Captive Clients Determine the Success of Energy Initiatives

Guest post by Tom Fuller

Something went terribly wrong with wind power. Preached to us all as a solution to climate change, it fell apart in one year. Some have blamed it all on the recession, ignoring the fact that other renewable energy sources and energy efficiency strategies have continued to grow.

I say it’s the business model. Wind power companies sell either to utilities or governments. There is insufficient pressure on them to lower costs–and indeed, during wind power’s moment of glory last year, prices went up 9%. Wind power companies are almost all divisions of large conglomerates, such as GE, or energy distributors such as utilties themselves. Wind power for some providers seems like a vanity entry into a PR sweepstakes–but there is no scope for reducing margins or searching frantically for innovative cost reductions.

And so their moment has passed, maybe permanently. While wind power tried to dictate terms to their captive clients (too often successfully), the cost of solar power and natural gas continued to fall, to the point where nobody could make a straight-faced case for wind as a competitive technology, and certainly not the offshore wind farms that are the new rage. Rage as in what customers will feel when they see their bills…

It hasn’t helped that the inefficiency of wind’s performance has been gleefully highlighted by those opposed to its expansion. If a turbine says it will give you 1 MW of electricity, you can only count on about a quarter of that being delivered. Maintenance issues are real, as are complaints about noise and bird kills. And they do take up a lot of space.

Contrast that with solar power companies. There are a lot more manufacturers, and they are increasing capacity continuously. Each new generation of fab provides 20% performance gains, and the next generation of wafers is longer, wider, thinner and less likely to break. Innovations for their balance of system peripherals come from a variety of outside companies in their supply chain, and the inexorable march to grid parity is nearing its goal.

They both get the same level of subsidies, which amount to a pittance overall. So what’s the difference?

Solar sells to consumers, too. Residential, small business, offices and plants. Solar scales down as well as up. And their customers are you and me–cranky and demanding if things don’t work, unwilling to sign long term contracts, wanting to see bottom line improvements rather than brochures showing acres of installations.

So solar will win. Not because they’re nicer guys, but because their industry is more fragmented and they have more demanding customers.

Which, I believe, is the way the system is supposed to work.

So, although government is not good at picking winners, it can identify losers, and should do so forthwith. Wind power sales have fallen through the floor this year, but the DOE should be making pretty stern announcements about price performance failures in the wind industry, and pointing out the advantages of alternatives to alternative power–not just solar.

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158 thoughts on “Captive Clients Determine the Success of Energy Initiatives

  1. Lomborg has just been pretty scathing about Denmark’s experience with windmills:

    “Denmark itself has also already tried being a green-energy innovator; it led the world in embracing wind power. The results are hardly inspiring. Denmark’s wind industry is almost completely dependent on taxpayer subsidies, and Danes pay the highest electricity rates of any industrialised nation. Several studies suggest that claims that one-fifth of Denmark’s electricity demand is met by wind are an exaggeration, in part because much of the power is produced when there is no demand and must be sold to other countries.”

  2. “So solar will win. Not because they’re nicer guys, but because their industry is more fragmented and they have more demanding customers.”

    Chinese solar is doing fine.
    The U.S. is having trouble competing.

    http://tinyurl.com/3ywcd39

  3. Bjorn Lomborg on solar today:

    Being a pioneer is hardly a guarantee of riches. Germany led the world in putting up solar panels, funded by E47 billion ($66bn) in subsidies. The lasting legacy is a massive bill and lots of inefficient solar technology sitting on rooftops throughout a cloudy country, delivering a trivial 0.1 per cent of its total energy supply.

    That’s a lot of loot for 0.1%, presumably there’re better ways to implement solar than this.

    In practice also the cost of photovoltaic solar is the cost of big batteries, which do not easily reduce in price with R&D advances. In fact the sheer amount of material required for massive increases in battery capacity would increase the cost due to resource supply and demand.

  4. “Solar sells to consumers, too. Residential, small business, offices and plants. Solar scales down as well as up. And their customers are you and me–cranky and demanding if things don’t work, unwilling to sign long term contracts, wanting to see bottom line improvements rather than brochures showing acres of installations.”

    This is a good point. The ability to scale down as well as up is a massive advantage over wind. Indeed, I think solar struggles to scale up (certainly there are a few large solar farms, but not as many as wind). However, the ability to scale down to the actual consumer level is a huge difference. I see a dozen solar installations on roofs in my neighborhood, but no windmills. To be sure, there are rebates and tax credits and forced offsetting by the utility, etc., but without the scalability, none of these single-family sized installations would exist.

    Solar also has the ability to scale even smaller: think of the cells you can buy now to charge your laptop or your phone or the ever ubiquitous solar calculator that has been around for years. There need to be some more significant efficiency gains in the industry, to be sure, but at least solar has a huge advantage over wind in terms of scalability, potential uses and markets. We’ll see where it shakes out, but I’m optimistic about solar.

  5. Thomas, it’s nearly time to go get your own blog. Some of your stuff here is interesting, occasionally even insightful, but then stuff like this comes up. It is, very simply, ignorant.

    it fell apart in one year

    The wind business is doing fine, thanks. We are still turning away business designing turbines because we can’t find enough engineers.

    If a turbine says it will give you 1 MW of electricity, you can only count on about a quarter of that being delivered.

    You get what it says on the can – a turbine rated at 1MW at 10.5 m/s wind speed (or thereabouts – specific turbines vary, but usually somewhere here). If you can’t see the relationship between how hard the wind is blowing and how much power you get…

    nobody could make a straight-faced case for wind as a competitive technology, and certainly not the offshore wind farms that are the new rage.

    And yet, somehow, people keep building them. In some places they have subsidies, in some places they don’t. It is not well known, but one of the places with the fastest rate of turbine construction is China. And if it ain’t cheap, it doesn’t happen there.

    Wind power companies sell either to utilities or governments.

    Partly true. Wind power companies sell to whoever is buying – just not many people have the space (or capital) to put one up. There are people trying to sell small ones to small customers – but they, I will readily agree, are a scam and little more. They don’t work.

    There is insufficient pressure on them to lower costs

    Utter, ignorant, rubbish. Ten years ago, there were about thirty turbine manufacturers in the world. Today there are around seventy in China. You think that’s not pressure to lower costs?

    Ten years ago, the absolute biggest turbine available was 1.5MW and most were 750kW and worked on the stall-regulated scheme. Today we are building 5-6MW machines using pitch regulation. There are good reasons for this difference (I can explain the control problems if people are really interested) – you can’t make a 6MW stall-regulated machine because it will fall over. And, guess what? As the machines get bigger, the costs per MW decrease. Significantly. This is known as innovation driving costs down. The fact that it seems not to be innovation in the direction you’d like to see (smaller, cheaper-per-unit turbines) is irrelevant.

    So solar will win.

    Maybe. Or maybe until the sun goes down. Then you need to have something else. I’m not arguing that solar is irrelevant, just that your view of wind is ignorant (and seems particularly US-centric) and that a mix of renewables seems to be the way forward.

  6. The major problem with solar is that it works ok where you have a space like a roof that is exposed to the sun and can be covered. But imagine you were to convert every single household to pure solar in California. That would account for about 8% of California’s energy consumption. In order to get any meaningful percentage, say 20% or more, you will need to plaster large areas of land with solar panels.

    Placing a solar panel over hundreds or thousands of acres of land changes the climate between that panel and the surface. The surface of the soil is deprived of a lot of sunlight. The plants growing there are going to change and so will the wildlife. It might no longer be suitable for the native species. This is particularly true when those panels have to be cleaned to remove the dust, dirt, bird droppings, etc. that will naturally accumulate on them. That will take a good deal of water. That water is going to go into the soil again possibly changing the nature of what grows around those solar panels.

    The bottom line is that solar is great for some applications but it can not compete with hydroelectric, for example. How much desert would one need to utterly destroy to power Las Vegas 24x7x365 and replace Hoover Dam?

    People have little sense of scale and often don’t think about things beyond their own personal energy use. A single electric arc steel mill can require over 400MW of power. You would need to plaster the entire country with panels and there would be no room to grow food.

  7. Well, it looks like Google is finding religion and T. Boone Pickens is looking for love in some other place.

    http://www.tickerspy.com/newswire/?p=3360 says in part:

    Maryland-based Trans-Elect has proposed a massive underwater transmission line that could be the backbone for future wind farms…. According to coverage by The New York Times, Google and renewable energy investment firm Good Energies have each agreed to take a 37.5% stake in the project, which is expected to cost $5 billion.

    Earlier this year, we saw Texas oil billionaire T. Boone Pickens de-emphasize the wind portion of his Pickens’ Plan to rid the U.S. from dependence on Middle Eastern oil. The plan, which initially allotted for the country’s largest wind farm on the Texas panhandle, hit headwinds when a lack of transmission infrastructure was available to bring energy from the remote turbines to population centers where it is most needed. So Pickens slashed his order for General Electric (GE) wind turbines by more than half, and has shifted the focus of his lobbying efforts to natural gas.

  8. One thing that I think we miss in rating alt-energy is that solar and wind both have proven impractical in large, centralized plants and “farms”, but still useful when distributed among the power customers. Here in Southern Cal, we have a number of wind turbine “farms” and various kinds of solar electricity generation plants as well. They tend to require subsidies just to pay back the cost of building them.

    If my need for solar / wind is simply to reduce my draw from the big, centralized utility, then efficiency levels that are not acceptable in centralized plants may be acceptable to me. My capital outlay will be many orders of magnitude smaller, and I may not be concerned with recapturing the investment.

    It seems to me that the future of alternative energy is in the individual home and business, not in centralized generation facilities. Big utilities (and big government) don’t like that concept, because ultimately, it could reduce the need for their existence.

  9. Yeah solar is good, but it must face north. I had some stupid installer not put it on the north face and I made them come back and fix it, the Kw output doubled!

  10. We have a few windmills here in New Zealand.

    They are very noisy. I don’t think the birds like them either.

  11. There was a recent study of the power generation for the state of Colorado, which include the intergration of wind farms into their electricity grid system.
    The report’s findings were not favourable at all for wind farms, which found that their part on the grid sytem caused more green house gasses to be generated by their coal fired power stations. This was found to be due to the cyclying of the coal fired systems due to the irratic nature of the wind.
    It is called the Bentek report and well worth a look at if you are at al interested in the intergration of wind farms onto a national electricty grid.

  12. I read in the past couple of weeks that all of the wind and solar generation combined today is equal to the power generation of Dayton, Ohio. So if you combined it all, you could power one small city in the US.

    I could power a city the size of San Francisco (uses a peak of 900MW on the hottest day of the year) on a single AP1000 nuclear plant that takes up a relatively little space. By recycling the fuel, I could operate it for decades on one fuel load.

    There is your “alternative” energy. No copper mines required, not smelters, no dead birds. Wind and solar are actually pretty dirty sources of power when you look at everything that goes into producing them.

  13. The other issue that is not mentioned here is storage. Solar panels only work when the sun shines and windmills only work when the wind is blowing. I want my electrical power at 7 pm when the sun has set and the wind may not be blowing. Batteries can be used on small scale solar systems and the molten salt for solar thermal generation can be stored. What does a battery pack for a 1 MW windmill look like? How much does it cost? How long will it last?
    Also, it is perfectly OK to burn fossil fuels for electrical power generation. CO2 does not cause climate change.

  14. “If a turbine says it will give you 1 MW of electricity, you can only count on about a quarter of that being delivered.”
    If a wind turbine says it will give you 1MW, it will, but only with enough wind, typical values for nominal power are around 10-12m/s wind speed.
    Wind power obtained by a rotor or Radius R comes from the formula:
    P=1/2*Cp*Dens*(pi*R²)*v³
    It depends on Cp with a theretical maximun value of 16/27 according to Betz’ Law , which value basically depends on the blade shape.
    But power output mainly depends on wind speed(v), If there is no wind then there is no power, that’s for sure, also If there is too much wind no power either (because there could be very high loads for which the wind turbine) but very few hours are WT’s are down because of high wind speed.
    Good sites yield a mean annual wind speed around 7m/s, with that mean wind speed you have plenty of hours at nominal power.
    Also uptime hours or availability is normally guaranteed by contract usually for 95% or more.

  15. My personal cue that photovoltaic panels are not quite ready for prime time is the complete lack of retail stores and malls here in Southern California with installations at all, let alone installations that might impact the cost of lighting and cooling a major retailer. I figure that if it were cost effective, then Walmart would already be doing it. If Walmart were doing it, they would be bragging about it at every opportunity….

    If they were going to be cost effective anywhere, the Southwest US is a good candidate. Lots of sunny days, lots of fair weather, and lots of rooftops that cover air-conditioned spaces that could use a little reduction in the cost of the peak price of electricity at the meter.

    Since the peak load is still broad daylight, you don’t even need batteries to save money here.

  16. Photo voltaic requires sun. Windmills require more than a breeze. Both require large land areas per MW compared to hydro/coal/gas/nuclear which themselves operate 24/7. They are not alternative forms of energy on a national scale and will never be more than supplemental because there always has to be back-up generation on-line for times of low & high wind speeds and no sun. All European solar/wind installations connected to grids have been government subsidised for installation and again for their outputs. No European conventional power stations have or can be decommissioned because ‘alternative’ energy is sufficient in their stead. If you have 20mins to spare, watch http://www.europesillwind.org/films/europes-ill-wind-2.html
    after 1min 30secs for real experiences with ‘mills.

  17. Let’s face it. Wind-power had been over-sold, over-hyped, and over-priced since the global warming fraud took off. The impracticality of littering entire landscapes and seascapes with these inefficient bird-shredders has been overtaken by a religious incantation citing “energy security”, “low carbon”, “natural power”, and a lot more. The upshot of all this has nothing to do with reliably supplying electricity but rather acting as a totem, a symbol, an icon, and a statement about how “green” are the politicians and activists who inflicted all this on the public in the name of “saving the planet”. We are now in the bind that for any politician to decry the wind-farms and list their limitations is to recant one’s belief in the whole global warming carbon-dioxide-is-evil religion, and admit you were stupid enough to be taken in by the scam in the first place.

    Wind-farms are massively uneconomic, but their numbers will increase for no other reason than to save politicians’ faces. After all, they’re not paying for this out of their own pocket.

    Here’s the latest pronouncement from on high about wind-farms:

    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

    Greenpeace predicts wind could provide 20% of world power by 2030

    13 October 2010

    Wind power could meet about a fifth of the world’s electricity demand within 20 years Greenpeace predicted yesterday.

    The global market for wind power grew 41.7% on year in 2009, beating average annual growth of 28.6% over the past 13 years, said Steve Sawyer, secretary general of the Global Wind Energy Council, or GWEC.

    China ranked second in the world in installed wind generating capacity in 2009 and was the largest buyer of wind technology, Sawyer told reporters at the launch of GWEC and Greenpeace’s Global Wind Energy Outlook 2010 report. “We would expect China to continue to be the largest market and perhaps even be the (overall) largest market in the world by the end of this year. For more than the last 10 years, the actual performance of the wind industry has exceeded our advanced scenario every time,” said Sawyer.

    When asked to compare China’s wind power industry to the US, Sawyer said Beijing was showing more leadership than Washington in alternative energy. “At the moment, the Chinese market has most of the advantages in the sense that there’s a clear and supportive policy framework and very clear government support for developing a domestic industry. Neither of those have really been the case in the United States.”

    The report’s “advanced scenario” – its most optimistic outlook – projects the world’s combined installed wind turbines would produce 2,600 terawatt hours (TWh) of electricity by 2020 – equal to 11.5 to 12.3% of power demand. By 2030, wind energy would produce 5,400 TWh – 18.8 to 21.8% of the world’s power supply, the report said.

    The more conservative reference scenario based on figures from the UN’s International Energy Agency saw wind-power triple in the next decade to cover up to 4.8% of electricity – equal to Europe’s current total production.

    The “moderate” scenario based on current industry figures would see wind power meet up to 9.5% of the world’s power demand by 2020, the report said. Under the advanced forecast, 1.6 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions would be saved each year, the report said. This would increase to 3.3 billion tonnes of CO2 saved each year by 2030. The cumulative amounts of CO2 saved would be 10 billion tonnes by 2020 and 34 billion tonnes by 2030.

    The total number of views ruined, birds shredded, and taxpayers extorted to pay for all this was not mentioned.

  18. But power output mainly depends on wind speed(v), If there is no wind then there is no power, that’s for sure, also If there is too much wind no power either (because there could be very high loads for which the wind turbine) but very few hours are WT’s are down because of high wind speed.
    Good sites yield a mean annual wind speed around 7m/s, with that mean wind speed you have plenty of hours at nominal power.
    Also uptime hours or availability is normally guaranteed by contract usually for 95% or more.

    I am not aware of a single installation that has ever lived up to its claimed power production after installation. Do you know of any? The most common number I have seen is actual production at about 30% of the “capacity” rating that was used when the generation was sold to whoever bought it. The project in Minnesota was a total failure this past winter when the system delivered exactly 0 watts during one of the coldest periods in the state’s history and they sorely needed the power. The mechanism froze.

    Wind turbines placed in cities across Minnesota to generate power aren’t working because of the cold temperatures.

    The Minnesota Municipal Power Association bought 11 turbines for $300,000 each from a company in Palm Springs, Calif.

    Special hydraulic fluid designed for colder temperatures was used in the turbines, but it’s not working, so neither are the turbines.

    There is a plan to heat the fluid, but officials must find a contractor to do the work.

    Get that? You have to expend energy to heat the hydraulic fluid so the windmill will work. It is hard to make things that work reliably in temperatures that often hit -30F and where you might have gale force winds, ice, and blowing snow. You going to put a solar heater on that thing … at night?

  19. China is being cited as an example of good sense. But China is a different animal, central planning, rapidly expanding economy and insufficient energy supply is China’s problem. Non of those apply to Europe/USA. China is building coal-fired generation at a dizzy pace because they need increased capacity and will continue to need it to cover growth & ‘alternatives’ when they are not producing. Different scenario, different incentives, different society.

  20. It’s my opinion that the solar panel and wind industries have more problems than most of the readers here are aware of. Until solar and wind power can be compared to conventional energy sources on a kw-hr vs kw-hr basis without the politics of “green is better”, there can be no adequate comparison. Someone has to factor in/out the subsidies to the manufacturers of solar and wind equipment, subsidies to the purchasers, and the unfair tax loading of our conventional energy producers.

    Take the tax burden off coal production that the green energy sources aren’t expected to be burdened with; royalties, production taxes, ad-valorem, etc., take the tax burden off the power plants; take the tax burden off the rate payer; eliminate all extra charges that do not reflect the actual cost of energy production.

    Then compare the cost of the kw-hrs produced between the “green is better” and the conventional energy producer.

    In Colorado, the rate payer is subsidizing wind through increased conventional energy rates; what subsidy isn’t being paid by the rate payer is burdened onto industry in Colorado, which ends up being paid by the tax payer. Total scam.

    The solution isn’t in subsidizing bad technology, it’s in funding proper research. All we are doing now is creating white elephants.

  21. “They both get the same level of subsidies, which amount to a pittance overall. So what’s the difference?”
    really?

    nuclear and coal get taxes and punishing regulations, wind and solar get generous subsidies and the go ahead in the most improbable situations.
    and which one realiably, day after day and night after night cranks out the bulk of the energy we need?

    when subsidies dry out wind and solar will be quickly abandoned. i just hope we will have enough pitchforks available by then

  22. “Tom” said: “You get what it says on the can – a turbine rated at 1MW at 10.5 m/s wind speed (or thereabouts – specific turbines vary, but usually somewhere here). If you can’t see the relationship between how hard the wind is blowing and how much power you get…”

    Oh, please.

    When my local power company commissions a new gas-fired 1200MW generator, then you “get what it says on the can”. 1200MW, 24/7. The actual usable power it produces. When a wind farm operator (while putting out their hand for taxpayer subsidy) commissions a new turbine, they (and the politicians supporting them) say “1MW capacity” without qualification.

    When was the last time you saw a press release from a wind farm carpetbagger, in which the actual usable output from a wind farm was actually stated?

    What it says on the can? Nothing. Not even an asterisk and fine print.

  23. Can somebody explain to an interested layman why these things are suddenly called ‘turbines’

    I always thought that a turbine had a way of enclosing the powering fluid and multiple consecutive vanes to take off the energy (eg gas turbine engine).

    The ugly machines that are spreading across the once beautiful mountains of Central Scotland (eat your heart out Walter Scott) have neither of these characteristics. To my mind their basic technology is unchanged from about 1250 AD and they should still be called windmills.

    Is the use of ‘turbine’ yet another way to fool the public into buying a very old and unsuccessful technology by rebranding it as up to date and dynamic?

    Further reading : The Wind Farm Scam, by John Etherington. No connection whatsoever to me.

  24. Ric Werme says: October 13, 2010 at 11:09 pm
    Well, it looks like Google is finding religion and T. Boone Pickens is looking for love in some other place. … Earlier this year, we saw Texas oil billionaire T. Boone Pickens de-emphasize the wind portion of his Pickens’ Plan to rid the U.S. from dependence on Middle Eastern oil. The plan, which initially allotted for the country’s largest wind farm on the Texas panhandle, hit headwinds when a lack of transmission infrastructure was available to bring energy from the remote turbines to population centers where it is most needed.

    Pickens was never interested in wind. He just wanted to sell water to north Texas cities. He bought up a huge amount of water rights in the Panhandle, and the wind farm was just a diversionary scheme. Once he had a right-0f-way ( transmission infrastructure) for his politically correct windmills, he could use it for his water pipeline. Folks had him figured out, though.

  25. Large scale energy production using wind power delivered over the grid doesn’t work. Wind power is good for personal power generation and for specific purposes, like generation of alternative fuel for vehicles.

  26. Wind is the occasional power producer, as is wave since waves depend on the wind. Tidal is fine but vulnerable to storms and solar does not work at night which leaves the old faithfuls coal, oil and nuclear. I want 24/7 reliable power and it is the old faithfuls which provide this!

  27. W^L+ says:
    October 13, 2010 at 11:17 pm
    “It seems to me that the future of alternative energy is in the individual home and business, not in centralized generation facilities. Big utilities (and big government) don’t like that concept, because ultimately, it could reduce the need for their existence.”

    I totally agree.

  28. Hi

    I cannot understand how rational people can still believe that their toy windmills can produce any reliable significant amount of electricity.

    I have just looked at the quantity of electricity produced in the UK from the http://www.bmreports.com website:-

    Windpower
    Last 30 minutes 130Mw
    Last 24 hours (10:00-10:00) 3749 Mwh (0.4% of total generated by all means)

    This is from an installed base of 5 Gw capacity (from the renewable website news release 25th September.

    I make that a windmill efficiency ratio of 3.1%

    regards

    Patrick

  29. I am not convinced about solar, & certainly not about wind power, it’s only good for the green bunnies over short periods. I have no central heating, I was made redundant during the last recession in the early 90s & all the money had to go on surviving as best we could & finishing off or barn conversion, (if such an objective is ever “finished”), so during the last bout of Global Warming & Climate Disruption earlier in the year when we lost electric power for almost two days, as did much of the country at various stages, we managed on 3 portable gas stoves, the log-burner, & more importantly the oil-fired Aga so we had plenty of hot water, & could still cook our meals by lamp-light, oh & put a sweater on, but then I am rather old fashioned in that department! Even those neighbours on LPG went cold because they needed electricity to fire up the burners! Don’t put all your eggs in one basket when you live in the sticks in the UK!

  30. Gosh, who to believe eh?

    On the one hand we have

    http://www.windpower.org/download/541/DanishWindPower_Export_and_Cost.pdf

    Written by a group of ‘energy researchers and experts from Danish universities and independent consultants’.

    Who conclude that the CEPOS report was well….utter rubbish.

    While on the other hand we have the CEPOS report .

    http://www.cepos.dk/fileadmin/user_upload/Arkiv/PDF/Wind_energy_-_the_case_of_Denmark.pdf

    eminating from the “Center for Political Studies” (http://www.cepos.dk/cms/index.php?id=114)

    Written by a ‘think tank’ founded in 2004 by ‘prominent Danish buisness people’ who want to ‘contribute to more personal and economic freedom, rule of law and democracy as well as a limited government sustained by healthy civil institutions such as family, civil associations and cultural life.’
    An institution that “wishes to reform and limit direct and indirect economic support from the public authorities to the population.”

    Both reports are persuasive, but I’m inclined to give more credence to the Aalborg University report that systematically rebuts the specific assertions made by ‘CEPOS’.
    Of course the CEPOS report has done a world tour and recieved far greater exposure. Wonder why?

    As for the bird shredding and views (http://193.88.185.141/Graphics/Publikationer/Havvindmoeller/havvindmoellebog_nov_2006_skrm.pdf) it may not be all bad.

    “Danish experience from the past 15 years shows that offshore wind farms, if
    placed right, can be engineered and operated without signifi cant damage to
    the marine environment and vulnerable species.”

    Yeah, yeah all part of the plot…

  31. I used to install solar thermal systems on peoples’ houses, and I can say that they do work. They are about 55% efficient, and have a payback period of about ten years with a 25% subsidy. Sadly, the paperwork required to get this subsidy sucked every bit of joy out of doing it.

    There’s a chap called Hugh Piggott who runs courses on how to make home sized wind turbines for around $500 using parts that you either make yourself or get from a junkyard. However, the space you need for these (1.5 times their height all around) make them impractical for anyone living in a city. It’s definitely one of those things I want to do before I die.

    Something I’m also keeping my eye on is this, a gas fired boiler that runs a stirling engine for electricity. What I love about this sort of thing is that it puts the power (no pun intended) in the hands of people.

    Just as a by the by, the biggest bang for the buck is to insulate your home. It has the shortest pay back time, and there really is a notable difference.

  32. Thanet offshore wind farm – 780 million GBP for 300 MW.
    Whitelee onshore wind farm – 300 million GBP for 322 MW.
    Waldpolenz solar park – 130 million EUR for 40 MW.

    Waldpolenz capacity factor – <12%
    Average UK wind farm capacity factor in 2008 – 29%

    It should also be noted that Waldpolenz was built with CdTe, which is cheaper to process than Si, but tellurium is currently a serious problem in terms of large scale supply.

    Both solar and wind are very promising, and huge improvements have been made in both. I did my masters working in a CdTe research lab, but it's my opinion that solar is inappropriate in the UK and wind is the answer.

    This probably explains why the subsidy wind farms get is indirect and a MAXIMUM of about 4 p/kWh, whilst home solar panels are given a sickening 41.3 p/kWh. With subsidies you get 10 times as much wind power as you do solar, and that probably explains why there are many times more GW of wind installed, and why wind is being installed more quickly and there will be more wind than solar power for years to come.

  33. I can’t agree with this article.

    There is now way that photovolatics can compete with wind energy.

    PV is kept alive by the extremely stupid und costly German subsidies, financing more than half of the world market.

    The payments per kWh are much higher for solar than for wind energy because it is so much more expensive, trying to inverse or ridicule the laws of economics.

    The obligations for an energy contribution of currently around 1% already amount to around 100 Billion Euros.

    This subsidy certainly has produced a significant number of jobs in China, but in Germany much more jobs are lost than generated due to the horrific cost at almost no gain. Consumers pay over 30 cent / kWh for PV generated energy, while the gain in saving fuel of nuclear or coal power plants is around 1 cent / kWh. No single power plant can be replaced with PV, no transmission line, nothing.

    Solar thermal energy, however may be another story, because heat may be stored much easier than electricity, making these power plants suitable for low tech water heating and real 24 hours power plants.

  34. Channel 4 (UK) last night had an episode of “Grand Designs” featuring an extraordinarily over-engineered eco-bungalow that some eejit had built early last year.

    It featured a 30-ft+ tall wind turbine in the garden that was a hideous eye-sore and resulted in many complaints from locals, but since it is eco-friendly the planning authorities let it go.

    So Kevin (the presenter) revisits the house after a year, and is told they’ve not got a drop of power from it in that time. Initially the design had a big gear box to increase the spin speed of the generator, but this just sapped all the power and it wouldn’t spin.

    So that was removed, and now it spins so fast with a little breeze that the tower oscillates and sounds like it is going to collapse, so it is permanently disabled.

    The poor owner was saying how you’d never want to ruin your garden with this monstrosity unless it was really worth it (he did NOT think it looked cool), and this one clearly wasn’t.

  35. Some time ago Anthony posted an article from a CEO of a major power supply company (From Utah if I’m not mistaken).

    In that article he stated that alternate power sources currently make up less then 1% of total U.S. supply. Time taken to double these alternate supplies output will not stop the advancement of conventional production. The consumption always goes up.

    Even if you triple, quadruple etc the alternate power supply industry they will still make up less than 1% of total output.

    Consumer solar power has had massive government subsidization in Australia for very little gain. Household solar installations were also supposed to be amortized by the power companies paying you back for supplying excess solar power back into the grid. In practice the power companies seem to be stalling on the payback scheme.

    The government green stimulus measures taken in Australia are all turning into a massive waste of funds (Billions of dollars) and rorts.

  36. I have just been touring Italy and most of the wind farms I saw at lease 1/3 of each farm where not working I was told thay had broken down either burnt out .bearings shot or have been struck by lightning.

  37. And the BIG question to ask & keep asking is;
    How much CO2 emmission reduction has been acheived by any nation that has adopted wind/solar?
    That was the purpose remember: to reduce ‘carbon’ emmissions. Not to change power generation methods to feel good, not because wind/sun is free, not because coal is exhausted, not because nuclear is dangerous, but to reduce ‘harmfull’ CO2. So how are we doing on that? Anyone seen an answer anywhere because I can’t find one.

  38. We had (by our standards) a very cold spell in UK in winter last year which lasted about three weeks. Demand for electricity to sustain the necessities of life was at a maximum.

    The cause of the cold spell was a big stationary anticyclone sitting over the British Isles. It is a characteristic of these that there is very little wind – it is ‘quiet but very cold’ weather.

    The contribution that all the installed windmills was able to make to our national energy needs was negative. For windmills require electricity to power them (a motor is just a generator running backwards) to keep the bearings from seizing if there is no wind.

    That anybody – Greenpeace or not – can seriously contemplate running an advanced economy on such a disadvantaged power source astonishes me. That GP is populated by buffoons has long been apparent..but the gullibility of our politicians and policy makers is frightening.

    The one thing to remember about windmills is that they don’t do what it says on the tin.

  39. Imagine a coal train stretching from the East Coast to Oklahoma City. That’s how much coal China uses. Every Day.

    Now, a coal train from Chicago to Memphis. That’s how much coal the U.S. uses Every Day.

    We haven’t gotten to South Korea, Europe, Canada, Mexico, India, or Africa, yet.

    It’s not going to last forever, folks. We’ve already used all of our Anthracite in the U.S. Now we’re using much less energy-dense fuels.

    Wind is cheaper than Nuclear, and Solar will be considerably less in a few years (it’s, roughly, at parity, now.)

    As for you guys in the fossil fuel business: don’t worry. Depletion is going to put you out of business well before alternative energies do.

  40. If Mercedes=Benz built a wind mill farm, could they write off cost against there ad budeget?

  41. Typically, however, HMG UK will continue to back a dead horse. Look forward to us making huge investments while everyone else pulls out. It seems that our fortunate location for a financial sector makes politicians think we understand about good investments…

  42. Wind power only works when the wind blows. Solar power only works during the day. So what will happen on windless nights?
    Let’s just say you’re going to need a lot of candles!
    It’s sad we’re wasting tome and resources on such nonsense. Our UK government is completely mad with their plans to convert much of our country’s power generation to wind. This may be news to these idiots, but there are long periods when wind generation for the entire UK falls to nearly zero. I suspect they are planning to squander roughly a trillion pounds simply in order to show how wonderfully green they are.
    In the cloudy UK, with short winter days, solar makes little more sense.
    To be honest, I think the idea of renewables in general is pretty pointless. Compared to conventional power stations, renewable power sources are very expensive and unreliable. All they will achieve is much more expensive energy – and regular power cuts.
    This is the 21st century, if anyone hadn’t noticed. We should be able to generate all the cheap energy we need. We should try to be reasonably efficient, but we shouldn’t be promoting the need to cut energy consumption to almost a religion.
    And of course we can do it, with nuclear and clean coal in developing countries. The real problem comes from the green fanatics such as Greenpeace and WWF. They’re the real threat to the world.
    Chris

  43. Wind power is a crock and always will be, balancing the grid is a nightmare and over 10% wind power in a grid, an accident waiting to happen. When all these new generation efficient impellors are decommissioned as useless, they can then be recycled into something useful. Perfect for driving pumps for water, into storage to run peak power hydro.
    Thus the problem of variable wind is eliminated and the power available when needed.
    Recycle the expensive and energy intensive dynamo’s and convert to mechanical reliable pumps.
    Solar for peak or base load is like wise pie in the sky until they convert at least half of the suns energy falling on them into power. Then only on the most propitious days.

  44. Kate
    How would that figure for growing demand look, if the UK had not been building the largest wind farm off the coast of Kent. UK tax payers are going to be saddled with subsidising this junk science for years to come, and most of the investment went to foreign companies, as our own windmill factories got closed down due to lack of demand.

    Is it wrong to enjoy looking at photos of these wretched beasts self destructing?

  45. Read the history books about wind power. As soon as better energy sources were found (hydro., coal, steam, gas, even wood gassification) wind power went out the window. It’s heyday was Don Quixote. Texts during the 19th century lamented the variable and uncertain nature of wind. That’s the essence of why it will never be a standard energy source.

  46. It is indeed a shame that we knew of these alternative energy deficiencies in the 1950-70 period, when the USA was pricing how competitive nuclear was.

    It is also a shame that in Oz, where I live, we have a ban on nuclear power and huge subsidies for windmills and solar and even geothermal???

    In Victoria, we are building a desalination plant whose future seems to be windmill power as we close down an abundance of coal fired plants. But, the drought has broken and the dams are full, yet the owners of the desal plant will be paid for water whether they produce it or not (like virtual water?). What does one do with the desal water? The best suggestion I can imagine it to pipe it to the headwaters of the rivers from whence it came, so allow the wildlife to prosper downstream.

    You can read this happy ending to your small children to send them off to sleep. I’m sure that some teachers believe that would be good.

  47. Kum Dollison,

    how come imaginary Chinese trains go east-west whereas imaginary US trains go north-south?

    Would a shorter part of the same route provide a better comparison? Or better still, numbers, for folk outside the US who have no real idea where these cities are?

  48. crosspatch says:
    October 13, 2010 at 11:08 pm
    The major problem with solar is that it works ok where you have a space like a roof that is exposed to the sun and can be covered. But imagine you were to convert every single household to pure solar in California. That would account for about 8% of California’s energy consumption. In order to get any meaningful percentage, say 20% or more, you will need to plaster large areas of land with solar panels…..”
    –/——————————
    You are right about this. At current solar panel efficiencies if you covered all of New York City in solar panels, you wouldn’t have nearly enough power to cover current usage. Solar at this point cannot replace current energy sources. But like all new technology, you have to “get into the game” at some point and the improvements will follow. People had major criticisms of the automobile. They had little power, were noisy, broke down a lot, and really weren’t better than horse and buggy at the time. No infrastructure existed for the auto but plenty was in place for horses. Over time we know how that turned out!

  49. The mines that produce the rare-earth elements for the wind generator magnets are not operating in the US.
    One more foreign dependence targeted to replace that foreign oil dependence.
    The oil is cheaper, and China is going to cut back on exports of REE.

  50. Home solar scales down so even the little guy can get in on the scam. The federal and state government through taxes paid by your friends & neighbors help pay the lion’s share to purchase and install the solar power system. In addition, every time the sun shines your friends and neighbors throw money at you via additional taxes and electric rate increases. Solar power truly scales the racket down!

  51. Kum Dollison: your assessment of coal reserves is way off. Or should I say coal “resources”, because it only counts as a “reserve” if the mine is open. There is ten times more coal in the ground than oil (all forms) and gas put together. If you look on Wikipedia it says the UK has only about 30 years coal reserves. But back in the late 70’s they used to tell us there was 450 years -so which is right? The clue is in the second sentence -it only counts as a reserve if the mine is still open !

    World-wide there is about 9000 years of coal resource.

    When oil is genuinely running out (rather than just at the whim of speculators like now), it will become economic to switch from oil to coal once again. Anything that can be made from oil can also be made from coal. Peak Oil -Pah :)

  52. Vive la France! Just crank out the nuclear power stations like there’s no tomorrow and say “[snip] you” to the greenies. They may be arrogant but I reckon they’re right (from an Australian that’s never visited France, no less).. ;)

  53. Neither wind nor solar work very well and neither will win. We can’t command a sunny day nor the wind to blow. And we still can’t store AC power! Until we can change one of those 3 things that we can’t do, wind and solar are just useless toys to dawdle with.

  54. steveta_uk says:
    October 14, 2010 at 2:28 am

    I saw that programme. Grand Designs is brilliant. My heart went out to the chap and his partner, because you could see they really believed in what they were doing, and they put their money where their mouth was. What I’ll never understand is why he didn’t run the curve of the building so that the wide side faced South.

  55. Most forms of power are subsidised at some point. Windpower has its place and will inevitably have teething problems.
    In the late 80s a wind and hydro plant was designed for the Isle of Lewis (Scotland UK). A long loch with a natural constriction half way along its length was to be dammed and the windmills were to pump water up to one end to cover for the very few windless periods and the many excessively windy ones. As a successful but retired aeronautical/ structural/ nuclear engineer my father did all the preliminary design work and presented it to the Govt for free but they opted for a cable from the mainland to replace the existing diesel generator.
    He was a man of numbers and facts and frequently came up against the egos of people with political agendas. Many of his thoroughly researched ideas ran foul of people who simply did not have the technical understanding to make a balanced decision.
    His view of wind power was that it would never be a replacement for large centralised power stations but that it was a sensible addition in a world where fossil fuels were finite and energy demands steadily growing.
    Windmills couple well with hydro pump storage because of the high proportion of off-line hours each day.
    Likewise, nuclear couples well with pump storage bcos it needs to run 24/7. Google Dinorwig Hydro in Wales. It uses otherwise spare night-time power from Wylfa Head (nuc) and paid itself off in about a dozen years.
    It’s not a case of one or the other, good or bad. All things have their place.

  56. @Patrick:

    Windpower
    Last 30 minutes 130Mw
    Last 24 hours (10:00-10:00) 3749 Mwh (0.4% of total generated by all means)

    This is from an installed base of 5 Gw capacity (from the renewable website news release 25th September.

    I make that a windmill efficiency ratio of 3.1%

    Well, way to cherrypick data! For a start, if you take the capacity from the same source as generation figures, that’s 2430MW, not 5000MW from “the renewable website” whatever that is. So you’ve already artificially halved the supposed “efficiency” number.

    Which is… well, rubbish, really. Efficiency, where I studied, meant the ratio of energy put in to useful energy got out and has nothing to do with capacity to generation ratios. Why do so many people in this thread find it so hard to understand that wind power requires wind? It’s rather like saying that coal power stations are inefficient because if you don’t put any coal in you don’t get any energy out…

    Don’t get me wrong: Wind is unpredictable. Sometimes the wind doesn’t blow, and sometimes it doesn’t. Blaming windmills for that is stupid. You ought to ask, instead, if wind energy is cheaper than other forms, both in £ and GHGs, how much you are about either of them, and then which energy supply you are going to use. There is an almost constant refrain in skeptic circles that “in Europe, when the wind blows it forces spot energy prices negative!” Like somehow this is a bad thing? When the wind blows, wind energy is so cheap that the spot price is effectively zero (negative once subsidies come into operation). This directly lowers your power bill.

    There are undoubtedly problems with all of the “renewable” energy sources: the sun doesn’t shine, the waves are still, the wind doesn’t blow, the tides turn. So, if you want to do something thoroughly worthwile for the world and make yourself utterly filthy rich in the process, find and patent a way to make this chemical reaction happen synthetically and efficiently:

    CO2 + 2H2O + energy -> CH4 + 2O2

    Or just about any similar variant. For those who don’t understand yet, I’m saying find a way to efficiently take carbon dioxide, water and sunlight and produce fossil fuels. Snarky comments about all the ones already in the ground aren’t helpful here.

    There is a simple fact: we haven’t yet found a fuel as good as oil. It is dense, it is easy to carry and store, it is safe and it can be used in anything from a camp stove to a 1000MW electricity generator. It is really remarkable stuff. And it is just made up from carbon dioxide and water. Trees can make the stuff using air, water and sunlight, but they are not very efficient at it (only a few percent of incident sunlight is captured). So go find a catalyst and apparatus that makes it, say, 50% efficient. That’s already better than most PV cells, and you can use the stuff after the sun goes down.

  57. Kum Dollison says:
    October 14, 2010 at 3:00 am

    Imagine a coal train stretching from the East Coast to Oklahoma City. That’s how much coal China uses. Every Day.

    Now, a coal train from Chicago to Memphis. That’s how much coal the U.S. uses Every Day.

    We’re all big kids here, you can give it to us straight, in Kwh.

    While I live in New England, I haven’t been to Oklahoma, so I’m not
    sure how far it is between the East Coast to Oklahoma City. You might
    also want to be a bit more explicit about exactly where “the East Coast”

    I wonder how many motorists would get blocked by a train that stretched
    from Maine to Oklahoma. Or how many locomotives it would need. Or what
    the rationale is for placing all coal fired power plants in Oklahoma.
    Oh, I got it, there’s a shipping port there for China. Wouldn’t Los Angeles
    make more sense?

    Sorry, every so often a cute analogy rubs me the wrong way.

  58. “PV is kept alive by the extremely stupid und costly German subsidies, financing more than half of the world market.

    The payments per kWh are much higher for solar than for wind energy because it is so much more expensive, trying to inverse or ridicule the laws of economics.”

    Here’s the big difference: Solar, being based on semiconductors, etc, has a lot of headroom to become much more efficient over time. Wind doesn’t. It’s based on ancient technology and any improvements are going to be modest at best. It’s concievable that a multi-layer plastic film based solar cell grid will get up to 80% efficiency, making it cheap to install and a good use of land. Wind is never going to get there. Subsidizing solar can give it the breathing room it needs to improve. Subsidizing wind is pointless except as a political statement.

  59. @Olaf Koenders; (Yes)

    France has the right idea, nuclear from either uranium or thorium is the way to go, coal is to dirty. Wind and solar are niche and will never be reliable enough for industrialized nations.

  60. John Knowles:

    At October 14, 2010 at 4:56 am you assert:
    “Most forms of power are subsidised at some point. Windpower has its place and will inevitably have teething problems.”

    Say what!? “Teething problems”?
    Wind power has been used for centuries. Wind energy powered most of the world’s shipping for thousands of years. Primitive wind turbines powered pumps (notably in the Netherlands and England) and mills throughout Europe for centuries.

    There are a number of types of wind turbines. They are divided into Vertical-Axis and Horizontal-Axis types.

    Vertical-axis windmills to mill corn were first developed by the Persians around 1500 BC, and they were still in use in the 1970’s in the Zahedan region. Sails were mounted on a boom attached to a shaft that turned vertically. The technology had spread to Northern Africa and Spain by 500 BC. Low-speed, vertical-axis windmills are still popular in Finland because they operate without adjustment when the direction of the wind changes.

    The horizontal-axis wind turbine was invented in Egypt and Greece around 300 BC. It had 8 to 10 wooden beams rigged with sails, and a rotor which turned perpendicular to the wind direction. This type of wind turbine later became popular in Portugal and Greece. Around 1200 AD, the crusaders built and developed the post-mill for milling grain. The turbine was mounted on a vertical post and could be rotated on top the post to keep the turbine facing the wind.

    This post-mill technology was first adopted for electricity generation in Denmark in the late 1800’s. The technology soon spread to the U.S. where it was used to pump water and to irrigate crops across the Great Plains.

    During World War I, some American farmers rigged wind turbines to each generate 1 kW of DC current. Such wind turbines were mounted on buildings and towers.

    But wind power was generally abandoned when the greater energy intensity available in fossil fuels became available by use of the steam engine.

    Today, if wind power were economically competitive with fossil fuels, then oil tankers would be sailing ships.

    So, if wind power is having “teething problems” then how many centuries have to pass before the steam engine overcomes its “teething problems”?

    Richard

    P.S.
    Windfarms are expensive, polluting, environmentally damaging bird swatters that produce no useful electricity and make no significant reduction to emissions but threaten electricity cuts. If you want to know why then read my item at

    http://scienceandpublicpolicy.org/images/stories/papers/reprint/courtney_2006_lecture.pdf

  61. I agree with Kate (post 12:35 hrs) that we are throwing away billions simply because the politicians are too vain to admit that they have been stupid and duped. They cannot afford to loose face. For example Ed Milliband is now leader of the UK Labour party (the main opposition party) and whilst he was a government minister responsible for energy, he has long promoted wind farms deriding all those who objected as social misfits/trouble makers. He can’t afford to put up his hands and admit that wind farms are obviously inefficient and do not save the planet.
    As far as the UK is concerned, it is obvious that solar is useless – the northern latitude makes the incidence of the sun weak and teh UK generally has a wet and cloudy climate. In the UK there is little aircon and hence peak energy is winter evenings when the sun simply does not shine. If there was any doubt, Germany has shown that solar does not work for northern latitude countries.
    Wind is hopelessly unreliable. As Patrick notes it is presently delivering about 3% of its rated output. Last winter for the best part of a month, wind generation only produced between 3% to 8% of its rated power (for about 20 days it was down to between 2-3% of rated power). Had the UK been reliant upon wind for electricity, millions of people would have died since there would have been power cuts with electricity being rationed to about 1.5 hours a day. Homes would be without heat for 22.5 hours a day since electricity is required even if one has oil or gas fired central heating to run ignition and power circulating pumps etc. OK, so last winter was extreme; worst for 30 years. However, no sensible government can adopt an energy policy which condemns millions to their death every 20 or 30 years. The experience of last winter should have proved to Ed Milliband how stupid his energy policy was (he was at the time the government minister for energy) and should have convinced him of the stupidity of wind. Unfortunately there is no one as stupid as a politician and no one as dangerous as an arrogant fool (and these guys are arrogant thinking that they know best).
    Simpleseekerafterthetruth hits the issue on the nail, has there been any reduction in CO2 emissions because of the adoption of wind farms. The answer is of course NO. Research has established that due to the variable nature of wind, one has to employ conventional power generators at 90% level as back up. That means as a best case scenario, wind farms could be capable of reducing CO2 emissions by 10% but no more. However, a lot of CO2 is used in the production, transportation and installation of wind farms. In particular, vast amounts of concrete are required as foundations. When this is taken into account and the additional power used to heat lubricating fluids in extreme cold and/or to back power the units when wind levels are inappropriate, there has been no saving of CO2 emissions.
    Has any conventional generator been decommissioned as a consequence of building wind farms. NO, of course not. If there was the slightest doubt as to the usefulness of wind energy one only needs to look at the Danish experience which establishes that nothing has really been gained by their experiment with wind energy (and they are a flat and windy country).
    Anyone with even modest intelligence could readily see that as far as the UK is concerned that the only green renewable energy source which might have legs is tidal and yet this is the one source which is least explored. Tells you everything about politicians.
    The UK will soon face blackouts as the Labour party failed to address the UK’s future energy needs (which in any event is very under-estimated in view of the deliberate under-estimate of population change – it only now becoming apparent that we will hit 90 million in 30 to 40 years time). We badly need to build a lot of nuclear power plants – which are the best form of low CO2 energy, or just come to our senses and realise that CO2 is not the climate driver that warmist suggest that it is.

  62. Golf Charley says:
    “…Is it wrong to enjoy looking at photos of these wretched beasts self destructing?”

    … Certainly not! I wish the whole global warming fraud would also self-destruct.

    Renewable energy is back to front. I was staggered to find that offshore wind gets twice the subsidy that onshore does. Why? Because its much more expensive. Similarly, the Feed-In Tariff for small renewable generation gives a larger subsidy the less economic the technology. It is a flawed design. The subsidy is back-calculated to give a rate of return that means it will be built.

    Incredible.

    Imagine paying your worst worker the most money, the worst restaurant the biggest tip, the most incompetent doctor the largest pension. I’m not against paying for renewable generation, but I am against my money being spent so stupidly.

    Spend my money on the cheapest way to get the most MWh renewable. The current system is designed to do the opposite.

    ~~~~~~~~~~

    The Numbers

    Up to 40% of all the UK’s electricity will have to be generated by renewable sources within ten years – and most of that will be wind-generated.

    By law, 10% of the electricity sold by energy companies must come from “green” sources this year. The figure rises to 15% by 2015.

    At present, 20% of a typical fuel bill – or £200 – is used to subsidise “green” energy, up from 8% two years ago.

    Fuel bill payers would continue to subsidise offshore wind until at least 2025.

    Number of wind turbines to be built by 2020: 10,000.
    Lifespan of the turbine: 25 years.
    Weight of a single turbine and tower: 70 tons.
    Amount of time a wind-farm actually generates electricity: 35%.
    Cost of 100 wind-farms: £780 million.
    Cost of 6,400 offshore wind turbines to be built by 2020: £75 billion.

    Of the 239 UK wind-farms operating in 2009, 129 ran at less than 25% capacity.
    The average efficiency of all the turbines was 21%.
    The worst-performing wind-farm in Northumbria was 4.9% efficient in 2009.
    One turbine running at 30% capacity generates £283,088 subsidy per year.

    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

    More than half of Britain’s wind-farms have been built where there is not enough wind.

    You might have thought that when building a wind-farm, you should look for a site that is quite windy. But more than half of Britain’s wind-farms are operating at less than 25% capacity. In England, the figure rises to 70% of onshore developments. Europe’s biggest wind-farm, Whitelee, near Glasgow, boasts 140 turbines which last year ran at less than 25% of capacity. Experts say that over-generous subsidies mean hundreds of turbines are going up on sites that are simply not breezy enough.

    Britain’s most feeble wind-farm is in Blyth Harbour in Northumberland, where the nine turbines lining the East Pier reach a meagre 4.9% of their capacity. Another at Chelker reservoir in North Yorkshire operates at only 5.3% of its potential, the analysis of 2009 figures provided by energy regulator Ofgem found. The ten turbines at Burton Wold in Northamptonshire have been running for just three years, but achieved only 19% capacity.

    The revelation that so many wind-farms are under-performing will be of interest to those who argue that they are simply expensive eyesores. Michael Jefferson, the professor of international business and sustainability who carried out the analysis, says financial incentives designed to help Britain meet green energy targets are encouraging firms to site their developments badly.

    Under the controversial “Renewable Obligation” scheme, British consumers pay £1billion a year in their fuel bills to subsidise the drive towards renewable energy. Turbines operating well under capacity are still doing well out of the scheme, but Professor Jefferson, of the London Metropolitan Business School, wants the cash to be reserved for the windiest sites. He said: “There is a political motivation to drive non-fossil fuel energy, which I very much respect, but we need more focus”. He suggests that the full subsidy be restricted to turbines which achieve capacity of 30% or more – managed by just eight of England’s 104 on-shore wind-farms last year. Those that fall below 25% should not be eligible for any subsidy. Professor Jefferson said: “That would focus the mind to put them in a sensible place”.

    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

    Add £60 to energy bills for wind-farms upgrade, says watchdog.

    Households will have to pay an extra £60 in bills to cover the cost of connecting wind-farms and other renewable energy sources to the National Grid, the industry regulator warned today.

    – Notice that this is just for CONNECTING wind-farms to the National Grid!

    Energy bills will almost certainly have to increase, according to Ofgem. It says about £32 billion needs to be spent on modernising the networks over the next decade, more than twice the amount invested in the past 20 years.

    This will have to be funded in part by consumers, who are already facing likely rises in gas and electricity supply tariffs early next year. The cost of building the “green networks” will have to be added to bills at a rate of about £6 a year from 2013, Ofgem said.

    Most of Britain’s National Grid was constructed at least half a century ago and connects power stations to the major centres of population. But it doesn’t serve well the more remote locations where wind-farms and other renewable infrastructure is being built to meet government targets on greenhouse gas emissions.

    Tom Lyon, energy expert at comparison website uSwitch.com, said: “This is about having an energy system that comes with a hefty price tag and mounting concern over who should be footing the bill. Much of the network that we rely on is from the Fifties and Sixties and can’t keep up with increased demand. In addition to this, we need to plan for the future and establish connections to new and offshore wind-farms and nuclear power plants in remote locations.”

    Ofgem spokesman Chris Lock said: “Our energy system needs a huge revamp. It was designed for a time when power was distributed from a small number of power stations to homes across the country. But now we have renewable sources on-stream that are based in remote parts of Britain, and we need serious investment to connect them up, as well as build in the new smart meters and other green devices and re-engineer the way the grid works. It will mean increases in customer bills, but it’s a fair increase given the challenges networks face.”

    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

    To answer your question about the Thanet wind-farm:

    The first all-too-common mistake in the glowing coverage accorded to the inauguration of this Thanet wind-farm is to accept unquestioningly the claims of the developer, Vattenfall, about its output. The array of 100 three-megawatt (MW) turbines, each the height of Blackpool Tower, will have, it was said, the “capacity” to produce 300MW of electricity, enough to “power” 200,000 (or even 240,000) homes.

    This may be true at those rare moments when the wind is blowing at the right speeds, but the wind is intermittent, and the average output of these turbines will be barely a quarter of that figure. The latest official figures on the website of Mr Huhne’s own department show that last year the average output (or “load factor”) of Britain’s offshore turbines was only 26% of their capacity.

    Due to its position, the wind-farm’s owners will be lucky to get, on average, 75MW from their windmills, a fraction of the output of a proper power station. The total amount of electricity the turbines actually produce will equate to the average electricity usage not of 240,000 homes, but of barely half that number.

    A far more significant omission from the media reports, however, was any mention of the colossal subsidies this wind-farm will earn. Wind energy is subsidised through the system of Renewables Obligation Certificates (ROCs), unwittingly paid for by all of us through our electricity bills. Our electricity supply companies are obliged to buy offshore wind energy at three times its normal price, so that each kilowatt hour of electricity receives a 200% subsidy of £100.

    This means that the 75MW produced on average by Thanet will receive subsidies of £60 million a year, on top of the £30-40 million cost of the electricity itself. This is guaranteed for the turbines’ estimated working life of 20 years, which means that the total subsidy over the next two decades will be some £1.2 billion. Based on the costings of the current French nuclear programme, that would buy 1 gigawatt (1,000MW) of “carbon-free” nuclear generating capacity, reliably available 24 hours a day – more than 13 times the average output of the wind-farm.

    The 100 turbines cost £780 million to build, which means that the £100 million a year its owners hope to earn represents a 13% return on capital, enough to excite the interest of any investor. And these turbines are only the first stage of a project eventually designed to include 341 of them, generating subsidies of £1 billion every five years.

    A final claim for the Thanet wind-farm (which Mr Huhne boasts is “only the beginning”) is that it will create “green” jobs – although the developers say that only 21 of these will be permanent. These are thus costing, in “green” subsidies alone, £3 million per job per year, or £57 million for each job over the next 20 years. The Government gaily prattles about how it wants to create “400,000 green jobs”, which, on this basis, would eventually cost us £22.8 trillion, or 17 times the entire annual output of the UK economy.

  63. John Knowles said: “It’s not a case of one or the other, good or bad. All things have their place.”

    I agree SO LONG AS, things having their place is decided by free men and women making free choices of what is best for them. So in the USA Northeast natural gas which is local and plentiful and transportable on existing infrastructure should win for electricity generation and home heating and probably replace diesel for heavy duty transport. In the earthquake free USA Midwest Nuclear/coal makes the most sense, the southwest solar will provide more than anywhere else. Texas/Florida is oil/natural gas. california is just SOL. The article is right that solar will “win” over wind but in this case winning means 4-5% total use over 2-3% total use for wind. Both of their places is limited by market pricing realities. Just look at GE; GE is trying to refocus itself as an industriaal company again, wind turbines was a cheap easy way to get back to manufacturing IF they could get huge gov’t subsidies. So GE backed Obama and the Dems for Cap/Trade. That’s blown up, so GE is on to solar.

  64. If people believe that the numbers can work for wind power…

    Go here: http://ontariowindperformance.wordpress.com/2010/09/14/table-of-contents/

    After you look at the analysis feel free to explain why the numbers don’t work. Start with “Powering Ontario” to get a perspective then look at the detail. The numbers used are the numbers collected by the power companies. The analysis is kept as simple as possible . So far nobody from the regulatory agencies of Ontario, nor anybody from a wind power company has bothered to challenge the results and analysis. Note that some “Wind Farms” are closer to 10% capacity factor than the 30% number that is bandied about.

    Content is added as analysis is completed for each new subject.

  65. I just completed my annual inquiry with local installers on the cost of a PV system for our home. Initial estimate is $6/W(peak), using panels for which the installer pays about $2/W(peak). If solar panels are free ($0/W), the system cost will still hover around $4/W(peak). With no subsidies or tax credits (or taxes on the delivered energy as with fossil fuels), the payback period here in Florida for free solar panels is 20 years.

  66. Re: Kum Dollison says: October 14, 2010 at 3:00 am

    As for you guys in the fossil fuel business: don’t worry. Depletion is going to put you out of business well before alternative energies do.

    But ‘fossil’ fuels can be renewable. Stop wasting gas for home cooking/heating, save that for CCGT’s.

    Need more gas? That’s doable, after all CO2 + 4H2 → CH4 + 2H2O. So CCS could possibly create a useful product after all, and not be wasted dumping it in the ocean or in holes in the ground.

    Need more of the other gas? Also doable, South Africa’s been doing it for years with the Fischer-Tropsch process.

    Couple of snags, needs H2, but then that can be made with electricity, if we had cheap electricty which windmills can’t provide. If we used nuclear, well, that’s something that could provide cheaper electricity and allow reactors to run at peak efficiency. Reactors are also semi-renewable, if the right design and fuel cycle is selected, and reprocessing included. Anti-nuclear people tend to overlook minor details like that because they prefer to tilt at windmills and take the profits we give them.

  67. kzb says:
    October 14, 2010 at 4:40 am

    If I recall from the 70s it was frequently stated that the UK had 200years of reserves at current consumption. It was Margaret Thatcher who wanted to end the miners monopoly of coal power after it brought the Heat(Cons) government down with the 3-day week, (oh the endless joy of knowing in advance when you could read a book or watch tv in the evenings a week ahead). It was the then Conservatie Party who put backroom deals in place for a future Conservative government to get coal supplies from Poland (ironically heavily subsidised which was part of the UK problem in any case) so that they could never again be helld to ransom by the striking minors. However, this is what you get when you bring political ideologies into the arena of power generation, with Arthur Scargill on the one hand wanting a single-handed socialist/communist national revolution a la 1917 in Russia, & Mrs T wanting to crush the minors union in favour of nuclear power for revenge. You get back-fires all over the place & get nowhere! If the political ideology was kept away from national necessities, we probably wouldn’t be in quite the same mess engerywise today! Arthur Scargill was right in many ways, the future of the UK coal industry was under threat, for an island practically built on the stuff it was foolish, but the threat came from the wrong direction. Britain needs coal, gas, oil, & nuclear, sure keep the little windmills to ease the concience of the loony greenie nitwits to protect Gaia, but let’s not clogg up the beautiful British landscape with eyesores, oh & for the RSPB clamouring for more sea-eagles et al to be re-introduced, do a body count in 5 years time! So learn a lesson, keep political ideology out of engery production!

  68. Lets see,

    1. Solar is the most expensive way to generate electricity. Solar is about 35 to 50 cents per kilowatt-hour (unsubsidized), compared to 3 to 5 cents per kilowatt-hour for natural gas and coal.

    2. China controls the majority of the world’s supply of rare earths needed to make the panels.

    3. The subsidies are not a pittance, without them neither Solar or Wind would exist in any form outside of solar calculators.

    Solar Subsidies Could Reach 70 Percent

    4. Governments cannot pick winners but losers can pick governments.

    5. The only economically viable sources of energy are – Oil, Coal, Natural Gas, Nuclear and Hydroelectric.

  69. “Tom” said: “You get what it says on the can –”

    If your can is anything like those I pick up at the supermarket, these revealing little factoids are hidden under ingredients, in micro font, along with those nasty ‘e’ numbers and details of hydrogenated fats, that you can’t read unless you remembered to bring your reading glasses.

    Yeah, Tom. Very helpful indeed.

  70. Capacity factor relates to how often the wind is blowing and is typically 25 to 35%. Capacity value relates to how often the wind farm can match demand and be taken into the grid. This typically 1/3 of the capacity factor. Therefore energy storage is key to utilize wind power. An UAE company has announced it intends to build some sort of storage device in Mexico for wind turbines to be installed near San Diego.
    My biggest concern right now is for the electric ratepayer and whether they are paying for electricity generated by wind farms that is not taken into the grid. These kind of contracts in the natural gas industry were called ‘take or pay’. It would be easy for utilities to pass on the electricity not taken onto the customer with such contracts. I suspect this is being done in California.

  71. Kum Dollison: “Wind is cheaper than Nuclear, and Solar will be considerably less in a few years (it’s, roughly, at parity, now.) ”

    Please cite a source in support of that, because the EIA figures say otherwise:

    Total System Levelized cost per megawatthour:
    Advanced Nuclear: 119.0
    Wind: 149.3
    Offshore Wind: 191.1
    Solar Thermal: 256.6
    Solar PV: 396.1

  72. @Tom — I would encourage you to write up an article on wind technology. I for one would like some sort of primer on it – one which goes at least into some depth on the technologies involved. I hope/think that Anthony would be more than willing to publish a reasonably well written article.

    I think wind has its place. I am not convinced that it is really suitable as a base for the grid, but as with many technologies a lot of the criticism is based upon ignorance. If we are to criticize, then it should at least be from a position of knowledge.

  73. Solar is far from the mainstream, and we shouldn’t be subsidising it.

    When it is not cost effective for a energy provider to buy solar panels with cheap credit in bulk and one installer, governments believe it is when joe blogs borrows money individually, buys it in several meters squared and pays an installer to drive round his house, install it and then put all the electrics to connect it to the grid – and come back and fix it whenever it breaks.

    At the moment if you want solar panels you should have the simple type which heats water. They are cost effective and can be made pretty much out of scrap. Photovoltaics should be reserved for when they are cost effective, at which point they will probably be made into a standard roofing tile and every roof replacement will use them. Additional installation costs disappear, and you get the maximum possible power output. It will become part of the building regulations.

    Solar power currently uses polycrystalline silicon. Factories to make this take years to build, cost billions and are unlikely to be required for the final solution as it will be a thin film. Governments have no business wasting our taxes on this stuff.

  74. Was it the business plan that killed wind power or was it that it did not work and people did not want it. Was it that the free market and the laws of nature were ignored to promote wind and that investors were about to lose their shirts so they bailed.

    The global warming folks are attempting to sell snake oil for profit and when it drys up they will also bail with whatever cash they can rip off.

  75. I like the idea of small, local stuff. I live in Florida. I think that it would be cool if we could augment our air conditioning with roof top solar. It seems to me, I’m no engineer, that the peak load on A/C is almost exactly when sunshine is most available. The less sunshine, the less A/C I need.

    My brother lives in Michigan. He has no A/C at all. He needs heat when the sun isn’t shining. I often use no heat throughout the winter. Just don’t turn in on many years. Some years turn it on for a couple of days. YMMV.

  76. I have never supported the massive government subsidies for alternative power, though I have at the same time been highly supportive of the use of these alternatives. I, like Paulhan, believe the future of alternative sources is point-of-use technology. I just don’t believe these are scalable in any logically efficient way. I have watched (and been involved in) government granting projects for a number of years and can confidently say that, when the money is as massive as it is now, the only beneficiaries are the professional “scammers”.
    Technologies that allow individuals to unhook are the logical future for a free society.

  77. The wind is free.

    Now the big point in my state is gathering grid. The wind farm wants to spend 100 million and deliver juice at the wind farm. The state is flat broke and doesn’t want to spend 75 million on power lines gathering current to take to the city.

    Like we know the wind turbines turn at 25% of rated capacity. Some with the power lines. They would be unused 75% of the time.

    Would you buy a car if you were 100 miles from a gas station?

  78. I agree that wind power has been oversold and is not reliable. However, the same is true for solar power. Installations only produce significant amounts of energy for about 8 hours per day and only when and where the sun shines. So it suffers the same lack of reliability. Moreover, all the figures that I have seen still show solar being significantly more expensive than wind with little chance of catching up in the near future.

    The Annual Energy Outlook 2010 with Projections to 2035 from the U.S. Energy Information Administration sees strong growth in wind but says “solar technologies are too costly for widespread use in wholesale power applications”.

    http://www.eia.gov/oiaf/aeo/electricity.html

    I agree that in the long term there is hope that solar power will become more economical than wind, but that will take decades of incremental improvements.

  79. richard verney says:
    October 14, 2010 at 6:16 am
    “However, a lot of CO2 is used in the production, transportation and installation of wind farms. In particular, vast amounts of concrete are required as foundations. When this is taken into account and the additional power used to heat lubricating fluids in extreme cold and/or to back power the units when wind levels are inappropriate, there has been no saving of CO2 emissions.”
    ____________________________________________________________

    Depends on their size /efficiency, placement and how they’re decomissioned but in general you’re assertion seems to be at odds with some pretty thorough research on the topic.

    http://www.assemblywales.org/cy/sc_3_-01-09__p8__further_evidence_from_bwea_cymru_on_carbon_reduction_via_land_use.pdf.pdf

    http://www.sciencedirect.com/science?_ob=ArticleURL&_udi=B6VMY-4VJ4B7D-1&_user=10&_coverDate=10%2F31%2F2009&_rdoc=1&_fmt=high&_orig=search&_origin=search&_sort=d&_docanchor=&view=c&_searchStrId=1498297994&_rerunOrigin=scholar.google&_acct=C000050221&_version=1&_urlVersion=0&_userid=10&md5=b670109a095a74e805f1061c687b9e3d&searchtype=a

  80. “John Knowles says:
    October 14, 2010 at 4:56 am ”

    The problem with wind was that at the time it was the best method of doing each of these things. It has never met expectations in simply generating electricity due to its unpredictable nature, which unlike solar is (fairly) constant during peak load times. I am not saying solar is perfect, but its better for the power grid as it is structured now. Wind power would take huge upgrade to infrastructure to be competetive.

    That being said, wind power works out good for what it used to do years ago, that is pulling water uphill and doing work at a slow pace. If the water does not need to go uphill quickly, then wind power does the job very well, but for all other uses today, it simply can not compete. If all the money being wasted on subsidies was spent on a hydro-electric/wind system the benefits would actually be something skeptics might consider as, well that is somewhat ok…but as it is now, its just wasteful to put wind towers all over the place due to how inefficient they are at simply producing electricity.

  81. @pjp

    For an excellent primer on wind technology I recommend:

    ‘The Wind Farm Scam’ by John Etherington. The first fifty or so pages describe the technology in enough detail for the interested layman to understand its many disadvantages and why it can never be a satisfactory bigtime power source.

    The author was an academic who specialised in Ecology and the application of ‘intermittently available renewable electricity generation’. The pity is that not enough policy makers have read and understand this book. Otherwise (I hope) they wouldn’t be chasing rainbows.

  82. Kum Dollison;

    “Wind is cheaper than Nuclear, and Solar will be considerably less in a few years (it’s, roughly, at parity, now.)”
    —————————————
    Wind is cheaper than solar? Maybe we should power our nuclear powered aircraft carriers by sail then.

    I can’t buy into the article’s premise that wind is a loser because of issues with who wind’s clients are or its scalability issues. The average Joe isn’t going to purchase a nuclear power plant (or coal plant), but nuclear power plants are darn good producers. Also the assertion that subsidation of these “alternative” energy sources amounts to a pittance.

  83. Another issue with wind is that there just isn’t that much more to learn about how to build propeller blades, or geartrains, or any of the other mechanical bits that go into wind-turbine manufacturing as we know it.

    The only way to squeeze cost out is cheaper materials or cheaper manufacturing, both of which will increase O&M cost down the road.

    Until we get to some flavor of wind-driven power generation that doesn’t involve spinning blades driving a generator we’re not going to see significant improvements in cost.

    PV solar technology is still advancing.

  84. Also the assertion that subsidation of these “alternative” energy sources amounts to a pittance are far fetched.

  85. Tom says:
    October 14, 2010 at 5:13 am

    “…….Don’t get me wrong: Wind is unpredictable. Sometimes the wind doesn’t blow, and sometimes it doesn’t. Blaming windmills for that is stupid. You ought to ask, instead, if wind energy is cheaper than other forms, both in £ and GHGs, how much you are about either of them, and then which energy supply you are going to use. There is an almost constant refrain in skeptic circles that “in Europe, when the wind blows it forces spot energy prices negative!” Like somehow this is a bad thing? When the wind blows, wind energy is so cheap that the spot price is effectively zero (negative once subsidies come into operation). This directly lowers your power bill……….”
    =======================================================

    Almost Tom,

    No one blames the windmills, they blame the people implemented the idea before it was useful. Yes, wind is free. No, it isn’t anywhere close to being free when harnessing the energy.

    First, consider the cost of making, building and installing the windmills. Consider the life expectancy of the windmills. Understand, that for every windfarm constructed, one also has to make, build, install and maintain a gas(most expensive form of traditional generation) fired generation plant to be able to generate when the wind doesn’t blow or the wind blows too hard. Further, consider the duality of the transmission lines that have to be built installed and maintained. All of this must be considered when discussing cost of wind generated electricity. The subsidies part of the discussion is a non-starter, because we pay for the subsidies, also.

    In the end, even when the wind blows, wind electricity costs more than traditional generation and as I stated earlier, it will continue to be so until we figure out how to store AC power.

  86. http://network.nationalpost.com/np/blogs/fpcomment/archive/2010/01/22/terence-corcoran-ontario-puts-10b-in-the-wind.aspx

    For people who say that the subsidies to green power (solar, wind) are a “Pittance”. I recommend reading the article at the URL above. Ontario consumers will be paying billions in subsidies to Samsung. That is only part of the story. There are other more generous subsidies for solar ( over 80c/kWh feed in tariffs). The cost of electricity to Ontario consumers is experted to double over teh next year. Already food banks are predicting that many more people will be forced to turn to them because of the induced energy poverty. Long term contracts with these subsidies are being signed at a rate of one billion dollars a week.

  87. RE: Poptech, solar subsidies are dependent on the country and scale of the system.

    Insolation in California is such that some locations can generate 150% more power than a similar system in the UK. That’s a potential 60% cut in cost.

    The highest subsidies offered in the UK (41.3p) are for small home systems. Larger systems get a smaller subsidy since their mean costs are lower.

    In the UK it costs about $7-9 per Wp for a small system on a house. Lieberose, using CdTe and economies of scale cost about $4.50/Wp, or 35% less. Combined with increased capacity factor in California, a PV park there could expect savings of over 70% per unit of electricity compared with a domestic system in the UK.

    Wholesale electricity prices in the UK have been ~5 p /kWh for about a year, and the obscene subsidy guarantees 41.3 p for a total cost of 46.3 p to guarantee profitability.

    In California, your 75% cut means you’re probably looking more at around 12 p. Still very expensive, but actually an 85%+ cut in required subsidy and solar is looking like it should only be a decade away from cost competitiveness in sunny places.

  88. Look at this collections of statistics about wind energy in Germany from the German wind power association:

    http://www.wind-energie.de/de/statistiken/

    Especially interresting is the third graph down titled “Die Einspeisung von Windstrom” meaning total produced wind power. The black curve is the actual produced power, orange is the “potential”, or predicted output power. Not once in the time from 1993 to 2009 has the actual output approached or surpassed the predicted output.
    The accompanying text says that this is to blame on sub-average wind for those years. How can the wind be sub-average over the entire time?
    Somebody must have a different idea of what “average” means.

  89. @sordnay

    But power output mainly depends on wind speed(v), If there is no wind then there is no power, that’s for sure, also If there is too much wind no power either (because there could be very high loads for which the wind turbine) but very few hours are WT’s are down because of high wind speed.
    Good sites yield a mean annual wind speed around 7m/s, with that mean wind speed you have plenty of hours at nominal power.
    Also uptime hours or availability is normally guaranteed by contract usually for 95% or more.

    In the Palm Springs area of California, some rather large wind turbine farms in a windy area appear to have over 50% downtime. It is fairly often that I’ll only see a few turbines turning when I drive past, whether we’re talking about lower than usual winds or higher than usual winds. The same is true for the wind turbines South of Bakersfield.

  90. When nanocarbon gets cheap enough, it should be possible to build a lot bigger/lighter more efficient sailboats and wind turbines. If you think windmills are gross monstrosities now… I have no problem with the government funding solar and wind power research but I don’t want commercial deployment subsidized.

    The USA should pair with India to do the R&D to make Liquid-Fluoride Thorium Reactors (LFTR) commercially viable. The USA has enough thorium to meet our power needs for 1000 years. IIRC, India has more. India is committed to LFTRs and is making it happen. Besides having gobs of cheap fuel available, the LFTR approach is safer to operate and is much less attractive to terrorists than uranium (IIRC, that is because thorium has to first be irradiated with neutrons to become fissile). LFTRs also generate orders of magnitude less atomic waste than uranium based reactors. LFTRs are even able to use current nuclear waste as fuel.

  91. Richard S Courtney says:
    October 14, 2010 at 6:01 am
    ………………………
    You got that right! Nothing is stopping anyone from putting sails on cargo ships. Why don’t we do it? Cheaper than oil right? Maybe because we got tired of sailing for 6 months just to get across the Atlantic. And tired of getting stuck in the doldrums for weeks at a time. And not being able to get out of the path of storms. The energy density of fossil fuels, the convenience, the ability to turn it on and off at will, the widespread availability, etc. make it impossible to compete with. When the day comes and the fossil fuel reserves start to dwindle and they become more expensive than wind, you’ll begin to see widespread use of alternative energy sources. Not because they are better but because that’s all we’ll have. Life won’t be better by depedence on those sources of energy no more than life was better prior to the industrial revolution.

  92. LarryD, I clicked on your link. I want to bring something to your attention:

    As mentioned, the costs shown in the table are national averages. However, there is significant local variation in costs based on local labor markets and the cost and availability of fuel or energy resources such as windy sites. For example, regional wind costs range from 91 $/MWh in the region with the best available resources in 2016 to 271 $/MWh in regions where the best sites have been claimed by 2016. Costs for wind may include additional costs associated with transmission upgrades needed to access remote resources, as well as other factors that markets may or may not internalize into the market price for wind power.

    I would stipulate that Windmills should probably be located in areas with “Good” Wind Resources.

    As for Solar: At present they are getting up to $1,000.00 per panel for installation (a panel typically produces about 230 watts. There is no way in the world that I couldn’t make money installing solar panels for $100.00 apiece (less for a larger job.)

    In short, these are new industries, and you have to take “current” costs with a grain of salt.

    As for why I used the geographical metrics that I did: I read the numbers somewhere, and I internalized them as distances I was familiar with. Hence, the EC to OK City, and Memphis to Chicago. Not trying to be “cute,” just using a construct.

  93. LarryD says:
    October 14, 2010 at 7:36 am

    Total System Levelized cost per megawatthour:
    Advanced Nuclear: 119.0
    Wind: 149.3
    Offshore Wind: 191.1
    Solar Thermal: 256.6
    Solar PV: 396.1

    The costs of some green energy is actually much higher than these numbers suggest.

    They compare apples and oranges.

    Solar PV and on shore wind are depeneding on weather and cannot produce reliably 24 hours a day. Thus they cannot replace a single conventional power plant. Nor do they make any other infrastructure redundant (actually they cause additional cost in the power grid not even accounted for). The only cost they may reduce are the fuel costs of conventional power plants which contribute only around 1 cent/kWH.

    That mean for costs of around 30 cents/kWh for PV solar you get a return of around 1 cent.

  94. Ok guys I work in the actual Electric Power Business. Wind and solar have huge subsidies both direct and indirect. Most final transmission and distribution companies (your local electric company) have state mandates to buy “renewable power” up to a target (which increases continually). So wind and solar do not have to cut deals to buy so long as the overall quota is not exceeded. They also generate huge federal tax credits for the developers. Last summer the federal tax credit was delayed in renewal, so all wind development stopped until it was renewed. For solar the state mandates in places like California are a huge subsidy (i.e the customer has to buy).

    By comparison in States with power markets, most nuclear and thermal power plants have to bid to get power contracts based on price. Think of it as affirmative action for Wind and Solar.

  95. Stories about wind & solar always transport my aging brain back to the ’73 Arab oil embargo/”energy crisis,” when I was in engineering school. It spawned a plethora (well, half a plethora at least) of classes and research projects about alternative energy sources, conversion technologies, and storage methods.
    We heard about solar thermal, solar electric, flat plate collectors & concentrators, rooftop solar water heaters (apparently popular in Florida in the ’40s), orbiting solar plants that would send energy to earth in a high-intensity bird-fricasseeing beam, photovoltaics, thermionics & thermoelectrics, homes with Trombe walls, heat storage in molten salts, magnetohydrodynamics (supersonic plasma! talk about high-tech), geothermal, hydrogen fuel cells, pumped storage hydro, gas turbine topping cycles, coal gasification & liquefaction, shale oil, tar sands, wave power, tidal power, ocean thermal difference power, Magnus effect wind generators, high-temperature gas-cooled reactors, liquid metal fast-breeder reactors (I had a summer job related to them; there were going to be two or three thousand of them soon!), toroidal & Tokomak fusion (maybe they were the same thing; no Cold Fusion or Mr. Fusion yet!). I even worked on a small solar project sponsored by John Z. DeLorean before he started his car company.

    It seemed certain to a naive kid like me that within a couple decades we’d have cheap alternative energy choices running out of our ears. The motivation then was clear and universally supported–get out from under the thumb of that vexatious OPEC.

    So 37 years later, most of our energy still comes from good old coal, oil and natural gas, and commercialization of solar and wind power is still having “teething problems.” Today’s publicized motivation for alternatives–CO2 reduction–doesn’t seem to resonate with the public like cartel-phobia did back then. So I’m not too optimistic about predictions (or are they projections?) that a significant fraction of the world’s energy will come from non-fossil sources before senility renders me even less comprehensible than I am today!

  96. Captive Clients Determine the Success of Energy Initiatives

    Search Dictionary:

    NOUN:
    1. One, such as a prisoner of war, who is forcibly confined, subjugated, or enslaved.
    2. One held in the grip of a strong emotion or passion.
    ADJECTIVE:
    1. Taken and held prisoner, as in war.
    2. Held in bondage; enslaved.
    3. Kept under restraint or control; confined: captive birds.
    4. Restrained by circumstances that prevent free choice: a captive audience; a captive market.
    5. Enraptured, as by beauty; captivated.
    No more words!

  97. David L says:
    October 14, 2010 at 4:11 am

    “You are right about this. At current solar panel efficiencies if you covered all of New York City in solar panels, you wouldn’t have nearly enough power to cover current usage. Solar at this point cannot replace current energy sources. But like all new technology, you have to “get into the game” at some point and the improvements will follow. People had major criticisms of the automobile. They had little power, were noisy, broke down a lot, and really weren’t better than horse and buggy at the time. No infrastructure existed for the auto but plenty was in place for horses. Over time we know how that turned out!”

    The automobile analogy is awfully weak. The first working autos emerged at the end of the 19th century. By the time of WWI, barely two decades later, motorized transport was already seriously displacing horse drawn transport and autos were routinely achieving a “mile a minute”. By the 30s the transformation was nearly complete and production autos were topping 100 mph. All without a single politician or bureaucrat demanding that people adopt the technology or offering subsidies to auto makers.
    Wind and solar have been around for much longer than that time frame and despite massive hectoring, promotion and subsidy the industries have had only incremental progress and the fundamental flaws in each are barely nearer resolution now than they were 40 years ago.

  98. Olaf Koenders says:
    October 14, 2010 at 4:40 am

    Vive la France! Just crank out the nuclear power stations like there’s no tomorrow…

    They have some impressive hydro stations too:

    http://tourisme.lebeaufortain.com/UserFiles/File/fichethemabarragesGB.pdf

    Four small lakes (largest 320 ha) in the Beaufortain produce 4.5TWh per year from a generating capacity of 660MW.

    As the brochure referenced above says:

    …the water stocked represents an electricity “reserve” ready to be used. It is therefore an exceptionally supple tool…

  99. “”” Mike says:
    October 14, 2010 at 11:43 am
    The point is we do not have control over the amount of H2O in the atmosphere. We do have some control over to amount of CO2.

    http://www.sciencemag.org/cgi/content/full/330/6002/356

    It is good that you are willing to post science research that shows you are wrong. It is too bad you can’t understand it. “””

    So are you saying that a solar thermal system such as you have installed can take in 1000 Watt hrs of solar photons, and deliver 550 Watt hours of electricity; or is that 550 Whrs of heat ?

    So if it is a heat system; then it must be governemd by the Carnot efficiency limit. So what are the source and sink Temperatures of the systems you have installed that are 55% efficient ?

  100. “So solar will win.”
    You forgot politics. Companies like GE make windmills and they are a very strong political lobbist for carbon trading (and AGW).

  101. The problem with wind power is: it is unsustainable. I took the Livermore Pass Project in CA and proved that it’s EROEI was not 14.87, but 0.29.

    Developers of wind power projects must be required to submit the EROEI for any proposed wind power facilities, including connection to, and upgrading of, the grid.

    Generous 5-year double declining depreciation and other tax breaks create windfall profits for developers, all at the expense of taxpayers and rate payers.

  102. I have no doubt that wind and solar will be overwhelmingly successful in China. Given the way the Chinese government showed their expertise in acquiring use of extensive tracts of land and of dealing with citizen complaints when setting up the Three Gorges Dam, wind and solar can be as successful as hydroelectric has proven, when enacted in a similar manner.

    As the Chinese have clearly demonstrated, and arguably the French have done when they deployed nuclear power, the success of alternative energy is inversely proportional to the amount of democracy allowed in the adoption. Alternative energy is most successful when government won’t allow any alternatives. ☺

  103. MarkR,

    Your energy markets are heavily distorted with energy taxes, subsidies and regulations. Remove all that and Solar is a pipe dream in terms of economic viability.

    Solar is not and has no remote chance of becoming economically competitive with nuclear or hydrocarbon based energy generation for a long time.

    How much does the Federal Government spend on energy-specific subsidies and support? (EIA)

    The Federal Government spent an estimated $16.6 billion in energy-specific subsidies and support programs in Fiscal Year (FY) 2007. Energy-specific subsidies have more than doubled since FY 1999.

    Natural Gas – $0.25 per megawatt hour
    Coal – $0.44 per megawatt hour
    Hydroelectric – $0.67 per megawatt hour
    Nuclear – $1.59 per megawatt hour
    Wind – $23.37 per megawatt hour
    Solar – $24.34 per megawatt hour

  104. Tim Williams commenting upon a point raised by me says:
    ____________________________________________________________
    “Depends on their size /efficiency, placement and how they’re decomissioned but in general you’re assertion seems to be at odds with some pretty thorough research on the topic.”
    The second of the papers linked by you is behind a pay wall and accordingly I have not read it and therefore I am not in a position to comment upon it . The first paper you link does not really deal with the point I raise although gives some indication of how much CO2 would be used in the production and siting of a 70m high 2mw windmill but no actual figure is placed on it nor the CO2 involved in the logistics of getting the windmill to site. The paper suggest that the foundation uses 700mt of concrete and each windmill 234 tonnes of steel. The paper does not state how much CO2 is produced in thoose processes. According to the IPCC, cement involves the production of 1.25 mt of CO2 per mt of cement. Thus 700 mt of cement produces 875 mt of CO2. Steel produces 1.9 mt of CO2 per mt of steel, hence 234 mt of steel involves the production of 445 mt of CO2. Thus in these two raw materials, some 1320mt of CO2 is produced. This does not include the CO2 involved in getting everything to site nor in the production of other materials used (resins, copper etc) and the assembly of the machinery. The paper entirely fails to deal with the point that wind farms cannot replace conventional power stations and one has to keep on tap conventional power stations to cover 90% of the power which wind farms theoretically could produce in ideal condiions. Nor does the paper deal with power consumption involved in heating hydraulic oil/back powering the turbine when wind/weather conditions are adverse. As such, the paper does not refute the point I made.

  105. The UK feed-in tariffs may be at risk. The Government Department for Excessive Climate Claptrap (DECC) is having its budget cut.
    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/newstopics/spending-review/8062504/Spending-Review-what-it-means-for-the-Environment-and-Climate-Change.html

    That leaves areas like the Feed in Tariff and Renewable Heat Incentive vulnerable to cuts. These energy subsidies are designed to help Britain switch to a low carbon economy. Funding to help build ‘clean’ coal-fired power stations and ports for building wind turbines are also under threat.

  106. crosspatch says:
    October 14, 2010 at 12:54 am


    “I am not aware of a single installation that has ever lived up to its claimed power production after installation. Do you know of any? The most common number I have seen is actual production at about 30% of the “capacity” rating that was used when the generation was sold to whoever bought it. The project in Minnesota was a total failure this past winter when the system delivered exactly 0 watts during one of the coldest periods in the state’s history and they sorely needed the power. The mechanism froze.

    Wind turbines placed in cities across Minnesota to generate power aren’t working because of the cold temperatures.

    The Minnesota Municipal Power Association bought 11 turbines for $300,000 each from a company in Palm Springs, Calif.

    Special hydraulic fluid designed for colder temperatures was used in the turbines, but it’s not working, so neither are the turbines.

    There is a plan to heat the fluid, but officials must find a contractor to do the work.

    Get that? You have to expend energy to heat the hydraulic fluid so the windmill will work. ”

    Heh, we got one of those turbines. It wasn’t really a serious project. It was stunt for the southwest metro area. These are not serious turbines. I think they’re only 150kW units, and each city (suburb/exurb) got one. The real problem was they bought the damn things from California and never bothered to check their operating temperature range. On a positive note I actually saw our turbine run for the first time last month. I’m so proud of our local utility.

  107. China must be stopped or they will do away with the solar industry in the world the same way the did with mining companies. When they get a monopoly, we’ll see the same thing we have seen with the rare earth metals. Enforce strong tariffs in every branch of industry where China is subsidizing of face extinction.

  108. @Dave Wendt says:
    October 14, 2010 at 1:24 pm
    The automobile analogy is awfully weak. The first working autos emerged at the end of the 19th century. By the time of WWI, barely two decades later, motorized transport was already seriously displacing horse drawn transport and autos were routinely achieving a “mile a minute”. By the 30s the transformation was nearly complete and production autos were topping 100 mph. All without a single politician or bureaucrat demanding that people adopt the technology or offering subsidies to auto makers.
    Wind and solar have been around for much longer than that time frame and despite massive hectoring, promotion and subsidy the industries have had only incremental progress and the fundamental flaws in each are barely nearer resolution now than they were 40 years ago.

    Well said. Thank you.

  109. Why oh why are we evn subsedizing wind or solar power, people and companys invovled in them see a cash cow and are jumping on the band wagon. If it is such a good thing for this country or the world why dont they do it with out taxpayer support!!!! Then you will see how good of a deal it really is.

  110. Until the latest infatuation with wind and solar, the trend in energy sources was towards lower land footprints. Back in 1910, 27 per cent of all agricultural land in the US was devoted to feeding horses. Cue horseless carriage. Adding all the oil wells, pipelines, refineries, highways and back streets, parking lots etc currently devoted to cars adds up to less than half the area. This is despite a huge increase in population and in distances covered.

    Similar things apply to domestic and industrial power. A single family reliant on wood for heating in the colder US states requires a small forest. Back in the 19th century, it took 1,000 acres of timber a year to fuel one furnace for iron smelting. Enter Mr Edison. Forest areas in the US are now increasing steadily (around 3 million acres a year).

    The clear path to continuing this process is to gradually increase the contribution of nuclear power. Solar on home roofs can never be more than a minor contributor, simply because of the power intensity required by much modern technology. Giant solar farms in the desert and huge windmills are both ugly blots on the landscape, and completely unnecessary.

  111. Alex, excellent points. This is why we have progressed to more and more denser forms of energy.

    The natural progression is: Wood – Coal – Oil – Natural Gas – Nuclear

  112. richard verney says:
    October 14, 2010 at 5:54 pm
    ————————————————————————————–

    Thanks for reading the link. I respectfully suggest you read it again especially the results of the Life cycle assessment.

    For further reading have a look at this…http://www.parliament.uk/documents/post/postpn268.pdf

    LCA and caclulating carbon footprints of electricity generatiuon really isn’t that controversial.
    I totally accept your point that wind alone cannot replace all alternative ways of energy generation. I accept conserns over energy distribution over large grids etc.. I can’t find anything about the heating of lubricants in adverse weather but I suspect it’s covered in the maintainance calculations and is probably negligable depending on the siting etc…

    “Wind
    Electricity generated from wind energy has one of the
    lowest carbon footprints. As with other low carbon
    technologies, nearly all the emissions occur during the
    manufacturing and construction phases, arising from the
    production of steel for the tower, concrete for the
    foundations and epoxy/fibreglass for the rotor blades.10
    These account for 98% of the total life cycle CO2
    emissions. “http://www.parliament.uk/documents/post/postpn268.pdf

  113. So how long before the governments decide that subsidies aren’t going to improve the technology much?

  114. Tom Williams:

    At October 15, 2010 at 2:11 am you quote a political document that says;

    “Electricity generated from wind energy has one of the lowest carbon footprints.”

    Nonsense!

    Windfarms for power generation provide intermittent power so they merely displace thermal power stations onto standby mode or to operate at reduced efficiency while the thermal power stations wait for the wind to change. So, windfarms make no significant reduction to pollution because thermal power stations continue to use their fuel and to produce their emissions while operating in standby mode or with reduced efficiency that can increase their emissions at low output.

    Importantly, the increased emissions from power stations operating at reduced efficiency while displaced by windfarms are properly attributed as emission from operation of the windfarms.

    So, instead of citing a political tract, let me quote somebody who is responsible for operation of both power stations and windfarms.

    David Tolley (Head of Networks and Ancillary Services, Innogy (a subsidiary of the German energy consortium RWE) has said of windfarms in the UK,

    “When [thermal] plant is de-loaded to balance the system, it results in a significant proportion of deloaded plant which operates relatively inefficiently. … Coal plant will be part-loaded such that the loss of a generating unit can swiftly be replaced by bringing other units on to full load. In addition to increased costs of holding reserve in this manner, it has been estimated that the entire benefit of reduced emissions from the renewables programme has been negated by the increased emissions from part-loaded plant under NETA.”
    (NETA is the New Electricity Trading Arrangements, the UK’s deregulated power market.)

    Richard

  115. Richard S Courtney says:
    October 15, 2010 at 5:02 am
    ___________________________________________________________
    I challenged the point Richard Verney made that “… a lot of CO2 is used in the production, transportation and installation of wind farms. In particular, vast amounts of concrete are required as foundations. When this is taken into account and the additional power used to heat lubricating fluids in extreme cold and/or to back power the units when wind levels are inappropriate, there has been no saving of CO2 emissions.”

    I believe this to be inaccurate. Oh you can (and will, I’m sure) quite legitimately argue the relative financial costs of electricity generation, even the more holistic impacts such as aesthetics and sound pollution, together with your point that the current level of wind power supplied to the system represents a CO2 saving that has been offset by downloading of the coal plants etc..

    I don’t think, however, you can seriously question the many studies that have been conducted into the relative savings of CO2 emissions per Kwh of electricity produced.

    As a very rough comparison we’re talking around 7g CO2 per Kwh. for wind power from a relatively inefficient turbine (obviously dependent on many factors but roughly a good ball park figure) to around 540g CO2 per Kwh for the European average* for other means of electricty generation.

    http://www.vestas.com/en/about-vestas/sustainability/wind-turbines-and-the-environment/life-cycle-assessment-%28lca%29.aspx

    “The LCA shows that 1 kWh electricity generated by a V82-1.65 MW onshore turbine has an impact of 6.6 grams of CO2 during the life cycle. If this is compared to the CO2 emission of 546 grams per kWh from European average electricity it is clear that the environmental burdens are significantly lower for electricity generated by wind turbines.”

    *This compares to figures from the USA (http://www.eia.doe.gov/electricity/page/co2_report/co2emiss.pdf)
    Against Coal 2.1lbs per Kwh, Gas 1.3lbs per Kwh

  116. Tom is right about wind.

    I know two ranchers each with over 100 turbines. They get paid a % of the gross.

    Both also have wind measuring towers they put up over 25 years ago and still collect data from them. They also get data from the turbines.

    First, the total power generated over a year is about 25% of the rated output of the turbines.

    Second, the efficiency of the turbines drops over time for the same wind speed.

    When they run the trends out for the whole 20 years, they think the actual power generated will end up being 18-22% of rated output.

    Given the same money invested in a nuke plant, you’d get 90% output. Even at half the rated capacity due to a higher sunk cost, the nuke would generate 250% more power and probably last twice as long.

  117. Ref – D. King says:
    October 13, 2010 at 10:19 pm
    “So solar will win. Not because they’re nicer guys, but because their industry is more fragmented and they have more demanding customers.”

    Chinese solar is doing fine.
    The U.S. is having trouble competing.
    _______________________________
    The US IS NOT having trouble competing!!!!!!!!!! They AIN’T COMPETING!!!!!!! They’re giving it all away, it’s called SUICIDE.

  118. “”” Austin says:
    October 15, 2010 at 8:38 am
    Tom is right about wind.

    I know two ranchers each with over 100 turbines. They get paid a % of the gross. “””

    Well Austen, I would suggest that your two rancher friends need to find themselves a more creative contract lawyer. The wind isn’t really theirs in the first place; it is just passing through from somebody else’s place.

    What they have to sell is Location, Location, Location !!!

    So they should be charging their squatters for the total time that their wind mills sit on their ranchland.

    If you go to Hawaii, or the Florida Keys, and want to go fishing; every single business operator who would take you, will charge you for the total time you are using their services. I know of no fishing guide who will charge you just for how many fish you catch; rather than how much of his time and boat you take up.

    So your friends need to be billing the fan owners for how long they occupy the premises; after all, why the heck should your friends be assuming the risks of adequate wind supply; the fan owner should be the one making that bet. And the whole time they are on the rancher’s land they will of course need 24/7 access to do required maintenance and repairs; so the rancher is inconvenienced for the entire time his place is occupied by these gamblers.

  119. Well Tom, wind power is just as much solar as is PVE or solar thermal. As near as I can judge, solar wind is not; and likely never will be used locally as on one’s house for example. Building codes, and homeowner associations simply won’t put up with those hideous contraptions on neighborhood homes (it’s ok with me). But both solar PVE and solar thermal are used at the local home level; although the thermal units are of low energy quality.

    As for the large farms; wind does have some advantage in that multiple land use is still possible; as in the rancher land re-use situation. Large PVE farms however are a different story; and multiple land use is not very likely. The vulnerability of large solar cell arrays to vandalism or sabotage/terrorism, means that large farms would need to be security fenced; and maybe even armed guards to enforce total human exclusion from the whole area. large area solar thermal, particularly the high temperature solar tower type also are vulnerable.

    I don’t think you are going to uproot tens of thousands of residents from already occupied; and often Native American occupied desert land areas where big solar farms are being contemplated. That is never going to fly; and one does need to consider the environmental impact of stopping that much solar energy from reaching the ground over such vast areas that were previously sun baked. To claim it won’t caue climate change is a bit hard to defend.

  120. Kum:”Wind is cheaper than Nuclear, and Solar will be considerably less in a few years ”

    The only difference being, of course, that Nuclear and Fossil actually work, and Wind and Solar don’t. Aside from the fact that both Solar and Wind are unmitigated environmental disasters for vast swaths of the planet already, while contributing nothing useful to the power grid of any country in the world.

  121. Tim Williams:

    At October 15, 2010 at 5:39 am you assert:

    “As a very rough comparison we’re talking around 7g CO2 per Kwh. for wind power from a relatively inefficient turbine (obviously dependent on many factors but roughly a good ball park figure) to around 540g CO2 per Kwh for the European average* for other means of electricty generation.
    http://www.vestas.com/en/about-vestas/sustainability/wind-turbines-and-the-environment/life-cycle-assessment-%28lca%29.aspx

    Twaddle!
    If you want to dispute what I wrote at October 15, 2010 at 5:02 then please do. But your response of citing a wind turbine manufacturer’s advertising brochure (that does not address my point in any way) smacks of desperation.

    Richard

  122. Richard S Courtney says:
    October 15, 2010 at 1:27 pm
    ————————————————————————————–
    Your ‘point’ ,for it’s worth, was to say that ‘Electricity generated from wind energy has one of the lowest carbon footprints.’ was…’nonsense’.

    The quote in question was from a UK government report and I’ve supported it with another comissioned by the Welsh assembly government and a further report from a turbine manufacturer, I’ve made a comparison with figures from the US Dept of energy that estimates CO2 per Kwh from two fossil fuel sources.

    The fact remains that electricity produced from the current generation of wind turbines in a life cycle analysis (of which there are many) produces a tiny fraction of the CO2 produced per Kwh of that from fossil fuel power generation sources.

    I can’t put it any clearer than that. You can bluster and rant away with ‘twaddle’ if you like, but I’d be intrigued to see if you can produce anything from anyone that would counter that very simple point.

  123. Tom Williams:

    Your comment at October 15, 2010 at 1:27 pm is outrageous.

    It asserts that I – not you – blustered. No! You repeatedly blustered by failing to address my point in any way but, instead, first you cited a political tract and when I rejected that with real evidence you then cited a sales brochure from Vestas.

    I repeat what I said at October 15, 2010 at 1:27 pm:
    “If you want to dispute what I wrote at October 15, 2010 at 5:02 then please do. But your response of citing a wind turbine manufacturer’s advertising brochure (that does not address my point in any way) smacks of desperation.”

    And if my post at October 15, 2010 at 5:02 is too difficult for you to find I copy it here.

    “”

  124. Ooops pressed the wrong button. Here is the complete post.

    Tom Williams:

    Your comment at October 15, 2010 at 1:27 pm is outrageous.

    It asserts that I – not you – blustered. No! You repeatedly blustered by failing to address my point in any way but, instead, first you cited a political tract and when I rejected that with real evidence you then cited a sales brochure from Vestas.

    I repeat what I said at October 15, 2010 at 1:27 pm:
    “If you want to dispute what I wrote at October 15, 2010 at 5:02 then please do. But your response of citing a wind turbine manufacturer’s advertising brochure (that does not address my point in any way) smacks of desperation.”

    And if my post at October 15, 2010 at 5:02 is too difficult for you to find I copy it here.

    “Tom Williams:
    At October 15, 2010 at 2:11 am you quote a political document that says;
    “Electricity generated from wind energy has one of the lowest carbon footprints.”

    Nonsense!

    Windfarms for power generation provide intermittent power so they merely displace thermal power stations onto standby mode or to operate at reduced efficiency while the thermal power stations wait for the wind to change. So, windfarms make no significant reduction to pollution because thermal power stations continue to use their fuel and to produce their emissions while operating in standby mode or with reduced efficiency that can increase their emissions at low output.

    Importantly, the increased emissions from power stations operating at reduced efficiency while displaced by windfarms are properly attributed as emission from operation of the windfarms.

    So, instead of citing a political tract, let me quote somebody who is responsible for operation of both power stations and windfarms.

    David Tolley (Head of Networks and Ancillary Services, Innogy (a subsidiary of the German energy consortium RWE) has said of windfarms in the UK,
    “When [thermal] plant is de-loaded to balance the system, it results in a significant proportion of deloaded plant which operates relatively inefficiently. … Coal plant will be part-loaded such that the loss of a generating unit can swiftly be replaced by bringing other units on to full load. In addition to increased costs of holding reserve in this manner, it has been estimated that the entire benefit of reduced emissions from the renewables programme has been negated by the increased emissions from part-loaded plant under NETA.”
    (NETA is the New Electricity Trading Arrangements, the UK’s deregulated power market.)

    Richard”

    The point is that
    “Importantly, the increased emissions from power stations operating at reduced efficiency while displaced by windfarms are properly attributed as emission from operation of the windfarms.”

    Your blather has not addressed that in any way but, instead has falsely accused me of bluster.

    So, stop blustering and answer the point. Put up or shut up.

    Richard

  125. Wind power is ideal for pumping water. If you pump it uphill, of course you’re storing potential energy. In Australia, we’re water-poor, but there’s no provision for storm water collection, and of course the Greens go absolutely bonkers at the first talk of building a dam. Still, it wouldn’t take much time, space or treasure to build a few new environmentally friendly lakes at slightly higher elevations. One might even call them ‘habitats’, since everyone knows that ‘reservoirs’ are environmental poison. Bet a few small turbines on the down-hill run might prove handy in remote areas, or even feed into the power grid (the input would be a lot less variable than wind per se, hence more efficient). And the water, of course, would be available for irrigation, manufacturing, maybe even drinking. Easy done … if the powers that be weren’t so viscerally opposed to that sort of environmental vandalism. Instead, they’ve opted for $2,000,000,000 desalination plants in capital cities. Now that we’ve had a bit of rain, the one they built in Brisbane is pretty much idle, though it still costs taxpayers $1,000,000 a week. Go figure. The ways of god, government and greenies are mysterious, and it’s not given to us mortals to understand them.

  126. Richard S Courtney says:
    October 15, 2010 at 2:36 pm

    ————————————————————————————–

    So you’ve seen my ‘bluster’ and raised me a ‘blather’….although in a thread about wind I think bluster is the more appropriate term.

    This link will calm most of your concerns as it addresses them directly.

    http://www.bwea.com/pdf/ref_three.pdf

    “In the day-to-day running of the UK power system it is coal plant which is taken off load when additional base load plant, such as nuclear or renewables, start to generate. This is clearly demonstrated in data published by The National Grid Company which describes the make-up of plant on the system at various times. The nuclear and Combined Cycle Gas Turbine (CCGT) plant operates continuously throughout the day and the output of the coal plant is changed to meet changes in demand. It should be noted, as discussed earlier, that the output from coal plant will not change in response to every fluctuation in wind output. It will be adjusted in response to the aggregated change in demand, of which wind only contributes a small proportion.”

    It’s worth a read, but I’ve no doubt at all you’ll dismiss it as biased etc…

  127. We aren’t going to have any form of usable energy for long if we can’t afford to pay the real and actual costs of it.

    Being a civil engineer, I do know engineering economics. I see no figures for maintenance. I see no evidence that these alternative energy devices will last as long as it will take to return the investment. Without huge government subsidies, none of it would be constructed. And . . . those subsidies are a real cost to each and everyone of us who pays taxes, or our children, or our grandchildren or . . .we will have to default on debts, and that costs someone.

    Windmills were useful for farms and ranches, as the water pumped could be stored. And those farm people used far, far less water than present people do. I know, as I was once one of them. All children sharing the same small amount of bath water, heated on a wood stove on Saturday evening. Outhouses that didn’t have to be flushed. Water had to be pumped by hand for the most part.

    Coal could be slurried and pumped through pipelines, but it would cost more, and getting gubmints permissons to put in pipelines is extremely costly and time consuming.

    We here in the US have enough known and extractable coal, natural gas, and oil, without counting the enormous amount of shale oil, to last more than 400 years. I am quite sure that technology will be improved in the next 4 centuries. No point in jumping headlong into bankruptcy over foolish fears.

    The automobile companies got no gubmint subsidies, nor did the railroad companies, and utilities were paid for by investors, who got a fine return on investment. As for promise, nuclear fusion had promise . . . 50 or 60 years ago, and from what I read, still is said to “have promise”. “Has promise” is no different than pie in the sky bye and bye.

  128. Hey! The trade war is warming up a bit:
    US to Probe China’s Green Technology Trade Policies

    WASHINGTON (Dow Jones)–In its latest salvo against China’s trade practices, the U.S. Friday said it is investigating allegations that the Asian nation is unfairly supporting its makers of wind and solar energy products, advanced batteries and energy-efficient vehicles.

    “For those allegations that are supported by sufficient evidence and that can effectively be addressed through (World Trade Organization) dispute settlement, we will vigorously pursue the enforcement of our rights through WTO litigation,” U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk said in a statement.

    The United Steelworkers union on Sept. 9 petitioned the Obama administration to examine China’s green technology practices, saying the country employs export restraints and subsidies, discriminates against foreign companies and imported goods, and engages in other practices that harm U.S. interests and run counter to global trade rules.

    http://online.wsj.com/article/BT-CO-20101015-712516.html

  129. Tim Williams:

    Thankyou for at last addressing my point in your response at October 15, 2010 at 4:45 pm .

    However, your response makes an assertion which is not true when it quotes an advertisement from the British Wind Energy Association at

    http://www.bwea.com/pdf/ref_three.pdf

    saying;
    “It should be noted, as discussed earlier, that the output from coal plant will not change in response to every fluctuation in wind output. It will be adjusted in response to the aggregated change in demand, of which wind only contributes a small proportion.”

    It is tempting to give the Mandy Rice Davis answer (Well, they would say that, wouldn’t they?).

    However, I point out that the (as you admit “biased”) assertion from an association of wind energy providers says that “wind only contributes a small proportion” of “the aggregated change in demand”. And this is an admission wind power DOES contribute to “the aggregated change in demand”. And it asserts that “the output from coal plant will not change in response to EVERY fluctuation in wind output” (my emphasis).

    But nobody has said that EVERY fluctuation in wind output would be sufficiently large for it to have a discernible effect on demand from thermal plant.

    I repeat the quotation that I have repeatedly stated above (first at October 15, 2010 at 5:02 am ) because it directly refutes the misleading implication of the statement in the PR blurb which says;
    “the output from coal plant will not change in response to every fluctuation in wind output” .

    I repeatedly wrote above:
    “let me quote somebody who is responsible for operation of both power stations and windfarms.

    David Tolley (Head of Networks and Ancillary Services, Innogy (a subsidiary of the German energy consortium RWE) has said of windfarms in the UK,

    “When [thermal] plant is de-loaded to balance the system, it results in a significant proportion of deloaded plant which operates relatively inefficiently. … Coal plant will be part-loaded such that the loss of a generating unit can swiftly be replaced by bringing other units on to full load. In addition to increased costs of holding reserve in this manner, it has been estimated that the entire benefit of reduced emissions from the renewables programme has been negated by the increased emissions from part-loaded plant under NETA.”
    (NETA is the New Electricity Trading Arrangements, the UK’s deregulated power market.)”

    The quotation you provide from the British Wind Energy Association’s PR blurb tends to confirm that they know David Tolley is right.

    Richard

  130. James Sexton says:

    First, consider the cost of making, building and installing the windmills. Consider the life expectancy of the windmills. Understand, that for every windfarm constructed, one also has to make, build, install and maintain a gas(most expensive form of traditional generation) fired generation plant to be able to generate when the wind doesn’t blow or the wind blows too hard.

    There’s also the issue of maintenance. In a conventional power station you don’t have precision moving parts outside on the top of tall masts. (Even for wind farms on land immunity to motion sickness can be a job requirment.)
    You certainly don’t have lots of fairly small generators spread over a large area and it’s perfectly possible to have cranes installed within the plant. If you have a wind farm you need mobile cranes available.

    If you are going to have to build a regular power plant anyway it makes far more sense to use fission, even coal, to generate the steam to run it. Then use money which dosn’t need to be spent on building and maintaining lots of windmills to do some combination of more generating capacity, improving existing transmission lines, cheaper electricity.

  131. David L. says:

    Nothing is stopping anyone from putting sails on cargo ships. Why don’t we do it? Cheaper than oil right? Maybe because we got tired of sailing for 6 months just to get across the Atlantic. And tired of getting stuck in the doldrums for weeks at a time. And not being able to get out of the path of storms.

    Nothing stops a ship having both sails and a propeller/thrusters. Something you can find on yachts. I guess the potential fuel savings don’t justify the costs of sails.

  132. Mark:

    At October 17, 2010 at 8:38 am you write:

    “Nothing stops a ship having both sails and a propeller/thrusters. Something you can find on yachts. I guess the potential fuel savings don’t justify the costs of sails.”

    Your “guess is correct”.

    Today, if wind power were economically competitive with fossil fuels, then oil tankers would be sailing ships. Japan has conducted several studies to ascertain if use of automated sails could assist modern shipping. These studies have demonstrated that available wind power is so small a contribution to the powering of a ship that the systems to obtain it cannot recover their capital costs.

    Richard

  133. Sorry if this comment is a bit scattered – I started writing it in Helsinki, make more progress in Copenhagen and I’m finishing it in Bristol.

    @Craig Goodrich: Er, if you say so. And it is just you saying so, since the link is just to your website where you provide no evidence and quite an array of very inaccurate statements.

    @Vince Causey: I’m not sure why the labelling practices of food processors is relevant to how windmills operate? If they work like that, then no, that’s not very helpful. But if I Google “Vestas Turbine Models” for instance, the first hit is a list of about twenty common turbine models, each of which lists power output and… oh, look, rated wind speed.

    @Richard Courtney: The issues here are more complex than you make out. You assume that wind output is both completely unregulated and completely unpredictable. Neither is true. Grid destablisation is partly dealt with by grid operators enforcing appropriate grid codes. These typically specify a maximum rate of change of output from a wind farm. The farm operator has to show that they can comply with this before they are connected to the grid. Windmills don’t just convert whatever energy is present to electricity – the output is completely controllable below this limit (at least for any large, modern turbine – anything over 1MW rated). The inevitable question is “what about when the wind drops suddenly?” The answer is that it doesn’t. Windmills don’t operate in cluttered, gusty environments. They operate in largely laminar wind flows and the changes are always fairly slow. They are also predictable. It is very easy to forecast a windmill’s output to within 10% a few hours in advance, and fairly easy a couple of days in advance (we do this commercially and people think it’s worth paying for).

    And I’d add my $0.02 to the costs debate. The cost of constructing onshore wind turbines in the UK is about £800 per kW. The operation & maintenance costs are abount £16 per kW over 20 years. If you assume a capacity factor of 27% (on the low end), that the construction is fully funded by debt at an interest rate of 10% (rather high just now) to be payed back over ten years, this gives you an energy price of 5.35 p/kWhr. The wholesale price of electricity has hovered around 6.5p/kWhr for the last year. So the payoff period for such a turbine is actually just over eight years. So, over the 20-year life of the turbine, nearly twelve years of operation are pure profit, or about £1800 profit per kW of capacity, or about 225% profit over 20 years. I just thought the “expensive white elephant” debate could do with some real numbers. The figures are sourced from the UK SDC report Wind Power in the UK. The report is from 2005; I am assuming that improvements in turbine cost and inflation roughly cancel over that time. The report gives a range of numbers from various sources; I have taken the worst case for each number for onshore wind, and have required payoff in 10 years instead of 15 or 20 as the sources in the report assume. Of course, if you have cheaper construction (say £585 per kW, such as the Danish report), a better capacity factor (the UK is probably better than most in the report, probably nearer 35%), cheap capital (say 5% effective interest) and are happy to pay it off over the 20-year life of the turbine, then the electricity costs 1.5 p/kWhr and you can pay it off in under five years. Decommissioning is a non-issue for costs – you don’t usually tear them down, you replace them with newer turbines (this is known as repowering and is already happening in the UK). This is cheaper than construction on a greenfields site (no grid connection, the foundation is probably reusable, the tower material can be sold as scrap, the generator can be reconditioned and resold etc etc etc) so wind gets cheaper the second time around on a site.

  134. @Poptech – yes, really. Note the following points from the articles you cite, please:

    1. Neither article mentions whether the drops were forecast or not, but both imply that they were (see points 3 and 4).

    2. Although the Texas grid operator cut some customers, this was not because demand exceeded supply, but because reserve supply fell below some threshold and created the risk that demand might exceed supply.

    3. Despite the headline, the Texas cuts were not caused by wind: “multiple power suppliers fell below the amount of power they were scheduled to produce on Tuesday,” that is, the wind drop was forecast and other suppliers were scheduled to make up the shortfall – but those other suppliers didn’t deliver what they’d promised, causing the dip in supply.

    4. The drop in wind in the UK did not cause any supply interruption, ie. it was successfully forecast and the shortfall made up.

  135. Tom,

    Now you are getting desperate,

    1. No where is it mentioned that it was predicted. If this was predicted wouldn’t ERCOT mention this? Why would they withhold something to make themselves look bad?

    2. Fact: Large industrial customers lost 1,100 megawatts of power for an hour and a half due to the FAILURE of WIND POWER.

    “ERCOT said the grid’s frequency dropped suddenly when wind production fell from more than 1,700 megawatts, before the event, to 300 MW when the emergency was declared.”

    3. “…That, coupled with the loss of wind generated in West Texas” <- Why are you omitting this? It doesn't say who those "multiple suppliers" are, they could be more wind power!

    4. "…sources in the energy industry say that the lack of wind has caused the country's wind farms to grind to a halt when more electricity than ever is needed for heating, forcing the grid to rely on back up from fossil fuels

    You have failed to provide any evidence that it was predicted.

  136. Tom Fuller wants to know which will win – solar or wind energy. I say pox on both of their houses. Why are we even talking about that? Because there is a global warming movement that wants to control carbon dioxide emissions to prevent a global warming catastrophe. Fuller evidently thinks there is something to that. The case against carbon dioxide was tainted from the start. It began with a huge public relations coup when Hansen stood up in front of more than ten television cameras and pronounced that global warming had started and that carbon dioxide we were putting into the air was the cause. The year was 1988. I have determined from satellite records that was no warming whatsoever in the eighties and nineties. Furthermore, temperature records that show warming in this time slot are falsified and I show how that was done. Which makes that testimony of Hansen’s in front of the Senate false. I wouldn’t actually care if the warming advocates had not succeeded in convincing governments to take actions based on this false science to protect us against an imaginary danger. The actions and proposals for further actions would make our economies worse and lower the living standard of each of us as an individual, all for nothing. These fanatics are more than incredible: Hansen so hates carbon dioxide that now he calls trains that transport coal to power stations for burning “death trains.” Not only are the data upon which their claims of warming rest cooked, their science is also wrong. Ferenc Miskolczi has shown that the optical thickness of the atmosphere in the infrared where carbon dioxide absorbs has been constant for the last 61 years. Which means that constant addition of carbon dioxide to the atmosphere for all these years has not had any influence on the transparency of the atmosphere to heat radiation from below. This is an empirical observation based on NOAA database going back to 1948 and not a deduction from theory. It overrides any theoretical calculations that do not agree with it, and I specifically mean Arrhenius theory. It should be obvious by now to any real climate scientist that the IPCC boast that the “science is settled” is not settled at all and that they need to go back to the drawing boards.

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