is of primary importance. Solar that is not dispatchable and is not there 80-90% of the time, gee I wonder, will this help strengthen the grid.

    For scientific numerate and unbiased reading regarding energy, I’ll recommend The Capacity Factor:

    Definately read the entire blog, its all good.


  6. Although written from an American perspective this article is applicable to Australia which has more then its fair share of fashionable madness.

    Funny money schemes like a carbon tax and carbon trading,large scale wind and solar builds connected to the national grid and so on.Meanwhile the coal and gas industries enjoy protected status and any mention of nuclear draws howls of rage from the usual culprits and a curtly dismissive thumbs down from the political apparatchiks.

    All this would be mildly amusing from a cynical perspective except for the fact that we are running out of time to act effectively on carbon emissions.


  7. Citated DV82XL:

    “Wind and solar are stupid little toys; they will forever remain toys. They will never power an advanced civilization. They are a waste of our economic resources, our attention and our time.”

    Well, I agree – but let’s face it: nuclear power will never do this, either. Currently the world energy consumption is covered less than 10% by nuclear power – the financial frame to change this substantially will be brutal – and probably even doubling nuclear power coverage will take 25 years or more (as it would require increase of mining capabilities – by the way very CO2 intensive, education of engineers, building of additional power plants, replacement of old power plants and may other things). So I personally don’t believe the renewable mantras as well as the nuclear mantras I can read here – actually I am pretty pessimistic about this – the only “real” solution would be that we cover 100% of our energy consumption by renewable energies (I know it will be very hard, too) – nuclear power might buy us a few decades – however, the price for it might be to high.


  8. I’m hopeful that with carbon tax that per-unit subsidies like REC and FiT will disappear. Ditto mandates like a 20% renewables target. The federal REC is currently worth $33 per Mwh for large scale wind. Whether capital subsidies will remain is unclear, as in a few million dollars per wind site to help with construction costs.

    I note several wind developers have welcomed the carbon tax which will penalise coal. If that’s all they want well and good. However I have a sneaking suspicion that after a year or two they’ll want the subsidies as well. Maybe the backup gas gets carbon tax exemption since it’s a ‘helper’.


  9. the article is wrong on so many things.

    wind doesn t depend on heavy subsidies any longer.

    wind power can be predicted in advance.

    those graphs are misleading. it looks as if people who need 16000 MW had installed exactly that capacity of wind and now are getting nervous because they rarely get the full power!
    all these graphs need to include an “average” line and then we would see that at about 25% actual power wind provides all energy needed at about half the time.


  10. BTW lest you think the idea of gas being ‘honorary renewable’ is too far fetched there is a precedent. Heat pump water heaters get a solar credit w.r.t. resistive water heaters. Trouble is the devices may reside in a darkened cellar and never see sunlight yet are deemed ‘solar’. As Orwell predicted the era of doublespeak has arrived.


  11. I disagree for many reasons. First, wind is sufficiently predicatable that is backed by cold thermal units with 4–7 hour startup times accoring to this IEA Wind Power Study

    Click to access T2493.pdf

    Indeed a regional wind farm operator is switching from BPA hydro backup to a combination of other hydro, natgas and coal backup because of newly imposed constraints on the operation of BPA’s system of dams.

    Currently the BPA balancing authority area runs ~12.5 GW of hydro, ~4.5 GW of thermal (which includes one NPP) and ~3.3 GW of wind. The assemblage works fine, it is only the econmics which are at issue.

    As I worked out the costings, wind properly backed by new pump hydro is currenlt more expensive than new nuclear. Wind backed by natgas depends upon the natgas price, but using current prices [which do not tax carbon] is noticably less expensive than new nuclear.

    By far the least expensive option is what is called energy efficiency. All forms of new generation are more expensive than the existing equipment; when it beomes unservicable and is replaced the cost of electric power from the grid will increase.


  12. @msit – It takes 9kWh to 33 kWh/kg U to get 1 kilogram of Uranium. At 45 Gigawatt days per ton of Uranium the amount of power from one kilogram of uranium is 360,000 kWh. The CO2 burden from mining uranium is thus very small, and this is not counting newer reactors that can burn the current stockpile of used fuel now above ground. In the long run, uranium may not be mined for almost a century after those new designs are launched. That uranium mining is very CO2 intensive is pure rubbish, for which I can guarantee you cannot provide a credible reference for.

    The cost of new nuclear power stations is grossly inflated by regulatory burdens that are not necessary, and this has been discussed at some length on this site in the past.

    To all of you that support renewable energy:

    Some of you have gotten so fascinated with abstract renewable power generation schemes that you have ignored the physics of how these things actually work in the real world. You are not taking into account things like the electric power infrastructure, among other things, and this can lead you grossly astray.


  13. Can I once again point out the foolishness of comparing energy efficiency with any type of energy generation?

    If energy efficiency is worth doing, OK, let’s do it. It will happen to some extent anyway and can be encouraged in various ways by the policies of government.

    BUT – it has nothing to do with our choice of electricity generation. All it determines is what level of generation we might require, and I can GUARANTEE that globally we will need more electricity in the future than today. If we move significantly to electric vehicles, electricity demand will increase dramatically everywhere.


  14. Unfortunately energy debates in Wonderland are rife. In a recent opinion piece in the Guardian ironically titled “Who to trust on nuclear?” one Dr Paul Dorfman made this claim

    In 2009 alone Germany installed solar photovoltaic systems with capacity equivalent to approximately four nuclear reactors.

    Apparently Germany installed 3.9 GW of PV in 2009. The claim is, in all but the most literal sense, flagrant nonsense and anybody that can not recognize that has no business pontificating on energy policy.

    But this does in fact raise the critical issue of trust. Significant portions of public opinion informed by various levels of knowledge ranging from pure instinct to expert, simply do not believe a lot of the extravagant claims made for renewables. In the real world of politics, these extravagant claims become interwoven with the science of climate change thus fueling climate denialism.

    IMHO, public acceptance of the science of climate change is inextricably linked to debate over future energy production and every opportunity should be taken to drag that latter out of Wonderland. Pieces such as Dorfman’s, no matter how well meaning, contribute to the problem.


  15. My second point of disagreement with this essay is with regard to CO2 foregone. Suppose wind’s capacity factor is 32% [which is the value used for the Columbia Basin]. Except for CO2 generating in making the materials and constructing the wind farm, that is 32% CO2-free power right there. Backing with natgas saves something over backing with coal for the remaining 68% for a simplified (flat-load) design. Ideally the backing is done by some CO2 free storage scheme, but the prospects for wide applicability of that appear to depend upon fortuitous geography and other factors which is not widely available.

    For example, the Columbia Basin has plenty of room for more of those 32% wind farms; the land owners actively want the wind farms for the steady income provided. How to back more wind farms (assuming the future demand for more electricity is assured)? Well, there are mountains to the south and even bigger ones to the west. There is even possibly suitable relief to the north and east. However, all the land is already spoken for and I know of no possibilty for more than the two small pumped hydro stations already in the region. So putting in another requires some land use change. To do so might well take extensive litigation before settled.

    I conclude that more CCGTs will be purchased instead.


  16. Joffan, on 21 April 2011 at 9:54 AM — Good point, but greater energy efficiency means less need for new generation requirements. Of course, one has to have a suitable level to begin with. India, for example, does not and is starting on a plan to build 44 new NPPs. Good for them.


  17. @ Ms Perps, on 21 April 2011 at 9:29 AM

    Ms Perps, as a seasoned and prolific contributor to this site, knows very well that a personal attack on DV82XL is not in accordance with this site’s rules.

    Both DV8 and Ms Perps have contributed much of value. I am sure that I am not alone in wishing for much more.

    Everybody, please show restraint as though the honourary moderator was still present.


  18. Sod,

    Without a MRET and a government garuantee to clear ‘all’ renewable energy on the national market, it would fail. Not saying this is what we want to see, but certainly it’s not correct to say that is survives without an artifical (and required) leg up from the Government.

    What seems to pass by Australian wind enthusiasts is the load following in the EU – wind is best when heating is required in the winter peak. Australia the complete opposite, we need to meek peaks in summer. Electranet say wind can supply 3% of South Australia’s energy on the hottest 3 days a year. What a waste if we have to overbuild other tech anyway to meet this peak. At some point as old plants are decommissioned the capital raising realities of unused standby will come to the fore.

    Why build these great big coal/gas backups if the ‘baseload myth’ they require to operate financially can’t be garuanteed.


  19. “Apparently Germany installed 3.9 GW of PV in 2009. The claim is, in all but the most literal sense, flagrant nonsense and anybody that can not recognize that has no business pontificating on energy policy. ”

    While your rebuttal is in the most literal sense inaccurate as well, Germany DOUBLED that install capacity in 2010, and has DOUBLED it almost every year, even if you give a similar capacity factor to Massaschussets of .15 that is more than a 1GW nuclear reactor working at 100% capacity.

    “The idea is to use solar to make solar, after a short period of fossil fuel transition.”

    Ever hear of a vonn neumman machine? in theory it would land on a beach, use its own PV to refine silicon from silica to make more PV, expand refinery, expand manufacturing indefinitely and eventually it covers the planet with new vonn neumman machines.

    THAT IS SCALE. Nuclear does not come close to that since the fuel is more finite than solar irradiation and silicon. And granted it would only operate during the day, but it is always day somewhere on earth.

    “The cost of new nuclear power stations is grossly inflated by regulatory burdens that are not necessary, and this has been discussed at some length on this site in the past. ”

    Obviously, when people talked of energy too cheap to meter they were talking about completely unsafe nuclear, where even cars ran on nuclear power. Imagine trying to spin that.

    As for the OP, I have always argued that under continental scales wind energy balances out, yes the capacity factor is lower but it is still a budget problem, however for a country the size of Germany to have practically no wind at certain hours makes me pause. Unless it adds storage it has the same problems as solar in becoming a baseload. Lets see how their new offshore wind farms perform.


  20. @DV82XL:

    Well, first of all, you initially said it is CO2-free, now it is small.

    “The cost of new nuclear power stations is grossly inflated by regulatory burdens that are not necessary, and this has been discussed at some length on this site in the past.”

    And even if this is/might/may be true (I mean this completely neutral) you won’t change it easily or quickly – it is the reality you have to face (thats all I said).


  21. It isn’t quite correct to claim that wind generates no capacity value. I assume by capacity value that Boone is referring to capacity credit. This depends on how the network operator assess the wind capacity in his/her network. In South Australia the NEM applies a capacity credit of 8% for wind.

    The IEA has assessed wind capacity credits in various OECD countries and suggested capacity credits between 5% (Germany) and 20% (Minnesota).


  22. Ms. Perps and DV8XL,
    While nobody expects you to agree on very much, you are both valued contributors to this excellent web site.

    I hope you will continue to promote your view points. How do I weigh your arguments and those of other thoughtful contributors?

    When it comes to energy policy, I find the teachings of Peter Drucker (“Management” and several other books) particularly helpful. Drucker shows that a “Market Test” is the preferred method for comparing technologies and businesses.

    When governments manipulate the marketplace to promote one technology over another they are attempting to promote their judgements over that of the market. With very few exceptions the results are disastrous as with Lysenkoism and its modern offspring.


  23. “When it comes to energy policy, I find the teachings of Peter Drucker (“Management” and several other books) particularly helpful. Drucker shows that a “Market Test” is the preferred method for comparing technologies and businesses.

    When governments manipulate the marketplace to promote one technology over another they are attempting to promote their judgements over that of the market. With very few exceptions the results are disastrous as with Lysenkoism and its modern offspring.”

    The market failed, the hole we are in is because of the market. Even if you believe in nuclear energy it was the collapse of the price of oil and by extension nat-gas that killed the industry in the US for 3 decades.


  24. @Environmentalist

    While your rebuttal is in the most literal sense inaccurate as well, Germany DOUBLED that install capacity in 2010, and has DOUBLED it almost every year, even if you give a similar capacity factor to Massaschussets of .15 that is more than a 1GW nuclear reactor working at 100% capacity.

    The claim was not about the rate of growth PV, the claim was explicitly regarding the ability of PV to substitute for nuclear power. The claim was nonsense and remains nonsense whatever way you spin it. It is this evasive nonsense about energy that you have just provided yet another example of that destroys public trust in advocates of strong action to combat climate change.

    Germany has a nuclear capacity of about 20GWe. To produce the same amount of electricity you would need of the order of 150 GW of PV capacity. How the grid would cope with that remains highly problematical to put it mildly.

    As for self replicating machines tiling the planet with PV – oh please!


  25. “Germany has a nuclear capacity of about 20GWe. To produce the same amount of electricity you would need of the order of 150 GW of PV capacity. ”

    Now that indeed would be impressive!!!


  26. @gallopingcamel : Governments manipulate/skew the market against nuke power by their excessive regulations.
    @ ms perps and DV , comments from both of you are generally lucid and rational, please kiss and make up.
    @ Everybody , here in Oz the coal seam gas industry is developing quite a negative outlook especially the fracking process. Even the shock jocks are giving them a hard time. Wind turbine parks are also on the nose with the locals. So once again Nuclear is the ONLY answer.


  27. @gallopingcamel

    There are plenty of examples of governments doing things better than private enterprise and supposedly completely free markets (which incidentally, have been something of a curiosity in the history of capitalism). A classic example is health care but you could also look at something like the Snowy Mountains Scheme is Australia. From all accounts this was an exceptionally well executed very large civil engineering project – the largest ever completed in Australia. To this day it remains operated by a government owned corporation. Would it ever have happened if left to private enterprise?

    Would nuclear power have gone as far as it has without very substantial state involvement?

    Given the imperative to move to clean energy at the earliest possible opportunity, the only realistic approach is “Whatever works” and jettison the ideological stuff.


  28. greenpeace has ordered a study, which shows that several alternative (electric) energy sources get LESS subsidies today that coal or nuclear, especially when you factor in secondary costs like climate change.

    even solar energy gets LESS subsidies than nuclear got in the 70s.

    we are starting only now with flexible energy prices. so there is an incentive to produce energy at exactly the times, when the wind output picture above shows a gap. so far, investors would place their windmills wherever it would produce the most electricity. now it makes sense to place it, where it might produce a little less, but more at important times.


  29. Solar gets less subsidies because its contribution is much smaller than nuclear.

    Subsidies per kWh are very low for coal and nuclear, very high for solar.

    Some of you guys need a lot more of The Capacity Factor:


  30. @ environmentalist, Germany gets 0.11 capacity factor, not 0.15. Germany is far from the equator. It is energy that is not there 89% of the time.

    I can predict with 100% accuracy that tonight there will be zero solar power. Gee does that solve the problem?

    It does not. In the end you have to provide the electricity on demand, every second, minute, hour, day, week, month, year.

    Germany electric demand does not match solar output:


  31. the subsidies in the graph above are per KWh. they are less than what nuclear got when it was introduced, even for solar alone.

    you are also wrong about “zero solar power (at night)”. while electric power still is very limited, there are plenty of warm water systems on German roofs now, that will provide solar heated water even for your late night shower.


  32. ps: looking at demand, we have to understand that our system has developted to use the useless night time electric power produced by big energy plants that can t be stopped.
    this will change back, with flexible prices.


  33. @sod:
    Here is the greenpeace study on nuclear subsidies (its in german):

    Click to access Atomsubventionsstudie_Update_2010_01.pdf

    It was one of the first things I read that made me lose my trust in anti-nuclear (I switched side from somewhat anti to pro). The problem is there definition of subsidies and nuclear. They include carbon emission certificates as subsidies for nuclear. They include reasearch on fusion. They include the cost for the LHC at CERN as subsidies for nuclear (it seemed to me they just included all nuclear physics). They include as subsidies, that the companies don’t have to pay taxes for the money they have to put back for deconstruction (seems natural to me). They include lose of taxes because nukes don’t use fossile fuels. They include profit by imperfect competition on the market.


  34. I continue to be amazed by some pro-nuclear advocates attacks on wind and other renewable energy contributions;
    Wind: variable over a small geographic area(ie Denmark or Ireland or Northern Germany) all <5% land area of US.
    Wind: low energy density?? who cares if the resource is X100 larger than present world demand.
    hydro: has a declining contribution of electricity production in US- so does nuclear, surely this is not an argument against their use..
    Geothermal: will not scale to supply 100% of US electricity- but could it supply 20% or 50%?
    Solar: low capacity factor- but a lot of this is available during peak demand.
    All forms of non-FFenergy have problems and limitations and it is unlikely that and one renewable energy source or nuclear is going to totally replace all FF use in the next 50years, but ALL have merits and ALL can make a significant contribution to reducing FF use.


  35. Neil Howes, you can never do just one thing. Build wind turbines and your power is not there 75% of the time. Energy storage too expensive at the scale required, and has poor learning curves. So you burn fossil fuel preferably a flexible natural gas plant.

    Ergo wind is a fossil lock-in. This means it kills like fossil fuel kills, and there is GHG and there is energy dependence etc.

    Nuclear avoids this. You don’t need backup, in fact there is perfect synergy with electric vehicles as you can use excess nighttime baseload to charge them up.


  36. @msit -Electricity produced by nuclear energy doesn’t produce CO2, and life-cycle CO2 production is on a par with wind. There is nothing else lower.

    The whole point of sites like this is to inform people on certain subjects with a view to driving political change, both on climate, and nuclear energy issues.

    We have discussed both of these topics at length on these pages, and you are not bringing anything new to the table other than your unsupported opinions. I suggest you review previous threads on these matters, or provide new references to back your assertions. Unsupported opinion here carries little weight.


  37. Sod, if you are suggesting that aluminium manufacturing plants shut down whenever it ain’t sunny, I think you should visit such a facility and talk to the plant manager.

    This is where solar and wind enthusiasts lose grip with reality; many industries need round the clock energy and they need it to turn on when they require it. It is not acceptable to send night shifts back to their families without money because we’ve run out of sunshine, or to cut streetlights, or stop electric trains etc. What will happen is, the industries will go to other countries that do appreciate a stable low cost electric supply. You lose jobs.


  38. @DB82XL: Well, the post of yours I initially replied to, does not bring any particular new arguments, either – thats what made it reply to it (after reading this blog for long while quietly).

    And to fix or turn around our climate problem “really’, we need CO2 neutral – “as low as wind energy” is simply not enough.


  39. @msit :
    France went from marginal nuclear power to 80% (the rest is hydro and a few fossil peak plants) in 20 years, from initial decision to effective start of the last power plant. It didn’t even use a domestic technology, as it licensed its reactors from Westinghouse. The French are not special : most reasonably developed countries can emulate this effort, it is just a question of political will.


  40. quokka,
    As you point out, sometimes the “Market” is not going to help. It is hard to imagine projects like the Hoover dam being undertaken without strong government support.

    Likewise the nuclear power industry stands or falls according to the whims of jurisdictions. The “Market” only begins to operate once governments have set the rules. As we are seeing today, some countries apply disincentives to NPP construction while subsidizing Wind, Wave, Solar and PV.

    Governments have a proper role in energy policy but they court disaster when they try to override the “Market Test”.


  41. Barry – thanks for the guest post, and thanks Jon for the post. @dv82xl – thanks for the upthread comment that gives the energy required to obtain uranium. I note that the numbers are for the conventional solid fuel LWRs and PWRs since IFRs would give a gigawatt-year of electricity per tonne of uranium (if I’m clear on the numbers). The numbers imply a fuel EROEI of between 10,000 and 40,000. Even for the inefficient reactors.

    We built our fossil fuel economy on EROEIs that started out around 100 for early oil production but are now down to around 3 for sources like the Athabasca tar sands. With numbers like these, why is there a debate?

    dv8, if you have a link that goes into more detail on the energy required to mine and mill uranium, I’d like to see it. (It may even be already here on BNC; I haven’t checked.)


  42. Mr. Boone cites David Owen’s New Yorker piece on the Jevons paradox.

    Owen argues that the reason we (for example) drive so much is that cars are efficient and convenient, have good roads available, and can be fueled cheaply, and therefore (according to Owen), to reduce fuel use, we should tear up our roads and replace our Civic hybrids with Model A Fords.

    If we extend this ridiculous argument to electricity production the answer is obvious: to defeat “the Jevon’s effect” we need a grid which supplies variable amounts of electricity at random times and great cost.

    A reasonable reply to Owen’s article here:


  43. David B. Benson, on 21 April 2011 at 11:52 AM said:

    For example, the Columbia Basin has plenty of room for more of those 32% wind farms

    The wind in the Pacific Northwest blows best in the spring when we have plenty of water to run the hydrodams and not much demand because we don’t really need much in the way of heating and cooling and neither does any of our neighbors.

    Bonneville Power has ‘over generation’ headaches now. I.E. Good rain plus good wind during off peak results in plenty of electricity but nothing to do with it. We are already experiencing ‘displacing hydro’ with wind.

    If June 2010 Bonneville Power ‘spilled’ 745,000 MWh worth of water do to lack of demand.

    Click to access final-report-columbia-river-high-water-operations.pdf

    The value of the wind generated during this period was zero. We can build more windmills, but the percentage of the time the value will be zero will just increases. The law of diminishing returns comes in to play.


  44. The wind in the Pacific Northwest blows best in the spring when we have plenty of water to run the hydrodams and not much demand because we don’t really need much in the way of heating and cooling and neither does any of our neighbors.

    Hydro Quebec found the same thing happening with its ‘wind-and-water’ plans – the wind wasn’t blowing at times convenient for saving reservoir inventories.

    The issue becomes more acute when dams have irrigation and/or flood control functions as well as hydro power generation. In these cases integrating wind is even harder.


  45. @dv8 – thanks for the link; sites like are required reading and homework for anyone interested in energy. Thanks for all your posts on the blogs and forums, and your relentless rationality. (Just don’t go all the way to nnadir’s energy level… : D)


  46. The problem with renewable critics is outdated information, yes its intermittent, but storing energy is actually EASIER than generating it. Should those costs be added in the watt/$ equation? maybe but its best to keep it as is for historical reference.

    A flywheel, hydro storage, pneumatic storage, even biogas (which is actually good for the environment since CO2 is better than its stock methane). All of them are perfectly scalable (except for biogas), they are just more expensive.

    Lets start with the least expensive, upgrading older dams for variable production, energy loss is ~0% because no water is pumped, its not scalable though.

    Creating artificial reservoirs for hydro storage, 80% efficient, they are built today to buy during base and sell at peak, scalable.

    pneumatic storage in drained hydrocarbon reservoirs, similar to the above.

    pneumatic storage underseas, the cutting edge of technology, perfectly scalable.

    Flywheels, best for solar where intermittent is more cyclical, they are technically not storage but are more like capacitors. a big enough flywheel could in theory provide baseload power. perfectly scalable.

    Do all of them add to the cost per watt? sure, but it beats nuclear disasters and the waste problem which is never factored in with nuclear costs. Not to mention that first solar is currently at 0.75 $ a watt with CdTe and predicting 0.50 $/watt before the decade is over it certainly factors in quite nicely.

    As reference here is BASELOAD solar power you can have TODAY for your own home

    Lowest price 2.82$/watt WITHOUT SUBSIDIES considering most of you put peak load solar at 7-8$/watt (and ignore the externalities) then its no wonder you are pro-nuclear


  47. @Charles

    Well, France is admittedly one of countries with the lowest CO2 emission per person, because of nuclear power. Still, in the entire energy mix, France still has to cover ~50% of its entire energy consumption by fossil energies:

    Click to access mix_fr_en.pdf

    Additionally, France is a political very stable country and economically powerful – i.e. it has exactly the key factors to make such a focused decision to change one of the major energy resources into a certain direction. However, you rarely find this situation in the rest of the world – but as we talk about a global problem here, you have to take care about the rest of the world. Also, in absolute numbers France still belongs to the 20 countries in the world with highest CO2 emission rate per person, even though they cover energy generation by almost 80% nuclear energy where it is possible (they even have to switch off some of their plants over the weekend because otherwise base load would be to high in the net). With a very pessimistic view France is the perfect example for that nuclear power will not substantially help for fixing our global energy problem.


  48. Environmentalist, please read your own source better.

    2.82$/Watt system has only half an hour of storage.. pathetic.

    So you get 0.11 capacity factor in Germany using this system, assuming zero losses in the battery, you have a system that costs 2.82/0.11 = $ 25/Watt average. There are good reasons this system isn’t popular. Its expensive as hell. Not bad if you’re off grid and the alternative is a dirty diesel generator. No use for grid connected power.

    This system costs over 8000 bucks and gets you around 0.3 kW of average power, tiny amount of power when the sun has just set and no power into the evening and night. Massively degraded electricity reliability (my grid’s reliability last year was 100%, not 1 second outage) at large cost.


  49. As for pneumatic storage, this burns natural gas. The heat storage version (adiabatic, no gas combustion) is not yet proven on any scale, not even prototype scale, and has much large capital cost.


  50. As for First Solar, they are *not* at 75 cents per Watt at the SYSTEM level.

    I have previously calculated the Sarnia Solar Project which is using First Solar technology. Here it is:

    …the recent Sarnia solar farm’s cost. 400 million for a 60 MW expansion (to 80, from 20). 6.666/kWe nameplate. According to the PVWATTS this gets less than 1200 kWh/kWp, so 0.14 capacity factor in this location (mediocre solar region). 47 dollars per Watt continuous equivalents. Using the levelised cost calculator this gets 40 cents/kWh even with cheap money 5%. Using a more reasonable 8% pushes the cost up to 52 cents per kWh. Using the anti-nukes high 14 percent discount rate, 80 cents per kWh. This is from First Solar which is supposed to be the cheapest solar manufacturer on the planet…

    You can do your own levelised cost calculations from NREL calculator here:


  51. @David B. Benson, on 21 April 2011 at 11:55 AM said:

    “Joffan, on 21 April 2011 at 9:54 AM — Good point, but greater energy efficiency means less need for new generation requirements. Of course, one has to have a suitable level to begin with. India, for example, does not and is starting on a plan to build 44 new NPPs. Good for them.”

    David, this is silly. Greater efficiency means just that, you get more out with what you have. It does not, and cannot, account for *growth*, which is exactly what sunk California in 2000. You think India has “growing population”? You better believe it. No amount of efficiency can account for not only an increase in population, but an increase in population that wants to use more energy!

    The increase demand *per capita* for each human on earth is not going away. We need efficiency since waste, the opposite of efficiency, is bad and expensive.


  52. “2.82$/Watt system has only half an hour of storage.. pathetic. ”

    24 * 225 Amps.h * 6 V = 32.4 kWh do you run a factory at home?

    “So you get 0.11 capacity factor in Germany using this system, assuming zero losses in the battery, you have a system that costs 2.82/0.11 = $ 25/Watt average. There are good reasons this system isn’t popular. Its expensive as hell. Not bad if you’re off grid and the alternative is a dirty diesel generator. No use for grid connected power.”

    So now batteries and inverters are 10 times more expensive in Germany? the actual costs of the panels are 1.79 $/Watt since its Cristalline Silicone.

    The reason why I posted it is because despite being the most EXPENSIVE solution for solar due to c-Si and economies of scale (small inverters AND batteries instead of hydro) its still a much smaller figure than the lies of 7-8$ a watt.

    “As for First Solar, they are *not* at 75 cents per Watt at the SYSTEM level.”

    Its cents per watt to make, once its commoditized that will mostly be the system level price for peak solar, right now they charge whatever the competition does. Thin film does not require much infrastructure or labor. Inverters cost/watt would scale with size.

    sun electronics used to sell first solar thin film at 96 cents a watt, of course they don’t anymore for backlog reasons perhaps.

    Thanks for the LCOE calculator.


  53. @Sean De boo, 21 April, 1.48pm
    SA has a very high peak demand relative to off-peak thats why it runs 2,000MW gas fired power at 30% capacity. The 800MW wind doesnt help meet some of those peak demand periods, but CST with a few hours thermal storage would be a valuable addition. Meanwhile, wind power saves on NG consumption. Adding nuclear power to meet all of SA’s baseload demand of 1000MW would still require an additional 2200MW of peak capacity, so without solar there is likely to be a continued demand for OCGT
    Australia has very large hydro storage, some of which has to be release water during summer for irrigation. Additional turbine capacity and transmission lines would help, but may not be economic because these high demand periods are only infrequent, and use very little NG.
    Like many comments on this post, wind is being criticized for not doing something it was never designed to do( ie supply peak demand), while ignoring the fact that it is doing what it was built to do( ie reduce FF use).


  54. Oops! My computer crashed and sent a just-started contribution.

    @ enviromentalist, 3:01 this morning:

    Cyril and DV8 set you straight about several factual issues with your post. Please remember that BNC is a site for science-based endeavour.

    All claims made should be accompanied by links or references to places where the facts behind the statements can be checked. Your claims about 50 c per watt solar, cheap storage which turns out to be 30 minutes only and so on do nothing for your cause.

    There are plenty of readers here who really, truly, deep down, would like solar and wind and geothermal and new technology storage to be maximised and who would welcome proper comparisons with FF and nuclear which demonstrate just how and where this can be done.

    By spouting nonsense figures, you have effectively disappointed both sides of the discussion. The pro-nuclear camp experience the old sinking feeling of “Not again… how many more times must we deal with this crud?” and those who seek greater economies in and uptake of solar etc see their cause destroyed at the first hurdle by short informative contributions from DV8 or others, who will always expose fallacies in weak arguments.

    So, Enviro, if you really want to change the world for the better, please stick to verifiable facts, take care to fairly compare like with like, don’t exaggerate the benefit of a no-grid, no storage, undersized, can’t work in the dark, unreliable, unschedulable, low capacity, high cost solar dream by trying to compare it with fully costed, reliable, safe, high availability systems based on something else, just because for ten minutes your comparison looks good… to you.

    After 10 minutes, your message will lie in tatters and your cause will have, again, been set back, thanks entirely to your own lack of rigour.

    In the long run, and we are all interested in the long run, it is rigour which stands tall. Rigour. Research. Citations. Analysis.

    So, please, if you do have reliable references to 50 cent per kW solar or great big new storage at a reasonable price, bring them here, but please keep it rational and check citations carefully and then include them in your message.


  55. @Cyrl R, 21 April, 9.06pm,
    build wind turbines and your power is not there 75% of the time
    The link you provided showing Ireland’s wind output( a very small geographic area compared to the major US grids) shows that some wind power is available approx 90% of the time and just eyeballing is producing more than average output about 40-50% of the time. I think you completely miss-understand what a capacity factor of 0.25 for wind really means, it is not the same as nuclear or gas turbine power where they are generally on 100% or off.


  56. I think the system ate my post here it is again.

    The system I gave has 24 batteries meaning

    24*225Amp.h*6V = 32.4 kWh

    Unless he uses 65 kW at any hour this is NOT half an hour

    The system linked above is $2.91/watt but it is an off-grid solution, meaning it is the most inefficient solution because inverters cost/watt AND chemical batteries makes it THE most expensive solution, this was quoted because people STILL use 7-8$/watt which is so out of date you might as well start quoting “too cheap to meter”

    “So you get 0.11 capacity factor in Germany using this system, assuming zero losses in the battery, you have a system that costs 2.82/0.11 = $ 25/Watt average. There are good reasons this system isn’t popular. Its expensive as hell. Not bad if you’re off grid and the alternative is a dirty diesel generator. No use for grid connected power.”

    This is incorrect you are applying the capacity factor to the entire system, when batteries and inverters should never be included in the price, the real capacity factor should be added to the real cost of the panels quoted which is $1.79/watt since its c-Si

    First solar claiming $.75/watt today

    Predicting $0.50/watt in the near future

    Once its comoditized this will be the considerable bulk of solar costs since the rest scales well. I am more of a fan of a-Si but clearly CdTe is the champ of cheap.


  57. Pingback: PacNW wind farms: how often is wind value = zero? « SeekerBlog

  58. msit:

    Also, in absolute numbers France still belongs to the 20 countries in the world with highest CO2 emission rate per person,

    Not according to WP … whether GHG in general or CO2 in particular, France is well down the list

    That being said, its emissions are still too high, the coal has to go.


  59. @Neil Howes – To understand why utility scale wind power doesn’t work, you have to have a bit of an understanding about how electricity in general works. The electrical system is composed of two parts, generation and delivery. Generation, as the name implies consists of facilities that create electricity from some fuel, whether it is nuclear, fossil fuel, wind or solar. The delivery system consists of all of the wires between the generators and the consumers.

    There are two types of generators:

    Dispatchable: The dispatchable power plant is one whose output can be scheduled for a certain time, to assume a given load, for a specific interval.

    Non-Dispatchable: These power plants produce electricity according to nobodies schedule. They cannot be brought online and offline as demand dictates so the energy that is produced by this type of power plant must be absorbed into the system willy-nilly.

    The electric grid companies control the dispatchable generators and set them to produce according to demand. As a non-dipatchable source of energy, wind power is the least reliable. The output of wind turbines is dependant on the wind speed so varies minute by minute. A wind turbine that produces any amount of electricity 30% of the time is considered a good producer and wind turbines don’t produce electricity at the times when demand for electricity is highest – hot summer days and cold winter nights. Typically, there is little if any wind at these times. The unreliability of wind power poses the following problems:

    Other plants have to be kept in what is called Spinning Reserve. What this means is that other power plants have to continue operating and burning fuel even though they may not be producing any electricity. Not one power plant has been decommissioned as a result of wind power installations – ANYWHERE. Plants in spinning reserve consure almost as much fuel as when they are operating since steam pressure must be maintained at a level to cover the entire production of wind plants.

    Wind turbines come on line whenever the wind blows strong enough. The variability of the amount of energy produced means that the grid providers have to continually adjust dispatchable power plants up and down. This constant variation of supply reduces the reliability of the electrical grid since it is more difficult for grid providers to determing supply at any given time. Further, wind turbines, to some extent, control the grid providers rather than the other way around.

    Cycling steam plants causes them to run less efficiently and creates thermal stress in the plant. Wind power increases the cycling required at steam plants. This reduces the service life of a steam plant and causes more fuel to be burnt by that plant per unit of energy produced.

    Construction of more efficient Combined Cycle power plants gets put aside. This is due to the fact that combined cycle plants can’t respond as quickly to changes in demand as old style steam plants can. This means that more efficient, cleaner technologies are not being used because they are incompatible with wind power.

    It is the inability to store electricity at utility scale that causes these problems. Does that mean that all wind power doesn’t work? The answer to that question is NO. Small scale wind power works very well because on a small scale, electricity can be stored in batteries. If it doesn’t take a lot of batteries to keep an application functioning, the wind doesn’t have to be blowing at the time the power is consumed- only that the wind blows enough over time to keep the batteries charged. But this cannot be scaled to contribute anything but grief to the grid because efficient grid-scale storage doesn’t exist.

    Every single one of the schemes out there to store energy in large quantities sinks huge amounts of power – this means that you only get a percentage out of the energy that you put in. This loss is significant and drives capacity factors down to the point where these systems are not cost effective.


  60. @ Neil:

    “nuclear or gas turbine power … are generally on 100% or off.”

    Neil does not know what he is talking about.

    Nuclear power stations have control rods for a purpose. Partial insertion of same results in decreased heat generation in the core. That’s what they are there for.

    Decreased heat generation in the core results in decreased steam output… thus decreased loads. Nuclear power is not generally thought of as load-following because it is not capable of rapid output changes, but it is certainly able to load follow to a certain extent.

    Worse, is the cas eof OCGT’s, which can load follow throughout their operating range, just like the load on a jet engine can be throttled up or back by the pilot in an instant. GT’s most certainly are not either “ON” or “OFF”.

    To complete this picture, i will mention CCGT’s and conventional coal fired power stations.

    CCGT is slightly less flexible than OCGT due to the steam side of the plant, typically a third or so of the total capacity of a CCGT station. The jet engines at the core are just as capable as OCGT’s of being wound up and down. The steam side is able to be loaded and unloaded in like manner to any other steam boiler, at a rate of the order of 2 or 3 percent per minute throughout its operating range. A notional 600MW, 2-unit CCGT station might thus be able to be unloaded or run up, within its operating range of about 150MW to 600MW, by as much as 300MW in double quick time, with the steam side following at 4 or 5 MW per minute. What does this mean in practice? In anticipation of a morning peak, a CCGT might be brought on line and run up to 200MW an hour in advance, during the shoulder period, operated within the 200 to 400 MW range during the 2 hours of the peak and then backed off to, say, 300MW through the day intil the eveniong peak, for which it is available if required to provide up to 600MW, ie it represents a “rolling reserve” of 300MW through the daytime.

    Coal fired units have similar performance capabilities. A typical notional 600MW unit may be able to load-follow through a range of 200 to 600MW. It can follow the load at a rate of 20MW/min up or down or even faster, so it is able to follow 400MW of load within a period as short as 20 minutes. Of course, the rate of unloading may be even greater than stated above. These notional unload rates have been selected from my own experience of real steam generators to avoid needing to dump steam via safety valves. The boiler is ramped down to match the load on the turbine, by control of the rate of adding fuel to the furnace and with minimal efficiency loss.

    The idea that generation using steam is not controllable is as ridiculous as any notion that Stevenson’s Rocket could only stand still or run flat out. Even that historic steam engine needed a governor to match work done by the engine with the load desired by the driver and the stoker needed the skill to feed wood or coal to the firebox at the desired rate.


  61. harrywr2, on 22 April 2011 at 1:19 AM — Thank you for the link to the report on last June’s BPA woes. The resolution is that BPA will refuse to allow any wind genration [for which BPA is the balancing authority] during future such high flow periods; looks to me as if we’ll have one this coming spring runoff.

    In response, one big wind farm operator is changing the balancing agent for his wind turbines. BPA will no longer do it and instead a combination of non-BPA hydro, natgas and even two coal burners will be the backup. [This would not have happened with a sane incentive policy, but as it is he’ll pay the backup a little not to generate and maybe even pay customers a bit while still making money while doing so; the $$ comes out of your state tax revenues, mine as well.]

    For this to work there has to be enough transmission available. That’s not so clear during these high flow periods. But that isn’t stopping a new, Google sponsored 845(?) MW wind farm forom being developede at Arlington, OR. The claim is that Southern California Edison (SCE) will buy the power, so that will have to go over the HVDC to southern California where perhaps SCE will act as balancing agent. As the BPA report indicates, it was completely loaded during last June. So maybe this new development won’t be able to generate during such high water periods either; I suppose we’ll find out.


  62. DV82XL, on 22 April 2011 at 11:23 AM — Not around here or in Germany. If you had bothered to read the IAEA wind study you would not have written a comment with so many factual errors.

    (1) All grids have spinning reserves irrespective of the mix of generation types.

    (2) The Germans back their wind with cold — I say again, cold — thermal with 4–7 hour startup times.

    (3) Around here CCGTs are the preferred method of backing wind when hydro is not available. One has recently be purchased for precisely that reason and another has just entered in a backing agreement with a large wind farm operator. In addition two 600 MW coal burners [to eventually be replaced with CCGTs] are also used to back wind in some circumstances.

    (4) It is rare to enter into a reserve agreement with a wind farm, but it has been done in combination with a OCGT. The advantage of reserve wind is that [when the wind is blowing], power can be developed right away. This means the OCGT can be left cold and restarted in about 20 seconds when needed; otherwise the OCGT needs to burn a little natgas to be left spinning.


  63. @John Bennetts, 22April 11.35am.
    I didnt say nuclear power is not capable of a range of outputs but GENERALLY operate ON or OFF, so a capacity factor of 0.92 means they are operating at ABOUT 92% of the time an off line ABOUT 8%.
    In contrast a wind farm operating with a CF of 0.25 will be producing some power MOST of the time, but at a lot less that 100% capacity.. It does NOT mean a wind farm produces NO power 75% of the time, as stated by Cyrl R


  64. Further to what John Bennetts wrote above wrt to load following nuclear power. From the Areva web site:

    Load follow: between 60 and 100% nominal output, the EPR™ reactor can adjust it power output at a rate of 5% nominal power per minute at constant temperature, preserving the service life of the components and of the plant.

    By my calculation that is about 80 MWe per minute and a little faster than the figure John provided for coal.

    Certainly not all NPPs are so blessed, but it instantly disproves the assertion that NPPs by their very nature must be on or off.

    I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve quoted this here and elsewhere, but the same old nonsense keeps being repeated frequently by the same people, presumably because they think it bolsters their argument. Wonderland again.


  65. David B. Benson, It is you that does not understand the issues.

    (1) Spinning reserve is a term for several different types of ancillary services, and also describes the control reserve on individual generators that is unused under normal loading but is kept available to enforce frequency discipline during load changes.

    The term “spinning reserve” is generally used without defining it because it is assumed that its meaning is obvious and unambiguous, such as in this case. In the comment above I used it in the sence of NERC [3]: “Unloaded generation that is synchronized and ready to serve additional demand.” And such a service cannot be assumed by other spinning reserves scheduled to support existing dispatched generation.

    (2) What ever the Germans do they must provide enough spinning reserve to deal with drop outs endemic to wind on a shorter time frame than 4 to7 hours. All over the world this interval is set between 5 and 8 minutes. This is simply a matter of commonsense and a basic understanding of the physics of electric power.

    (3) Reference

    (4) Reference, this doesn’t sound plausible.


  66. DV82XL, on 22 April 2011 at 12:37 PM —

    (1) Fine.

    (2) Read the IAEA wind study and the 5 minute control will be clear.

    (3) PacificCorp fairly recently acquired a CCGT; search for the news article. The large wind operator I mentioned in my reply to harrywr2, the comment just prior to my reply to you, is obtaining backing in part via an existing CCGT in Klamath Falls; I didn’t keep the link the news item, sorry.

    (4) See (2). One only does this when natgas is quite expensive.


  67. @ Neil Howes, on 22 April 2011 at 11:57 AM:

    Again, you make the mistake of saying that nuclear is either ON or OFF, even while trying to say that this is not so.

    You said: “so a capacity factor of 0.92 means they are operating at ABOUT 92% of the time an off line ABOUT 8%”.

    A capacity factor of 92% says exactly nothing about how long a generating unit has been off line. What it does say is that the average output of the machine, during the period in question, has been 92% of the nameplate rating of the machine. The other 8% might be partially off line or just load following.

    It is a fallacy to think that conventional power generation plant, whether coal, nuclear, hydro, OCGT, CCGT is either ON or OFF. It is also incorrect to confuse capacity factors with availability or with load points. All conventional generators are capable of operating within a range and of being loaded up and down within that range over time.

    Wind, however, stands virtually alone as being incapable of being scheduled to go higher or lower on demand. It is the greediest form of generation when it comes to matters such as reliability, frequency control, voltage control, load following, availability… you name it and it is on the list. Anything relating to quality and reliability needs to come from elsewhere in the grid. I have nothing against wind power, but please understand properly what it can do and what it cannot.

    See also:


  68. @David B. Benson, I see you are falling back on telling me to go read some study rather than supply a reference in a proper manner. The fact is that you cannot supply a reference to back up what you are asserting, thus as far as I am concerned they are nothing but a product of your imagination.


  69. John Bennetts, on 22 April 2011 at 12:57 PM — Wind can be, and is, controlled to produce either more or less power within a range near the peak power available depending upon how windy it is. WInd enhances grid stability at the ~1 second level due to this highly responsive controllability. Frequency control on modern wind generators is not an issue nor is voltage control.

    Load following in the sense of the general shape of the demand over a day is not possible but it is possible to not generate on any given turbine.

    Availablity is adequately determined 24 hours in advance, sufficieent for Europe’s power markets.

    Please to read this IEA Wind Power Study

    Click to access T2493.pdf


  70. John Bennetts:

    Nuclear power stations have control rods for a purpose. Partial insertion of same results in decreased heat generation in the core. That’s what they are there for.

    Decreased heat generation in the core results in decreased steam output… thus decreased loads. Nuclear power is not generally thought of as load-following because it is not capable of rapid output changes, but it is certainly able to load follow to a certain extent.

    Naval nuclear power reactors do not move (“shim”) control rods in/out to change power output. Shimming the rods controls the average coolant temperature and is also used to control the reactivity in the Rx which changes due to fuel burnout and fission product poisons, Xe having the most effect.

    Every baby “nuc” learns the adage, “Rx power follows steam demand”. As steam demand goes up, such as by opening the propulsion tgurbine throttles more or by higher electrical demand causing the TG governors to do the same automatically, pressure in thye steam generators drop, causing more water to flash to steam. As a result, the the primary loop water returning from the steam generators is cooler than before. Cooler water is denser, meaning that more neutrons are thermalized before they are lost to the control rods, shielding, fuel poisons, etc. More thermal neutrons leads to more U235 fissions, causing a higher heat input and therefore higher water temperature leaving the Rx and going to the steam generators. Steam production increases. There is no way to graph this in a post, but in a linear upramp, Rx power will lag steam demand, then start rising at the same rate, overshoot and then matches steam demand. From steady-state to steady-state with the same average Rx water temp, the spread between Rx outlet and Rx inlet water temperatures is greater as power output increases. On power downramps, the primary side coolant returning to the Rx from the steam generators is warmer, less dense, so fewer neutrons are thermalized and Rx power drops.

    Transfering electrical load between generators is very easy. All one had to do is slightly increase the output voltage on the generator that you want to have assume more load, and reduce the voltage on the generator that you want to have less load on. Think of voltage as akin to water pressure and current as water flow. The generator with the higher voltage will supply more current to the bus. If the demand is not changed, the other generator will provide less current.

    On a Nimitz-class Rx plant, of which I am intimately familiar, I have personally taken Rx power from 0 to near-100% in under 30 minutes. Of course, naval reactors are designed for these types of power transients, so it is possible to design civilian power Rx to “load-follow”. (I believe that B&W is designing its mPower modular reactors to do so, building on its experience building naval reactors.) It’s just that the current installed base were designed to run at 100% power to provide base load and leave load-following to oil-fired thermal power plants (since converted to NG).


  71. msit, on 22 April 2011 at 5:03 AM said:

    With a very pessimistic view France is the perfect example for that nuclear power will not substantially help for fixing our global energy problem.

    … but under that level of pessimism, no electricity generation method will “substantially help”. However France could easily build more nuclear power stations, if they chose, to undertake creation of energy carrying chemicals for transport. Unfortunatly at present this is not perceived as economically worthwhile, but if a country like France was sufficiently bold to set up the industry, they might be superbly placed to take advantage of future trends in fuels.


  72. David: I did not say that frequency control or voltage control are a problem for the wind turbines. I was referring to the system.

    Wind turbines cannot provide frequency control. That is commonly provided via hydro or baseload generators. Wind is controlled to follow the system frequency, which is set elsewhere.

    Because wind is not able to be scheduled, ie loaded and unloaded instant by instant, minute by minute, it is unable to provide voltage control. If power from one source drops, this presents as a voltage drop which will grow into a frequency disturbance if the system cannot respond adequately. Wind cannot provide reliance against this type of event – it comes from elsewhere.

    If availability was indeed adequate for Europe’s electricity markets, then why does Denmark export so much power at zero price, only to have to purchase it back from the German (west) or Scandanavian (east) market? It seems to me that improved availability during those times of low speed wind would be very desirable indeed.

    I will read your reference later in the day. Thankyou.

    Paul Lindsay: Many thanks for the correction. I had not realised the relationship between reactor power and load was so direct. Memo to self: Must read up on nuclear power station control systems and limitations. The term “control rod” led me astray – it appears that these are not there for operational controls, but for emergency control. Has anybody a good on-line resource?


  73. @Neil Howes, I expected that you would read the comments following that article, as they rip it apart. I would have thought that given you, yourself had commented there and had your errors pointed out already in some detail by Peter Lang, that we could save the effort of repeating them again here.


  74. DV8, David provided a link a few minutes ago – about the same time you wrote your comment. The link is for an IEA study (not IAEA) titled in part “Design and operation of power systems with large amounts of wind power”.

    David, could you please highlight the best page number, entry-point to find the material you are referencing. The report is large 4.3MB and 239 pages.


  75. John Bennetts: Control rods provide both operational and emergency functions. In terms of PWR design with the control rod mechanisms on top of the core, moving the rods upwards removes a huge amount of negative reactivity from the reactor volume where the rods were. To a neutron, a control rod is a bottomless pit. Rods do not “attract” neutrons, but any neutron entering a rod not going to cause a fission. A reactor’s overall reactivity is affected by not only how far the rods are moved, but by how fast they move. The speed effect was a major contributor to the SL1 accident. In a naval reactor, the rod speed is a design factor and cannot be controlled or adjusted by the operator. When starting up a reactor, the operators calculate the expected rod position where the reactor will go critical, based on the last operational rod heights, power history, temperature and the elapsed time since shutdown. During startup, rods are pulled to a known safe level, then carefully withdrawn while watching the instruments for an increase in neutron generation, indicating fission. That doesn’t mean that the reactor can start generating steam immediately. One has to continue pulling rods to increase the heat output of the reactor above the net losses in order to warm up the primary system to a point where steam can start being generated, then start releasing steam to warm up the secondary (steam) system in a PWR (or essentially the whole plant in a BWR). On a Nimitz-class CVN, there is also a tertiary low-pressure steam system used for heating steam (heat, laundry, galley, etc), plus the catapult steam system that comes off the secondary system, but the water & steam that goes there NEVER comes back to the engineering plant.

    Lastly, unlike civilian reactors, US naval reactors do not use soluble boron for operational control of reactivity. Boron is only used during refueling shutdowns.


  76. DV8, Cyril R et al.,
    You have done a good job (as usual) presenting factual information to counter the over optimistic projections put forward by “environmentalist”.

    Personally, I am very much in favour of what “environmentalist” is trying to sell. As an engineer/physicist I tried to build wind mills, solar and PV generators while living in North Carolina. Given my rural location, the family home frequently lost electric power for periods of up to a week owing to hurricanes and ice storms.

    My objective was to have sufficient power to pump water from my 190′ deep well with enough left over to run a few lights and a TV set. The costs were so high that the projects never got beyond the planning stage. Eventually a 5 kVA gasoline generator was purchased from Honda for $600 which was sold five years later for $900. What a great investment! On several occasions we provided showers and laundry services for our neighbours who were getting a little smelly owing to their lack of water. (Our water and house heating ran on propane from a 1,000 gallon buried tank).

    Getting back to generating power on a large scale I visited the Martin solar power plant that is co-located with steam power plants and combined cycle plants.

    This is the largest natural gas plant in the USA with an output of >2,800 MW. I have written a report on my visit which I plan to offer for publication on this site if Florida Power & Light approves.

    I am sure it will be no surprise when I tell you that the availability of the Martin solar power is such that the average power generated is 18 MW or 0.64% of the total from the plant. The 190,000 mirrors cover 500 acres compared to ~200 acres for the rest of the plant that generates the other 99.36% of the electricity.

    Both the solar and fossil fuel plants require a “Heat Sink”. The Martin plant has an ~18,000 acre lake to take care of this function.


  77. msit: per-capita is critical, you can’t leave it out.

    In the long run, there is a total global ghg emission rate that is sustainable without driving the temperature up. It’s about 1 tonne per person per annum for a population of 9 billion.

    Click to access Pelletier%20%26%20Tyedmers%202010.pdf

    How would you share this out? Divide 9 billion tonnes equally among the countries of the world? I hope not. Per-capita is the only fair method.

    In the short term, there is also a budget of what we can put up before we stabilise at the 9 billion sustainable level. Some alternative ways of
    “spending” this budget are here:

    Click to access 20.full.pdf

    What actually matters isn’t so much the trajectory of how much co2 we throw up in the sky when, but just how much. We could have an orgy of nuke building before 2050 with all the steel and concrete that entails and then drop back to cruising at 9 billion tonnes per year, or we could spin out that expenditure of our co2 budget. I’m guessing it’s easier to design nukes with very long lifes than windmills or solar panels. We need to reuse the steel and concrete containment buildings because they can definitely last a really long time.


  78. The common question I ask wind power advocates here in New Mexico is, “How many wind farms like the 100 MW (rated) High Lonesome Mesa project are required to replace just the coal-fired 1800 MW San Juan Generating Station or the coal-fired 2040 MW Four Corners Power Plant, which currently emits more smog-forming pollution than any other power plant in the US?”

    I have yet to receive an answer. Part of the problem is that wind farms guard their actual power outputs very closely. HLM, LLC was completed in Aug 2009 and has forty 2.5 MW clipper turbines in a class 5-6 wind area. From the FERC, I was able to calculate that on a daily MWh-produced basis, the High Lonesome Mesa wind farm had a capacity factor of approx 21% from July through September 2010. Unfortunately, the data that HLM, LLC submitted for Oct-Dec 2010 is completely bogus, showing only a single line entry for the entire time period that calculates out at EXACTLY 40% c.f.. I can only assume that HLM, LLC was paid a contracted amount for for that time period, regardless of what was actually produced. To date, HLM, LLC has not made a report for Jan-Mar 2011.

    Anyone who wants to can access the FERC data at , but power producers are only required to report what they sold to other utilities. So if a utility owns its wind farm(s) and uses all the energy produced themselves, there will not be any entries.

    Using HLM’s Q3-2010 production numbers, it would take an absolute minimum of 86 identical wind farms to replace just the 1800 MW output of the San Juan GS. Of course, everyone here knows the fallacy of that number, because it assumes that the 21% c.f. means that HLM outputs 21 MW continuously, which it idoesn’t. There also aren’t 85 more class 5 or better locations for 100 MW wind farms in New Mexico, so it’s like extrapolating the time that a bicycle time-trialer could ride from LA to NY without stopping and without accounting for the terrain based on his performance on a 20k flat course.


  79. I would like to see an electricity market with high penetration from wind power, just to see how much money they are getting for the turbine generated kwh.

    I my view, a kwh generated by a wind turbine always worth less then a kwh generated by another source. Either it is unexpected and wasted, or it is needed and not here. Nuclear, coal or even gas dosen’t always have the possibility to save fuel using excess wind power.

    I can’t see it worth more then gas, coal, nuclear or hydro. Every other source of electricity is produced when needed.

    Using the data on : wind power is worth 44.22 €/MWh vs 49.11 €/MWh for primary production (using DK-west elspot price)


  80. I will admit I had misread the system provided in the link by Environmentalist, 32 kWh is sufficient for most households for a one or two days depending on your usage.

    Unfortunately, the point of the poor capacity factor in Germany stills stands. A 3 kW system peak only delivers

    This is 7x less than a nuclear kilowatt installed, and the nuclear plants lasts longer than the battery (and probably slightly longer than the panel).

    But please people, lets not pretend that the manufacturing module cost is the cost of solar. Add the margin for the producer. Then add the cabling, inverter, batteries, and replacement cost (need to put money per kWh on bank account to help pay when battery breaks). Add the installation and the operational contract. The Sarnia Solar project shows it’s not cheap. But that distributed off-grid system is interesting. I’d almost buy it, if it weren’t for the little fact called winter. I live in the Netherlands which is even worse than Germany for solar. In the winter the output is a factor 3-6 lower but it is when I use most electricity.

    There is another problem, the fact that households in my country use only 21% of total electricity consumption. Most is used in industry, commercial sectors, transport, agriculture. These sectors need very cheap electricity to compete.

    These are two major problems for solar in high latitudes. I can’t think of any non-fossil fuel solution to these problems so I’m worried we’ll just burn a lot of fossil.


  81. Sorry, didn’t finish the sentence: a 3 kw peak solar system delivers 0.3 kW average, with or without batteries. I suspect its actually even less since the batteries will lose >10% of the energy in total charge/discharge.


  82. @Alex555, 22April, 4.17pm.
    The figures you quote for wind versus other power sources would indicate that the cost of absorbing wind power is an additional 10% of the cost of producing wind power, doesnt seem to be high enough to argue that wind power is not a practical way of displacing significant FF use.


  83. Here is an analysis of how productive an energy source is – how many kWhs it makes during its lifetime – applied to my area (Holland) which a friend of mine and I did some time ago for a presentation about nuclear power.

    Baseload powerplants such as geothermal, coal and especially nuclear are very productive, wind and solar are very unproductive. Micro wind turbines and solar bicycle lanes are especially pathetic for obvious reasons.


  84. Neil Howes,

    Here is a typical cost curve done by Decarolis and Keith for the US wind power scenario.

    They look at how much wind costs at increasing penetrations. As you can see the cost rises little at lower penetrations but as you’re trying to remove fossil fuels (natural gas in this analysis) completely you get into trouble above 60% or so. It gets very expensive. The line goes up asymptotically so you can never get close to 100% wind.

    And they assume 2 cent per kWh wind power for future cost reductions and a lot of geographical spreading (continental USA). Also the US has good wind resources.

    The full paper can be found here:

    Click to access 65.Decarolis.2006.EconomicsOfWind.e.pdf

    I like this study because it is one of the most realistic I’ve ever read.


  85. @Cyrl R, 22April , 6.11pm,
    Both Canada and Norway are about high latitude as you can get and both obtain significant non-FF energy from renewables, not solar but hydro and a little wind. Likewise there are regions that have good solar but poor wind and or poor hydro.


  86. Norway happens to be endowed with hydroelectric potential. We don’t have that much here, this country is flat. Germany can’t expand hydro much more either.

    Nuclear and hydro work very well together. Consider the Swiss and Swedish grids: almost completely an effective combo of hydro+nuclear.

    As you can see from my graph above on energy productivity, even solar in the Sahara desert is surprisingly unproductive compared to power stations such as geothermal, coal and nuclear. However in the Sahara, when you go deep into it, you get very little seasonal variation so solar makes a lot more sense there.


  87. @Cyril, 22April 6.35pm,
    ..”.so you can never get close to 100% wind ”

    Why would any large country with solar, hydro, geothermal try to get 100% energy from wind. With additional storage it would be practical to get 50% energy from wind, with the balance coming from solar, hydro and in some cases nuclear. It may be different for a small country with very good wind resources but poor solar, to aim for higher than 50% energy from wind, with storage and FF back-up.


  88. In 2007 Americans drove 1,672,467 million miles in 2 axle passenger vehicles (1). Consumer reports measured a usage in the Chevy Volt of 12 kwh/33 miles in one test (2). Multiplying miles driven by kwh/mile yields an electricity usage for passenger vehicles of 608,169GWh per year. This would require a constant operation of 69Gw over the year. Using $3,382/kW to build NP(3) and a .92c.f. Would cost $253 billion. Using $40,000 per car * 254 million passenger cars in the U.S. yields $10T dollars. In other words 2.5% of the cost of electrifying the U.S. passenger fleet is the cost to build the power plants. The other 97.5% is the cost to buy the cars.

    So, you could have a $1,000 NPP tax instead of a $1,000 gas guzzler tax (in other words no new added costs to consumers). This could fund the build out of plants at a rate they are needed without needing to use financing meaning lower $/kwh from day 1 for consumers. Also if you assume cars are replaced once every 10 years and NPP once every 40 then this tax could be $250 per car, in theory. We don’t need another 4 decades of energy debate, we need 4 decades of energy action.


    I know my source might not be the best as I threw this together rather quickly. If I messed up anywhere let me know and I can adjust the numbers accordingly.


  89. Neil Howes, please provide detailed realistic references that show a combination of solar, wind, hydro and geothermal can supply Germany (or the USA maybe) with 100% power.

    Look at real grid data for demand and use real solar projects, not some arbitrary project, to try to determine whether this can be done.

    I have repeatedly looked at real country and individual wind and solar outputs and have compared this to real grid demands on day to day and seasonal basis. It does not look good for 100% renewables. Just doesn’t match without absurd amounts of energy storage. Much data is publicly available.

    Spain wind output:

    German PV output:

    And the decarolis study, and much work on this site as mentioned in the main post, etc.

    Ergo the major risk of fossil fuel lock-in. 50% fossil is not acceptable in a world of rapidly growing energy demand even with the best energy efficiency effort. France gets almost 80% electricity from nuclear and about 10% hydro. That’s a 90% fix right there. Sweden gets almost half nuclear, almost half hydro, again a 90% fix.

    Best bet for Germany would be to stop wind and PV and go for geothermal, biogas, nuclear and use existing hydro and waste burning to close the gap. With majority of power being nuclear, they can also get a 90% fix this way, like France.


  90. I’ve been analysing the costs of battery storage for a solar pond pumping system I use. Provided the electrolyte is topped up, the voltage is regulated and the daily depth of discharge is no more than 20% or so then it appears a lead-acid battery will last 5 years or more. Ignoring the possible trade-in value of the lead and future discounting suppose we want to charge and discharge 1 kwh per day from a 5kwh battery.

    That battery might cost 5 x $200 = $1,000. Over its life span it might cycle 5 x 365 x 1 = 1,825 kwh. The factor 5 is coincidentally the assumed battery life span and the inverse of the depth of discharge. Thus straight line average cost write-off is about 55c per kwh plus generation cost. Not too good. Then again you don’t have to connect a mains AC system to the garden.

    It’s interesting that lead-acid batteries have been known for centuries but $200 per kwh capital cost
    still looks good, just not practical at the Gwh scale. The vanadium redox flow battery that fills a large shed on King Island is generally regarded as a disappointment. I understand it can deliver 20 kw for half a day though costs are kept secret.


  91. i am seriously surprised by this absurd discussion. unless you want to heat with electricity, there is no need at all to go 100% wind (or similar thing). Instead local gas plants, that combine heating and electricity production as a back up are a very good idea.

    in the long run, those will be run by biogas produced from waste.

    for private homes, electric car storage might already be enough to get them over a day without wind.

    and Germany needs a connection to the Norway pump water power.

    nothing of these is a real technical problem. it is just stuff that must be done.


  92. @ Enviromentalist, on 22 April 2011 at 10:21 AM:

    I note that you still consider that $1 per kWh capital cost is achievable, even $0.50. The figures you quote are for the module cost, not the installed cost.

    To be fair, you need to include the costs of installation, inverters, metering, storage, backup, transmission upgrades, system management, billing and administration costs, just to name the biggies. Your price estimates are still grossly incomplete: the only conclusion available to me is that they are intentionally underestimated. They are shonky. Are you too shy to speak the whole truth?

    You have not provided any guidance as to whether these module costs are before or after Federal, State or Local support.

    You have again and consistently under-represented the actual costs of solar by omitting anything and everything, as you choose.

    You don’t, perhaps, sell domestic rooftop solar panels, by any chance?


  93. Sod:

    as you must know, judging solar PV in germany on the basis of a sunny day in april at 2 pm. is misleading. No one should ever do this. It’s blowing smoke.

    There were many whole days in December and January where combined solar pv never reached 1 GW at any time during the short day. I calculated several daily capacity factors on the order of .0066, 1/150th of nameplate.

    Cyril has noted that annual pv cf is 11 %.


  94. Enviromentalist:

    Your link included a copy of your favourite solar module supplier’s annual results.

    These include: Gross sales approx $2B. Devrease in shareholders’ equity $800B.

    This corporation is making a 40% loss on gross sales.

    At this rate, shareholders’ equity in the corporation will be zero by 2014 and all those fancy words about recycling will be as worthless as the paper which the shareholders will be left holding.

    At least, be prepared to accept that the $1 per watt modules are costing the owners of the corporation $1.40. The 50 cent statement you cited seems to be just fluff.

    This is no way to run a business and it is no way to establish the true cost of production and installation of functioning solar power systems.


  95. cyril: you cite a study which appears to be an endorsement of wind. I have just skimmed it so excuse my possible misreading. But here’s the conclusion:

    In summary, the cost of wind serving more than a
    third of demand, accounting for the remoteness and
    intermittency of wind resources, is similar to the cost of other carbon mitigating technologies in the electricity sector.

    While we do not discount the ability of other technologies to compete effectively with wind, we assert that wind is a serious option for electricity generation in a carbon constrained world.

    question for others: to what extent does a study like this challenge earlier BNC analyses?


  96. Sod, on these sunny days you get around 20-25 percent capacity factor. On winter days you get 1-3 percent typically.

    It just so happens that Germany needs more electricity in the winter than the summer.

    Again solar in Germany is not there 89% of the time. There is nothing biased about this statement, it only requires one to understand the simple concept of capacity factor. Energy that is not there 89% of the time and cannot be put ‘on’ when needed is a severe technical problem.

    I can’t believe how people can dismiss simple devastating numerical analysis as being irrelevant or hand-waving it away as non-problems. Energy is all about numbers, and if the numbers don’t add up, you’ve got a serious problem.


  97. Gregory, the conclusion of the authors is questionable. They wanted to find out if wind can cost-effectively meet over half of demand. They’ve made a convincing case that this can be done, but there are two serious problems.

    The first is that 30% natural gas isn’t trivial. This is much more natural gas than the USA is using right now; its around 21% right now. So we’re talking about an increase in natural gas use of 50% or so. I don’t agree this is sustainable especially considering the rest of the world if it follows this path. For 10,000 GWe future demand this means 3,000 GWe natural gas use.

    The second problem is the author’s assumptions: they assume wind will cost 2 cents per kWh in the future for a windy location. Possible but not a given. Even then the cost does triple at higher penetrations, magnifying their base cost assumption of 2 cents/kWh. They also assume that >2000 km transmission lines running all over the country will be feasible. Socially and politically it could be a big assumption.

    The third problem is that the USA is big and has good wind resources. What about the rest of the world?

    I still like the paper because it’s in many ways quite realistic. Use of real grid data, realistic wind power output based on real wind data (though they are modelled and not from real wind turbine systems so might be a tad optimistic there).

    Does this challenge earlier work from BNC? Good question!


  98. A quick calculation, 3000 GWe average flow natural gas, modern efficient plants at 0.4 kg CO2/kWh, would be around 10 billion tons of CO2.

    That’s considerable, about a third of today’s CO2eq emissions. Add to that the methane than gets loose/is unburned, etc.


  99. I’m not up to speed on all the numbers and technical arguments in here; I’ll make an effort to go through this thread and some of the links over the weekend.

    After reading MacKay’s book I’m pretty well convinced that we won’t have a 100% renewable future. That said, if wind could supply “just” 10% of our electricity needs, we would be foolish to not use it.

    One thing I do want to say though is this: it seems that the people who are most passionately opposed to wind power are always going on about how turbines “wreck the countryside” etc. Mr. Boone’s website presents quotes to that effect from Prince Charles, Robert F Kennedy, etc.

    We need to separate the technical and ecological concerns from the emotional ones. Furthermore, no one should be exempt from living in contact with an energy infrastructure. No matter how we get our energy, there will be infrastructure to support it, and somebody will have to live next to it.


  100. John Newlands wrote:

    It’s interesting that lead-acid batteries have been known for centuries but $200 per kwh capital cost still looks good, just not practical at the Gwh scale

    I think grid deployable metal air batteries on the MW scale are where we are seeing investor interests and low cost engineering options for battery technologies trending. Hydrogen-Bromine flow batteries, iron-air batteries, low cost alkaline electrolyzer fuel cells, new chemistries for lead-acid batteries that have better corrosion resistance, efficient superconducting magnetic energy storage systems with infinite cycle life, zinc and nickel oxide batteries in $100/kWh range, and more are some of the newer battery based grid energy storage technologies being looked at. Engineers seem focused on exploring options that come in at half the cost or lower than the lead-acid technologies that have been around for over 100 years (as you write).


  101. I predict wind power for a living. “Unpredictable” is in the eye of the beholder, I suppose. In predicting wind power contribution to the U.S. Midwest grid (MISO), one can typically achieve mean absolute errors of less than 15 percent of maximum production in the day-ahead forecast (i.e. the forecast that I issue today at 8 am for the period from midnight tonight to midnight tomorrow) (We do much better than this!). Correlations of forecast to actual power are better than r =0.8 well past 48 hours. The prediction for the Texas grid (ERCOT) is marginally harder, but still not too bad.
    Just to inject some real numbers here, for the last 200 days, MISO has averaged 3 GW wind power production with a standard deviation of 1.7 GW. Production was less than 1 GW about 13% of the time, and less than 0.5 GW about 4% of the time. Maximum production was 6.9 GW.


  102. Daniel, I can predict that tonight there will be zero solar insolation. Gee whiz.

    This does not solve the issue. Load must be met at all times. Our goal is to rid the world of fossil fuels, otherwise we won’t meet the 80% CO2 reduction compared to 1990 levels (which is more like 90% reduction compared to today’s level).

    More important than predictability is how you deal with low wind/solar output conditions. Do you burn fossil, well then you don’t meet the sustainability, GHG, energy dependence etc. criteria.

    I see a lot of this “we can predict wind/solar” argument from wind/solar enthusiasts. This is the fallacy of dealing with A (predict wind) but not with consequence B (what to do when wind is low).


  103. “To be fair, you need to include the costs of installation, inverters, metering, storage, backup, transmission upgrades, system management, billing and administration costs, just to name the biggies. Your price estimates are still grossly incomplete: the only conclusion available to me is that they are intentionally underestimated. They are shonky. Are you too shy to speak the whole truth?”

    I did just that, offered an offgrid solution with itemized costs of individual components, and I repeat for THE most inefficient solution

    Storage, for scale it would not be lead acid, but probably stored hydro as they already exist and I presume profit today from buying baseload and selling peak load energy.

    Inverters, the bigger the inverter the smaller the $/watt costs are.

    Installation, it could be anywhere from 0 (DIY) to 1.50$/watt, it all depends on labor costs, but I am sure you could shame greens into donating their time for a big project, that is the beauty of solar anybody can install it, and safely if standards for installation are adopted and enforced.

    So again the real cost when scaling is basically panels and storage. But again lets pretend all things but panels remain equal

    1.80+1.11 = 2.91
    0.75+1.11 = 1,86
    0.50+1.11 = 1.61

    Hopefully their technology is adopted by others and sale prices fall to right about manufacturing costs.

    “At this rate, shareholders’ equity in the corporation will be zero by 2014 and all those fancy words about recycling will be as worthless as the paper which the shareholders will be left holding.”

    As scientists we do not care how a company is run, all that matters is their costs per watt in manufacturing. Hopefully their patents run out soon.

    “You don’t, perhaps, sell domestic rooftop solar panels, by any chance?”

    That is so funny! remind me again how this site is generally dismissed as?


  104. “Sod, on these sunny days you get around 20-25 percent capacity factor. On winter days you get 1-3 percent typically. ”

    Look I am in awe at how the Germans are setting an example and advancing technology by sheer will of force. Considering there is a certain superpower with regions that are the best adapted for solar power deployment and we still get nothing.

    Arizona 7.07 summer 4.96 winter kW/m^2/day
    Los Angeles 6.73 summer 4.74 winter
    Berlin 4.23 Summer 0.68 winter

    Who is leading the world in solar installation again?


  105. “At the core of this triad, however, resides the idea of effective capacity—the ability of energy suppliers to provide just the right amount of controllable power at any specified time to match demand at all times.”

    Indeed, the fundamental drawback of wind generation is that it requires an enormous amount of capital investment in generating capacity, yet its effective capacity is only a small fraction of its nameplate capacity.

    Few people seem to realize that the biggest cost in electricity supply is the cost of the generators, yet with wind, the vast majority of this cost is wasted most of the time because the wind required to make use of this capacity is not there most of the time. Even in a system that has a small amount of wind capacity, the wind generators are virtually duplicating the capacity of the rest of the system so the capital cost of the wind generators (which is just as much as any other generator) achieves little more than lowering the fuel cost of fuel-burning generators which is normally very small compared with the generator capital cost. Thus wind generators can only achieve reductions in fossil fuel burning by a large increase in the capital cost of generation – something that industry in Australia will never pay for.


  106. Like others, I’ve been following this discussion with great interest. A big thank you to all the posters with special expertise and experience who are educating us all (if we take it in, that is).

    @Daniel Kirk-Davidoff – over what time spans are your predictions? How does the sub-hourly variability look – are you able to make useful forecasts about relatively short intervals, and how far in advance could you make them?


  107. Environmentalist, sheer will of force has little to do with it. A hundred billion euro guaranteed subsidy system is what’s doing-the-do.

    A hundred billion euros in nuclear capacity would have eliminated all dirty coal plants in Germany.

    Sadly, the Germans don’t care about science based priorities.


  108. @Geoff

    Sure, “per capita” is the fairer measurement for a specific country – but look at your “per capita”-List, for instance, China is way beyond France, while it is on top of the “by country” list. So, does that mean that in China the CO2 problem is less urgent than in France? I don’t think so.


  109. “Environmentalist, sheer will of force has little to do with it. A hundred billion euro guaranteed subsidy system is what’s doing-the-do. ”


    “A hundred billion euros in nuclear capacity would have eliminated all dirty coal plants in Germany. ”

    Lets forget about the externalities of nuclear for a second, at what price point do you see solar having an advantage over nuclear in Germany? That is the point of no return.

    “Sadly, the Germans don’t care about science based priorities.”

    On the contrary and that is precisely my argument, solar is a long term winner, nuclear is never going to be cheaper but solar does every single year, its perfectly scalable as well.

    Olikuoto with overruns costs 5.1 billion euros or say 8.1 billion dollars per 1.6 GW or around 5.2$/watt with say .9 capacity factor. What is the point of no return for pure solar? Odds are that we probably reach that sweet spot in the ten years it takes to build a new nuclear plant.

    That is why Germany is betting on renewables, it might look stupid today but once the technology is mastered it will supply all the new energy in the world in say 30 years. Germany is paying the price in mastering said technology and the rest of the world will benefit, that is why I am in awe.


  110. @Cyril, one point at a time please. I was addressing the author’s claim that wind power was unpredictable. It’s actually quite predictable, at lead times of up to 4 days. What you do with that information is another question, which others have addressed here.

    @Andrew, subhourly variability in total wind production is not too big a deal for a large number of wind farms on a grid. ERCOT used to report wind power production at 10 minute intervals. The lag-1 autocorrelation of that time series was 0.998, decreasing to 0.964 at a one hour lag. For individual wind farms, short term variability is much more of an issue, and improvements in the forecast from 15 minutes to 1 hour are a major research area. Here’s a good talk about the (U.S.) National Center for Atmopsheric Research’s efforts on this front:


  111. Daniel, that IS the million dollar-question. Like I said, more ignoring the more important part B of the equasion. Typical marginal argument.

    Environmentalist, you still don’t get it. Solar is not there 89% in Germany. Even if it is cheap, the Germans have to deal with that fact. You have to deal with the fact that Germany needs most electricity in winter when solar is not there 95-99% of the time.

    Its not just the cost of the solar installation. Its the cost of the energy storage needed. Without energy storage you can build solar equal to slightly above peak demand, which allows you around 10-15% solar, and then you’re in trouble as you have to dump solar output. And even then you’re still burning fossil.

    Why do I have to keep repeating these arguments? They are very simple: no more fossil fuels.


  112. @Enviromentalist

    ‘nuclear is never going to be cheaper’

    There is an awful lot of information on this site that would argue otherwise.

    ‘Olikuoto with overruns costs 5.1 billion euros or say 8.1 billion dollars per 1.6 GW ….’

    Okiluoto is a first-of-a-kind project with supply chain growing pains. Let’s see what the cost of the Taishan EPRs turns out to be. The project is on budget and running ahead of schedule. The EPR is also an expensive design, although I expect we will see the cost come down substantially as they build more of them (Jaitapur, etc.).


  113. Germany’s 100 billion renewables investment (by guaranteed subsidies) could have bought 20 Olkiluotos, with a capacity of 32 GWe. 92% design capacity factor, gets you 250,000 GWh, roughly similar to the electricity provided by coal.

    Here is a typical demand graph for germany. Lots of nighttime demand, fairly steady. Doesn’t match with solar. Matches well with coal and nuclear. Take your pick.

    The external cost of nuclear is very low:

    Similar to wind and PV in fact. Of course you’d have to consider either the huge energy storage systems in external costs for PV and wind, OR the fossil fuel backup external cost. Pick your poison.

    At the system level, nuclear is a winner on external cost.


  114. I remember from reading ‘Prescription for the Planet’ that Blees quotes a 2005 paper from the IEA that found that the levelised cost of EPR generated electricity was the cheapest of all options.


  115. “There is an awful lot of information on this site that would argue otherwise.”

    Really? after Fukushima it will only get more expensive.
    old designs will have to be updated, new designs will have to be relooked at with more teething problems (eg increasing the passive cooling time).

    “The external cost of nuclear is very low:”

    Not really

    Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s decision to scrap reactors Nos. 1-4 at a crippled nuclear power station in Fukushima Prefecture means the power utility will have to shoulder a colossal expense–possibly about 400 billion yen to decommission the reactors and several trillion yen in compensation.

    “Environmentalist, you still don’t get it. Solar is not there 89% in Germany. Even if it is cheap, the Germans have to deal with that fact. You have to deal with the fact that Germany needs most electricity in winter when solar is not there 95-99% of the time.”

    All I want is a number, where panels*CAF + storage is less than nuclear * CAF, because clearly after that, there is no argument for nuclear as a baseload.

    That said Germany is doing a combined system, where wind compliments solar and therefore less storage is needed than 100% solar baseload. Wind costs are not my expertise though.


  116. i am sorry, but could people please stop talking about solar at night and wind power when there is no wind?

    Denmark has 20% wind power. it works, and if we could bring this level to all countries that have wind opportunities, we could either easily replace all nuclear if that is our target, or a lot of coal use.


    Cyril, i think your interpretation of the power use graph is false.

    for a start, you must remove the green pump energy from the edges and add it in the middle. in the future this will be generated by midday solar or wind peaks.

    the base line will drop significantly further, if we reduce coal and stop offering cheap night power.
    there is a lot of “power saving” (actually money saving) happening still, by electric ovens that heat over night and switching on washing machines late evenings.

    smart grid solutions will seriously change that graph.


  117. Colleagues: I am pretty frustrated.

    I read the essay on wind by De Carolis and Keith. Cyril linked it for us in order to show the diminishing returns of wind (for replacing CO2 emissions) at higher penetration. Well, it does show this. And it does show a significant dependency on gas, which we must get rid of.

    But it also says this:

    … even when the costs of intermittency and
    location are included, wind power is roughly competitive with costs of using other technologies, such as nuclear or coal with CCS, to achieve deep reductions in CO2 emissions. For example, using similar economic assumptions to those employed here, Johnson and Keith (2004), found that the cost to reduce carbon emissions by 50% using a combination of coal to gas fuel switching and CCS was 1–2 c/kWh, with CCS entering at carbon taxes of 100$/tC or less. Our results suggest that, even when it is required to supply more than half of demand, large-scale wind can be a competitive means of mitigating CO 2 emissions.


    1. Wind power does not avoid significant amounts of greenhouse gas emissions. [compared to CCGT only]

    2. Wind power is a very high cost way to avoid greenhouse gas emissions. [~50 times less expensive than nuclear]

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

    So: both analyses seem to be careful. What explains the rather large difference of opinion here?

    (One thing is that D and K have priced wind turbines at 600$/kwh.)

    On price, D and K quote 5 c/kwh for a wind/gas system where wind supplies HALF the demand. Lang prices wind/OCGT backup at 121$/MWh or 12.1 c/kwh.

    Now, I find it goes best for me when I assume I know very little. But it appears to me that it would be a good idea for us to figure out which view is correct, or whether they are in effect talking past one another due to different assumptions. But both papers claim to analyze wind, with all its costs included.


  118. Steve Darden, on 22 April 2011 at 2:40 PM — I do hope you’ll read the entire study. It will dispell most of the myths about actually using wind generated power in major grids that have3 appeared above. [It isn’t concerned with the economics of doing so.]

    Chris O’Neill, on 23 April 2011 at 2:04 AM — In principle LCOE should enable one to compare the capital and operating costs of different forms of generatiion on an equal basis. Assuming all elese is equal (rarely actually true), the generation method with the lower LCOE is the more economic.

    So ignoring the costs associated with the balancing agent (backup) for wind power, just now wind has a lower LCOE than nuclear or solar. The problem is the intermittency of wind power, so tyo be realististc one also has to consider the balancing agent(s).

    Gregory Meyerson, on 23 April 2011 at 8:36 AM — I argue that merely redcing CO2 emmissions is not sufficient. All must go.

    On those grounds, using natgas for the wind balancing agents is not allowable. For a higher price pumped hydro, energized by the wind, can fill the role for short starage periods, but I don’t wnat to contemplate the price of even a week’s worth of storage.


  119. Some of the comments above suggest that some think that wind makes a grid harder to control. The IEA wind study demonstrates that is not so. For the BPA generation data, look at
    to not that the hydro generation varies even when the wind is steady. This is the result of the total demand, which includes the power exported out of the area.

    Stated simply, wind can be thought of as negative load so the demand on other units is

    demand = load – wind

    The only change for BPA is to set aside some further inc and dec reserves against the variation in the actual wind compared with the forecast. Since the Columbia Gorge and Basin are not that far inland from the Pacific Ocean, the forecast is not as good as for those further inland with more weather stations upwind. The wind inc and dec reserves are of precisely the same nature as the reserves against the variability in actual load versus whatever earilier estimates have been made.

    With the newer wind tubines it is even better than I just described because of the high controlability and rapid response of the but 1–2.5 MW [nameplate] wind turbines. The IEA wind study makes much of this, with particular attention to the excellent operations of the Spanish wind farms, from but two control centers.

    There are arguments aginst much penitration by wind power in a power grid, but a claim of poor controlability is very much wide of the mark.


  120. @ Enviromentalist:
    There seems to be no prospect that Enviromentalist will agree to include the cost of backup, of storage or even a fair cost of PV panels. The suggestion that these could be installed at zero cost by activists would be humourous if the issue wasn’t serious.

    To quote panel costs at $1, when the manufacturer is making 40% losses on turnover is insane. They cannot be available if/when the corporation finally goes to the wall.

    To hold a belief that somehow the cost of these same panels will soon decrease by 50% is even further from reality.

    So, to adjust Enviro’s figures back to the real world, we get:
    Panels @ $1 plus the loss = $1.40/peak watt.
    Installation $1.50 per peak watt.
    Inverters, etc (say) 50 cents/watt. (My guess, probably an under-estimate.)
    Per watt cost of nameplate power rating SPV: $3.40.

    Availability of solar: say 20%. Effective cost = $3.40 x 1/0.20 = $17 capital per average generated kW capacity.

    To this, should be added the cost of a combination of storage and GT’s to provide availability and reliability for the other 80% of the load.

    Even if availability and reliability are ignored, the capital cost of solar is prohibitive. That is the German experience, it is the Spanish experience and it has now become the Australian experience.

    Cyril R at 3:53am said this better than I could.

    Barry linked to a previous analysis of Germany’s experience, crunched by the numbers, at 3:56.

    Enviromentalist has no case unless it is based on real world deliverables, from known good suppliers, for complete systems. It is not getting anybody anywhere to keep stumbling around in a thicket of factiods and wishful thinking. This site, through the T-CASE series and special posts, has been able to bring together analyses based on consideration of all relevant factors.

    Perhaps argument of the value of SPV should be framed within the relevant special purpose postings, each of which is presented with comments. See: (recommended by Barry above)

    Costs of nuclear energy options:

    More discussion of comparative costs of electricity sources:

    Levellised costs of energy:

    These are only a few of the resources available on this site. For a listing of all posts, go to .

    Lastly, Enviro avoided answering the obvious question, “You don’t sell domestic rooftop solar panels, by any chance?” I guess that I have my answer.


  121. John Bennetts, on 23 April 2011 at 11:37 AM — I worked out an LCOE for the latest ultility scale PV project going in at a central California location:
    Solar PV: 23.4 UScents/kWh @ CF=25% and higher at a more believable CF of 21%.
    That is pricey for the busbar rate.


  122. David B. Benson wrote:

    Stated simply, wind can be thought of as negative load so the demand on other units is
    demand = load – wind

    There are arguments aginst much penitration by wind power in a power grid, but a claim of poor controlability is very much wide of the mark.

    This link, Special Report: Accommodating High Levels of Variable Generation from the The North American Electric Reliability Corporation which establishes and enforces reliability standards for the bulk-power system for Canada, the U.S. and Mexico suggests that the integration of wind is something more complex than trivial.

    In fact many here would profit from reading the sections on standards and compliance posted on the NERC website, before making assumptions about what can and cannot be done with the power grid. Far from being your house wiring on a grand scale, they are very complex systems in which major changes have huge implications.


  123. Thanks, David.

    23 cents is way out of whack with other LCOE’s published here and elsewhere. We all wish that this were not so, but the facts must be faced sooner or later.

    This wonderfully productive site presents such calculations, warts and all, for critical examination. Such openness is a welcome delight. The facts and analyses found here enable rational decision making and opinion forming.

    I am not smart enough to calculate LCOE’s or to fly the models which underpin climate science and energy policy, but I do try to understand the difference between incomplete analysis, pure spin and honest professional presentationism.

    Most of all, this site actually welcomes radical developments. Even Barry has stated somewhere that his view of nuclear power has evolved during the past several years due to new facts and analyses. This is why I keep coming back and that is why I try sometimes to convince others to review position.

    If a competent organisation was to announce tomorrow that it had found a new and better way to address the world’s climate woes, eg by affordable, secure CCS, I am sure that this site would swing across to this development with the same energy as it has used in relation to the unfortunate events in Fukishima.

    Meanwhile, we must heed the LCOE figures and try not to waste our nations’ treasure chasing expensive dead ends, no matter how emotionally appealing they may be. In my country (Australia) it is against Federal law even to propose that a nuclear power station be constructed. Full stop. How silly is that?

    I’m OK if comparative studies demonstrate that nuclear is less safe, or too expensive, or is somehow otherwise not competetive, but to outlaw it in this way? That is not smart.


  124. David Benson linked also to BPA, claiming that this supported hypothesis that wind power is easily managed.

    From the same BPA web site:
    “Much of the wind on the BPA system has been developed in the Lower Columbia region. Wind projects located in the same general area tend to move up and down simultaneously, frequently resulting in large, unscheduled swings in wind generation. This causes BPA to increase or back off generation in like amounts in real time to maintain the constant balance of loads and generation needed to keep the lights on. Today, BPA provides these balancing services from federal dams. But the hydro system’s limits are being reached. Excessive wind generation imbalance is beginning to impose real consequences on power system operation that could affect system reliability.”

    As far back as 2009, BPA realised that the buffering limits of the available hydro had been reached.

    This is in a system which generates more from hydro than it uses and exports about 40% of its total generation.

    Obviously, BPA’s experience is not representative of the interconnected system as a whole but are a bit like Denmark, which relies on adjacent systems to buffer their wind power and to keep the system reliable. Interesting indeed, because with only 7GW load, they have difficulties accommodating 0 to 3 GW of wind despite an average of about 11GW hydro generation to play with. The nameplate capacity of the hydro would be greater again.

    Clearly, those who contend that wind at 10% total energy over time is a problem are on the right track.


  125. @David B. Benson The differences between the various power grids in the world are very much less than their similarities. I am wading my way through this study you seem to place such importance on, and I am astonished at the liberties that it takes.

    For example: On page 38, table 4, of Design and operation of power systems with large amounts of wind powerISBN 978-951-38-7308-0(see how one provides a reference?) it makes the claim that because critical moments of high wind and low load can be relieved by using interconnector capacity, wind power installed capacity can be computed as % of min load + interconnector capacity.

    This yields some rather optimistic numbers for wind power penetration. 146 % for the U.K. as a max seems rather inflated, as does 178 % for Ireland. Clearly numbers like this have been cooked up to paint a rosy picture.

    I will probably do a detailed critique of this report, if
    I have the time, because so far I see a large number of very questionable assumptions being made, and very questionable conclusions being hung on them.


  126. A lot is going to happen in the next two years. There is perhaps a 50% chance of a ‘serious’ carbon tax in the $20-$30 range with few giveaways. Petrol may break $2 a litre and we should return to El Nino conditions with fires and water shortages.

    I suspect the initial effect of a ‘serious’ carbon tax will be some belt tightening. However I doubt there will be major technology shifts in the sense of a major wind and solar build. If Garnaut has his way there will be no subsidies on top of carbon tax.

    Based on press releases on proposed baseload plants for Bayswater NSW and Morwell Vic the preference seems to be supercritical or gasified coal, not raw gas. The Gillard govt is talking tough at the moment, even to the point of fugitive methane from coal mines. Something’s gotta give.


  127. environmentalist,
    You still have not grasped the fact that solar is not suited to energy intensive markets. The Martin solar plant operated by Florida Power & Light has 500 acres of mirrors to produce an average of 18 MW of electrical capacity.

    To scale that up to the size that would support Florida’s planned generating capacity in 2020 would require about 15% of Florida to be covered by mirrors.


  128. @ John Newlands:

    Coal seam methane isn’t a done deal yet, in NSW at least. There is enormous local resistance to CSM due to the practice of “frakking” which has attracted worse publicity than the so-called pork chop in a synagogue.

    Supercritical coal amounts to more of the same, but with an efficiency tweak.

    Fugitive methane from coal mines and gas wells (natural gas and CSM) can’t be ignored, neither can CO2 releases from these sources.

    It appears to me that there will be fewer and fewer options still on the table in a few short years, perhaps driving sense into the fission debate. Remember, fission was Liberal Party policy only 4 years back. There is going to be a huge ruckus when the debate publicly resurfaces and the closed minds and wishful thinkers confront the limits of the suite of renewables and the logic of baseload options. I give it a couple of years at most, several weeks at best.

    Bring it on! As a civil engineer/project manager with long links with electrical power projects, I might even make money from the outcome either way, so long as the decision is that something, anything finally is decided about our energy future and our climate future.


  129. “To scale that up to the size that would support Florida’s planned generating capacity in 2020 would require about 15% of Florida to be covered by mirrors.”

    this is complete nonsense. Florida has an extremely high per capita use of electricity because of air conditioning in summer and electric heating in winter.

    a price change will eliminate electric heating, while rooftop solar is perfect for air conditioning. if there is a place on earth that could go to 60+% wind and solar, it should be Florida.


  130. @ Environmentalist

    Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s decision to scrap reactors Nos. 1-4 at a crippled nuclear power station in Fukushima Prefecture means the power utility will have to shoulder a colossal expense–possibly about 400 billion yen to decommission the reactors

    Daiichi was due for de-commissioning anyway so, I assume the cost of that would have already been factored in by TEPCO.


  131. Environmentalist argues that a one time 400 billion yen cost makes nuclear unaffordable. It seems a nice attempt to phase us with big numbers.

    Well now, 400 billion yen is about 5 billion US dollars.

    The Fukushima Daiichi units have generated in their lifetime a total of 877,692 GWh,which is 877,692,000,000 kWh of electricity.

    So, 5,000,000,000/877,692,000,000 = 0.005 dollars or 0.5 cent per kWh.

    Half a cent per kWh.

    This is why you have to do levelised cost accounting for costs, whether its financial cost, or external cost.

    And as we can see the external cost of nuclear is very low:

    This tool is also very useful for levelised cost accounting:


  132. Environmentalist
    Further – surely the costs of re-building the infrastructure damaged by the earthquake and tsunami are going to dwarf the costs incurred by the destruction of Daiichi.
    Recent work has been published that demonstrates that climate change is actually having an impact on the increase and ferocity of earthquakes. So what is it to be – nuclear power (the only proven baseload CO2 free electricity generator) or climate change and more frequent, intense disasters?


  133. A quote from the research paper

    “The significance of this finding lies in recognising for the first time that long-term climate changes have the potential to act as a force and influence the motion of tectonic plates. It is known that certain geologic events caused by plate motions – for example the drift of continents, the closure of ocean basins and the building of large mountain belts – have the ability to influence climate patterns over a period of a million years.

    “Now we know that the opposite holds as well: long-term climate change, or the natural changes in climate patterns over millions of years, can modify the motion of plates in a feedback mechanism.”


  134. Gee whiz Environmentalist, I can’t believe you’re so confident about Germany and solar power. Their solar subsidies in 2007/2008 totalled $US 4.3 billion and that was for just 0.7% of its electricity. Meanwhile, nuclear producing 23.8% of their energy was taxed to support the alternatives. They’ve gone from nuclear phase out to leave nuclear in and now in a knee-jerk reaction following Fukushima are talking phase out/close down again. Talk about confused.If they close down nuclear they’ll have to replace it with coal. That would be just plain dumb in terms of GHG emissions.


  135. “Meanwhile, nuclear producing 23.8% of their energy was taxed to support the alternatives.”

    this claim is plain out false. nuclear still gets more subsidies than some alternative sources. even solar gets less subsidies than nuclear got in the 70s.

    please stick to the facts!


  136. @Cyril 22 April 6.35pm,
    After reading the Decarolis and Keith paper you cite, I now understand why they find that it is very difficult to reduce CO2 emissions below about 50% of an exclusive NG power electricity grid(ie >50% energy provided by wind).
    Their critical assumption is that excess wind power is stored exclusively as CAES, which has significant higher cycle losses(34%) than pumped hydro(20%) and high NG consumption compared to zero NG consumption by pumped hydro. This is in contrast to the more than 22GW of pumped hydro storage presently in operation in US, compared with the one small(110MW) CAES storage operating. They also ignore the 70GW of existing hydro capacity much of which can operate in combination with wind.
    Another assumption is that all storage would be located close to wind farms rather than some storage at both supply and demand locations.

    One conclusion is interesting; ” the economic benefit of expanding the spacial distribution of wind farms to reduce intermittency can exceed the costs of additional transmission infrastructure”


  137. Neil Howes, Decarolis and Keith concluded that the CAES natural gas use is considerable and is a problem for this system. But actually the main reason you can’t get to 100% wind is that it often occurs that wind output across all 5 geographically decoupled wind locations is very low. And you have to massively and increasingly overbuild the wind capacity to meet that last portion of the load. That means dumping most wind output when it is windy. More and more wind has to be dumped and its hard to make use of this power as its too intermittent and low capacity factor to be used by dedicated energy intensive industries etc. No manager is interested in power that is intermittently available at 10-20 percent capacity averaged over the year.

    22 GWe of pumped storage is really small; USA average power flow is almost 500 GWe. Plus none of the existing pumped hydro have very long storage time that are required to deal with weeks on end low wind conditions (again the alternative is burning natural gas…)

    Its true that the economic benefit of expanding the spatial distribution can exceed the cost of additional transmission infrastructure. Unfortunately, that’s a half-truth: the spatial distribution also has diminishing returns at higher wind penetrations. Essentially you hit a wall (asymptote) at around 70-75% wind, and the rest REALLY has to be flexible natural gas or coal.

    The Decarolis and Keith analysis worries me because 30% natural gas is too much in a growing energy demand world and many regions don’t have the big geographic spreading advantage (eg Ireland) or such good wind resources (eg ALL tropical areas, most of India, Africa etc) as the USA has:

    Keep in mind also that Decarolis and Keith assume 2 cent per kWh future wind cost and little issues with spinning tens of thousands of kilometers of transmission lines. Big assumptions!


  138. Sod, the Fukushima units are the only ones that are damaged. Japan has gotten a lot of kWhs from nuclear. Even if the cost is 50 billion it not anywhere near 1 cent per kWh.

    Solar does not generate a lot of power so it looks like it gets little subsidies. It is unproductive so it appears as if it gets a lot of jobs per kWh. No, it needs a lot of expense to get it to produce energy.

    Your subsidies claims are thoroughly debunked here and elsewhere:

    Please try to stick to the facts and please do not repeat previously debunked arguments.

    Much of the world is not suitable for wind power. Essentially all blue and green areas are way too intermittent:

    However I notice by the responses from Sod and Environmentalist that the Energy Debates In Wonderland continue merrily.

    Cheers. Have a lump of coal for lunch.


  139. “Sod, the Fukushima units are the only ones that are damaged. Japan has gotten a lot of kWhs from nuclear. Even if the cost is 50 billion it not anywhere near 1 cent per kWh.”

    this calculation has not factored in the 20km zone and 100000 people moved from their homes. nor does it account for damages to sea food.

    “Solar does not generate a lot of power so it looks like it gets little subsidies. It is unproductive so it appears as if it gets a lot of jobs per kWh. No, it needs a lot of expense to get it to produce energy.”

    i think this is completely wrong. the numbers i gave above are per kWh. the fact that here is little solar power so far actually inflates subsidies, for example a few people doing research cost a lot of money, in comparison to very little electricity produced. but this will change soon.

    the jobs are produced, because this is high tech.

    ps: sorry, i will look at your links in detail later.


  140. @ sod, on 23 April 2011 at 6:34 PM:

    Sod was quite untruthful when he compared Greenpeace’s estimate of nuclear subsidies 40 years ago with the current subsidies for renewables in Germany. The statement which he was trying to address was stated in the present tense and in no way was intended to Germany’s relate to real or imaginary historical military and development costs of nuclear technologies in general. Dear Sod, how have you accounted for the West German and East German components of historical costs? Guesswork?

    The reference cited, when translated from the German, clearly indicates that the statement which Sod was replying to is correct, even as viewed by Greenpeace. The statement is “Meanwhile, nuclear producing 23.8% of their energy was taxed to support the alternatives.” I believe this statement to be true in the current German reality.

    This type of selective and devious misquoting, if left unaddressed, threatens to distract this site from its purpose and to drag us into a situation where trust is lost and much time is wasted.

    So, Sod, if you are reading this, please understand that cherry-picking and other forms of dishonesty will not win any friends here and will certainly not help your cause. On the other hand, honest mistakes are accepted with good will.

    Please do try to keep up with the discussion.


  141. So Sod, provide your calculation. What is the financial impact of the evacuation and sales revenue lost from not selling agriproduce. Keep in mind to do the same calculation for the general tsunami and earthquake. How many farms, fisheries, entire villages were destroyed by the tsunami?

    The point being, does nuclear add substantially to the financial damage, or is it fairly marginal (eg a few percent of total economic impact).

    This discussion lacks a lot of perspective.

    The jobs do not come from high-tech. The jobs in PV appear high because solar in unproductive. Hence the same level of jobs for much less power. If you look at jobs per nameplate capacity, they are not that different for nuclear or solar. The big difference comes from the factor 4-10 increase in productivity per year (even without factoring in the longer lifetime of the nuclear plant compared to solar panels and especially inverters and batteries).

    Solar is unproductive, ie you don’t get a lot of kWh for the same amount of jobs, so jobs per kWh are higher. This is not an advantage. Lower jobs per kWh are interesting because it reduces cost of energy, leveraging secondary economic benefits that accrue from low cost production (production jobs). Think about it.

    Please do read The Capacity Factor links. In fact read the entire blog, its been a major eye-opener for me.


  142. David B. Benson:

    ” In principle LCOE should enable one to compare the capital and operating costs of different forms of generatiion on an equal basis. Assuming all elese is equal (rarely actually true), the generation method with the lower LCOE is the more economic.
    So ignoring the costs associated with the balancing agent (backup) for wind power, just now wind has a lower LCOE than nuclear or solar. The problem is the intermittency of wind power, so tyo be realististc one also has to consider the balancing agent(s).”

    That was the whole point of what Jon Boone was saying. You can’t compare the LCOE of wind without incorporating the capital cost of the “balancing agent”. Calculations of LCOE are loaded with assumptions so I won’t take any LCOE claim at face value. I just wanted to make the point that wind will require far more capital cost than existing fossil fuel burning. e.g. suppose you added a wind system with the same name-plate capacity as the existing fuel-burning system. The capital cost of the whole system will be around double the capital cost of the existing fuel-burning system. For this doubling of capital cost, a reduction of fuel cost by 25% at best will be achieved. This would be an appalling return on investment so would require a huge subsidy to make it happen. If industry in Australia was required to pay this subsidy it simply wouldn’t bother, it would just close down and go to a country that wasn’t setting up such a crazy scheme. Thus I’m very dubious that realistic assumptions have been applied to LCOE calculations for wind.


  143. @Cyril 23 April 7.08pm,
    “essentially you hit the wall at about 70-75% wind (asymptote) and the rest really has to be flexible natural gas or coal”

    This is IF the storage used is CAES, surely you can agree that with very large pumped hydro capacity 100% wind would be possible( but possibly not economic). The Decarolis and Keith is an interesting paper, but you have to understand the assumptions used in the modeling.

    “20GW pumped hydro is really small”
    More pumped hydro is being built, and a considerable part of the 79GW of hydro can also be used to back-up low wind periods. The US also uses considerable hydro storage in Canada. With a geographically distributed wind capacity, high wind output (>60% capacity ) occurs for a much smaller proportion of time(<1%) and can be spilled.
    The solution for small countries is to be connected to a larger grid and use hydro storage.
    It is true that some regions have poor wind, but they either have good hydro(Siberia, N Canada, Central Africa, Amazon) or good solar(Sub-Sahara) or could be connected via HVDC. Are you suggesting building nuclear in all of these regions?


  144. “The reference cited, when translated from the German, clearly indicates that the statement which Sod was replying to is correct, even as viewed by Greenpeace. The statement is “Meanwhile, nuclear producing 23.8% of their energy was taxed to support the alternatives.” I believe this statement to be true in the current German reality.”

    i do not think that you understand the German feed in tarifs.

    these are paid by the consumers. how do you think that taxes on nuclear (in case there is much left, after subtracting the subsidies) get involved there?


  145. @ Neil Howes:

    Did you read what I posted today at 2:09 PM? If so, then you will realise that there is plenty of real world experience with wind which suggests that the economic mix of wind in a system is closer to 10% than to Cyril’s absolute maximum of 70-75%.

    There is no distributor with unlimited hydro capacity, so why bother to postulate along these lines? The example I cited comes from a distributor, BPA, with more hydro resources than their local demand (!), yet they report that controlling their system is not easy at about 10% penetration. That, as far as I am concerned, nails it.

    Attempts to detour the discussion to the Sahara, Siberia, Brazil and Canada add nothing to your case.

    Interestingly, yoou conclude by stating “Are you suggesting building nuclear in all of these regions?”. IIRC, all four countries already possess nuclear power plants.

    If you are aware of a study which strongly indicates that wind penetration of >60% is achievable anywhere at all in a stable system, please provide a link to your source.


  146. Neil Howes, what would a 500 hour hydro 400 GWe storage system cost? 400 x 500h 1 GWe storage facilities?

    Hydro is useful, but it works much better to work with constant nuclear output, where the hydro does the day-to-day peaking, and the nuclear plants can continue to operate with as high a capacity factor as possible. Sweden and Switserland have proven this.

    Hydro is much less useful if you have highly variable wind to accompany it.

    Its kind of silly to talk about increasing energy dependence on North Africa and Middle Eastern countries at this point in time. Haven’t you followed the news about the geopolitical situation there? How long will this turmoil last? DESERTEC is in serious trouble right now.

    Anyway, tens of thousands of km of HVDC isn’t exactly the distributed solar dream of the leftists. Then again, feed-in tariffs are also schemes to give money to the rich and take from the poor, and the leftists like that too, so some level of hypocracy is to be expected.


  147. John B: where do you get that 10 % number on wind penetration? I read your comment at 2:09 but could not tell where the 10% comment was sourced. Is that from the BPA study you cite?

    Cyril: what is your sense of the low prices for wind cited in the study, even at 50% wind penetration? (where natural gas prices are very high given the carbon taxes, not to mention the costs of fracking, which are likely left out).

    Are these levelized costs? I could not tell. I also wonder where they get the incredibly cheap price for wind turbines. And how this connects to their assumptions about carbon pricing.

    What’s interesting to me is that the wind sites modeled don’t even begin to enter the grid except under conditions of VERY HIGH CARBON PRICES. The first one at Sioux City Iowa only enters the grid at $140, the others at much higher levels.

    Given how cheap the wind is, seemingly, even at relatively high penetrations, why would they only begin entering the grid at very high carbon prices? I would think they’d have been competitive before that? Unless the low cost of the wind results from loads of money shoveled toward wind research in the wake of the large carbon price?

    You see what I’m getting at? Or if I’m not getting at anything, let me know.

    DV: if you have time, want to wade thru the DeCarolis paper? It really seems fishy to me, fishier than Cyril makes it out to be, and he’s critical.

    It ought to be noted, Cyril, that your comment above about low output across the five geographical regions is not faced up to by the authors. In fact, I thought they sort of dismissed this point by equating low output with no output and then indicating that no output was a very minor problem–43 hours over a five year period. Do you agree they sort of sidestep the problem?

    They also cite Jacobson’s study with little critique–given the scrutiny that study has garnered at this site, it is an additional reason to distrust the De Carolis. But these are just intuitions. I’d like more than that.


  148. Luke Weston, that’s also what I calculated above.

    And Fukushima Daiichi is only a portion of Japan nuclear electricity.

    Looking at IEA data and graph:

    Click to access JPELEC.pdf

    It appears Japan has produced in the ballpark of 5 million GWh of electricity from their nuclear plants in total. So taken over the fleet the cost of Fukshima Daiichi cleanup is 0.09 cent per kWh.

    That’s 5,000,000,000,000 kWh of low cost, reliable, clean nuclear production. This has saved 75,000 people compared to coal related deaths (assuming US coal deaths per TWh) or 20,000 when replacing natural gas.

    It has also saved 5 billion tonnes of CO2 compared to coal electric, and 2-3 billion tonnes of CO2 compared to natural gas electric.

    By the way, here you can see that solar PV in Germany has almost 3x the external cost of nuclear in same Germany…

    Click to access externpr.pdf


  149. Cyril:

    right on about leftist small is beautiful pro working class hypocrisy while supporting continent sized footprints (Mackay) and feed in tariffs to the well to do.


    leftist (pro nuclear), trying hard to avoid hypocrisy.


  150. Certainly the decarolis and keith study isn’t perfect.

    The high carbon price needed reflects the assumption by decarolis and keith that there will only be natural gas in their simplified model.

    Because wind gets almost no capacity credit, ie you need almost as much natural gas capacity installed as compared to a 100% gas grid, its economics are marginal. In essence, wind competes against variable operations and maintenance cost plus natural gas fuel, and the latter has to be high for wind to enter the system.

    That shows just how un-economic wind is on the system level. Its a major red flag for wind’s variability and poor load-carrying capacity.

    The authors probably don’t sidestep the problem of low wind output times as it is evident in the wind penetration graph that the cost rises exponentially, but its true that they are not very transparent about it. I couldn’t find their model dataset online. However, here is another dataset, on offhore wind with lots of geographic spreading, which shows variations don’t cancel each other, just smudge the peaks out a bit, see the graph:


  151. I’m assuming (correct me if I’m wrong) the capacity credit number for the study is here:

    “If all 5 wind power time series are averaged together with equal weighting, the correlation, r, between wind power and load over all 5 years is 14%.”

    This is not too far off Barry’s analysis of CC for the Jacobson study.

    Given the low CC and the requirement of a shadow gas system, why would this not manifest itself in the price more than it does? How can they claim that this system is competitive with alternatives? The very problems that Lang cites, which lead to his much different numbers, doesn’t seem to produce that much of an effect in De Carolis and Keith, save at penetrations higher than 50%.


  152. Neil Howes:

    “This is IF the storage used is CAES, surely you can agree that with very large pumped hydro capacity 100% wind would be possible( but possibly not economic).”

    Certainly not economic. 100% wind energy would require a name-plate capacity on the wind generators of around 3 times maximum demand in a system with a maximum to minimum demand ratio of 2 to 1 and with an average wind generation to name-plate capacity of 25%. In addition to this, it would require a name-plate capacity of the storage system of around 2 times maximum demand to absorb the output of the wind generators during the times when it produces its name-plate output but system demand is minimum. Also, the transmission system would require a “name-plate” capacity the same as the wind generators or 3 times maximum demand.

    100% wind with storage would require a staggering amount of capital and would certainly be uneconomic.


  153. Well, Decarolis and Keith only consider wind, gas in a carbon constrained world. In other words they don’t consider nuclear, hydro-electric (and discount pumped storage as un-scaleable), etc.

    These are major shortcomings of the study, and as I’ve mentioned I do not agree with the conclusion that the authors assert from their analysis.

    The fact that 70% wind need 1000 $/ton C carbon tax, which is (1000x(44/12))= $ 3666 ton CO2, does not suggest that this system is cost-effective!

    What it suggests is that if you have loads of natural gas and don’t mind burning it, that can save carbon dioxide emissions compared to a coal grid.

    Which of course isn’t what we’re looking for: we’re looking for a 90+% reduction in fossil fuel use at the most affordable cost and in a practical manner.


  154. Does a 14% correlation with wind power to load mean there is 14% load carrying capacity?

    Well, no. The peculiar thing about the wind turbines, you see, is that they tend to fail all or most at the same time. If you have 100 nuclear plants the chance of all of them failing is astronomic, but when winds die down your wind production can be decimated at significant chance. The wind turbines are technically reliable, unfortunately the wind itself is highly variable. Talk about common mode failure. There are like 9 hours per year of zero wind output across all 5 sites, so you’d need something for that emergency. In addition, there would be more common events of only 5% of 10% power across all sites, which have to be backed up also. I think it’s quite correct to state that the ELCC for wind is near zero.


  155. Cyril: I hope you don’t mind me bouncing my uncertainties about this article off you.

    In their model, the only other energy source is natural gas (plus CAES). So that 1000 per ton with 70% wind would be for the gas backup?

    Prior to the building of the windfarms (at 140$/ton for the first windfarm), I guess the energy form is all natural gas…?

    Given the constraints on the model, their conclusions about competitiveness with alternate energy set ups seems little more than fiction.

    And I still don’t get their low prices per kwh, given the gas backup and high carbon prices, which would have to get factored into their wind prices.


  156. It appears we have a number of fans on this site of the on-demand energy systems that have taken some 150 years to evolve with little foresight, zero storage, decreasing share of baseload generation, lots of inefficient waste and congestion, steep ramps in seasonal and daily demand, and lots of spinning reserves sitting idol, eating up O&M costs, and making electricity expensive for consumers (because it was so poorly planned). The discussion appears to be focused on how to connect up new power sources (variable or otherwise) to this inefficient system, so that they can be run on an inefficient basis as well … and also produce lots of emissions in the process (since it’s fossil fuels that are now serving as an affordable load following stop gap or back up to keeping this dynamic and volatile system afloat in electrons). Transmission and distribution losses have remained at around 6.5%/year of our total electricity generation in the US for the last decade. If 104 nuclear reactors in the US provide 20% of our national energy supply, that’s the energy equivalent of operating 21 nuclear power plants full time in the US and never having any of this energy reach a consumer, turn on a computer, or power a light bulb. Pretty poor results if you ask me. And then we want to add variable sources to this impractical and wasteful system (and cross our fingers for a large share and some better results). I’m sorry, but this sounds a lot like “tax breaks for the rich” to me, and does nothing to actually address the inherent weaknesses of the system or look at the broader energy challenges giving rise to deficits, waste, fraud, and abuse (to continue the analogy). We can focus all our attention on “spending” or source generation, and only take on half of the issue. Or we can also look at the demand side as well… and approach the problem from both sides of the equation (and benefit all energy resources in the process). I think it’s a win win for energy companies, consumers, and our environment to deal with these lingering and persistent questions once and for all, rather than find new adherents to a view that simply looks to maintain and defend the status quo.

    It’s worth looking at the NREL white paper on grid reliability and energy storage: “The Role of Energy Storage with Renewable Electricity Generation.” We started to reform our grid with more storage back in the 1970s (around time of oil crisis), but gave up on the effort. And so now we simply consume more and produce more, and leave inherent waste and inefficiencies to another day. NREL is clear that these are qualitative and not quantitative challenges, they have to do with choice and not technical limits, and they are primarily situated in economic questions (how much waste will we accept, and what are the costs of transforming a system and dealing with demand): “A common claim is that renewables such as wind and solar are intermittent and unreliable, and require backup and firming to be useful in a utility system – energy produced by wind and solar should be “smoothed” or shifted to times when the wind is not blowing or the sun is not shining using energy storage. These statements are generally qualitative in nature and provide little insight into the actual role of renewables in the grid, (including their costs and benefits) or the potential use of energy storage or other enabling technologies” (p. 17). If we want to be pushing renewables to a greater than 20-30% share of our energy mix (we are still years away from that), it’s clear where we need to START focusing our attention (and NREL provides some helpful insights into this). And that these reforms also make the system run better overall, reduce costs for consumers, improve reliability, increase the share of baseload for other sources (such as nuclear), and bring down emissions … well, these are simply added benefits (that to me are important goals to defend).


  157. sod,
    Thanks for picking up my error. That 15% figure was a projection to 2100.

    Let me try again. The projected generating capacity for Florida in 2017 is 72 GW. If that energy was collected from mirrors it would take 2,000,000 acres of them (72 GW divided by 18 MW multiplied by 500 acres).

    Florida covers an area of 45 million acres so the mirrors would need to cover ~4.4% of the state by 2017.

    If “environmentalist” could see at first hand the effect of 500 acres of mirrors on the environment I doubt that he would want to see a scale up to the GigaWatt level (28,000 acres of mirrors).


  158. EL, you’re interested in that 6.5 percent solution. I’m interested in that 96.5% solution.

    As an engineer, my clients would fire me if I solved their problems only 6.5%. They would laugh at me and chose another engineering firm.

    If I solve my clients problem 90% they will grumble but may tolerate my failure. If I solve the problem 100% they are happy, but only if I do so on time.

    We need full scale non-fossil solutions and we need them fast. Wind is a fossil fuel dead-end lock in. I’d like to avoid this dangerous dead end with nuclear power, hydroelectric and geothermal.


  159. Cyril R. —- it sounds to me like you are recommending a system where we turn our 20% baseload sources into load following sources, and make up the difference with hydroelectric (which is already tapped out, if non-existent in many locations). This seems wildly inefficient to me, an expensive way to meet carbon reduction goals (since we’re still primarily looking at it as a supply problem), and also leaves our electricity grid even more vulnerable to supply interruptions (with little “helpful” storage capacity, and operating nuclear plants at 40% capacity to be able to “quickly” chase after the load when needed). It sounds like a terrible approach to me, and should yield an electricity infrastructure that is upwards of 100% inefficient (rather than the 6.5% that we have now). There’s no shortage of studies that show wind is a cost effective and practical way to reduce emissions from fossil fuels (here and here), even with our current inefficient grid. Why you see this as a dangerous, costly, or a time consuming option (and not part of our emerging and evolving clean energy toolkit) is beyond me.

    We might say perfection is the enemy of a low-carbon future (to borrow a phrase from Voltaire). One might also add being overly fixated on either-or solutions, the detour of false analogies, and bearing false witness on clean energy alternatives, are also pretty serious impediments.


  160. “Daiichi was due for de-commissioning anyway so, I assume the cost of that would have already been factored in by TEPCO.”

    Nice selective reading guys, I quoted the costs of decomissioning AND the TRILLIONS in compensation.

    Oh and not all of them were about to be decomissioned, they might have even extended their operational life.

    “So, to adjust Enviro’s figures back to the real world, we get:
    Panels @ $1 plus the loss = $1.40/peak watt.
    Installation $1.50 per peak watt.
    Inverters, etc (say) 50 cents/watt. (My guess, probably an under-estimate.)
    Per watt cost of nameplate power rating SPV: $3.40.

    Availability of solar: say 20%. Effective cost = $3.40 x 1/0.20 = $17 capital per average generated kW capacity.”

    Bah I already quoted better numbers for an off grid solution (meaning + storage), and now you are claiming a utility would actually do worse? installation costs are 0-1.50 $/kWh and the expensive side is installing it on angled roofs, which is easily DIY. the rest should be about expensive as unrolling and cabling on flat roofs of industry or dedicated installations.

    First solar’s financial health is irrelevant, as scientists we should not care, whatever they spend on R&D, salaries, equity, debt, etc is all irrelevant and for investors. To us their costs of manufacturing is everything this is not a press release but a document for investors (meaning they go to jail if they lie).

    Last but not least UNDERSTAND what capacity factor is, it is a unit of efficiency with regards to panel nameplate capacity. Meaning that it is x% efficient depending on where it is installed, MEANING other costs like batteries, inverters, labor, is NOT more efficient if they install it on Germany, or France, or Arizona, etc. You multiply the capacity factor on the panels and that is it.


  161. @EL – To start off with according to The International Energy Agency Implementing Agreement for Hydropower Technologies and Programmes:

    The IHA and the IEA estimate the world’s total technical feasible hydro potential at 14,000 TWh/year, of which about 8000 TWh/year is currently considered economically feasible for development.

    At present about 808 GW in operation or under construction. Most of the potential for development is in Africa, Asia and Latin America with Asia having the greatest economically feasible potential at 3600 TWh/year.

    South America has an economically feasible potential of 1600 TWh/year and Africa’s potential is 1000 TWh/year. In the United States the Department of Energy has identified 5,677 sites with undeveloped capacity of about 30,000 MW.

    Not that I’n a fan of hydro, but calling it ‘tapped out’ is wrong. Even the U.S. could double the amount of hydro in service according to Idaho National Laboratory:

    Second, your previous comment to the last, demonstrates that you have little understanding of how the electric generation/transmission/distribution system works, or how the market that runs on it works. Nor is a 6.5% loss all that bad, and as most of it comes from transformer losses, it is difficult to see how this could be reduced significantly


  162. The ink’s not even dry yet (as in carbon tax legislation) and there are calls for extended subsidies and quotas for renewables, via Peak Energy
    Can’t compete? Get guaranteed market share instead.

    The realisation has dawned that the main winner from carbon tax will be gas. Federal resources minister Ferguson seems to welcome this. He also wants LNG exports quadrupled within the decade and presumably some replacement found for imported oil. We’re heading to an energy policy somehow combining the worst of both Qatar and Germany.


  163. Gregory Meyerson, going back to your original set of questions, I was also interested in the implications of DC&K for the first of Peter Lang’s points:

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

    The basis of this contention is that the efficiency of the fossil fuel generators is reduced when wind is introduced to the grid because they are ramping up and down to follow the wind fluctuation; and, the system as a whole burns more fossil fuel than the wind contributions offset.

    In other words, adding wind to the grid increases CO2 emissions. This is counterintuitive, and shocking, and if true is the biggest strike against wind – it simply doesn’t do the job we hired it to do.

    The DC&K model uses fixed values for gas turbine fuel efficiency (Table 1 – 35% for open cycle and 55% for closed cycle). So by assumption, the model cannot demonstrate this negative emissions abatement. It does not incorporate the physics that produces the effect.

    But we know that assuming fixed efficiencies, independent of wind penetration, is wrong. The empirical analysis of the Dutch grid by le Pair and de Groot calculates the efficiency hit on the generators and finds that the additional fuel burned outweighs the fuel saved. Kent Hawkins has provided a commentary on this work, and notes:

    Le Pair and de Groot calculate that the threshold for no savings in fossil fuel consumed at the wind penetration rate for the Netherlands of 3.2% is about 2% (ΔR) for the central fleet of fossil fuel plants, or about their calculated actual value of 2.11%.

    Hawkins has built a model for the efficiency penalty, and the Dutch data validates it, so we can be reasonably comfortable that we understand what is going on, quantitatively.

    Studies of two more grids, Colorado (6% wind penetration) and Texas (5% penetration) appear to show higher emissions with wind integration, and are also consistent with the model. Hawkins provides commentary on these also.

    Coming back to the Dutch study, le Pair and de Groot use available Dutch data to back out the efficiency of the backup generators as a function of wind penetration. It goes from 45% without wind, down to 24% at only 5% wind penetration. This is a huge penalty at trivial wind penetration!

    If this is at all correct, then DC&K have excluded an important consideration from their model. The cost of power would be greater than they calculate, the carbon abatement less, or negative, and the wind penetration at which you hit a wall is much lower.

    But to answer your original question, I don’t think the DC&K paper challenges the idea the wind power may not save carbon emissions, and may actually increase them.


  164. @Cyril R., on 24 April 2011 at 12:04 AM

    Unfortunately I no longer have IEEE access, but hopefully you can access the full text of this July 2010 paper: Calculation and analysis of capacity credit of wind farms based on Monte-Carlo simulation. The authors are at the North China Electr. Power Univ., Beijing, China. No doubt they have a keen interest in evaluating the real-world impact of wind generation. Abstract:

    How to compare the wind power generation and traditional power generation in aspect of capacity is essential of power system expansion. The capacity credit is a convenient and effective way to compare these two different types of power generation. Unfortunately, the definition of capacity credit of wind farms is not clear and generally acknowledged. In this paper, a more clear definition of wind farms’ capacity credit based on well-known concept of effective load carrying capability (ELCC) is presented. As well as a calculation method of wind farms’ capacity credit based on non-sequential Monte-Carlo simulation, this method considered the failure of transmission lines. The secant method is used at capacity credit calculation process, and the modified direct current optimal power flow method is adopted in power flow calculation. Several different influence factors of capacity credit of wind farms such as the cut-in, cut-out and rated wind speed and the rated capacity of the wind turbine generator, transmission capacity of transmission lines and different integration solutions are analyzed in IEEE-RTS79 case studies.


  165. @ Gregory Meyerson, on 23 April 2011 at 10:49 PM: Yes. Remember, the system that provided that advice has enormous oversupply of hydro – averaging more than their own average total load, exclusive of exports to their neighbouring systems.

    You refer to “deficits, waste, fraud, and abuse”, but have not demonstrated that these exist. Don’t get me wrong – there may well be all three present in your notional system, but you have not even tried to demonstrate that this is so. Real analyisi requires real facts.

    I have no problem with demand management. I do, however, believe that the energy supply and distribution should serve the demands of the marketplace, because otherwise will result in brownouts, blackouts, damage to equipment and severe loss of commercial opportunity… to say nothing of inconvenience and little things like lifesaving appliances ceasing to function when there is no power. The alternative appears to be for each consumer to be forced to consider providing personal backup power supplies, similar to the candles and UPSes which I used to need when I lived at the end of a remote two-wire supply years ago.

    EL, Reliability is high on my personal list of priorities and, I suspect (no references) that it ranks highly with other users.

    Your repeated attempts on this site to justify gross undersupply by calling it demand management are not winners. By all means, consider demand management, but not by draconian, economy busting methods.


  166. Why will China buy your plan?

    Please excuse a short rant: There is a lot of thought being invested in this and related threads — examining various issues of interest to the rich countries (Australia, EU, …). No doubt Barry already has my proposed topic in his master plan, but I keep itching to see some of this effort invested in what really matters. I think of it as “Cheaper than coal” as a shorthand for energy options that will actually be adopted by China, India (alternatively, the “Chindi price”).

    For any energy option to appeal to China et al it must have LCOE competitive with coal, and be scalable to keep up with their expected demand growth. China will probably use some wind in the “fat pitch” locations. But if Peter Lang is approximately right, China isn’t going to achieve a low carbon economy near mid-century by subsidizing “renewables” like the rich Danes and Germans.

    So I think the key question that all these proposals need to answer is “show me why the Chinese will buy your idea”. If China doesn’t go for it, it really does not matter.


  167. @ John Morgan, on 24 April 2011 at 9:56 AM:

    You have brought together contributions form several sources to present a convincing yet worrying thesis, which is that above trivial penetration in real systems, more wind actually results in more CO2. This is worthy of very careful consideration by both sides – pro and anti wind, because the ramifications are enormous. Thank you.

    OCGT = Open Cycle GT. A jet engine on a shaft with a generator at the other end.

    CCGT = Combined (not “closed”) cycle GT. One or more OCGT’s feeding their hot exhausts into a boiler which, with a bit of supplementary fuel, generates steam for a turbine and generator set and thus extracts more energy from the fuel fed into the GT. These are much less responsive than OCGT’s due to the thermal mass of the boiler side of things.

    CCGT’s and Hydro are generally preferred by grid operators to support wind because, despite the lower thermal efficiency of OCGT, both are able to ramp up and down very fast and thus follow the variations in power which is derived from wind.

    One instance which I am familiar with involved a proposal (never constructed) to install CCGT in stages, commencing with two OCGT’s, at an aluminium smelter to provide on-site power in times of high price or system failure. I mention this, not because of the link with wind, but to illustrate that there are other reasons, apart from balancing wind generation, to include OCGT and/or CCGT components in a grid.

    OCGT has also been used for many years in a couple of coal fired power stations with which I am familiar, to provide black start capacity and at remote mining towns, because of its low capital cost, ease of construction, simple operation and excellent load following capability.

    I guess that my message here is not to be too hard on OCGT – it may be relatively inefficient, but it is virtually essential in modern systems which has minimal hydro capacity.


  168. John Bennetts, on 23 April 2011 at 1:40 PM — This IEA wind study

    Click to access T2493.pdf

    about which DV8 writess that he is going to read it! Good, as I am sure he’ll see matters therefrom differently than I.

    Regarding BPA and their wind woes, they have already stated that there will be times during periods of high flow that the wind operators will not be allowed to generate. So the current approximately ~3.3 GW namplate of wind is about all that 12+ GW of hydro can reliably regulate, although more than the 20% that BPA had initially estimated.


  169. The third (and last) item in the essay establishing this thread I wish to address (before later moving on to what is actually wrong with wind power in a leter comment) is Birds and Bats

    Birds: A nonissue for modern wind turbines which rotate quite slowly. Bird lovers need to work on substantive issue such as feral cats and high speed automobiles; both of these kill far more birds than the wind turbines do.

    Bats: This is a siting isuue as there is so far no way of aiding bats in avoiding the wind turbine impellors (blades). While there are Friends of Birds (Audobon Society) there doesn’t appear to be a Friends of BAts (and there ought to be). So don’t allow wind farms near bat caves and within bat hunting grounds.


  170. The interaction of wind turbines and birds is somewhat more complex than if they get chopped up by the things. For example the impact of large installations is to drive raptors away from these areas, as they cannot hunt successfully. This causes an explosion in prey species like mice, voles, rabbits, and such which can then do major damage to the flora, causing local breakdowns in the ecological balance. Some land previously used for grazing, which it was believed would still support that function after the turbines were installed, have be rendered useless due to this very sequence of events.


  171. The Sunday paper I sometimes get likes to romanticise green notions. Today it praised the deal whereby carbon guilt stricken Norway pays Guyana to refine from razing some of its forest. The principle seems to be that the underdeveloped country agrees to live simply while the emissions of the developed country are ‘cancelled’ . I’m not sure how that is physically different compared to the time before money changed hands.

    Anyway it seems that the natives may take the money, raze the forest next door with unprecedented ferocity then spend the cash on SUVs.
    Note that Norway has had carbon tax since 1991.

    I think we can safely assume China and India won’t be paying other countries to officially absorb their emissions.


  172. @John Morgan, 24 April 9.56am’
    Just like the DC&K paper, Peter Lang was assuming that wind power would be only backed up by natural gas fired power, but unlike DC&K he assumes NO storage(hydro or pumped hydro, or CAES), and total wind capacity limited to supplying 30% of power.
    Considering that Australia has 4GW of reliable hydro capacity(24,000GWh storage) and an additional 2.2GW of short term pumped hydro(20GWh storage), in total about 25% of av demand, this is a major shortcoming.
    There are 4 ways to dramatically reduce CO2 emissions using mainly wind based renewable energy;
    1) collecting wind power over a very large geographic area(ie size of US or Australia)
    2) incorporate a small amount of CST with short term thermal storage, an efficient way of meeting daily peak demand(no CO2 emissions low losses)
    3) us as much excess wind as possible to store energy as pumped hydro(20% losses, no CO2).
    4) back-up low wind periods with pumped hydro and hydro capacity, then NG fired OCGT and CCGT during infrequent low wind periods(ie less than 20% capacity) or exceptional high demand periods(about 1% of time).


  173. David Benson, bird strike is only the zeroth order impact on bird populations. The bigger impact is habitat destruction, or changes in habitat that have deleterious effects, as DV82XL has just noted.

    I was out in a national park yesterday chatting with the ranger about movements in the local bird populations and the factors at play. At the broadest of brushstrokes, his impression on what drove these changes was “habitat, habitat, habitat”. He said if you introduced feral cats, pigs etc. into an area, or provided some other insult (fire, drought) the birds would still do ok if there was sufficient habitat. But if the habitat were degraded or reduced, you could knock them out.

    The habitat issue is what concerns me with wind. You need to protect the existing habitat, which is already degraded and under threat from many human activities. You need to ensure there is enough of it, of the right types, contiguous regions of the right scale, and connectivity between them (“wildlife corridors”). An expansion of wind at a scale large enough to achieve significant penetration into our grid comes at the expense of stealing a vast amount of habitat from ecological communities.

    If you look at a wind resource map for Australia, you’ll see the high value wind is concentrated mostly tight on the coast, mostly south and west. In the comments to the TCASE4 post I estimated – very roughly – that meeting Australia’s energy demand with wind from economic sites would require about two thirds of the coastline to be packed 3-4 km deep with wind turbines spaced on a 500 m grid. I’m not suggesting that that is the way a deployment would proceed, but its inevitable that an attempt to generate real, climate change averting, power, would have a huge impact on coastal habitat. You would be preferentially impacting to an extreme degree a particular littoral collection of ecosystems.

    Clear the sites for the wind turbines. Clear the land for the road access ways. Clear the pathways for the transmission lines. Bring in the heavy machinery and do the earthworks to plant the turbine towers and the power poles. Maintain the road access for service and replacement. Do this over the required scale in a particular selection of important ecosystems, and the impact on birds, and other denizens, is most assuredly not a “non-issue”.

    Apart from the obvious things such as removing food resources, exposure to predation and sun, impact by vehicles, easy movement (especially in bush areas) of non-native species such as cats and dogs and cane toads, and the general fragmenting of habitat, the ecological impacts can be very subtle – to us.

    Wildlife generally has evolved to fit into certain niches. Change them, and you can wipe out the animal. Take a human and assume he/she has only known life around the local shopping centre and dump them in the bush or desert. Take away the roads, electricity, shops, medical services etc. Some might survive, but most would not. We have heard of explorers and lost people starving to death in what the Aborigines would have regarded as a land of plenty.

    Some wildlife can benefit from these changes. Water storages in the arid areas benefitted kangaroos; feral camels, pigs, goats. Cropping benefitted galahs, cockatoos rats and mice. Not things we liked, but also this leads to imbalance which has a knock-on effect on biodiversity – much of which is not visible to us.

    Changing water flow, by concentrating it, or sending into places it has not been can have dramatic effects. With any road-building whether gravel or bitumin there is always the introduction of nutrients, and that can change the vegetation and hence the fauna in the locality. While some things increase in numbers by having more water on roadsides, others are either displaced by those increased numbers or because they require the drier conditions.

    But the habitat impacts of human engineered power systems pale in comparison to the vast habitat losses coming our way from global warming. Beyond the direct and indirect impacts of wind farm development lies the risk that, as I wrote above at 9:56 AM, wind power does not reduce carbon emissions, and may increase carbon emissions. The biggest negative ecosystem impact may be that we spend our resources on a carbon abatement technology that doesn’t work, instead of one which does – nuclear power – and which has a habitat impact that is indeed a “non-issue”.


  174. I watched the “Life Under a Windmill” video on YouTube referenced by Jon Boone and am very suspicious of the noise claims being made. There are a slew of videos on YouTube taken in very close proximity to wind turbines that do not demonstrate the types of noise portrayed in the so-called documentary.

    I don’t have any firsthand experience that close to a turbine so I have no way of knowing for sure but it seems unlikely that a device driven by wind (not driving the wind like an airplane propeller etc.) and one that is designed to be as efficient as possible, would be generating 80+ db at distances over 1000 ft away…..? Is the information in that video accurate?

    I find it hard to believe that there is a conspiracy of people out there taking videos of turbines and editing the audio from the video to make them sound quieter than they actually are……?



  175. John Morgan
    Thank you for your insightful post re habitat depletion.
    I just wish that the purported “Environmentalist” and others who think like him, could actually appreciate what huge damage to the “environment” and therefore to the species inhabiting it, large scale renewable power could engender.
    The anti-nuclear green movement seems to care more about banning nuclear power than stopping global warming.


  176. EL is making stuff up. I don’t suggest to use nuclear in load following, indeed I have explicitly suggested the opposite: grids with lots of hydro use hydro as peaking/load following, with the nuclear doing 24/7 delivery. This isn’t theoretical; Switzerland and Sweden have proven this completely. My other point was very simple: focusing on that 6.5 percent solution (transmission losses) is silly when there’s that 90% problem to deal with (get rid of fossil fuels). Alas, it turns out that ‘going local’ on power generation reduces the efficiency of the generators (whether steam/gas turbines or wind turbines) more than the reduced transmission losses give you back!!!

    Environmentalist, the definition of capacity factor is not ‘efficiency’. It is availability. How much of the time, on average, is your generator making power? The usefulness of this concept becomes evident to all, when we turn it around: how much of the time is the energy NOT there. In Germany it turns out that their solar rooftop panels are not making power, on average, 89% of the time. Oops! Even in the Mojave desert a flat plate installation is not there 80% of the time and even a tracker which costs more is still not there 75% of the time. Capacity factor matters, especially for energy sources that are not dispatchable. Can’t turn on the sun at night, or make it shine harder in winter.

    Its not the solar panels or wind turbines that are unreliable. Its that the sun and wind are highly variable and on average not there most of the time.


  177. Cyril, i wrote an answer to you on the Fukushima threat, but there it is very much off topic, so let us move the discussion here:


    “Compare to coal in the US at 15 deaths per TWh, extremely dangerous, even in a modern country. ”

    i took electricty from wikipedia:

    (1.991 trillion kilowatt-hours per year)

    so about 2 trillion or 2000 TWh (please correct all my math errors, i am tired)

    that gives about 20000 for ten years, and in the last decade i find 700 death from mining in the USA. (and assume they were all for coal)

    Click to access allstates.pdf

    (All Mining Fatalities By State)

    that gives about 0.035 death per TWh of coal electricity in the USA over the last decade. (again, please correct all my errors) this would at least be in the same ballpark as nuclear, according to your source. (which i think has it all wrong and seriously underestimates nuclear deaths by at least one order of magnitude. it was not just chernobyl!)


    where are the errors in my calculation?


  178. Cyril said:

    “I have explicitly suggested the opposite: grids with lots of hydro use hydro as peaking/load following, with the nuclear doing 24/7 delivery. This isn’t theoretical; Switzerland and Sweden have proven this completely.”

    it is obvious that nuclear and water storage works well together. (actually everything works well with water storage..)

    i think there are two problems with this:

    1. countries that focus on nuclear fall behind in alterantive energy, which is the future market.

    2. the electric market is free. night time nuclear power will compete with wind and solar peaks for storage in pump water. and then the cheapest price and flexibility will win the day. good luck!


  179. Hello Sod, the main thing is that a lot of people die due to lung cancer and other lung-related diseases. This is the main killer for all fossil fuels. Lots of particulate matter is the primary killer, so US plants which often have electrostatic or baghouse filters do much better, but it’s not perfect. For example the tiniest particulate matter, PM 2.5, is much less effectively captured by the filters, and it causes the most cancer.

    Mining, construction, decommissioning etc. are not big contributors.

    Even if the death rate is underestimated by a factor 10 it is still 0.7 deaths per TWh, comparable to PV (needs a lot of material and working on roofs is actually not very safe), but much safer than burning anything, even biomass and natural gas (again particulate matter is a big killer).

    I think the main conclusion from the death per TWh data is: stop burning stuff for energy!


  180. Neil Howes, I agree storage will help with the reduced efficiency of fossil fuel plants backfilling wind fluctuations. What I don’t know is how much storage would be required, but my fear is that for high penetration wind, it will be very large.

    It may be that instead of the wind contribution being completely negated by efficiency loss at a penetration of 2.1%, as in the no-storage Dutch grid, in Australia with our hydro we could go all the way to 5% wind before we start burning more carbon than we save. Or maybe 75%. I don’t know, but it is critical that we find out by empirical studies of existing grids.

    My suspicion is that we would find the point of negative abatement to lie closer to the Dutch limit than to the ‘zero efficiency reduction’ limit, because our pumped and non-pumped hydro is already deployed to particular grid stabilization and load balancing roles. Balancing fluctuating wind is requiring an additional function that I assume will require additional capacity.

    Even if we don’t move in to negative abatement territory at high wind penetration, we know the efficiency of the fossil fuel plant will nevertheless be reduced, and therefore the emission abatement ability of wind is degraded. Even if some emissions reduction is achieved, it is less than a GW for GW exchange of dirty for clean power. So the cost of emissions abatement with wind in $ per tonne CO2 avoided, already expensive, is inflated still further.

    Again, I can’t put numbers on this, we need empirical data from actual grids. But we know the effect is real, it cuts in at remarkably low wind penetrations in the absence of storage, and it’s critical we find out what the true situation is with large scale wind deployments.


  181. Sod, the nuclear fleet average in Germany is typically around 80% capacity factor or so. Individual plant outages of two or three weeks are perfectly normal (refuelling and such) and sometimes you have prolonged outages for overhaul etc. which is why you don’t see 100% capacity factor. What matters though is the fleet capacity factor. The nice thing about nuclear plants is that you can take one off line for overhaul without suffering the rest to shut down. With wind, you get all of the turbines to ‘fail’ in terms of energy production at the same time when it’s not windy. See graph above on 1 month wind production in the main post.

    Still 80% capacity factor is 7x more energy produced as 11% for the solar PV fleet in Germany.

    The wind fleet in Germany is around 25% capacity factor. So the German nuclear fleet gets three times the production of wind. They also last 2-3x longer than wind turbines so you get 6 to 9 times more energy produced from a German nuclear kWe compared to a German wind kWe, on averaged fleet basis.

    As for the deaths per TWh, the 107 deaths is the figure for one recent year; Chernobyl didn’t happen last year, Sod. The 15,000 is the total death rate over all years including Chernobyl.

    The coal kill is 1 million per year. Estimates vary, you see between 100,000 to as high as several million coal kills per year, but all of them are massively larger EACH YEAR for coal than all commercial nuclear power deaths EVER.

    Is this really so hard to understand?


  182. Here we have some discussion on the materials required for renewables compared to nuclear:

    Here is the peak and capacity adjusted tons of metal use per MW for different energy sources, from a Dutch friend of mine adapted to the Dutch (NL) wind/solar situation and also comparing Sahara solar.

    Solar and wind are unproductive, diffuse, and don’t last as long as the nuclear plant so have very large metal requirements. Metals that have to be dug out of the ground, not exactly environmentally friendly.

    Recycling of the e-waste from PV is not guaranteed and is reason for concern due to the large mass and volume of this e-waste if we try to power the planet with it. Solar panels are surprisingly toxic.


  183. @John Morgan, 24April, 6.22pm.
    I would agree that a grid having a small amount of wind, for a small geographic area( Denmark, Ireland) and all back-up from FF could degrade existing FF efficiency.
    If however, FF back-up is only a very small portion of energy use (<5%) it really doesn't matter if it is producing 0.7 tCO2 or 0.4tCO2/MWh.
    Australia has a mix of brown coal (1.2tCO2/MWh), black coal(1.0t Co2/MWh), in total 30GW capacity but accounting for 78% of generation, 15GW of gas-fired including about 7GW OCGT.
    Any low CO2 replacement for all coal is going to have a very significant reduction in CO2 emissions.

    If we have a scenario where 80% of av 27GW are generated from wind(0.33 capacity F; 66GW), 10% solar(0.2 capacity F;13.5GW) with 12h thermal storage, 5% hydro(0.3 capacity F; 4GW) and 5% natural gas(0.1 capacity F; 13GW).
    Wind farm output would generally be 0.18 to 0.5 capacity( ie +/- 0.15 av of 0.33 capacity or a range of 10GW above or below 22GWav. Solar would provide all daytime peak demand(80GWh/day) above 22GW av from wind with about 2 days reserve and usually some surplus, but could be backed up 100% by using 3.3 GW NG.
    So your question how much storage would be required to ensure 22GW of "base-load" demand is supplied by wind plus storage plus NG capacity?
    Todays NG capacity of 15GW is more than enough to supply the 10GW wind deficit but would operate at a capacity factor of 0.3. Hydro could provide 40% of the deficit(4GW), so would need 6GW of pumped hydro storage to avoid using any NG (except for solar back-up).
    To fully use the 10GW of excess wind during windy periods would need 10GW of pumped hydro capacity, but solar CST could divert some energy into storage, so 6GW of pumped hydro would be the minimum required to support 22GW av wind with minimal wind spilling and using minimal NG.Low and high wind events last 50-100 h, so overall storage capacity of 300-600 GWh of pumped hydro and 400GWh hydro would be required. In Australia reliable dams have a capacity to store 24,000GWh.
    Peter Lang did a cost analysis of a 9GW pumped hydro scheme
    connecting two existing reservoirs in Snowy mountains, that has a potential storage of 500GWh that would be more than adequate in fact with other existing schemes this could be down rated to 6GW capacity.
    NG would still be needed in low solar periods, when wind output was also less than average, but even if there are 90 days of no solar per year,13GW NG would only operate at 0.07 capacity factor(90 days x80GWh =7200GWh; 0.9GW av)


  184. Neil, if you’re going to build 66 GWe of wind then you’re going to get over 50 GW a lot. So you need a lot more than 9 GWe of hydro as you need to pump water much faster OR you have to dump the wind output (which effectively reduces the capacity factor of the wind system, making it less cost effective).

    You also lose 20% of your energy in the pumped hydro charge-discharge cycle.

    Adding solar makes things worse since that is another intermittent energy source. They don’t actually meet the peak load very well, solar goes down when peak loads go up in the evening for example.

    You would have to do a detailed analysis of this using real grid data combined with real solar and wind system output and then see how it works.

    Most likely you will be disappointed.


  185. Neil Howes, I just read your link to the 9 GWe system, it is only for 3 hours of storage!

    Here is the conclusion from Peter Lang:

    “The Tantangara-Blowering pumped hydro scheme would be a high capital cost investment for just 3 hours of peak power generation per day.

    This is the most economic of the four projects investigated.

    Pumped hydro is often economically viable for providing peak power for a system comprising mostly fossil fuel and/or nuclear generation (France’s system is the ideal example). But pumped hydro is not well suited to intermittent, unscheduled generators.”

    There you have it.


  186. Neil,

    If however, FF back-up is only a very small portion of energy use (<5%) it really doesn't matter if it is producing 0.7 tCO2 or 0.4tCO2/MWh.

    I don’t think the generation can be partitioned like this, that is, into one component of the FF output meeting demand, and a second separate, smaller, component as backup. The analysis of the Dutch system I linked to was measuring the reduced efficiency of the whole fossil fuel fleet (which dropped by 2.1% for 3.2% wind penetration, which wiped out the benefit of the 3.2% wind).


  187. John M:

    thank you for doing the work and finding the right sources for checking Keith et al. I read that Hawkins study a while ago but missed the key detail in the Keith study about fixed gas turbine values.

    Peter L, if I recall, separates out the gas backup from the hydro backup (in separate studies). His hydro backup studies were near reductio ad absurdams on the viability (or lack of) of renewables. The costs combining adequate storage and overbuild were…absurdly high. It was clear that such scenarios were non starters.

    The gas/wind studies were at least plausible (for wind).

    What, John, did you think of K and D’s cost assumptions? what confused me (I”m easily confused) was given the low price of wind and the low prices of the turbines, why they would need such a high carbon price to become competitive? I guess the answer in this narrow model is that the only alternative is gas, and all gas is assumed to be cheaper than any wind/gas combination until a carbon price of 140/ton is imposed.

    Fat chance of that by the way. But I still don’t get the low price of wind–especially with astronomical carbon taxes on gas, which would go up further if they had factored in inefficient OCGT.


  188. The Decarolis and Keith also concluded that more of the inefficient single cycle gas turbines would be used in higher wind penetrations than in low wind penetrations (that have mostly combined cycle). It isn’t clear to me why this is the case, because the high carbon taxes (or fuel price if you will) make this lower efficiency really hurting. From the Decarolis and Keith work, the only explanation is that single cycle can respond faster (looking at their table of features of technological options) and therefore the more efficient combined cycle cannot be used that much at higher wind penetrations.

    That does support the Dutch work conclusion.


  189. sod: you cherry pick a nuclear power plant in order to suggest that nuclear power in general is not reliable or to suggest that nuclear does not have a huge reliability advantage over wind.

    This is not an ethical way to argue and thus does not carry forward the argument either way. It’s ass covering of the most blatant sort.

    We all fall prey to defending our own asses by setting up straw men. But we should really try hard not to do this. if you want to argue that renewables are the answer, you should make the fairest arguments you can make for nuclear (not utopian ones, just fair). Picking on your favorite german npp or, to take another example, arguing that nuclear is just too expensive by looking at cost overruns in Finland are unethical forms of argument and waste a lot of time. Because responses must then engage in the tedious exercise of showing that big renewables builds (which hardly exist) are susceptible to large cost overruns also. (and then the whole thing begins to look like teenagers shouting “OH YEAH” at each other).

    One of the reasons I wanted people to address the Keith argument is because it appears to challenge in significant ways the Lang arguments that many here had taken as serious criticisms of renewable energy solutions.


    At this point, the no nuclear argument is sheer dogma: it depends upon outrageous cherry picking, dubious assumptions treated as obviously correct (about things like radiation dangers), denial of the facts about generation three and four. And just-so stories about renewables complementing one another as if weather were an invisible helping hand.

    What is not dogma is to try and figure out how much renewable energy might work together with nuclear.


  190. EL,
    Your rant about efficiency is just a red herring. The power companies can’t fix the inefficiencies of the past overnight much as they would like to.

    To give a really simple example, in Florida we have steam plants running at 38% thermal efficiency co-located with combined cycle plants that achieve 62% on a good day. The power company would like to close the steam plants but that is at least a decade away because they can’t build modern plant fast enough to keep up with demand.

    Ironically, one of the things that is impacting expansion plans in Florida is the Fukushima tsunami. Turbines and generators on order from Japan will be delivered years late or not at all owing to the need to deal with the power crisis there.


  191. Hmm, I just checked Decarolis and Keith again, and they assume gas turbine and combined cycle to have constant efficiency. So no allowance made for reduced efficiency from throttling more. They also assume that variable O&M is static which is clearly not correct as throttling more does increase maintenance and wears out components faster. They also seem to assume regulation/ancillary services per kWh cost does not rise with increasing wind penetration.

    These are indeed questionable assumptions, evidently an oversimplification of things.


  192. Cyril R. wrote:

    EL is making stuff up. I don’t suggest to use nuclear in load following, indeed I have explicitly suggested the opposite: grids with lots of hydro use hydro as peaking/load following, with the nuclear doing 24/7 delivery.

    Have you looked at a demand curve recently? 20% of electricity generation is baseload (and is shrinking in the mix because demand is stealing the show). Failing to address this issue, where are you going to find the 80% hydro for intermediate and peaking generation … and more importantly, do you have any interest in building new nuclear plants? Because it ain’t going to happen unless demand comes under better control (at least not in developed electricity markets). Certainly not as long as there’s affordable natural gas laying around (which is a good intermediate and peaking generation source, and can be built rather quickly). I do a lot of work in Canada, and I’ll tell you building large reservoirs to meet flexible demand is not always easy or practical, and the energy is not “always there” (or dispatchable) when you need it because of season, weather (drought), or even agreements with local resort owners, businesses, and First Nations (who require environmental conditions to be kept stable because livelihood is tied to resource). Strengthening the grid is a much more flexible, affordable, and environmentally friendly way to deal with these challenges.

    Cyril R. wrote:

    Switzerland and Sweden have proven this completely

    Yes … Sweden makes an excellent case for my argument. Electricity demand in Sweden has been flat since 1986 (with a great many efforts on conservation and efficiency), rising costs of electricity too, wind and solar have been added (lots of biomass for district heating) and coal generation has decreased, nuclear and hydro have remained flat. France is a poor example, they run their nuclear plants as load-following plants (at around 60-65% capacity). This is wasteful and inefficient, and results in large excesses (13%) that they dump onto the European market at a low cost, while energy costs remain high for French consumers. They are now turning to solar and wind to help balance their energy system, and lower some of their carbon emissions. Switzerland has failed to keep rising consumption and demand in check, and as a consequence is looking to micro-hydro and biomass in the Alps and wind and solar in Jura region. There is a strong anti-nuclear element in Switzerland, they’ve narrowly dodged two votes on a phase out, have a 10 year moratorium on new nuclear, and recently provided overwhelming support for a Green Tax to support solar expansion. So much for nuclear and hydro balancing act in Switzerland.

    Cyril R. wrote:

    focusing on that 6.5 percent solution (transmission losses) is silly

    Focusing on 6.5% of transmission losses is not silly, it’s efficient and it improves the performance of the entire system (making outages less unlikely) and all of our energy sources (renewables, nuclear, fossil fuels, hydro, or anything else). According to Berkeley Lab study, “Cost of Power Interruptions to Electricity Consumers in the US” (here also), we lose an estimated $80 billion/year in US to power outages. Since when did saving lots money, enhancing grid reliability (independent of source generation), and returning lots of energy to consumers become a bad idea?


  193. EL: “20% baseload”

    Nonsense. Nighttime low in many countries is typically 50-70 percent of daytime peak.

    Here are a few examples:

    Here you can see how solar does not match peaking times at all:

    Much of the variation in grid demand is diurnal – day and night – which can be filled up with electric/plugin vehicle charging at night. And it just so happens that nuclear has excess capacity at night, whereas wind is erratically available with variability far bigger than diurnal!! Needless to say the sun does not shine at night so is of little use when I come home from work and want to recharge my PHEV. Maybe I can charge on my boss’ cost during the day? Well alas that won’t work since solar is only there 11% of the time.

    Of course natural gas is getting more popular as a fuel which distorts the baseload versus peaking market with natural gas’ flexibility. Oops, natural gas is a fossil fuel with a high death rate per TWh and coming often from unstable regions.

    As you can see above from the IEA, France is doing fine with their 75% nuclear, and has only around 10% hydro or so, so your argument is nonsense.

    “strenghtening the grid” if that is necessary it must be done and this is a SEPERATE issue from what tech we chose to get the supply side.

    My grid’s reliability last year has been 100%. Beat that, EL.

    “focusing on 6.5 percent of transmission losses is not silly”

    It is by your pretention that we can solve big problems with that 6.5 percent. Meanwhile you completely ignore where the energy comes from. If we can save 80 billion in power outages (actually the US might, we here in the Netherlands won’t) then that makes sense REGARDLESS of the supply side.

    You do not appear to have an argument and are nitpicking. Please stop doing that. We want to stop having wonderland debates and get to the dismal, hard, cold numbers and science on the fossil fuel problem we have and the renewables that don’t cut the mustard. The dismal science shows we need nuclear fast, with or without grid upgrades and efficiency.


  194. Responding to more questions:

    DV82XL wrote:

    Second, your previous comment to the last, demonstrates that you have little understanding of how the electric generation/transmission/distribution system works, or how the market that runs on it works. Nor is a 6.5% loss all that bad, and as most of it comes from transformer losses, it is difficult to see how this could be reduced significantly

    DOE suggests an improvement of 1 – 2% can be gained from reduced line losses and voltage control. Northwest Energy Efficiency Alliance considers the same, and provides a more detailed technical account. And this also contributes to enhanced reliability, system planning, better capital utilization, prevention of economic losses from outages, lowers costs for consumers (peak energy pricing), better utilization of renewable energy resources (less back-up, less carbon emissions), better utilization of baseload sources (with greater share of energy mix), and much more (it all adds up).

    As I’ve said already … looking at it from one perspective (adding sources, and what kind) only looks at one side of the ledger. And comments in this thread are correct, if we do nothing with demand and shoring up transmission, we’ll have a difficult time getting past the 20% hurdle for renewables, and maintaining status quo on reliability and costs at the same time.

    If you have a critique, please offer it. It’s not enough to say “you have little understanding” without indicating where I have made errors in my comment.

    John Bennetts wrote:

You refer to “deficits, waste, fraud, and abuse”, but have not demonstrated that these exist. Don’t get me wrong – there may well be all three present in your notional system, but you have not even tried to demonstrate that this is so. Real analyisi requires real facts.

    Sorry about that … that reference is to my “tax analogy” and not utility company practices. I thought it was a good comparison (but apparently too detailed and hard to follow). I was equating energy systems with government deficits, and suggesting we have to look at both sides of the ledger (spending and revenue; or managing energy supplies with demand). “Waste, fraud and abuse” is a rhetorical trope and typically indicates a weak and selective argument to manage costs and reduce spending (and is a distraction from much more significant elephants in the room: increasing revenues, rising health care costs, etc.). I was trying to suggest that focusing on intermittency of renewables as a “larger than life” problem is tantamount to looking at “waste, fraud, and abuse” as a primary method of managing deficits (when larger issues go unaddressed). Clearly, I need to simply this analogy or find another … sorry for the confusion.

    gallopingcamel wrote:

Your rant about efficiency is just a red herring. The power companies can’t fix the inefficiencies of the past overnight much as they would like to.

    You’re assuming power companies want to fix these inefficiencies? When peak energy pricing can be as high as 500 cents/kWh at some locations in the US, why would they want to change this. As long as their competitors are faced with the same, consumers are willing to pay these higher prices, transmission losses are relatively low, and no outages are taking place … it’s all smooth sailing for them (with lots of additional profits).

    Cyril R. wrote:

    Much of the variation in grid demand is diurnal – day and night – which can be filled up with electric/plugin vehicle charging at night.

    This is fine, but aren’t you making my argument for me! How else are we to view V2G but as a “smart” infrastructure improvement providing more “demand management” and “storage.” I’m confused what you are arguing at this point. I’m looking at comprehensive solutions, you appear to be nitpicking about individual sources (primarily “wind”). I don’t see how exaggerating the challenges of wind penetration to less than 20%, or failing to report on how wind is currently used to displace fossil fuel emissions, helps the matter any? The best argument I can provide to counter this is provided by the wind energy professional above (Daniel Kirk-Davidhoff) … who suggests day ahead forecasts are reliable and sufficient for planning around wind variability (and displacing lots of carbon in the process).

    I’ll ask you to take note … I’m not in the 100% camp. I’m suggesting we’re fine up to 20% renewables, it’s money well invested in demand management, transmission, storage, and efficiency programs (Sweden and Japan take the lead on this). And I firmly believe these investments and enhancements create jobs, accelerate economic growth (it’s hard to beat the economic advantage of coal and the externalization of costs from pollution), and also create better conditions for nuclear power to expand in the next 30 to 50 years (in the niche where it performs best as a reliable source of baseload generation, and as an alternative to coal). But nuclear needs a bit of closer attention at the moment, some action on the waste issue, and a little bit of help from local, national, and international frameworks on carbon legislation and mitigation (pollution tax, cap and trade, clean energy portfolio standards, or the like).


  195. “sod: you cherry pick a nuclear power plant in order to suggest that nuclear power in general is not reliable or to suggest that nuclear does not have a huge reliability advantage over wind.”

    no, that is not what i did. i am fighting against the claim that alternative power is not reliable at all, while nuclear is up 100% of the time. Krummel is down for 3 years now, after something that is claimed to be a small accident, not worth notice. (i disagree, with smoke in the control room we had a very serious situation).

    and with one of 17 power plants out, we lost about 5% of production.

    “Nonsense. Nighttime low in many countries is typically 50-70 percent of daytime peak.”

    these is demand following supply. France even has a special name for night time cheap power “Heures Creuses ” and it is about 2/3 of day price.

    “Here you can see how solar does not match peaking times at all:”

    that link is horrible. it tries to confuse people, by putting the 100% peak of solar at the same level as the top of the demand curve. this is a dirty trick, to make alternative energy look bad. of course you need a higher peak with alternative energy than top demand is. this will go into storage, if some is available.
    is suspect that in the majority of those flat load curves, pump storage is filled at nighttime minimum demand, flattening the curve.

    ps: in Germany today the peak was at 1:30 pm, and again above 12 GW, the same as our remaining nuclear power plants produce.


  196. Secretary of Energy Stephen Chu spoke last thursday at BNL, and I was lucky enough to hear
    his talk as well as the question session. Some of the questions touched on were those I see in the very debates that are taking place here.

    I found Chu to be a very polished and a very clever man, probably the best qualified person
    that the US has had in that position in a very
    long time – I can still remember the days of Hazel O’Leary. But he had some facts wrong. He claimed
    that wind power penetration in Ireland was currently at 20%, when it seems that in fact it’s actually closer to 11%, after capacity factors are taken into account. And that has been achieved with the feed in tariff approach, which tops out under current law at 1450 MW generating capacity.

    I’m trying to begin to collect some real
    numbers on actual costs for solar, wind,
    various storage options and so on but
    I am having some trouble finding any.

    I understand why private companies don’t like to advertise prices on their websites. But do any experts here know offhand, what’s the approximate, up-front, installed cost of a single 2.5 MW wind turbine such as the “Liberty Clipper,” or its equivalent, such as is described at the following link?

    This same company plans in the future to build 10 MW models, but these are to be built using high temperature superconductors, so I’m not going to hold my breath waiting for the newer model.

    I am a bit dubious of cost estimates for wind floating around, on the order of 6.5c/kWh with 1-2c additional “marginal” costs, which Chu seemed to think would even be possible for solar after a couple of price “half-lives” …


  197. Why are you confused, EL? Nuclear has no long term variation on the fleet level, unlike wind and solar, so benefits the most from smart grid and storage.

    That’s the whole point – all the grid managment and storage stuff is easier (cheaper, more effective) with nuclear power compared to wind and solar.


  198. Cyril R. wrote:

    Why are you confused, EL? Nuclear has no long term variation on the fleet level, unlike wind and solar, so benefits the most from smart grid and storage.

    So why the all the resistance from pro-nuclear evangelists to grid improvements, demand management (through conservation and efficiency), and storage? As I’ve said about 4 times now already, it’s a win win scenario, and a very good way to spend limited energy dollars (and may be the single most cost effective way to quickly reduce carbon emissions among the largest emitters). It seems to me that we agree on this, as well as the importance of carbon reductions (based on your replies in this thread). So I’m left scratching my head over the hubbub, and why you disagree with me so fervently and at the same time provide arguments that appear to give further support to what I am saying. If you think nuclear is the “only” answer to rising global demand for energy … I think you will be in for a long wait (and a great deal of disappointment). Few regions are the same (nor do they want the same thing), nuclear waste and global security issues abound, and we have a great many challenges trying to wrest control over the energy system from vested interests and polluters. Frankly, I think the status quo likes it this way. The more we argue over small differences, the more we “self-marginalize” into opposing camps, the greater power we give to oil, gas, and coal to continue to meet public expectations (and delay a reckoning with peak and unconventional supplies). It’s called divide and conquer, and it’s as old as the invention of fire or the engineering of rocks into spears. The technical challenges to meeting carbon reduction goals with renewables are exceedingly small (and they will only get more affordable and broader in their application as time moves on). Nuclear is a freight train that churns out energy 24/7 and creates an excellent floor for large industrialized economies (and it is by no means free of emissions on front or back ends). And rising global electricity demand is only a problem if you don’t want to deal with excessive waste, efficiency and conservation. Any one of these alternatives alone is a loser, but together they make an interesting, convincing, and feasible package. I’m tired of the back and forth, and turning our back on common sense solutions (all the while throwing exploration, environmental, production, and tax advantages to coal, oil, and gas to develop unconventional reserves and continue their unfair advantage in the marketplace).


  199. Building on Cyril last comment above.

    Reading the material that has been posted in links on this thread in support of non-dispatchable generation, I am struck by a recurring, underlying theme of accommodation. It is as if the supporters of this type of generation are demanding the same treatment that we extend to handicapped persons, by putting up ramps, and dedicated parking spaces. While accommodating humans that need this type of accommodation is (if one needs a purely selfish reason) justified in that one never knows when you might need it yourself, no such excuse exists for wind and solar in respect to the grid.

    Make no mistake about it, we are talking about accommodation without any commensurate gain for doing so. The changes that need to be made to allow even a small percentage of this sort of generation are major, and they will not make the system better overall, in fact (while this is glossed over) it may make it weaker. The real question then becomes for what? At best the most technically competent of the supporting documents only expect the system to absorb 20% of this sort of power, hardly grounds for the sort of investment required.

    This is the Wonderland aspect of this whole debate. It is not a nuclear vs. renewable issue, but a plea to make adjustments to allow someone’s favorite form of generation to run on the grid. I suspect this is nothing more that the need to justify the support certain groups have lavished on wind and solar for so long, has overridden commonsense. They are given hope by the machinations of natural gas, who have worked this out long ago, and know that they are the only ones that can provide a fig-leaf for wind and solar.

    The bottom line is that non-dispatchable generation is a dead end. It cannot contribute anything significant to the need for more energy and the need to stop heating the planet. It’s time to wake-up and smell the coffee; places like Denmark tried their best and it wasn’t good enough. We have tried and we have failed, and now it is time


  200. “That’s the whole point – all the grid managment and storage stuff is easier (cheaper, more effective) with nuclear power compared to wind and solar.”

    i disagree. in the past, this was true. the big companies (the only one who can run nuclear) could strike deals with energy intensive industry, selling them off-peak electricity at a slightly cheaper price. and there was a simple plan (electricity is cheaper at night) for common folks who wanted to save as well.

    this would have been a very bad environment for wind or solar peaks. these tend to not happen at specific times, nor is the average supplier big enough to do big deals.

    but smart grids and flexible prices will change all of this! wind and solar do NOT use fuel. they can simply be cut from the net, if prices turn negative, or give away electricity for free.

    the link to irish wind energy given somewhere here recently showed, that wind alone provides 50% of electricity. on a spot market, they will beat all suppliers that have a fixed fuel cost.

    a lot of demand will move into peak zones, for example my climate system can start cooling the house and heating the pool 2 hours earlier.


  201. “At best the most technically competent of the supporting documents only expect the system to absorb 20% of this sort of power, hardly grounds for the sort of investment required.”

    i strongly disagree. the world would be a much better place, if we all had 20% wind/solar power. and the peaks they produce would speed up developments of storage that can use the surplus peak electricity.


  202. @ Environmentalist and sod: A question for you both.

    What do you consider to be the most important objective for environmental action, and which should take priority? Action to shut down nuclear power generation, or action to counter AGW by reducing greenhouse gas emissions and other measures?


  203. Gregory M, I just read K&DC for the energy model to check against Lang’s arguments. I don’t have a good grip on the cost analysis so I can’t offer any thoughts. Won’t have a chance today as I’m about to hit the road for an eight hour drive home after Easter.

    (I appreciate your question was your sneaky pedagogue way of getting me to self educate on the economic arguments and make me a better person. Thank you for caring about my soul.)


  204. @Cyril R, 24April 9.44pm,
    A 66GWe wind system located in one state does give a wide variation in output, close to zero and >50GW, but output over a much wider area the size of Australia ranges from 0.2 to 0.6 of installed capacity(see oz-energy link I provided 24April, 1.37pm)
    Output above 0.5 of capacity is very infrequent and could be spilled, just as hydro dams are not built to store all water from the highest rainfall years. Even optimized aggregated wind output from smaller regions such as Texas, only exceeds 60% of capacity for 1% of the time and 50% 2.5%of the time (Jonah Levine, MSc thesis Uni of Colorado, 2007; not sure who provided the link on BNC). Not all of this would be spilled because some of the time CST would have thermal storage capacity so more wind could be accepted(during daytime).
    @Cyril R 24April 9.48pm
    Peter Lang was proposing the Tantangara/Blowering pumped hydro scheme to provide peak power for nuclear, at flow rates of 1ML/sec(9GWe) or 3600ML/h with a head of 900m.Tantangara (the smaller reservoir)has 238,000ML active storage capacity so could provide >60 h operation(540GWh storage), but only 3-4 h would be needed for daily peak demand. As a reality check, nearby pumped hydro scheme Tumut3 has 27,000ML storage(1/9) and head of 150m(1/6), and stores 9GWh(1/60).


  205. The beauty of carbon pricing is that if done right then intermittent sources will find their correct level. There will be no distortions from subsidies and mandates. For Australia I think that means very little new build of renewables because new capacity and coal replacement will come from gas. However in places even moderate carbon taxes may not help gas let alone renewables. In Victoria for example brown coal is 60c a GJ or mmbtu while gas is $7. There the wind industry wants carbon tax to be set at $90 (not $20) per tCO2 to get a look in.

    That is why I think carbon tax will run into an impasse after a year or so, say by year 2013. Then I suspect they will return to subsidies to get the wind build rolling again. Since the public will be paying more for same coal fired electricity (less minor demand reduction) a gaggle of wind and solar projects is needed for reassurance on the promised low carbon future.


  206. @John Morgan, 24 April, 9.49pm

    What I was trying to say was if OCGT is only used for back-up ( ie when hydro and pumped hydro capacity is not sufficient, so would not need to back-up 100% of demand) at 0.1 capacity factor and accounts for 0.7 capacity factor.


  207. John Newlands, 25 April, 7.29am,
    Think more about what you are saying; more natural gas capacity will be built(I agree), but its operating cost will be very high relative to coal (I agree) so NG power will only be used for peak power.

    Wind power will be competing with coal fired 24h a day, but will have a $20/t CO2 advantage ($20-24/MWh), that’s about the off-peak rate. Coal will have to cover the loss at off-peak by getting high prices during peak demand, but excess wind and OCGT will keep these rates down( still high enough for OCGT to be profitable) except for periods of low wind output.
    Result; coal capacity will be reduced until peak rates and off-peak rates rise, but that will stimulate more OCGT and wind capacity to be built.


  208. Neil the figure of $70 minimum carbon tax for increased wind build is in a link already given upthread

    I note elsewhere the one company that says it will build new wind capacity under $20-$30 carbon tax will use Chinese made components. Your suggestion that wind has a role to play at low carbon tax may well be true. But is it 10%, 20% or 30% of all Mwh? Maybe Australia already has its economic wind capacity.


  209. John Newlands,
    According to Infigens annual report their total revenue for wind in Australia is $80/MWh(including REC), so a carbon price of $70 is probably excessive for wind. As the article you linked to goes on to say, we may end up with a lot of wind but not much higher cost solar and geothermal.
    Of course even a carbon price of $20/t CO2 should also favor nuclear, we should see electricity providers calling for permission to build nuclear, unless they feel its too high risk for shareholders.


  210. David Kahana, on 25 April 2011 at 3:42 AM — A new wind farm near here recently contracted with the distributing utility for a levelized 9.15 UScents/kWh. There are substantive reasons to expect the price to drop to around 7 UScents/kWh in the near future.

    Here are some LCOEs for new construction I have been able to find or (quite accurately) estimate:
    Solar PV: 23.4 @ CF=25% (estimated)
    Solar thermal: 21.7 (Mohave desert with 4? hour thermal storage; without storage CF=25%) (contracted price)
    Nuclear: 11.8 for Vogtle 3&4 Gen III+ Westinghouse AP-1000 @ CF=90% (est.)
    Wind: 9.15 @ CF=30%+ (contracted price)


  211. A Simplified Cost Analysis of wind+NPP

    Assume suitable wind power sites are available with CF=32%, the Columbia Basin planning figure. Postulate an NPP similar to the Areva EPR which can cycle 60% to 100% and do so fast enough that nothing else is required to further act as the balancing agent for wind. Assuming the NPP can have a CF as high as 95%, I used some O&M, fuel and spent fuel managment figures, etc., to arrive at an LCOE of 10.3 UScents/kWh if run flat out.

    Now add some wind to this baseload NPP. Assume the LCOE for wind is 7.0 UScents/kWh and also note that up to 40% of the NPP namplate rating can be used by throttling back the NPP to the minimum allowable. That means the CF for the NPP lowers to 83% and when run that way its LCOE goes up to 11.8 UScents/kWh. However, the LCOE for the combination of wind and NPP more than makes up for that, being but 9.04 UScents/kWh, a saving of 1.26 cents/kWh over just running the NPP alone.

    However, I’ve left out any additional transmission required to profit from the wind and other factors which might well lessen or remove a mere 1.26 UScents/kWh margin. Using wind is (mostly) just a diversion from the primary task of replacing fossil fuel units with NPPs; perhaps the engineering talent available is better devoted to that task, possibly even slightly lowering the cost of NPPs.

    I note this situation actually contradicts the macroeconomic law of suplay and demand (to the extent I understand that). In macroeconomics the assumption is that increased demand is met by more costly supply creating a stable price. But here it seems (please check yourself) that increased incremental demand is met by lower cost supply, up to the limit of the supplying units, both wind and nuclear. This appears destablizing to me, so some form of regulation is required.


  212. @David Benson, 25 April, 10.48am,
    “…increasing incremental demand is met by lower cost supply”
    this is the history of hydro power in small demand locations, once a large dam is built, supply exceeds local demand, so high power consuming industry is attracted (aluminium refining) with low prices, but overall costs go down, because the capital cost of dam is spread over more output.
    Wind and nuclear have high capital costs, and low operating costs just like hydro. Presents a good opportunity for more pumped hydro to take advantage of the miss-match of demand and supply, surely more cost effective for nuclear to be running at max capacity rather than power down to 60% capacity( at least until all pumped hydro pumping capacity is used or storage is full).


  213. If find the PM’s stance on coal and LNG exports not only hypocritical but a sign that domestic carbon pricing may end up as a joke

    Ideally a tax of say $50 a tonne of black thermal or coking coal and about half that on LNG should be levied. The importing country (not the private customer) gets a refund cheque paid into some green program account. This solves several problem cases
    1) no point in exempting LNG train operators from domestic carbon tax
    2) coal taxes too low in countries like India
    3) less compensation needed for aluminium smelters as increasingly China has to pay some carbon tax as it imports more coal.

    If would be helpful if the USA wasn’t increasing coal exports to China at a phenomenal growth rate. I seem to remember Obama promised to cut back on emissions maybe he forgot. I predict that if we do get full carbon tax by July 2012 that there will be many calls to carbon tax FF exports, After all we export 4X as much black coal as we consume locally and our own Federal resources minister wants the same thing for LNG.


  214. Neil Howes, on 25 April 2011 at 12:17 PM — Thanks. I earlier did a study of wind + pumped hydro versus nuclear, both to meet a constant demand. The most discouraging aspect was the very large pumped hydro requirement. New pumped hydro is rather expensive so little more will be constructed except perhaps in developing countries.

    The Areva EPR’s ability to cycle is clearly intended to meet the variations in demand over the course of a day and even a year. It is probably more cost effective to use such a cyclable NPP at an average of less than 100% to meet that variation than to build more pumped hydro to do so.


  215. @Tom Bond, 25 April, 10.19am
    If you look at footnote(b) you see that UK data is for average installed capacity, presumably US and Germany are using end of year capacity. This is a problem at least for US data because additional capacity of 40-50% has been added so most of those newly installed turbines dont contribute for a full year. The US value should be more like 0.33 capacity factor.


  216. @John Newlands 25April 12.36,
    Each country is responsible for accounting for CO2 where it is generated, so in coal mining in Australia or LNG, the CO2 generated in production will be taxed, not the carbon content of coal or LNG exported. If you also tax coal at point of export and the importing country also adopts a carbon tax or reduces CO2 emissions by other means then there is double taxing. We could have a different system,say a cap and trade, but this was voted down by Greens and Liberals.


  217. Cyril pointed out:

    “Adding solar makes things worse since that is another intermittent energy source. They don’t actually meet the peak load very well, solar goes down when peak loads go up in the evening for example.”

    Indeed, for at least six months of the year, there is zero or little solar generation during the evening peak. Effectively, to use solar and wind, we will have to build 3 power generating systems: solar, wind, and storage/fossil backup where now we have one. No matter which way you look at it, 3 sets of generators cost a hell of a lot more than one.


  218. Chris O’Neill, on 25 April 2011 at 1:26 PM — The proper mix of forms of generation is not so readily determined. It is widely anticipated that wind power will be available at ~7 UScents/kWh. That makes it attractively low priced compared to other forms of generation or even storage. However, there are distinct limits on how much wind there can be and still have an electric grid which supplies reliable, on-demand power. In a prior post I worked out a preliminary estimate for wind+NPP. Turns out that wind only supplies about 13.5% of the power on an annualized basis.


  219. @David Benson, 25 April, 12.37pm,
    Thank you for the excellent information and contributions. My thinking is that where pumped hydro costs are $500-2000/kW capacity and nuclear 3-4 times greater it would be more cost effective to build additional pumped hydro. France may be able to sell of lot of that surplus to other countries most of the time so the economics may be different. It may also be cheaper to spill high wind energy because wind capacity is about the same ($1500-2000/kW) as many pumped hydro projects,and high wind periods only account for a small part of overall production, and only a portion of this output would be spilled.
    The cheapest storage option for US would be to get Canada to up-rate hydro capacity and transmission lines to US, to increase power swapping. Manitoba and Quebec have very large storage capacity and presently use hydro as base-load.


  220. @Chris O’Neill 25 April, 1.26pm,
    Solar(CST) has one advantage, short term(6h) thermal storage has <1% loss, and is enough to ensure solar will be able to sell most output at summer peak demand with some flexibility. Larger storage( several days) may also be economic because of the low losses. In the sunbelt, wind peak demand is much less than summer peak so low winter output less of an issue providing wind, hydro and nuclear are part of the mix.


  221. Neil Howes, on 25 April 2011 at 1:36 PM — If people are willing to sacrifice the land needed for pumped hydro then it might make sense. There are several limiting factors beyond the capital costs of any pumped hydro facility, the primary one being how the pumped hydro is to be energized. Any detailed analysis has to include the particulars of a proposed pumped hydro station included its usage patterns and energizing sources. This makes it difficult to say much in the way of generalities except that for typical usage patterns energizing via wind would not produce sufficient availability to make the pumped hydro station economic; possibly a mixture of energizing via a combination of wind and nuclear could be worked out.

    Our good neighborss to the north do not currently seem to be much interested in selling more power to the US, but I’m not current on any details. One of the serious problems becomes the cost of new transmission lines and the associated siting problems. [I previously posted a link to a Der Spiegel article suggesting just how serious that question has become in Germany.]


  222. @Neil Howes, You are displaying the sort of pie-in-the-sky thinking that truly makes the ‘Wonderland” title of this thread apt.

    The cheapest storage option for US would be to get Canada to up-rate hydro capacity and transmission lines to US, to increase power swapping. Manitoba and Quebec have very large storage capacity and presently use hydro as base-load.

    That is not a cheap option by any means, as Denmark’s experience with Norway, and California’s experience with British Columbia prove.

    There is no direct gain for any Canadian hydro producer to get involved with power swapping schemes. As a result, as the other two examples mentioned found, the hydro producer will buy power at a very discounted rate, and sell it back at a premium. Furthermore hydro is used in Quebec and B.C. both to provide peak as well as baseload, thus there is no advantage to them on that front ether.

    This is another example of trying to bend the system to take wind, without a good reason to do so, other than wind for wind’s sake.

    @David B. Benson, I don’t know where you get the idea that Canadian producers don’t want to sell more power South. Perhaps you could elaborate on this, or supply a reference.?


  223. Neil I agree that the persons/nations who actually ignite the coal or gas should incur the carbon debit. Thus if petrol is carbon taxed Australia does the taxing not Saudi Arabia or wherever the crude oil originated. However that principle doesn’t apply to drug dealing or selling alcohol to minors. The seller is presumed responsible. It seems unlikely the Chinese will apply serious domestic carbon taxes to their growing coal imports yet that CO2 comes back to us as climate change.

    However if you read the comments in The Australian piece few seem worried by climate change, more the loss of local jobs in the metals industry for example. The issue seems likely to explode in the next 12 months. Though is hard to tell in the list of businesses one or two of the top ten Australian emitters are LNG exporters. They claim if the customers don’t pay carbon tax then gas burned to run the compressors here shouldn’t be taxed either. Easily solved … make everybody pay.


  224. @ EL, on 25 April 2011 at 5:49 AM:

    404 words, full of anguished cries and opinion but no references, facts or analysis.

    In a world where some place higher value on opinion than on rigour, is there any wonder why agreement is so often lacking?

    Please, listen to the other contributors to this site and present analysis, at least the equivalent of that supporting the discussion regarding the efficiency losses which occur in conventional PP’s due to load variation when ramping up and down to match the variability of wind and, by extention and to a lesser extent, PV. I will leave Solar Thermal alone for the present, because thermal lag and possible storage will tend to result in less unfavourable outcomes.

    To pick one issue. You claim not to be in the 100% camp, but to favour 20% wind.

    How about re-working the Pair and DeGroot assumptions ( ) around that 20% figure?

    Or, perhaps, to review Peter Lang’s work regarding wind as published on this site and referred to upthread?

    I’m sure that you can understand that rebuttal of these analyses is essential to your world view, yet you have not tried to do so. How you can let these analyses stand unchallenged, yet maintain your opinion re 20% wind is simply not rational.


  225. Pingback: Anti-nuclear cartoon book, 1978 – anything changed? « BraveNewClimate

  226. @DV82XL, 25April, 3.04pm,
    I didn’t say cheap I said CHEAPEST, unless both parties make money they wouldn’t exchange power. Denmark gets low CO2 storage, Norway gets a better price by selling power when its needed. Its definitely not pie-in-the-sky to envisage more power exchange between US and Canada.The US and Canada already have a lot of power exchange because Canada’s peak demand is in winter and US in summer.
    Hydro can be used as base-load but its a lot more valuable if used for peak demand, rather than using OCGT. You don’t seem to understand it is because BC, Manitoba and Quebec use hydro as base-load that they have a great opportunity, except in run-of-river, to save hydro for a more valuable uses.
    Up-rating of turbine capacity is also being done in US so this isn’t pie-in-the-sky either.


  227. @ David Kahana:


    Did you mean to say that Canada-US transfers are an annual 51,108,502 MWh – 17,490,264 MWh, not MW as stated.

    Even then, 17 – 51 thousand GWh is a large number, equivalent to 2 to 6 MW continous, 24/7/365. That calls for a lot of copper transmission line.

    By comparison, in Australia where I come from, the largest generator is Macquarie Generation, with two black coal power stations, capacity 4.7GW and annual output 25 – 30 TWh, ie comparable in scale.


  228. @Neil Howes:

    We USians (I’m an expatriate Canadian actually)
    are net importers of Canadian electricity to the
    tune of 51,108,502 MWh – 17,490,264 MWh =
    33,618,238 MWh per year (2009). So yes, the
    interties are important. The net US import from
    Canada amounting to a bit less than 1% of US
    consumption per year. And a considerable amount
    is sent back to Canada.

    (And let’s not even discuss how much oil the US
    imports each year from Canada).

    But these interties are still not large enough
    to deal with US scale demand.

    Continent scale planning for sources like wind and
    solar would certainly be a good idea, at least in
    my view, it seems that it may very well help
    reduce the needs for storage.

    But we are going to need serious upgrades of the
    interties to handle sending excess wind, say, from
    the US up to pumped storage hydro located around
    James Bay/Hudson Bay.

    And if such is to be done then there is a need to
    look realistically at the cost of such storage,
    and long distance transmission lines.

    Canada is set up ideally for hydro: Quebec and
    Manitoba come to mind. Large populations are
    located near the southern border, while hydro
    resources can be developed well to the north,
    where nobody lives, to the extent that First
    Nations agree to that and are duly
    compensated. Transmission lines can be built
    running due south.

    Ontario, which has rather less hydro, has large
    interties with the US; to NY and Michigan. And
    Ontario, being in the mid-continental wind belt
    now has a fair amount of faceplate wind capacity
    installed (about 3.5 GW) which operates at a
    pretty good capacity factor (on the order of
    30-35% if I remember.

    But Ontario also has a large fraction of Canada’s
    CANDU reactors installed, amounting to maybe 40%
    of the generating capacity for the province, and
    it also has a very large coal plant, as well as a
    lot of NG. So a 5% level of wind penetration is
    easy to handle without adding any storage at all.

    For me, it seems that US energy policy is
    certainly not being centrally organized or
    rationally planned in any way.

    In the very long run, with US population that was
    smaller, held constant, and thus at much lower
    consumption level, it seems to me that it wouldn’t
    matter much what source we chose. Solar and wind
    and hydro alone might be made to work.

    But things have gotten wildly out of control I
    think. A bridge is needed to be made very rapidly
    to a future where humanity has a chance to get its
    impact on the environment back into some
    reasonable balance, meaning that exponential
    population growth has to be terminated. To build
    such a bridge while maintaining industrial
    civilisation, I think we’ll need to massively
    expand nuclear power.


  229. @David Kahana 25April, 6.16pm’,
    Hello David (I lived in Canada for 23 years before returning to Australia).
    “I think we will need massively expanded nuclear”
    I totally agree! The US, Canada and Australia are all major CO2 emitting countries, and a massive expansion of nuclear would make a big impact on reducing CO2 emissions. The problems I see are (i) financial risks for private capital without very high government loan guarantees (ii) capacity constrains after a long period of little building (iii) the long lead time to plan and construct new reactors.
    In the next 20 years the US is going to have trouble just replacing existing reactors as they are retired. This is not an argument not to pursue nuclear, but it is an argument to also continue to expand hydro capacity(up-rating), continue with the very rapid expansion of wind and solar for locations where it makes sense, and to try to phase out all coal-fired power and oil based land transport asap.


  230. Neil Howes, on 25 April 2011 at 1:51 PM said:
    “@Chris O’Neill 25 April, 1.26pm,
    Solar(CST) has one advantage, short term(6h) thermal storage has <1% loss, and is enough to ensure solar will be able to sell most output at summer peak demand with some flexibility. Larger storage( several days) may also be economic because of the low losses. In the sunbelt, wind peak demand is much less than summer peak so low winter output less of an issue providing wind, hydro and nuclear are part of the mix."

    Not everywhere is lucky enough to be in the sunbelt and even if they are, they would still need to set up parallel generating systems of varying relative sizes. I think I can say with reasonable certainty that wind generation will not be used to power energy intensive industries like Aluminium smelting for a long, long time. In the case of the coal-burning Aluminium smelting industry in Australia, there are only two likely choices, (1) keep it going the way it is now with negligible reduction in carbon emissions or (2) close it down. If (1) is applied generally to Australian industry then Australia's emission reductions will be small. If (2) is applied generally then it will be a political and economic disaster.


  231. The depth of the ignorance that is being shown here over Canadian hydro, the North American electric power market, and the economics of both is profound.

    To start off with, most exports of power from the US to Canada are in fact due to wheeling Canadian power through the US network back to Canadian markets.

    Secondly, there is no advantage for Canadian hydro producers to accept US wind power, except to gouge US producers, as Norway does Denmark and as BC did to California. Furthermore, for the monies involved, developing more of Canada’s hydro potential in the James Bay/Hudson’s Bay drainage, and several northern flowing rivers in the North-West, and exporting the power directly, would be far less expensive than any scheme involving wind.

    The wind supporters here are doing nothing except building dream castles on little more than wishful thinking.


  232. John Bennetts wrote:

    To pick one issue. You claim not to be in the 100% camp, but to favour 20% wind.
    How about re-working the Pair and DeGroot assumptions ( ) around that 20% figure?

    The Pair and DeGroot analysis would be fine, if they actually found data that showed cycling takes place at the levels that they project would result in diminishing returns on fuel consumption or carbon reductions. The data they do provide is for a 2% reduction in power plant efficiency (when the turning point is 2.5% as they detail). So wind, overall, seems to be contributing to lowering fuel consumption and emissions from other power plants providing reserve capacity (which is another way of saying they are displacing fossil fuels), even at the least efficient levels. While it’s something we need to definitely look at and improve (and better forecasting models, site planning, and storage requirements for higher penetrations should improve reserve capacity requirements), why would we need to rework their analysis? There are lots of studies looking at the optimal range of wind penetration given storage, reserve requirements, economics, dispersion of wind farms, load profiles, and other factors, and ultra low and ultra high penetration levels present the greatest challenges (not the 5-20% range that is the target for many countries).

    Their paper includes a lot of “speculation” about the conspiracy of silence on the issue, but their paper readily admits they haven’t proven a thing. “Does an efficiency loss of this magnitude actually occur,” they ask, “We were unable to find data on this effect,” they answer. If they have the data, they should present it in a peer reviewed publication!


  233. @EL – In the end it is still a matter of coping with wind, rather than seeing any good hard evidence that it is contributing anything of weight to the energy picture.

    Like much of the energy debate, support for, or criticisms of wind (and solar) involve the interpretation of statistics, and the fact is as much as they can be made to show anything, its on the edge. This is not good for these renewables, because to be worth the trouble, they should show large net gains, not marginal ones that depend on how you massage the numbers. If they where any good, they would be so good there would be no question.

    As for your crack up thread that pronuclear supporters don’t care about efficiency, this in not true. What we do not care for is rationing and social engineering masquerading as efficiency increases, and that is what the overwhelming bulk of demand side management schemes are. As for transmission loses, these would largely be irrelevant, if more clean small and medium scale nuclear were brought on line.


  234. @DV82XL, 25 April 10.01pm,
    Manitoba exports power through Minnesota to Chicago, not sure where you think it is “wheeling ” back to Canada? In any case, Canada is a net exporter, 30-40TWh/year, about double imports so definitely most exports are not returned to Canada as you suggest.
    I don’t think you understand that up-rating hydro is very inexpensive ($70-100/kW) compared with building new hydro capacity or nuclear($7,000/kW) or pumped hydro capacity. A profitable storage option is not price “gouging”. Canada and US will probably build more hydro and also greatly increase capacity by up-rating existing hydro.


  235. @Neil Howes, – The fact that you are using Manitoba (a hydro lightweight) as an example rather than Quebec or BC, both of which export most of their production south, demonstrates how little you know about this subject. Nor, (if you could read for comprehension) did I write that the bulk of power exported from Canada goes back, only large fraction of power listed as exported from the US to Canada is in fact is sent back to Canadian markets, basically using American transmission, where Canadian lines can’t cope.

    You also are demonstrating total ignorance of the politics involved, or the history of B.C. – CA power trading., and again the mechanics of the North American power market. And the fact that you put wheeling, a legitimate term in quotation marks, only serves to prove this.

    As for uprating hydro, you haven’t a clue how this works, or how it would apply to your scheme to trade wind for water generation, but guaranteed the wind producer would get the wet end of the stick.


  236. @David B. Benson – BC has a very active Green movement that seems to want to impose a total halt on more hydro development in that Provence. So while there are plans to develop more of the Peace River and some 29 smaller run-of-the-river projects, there is a lot of opposition to increasing hydro capacity, “… for export to service the needs of air-conditioners and swimming pools in California,” quoting the current Opposition energy critic John Horgan.

    So plans yes, action perhaps, perhaps not.


  237. @ EL, on 26 April 2011 at 1:35 AM :

    Providing a link to a listing of search results list of 2500 articles ranging from air safety to Greek Island wind/hydro pumped storage systems which start by assuming that the storages already exist is no way to address my request for actual studies to support a notional but unsupported argument put forward by E.

    I read through the first dozen summaries of EL’s search results and, while they are interesting, perhaps one only was germaine to the topic, which is, broadly:
    + Decreasing efficiency of FF power plants becomes significant as wind penetration of a FF/wind grid increases.
    + These inefficiencies are unavoidable because of the stochastic nature of wind generation, even at fine scale, thus rendering scheduling impossible.
    + The quoted study investigated these affects and published findings that the increased carbon emissions due to decreased efficiency of the conventional FF PP’s was found to equal the carbon benefits from wind generation at penetrations as low as 2 or 2.5 percent.
    + The paper recommended that additional study be undertaken.

    My review of the summaries of the first 12 papers indicates:
    + Only one appears to address the key point, which is that the carbon cost of decreasing efficiency of backup FF plant should be considered when assessing carbon savings due to wind at increasing penetration. This paper would cost $39.95. I have not ordered it.
    + One paper was about wind shear in air flight. Irrelevant.
    + At least three papers assume the availability of existing storage ponds which could be interconnected to provide pumped storage.
    + At least 5 papers discuss the need for pumped storage.

    And so it goes.

    So, when I asked EL to support his contention by reference to actual studies; or to undertake such a study on a system of his choice, I was indicating a means whereby his hypothesis could be tested.

    That EL has not provided anything along these lines suggests to me that the point made in the Dutch study is valid and that wind penetrations in excess of 2% soon result in increased carbon emissions which outweigh the notional avoided CO2 due to the wind generation.

    References presented on this thread thus far include:
    + DeCardis and Keith;
    + Peter Lang;
    + LePair and DeGroot;
    + Hawkins and the model for efficiency penalty.

    These studies provide some support for the central hypothesis.

    EL has provided nothing in response beyond bluster and unsybstantiated opinion.

    I will soon post on this thread my thoughts regarding a mechanism whereby the costs of the semi-random up-and-down nature of wind generation can be determined in the marketplace and assigned where they belong, by being offset against wind power income. Since money is what this is all about, not efficiency, it will be money which will ultimately determine the outcome.


  238. Note to EL:

    This site has posting rules.

    Please do not post links to articles which you have not read and understood. Links to a list of search results do not comply.

    In future, please target your links to specific articles and say what it is that the linked article brings of value to the discussion. My foregoing post demonstrates the futility of posting a link to a list of paywalled articles.


  239. Prof. Garnaut has said renewables subsidies should cease the day carbon tax begins. That’s not how others see it. In this interview with the Origin Energy CEO it is clearly assumed (half way down the transcript) both regimes will apply for some years. That means wind and commercial solar get three bites at the cherry
    1) carbon tax to handicap coal and gas
    2) a 20% quota, seemingly out of reach
    3) a per Mwh subsidy, recently worth $33

    Like I say we are adopting the Qatari-German model.
    Qatar- flog irreplaceable hydrocarbon resources asap
    Germany – pay huge amounts of money for small amounts of energy.


  240. @David B. Benson – B.C. has always been the Land of Fruits and Nuts, for Canada, but changing demographics there may give the old hippy class a shock as they start to flex their political muscles.


  241. I asked the following yesterday at 7.03 am:

    @ Environmentalist and sod: A question for you both.

    What do you consider to be the most important objective for environmental action, and which should take priority? Action to shut down nuclear power generation, or action to counter AGW by reducing greenhouse gas emissions and other measures?

    A fairly straightforward question, I would have thought. Why has there been no attempt to answer it?


  242. I’ve demonstrated (to my satisfaction at least) that with cyclable NPPs (and something for minor adjustments for changes in net loads) about 10% of the annual power can be generated by 32% wind and if no extra transmission has to be built, this saves ~1.2 UScents/kWh.

    However, this requires extra capital expenditures for the wind generators; fully extra as the NPPs have to be built anyway, just operated slightly differently. If there is an ample supply of capital then the LCOE values show the (small) saving possible. If the supply of capital is constrained, what is the best course of action? In thinking about this, note that (despite claims and pretenses othrwise) the electric utilities must be regulated so the decision becomes one (in princple) for each entire societial unit.


  243. John Bennetts, on 26 April 2011 at 10:20 AM — BPA acts as balancing agent for wind power operators. For this regulatory service they are currently charged US$0.68 per MW per month. BPA finds that suffices to cover all costs associated with balancing the variable nature of wind power.


  244. Given that in the fullness of time all natural fossil fuels will either be completely depleted or phased out of use by legislative decree, then at some point in the future all metallurgical manufacturing, all chemical manufacturing and processing industries, all transport systems and everything else will have to be run off non-fossil fuel electrical and/or thermal power. Most of these processes will be more efficient if run around the clock, and will include the 90% or so of energy applications not currently powered from the electricity grid. This indicates that baseload applications will be a far larger component of the future power grid than at present, and the diurnal fluctuations in residential and commercial use will become at most a few percent of overall constant demand. Shouldn’t a small portion of nuclear plants dedicated to assisting legacy hydro with load balancing be sufficient?


  245. DV82XL wrote:

    This is not good for these renewables, because to be worth the trouble, they should show large net gains, not marginal ones that depend on how you massage the numbers. If they where any good, they would be so good there would be no question.

    Every little bit counts in my book. If it reduces our dependence on non-renewable fuels, cuts down on carbon emissions, and delivers on costs … what argument is left to say it shouldn’t be added to the mix?

    Private investors seem to like it too … and it’s the fastest growing sector in the energy market across the board. So it appears to be a winner on financing, quick deployment, and stimulating the economy too. Not bad for a technology that has “marginal” advantages and is “not worth the trouble.” And no, it’s not subsidies that are driving this, but a predictable (markets love certainty) and relatively quick return on investment.

    John Bennetts wrote:

    That EL has not provided anything along these lines suggests to me that the point made in the Dutch study is valid and that wind penetrations in excess of 2% soon result in increased carbon emissions which outweigh the notional avoided CO2 due to the wind generation.

    Mellow out John (my name is “Ed” by the way) … you seem to have gotten the gist of the links. Most of the papers target a range above 20% where we can talk about the challenges of integrating wind, and what is required from a technical standpoint to make this happen. Most of the stuff below that is not worth worrying about, and is really no different than providing for regular every day variability (such as we find in managing peak demand cycles on a daily or seasonal basis, when power plants are taken off line for maintenance, drought years where hydro is a factor, other supply interruptions, etc.). Variability is not a foreign concept to grid operators (it’s actually a central characteristic of our energy system), and 24 hour forecasts for wind are pretty reliable (as has been indicated in the comments to this thread). I think we can make our grid infrastructure stronger, and even further minimize these challenges. And in the process, lower costs for consumers, and improve conditions for other clean energy resources as well (such as nuclear). I’m interested in a win win solution for the greatest number of people … few barriers to access, lower costs, more choices, greater sustainability, fewer environmental impacts … will you join me?


  246. Of course, one implication of my 11.40 am post is that prognostications based on the supposed decline of the importance of baseload power to the future grid are completely wrong, and that energy systems of the future will move in the opposite direction to that claimed by the ‘baseload is dead, smart-grid will solve all’ faction.


  247. @ EL:

    Every little bit counts in my book. If it reduces our dependence on non-renewable fuels, cuts down on carbon emissions, and delivers on costs …

    The whole point of the post you quoted from is that there is very little evidence that any of those alleged benefits are in fact taking place.


  248. @EL – Subsidies are driving wind investments, and even most of its supporters admit that, asserting otherwise marks you as a fool. Nor can it be shown to reduce carbon except by some rather marginal statistics that, at the very least, are subject to some interpretation. It doesn’t help the energy situation simply because it is more trouble than it is worth.

    David B. Benson illustrated the situation up thread when he wrote:

    However, this requires extra capital expenditures for the wind generators; fully extra as the NPPs have to be built anyway, just operated slightly differently.

    In the end it is wind for wind’s sake, not because it is advantageous to do so. This is where all of you have gotten to: desperate to salvage something out of your misdirected support for wind, you are left to beg for scraps at the table. The second that natural gas stops lobbying for subsidies, this farce comes to an end. Look at how fast T. Pickens dropped his grandiose wind plans when the tax situation changed.

    Wind is not part of the solution – it’s part of the problem.


  249. @ David B. Benson, on 26 April 2011 at 11:28 AM:

    David states that BPA are the balancing agent for wind power in his area. There are clearly limits.

    I referred to one several days ago (#154, 2:09 23 April, 2011). BPA’s indicated that wind penetration above 10% results in stability problems.

    The second issue is the adequacy of the quoted price of $US0.68/MW/month. This is a measure of maximum instantaneous wind power and in no way relates to the number or the slopes of the many fluctuations up and down which wind power introduces into the system.

    This might cover BPA’s costs over the long run, subject to market rules and conditions about which I know nothing. On the face of it, however, increasing wind penetration will, through the instability effects, increase this cost to BPA.

    A third issue, unmentioned by David Benson and irrelevant to the $0.68 cent figure, is the increasingly deleterious effect of wind penetration on FF efficiency. While ever FF, in the form of steam turbine, OCGT, CCGT or whatever, is within the system, then as has been demonstrated capably above by DeGroot and others, there are costs to the FF generators which are attributable to wind and for which, in a perfect market, they would be able to obtain compensation via a market price mechanism.

    I envisage that, in addition to prices which currently are bid into my local Australian market, additional rates for ramping up and down and at what rate this happens, should be allowed. That ramp rates have been and will remain contentious, see, for example, The link is to an AER (Formerly NEMMCO) draft paper aimed at forcing steeper ramp rates and hence flexibility into the marketplace. This flexibility costs the generators money and costs the environment additional CO2 and will not just disappear due to the regulator charging a nominal $0.68 per MW wind capacity.

    With the proposed Australian CO2 tax the cost of these inefficiencies will be that much higher. Does David expect the FF generators to carry happily this cost which is entirely due to their competitors’ operations? For ever? Does he expect that the regulators and legislators and environmentalists will not see this inequity and track it back to its source?

    The wind power industry must eventually be held properly to account for the cost to their competitors and to the regulator and for the environmental consequences which are part and parcel of their technology? Especially so, when wind penetration is higher than a nominal amount.

    I suspect that the $0.68 is adequate for BPA’s backup hydro or OCGT and that it goes nowhere towards those two other issues – other O&M costs for other generators and increased CO2 output. Nothing that David has contributed addresses these two issues.


  250. John Bennetts, thanks for running with this issue of the lost emissions abatement of wind upon grid integration. I think this is really important.

    Since the issue has come up, I contacted Peter Lang last night. He let me know of an active study on this issue by an academic economist, a work in progress which is being referred to as “Bentek II”. (The work on Texas and Colorado I cited above is the “Bentek” study.) Others are also looking at the Irish grid, a good case study of an isolated grid with wind integration. So we will slowly start to get some clarity on this.

    He also made another remark that caught me like a fishhook in the eye: Australia does not measure CO2 emissions from our power plants.

    We calculate them by applying emissions intensities dictated by the Department of Climate Change and Energy Efficiency. These are quite different from the ones that ACIL Tasman built up over a long time from actual power stations. But none of them are much use because they are averages and do not provide information on the changing heat rate as the fossil fuel plants cycle.

    So we have no way of probing this question in Australia from official data. Peter was also of the view that the DCCEE emissions intensities are unreliable and probably chosen to suit what they want or have to report internationally.

    I find this completely shocking. If we don’t have validated data we’re blind. For comparison, this is what the US EPA requires for power plant emissions reporting: direct measurements from the smokestacks.

    ECMPS Reporting Instructions – Emissions

    Click to access ECMPSEMRI2009Q2.pdf

    Plain English Guide to the Part 75 Rule (Emissions Monitoring)

    Click to access plain_english_guide_par75_final_rule.pdf


  251. @ John Morgan:

    I believe that Australian, or at least, NSW, stack emissions are measured and reported as conditions of plant licences to the EPA which is now a branch within the NSW Office of Environment and Heritage. If I remember correctly, both the licence and the annual compliance reports for each site holding a licence to pollute are available to the public on line.

    I am not across EPA licencing matters this in detail, however fuel consumption, CO2, SOx, NOx, opacity and perhaps much more are included in respect of the stacks for each site. It should be possible to correlate this data with energy sent out and reported fuel usage and efficiencies, in order to build a complete picture, site by site, of CO2-e emissions.

    There may need to be fiddles regarding oil or gas support during startup, usage of supplementary fuels such as recycled oil where these are consumed and, perhaps, an estimate of methane and/or CO2 released from coal stockpiles due to in-situ oxidation and degradation, however I have no doubt that, at least within NSW, adequate information will be available to an experienced and persistent researcher.

    Surely, your advisor was pulling your leg… at least, I hope so.

    Regarding academic economists, I believe that the wind issue which we have kicked around here for a couple of days lends itself to careful analysis from an economic perspective, in part because I am convinced that a functioning market mechanism by which the real costs of reduced fossil fuel efficiency due to the operational imperatives of wind power on the same network (to the extent that they are commercially significant) is the best way to find a real world solution to this issue.

    Without a such a market response, the practical details really don’t matter, because wind isn’t paying and FF don’t care. The situation will continue unaddressed, whether large or small.

    I am an engineer, not an economist, but I would certainly like to read an economist’s analysis.


  252. OOPS!

    I just looked at the NSW EPA licence for one of the Hunter Valley power stations – black coal – and could find no limits or requirement to measure emissions of carbon oxides via the chimney stacks. I was unable to access the latest annual report, although the site states that this is possible.

    It is possible to calculate the CO2 emissions reasonably accurately from coal usage and quality figures. I have not tried to locate actual as-fired quality data. Quite possibly, when I eventually locate a copy of the annual return to the EPA I will find that it does not include the necessary detail.

    The fish hook is still in the metaphorical eye.


  253. John Bennetts, I just worked out how to pull the license for Bayswater Power Station from your link, and found it just as you say – no CO2 data. The data reported appears to be only for those pollutants on which a polluting fee is levied, to wit:

    Benzopyrene (equivalent) (Air) 0.39 kg $41.35
    Coarse Particulates (Air) 29,958.00 kg $1,981.72
    Fine Particulates (Air) 1,562,035.00 kg $1,030,702.67
    Fluoride (Air) 128,008.00 kg $39,516.07
    Nitrogen Oxides (Air) 38,857,322.00 kg $2,570,411.85
    Salt (Enclosed Waters) 1,400,142.00 kg $84,632.93
    Selenium (Enclosed Waters) 22.85 kg $839.74
    Sulfur Oxides (Air) 81,190,837.00 kg $656,833.87

    If there is accurate data on coal consumed you could get emissions from mass balance. But you’d need to know the carbon content of the coal which I guess must vary, and assume complete combustion. Better to measure it at the stack. If we’re not doing this, and applying average emissions intensities in the calculation of emissions, I’m flabbergasted. And again, you can’t measure the impact of wind integration on generator efficiency.


  254. DV82XL, on 25 April 2011 at 10:01 PM said:

    To start off with, most exports of power
    from the US to Canada are in fact due to wheeling
    Canadian power through the US network back to Canadian

    DV82XL: can you, please, substantiate this claim?

    If it is so, then the accounting of exports by the EIA
    is clearly ridiculous, and one would certainly tend to
    doubt their accounting of imports, as well.

    What number, exactly, do you have in mind, when you say
    most US exports are actually wheeling
    arrangements from Canada back to Canada?

    To the extent that most of the power, listed as US
    exports is actually Canadian power wheeled through US
    distribution networks and sent back to Canada, as you
    claim, this would of course tend to imply that US
    imports from Canada are larger than they appear, unless
    a similarly large proportion of US power is wheeled
    through what I think you described as inadequate
    Canadian provincial interconnects and then comes right
    back to the US.

    Living in the Northeast, and paying Long Island rates
    (22c/kWh) for electricity I’m certainly not unaware of
    a major multi-terminal HVDC (+-) 450kV transmission
    line completed in the 1990s, that runs from
    Hydro-Quebec all the way down to the Boston area, and
    that that line is capable of supporting 2000MW
    transfers, and I certainly believe that there are in
    fact major net imports along that line from Canada to
    the US – they are quite minor of course in comparison
    to US consumption – but they are pretty significant for
    New England, where we have a shortage of generating

    The EIA annual reports are based on the monthly filings
    of Form OE-781-R, for which the required respondents

    Holders of Export Authorizations and
    Presidential Permits issued pursuant to 10 CFR section
    205.300 and 10 CFR 205.320 must file the Form OE-781R
    monthly. Other respondents are entities engaged in
    international commerce, classified under the following
    NERC functional categories: Transmission Operator
    (TOP), Purchasing and Selling Entity (PSE), and
    Transmission Owners (TO).

    Quoting further from the form these entities:

    …are required to report monthly the flows
    of electric energy received or delivered, the costs and
    revenues associated with those transactions, related
    ancillary services, the characteristics of transmission
    operations, and the current and proposed capacities of
    cross-border lines.

    From such numbers, it would seem to me to be easy
    enough to work out what the net cross-border flow is,
    assuming that it has been correctly reported and there
    are no major unreported cross-border links. Wheeling
    arrangements from Canada back to Canada should cancel
    out in the net flows of US exporters, at least up to
    transmission line losses I should think.

    Are you saying there is leakage in the system? That
    power goes through cross-border lines that are too
    small to report?

    Or, are you saying that there is lying going on?


  255. @ DV82XL, 26 April 8.15am,
    your statement:
    “…..rather than Quebec or BC both of which export most of their production south demonstrates how little you know about this subject”
    is wrong and indicates you have not checked your facts. A quick check on google gives Quebec domestic consumption of 165-170TWh and total exports to US and other Canadian Provence’s 23TWh. Quebec exports to US could not exceed 12% of its production, this is a lot less than “most”.
    BChydro’s 2010 annual report states income from sales in BC($3,102M), other Canadian Provences($171M) and US($549M).
    Seems unlikely that BC “exports most of its production” especially if they are “gouging” US customers.
    I don’t claim to be as knowledgeable about BC and Quebec hydro as I am about Manitoba hydro, but clearly I am better informed than your are or more careful on facts.


  256. DV82XL 26th April 12.41:

    I hope that your statement that “subsidies are driving wind investments”- one with which I am in full agreement – is not to be taken as an attack on energy subsidies per se.

    New energy infrastructure (except gas) generally has high up front costs such that it can’t compete with legacy investments. In the UK, given liberalisation of energy markets and governments’ failure to lead, this means that no significant energy infrastructure investments have been made and what we have left is becoming obsolete. I would contend that no new significant energy sources will be built by the free market unless the government either subsidises, gives loan guarantees, guarantees a market for the product, legislates against competitors or nationalises.

    Thus, it would be unfair to criticise subsidies for wind and solar if one were genuinely to believe that they would make a significant, economically sensible contribution to a clean energy future. I think we both agree with many others here that they can’t unless very cheap electrical storage becomes feasible.

    I am not attempting to disagree with you. I am trying to make the point that you won’t even get nuclear investment in a liberalised energy market without very plain government encouragement, direction or subsidy.


  257. @David Kahana – The canada-to-Canada wheeling issue was covered in NEW ELECTRICITY: GENERATION, PRICING, WHEELING & REGULATION by Drinkwater, Case Western Reserve University School of Law
    Canada-United States Law Journal. I am looking for a public copy of this paper to post a link.

    As I understand, this mostly happens in the links between Ontario and Michigan, and there may well be times there that US power is re-exported back to the US on Canadian lines.

    Frankly I do not know how the reporting works in these cases.


  258. @Douglas Wise – The issue of subsidies in general as a policy tool is, far too complex to be accepted or rejected on purely ideological grounds. They are right or wrong depending on the outcome they are trying to achive


  259. Ah, Douglas and Cyril R, you have, perhaps inadvertently, stumbled upon one of of society’s great truths.

    Full supply of demand is not a natural outcome of commercially competitive systems where profit is the motivator. In fact, it is decidely not so, because that last part of demand is, as if by definition, at the cost/benefit nadir where its satisfaction is commercially worthless, but perhaps may still be socially desirable.

    One needs to consider what type of society one wishes for.

    Socialised systems, those which place a value on non-monetary outcomes, are the only ones which will ever fully satisfy personal and private demands. They are thus, by definition, open to being criticised as being unprofitable, at least at the boundaries.

    On this tapestry must then be painted the image of subsidy “for the public good” and further subsidy “to win elections” and more still, on the dark side, which amount to graft and corruption – G&C.

    So, Cyril R, when at 7:37pm this evening, you said “subsidies aren’t a bad thing, the bad thing is subsidizing marginal technologies such as wind and solar”, you introduced a personal value judgement into the discussion.

    Cyril R, we now know, is not in favour of subsidies for wind and solar. He goes so far as to accuse these technologies, somewhat perjoratively, of being marginal technologies.

    Well, Cyril R, I might even agree with you on this one, but certainly not as to how you state your case.

    I agree that subsidising desirable outcomes – those outcomes which serve a social purpose – is worthy, and that solar and wind do not always achieve those outcomes.

    Subsidy of technologies, marginal or otherwise, is not necessarily good at all, but may be justified in order to meet other wants and needs of our societies. Subsidy is certainly justified, to a point, for research, investigation, education, trials and so forth, as also for socially desirable outcomes related to the greater good of mankind or even that part of mankind which pays the bill. For example, peace, security, improved health, safety, self-actualisation (following your dreams), building social capital (making beneficial friendships), environmental improvement, species diversity, preservation of habitat for future generations, recording and preservation of history, education, culture, ethics training, and a whole lot more.

    What I object to is subsidy from the public purse so that snake oil salesmen can further their interests at the expense of the public purse.

    Barry has created, financed and supported this web site so that we, its users, may benefit through building knowledge of the climate and energy options which face us.

    Speaking only for myself, I believe that openness and honesty are essential so that we can better understand those climate and energy issues which we face.

    Certain contributors to this site appear to be closed to new ideas, perhas even to be commercially bound to specific notions. I do not intend to be rude or aggressive towards these people, but the question, when it arises, must be answered.

    That question is: “Do you have a commercial interest in what you are saying?”

    If the answer is in the affirmative, I suggest that that specific contributor take a deep breath, consider carefully, and then decide (please!) to put aside those affiliations and to contibute in a fully open way so that, together, we may discover the truth.

    In closing, I mentioned two contributors a little way back. I am not suggesting that they are commercially conflicted or into G&C. I will say that it is important to me that knowledge, for knowledge’s sake, is very high on my list of priorities.

    Re “Enviromentalist”, I return to my unanswered question of 22 April, at 9:18 pm, which is “You don’t sell domestic rooftop solar panels, by any chance?” An affirmative response would go some way towards explaining the logical disparities between this person’s views and my own.


  260. John Bennets, before we can talk politics, such as “who pays” or “how do we pay for it” we must take a look at the science and engineering, to determine whether its a good idea in the first place to pay. Solar and wind don’t make sense from a science and enginering viewpoint, so we need not discuss further about political questions of “who pays” or “how do we stimulate these technologies”.

    The scientific conclusion that should be apparent from this thread and this site as well as many of the links given, is that wind and solar are marginal technologies and therefore a giant waste of time and money. Every dollar spent in wind and solar is a dollar not spent in real non-marginal solutions such as nuclear power.


  261. For the record, I am not closing my mind to new ideas; indeed none of the ideas put forward in this thread are particularly new to me in the first place.

    I’m just very keen on numbers and doing the calculations using real world data. Once you do that you get a good discussion and a good conclusion.

    I very much recommend David Mackay’s “sustainable energy – without the hot air” to learn how to avoid energy debates in wonderland.


  262. @Neil Howes – Yes, I misses putting the word ‘surplus’ in there, as in, “…..rather than Quebec or BC both of which export most of their surplusproduction south…” However I hope you also notice that the very numbers you quote put the last nails in the idea that Canadian hydro can balance American wind to any significant extent, as that power is already spoken for.

    You really should check out some of the issues that CA had with BC during the former’s electricity problems a few years ago. The local media in California was quite apoplectic about BC Hydro buying off-peak surplus from CA at below market price, and selling it back at a premium on-peak.


  263. I’ve found a reference which talks a bit about the poor capacity factor performance of wind in Europe:

    Click to access Capacity_factor%5B1%5D.pdf

    There’s considerable variation between regions in Germany, 13-21 percent capacity factor typically.

    This is one of the downsides of subsidizing too much per kWh: ‘easy’ locations close to the grid but with poor wind resources are chosen along with some better but less accessible sites.


  264. DV82XL wrote

    @EL – Subsidies are driving wind investments, and even most of its supporters admit that, asserting otherwise marks you as a fool. Nor can it be shown to reduce carbon except by some rather marginal statistics that, at the very least, are subject to some interpretation.

    DV82XL … if you have evidence for this, besides ad hominem attacks (or qualitative judgements about my character), please produce it. The enthusiast article provided by John Bennetts and posted on a personal web site (Pair and De Groot) is bogus (and I already pointed out its “self-professed” irrelevance). UK Energy Research Center looked into these questions in their report: “The Costs and Impacts of Intermittancy” (2006), and found the efficiency penalty from operating spinning reserves is negligible. At levels below 20% for wind (or similar intermittent source), “There is no evidence to suggest that efficiency is reduced to such a degree as to significantly undermine fuel and carbon dioxide emissions savings” (p. 41). I haven’t seen a single study that suggests wind is not an energy resource and doesn’t displace conventional generation, and thus provide benefits in fuel reduction, costs, and emissions (even ancillary services) that makes it a worthwhile addition to the mix, and a flexible option for utility planners. The subsidy argument is definitely a “rabbit hole of wonderment,” and I’m not sure you actually want to go there (as a proponent of nuclear, gas, coal, whatever source you suggest). Ultimately, it’s the marketplace that will decide, and wind appears to be doing quite well (and even in a budget constrained environment as we have today).


  265. @EL – As I wrote up thread, proof that the system can cope with a small amount of wind, simply doesn’t justify it, when nuclear energy can provide a better solution. There have been references for and against wind posted on this thread already, and again, as I already wrote, the gains (if any) for intermittent sources are at best marginal and as such represent a dead end.

    That you do not want to accept the influence of subsidies on wind indicates to me that you are so out of touch with this subject that further meaningful discourse with you is impossible.


  266. Cyril R. wrote:

    I’ve found a reference which talks a bit about the poor capacity factor performance of wind in Europe:

    Excellent article. Perhaps this is a good reason why we need to consider other variables besides gross totals. I haven’t found any discussion of this article in the literature, other than Boccard quoting his own work, and a study in Turkey (which reports on a capacity factor of 30-45% between 1998 and 2008). How do they account for the discrepancy: “This difference is a result of higher average wind speeds and low utilization ratio of suitable and viable sites for wind energy generation in Turkey” (p. 2575). And in fact, this is consistent with the conclusions that Boccard draws from his findings. The lower gross totals (for Europe as a whole) shouldn’t change the dynamic for developers (“This is without much consequence for wind farm developers as their careful studies enable them to anticipate the CF of their projects with great precision and carry on only if the NPV is positive,” p. 2686). Rather, he’s mostly interested in the macroeconomic picture, and impacts on policy and rising public costs of subsidies. As governments dive deeper into wind, they will likely be exposing themselves to additional costs (and his paper is a shot across the bow warning of this). He also suggests with gas and coal prices anticipate to rise, it’s difficult to arrive a firm conclusions about these “additional” costs. “The fact that WPG happens to be less efficient than previously thought is no reason for society to withdraw its support since WPG remains the unique RES able to expand on a large scale at a reasonable cost to meet committed RES targets (and carbon emission reduction),” p. 2686.


  267. DV82XL wrote:

    That you do not want to accept the influence of subsidies on wind indicates to me that you are so out of touch with this subject that further meaningful discourse with you is impossible.

    DV82XL … why don’t you focus on making the best possible case for your argument (which you are doing quite well), and try and minimize all of the efforts at “personalizing” the topic and equating disagreement with ignorance. If the argument has substantive merit and is worthy of extended scientific debate and disagreement (in the peer reviewed literature), it’s certainly worthy of being debated here on the merits (and looking at from multiple vantage points and interests). It’s really rather unpleasant always being the focus of personal attacks every time you run out of substantive arguments to make on behalf of your argument.


  268. EL:

    Ultimately, it’s the marketplace that will decide, and wind appears to be doing quite well

    Lot’s of subsidized things do quite well so no surprise here. I’ll start believing wind energy is any real use if someone decides to smelt Aluminium with it or some other serious use.


  269. The marketplace will decide to build solar and wind if they get cheaper, and then the marketplace will decide that burning natural gas indefinately is the best alternative for the other 70% of our power needs.

    This is the big risk for wind and solar – that they effectively lock-jam us into fossil fuels.

    Wind and solar junkies require natural gas heroine injections on regular basis.


  270. @DV82XL

    The canada-to-Canada wheeling
    issue was covered in NEW ELECTRICITY: GENERATION,
    PRICING, WHEELING & REGULATION by Drinkwater, Case Western Reserve University School of Law
    Canada-United States Law Journal. I am looking for a
    public copy of this paper to post a link.

    Thanks for that, DV82XL: I’ll look for it, too.

    I had thought that the situation generally was that
    Canada has a large excess generating capacity in some
    provinces, and sells power to certain US states in the
    upper midwest and northeast at times of peak demand,
    while there are some small return flows off-peak. In
    Saskatchewan and Alberta there are net imports.

    BC is a complicated situation, I think, as you’ve
    alluded to, due to the Columbia river treaty, which
    grants an entitlement to Canada to some of the power
    generated on the Columbia on the US side.

    Most of this power is generated in the US and it has
    always been sold on the US market, by Powerex, a wholly
    owned subsidiary of BC Hydro. The money is returned to
    the province. However, there’s no cross-border
    transmission line for that, and I don’t think one has
    been constructed which could send that power back to
    BC. So I don’t believe that that fraction of the power
    would be counted as an export to the US.

    I suppose one could argue that the net imports to BC,
    which are surprisingly large, given that the province
    does have major hydro resources, could be overstating
    the situation.

    BC electric rates are among the lowest in Canada. But
    they can and probably should expand production, I think.


  271. @David Kahana – Yes it’s not all cut and dry in the power market between the two countries particularly in the NPCC, and WSCC interconnects which are transborder.

    To tell the truth, you have raised a number of pertinent questions in this matter that I have not given much attention to. I have never looked in depth at how imports/exports are calculated, and what is or is not considered, but I am going to now.



  272. John Bennetts, on 26 April 2011 at 2:09 PM — BPA balances wind also entirely via hydro operation adjustments. It appears to be quite rare to call on the natgas units for this purpose. However, PacificCorp acts as balancing agent for another ~700 MW nameplate of wind and this is primarily balance4d via netgas units. I don’t know anything about how the pricing works since PacificCorp is a private, for profit company and so only some western grid regualtory agency has access to that confidential information.

    I agree that the wind operators have to appropriately compensate the balancing authority, which in turn passes appropriate sums to whatever generation operators that the balancing authority does not own.

    Quite recenly an operator with a substanial portion of that ~3.3 MW nameplate wind which BPA balances has chosen to give up that and use PacificCorp as balancing authority, hence now being backed by mostly natgas, but also some coal and a bit of non-BPA hydro. The reason given was that BPA has informed the wind operators that they will no longer be permitted to generate during high flow periods (after the crazy experiences of last June).


  273. The BC statistics are probably skewed because of changes in ownership and usage accounting of the hydro power plants at Kitimat and Trail (890 and 450 MW). In the past, when metal prices were low, the Al and Zn/Pb smelting companies (Rio Tinto/Alcan and Teck/Cominco) that own the hydro plants have curtailed or shut down metal production in favor of selling the power to California. These sales may or may not show in the statistics because they are owned by the smelting companies, not BC Hydro

    Zinc production consumes ~4000 kwh per tonne and Al about 13,000 kwh/tonne. At the Trail smelter the load is >200 MW and Kitimat will be about 800 MW when the modernization is complete. The statistics may be further muddied by the sale of 1/3 of the Trail power plant to BC Hydro in 2007.


  274. @ David Benson:

    I am entirely in favour of private, off-market balancing of wind. That ensures that the risks, advantages and penalties are covered.

    CO2 reporting is not a problem either, because the private participants have essentially agreed to operate as a block.

    My issue is when these balancing acts take place on the wider market, thus forcing non-wind units to ramp up or down with inadequate compensation and, as was apparently BPA’s experience last year, where high flows have been lost due to market shennanigans.

    BPA are clearly not as sanguine about wind, especially high penetration wind, as some would have us believe. They are also not just passive about market outcomes, but are addressing shortcomings in their market.

    As studies such as that by DeCardis and Keith cited above emerge, I am sure that market managers will find ways to assign costs to those who are responsible for them. What we, the public, need to do is to be vigilant and consistent in demanding that subsidies, where they must exist for political purposes, are fully understood and precisely targetted. If a subsidy of wind is intended to achieve a CO2 reduction as a public good, then that is exactly what it must achieve, or be withdrawn.

    Ditto, relative advantages such as legislative barriers to entry of, say, nuclear power, but that is getting away from the current topic.


  275. Summarizing my present understanding of wind power suppliments to a power grid.

    Hydro+wind: mostly pointless unless the wind makes possible substantial additional water storage in reservoirs. [Not the case for the BPA situation as all the storage reservoirs taken together can store only but about 1/3rd of average yearly flows.] Does nothing additional towards CO2 abatement.

    NPPs+wind: possibly slightly lower average cost of electricity, but each separate situation has to be checked. Does nothing additional towards CO2 abatement.

    Natgas+wind: contributes towards CO2 abatement as compared to natgas alone.

    Coal+wind: probably contributes towards CO2 abatement compared to coal alone.

    However the last two alternatives merely put off the conversion to NPPs.


  276. DV82XL, on 27 April 2011 at 11:53 AM — If 32% wind is backed by CCGTs then close to 30% of the CO2 is abated. The schemes like that around here that I know about are 2 [to become 3], each of about 700–900 MW nameplate wind. At 32% that is 224–228 MW average that the natgas doesn’t produce.

    Unfortunately there do not appear to be any suitably small NPPs okayed by the US NRC to consider as alternatives to such pairings of wind with natgas.

    PacficCorp, not having much of its own generation in an area with rapidly growing population to serve, has been an enthusiastic proponent of wind power. The 3 projects I mentioned all have PacificCorp as balancing agent and all use existing fossil fuel burners.


  277. If 32% wind is backed by CCGTs then close to 30% of the CO2 is abated.

    It is my understanding that CCGT cannot be used to back wind as it cannot be ramped up and down quickly enough. That is why OCGT is used to back wind. Is my understanding wrong?


  278. Finrod, on 27 April 2011 at 12:25 PM — It works here in the Pacific Northwest. The total demand to be met by the fossil fuel units is

    demand = load – wind

    The variability in the actual load is much greater than in the wind and so the fossil fuel operations are “up a little, down a little” at typically 5 minute intervals; CCGTs are designed to do this. The additional short time interval variability caused by wind gusting is only a minor fluctuation compared to load variability, which can be quite considerable. For example, watching the BPA display the other day, about 500 MW of local load dropped out for about 20 minutes and then came back up again. Somehow the balancing authority has to already be able to maintain grid stability against such events.

    Probably the biggest problem with existing wind turbines is that the unit goes instantly from full generation to none in overwind conditions. That overwind gust doesn’t take long to sweep over an entire wind farm and so the balancing authority has to be able to take up the unmet load via some rolling reserves. [The newest wind turbines have adjustable pitch impellors so some of the wind can be spilled. This means the units can continue to generate at full power during despite there being too much wind.]

    Even before wind came along the load was sufficiently variable that OCGTs, rarely used, could handle the last bit of peak conditions. Those units are still in use and possibly the introduction of wind means a slightly increased use of OCGT.


  279. This whole discussion is becoming circular as we go over the same points over and over.

    @David B. Benson –“If 32% wind is backed by CCGTs then close to 30% of the CO2 is abated. “

    Compared to what? Running gas flat out OCGT, as if this were the only option? 40 percent of the U.S. undeveloped hydroelectric potential is contained in Oregon and Washington alone, why piddle about with wind?

    Again from what has been written up thread – you can make wind look marginally good, if you carefully select assumptions. This doesn’t make it truly viable.


  280. Finrod, I interpret DBB’s answer as a qualified “yes”.
    When OCGT’s are needed to “handle the last bit of peak conditions” the CO2 abatement due to wind is so close to zero as to be not worth counting.

    Again we see that meaningless equation. It conveys zero meaning.

    The test for wind should be the same as the test for SPV: compete without any subsidies and special market conditions or give the game away. The tax man has enough mouths to feed already.

    As the author of the lead article pointed out, effective capacity is what matters, and the jury is still out on the question of whether, at the end of the day, wind actually adds any capacity to a system which must be prepared to use other resources to back up 100% of the installed wind.

    When all of the slithering and wiggling has been extracted from the arguments, is wind able to pay its way? I very much doubt it.

    Certainly, when I considered wind on my farm, I discussed it with a neighbour who had taken the leap. His first sentence indicated that without government assistance he would not have bothered. So, that which looks like a wind turbine is actually a tax dodge for a retired millionaire engineer, a gentleman farmer.

    Wake me up when it is over.


  281. It seems to me that BNC discussion of options would be more productive if there was agreement on the range of real-world LCOE.

    Is there any consensus here on how to estimate levelized costs for say 2016? M. Nicholson et al. is great for the baseload options (and is especially useful as a reference for the with- and without-CCS cases). But all this discussion of wind seems to be unanchored without agreement on at least the bounds of LCOE by region (say the OECD region definitions for N. America, Europe, Asia Pacific).


  282. @EL, on 27 April 2011 at 12:36 AM, referenced the UK Energy Research Center report: “The Costs and Impacts of Intermittancy”. I’ve found that paper very interesting – though I don’t know the subject well enough to assess the accuracy of the conclusions. The authors do seem to be trying to surround the real costs – if there is an agenda it is well-hidden.

    Any comments on this study?


  283. Steve Darden, not a bad study. I disagree with the whole premise though – the objective should not be to look at the cost of 20% wind integration, as most studies do including EL’s referenced study, but it should be how do we rid ourselves of dangerous polluting CO2 spewing fossil fuels ASAP.

    What is dangerous about the 20% wind integration idea is: what about the other 80%? If that has to be largely flexible fossil fuel, you’re climbing down a hole you’re highly likely to never get out of. The climate scientists say we need to cut CO2 emissions to a few billion tonnes per year, from today’s thirty billion tonnes and growing.

    There is a serious lack of urgency about the energy debates. People don’t seem to get a grip on the scale of the problem: rapidly growing energy needs around the world, marginal technologies to fix big and increasingly bigger problems of fossil fuel death toll, CO2 emissions and energy dependancy.

    We should be very angry at our public, our media, our utilities and our government’s for the total failure in energy transition. In stead people cheer whenever they see a few solar panels being installed.

    The disconnection with reality could not be more stark.


  284. @Cyril R., on 27 April 2011 at 5:21 PM

    it should be how do we rid ourselves of dangerous polluting CO2 spewing fossil fuels ASAP

    Exactly, well written comments. I don’t care if the policy is some mix not including nuclear, but it does have to be scaleable, “Cheaper than coal” with LCA carbon intensity similar to nuclear. See upthread “Why will China buy your plan?” Natural gas is only relevant if fully CCS (of which I am skeptical – CCS that is). The energy schemes that matter are those that will be adopted “with both feet” by China while scaling fast enough to replace coal and gas by 2060.

    Wind and solar thermal are distractions, though I grant that each can be economic in special local situations. Though once mass manufactured small modular reactors reach scale, those special situations will probably have to be smaller than 10 MWe.

    There is a serious lack of urgency about the energy debates…. We should be very angry at our public, our media, our utilities and our government’s for the total failure in energy transition.

    So how do we create the urgency? it’s obvious to anyone who works through implementation scenarios. But politicians are not engineers, and their focus is largely re-election. I don’t think selling politicians is going to work.

    Selling the public directly, bypassing media elites might work. Examples: Gores “Inconvenient Truth”. Recently, “Waiting for Superman”. Both are examples of skillful story-telling that resonated with the public and the media elites. That is what we need. And I don’t mind if Al Gore gets the credit.

    Personally I think BNC-er’s will benefit from reading Roger Pielke’s Climate Fix, Gwyn Prins et al Kyoto Wrong Trousers: Radically Rethinking Climate Policy and succeeding, including the Hartwell Paper. And keep in mind Roger’s “Iron Law” which reminds us that we will surely fail by insisting that people simply must sacrifice and use less energy.


  285. Steve Darden’s link is, indeed, interesting and Cyril R’s response strikes me as being particularly apt.

    Currently, electrical energy is used to provide roughly 20% of total energy needs and much discussion on costs appears to be framed on the basis that this will remain the case. Clearly, however, if we are to reduce emissions by 80%, electricity production as a percentage of total energy production will need to increase very substantially. In fact, Finrod recently made this very point, but it led to little further debate on the blog. I think this is a pity as I would like to hear the views of those with more knowledge than I of the likely economic implications of greater reliance being placed upon electricity. In the hope of stimulating such discussion, I will make a few statements or pose questions below and invite others to address them:

    1) For every unit of energy produced as electricity, thermal generators typically produce two to three units of heat energy which is generally wasted. To what productive use could this heat be put in the future?
    a) low grade heat in district heating, desalination, other? If for district heating, proximity to population centres presumably important. Costs of retrofitting? Would smaller plants near population be more economic than remote larger ones even if their electricity was more expensive, given the usable heat?
    b) high grade heat for industrial process heat – depends on generation type and proximity to power plant? Should industries requiring high grade heat be encouraged to site themselves in close proximity to generating plants?

    2) To what extent should choice of generation method be based on comparion of LCOEs? Clearly, such a comparison is a good starting point. However, in calculating LCOE, the assumption is made that electricity will be being produced at full capacity, but we know that this is not so except for baseload. How can we increase baseload as a proportion of total energy used as we simultaneously increase electricity production and how can we smooth out residual peak requirements by changing the way industry operates? What energy intensive processes can operate with economic efficiency when not operating 24/7? Are there any that can operate in such manner with intermittent energy as supplied, for example, by stranded wind? For example, to what extent do ammonia and liquid fuel production fit the need? Wouldn’t they be more profitable with 24/7 production – presumably this would be dependent on electricity prices during peak and offpeak times?

    Sorry if this is messy. Thinking aloud, hoping for mind clearing responses.


  286. @ Steve Darden, on 27 April 2011 at 4:15 PM and EL:

    Both referenced “The Costs and Impacts of Intermittancy”. This is over 100 pages long and was written in 2006, thus is now a little dated.

    EL claims that the report finds that “At levels below 20% for wind (or similar intermittent source), “There is no evidence to suggest that efficiency is reduced to such a degree as to significantly undermine fuel and carbon dioxide emissions savings” (p. 41).

    EL, this quote is incomplete and continues on P42:
    “…The studies present efficiency losses ranging between a negligible level and 7% (as a percentage of theoretical maximum fuel savings). EL is thus shown to be presenting a partial truth obtained only via selective quotation. I had decided not to directly address his personal and unsupported attempts to disparage my own name and contribution, but my errors, where present, are not the result of deliberate
    misquotes from cited articles. This type of behaviour is sub-par and is the hallmark of a scallywag.

    From the Exec Summary and thumbing through the remainder, my comments are, with reference to the numbered paragraphs in the ES:

    7. “Efficiency may be reduced” due to wind up to 20%. I saw no attempt to allocate costs to the efficiency reduction due to inefficient operation of conventional generation (see my immediate prior paragraph), however they do try to quantify the costs of system balancing and of reliability to accommodate wind.

    8. Stated that there is no change to reliability at penetrations of up to 20% wind, but see also 23 below for costs.

    11. System balancing costs are estimated to be 2 to 3 pounds sterling per MWH at 2006, ie very approx $4 to $6 Aust in 2011.

    18. The Capacity Credit effect is stated to be 20 to 30% at up to 20% wind penetration. This compares satisfactorily with comparable studies I have read.

    23. The costs attributable to achieving reliability at up to 20% wind penetration are estimated at 3 to 5 pounds per MWh, ie $6 to $10 Australian, 2011, per MWh.

    Total for system balancing plus reliability = AU$10 to $16 per MWh, 2011. This is huge, given the annual average wholesale cost of power via the NEM is close to $50/MWh.

    27. The authors quote an additional cost per kWh for all users due to wind of between 1 and 1.5 pence. This comparison is unfair, because it attempts to spread the 5 to 8 pounds per MWh amongst all users, whereas this cost is attributable solely to the presence of intermittent wind power on the system. Assuming 20% wind, then the penalty which should be applied to the income of wind generators is, as stated above, 5 to 8 pounds/MWh, or 0.5 to 0.8 pence per kWh. Their logic escapes me.

    My estimate from the foregoing is that the wind generators should be penalised 1.0 to 1.6 cents (Australia, 2011) per kWh, which should certainly not be passed on to the retail customers.

    Note that elsewhere, it has been stated (David B. Benson, on 26 April 2011 at 11:28 AM) that BPA charges 68 cents/MW (MWh?) for system balancing and that at least one wind generator has decided to obtain balancing services off market and thus limit its costs and force its way onto the grid during surplus hydro availability in springtime. [David, please correct me if I am incorrect here – I have tried to put several postings together to make sense.]

    XX. The Executive Summary does not mention the content which has been quoted above from Pp. 41-42. This indicates that the section quoted by EL, even in its entirety, is not a major finding of this report. I believe that it may have been included as a bit of an afterthought – it certainly does not appear to be presented with the rigour of the other content.

    Conclusion: This is quite probably a handy paper, which I will better digest during the coming days. It does not address some of the matters raised by le Pair and de Groot cited upthread. It certainly does not conclusively deal with all aspects of the equitable allocation of costs and CO2 emissions between individual players in the British grid due to the presence of wind and other intermittent power generation.

    Lastly, I must recap regarding the outlandish behaviour of contributor “EL”. It is one thing to be mistaken; wholly another to deliberately mislead by selective misquotation. Worse still it is to engage, online or otherwise, in actionable and objectionable behaviour on a personal level, as happened at 12:36 today. I do not appreciate such behaviour, especially from a serial offender who hides behind a pseudonym.

    Besides which, my life’s experience has been that those who stoop so low do not do their cause much good.


  287. There is an excellent French web site that has been mentioned in these pages before that shows the instantaneous mix of electrical generation in the French grid, along with demand and CO2 emissions. I just went looking for it and found it had moved – it is now at

    As I write, nuclear has 74% share of generation, and hydro 11%. Wind is 3%, gas is 5%, coal 1%. This is what a (virtually) decarbonised grid looks like.

    The cool thing is, they have now rolled all of this data into a very polished iPhone application, “RTE-eCO2mix”. There is a demo and link to the iTunes store here:

    So now I can have all the French grid instantaneous generation, load and emissions charts with me on the go!


  288. John Bennetts wrote:

    EL, this quote is incomplete and continues on P42:
“…The studies present efficiency losses ranging between a negligible level and 7% (as a percentage of theoretical maximum fuel savings). EL is thus shown to be presenting a partial truth obtained only via selective quotation. I had decided not to directly address his personal and unsupported attempts to disparage my own name and contribution, but my errors, where present, are not the result of deliberate misquotes from cited articles. This type of behaviour is sub-par and is the hallmark of a scalawag.

    Where is the moderator on stuff like this! Commenting guidelines read: “play the ball and not the person. Rudness will not be tolerated. This includes speculation about motives or what ‘sort of person’ someone is. Civility, gentle humor and staying on topic are superior debating tools … appropriate and interesting citations and links within comments are welcomed [with proper contextualization].”

    I have made no attempts to disparage the name of John Bennetts, and I have misquoted no sources. The claim that the study reports negligible reductions in fuel savings and carbon reductions from spinning reserve efficiency is indeed found in the report, and is sound. Executive Summary lays the groundwork for this: detailing benefits of renewables in offsetting fossil fuels, how output and intermittence may “affect the operation and economics of electricity networks,” and the aim of study “to understand and quantify these impacts,” p. iii). Your argument about costs is a separate argument (worth having), but is a different argument from fuel savings and emissions losses from efficiency. I’ll ask everyone in this thread to read a bit more carefully, and not jump to such quick and “extra-curricular” assumptions when trying to discredit a substantive and source based argument of an opponent. There are plenty of legitimate grounds for an informed and rational debate on these questions without adding personal attacks into the mix (which I, and I would hope many others, prefer not to read and see clutter up an otherwise informative and interesting thread).


  289. On the theme of energy debates in wonderland, Nuclear Debate on Earth Frontiers just aired on CNN… featuring Caldicott promoting her book, the energy solution she commissioned and, inevitably, the Yablokov report and KiKK… also Paul Gilding and his new book “Great Disruption” (it seems is a now-reformed anti-nuclear activist although he found difficulty disagreeing with his compatriot Caldicott)… and Nick Robins (HSBC) keeping all options open and finally, Malcolm Grimston from Chatham House looking very peeved at Caldicott claims and especially dismayed when she said ” I am a medical doctor, you know”

    Of course, it was hardly what one would call substantive except in bits… especially when Grimston rebutted the KiKK study and Caldicott just said, I don’t believe that”. Just thought you all may need some light relief…


  290. David Benson:

    Hydro+wind: mostly pointless unless the wind makes possible substantial additional water storage in reservoirs.

    How do you reach that conclusion? I would have thought this situation was the best possible for wind because the rest of the system is easily turned on and off, has low capacity cost and is renewable. For an example of hydro+wind look at Tasmania.


  291. Chris wind/hydro offsetting appears to be behind a new 220kv transmission line in Tasmania.
    The idea seems to be if wind farms are producing a lot of power then hydro is throttled back and vice versa. Perhaps this is like an audio mixing desk whereby the guitar sound is reduced to let the singer shine through.

    Apparently however this creates instability in demand for coal fired power via the Basslink HVDC cable. A super drought could worsen the ability of hydro to balance wind. The more immediate question is will major wind projects still go ahead if RECs finish on 1/7/12 ?


  292. @EL:

    There is little point in arguing with one who will not listen, however I will offer only one clarification.

    EL quoted part of a sentence, omitting the colon and the continuation over the page, which completed the sentence.

    I provided the back end of the same sentence, which indicates that the partial quote is not the real message.

    Draw your own conclusions, including by referring to Pages 41 and 42 of the article in question.

    “He who has only one eye will not perceive the depth of that which is before him.” (J. Bennetts, today.)


  293. I’m from Indiana and hydro resources are few and far between here. We have a major wind initiative in this state as what was 10 years ago miles and miles of farmland along highways is now miles and miles of windmills and farms.

    Our only option is to use gas(and coal) as a backup. Lets say we cut out coal and go to a 30%wind, 70% gas market. Emissions will be down about 60% from a 70% coal, 25% gas market.

    This seems nice and all except that there is still 40% of the co2 emissions around. If our economy grows it is only a matter of time before the real value in tons of co2 passes 1990 levels, again.

    A 2% growth in electricity usage would get c02 levels in tons/year in 25 or 30 years back levels which peopled are demanding not be passed to prevent temperature rises.

    Yeah 50% cut in emissions for gas over coal sound good and all. Until you build twice as many gas plants as coal plants. Then your back where you started.

    Wind/gas can work to replace coal (is its better than just using gas alone? is debatable as this thread points out) This solution only works for OECD countries with flat growth projections.

    Wind/solar are great for very poor countries as they don’t require grid access. Those first few kw can go a long way when you have none (like pumping well water, charging laptops, running a small stove and powering cell towers)

    For emerging economies where growth is huge their only option is NP and hydro. If they add gas/wind they will add so much co2 from the gas it will destroy any savings OECD make cutting their coal.


  294. John Bennetts, on 27 April 2011 at 9:07 PM — BPA charges wind operators for balancing services, billing every month, whether the wind turbines generate or not, 68 UScents per MW of installed capacity. The large wind operator which recently switched balancing authority from BPA to PacificCorp did so because they want to be able to generate even when BPA is giving away power to everybody in the region and over the four interties to locations as far away as Denver. The wind operator can earn a little income in such periods by paying customers up to about US$25/MWh and collect their generation incentive paymnent from the government. [I don’t approve, but there you are.]

    Chris O’Neill, on 28 April 2011 at 7:56 AM — Wind certainly has high cost than legacy hydro. So the only advantage is if wind generation enables the hydro operator to keep significantly more water in storage resevoirs rather than running through the turbines. For some hydro operators this might make good sense, reducing the risk of running out of water in years of low flow. It is pointless for BPA’s operations, even in years of below average flow because compared to the minimum stream flow requirements and other operating constraints due to migratory fish management the rivers cannot be managed that way.

    DV82XL — There is no political possibility of further large hydro in Washington and Oregon; all the land and waterways are bespoke.


  295. Hot rocks, peak oil and the nuclear question on ABC Catalyst tonight 8pm EST.

    The PM has just told the Chinese they can have all the cheap LNG they want, the assumption seems to be more LNG means less coal. I would have said they can have whatever Australian fossil fuels they want provided the resulting CO2 declines year by year.


  296. @John Newlands, 28April 10.40am,
    Thanks for that reference about additional Bass-link. This seems a sensible use of TAS HYDRO’s large hydro capacity, whether balancing coal-fried or wind or future nuclear.
    I don’t understand your statement about a possible super drought? Presently has to be used for TAS demand( in excess of 500MW), adding wind in TAS or using wind on mainland is going to allow less hydro use during peak demand, or when excess wind power is available. TAS has 16,000GWh potential storage ( 2years electricity consumption), that leaves a lot of hydro for balancing low wind periods( at max of 2.2GW), and the possibility of saving most local hydro consumption.


  297. @Steve Darden, 27April 7.23pm,
    I wonder if you are aware of the situation in China: your statement:-
    “The energy scheme that matter are those that are adopted by China with “both feet” and are scalable to replace coal and natural gas by 2060.”
    Lets see in the last 10years, China has added about 4GW of nuclear capacity (say 3.7GWav), it has added about 100GW hydro capacity( 37 GW av at 0.37 capacity factor) and 42GW wind( 10-13GW av). But 18GW(5GW av) of wind was added in 2010, so actually added more wind last year than last 10 years nuclear and added about X10 more hydro than nuclear.
    If China has only two adoption feet, “both” are in the renewable energy sphere.
    In reality a lot more nuclear will come on line in next 10 years(25GW) an important contribution, but we should also expect another 100GW hydro capacity and at least another 200GW wind capacity( possibly more), so nuclear will continue to be the “third leg” for a while. An then there is solar, small but growing very rapidly.


  298. Neil that last reference was to an AC land cable being built. Helicopters drop linesmen on the pylons it looks terrifying. On a second underwater HVDC cable I don’t know where they’ll get the money. The existing cable was sold to a Singapore investor for $1.2 bn and a second higher capacity cable must cost a lot more. It makes me think mainland cliff top tanks filled with seawater could be cheaper for pumped storage. I have noted recently some hydro storage levels go up and down like a yo yo therefore something is happening.

    I now pose 2 questions re the carbon tax intro
    1) will the zinc and aluminium smelters fail if imported brown coal power doubles in price?
    [(1.3 X $25) vs $30/Mwh previously]
    2) will proposed new wind farms (eg Musselroe, Cattle Hill) be mothballed if RECs are scrapped?


  299. I think I am going to leave this thread to Wonderland’s indigenous, those that are living in some dream-world of their own making, where the engineering happens at the wave of a hand, and the laws of physics can be repealed when found inconvenient.

    Wind and solar will live or die on availably of subsidies, and the lobbying efforts of natural gas, not on anything decided here, thus I am not going to waste time debating the fantasies of the wind and solar supporters on this thread. Our opinions just don’t count.


  300. @John Newlands, 28 April 2.30pm,
    Lets assume a 1,000MW HVDC cable costs 2Billion, so for 3.2 Billion we have access to 2,200MW hydro balancing with 16,000GWh storage potential. With a modest additional cost existing, dams could be up-rated, to cover TAS peak demand, so 1600MW could be exported or 1000MW-1600MW imported(TAS demand). These costs are similar to pumped storage ($1000/kW capacity) but at the very low end for storage costs($0.2/kWh; this seems ridiculously low!), but losses would be much lower than the 20% for pumped hydro.
    If wind is built in TAS it wouldn’t need to use Bass-link so could have up to 1,000MW capacity serving TAS demand, saving about one third TAS consumption of hydro.


  301. Neil Howes, if the 2nd Baslink cable is con structed, my money would be on:

    1). The hydro owners to make money (cf Norway making heaps off Denmark),

    2). Intermittent renewables on the mainland to survive only because of inequitable subsidies to support their operation,

    3). Politicians of all stripes to stand tall and spruik about the CO2 being avoided in order to justify post-hoc their decisions to put my money and yours into renewables,

    4). Singapore Government, through its Temasek sovereign fund manager, to laugh all the way to the bank as its Australian subsidiary makes profits from all sides by wheeling HVDC across Bass Straight.

    Two questions for those people who have open minds:

    1). Temasek Hldings is worth about $200M, belongs entirely to the Singapore Government and owns quite a few large infrastructure projects within Australia. Question: Why and how did Singapore build such a strong investment in their tiny nation’s future?

    2). The Australian Government owns virtually nothing to which a price tag could be affixed and is criticised from all sides whenever infrastructure expendirure is proposed. In my mind, this precludes public ownership of that kind of infrastructure which provides public good and/or is an investment in the nature’s future. Even the so-called Future Fund was not intended to provide for the future benefit of Australians as a whole, but only for superannuation reserves for military and federal public servants. Question 2: Where will the capital for Australia’s future energy infrastructure needs come from? Choose A, B or C. A: Public subsidy of private expenditure, in like manner to REC’s, FiT’s and so forth for renewables? B: Direct public investment? C: None of the above (includes none at all)?

    There is an old line which goes “If you fail to plan, you plan to fail.”

    Question 4. Who is doing the energy planning for our collective futures?


  302. “Why Germany’s Offshore Wind Parks Have Stalled,1518,759208,00.html
    The last paragraph on the second page is worthy of attention regarding estimation of winds over a long period.”

    this article has multiple problems and is simply plain out wrong on at least one aspect.

    for a start, while Der Spiegel is considered to be a left leaning paper (and at least was this some years ago), it has produced extremely sceptic articles about climate change and alternative power for a couple of years now.

    that there is little wind power produced in the southern states has a completely different reason than given in the article: both southern countries have been run by conservative parties for over 50 years. CDU and CSU have simply blocked development of wind energy there, because they support nuclear energy.

    this is also the reason, why the big German energy companies have not moved fast on off shore wind: the prospect of longer running times of nuclear energy, as granted by chancellor Merkel last year made off-shore wind simply unnecessary.

    so the fact is: nuclear energy has blocked wind power development in Germany.


  303. Interesting questions being raised. China Light and Power say they will invest in renewables with only carbon tax (2-3c per kwh penalty to black coal) but Origin Energy say they need both c.t. and RECs worth another 3-5c.

    Rather than use most of the billions in carbon tax revenue to compensate the power guzzlers like aluminium perhaps more money could be spent on helpful infrastructure. That could include new transmission, dam uprates (not the Franklin) and pumped storage. Like the Snowy Mountains Authority it would be federally owned. Cash handouts to big energy consumers will mostly be frittered away. Kick the tin along with a lazy $20 bn from cutting the NBN in half.


  304. the prospect of longer running times of nuclear energy, as granted by chancellor Merkel last year made off-shore wind simply unnecessary.

    What are you talking about, sod? Germany still derives ~ 55 % of its electricity from fossil fuels. Unnecessary?!

    It’s amazing, you honestly sound more concerned about nuclear than coal.


  305. sod, on 28 April 2011 at 5:31 PM — I only recommended the DerSpiegel article for its last paragraph. Estimating the statistics of future wind ordinarily assumes these statistics reemain stationary (a technical term) so that the future is statistically identical to the past (which has been measured). However, it appears that this may not be correct over the design lifetime of an off-shore wind farm. This might well make a difference between financial success and failure.


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