The 2016 BP Statistical Review of World Energy

Guest essay by Philip Lloyd, Energy Institute, Cape Peninsula University of Technology

The annual Review has just been published. The data is readily downloaded as an Excel spreadsheet. A few minutes work soon gives an excellent idea of the trends in the world’s energy. The changes since 1965 in the consumption of the primary energy sources, in millions of tonnes of oil equivalent (Mtoe), are:


Global consumption continues to increase. A linear model suggest an annual growth of 176±7 Mtoe over the full period, although in this century it has been growing far faster, 265±18Mtoe annually. Much of this acceleration in growth has come from the use of coal, but that has slowed in recent years with the downturn in the Chinese economy.

Those who are concerned about our fossil fuel use will be gratified to know that we are getting a little less of our energy from fossils:


The Kyoto Protocol seemed to have the effect of increasing our fossil consumption. It took the economic catastrophe of 2008 to have any impact, and the relative consumption is now falling.

Some would point to the growth in renewable energy supplies, and indeed renewables are no longer completely insignificant. If we look at electrical generation rather than primary energy, then today nuclear yields about 2 500TWh annually, hydropower about 4 000TWh and renewables about 1500TWh:


Nuclear has started to grow slowly; hydropower is growing steadily at about 90TWh per annum; and renewable are growing exponentially – the past year added over 200TWh to renewable generation. This growth comes primarily from wind power:


although solar photovoltaics have started to grow rapidly.

The BP Review permits a review of the efficiency of wind and solar power, because it gives both the installed capacity and the energy generated. The global capacity factor for solar PV was below 10% but has risen to about 12% in recent years. The capacity factor for wind has been growing steadily and is now about 22%:


The annual BP Statistical Review is a rich resource indeed, and my mining has only just scratched the surface. For those having ambitions to control temperature rises by reducing fossil fuel consumption, it gives cold comfort – fossil fuel use is still growing at over 150Mtoe per annum and will make up more than 80% of global energy for quite a few years yet. “Decarbonisation” is the stuff of dreams.

The full report is available here:

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June 10, 2016 6:36 pm

For those having ambitions to control temperature rises by reducing fossil fuel consumption, it gives cold comfort – fossil fuel use is still growing at over 150Mtoe per annum and will make up more than 80% of global energy for quite a few years yet.

Not a surprise – but useful to have the latest hard data to back it up.

Evan Jones
Reply to  Richard Drake
June 10, 2016 7:22 pm

Reducing it to energy output rather than amounts is useful.

Reply to  Evan Jones
June 11, 2016 2:02 am

A great set of historical .charts, of which how much of what is used worldwide is chief.
It defies credulity to deliberately waste billions more on The Great Search for an alternative energy that is not now and never has been economically feasible or demanding. You could put a wind farm on every mountain and solar panels on every open spot in America and lease Canada and do the same, and still not make a dent in society’s energy needs.
(1) IMMUTABLE MARKET LAW: He who gets there first with the most gets to build the platform
(2) The platform for cheap energy was built on coal, oil, natural gas, and hydro
(3) The United States has an unlimited supply of coal, oil, natural gas.
(4) The Power Industry cannot burn FREE fuel (old tires, woodchips, etc) to produce electricity any cheaper than they can burn coal
(5) There is no world oil shortage. (The U.S. is a net exporter) There’s no such thing as peak oil. Never has been. Never will be. Oil IS NOT dependent upon decaying matter for its production.
(6) The world energy platform uses 1,000 barrels of oil a second, 24/7/365. Surely Washington grasps the ten of millions of jobs that rest on the transportation and energy platforms, do they not? Then again, maybe they do and that’s the point of this insanity.
(7) Instead of a “desperate search for alternate energy with which to “. . .save the earth, . .”, all we’re witnessing is a criminal cabal of RICO-class political thieves stealing taxpayer money” by sending truckloads of it to “political friendly” alternate energy “entrepreneurs” to help in the desperate search and ” . . . oh by the way, if you could steer a few generous campaign contributions our way, it would be greatly appreciated. . .” . . ”
They know. Here’s a sampler of the government-backed alternate energy money pit from the government itself”:
DOE Loan Programs: Current Estimated Net Costs Include $2.2 Billion in Credit Subsidy, Plus Administrative Expenses. GAO-15-438. Washington, D.C.: April 27, 2015.
DOE Loan Programs: DOE Has Made More Than $30 Billion in Loans and Guarantees and Needs to Fully Develop Its Loan Monitoring Function. GAO-14-645T. Washington, D.C.: May 30, 2014.
DOE Loan Programs: DOE Should Fully Develop Its Loan Monitoring Function and Evaluate Its Effectiveness. GAO-14-367. Washington, D.C.: May 1, 2014.
Federal Support for Renewable and Advanced Energy Technologies. GAO-13-514T. Washington, D.C.: April 16, 2013.
Department of Energy: Status of Loan Programs. GAO-13-331R. Washington, D.C.: March 15, 2013.
DOE Loan Guarantees: Further Actions Are Needed to Improve Tracking and Review of Applications. GAO-12-157. Washington, D.C.: March 12, 2012.
Department of Energy: Advanced Technology Vehicle Loan Program Implementation Is Under Way, but Enhanced Technical Oversight and Performance Measures Are Needed. GAO-11-145. Washington, D.C.: February 28, 2011.
Department of Energy: Further Actions Are Needed to Improve DOE’s Ability to Evaluate and Implement the Loan Guarantee Program. GAO-10-627. Washington, D.C.: July 12, 2010.
Department of Energy: New Loan Guarantee Program Should Complete Activities Necessary for Effective and Accountable Program Management. GAO-08-750. Washington, D.C.: July 7, 2008.
Department of Energy: Observations on Actions to Implement the New Loan Guarantee Program for Innovative Technologies. GAO-07-798T. Washington, D.C.: April 24, 2007.
The Department of Energy: Key Steps Needed to Help Ensure the Success of the New Loan Guarantee Program for Innovative Technologies by Better Managing Its Financial Risk. GAO-07-339R. Washington, D.C.: February 28, 2007.

Tom Halla
June 10, 2016 6:49 pm

I do wonder if they are listing wind and solar by nameplate capacity, or actual output. As they also give the efficiency yeild of soalr and wind at 10 and 22 percent, that would be a considerable difference.

John Harmsworth
Reply to  Tom Halla
June 10, 2016 8:12 pm

Not very polite to look behind the curtain, Tom!

Reply to  Tom Halla
June 10, 2016 10:17 pm

Capacity factor is the percentage of nameplate power rating delivered over a year.

Reply to  Tom Halla
June 11, 2016 12:54 am

Tom Halla June 10, 2016 at 6:49 pm

I do wonder if they are listing wind and solar by nameplate capacity, or actual output.


Reply to  Tom Halla
June 11, 2016 2:40 am

Precisely – that is nameplate capacity, which is always quoted. I prefer to estimate things like capital cost in terms of the cost per unit of energy produced annually – the capital for renewables is far higher than even nuclear on that basis. Costing on nameplate capacity is meaningless – we buy energy, kWh, not power, kW.

Reply to  Tom Halla
June 13, 2016 3:52 am

The article clearly states this shows both, Tom
“The BP Review permits a review of the efficiency of wind and solar power, because it gives both the installed capacity and the energy generated.”

Evan Jones
June 10, 2016 7:20 pm

Notice that big uptake in coal right around 2000? China, mostly. Correlates nicely with Arctic melt. Supports the soot angle.

Reply to  Evan Jones
June 10, 2016 11:49 pm

That’s amazing. My hair started thinning in 2000 as well. I never realised this was due to increase soot from China.

Reply to  Greg
June 12, 2016 12:19 pm

Mine too! Also the year I became independently wealthy. China?

June 10, 2016 7:31 pm

Obama’s own EIA 2016 report tells us that Co2 emissions will grow by 34% by 2040. See page 3 at link. Perhaps someone should tell Obama before he makes an even bigger fool of himself.
Of course most of the new emissions will come from China, India and the developing world. And Lomborg states that Solar&W only supply about 0.4% of TOTAL world energy today and this may increase to 2.4% by 2040. That’s a big maybe. IOW all the wasted trillions $ over the next 24 years won’t make a scrap of difference to temp or Co2 levels etc at all.
Dr Hansen told us that Paris COP 21 was BS and a fraud and he was correct. He also stated that a belief in renewables like S&W was akin to believing in fairy stories. He was correct again.

Johnny Cuyana
Reply to  ngard2016
June 11, 2016 12:07 pm

ngard, with respect: I agree with your sentiment, but I will suggest this expanded observation:
obama, the governmental leader here in USA, does NOT care about comments, negative to his policies, such as yours or mine … because, effectively, he has been able to fool/dupe the majority of the American public … and thereby, has been quite successful with his “as pre-advertised” fundamental transformation of our American culture.
the real crime, that is, national short-coming, in my opinion [and in the opinion of many others], is that so many American citizens, previously and ostensibly freeborn, individualistic and patriotic, have permitted themselves to become ignorant of so many basic facts of science, in conjunction with accepting a downward transition toward a self-serving victim-hood and govt-largess-dependent way of life, that these such citizens have accepted the un-American policies of obama and his immoral minions. Such minions, I find to be as immoral as obama, but, the greater majority of them I find to be common useful idiots.
Because of this decline, manifest in our downward evolving collective understandings and attitudes, perhaps we shall soon pay a much higher price … in the event that we do not soon change course. for this reason, although Trump was not my first choice, I believe strongly that all who are interested in preserving a free and open “American” culture, should support Trump and do all that is reasonable to defeat hillary … which would be, if she is elected, an extension of the “centralized command and control” tyranny of the obama regime.
the underlying challenge for the preservation of the America culture [read: preservation of USA] as I see it is to advocate for freedom and equality for ALL in the eyes of the law — and all which that entails … which to a large extent is a culture of checks and balances, free and open competition derived from a classical liberal education — which I believe will provide the best chance for truer constitutional leaders in order to best preserve our republic. unless we, again, collectively, begin to move in this direction of freedom and equality, I cannot have much confidence in a positive outcome; regardless of whom we may elect to lead our government.

June 10, 2016 7:34 pm

Why have I just landed in moderation? The fra-d word I used was just quoting Dr Hansen.
[Does the filter know whether you wrote, copied it, or referenced it by quoting somebody else’s words? Be patient. .mod]

Reply to  ngard2016
June 11, 2016 9:22 pm

Where can I see a list of words like “Hitlɘr” that are flagged for moderation?

Reply to  noaaprogrammer
June 13, 2016 8:28 am

The mods have stated before that they don’t want to show us the list, because us wise alec’s would just use that list to figure out a way around auto moderation.

June 10, 2016 7:41 pm

Well when the temperatures start their dive in a year or two lets check those renewables again.

Curious George
June 10, 2016 7:49 pm

To experience a low-carbon economy, try trekking in Nepal. Guest houses have only one heated room – a dining room, also serving as a living room for the family. Your bedroom will be at 3-10 degrees C. There is not enough yak dung to heat the whole house. You are too ashamed to ask for a hot water for washing; they can barely heat enough for tea or coffee.They are building small hydro power stations, but all materials have to be transported on a horseback, larger pieces have to be carried by porters.
Is this where we are heading?

John Harmsworth
Reply to  Curious George
June 10, 2016 8:17 pm

Severe shortage of yak dung in my area as well. How does lawyer and politician b.s. burn? I heard it’s expensive and blows up in your face. Lots around though!

Reply to  John Harmsworth
June 11, 2016 4:37 am

Don’t bother with that, just stand a politician in the corner and bask in the hot air. Though, I wouldn’t recommend using it very often. Prolonged exposure causes brain damage.

Reply to  Curious George
June 10, 2016 8:18 pm


Curious George
Reply to  Steven Mosher
June 11, 2016 7:59 am

I have been there. Have you?

Reply to  Steven Mosher
June 11, 2016 9:11 am

It’s only a reduction in living standards so what’s the big deal (so say the castle living hypocrites). Mosh won’t likely be affected as he’ll just apply for more grants.

Reply to  Curious George
June 12, 2016 1:47 pm

No, we aren’t heading towards Yak dung. Most towns in the US no longer even allow burning wood for fuel. Yak dung is right out.
Funny story. Some folks in the town I used to live in on the western slope of the northern Rocky Mountains of the US made a concerted effort to ban wood burning appliances during the 80’s and 90’s. As a result several communities in the town (read “housing developments”) passed ordinances in the form of CC&Rs prohibiting use even though the town itself never adopted them (rich cowboy wannabees wouldn’t give up their massive stone fireplaces). The argument against wood burning was particulate pollution, thought to be a problem in a town of 9,000 surrounded by hundreds of thousands of square miles of wilderness and national forest which naturally burned on a regular basis.
In consideration for people who really did want to have a fireplace in their home, they allowed “pellet stoves”. For the unfamiliar, in the US a pellet stove is one that burns compacted wood waste (sawdust). The Presto-Log was the first example of the wood pellet to be marketed in the US, produced by Lignetics of Sand point Idaho. Sand Point is still the place wood pellets are manufactured in the NW United States and is approximately 750 miles from the town of Jackson WY, heart of environmental concern for particulate pollution.
Briefly, this meant that every pound of wood pellets burned in Jackson was shipped 750 miles by diesel truck before it could be used. This was done in an attempt to curb particulates. Mind you, the entire town is surrounded by thousands of square miles dedicated to pine forest cultivation, much of which regularly dies and provides a locally abundant source of firewood and fuel for forest fires. But the environmentalists felt it was better for the health of the local populace to ship their fuel from Idaho.
To add insult to injury, the EPA doesn’t certify the emissions of pellet stoves; they’re exempt. Private concerns (such as Vermont Castings, who manufacture catalytic wood stoves) have measured them though, and claim their stoves produce fewer emissions than pellet stoves. Go figure?
These people don’t really think, they “feel”.

Reply to  Curious George
June 13, 2016 5:00 am

This is where developing countries like Nepal are heading:
“Grameen Shakti has brought 1.4 million solar energy systems, over 800,000 improved cooking stoves, and nearly 30,000 biogas power plants to people in rural Bangladesh. It is installing approximately 25,000 solar home systems, 14,000 improved cooking stoves, and 300 biogas power plants every month. The total number of beneficiaries is now over 15 million2
that’s just one programme in one developing country…

DD More
June 10, 2016 7:55 pm

Decarbonisation” is the stuff of dreams.
But those dreams of useful, livable, productive & sustainable energy are called ‘ nightmares’

stan stendera
Reply to  DD More
June 10, 2016 9:52 pm


June 10, 2016 8:30 pm

interesting write up. Why would the kyoto protocol have lead to higher fossil fuel use? I would interpret the data as it having no effect at all, neither up nor down.
And the capacity factor for wind seems fairly low compared to other sources which usually report something like ~30%. Probably their data just isn’t that detailed for renewables so you get erroneous results if you divide weak data by weak data (its BP after all, they would focus on getting data quality best for gas and oil).
Thanks for sharing this,

David A
Reply to  benben
June 10, 2016 8:59 pm

I am not certain if the capacity factor is correct, but I think a real capacity factor should consider the fact that other sources, often fossil fuel, have to exist to serve the wind and solar flux. Thus even if wind is 30 percent capacity, a significant portion of that 30 percent is not available as other sources have to ramp up or down at the whim of the wind, meaning time is involved before the wind power can be utilized, or other sources have to waste their production to be ready when the wind falters, or the clouds come. This of course does not consider that wind and solar need 100 percent back up.

Crispin in Waterloo but really in Accra
Reply to  David A
June 11, 2016 1:12 am

David A
That backup angle is a good point. I was looking at the % energy needed to make the % installed capacity and % output.
The manufacture and installation of wind and solar PV takes considerable energy. The backup stations are part of that energy cost of production. The net energy return on a windmill is far less than its output.
A proper accounting of an investment has to deduct the total operating cost, annually, from that generated. The major argument against a fossil fuel is that we are drawing down an easily accessed store of energy and we should look ahead to replacing that consumption with something else, renewable or not. Technically the universe isn’t renewable either so nuclear is no different, conceptually.
So, if the electrical output of a windmill is a plus and the electrical energy needed to make, install, maintain and decommission it are negatives, then the annual figures expressed as a net contribution drop.
What’s left? The bottom line is that windmills are coal powered.
Philip: As the windmills are decommissioned their capacity and output must be deducted from the totals. Is that happening or are the numbers for installations only? It seems to me this difference resolves the comment above that the generating % is 30, while BP reports the actual output is 24% of installed capacity. The difference is the decommissioning of installed capacity.
Realising this it might tweak some of the numbers. What would be misleading would be to report that energy generation from wind is 85% devoted, on a net basis, to replacing the wind-based generating capacity.
It would be like the broken window pane fallacy. If we break enough window panes the economy will grow faster and the efficiency with which they are replaced will improve: currently 24% are rising. Gee. There’s your ‘green economy’.
I am going to christen it the Yellow Economy. Take 10% of all energy generated on a TOE basis and use it to sustain the capacity to produce 9% of the total energy generated. That is what I mean by a coal-powered windmill. Without the Yellow Economy we would have generated 10% less electricity or TOE but had 1% more net benefit. Arguments in favour of the Yellow Economy are broken window pane fallacious.
What about the energy cost of military adventurism to grab oil? The NGO’s are losing budget support to fund refugee support. We are retitling our energy access proposals as ‘migration prevention and job creation’ to tap the Donors. Seriously.

Reply to  David A
June 11, 2016 8:20 am

Well, yes the actual running of a complex energy system is quite complex. Those kind of numbers you won’t find in a BP report, as they are very difficult (expensive) to compile and of little relevance to an oil/gas company.
It’s a misconception by the way that other energy sourced do not need spinning reserve, and only wind and solar do. For example, just yesterday the nuclear plant nearest to my parents (in Belgium) had to do an emergency automated shutdown. How much reserve do you think is necessary to deal with a complete nuclear powerplant shutting down in such a manner? Certainly more than wind turbines. Just because it happens less regularly doesn’t mean you don’t need that back-up. You just use it less frequently.
Crispin, I think you are referring to the energy return on investment (EROI). This has been calculated quite often as part of life cycle assessment studies (google scholar is your friend). Usually wind comes out at 3-6 months and solar at a year or so.Meaning, after 3-6 months you have ‘payed’ for your energy investment and the rest of the energy you produce is net positive.
But again, don’t take my word for it just use google scholar to find the studies. There are plenty.

Crispin in Waterloo but really in Accra
Reply to  David A
June 11, 2016 3:32 pm

I am indeed referring to an energy accounting, but not the cheating type used with limited vision. I am talking about trying to stop the nonsense accounting where the system that supports the making of windmills has to be supplied by windmills. This has a cost angle and an energy angle.
A windmill costs about $4m. That is the cost of buying one. But in that cost there are many, many discounts that are provided by cheap non-wind energy. If the city that made the windmill had to power the smelters and mines and schools, hospitals and what have you with windmills, what would the cost of a windmill be?
That is the economic angle. A windmill is not worth $4m in windmill energy dollars. It has to do with the cost of producing 1 KWH net, not output.
Next cheat: The return on investment on capital – normal business as usual. A really good site in Denmark generates $1000-1500 a day in income. How many days to make $4m? About 1250 days. That is not 6 months. That is 8.8 years. So there is NO WAY that works out. What is the discount rate applied? When is the money returned? When is a profit returned? What is the internal rate of return?
Next cheat: the subsidy that gives the windmill owner that $1000-1500 a day. How many times higher than its real value is paid for 1 KWH? A factor of 2-4 perhaps? That means the real time it takes a society that is running on renewables to get the money back is 2500-5000 days, or 17-35 years. No windmill is going to put out power for 35 years. We can’t say, “Well, I got a lot of money and I will buy a new one with it – there is no ‘new money’ unless it is generated from the economy that is not running on windmill power.
Wind power is unreliable and it cannot be used directly as base load, so its value is lower than controllable sources. At a capacity factor or 23% and a fair value of US$0.04 per KWH, that is $883/day, about 1/2 the income of a Danish windmill owner. So the 2500 day figure is not too far off without considering other factors attached by strings. Then add on for cost of money and opportunity cost.
A loan of $4m at 5% interest for 20 years costs $26,400 a month. That is $880 a day! just enough to be covered by the value of the electricity – if nothing goes wrong with the windmill and it puts out 23% of its nameplate capacity.
Windmill electricity is a terrible destroyer of value. It is utterly unaffordable, except where there is no low-cost alternative like a remote island – unless of course it needs spare parts.
Next cheat: electricity needed to support the community and workers, their families, support services etc that create the windmills. Where does that energy come from? Certainly not windmills. I heard at lunch today about a country in Europe that ‘ran on renewables’ for three days or some such. What does that mean? No country runs on renewables unless it is higher subsidised. Ontario pays CDN$0.345 per WKH for non-baseload, and still had to build a gas fired plant to cover the gaps. Three actually, >$1bn each.
Where does that subsidy come from? Certainly not products and services created by electricity generated by renewables. I would not be at all surprised to find that the ‘country that ran on renewables’ in fact was importing it from the central European grid where it is dumped far below cost, a cost that is still hiding many unaccounted costs.
To work this out all one has to do is look at Philip’s article above and see that the information needed to understand what lies behind these cheats is missing. If it were a sensible economic argument the facts would be laid out in a normal business fashion showing how the deal works and how everyone benefits. At the moment, like Ontario, it is all about ‘how to benefit from government subsidies supporting the Yellow Economy’.
The only possible way the claims can be supported – that ‘running on renewables is a good thing’ – is the concept of ‘social cost of carbon’ (SCC) meaning damage with monetary value directly caused by emitting CO2 that would not have happened had that CO2 not been emitted. If you believe the EPA’s SCC of US$40 damage per ton of CO2 emitted I have some fingernail clippings from St Augustine I’d be willing to trade for a small island in the Bahamas.

Reply to  David A
June 12, 2016 12:25 am

Hey Crispin,
So first of all I should say, thank you for your well reasoned post 🙂
I think your main problem is you’re using quite old figures. Nobody ever said wind energy was commercially viable in 2011. But it is commercially viable in 2016. Try redoing your calculations with recent data?
As noted below, capacity factors for modern wind turbines are much higher than what you assume. For the US, 34% instead of your 23%. A whopping ~50% difference! Then you assume… 1m$ per MWh? That was already somewhat debatable back in 2014, and nowadays wind turbines are much cheaper, so that assumption is not correct either.
A very cherry picked but informative quote: “the price offered up by China’s Ming Yang in its last audited results in April 2013, in which it says it sold its 1.5MW turbine at an average price of $756,000 (EUR 581,538 at time of results publication), which equates to EUR 397,692 per megawatt”.
I have no idea what they would cost today, but probably more than that but less than what you assume.
Finally, I said that the EROI is something like six months, which is really not the same as the ROI being six months.
Finally, with respect to back up: the rule of thumb is that the maximum amount of a non-dispatchable energy source you can have on your grid is equal to the capacity factor. So for wind, with 34% capacity factor you can have up to 34% of your total electricity being produced by wind before you start incurring serious additional costs. Clearly that is not the case for most grids, and where it is, you can see measures being taken. For example, in Germany they are now seriously limiting the amount of new wind being built.
And finally, please keep an open mind to new info. Technology is developing very rapidly in wind and especially solar, so your have to update your assumptions every now and then.

Reply to  David A
June 13, 2016 8:37 am

Ben, ben, ben;
As has been explained to you many times, while it is true that there does have to be spinning backup for fossil/nuclear, because of their well documented reliability, this backup is typically about 1% of capacity. That is if you have 100 plants, one of them will be backup. Or more typically most of the plants are run at 90% capacity, ready to jump to 91% if the need arises.
Because of the well documented unreliability of wind and solar, the spinning backup for them runs around 100%.

stan stendera
Reply to  benben
June 10, 2016 9:53 pm

minus -1,000,000.

Reply to  benben
June 10, 2016 10:27 pm

30% capacity factor for wind is at the better sites. BP has the average about right. Solar is about right too.

Reply to  RobK
June 10, 2016 11:19 pm

The capacity factor for wind is 23% overall – a little under 30% for the best sites, as low as 17% at the poor sites now left to exploit. All of the best sites are used.

Reply to  RobK
June 10, 2016 11:55 pm

” All of the best sites are used.”
Unsubstantiated rubbish.

Reply to  RobK
June 13, 2016 8:38 am

Now that was a well written rebuttal Greg.
Perhaps you can even show it to your 1st grade teacher and get extra credit for it.

Reply to  benben
June 11, 2016 8:11 am

Facts gentlemen, facts. Capacity factors for wind vary way more than that, and are certainly not capped at under 30% for the best sites.
For example, Australia very recently:
“But in NSW the wind also blew at record levels, and the seven large scale wind farms delivered a record output, with a combined “capacity factor” of 56 per cent, more than two of the biggest coal generators in the state.
“Indeed, the Woodlawn wind farm (pictured above) produced an astounding capacity factor of 62 per cent. Only two of the big five coal generators, the Mt Piper and Bayswater coal generators, produced at a higher capacity factor (67 and 66 per cent respectively).”
Obviously this is a bit of an outlier, but still, if you look up any other source than BP you’ll find average capacity factors quoted of around 30%

Reply to  benben
June 11, 2016 8:28 am

benben, what you have quoted is an instantaneous capacity factor, while what the BP folks are discussing are average capacity factor. Yes, on a very good day you might get half the nameplate power from a bird-chopper … but obviously those days are rare events.
And yes, if you look at other sources you’ll find higher numbers … but guess what? The BP figures are based on real-world data, not wind company boasts …

Reply to  benben
June 11, 2016 8:39 am

well, it’s based on one month average, which certainly isn’t year average but isn’t instantaneous either. But yeah sure you’re right. As I said, usually the quoted capacity factor is at ~30%, although I’ve seen a couple of figures for those perfectly sited wind parks that top out at 60% annual average. Very unusual though.
And also, believe me, the BP data for renewables is not going to be based on anything special when it comes to renewable energy. Why would they put massive amounts of time and money into getting very good data for something that is 3% of the overall, and not part of their core business anyway? They just use publicly available datasets. Through my work in interact a lot with the Shell guys doing the same work.

Reply to  benben
June 11, 2016 2:33 pm

In the US in 2014, the average wind power capacity factor was 34 percent on an annual basis, per EIA. On a monthly basis, the maximum was in April with 43 percent, minimum in August with 22 percent. These capacity factors get better and better as years pass, with older, less efficient turbines removed from service while larger, more efficient turbines begin their operation.

Reply to  benben
June 11, 2016 3:48 pm

Why thank you Roger Sowell

Reply to  benben
June 11, 2016 7:43 pm

Some actual data from Texas, the ERCOT (Energy Reliability Council of Texas), showing their recent record-setting day for wind power, 20 December, 2015. The wind capacity factor exceeded 80 percent for 18 hours that day. Wind power comprised 40 percent of the total grid load during that period. (see page 3 of 4 pages, chart titled “Actual Wind Output as a Percentage of the ERCOT Load
12/20/2015) It is noted that the Texas grid suffered no damage, and had no power disruptions during that entire period of high wind.

Reply to  benben
June 11, 2016 11:46 pm

Where is DBstealy when you need him? This kind of info would be gold to him.

Reply to  benben
June 12, 2016 1:45 pm

Here is a link to another outstanding day for wind power in Texas, per ERCOT, February 18, 2016. Wind capacity factor exceeded 70 percent all day, and 80 percent for 18 hours. Wind power contributed 40 percent or more to the grid load for most of the day.

Reply to  benben
June 11, 2016 8:20 am

Re: Kyoto, have a closer look at what is happening right now in Europe which has seen the biggest push for renewables anywhere. Counter intuitively – the Law of Unintended Consequences at work- its the obsession with renewables that is at play.
Both wind and solar require full time stand-by back-up. Problem is that the disruptive distortions caused by the subsidies for renewables have priced natural gas -the ultimate fuel for on-demand, modulated back-up generation – out of the market. So we are instead seeing the rise of coal/lignite fired plants that need to run 24/7 at near base load capacity. More Mtoe from hydrocarbons and rising CO2 output. Not to mention electricity costs that are some 300% higher than in North America, with all major industries from car, chemical and even Airbus moving their next gen plants to the US or Canada. Europe is bleeding high quality industrial jobs by multiples of 100,000. [BTW, that is precisely with Maurice Strong and the UNEP said in 1992 they were after – the dismantling of the modern industrial economies, purportedly in order to save the earth….]
EU politicians, including Merkel, 15 years of wishful thinking and a few trillion euros in subsidies later, have now woken up in earnest to this disaster. Wind projects – off and onshore – are being cancelled or “postponed” inGermany, Denmark, Holland and the UK and existing ones are starting to be dismantled, and having shuttered its nuclear capacity in a sop to the Greens, Germany is in the process of bringing on line at least 10 new coal fired plants and putting existing mothballed plats back on line.
Simplified: pushing unsustainable “renewable” energy in practice leads to higher Mtoe from hydrocarbon sources and, ref: Europe, demonstrably an increase in CO2 emissions. Caveat emptor and always be careful what you wish for.

Reply to  tetris
June 11, 2016 8:42 am

I don’t think that is completely true. For one, electricity costs are at most 50% higher (and on average less), not 300 higher. And with that, you sir have been falsified 😉

Reply to  tetris
June 11, 2016 1:10 pm

Ever noticed that there are different rates for households and industrial customers?
Are you aware of the effect of “taxes” on top of actual kwh costs? In Germany households and industry pay environmental taxes [subsidies for renewables] that are higher than US kwh prices? In France these taxes and levies double your bill. Those nice stats you serve up to “falsify” my argument don’t show those extras.
Add it all up and you’ll understand why the likes of BASF and Airbus are relocating. They’re certainly not doing it to prove me wrong.

Reply to  tetris
June 11, 2016 2:10 pm

Ah, so my actual real numbers are somehow not reliable, but your random internet factoids (probably quite dated) are? Please do show me actual 2015/16 electricity prices of EU that support your position that energy prices are 300% higher than in the US, consumer or industrial. If you can show either I will gladly concede the point.
Also interesting to note is that the energiewende has incredibly high popularity in Germany (92% or so), and that you never see any Germans on this site complaining about it. I find it highly entertaining how the Americans here like to tell the the other Americans heree what the Germans should and should not do with their own country.
Please do take a look around at the following website:

Reply to  tetris
June 11, 2016 3:52 pm

I think I’ve had this arguement before. I pay electricity bills myself in Europe so I assure you, the actual price I’m paying is not much higher than in the US. As to industrial rates, they’re lower than consumer, not higher.
Finally, one should point out that the energiewende is very popular in Germany (+90% approval ratings) and that Germany has both the strongest growth in renewables and economic performance of almost any country in the world. Make what you will of that correlation 😉

Reply to  tetris
June 11, 2016 11:44 pm

eh, weird double post

Reply to  tetris
June 12, 2016 11:27 am

benben, I’m in a luxury position to compare prices I pay as customer in Germany and as an apartment owner in Canada. In Germany I pay 0.26 Euro per KWh, in Canada I pay 0.148 CAD per kWh. Since the exchange ration is around 1.4 , I pay more than twice in Germany what I pay in Canada

Reply to  benben
June 13, 2016 8:32 am

Fascinating. Can’t refute the data, so it just declares that since it’s from BP, it must be tainted.

Jim G1
June 10, 2016 9:19 pm

Amazing how jiggering the axis on a graph can exaggerate what’s going on in whatever direction you desire.

June 10, 2016 9:27 pm

Guess I’m a bit of a poop on this, but stacked graphs that put the smallest contributor on top are very visually misleading.

Reply to  EW3
June 10, 2016 10:33 pm

Well that makes 2 of us then. I’ve always put the smallest on the bottom because it’s the closest to zero. I don’t know why others put it on top. I know how to read graphs and have done up a few but most people surprisingly don’t.

Robert from oz
June 10, 2016 9:59 pm

Doesn’t alter the fact that wind and solar need 100 percent back up usually from coal or gas and until this is rectified both are pipe dreams and next to useless .
If only Gaaia could arrange it so it wasn’t cloudy during the day and the wind blows all night we would be set !

Another Ian
Reply to  Robert from oz
June 10, 2016 10:39 pm

Risking permanent drought? Or like the weather in that Camelot song?

Robert from oz
Reply to  Another Ian
June 11, 2016 5:16 am

Yeah I will risk it thanks till there is evidence to the contrary .

Chris Hanley
June 10, 2016 11:15 pm

“Some would point to the growth in renewable energy supplies, and indeed renewables are no longer completely insignificant …”.
If the free market were allowed to operate as it use to i.e. without government interference, energy from so-called renewables would be next to zero.

June 10, 2016 11:23 pm

Hydropower should be listed as “renewable”!

Reply to  Nils Rømcke
June 11, 2016 12:07 am

Agreed. This jumped out at me too: it is a renewable energy. It is also constant, reliable and has a degree of storage built in.
Except that it is not “renewable” in the U.S. ! If it was, many states would already satisfy mandated percentages for renewable energies.
It is interesting to see how insignificant W&S are in relation to hydro.

Reply to  Nils Rømcke
June 11, 2016 12:58 am

Here in Green California, the granola state, home of nuts and flakes, hydropower is NOT counted as a renewable for “renewable mandate” purposes. Why not? Because if it were, we’d already be meeting the mandate, and the ecoparasites couldn’t leech off of the taxpayer and ratepayer … follow the Benjamins.

Reply to  Willis Eschenbach
June 11, 2016 8:35 pm

Re California renewables and hydroelectric: large hydroelectric power is not counted as renewable energy in California, however small hydro is counted. Also counted as renewables are wind, solar, biogas, biomass, and geothermal.
Any hydro installation larger than 30 MW is considered large hydro.
Hydro installations of 30 MW or less is considered small and counts toward the state’s renewable portfolio standard goals. (California Energy Commission website)
The reason for excluding the large hydro is to encourage recovery of essentially free energy from small water resources, in particular pressure energy recovery from water distribution systems. One can see this happen on a daily basis when the small hydro power produced increases from 400 to almost 600 MW in the early morning hours from 4:30 a.m. to 6:30 a.m., and again an increase from 3:30 p.m. to 7 p.m. Those time frames correspond to peak domestic water usage. The central issue is that pumping water in CA consumes approximately 10 percent of all electricity in the state. Recovering a part of that energy is worth doing

Reply to  Willis Eschenbach
June 12, 2016 6:44 pm

There is no free lunch Roger.
Add to that the law of unintended consequences for small hydro. There are always impacts and nothing is free.

charles nelson
June 11, 2016 12:06 am

Is there a chart which shows relative cost per mega watt hour?
My guess would be that the cost of wind energy would ‘hockey stick’ relative to other sources, given the high regular catastrophic failures of turbines and towers. But that is just a guess.

June 11, 2016 1:49 am

Whilst the different sources of energy production are useful, for CO2 emissions the relative impact of fossil fuels is somewhat different. The US Energy Information Administration’s “INTERNATIONAL ENERGY OUTLOOK 2016” Chapter 9 is useful in this context both for historical and forecast data
Particularly look at the following graph. The data is available in Excel format.

Reply to  manicbeancounter
June 11, 2016 1:56 am

Also with the “INTERNATIONAL ENERGY OUTLOOK 2016” Chapter 9 is data on the historical and forecast emissions split by countries. Most informative is the OECD / Non-OECD split. It demonstrates that no matter what policies are enacted in USA, EU, Canada and Australia, global emissions will not start falling unless emerging economies in Asia, South America and Africa stop growing their emissions.

Bruce Cobb
June 11, 2016 5:25 am

Odd that we’re not seeing more energy from pixie dust and unicorn farts. Those are “renewables” too, after all. Also, we should be seeing more hamster-wheel energy, which runs on mere lettuce. What is wrong with people?

Coach Springer
June 11, 2016 5:35 am

I looked up a website for wind energy in Illinois and it used a 30% of capacity output factor. Hmmm. A little puffery from the industry along with increasing usage or not, there isn’t enough building capacity in wind to replace nuclear and coal plants that are in the process of being shuttered. Not to mention the millions (hundreds of millions?) of square miles that would be covered in the environmentalists’ version of giant white crosses.
A small wind farm isn’t a huge threat to wildlife, the environment or a significant threat to the landscape. But the millions of square miles necessary to somewhat replace the coal and nuclear plants that are being forced to be shuttered (Illinois is closing two nukes now due to policies favoring wind) will be a serious and widespread detriment to wildlife and the environment. If wind and solar farms are not an environmental threat, then put them in national preserves at no additional cost to tax and rate payers and just eliminate the other subsidies.

Crispin in Waterloo but really in Accra
Reply to  Coach Springer
June 11, 2016 3:36 pm

The figure quoted to us on this site for the UK last year was 13%, wasn’t it?

June 11, 2016 8:33 am

Too add to the mix, USGS has a new estimate of natural gas reserves in the Piceance basin in Western Colorado with an average of 66,000,000,000,000 cubic feet of gas. Here is a link to the article
The reporter has the geologic formation wrong but estimates of gas go as high as 112 trillion cubic feet. This is in addition to 1.5 trillion barrels of karogen.

Reply to  Pathway
June 11, 2016 9:01 am

You cannot count the Green River formation kerogen shale in place as an energy reserve. It takes (depending on retort method) 3-5 barrels of water to produce 1 barrel of syncrude from kerogen shale. There is no water available in the Colorado Compact. And in the last decade, the actual water available is running about 13/15.5 million acre feet less than the Compact assumed when the water was divvied up. If you want to produce kerogen crude, then you have to abandon Las Vegas and Phoenix. Not gonna happen.

Reply to  ristvan
June 11, 2016 10:49 am

More recent estimates say one barrel of water to produce one barrel of syncrude. There is enough ground water in the basin to accomplish this.

Bruce Cobb
Reply to  Pathway
June 11, 2016 9:16 am

The enviroloons are gonna have a cow over that one.
Ack, Fracking! Augggh, Fossil! Eeek, Carbon! We’re doomed!

June 11, 2016 10:05 am

Wind and solar have negative value since they cause instability in the real forms of energy, aside from the subsidies.

June 11, 2016 2:53 pm

Do they call them “renewables” because they need to be frequently renewed/replaced? (10-12 year life for wind mills).

Reply to  dradb
June 13, 2016 4:55 am
modern wind turbines will be designed to work for 120 000 hours throughout their estimated life-span of 20 years. This would be the turbine operating for approximately 66% of the time for two decades.
(randomly selected search result – you will find 20 years is the accepted lifespan figure)

Reply to  Griff
June 13, 2016 8:44 am

Compared to 40 to 50 years for real energy sources.

David S
June 11, 2016 4:03 pm

Decarbonisation is the stuff of nightmares not dreams.

June 11, 2016 5:35 pm

Two comments:
(1) Capacity factor (CF) is the ratio between the nameplate power rating and the actual average power delivered in (minimum) one year, preferably five years, and best in the projected useful life, say 20 years. Less then 5 years leads to a misleading CF. In addition, the same type and size of wind tower installed in different location will have different CFs. Lastly, with wind, the name plate is based on the generator rating: a relatively small generator to turbine = high CF, and vice versa. In other words sized for light winds delivers better CF that the opposite. The meaning of CF without these qualifiers compares apple and oranges.
(2) Renewables annual output as compiled by Department of Energy ( for the US. There are six renewable sources. Their output is plotted in the following two graphs. The upper one shows “Other” sources, the lower one “Wind and Solar.”
Looking at the four sources in the upper graph – hydro, wood, waste and geothermal – there has not been a worthwhile upward trend in any of them for two decades. Their combined output is lower today than it was in the decades past.
Three of the four sources provide a minuscule amount of energy in comparison to hydro. Two of the three weak ones, wood and waste, are not classified as clean sources for their burning emits CO2 along with “real” pollutants. The legitimate clean output of the three then originates only from the geothermal source. It generates 1.9 GW, essentially unchanged in decades.
The fourth source – hydro – provides 29 GW which is 94 % of the 30.9 GW yield from this group of clean, renewable sources. To increase hydro, it would have to either rain more or we would have to reduce irrigation (dams often serve both purposes). The rain is beyond our control and the irrigation – are we willing to cut down on fresh veggies?
It should also be pointed out that these four sources cannot be claimed a result of the last decades’ financing of renewables for they existed long before the clean-energy budgets did. Despite, the Dep’t of Energy considers them to be not only a relatively recent addition but also growing rapidly. The DOE annual report contains the following true but misleading statements:
Between 2005 and 2015, electricity generation from solar increased 48 fold, from 550 GWh to 26,473 GWh.
Biomass increased 18.3% from 54,277 to 64,191 GWh, and geothermal increased 14.1% from 14,692 to 16,767 GWh. (Note that Biomass is Wood and Waste in the graphs.)
The statements allow pro-renewables media to brag about the numbers without revealing that 48 fold increase of a near-zero value is still very little, as is the 18.3 % and 14.1 % seen in the graph as almost horizontal lines. The two DOE sentences are further misleading by omitting to report the decrease in hydro in the same period, a decrease that outweighs the increases many-fold thus hiding the overall negative growth in the decade.
Switching now to the lower graph, it illustrates the growth of the two remaining renewables – wind and solar (W&S). Their output combined amounts to 24 GW, somewhat less than the old-timer hydro. Wind growth is shown slowing down while solar, the smaller of the two, turned linear for 2015.
Wind power’s growth is slowing down most likely because the best sites for windmills have already been exploited, the end-of-life mills are being torn down, subsidies are declining, and some of the enthusiasm for windmills departed with former DOE Secretary Dr. Chu. The new Secretary, Dr. Muniz, believes in solar.
Let’s now consider the contribution of the renewables’ combined 55 GW on the scale of the U.S. energy usage of 467 GW for electricity and 3260 GW for primary energy in 2015. Focusing on electricity, W&S would have to be producing additional 412 GW for 100 % renewable electricity generation, the ultimate goal. Should electric cars become ubiquitous (they will not – see they would consume another 110 GW lifting the total to 522 GW from W&S. While that output is theoretically possible, the cost of such electricity would collapse our economy. As to the claim for the total 3260 GW to be replaced by W&S – those people have an agenda.

June 11, 2016 10:19 pm

James Delingpole lays out his objections to wind power and then proceeds to list in a one by one overview all of the culprits doing their bit to England:
“Regular readers may be aware that I am not a fan of wind farms.
This is because, among other things, they kill birds and bats, hurt the environment, cause sleeplessness and sickness in humans, drive up fuel prices, enrich troughing rent-seeking crony capitalist scumbags, blight views, cause people to die in fuel poverty, harm property values, destabilise the grid, and inflate the cost of living – all while signally failing at the one thing they’re supposed to be good at, viz supplying us with the clean, abundant, eco-friendly energy which is going to save us all from “global warming.”

Reply to  BFL
June 13, 2016 4:53 am

did James note 11% of all UK electricity came from wind in 2015? 17% in December…
There are also no significant bird or bat deaths in the UK, due to local planning requirements which influence siting of turbines.
Repeated studies have also shown no effect whatever on human health or sleep.
Yes, in the UK a lot of revenue goes to large landowners: but that’s because a few large land owners own most of the UK. In Germany most renewable energy is owned by individuals/cooperatives (it has been a lifeline to German farmers who would have gone out of business without wind revenue)

Reply to  Griff
June 13, 2016 8:50 am

Griff June 13, 2016 at 4:53 am

did James note 11% of all UK electricity came from wind in 2015? 17% in December…
There are also no significant bird or bat deaths in the UK, due to local planning requirements which influence siting of turbines.
Repeated studies have also shown no effect whatever on human health or sleep.

Did Griff note that the UK wind turbine owners get about half of their income from SUBSIDIES FROM THE BRITISH TAXPAYER of more than a billion dollars?? Did Griff note the number of pensioners now shivering in unheated rooms as a result of fuel poverty from rising heating costs? Did Griff note the numerous other studies showing that wind turbines DO have an effect on human health and sleep? Did Griff note that the UK electrical grid is the most unstable it has ever been? Did Griff note that the UK electrical prices are spiraling upwards and industries are picking other locations because of high energy prices?
Yes, Griff, if you ignore all of that, wind turbines sound like a wonderful plan … as Ann Landers used to say, “Wake up and smell the coffee” …
PS—I also find the following:

”The drive for clean energy is bad news for one of Britain’s rarest birds
Wind turbines have caused the deaths of four white-tailed eagles on isolated islands off the Norwegian coast. Thirty other eagles have failed to return to their nesting sites within the wind farm area on Smola, 9.6km (six miles) northwest of Norway, according to wildlife campaigners.”

and (emphasis mine)

Effects of industrial wind turbine noise on sleep and health
Michael A Nissenbaum1, Jeffery J Aramini2, Christopher D Hanning3
1 Northern Maine Medical Center, Fort Kent, Maine, USA
2 Intelligent Health Solutions, Guelph, Ontario, Canada
3 University Hospitals of Leicester NHS Trust, Leicester, United Kingdom
Industrial wind turbines (IWTs) are a new source of noise in previously quiet rural environments. Environmental noise is a public health concern, of which sleep disruption is a major factor. To compare sleep and general health outcomes between participants living close to IWTs and those living further away from them, participants living between 375 and 1400 m (n = 38) and 3.3 and 6.6 km (n = 41) from IWTs were enrolled in a stratified cross-sectional study involving two rural sites. Validated questionnaires were used to collect information on sleep quality (Pittsburgh Sleep Quality Index – PSQI), daytime sleepiness (Epworth Sleepiness Score – ESS), and general health (SF36v2), together with psychiatric disorders, attitude, and demographics. Descriptive and multivariate analyses were performed to investigate the effect of the main exposure variable of interest (distance to the nearest IWT) on various health outcome measures. Participants living within 1.4 km of an IWT had worse sleep, were sleepier during the day, and had worse SF36 Mental Component Scores compared to those living further than 1.4 km away. Significant dose-response relationships between PSQI, ESS, SF36 Mental Component Score, and log-distance to the nearest IWT were identified after controlling for gender, age, and household clustering. The adverse event reports of sleep disturbance and ill health by those living close to IWTs are supported.

Finally, from another separate study looking at wind farm workers:

Results and discussion
The results showed that, response variables (annoyance, sleep disturbance and health) were significantly different between job groups. The results also indicated that sleep disturbance as well as noise exposure had a significant effect on general health. Noise annoyance and distance from wind turbines could significantly explain about 44.5 and 34.2 % of the variance in sleep disturbance and worker’s general health, respectively. General health was significantly different in different age groups while age had no significant impact on sleep disturbance. The results were reverse for distance because it had no significant impact on health, but sleep disturbance was significantly affected.
We came to the conclusion that wind turbines noise can directly impact on annoyance, sleep and health. This type of energy generation can have potential health risks for wind farm workers. However, further research is needed to confirm the results of this study.

Reply to  Griff
June 14, 2016 1:26 am

UK fuel poverty has nothing to do with renewables – most UK heating is from gas: renewable energy costs and subsidies don’t affect the gas price.

Reply to  Griff
June 14, 2016 1:28 am

The Eagle deaths on Sola are an exception – every conservation body told the Norwegians not to put turbines there – the application would never have passed in the UK.
I’m not aware any eagle has been killed by a UK wind turbine – though 2 have been killed by trains.
your health papers have been debunked

Reply to  Griff
June 14, 2016 1:45 am

Griff June 14, 2016 at 1:26 am

UK fuel poverty has nothing to do with renewables – most UK heating is from gas: renewable energy costs and subsidies don’t affect the gas price.

I do wish people would look up the actual facts before making these kind of foolish claims. Almost a quarter of all UK homes are heated with electricity, according to the UK government.
Nice try, though.

Reply to  Griff
June 14, 2016 1:47 am

Griff June 14, 2016 at 1:28 am

your health papers have been debunked

The mighty Griff has spoken, and who are we mortals to question his uncited, unsupported claims?

June 12, 2016 1:24 am

Data from the new BP spreadsheet …


June 12, 2016 4:21 am

“Efficiency of wind and solar power,” am I reading this stat correctly? Wind is about 22% and Solar is about 12.5%? Does that mean that it takes 4.5 1,000 km wind turbines to generate 1,000 kw and 8 1,000 kw Solar Panels to generate 1,000 kw? Is that a joke? Not only are these sources unreliable and intermittent, they are also inefficient?

June 12, 2016 7:01 am

So much rain on wind power’s capacity factor. The fact is that wind power has a decent annual average capacity factor compared to the other technologies. Wind is better than natural gas, and about the same as large hydroelectric. Here’s the data for the US in 2014, per the EIA. A graph is at the link below.
Natural Gas 29 percent
Wind 34 (note from above comment, range was 43 to 22 on a monthly basis)
Large Hydro 37
US Average 43.7
Coal 60
Nuclear 92

Smart Rock
Reply to  Roger Sowell
June 12, 2016 8:58 am

The reason (well one of the main reasons) why gas and big hydro have relatively low capacity factors is that they are so fast to bring on line and off line. Hydro especially, the wind-up time is measured in seconds. These are the cushions that allow large grids to deliver constant voltage as demand fluctuates.
And of course they are the cushions that allow renewables to form a part of a blended system. And that is why the cost of renewable power must include the cost of maintaining these backups ate idle. Which is a large part of their total operating costs, even when no fuel is consumed.

Reply to  Roger Sowell
June 12, 2016 11:21 am

Roger Sowell June 12, 2016 at 7:01 am

So much rain on wind power’s capacity factor. The fact is that wind power has a decent annual average capacity factor compared to the other technologies. Here’s the data for the US in 2014, per the EIA. A graph is at the link below.
Natural Gas 29 percent …

Roger, you are comparing apples and oranges. Wind power has a low capacity factor because much of the time, there’s no wind.
Your comparison assumes that the same is true for the other energy sources, that e.g. natural gas has a low capacity factor because most of the time there’s no natural gas …
Sorry, amigo, but that’s apples and oranges

Reply to  Willis Eschenbach
June 12, 2016 1:32 pm

Willis, with all due respect, let me share my thoughts on the grid, generation, and capacity factors. As you may (or may not) know, I write extensively on this at my blog, SLB.
First, every form of generation requires backup. This is because all forms of generation require mechanical servicing, or refueling, or have some other cause to be offline. The sudden shutdown of 2 nuclear reactors in 2012 in Southern California at the SONGS plant is a case in point. Many nuclear plants in the US experience unplanned shutdowns, with other assets on the grid expected to cover the sudden loss of 1000 MW or even more.
Second, not all forms of energy are available 24/7. The most attention is given these days to wind and solar, but large hydroelectric also is subject to availability of rain, or snowmelt. Hydroelectric has a low capacity factor at 37 percent (as above, for the US in 2014 per EIA), primarily because water in lakes has competing uses, but also due to a long drought in the western US. The main competing use is irrigation.
Natural gas plants have an even lower capacity factor than hydro and wind, but for a different reason. As one commenter above noted, (Smart Rock), the grid has large swings in demand on a daily basis. There are also seasonal variations in demand, such that the full complement of generation assets are only run on the few days of peak demand. During Spring and Autumn, many of the natural gas plants are usually loafing.
Coal and nuclear plants have high capacity factors in recent years because the grid operators called on those assets for power first, having lower cash costs to generate. That has changed in the past 5 to 10 years as natural gas prices have declined and wind capacity has increased. Nuclear is no longer the lowest-cost asset, as some of the US nuclear plants are shutting down due to inability to sell power profitably. Coal plants are also shutting down in the US but for a different reason: they cannot afford to install pollution controls now that their exemptions from regulations has ended.
It is also a fact that nuclear power plants only recently achieved high capacity factors. Prior to 1988, the US average capacity factor for nuclear plants was less than 60 percent (per Nuclear Energy Institute). Even after 1988, a full decade was required before the annual average capacity factor climbed from 60 to 90 percent for US nuclear reactors. One wonders where the outrage was prior to 1988 when nuclear plants could not deliver power at the 90 percent capacity.
Similarly, wind power capacity factors are increasing year over year due to taller towers, longer blades, and better blade designs. Older, less efficient and shorter wind turbines are being replaced with much better systems. There are also offshore installations in the works, with much better capacity factors compared to the onshore installations. As time passes, the capacity factors for wind power almost certainly will increase.
The economics for wind power just keep getting better and better.

dan no longer in CA
June 12, 2016 9:51 am

Capacity factors have different real meanings for wind and solar. The grid has about a factor of 1.5 to 2 demand curve, more so in the summer than winter. There is more demand in daytime than at night. Here’s today’s California ISO plot: On most days, the wind production curve is opposite the demand curve trends, while the solar curve mostly tracks the demand.
Wind power fluctuates as the local wind speed changes, which is forecastable but still random. Solar power is generated during the daytime when demand is higher. Furthermore, in the summer, much of the load is for air conditioning, and if the day is cloudy, there is less demand when the solar farm produces less power.

Reply to  dan no longer in CA
June 13, 2016 9:45 am

Thanks, that is a helpful reminder. In addition, the market places a premium on daytime generation. Solar would be higher in the basic statistical measures had it not been pulled into less efficient and more costly rooftop policy turns. Solar costs continue to diverge between utility scale and rooftop, but still there is no meaningful recognition of this in policy land or the general public.

June 12, 2016 4:34 pm

Distinguish between capacity factor and efficiency. The term Capacity Factor has no meaning with a gas-plant that turns on when wind stops or when clouds enter between the sun a solar collectors. The plant can obviously run 24/7 for months if needed, i.e. with CF close to 100 %, measured on several years basis. Efficiency is the criterion that applies here – the ratio of heat in and electricity out, the usual 33 %.
The CF is NOT a measure efficiency or power and has a vague meaning in literature. The number can be manipulated to serve a purpose. As to the efficiency of wind towers – not much has changed. The theoretical max efficiency (hard to measure that why the term it is not used in practice) is 59 % and the state of the art is as close to it as can be. The generators likewise; not much improvement there short of less viscosity oils, etc. Erecting bigger towers makes them generate more power but their efficiency is not much affected. Finding sites with steadier, high winds produces both higher CF and higher output, but not higher efficiency.

June 13, 2016 12:32 am

“Germany’s mad rush into renewable energies has led to huge spiralling electricity price increases and left power grid operators struggling to keep the wildly fluctuating system from crashing.
As the situation became increasingly precarious, the government was forced to admit that reforms were necessary to keep the situation from spiralling out of control, and thus recently agreed on a major reform of subsidies for renewable energies.
Experts say the new measure will result in a comprehensives scale-back in new renewable energy installations, thus putting the brakes on the green electricity scheme.”

Reply to  dennisambler
June 13, 2016 4:46 am

Germany’s grid is one of the world’s most reliable:
Even on days when most of its power is from renewables:
current changes are to restrict growth which has meant targets would be reached years early (and thus budgets exceeded), plus limits are needed until the new north south grid connections come in (2021 & 2 in 2025).

Reply to  Griff
June 13, 2016 10:19 am

Something does not add up here, much like the VW promises to regulators on the front end. Germany was first with huge solar subsidy and investment among all nations with much higher cost solar variants compared to recent cost experience. That included even higher than average solar with rooftop emphasis. It then cut back on all solar while forging ahead with wind power (aka VW) promises on costs and reliability). Now it is going back to modern solar with the exclusion of wind. The only way you can smooth over theses issues is with VW-style tactics. Also, the grid operators in Germany are not faring well financially. The main problem with renewable generation reporting is the lack of a full picture on cost to ratepayers in addition to headlines on the share of generation added, not just one of these or the other selectively!

Reply to  Griff
June 13, 2016 10:20 am

I notice that you fail to tell the people that Germany uses it’s neighbors as grid backup.
The entire EU is one big grid. Any attempt to isolate Germany, or France, or Belgium, in order to talk about their grid alone, is just a fancy way of lying.

Reply to  Griff
June 14, 2016 1:15 am

Mark, part of the model is that renewables are exported/imported across an European grid.
There is no national island of electricity in Europe any more. (Except Eire/NI)

June 13, 2016 5:47 am

“Much of this acceleration in growth has come from the use of coal, but that has slowed in recent years with the downturn in the Chinese economy.”
China GDP grew 6.9% in 2015. A slower growth is NOT a downturn. Economy growing at almost 7% needs more, not less, energy, The slowdown in the growth of use of coal should be explained by other reasons.

June 13, 2016 8:58 am

Griff June 13, 2016 at 4:55 am
modern wind turbines will be designed to work for 120 000 hours throughout their estimated life-span of 20 years. This would be the turbine operating for approximately 66% of the time for two decades.

Thanks, Griff. Yes, that is true, they are “designed to work” for twenty years … but it appears you are studiously ignoring how long they actually last in the field ….

Wind farm turbines wear sooner than expected, says study

Britain’s wind farms are wearing out far more rapidly than previously thought, making them more expensive as a result, according to an authoritative new study.
The analysis of almost 3,000 onshore wind turbines — the biggest study of its kind —warns that they will continue to generate electricity effectively for just 12 to 15 years.
The wind energy industry and the Government base all their calculations on turbines enjoying a lifespan of 20 to 25 years.

Gosh, they’re wearing out twice as fast as claimed … who knew?
Well, actually, anyone paying attention knew …

Reply to  Willis Eschenbach
June 13, 2016 9:39 am

“Twice as fast” is on par with the past advocacy claims of the nuclear sector on costs and ratepayer liability. In such policy games, it’s critical to know who picks up the tab for the cost overruns. Everything else is marketing.

Reply to  Willis Eschenbach
June 14, 2016 1:14 am
“The report, published last week by the Renewable Energy Foundation (REF), a think tank that has campaigned against wind farms..”
“The report has been disputed by the wind farm industry. It points out that the consumer subsidy is paid only when turbines produce electricity, meaning there is a strong incentive for wind farms to be properly maintained to protect them from wear and tear.
Dr Gordon Edge, dthe irector of policy at RenewableUK, the body that represents Britain’s wind farm industry, said: “Wind farm developers only earn money for the clean electricity they actually generate, so it’s very much in their interests to make sure that their turbines are maintained… to an optimum level, which includes upgrading as the technology improves.
“Better turbines are being developed all the time, so it’s absurd to focus purely on the past as this report does, and pretend that that’s the way things are going to be in the future.” 2
If you look at the detail on what windfarms were surveyed, you’ll find a slightly different story to the headlines. and not quoting your source is misleading.

Reply to  Griff
June 14, 2016 3:52 am

„(UK) Wind turbines are found to lose 1.6 ±0.2% of their output per year, with average load factors declining from 28.5% when new to 21% at age 19. This trend is consistent for different generations of turbine design and individual wind farms. This level of degradation reduces a wind farm’s output by 12% over a twenty year lifetime, increasing the levelised cost of electricity by 9%.“
Land-based wind mills in Germany and Switzerland used 17% of their capacity on average in recent years, less than promised. As subsidies go down in Germany, little new wind and solar capacity is built now; producers now have to bid for subsidies and the big wheels have to bid low to get into business. The government steps on the brake now as the costs are seemingly out of control. After 2030 no subsidies are planned; anyway, resistance to the nuisance of wind turbines would probably make them obsolete.
Anybody who believes what Griff writes here will be mugged by reality in Germany and Europe.
Electricity prices for the average household (3500 kwh/y) in Germany have increased 170% since 1998 and over 200% since 1980. 52% of the about 30 €uro-cent (= 27 ¢) are taxes and fees. 6.5 cent of the 30 goes to the wind and solar barons; the price for a kwh at the exchange is about 3 – 4 cents.

Reply to  Griff
June 14, 2016 3:53 am

Electricity prices for the average household (3500 kwh/y) in Germany have increased 170% since 1998 and over 200% since 2000, of course.

Reply to  Griff
June 14, 2016 5:08 am

Germany will still install 2.8 GW of onshore wind and 600Mw of solar under the new rules – plus continue to build offshore wind.
It still intends to ditch nuclear in 2022 (is that a good idea, I wonder) and still intends to be on 45% of renewable electricity by 2030.
2.7 GW of lignite coal power are going on the reserve for closure by end 2019.
This is just regulation of the roll out and prudent control of subsidy, now they are only a couple of points off the 2020 target.
The energy programme in Germany remains wildly popular

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