The following is a response from Peter Lang to various comments made in the post “Does wind power reduce carbon emissions?”
Energy storage, at the scale required to make wind power a reliable source of dispatchable power, is uneconomic. This link provides comparative costs of energy storage technologies.
Even without energy storage wind generation is uneconomic. Wind must be mandated by governments and subsidised, otherwise it would not be built. Wind power is high cost for low value energy. It has low value because it cannot be controlled and called up on demand. It requires high cost upgrading to the grid in remote areas and requires costly systems to maintain power and frequency stability on the grid. Wind generators need $90/MWh to $140/MWh to be viable. As well, the electricity distributors and the national grid operator all incur substantial additional costs as a result of being forced (by government regulation) to buy wind energy. For comparison, the cost of new entrant baseload power is about $40/MWh.
Barry Brook will soon be posting another paper which provides insight into the amount of energy storage that would be required and just how far from being economic are intermittent, not dispatchable renewable energy generation technologies with energy storage. These technologies are not just 10% or 20%, or even 50% from being economic. Solar PV with energy storage, for example, would be some 20 times more costly than nuclear power to provide the electricity we demand. We have been researching and developing solar PV for the same time as nuclear power, and wind power for three times as long. Yet these renewables are still totally uneconomic. The advocates are making the same sorts of statements now as they were making in the early 1990s about the economics of these generation systems – “they are economic now if the government would just subsidise them and mandate them more”.
Regarding plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEV’s), there are many technical and cost issues to be solved before these become economic and widely used. However, together with substantial nuclear power generation, some energy storage with PHEV’s may make sense in the future. With some 80% of electricity generated by nuclear (as in France), and the remainder from gas and renewables (mainly hydro), then PHEV’s may make sense. They could allow wind and solar to make a genuine, economic contribution to electricity generation.
The fallacy of Dr Mark Diesendorf’s “The Baseload Fallacy”
Dr Mark Diesendorf claims that “the wind is always blowing somewhere”, so, with sufficiently wide spread wind farms, wind power is dependable. Figure 1 demonstrates that this claim is wrong. Figure 1 shows the total output for wind farms in NSW, Victoria, Tasmania and South Australia for June 2009. The conclusion: wind power is unreliable, not dispatchable, and often zero when needed, no matter how large the area over which the wind farms are distributed.