European Renewable Energy performance for 2014 falls far short of claims

Guest essay by Ed Hoskins

Summary: By 2014 European Union countries had invested approximately €1 trillion, €1000,000,000,000, in large scale Renewable Energy installations.

This has provided a nameplate electrical generating capacity of about 216 Gigawatts, nominally about ~22% of the total European generation needs of about 1000 Gigawatts.

The actual measured output by 2014 from data supplied by the Renewables Industry has been 38 Gigawatts or 3.8% of Europe’s electricity requirement, at a capacity factor of ~18% overall.

However Renewable Energy production is dependent on the seasons, local weather conditions and the rotation of the earth, day and night.

So the Renewable Energy contribution to the electricity supply grid is inevitably erratic, intermittent and non-dispatchable.  It is therefore much less useful than dispatchable sources of electricity, which can be engaged whenever necessary to match demand and maintain grid stability.  That 3.8% Renewable Energy contribution to the grid is often not available when needed and obversely its mandatory use can cause major grid disruption if the Renewable Energy contribution is suddenly over abundant.

Accounting for capacity factors the capital cost of these Renewable Energy installations has been about €29billion / Gigawatt.  That capital cost should be compared with conventional gas-fired electricity generation costing about €1billion / Gigawatt.

The whole 1000 Gigawatt fleet of European electricity generation installations could have been replaced with lower capital cost Gas-fired installations for the €1trillion of capital costs already expended on Renewable Energy in Europe.

In spite of their being virtually no costs for fuel, Renewable Energy installations can still cost up to 1.5 – 2.5 times as much to operate and maintain as conventional Gas Fired plant.

When the capacity percentages are taken into account, the capital costs can be 15 – 50 times greater than Gas Fired plant.

Data Sources

Recent publications with data up to the end of 2014 have been used here.  These organisations are either neutral towards Renewable Energy (US  EIA) or actively promote it (EurObservER).

  • US EIA electricity_generation.pdf  2015   Table 1
  • EurObservER-Wind-Energy-Barometer-2015-EN-2.pdf
  • EurObservER-Photovoltaic-Barometer-2015-EN.pdf

These publications give an up to date indication of the current state of comparative data for the capital and running costs of different means of Energy generation, both Renewable and Fossil fuel based as well as Renewable Energy costs in Europe .  These illustrated notes are derived from the combination of these two up to date data sources.

The US  EIA data provides a useful yardstick for comparative costing and level of investment committed.  The comparative measure of US$ / Megawatt hour is used.  The US$ and the Euro are close to parity and used interchangeably here for cost estimation.

Screen Shot 2015-07-29 at 10.20.45

Major European installations

This note concentrates on the seven European Nations with significant commitments to Renewable Energy.  They account for more than 80% of European renewable investment.  Denmark is included in this analysis because of its preeminent position as a developer and supplier of Wind Power technology.

Screen Shot 2015-07-15 at 11.50.41

The following diagram shows the percentages of contribution for both solar and wind power in Europe.  The preponderance of PV Solar power in Germany at 44% of the total european installation is very clear.Screen Shot 2015-07-19 at 11.52.12

Comparable Electrical Generation effectiveness

The EurObservER data give the current  base of Renewable Energy installations measured in Megawatts  and annual output by country in Gigawatt hours and also the actual installed level by three types of generation:

  • Onshore Wind Power
  • Offshore Wind Power
  • Grid connected Solar PV

The annual output in Gigawatt hours can be reduced to actual equivalent productive generation by dividing the output GWhr value by 8760, (365 * 24).  This value is then used to assess capacity  by comparing the actual generated output in Gigawatts with the nameplate value of the renewable installed generating sets.

The EurObservER data does not distinguish the output generated by Onshore and Offshore Wind Power but groups the outputs for both Wind Power types.  In general one would expect Offshore Wind Power to be rather more productive than Onshore installations even though Offshore has more onerous operating and maintenance expenditures at in excess of 30% capacity for offshore installations as opposed to about 20% for onshore Wind Power installations.

As the current EurObservER data does not distinguish between the generated outputs of Onshore and Offshore Wind Power, an overall Wind Power capacity figure of about 21% results from their data.

The aggregate (Wind Power and PV Solar)  productive capacities for the six European Nations are shown below and compared to conventional generating technologies.

Screen Shot 2015-07-18 at 16.52.37

The variations of efficiency between the seven European Nations shown above between arises as a result of:

  • their level of commitment to Solar energy as opposed to Wind Power:  Overall in Europe Wind Power has a capacity percentage of ~22% as opposed to Solar energy of only  ~12%
  • their latitude, Solar power being significantly less effective in Northern Europe.

Accordingly German Renewable installations perform at only ~13% overall.  They are by far the least performant in Europe because of their heavy commitment to Solar Energy at Northern latitudes.  Germany is followed by Italy with a more Southerly position but still with a heavy commitment to Solar Power.

Overall in Europe Renewable Energy is about 5 times less efficient (Energy Produced / Nameplate Capacity) than when fossil fuels are used, i.e. a capacity percentage of about 18% overall as opposed to some 85%.

The scale of Renewable installations and approximate capital costs

The  EurObservER data from 2014 is charted below showing the nameplate installations of different forms of Renewable Energy

Screen Shot 2015-07-27 at 11.48.26

And the actual Electrical output generated according to the EurObservER data is shown below.

Screen Shot 2015-07-27 at 11.48.09

It is estimated that 1 Gigawatt of gas-fired generating capacity costs about €1000,000,000 and the proportional capital costs derived from the EIA data is used to estimate the approximate capital costs of the European Renewable installations.  Accordingly the distribution of estimated capital investment totalling more than €1 trillion is shown below.

Screen Shot 2015-07-27 at 11.48.54

These prices are estimated using the EurObservER  reported nameplate capacity combined with the EIA differential values for capital costs.  No account is taken of the detrimental capacity factors applicable to Renewable Energy installations, i.e. operating at about 1/5 of rated nameplate capacity.

National commitments to Renewable Energy installations in Europe

The comparative commitments to Renewable Energy according to the data across Europe is shown as Megawatts installed / million head of population below.

Unsurprisingly Germany and Denmark are pre-eminent, whereas the UK and France have only achieved about a quarter of their levels of penetration.  In France which already has the lowest CO2 emissions levels/head of population in the developed world (substantially less (~60%) than China) because of its commitment to Nuclear electrical generation, the installation of Renewable Energy (Wind Power and Solar) in France would seem to be particularly costly and pointless.

Screen Shot 2015-07-16 at 15.41.23

The full gamut of European national commitments to renewable Energy in terms of Megawatts of nameplate generating capacity per million head of population is shown below.Screen Shot 2015-07-16 at 17.32.10

Scoring cost effectiveness in Operation

The US  EIA data makes comparisons in terms of $ / Megawatt hour.  These data have been combined with capacity data derived from the EurObservER reports,  i.e. 21.8% for Wind Power overall and 12.1% for Solar Power.

Screen Shot 2015-07-29 at 10.20.45

For comparative purposes these $/MW hr values are normalised comparing them to the EIA Gas-Fired generation cost and the readjusted to account for the capacity factors recorded.  A fuel cost for Gas firing is about 50% more than than that for Coal.

This results in normalised comparative scores for both the Capital cost and Operation and Maintenance costs.  Using the EIA base data the Operation and Maintenance costs are marginally more for Onshore Wind and about double for both Offshore Wind and Solar Power.  On the other hand the capital cost scores range from 14 times onshore wind to almost 50 times for Solar energy.

Screen Shot 2015-07-29 at 10.24.39

When the capital and running costs are combined on the EIA basis, Renewable Energy comparative cost scores are 4 times higher for onshore wind and up to 12 times greater for both Offshore wind and rather more for Solar Power.  Coal and nuclear power are shown as the a useful comparison.

Screen Shot 2015-07-29 at 10.24.14

Conclusions

To date about € trillion, (€1000,000,000,000), has been spent on the installation of Renewable Energy technologies for electricity generation in Europe.

By Government and EU diktat, this expenditure has been extracted by extra charges imposed on utility bills throughout Europe.  Viewed as taxation this is very regressive form:  it imposes more burdens on poorer people whilst leaving wealthier people who are able to pay less affected.  It is also invisible in Government accounts as a tax income at all, as it is an industry price imposition on consumers.

These regressive “Green taxes” have already lead to significant fuel poverty throughout Europe.

Increased energy costs are also impacting on European industries with many major corporations seeking more congenial manufacturing locations outside Europe to the detriment of the European economies.

As a means of producing useful electrical power Renewable Energy is proven here to be very expensive, not only because its poor ~20% capacity factor but also because it is much less useful to the electrical grid because of its non-dispatchbliliy and inevitable intermittancy.

It is also questionable whether these Renewable Energy industries, when viewed “from cradle to grave”, including manufacturing, site works, installation, connection and demolition costs, does in fact reduce CO2 emissions to any significant extent overall.  The CO2 saved may never exceed the CO2 emissions generated to erect the total installation.  At t a maximum the use of Renewable Wins and Solar technologies only amounts to about a 4% saving in CO2 emissions in comparison to using Gas-fired power generation,

The USA has made significant CO2 emissions reductions over the past few decades by replacing Coal Fired generation with Gas Fired electricity generation with the feedstock provided by the fracking revolution.  It is estimated that using natural gas for electricity generation as opposed coal burning saves about 30% of CO2 emissions.  This outcome of this effect has been assessed to have been more effective means of CO2 emissions reduction than all actions worldwide arising from the Kyoto protocol.

The Renewable Energy industry could not exist without the Government mandated subsidies and preferential tariffs on which it depends.

Without Government subsidies and consumption mandates the Renewable Energy industry is not a viable business proposition.

Viewed from the point of view of the viability of a nation’s electrical supply grid, Renewable Energy would never be part of the generating mix without its Government mandate, Government subsidies and Government interference.

143 thoughts on “European Renewable Energy performance for 2014 falls far short of claims

      • I am suprised , I would have thought it would be cheaper to build your steel plants in china / africa /india and avoid US read tape.

      • Look at the recent post – The Green Mirage = https://wattsupwiththat.com/2015/07/29/the-green-mirage/
        There is a graph showing the decline in Coal and Nuclear power plants over the next ten, twenty years. There are no utilities submitting applications for permits, construction meaning that that downward slope will continue for at least ten years (the time needed to review and get a permit approved and then you need in the five ten years of construction. The Administration want renewables USA will have the same problem described above It only take a ten percent reduction in reliable electricity to make the cost increase drastically. In the days of Enron power was selling for $2,000 per kWh daily. The “Green Plague” is coming to the USA.

      • What gets forgotten in this entire story is that economic suicide was precisely what the eco fascist founders of the UNEP/IPCC had in mind: Canadian Maurice Strong [an unreformed Prairie Socialist] the Canadian Liberal Party’s Eminence Grise at the UN, at the 1992 Rio Earth Conference was caught on open microphone saying: if in order to save the earth we need to dismantle the advanced industrial economies, that’s what we’ll do.

        And that is precisely what is happening: the de-industrialization of Europe, where the Greens have over the years woven themselves into every layer of the political/bureaucratic decision making fabric. Everywhere.

        And so what we are seeing should not surprise us. But it continues to surprise us because of its enormity. But it’s happening, right before our eyes. And if the Greens and their political allies have anything to say about it, the process will continue until the effects can’t be turned back.

        Europe is de-industrializing on a grand scale and all the major European industrial conglomerates -Mercedes, Volkswagen, BMW, BASF, several French multinationals and even Airbus have moved their key operations to North America. The only country that appears to have woken up at 10 to midnight is the UK -let’s hope they can still turn their ship around before they too run aground..

    • Renewables work just fine, about 20% of the time, if you have the money to pay for it.

      Otherwise, yeah what you said.

    • The way Europe did renewables certainly hasn’t been very impressive. Their process used a blanket feed in tariff based on the technology applied. It ignored the value of energy question entirely. So, they have a low value mix of expensive projects. The US residential and commercial solar markets mostly work this way. Instead of calling it a feed-in-tariff, we call it net metering. There are significant inefficiencies in this approach.

      The US utility-scale process is dominated by a market-based approach where a utility will issue a request for proposals for projects and they select the one that is the best fit for their load and system. State mandates still forced many uneconomical projects onto the system – but wind and solar economics have improved enough that several utilities are buying them as a hedge against rising natural gas prices.

      This is with subsidies, of course. But the impact of subsidies going away won’t be very significant. Their structure is weird and complicated and requires a friend on Wall St to work. Friends on Wall St are expensive. They capture about half of the value of the subsidies.

      It is important to keep in mind that EIA cost data are worthless. More to the point, comparing a natural gas combined cycle (NGCC) plant against a wind plant is just wrong. Whether the wind plant is built or not, you still need the gas plant. The correct comparison is between the cost of the gas fuel vs the cost of the wind plant. If you think the average price of gas over the next 25 years will be $4-6/mmBTU and your marginal plant is a NGCC with a heat rate of 7, wind is worth about $28-42/MWh. That is an achievable number with or without subsidies. Of course, the value of wind decreases as penetration increases, but that is a topic for another day.

      • If you want to make those ground rules, then you have to compare the price of natural gas vs the price of natural gas plus the Wind Plant.

      • Utilities are buying “renewables” primarily because of State Renewable Energy Mandates. see http://instituteforenergyresearch.org/renewable-mandates/ My utility maintained a cost of electricity for all above the first 500 kWh of less than $0.05 for more than twenty years. When the mandates kicked in the price has increased ~10 percent EVERY year. Next year it will be over $.0.08 And that is the lowest residential rate for HP homes in the winter. Summer AC rate is over $0.12, which was only $0.06 5 years ago. All because of FREE Wind power. And they stick a glossy flyer in the bill every month bragging about how they have added another wind farm, The Rate increase is hidden in the bill. Just amazing how that FREE Fuel has increased my bill by 50 – 75% in less than 7 years. Just like the airlines, there are more necessary hidden extras and TOD, winter/summer rates etc.

    • The outward message, yes.
      To paraphrase the inner message:
      Russia’s oligarchs stand to make a killing off LNG if more gas plants are built in Europe.
      Take those green cost of energy bars on the comparitive cost charts, and stretch & shrink them based on the price of oil & gas over the last 5 years. That does a better job illustrating the risk of an investment based on a volatile operating cost. Then it doesn’t look so pretty economically.
      Not to mention environmentally or politically. The biggest reason Ukraine is in such a mess is they and the rest of western Europe got overly dependent on Russia’s LNG.

    • and only needs replacing every 25 years … with [a bit of luck/help from the unicorns/some indentured pixies]

    • Until “renewable’s” get a tick in ALL the boxes implementation is an horrendous waste of time and money.

    • Didn’t Margaret Thatcher get elected with a poster showing a long line of unemployed people titled, ‘Labour isn’t working’?

      Well, as a ‘solution’ to CO2 emissions, renewable aren’t working. It is going to be nuclear or firewood. Take your pick.

      • John P
        The elected official was – one of the – Secretaries to the Treasury.
        These come in Financial, Economic and Chief flavours.
        I can’t remember what flavour Liam Byrnes was.
        He was right, though.
        Not only as there no money left – none at all – there was a seven hundred thousand million piund loan book – interest on which has to be paid.
        And the economic conditions so bad – and the Coalition so schizophrenic – that the total owed now exceeds a trillion, and is till growing..
        If out side the UK – Don’t clap – send money.
        Thanks.

        Auto

  1. A good post – but it is using entirely the incorrect metric. For ‘investors’ in the companies that supply these ‘renewable’ power systems they have a Return on Investment that is guaranteed by governments and is significantly higher than any other investment. This is solely due to the government subsidies. These investors are subsidy farming, they have no real concern about the amount of power produced, only that they have a significant guaranteed return on their investment. The power supplied is merely a byproduct of the subsidy farming. Stop the subsidies and the subsidy farmers will go elsewhere looking for the better ROI.
    The governments have also failed to ensure the normal ‘make good’ provisions that would be made with mining or other energy activities. So when these subsidy farmers declare their investment companies bankrupt and depart looking for new investments, the land owners will be left with the rotting stumps of windmills and acres of dead solar cells linked by miles of unused pylons and cables. These will be lasting monuments to the stupidity and gullibility of politicians.

    • “So when these subsidy farmers declare their investment companies bankrupt and depart looking for new investments, the land owners will be left with the rotting stumps of windmills and acres of dead solar cells linked by miles of unused pylons and cables.”

      That’s what will happen to the offshore turbines as their gearboxes start to fail, after about 8-10 years,

      Importantly, hardly any CO2 saved!

    • I like the term “subsidy farming,” it really sums up this whole scheme very well. Not sure we need “monuments to stupidity” though, it seems to be a readily renewable resource.

    • This is exactly what Warren Buffett is doing and he said as much in the last share holders meeting. Buy some BH stock and get the real facts about why he likes green energy. And he and some partners are investing another $100 billion in the Green Plague.

    • Last time I checked, most politicians had very generous pension plans. I wouldn’t say that politicians are the stupid and gullible ones.

    • Anyone putting up a solar or wind farm should also be required to post a bond, before anything is built. The bond will be the money required to dismantle the solar or wind farm, and return the land to an original state. The remediation of abandoned solar or wind farms is currently the responsibility of local area governments, who often do not have the money to do the remediation. Requiring a bond to be posted would cut into the subsidies that are being skimmed, and make these farms less palatable to investors.

  2. Cost is important for jobs. According to thegwpf.com 90,000 steel jobs in Germany are in danger because of the high cost of energy and the onerous climate change regulations there. Any energy intensive industry in Europe might have to move to the US or Asia where energy is cheaper to survive. Some already have.

  3. According to Wolfgang Muller, the total greenhouse gas emissions in Germany have remained consistent throughout this massive expansion and expense of renewable power. This typifies government involvement in most enterprises- significant cost with minimal benefit.

  4. Numbers don’t matter to the green zealots. It’s a religious belief and they will keep the faith even if it bankrupts Europe (and the US).

    Hopefully more rational voices will take the stage and stop this lunacy.

    • Lancifer
      “Numbers don’t matter to the green zealots. It’s a religious belief and they will keep the faith even if it bankrupts Europe (and the US).”
      Numbers don’t matter to the green zealots. It’s a religious belief and they will keep the faith, especially if it bankrupts Europe (and the US, and Canada and Australia).

      Now, does that help?

      Auto

  5. The price of electricity depends on the demand. It is highest at dark, cold, calm winter nights and lowest when the sun is shining and heating is not needed. The tariffs should not be fixed and of course no subsidies.

    This more a control problem than a generation problem. We should have power when and where it is needed. kWh generated at a wrong time has no value.

    • Except in the UK where kWh generated by wind and solar take precedence over fossil fuel generation whilst when they produce and are superfluous to requirements, we pay full price in compensation for them standing down.
      Vote no to the EU, vote yes for UKIP, and let’s just leave the Franco German hegemony to continue the destruction of continental Europe in peace.

  6. While I agree it is a good post, it illustrates the difficulty of convincing Joe Public that renewable energy is not such a good deal after all. The folks back home in Germany are telling local relatives that “renewable energy is cheap and a great deal; why aren’t we doing it in the US.” Trying to talk to them about “comparative cost,” “name plate capacity,” “intermittency and non-dispatchability,” and “capital and running costs” make for a short conversation.

  7. A testament to the stupidity of “Renewables.” Look at the numbers. €1 trillion provides LESS than 4% of the electricity needed to met Total demand. The will need to spend another €25 trillion just to meet Average load, which would not meet typical daily peak loads on any day of the week, T meet the expected normal daily peak would require at least another €10 to 15 trillion. I seriously doubt that even that will provide reliable, brown-out free power. WAKE UP Renewables are a complete utter waste. Americans, multiply these numbers by at least 20. How many CO2 free Nuclear power plants can be built for €40 trillion?
    Oh, you claim things are getting better, we are making [going to make] the turbines and panels that cost much less now. Well if they make them cost 1/2 as much then 1/2 of €40 trillion is €20, But before they ever get to a 50% reduction in cost they will need to start replacing half of them. Which is still a net loss.
    This should make any person with any common sense realize this is nothing more than a massive money pit that is designed to make the political cronies RICH, SUPER RICH.

    • “How many CO2 free Nuclear power plants can be built for €40 trillion?”

      About 4000 with a capacity of 3.2 GW each. That’s 12,800 GW on line 24/7 less maintenance and refuelling. No subsidies required.

      The 40 trillion could have gone into providing clean water, sewage treatment and health care for the entire planet for decades.

  8. I always wonder how much of these emissions would be saved by spending a fraction of these sums on insulating buildings properly. This would have the advantage, if properly done, of improving the comfort and health of the inhabitants. This though would be a relatively low tech and labour intensive solution. 3.8% efficiency savings could be easily achieved one might surmise.

    • you could do that, but as with any government project-

      http://www.theaustralian.com.au/national-affairs/labors-home-insulation-scheme-was-fundamentally-flawed-report/story-fn59niix-1227043700717?nk=88a17e031377cd5d0ba0cb1d9ee84efd-1438355713

      the same problem exists with the solar schemes. the government just throw money at these shonky operators who all of a sudden spring up overnight when the word subsidy is mentioned.

      the worse part of it is that the genuine companies that were established, experienced and viable cannot possibly compete, and in most cases fail during the time the product is being subsidised. eg the Australian government (the tax payers) have been forced to compensate some of these long standing companies that were affected by the influx of shonky operators.

      we see it happen again and again. rebate for water tanks! yay, prices of water tanks go up by almost exactly the amount of the rebate…

      • Yep! Happened here in South Africa – the price of solar water heating panels went up by about the rebate amount! Then, when the subsidiser (ESKOM – of load-shedding fame) started going broke, or running out of taxpayers money, the subsidies stopped. And lo! the price of solar panels fell…

      • Russ Wood

        The advantage for the consumers as a result of the RSA solar programme was that SESSA (the Sustainable Energy Society of South Africa) chaired by John Ledger and others including yours truly, created a professional section which registered competent installers. The outcome was a far more professional industry, much better products with warranties, a way to kick out shoddy installers and a public awareness that they can demand professional performance.

        All in all it has been a very positive experience. I low of people are saving money and a lot have hot water that they didn’t have before. Botswana led the region requiring solar heaters on new construction from 1983 and they have a viable, professional self-financing market in spite of the small population.

        When ESKOM has capacity to spare, they will stop all energy saving programmes because they want to sell electricity. They even said it is those words at DUE 2014.

    • Absolutely correct.
      And, correctly targeted to situations of the greatest need, retro-fit insulation pays for itself.
      i.e. the cost over the lifetime of the project – is negative.
      People have been brainwashed into accepting the idea that vast sums of money must be spent on reducing CO2 emissions.
      A reasonably competent person who is familiar with science and engineering, should be able to draw up a sizeable list of ways in which CO2 emissions can be reduced whilst reducing costs.
      And building insulation is also a pressing need in hot countries.
      Because the cold produced by air-conditioning is even more expensive in energy terms and financially than the equivalent quantity of heat.
      There is not yet any need to spend money on the CO2 reduction project – even if we assumed that that was a reasonable goal.
      We have not yet exhausted the number of things that we could do which both reduce emission and are free.

  9. The cost comparison between coal/fossil and wind /solar clearly favours the fossil fuel route. As the GERMAN experience clearly shows( see below), 75 % of the time the renewables produce less than 20% of the nameplate capacity. So back up power has to be purchased which comes from coal or nuclear. The capital cost to carry 75% of additional back-up power for renewables is not included. Also as the UK and Danish experience shows, the wind turbines have a lower useful life of 12-15 years due to excessive wear and tear. Coal plants last 40-60years. The median existing US coal fired generating station was built in 1966; A third was built in the 1950’s. This extra cost to replace prematurely failing turbines is also not included. The EPA seem to have stacked the regulations for coal so much that , it is now almost impossible to build a coal fired plant in US. Duke Energy Carolinas Cliffside project cost was estimated at $2 BILLION for two units in 2006. It is now estimated to be $ 1.8 BILLION for only one unit. New coal fired plants now cost about $3500/ kW. They used to be $1500-1800/kW. On shore Wind turbines run about $2500/kwh. Off shore turbines run about $ 6000/kw. Solar photovoltaic run about $4000/kw

    At the recent 10th INTERNATIONAL CONFERENCE ON CLIMATE CHANGE, one of the speakers , Wolfgang Muller,, General Secretary of European Institute for Climate and Energy reported on the German experience with wind turbines and solar panels . They have 72,000 MW of installed renewable energy, 35000 MW in wind turbines and 37,400 MW in solar panels. The combined performance is that 75% of the time the output is less than 20% of the nameplate capacity. 90 % of the time the wind turbine output is below 30% of the name plate capacity. The output of the solar panels is just as poor, with 55% of the time the output is blow 10% of capacity. Fortunately they have coal or nuclear backup and access to an international grid, otherwise blackouts and brown outs would be a frequent occurrence. Alarmists who propose to eliminate all fossil fuel usage and go entirely to renewables are misleading the public about what is practical or feasible even with batteries. If you cannot produce the power because of lack of wind or sun, batteries are of little help. Fossil fuel, hydro, or nuclear backup is absolutely necessary with renewable energies . The G7 leaders who recently came back from a summit in Europe proclaiming that the world should aim for fossil fuel free world by the end of this century, their goal appears to be just political nonsense . Even as they stated this proclamation , Germany, a senior G7 member is replacing all their 17 nuclear power plants with 23 new coal fired plants . So who is kidding the world about renewables and the feasibility of eliminating of fossil fuel. .

  10. When the capacity percentages are taken into account, the capital costs can be 15 – 50 times greater than Gas Fired plant.
    __________________________________

    Wow.

    I have been quoting three of four times as much as conventional fossil power, and people said I was exaggerating. But 20 or 30 times? We will have to take out a mortgage just for the electricity, let along the house.

    R

    • After re-reading the article, I see that offshore wind powere is ONLY 12X as expensive as gas, when taking fuel costs into account. ONLY 12X.

      But I do wonder by how much those offshore costs will spiral, when the gearboxes and bearings start wearing out. Changing those heavy components out in the wild North or Irish sea, is not a cheap business.

      • ralf and ralph,
        You are right.
        And gear box failure will be most common as the turbine moves into winter – the higher delivery time, but also, obviously, the lower repairability time.
        And the promoters’ agents will need to put men onto those turbines – in winter, from smallish boats.
        Insurance costs will need to be factored in – as well.

        The seas and the oceans are big – and cannot be relied upon – to be anything other than changeable and potentially dangerous . . . .

        Auto

      • I think the problem might be more pervasive than even just offshore windmills. Here in New Zealand the West Wind wind farm is often cited as one of the most productive in the world, even Siemens, the equipment provider, quote it in their sales literature. However, I seem to recall that 22% of the turbines had bearing failures before the guarantee expired. The given reason, consistent high and reliable winds on the site which allowed nearly 50% of stated nameplate capacity to be obtained. Looking deeper one finds that even this high output plant has times when it produces nothing. It is only viable because of New Zealand’s has a high penetration of easily and rapidly varied hydroelectricity with as side helping of geothermal. The gas plants continue at a constant output to maximise efficiency.

        As a means of reducing “carbon pollution” they are an expensive and abject failure that cost me in my power bills through the levies imposed to subsidise them. I am not given the free market choice of selecting where my power comes from, at the real cost without hidden “green” taxes.

      • Richard of NZ

        Siemens announcer they are getting out of windmills because of the bearing problem. If they put in ones that will last, they efficiency overall drops enough to render them uneconomic – presumably including the subsidies. It looks pretty hopeless for wind at the moment.

      • Crispin while the tradeoffs between bearing life and cost are true, as reported, I can find no announcements that Siemens were planning to abandon onshore wind turbines. Tidal, yes. Offshore, yes.

    • In the very first and second paragraph.
      “This has provided a nameplate electrical generating capacity of about 216 Gigawatts, nominally about ~22% of the total European generation needs of about 1000 Gigawatts.
      The actual measured output by 2014 from data supplied by the Renewables Industry has been 38 Gigawatts or 3.8% of Europe’s electricity requirement, at a capacity factor of ~18% overall.”

      HS math provides that 38 Gw is 3.8 % of 1000 Gw.

      • Apologies if I wasn’t clear.

        When I said details I was after a source or a discussion of the numbers that would let me compare Ed’s numbers with what I see greens putting out, i.e. 3.8% (for all renewables) vs. 8% (for just wind).

        If the blog post analysis stands up then there’s a strong point to be made – the EU is overclaiming the role of wind by over 2 fold. That could go somewhere.

        On the other hand, when I see conflicting numbers it’s very often not the case that one is “right” and the other is “wrong”. Instead, it’s usually the case that digging down they make different assumptions or they are not measuring quite the same thing.

        The only way to get to the bottom of it is to lay out those assumptions to understand exactly how and why the numbers differ.

        Looking at the press release I linked, I see that it comes from this report:

        2014 JRC wind status report: Technology, market and economic aspects of wind energy in Europe
        Roberto LACAL ARÁNTEGUI Javier SERRANO GONZÁLEZ, 2015.
        http://publications.jrc.ec.europa.eu/repository/bitstream/JRC96184/reqno_jrc96184_2014%20jrc%20wind%20status%20report%20-%20online%20version.pdf

        There, the authors takes nameplate EU wind capacity to be 129 GW and the capacity factor to be 22.6% They therefore estimate that has wind has generated 265 TWh. They say they take the capacity factor as “equal to the European average for the years 2004–13 … calculations based on the historical wind energy capacity factor (CF) from Eurostat data on generation and installed capacity.” (p30)

        Ed Hoskins says there is nameplate EU renewable capacity to be 216 GW.

        I can’t see that he breaks out a total for wind and solar. He does give a reference to:

        EurObservER-Wind-Energy-Barometer-2015-EN-2.pdf

        However, this isn’t a URL. A quick Google search doesn’t find this exact file. However, I was able to find this, which looks close:

        http://www.eurobserv-er.org/pdf/wind-energy-barometer-2015-en/

        Table 2 there gives 130 GW nameplate capacity, and agrees with Hoskins’ graph ‘European Renewable Energy name plate capacity installations: Gigwatts’, so we’re good.

        Hoskins cites wind capacity factor as around 22%, so it looks like he agrees with the JRC report on:

        1) The nameplate capacity of wind

        and

        2) The capacity factor of wind

        So they agree that the effective generating capacity of wind is a constant:

        129 x 0.226 = 29 GW

        We can therefore conclude that they differ on the amount of electricity consumed.

        I think Hoskins that when Hoskins says ‘total European generation needs of about 1000 Gigawatts’ he implies that final EU electricity consumption is:

        1000 GW x 365 days x 24 hours = 8760 TW h.

        (In this case wind alone, as opposed to all renewables, would provide just 2.9% of electricity)

        From the JRC report we have to work back from the fact that the say wind supplies almost 9% of electricity (the press release claimed 8% – so let’s go with that). That implies that final EU electricity consumption is a bit under:

        (29 GW / 0.08) x 365 days x 24 hours = 3175.5 TW h.

        This seems to be the root of the disagreement. For consistency, we can see that the EU’s estimate of the proportion of electricity supplied by wind is 2.8 times as great as Hoskins’, just because Hoskins’ estimate of final EU electricity consumption is 2.8 times larger than that of the EU.

        So we need to find out: what is final EU electricity consumption.

        We can find:

        http://ec.europa.eu/eurostat/statistics-explained/index.php/Electricity_production,_consumption_and_market_overview

        Which claims total electricity generated in the EU 28 is 3101 TWh.

        (On that page, again, we find the EU claiming that 7.5% of electricity in 2013 was generated by wind. Note that this would be consistent with between 8% and 9% in 2014, as the claimed growth rate is 10%, and demand is constant or falling. 7.5 x 1.10 = 8.25, so this part of the EU story looks consistent.)

        Wikipedia gives a figure for 2014 at:

        https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_electricity_production

        of 3166 TWh, with a reference to the BP Statistical Review of World Energy 2015. This seems like a standard source, and when I clicked through it looks like the number has been transcibed correctly.

        These numbers is a bit under 3175 TWh, which would imply that the JRC / EU claim is correct. It would be very useful if Hoskins could give his source and / or explain to what the 1000 GW number refers to. I may have missed it, but I didn’t see such a reference in the original post.

    • @JK July 31, 2015 at 3:30 pm
      I had questions my self.
      The major problem with all of this Green Energy, which becomes significant with Wind and Solar furnaces (like Ivanpah) is the hidden fact that “house loads” that is all of the electricity used by the generator is ignored in the numbers expressing the output. That is they are reporting Gross output of the generator and not the Net output i.e. Gross minus the load needed to make it work. The following may express that clearer or more understandable. Wind turbine larger than the ones that home environmental enthusiasts install need to have electricity to make electricity. Most of the wind turbines used commercially will have oil pumps for the lube oil system to lubricate all of the bearings in all of the moving parts, Then there is a heater to keep the oil at a certain temperature and a motor to position the turbine in the correct direction and a motor to adjust the pitch of the prop, and a few others. Then there is the control system including the detection of wind direction and speed. On average this is about 5% of the name plate rated output. But that is not all, In very cold climates (off shore Scotland) a heater is needed for the Nacelle. There are logs available on the internet showing that annually, the power used throughout the year for all of these loads for the northern Scotland off shore wind turbines exceed the total developed power. Thus they are a NET LOSS.
      Name plat data DOES NOT INCLUDE these loads. finding them is harder than pulling hens teeth. Larger commercial power plants, (coal, nuclear, hydro, etc.) literally have a meter measuring only the output of the actual generator (think the wires coming out of the alternator in your car). There could be anywhere from 2 to 10 others sources of power for the “house Loads.” I worked at a power plant that was physically inside of a separately owned utility, State PUC rules required the plant to purchase ALL house load power from them. The plant owner got an electric bill from the other utility. That is how ridiculous it is and ho difficult it is to find that information.
      So, even the numbers you think tell you what you need to know are garbage. Think about it Assume a wind turbine has a respectable 20% capacity factor. That number is used in EIA data But the 5 to as much as 25% (25% is rare but they can be possible in very cold climates) of house loads ignored in EIA data, other than it is part of the total load! However, the real power delivered of that 20% capacity factor wind turbine is actually 15% capacity factor.
      And now you are completely confused and that is why the utilities keep it a secret. It took me more than a year of looking at the various EIA tables to determine that EIA was in on the obfuscation also. A 1,200 Mw Nuclear power plant delivers about 1,000 Mw to the TOTAL grid. It is, however providing 1,200 Mw to the 500 or 230 KV transmission line (at most plants).
      Hope you understood this.

  11. From https://twitter.com/sunlorrie/status/626519720322277376

    “At 4 pm on hottest day of year, Nuclear power providing 49% of Ontario’s electricity. Hydro 24%. Gas 22%. Wind 4%. Biofuel 0.4% Solar 0.3%.”

    And the fact is, because the government subsidizes wind and solar so much, that 24% Hydro could be 28.3%, but the dam owners let the water go over the dams instead of harnessing it, as they can’t make any more money on it.

    • I live in southern Ontario and the that day was quite windy but very gusty. The waste of my tax dollars makes me so mad.

      • Matt, did any of the windmills get damaged in the windmill forest north of Waterloo? We we only 60 from the EF2 tornado. Will that take the monsters down?

        There are often tornadoes between Guelph, Sarnia and Wiarton where the most windmills are. Often enough that we should be seeing what an EF 1-3 does to them.

  12. If wind and solar generation had been invented first, everyone would be clamoring for cheap, reliable fossil and nuclear electricity.

    • I don’t know about solar, but nearly all the windmills used on U.S. farms to pump the water supply into cisterns were replaced by pumps run on electricity in the first half of the 20th century. So it’s already happened, and those were already-installed windmills besides. When free markets are allowed to operate, logic prevails.

      • And in Holland for emptying the polders. Now you would have thought that polder pumping, which does not really care if is pumped today or tomorrow, would be ideal for wind power, but all the wind pumps were replaced by electrical. They are only now going back to wind – because it is obligatory and subsidised.

        R

  13. Let us not forget here that yet another problematic issue with wind and solar energy is the amount of land area that wind and solar farms require when constructed to replace (at least in theory) fossil fuel or nuclear plants:

    http://www.entergy-arkansas.com/content/news/docs/AR_Nuclear_One_Land_Use.pdf

    In the example above, a wind farm of 720 megawatts needs 98 times more land than the nuclear plant producing the same amount of electricity. The solar farm requires about 12 times more land area. I believe Tom Tamarkin brought this out in his WUWT piece when he said that a land area equal to the states of Maryland and Delaware covered with solar farms would be needed to meet U.S. electrical energy needs. If you replace a percentage of those solar farms with wind turbine farms, then matters get much wore.

    Totally nuts.

  14. “For example, on wind energy, we get a tax credit if we build a lot of wind farms. That’s the only reason to build them. They don’t make sense without the tax credit.”

    – Warren Buffet.

  15. I’m wondering how many EU bird choppers it takes to deliver 3.8% of their electrical generation needs. Anyone have that number handy?

  16. “That 3.8% Renewable Energy contribution to the grid is often not available when needed and obversely its mandatory use can cause major grid disruption if the Renewable Energy contribution is suddenly over abundant.” Would it not be more accurate to say the 18 or 22% is often not available since one of the reasons that the higher percentages are effectively only 3.8% is due to the unavailability of the source when needed. Seems like some double counting of a negative factor. In any event, the only instance in which I have seen solar and wind be very useful is when powering small installations in remote areas not served by power lines.

  17. In the 20 years that the UK has been infected with the Green Plague they could have built 100 Nuclear power plants, each providing 1 GWhr of capacity using a conservative cost of €10billion . for an additional 100 GWh of power the is 99.9% CO2 free. And greatly reducing the CO2 emissions. Not increasing the CO2 emissions by burning NatGas, Wood chips/pellets, Lignite Coal (dirt). So WHY are they still wasting money on the Green Plague?

    • “So WHY are they still wasting money on the Green Plague?”

      Because the UK politicians don’t have the intestinal fortitude (a.k.a. the political guts) to say “no” to the green movement and tell them to go take a long walk off of a short pier.

      We probably have the same issue with members of Congress here in the U.S. And with the Obama administration infested with the Green Plague, we can forget about the financial plug being pulled on green schemes here until Obama leaves office…..and maybe not even after that. He’s too politically beholden to them.

      And the media’s alliance with the greens in both countries doesn’t help matters any either. What is needed in both countries is a leader (president/prime minister) with the guts to stand up to the green movement and point out to their respective peoples why the greens are wrong about wind and solar energy. I however am not going to hold my breathe waiting for that to happen……

      • CD
        Australia

        Auto – wishing we had A Tony, rather than An Adman, here in the UK.
        OK – we’re a bit better than before the election, but a loo-ooo-ooo-oo-oong way to go.

      • If 1,000 megabytes = 1 gigabytes, does or does not a 1,000 MWhr power plant equal a 1 GWhr power plant?

  18. Unfortunately if we don’t build these expensive. useless generators we get fined by the EU. This is one of the many reasons why the UK should leave. I wondered why Obama was so keen for us to stay in EU, I have just worked out why, if we are paying more for energy our goods are more expensive and the trade deficit will benefit the USA, the countries with the Euro will do even worse.
    The article is very good, many thanks to Ed for sharing something we all instinctively knew but with costings it becomes frightening. One small thing i would like to ask, do the costings take into account renewal of the solar panels and wind turbines using the manufacturers claims, which I understand are far too optimistic? Apparently solar panels degrade over time rather than just ceasing to produce power, therefore the unit cost of electricity will increase as the panels age. I would guess that bearings in wind turbines would also suffer the same fate.

    • A few years ago the owners of a small 600KW wind generator at the CNE in Toronto, Ontario, Canada had to replace the main bearing as it had failed. It took them nearly a year to find a bearing and it cost $120,000 and of course you need to almost completely dis-assemble the unit to install the bearing. This 600KW generator is not part of the governments FIT program and the most money it has made in one year was I think a little over $5,000.

      With such a good ROI I can see how everyone might think this is a good investment. /sarc

      • Matt, that is a really instructive example of the ‘economics’ of the wind biz. I wonder if the Star would report the facts, just for entertainment value. I hear the first mills from the 90’s are starting to come off line, leaving investors with a loss of about 700k each, all things considered. Listen to the Oracle, not the Goracle. No subsidy, no investment.

  19. As many commenters imply, it is probably naïve to think that government mandated renewable energy targets are for the public good, rather than just another example of furtherance of government control and associated opportunities for corruption through subsidy farming.
    I would think that ‘time of day’ power rates or other pricing schemes based on supply and demand would be much more efficient overall. In that case we would likely see the first logical widespread (as opposed to remote sites) use of photovoltaics, namely used as cladding and roofing, supplying power for air conditioning much more in synchrony with the availability of sunshine, the cause of the A/C load in the first place. Thus, owners of factories, large retail spaces etc would produce PV power for their own needs shaving the peak demand (with the highest marginal costs to supply) from the local utility. Properly integrated into the building design, the PV collection systems would in themselves reduce the heat load on the building.

  20. Ed Hoskins,

    You wrote: “The US EIA data makes comparisons in terms of $ / Megawatt hour. These data have been combined with capacity data derived from the EurObservER reports, i.e. 21.8% for Wind Power overall and 12.1% for Solar Power.”
    If the EIA data are $/MW-hr, then capacity factors have already been taken into account. So how do you combine those numbers with capacity data?

    It sounds as if you have double counted.

  21. For €1 trillion you would think they would be able to develop commercial fusion technology.
    Freeman Dyson’s opinion is that the reason we do not have viable fusion already is that it is funded by governments who have been continually backing the wrong horse. Alternative approaches to laser confinement and tokomac just do not get funded.

    • In the past I’ve been a big fusion proponent, but recently I have completely switched to thorium. Fusion may be a solution well into the future, but for now thorium would provide us with abundant, safe, reliable, cheap, CO2-free (as if it matters) electricity for centuries.

      • John,

        I am afraid that I just don’t get thorium. It would seem to have all the problems of uranium, plus being harder to do. I see it claimed that it avoids proliferation problems, but you still need a fissionable isotope (U-233) and in any case power reactors are a poor choice for making fissionable isotopes.

      • The main advantage is the abundance of thorium, in comparison to uranium, and the fact that even Britain could be energy-independent.

        R

      • ralfellis,

        “The main advantage is the abundance of thorium, in comparison to uranium”.

        Fair enough, but is there a big shortage of uranium? And the main tech for using thorium, molten salt reactors, could be used to burn “spent” uranium fuel, effectively increasing the energy supply from uranium by a factor of 20 or so. So if we don’t get a big breakthrough in solar or fusion, we might well need thorium down the road, but not in the near future.

      • The key is the molten salt reactor as it solves the weaknesses of PWRs. MSRs burn 99% of its fuel and leaves magnitudes less waste. MSRs being low pressure can’t blow up, don’t need 170 atmosphere plumbing and molten core passively drains into safety tanks; so no need for triple redundant cooling and power systems. With their high thermal heat many industrial processes will benefit. http://www.energyfromthorium.com http://www.egeneration.org

    • Walt D.,

      “Freeman Dyson’s opinion is that the reason we do not have viable fusion already …”
      I’d be very interested in that; can you provide a reference or a link?

      Back when I was a grad student (more than 3 decades ago) I attended a seminar in which the speaker made a strong case that heavy ion beams were a much better choice than lasers for inertial confinement, but that all the funding went to lasers because of potential weapons applications of very high power lasers.

    • The Molten Salt Reactor is what Fusion wished it could be, easy to build, 50 year old technology, can’t make bombs and should be 30-40% the cost and half the time to build due to no Pressure dome needed. Should be easy to build on assembly lines like Boeing 777s.

  22. How about publishing a condensed summary of the major points that can be conveyed to our representatives so they can see and understand these “green” energy problems. All they ever see is the media hyping wind and solar.

  23. I don’t know the present state of Xcel’s renewable portfolio, but the last I did know they would figure a capacity factor of one-sixth for purposes of scheduling transmission. One-sixth compares well with the result (18%) of this study. People would like to compare renewables directly to nuclear and fossil fuels, but the huge difference in capacity factor alone makes the comparison difficult for the layman, or people with even less capability, politicians, to comprehend.

  24. Ed Hawkins,

    The EIA’s LCOE allowance for transmission cost for renewables seems to low to me. I suspect it is an allowance for the cost of connecting to the existing grid, not the full cost of the additional investments required to manage the intermittent generation. This OECD/NEA report “System effects in low-carbon electricity systems gives the system costs for onshore wind, at 30% penetration, as about US$30/MWh (i.e. 50% of the wind LCOE) for the UK (see Figure ES2): https://www.oecd-nea.org/ndd/reports/2012/system-effects-exec-sum.pdf

    Can you comment on what seems t me to be a very significant understatement of the system costs that should be attributed to renewable energy when they become a significant component of total electricity generation?

    • You need to read How to Fool Americans @ https://dddusmma.wordpress.com/2015/06/12/how-to-fool-americans/
      That article explains most of the tricks but not all of them. They still use 40 years “life” for a fossil or Nuclear power plant, and ignore that Coal plants that are more than 60 years old are still making a profit after adding all of the Government (Kill Coal) mandates. Most Nuclear will go 60 years and some are looking at 80 years! Those two facts drastically cuts the REAL cost of coal and nuclear below the imaginary propaganda spread by the EIA.

    • Just to clarify, my question is about the system costs, not the LCOE of the generator technologies in this case.

  25. Cost of 38 MW; 1 $trillion. Cost of “saving the planet”; priceless.
    Greeniescam; Who’s in your wallet?

    • If it is all about “Saving the planet” – Priceless — THEN it would be ZERO CO2 Nuclear which requires ZERO Fossil Fuel backup. Even a high school kid knows that you do not throw half water and half gas on a fire. If CO2 is the real problem Nat Gas only reduces the emissions of Electrical power CO2 emissions by a little more than 50%, Less when load following Unreliable Wind and Solar. Electricity has to be CHEAP to power a major portion of the automobiles, and the kill the coal kill the nuclear attitude is making it more expensive, Get the true facts, not the propaganda. The facts are on the net – but don’t use Google, they drop them to the 10th or twentieth page

  26. Funny, isn’t it, if green energy is so beneficial, as it can make so much money as and industry (i.e., profit) AND deliver non-Earth destroying energy…why are so few people (Algore, come on down!) making so much money, with so little progress being delivered?

    Its almost as if…nah, couldn’t be…

    • Nah Max, The errant knight was attacking the windmills because they were evil giants bent on destroying the people. He was old school honor bound to stop them! We’ll should not let the greens spoil the good name of thenoble knight our dear Man from LaMancha

  27. As the old joke goes when some fellow is asked how he intends to deal with the fact that he is losing $2 on every widget his business sells he responds, “We’re going to make it up in volume”.

  28. Remember that electricity only accounts for a fraction of total energy consumption.

    In the EU last year, wind/solar/bio managed to contribute just 7% of total primary energy.

    https://notalotofpeopleknowthat.wordpress.com/2015/06/28/the-bp-energy-review/

    BTW – it is also worth noting that, for all their supposed green credentials, in Germany coal still accounts for 25% of primary energy, compared to 16% in the UK,

    https://notalotofpeopleknowthat.wordpress.com/2015/07/30/coal-statistics-for-2014/

      • What do you mean ‘the very worst for pollution’? Brown coal (which may be black or brown) can be burned cleanly [in] anything designed to burn brown coal. The new twenty-something power plants under construction right now in Germany are all optimised to burn lignite (brown coal).

        The “worst pollution” from a coal plant is an old one that has no scrubbers or precipitators. Back in the day coal burners didn’t do a very good job of combustion all the fuel. The fans also blew a lot of the ash into the air. Those days are long gone.

  29. Great idea, lets make investors rich with taxpayer backed guaranteed returns on investment and make energy more expensive for consumers.

    And people wonder why the consistently tepid global economy since the financial melt-down. Can’t imagine making energy more expensive could have anything to do with it.

      • Russ, I tried several times to buy a ZW$25,000,000,000 note from a few tourists but no one would part with one. Even for real money. I later found out they issued notes worth a much as ZW$10,000,000,000,000.

  30. From the US EIA reference (electricity_generation.pdf , 2015):

    The LCOE values shown for each utility-scale generation technology in Table 1 and Table 2 in this discussion are calculated based on a 30-year cost recovery period, using a real after tax weighted average cost of capital (WACC) of 6.1%.

    As people always point out when these levelized cost comparisons are made, assuming a wind turbine will be in service 30 years has never been confirmed in actual practice. There a plenty of thermal (coal, gas, nuclear) plants operating past 30 years old, and of course hydro dams last longer than that (Hoover Dam was opened in 1936 — next year it will have been operating for 80 years). But you can’t find a single wind turbine of 250KW or greater 30 years old and still producing power.

    I’ve seen various figures on the proper service lifetime for wind turbines and I have no firm opinion on which one is the most appropriate, but 30 years is off by approximately a factor of 2. So all those charts that show onshore wind is almost as good as combined-cycle gas turbine are total strangers to reality.

    • ALLAN WATT
      I agree with you entirely as per this study The levelized cost comparisons are all wrong and fail to show the true cost of wind turbine option.

      Wear and Tear Hits Wind Farm Output and Economic Lifetime
      Posted on December 20, 2012 by Lochgelly in Environment with 2 Comments on Wear and Tear Hits Wind Farm Output and Economic Lifetime

      The Renewable Energy Foundation today published a new study, The Performance of Wind Farms in the United Kingdom and Denmark, showing that the economic life of onshore wind turbines is between 10 and 15 years, not the 20 to 25 years projected by the wind industry itself, and used for government projections.
      The work has been conducted by one of the UK’s leading energy & environmental economists, Professor Gordon Hughes of the University of Edinburgh, and has been anonymously peer-reviewed. This ground breaking study applies rigorous statistical analysis to years of actual wind farm performance data from wind farms in both the UK and in Denmark.
      The results show that after allowing for variations in wind speed and site characteristics the average load factor of wind farms declines substantially as they get older, probably due to wear and tear. By 10 years of age the contribution of an average UK wind farm to meeting electricity demand has declined by a third.
      This decline in performance means that it is rarely economic to operate wind farms for more than 12 to 15 years. After this period they must be replaced with new machines, a finding that has profound consequences for investors and government alike.

    • I stand corrected.

      How could a group of students, their teachers, and volunteers accomplish what some of the world’s most sophisticated aerospace firms with millions in research money could not? How could they build what was then the world’s largest wind turbine—a machine that has operated for more than three decades and remains in service to this day—when Boeing, Westinghouse, General Electric, Hamilton Standard, Kaman, Messerschmidt- Bölkow-Blohm, MAN and others had all failed, their turbines dismantled and sold for scrap?

      The message delivered by the Tvind school so long ago was that wind energy was too important to be left to aerospace giants, electric utilities, and even to national governments. They demonstrated that unlike nuclear power, which requires massive centralized institutions, wind turbines could be built and owned by common citizens. This is a message that still resonates today.

      Well there’s your answer. Stop buying commercially produced wind turbines and get a bunch of volunteers together to design and build them, and the darned things will last. (“I have the strength of ten for my heart is pure”).

      Has anybody provided this information to the various government agencies who continue to subsidize commercially produced wind turbines? Sounds like we could get a break.

      • …get a bunch of volunteers together to design and build them…

        This is not going to work in the “EU”. There are so many regulations, traps and catches of the ’22’-type the Überkommissars in Brussels and the national regulators have put together that such a solution is not going to be. This solution delivers common-sense-engineered equipment. Unfortunately, common sense is a ‘no-go’ in the overgrowing and stifling bureaucracy of the EU. No way to get it approved. They’d rather fork out subsidies by the trillion than allowing common sense.

    • Another one of your disingenuous comments. That turbine has only been ‘operating’ for 36 years. They started to build it in 1975. It didn’t start working until 1978.

      Over the years it has managed a capacity factor of ~6%. How’s that for inefficiency?

      There is no information about how many repairs/upgrades it has had; so, Joel D Jackson, please post a link showing it has never been repaired/upgraded.

      • The same thing is true of thermal plants — recent ones haven’t been in operation long enough to say for certain they will last 30 years, except that we’ve been building thermal plants for long enough to have a pretty good idea of their service lifetimes because most of the technology involved is mature. We’ve been building at least some wind turbines for more than 30 years, as you point out, but very few (ok, greater than none) of them have lasted that long.

        It’s quite possible current production turbines will last 30 years; you’d have to to a detailed examination of what has changed in turbine construction from the earlier units and how those changes are expected to improve service lifetime. You’d also have to look at failure rates on 10 and 20 year old turbines.

        I don’t believe the EIA did any of these things; they just applied the same capital recovery period to all technologies.

      • I did an analysis a few years back which showed that an attempt to switch to 100% wind energy by 2050 on the basis of a fixed yearly expenditure (allowing for inflation) would likely not achieve its goal, at least not unless a massive increase in funding occurred over and above the original cost estimate. The issue is that allowing for a 20-year life, by 2030 none of the original turbines installed before 2010 will be serviceable. By 2050, all turbines installed before 2030 will need replacing, and many will have been replaced twice. If you work out what happens from that point on, you see that maintenance and replacement costs eventually soak-up all of your funding, and your rate of increase flatlines.

        Of course if the actual service life turns out to be 15 years then the picture becomes substantially worse, with some turbines due for a third replacement by 2055.

      • Joel, I’m not sure your cheaper replacement holds true because replacements are usually bigger. In any case, how often would a part for a 2010 car fit a 1990 model? Designs change over time, and 20 years is a long time in a design cycle. The odds of a new nacelle fitting atop a 20yo tower are not good.

      • Just so people can make a comparison with a really reliable renewable energy technology:

        http://cobalt.ca/ragged-chutes/

        This is a water powered air Compressor that has been running for 105 years. Big scale renewables. There is one in Ohio that is about 1400 HP.

        They are called a ‘trompe’ in France but really called a ‘Taylor Hydraulic Compressor’ after Dr Taylor of Montreal.

    • Thank you for the link, Joel. Nice machine. However, as an engineer, reading through this link (have to admit I’m lazy and didn’t click on any other links), one of my first thoughts is: So what? A machine has been put up, 40 years ago. It is still working. It has a rated capacity. I don’t see any charts showing how much real energy has come off of it. As a turbine, part of the energy that comes off is shunted back into the turbine, to sustain the field coil. What is happening to the net energy that remains? Is it powering equipment, is it charging a battery? What is happening during times when the wind is not blowing, or is blowing too hard. Even though it is nice to see something mechanical, which through maintenance and repair has remained in a working condition, I have to ask what the bottom line is on this project. What useful energy has come out, compared to the amount of energy used to keep it going? What work is it doing, and how beneficial is that work?

  31. something else to add to the mix:

    25 July: Yorkshire Post: David Davis: Hold firms liable for blowing an ill wind
    (David Davis is the Conservative MP for Haltemprice and Howden who tabled a Bill in Parliament this week on the wind farm industry)
    My Parliamentary Bill takes no side in that debate. It is narrowly defined to one aspect of public interest; it requires the operators of wind farms, who are in receipt of £797m of public subsidy a year, to organise their affairs so that they are able to meet the costs of any nuisance imposed on people living near them.
    In 1995 the World Health Organisation recommended that to prevent sleep interruption low frequency noise should not exceed 30 decibels. However, in 1996, the Government’s Energy Technology Support Unit – ETSU – set the noise limit for wind turbines at 43 decibels. That is an enormous difference; on the logarithmic decibel scale it is approximately double the WHO limit. We still use those standards today.
    In the last five years no planning application was refused on noise-related grounds, but there have been 600 noise-related incidents arising from wind farm operations. The majority of complaints arise as a result of amplitude modulation, which is the loud, continuous thumping or swishing noise regularly described by those living near wind farms.
    Numerous studies have identified that sleep is disturbed on a regular basis even at distances over one kilometre away from turbines, yet under the ETSU standards turbines can be installed just 600 metres away from residential property. The wind farm companies are acutely aware of this, and all the more so since a member of the public, Jane Davis, sued a wind farm near her home for noise nuisance. The matter was settled out of court, and there is a gagging order preventing us from knowing the details, but the settlement is rumoured to have been in the region of £2m…
    Since this case, some dubious measures have been taken by the industry to obstruct perfectly legitimate claims for nuisance. The use of shell companies in the wind industry seems to be the commonest trick. The parent company provides a loan to a specially-created subsidiary to set up the wind farm, then leaves it in control of operations…
    The subsidiary is left as a financial shell, with very few liquid assets and total liabilities greater than total assets. That makes it impossible to bring litigation against a wind farm, simply because there is nothing to win from them. Even liquidating them would generate no cash…
    http://www.yorkshirepost.co.uk/news/debate/columnists/david-davis-hold-firms-liable-for-blowing-an-ill-wind-1-7376535

  32. Excellent research & presentation Ed.

    The proof-of-the-pudding is in the eating, they say.

    Here’s a comparison of European electricity prices for 2014:

  33. Another point I have often made is that the trillion spent on so-called renewables would almost certainly have paid for getting fusion working by now. The cost of the most expensive fusion project in the world (ITER) is only slightly over one percent of that amount, but under present funding will not be online until 2027. With a hundred similar projects for the same outlay, the odds of NONE working are pretty slim. And, only one has to work, then it’s game over for the subsidy guzzlers.Also, game over for the terrorists funded by oil.

    • Clean, cheap, reliable fusion power is about 20 years out. So it was claimed in the 1960’s, the 1970’s, the 1980’s, etc., You get the picture. People predicting fusion power have the same track record as Paul Ehrlich, which is zero for many.

      I know fusion sounds great, but to date we haven’t managed to sustain a fusion reaction for even one second, and last time I checked we also haven’t been able to get more power out than has gone in. I really doubt fusion power is going to be here in 20 years, and I don’t think that spending another one or two trillion dollars will change that.

      Meanwhile, I am quite confident that we can get significant improvements on fission designs for a lot less money.

      • Incorrect. A fusion reaction has been sustained for many minutes in a teenager’s garage lab. Check out the Farnsworth Fusor. The issue is that existing fusion devices are not breakeven; the power they take is more than the power they give out, that is even if you compare simple heat output with electricity in.

        These things scale rapidly with size (which is why the Sun works even though it uses a very inefficient reaction) and a production-scale reactor the size of a typical powerplant would likely break even. Though, the same is true of fission; you can’t do much that’s useful with a couple of pellets of natural uranium oxide, you need a few tons.

        Unless we build a production-scale reactor we shall never know if it’s feasible. The difference with fission was that the incentive to build a fullsize reactor was there because of war considerations. Once fission was shown to work, the financial gamble became much less and the money started flowing.

  34. So little outcome obtained for so much expenditure given. They would not be wasting this much if it was their own money. They will keep spending until they run out of other people’s money. That may be quite soon now.

  35. Joel D. Jackson on July 31,
    2015 at 1:41 pm
    Alan says: ” But you can’t find
    a single wind turbine of
    250KW or greater 30 years
    old and still producing
    power.”

    How about 1 MW for 40 years?
    ..
    http://
    cleantechnica.com/2015/05/
    21/oldest-operating-wind-
    turbine-world-turning-40/
    ____

    this big breakthrough before 40 ys: how many followers –

    1000, 100, 1 ?

  36. The challenge is to calculate the unit costs of electricity for a specific wind farm and understand how consumers pay, and how the investor gets a return. In Australia there is a large 420 MW wind generator near Macarthur in Victoria with 140 turbines each 3MW. It reportedly cost A$1 billion three years ago.
    Assume 25 year life, that means a depreciation charge of A$40 million per year.
    Assume 5% annual operating costs to cover maintenance and land leasing costs, that’s A$50 million per year.
    If the investors want an 8% return on investment, that’s A$90 million per year. (ignores tax impacts).
    That equates to a total of A$180 million per year to be recovered in prices.
    If average utilization of nameplate capacity is 25%, this generator produces 920 GWhr per year.
    To cover costs, that equates to an average electricity cost of 9.8 cents/kWhr.
    To also include the return on investment, the average price required is 19.6 cents/kWhr.
    In Australia, the current wholesale electricity price paid to all generators is 4 cents/kWhr. Under the Renewable Energy Target government legislation, electricity retailers are required to buy large generation certificates from wind generators and that currently provides them with an additional 4 cents/kWhr. So they get about 8 cents that just about covers their costs depending on average utilization, but nowhere near enough to generate a return on investment.
    Are they receiving additional tax benefits or subsidized capital in order to make this a viable investment?
    Small scale household solar investors receive about 6 cents as a feed in tariff.

    What I know is that retail electricity prices in Australia continue to rise by 8% per year as investments in the network to support a growing distributed and unreliable solar/wind input as well as the renewable subsidies force up costs.

  37. It’s tough to swallow in the short term but, in the long term, this kind of investment madness is self-correcting. Eventually the over-hyped sales story for renewables will run into the inconvenient truth of actual cost and performance. But it takes a while for reality to reach political brains. When it does, saner heads prevail and the fantasies and subsidies evaporate. In some countries (e.g. the UK) it is already happening.
    Arming political representatives with a condensed talking points that highlight the reality definitely helps, as does updating the data and conclusions on a regular basis. After all, facts are stubborn things.

    • We’re already seeing this happen; the UK government has just announced an end to onshore wind subsides. The reaction from the Greens has been to mount a massive activism campaign in an attempt to mobilise the British public against the subsidy cuts. Unfortunately a lot of people are still gullible enough to join the bandwagon imagining they are fighting a worthy cause rather than lining the pockets of investors, and if their numbers become too large that might intimidate the government into an about-face. Which is why we need to remain vigilant against these kinds of tactics until the subsidies actually have ceased.

      I attended one of their publicity events just to see what form they take, and most of the stuff just seems to be panicky hyperbole. They have more or less stopped putting out facts or figures, probably because most of the ones they did put out were quickly demolished as inaccurate by members of their audience.

  38. Wrong. We know how to get more power out of a fusion reaction than we put in. We call them thermonuclear bombs. We don’t know how to sustain a fusion reaction which produces net power.

  39. Having recently visited Norway, I was looking for mentions of that country in the article. Not seeing any, I did some research and found that they get 99% of their electricity from hydro. Looks like they’re going to be in good shape when the renewables “house of cards” collapses in the rest of Europe. With its heavy reliance on nuclear sources, France will be relatively OK too.

    Norway is also a large producer of solar cells. So their economy may be one of the few in the world which is actually benefiting from the renewables craze. Although the solar business will likely take a hit when reality finally sets in elsewhere.

    • Making solar panels from hydro power makes sense. It is a way of creating batteries activated by sunlight. The input energy to make the panels is ultimately solar and perpetual.

      Well done, Norway.

  40. I am reminded of the perceptive passage by Orwell in 1984, where, despite all the parades, the fanfare, the constant reminder that society was now better than ever, and getting better all the time, an image of a mother who couldn’t even get a blocked drainpipe fixed, seemed to be far more real and indicative than all the constant propaganda about the supposedly ‘greater and better’ society in which she lived.

  41. Sorry to say but your calculations are a complete nonsense.
    It’s highly irresponsible to write about things that you don’t understand.

    [and yet, you offer nothing of substance other than an opinion -mod]

  42. A redistribution of wealth from the poor to the wealthy – that’s what the renewable energy con has achieved.

    Has it made any difference to reducing global CO2 emissions? NO.
    Has it made any difference to global average temperature? NO.
    Has it made any difference to the climate? NO.

    If anyone thinks such obscene expenditure on this ‘green dream con’ has been value-for-money, they are insane!

  43. Reblogged this on Petrossa's Blog and commented:
    The appeal of something for nothing still is the same as the times when people bought snake oil as a cure all. Indeed a sucker is born every 10 seconds (compensating for birthrate since David Hannum was alive) so the perpetuum mobile sales pitch of wind/solar/tide energy is very popular.
    Never mind that all energy subtracted from the environment causes greater harm than energy produced by matter/energy conversion or even burning fossil fuels.
    As soon as enough windfarms are installed to alter windpatterns , enough solar panels have been installed to intercept the natural warming which actually causes winds the blow then the shortsighted will realize too late it was not such a good idea.
    Luckily i’m of an age i won’t suffer the consequences.

  44. The latest levelilized cost comparison for generating electricity for renewables and fossil fuels is incorrect as long as the cost comparison fails to account for the cost of building and operating 75 % back up power needed when there is no wind or sun. There have been recent comments by alarmists stating that we should aim for fossil free energy by the end of this century. How are they going to live when there is no more fossil fuel or nuclear plants ( nuclear plants are not being built either) for back up . The level of renewables should never exceed 20-25 % of the demand and is only suitable for certain regional applications . We need a stable and reliable grid system or we will have blackouts and brown outs constantly. Using renewables only for a major power grid would spell suicide for power availability . In GERMANY where there are 25000 wind turbines , there are nearly 3000 cases/year where they need to step in to stabilize the gird.
    In addition the cost comparison does not reflect the fact wind turbines have a useful life of only 12-15 years in comparison to fossil fuel plants . The capital cost component for wind turbine should be doubled at least to reflect the need for at least one additional replacement turbine during a 30-40 year period ,or the life of the fossil fuel plant .

  45. Throughout, this article talks about “renewable energy” then quotes name plate POWER.

    As power is kW and energy is kW-hours, I think they really ought to call it Intermittent Power as it cannot be renewed when desired and isn’t energy as the hours are unclear…

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