Location location, location: Wind Turbine Power Output Increased 10x

Wind Turbine power output is increased ten-fold by careful spacing, and direction of rotation, when compared to existing best practices.

FLOWEClick image for video surveyGuest post by Roger E. Sowell

Summary:  A new study from CalTech shows that wind-turbine spacing, location, and direction of rotation can increase average power output per acre (hectare) by ten-fold, compared to existing best practices.   Professor John O. Dabiri of California Institute of Technology (CalTech) published a paper describing the impact on power production of spacing, location, and direction of rotation on vertical-axis wind turbines.

For images and video, see http://dabiri.caltech.edu/research/wind-energy.html

A preprint of the paper is available at http://dabiri.caltech.edu/publications/Da_JRSE11.pdf   (675 kB)

VAWT (vertical axis wind turbines) that are spaced approximately 4 diameters apart, with adjacent VAWTs rotating in opposite directions, yield a ten-fold increase in power output per unit of land area, from 2 – 3 Watts per square meter of land, to 21 –  47 Watts per square meter when compared to modern horizontal-axis wind turbines.

This has great implications for new wind-farm projects, especially the economics and environmental impacts.  It does not, however, address the Achilles heel of wind power, the intermittency of power production and the need to time-shift power production by some economic means of grid-scale storage and discharge.

From Dr. Dabiri’s paper:

Abstract

Modern wind farms comprised of horizontal-axis wind turbines (HAWTs) require significant land resources to separate each wind turbine from the adjacent turbine wakes. This aerodynamic constraint limits the amount of power that can be extracted from a given wind farm footprint. The resulting inefficiency of HAWT farms is currently compensated by using taller wind turbines to access greater wind resources at high altitudes, but this solution comes at the expense of higher engineering costs and greater visual, acoustic, radar and environmental impacts. We investigated the use of counter-rotating vertical-axis wind turbines (VAWTs) in order to achieve higher power output per unit land area than existing wind farms consisting of HAWTs. Full-scale field tests of 10-m tall VAWTs in various counter-rotating configurations were conducted under natural wind conditions during summer 2010. Whereas modern wind farms consisting of HAWTs produce 2 to 3 watts of power per square meter of land area,
these field tests indicate that power densities an order of magnitude greater can potentially be achieved by arranging VAWTs in layouts that enable them to extract energy from adjacent wakes and from above the wind farm. Moreover, this improved performance does not require higher individual wind turbine efficiency, only closer wind turbine spacing and a sufficient vertical flux of turbulence kinetic energy from the atmospheric surface layer. The results suggest an alternative approach to wind farming that has the potential to concurrently reduce the cost, size, and environmental impacts of wind farms.

About these ads

158 thoughts on “Location location, location: Wind Turbine Power Output Increased 10x

  1. VAWT rated power = 0.0012MW
    HAWT rated power – 2.5MW or 3MW.

    Is it just me or is this study comparing tiny little toy wind turbines to real full sized ones?

    Aren’t Mythbusters usually surprised by the results when they go from models to full size?

  2. Pretty cool stuff. I’ve always liked VAWT’s better than HAWT’s for their less clumsy design appearance, but believed them to be less efficient. Clustering them like this study suggests with the counter-rotation on adjacent turbines is a smart move. Now they need to work out how to keep birds away from them and keep the noise down. 30W/m^2 isn’t a lot of power for crowded islands like Britain though, and the intermittent wind problem isn’t going away anytime soon with few places suitable for pumped storage and battery technology too expensive.

  3. The vertical axis turbines are less efficient than the current crop of windmills, but their increased density ‘overcompensates’ for this by gleaning the wake of upstream turbines. We get better output per unit of land, but increased density means more turbines, which means more capital cost. We’ll have to wait to see how this scales up in terms of cost/output and nuisance noise generation.

  4. I remember reading about “egg beater” windmills 30-40 years ago. A big practical advantage then was that the generators are at the bottom, where they don’t need to be supported and are easy to service, rather than at the top.

    DirkH — By “much better” with birds, do you mean they are better for the birds or do a better job of annihilating them?

    I can see a man in the picture. Are these production sized or scaled down?

  5. This sounds great.
    Then the wind doesn’t blow.
    Ten times zero equals zero.
    Next?

  6. GE invested in the wrong technology? All those factories they built in China will now have to be re-tooled – oops. No problems though, Obama will just write another check once he gets the credit limit increase.

  7. Wind turbines provide intermitent power so when they do operate to produce electricity to a grid they merely displace thermal power stations onto standby (with no reduction to fuel consumption and emissions) or onto part loading (with increased fuel consumption and emissions). The thermal power stations need to keep operating like that until the wind turbines stop operating.

    In other words, wind tubines do not provide any useful electricity to a grid at any time.

    Ten times nothing useful is nothing useful.

    Richard

  8. Hu McCulloch says:
    July 16, 2011 at 2:57 pm
    “DirkH — By “much better” with birds, do you mean they are better for the birds or do a better job of annihilating them? ”

    I said “much better against”. Here in Lower Saxony, there’s an area full of wind turbines, or rather lots of them, for instance two huge concentrations around Kraftwerk Mehrum and near Salzgitter-Lebenstedt and then there’s also the beautiful Innerste valley south of Hildesheim. It’s wind turbine free as, being a narrow valley, not very windy. I saw the most beautiful birds of prey there; a red milan being the most spectacular. Birds i didn’t see near the wind turbine fields. Now, that might all be a coincidence but i’m driving a lot through these regions…

  9. Having just returned from a trip though West Texas, I was appalled by the 5,000+ turbines on every flat spot northwest of Abilene.

    They are an abomination and a blight upon our land.

  10. I have never walked through a coal or nuclear power plant, to get an appreciation of our engineering prowess, and the scale of our power production facilities.
    I think “the children” should be exposed to the infrastructure that keeps their electronics running, maybe then they will realize the folly of windmills.

  11. There are some crazy numbers being thrown around, here, with no qualification. For example – the following represents delivered power on average, or power capability?

    VAWT rated power = 0.0012MW
    HAWT rated power – 2.5MW or 3MW

    A 2MW turbine that limps along at 7% of capability is producing very little power per acre.

    Then there is the density question. It is claimed that a certain acreage is required per generator, as a design goal. This is probably the talked about acreage requirement. Then there is the as-built acreage – what is actually happening in the world of wind farm construction.

    Here at Mark Lynas’ blog I link some information regarding the as-built:

    http://www.marklynas.org/2011/04/how-much-of-japans-land-area-would-be-needed-to-replace-nuclear-with-wind/

    And which I’ll link here as well, as it is interesting to see the differences between what can be done and what is being done.

    Here’s some data on what is already built.

    http://www.aweo.org/windarea.html

    And the conclusions (section 6) of this document found on the calculator page Romm’s article referenced, the 1.2 million acres is pretty close on an area/MW basis using 1MW generators:

    http://www.nrel.gov/docs/fy09osti/45834.pdf

    In Washington State the new Kittitas eyesore sites 52 400′ towers on 5,400 acres.

    http://www.efsec.wa.gov/kittitaswind.shtml

  12. DocWat says:
    July 16, 2011 at 2:13 pm
    “Don’t VAWTs have their own problems, besides being ugly?”

    Yes, the more effective they are per square foot, as in not taking up much space, the less likely they are to be promoted. The two reasons for this that I see are why would government pay subsidies for highly effective and inconspicuous hardware? The second reason is why promote cheap technology that takes no place that bothers no one and that effectively lessen the need for “Big Energy” production?

    In my country a singel VAWT for “home use” can generate more ‘an is need for ones need, which the horizontal versions do not, but connecting a VAWT to the grid is discourage through the cost of doing such an “evil” thing, which is supported by the greenies of course what with their seemingly need to tax people to death or what not.

  13. This is a really good piece of work. It shows how we can produce energy just as inefficiently employing only 10% of the real estate previously required.

  14. Doug in Seattle,

    I work for a Global Enterprise, and I do not like to see this sort of political malarky. Global Enterprises should make money by selling stuff people want, not what governments command.

  15. One of the funniest things I ever saw occurred back in the “eggbeater” experimental days near Palm Springs, CA. DOE had sponsored (thus dooming the outcome from the beginning) construction of a very large vertical axis wind turbine. After innumerable fits and starts, they got the awful thing spinning; REALLY spinning (they must use an induction motor to get the beasts turning, even when the wind is blowing). Then a blade detached from the bottom hub and swung in a 360 degree arc about the axis, severing the support cables. The whole rig came crashing to the ground in a cloud of debris and dust as folks ran for their lives. It was a major “Aw S–t” moment I will never forget!

  16. This counter-rotating efficiency ends when a few among them fail as they are wont to do.

  17. Bearings already are a weak point with HAWTs. Imagine the torque on a VAWT.

    You can imagine various fixes for that problem. However, no matter what they do, O&M costs will make this a loser.

  18. Robert of Ottawa,

    Yeah, that would be nice. I will miss incandescent light bulbs.

    Doug of Carlsbad Springs

  19. u.k.(us) says:
    July 16, 2011 at 3:45 pm
    “I have never walked through a coal or nuclear power plant, to get an appreciation of our engineering prowess, and the scale of our power production facilities.”

    Nukes are relatively small. If you want big, visit a coal plant.

  20. “…Whereas modern wind farms consisting of HAWTs produce 2 to 3 watts of power per square meter of land area, these field tests indicate that power densities an order of magnitude greater can potentially be achieved by arranging VAWTs in layouts that enable them to extract energy from adjacent wakes and from above the wind farm…”

    What kind of manure is used at a wind farm, and how deep does it have to be?

  21. Sorry, couldn’t resist the last joke.

    Still, if they use a lot of these in a small area, would they cause vertical vortices? Counter rotation might tend to either send up mini-tornadoes, or mini-vacuums. Might raise problems with flights (any dust that blows in to the “field” will be kicked around and have its speed amplified).

    Sounds like a ramped up Dyson…

  22. Hmmm…..Is it possible to scale it up?
    If it is, it could be the first wind mill power that is worth the trouble.
    My bet is it will not scale well.

  23. @ Richard S Courtney “In other words, wind tubines do not provide any useful electricity to a grid at any time.”

    That is a pretty ridiculous statement – if that were the case there would be no instances of wind power contributing energy to the grid (which it clearly does) and no instances of large scale wind deployments (which there clearly are).

  24. This is premature reporting. Figure 3 reveals that in their experimental setup, basically the wind always blew from the same direction. They’re extrapolating performance with very limited range of a critical parameter.

    They should come back with a more convincing report when their wind rose shows wind from all points of the compass.

    D- re-submit.

  25. Tallbloke provided a link to some VAWTs that are certainly more aesthetically appealing than your typical tri-blade bird and bat chopper. I am interested to know the energy output per unit cost of these “pretty” VAWTs vs. typical HAWTs. I lived in Amarillo, TX for a little over 10 years and left just before the entire west Texas panhandle was blighted with twirling eyesores. Very near the legendary Cadillac Ranch on old US 66, one of the universities had a huge VATW eggbeater. I never saw the thing spinning, but apparently they recognized the potential of wind in the area and studied the VAWT design as early as the early 80s. Over the last 10 or 15 years (but mostly over the last 2 or 3) various and sundry Texas energy concerns invested over $7 Billion in HAWT whirligigs. I find it hard to believe they would have dumped all that money into HAWTs if VAWTs were actually a more more efficient and cost-effective design.

    The design and associated aesthetics are actually immaterial. If the taxpayer subsidies went away tomorrow these hulking eyesores would be rendered into scrap before the end of the year (just imagine the opportunities for copper theft). Any industry or technology that cannot exist without subsidy is by definition a non-viable industry or technology and should be allowed to wither and die in the clean sunlight of the free market. When will politicians learn that you can’t subsidize new technologies into existance? Most of the western world has been taken for a ride with this ridiculous wind power scam. But a few special interests (and politicians) have made out handsomely.

  26. Some of the comments above, which appear to me to denigrate wind power, prompt the following response. First, wind power is not the end-all for power production. It has many problems, one of which I mentioned in the post above: intermittency. Yet, as shown in the link below, that is not as big of a problem as some would claim, based on the California experience.

    This link, http://www.caiso.com/green/renewrpt/20110714_DailyRenewablesWatch.pdf shows the hour-by-hour generation in California’s ISO grid area for July 14, 2011, with various renewable energy forms shown in different colors. Wind power on that day peaked at just over 2100 MW, and reduced to about 1200 MW. The peak production is more than the output of a typical twin-reactor nuclear power plant in the US. The minimum output is more than the average single-reactor nuclear power plant. The total installed MW is approximately 3,100 MW.

    This link, http://caiso.com/outlook/SystemStatus.html shows the current status in California for power production. Note that this information will change over at midnight to the next day’s data. The key is the amount of spinning reserve, which is approximately 9000 to 10,000 MW above the actual demand. Thus, having a wind turbine or two reduce power,or trip off-line will make little to zero difference in the amount of spinning reserve. The operators of the state grid are required to have spinning reserve in order to meet unexpected changes in the load, such as the sudden loss of a large generating plant. Four of the largest generating plants in California are the four nuclear powered reactors, two each at San Onofre and at Diablo Canyon rated at approximately 1000 MW each. Having a few 500 kw wind turbines, or even a few 2 MW wind turbine, slowly reduce their output as the wind changes is not much of a factor.

    It should be noted that the summer months are the peak wind period in California, with the winter months the lowest wind period.

    It should also be noted that California has wind turbines primarily in three areas, where the wind is rated as a Category 6: Altamont Pass, Tehachapi Pass, and San Gorgonio Pass. These are very small geographic areas with excellent wind speeds. There are far greater geographic areas than these three small mountain passes, with wind of Category 5 and Category 4, primarily in the Plains states from Texas to North Dakota. The advancement in power output per acre, as discussed in Dr. Dabiri’s paper, will be of keen interest to land owners in the Plains states. Producing ten times as much power from a given area of fairly flat land, while continuing to grow crops on that land, would seem to be a fairly attractive proposition.

    For those who might be interested, this link from the US Dept of Energy shows the wind speed throughout the US at 80 meters height (approximately 250 feet) and 100 meters (approximately 330 feet). Each state has an individual map. http://www.windpoweringamerica.gov/wind_maps.asp

  27. DirkH says:
    July 16, 2011 at 2:40 pm

    Birds produce CO2. CO2 evil. Die Birds Die! (That’s German for “The, Birds, The”)

    Nice try, but you have achieved only failure. “Birds” is not the German word for birds.

  28. I’m not sure why VAWTs lost out to HAWTs. The VAWT problems all sound like engineering problems that could be over come. However, as several comments have indicated, no matter what technology is used, there is still the problem of varying output depending on wind conditions (including zero output at both no wind and high wind conditions).

    I have never understood why pumped storage for load leveling has never been used with wind turbines. Pumped storage has been used for over 100 years around the world for load leveling.

    For those not familar with the technology, when power is produced that is not needed on the grid, the excess electricity is used to power water turbines which pump water from a lower storage area to a higher storage area. When the grid requires more power than the power production unit (coal, gas, wind, whatever) output, the water is allowed to flow back down the hill through the turbines producing electricity. Of course, there is an inefficiency, since more power is required to pump the water uphill than is obtained when the water flows back down hill. But no energy storage device is 100% efficient.

    While sea level wind farms would have a problem using pumped storage, areas where an elevation difference is available would seem to be able to use this technolgy. Fpr instance, at the wind farms around Iraan (pronounced “Ira-ann”), in West Texas, the wind turbines are all on the top of mesas, which are 100 or so feet above the surronding terrain. Looks like an idea spot for pumped storage.

  29. There was a row of FloWind Darrieus vertical rotors on Cameron Ridge in Tehachapi. I think they were 140 KW each. They were replaced several years ago with ~1 MW horizontal axis machines. Today, the slope between there and the town of Mojave is getting filled with new 1.5 MW turbines. They are approaching the town like monolith monsters. More than 1000 MW and growing.

  30. Okay, Roger, you obviously know your stuff, but, not to put it too harshly, who the Hell cares? These things are a hideous blight on the landscape and produce nothing that can’t be produced simultaneously, far more efficiently and with far less environmental destruction, by the backup generation they can’t do without.

    If you care about CO2 emissions–which I surely don’t–then you need to be looking for something that actually helps reduce them instead of something that helps the true believers pretend.

    I won’t live to see the day when you can cross the United States without seeing ONE of these stupid, useless contraptions, but others will and that will be a happy time indeed.

  31. If it doesn’t need subsidies then it is an improvement. If it still needs subsidies then they are still white elephants.

    I can’t help wondering that if each VAWT had a pump which fed hydraulic fluid to a single central generator then the cost should be reduced further.

    If wind turbines ever do become viable as a source of energy I would think it best if all the output was channelled in to systems like Electric Mountain in the UK. In this hydroelectric system water is pumped from a lower lake to a higher lake overnight using spare energy [probably from nuclear which needs to run at 100% continuously]. The stored power is then released at times of peak demand, such as millions of kettles being turned on at the end of a popular TV program. It can go from zero to 2 gigawatts in 12 seconds.

    If similar systems were used for wind power then at least the unevenness could be smoothed out and the power released in a controlled way. This type of system could probably only store a days supply so does not overcome the basic weakness of wind which is variability across the year.

  32. @Roger Sowell July 16, 2011 at 6:23 pm
    Nice maps & power site. We all know that there is a tendency to exaggerate performance numbers for public consumption… until you get caught. Has anyone looked into whether these numbers in any way match reality?

    By my back of the envelope calculations, CA has >3GW of installed wind power and about 1.6 GW average production over the last day (so far). That’s about 50% of rated power; an excellent figure. However, you point out that this is a good time of year for wind energy in CA. How does winter look for % of rated capacity? Is there any independent auditing? You remember the Muir trust study that found reliability problems with UK wind power, right? Is there anything comparable where an independent group has looked into the reliability of CA wind power? It might be that CA has the most reliable wind power in the world, in which case, nobody can fault it. But the green cheerleading is so overwhelming in CA that I doubt the objectivity of the site reporting the power output.

  33. Jeff Alberts says:
    July 16, 2011 at 6:40 pm
    DirkH says:
    July 16, 2011 at 2:40 pm

    Birds produce CO2. CO2 evil. Die Birds Die! (That’s German for “The, Birds, The”)

    Nice try, but you have achieved only failure. “Birds” is not the German word for birds.
    =====
    Jeff Alberts, tell me, just what have you achieved with this pitiful comment.

  34. “Producing ten times as much power from a given area of fairly flat land, while continuing to grow crops on that land, would seem to be a fairly attractive proposition.”

    If the picture with the article is a true indication, that area isn’t going to farmed. Modern implements are getting larger, if the spacing becomes too close, and impacts profitability, those acres will be abandoned.

  35. Re: JDN says:
    July 16, 2011 at 7:11 pm

    By my back of the envelope calculations, CA has >3GW of installed wind power and about 1.6 GW average production over the last day (so far). That’s about 50% of rated power; an excellent figure.

    California wind farms do not experience anything close to a 50% capacity factor on an annual basis according to industry reports. The highest wind farm capacity factor reported by the industry anywhere in the word is a single farm located in the howling sands of North Africa (Morocco Amogdoul) with a capacity factor of 38.1%. The U.S.average is 28.8% and the world average last year was 19.6%. The “dog” record went to France with 14.4% with Poland threatening at 14.6%.

    Run the numbers with any of those capacity factors and you will see that unsubsidized wind power is an economic dog with nowhere to really improve due to an inherent energy-density limitation that precludes sufficient economy of scale solve the problem (too much physical material for too little power output).

  36. Lots of comments poated here that are flat out wrong. California generated less than 70% of the power deamands of California. It must meet the missing 30% meets the balance by importing every watt available from neighboring states at a high premium. It even imports power from unreliable third world Mexico.

    Ttwo of the four nuclear plants in iawere closed down thanks to green loon protests, and converted to a solar plant producing less than 1/2 of 1% of the energy when it operated as a nuclear plant. Thus making it the most expensive power from a single capital investment anywhere.

    California green loon dominated PUCs have closed its coal power stations, and will not license any future coal power stations.

    Instead it get its very dirty, power by importing it form ancient, obsolescent, and polluting power plants in neighboring states, that were California demand gone, most would be closed and scrapped eliminating their unchecked pollution emissions.

    I have frequently traveled through the California “wind valley” windmils near Palm Desert on I-10. Most times only one or two of hundreds are operating.

    Britain’s public utility which operates many windmills, reports that the use factor is about 9% whereas typical commercial operation of other power stationss in the high 90% range. They cannot be used if either there is no wind, but most don’t know that they can’t operate if the wind is too strong or they will wipe bearings and lose their windfoils, (propellers) to fatigue stresses.

    The life until extensive maintenance is required, is under 10 years, and the refurbishment costs more, than the capital cost of a new windmill. Meanwhile windmills are “designed and financed ” as though they can operate for 30 years. Most windmills are set up as single companies, that are bankrupted as soon as all the tax benefits have been milked, and exhausted.

  37. @JDN, re wind capacity factors.

    The link below provides an exhaustive study of wind power, capacity factors, and much else over a multi-year period in California. Capacity factors change from quarter to quarter, and year to year, and from location to location. From just a quick glance at the charts, the highest capacity factor was 72 percent at San Gorgonio in Q2 of 1998, while the lowest was 3 percent at Solano in Q1 of 1998 and again in 1999. Statewide average was about 22 percent from 1996 through 2002. see http://www.energy.ca.gov/2005publications/CEC-500-2005-185/CEC-500-2005-185.PDF and Table 2.1 and following.

    Some periods have much, much higher capacity factors (see Figures 2.7 and 2.8) where values of 70 and 80 percent are shown for brief periods of a few hours.

    A quick check of the numbers from California Energy Commission website for calendar year 2010 shows roughly 6200 GWhrs produced by wind in-state, and if 3100 MW was installed (a roughly accurate number) then the annual average capacity factor was about 23 percent.

    California achieves this (and has done so for more than a decade) with only a few, very small sites. Yes, the capital costs were largely subsidized. It probably looked like a good idea when natural gas prices were soaring, with dwindling supplies being predicted. These days, with technology improvements in natural gas production and a glut of natural gas, wholesale gas prices are around $4 per million Btu. Even so, wind power now is considered cost-competitive in California. This California Energy Commission document, Slide 12, shows onshore wind power’s levelized cost at approximately 8 cents per kWh.

    http://www.energy.ca.gov/2009_energypolicy/documents/2009-08-25_workshop/presentations/04_Al_Alvarado_CEC.PDF

  38. Lots of comments posted here that are flat out wrong. California generated less than 70% of the power deamands of California. It must meet the missing 30% balance by importing every watt available from neighboring states at a high premium. It even imports power from unreliable third world Mexico.

    Two of the four nuclear plants in California were closed down thanks to green loon protests, and converted to a “renewables” plant producing less than 1/2 of 1% of the energy as when it operated as a nuclear plant. Thus making it the most expensive power from a single capital investment anywhere.

    California green loon dominated PUCs, have closed its coal power stations, and will not license any future coal power stations.

    Instead it get its very dirty, power by importing it form ancient, obsolescent, and polluting power plants in neighboring states, that were California demand gone, most would be closed and scrapped eliminating their unchecked pollution emissions.

    I have frequently traveled through the California “wind valley” windmils near Palm Desert on I-10. Most times only one or two of hundreds are operating.

    Britain’s public utility which operates many windmills, reports that the use factor for windmills is about 9% whereas typical commercial operation of other power stationss in the high 90% range. They cannot be used if either there is no wind, but most don’t know, that they can’t operate if the wind is too strong or they will wipe bearings and lose their windfoils, (propellers) to fatigue stresses.

    Britain reports life until extensive maintenance is required, is under 10 years, and the refurbishment costs more, than the capital cost of a new windmill. Meanwhile windmills are “designed and financed ” as though they can operate for 30 years in the US. Most windmills are set up as single unit generating companies that are bankrupted as soon as all the tax benefits have been milked, and exhausted. S-C-A-M describes the situation.

  39. old engineer says:
    July 16, 2011 at 6:41 pm

    I have never understood why pumped storage for load leveling has never been used with wind turbines. Pumped storage has been used for over 100 years around the world for load leveling.

    For those not familar with the technology, when power is produced that is not needed on the grid, the excess electricity is used to power water turbines which pump water from a lower storage area to a higher storage area. When the grid requires more power than the power production unit (coal, gas, wind, whatever) output, the water is allowed to flow back down the hill through the turbines producing electricity. Of course, there is an inefficiency, since more power is required to pump the water uphill than is obtained when the water flows back down hill. But no energy storage device is 100% efficient.

    Where are you going to get the original water and tons of make-up water per day for evaporation for your imaged top-of-the-mesa lake? Where are you going to build the lake? Or are you going to try to build an artificial dam completely around the top of the mesa?

    Enviro’s have opposed EVERY pumped storage system attempted to date. Only a very few – in any case – are viable in any location: downstate NY, TN near Chattanooga by the TVA, etc. Even the NY Indians viciously opposed the very reasonable flow storage pond uphill from the Niagara power plants that was for condemning only about 1500 acres of 10,000 needed with no pumping and only a small extra dam at all! (And that was back in the mid-50’s – “now” how much enviro opposition would you expect?)

    You require essentially two “lakes” (or a “perfect river” with constant water level) immediately next to each, the second “lake” about 200 feet above the first. (First problem – find the elevation difference, then find the “lake” geometry and geology and topography (land shape) in the same area as the wind source. Hint: NO effective wind power is available in the entire SouthEast due to the prevailing calm winds of the Bermuda high over 1/4 the land area of the continental US.

  40. @ pofarmer, re spacing on wind turbines and growing crops. True what you wrote, however, this research was done with necessarily small turbines, likely for cost reasons. Also, this was done in a desert north of Los Angeles where very little grows except scrub. My statement, as you quoted above, has more to do with the lush farmland of Kansas, Nebraska, Iowa, where the wind blows over vast areas. Also, as the size of the turbines increases, the spacing will also increase. The photo shows 1.2 kW machines, whereas commercial machines will be more like 1.5 to 5 MW. I suspect a decent-sized farm machine can easily navigate the space.

  41. Roger Sowell says:
    July 16, 2011 at 6:23 pm
    Some of the comments above, which appear to me to denigrate wind power, ……..
    =====
    It’s the ROI (return on investment) , that will kill these contraptions every time.
    They suck money (subsidies) out of the economy, in return for higher energy prices.

    In an attempt to assuage the guilt pressed upon us, by those all-knowing saints, who only wish to lead us to their promised land.
    We must:
    1) Trust climate models
    2) Forego logical thought
    3) Fill in the rest yourselves, I’m tired.

  42. anticlimactic says:
    July 16, 2011 at 7:00 pm

    If wind turbines ever do become viable as a source of energy I would think it best if all the output was channelled in to systems like Electric Mountain in the UK.
    ============================================================================
    Thanks for the info on Electric Mountain. From a google search, resulting in several websites, “Electric Mountain” consists of two pumped storage power plants that were built in the 1980’s as grid-wide peak shaving facilities. They buy power from the grid at night (presumedly at a reduced cost), to pump water to upper reservoir and then let the water flow downhill during the day (as needed) producing electricity which they sell back to the grid (presumedly at a higher cost than the night rate).

    Thus the UK grid does have about 2000 MW from these two plants (during the day) that act as “spinning reserve” for the variations in windpower generation. Perhaps as anticlimatic suggests it would be better to have pumped storage facilities where all the windpower was used to pump the water to the higher reservoir, with a separate set of turbines used to generate the electricity as the water flows downhill. Of course if the wind didn’t blow for several days…..

  43. @ Stas Peterson says:
    July 16, 2011 at 8:39 pm

    “I have frequently traveled through the California “wind valley” windmils near Palm Desert on I-10. Most times only one or two of hundreds are operating.”

    That is utter BS – maybe it was a slow day, or maybe there wasn’t much power demand at the time, but while it is common for some not to be turning (often based on how they are positioning) to write that 1 or 2% of them are actually in use is rubbish.

  44. Need to read Renewable Energy without the Hot Air by Mackay. There are not enough mountains in the UK to pump up the water to use pumped storage to make wind farms viable.

  45. @Stas Peterson

    So, what is wrong with importing power? Is there some law that requires every state to produce every single commodity in-state? Are you equally angry with the Northeastern states for importing hydroelectric power from Canada? How about the Cook nuclear power plant on Lake Michigan, and in Michigan, that supplies power to Indiana? How do you feel about manufacturing cars? California is the single largest automobile market in the US, yet manufactures almost zero cars in-state. Aren’t you incensed that cars are imported into California? Are you also outraged that California doesn’t have sufficient fresh water within its own boundaries, and must import water from the Colorado River? If not, why then are you so outraged over importing electricity?

    Re the imported coal power, that will be ceased in a few years because California’s legislature (rightly or wrongly) passed a bill that was signed into law that prohibits importing any power from a source that has a higher heat rate than that of a modern combined cycle gas turbine plant.

    Re you not seeing many wind-turbines operating, that is not surprising considering the wind blows mostly at night in the mountain passes containing the wind turbines. British experience with wind turbine capacity factor has to do with their local wind conditions, and has zero bearing on the realities of wind power in California. As cited above, California’s wind turbines generate on average at about 22 percent of rated capacity.

  46. oldengineer
    “I’m not sure why VAWTs lost out to HAWTs. The VAWT problems all sound like engineering problems that could be over come.”

    I’m guessing the very long unsupported axle subjected to flexing for every rotation of every blade would have something to do with it. The problem could be reduced and the expected life increased to a very long time by beefing up the axle, but the problem remains. Fatigue of the axle is much easier to deal with for a much shorter axle supported at both ends as in a horizontal design.

  47. Roger Sowell:
    “Re the imported coal power, that will be ceased in a few years because California’s legislature (rightly or wrongly) passed a bill that was signed into law that prohibits importing any power from a source that has a higher heat rate than that of a modern combined cycle gas turbine plant.”

    Am wondering how they intend to filter out the unacceptable electricity.

  48. 47 watts per square metre! That equates to a temperature of -103C (MINUS 103 celcius).
    Heck, my back yard radiates more than that even in the winter.

  49. I’m sure the wind power critics recall how “perfectly” the coal fired generating plants operated last winter in Texas, and how the natural gas fired backups to those “perfect” coal fired plants reacted “perfectly” in response to the failure of those “perfect” coal fired plants.

    While wind power can be stalled because of a lack of wind, it usually does not last more than a few hours, and it does not cover a large region so the next farm over can still be operating. If one unit out of 50 is out for mechanical repairs it is no big deal, and the repairs can happen quickly with spare parts on hand and the unit started back up within hours.

    Coal fired plants sometimes have to limp along at significantly less than full capacity for months because they cannot be taken completely out of service for the days required to compete needed repairs. To repair some equipment the whole unit has to be taken down and there cannot be spare parts for every thing. It takes 16 hours to bring a coal plant back into service from a cold stop, and that’s after whatever time it takes to take the unit out of service, find out what parts are needed get those parts shipped in, and complete the repairs.

    Wind isn’t perfect, but nothing else is either.

  50. I am quite stunned at the quoted 20+% of rated capacity for wind production in California is being hailed as some kind of super achievement.
    The link Roger posted shows a peak power demand of around 31000 MW, or 31 GW – and installed wind capacity is supposed to be 3100MW or 3.1GW. Curiously then, the installed capacity of wind generation within CA is thus around 10% of required peak demand – and THIS capacity is actually working at roughly say 25% efficiency (according to other posters), meaning that in REAL terms, CA wind is producing around 2.5% of CA power demands? And this is supposed to be good? To my mind, assuming I have interpreted the figures correctly, the wind capacity and its actual production are a drop in the proverbial ocean! I hope the capital costs were worth it!

    I am not against wind power but on an industrial scale it is simply not very economical in my opinion because of the requirement to cover periods of non-production. In my opinion, unless it is combined with very efficient storage systems, i.e. hydroelectric dams – it simply cannot provide enough power to be able to ‘switch off’ any single coal or nuclear genset.

    Reading the quoted 22% of rated capacity sounds all well and good – but it’s peanuts in terms of the actual power demand! It would be more realistic to quote the real renewable generation figures to the general public – i.e, 2.5% of actual power requirements!

  51. as a slight aside – I note that the graph on that CSIRO link shows a difference of demand to Available resources of something around 10000MW – I am wondering what that is made up as presumably CA must have some hydro stashed away somewhere, or else some bloody big batteries! Either that or they have coal/nuclear gensets on standby or at reduced capacity? Just curious.

  52. old engineer says:July 16, 2011 at 6:41 pm
    I have never understood why pumped storage for load leveling has never been used with wind turbines. Pumped storage has been used for over 100 years around the world for load leveling.
    ————————————————————————————–
    According to Wikipedia, there’s 21,000 MW of pumped storage in the US.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pumped-storage_hydroelectricity

    The big Tehachapi wind farm is close to the Castaic lake / Pyramid lake pumped storage facility north of Los Angeles. That facility was built to level the day/night load of L.A. that gets a lot of power from hundreds of miles north (Bonneville), but it makes a nice storage pond for the wind farm.

    It isn’t critical that pumped storage be nearby, as high voltage transmission lines are efficient over long distances, but the lines have to exist. It was a dirty little secret for many years that the Tehachapi wind farm couldn’t get the power out, and that SoCal Edison was paying for power not delivered. That’s fixed now with new transmission lines. You also have to remember that pumped storage is about 70% efficient measured from electricity in to electricity out.

  53. It doesn’t really matter that the electricity production per square meter increases ten fold, if you have to put 20 times more windmills. What matters in the end is how much more money you have to spend to get that 10-fold increase in production, or how much energy produces each individual windmill, whose construction and maintenance cost is much more important than that of the land it stands on. That’s what efficiency is all about. Money vs energy, not land vs energy. Less land is only interesting if it means less money spent per kWH obtained.

  54. Bystander:

    Clearly, you suffer from reading difficulties. In response to my explanation at July 16, 2011 at 3:25 pm that concludes by saying;
    “In other words, wind tubines do not provide any useful electricity to a grid at any time.”

    You assert;
    “That is a pretty ridiculous statement – if that were the case there would be no instances of wind power contributing energy to the grid (which it clearly does) and no instances of large scale wind deployments (which there clearly are).”

    Clearly, you do not know the meaning of the word “useful” (which is very understandable in your case).

    For a more full explanation of why electricity from wind turbines to an electricity grid system
    (a) increases fuel usage,
    (b) emissions and
    (c) costs
    of electricity supply read

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

    Richard

  55. cwj says:
    “While wind power can be stalled because of a lack of wind, it usually does not last more than a few hours, and it does not cover a large region so the next farm over can still be operating.”

    Methinks you need to study some meteorology. Calm is usually due to a more or less stationary high pressure area which is typically several hundred miles in diameter. They also tend to stay around for several days or even a couple of weeks, particularly in winter. Storm systems (that provide too much wind) are usually somewhat smaller and much more mobile.

  56. July 13 (the last day for which figures are available) Wind supplied 7.15% of California’s electricty.

    http://www.caiso.com/green/renewrpt/20110713_DailyRenewablesWatch.pdf

    That’s Domestic Wind, some wind-generated electricity was imported.

    And, per Roger’s link, California’s not a particularly good place to put wind turbines. The Midwest is Much better. I think those Iowa turbines are averaging close to 33%.

    What makes California strong is, they’re building more, and more Solar to make up for the fall-off of wind during the middle of the day. They’re also doing well with Geothermal. All told, they’re getting close to 14% of their electricty from Domestic Renewables, and that doesn’t include Large Hydro.

  57. Jeff Alberts says:
    July 16, 2011 at 6:40 pm

    DirkH says:
    July 16, 2011 at 2:40 pm

    Birds produce CO2. CO2 evil. Die Birds Die! (That’s German for “The, Birds, The”)

    Nice try, but you have achieved only failure. “Birds” is not the German word for birds.

    No, but he’s translating a German who is using the English word; that’s why the commas in the translation. He meant to use apostrophes: “The `Birds’ The”.
    ;p

  58. old engineer says:
    July 16, 2011 at 6:41 pm

    . . . pumped storage for load leveling . . .

    Available water where needed – west Texas? – is one issue.
    Building dams is also costly and environmentally unfriendly.
    A non-wind effort using pumped water from the Columbia River, and using the water for irrigation, recreation, and so on has been determined to return 13 cents on the dollar.

    http://www.yakima-herald.com/stories/2008/12/19/bureau-of-reclamation-says-no-to-black-rock

    An actual example of pumped storage can be seen using Wikipedia and Google Earth. Of interest is the “pumped storage” associated with Kinzua (kin-zoo) Dam in northern Pennsylvania. Read about it here:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kinzua_Dam

    Use these coordinates [ 41.839736 n, 79.002619 w ] to get a better look. Zoom out until you can see the entire reservoir and compare it to the small circular storage basin on the ridge-top to the south.

  59. Maybe my presence affects the weather in some mysterious way — but most of the wind turbines I’ve seen around the world (and I’ve seen a lot of them) were standing still, even where there was an obviously strong wind.

    Quite often they are already rusty, and local people usually hate them, for they are hideously ugly, especially when there are many of them.

    Now, what should I believe: the socialist fanfare statistics promulgated here by Roger Sowell, or something that I see with my own eyes?

  60. As far as “getting x% from renewables”, it’s full of hidden catches. Like not being available during peak (evening, etc.) demand. Like messing up the distribution system (some places have paid providers not to feed into the grid, it’s so much trouble). Like huge capital costs and airy-fairy unproven maintenance costs and performance. Like huge real estate footprints. Like the remoteness and (previous) beauty of windy places, requiring very long and very hi-tech expensive transmission corridors. Like having a narrow “Goldilocks” wind speed range. Like using about 10X the concrete and steel per MW capacity of conventional or nuclear plant. Etc.

    Diffuse and dispersed energy collection is the exact wrong direction for development of societal power supplies.

  61. The only thing that will increase wind turbine output 10x is to get the wind to blow all the time at the optimum speed. Impossible? No that’s what carbon tax will do. (or so the politico’s think).

  62. Someone mentioned Mackay’s book..
    Properly its called Sustainable Energy Without The Hot Air or “SEWTHA”
    Find it here….http://www.inference.phy.cam.ac.uk/sustainable/book/tex/sewtha.pdf

    Its a bit of an epic and written especially for the UK but gives a good idea of the sheer scale of the ‘energy problem’ Its obvious that few politicos have any science or engineering knowledge and simply dont ‘get it’. Recently and more by accident than design, I heard on my car radio Chris Huhne (I think) speaking in Parliament. He kept repeating his assertion that “windmills are ‘beautiful, I think they’re beautiful” (I felt physically sick listening to it and switched it off)

    Yes, windmills look big and graceful and suitably huge (when you get up close) and certainly seem to be doing the business but are tiny compared to The Grid. Plus their output goes as the 3rd power of the wind speed. Trying to maintain a steady or constant output would be like doing brain surgery on a grease covered banana slide during an earthquake.
    That is what kills them, the constant load variation and flexing destroys bearing and gearboxes and the load variations they feed into the grid does the same for ANYTHING connected to it, right down from multi GW nukes to your own fridge. The stop/start city driving analogy is a very good one. It/they wreck the machinery and drink fuel.

  63. I like the idea of close together – use less ordnance, less risk of collateral damage and civilian casualties. All good!

    I’ll wake up in a minute…

  64. Never mind, with the smart meters being installed we’ll soon all be able to choose which power we use and which tariff we pay.
    Everyone who signs up for the “green” tariff will be able to pay more for the more expensive generation costs and will also be able to be disconnected when the wind stops blowing. The rest of us will be able to have power all the time at a cheaper rate. There will be no more need for expensive subsidies by taxpayers as the vast majority (concensus) will be on the higher rate – won’t they?

    sarc/ off

  65. I was in Germany at the beginning of last December, just when the “Global Warming” was starting to fall (and very pretty it was, too). The area (Harz) then settled down to enjoy a period of high pressure. Snow remained on the branches of the trees and smoke went straight up. Yet the White Elephants went on turning. Odd, that.
    Re: pumped storage. Denmark has large numbers of white elephants and found that they so banjaxed the grid that they now tend to export the power (when the wind blows) to Norway to be used to pump water into high tarns. They then buy electricity back from Norway when the wind isn’t blowing. Canny lads, those Nogs – not for nothing are they known in certain circles as “White Arabs”.

    Pete in Cumbria:
    For some idea of Chris Huhne’s criteria for beauty, see . !

  66. @cwj on July 16, 2011 at 10:22 pm

    “Am wondering how they intend to filter out the unacceptable electricity.” – referring to coal-produced electricity imported by California,

    In this case it won’t be very difficult, because the coal-powered plants are in Utah, It will require simply opening (disconnecting) the switches on high-power transmission lines from Utah into California. There is approximately 10 years until that happens, which allows the California power companies time to build replacement capacity. Much of that power is imported into Los Angeles, by the city-owned utility Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (DWP). DWP is frantically designing and advancing projects to replace the coal-based power. At least a part of that new supply will be from renewable sources, wind, solar, and waste-to-energy.

  67. @Kev-in-Uk from July 16, 2011 at 11:26 pm

    “as a slight aside – I note that the graph on that CSIRO link shows a difference of demand to Available resources of something around 10000MW – I am wondering what that is made up…”

    The spinning reserve in California is typically natural-gas fired load-following plants such as a steam plant (Rankine cycle) or a combined cycle gas turbine (CCGT) plant. As others have noted, California has no coal-fired plants in the state. The four nuclear reactors operate at base load. The wind and solar are not dependable so are not part of the spinning reserve. Hydroelectric can be increased very quickly.

  68. @ Nylo from July 16, 2011 at 11:56 pm

    “It doesn’t really matter that the electricity production per square meter increases ten fold, if you have to put 20 times more windmills. What matters in the end is how much more money you have to spend to get that 10-fold increase in production, or how much energy produces each individual windmill, whose construction and maintenance cost is much more important than that of the land it stands on. That’s what efficiency is all about. Money vs energy, not land vs energy. Less land is only interesting if it means less money spent per kWH obtained.”

    Actually, it matters a great deal that power production per square meter increases 10-fold. Normally, increases in power production, or efficiency, are made in small increments. One usually reads of a wind-turbine improvement of 2 or 3 percent over the previous effort. Or, one reads of the average capacity factor increasing from 20 percent to 23 percent by better design, less downtime, etc. This research, though, provides a HUGE increase, by a factor of 10. That caught my attention because it is a very rare thing, and prompted this article on WUWT.

    For a state like California, with its legal mandate to increase renewable energy production to 33 percent of all power sold, but where good wind is available only in very small areas, it could result in replacing the HAWTs with many more VAWTs. For future projects in other states or countries, it will likely cause project planners to re-evaluate their plans. For manufacturers of VAWTs, this could easily improve their commercial prospects. Conversely, manufacturers of HAWTs will likely see their commercial prospects dim.

  69. @Alexander Feht from July 17, 2011 at 1:16 am

    Re not seeing wind-turbines turning,…

    “Now, what should I believe: the socialist fanfare statistics promulgated here by Roger Sowell, or something that I see with my own eyes?”

    Mr. Feht, thanks for the laugh this morning! I just try to present the facts, with some editorial input from me. The facts are very plain: wind-turbines exist in many places. They don’t operate at 100 percent capacity due to the variation in wind. This is not news. Some places are better than others for placing wind-turbines. Wind-energy assessments were conducted, and the results are freely available for all to see. I gave a reference for that above.

    It is tempting to believe one’s own eyes, and I do that myself. However, each of us cannot be in all places at all times. Just in California, with the 3 or perhaps 4 primary locations of wind-farms, there are thousands of wind-turbines installed. I have seen hundreds of them spinning full-bore in San Gorgonio Pass, many, many times. But, my personal eye-witness experience means nothing because no one can witness all the turbines, all the time. We must therefore rely on credible reports from others. In California, wind-turbine farms are paid by the large utilities for the power they produce. There must be credible evidence of power production, else the utility does not pay them. The utilities are required, by law, to report the wind production to the state.

    If you want to characterize these facts as “socialist fanfare statistics,” you have the right to do so. Again, thanks for the laugh!

    For the record, I’m not a particularly big fan of subsidies to wind-turbine farms, but I understand the reasons why those subsidies are there. Lawmakers with little understanding of energy were convinced that fossil fuels would soon run out, especially natural gas, and that wind-power was inexhaustible. They believed that natural gas price would soar, and electricity rates would also skyrocket. They were also convinced that the costs of wind power would decline year after year, and it has done so. They were also convinced that the problems of variable wind would be solved by some bright engineers. Therefore, they felt that subsidizing wind power was the right thing to do.

    As it turns out, they were wrong on almost every point. The costs of wind power has declined over the years, and that’s about the only thing they got right. The costs declined due to more efficient blade designs, and economy of scale with bigger turbines. We are not running out of fossil fuel, indeed there is a glut of natural gas. Oil is not a factor in power production in the USA (in some less developed countries, it is, but not in the West.) Natural gas prices are at approximately $4 per million Btu, and will stay there for many decades. Electricity rates are not skyrocketing due to natural gas price. Variable wind continues to be a problem. It is quite possible to store energy from wind-turbines, but it is not at all economic, at least not at this time.

  70. Roger Sowell says:
    July 17, 2011 at 7:28 am

    Thanks for the explanation. But I also noted that the available resources graph seems to follow the ‘demand’ graph though – which seems a little odd to my way of thinking. I mean, is it really necessary to have about 35 to 40% above and beyond current use on ‘standby’ or ‘available’ as spinning reserve – it seems a lot to my ignorant eye!

  71. Roger appreciate your comments. I have always wondered if vertical wind turbines would make good compressors for freon and thus be able to be used for home application. I have read that somewhere in the near 60% of home electrical usage is for heating and cooling. It would seem like a good vertical turbine which can operate at very low and very high wind speeds would be perfectly suited for compressing freon and making home heating and cooling much more affordable. Compression of freon or similar gas would seem to be a good means of solving the intermittent power problems created by wind variation and you would not have the losses of turning wind power into electrical power. Any thoughts or know of any such applications?

  72. Roger appreciate your comments. I have always wondered if vertical wind turbines would make good compressors for freon and thus be able to be used for home application. I have read that somewhere near 60% of home electrical usage is for heating and cooling. It would seem like a good vertical turbine which can operate at very low and very high wind speeds would be perfectly suited for compressing freon and making home heating and cooling much more affordable. Compression of freon or similar gas would seem to be a good means of solving the intermittent power problems created by wind variation and you would not have the losses of turning wind power into electrical power. Any thoughts or know of any such applications?

  73. “Copse effect” will still frustrate high-density deployment.

    If you’re outdoors on a windy day, walk towards a small forest and slowly past the rows of trees from the perimeter. It’s not just the screening of the outer trees that results in much less wind in the interior; it’s Le Chatellier’s Principle at work. The wind will divert around/over any sufficiently-large obstacle as it’ll lose less energy that way.

    You can even observe this with the rain in Spain, which falls mainly in the plain. Not on the small hills on the plain because the wind blowing the rainclouds “splits” around the hills; even if they’re only 100 metres above the plain.

    And it doesn’t just happen in Spain. On a recent trip to Germany, after having coincidentally reminded an old university Professor of the principle the evening before, we had a full-scale demonstration when visiting a monastry and castle ruin atop a hill. Although leading edge of the long hill got some rain, there wasn’t a drop at the trailing end while rain wall falling on either side. There was a clear “rip” in the dark cloud cover above the hill that hadn’t been there in the cloud front as it had approached.

  74. The real problem is not the intermittent nature as such. The problem is that wind power happens exactly when you don’t need it. An intermittent source that arrives in both supercold and superhot weather would be helpful. Wind is highest at moderate temperatures (spring, fall, warm fronts in winter, cold fronts in summer) when you don’t need the extra.

    Increasing the output only makes the problem worse! More wasted power when you don’t need any extra.

  75. But if we take too much energy out of the wind, we will surely make it back more (its direction will go more anticlockwise in the N Hemisphere), and the wind with be directed towards the center of the low, resulting in much tighter low pressure systems. Will this not make smaller but more intense hurricane-style low pressures, that will do more damage to property?

    .

  76. @davidgmills on July 17, 2011 at 9:02 am

    ” Compression of freon or similar gas would seem to be a good means of solving the intermittent power problems created by wind variation and you would not have the losses of turning wind power into electrical power. Any thoughts or know of any such applications?”

    The energy storage technology you describe is CAES, for Compressed Air Energy Storage. Typically, these systems use wind power to compress air into underground caverns. When electric demand is high, the compressed air is released and fed into gas turbines for power generation. There are some energy losses, as the compressors have an inefficiency, plus the air cools a bit in the storage. CAES is very limited due to a lack of suitable underground storage caverns located near to wind farms. A similar system could be used as you describe, with freon compressed by a VAWT then stored in high-pressure containers. However, there are energy losses with this system. The engineering is not a problem, but the cost and therefore economic payback of such a system is likely very poor.

    One of the best ways of using a VAWT to help cool a home is to install roof ridge-line VAWTs as vents (turbine roof vents). Some of these include a small fan to pull hot air out of the house’s attic space.

    I wrote an article about two years ago on Energy Storage, at http://sowellslawblog.blogspot.com/2009/05/energy-storage-key-to-renewables.html

  77. @Stas Peterson
    Britain reports life until extensive maintenance is required, is under 10 years, and the refurbishment costs more, than the capital cost of a new windmill. Meanwhile windmills are “designed and financed ” as though they can operate for 30 years in the US. Most windmills are set up as single unit generating companies that are bankrupted as soon as all the tax benefits have been milked, and exhausted. S-C-A-M describes the situation.

    Do you have any evidence that supports the bold statement? This would be good info to expose…

  78. In summary :

    Wind turbines produce power at huge cost compared to any other method [apart from solar]
    At best they reduce CO2 by 4%, reducing to zero the more they are used.
    The power is intermittant and so may often be unusable.
    They require 100% fossil fuel backup systems, or blackouts.
    Over a certain level their use can destabilise the whole grid leading to complete failure.
    They require a very expensive infrastructure to feed power to the grid.
    They are very mechanical and subject to stresses which can easily damage them.
    They are blots on the landscape, although the main issue is sound.
    They use rare earth magnets, the mining of which creates extremely toxic waste.
    They kill birds and bats in quantity.
    Wind is forecast to drop noticeably for the next 30 to 40 years [In the UK anyway]

    In short, they would seem to offer little or no environmental benefits so what are they good for?

    THEY ARE GOOD FOR PRODUCING WEALTH! NOTHING ELSE MATTERS!

    In the UK a large 2 Megawatt turbine can produce profits of a million dollars a year. The Prime Minister’s father-in-law makes money from wind turbines. Is Cameron being ‘green’ or simply wanting to inherit millions paid for by unimportant people as they try to heat their hovels. Energy prices in the UK may double or quadruple in the next 10 to 20 years, mainly due to the cost of wind turbines. Energy utilities in the UK make a fixed profit on turnover, so expensive power increases their profits.

    If you are lucky enough to own land which is marginally suitable for a wind turbine then you can retire in extreme comfort.

    HOW MANY WIND TURBINES WOULD BE CONSTRUCTED IF THEY WERE SUBSIDISED ‘AT COST’, WITH NO PROFITS, JUST FOR THE PUBLIC GOOD? MY GUESS WOULD BE : CLOSE TO ZERO!

    http://www.thegwpf.org/opinion-pros-a-cons/3431-terence-blacker-get-rich-quick-by-being-green.html

    http://climateresearchnews.com/2010/03/tory-leaders-father-in-law-rakes-in-3-5m-from-taxpayer-to-fund-wind-turbines/

  79. Errm… with my previous post ‘2 gigawatt turbine’ should be ‘2 megawatt turbine’. I am not sure if a ten mile high turbine would be capable of using wind with any kind of efficiency!

  80. @ Richard – no, it is still a ridiculous statement. Citing your own paper doesn’t make it a valid source.

    You say “No useful electricity”.

    The Danish Energy Association says “In 2008 59 % of the electricity generation in Denmark
    was produced by the central generation plants and 20 % by wind turbines.”

    http://www.danishenergyassociation.com/Statistics.aspx

  81. I saw this research a while back – apparently some of the initial work came out of looking at schools of fish, and how they take advantage of wake interactions to conserve energy while the school moves. Very interesting.

  82. Crustacean“I won’t live to see the day when you can cross the United States without seeing ONE of these stupid, useless contraptions, but others will and that will be a happy time indeed.”

    Funny – I feel that way about strip mines, which litter the area.

    There’s a spot just east of Somerset, Pennsylvania, that I drive through regularly on the PA Turnpike. South of the road are a half-dozen 1.4MW windmills lining the ridge. North of the road, right across, is a huge strip-mine, a scar on the landscape, which even after it’s empty of coal and refilled will be leaching crud into the water table for a century or so.

    Personal opinion, but I prefer the windmills…

  83. >>Bystander says: July 17, 2011 at 12:01 pm
    >>The Danish Energy Association says “In 2008 59 % of the
    >>electricity generation in Denmark was produced by the central
    >>generation plants and 20 % by wind turbines.”

    But while the wind was generating 20%, just how many thermal plants were still burning and turning, while waiting for the wind to drop? Do the Danish even bother to inform us of such information? And what was the cost of operating those useless power plants on spinning standby, both in terms of money and CO2 output?

    .

  84. As we are on the topic – I have just come across this article about the financial effect of wind turbines killing bats in Pennsylvania :

    http://www.post-gazette.com/pg/11198/1160977-28.stm

    ‘In all of Pennsylvania, bats saved farmers $277.9 million in estimated avoided costs.’

    The article points out that the insects not eaten by the dead bats means more pesticide needs to be used, or crops lost. It seems like a well written and informative article and is worth a read.

  85. So, as Roger Sowell admits, whirligigs make absolutely no business sense, environmentalists lied to the duped politicians and continue to rob taxpayers, while traditionally produced electricity is much cheaper. And we have gas and coal reserves hat would lat ’til Kingdom come (not to mention nuclear power, which is the way of the future, no matter what your preferences are).

    Why praise this shameless waste? Why choke the economy? Why enrich the mountebanks?

  86. So, as Roger Sowell admits, whirligigs make absolutely no business sense, environmentalists lied to the duped politicians and continue to rob taxpayers, while traditionally produced electricity is much cheaper. And we have gas and coal reserves hat would last ’til Kingdom come (not to mention nuclear power, which is the way of the future, no matter what your preferences are).

    Why praise this shameless waste? Why choke the economy? Why enrich the mountebanks?

  87. Bystander:

    Your post at July 17, 2011 at 12:01 pm provides another example of your reading difficulties.

    My original post was at July 16, 2011 at 3:25 pm and said, in full:

    “Wind turbines provide intermitent power so when they do operate to produce electricity to a grid they merely displace thermal power stations onto standby (with no reduction to fuel consumption and emissions) or onto part loading (with increased fuel consumption and emissions). The thermal power stations need to keep operating like that until the wind turbines stop operating.

    In other words, wind tubines do not provide any useful electricity to a grid at any time.

    Ten times nothing useful is nothing useful.”

    If you can find any flaw in my explanation then I would be pleased to learn of it. But your comments are plain daft when they merely repeatedly claim my explanation is a “ridiculous statement”.

    And I did not cite my own paper as proof that it was a valid source. When (at July 16, 2011 at 6:03 pm) you said you did not understand my brief explanation (at July 17, 2011 at 12:07 am) I replied by saying:

    “For a more full explanation of why electricity from wind turbines to an electricity grid system
    (a) increases fuel usage,
    (b) emissions and
    (c) costs
    of electricity supply read
    http://scienceandpublicpolicy.org/images/stories/papers/reprint/courtney_2006_lecture.pdf

    Saying where you can find a more full explanation of my argument enables you to better understand that argument and, therefore, to find any flaw in it.

    I am not surprised that your comments on my explanation do not mention any flaw in my explanation but resort to daft comments, redherrings and a straw man.

    Richard

  88. Alexander Feht says on July 17, 2011 at 1:55 pm

    So, as Roger Sowell admits, whirligigs make absolutely no business sense, environmentalists lied to the duped politicians and continue to rob taxpayers, while traditionally produced electricity is much cheaper. And we have gas and coal reserves hat would lat ’til Kingdom come (not to mention nuclear power, which is the way of the future, no matter what your preferences are).

    Why praise this shameless waste? Why choke the economy? Why enrich the mountebanks?

    There is a theme to the crazy renewable energy and the stupid legislation to outlaw the sales of incandescent lights in favor of those stupid mercury based folded flouros …

    It is that politically powerful companies have convinced government to guarantee their high profits at our expense.

  89. @Alexander Feht on July 17, 2011 at 1:55 pm
    “So, as Roger Sowell admits, whirligigs make absolutely no business sense,”

    I never said such. With government assistance in the form of subsidies, tax credits, grants, and other incentives, wind-turbine power farms make economic sense in many locations. If you object to such financial assistance for wind-turbines, are you also outraged over all the other forms of government assistance? If not, please explain why. I don’t know in which country you live, but in the US we have multitudes of incentives, tax reductions, tax credits, outright grants, and such for literally dozens of activities at the national and state level. Wind power is merely one of many, many such activities.

    “environmentalists lied to the duped politicians and continue to rob taxpayers, while traditionally produced electricity is much cheaper.

    Again, I said no such thing. Politicians were convinced of the value of wind power for the long term, and they might have been right had a few things gone differently. It appeared that the US would run out of natural gas at one point. Being wrong in predicting the future is not the same as telling lies.

    “And we have gas and coal reserves hat would lat ’til Kingdom come (not to mention nuclear power, which is the way of the future, no matter what your preferences are).”

    I am on record here at WUWT, and my own blog, and through various speeches, as opposing nuclear power, and for excellent reasons. I have never said that gas and coal reserves will “last until Kingdom come” – those are your words, not mine. The facts are that, firstly, no one knows how much natural gas (or oil for that matter) exists, where it is, or what the extraction costs will be. The same is true for coal. There are estimates, nothing more. Secondly, no one knows the consumption rates of those fuels in the future. We have estimates, nothing more. Therefore, with an undetermined quantity to be consumed at an unknown rate, no one can ever state with confidence how many years supply exist. We can only estimate the years remaining.

    And the preceding paragraph also is true for uranium, thorium, and any other mineral resource. No one knows. Nuclear is not the way of the future, not in its present form of producing deadly radioactive byproducts that endure for very long periods and require great vigilance, aging reactors that fail with alarming regularity, reactors that require prodigious amounts of ever-more-precious fresh water for cooling, and the prohibitively high cost of construction. Nuclear power is dead, and that is an excellent thing.

  90. KR says on July 17, 2011 at 12:19 pm

    Crustacean – “I won’t live to see the day when you can cross the United States without seeing ONE of these stupid, useless contraptions, but others will and that will be a happy time indeed.”

    Funny – I feel that way about strip mines, which litter the area.

    There’s a spot just east of Somerset, Pennsylvania, that I drive through regularly on the PA Turnpike. South of the road are a half-dozen 1.4MW windmills lining the ridge. North of the road, right across, is a huge strip-mine, a scar on the landscape, which even after it’s empty of coal and refilled will be leaching crud into the water table for a century or so.

    What crud would that be and why was it not being leached into the water table before the mining?

  91. Roger Sowell:

    At July 17, 2011 at 2:23 pm you say:

    “With government assistance in the form of subsidies, tax credits, grants, and other incentives, wind-turbine power farms make economic sense in many locations.”

    With respect, that statement is an error; it needs to be corrected to say;

    “With government assistance in the form of subsidies, tax credits, grants, and other incentives, wind-turbine power farms make FINANCIAL sense TO THEIR OWNERS.”

    They are incorrectly titled “windfarms” and are more accurately titled “subsidy farms”.

    Richard

  92. If vertical axis turbine produce 10x more then horizontal axis turbines, will not the capacity of backup generators (gas turbines, etc) need to be 10x more? Just asking.

  93. Just a few miles west of Ellensburg WA there use to be a vertical. Now the area is plastered with horizontal. Reminds me of the old challenge, ‘Just sit on it and spin.’

  94. Richard Sharpe

    Strip mining opens the buried mineral content to water percolation, starting with sulfuric acid from the coal bed (dead streams, infertile soil, etc.), sedimentation rates in nearby waterways 1000x higher, diversion of groundwater, permanent changes in landscape and drainage (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Environmental_impact_of_coal_mining_and_burning).

    This is stuff not leached into the groundwater before because the ground was not disturbed – the sulfur, iron, and other components were locked into the coal.

    I grew up in that area – sometimes the water just ran orange, smelling of rotten eggs…

  95. Your claim that “wind tubines do not provide any useful electricity to a grid at any time.” remains ridiculous.

    Richard Courtney cites a paper by Richard S Courtney as validation of what, exactly? As said – citing your paper as support of your assertions doesn’t make you assertion any more valid. Your claims have been repeatedly debunked already – but since you asked here we go;

    Your claim “A thermal power station takes days to start producing electricity from a cold start” is referenced to a non-existing citation. So this claim is unsupported. And is fundamental to your straw man argument, so everything that follows and all the assumptions based on that claim are negated.

    To make that claim you have to ignore that hydro-power, gas and nuclear power generation rates can be spun up / down readily. In the EU wind power is frequently traded where hydro-power is the alternative source so there is little cost or waste in switching over thus making your claim bogus.

    Your next citation is of a single power plant – which is a specialty plant at Alholmens – that operates differently than a gas and nuclear plants. In other words you are extrapolating your claims by cherry picking the reference point – which of course makes your assertion bogus.

  96. A wind turbine’s capacity factor is based on the wind profile for the area. A constant steady speed wind will result in a good capacity factor. Most areas have a profile that is front loaded, that is the wind blows at lower speeds more often than higher speeds. Turbine designers balance the cost of materials against maximizing output. They want to take advantage of the relatively higher speeds that occur less frequently. This balance is the reason a well sited wind turbine will typically have no better than a 30% capacity factor. If it has a higher capacity factor than that then it either in a unique constant wind speed location or the generator is undersized for the blades’ swept area.

    The problem with wind economically is that they cost so much to build compared to the power and reliability we get in return. The bulk of a wind turbine’s subsidies are in the form of power production subsidies. The more power they produce the more taxpayer money they receive……18 dollars per MwH produced. Do the math, we can’t afford to produce a large percentage of our power from these renewable sources under this economic model.

    Somebody mentioned Denmark……..They have less wind power than the state of Texas and they import much of their power from other countries. They have very high residential electric rates and Norway looked at their system and said no thanks.

  97. Therefore, if the average power output of a wind turbine is about 20% of nameplate, with a 10-fold increase, it will now be able to produce 200% of nameplate! Really? /sarc

    This optinism is similar to the claim on the Danish Windpower Web Site 2 years ago that wind power pays for itself in 3 months. After a re-analysis of the Danish example, I calculated the real payback period to be 130 years.

    I also re-analyzed the 14.87 EROEI claim made of the Livermore pass project at 0.29.

    I don’t care how you try to twist this wind power nonsense around, the result is the same. Wind power is unsustainable.

    http://www.windpowerfraud.com.

  98. This is an interesting paper.
    I am a little suspicious of the power density comparison being made in the paper.

    1. VAWTs are less efficient than HAWTs when operated as individual units.

    2. The area of a real wind farm involves more than turbine separation requirements.

    3. Wind speed increases with height. It is possible that the required VAWT spacings will increase with increasing turbine height.

    4. The cross-sectional area swept out by the turbine blades is a critical factor in determining power generation of a turbine. For a given power output, this number will need to be similar for HAWT and VAWT. I suspect that a pair of closely spaced counter-rotating VAWTs has poorer performance than a single HAWT with the same total swept area.

    5. The researchers should install several HAWTs with equivalent swept area to compare power density performance in the same location, wind conditions, temperatures, etc.

  99. Roger Sowell says:
    July 17, 2011 at 2:23 pm

    If you object to such financial assistance for wind-turbines, are you also outraged over all the other forms of government assistance?

    One word, Roger:

    Yes.

  100. Bystander:

    As an anonymois troll you are failing badly.

    The conclusion of my post at July 17, 2011 at 2:09 pm said to you;

    “I am not surprised that your comments on my explanation do not mention any flaw in my explanation but resort to daft comments, redherrings and a straw man.”

    At July 17, 2011 at 5:30 pm you respond with more of the same nonsense and nothing else.

    Are you trying to convince yourself? Your nonsense cannot convince anybody else.

    Richard

  101. Bystander and Roger Sowell:

    As an aid to your comprehension, I point out the following.

    If wind power were sensible then oil tankers would be sailng ships.

    Richard

  102. @Roger Sewell, on July 17, 2011 at 7:50 am:

    Actually, it matters a great deal that power production per square meter increases 10-fold. Normally, increases in power production, or efficiency, are made in small increments.

    Roger, although I explained it in my post, you don’t seem to understand what an increase in efficiency is. With 10 times more power prodution per square meter, what you have is an increase in power production. But this only means an increase in efficiency IF it costs you less than 10 times more money to achieve it.

    As another example, if I have a fuel-powered electricity generator with 1 MW power that procuces 1MWH per X dollars that I spend in it (fuel, maintenance costs, amortization…), and I change it for another fuel-powered electricity generator which is the same size but with 2 MW power, hey, that’s great, I can now feed 2MW of machines… however it will only be more efficient if I have to pay less than X dollars per MWH of energy produced. I may have available twice as much electric energy, but if it is, say, three times more expensive, I am not more efficient, I am less efficient.

  103. Friends:

    This is information to all although it does arise from one of the errors of Bystander who lies that I made the logical error of ‘generalising from the particular’.

    David Tolley (Head of Networks and Ancillary Services, Innogy (a subsidiary of the German energy consortium RWE that operates windfarms and coal-fired power stations) 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.).

    Bystander attempted to discredit facts I presented about an entire national electricity supply by wrongly asserting;

    “Your next citation is of a single power plant – which is a specialty plant at Alholmens – that operates differently than a gas and nuclear plants. In other words you are extrapolating your claims by cherry picking the reference point – which of course makes your assertion bogus.”

    I have never never cited – or mentioned – any plant at Alholmens.

    Richard

  104. >>Bystander
    >>To make that claim you have to ignore that hydro-power, gas and nuclear
    >>power generation rates can be spun up / down readily. In the EU wind power
    >>is frequently traded where hydro-power is the alternative source so there is
    >>little cost or waste in switching over thus making your claim bogus.

    Unless you live in Scandinavia, there is not enough hydro or pumped storage capacity to soak up the variability; even if just 5% of our total power was being generated via wind. In the UK, we have a system to backup 5% of electrical power for just 5 hours – and yet the wind can go off line for days, not hours. Plus, this backup system is already 100% engaged in trying to smooth out customer demand, without it having to soak up variability in supply as well.

    Nuclear power, as I understand it, is not very good at instantaneous power changes. Ask the technicians at Chernobyl about that one. Coal is likewise hopeless at varying its supply levels over the short term.

    Gas can be switched on much quicker, which is why the UK power industry has just lobbied the government to build 17 new gas power stations. But this will simply double again the cost of wind power, which is already 3 times the cost of coal. Plus, this gas is likely to be Algerian or Libyan. Do you really think we can rely on these supplies, to keep the home fires burning? We need to think about energy security, as well as economics and constancy.

    I think the argument that wind power is 100% useless, comes from the observation that it requires 100% backup by other generation systems. Why not just delete the wind element, and have done with it, and make the electrical power much cheaper too? And even if you had a large pumped storage system, how long are you going to save the water for? Proff Mackay said, in his influential sustainable energy report, that we should store water for 2 days. But of what use is that, when all UK wind went off-line for 6 weeks during Jan-Feb 2010??

    And it would help if Richard could explain himself properly, instead of resorting to calling everyone a troll. He has still not explained why fractured coals seams are of benefit to the coal mining industry, and prefers to shout ‘troll’ instead.

    .

  105. >>Richard.
    >>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.

    Yes, but in an integrated and logical energy supply system, you don’t use the coal plants as variable energy producers !!!

    Logically, we should keep the coal stations running at 100%, and use the gas stations for adjusting variability. The only reason this does not work at present, is because the UK industry is fragmented; and the gas generating companies do not wish to be penalised all the time, by being ordered to reduce power and thus reduce profits.

    This absurd situation will only resolve itself when:
    a. All producers are compelled to have 20% of their production from gas, which can be ordered to reduce power levels by the grid, as wind power becomes available.
    or,
    b. We topple all the windelec towers, and devise a proper electrical system based upon nuclear power.

    .

  106. @ Richard S Courtney says: “As an anonymois troll you are failing badly.”

    The fact is your “study” is based on bad assumptions and cherry picking – resorting to personal attacks rather than addressing those shortcoming only confirms that your “study” is wrong.

  107. @ Richard S Courtney says “I have never never cited – or mentioned – any plant at Alholmens”

    From YOUR link;

    You write “Each thermal power station is designed to provide an output of electricity. It can only provide
    very little more or very little less than this output (i.e. a power station has a “low turndown
    ratio”)” THAT IS DEAD WRONG BTW.

    Your citation is “16. Flynn P & Kumar A, ‘Site visit to Alholmens 240 MW power plant, Pietarsaari, Finland’ University of Alberta, September 2005″

  108. Richard S Courtney

    Looking at some actual numbers, California currently has >6.8 TWh/year from wind, about 2.3% of total energy (not much right now), with renewables accounting for 25% or so of new energy construction worldwide (so the percentage is increasing). (http://www.energy.ca.gov/wind/)

    With ~25% of new power construction being renewables, there’s some indication there that a lot of energy planners think it’s a good idea…

    In 1993 the CA costs were ~7.5 cents per kWh, estimated to reduce below 3.5 cents per kWh over the next 10 years.

    As to your concerns about how long it takes fossil fueled supplies to kick in as backups – gas turbines take very little time indeed, and in fact were just approved as backups for nuclear power (http://www.neimagazine.com/story.asp?storyCode=2057711). They’ve been used as peak power backups for quite a while (http://www.naturalgas.org/overview/uses_eletrical.asp), “…as it is possible to quickly and easily turn them on.”

    Your statement “In other words, wind tubines do not provide any useful electricity to a grid at any time.”, due to partial load backups, is simply not correct.

  109. Richard S Courtney

    I see our posts crossed while we were writing.

    If your backup is coal power, yes, it will take quite a while to ramp up. Coal is a poor fit for backup power as a result. It’s also not a good idea at any rate, due to the level of pollution including mercury and radioisotopes, the amount of CO2 released (it’s what, about twice as much as natural gas per kWh?), ash dumps, strip mines, and the like.

    I realize you have a preference for coal, you having worked in that field for quite some time, but it’s really not the best way to make electricity once you factor in all the costs that the rest of us end up paying. If you want to go for centralized power plants rather than renewables, nuclear (in particular breeder reactors) is a much better way to go.

  110. in the UK we have the highest demand in the winter (little air conditioning). The coldest weather is often during periods of low pressure when the wind speed over most of the country can be too low for the windmills to produce any power. These conditions can last for several days at a time. What size of pump storage scheme would we need to keep the lights on? I would be interested if anybody could work this out and give an estimate of the capital cost of bulding it and how much of the country would need to be flooded.

  111. Alexander Feht says:
    July 17, 2011 at 9:27 pm
    Roger Sowell says:
    July 17, 2011 at 2:23 pm
    If you object to such financial assistance for wind-turbines, are you also outraged over all the other forms of government assistance?

    One word, Roger:
    Yes.

    Although my immediate reaction was to agree with Mr. Feht, we are, as Hayek said in Road to Serfdom even when talking of pre-WWII England, too rich a country to allow our citizens to go without food and shelter. That is certainly true of modern life in developed countries today.

    But, Roger, you lost me when you justified all the subsidies, tax breaks, etc., for wind power simply because we do it all the time. When the inputs exceed the outputs, we are immediately poorer as a society. Those in favor of subsidies in the case of economic problems like energy production always argue that we aren’t measuring all of the outputs, i.e., that we need to take into consideration the progress that will eventually be made only because of the subsidy, progress that would not have been made in its absence.

    But people like you never take into account the progress lost because of not only wasted resources, but misdirected resources. Had nuclear progress not been impeded in the 1970’s by panicked politicians, all of this might well be moot by now. Or perhaps not. But I would much rather put my faith in free markets, and entrepreneurs responding to the price signals in those markets, than in the political class when determining where private resources should be directed.

    Tax dollars, i.e., private resources confiscated by governments, should be directed at protecting the citizenry, including protection in the form advocated by Hayek, and should not be used to attempt to pick winners in the economic sphere. Adopting this stance would enable the expenditures of government at all levels to be cut dramatically, perhaps on the order of 50 to 75%. The amount of resources left in private hands, were that done, would solve our energy problems, to the extent we would even have them then, in a generation. (This last is hyperbole, but has at least as great a chance of proving correct as a politician does picking the right power sources to subsidize with our money.)

  112. >>Ron Todd says: July 18, 2011 at 7:32 am
    >>in the UK we have the highest demand in the winter (little air conditioning).
    >>The coldest weather is often during periods of low pressure when the wind
    >>speed over most of the country can be too low for the windmills to produce
    >>any power. These conditions can last for several days at a time. What size
    >>of pump storage scheme would we need to keep the lights on?

    You mean ‘high pressure’. And in Jan-Feb 2010, the UK was without wind for 6 weeks, not several days.

    If we had 25% of UK electricity from wind power, we would need about 1,000 Dinorwig plants, to keep the lights on in Britain. And many more, if we wanted to go to an all-electric economy.

    Dinorwig, by the way, is a 2gw pumped storage facility, and thus a very substantial investment.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dinorwig_power_station

    This was my analysis of wind power, for the Sunday Times.

    .

    Summary:

    I would like to give a quick summary in advance. Professor Mackay has written an in-depth study of the nation’s energy demands and supplies, that is commendable in many respects. It is relatively clear and easy to read, if plagued by too many changes in units of energy; which makes comparisons between chapters difficult.

    However, despite Professor Mackay slaughtering some well-established Green sacred cows, the report is nevertheless spoiled by a bias towards renewable energy and contains some highly misleading statements that border upon deception. The claim, for instance, that ‘electric vehicles are up to five times as efficient as fossil fuelled vehicles’, is disingenuous in the extreme. As is discussed later, this statement compares apples and oranges, and does not take the current electrical supply system into account whatsoever. Following my complaints, Professor Mackay has apologised to The Sunday Times if this statement appeared misleading. So was it misleading? Well, it was certainly misleading enough to confuse the reporters in The Sunday Times, who wrote glowing reports about the efficiency of electric vehicles based upon this very statement (as was admitted in an email to myself by the Sunday Times reporter).

    There are, however, a number of other points in the book that I regard as misleading. Strangely enough, most of the these assumptions and arithmetic roundings tend to be in favour of renewable energy, producing a rather rose-tinted view of this industry. Here is my analysis of some of the data used, that appears unduly biased in favour of renewable energy.

    Glossary of terms

    kts – knots. 7 knots = 8mph.
    gw – gigawatt of power (a rate of power delivery) 1gw = 1,000 mw.
    gwh – gigawatt hour (an amount of energy delivered over one hour).
    mw – megawatt of power 1mw = 1,000 kw.
    kw – kilowatt of power 1kw will power a 1-bar electric fire.
    windmills – wind machines that grind corn.
    windelecs – wind machines that produce electricity.
    kwh/day/person – (for the entire population) a strange unit used by Prof Mackay.
    One kwh/day/p is equivalent 2.5gw (although one unit is an amount and the other a rate, they are still comparable).

    Analysis of wind energy:

    Professor Mackay says that between October 2006 and February 2007, there were 17 days in the UK below 10% wind-power output (p188). This is a peculiar period to take into consideration – just the winter months. In comparison, the number of days below 7kts (or 10% wind power) for the Liverpool Bay in 2006 was 46 days, and in 2010 there were up to 70 days without power (see dataset below). Windelecs (wind turbines) do not produce any worthwhile power below 7kts.

    Professor Mackay then chooses Ireland as the foundation for his wind calculations. Why Ireland? As anyone who has lived there will know, Ireland is appreciably windier than the S.E. coast of England, where some of the largest arrays of windelecs will be based. The following charts outline the difference between these regions. In short, Ireland often lies outside the reach of European anticyclone weather systems, and so does not receive the long windless weeks that the south east of England occasionally does.

    http://www.windatlas.dk/Europe/landmap.html

    http://www.windatlas.dk/europe/oceanmap.html

    Extrapolating from this false comparison with Ireland, Professor Mackay makes the assumption that the maximum duration without wind and thus without wind power in the UK will be just 5 days (p187, 189). All his energy storage assumptions, for power supplies from wind, are based upon this duration of outage. But this is an outrageous assumption that flies in the face all all experience. These are the wind charts for Liverpool Bay for January / February 2010.

    http://coastobs.pol.ac.uk/cobs/met/hilbre/sadata_met_month.php?code=5&span=jan2010

    http://coastobs.pol.ac.uk/cobs/met/hilbre/sadata_met_month.php?code=5&span=feb2010

    The blue line is the sustained wind speed, and anything less than 7kts not supplying any worthwhile electrical power. Here we see more than a month – a full 40 days – without any significant wind, and so without any significant wind-inspired electrical power. This is the duration of outage that we need to store up electrical energy for, to prevent rolling blackouts across the country, and this makes a mockery of Professor Mackay’s energy storage assumptions.

    Electrical production assumptions (wind):

    Professor Mackay assumes that average UK electrical consumption is 40gw or 960gwh/day (p188). This is an underestimate, as our actual average consumption is 1055 gwh/day, or an average consumption of 44gw (2008, 2009 figures).

    http://www.decc.gov.uk/en/content/cms/statistics/source/electricity/electricity.aspx

    For his primary energy calculation, the professor assumes the UK should install 33gw of windelecs, running at a 30% load factor (or efficiency) which will give us 10gw of actual wind power generation, on average (p189). This, it is said, represents 25% of our total current electrical energy requirements, and is a component of the UK government’s present energy policy.

    The UK presently just has 5gw of installed wind power. If the average turbine is 3mw (they go up to 7mw), this 33gw of installed capacity would represent about 11,000 large windelecs of 3mw each, a six-fold increase on the present tally of windelecs. (see similar calculation on Mackay’s p62)

    http://www.bwea.com/statistics/

    Professor Mackay has assumed a 30% load factor for windelecs (the difference between theoretical power, and achieved power, p189), but this is an over estimate. The average load factor in the UK is about 27%, while in 2010 the UK windelec fleet only generated 24% of installed power. Let’s assume 25% as an average load factor, which is rather less than the professor’s 30%.

    http://www.ref.org.uk/publications/217-low-wind-power-output-2010

    In addition, Professor Mackay’s average electrical demand for the UK (now revised to 44gw) is just that, an average. Since demand can considerably exceed this average, the actual generating capacity (not including wind power) in the UK is now about 80gw; so we have a 45% contingency against demand and supply fluctuations. In reality, demand fluctuations are less than this. Much of the UK’s electrical demand in December 2010 was in the range of 45 – 55 gw, peaking at 60gw on the 20th December, which is just 25% more than the average figure. These seasonal peaks would still have to be catered for in a substantially wind-powered nation, so let’s assume that we could get away with a total generating capacity of just 66gw.

    http://www.nationalgrid.com/uk/sys_06/default.asp?action=mnch3_8.htm&sNode=4&Exp=Y

    http://www.nationalgrid.com/uk/Electricity/Data/Demand+Data/

    So in the real world, with real word data, we would actually need the following: To generate 25% of our total electrical supply with wind, you would need 16.5gw of wind output (66gw divided by 4). But since wind power is only 25% efficient, you would actually need 66gw of installed wind capacity (at a 25% load factor, giving 16.5gw average output). Thus we have already risen from Professor Mackay’s estimate of 11,000 windelecs (33gw) to the more realistic figure of 22,000 windelecs (66gw), assuming a 3mw capacity each. And yet this vast array of windelecs will still only generate enough energy to cover 25% of our current electrical demand.

    The electric economy:

    But this is not the end of the problem. Professor Mackay then goes onto to suggest methods of further reducing fossil fuels by going towards an ‘all electric’ economy.

    Currently, electricity represents only a small slice of our total energy demands. According to the DTI, electricity represents just 9% of the total energy the nation uses, and thus the UKs total energy demand (in equivalent electrical units) is 490gw (current electrical consumption of 44gw x 1110%). Professor Mackay uses a 312gw equivalent in his calculations (his 125kwh/day/person) which seems a bit light to me.
    http://www.berr.gov.uk/files/file11250.pdf (chart 1.2)

    In this same DTI report, transport represents 26% of energy consumption (chart 1.3), and road vehicles represent about 70% of this slice (chart 2.1). So road vehicles currently represent 18% of total UK energy demand (or 88gw equivalent). But in an ‘all electric’ economy the energy consumption of the electric vehicles would be just half the current figure, as there would no longer be the 50% losses involved in generating electricity at the power station, and so the ‘all electric’ equivalent would be a road transport consumption of just 44gw. The professor similarly assumes that all transport (less aviation) consumes 45gw (his 18 kwh/d/p).

    Professor Mackay then goes on to use a significant amount of electrical power for space heating in our homes and offices, adding another 44gw to the electrical requirements. This conversion makes a deal of sense, as pumped heating systems can double or treble this electrical power requirement into, say, 100gw of actual heating.

    Thus the total electrical demand for the UK, in the ‘all electric’ economy, becomes 44gw for general electricity, plus 44gw for transport, plus 44gw for heating – or a total of 132 gw, which represents a tripling of our electrical demand. Note how, in an ‘all electric’ economy, the total energy requirement has reduced from the original 490gw (or 312gw) to this much lower figure of 132gw. This is because electrical energy is more efficient for transport and heating, if we do not have to burn a fossil fuels in a power station to create the electrical energy in the first place. This would equate to about 180 gw of total energy, if we also include the extra efficiencies derived from pumped heat systems. But since the professor’s total energy consumption assumption for the UK was a bit light in the first place, I think it wise to increase this total electrical energy requirement in the same proportion, from 132gw to 190gw.

    But remember that this is an average power consumption, and does not allow for seasonal variations. Professor Mackay does not have much to say about seasonal variations in energy demand, above a passing reference to ‘heating a rock’ (p201). But not all seasonal demand variations are due to space heating, it is about longer nights with more lighting and watching television, and cooking hot dinners instead of eating salads. And there are many factories that simply cannot insulate more, as the hangar doors are open more than they are shut, as anyone who has worked in industry will know. And wielding a spanner that is at -5oc is simply not possible. Humans cannot work like that, we do need extra heat in the winter. As we saw above, to allow for the cold winter months, we actually need another 50% of power supply as a contingency (we currently have about 80% extra electrical power as a contingency). The following graph is of seasonal gas demand in the US, which clearly shows a 50% increase in the winter. This contingency would increase our electrical generation requirements from 190gw to 280gw.

    But this would have a similar knock on effect to our generating requirements, with more than three times our current electrical capability being required, to sustain an ‘all electric’ economy. Professor Mackay gives a number of differing solutions to this huge electrical supply problem, most of which are not practical. Getting reliable solar energy supplies from North Africa is one of those impracticalities, as is discussed below. Using coal very inefficiently (so-called clean coal) is another peculiar suggestion. Why would we want to make coal power half as efficient as it is today? Doubling coal consumption for the same electrical output defeats all of the very promising efficiencies we have just outlined for the ‘all electric’ economy – it is nonsensical in the extreme.

    To be practical about this, we need to delete the naive suggestions for electrical power, which range from solar-desert, biofuel, wood, wave power, clean coal and photo voltaic. Without going hugely nuclear, for the moment, plan ‘D’ in the professor’s list of options looks the most viable – with it retaining a large amount of nuclear power (p208). But after deleting all the impractical power generation suggestions and retaining (or increasing to) 50gw of nuclear power, you would need to increase the supply of wind power to a massive 230gw.

    If this were the case, then we would need to increase our requirement for 3mw windelecs from 14,600 (11gw, factored) to over 300,000 (230gw, load factored from 920gw). If we wanted to install these windelecs over 20 years, that would represent the construction of 15,000 new windelecs a year, or 1,250 a month. This is simply not possible; it is pipe-dream engineering.

    Even Professor Mackay has discounted this idea, not simply due to the engineering impossibilities, but also on the intrinsic wind power capabilities of the UK. Looking at the available land and sea areas, the professor assumes that the maximum wind generation for the UK would be 170gw (at an average 3w/sqm of turbine area for offshore wind and 2w/sqm for onshore, p60). But even that represents 225,000 of these huge 3mw windelecs. And large though this amount may be, it still represents a 50gw shortfall in our generating capacity, which will have to be made up from some other energy source. Plus, as the professor has noted, some of the maintenance bills on these offshore windelecs are becoming downright untenable.

    Storage assumptions:

    But that is not the only construction requirement. The problem, as we have already touched upon, is that the wind stops blowing for days on end; and so we shall need a storage system to allow for wind outages, otherwise we will be plagued by long-term blackouts and the UK will cease to function. Everything we depend upon in our 24/7 technological society would come grinding to a halt without electrical supplies. Whether it is domestic heating, cars, road systems, rail systems, supermarkets, factories, water systems, gas systems, it all depends on electrical supplies. And those dependencies are not always obvious. Petrol pumps depend on electrical pumps, so there would be no petrol and traffic at a standstill. Traffic lights would fail, causing further gridlock. Failed fire suppression systems in office blocks would demand that all office blocks are evacuated. Failed air traffic control systems would ground all aircraft. Supermarkets could not operate if they had no stock control and cash register systems, and the food trucks were stuck in the road gridlock or short of fuel. etc: etc: Our interconnected and technological world would simply fall apart.

    So we do need backup electrical supplies, for when the windelecs are idle. But how much? In his calculations Professor Mackay suggests a maximum outage of 5 windless days, and a storage system supplying 25% of current electrical power (10gw) – the figure derived in his initial calculation. The calculation here is 10gw x 5 days x 24 hours = 1,200 gwh of pumped storage capacity requirements, to act as a backup power supply.

    The largest pumped water storage system in the UK is Dinorwig, in North Wales, and this stores 9gwh of power. Thus you would need 1,200 divided by 9 = 130 Dinorwigs, to backup five windless days, as the professor mentions (p191). But Dinorwig was the UK’s biggest and most expensive power supply project, a gold-plated government construction that no private company would ever contemplate. And we must build 130 of these, or their equivalent, to cover for 5 windless days. Professor Mackay suggests several lochs and locations in the highlands of Scotland for these pumped storage systems; but you can just imagine the Green outcry to desecrating these unspoiled natural environments.

    But that, of course, is not the true calculation. As we have seen, the wind can go off line for up to 40 days. So in truth, we would actually need 10gw x 40 days x 24 hours = 9,600 gwh of pumped storage capacity, or 1,060 Dinorwig equivalents, just to cover 25% of our present electrical requirements.

    But that is not all. Professor Mackay has gone on to suggest the ‘all electric’ economy, as we have just seen. In the scenario I have just discussed above, this would require the maximum possible wind capability of the whole UK to run, which the professor estimates at 170gw of wind power. Thus we would have to multiply the requirement for pumped storage systems by 17 (from 10gw to 170gw), resulting in a requirement for the equivalent of 18,000 Dinorwigs. I’m afraid that that is pipe-dream engineering. It cannot be done. It is akin to embarking on 180 Apollo moon projects, all at the same time.

    Please also remember that January 2010, the month without wind, was one of the coldest months on record – the very time when we will require maximum electrical power. This is especially so if a significant amount of our heating and transport were to be powered by electricity, as the professor is suggesting. I would respectfully suggest that had Professor Mackay been in charge of energy production and transport policy in January 2010, hundreds of thousands of people would have died in Britain, especially among those who are old or infirm. Is this what we want for our future?

    .

  113. I am delighted by this blog’s embrace of the vital and inevitable transition from fossil to non-fossil energy. This study and the comments have been stimulating and constructive.

  114. I see this has partly degenerated into the nuclear power debate…of which I am a distinct supporter for the very simplist and very basic of reasons.
    In essence, it doesn’t matter how you look at it, from any and all resources, minerals, food, fossil fuels, even so called renewable energy – humans will necessarily rape this planet unless some far advanced energy technology can be found and bloody soon. Several billion people need feeding, clothing and keeping warm and they need that TODAY. There is no extolling the rights or wrongs of it – it is simple fact ! Unless one is of a persuasion that we should invoke mass genocide/suicide or murder, or even simply neglect our fellow (poor) man – there is no other option but to continue to ‘use’ the planet and its resources as our NEEDS dictate. (Or else we have no option but to reduce our needs?)
    On the presumption that world domination by a particular power/country is ‘off the cards’ these days – what are our realistic choices?
    1) we can carry on as we are and continue to damage the planet environmentally whilst we burn FF and wait for some new clean power tech to arrive – but of course, we run the risk that it doesn’t appear (and THEN we’d have to go nuclear!)
    2) we can use our past nuclear experience and invest in future ‘better’ nuclear to provide a long term provision into the future whilst allowing the time for technology to advance. In addition, as a relatively clean power (ignoring the waste aspect) nuclear provides the opportunity for environmental improvement in a far greater sense than continued FF use does.
    3) we can invest in renewables at unbelieveable rates in the ‘hope’ that they come good? (though this still requires raping of the planet for resources – and of course, we don’t know the long term effect of actually withdrawing energy from the climate system) The exponential rise in energy demand, coupled with need for land, for example, for food production, etc, kind of suggests that this is a non achievable utopia without an awful lot of sacrifices elsewhere?
    I suppose there is a 4) – which is to turn everything off and return to the stone age – literally and completely, Accepting that any deaths on the way are mere natural casualties!

    In my humble opinion, we simply have no choice but to continue to develop nuclear power – if for no other reason but to provide an essential ‘backup’ should other technologies fail now or in the future. I suppose that is the alarmists precautionary principle working against them? Whatever is decided, the world still has a bit of choice at it’s disposal but as each day passes, the practical availability of those choices will reduce. I guess it’s a bit like spread betting – we need to spread our bet as much as possible, and at the moment I do see nuclear as the favourite! I would sooner see slower ‘carefully considered’ nuclear technology developed now rather than panicky, hasty and likely untried technology in 50 years time? For example, can you imagine the likes of a minor oil based country of today suddenly in a panic for energy for its people and then building half a dozen Chernobyls in a hurry ?!!

  115. Rod,
    I enjoyed your comment and agree with your approach to government, so I wanted to pick your brain. There is an idea, supported by the intersection of those who accept fossil carbon as having dangerously imbalanced the carbon cycle long ago (50ish years) and those who demand efficiency in regulation (that is, directed–not indirect–action, and action that allows market–the biggest, most player-populous markets–to apply themselves). The concept (if not the proposed implementations–there are many proposed bills to choose from) is that of the fossil carbon fee and tax cut. A fee is applied to fossil carbon emission (I say the most low-overhead and cheat-free way is via a fossil production and import fee based on C content) that raises every year. (Foreign products that are fossil-energy-heavy could be assigned a fossil-fee-compensation-tariff that would be completely WTO legal.) At the same time, taxes are reduced in a universal way (that’s a politically difficult part to work out) every month, in an amount equal to the fee collected (this would start very, very low, so getting there’d be time to get good numbers worked out in the first year.)

    In this way, money is kept in the economy, while beginning to put the real cost on fossil energy, and reducing the cost on everything (anything) else, be it nuke, sequestration, renewables with smart distribution and storage, decentralization, efficiency, anything. (Sequestration would be reimbursed the fossil fee and that taken out of the tax-cut total; however, I’m almost certain sequestration would lose out as not technically and economically viable compared to the others.)

    What are your thoughts on the concept? How might the concept be optimally implemented?

  116. Hu McCulloch says:

    I remember reading about “egg beater” windmills 30-40 years ago. A big practical advantage then was that the generators are at the bottom, where they don’t need to be supported and are easy to service, rather than at the top.
    Having a static generator is also likely to mean mechanically simpler and fewer parts which are likely to need servicing.

    But the major drawback with wind power remains. That is that the power delivered is intermittent and unpredictable. Throughout history waterwheels have been used because their ability to deliver power which is reliable is more important than the higher initial capital costs compared with wind.
    For centuries wind was the standard way to propel ships. Yet the inventions of Richard Trevithick, Charles Parsons and Rudolf Diesel revolutionised ship propulsion within a comparativly short time.

  117. Oh dear! As usual when windpower is mentioned, the troll infestation is immense.

    There are too many to deal with them all, but I mention a couple.

    Not content with having destroyed one thread, the anonymous “Ralph” has another go here. I commend that everybody refuse to engage with exceptionally toxic troll whose assertions consist of selected sentences from newspaper articles he has googled, personal insults, and nothing else.

    The anonymous “Bystander” makes trivial points that are usually examples of classical logical errors. However, in this thread he has made one point that is correct and I was mistaken.
    I wrongly said:
    ““I have never never cited – or mentioned – any plant at Alholmens””
    He is correct that I did cite it as an example in the link I provided. I apologise for that error.

    However, my failure to remember that does not alter my point that I proved by quoting David Tolley.

    Richard

  118. Excellent post Rod – demonstrating the foibles of wind power and the secondary (i.e. storage) problems it creates for any grid where ‘constant’ power is required. I just wish the greens would become more realistic in their claims…….without realism, we run the risk of making serious mistakes.

  119. KR:

    Thankyou for your comments to me at July 18, 2011 at 6:43 am and July 18, 2011 at 6:50 am .

    I have two responses.

    Firstly, I do not know why you think I am against nuclear power. On the contrary, I am in favour of it as I have repeatedly said in many places including on WUWT.

    But nuclear power is even less good at load following than conventional coal-fired PF power stations, and this is why the nuclear plants provide base load in the UK.

    Secondly, you assert that gas turbine pants (burning natural gas) can start up quickly so they could be used as back-up for wind turbines at times of long (i.e. days or weeks) outage of wind turbines.

    Your assertion is correct but has two problems.

    Combined cycle gas turbine (CCGT) plants burning natural gas are much more efficient than plants that only use gas turbines, but they cannot provide a rapid start-up. So, you are suggesting a more expensive and less efficient supply of gas-fired power solely because it can provide back-up to wind turbines.

    Importantly, a CCGT provides much cheaper electricity than wind farms, and even a pure gas turbine plant produces cheaper electricity than windfarms. I would be interested to know why you suggest building gas-fired power stations for them to stand idle so wind turbines can operate to produce more expensive electricity. What is wrong with only building CCGTs and using their cheaper electricity?

    Indeed, it is cheaper to operate CCGTs and to place them on standby when windfarms generate instead of building pure gas turbine plants that shut down when the windfarms operate.

    As I said, windfarms produce no useful electricity, they only displace thermal power stations that continue to burn their fuel and, therefore, to produce their emissions whilst waiting for the windfarms to stop operating.

    Richard

  120. anderlan says:
    July 18, 2011 at 10:51 am

    The concept of a direct C tax – increasing over a time period may appeal in principal, as it would surely ‘force’ alternative energy investment R&D – but in practise I can see that all that would happen is that some big corps would ‘cash in’ by producing cheap electricity and selling it at just under the continuing fossil fuel producers price! In other words, a bit like the private Toll bridges where they collect a ‘toll’ to recover the investment outlay and running costs, but then continue to collect tolls even after many years (usually increasing them instead of reducing them to cover basic running costs after the capital cost have been met!). The free market would likely find a way to take advantage, I am sure – just like it has with the subsidised ‘green’ industry!

    I am a self employed engineer, so not really a businessman! but if I was gonna make and sell something, I’d look at the current market, make whatever the ‘product’ I chose at reduced cost (if possible) and then sell it the most I could get for it but usually just under my competitors price! I am not satisfying shareholders – but big corps are, and need to look at the profit margin ALL the time. I cannot see in your suggestion, that the free market could provide a fair solution for consumers!

    Nuclear promised cheap electricity – which I guess it delivered for a while, but then H&S and Enviro regulations became more stringent and costs rose (especially decommisoning – nobody foresaw decom costs to be so high I don’t think)….and then of course, add in the NIMBY’s and you have got yourself a perfectly good method of electrity production that is ‘not wanted’, and yet a few million wind gensets are ok?….or flooding vast areas for hydro is ok?, etc, etc… At some stage, practicalities need to come into the equation.

  121. Richard S Courtney

    “What is wrong with only building CCGTs and using their cheaper electricity?”

    How about minimizing the total level of greenhouse gas production? Limited fossil fuel resources ring a bell?

    Yes, yes, I know you have asserted that human greenhouse gas production has no real effect on the climate – in which assertion you are in the _distinct_ minority. Most folks who (like me) have run the numbers feel minimizing greenhouse emissions is important.

    I will point out that I do not think that wind power can replace 100% baseload – but up to about 20% of total grid power it makes economic sense. Beyond that the power swings look to be far more expensive (in backup, storage, etc.) than they are worth. I’m far more interested in concentrating solar power (molten salt backup), which looks to be a much better source than wind power, although for the UK neither alternative makes a great deal of sense as local sources. The UK has too little available land or sunlight, and wind is limited – I would guess a combo of nuclear and imported electrical as a future supply.

  122. >>Richard S Courtney says: July 18, 2011 at 11:51 am
    >>Not content with having destroyed one thread, the anonymous “Ralph” has
    >>another go here. I commend that everybody refuse to engage with exceptionally
    >>toxic troll whose assertions consist of selected sentences from newspaper
    >>articles he has googled, personal insults, and nothing else.

    The difference between ‘Troll Ralph’ and Richard, is that Troll Ralph actually worked in a mine, and has experience of mining, whereas it would appear that Richard has never been further north than Watford.

    In addition, Troll Ralph actually produced copious evidence that the UK’s fractured geology played a great part in the demise of the UK coal industry, whereas readers just have to have ‘faith’ with Richard, because he produces no evidence whatsoever. Richard still has not explained why fractured coal seams, the very fractured coal seams that brought the Selby pit to a premature close, would be beneficial to the coal industry. Care to finally explain, oh one of great faith but little evidence?

    And if you had read my posts on wind turbines, I was actually supporting your arguments. But I did suggest that you explain yourself more clearly, because you have a habit of simply repeating yourself and shouting ever more loudly. Clearly, you have nothing to deliver to these threads but abuse and conflict.

    .

  123. Side note WRT wind power:

    Single locale data doesn’t really mean much for either solar or wind power – siting multiple smaller sites across even a few hundred kilometers will provide much higher continuous and less interrupted power than putting all those units into a single site, as it becomes _considerably_ less likely that all will be disabled by weather simultaneously. If wind production were spread across the UK and Europe with decent inconnectivity, downtimes for the grid would be extremely rare. Calmer weather in the southern UK compensated for by high winds off Scotland, for example (the Scottish windmills often getting shut down by _too much_ wind).

    Also note that average power for a wind facility is perhaps 1/3 peak capacity, all you can depend upon for the long run, due to wind variations. Both advocates and critics need to keep that in mind to avoid incorrect expectations.

    So grid interconnectivity becomes a requirement for larger scale renewables – minimizing power swings and interrupts.

  124. @ Richard S Courtney says “As I said, windfarms produce no useful electricity, they only displace thermal power stations that continue to burn their fuel and, therefore, to produce their emissions whilst waiting for the windfarms to stop operating.”

    Repeating the same bad assertion based on a premise shown to be faulty only shows that you are uninterested in the actual topic at hand here.

    A more honest and accurate analysis would be to indicate that wind power needs to be intelligently integrated into an overall system of power generation. Using hydro-power or gas stations for stand-by is both viable and probably necessary at a much bigger scale than currently done today.

  125. I don’t know if my last comment got posted or not – trying again.

    Keep in mind that single location numbers are _not_ useful for judging wind or solar power. Even a spread of a couple of hundred kilometers between small groups of generators will provide a higher on-time percentage than having those same generators at a single site, as weather is far less likely to block all of them. Spread them across the UK and Europe, and downtime should drop to a low percentage of total time (I would have to run the numbers in detail, though…).

    A distributed grid is part of the requirements for renewable resources.

  126. Is it just me or does anyone else see that those who oppose wind power act as if no technological improvement in wind power will ever take place; yet whatever their power of choice is, it always seems to be an infant technology that given enough time will be cured of all of its technological deficiencies?

  127. davidgmills, it’s just you. No form of power has ever been “cured of all of its technological deficiencies.” There is no free lunch.

    But for excellent reasons of physics, wind power must remain completely uneconomic on any reasonable industrial scale. 1 square km, a million square meters, can easily hold a conventional 1-GW plant. That’s a kilowatt per square meter, 300 times the best HAWT figure quoted above and 30 time the inflated estimate the authors give for VAWT. And the conventional plant will produce the power 24/7 for half a century.

    Give me a break.

  128. davidgmills,

    You are welcome to experiment with any power source of your choice, and to improve it to your heart’s content — but not on my account. You play with it — you pay for it.

  129. Re the Richard S. Courtney contention that wind power does not produce any useful power, because back-up power plants must be running.

    This paper should be enlightening:

    http://www.nrel.gov/docs/fy11osti/49019.pdf

    Title: Operating Reserves and Wind Power Integration:
    An International Comparison, October 2010, by Milligan et al,

    Presented at The 9th Annual International Workshop on Large-Scale
    Integration of Wind Power into Power Systems as well as on Transmission
    Networks for Offshore Wind Power Plants Conference
    Québec, Canada; October 18-19, 2010

    Abstract—”The determination of additional operating reserves
    in power systems with high wind penetration is attracting a
    significant amount of attention and research. Wind integration
    analysis over the past several years has shown that the level of
    operating reserve that is induced by wind is not a constant
    function of the installed capacity. Observations and analysis of
    actual wind plant operating data has shown that wind does not
    change its output fast enough to be considered as a contingency
    event. However, the variability that wind adds to the system does
    require the activation or deactivation of additional operating
    reserves. This paper provides a high-level international
    comparison of methods and key results from both operating
    practice and integration analysis, based on the work in
    International Energy Agency IEA WIND Task 25 on Large-scale
    Wind Integration. The paper concludes with an assessment of the
    common themes and important differences, along with recent
    emerging trends.”

  130. >>Bystander
    >>A more honest and accurate analysis would be to indicate that wind power
    >>needs to be intelligently integrated into an overall system of power generation.

    Wind power can never be economically integrated into a power grid.

    If you use pumped storage as a backup, your would need the most expensive backup system in the history of man – enough pumped water to cover for 40 days of wind outage. That would increase electricity by approximately 20x its current price. Try selling that to the electorate.

    If you use gas turbines, you may well end up using more fossil fuel than not having any wind turbines. As Richard pointed out, the combined cycle plants are much more efficient than straight gas generators, but they cannot be used as variable backups. So in using straight gas turbines to backup wind (and UK generators have asked the government to build 17 of these), you may well end up using more gas than if there was no wind power whatsoever !!! And where does that gas come from? Algeria? Are you joking?

    In what way, therefore, is wind power useful to any nation?

    (Apart from Scandinavia or Switzerland, who may be able to eek out their hydro power during the seasons more effectively.)

    ,

  131. KR:

    You do not dispute the facts and arguments I gave you in response to your assertions and (at July 18, 2011 at 1:38 pm ) you reply to my question that asked:

    “What is wrong with only building CCGTs and using their cheaper electricity?”

    by asking me:

    “How about minimizing the total level of greenhouse gas production? Limited fossil fuel resources ring a bell?”

    So, it is clear that you agree my points but think the “total level of greenhouse gas production” and “limited fuel resources” are important.

    This is an example of the common ‘warmist’ ploy of changing the subject. (It is not quite as egregious as the ‘warmist’ ploy of ignoring all evidence presented and repeating an unfounded assertion: a ploy that is ably demonstrated in this thread by Roger Sewell and Bystander).

    You recognise that my argument is true and cannot be rationally refuted so try two other ’tacks’.
    But both are as spurious as your original arguments.

    Anthropogenic emissions of greenhouse gases are a trivial contribution to total green house gas emissions. For example, nature emits 34 molecules of CO2 for every molecule of CO2 emitted by the total of human activities. Anyway, as I explained, use of windfarms makes no significant reduction to the anthropogenic emissions and may increase those emissions.

    And, for all practical purposes, fossil fuel resources can be considered to be infinite. There is at least 300 year supply and probably more than 1,000 years supply. Nobody can know what – if any – demand ther will be for fossil fuels 300 years in the future.

    And you assert;

    “I will point out that I do not think that wind power can replace 100% baseload – but up to about 20% of total grid power it makes economic sense.”

    That assertion is silly twaddle. The 20% windpower is a pointless waste of resources that increases costs of electricity supply. That makes no “economic sense” of any kind.

    Richard

  132. davidgmills:

    I wonder what you would consider to be a mature technology.

    At July 18, 2011 at 4:55 pm you say;
    “Is it just me or does anyone else see that those who oppose wind power act as if no technological improvement in wind power will ever take place; yet whatever their power of choice is, it always seems to be an infant technology that given enough time will be cured of all of its technological deficiencies?”

    So, according to you, wind power is “an infant technology”.

    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.

    The horizontal-axis wind turbine was invented in Egypt and Greece around 300 BC

    Around 1200 AD, the crusaders built and developed the post-mill for milling grain.

    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.

    If you consider that to be an “infant technology” then what do you consider the steam engine to be, foetal technology?

    Wind power was abandoned when the greater energy intensity available from fossil fuels became available by use of the steam engine.

    Wind energy powered most of the world’s shipping for thousands of years. This is the most efficient use of wind power because all the wind power collected by the sails is used to push the ship without any mechanical losses. Sails had continuous developments for thousands of years. But primitive steam engines rapidly replaced sails for pushing ships.

    I again point out that

    If wind power were sensible then oil tankers would be sailing ships.

    Richard

  133. @ Richard S Courtney says “If wind power were sensible then oil tankers would be sailing ships.”

    That doesn’t make a lick of sense. We’re talking about power generation for the grid not transportation. No one here is proposing that wind be the sole source of power generation.

    @ Richard S Courtney says “I wonder what you would consider to be a mature technology.”

    Another straw man Richard – large scale wind generation of electricity is a new technology. Grinding grain around 1200 AD isn’t the same as utilizing wind power for large scale generation of electricity back to the modern grid.

    As usual – your reliance on straw man arguments simply confirms you have no interest in a factual discussion. To that point – are you willing to acknowledge your straw man arguments in your “paper”?

  134. @ Richard Courtney says “But both are as spurious as your original arguments. . ”

    You mean like ignoring fundamental methodology and factual errors in your paper Richard?

  135. @ Ralph says: “Wind power can never be economically integrated into a power grid.”

    That is a ridiculous statement. We all know full well that wind power is traded on the electricity markets in Europe, if the delivered cost was non-economic compared to the full burdened cost of conventional fuel this would not be happening.

    And yes, fully burden costs matter. Coal has huge externalities. For example;

    “Upstream externalities for coal include mining and surface
    reclamation. Oil and natural gas use have issues
    associated with drilling, pipelines, and spills.50 Hydroelectric
    power is associated with flooding, erosion, and
    loss of aquatic life in addition to possible curtailment of
    aesthetics and a loss of habitat for certain species.
    Downstream externalities are associated with landfills/
    ash disposal, climate change (or global warming
    potential), acid rain, transmission lines (electromagnetic
    fields), and siting. Nuclear power generation has the
    potential for serious accidents, besides problems with
    mining, surface reclamation, and waste disposal.

    Recently, various studies have taken into account externalities
    (i.e., damages and benefits) associated with each
    fuel cycle in power generation. A fuel cycle is the series
    of physical and chemical processes and activities required
    to generate electricity from a specific fuel or
    resource, including primary resource extraction and
    preparation, transport and storage of resources and
    materials, processing and conversion, and disposal….
    Environmental costs from the front end of the fuel cycle
    (mining, milling, drilling, beneficiation, fuel processing,
    equipment manufacturing, fuel transportation to site,
    etc.) do not directly devolve on the electric utilities,
    however. Therefore, impacts (or externalities as stated
    above) that are a part of the complete fuel-cycle
    approach are not normally taken into account when
    considering power generation per se.”

    http://www.eia.gov/cneaf/electricity/external/external.pdf

  136. Richard S Courtney

    Actually, Richard, I do not agree with all of your points. You were the person suggesting coal fired power as backup for renewables (despite coal’s inability to respond to power fluctuations), and two of the major reasons for discussing windmills in the first place are (1) reducing GHG’s and (2) dealing with ongoing fossil fuel depletion. That’s not changing the subject, but simply pointing out some of the other reasons why this particular research on high density wind power (and other renewables) is important.

    Your argument that wind power does not reduce, but indeed increases CO2 emissions is simply false, a result of assuming coal power plants (that cannot be throttled efficiently, and which have only 80-90% availability themselves) are the only backup option. Tied to that is your lack of accounting for dispersed wind generation, which greatly decreases the need for backups. Archer 2007 (http://www.stanford.edu/group/efmh/winds/aj07_jamc.pdf) shows, for example, that with 18-20 sites spread across the US Midwest an average of 33% yearly wind power can be used as reliable baseload power. The other 2/3 is more intermittent, but could be used for generating CO2 neutral transportation fuels, fed into storage facilities to raise the baseline levels, etc.

    You’ve emphasized some of the very worst options possible in arguing that wind power is unworkable. I cannot regard that as a balanced viewpoint.

  137. Bystander and KR:

    I will reply to your responses to my posts if you address the points I made in those posts. Until then, people can compare my points to your strawmen and draw their own conclusions.

    Richard

  138. The Wind Power Paradox: BENTEK Analysis Shows CO2 Savings Through Wind Power Are Either So Minimal As To Be Irrelevant or Too Expensive To Be Practical

    http://www.businesswire.com/news/home/20110719007251/en/Wind-Power-Paradox-BENTEK-Analysis-Shows-CO2

    [snip]

    EVERGREEN, Colo.–(BUSINESS WIRE)–For years the wind energy industry and numerous state and federal politicians have claimed that increasing the use of wind power to produce electricity will result in huge reductions in CO2 and other emissions. These claims rest on the results of dispatch models that predict not only emissions, but also fuel costs and generation levels for individual utilities and utility grids. A new Market Alert from BENTEK Energy, The Wind Power Paradox, presents findings that show these claims to be significantly overstated and that actual CO2 reductions are either so small as to be insignificant or too expensive to be practical.

  139. Kev-in-Uk,

    Thank you for working on this with me.

    “In other words, a bit like the private Toll bridges where they collect a ‘toll’ to recover the investment outlay and running costs, but then continue to collect tolls even after many years (usually increasing them instead of reducing them to cover basic running costs after the capital cost have been met!).”

    You presume there is no competition. I suppose there usually isn’t in utilities. This does happen with public-controlled infra, like toll bridges, but not enough to interfere with the outcome of the plan. In reality the abuse in these situations does not rise above a certain threshold that would cause enough of the effected citizenry to become active in their government and fix it. You could argue that that could be improved somewhat if money wasn’t able to influence government more than your vote, and you’d be right, and that’s pretty much my second favorite issue next to energy transition and better technology.

    “The free market would likely find a way to take advantage, I am sure – just like it has with the subsidised ‘green’ industry!”

    The problem is because of the *lack* of a free, competitive market. It is because the road and utility market is naturally monopolistic and thus controlled by the state. Any time government contracts business there is a possibility of abuse, but the answer is a vocal citizenry. (I would love it if my neighbors were more vocal and demanded a Renewable Energy Portfolio from my electric utility, and higher payback to households who generate their own power (PV). I actually advocate for that to my representatives locally…and federally, for a federal REP! I would love it if the people on this blog would do the same.) Further, the problems are limited in their gratuitousness and longevity. It doesn’t hurt the long term outcome of the plan. If your neighbors, fellow constituents, are stupid, educate them.

    “I am a self employed engineer, so not really a businessman! but if I was gonna make and sell something, I’d look at the current market, make whatever the ‘product’ I chose at reduced cost (if possible) and then sell it the most I could get for it but usually just under my competitors price! I am not satisfying shareholders – but big corps are, and need to look at the profit margin ALL the time. I cannot see in your suggestion, that the free market could provide a fair solution for consumers!”

    Yes, the free market, absent competition and many players, always fails. The only thing worse than a public [near-]monopoly is a private [near-]monopoly. (The right needs to quit letting mergers happen! They need to quit arguing against limited market-ownership rules! They are fooled by duplicitous arguments by liars posing as defenders of the free-market faith.) The solution for most markets is more players, and the solution for natural-monopolies is more active voters. The abuses of your power utility are limited by when they piss off enough of your neighbors, you can march up to them and force them to drop their obscene ROI to something more reasonable. They don’t end up siphoning any more money off of the economy in the long run than they do already with fossil fuels!

    “Nuclear promised cheap electricity – which I guess it delivered for a while, but then H&S and Enviro regulations became more stringent and costs rose (especially decommisoning – nobody foresaw decom costs to be so high I don’t think)….and then of course, add in the NIMBY’s and you have got yourself a perfectly good method of electrity production that is ‘not wanted’, and yet a few million wind gensets are ok?….or flooding vast areas for hydro is ok?, etc, etc… At some stage, practicalities need to come into the equation.”

    So, what your saying, is everything else being equal, a fossil fee and tax cut isn’t? I’ve lost your argument.

Comments are closed.