Renewable Energy – Solar and Wind-Power: capital costs and effectiveness compared

A comparison of both the Capital Cost and Energy Producing Effectiveness of the Renewable Energy investments of the USA, Germany and the UK.

Guest essay by Ed Hoskins

The summary diagram below collates the cost and capacity factors of Renewable Energy power sources compared to the cost and output capacity of conventional Gas Fired Electricity generation.

US D UK comp

The associated base data is shown below:

Screen Shot 2014-11-03 at 16.16.32

In summary, these figures show that these three Western nations have spent of the order of at least  ~$0.5trillion in capital costs alone, (conservatively estimated, only accounting for the primary capital costs ), to create Renewable Energy electrical generating capacity.

Nominally, this total nameplate generating capacity at ~153GW should amount to about ~26% of their total electricity generation, were it fully effective.  However, because of there is an inevitable ~20% capacity factor applicable across the board for all renewables, the actual cumulative energy output by from these Renewable sources only results in ~5% of the total electricity generation for these nations.

Across the board overall solar energy is about ~34 times the cost of comparable standard Gas Fired generation and 9 times less effective.

Wind-Power is only ~12 times the comparable cost and about 4 times less effective.

The same total electrical energy output could have been produced using conventional natural gas fired electrical generation for ~$31 billion or ~1/16 of the actual capital costs expended on renewable installations.  Had conventional Gas Fired technology had been used, the full ~31 GW generating capacity would have provided non-intermittent and wholly dispatchable electricity production generated as and when needed.

The following calculations only provide conservative estimates of Renewable Energy installation capital costs.  They discount entirely the major additional costs of:

  • supporting backup generation
  • connection to the grid from remote locations
  • the large differentials in ongoing maintenance costs.

As all Renewable Energy technologies are only viable with the support of costly government subsidies, market intervention and market manipulation, can this be a responsible use of public funds or a good reason for increasing energy costs for individuals or industry in the Western world ?

The following data sources for the USA, Germany and the UK were reviewed:

United States of America: data available 2000 – 2012

Germany: data available from 1990 to 2013

United Kingdom: data available 2008 – 2013

Note:  the Wikipedia sources are used because they normally have a green orientation and are unlikely to be questioned by the advocates of Man-made Global Warming.

These data listed above provide installed “nameplate” capacity measured in Megawatts (MW) and energy output measured across the year in total Gigawatt hours, (GWh). Thus they do not provide directly comparable values as Megawatt nameplate capacity and the actual energy outputs achieved. For this comparative exercise the annual Gigawatt hours values were revised back to equivalent Megawatts, accounting for the 8,760 hours in the year, as indicated by Prof David MacKay in “Sustainable Energy – without the hot air”, page 334.

Although this measure eliminates the unpredictable and variable effects of intermittency and non-dispatchability that characterise Renewable Energy sources, it gives a conservative comparative value of the actual energy output and thus potentially available.

It allows for the calculation of capacity factors in relation to Renewable Energy technologies in each nation. The following graph shows the history of Renewable Energy (Solar and Wind power combined) installations and shows the progress year by year of actual electrical energy generated. Screen Shot 2014-11-03 at 20.09.06 The Energy Information Association provides the capital cost information in US$ for the USA.  These capital costs are used for comparative purposes, but they take no account of currency variations and other local financial factors.

The USA Energy Information Association publishes comprehensive information on the capital costs of alternate electrical generation technologies, in Table 1 of their 2013 report. From that full list these notes consider three technologies:

  • Large Scale Photovoltaic: this is the most economic of the PV technologies at ~$3.8 billion / GW.
  • Combined Wind 80-20: merged onshore 80% and offshore 20% wind at ~$3.0 billion / GW.
  • Natural Gas Advanced Combined Cycle: the costliest technical option at ~$1.0 billion / GW.

Screen Shot 2014-10-30 at 10.19.25 “Overnight Capital Cost”, (just as if an power generating installation has been created overnight), is the standard comparative measure for capital costs used in energy industries. The specific Overnight Capital Costs used include:

  • Civil and structural costs
  • Mechanical equipment supply and installation
  • Electrical and instrumentation and control
  • Project indirect costs
  • Other owners costs: design studies, legal fees, insurance costs, property taxes and local electrical linkages to the Grid.

However for this comparison “Overnight Capital Costs” specifically do not include:

  • Provision of Back-up power supply, “spinning reserve” for times when renewable power is unavailable.
  • Fuel costs for actual generation and the spinning reserve
  • Remote access costs
  • Extended electrical linkages to the Grid
  • Maintenance
  • Financing   etc.

These further costs for Renewable Energy excluded from Overnight Capital Costs mean that its use probably significantly less economic than the comparisons provided in these tables. In addition for these comparisons the Energy Information Association data denominated in US$ is used. These brief results are primarily for comparative purposes and do not purport to give precise actual expenditures in the various nations and by governments. However, they do  clearly indicate the order of magnitude of the capital sums involved.

They also allow for the calculation of comparative figures to be established between renewable energy generation and standard Gas Fired electricity generation. The results for the individual Nations in tabular form using the EIA Overnight Capital Cost data are shown below: Screen Shot 2014-11-03 at 16.15.34 In graphic terms the results for renewable Energy generation in each country is shown below.Screen Shot 2014-11-14 at 17.10.58 Solar power is comparatively successful in the USA, because it is mainly installed in Southerly latitudes, but in Germany its very serious renewable investment in Solar amounting to more than 50% of all renewables is twice as expensive and half as effective as in the USA.  Solar energy in the UK is 55 times more expensive and half as effective again as in Germany.  Fortunately the UK only has about 25% solar generation in the Renewable mix. Wind power is about 26% effective in the USA  and about 11 times more costly than Gas Fired generation. In Germany Wind power at less than 50% of its renewable commitment is 50% more expensive and substantially less effective in the USA.  Wind power in the UK is also about 11 times more costly, similar to the USA, and rather more effective than in Germany, because of wind conditions.

In addition, there is also a very large discrepancy in maintenance costs shown in the Energy Information Association table 1. When compared to a standard Natural Gas plant, maintenance cost comparisons are as follows:

  • Photovoltaics                     times ~1.6
  • Onshore Wind-Power        times ~2.6
  • Offshore Wind Power        times ~4.9
  • Combined Wind  80 – 20    times ~4.0
  • Coal (without CCS)            times ~1.9   (included for reference)
  • Nuclear                              times ~6.1   (included for reference)

There are also significant questions to be answered about the longevity and engineering robustness of the Solar and Wind-Power technologies: this is particularly problematical for off-shore wind farms.

In addition a more detailed analysis might well indicate that, in spite of the cost of fuel being essentially free, the development, fabrication and installation of both Solar and Wind-power installations involves the release of substantial amounts of CO2.  The actual savings of CO2 emissions may be hardly exceeded over their installed working life of these Renewable technologies.

Intermittancy and Non-dipatchability

However there still remains a further major problem with all Renewable Energy sources. Their electrical output is intermittent and non dispatchable. Their electrical output cannot respond to electricity demand as and when needed. Energy is contributed to the grid in a haphazard manner dependent on the weather.  This effect can seen from German electrical supply in the diagram below, for a week in August 2014, an optimum period for any solar energy input. Power certainly not necessarily available whenever required.

Screen Shot 2014-09-07 at 15.09.47Solar power inevitably varies according to the time of day, the state of the weather and also of course radically with the seasons.  Solar power works most effectively in latitudes nearer the equator and it certainly cannot be seriously effective in Northern Europe. In the example above in August 2014 wind power input varied from 15.5 GW to 0.18 GW and the Solar contribution varied from nil to some 15 GW. Thus this Renewable Energy variability combined with the “Renewables Obligation”, which mandates that the electricity grid has to take energy from renewable sources preferentially, if available, resulted in demands on conventional generation in Germany varying from ~23GW to ~47GW over the period. In Germany, its massive commitment to solar energy can briefly provide up to ~20% of country wide demand for a few hours either side of noon on some fine summer days, but at the time of maximum power demand on winter evenings solar energy input is necessarily nil. But at the same time the output from wind power is equally variable as in the summer months.

Germany has similar insolation and cloudiness characterists as Alaska and the UK being even further North has an even worse solar performance. Electricity generation from wind turbines is equally fickle, as in the week in July 2014, clearly shown above, where Wind-Power input across Germany was close to zero for several days. Similarly an established high pressure system, with little wind over the whole of Northern Europe is a common occurrence in winter months, when electricity demand is at its highest. Conversely, on occasions Renewable Energy output may be in excess of demand and this has to dumped expensively and unproductively. This is especially so, as there is still no solution to electrical energy storage on a sufficiently large industrial scale. That is the reason that the word “nominally” is used throughout these notes in relation to the name plate capacity outputs from Renewable Energy sources.

Overall these three major nations that have committed massive investments to Renewable Energy.  Conservatively this amounts to at least ~$0.5 trillion or ~2.2% of combined annual GDP.  

This investment has resulted in a “nominal” ~31Gigawatts of generating capacity from an installed Nameplate Capacity of ~150Gigawatts.  This is “nominally” almost a quarter of the total installed nameplate generating capacity.

But this nominal 31GW of Renewable Energy output is ~5.4% of the total installed generating capacity of ~570Gigawatts.  Even that 31GW of Renewable Energy production is not really as useful as one would wish, because of its intermittency and non-dispatchability.

192 thoughts on “Renewable Energy – Solar and Wind-Power: capital costs and effectiveness compared

  1. Now, that’s all very true but it doesn’t include the costs of the externalities.
    The justification for renewables is that they save money that would be spent coping with climate change.
    That may not be a strong argument but it is the justification that is used.

    • When the argument in favor of renewables is predicated on CO2 emissions substantially affecting the climate system, there’s a hell of a lot of proving models to do before we commit to them as our main source of power.

    • Come on man. Green scams have made almost difference in the yearly world increase in CO2 and have only resulted in small reductions in the countries where the renewables are installed. There is therefore almost no reduction in ‘climate change’ due to spending trillions of dollars on the green scams.

    • And since the externalities are fabricated in both extent and cost, you only underscore how much of a scam the climate industry is getting away with.

    • But this the lie behind it all.
      Since renewables require 100% backup from conventionally fossil fuel powered generation, and since such generation when used in ramp up/ramp down mode uses just as much fuel as it would if it were run at steady full output, there is in practice no reduction in CO2 emissions. The only reason that there has been a reduction in UK CO2 emissions is because the spare capacity/surplus capicity of the UK national grid has been reduced down from about 16% to 6 to 8%. If the UK had not installed any wind or solar, and simply scaled back surplus/safety capacity down from about 16% to about 8% there would have been the same reduction in CO2 emissions.
      The is not difficult to understand since the position is similar to fuel usage in a car. A car uses least fuel when run at a steady freeway/motorway speed (say 56mph) and uses most fuel when run in urban/in town usage, with stop/start acceleration even though the car may then be averaging only about 15 to 20mph. Considerable fuel is used in the ramp up process.

    • “The justification for renewables is that they save money that would be spent coping with climate change.”
      WHAT saved money?!

    • Even Zuckerburg’s scientists agree: : Google: renewables “simply won’t work”
      Nov 21, 2014
      Energy: solar Energy: wind
      Via The Register we learn that some of Google’s top engineers have been tasked with making renewable energy cheaper than fossil fuels. We also learn that they have given up.
      At the start…we had shared the attitude of many stalwart environmentalists: We felt that with steady improvements to today’s renewable energy technologies, our society could stave off catastrophic climate change. We now know that to be a false hope …
      Renewable energy technologies simply won’t work; we need a fundamentally different approach.

    • I ended my own experiment with Solar power today as my second Fronius inverter died in 3 years. They cost $2000 each, though the first one was replaced under warranty. With my 3600W system, I never saw an electrical savings of more than $1/day or so. And, I live in Southern California and have clear days most days of the year. The inverters are the weak point in the system, and keeping one working eats up all the potential money the generated power would save. Complete waste of $15,000.

      • Wally being trained as a Electronic tech when I penciled solar out I quickly ascertained that it would never pay for itself, even with the “rebates and subsidies”, I have little faith of electronic running any kind of power last much over ten years, let alone the twenty to thirty that would be needed to get a decent rate of return.

    • AGW is not real therefore there are no externalities from that source. In terms of real pollution renewables can hold their heads high in terms of their polluting output.

    • An easy argument to counter, but it is not the one I hear.
      I basically get incessant arguments that often are based on government green energy lies, name plate capacity, no accounting for intermittency other then “hey often when the sun does not shine, the wind blows”, the work together.
      I have to agree on reflection though. They do not listen to any argument, no matter how well constructed.

  2. So our governments have squandered billions on a dream that any engineer could show to be a waste of time, effort and money. A sobering thought.
    Thanks for a good post.

  3. The true measure of the value of renewable energy is how many votes it gets for its political supporters. As they keep getting re-elected, I’d say renewable energy is very effective.

    • … and don’t forget the effectiveness of getting those same politicians elected with our tax dollars… now routed to green energy scams investments run by Democrat party donors and therefore right back into the politicians pocket. That is also “effective.” All based on the ignorance of their hippy wannabe (or has been) tree hugging, medical marijuana infused supporters and the equally uneducated Hollywood left… all whooped up by the scientifically scatterbrained, mathematically challenged cheerleaders in the “news” media.

  4. In related news we have Google.

    Vox – 19 November, 2014
    Why Google halted its research into renewable energy
    …….‘Today’s renewable energy technology won’t save us’
    How did they figure? The two engineers calculated what would happen if Google actually achieved its dream of creating a renewable electricity source (say, geothermal or solar) that was cheaper than coal. A major breakthrough.
    That would be a huge deal for climate. More and more electric utilities would switch over to this cleaner source over time. By 2050, the Google engineers’ modeling suggested, US carbon-dioxide emissions would be 55 percent lower than what we’re currently on pace for.
    But they also found that this new technology would still be adopted too slowly to avert significant global warming — in part because the technology wouldn’t be cheap enough to displace all the existing coal and gas plants out there that have already been paid for. As a result, the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere would keep rising sharply (the purple line below). And note that this is a best-case scenario for Google’s original dream:…….

  5. Thanks for that drastic insight into the deceitful benefits of RES. Just let us assume that of these 0.5 trillion the yield nowspentwasted was put aside for the improbable case of a necessary enforced adaptation in, let us say 40 years, this yield alone would be sufficient to pay for that adaptation, I presume. The RES systems will be written off and scrapped for long and the taxpayer/consumer will pay and pay and pay for ever. That RES system will never ever reach the break even point,

  6. Attributing a capacity number to an intermittent source is fraudulent in a marketplace that requires continuous availability.

  7. As indicated the upfront costs for wind and solar, for the nominal, not name plate outputs look like poor investments. What would the numbers look like over 5/10/15 years when cost of fuel, connection costs, and maintenance is thrown into the numbers? A net present value calculation for the time periods above might be interesting to look at. At some point there will have to be investment in load leveling storage capacity be it pumped storage or large scale chemical energy storage systems such as V redox flow batteries. These costs should be included as well. If the ultimate goal were to do away with fossil fuel based generation these storage options would no longer be options rather they would be essential components of low to no carbon based energy generation.

  8. look on the bright side , its kept the cement industry happy.
    225,000 wind turbines x 800 tons of cement per turbine/foundations.

      • Wow!
        1,000 tons of CO2 from 800 tons of cement. Now that’s a good trick.
        And, oh by the way, despite your magical (tax payer funded) climate models, Mother Nature does not appear to think “warming” is driven by CO2 in Earth’s ecosystem.

  9. An enlightening and thoroughly researched factual article. Great visuals. Thank you Ed.
    Any business faced with incredibly poor ROCE figures like that would face bankruptcy. To survive, they would need to borrow lots and lots of money. Actually, come to think of it . . . .
    (ROCE – Return on Capital Employed).

    • Uh…my personal experience is I paid $34,000 for 11,000W residential PV system. Within 90 days, I received a $20,000 politically-mandated rebate from my utility plus a $10,200 Federal tax credit. So net cost is $34,000 – 20,000 – 10,200 = $3,800.
      I save about $2,500/year on my electric bill
      My TPR&RPR ROE is somewhere in the neighborhood of 65%.
      (TPR & RPR = Tax Payer Rip-off & Rate Payer Rip-off)

      • Living in Phoenix, Arizona, we thought Geo-thermal might be a good alternative, so last year we had someone come over and give an estimate. When the cost turned out to be more than a third of the value of our home, we decided to look at solar. Unfortunately, they wanted us to cut down ALL of the trees which provide shade to the south side of our house (3 pines, 2 palms, 1 each of ficus, grapefruit, lemon, and tangerine), so we decided to pass on that also.
        We did not fail to note the irony in having to cut down our trees so we could “go green”.

  10. I had a landowner in West Texas where we were producing oil and gas ask me to review his “wind rights’ proposal.The calculations showed that a 1 megawatt windmill would take 17 years to return its capital cost assuming no maintenance. Having looked at the mechanics of the system-gear box, bearings,generator, etc., it is doubtful that the useful mechanical life would exceed 10 years in the best circumstances, much less in the dusty abrasive conditions of West Texas.

    • Billy Jack , did you factor in aux power back to the turbine when it is not turning to keep it from seizing.

      • No, I didn’t consider that, but driving from Dallas to Midland I drive through several massive installations that I’d guess two out of ten mills are not rotating. I was more interested in calculating the hydraulic capacity of the support structures, when they are all shut down once the tax credits are used up and we begin taking them down to use as pipeline material or as housing for “undocumented workers”.

    • Conventional power turbines require internal inspections every 9 months with boroscopes (a very short outage of 3-4 days), and routine minor maintenance every quarter (every 3 months). Open-and-inspection outages every 18 months, and major re-open-inspect-and-replacement dis-assemblies every 36 months (3 years). A “Throwaway” small wind turbine is much, much more highly stressed with vibrations, corrosion, and damage from oscillating forces up at the tall end of a long pendulum being shook every 1.5 seconds every minute of the year. True, a wind turbine is lighter, but that also means that it cannot enjoy the large bearings and heavy mass around the moving parts that provide redundancy and increase wear life.
      Net? Few wind turbines last longer than 7 seven years. But they are not INTENDED to last longer than 7-9 years. They ONLY need to last long enough to get the renewable energy tax credits and tax write-off’s and construction subsidies for their corporate-CAGW-funded start-up money spongers (er, sponsors)!
      NO wind turbine has been funded by private money for return-of-investment from the power produced over the 20, 30, or 40 long term lifetime of a conventional power plant. And many, many power plants are still generating money and power usefully after 50 years.

  11. Even at a conservatively estimated 16x the cost of conventional power, the energy expenditure to build and run renewables exceeds by far the energy they will produce in their lifetime.
    They are ruinously expensive, waste energy, increase CO2 emissions, and are generally all pain, no gain, regardless of whether one believes in manbearpig or not.

    • Tagerbaek, good point. But to our community, remember that it matters not one jot that renewables ‘increase CO2 emissions’. We already know that this incy-wincy microscopic amount of atmospheric gas is not a threat. I agree with ‘ruinously expense’ and ‘waste energy’ though. Adding, intrusive, ugly, intermittent, self-righteous, subsidy-grabbing, energy-bill-increasing, rip-off would be more fitting.

      • This may be of interest : (referenced on WUWT a few months back):
        “Energy intensities, EROIs, and energy payback times of electricity generating plants “. H Weissbach et al
        “The Energy Returned on Invested, EROI, has been evaluated for typical power plants representing wind
        energy, photovoltaics, solar thermal, hydro, natural gas, biogas, coal and nuclear power. The strict energy
        concept with no “primary energy weighting”, updated material databases, and updated technical procedures
        make it possible to directly compare the overall efficiency of those power plants on a uniform mathematical
        and physical basis. Pump storage systems, needed for solar and wind energy, have been included in the
        EROI so that the efficiency can be compared with an “unbuered” (?) scenario. The results show that nuclear,
        hydro, coal, and natural gas power systems (in this order) are one order of magnitude more effective than
        photovoltaics and wind power.”
        ( I copied the abstract from my pdf copy in Open Office , so some words were a bit mangled , like “unbuered” which is presumably unburdened or unbundled – but I think that the context is clear)

      • you can also look for the studies and reports concerning Ivanpah solar facility, a recent report showed that it has produced about half of what it was “supposed to because clouds etc…” also it has been burning birds of all sizes out of the sky and another study showed that instead of the one hour a day of the boilers being “warmed up” by burning natural gas it has been burning natural gas for about 5 hours a day. I might add that since it is not a combined cycle gas generator its use of gas is much less efficient than an actual combined cycle gas generator to generate electricity, so all the “carbon credits” given to it are even more of a sham. There are also reports of pilots being “blinded” by the glare of the reflectors.
        “renewables” don’t ever seem to measure up to their “supposed to” performance numbers yet the scammers.. oops politicians keep ramming them down the tax payers throat.

      • @JoeCivis
        The second image on the following page includes Ivanpah in the distance (the three pairs of very bright lights to the right of the freeway (I15)):
        It also shows to unwary Californians that the amount of radiation you continually receive in a jet at 39,000 feet is 29 times what you receive on the golf course. If you’re frightened of radiation – beware: those in Business and First get the same.

  12. Ed Hoskins;
    Your diagram seems made by a functional illiterate, with terminology such as “5 times less effective” Does this mean 20%?

      • Yea, I hate the “5 times less” construct, too.
        I guess “5” is a more impressive number than “0.20”.

    • the opposite of 5 x more (read the otherside of the Bar Chart) is 5x less or a fifth. To write 20% on the left would mean writing up to 55,500% more on the right, which would be equally correct but less elegant on the chart. I would have gone along with nitpicking of 1/5th but not 20%. I’m bored and at my computer so am prepared to answer…..your excuse??

    • It does mean that.
      But is this a question of style or substance?
      Personally, I’m not stylish (according to the fiancé).

  13. Renewable energy is yet another manifestation of the human yearning for Utopia, in this case a Gaia-compliant Utopia where unicorns traverse the capital cost burden by jumping from a pot of gold to a pot of fiat money.
    Liberals who scold us often on the topic of “sustainability” demand schemes whose economic models cannot be sustainable. Wind and solar power are only economically sustainable when the cost of conventional power is artificially boosted by regulations for which there is little scientific basis. Thus the demands for “clean air” that are never satisfied by compliance with the previous round of emission reductions.
    Most of the capital costs of solar and wind is borne by government, which in turn gets that money far more by creating it out of thin air, or by issuing perpetual debt, than by tax revenues. Particularly in the case of the US (who is also paying for the strategic defense of Germany) government has the power to create near infinite amounts of money with which it pays for near-infinite amounts of government.
    One of the best ways to force energy costs to be rationalized with respect to the total economic efficiency of the technology is to revoke the ability of government to create near-infinite money. This would terminate government’s appetite for subsidies. People would have to have “sustainable” project economics.
    The left has long scolded us that we are not paying the “full cost of oil”. Yes indeed! The cost of having a navy to protect Gulf oil should be levied on imported oil. And fair is fair. The full cost of wind (including a reserve for decommissioning of abandoned turbines), and the full cost of solar must be acknowledged in the cost of power. Let us have that level of transparency. Otherwise we have based our economic decisions on spreadsheets built of lies, all lies.

    • “Most of the capital costs of solar and wind is borne by government,”
      In the US this is false. There is no US Government subsidy of capital costs of utility scale wind or solar. The subsidy is based on electricity actually produced. Revenue produced by sale of renewable energy credits can be said to be a regulatory subsidy, but that also depends on electricity actually produced and is not a construction subsidy.
      There are tax credits for construction of home scale renewable generation, but that is a small fraction of the total.

      • There were extensive grants from the federal government and tax credits for such equipment. I personally have had discussions on this very topic with executives of wind power companies. The federal government has granted permits to wind and solar companies to use federal lands, often without paying the same lease or use fees they would pay on the open market.
        Case in point, a few years ago, a business that processed walnuts in central Missouri was flooded and millions of pounds of walnuts were rendered useless for use as food. These walnuts were eventually sold to a nearby utility for use in their coal fired power plant. The article from the utility boasted that if they used at least 5% of the walnut hulls in their coal feed, by federal regulation **they could count all the power produced as being “green” power**. This type of fraud is also a subsidy since “green power” sold for more on the market than non-green power.
        All of these factors have the effect of a subsidy. Sadly subsidies cost us far more than we can possibly know.

      • Chris says…”In the US, there are no construction subsidies?
        Then please tell Google to stop asking for the Fed govt to throw good money after bad regarding the pay back of the building costs of the Ivanpah Solar facility. (I never found clarity regarding if this was a government loan, or a government loan guarantee, but the tax payer is being asked to foot the bill for the poor wag, since electrical output is 1/2 of predicted (about like warming, models vs. reality)
        I also recall a whole bunch of rich green folk contributed to Obama’s campaign and received government loans that were not paid back, (Solyndra plus a host of other failed investments.)
        Of course the greens will argue and show bogus statistics of how much conventional producers and oil is subsidized. They will assert, “big oil gets ten to 20 times the subsidies of wind and solar}
        (They get the same tax write offs, applied to PROFITS any international company gets) Wind and solar is massively subsidized, top to bottom.
        Ask your green friend how much tax wind and solar paid vs. conventional? Not only is “Big Oil” and conventional power production not subsidized, it (all three nations) pays about between 200 to 400 billion every year in taxes, after tax write offs. (What greens call subsidies) So the taxes paid by for profit equal what over the 15 years of build up to get to 5% wind and solar? Five trillion maybe? Do not forget all the individual tax paid by all the workers, and all the companies that work for big Oil, that manufacture well heads, ship the product etc, etc.
        The 500 billion wasted is about likely ten times that, minimum, when you consider the tax revenue that all the subsidized green is NOT generating,, plus the Government imposed inefficiencies on regulating conventional power to the back seat, thus raising the cost of power on every poor slob with a utility bill, or who buys ANY product made with something we call ENERGY, the life blood of EVERY economy.

  14. The cost of having a navy to protect Gulf oil should be levied on imported oil.

    The full cost of that fleet or only part?
    It could be argued that the parts of the US Navy stationed in the Indian Ocean have more than one role.

    • MCourtney
      The cost of oil is paid by consumers; the cost of the Navy is paid by tax payers and Chinese loans.
      Combining the 2 as the cost of fuel would be a regressive tax (Ayn Rand would like it, though).

  15. This is always a burr under my saddle…
    What is ‘x times less’? Is that 1/x as much? Then say that.

  16. It’s a real pity you did not include solar hot water heating. Solar water heating was so effective that it paid for itself in 2-5 years (in Scotland) and there was absolutely no need for a subsidy.
    What this very clearly demonstrates is that none of this renewable subsidy had anything really to do with saving energy use. It was instead a get rich quick scheme dreamt up by wind scamsters and gullible greens.
    Just to emphasise the point. If the aim really had been to reduce carbon, then the first scheme that anyone would have chosen would have been solar hot water heating. This shows that the aim was not to reduce carbon – but instead to create a market for “renewable electricity”

  17. @richard What you say about cement is especially interesting. The production and installation of a ton of concrete creates about zero point nine tons of CO2. Thus the pad for an industrial wind turbine adds nearly 720 tons of CO2 in one fell swoop. How much does the equivalent production via natural gas create during its installation?

    • Underneath every wind turbine park is a city of concrete in pristine ground.
      From the moment the first part of a wind turbine is built, to its final days of dismantling for the scrap heap, it is reliant on fossil fuels.

    • Interesting Jardinero, I’ll add your 720 tonnes (1 tonne of CO2 is about the size of a three-bedroom house) to my list of CO2 emitters . . . .but, (I’ll keep saying this until I’m blue in the face), to us, it doesn’t matter how much CO2 is added. We all know it represents a microscopic amount of inert atmospheric gas and is not a threat. The warmists think otherwise of course – which is the main reason why we’ve been left with their legacy of renewable rip-offs.

  18. Focusing on capital costs is of course entirely misleading, since the direct financial savings from renewables comes from fuel (operating) costs, not to mention environmental and human health externalities. And what a lot of people don’t realize (or admit) is that fossil fuels, despite being “mature” industries, are subsidized to the tune of $500 billion a year:

    • This is a very highly questionable statement.
      The problem with every assertion of fossil fuel subsidies that I have found does not give enough detail to be able to tell what is being counted as a subsidy. If a coal plant (or other equipment) is given an accelerated depreciation schedule, the subsidy is the interest saved, not the capital cost deducted, it’s never stated how this is calculated. If an oil well is given a depletion allowance: the subsidy is the difference between the allowance and the development cost, not the total of the allowance. Studies I’ve seen report the total of the depletion allowance as a subsidy.
      These studies are mostly for propaganda. They cannot be counted as serious work.

      • Chris4692,
        You are right, it is propaganda. It neglects to mention that _all_extractive industries: mining, minerals, timber, etc. are entitled to a depletion allowance and this corresponds to capital depreciation in other businesses such as wind turbines, solar panels, etc.

      • A fact ignored by the left is that the oil depletion allowance was eliminated for major producers in 1975. Other minerals, etc remain in effect. The lie about oil subsidies is touted to confuse the issue of huge subsidies for renewables..

    • That fossil fuel subsidy claim has been effectively and lengthily rebutted several times on WUWT, most recently within a couple of months.

      • There is a second problem with intermettant, non controllable ‘green’ power sources. They produce power at times when power is not required.
        Utilities use highly efficient combined cycle gas turbines for base power. Single cycle gas turbines are use for peak and variable demand. There is roughly 30% net difference in efficiency between combined cycle and single cycle. Combined cycle power plants take almost a day to start up and can not hence be turned on/off.
        Wind turbine power output varies as the cube root of wind speed. A wind farm power output can change 60% in 20 minutes. Large wind turbine for utilities to turn off combine cycle power plants and use more in efficient single cycle power plants. This problem limits wind turbines maximum possible reduction in CO2 emission to about 10%, in cases where there is not hydro electric power to handle the swings.
        Green scams do not work for basic engineering reasons.

    • I followed your link. Great piece of disinformation. Go down to the US section. it says that
      The three largest fossil fuel subsidies were:
      1.Foreign tax credit ($15.3 billion)
      2.Credit for production of non-conventional fuels ($14.1 billion)
      3.Oil and Gas exploration and development expensing ($7.1 billion)
      Every corporation doing business outside the US get a Foreign tax credit. If a company makes money in another country and that country taxes that profit, then this tax is a credit against that profit. IT the foreign tax credit was not issued, then the US and the foreign country would tax the same bit of profit. This would make it so that US companies could not operate internationally.
      #2 does anyone know what this is? maybe ethanol.
      #3 says oil companies can expense the cost of doing business. novel concept.
      On the other hand, it says
      The three largest renewable fuel subsidies were:
      1.Alcohol Credit for Fuel Excise Tax ($11.6 billion)
      2.Renewable Electricity Production Credit ($5.2 billion)
      3.Corn-Based Ethanol ($5.0 billion)
      If you propose that all energy companies get treated as any other company and not get direct tax dollar subsidies. I would agree with that.

      • Indeed, please ask any green friend how much tax all of the wind and solar companies paid. Do not forget to include the dozen plus Solyndra’s out there.

    • This is completely ignorant. To make it simple, governments do not tax total revenue, they tax profits. The so called subsidy is the cost to produce the fossil fuels, Labor, equipment,etc.are extracted from the gross revenue before taxes. All businesses are taxed the same way or there would be far fewer businesses. .

    • As always, numbers can be explained in so many ways.
      Certainly the carbon fuel industry is not without it’s subsidies. Let’s assume that all numbers in the article are correct and so is wikipedia’s $500 billion. How much tax is being levied in your country for each litre/gallon of petrol you stick in your car? In some countries, Europe in particular, it tops 50% of the price at the pump. That turns into a lot of $ being paid to the government. That some of that comes back as subsidy is not totally unfair.
      Europe is now closing in on 300 million cars registered. Assume each car is using an average of 20 litres a week. At a total tax rate of close to US$1 per litre that is US$6 billion per week, and that is just for petrol use in the EU. Makes US$500 billion worldwide subsidy seem like chicken you know what to me.

  19. Solar is a viable source of energy. It works very well for space heating and domestic hot water, particularly when designed into the structure. It doesn’t do very well in the production of electricity except in very remote areas where some electricity is better than none. Off grid as a supplement it is OK, on grid, not so much. The same can be said for wind. It works well for pumping of water in an off grid application, on grid, again not so much.
    Intermittancy and efficiency kill wind and solar when coupled to the grid.

    • Those running the grid already know how to manage the intermittancy.
      The big problem in having lots of small sources connected to the grid is safety of the workers when the power goes out. All these independent sources must be isolated from the system before linemen can work on the power lines or before firemen can work around the burning structure.

      • Chris4692 says:
        “Those running the grid already know how to manage the intermittancy.”
        They can manage it only within certain ranges. The larger the penetration of renewables into the grid, the greater the amount of conventional, dispatchable generation that must be kept available.

      • oeman50
        November 21, 2014 at 8:50 am
        The larger the penetration of renewables into the grid, the greater the amount of conventional, dispatchable generation that must be kept available.
        That cannot happen! Large scale implementation of intermittent energy MUST lead to blackouts.
        The greater the penetration of renewables, the less financially viable the backup generation will become. The less an asset is used, the more difficult it becomes to justify it. In extremis, no one is going to build a plant to be run 5% of the time. And that will lead to interesting “unforeseen,” unintended, consequences.

      • Chris4692 as someone who works with “those running the grid..” they have a significant problem managing the intermittency and it is at greatly increased cost to those who use electricity. As others have stated conventional generation must wait in standby mode waiting for “renewables” to either produce or not produce and so even if the renewables produce when they are scheduled to the standby gets paid for playing back up.

  20. It should be noted that the people who claim renewables are competitive also claim that oil companies that pay billions of dollars in taxes (“royalties” are a tax) are “subsidized”. Math is not their strong suit.

    • John E.
      Be realistic, please.
      Some of the greenies can manage a multi-million dollar/teuro/pound/etc. subsidy perfectly well.
      I am sure their income tax returns are models of transparency, accuracy and veracity.
      PS – Mods – this is meant seriously. Greenies are arrow-straight, and will pay to the cent their dues [legal – and morally constrained . . . . . . . . .]. Sarc/

    • Royalties are paid to the owner of the mineral rights, either public agency or private landowner. Royalties are not a tax, it is more of “cost of goods sold” in accounting terms.

  21. The problem in the US is that government subsidies produce malinvestment. It also stifles innovation. There are so many fingers in the pie that almost impossible to stop. Once you get involved in politics you get all sorts of stupid decisions – like the congressman who makes sure that contracts to build planes and helicopters in his district is funded even though the navy does not want the planes.

  22. What is sad it that if all the money that is being spent on alternative energy was diverted into fusion research, we might actually come up with the energy supply of the future.

  23. ‘A comparison of both the Capital Cost and Energy Producing Effectiveness of the Renewable Energy investments of the USA, Germany and the UK’ a guest essay by Ed Hoskins
    “In summary, these figures show that these three Western nations have spent of the order of at least ~$0.5trillion in capital costs alone, (conservatively estimated, only accounting for the primary capital costs ), to create Renewable Energy electrical generating capacity.”

    Ed Hoskins,
    Thank you for so patiently and logically laying out the situation with full supporting method and data. Please keep doing posts like this.
    My view is that the ” ~$0.5trillion in capital costs alone, (conservatively estimated, only accounting for the primary capital costs )” was authoritarian intervention which distorted the free marketplace. This will cause three results which increases non-productivity thus reducing the wealth per capita: 1) it makes the free marketplace economic calculation, to best use capital productively, incorrect; 2) it prevents capital from freely flowing to better use of the capital as determined by the free market place’s private values; 3) the inefficiencies of return on the capital investment destroys wealth as compared to better efficiencies in other investments.
    Such central planning inspired intervention in the free marketplace is as stupid as its basis in the collectivist philosophy of Marx that sought the demise of both individual freedom in the market and the private ownership of capital.

  24. If the philosophy of this piece was extrapolated, every energy plant constructed in any part of these three countries would be of one type. They would be all gas, or all coal, or all nuclear. But each type of production has its own characteristics, so producers have a mix to take advantage of each.
    It should give the essayist pause to consider that companies building their own wind power installations are doing so with their own funds. They know about the intermittancy. They know about power factors. They know about the maintenance required. They know about transmission losses. They know about reserve capacity requirements. They know statistically how much the wind blows what direction and how hard. They know what the out put will be. They know what the power source will do to their system. They also know about the subsidy and the renewable energy credits.
    They do the economic analysis of all these factors, and factors that none of us know about, in more detail than anyone commenting here knows about (because much of what they know is proprietary – if any of their engineers is reading this discussion they cannot comment) and they decide to invest their own funds in the project.
    There is a net advantage to these projects or they would not be constructed. Which should give the essayist some pause.

    • You seemed quite intelligent for part of that … whatever it was. Why are you talking through your hat?

    • The energy market is not truly functional because electricity is not a commodity. It cannot be stored (ok hydro pumps but that is restrained by geography and expensive).
      Yet the grid requires smooth flows of electricity – not dropping out or ramping up unexpectedly. Thus there is a clear requirement for easily turn-off-and-onable power sources that can be relied upon. Wind and Solar don’t so that. Therefore, they ought to be paying a premium to get into the system at all. And they do – but it is paid for by Governments through legislation or subsidy.
      And as they are more diffuse than power plants (you have to catch all the winds not just transfer the fuel to the power plant) you need amore grid connections too. That conversion is an extra cost that isn’t put on the wind plant builders.
      The choice to build wind may be rational but not necessarily beneficial for the consumer.

      • The grid inherently has variable demands for electricity. On a very large scale, the demands can be predicted reasonably well; response to the variable demand is a technical problem that is already handled minute to minute every day.
        Wind can be predicted 24 hours ahead to within about 20% and better at shorter timescales: it’s fluctuation can be accommodated. It does not suddenly drop off.
        Stand by for the variation in wind is not provided by turning a generator on and off. The excess capacity is throughout the system. No particular plant is varied to compensate for variations in the wind output: the entire system varies. There is no currently readily available technique for storage of large scale electricity. None is needed. Natural gas units can provide the fluctuation necessary as long as the amount of wind power is a small part of the system. The loss of efficiency converting to storage and converting back to electricity would make any system not worthwhile.

      • @Chris
        I was unable to find a comment I’d read a year or so ago to the effect that the grid as a whole could buffer local fluctuations in wind and sunshine. It said that experience was showing that these variations didn’t average out over even large geographical areas.
        Anyway, here’s a comment from a 10/22/14 Judith Curry thread on this topic

        Germany can only have a large amount of solar and wind (for the exorbitant cost they incurred) because they are interconnected to a bigger more balanced grid. The important fact is that the power system that Germany is a part of does not have that high a level of renewables. Similarly Denmark has a lot of wind based generation, but they too are not a standalone system – their wind level would be highly problematic if they were not integrated with the vast hydro facilities in Norway and Sweden

    • >There is a net advantage to these projects or they would not be constructed.
      That is nonsense. They are doing so because renewable energy state mandate laws have been passed, and federal money makes the projects feasible.

    • Or maybe the don’t want the fines and jail time for state law as writen
      Currently, 29 states have renewable electricity mandates (REM) and 7 states have renewable electricity goals. These mandates require utilities to sell or produce a certain percent of their electricity from sources defined as “renewable.”
      And maybe you have no concept of Utility Boards setting rates, which have to be payed to the monopoly providers that guaranty a profit on your and every other purchaser’s electricity.

    • Chris4692 – in this you are mistaken. As a person who work with the “grid folks” wind and solar do not have to pay any of the increased costs that they force onto the market. They have gotten and get large tax breaks and many local and state subsidies provided by tax payer dollars and by everyone else who uses electricity paying higher rates to provide back up services for their intermittent product. The reliable prediction of wind and solar that you assert does not bear out in the actual numbers production numbers. search the latest report on the Ivanpah solar facility and its production was 50% of what was “reliably predicted” if your home was provided with only 50% of what was reliably predicted most likely you would have lots of wasted money in spoiled food from your non-electrified refrigerator. If you are actually curious there are many reports on the day to day performance of solar and wind generators by the actual grid operators.

  25. The waste of all those taxpayer dollars is another reason the perpetrators of the AGW hoax should stand trial for crimes against humanity.

  26. English quibble: As soon as anything becomes ONE time less, it vanishes, so any statement that something is “9 times less” (or whatever) is meaningless. (There is no problem whatever in saying that something is 9 times MORE. It’s only the negative that is wrong.) The only correct way to express the negative is to say that the alternative is only a ninth as effective. (I realize that this becomes more awkward for a number that includes a fraction, like 4.2…..)
    Ian M

  27. This morning’s Los Angeles Times reports that Bureau of Land Management has rejected the application from a Spanish company to construct a combined solar/wind energy project in California’s Silurian Valley.
    [begin quote]
    The Bureau of Land Management on Thursday denied a Spanish company’s application to build a controversial renewable energy facility in the Mojave Desert’s remote Silurian Valley, deciding the sprawling project “would not be in the public interest.”
    The closely watched decision is considered a bellwether for how the federal agency will handle future requests to develop renewable energy projects outside established development areas.
    The company had planned a side-by-side wind and solar facility. Thursday’s decision applies only to the solar portion of the project. The wind energy aspect is still in the planning stages.

  28. If the money that went into commercial efforts to integrate these technologies into the power grid had gone to homeowners, and allowed them to afford the hardware that would lower their monthly bills when paid off, the economy would have been bolstered in several ways, right at the grass roots level. The roofs of buildings are much more practical for solar panels than remote acreage where the environmental impact is higher. The need for grid integration equipt. is reduced to the consumer being required to provide automatic disconnection in case of service interruptions for safety. The load on the grid would be reduced as power was generated at the consumer end of the chain. Brownouts due to hot sunny days in urban areas would no doubt be reduced.
    The way it works now, we’ll have to wait for trickle-down from the corporate profits to help the economy (thanks Ronnie), but negative numbers also seem to eventually trickle down also.

  29. In Germany, regular fuel ist taxed at almost 63%. The current fuel price is € 1,41 per liter, (that is US$ 5.33 per gallon). 88,22 ct/liter(or US$ 3.33 per gallon) is tax.

  30. I designed, developed, built and operated power plants of all stripes for some forty years, twenty of those years doing “renewable” energy plants. I could quibble with a few of the author’s details, but the overall thrust of the work is dead on point. Wind power is an economic dog by any measure and solar is utterly absurd. I’ve also run the numbers using the most fantastical assumptions of fossil fuel price-escalators, alternate energy conversion efficiency improvements and remotely achievable capital cost reductions that green advocates could dream up; still “no contest”. The problem with wind and solar is always the same; “energy density”. There is simply too much physical material required for too little power output. End of story.

    • True Claude, thank you.
      I wrote similar conclusions in 2002 that were confirmed by E.On Netz insightful “Wind Report 2005”:.
      E.On Netz, in their report “Wind Power 2005” describes the problems.
      One of the greatest disadvantages of wind power is the need for almost 100% conventional backup. E.On Netz (the largest wind power generator in the world) says the “substitution capacity” in Germany was 8% in 2003, and will drop to 4% by 2020. See Figure 7 in the E.On report.
      In concrete terms, this means that in 2020,
      with a forecast wind power capacity of over
      48,000MW (Source: dena grid study), 2,000MW of
      traditional power production can be replaced by
      these wind farms.
      Another big problem with wind power is that power varies as the cube of the wind speed – this causes sharp peaks and valleys in the power output from wind farms, so extreme that it can cause the entire grid to crash – try that in winter – remember the 1998 ice storm? People died…
      A near-miss occurred in German during Christmas week of 2004 – see Fig. 6 in the E.on report.
      The feed-in capacity can change frequently
      within a few hours. This is shown in FIGURE 6,
      which reproduces the course of wind power feedin
      during the Christmas week from 20 to 26
      December 2004.
      Whilst wind power feed-in at 9.15am on
      Christmas Eve reached its maximum for the year
      at 6,024MW, it fell to below 2,000MW within only
      10 hours, a difference of over 4,000MW. This corresponds
      to the capacity of 8 x 500MW coal fired
      power station blocks. On Boxing Day, wind power
      feed-in in the E.ON grid fell to below 40MW.
      Handling such significant differences in feed-in
      levels poses a major challenge to grid operators.
      in summary, the problem with Wind Power is not just the Capacity Factor of about 20%, it is the Substitution Factor, which by 2020 in Germany is projected to be just 4%.

      • So Ed Hoskins, given that the Substitution Factor is the governing factor (in most wind power applications, and in in the absence or a super-battery), I suggest that the real capacity of wind power in Germany today is between 12.5 and 25 times less than gas-fired power, not 4.2.
        Regards to all, Allan

  31. “…even if Google and others had led the way toward a wholesale adoption of renewable energy, that switch would not have resulted in significant reductions of carbon dioxide emissions.” quote from a Google engineer as to why they stopped R&D on renewable energy

    Here’s the full article.
    They could have figured this out with a few calculations on a back of a napkin, but had to spend a billion dollars in research and a new computer model to figure out the obvious. To be fair that billion was also used to make Google offset its carbon emissions which has close to zero as possible affect on CO2 concentrations. Google is still committed to spending big dollars on saving the planet from certain catastrophe by pursuing new technologies such as “…a method of extracting CO2 from the atmosphere and sequestering the carbon.” Makes sense, maybe a big balloon in space could suck up all the excess CO2. I wonder who controls the CO2 vacumn valve These guys also might like my idea of shooting ice cubes at the sun in order to reduce global temperature, or building a huge magnet in space to control the tilt of the earth or better yet, putting a mini Google inverter on everyone so that people provide energy as demonstrated in the Matrix movies.
    Meanwhile another headline, “The_Moral Issueo f Climate change”,
    This article has a ray of sunshine in it, I mean good sunshine, not like the bad sunshine that contributes to global warming. Here is an admission that climate change is not a scientific issue but a moral issue. Maybe alarmists can start a new moral majority. People of my age might remember when a small minority started a political action group to promote a religious agenda in government. If Jerry Falwell was alive, I wonder if he would support the climate change moral majority. Probably not, like one person’s junk is another person’s treasure, what one man may consider moral another may consider a mental disorder.

    • “…a method of extracting CO2 from the atmosphere and sequestering the carbon.”
      Sounds like another Sequestered Carbon Accounting Method to me. Perhaps landfilling trees?

  32. Renewable Subsidies

    Global subsidies to renewables reached $121 billion in 2013, up 15% on 2012, and expand to nearly $230 billion in 2030 in the New Policies Scenario, before falling to $205 billion in 2040 due to the end of support commitments for recently deployed capacity. In 2013, almost 70% of subsidies to renewables for power were provided in just five countries: Germany ($22 billion), the US ($15 billion), Italy ($14 billion), Spain ($8 billion) and China ($7 billion). The EU remains the largest financial supporter of renewables to 2040, though the US is a close second after 2035.

    WORLD ENERGY OUTLOOK 2014 FACTSHEET, How will global energy markets evolve to 2040?
    World Energy Outlook International Energy Agency
    Note: Slide 4/15 – EU electricity costs ~ 200% of China.
    Slide 5/15 – US oil peaks ~ 2020 and declines to negligible by 2040. Major oil growth relies on the OPEC cartel!
    Slide 10/15 – Major growth in Hydropower. Note Renewable Subsidies ~ $117 billion in 2030.

  33. TomL, you beat me to it!
    If only they would make the small step from ‘… there is no hope!’ to ‘.. well, actually, there is no need :)’. One small step for a man, one giant leap …’ (Sorry!)

    • No apologies necessary,phaedo. When the world awakes from CO2 hypnotism, we might actually enter an age of enlightenment where children are taught to think instead of programmed by propeganda.

      • OK… i just finished writing propaganda 50 times on the chalk board… can I go out on the playground?

  34. on-grid supplement by PV solar can be cost effective in some locations….but you need hi sun flux (low latitude and low cloud cover average). here in Las Vegas, I put a 5kW PV system on our home after doing the calcs….with the fed tax 30% credit, the cash outlay is equivalent to a non-revocable CD (till house sale) that pays an 11% tax-free return (tax free since it is actually a discount in utility bills). without the fed credit, it is still a 7.7% tax-free return, which is better than one can do zero risk elsewhere in the markets. (and return goes up as utility rates increase). other points one can argue are the fairness of the state’s rules on net metering (the utility grid serves as a battery storage), which doesn’t reduce infrastructure needs for peak loading and the lack of a time-of-use metering (same purpose, would charge folks for peak loading), either of which would reduce cost effectiveness. still, southwest US (away from coastal cloud cover) is not bad for solar. i wouldn’t touch it in NE US or europe, though……

    • Jeff, your experience in Las Vegas pretty much tracks mine in Azusa, CA, and my mother’s in Sierra Vista, AZ. With current incentives, solar in the sunbelt makes economic sense for individual homeowners, though not necessarily for the society as a whole. If the green ideologues succeed in their attempt to make fossil energy prices skyrocket, solar will soon make economic sense without any incentives at all. But again, an advantage to individuals, at the expense of the country as a whole.

    • Jeff (for others too),
      I encourage anyone thinking of PV solar to get a few solar lights and watch them for a year or so. As you indicate, the technology works in some places and not well in others.
      I am at 47 XXX North and 2,200 feet elevation. I bought a box of small stick-in-the-ground solar lights that I’ve mounted on top of fence posts. In high-sun summer (we have short nights) those things produce light from dark to dawn. Now with low sun and a clear sky they light up for just a couple of hours – gone by 10 PM. On cloudy days, like yesterday, they might as well have still been in the box they came in.
      Here is a useful site:
      At my latitude, it tells me there are 15.7 hours of daylight on June 22.

      • They don’t work for very long here in Florida in the dry season. If they don’t work here I am not sure where they work, but one place you see a lot of them is Vermont, most of the winter they are covered in snow. Only thing I can think of is that the government paid these people to put them in, or they are stupid, or both.

    • Thanks Jeff. So, after all, people are not nailing solar panels to their roof for ecological reasons and belief in global warming and that all that enormous amount of CO2 is so terribly evil and that unprecedented warming will kill us all. They’re doing it to make lots of money. Took me a while.

    • Here @ 51 N, we have little sunshine from mid-November to mid or late January. What we DO have is pretty close to the horizon (especially on the northern side of a hill round London).
      Solar, as a point supply, is useful – some railway signals, teamed with small-scale wind, say.
      Not as a baseload; not here – London ; and not in autumn/winter.

  35. The post has a chart of German origin for a week in August regarding intermittency and non-dispatchability (colors of gray, yellow, blue, +).
    Below is a link to electricity produced in a region of the USA and the balancing needed to accommodate the various sources. It is a near real time (updates every 5 minutes) chart. Underneath the chart is an explanation of sources. The “thermal” sources are varied and interesting.
    At the time of this writing – mid-morning Friday – the green line for wind is very close to zero. Last week the area filled, from the north, with very cold air that is now stagnant, and we have an air advisory. New weather systems from the west will move this air out in a few days. The wind power will kick in, and the green line will ramp up.
    Check back.

    • I like how they don’t chart power sent to Cali-land. Wonder now they get paid for it if they cannot show on the chart.
      Clicking on the chart around the wind line shows. 4515 MW of installed power in 4/2/13. What does that work out to for capacity factor?

    • You will find this interesting.
      ASME SmartBrief
      Hydropower plants pay wind farms to take a break
      Hydropower plants face surging water levels as snow melts in springtime — and the best way to get the excess water downstream is to push in through the turbines, generating huge amounts of surplus power. That’s putting hydro-plant operators in the unusual position of having to pay wind-farm operators to suspend their operations, making room for hydro facilities to dump their excess energy into the grid. Jefferson Public Radio (Ashland, Ore.) (11/12)

  36. Like everything involved with climate obsession, the policies and actions pushed by the obsessed are expensive failures.

  37. I am considering the ‘Broken Window Fallacy’ as applicable to highly relative unproductivity of capital investment in solar and wind. It fits.
    Hazlitt said generally of the principle central to understanding the broken window fallacy,

    “The whole of economics can be reduced to a single lesson, and that lesson can be
    reduced to a single sentence. The art of economics consists in looking not merely
    at the immediate but the longer effects of any act or policy; it consists in tracing
    the consequences of that policy not merely for one group but for all groups.”
    “Economics is haunted by more fallacies than any other science known to man.”
    — Henry Hazlitt in ‘Economics in One Lesson’


  38. “Across the board overall solar energy is about ~34 times the cost of comparable standard Gas Fired generation and 9 times less effective. Wind-Power is only ~12 times the comparable cost and about 4 times less effective.”
    34 versus only 12 times the costs and 9 times versus 4 times less effective.
    Just dump the entire scheme immediately and never discuss it again.

  39. Very interesting analysis thanks. Disappointing that Hydro was left out of all the graphs, as it is fully renewable and cost effective.

  40. I lose interest in analysis that looks at solar averages when the deviations within this sector are huge.

  41. Photovoltaics … such a cute idea … was it hatched in southern California?
    Let’s get back to reality … how are things looking in Buffalo?
    All that snow covering all those roofs … do you have to get up on the rood to shovel off the snow so you can have power?
    I don’t know what all these environmentalists are on, but they need to get on back down to earth and get real.

    • Get a roof rake if you have snow build up. Takes a while longer but you don’t risk falling.
      Of course you could build your house with a nice steep A frame chalet style. Let gravity do the work for you.
      A friend bought a solar charger for his electronics before he went on a holiday to Honduras because he was told electricity was intermittent in a lot of places. After getting back he said that was an understatement. He could charge his phone in 2-3 hours down there with his solar charger even when cloudy (yes you could get reception but no electricity, go figure). Back up in Canada where he lives even in summer it is 10 hours or multiple days to do it.
      Location, location, location!

      • Enough snow and even an A frame roof still has snow on it. As for a roof rack for small low roofs ok , but not for a big one. With a roof rake you won’t fall through the roof, but you risk have an avalanche of snow falling on you.

    • + 2 Leon. It’s fun watching melting pack-ice snow slide down your neighbour’s solar panels and into their yard. The same yard they’ve just spent 3 hours clearing snow from.

      • A “trick” previously employed in Germany was to run electricity “backwards” through PV panels under snow until the snow in contact with the panel lubricated the rest to slide off. Glacier calving on a small scale. Only takes about 50kWh per kWp of PV solar.
        Apparently; it’s viable if you get paid 4 or 5 times more for in-feed power than what you tap off the grid. Not many get such a good deal nowadays.

    • When you have that much snow, you clear it off your roof to keep the roof from collapsing. Amazingly as of last report, very few people in Buffalo have lost their power.

  42. Here is a nice reasonable proposal: Take away all so-called subsidies from oil/gas and wind & solar. Also take away the taxes each pay in to taxing authorities. Let’s see which are still standing after 12 months, 18 months and 24 months.

  43. in the “Overnight Capital Costs compared: $billion/Gigawatt” graph, there is a reference figure of $5.53 billion for “Dual Unit Nuclear”.
    the European Commission has approved Britain’s heavily-subsidised Hinkley Point nuclear reactor (in the cause of decarbonisation***); however, altho Bloomberg wrote “Nukes and Shale Win The Day in U.S.-China Climate Deal” on 17 November, the costs for Hinkley are spiralling, & there are continuing project delays:
    20 Nov: CarbonBrief: Simon Evans: How the UK’s nuclear new-build plans keep getting delayed
    Doubts surfaced again today with the Times reporting a “secret government review” into French firm EDF’s plan to build a new plant at Hinkley Point in Somerset…
    The news follows an announcement from EDF that its Flamanville plant in Normandy is facing further delays. The project uses identical designs to the Hinkley scheme.
    Flamanville was supposed to take five years to build and begin operating by 2012. Instead it will now take 10 years, and open in 2017. A third identical project at Olkiluoto in Finland is nearly a decade behind schedule.
    ***New nuclear capacity is a key part of UK government plans for decarbonisation…
    Carbon Brief asked EDF when construction of the plant itself will begin and how long it will take to finish. EDF said that level of detail was not yet available…
    It isn’t only the finish date that has changed for the UK’s new nuclear plans. The costs have also skyrocketed.
    Back in 2008 the white paper on new nuclear in the UKsuggested it would cost £2.8 billion to build a first of its kind 1.6 gigawatt plant, with a range of between £2 and £3.6 billion.
    The government later said in 2013 that the the Hinkley C project of two 1.6 gigawatt reactors would cost £16 billion. When the European Commission gave the deal the green light in October it said the project would cost £24 billion…
    12 Nov: Financial Times: Nuclear plants closure bill to reach $100bn
    The bill for closing down and cleaning up the world’s ageing nuclear reactors will exceed $100bn over the next 25 years alone, the leading energy watchdog has said, warning that governments risk underestimating the cost.
    With almost 200 reactors due to be shut down by 2040, the International Energy Agency says in its annual report there are “considerable uncertainties” about decommissioning costs, reflecting governments’ limited experience in safely dismantling nuclear plants. In the last 40 years, only 10 reactors have been closed down…
    But even now, Mr Birol noted, “some 60 years after the first nuclear power plant started operation, no country has yet opened a permanent disposal facility for commercial high-level waste”.
    Paul Dorfman of the Energy Institute at University College London noted that the IEA’s $100bn figure is only for decommissioning and does not include the costs of permanent waste disposal.
    “The UK’s own decommissioning and waste disposal costs are £85bn alone, so that gives you an idea of the astronomical costs associated with nuclear,” he said…
    end the war on coal & there wouldn’t be such a panic over energy in general.

  44. All that money and yet one of the simplest of ideas goes unused. I’d love to see some testing of this guy’s idea ( It could offset a lot of heating and cooling if it works. But why test an idea that’s been in use with data collected for 2 decades when you can blow half a billion on Solyndra?

  45. I don’t agree with the numbers in the article…solar system prices in the U.S. are expected to decline from just under $3 per watts today, to under $2.50 per watt over the next 18 months, leading to a further decline in the price per kilowatt-hour of solar to 9-14 cents, “driving further acceleration in solar shipments.”…The cost of rooftop solar-powered electricity will be on par with prices for common coal or oil-powered generation in just two years — and the technology to produce it will only get cheaper.

    • That cost is for nameplate capacity at high noon. You need to divide it by the annual capacity factor, which will be less than 0.5 even at the equator. Needless to say, if your utility company isn’t forced to accept your excess power at retail, ripping off the rest of the rate payers, your savings will also be lower. Ask Denmark and Germany about having to practically give away their excess power to the European grid while paying full price for power supplied when the wind isn’t blowing and the sun isn’t shining. Of course you could always invest in a lot of high quality, deep discharge batteries…

    • Seems like it’d have to be darn near free to be cost effective where I live, and for what? We have several centuries before fossil fuels are rare and we are currently witnessing the dawn of fusion engines. CO2 has been most accurately shown to follow warming and not to be the primary driver of global temperature. So, our focus should be on using our resources in a way that benefits world economy for the present, while minimizing the actual (mostly local and regional) pollution effects of the present technology. Solar power (PV) is only available up to half of any given year at any given location and is only efficient where solar density is high. Even if you had shown proof of your data, those prices mean that PV panels alone for my needs (7KW) will cost $14,000 (at $2 a watt) beside the supporting hardware and installation costs. If I sold my house I could never recoup that.

  46. In England the sun appears about as bright as the moon does in Australia during the day but still someone thinks that they might get something out of solar power. With people as deluded as this that they think that increasing CO2 causes increasing temperatures, even when World temperatures have not increased for 18 years, the future looks as dim as the sun in England.

    • . . . . and rest assured ntesdorf, it’s been very dim over here in the UK. Clocks gone back, fog, idle wind (turbines stationary), no sunshine (solar panels dormant), dark and no water either (Rutland county, east/central England). Just finished my second bottle of wine to cheer me up.

      • MCourtney, it’s Friday night. My lovely hard working wife and I have consumed 3 x bottles of NZ Sauv Blanc – so I lied. Unfortunately my wife retired to bed about an hour ago – so she had one bottle, I drank two.

      • Much the same here then.
        Just piously pastoral.
        Fridays are quite nice.
        [Gesundheit! (Hope your allergies get better.) .mod]

      • Is that pious as in devout? Like it’s our belief, faith and conviction to consume quaffable Sauv Blanc (ABC) and for yourself and me to become totally emersed in all things WUWT (and JD @ Breitbart and Booker @ The ST and, etc.). As for ‘pastoral’ – there are too many definitions. Enjoy your evening. Back tomorrow.

  47. Might have possibilities for preheating/cooling make-up air to large buildings, but that’s as far as 55-60 deg. discharge air will go. Those folks were probably more astounded that he likes his house at 60F. Betting he’s got a heater in the bathroom…

  48. What I really like is that nuclear power generation is claimed to be too expensive by comparison, of course, to a modern combined cycle gas fired power plant, not solar, not wind.

  49. You have not discussed line losses here which are potentially significant when transporting the power from relatively remote locations.
    It seems to me that one solution to the problem of intermittent supply is dispersed peaker stations using gas turbines. Not the most efficient but capable of supplying instant capacity near to the demand.

    • Goldie
      Submitted on 2014/11/21 at 2:57 pm
      You have not discussed line losses here which are potentially significant when transporting the power from relatively remote locations.
      It seems to me that one solution to the problem of intermittent supply is dispersed peaker stations using gas turbines.

      But those “peaker gas turbines” are much less efficient (34 – 38 %) compared to combined cycle turbines (60 – 64%) and break down (cracked compressors casings, bearings, turbine vanes, burners, air coolers, exhaust structures, compressor blades, etc.) than steady cycle units. Sure, they start and stop quickly. And burn out, break, and need more constant repairs. I’ve stood inside exhaust ducts, looking through the cracks at the mountains outside.

  50. Price of renewables: ~$0.5trillion.
    Price of saving the planet?
    There are some things in life money can’t buy. For everything else, there’s GreenieCard.

  51. Governments do not mind spending these horrendous sums on renewable energy – because.
    1. It is not their money – it is money they appropriate from taxpayers.
    2. Being seen to spend up large on “saving the world” i.e. “renewables” gets votes.
    Lets not blame the politicians for all this, they are simply doing these ridiculous things because the public at large want them to.
    In other words the greens, the UN with their manufactured crisis and the IPCC with their grinding pessimism are winning the race to break western economies.
    All this is consistent with Agenda 21 policies where even capitalism and therefore wealth for the masses is under threat.
    During our earthquakes, our government took advantage of the “unprecedented opportunity” to build a new Agenda 21 conforming city. They have started this process by abusing private property rights and have ripped the land from beneath many suburbanites in order to “preserve waterways” and are now working on the CBD (where the real estate is next to worthless) by having “compulsory purchases” of strategic sites.
    And in spite of court decisions ruling the Governmental powers are being abused, they are still getting away with it. In fact they got reelected recently with an improved majority.
    A lot of this is in my blog at

  52. “At least ~$0.5 trillion.”
    This of course is low number.
    Now, there is a place where solar energy does make economic sense.
    It’s chosen as the best way to generate electrical power, and does not require
    evil government laws forcing people to pay for it.
    Nor are governments paying them to use solar energy. It’s simply a cheaper
    and more reliable way to get electrical power.
    And has nothing to do with stupid evil drug crazed hippies ideas.

      • Yes.
        In geostationary orbit satellites can get a nearly constant source of electrical power from solar panels:
        “A geostationary satellite experiences eclipses only during two near-equinox periods a year (March, September) and these eclipses last no more than 72 minutes a day, or 5% of the total time. ”
        The hundreds of geostationary communication satellite require a considerable amount electrical power to beam a strong enough signal to Earth.
        The Satellite in low earth orbit can be more blocked by the Earth, but they still get more hours per day of solar energy than anywhere on Earth at earth surface, or assuming near cloudless conditions one only get about 25% of an average day with usable amounts of sunlight due to Earth’s thick atmosphere.
        Of course if in Germany or UK you aren’t getting much in terms of getting cloudless conditions and during the wintertime it is near useless.
        About only vaguely reasonable place on Earth to harvest solar energy is in desert regions- which also are not regions with a lot of world’s population- but again Earth’s atmosphere still makes it so one can only get about 6 hours of a significant amount sunlight per day. Whereas if on the Moon which is a vacuum, one can get 12 hours solar energy per average 24 hour “day”- 12 hours of average 1360 watts per meter of solar flux, whereas it’s only in hours around noon on earth that one gets the max solar flux is around 1000 watts per square meter [if there is clear skies].
        It solar energy wasn’t actually a scam, what would have been promoted would using solar energy to heat water- such use of solar energy is or can be economically sound- it save you the energy costs of heating hot water.
        But the scam was the lie that costs of PV panels was the main issue- that it was problem these idiot politicians could solve- if they wasted enough tax dollars.

  53. The introduction of the Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) is a scam of the highest order. The DECC claims that 8.6m UK homes will install renewable heating – Heat pumps, solar thermodynamic etc) by 2025.
    What they fail to grasp is that draughty, poorly insulated, ageing housing stock simply doesn’t have the thermal insulation required to maintain a warm home when ambient temperatures drop. The RHI payments have hooked people in, but they soon feel remorse when it actually gets cold outside.
    The fact is, these renewable systems are not the silver bullet the DECC claims they are. If they were, there wouldn’t be any need to subsidise them with RHI payments up to 19.2p per kWh and put your elderly neighbour’s bills up.
    The government’s green agenda has created an industry of failure and inefficiency.

  54. The solar generation figures from Comet Churymov–Gerasimenko aren’t looking too good…
    More seriously, this is an excellent article. The numbers show just how mad this whole thing is.
    Recently Christopher Booker, when discussing a proposed new offshore wind farm, stated that a recently built gas-fired station would, on average, generate 8 times more power and cost just half as much to build. And of course its output would be completely reliable and controllable.
    Renewables are a completely idiotic solution for a problem that almost certainly doesn’t exist. This is a major reason why I’m now proud to be a UKIP voter. I’ll never vote Conservative again until, at the very least, they’ve promised to scrap the Climate Change Bill, a suicide note that will cost my country around 1.3 trillion pounds over the next few decades. It will achieve nothing except to remorselessly push up the price of energy. As others have said, I regard this squandering of resources as a crime against humanity. Think of what could have been done with a small fraction of that money….

  55. Edits: “Had conventional Gas Fired technology had been used” — one “had” suffices
    “if an power generating installation” — a power …
    “The actual savings of CO2 emissions may be hardly exceeded over their installed working life” — nonsensical. Rephrase.

  56. Unfair, irrelevant, useless post.
    The renewable stuff is sold to the public as it doesn’t need fuel. So, of course it may, and do, cost more : wouldn’t you be willing to pay more for a car that wouldn’t need fuel ?
    The point is : how much more ?
    How much more is worth a device that doesn’t burn fuel nor produce ashes ? Is the investment worth the variable cost (gas, maintenance, etc.) that won’t be incurred ?
    But this post doesn’t answer these questions. That’s why it’s irrelevant.

    • It does need gas and it produces ashes as well. The amount of maintenance required is huge, that isn’t even figured in here. Secondly, they do fail and they burn quite nicely. Secondly, the stress on a power system of non consistent power sources causes a ton of problems. It’s a maintenance head ache and costs real money. The variable cost of natural gas and coal never range over the expense of these supposed renewable energy sources.

  57. I said a long time ago, it’s not big oil that beat you, it’s not the conservatives or anti global warming crowd. It was Microsoft. It was an Excel spreadsheet that beat wind and solar. When they do the math, it just doesn’t make sense.

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