Exergy and Power Plants

By Andy May

Key question: Can renewables ever replace fossil fuels and nuclear?

Understanding the value of renewables, vis-à-vis fossil fuels and nuclear power, requires that we consider that all energy is not equal in value. In fact, the quantity we call energy can be misleading and many experts prefer the quantity called “exergy,” which is defined in economics as (source Exergy Economics):

The maximum useful work which can be extracted from a system as it reversibly comes into equilibrium with its environment.”

Or it can be thought of as the measure of potential work embodied in a material or device. As Ayres, et al. (1998) argue exergy is a more natural choice as a measure of resource quantity than either mass or energy. Even today it seems BTU’s, a measure of heat of combustion, or MToe, million tonnes of oil equivalent, are commonly used and mislabeled energy (see the Exxon Outlook, 2017 or the BP Energy Outlook, 2017). In a previous post (here) I discussed EROI, or energy returned from energy invested. I complained in that post about the inconsistency and inaccuracy in current EROI and LCOE (Levelized cost of electricity) calculations. The problems mostly stemmed from comparing energy or electricity output from different sources (solar, wind, natural gas, coal, nuclear) as if all produced energy was equally valuable, which it isn’t. While comparing the heat of combustion or million tonnes of oil equivalent is clearly incorrect, Rud Istvan and Planning Engineer show that comparing the cost of producing megawatts of electricity, like the IEA and EIA do, is also incorrect, see here and here. Since exergy is a measure of useful work, it helps get around that problem. In a comment to that post, Captain Ike Kiefer posted a reference to Weißbach, et al. (2013) which has a much more valid EROI comparison (see figure 2) of conventional and renewable electricity sources in Germany. Since Germany is, in many ways, a testbed of renewable energy sources for the world; this is very helpful.

EROI is computed in many ways that make it difficult to compare different energy sources. Weißbach, et al. (2013) improve the calculation by using the system input and output exergy in the calculation rather than energy. Thus, now EROI becomes the ratio of the exergy returned and the exergy expended. Put another way, the ratio of the work we get out of a source of energy divided by the work that went into making it. In Weiβbach, et al., they take exergy delivered as equivalent to electricity delivered. Thus, how the electricity is used by the customer is not considered. One other important concept is that the study must include the full life cycle of the power plant, from the very beginning to the end, this is called “LCA.” LCA and exergy are discussed in full by Ayres, et al. (1998).

We will not get into all the ways that EROI has been misused in the past, but the reader can go to Giampietro and Sorman for more on this topic. However, one EROI misuse is worth mentioning as an example. EMROI is the money returned on invested energy, excluding labor and carrying costs. It is not a measure of EROI, but is sometimes presented as EROI which can be very confusing, to see the difference compare figures 1 and 2 and notice the scale change. Our economy runs on energy of different qualities, thermal energy and electrical energy. Currently, thermal energy power plants have an efficiency of 33%, meaning that they are one third as efficient as sources that produce electricity directly, like solar PV (photovoltaic) panels. We are comparing apples and oranges, thermal and electrical; and exergy and LCA can help do this in a valid way.

A modern economy needs electricity on demand, 24 hours a day, without fail. A period without electrical power is called a disaster for a reason. Because demand for electrical power rises and falls constantly there is a need to store energy so power generation can rise to meet increased demand. Fossil fuels, biofuels and nuclear are their own storage, so they have this capability naturally. Wind and solar do not have built-in storage, so it needs to be provided, and this is a cost that must be accounted for. Inexplicably, both the IEA and the EIA (see my previous post here) ignore this cost in their LCOE (levelized cost of electricity) calculations. For example, from the IEA guidelines for LCA (life cycle analysis) assessments (page 10):

“Back-up systems are considered to be outside the system boundary of PV LCA [photovoltaic solar life cycle assessments]; if a back-up system is included, it should be explicitly mentioned.”

This makes no sense, in a modern economy electricity must be available on demand or chaos ensues. Demand cannot be adjusted to cloudiness, so for solar (or wind) to work at all, it must be backed up. The backup (batteries, molten salt storage, fossil fuel, pumped hydro, whatever) must be part of the system. We will not discuss the other problems with IEA assessments here, but will mention that Giampietro and Sorman do a very good (and often hilarious) job of detailing the problems with the IEA assessments in their jewel of a paper entitled “Are energy statistics useful for making energy scenarios?

Using fossil fuel power plants as a backup creates a conundrum, if the fossil fuel plants must run all the time, but they are not selling power when the solar and wind facilities are providing power, who pays for the fully staffed and idling plants? It turns out the government must subsidize them with “capacity payments” to keep them from going out of business and closing down due to lack of revenue. If they did close, the grid would quickly become unstable as third world grids often are.

In figure 1 we see a Weißbach, et al. (2013) histogram of their exergy calculated EMROI by energy source. The yellow bars include the cost of backup (“buffered”) and the blue bars do not (“unbuffered”). The data used to compute the values shown in the figures can be downloaded as a spreadsheet here.

Figure 1, German EMROI of various energy sources. Source Weißbach, et al. (2013), data: source

Figure 2 uses the same data as figure 1, but EROI is plotted. The scale is reduced for figure 2 due to the smaller numbers. To compute EMROI a weighting factor of three is used in this case, see the spreadsheet for the details. The weighting factor is based on the production cost ratio of electricity to thermal energy. The economic threshold of 7:1, for Germany, is shown in gray. The biomass plotted is corn, the wind generation location is in Germany, coal transportation costs are not included and the type of coal is the German mix (roughly 42% hard coal and 58% lignite). Nuclear is based on 83% centrifuge and 17% diffusion refining. The solar PV values are all rooftop solar values. The commercial solar values are computed as if from the Sahara Desert, but the grid connection to Europe is not included in the cost.

Figure 2, German EROI of various energy sources) source: Weißbach, et al. (2013) , data: source

How is an energy source “buffered” or “backed-up”

Fossil fuel, biofuel and nuclear power plants backup themselves, one simply stores the fuel itself. Hydro power plants can increase the amount water behind the dam to a certain extent to provide some backup, but more is needed. Solar and wind power plants require a separate facility to store power or they require another source of power at the ready. The data plotted in figures 1 and 2 comes from Germany, a country with many contiguous countries that can supply it with emergency power (from fossil fuels, biofuels or nuclear sources) when wind and/or solar fail. They are very dependent upon German coal and lignite power plants for emergency power, currently 45% or so of Germany’s power comes from coal and lignite. In some cases, they have had to return paid taxes to coal power plants to keep them from going bankrupt.

But, this post is not about using fossil fuels to backup wind and solar power plants. Fossil fuel backup is the cheapest backup today and for the foreseeable future. The question we ask is can renewables replace fossil fuels? That requires non-fossil fuel storage of energy. Our charts and figures in this post only apply to Germany today, so does the rest of the discussion. As Weißbach, et al. (2013) write:

“No direct LCA [power plant life cycle assessments] studies could be found for storage systems but pump storage systems are very similar to hydroelectricity plants with storage capabilities. Alternative storage techniques like hydrogen electrolysis and gas storage are much more uneconomic anyway. Here, the Australian Benmore station with an energy demand … of 24,000 TJ has been selected and slightly scaled up (30,000 TJ) in order to fit the planned German Atdorf pump storage system with a projected lifetime of … 100 years. The material and working demands are similar, strongly dominated by the dam’s energy input. Atdorf’s storage capacity is about … 52 TJ … It should, however, be kept in mind that if no favorable topology is available the necessary geo-engineering elevates the energy investment substantially.”

Thus, the authors chose the most economical energy storage system (except for fossil fuel backup) to use for their calculation of the EROI of wind and solar. They chose to store 10 full load days of power for rooftop solar and 2 days for the desert commercial solar facility. They decided only two days would be required for the Sahara Desert facility based on weather history. We should add that topology is not the only problem with pumped hydro storage, land is also an issue. This storage method uses a lot of land, which is not a small cost and it displaces people, never an easy thing to accomplish.


According to Weißbach, et al., a common mistake in EROI comparisons between electricity sources is using inaccurate power plant lifetimes, this problem is discussed by Planning Engineer and Rud Istvan also. Wind and solar energy sources are reported to have a lifetime of 20 to 30 years, although much shorter lifetimes have also been observed. In the case of wind, rotor and bearing fatigue limit the life and in the case of solar it is silicon degradation. However, it is common for combined cycle gas turbines to last more than 40 years and for coal power plants to last more than 50 years. Nuclear plants often last more than 60 years (the current US planned life) and hydroelectric facilities can last more than 100 years. It is very important for the plant lifetime to be accurate because the EROI (or levelized cost) scales directly with it. Consider then the US EIA statement (page 3) quoted below about lifetime and LCOE (levelized cost of energy). See also 2018 Levelized Costs AEO 2013, page 2:

“The levelized cost shown for each utility-scale generation technology in the tables 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 6.6 percent. In reality, the cost recovery period and cost of capital can vary by technology and project type.”

So, they know the various plant lifetimes are different. Presumably they know that the levelized cost of a 60-year nuclear plant could be as low as one half the cost of their assumed 30-year plant, yet they use 30 years anyway.


For the most part this post is a summary of Weißbach, et al. and I refer the reader to that excellent paper and their supplementary spreadsheet for more details. Here we only hit the highlights. They note that only a uniform mathematical procedure based on exergy makes it possible to compare all power generating systems accurately. They have done this using mostly data from Germany, the numbers will be different for different locations.

Solar PV, the most efficient rooftop solar, is not economic in this study. Wind energy is only economic when not backed up or “buffered.” Biofuels require no buffering, but it makes no difference, the huge cost of producing the fuels make them uneconomic. Commercial solar is economic in deserts, so if transmission lines can be built and if suitable backup storage is built, this is a renewable possibility. Unfortunately, the best backup is pumped hydro and this is often not possible in deserts. Weißbach, et al. do mention that, in their opinion, molten salt energy storage is not economic.

The most egregious flaws in previous EROI studies are:

  • Upgrading the output inappropriately for solar and wind generation because their output is electricity. That is renewable EMROI is computed, then compared with the EROI of conventional plants. Apples and oranges again! See also Giampietro and Sorman on this topic, page 10.

  • Using inappropriate power plant lifetimes.
  • Counting all output, that is using wind and solar capacity for calculations and ignoring the need for “buffering” or backup. Virtually all other assessments do this and the difference is huge.

Weißbach, et al. have corrected the errors in previous studies and seem to have computed the most robust set of numbers I’ve seen to date. So, what is the answer to the question at the top of the post? It seems that Germany is very unlikely to replace fossil fuels and nuclear with renewables. Weißbach, et al. have shown that, in Germany, all renewables, except commercial solar installed in the Sahara Desert, are currently uneconomic. This means that renewables must be subsidized indefinitely, unless a major technical breakthrough in energy storage appears. Currently, the cheapest form of “buffering” are the existing German coal and natural gas power plants. Other buffers, like pumped hydro and molten salt are uneconomic. However, since renewable fuels must be purchased by the grid, by German law, fossil fuel plants will probably not sell enough electricity to break even. Thus, fossil fuel plants will also need to be subsidized for grid stability. The alternative is for Germany to import all their emergency power from neighboring countries. But, in the latter case, they may need to subsidize the added necessary, and presumably fossil fuel, power surplus their neighbors will need. Germany is apparently burning Euro notes for power and, fairly large denomination Euro notes at that.

0 0 votes
Article Rating
Newest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Roger Dewhurst
March 17, 2017 2:34 pm

If you argue that energy from different sources differs in value all possibility of rational decision making goes out of the window. Do not go down that path.

Reply to  Roger Dewhurst
March 17, 2017 2:46 pm

Energy from different sources does offer different values. A bucket full of kerosene can be used for a myriad of uses, from heat, light, cooking and making baby incubators (plastics). You can’t make plastic from a bucket of PV energy.

If anything, the value of fossil fuels is far higher.

Reply to  Shoshin
March 17, 2017 3:29 pm

But is the -energy- from kerosene more or less valuable than energy from, say, me? And kerosene used to make plastic is not available to cook my food or do any other work.

I’m very fond of fossil fuels. Hooking my bicycle up to a generator would tucker me out long before I got done all the things I want to do today. In that respect, I’d say that energy from something other than myself is indeed more valuable than energy from me (for work-work, at least; for pleasure-work, I mostly prefer my own. . . .)

Reply to  Shoshin
March 17, 2017 6:59 pm

The issue is can you store solar energy in a form for later use that is less expensive than hydrocarbons or coal?

Reply to  Shoshin
March 18, 2017 2:21 am

for the 70% of Africans still off grid the kerosene lantern is the main form of lighting.

Kerosene is relatively expensive and takes a large part of their disposable income: the fumes aren’t good for you and there is a risk of fire.

a one off purchase of a solar LED light saves you money, produces better light and charges your mobile phone.

Is a bucket of kerosene or a solar LED light more use or of more value to 70% of the African population?

Patrick MJD
Reply to  Shoshin
March 18, 2017 2:27 am

“Griff March 18, 2017 at 2:21 am”

More nonsense from Griff who has no idea about Africa, or anything it appears. Believe me what I say rural Africans will use what they know works, for them. A solar LED lamp will just be dismantled and sold for the sCRAP that it is.

Reply to  Shoshin
March 18, 2017 3:29 am


“A clean, affordable and better source of light,” said SolarAid CEO Andrew Webb, “is the first and most crucial step on the energy ladder.” Webb continued, “The benefits to families, schools and communities is truly staggering and the fact that 10 million people in rural Africa, as we speak, are using these lights is testament to the hard work and dedication of our SunnyMoney teams.”

The total number of people across Africa now benefiting from solar light is estimated at around 50 million. As the largest seller and distributor on the continent, SunnyMoney solar lights account for one fifth of all sales. Webb pointed out, “The off-grid sector reaching 50 million people is fantastic, but there are over half a billion people in Africa still reliant on dangerous and very poor light sources like kerosene. In 2015, this is simply not acceptable. We need more support so that we can continue to give people across the continent the chance of a brighter future.”




Reply to  Shoshin
March 18, 2017 3:37 am

Kerosene is also used for cooking. Try using a LED lamp for that and see how long you live.

Patrick MJD
Reply to  Shoshin
March 18, 2017 3:56 am

“Griff March 18, 2017 at 2:21 am

…of their disposable income…”

I missed that! Griff shows how ignorant he is.

Harry Passfield
Reply to  Shoshin
March 18, 2017 6:11 am

Griff makes it seem that a ‘kerosene’ lamp is a smoky old piece of kit emitting a feeble yellow light. But surely, he means a Tilley lamp, which is a very efficient user of kerosene and provides an incredibly bright white light.

Patrick MJD
Reply to  Shoshin
March 18, 2017 6:14 am

“Steven Mosher March 18, 2017 at 3:29 am”

More rubbish from someone who’s never been there!

Bryan A
Reply to  Shoshin
March 18, 2017 10:23 pm

Mr Mosher,
Those SOLAR Lights are not bad if you have more than 10 FULL hours of sunlight every day and don’t need light for more than 4 hours but to refer to solar or even wind generation as reliable, perhaps it is when the sun shines but the lights can’t be recharged at night. On rainy days during the monsoons, you might get 30 minutes of light before it’s battery is depleted. And wind is also unreliable for uninterrupted power, just look at South Australia for example of that problem. These lights would not be practical as a substitute for grid area service, only in totally off the grid area applications would they seem useful, and only to those that have never experienced anything better. Check, even a kerosene lamp might still be preferable just because the light lasts longer

Ron Williams
Reply to  Shoshin
March 24, 2017 1:13 pm

Shoshin March 17, 2017 at 2:46 pm
“You can’t make plastic from a bucket of PV energy”
Actually you can… Use renewable electricity to knock off one molecule of Oxygen, and you have Carbon Monoxide (CO) which can be used as a feedstock for making plastics. Many other ways (and things to make) to do it too, and is called CO2 Reduction in this case. Basically, surplus renewables could be used to essentially create a whole new industry in a “renewable carbon” bank that essentially becomes a huge renewable ‘battery’. This is a very exciting concept, but whether will be cost effective remains to be seen.

Reply to  Ron Williams
March 24, 2017 9:13 pm

“Energy from different sources does offer different values.

Confusing the form of the energy with the energy itself. A joule is a joule is a joule. For any given use of energy, the form eg., chemical, heat, electricity, and the parameters of its supply, eg., availability, reliability, cost all matter. But generally the energy supplied by the electricity grid is kWh regardless of the form of its original source and the whole thing is based on a minimum acceptable reliability and availability. For users needing other forms of delivery eg. liquid or gaseous fuel, the same parameters of supply still apply but differ in what values are acceptable. Any original source that prevents the grid from meeting these essential parameters of supply is unacceptable.

Reply to  Roger Dewhurst
March 17, 2017 3:53 pm

If a mega-joule of energy in the form of coal had the same value as a mega-joule of delivered electricity, it would make no sense to burn coal to fire an electric power plant at roughly 33% joule to joule conversion efficiency.

Johann Wundersamer
Reply to  hanelyp
March 18, 2017 2:41 am

“Solar energy is trying to take photons and turn them into electrons or, more accurately, turn those photons into a flow of electrons/electricity.”


Heave electrons to higher statues of accessible energy.

Bill Illis
Reply to  Roger Dewhurst
March 17, 2017 4:52 pm

The difference is you are talking about chemical energy as in combusting the fossil fuel with oxygen. Which works way better than it should have (see last paragraph)

Solar energy is trying to take photons and turn them into electrons or, more accurately, turn those photons into a flow of electrons/electricity. Now electrons can absorb 1 photon or several photons and become excited and/or release 1 photon at a time, but they are completely different physics particles and you can’t take any number of photons and make actual electrons nor really make an efficient flow of electrons.

Plants have developed molecules that act as an intermediary and store the energy in chemical forms. Solar plants use various forms of chemical and mechanical energy to make electricity but the main form now is where silicon molecules have an excess area of excited electrons which “flow” to an area with fewer excited electrons (but this is very inefficient compared to other chemical, mechanical and nuclear forms of energy).

Maybe some day, a new technology emerges that makes a solar system more efficient but simple photons excite very few silicon electrons and the process just does not cut it.

Some things simply “work” in human endeavours and other things simply don’t work. Don’t bang your head against a wall using the things that don’t actually work. Don’t experiment over and over again with the same method hoping it will work. It don’t. Other methods might however.

The gasoline engine is an amazing example of this. How the gasoline engine takes in a small amount of fossil fuel, combusts it in a piston to drive a shaft and produce mechanical energy all happening 5,000 times per minute and still actually works is mindboggling. But the darn thing works really well and might last for decades doing just that. In theory, there is no way this thing should actually work at all let alone as good as it does. And we are so lucky, that the darn thing works so well. It really shouldn’t have. We have already figured out that solar silicon does not work. But we keep banging out heads against a wall trying the same thing over and over again.

Reply to  Bill Illis
March 17, 2017 5:01 pm

Combusts in a cylinder, pushing a piston.

Pedantry aside, the steam engine which works on very similar principles, ie rapid expansion of gases, was invented long before and served as a good prototype for the iCE. I’ve no idea why you’d think anyone would not imagine it working before it was perfected.

Owen in GA
Reply to  Bill Illis
March 17, 2017 6:01 pm

Actually a photon of just the right energy (1022MeV) produces an electron and positron pair. The only problem is you can’t predict when or where that conversion will take place and it is VERY energy dependent.

Bill Illis
Reply to  Bill Illis
March 17, 2017 6:45 pm

Owen in GA – Gamma-ray energy levels? Well, we don’t have any black holes or continuous fusion bomb energy levels available so that puts it into the “doesn’t work” category.

Bill Illis
Reply to  Bill Illis
March 17, 2017 7:10 pm

Although, that is very interesting and the first time I have heard about this. While the energy levels are so far out there, it does suggest that photons and electrons are made of the same basic substance and suggests there may be a way to directly transform photons into electricity which would take humanity to the next level. This is the kind of physics research we need rather than the usual climate science repetition that we are subjected to.

Reply to  Bill Illis
March 17, 2017 7:21 pm

” there may be a way to directly transform photons into electricity ”


Smart Rock
Reply to  Bill Illis
March 18, 2017 4:07 pm

It’s called an INTERNAL combustion engine, to distinguish it from the reciprocating steam engine (EXTERNAL combustion) which had got pretty sophisticated. The biggest issue was probably ignition, which has evolved hugely since the first magneto ignition systems. Anyway, apart from the ignition issue, they had a pretty good working model, so why would anyone think it wouldn’t work?

Reply to  Andy May
March 17, 2017 6:10 pm

“dispatchable” power

Reply to  Andy May
March 18, 2017 2:22 am

Yes, there is a Europe wide market in electricity, so there is renewable electricity available cheaply from other countries perhaps as often as it is available from your own country… Germany makes a lot of money exporting electricity by the way.

Johann Wundersamer
Reply to  Andy May
March 18, 2017 2:56 am


“Griff on March 18, 2017 at 2:22 am
Yes, there is a Europe wide market in electricity, so there is renewable electricity available cheaply from other countries perhaps as often as it is available from your own country… Germany makes a lot of money exporting electricity by the way.”

The punch line is

‘Germany makes a lot of money’

Johann Wundersamer
Reply to  Andy May
March 18, 2017 2:59 am

Griff red alert.

Be careful as can.

Reply to  Andy May
March 18, 2017 6:53 am

The opposite is true. Germany makes a loss on exported electricity. If Germany really made a lot of money by exporting electricity we wouldn’t have to pay 7 ct/kWh as RE subsidy. In fact we are often paying money to get rid of the excess electricity when we have not enough blind capacity to neutralize this redundant energy.

Poland and the Czech Republic are already complaining that German excess electricity is using most of their free grid capacity to bring the northern wind power down to Bavaria. This is why Polish and Czech power plants get not enough capacity in their own grid and regularly have to shut down.

Slowly the government is realizing the mess it created. They are stepping back from their own goals. Will they ever admit that the whole “Energiewende” was bs? Probably not.

Reply to  Andy May
March 18, 2017 8:08 am

>>Germany makes a lot of money exporting electricity by the way.

Pure B.S.

Germany has the same problem as Denmark. Its renewable energy comes all at once, and not necessarily when they want it. So it sells its excess power to Scandinavia, who can throttle back their hydro quite easily. And then when Germany wants the power, it buys it back. Great, huh?

The trouble is that Denmark and Germany have to sell the power at off-peak times, and very cheaply. And they have to buy it back at peak times, when they are desperate, at hugely inflated costs. So Scandinavia are laughing all the way to the bank, while Denmark and Germany have the highest electricity costs in Europe. (Note: Germany subsidises industrial usage, at the expense of domestic users – who pay more than double the industrial cost.)


Reply to  Andy May
March 19, 2017 1:39 pm

The electricity cooperation with Germany costs the Czechs alone $65,000 annually. It must be similar in Poland.

Reply to  jake
March 20, 2017 1:14 am

Look here for Germanies electricity generation. Solar plays no role in winter.
Also keep in mind that solar variation is unpredictable (clouds come and go in minutes) so backup is a big problem. In summer we observed that electricity prices drop sharply at noon: unbalance of production and demand.

Reply to  Roger Dewhurst
March 17, 2017 7:06 pm

Of course it differs in value. Junk food differs in value from organic food. Clarify your assertion please.

Reply to  Roger Dewhurst
March 17, 2017 8:04 pm

Of course it differs in value. Some is reliable, some is unreliable. Some is available on demand, some is not.

Some is cheap, some is expensive.

Reliable and on-demand is far, far more valuable. Cheap allows more value to be added elsewhere.

Reply to  AP
March 18, 2017 3:51 pm

In 2016, some 350,000 family households in Germany had their electricity cut off because they could not afford the monthly costs. In the UK that number appears to be in the 250,000 range and a growing number of households in Ontario, Canada are living the same nightmare.

It’s called energy poverty – in all cases in developed economies – and is the direct outcome of market distorting energy policies based on greenie wishful thinking which hits the poor and elderly the hardest. In a world awash in affordable hydrocarbon based energy it’s a disgrace that “progressive” politics are imposing the most regressive of all possible taxes on the most vulnerable..

Stephen Richards
Reply to  Roger Dewhurst
March 18, 2017 2:04 am

Changing the name of a well understood medium is usually only for the purpose of confusion or jargonism

Reply to  Roger Dewhurst
March 18, 2017 2:21 am

Too much complexity is unwieldy and difficult to communicate to policy makers and citizens. However, oversimplifying and pretending grossly different things are equivalent is irrational and leads to perverse policy outcomes. The latter is the path we are on today and we need to correct back toward greater fidelity to the truth.

First we need to distinguish 3 distinct uses for energy:
1. Thermal (i.e., comfort heat, process heat)
2. Electricity
3. Transportation

This distinction is importation because each fuel has a different EROI for each application, and some are uniquely suited to one application or another. For example, liquid fuels are particularly suited for transportation, fossil fuels have their highest EROI when used directly as thermal energy, and PV solar exclusively produces electricity.

Second, when comparing alternatives within an application, we need to normalize criteria to compare apples to apples. For electricity, we need to normalize to an equal degree of “dispatchability,” which is the measure of reliability and controllability that is essential for grid compatibility. This is what Weisbach et al. did by apportioning pumped hydro storage to buffer and backup each resource as necessary to levelize their grid compatibility.

BTW, buffering and backup are distinct functions. Buffering or “firming” is filling in the gaps and variability of intermittent solar and wind to make their outputs stable. Backup is alternative generation of sufficient capacity and duration to completely replace the intermittent source for hours or days. In the real world, PV solar output frequently varies by 80% of nameplate capacity in mere seconds due to clouds. Spinning reserve or charged storage is necessary for buffering — to be ready to ramp up its output and pump electrons to instantaneously compensate for the unpredictable drop-offs in PV solar output. The instability of wind power is also well known and was demonstrated recently in the total blackout of South Australia. Their entire grid collapsed during a wind storm due to spasmodic wind output and loss of the grid link to external resources necessary to buffer and backup wind. When the winds got so high that the turbines feathered themselves and braked to a stop for self-preservation, there was not enough backup capacity to balance load on the grid, and the whole state went dark, doing great damage to smelting operations with molten metal in crucibles, and leaving the entire population at the mercy of the storm without the benefit of electricity.

Weather-dependent variably electricity is inherently incompatible with a grid that requires generation to be precisely matched to load as measured 50 or 60 times per second. All kilowatt-hours are not equal. We absolutely cannot treat intermittent electricity the same as fully dispatchable electricity without normalizing for dispatchibility. The U.S. DOE and EIA know this, but have been ignoring it in their analyses out of political loyalty to the agenda of the political party in power. The faulty plant lifespans and other assumptions used in their LCA are intentional for the same reason. We need for scientific rationality and sound engineering to reinterject themselves into public policy.

Reply to  Ike Kiefer
March 18, 2017 2:26 am

“In the real world, PV solar output frequently varies by 80% of nameplate capacity in mere seconds due to clouds”

Over a wide area this isn’t a problem.

and Germany managed its grid through a solar eclipse during a period when soalr was providing around a third of its power.

and in SA the windfarms tripped due to poor grid settings… that problem was solved in Germany by 2008.

Patrick MJD
Reply to  Ike Kiefer
March 18, 2017 2:29 am

“Griff March 18, 2017 at 2:26 am

and in SA the windfarms tripped due to poor grid settings…”

You have that info?

Reply to  Ike Kiefer
March 18, 2017 3:13 am

PV solar variability of 80% nameplate is normal for mutli-hundred megawatt utility-scale arrays covering hundreds of hectares. If you want to consider “wide area” larger than that, we need to add to the LCOE of PV solar all the transmission lines necessary to integrate that output. BTW, this should be done anyway, and is another intentional omission of the DOE and EIA. Even so, that output will still be variable during the day, and will still be zero at night, requiring significant buffering and full backup.

As to wind, I am working on a detailed piece that will address your false claims. The short answer is the SA grid failed because of pre-existing conditions set by bad policy (critical lack of synchronous resources), and immediate causes (wildly variable wind output and the collapse of the external grid link). You can’t fix lack of synchronous generation with “settings.” The government of SA directed the power utility to take the ballast out of the ship by permanently shutting down the coal plant, and grid predictably capsized during the next storm.

Patrick MJD
Reply to  Ike Kiefer
March 18, 2017 3:43 am

“Ike Kiefer March 18, 2017 at 3:13 am

As to wind, I am working on a detailed piece that will address your false claims.”

Well said. Looking forward to seeing your piece.

Reply to  Ike Kiefer
March 18, 2017 5:50 pm

You clearly don’t have a clue – just spouting. I live on a remote island – off the grid – and run our entire house, yes Josephine all requisite appliances included, on approx. 2kW/24hrs. I can see my regulator meter as I write: we have had sun mixed with varying cloud all day and PV input varies by at least the numbers mentioned.

That’s real world -applies not only to our islands but anywhere, and at scale. In Dec 2016 and Jan 2017, solar and wind contributed just over 1% to Germany’s energy input.

Next time you chime in, why not come up with something that based on reality. If you can’t why not just shut up.

steven f
Reply to  Ike Kiefer
March 18, 2017 6:44 pm

“and in SA the windfarms tripped due to poor grid settings… that problem was solved in Germany by 2008.”

When a short circuit occurs on a grid power plants go into ride through mode. Basically they keep generating power with the assumption that the short is transient in nature. In Gas or wind turbines the inertia of the turbine basically determines how long it can put out power when a short occurs. If the short is not transient a circuit breaker trips protecting the power plant from damage.

In wind turbines the energy from wind is converted to DC then to AC. How long it can pump out power is dependent on how long it takes for the electronic to overheat. The manufactures of wind turbines allow the grid manager and wind farm owner to customize the settings. The default is typically set a 3 or 4 ride throughs. Anything more than that will cause the computer to shut down the turbine two allow crews to inspect the equipment for the cause of the shorts and make repairs. The setting can be set from 0 up to more than 20.. The grid manager should insure that the settings used are appropriate for the grid.

in Australia the grid operator ignored this setting and all wind farm operators left it at default. As a result when 3 tornados damaged transmission lines f creating about 4 transient short circuits the computers registered too many ride through events and turned the wind turbine off even though 90% were generating power. This sudden loss of power caused an overload on the Victoria interconnected which then shut down. The fossil fuel power plants also shut down due to shorts, overloads, or in one case lightning damage.

The wind turbines did shut down due to no wind or excessive wind. Wind farm output was in fact stable just before the shorts occurred. All of the ride through settings in the computers have been changed. No damage was found at any of the wind farms.


Reply to  Ike Kiefer
March 19, 2017 3:44 am

“and in SA the windfarms tripped due to poor grid settings”

Correction. It wasn’t the grid settings that were wrong. It was the wind turbine settings.

“The Titanic was lost due to poor iceberg locations”

Reply to  Ike Kiefer
March 20, 2017 6:15 am

Storm fronts cover huge areas.

March 17, 2017 2:37 pm

Good review of the current economics of “renewables”. Without a major breakthrough in storage, no way are renewables practical, and the pricing should be adjusted to account for the need for backup–i.e. greatly reduced.
Our green advocates will still claim the storage exists or is about to exist. Compressed unicorn farts in a combined cycle plant?

Reply to  Tom Halla
March 17, 2017 4:25 pm

Tom Halla –
I am reliably informed that Nessie – aka LNM – will ride to the assistance of the bean-eating unicorns.

Wondrous farts. It has been alleged.

Mods – /SARC.. Note, please. And thanks again for your help.

Reply to  Tom Halla
March 17, 2017 5:30 pm

Liberal working model: “Ideas so good they have to be mandated.”

Reply to  higley7
March 18, 2017 2:43 am


michael hart
Reply to  higley7
March 18, 2017 3:49 am

Exactly. You don’t need to be an expert to understand that there is no impediment to companies doing it by choice if they wished to, and if it was genuinely profitable. Yet the state has to supply money and write new laws to make it happen?

Environmentalists also produce their own calculus to argue that normal accountancy simply can’t value anything properly by their standards. Like politicians, they understand money well enough when it comes to their own finances.

Reply to  Tom Halla
March 17, 2017 9:07 pm

It isnt just storage, it is, as the artcle points out, also about useful production capacity over time. Dispatchable power. Too much use of averages by those invested in renewables. With fossil fuels you can extract close to stated maximum capacity when ever you want for as long as you want. With renewables you only have a probability of drlivering output. uncertainty is always bad for consumers (good for hedge funds though). Coincidence? I think not. Widespread use of renewables needs huge amounts of storage and huge amounts of rated installed capacity. There must be a lot of people who understand this, but i guess they dont work in South Australia.

Gareth Phillips
March 17, 2017 2:38 pm

Can renewables ever replace fossil fuels and nuclear?

Not at the moment, but future technology may change things.
If in 1890 you had asked “Can automobiles replace the horse”? I would have said, no, not at this point, however……….

Reply to  Gareth Phillips
March 17, 2017 3:12 pm

But if you had thought as a futurist you probably would have said yes!

Steamships and trains had proved the concept of mass transit the car was merely an extension.

Gareth Phillips
Reply to  Phaedrus
March 17, 2017 3:43 pm

True, true, so maybe the indicators are already there for all to see.

Reply to  Phaedrus
March 17, 2017 10:01 pm

As in the case of horses? Some got sick and tired of scooping Sh!t, and started thinking, the same for new ( for that matter ANY new ) progresses. Problem today is that now too much of innovation is “regulated” ,through fights over patents, environmental regulations that stifle progress etc, I wonder to this day what would have happened if Tesla would not have been opposed by Edison for instance.
My opinion is that the last administration is a case in point. They stopped progress at every turn.

Bryan A
Reply to  Phaedrus
March 18, 2017 3:53 pm

Then, obviously at this point in time, you must agree that forcing renewables down everyone’s collective throat makes about as much sense as forcing everyone into automobiles in 1890. So perhaps it is time to stop preaching renewables until they automatically improve the automobile did

John Harmsworth
Reply to  Phaedrus
March 19, 2017 12:46 pm

If we were running on wind and solar and fossil fuel energy had never been discovered there would only be about two billion on the planet and they’d all be hungry. There wouldn’t be a tree left and the person who discovered fossil fuel energy would be hailed as the saviour of the human race. Those who believe we should stop using fossil fuels at this point would condemn the poor of the world to a hungry and hopeless life. They want Africans to live in shacks with a single PV powered light and no power for industry. It is a disgusting extension of colonialism. Africa as human zoo!

Chris Hanley
Reply to  Gareth Phillips
March 17, 2017 3:12 pm

People took to horseless carriages because they wanted to and could afford them, not because of government mandates.
If fossil fuel use worries individuals they are free to buy and install rooftop solar panels and batteries, cut themselves off from the grid, and enjoy their fossil-fuel-free life and leave the rest of us to enjoy plentiful energy use free of extra taxes and subsidies.

Chris Hanley
Reply to  Chris Hanley
March 17, 2017 3:29 pm

Early autos were expensive and financed by manufacturers as with GMAC (founded 1919).
That model could be followed by solar panel and battery manufacturers, after all solar-generated power is free therefore panels and batteries could be paid off in no time (that was a joke).

Reply to  Chris Hanley
March 17, 2017 3:41 pm

Yes, but that whole ‘compelling-others-to-do-things-via-government-dictate’ thing is so trendy and satisfying right now.

Reply to  Chris Hanley
March 17, 2017 4:24 pm

Horseless carriages were also hailed as wonders of the age as it stopped manure from being spread on every street. A lot of non-rural people have no concept that horses produced massive amounts of dung and were a source of major pollution and filth before delivery trucks and cars came along.

I’m just fine with people wanting to go off the grid and go organic etc. Just don’t think that it’s cheaper, easier or more sustainable. The community that I live in had the coldest winter in many, many years. Air quality warnings were issued because the price of electricity for heat got so high that many “back to earthers” decided to switch to burning wood (only organic firewood, as one supplier gamely advertises).

Unintended consequences of high electricity prices are more smog and increased CO2 as people switch to cheaper dirtier fuels. It’s the same in the Third World. People in India don’t burn cow dung because they want to; they have no other options.

Ian Macdonald
Reply to  Chris Hanley
March 17, 2017 4:29 pm

People took to horseless carriages for a number of reasons, but mostly because it is very expensive to keep a horse in an urban environment. That is, if you can find anywhere to keep it. It also costs you more or less the same in upkeep even if you only ride it at weekends.

Also, the accident rate even with early autos was considerably lower than that with horses or bicycles. Safety is a commodity that’s hard to put a value on, but most people consider it important.

For country folks that would not be such an issue, but then again by the time the auto arrived most of the population was in towns. Again it’s a question of comparing the TCO rather than the purchase cost.

Reply to  Chris Hanley
March 17, 2017 5:15 pm

Yes indeed.
My great grandfather was killed at the age of 43, when his horse bolted and he was crushed to death by his own ice truck while making a delivery.
This occurred at 13th and Race streets in Philly, in the year 1906.
He was said to be a particularly strong, smart and capable individual, but these qualities availed him naught when that horse got spooked.

Gentle Tramp
Reply to  Chris Hanley
March 18, 2017 12:57 am

I can confirm this too:

My Grand-Grandfather was killed by a horse accident in a big city around the year 1902. He died from the consequences of a horse kick.

So, the “new” transport technology at the time was saver than the old horse power. Sadly this is not true for the new energy technologies nowadays: At least not for many killed birds and bats (by wind power) or killed Orang-Utans (by palm-oil plantations) and huge areas of eco-deserts for the production of other energy plants (e.g. gigantic areas of corn or sugar cane single-crop farming).

Here one can see troublesome facts about “green” energy:

Reply to  Gareth Phillips
March 17, 2017 3:15 pm

In 1890 the automobile was less than five years old with only a handful in existence. Within a decade or so it was obvious that it would replace the horse, and it did so by 1920 without any government interference. ‘Renewables’ have been around for decades or centuries, but are still dependent on massive subsidies and forced regulation.

Reply to  Charles
March 18, 2017 12:03 am

Massive amounts of government money was spent on roads, and then highways, that created the market and demand for cars.

Reply to  Chris
March 21, 2017 5:40 pm

“Massive amounts of government money was spent on roads”

There’s no such thing as “government money”, Chris.

There is only “taxpayers’ money”, and as the taxpayers bought cars in ever-increasing numbers, they instructed the government to spend the taxpayers’ money on more, better roads that they could drive their cars on.

Patrick MJD
Reply to  Charles
March 18, 2017 2:21 am

“Chris March 18, 2017 at 12:03 am

Massive amounts of government money was spent on roads…”

Govn’t money? In the UK it’s called the road *FUND* licence, designed to build and maintain roads, ie, user pays. It’s a separate “tax” on vehicle ownership. In New Zealand it’s called “road user charges” (RUC’s), and was designed to do the same, but ~50% of revenue raised isn’t being used for purpose, same as the UK.

In 1995 I migrated to New Zealand and at the time the tax revenues raised by the UK road tax (As we call it) on private vehicles alone, and after calculating the exchange rate, represented ~75% of GDP for NZ as a whole.

So Govn’ts make lots of money from private vehicle ownership.

Reply to  Charles
March 18, 2017 4:22 am

Chris “Massive amounts of government money was spent on roads, and then highways, that created the market and demand for cars.”

Um, growing up in Western Australia I can confirm many ‘roads’ I traveled in the ’60’s and ’70’s were dirt paths, some occasionally graded by the council but not always. heck in the popular South West even today some of the major road links between towns are still graded dirt.

Roads aren’t required. When distance has to be covered and your options are: On foot or ;By vehicle, then governments participation is irrelevant.

Roads existed before cars. Cars didn’t need roads. Roads are *better* for cars however, I’ll grant you that but I’d suggest maybe the car owners were the ones to pressure the governments into improving and expanding roads, otherwise the option you claim would suggest someone was amazingly convincing in tricking the the governments of the world into building roads for the few cars that actually existed at that time.

Mike the Morlock
Reply to  Charles
March 18, 2017 8:40 am

Chris March 18, 2017 at 12:03 am

Massive amounts of government money was spent on roads, and then highways, that created the market and demand for cars.

Chris it was business, trade and public need that caused road building. Rt1 on the US east coast was built in the earliest days of the republic.

Go to many old European cities, and you can drive on Roman roads. Now unless you are going to maintain that the Roman Senate funded road building knowing that someday a Roman merchant would get to sell a Frenchmen a car, I think you think you are putting your horse behind the cart .


Reply to  Mike the Morlock
March 18, 2017 2:01 pm

“Mike the Morlock commented on Exergy and Power Plants.

“in response to Charles:

“In 1890 the automobile was less than five years old with only a handful in existence. Within a decade or so it was obvious that it would replace the horse, and it did so by 1920 without any government interference. ‘Renewables’ have been around for decades or centuries, but are still dependent on massive subsidies […]

“Chris March 18, 2017 at 12:03 am

“Massive amounts of government money was spent on roads, and then highways, that created the market and demand for cars.”

Throwing this in just for fun. It’s from a script I wrote for an Australian classical music program based on the Babe series of films.
“The cantata entitled Le feu céleste, the celestial fire, by Saint-Saëns, is a celebration of electricity and it opened the World Fair in Paris in 1900, which itself was a celebration of the achievements of the past century, nation by nation, and a promotion of developments leading the world into the 20th century. Some are surprising.

Russian sparkling wine defeated all the French entries to claim the internationally coveted ‘Grand Prix de Champagne’.

Rudolf Diesel made his debut with his diesel engine running on peanut oil.

Other debuts included the world’s first commercial escalator and the first films with synchronised sound.

The Eiffel Tower, built for the World Fair of 1889, was lined with lights and a powerful electric light beam shone from its top.

It’s easy to lose sight of how things were and we do take electricity for granted these days. But electricity generation and distribution and the electrification of factories began very gradually only in the 1890s. Homes and street lighting in Melbourne were electrified from 1894. Melbourne power stations then did not operate on Sundays and the street lights were switched off at midnight. The world’s first regular electric tram service was established in Berlin in 1881, Melbourne following in 1906.

The internal combustion engine was not yet supreme and most cars were electric. An electric vehicle held the land speed record, exceeding 100km/hr for the first time in April 1899.

By 1927, 34 per cent of homes in Australia were electrically wired, with the most popular electrical appliance being the clothes iron!

I wrote that in 2011. I guess sales of electric irons are now declining somewhat.

Reply to  Charles
March 18, 2017 5:02 pm

In the US, $600 per year from the general fund goes to road related costs. The % of total monies spent for roads that comes from gas taxes has steadily declined over time. http://www.uspirg.org/sites/pirg/files/reports/Who%20Pays%20for%20Roads%20vUS.pdf

Robert Austin
Reply to  Gareth Phillips
March 17, 2017 5:15 pm

Future tech is still limited by the laws of physics.

Leonard Lane
Reply to  Robert Austin
March 17, 2017 10:33 pm

And always will be.

Samuel C Cogar
Reply to  Robert Austin
March 18, 2017 4:50 am

Past tech was also limited by the laws of physics.

Reply to  Gareth Phillips
March 17, 2017 5:22 pm

No, renewables will not economically replace fossil fuels and nuclear except in small boutique circumstances. If the boutiques grown bigger in time, that is good for some purposes, but they will not grow big enough to be dominant.
This was known since before the1950s. The logic is based on concepts like energy density, wind patterns, solar output, conversion efficiencies and prior operational measurements. While conversion efficiencies for photovoltaics like rooftop have improved over the decades, the energy density problem eventually sets the limit and further gains in efficiency are not going to have much effect. There will still be a big gap in measures like EROI between solar/wind renewables and fossil/nuclear mainstream systems.
It is disgraceful that this was known for decades, yet poor engineering modelling and poor political decisions allowed a very costly excursion down the dead end road of renewables.

Reply to  Geoff Sherrington
March 18, 2017 2:24 am

They already replaced 32% of German electricity and over 40% of Spanish.

They in 2015 provided 17% of all EU energy.

Really, the figures on the ground show you we are already well past the ’boutique’ stage.

Reply to  Griff
March 18, 2017 3:21 am

Read again, “Renewables will not economically replace fossil fuels….” Think about the word ‘economically”. Look at energy prices in Germany. Renewables are uneconomic compared with coal and nuclear. That is so clear that it is inarguable.

Reply to  Geoff Sherrington
March 18, 2017 3:52 am

I’ll repeat what I said yesterday.

Griff is talking about this, and as usual is being disingenuous in his claims.

For the purpose of this claim the EU includes biomass (which mostly consists of burning garbage in Sweden afaik) and hydro as renewables, which make up the vast bulk of renewable energy production in a select few countries – which countries, being so reliant on hydro and biomass, massively skew the statistics.

For most other purposes, hydro and biomass aren’t included as renewables because they’re considered to be net producers of greenhouse gasses. Biomass – which, again, sources much of its fuel from garbage –
produces a net CO2 increase. Hydro is considered to produce huge clouds of methane.

And I’ll add this:

Griff likes to bang on about renewables, but it’s clear what he really means by that term is solar and wind. He’s always talking about solar and wind. Never biomass, never hydro. Never biofuels.

The figure he’s talking about is also not a measure of grid production but total gross energy consumption. That is, the gross amount of energy delivered for consumption across all sectors. It is not an actual tally of energy consumed, and it is not a tally of grid production. He deliberately ignores this distinction and constantly claims that the EU has 17% of its energy supply from “renewables”, whist constantly referring to renewables as solar and wind – meaning to imply by omission that the 17% figure is grid consumption.

It isn’t.

Germany’s wind and solar contributions to its grid appear impressive, but they are by nature unreliable. They will never replace other forms of energy production , cannot provide baseload and must be backed by other forms of production to be useful. All it takes is a night-time blocking high to settle over Germany – a very common occurrence – and the entire country’s “renewable” capacity is meaningless.

Reply to  Geoff Sherrington
March 18, 2017 5:39 am

What do you call it when all evidence to the contrary, a person discounts facts and adopts rhetoric as their answer to everything? Religion?

In which case Griff would be candidate for Pope.

Reply to  Geoff Sherrington
March 18, 2017 7:00 am

@Griff (really for those Griff is trying to deceive)

Total generation from RE and maximum generation from RE is far less meaningful than minimum generation, because the minimum reliable output determines how much dispatchable fossil fuel capacity has to be constantly maintained in the costly and inefficient roles of buffering and backup. And all the costs of buffering and backup should be rightly charged to the RE sources that require them. Here is the German electricity generation fuel profile for 23-29 January 2017 with a highlighted period on the 24th expanded to show exactly what forms of generation were contributing when the grid load was a stout 70 gigawatts.


In percentages:
Solar 0%
Wind 1.1%
Coal 58.8%
Gas 17.0%
Uranium 10.8%
Fossil Fuel 75.9%

So the numbers that matter are that Germany today in 2017, after 6 years of energiewende, must maintain 100% backup capacity for wind and solar and be able to supply 76% of grid load with fossil fuel. Firm capacity of 0% and 1.1% for RE are pretty “boutique” in my book.

BTW, Spain’s government was forced into insolvency by RE subsidies and had to retrench on their commitments. The news I ready from Germany indicates a breaking point is fast approaching due to rising consumer dissatisfaction and energy poverty and the exodus of major industries due to the sky-high electricity prices. Neither are examples the world should follow.

Patrick MJD
Reply to  Geoff Sherrington
March 18, 2017 6:12 pm

Griff care to respond to the post by Ike Kiefer on March 18, 2017 at 7:00 am? Completely discredits your “facts and figures” you’ve been posting.

Reply to  Geoff Sherrington
March 20, 2017 6:20 am

Geoff, Griff is also pulling a fast one by comparing faceplate power ratings,not actual power production.

Reply to  Gareth Phillips
March 18, 2017 2:59 am

Making intermittent wind and solar grid-compatible has always been about cost-effective and high-density electricity storage. But when that order-of-magnitude storage improvement arrives, most people do not realize it will also benefit baseload sources like coal and nuclear power. It will allow them to run continuously at their most efficient 100% level and still meter their output to match changing load. So wind and solar will still have to compete with other alternatives, and their lower EROI will cause their LCOE to be higher. Even when better storage arrives, RE will still need subsidies and mandates to be competitive with the grid.

Alan Watt, Climate Denialist Level 7
Reply to  Ike Kiefer
March 18, 2017 7:03 am

Thank you; I have made this point previously. Holy Grail battery technology is much better mated to thermal baseload sources, because you’ll need much less of it than you would for intermittent sources like wind and solar — just enough to smooth out the daily and weekly demand fluctuations.

If battery technology is good and cheap enough, you could substantially reduce or perhaps even eliminate peaking sources, which have the highest cost per MwH because they are used infrequently.

Harry Passfield
Reply to  Gareth Phillips
March 18, 2017 6:25 am

Gareth Phillips:

“Can automobiles replace the horse

And you quite rightly say that at that time you would have said no – but maybe. The thing is, in saying maybe, you would not then have implemented a plan to kill all the horses on the off-chance…

Reply to  Gareth Phillips
March 18, 2017 6:51 am

Would you have gone for the Edsel and betamax?

Bryan A
Reply to  Gareth Phillips
March 18, 2017 3:50 pm

Then, obviously at this point in time, you must agree that forcing renewables down everyone’s collective throat makes about as much sense as forcing everyone into automobiles in 1890. So perhaps it is time to stop preaching renewables until they automatically improve the automobile did

Reply to  Gareth Phillips
March 20, 2017 6:16 am

Then why do we have to force it now. Lets wait for this future technology and then implement renewables.

Reply to  MarkW
March 20, 2017 6:42 am

the only major improvement for solar is to place panels in space. But how to get this energy on earth?
Wind energy is fixed. More energy needs more space.

Bryan A
Reply to  MarkW
March 20, 2017 9:58 am

put it through the Microwave

Or Fax it that might do the trick

Or, best yet, move all those Uber Greens up there where the Solar Energy is

March 17, 2017 2:44 pm

“If they did close, the grid would quickly become unstable as third world grids often are.”

Are you saying South Australia is part of the Third World?

Reply to  AP
March 17, 2017 3:58 pm

Seems like SA politicians & green zealots are rapidly forcing it in that direction, but that’s fine, it will be a good lesson to the rest of the world.
A masterclass in energy stupidity.

Reply to  AP
March 17, 2017 4:01 pm


Reply to  rd50
March 17, 2017 4:40 pm

rd50 (and AP)
South Australia is, indeed, back in the Third World.
It cannot guarantee electricity to all.
Like Mumbai and Manila [when I visited those great cities] – maybe better now – I don’t know.

Auto – believing that the UK is – very slowly – picking our way out of the ‘Green’ obsession with unreliable electricity – whilst noting that, as I write, Wind is giving over 25% of electricity demand – per http://www.gridwatch.templar.co.uk/ .

NW sage
Reply to  AP
March 17, 2017 4:11 pm

“South Australia is part of the Third World?” if not now they are pointed in that direction. No business, if they had a choice, would set up shop or stay where electrical energy is not reliable — as in ON DEMAND! If businesses leave a state begins to look like third world countries.

Reply to  AP
March 17, 2017 7:09 pm

The govt. of SA seems to be working hard to achieve that distinction.

Aaron Edwards
March 17, 2017 2:53 pm

Roger Dewhurst, your point sounds interesting but could you expand on it a bit more? Not clear where you are going with this.

March 17, 2017 3:06 pm

“Exergy” is nonsense.

R. Shearer
Reply to  Nicholas Schroeder
March 17, 2017 4:23 pm

No, it’s applied engineering based on thermodynamic principles.

charles nelson
Reply to  Nicholas Schroeder
March 17, 2017 6:15 pm

Nicholas has spoken!

John Haddock
March 17, 2017 3:09 pm

I agree with Roger Dewhurst.
In the context of electricity production it doesn’t matter that fossil fuels have other uses (i.e. making plastics). The value of a fossil fuel is just its market cost in the form it is required in for generating electricity.

Reply to  John Haddock
March 17, 2017 3:40 pm

Generally, fossil fuel market cost will reflect total demand.

NW sage
Reply to  John Haddock
March 17, 2017 4:16 pm

Market price is determined by demand for ALL possible uses of the product – in this case fossil fuel. Liquid fossil fuels prices are strongly influenced by its demonstrated uses for energy to power transportation – none of which involve electricity to any extent.

tony mcleod
Reply to  Andy May
March 18, 2017 1:23 am

It is simple Andy if you assume the external costs of burning fosil fuel are low. There may be large costs.

Patrick MJD
Reply to  Andy May
March 18, 2017 1:52 am

“tony mcleod March 18, 2017 at 1:23 am

There may be large costs.”

You don’t know?

John Haddock
Reply to  Andy May
March 18, 2017 7:44 am

Oh, I’ve thought it through, thank you.
I think we’re saying roughly the same thing, but I prefer to let straight economics do the differentiating.
In a free market for a commodity, the output value is determined by the end use market. So whether it makes sense or not to use a particular technology or process to produce electricity is simply an economic decision based on the input costs and investment. If the market demands 24/7 reliable supply the investment bases and running costs for wind and solar must include backup capability. This is inescapable if renewables are going to provide a sizeable proportion of demand. No need to talk about different ‘values’, just require that renewables are costed for 24/7 reliable on-demand supply.

dan no longer in CA
Reply to  Andy May
March 18, 2017 11:45 am

Andy May: “The problem with renewables is they are delivered at the wrong time and wasted.”

When I lived in the Mojave desert, solar arrived at the same time as max electricity use, which was driven by AC. On a cloudy day, less AC and less solar power. Not a perfect match, but generally true. Of course, most people don’t live in the desert.

Reply to  Andy May
March 20, 2017 6:25 am

Pollution from burning fossil fuels has been taken care of decades ago. As to CO2, it is a hugely positive externality, and as such should be subsidized.

March 17, 2017 3:23 pm

Assuming a 30 year lifespan for all power generators leads to rdiculously inaccurate estimates of the cost of nuclear power, which typically can provide over 90% capacity for 60 years or more.
A large portion of the cost of nuclear power lies in the large expenditure required for building the plant, thus lifespan in the case of nuclear has a great effect on the levelized cost estimates.
And a solar panel does not provide the same output for 30 years. It decreases from day one.
Even the Energy Dept realized that for commercial solar, you need a desert, and pumped storage.
But even deserts can get cloudy and a grid must make sure disruptions don’t ever occur, regardless of how infrequent they may be.

RT Rider
Reply to  arthur4563
March 17, 2017 5:51 pm

Could you site a nuclear reactor that has operated for 60 years? I’d be interested in knowing which ones and what the reactor technology is. Considering 60 years ago that metallurgy was no where near as advanced as today, I’m left wondering how the reactor metal escaped hydride embrittlement.

For example the Candu system, which is low pressure and had a planned lifetime of 40 years, only lasted 20 before major rehabilitation was required. The Bruce complex, which is the largest in North America, is rehabilitating it’s last reactor (out of 8) over the next few years. This program has been on-going for almost 16 years.

dan no longer in CA
Reply to  RT Rider
March 17, 2017 6:02 pm

RT: Here’s a relevant section from the World Nuclear Association on US reactors:
“By the end of 2016, the NRC had extended the licences of 87 reactors (83 still operating) beyond 40 years, 88% of the US total, and about 30 are now in their 40-60-year age bracket. The NRC is considering licence renewal applications for eight further units. Hence, almost all of the US power reactors are likely to have 60-year lifetimes, with owners undertaking major capital works to upgrade them at around 30-40 years. For instance for Davis-Besse, renewed in 2015 to 2037, the owners had invested almost $1 billion. The licence renewal process typically costs $16-25 million, and takes 4-6 years for review by the NRC.

The original 40-year period was more to do with amortisation of capital than implying that reactors were designed for only that lifespan. It was also a conservative measure, and experience since has identified life-limiting factors and addressed them. The NRC is now preparing to consider extending operating licences beyond 60 out to 80 years, with its Subsequent Licence Renewal (SLR) programme. The first applications are expected before 2020, and Dominion has already advised the NRC of its intention to apply for a second 20-year renewal for the two Surry reactors in 2019. In June 2016 Exelon said it would apply in 2018 for the second licence renewal for its two Peach Bottom reactors, taking them to 80 years.”

So you see that using a 60 year lifetime is average, not a maximum. Source:

richard verney
Reply to  RT Rider
March 18, 2017 1:36 am

The oldest still working nuclear reactor is in Russia, the FI.

It came on line in December 1946 and is still operating some 70 years on.


There are a number of research nuclear reactors operating in the US which are over 50 years of age.

The world’s oldest commercial nuclear reactor was Oldbury Power Station in the UK, and was shut down in 2012, after some 44 years of commercial operation. I do not know whether that record still stands or whether there are now (2017) some older commercial nuclear reactors still operating.

Alan Watt, Climate Denialist Level 7
Reply to  RT Rider
March 18, 2017 7:29 am

Dan no longer in CA:

The EIA assumptions on plant lifetime are for capital amortization purposes as part of the LCOE calculations. If you can get more than 40 years out of a nuclear plant, but require significant refit/upgrade work to do so, that does not totally invalidate the EIA estimate. Apples and oranges. If we assume a 40-year capital recovery period for LCOE purposes, that makes the figure for nuclear cheaper than the EIA publishes.

If you extend the service lifetime of the plant with another 20-year license, then any necessary refit/upgrade expenses would start a new capital amortization schedule. Assuming all the original capital investment had been paid off, then the capital cost per mWH over the next 20 years should be substantially lower (assuming refit/upgrade costs are much smaller than original construction), resulting in a lower LCOE.

So how long a nuclear plant stays in operation is a separate issue from what capital recovery period we assume for LCOE on new construction.

dan no longer in CA
Reply to  arthur4563
March 17, 2017 5:55 pm

Another way of stating your first paragraph is that the EIA is not a reliable source of information. It would be nice if someone could point this out to the new US Administration.

Reply to  arthur4563
March 18, 2017 11:05 am

Deserts are also dusty. The dust reduces the effectiveness of the panels and requires regular cleaning in a place where water is scarce.

Reply to  Jay
March 18, 2017 2:10 pm

“Deserts are also dusty. The dust reduces the effectiveness of the panels and requires regular cleaning in a place where water is scarce.”

I don’t know but coatings with nano-materials?

You may recall that in the 1990s one of CSIRO’s research projects produced the self-shearing sheep (true!).

Reply to  arthur4563
March 19, 2017 7:08 am

Re the claim that nuclear reactors last 60 years: no, they don’t. Below is a list of nuclear reactors that were shut down in the US, with their operating lifetime in years. (source: US NRC, Nuclear Regulatory Commission)

Reactor Name State Years Operated
1 Three Mile Island 2 PA 0.93
2 Pathfinder SD 1.19
3 Shoreham NY 2.99
4 Saxton PA 5.00
5 GE Valecitos CA 6.27
6 Fermi 1 MI 6.32
7 Peach Bottom 1 PA 7.76
8 Indian Point-1 NY 12.12
9 N.S. Savannah VA 12.47
10 Fort St. Vrain CO 12.71
11 Humboldt Bay 3 CA 13.21
12 Rancho Seco 1 CA 14.65
13 Trojan OR 16.88
14 Dresden 1 IL 18.49
15 La Crosse WI 19.01
16 Zion 2 IL 24.02
17 Zion 1 IL 24.68
18 Maine Yankee ME 24.73
19 San Onofre 1 CA 25.38
20 Millstone 1 CT 27.59
21 Yankee-Rowe MA 27.77
22 San Onofre 2 CA 29.00
23 Haddam Neck CT 29.33
24 San Onofre 3 CA 30.00
25 Big Rock Point MI 34.72
26 Fort Calhoun NE 43.17

Retired Kit P
Reply to  Roger Sowell
March 19, 2017 8:39 pm

Here is a short list: Utility scale PV farms that that have exceeded a 25 years.

Gary Pearse
March 17, 2017 3:38 pm

Using ecoloon political accounting to obfuscate the picture should surely not be done under any circumstances. It seems to me, if you want to compare costs, you must include all costs of a longer term averaging. If hydro lasts 100yrs, then the cost of solar should include two replacements of the panels during the period.

As an engineer, one must answer: I’m going to need x megawatt service for my manufacturing plant, what are my options and costs. If wind is too uncertain and one doesn’t know what the full costs are going to be, then this simply is not a commercial option. We’ve let politics into the engineering and so of course we are talking apples and oranges all the time. I note you even talk about the negative aspect of hydro storage being the need for more land and don’t seem bothered about how much land might be needed for HTC’s 500million solar panels that we fortunately dodged, or the forests of windmills land needs. Some hydro storage uses underground mines effectively where these are handy. Maybe, mechanical windmills could be employed there to advantage coupled with hydro. Egad, all this fuss over CO2! I continually battle against my P. Eng Association to resist incorporating climate fantasies into engineering work (over and above real empirical climate). And I avoid getting seminared, short coursed and diplomaed in climate change in design.

Ian Macdonald
Reply to  Gary Pearse
March 17, 2017 4:43 pm

Also, if the Greens want to (as some have claimed) install wind nameplate capacity equal to 100% of Grid demand by 2050, then they need to factor in the replacement of all existing turbines at least once, and in some cases twice. That make a huge difference to the overall cost projection.

It could even get to a situation where the worn-out turbine replacement rate soaks-up 100% of production before the target is reached.

Roger Knights
Reply to  Gary Pearse
March 17, 2017 5:23 pm

If hydro lasts 100yrs, then the cost of solar should include two replacements of the panels during the period.

Five replacements seem more likely.

Reply to  Gary Pearse
March 18, 2017 12:19 am

Well said Mr Pearse!

Bruce Cobb
March 17, 2017 3:41 pm

Can renewables ever replace fossil fuels and nuclear? Highly unlikely. In any case, the free market should decide, not government.

tony mcleod
Reply to  Bruce Cobb
March 18, 2017 1:27 am

Ignore any potential future ‘external’ costs? If there are short term profits to be made, so-called free markets are usually pretty good at that.

Patrick MJD
Reply to  tony mcleod
March 18, 2017 3:39 am

“tony mcleod March 18, 2017 at 1:27 am

Ignore any potential future ‘external’ costs?”

Well, no-one did when in the UK we started chopping down forests, and *WE* are still here!

michael hart
Reply to  tony mcleod
March 18, 2017 4:18 am

“Future external costs” is the nexus of most environmental alarmism and is usually wildly exaggerated, if not outright wrong. Case in point: continuing gentle warming and atmospheric CO2 fertilization of plant growth are almost certainly a net benefit, not a cost.

Mike the Morlock
Reply to  tony mcleod
March 18, 2017 8:56 am

tony mcleod March 18, 2017 at 1:27 am

“Ignore any potential future ‘external’ costs?”

How do you ever get out of bed in the morning? Don’t you know that by simply going to the mail box to get your morning paper you can be hit by a run-a-way Lorry, who is riding a horse, which is pulling a turnip cart, that has Governor Brown on top of the turnips!

Relax pull the covers up a bit and stop worrying.

michael 🙂

Reply to  tony mcleod
March 18, 2017 4:20 pm

Let’s go back to before the Industrial Revolution.

Now, What are these “future external costs”?

If there are short term profits to be made, so-called free markets are usually pretty good at that.

“So-called free markets” have provided you with a nice life compared to you ancestors have they not?

What’s a short term profit?

Reply to  tony mcleod
March 20, 2017 6:30 am

tony is one of those people who believes that only someone who works for the government can care for people. And that everyone who works for the government cares.

Reply to  MarkW
March 20, 2017 3:36 pm

tony is one of those people who believes that only someone who works for the government can care for people. And that everyone who works for the government cares.

Old jokes but truisms, “The government, as is customary in joint ventures with industry, provided every assistance short of actual help.” And at the personal individual level, a laugh is the usual response to the introduction, “I’m from the government and I’m here to help.”

H. D. Hoese
March 17, 2017 3:51 pm

The environmental argument has long been that all of the real costs are not considered, whether you consider energy, entropy or whatever. These may be impossible until we really understand the earth and its “ecosystems,” if ever. There have been a number of attempts to value various habitats like marshes, organisms like wildlife, and so on, all based in part on certain assumptions. These are sometimes economic which begins to sound a little like circular reasoning. At least when they try to value “environmental health” they run into each other like windmills killing birds and bats along with other poorly evaluated projects.

March 17, 2017 3:53 pm

In fact, the quantity we call energy can be misleading and many experts prefer the quantity called “exergy,” which is defined in economics as (source Exergy Economics):

“The maximum useful work which can be extracted from a system as it reversibly comes into equilibrium with its environment.”

Have to wonder if “the many experts” wouldn’t be better served by picking up an introductory physics text and grappling with the mysteries of the second law of thermodynamics rather than sitting in meetings inventing cute newspeak jargon.

Gregory Smith
Reply to  cephus0
March 17, 2017 6:14 pm

And after reading the introductory physics text, you should pick up an advanced engineering thermodynamics text. You will discover the exergy is NOT “cute newspeak jargon.” Exergy is an advanced thermodynamic concept vital for optimizing complex energy systems. I do not cover exergy in my undergraduate engineering thermodynamics course since it is a graduate level topic. If you have the right background, you can make a do-it-yourself exergy analysis with Excel. Or, there are commercial software design tools if you can afford a few thousand dollars per seat per year for the software lease.

March 17, 2017 3:57 pm

Technological change can quickly change the above calculations.

About once a month I look for new stories about ammonia as fuel. The attractive thing about ammonia is that it can be produced by electrolysis. In other words, it may be a viable long term storage method for wind electricity.

Here’s a link to a story about some industrial demonstrations of ammonia fuel in Japan.

One project involves mixing ammonia with coal at existing power plants

Adopting this technology at aging plants would bring emissions in line with those of newer facilities, reducing the need for new investment. If 70 plants switch to a coal-ammonia mix, CO2 emissions would fall by an estimated 40 million tons a year, equivalent to about 3% of Japan’s annual total.

There is also evidence that ammonia can reduce particulate emissions from coal fuelled power plants.

Reply to  commieBob
March 17, 2017 4:13 pm

And how much energy to produce the ammonia and how much damage will ammonia introduces in these plants? Great stuff on paper.

Reply to  rd50
March 17, 2017 4:31 pm

It is good to be skeptical. For a couple of years I followed a technology that turned turkey guts into oil. link The technology worked but the company went bankrupt anyway. Perhaps if the price of oil had stayed above $100/barrel they could have survived. The devil is always in the detail.

The Japanese are actually doing ammonia demonstration projects. We’ll know if it works in a year or two.

Reply to  rd50
March 17, 2017 4:56 pm

Yes I am skeptical.
Here is what you omitted from your link.

“In rough numbers, Japan expects total power generation to reach 1,065 million MWh in 2030, with 26% of this power supplied by coal. If ammonia were to displace 20% of that coal power, which is the fuel displacement ratio described above, Japan would require annual imports of roughly 20 million metric tons of ammonia.
This is a big number: it represents about 10% of the current global production capacity. Of course, Australia is already making plans to meet this demand.”

So, Japan will be using 20 million metric tons of ammonia. Superb idea from you: produce ammonia!

Reply to  rd50
March 17, 2017 5:27 pm

As I recall, it turned out the process of turning waste into liquid fuel by use of heat and pressure was not easily scalable.
It would work just fine on a small scale, but there was no way to make a profit on it at a larger scale, for numerous reasons.

Reply to  Andy May
March 17, 2017 4:33 pm

In the Japanese example I linked, the economics are different because they have to rely on LNG. The article deals exactly with your question.

Reply to  Andy May
March 17, 2017 5:11 pm

Natural gas is non-toxic? Try breathing even small amounts for a while. It’ll disabuse you of that notion in a permanent fasion.

dan no longer in CA
Reply to  Andy May
March 17, 2017 6:22 pm

LNG, which is nearly 100% methane, is how the Japanese currently import it and has very low toxicity. Non-methane constituents of LNG are condensed and collected separately. Natural gas that was never liquified has a few percent of Ethane, Propane, Butane, Nitrogen, and .5% CO2. All are also very low toxicity. The really toxic stuff is what is delivered to your house because of the government required addition of sulfur compounds as mercaptans. Ironic, isn’t it? The gummint requires sulfur compounds be removed from liquid fuels, but purposely added to natural gas. (It’s what makes the gas smell so you can detect leaks with your nose) Here’s a page showing natural gas constituents: https://www.uniongas.com/about-us/about-natural-gas/Chemical-Composition-of-Natural-Gas

michael hart
Reply to  Andy May
March 18, 2017 4:37 am

Ammonia is actually produced from Hydrogen (usually from natural gas) and atmospheric Nitrogen in the Haber Process.

This energetically costly step of splitting dinitrogen is sometimes said to be the biggest single technological contribution to the human race because it allowes for the large scale production of nitrogenous fertilizers that now underlies the feeding of 7 billion people.

While the ammonia may be useful for reducing for reducing pollution in exhaust stacks, it makes no sense energetically to run a power station by consuming one fuel to make another fuel which is then burned to produce electricity. You gain more by just burning the original fuel directly.

March 17, 2017 4:00 pm

Comparing something we have not been able to get to work right….with something we know works right

March 17, 2017 4:13 pm

I’d just repeat the comment I made on the previous thread. You can’t have a sensible conversation about the substitution of one form of energy with another without factoring in the application, and in doing that including both the desired quality as well as quantity of the work one is seeking to use it for.

Its basic economics.

Pop Piasa
Reply to  HAS
March 17, 2017 4:43 pm

That brings to mind the hundreds of miles they run power lines just to get a few megawatts of wind or solar to “most of the time” add to the grid input. When you think about the net cost vs gain, it has to be a wash at best without govt incentives.

Reply to  Pop Piasa
March 17, 2017 5:40 pm

And that is the important point. The basic issue isn’t what source of energy is best, they all have their place. The important thing is to ensure that there is a good market that both allows trading on volume and price, and that there is limited cross subsidisation or monopoly power.

Under those circumstances if people want to buy PV even if doesn’t make economic sense, and even put them on the south facing roof of the house so they can be seen from the road, so be it. [NB southern hemisphere joke].

Leo Smith
Reply to  Pop Piasa
March 17, 2017 10:45 pm

Pop: that is an example of a basic engineering principle, Income accrues from average use: capital cost is a function of peak stress.

We design for the worst case. we pay for the design from average income. The most efficient use of capital is a steady state that never peaks out worse..baseload in electrical terms. we run high capital cost nukes at a constant level to maximise ROI

The high peak to mean ratios of intermittent renewables mean that average income is low compared with peak capacity and the cost of building it – as evinced by the capacity factors of the installations, and that goes for any link through which the generated energy passes where it is a major or dominant flow.as well. I.e. capacity factors is a feature of grid links as well as generators.

GW for GW capacity onshore wind is cheaper than nuclear, but with a capacity factor of less than 25% and the requirements for backup, and the short MTBF and service life of windmills, nuclear wins hands down in true levelised holistic lifetime costs

Reply to  Pop Piasa
March 18, 2017 1:57 am


It depends what you are using the energy for. Generation that is economic for base load is poor for servicing peaks. Thus PV for air conditioning loads or commercial refrigeration makes sense to handle the day time peaks, particularly if you can avoid strengthening the distribution system. Also OCGT do a good job of handling peaks because they are low capital high variable cost generation, unlike renewables.

Also there is the portfolio effect. E.g wind can go pretty well in conjunction with hydro and service base loads at lower cost than nukes.

And in a decent market if you want peak power you pay the premium. Income only accrues from average use where it isn’t worth the supplier making the distinction in their pricing, or a regulator with a tidy mind is involved. The greatest problem in the electricity market is people not paying the true cost of the nature of the energy they are using.

Reply to  Pop Piasa
March 18, 2017 2:35 am

Pop, much solar is used in the building the panels are on. 7 UK car plants have solar panels as do many supermarkets, for example.

HAS solar is a good match for aircon peaks in many areas.

aircon and commercial refrigeration are used in the UK in demand management… the aircon and refrigeration across a wide area does not need to be running all the time at the same time, so it is managed by switching parts off.

Other peaks in the UK – locally a few hours on winter evenings – are managed in part by hydro and UK pumped storage, which runs alongside demand management

Patrick MJD
Reply to  Pop Piasa
March 18, 2017 3:03 am

“Griff March 18, 2017 at 2:35 am”

Because they have large areas of roof space to house such panels, with the aim to reduce power costs, not to “save the planet”. Now how can a renter in a block of apartments install solar, “on the roof”?

Reply to  Pop Piasa
March 18, 2017 3:15 am

reply to Griff March 18, 2:35am

Sorry Griff your claim “Other peaks in the UK – locally a few hours on winter evenings – are managed in part by hydro and UK pumped storage, which runs alongside demand management” ought to make plain that UK winter short and longer cold spell peaks are overwhelmingly met by CCGT as a quick glance at UK National Grid Graphs at http://www.gridwatch.templar.co.uk/ makes apparant in seconds. As usual you attempt to mislead, one way or another. Hydro and pump storage is minimal as you can see at the site quoted.

Patrick MJD
Reply to  Pop Piasa
March 18, 2017 3:27 am

“Griff March 18, 2017 at 2:35 am”

One thing I can bet no-one has factored in this installation of PV panels on large area roofs, is mass. The mass of the equipment installed on a roof not designed to carry that mass.

Reply to  Pop Piasa
March 20, 2017 6:35 am

Patrick, don’t forget the subsidy mining as an incentive to install solar panels. There is also the marketing value, since brainless greens feel good about companies that do things like this and are more likely to patronize such companies.

Pop Piasa
March 17, 2017 5:06 pm

Trash-to-energy plants could locally supplement the grid with little or no cost fuel, when considering the costs of putting it in landfills, oceans, etc. We just need to accept that burning waste cleanly is the best total solution as the CO2 sinks grow correspondingly to the sources. Devices which require as much energy to manufacture as they are likely to produce in their usable lives are not economically viable. It is doubly dubious to locate them where considerable additional infrastructure additions must be made.

Pop Piasa
Reply to  Pop Piasa
March 17, 2017 5:19 pm

Hmm, an additional pronoun…

March 17, 2017 5:08 pm

All papers suffer hits when wrong terminology is used. Andy May quotes Weißbach, et al. (2013) -http://homepages.uc.edu/~becktl/shaka-eroi.pdf This German author made a perhaps excusable error when translating to English, but please note that ‘topology’ should be replaced by ‘topography’.
Topology is a mathematical construct.
“In mathematics, topology is concerned with the properties of space that are preserved under continuous deformations, such as stretching, crumpling and bending, but not tearing or gluing” (Wiki).
Topography is a geographic construct dealing with land forms.
This is not a criticism of the main thesis of the Weißbach paper, which highlights an important set of principles needing improvement, as does the above essay by Andy May.

Reply to  Geoff Sherrington
March 17, 2017 5:14 pm

Mmmmmm…. Donuts!

(sorry, maths humour)

Chris Chantrill
March 17, 2017 5:14 pm

Back when I worked for a consulting firm we did a lot of electricity resource planning and it involved hydro.

We ran simulations to figure the “firm power” that could be got running hydro plants through a standard 3-year drought period. The firm power was valuable and fetched a high price, the “secondary power” available only in wet years was much less valuable. But still, aluminum smelters signed up for the secondary power; they were prepared to accept the risk of not getting their secondary power during a drought.

It has always been clear to me that the value of solar/wind is limited because their “firm power” is very low. Firm power is power that is always available for use for dispatch to the electrical network. Period. All other power is not serious; it is just play power.

Reply to  Chris Chantrill
March 17, 2017 5:16 pm

Renewables would probably be designated ‘tertiary power’ under such a definition!

Pop Piasa
Reply to  Jer0me
March 17, 2017 5:29 pm

More like “luxury power” when the smelters look at the “bottom line”.

Reply to  Chris Chantrill
March 17, 2017 5:32 pm

No Chris, it’s a portfolio game. Hydro ain’t much use in dry years once the storage has gone, so in this case you need a counter cyclic resource alongside. PV may well provide this or perhaps even wind, depending on the climate.

However, as you say, different customers have different needs for power quality vs. price. And I’d add that if you aren’t close to a distribution system PV and wind look pretty good (fighting it out with wood and diesel gensets).

Reply to  Chris Chantrill
March 17, 2017 5:35 pm

And back then when I was in the mining & energy business, it was conventional knowledge that a company would not even look at a plan to make a smelter or refinery, like for aluminium, when the power supply was renewable and hence intermittent.
We owe to the Power of Advertising the failed or failing examples where people defied this wisdom. This is bad. The failed efforts are so costly for all of us. Trying one on is somewhat the social equivalent of denying your child an a vaccination and expecting more disciplined parents to share the cost of the spread of the illness.

Another Ian
March 17, 2017 5:24 pm
Pop Piasa
March 17, 2017 5:43 pm

Considering the rent factor, massive wind and solar don’t make sense for anywhere but otherwise useless land. How often is that land close to civilization? That tells you where it is practical.

Pop Piasa
Reply to  Pop Piasa
March 17, 2017 5:57 pm

My supposition also discounts government funding, by the way.

March 17, 2017 5:47 pm


Domestic use of kWh is approx 1/4 of the total use in a country. The domestic gets hit with kWh costs nearly twice that the rest of industry pays. E.g. Germany €00.297/kWh domestic whereas it is €00.151/kWh for industry.
There is clearly a contrived charging system that loads the domestic consumer with the debt. This rather confuses the issue of real costs and who pays for it.
All of it is artificial, Cost levels for electric, gas, coal, oil, wind solar, whatever – artificial and political and who you know. It is difficult to have a serious debate about wind & solar on the grounds of costs.
Whilst I like the idea of wind and solar, I don’t think human thirst for power can be in any way met by them. I would like to see the Thorium Molten Salt reactors replace coal and gas power stations. I think there could even be a time when we see smaller models in or close to every city, that’s if common sense ever gets to be used in deciding these things. I’m talking about good common sense, not what passes as common common sense these days, which is probably different due to vested interests/financial advantage for select minorities.

Reply to  Neillusion
March 17, 2017 6:12 pm

Those prices appear to include distribution (more expensive for retail consumers) and the retail consumer profile probably accounts for peak demand (the most expensive energy).

There may well be cross subsidies, but it isn’t necessarily as bad as it looks.

Reply to  HAS
March 18, 2017 5:01 am

I would suggest that peak demand is when industry is at work during the day, domestic use being minimal because people are at work. If anything, domestic use picks up when industry goes home at night and helps even out the load curve to be generated.
I look at it like this… Germans have the highest domestic solar production anywhere. This will produce during the peak daytime demand and offset gas/coal use. This is good and useful and sensible. To try to go solar/wind all alone is obviously not feasible due to cloudy days and still air and other factors.
The solar/wind costs are contrived and influenced by politics/corruption/money schemes that benefit but a few, with the charges/money being sucked out of the bill/taxpayer base.
The arguments against solar/wind on manufacturing costs/materials/land use/etc, are mostly contrived in my opinion based on the fact that it is obvious that if you build a 850kW windmill, say, for a million euro and it produces 1/4 of rated output, you still get a return on investment, being paid 10c/kWh, which is half the Irish kWh domestic cost. For decades. There is a private windmill in uk that was built, must be 25 yrs ago now, before the idea really kicked off and has saved them perhaps hundreds of thousands of pounds. It is no different to the automotive industry. Things get recycled. I’ve heard complaint about copper production cost to the earth/environment etc. Nonsense! Copper is the most recycled metal which means once you have it you have it for ever, recycling is just heating it up and remolding it simplistically speaking. Concrete – what’s that argument about? A lot of nonsense is used to confuse and put down wind/solar and polarize opinion by those making out it is all bad against the common sense reality that it has a useful purpose and does help the environment long term. The odd dead bird is a loss but does not come close to reason. People die on the roads every single day everywhere, we don’t ban travelling.

Reply to  HAS
March 19, 2017 6:10 am

Neillusion, from November to February solar energy production does not exist. In that time wind energy production can be very weak for stretches of 10 days or more – when it should be humming, making up for the missing solar power; look at Germany’s January 2017 figures.
Peak demand is at noon and around 18:00 (when the sun is weak most of the year).
Real wind productivity has been around 17% of capacity in recent years.
Windmills are for subsidy-suckers. There is no need to have two separate electrical energy production systems now, one of them completely dependent on the other.

The subsidy-system in Germany has been changed now, which will slow down new wind mill erecting to practically zero. Every folly has its limits.

March 17, 2017 5:54 pm

“Can renewables ever replace fossil fuels and nuclear?” No. Next stupid f*cking question.

March 17, 2017 6:02 pm

Like wise, in a capacity market, the wind and solar will also end up getting paid when they can’t produce. So they’ll be fleecing the consumer from both ends.

March 17, 2017 6:07 pm

Nice article Andy, like the others about energy you are posting at your site:

It seems to me we have a bit of a problem as for one reason or other we are failing to find an adequate substitute for fossil fuels, and if things continue that way that is a future game stopper. We cannot continue increasing our use of fossil fuels and expect them to last for very long.

According to most sensible people in the 1950’s-60s, we should be running mainly on nuclear by now. Even Hubbert himself thought so, but it hasn’t worked that way.

Wind and solar are quite mature technologies. We are seeing small incremental improvements as it should be expected for all the money thrown at their research, but not breakthrough that could be a game changer.

The closest thing to a possible breakthrough right now appears to be high altitude wind power.
But even if a nice boost if it delivers as promised, it still has the fundamental problem of intermittent sources.

I still find surprising the profound faith that people have on technological development solving any problem. Humans have been using technology for over 5000 years, and many civilizations have run into problems they could not solve. Nothing says we won’t run into problems we won’t be able to solve, and this could be one. We found a treasure trove of fossil fuels and are running through it like there’s no tomorrow. So far we have found no alternative.

Leo Smith
Reply to  Javier
March 17, 2017 10:28 pm

windmills are enough of a hazard to aircraft without hippies flying kites into the stratosphere.

nuclear is the only viable alternative we have to fossil, but it requires drastic changes to the way society works – just as horse culture gave way to steam trains and then to automobiles and aircraft.

some thoughts

Reply to  Leo Smith
March 18, 2017 4:24 am

“windmills are enough of a hazard to aircraft without hippies flying kites into the stratosphere.”

Air transportation is totally dependent on liquid fuels. If we need an alternative to fossil fuels we might need also an alternative to air transportation.

tony mcleod
Reply to  Javier
March 18, 2017 1:39 am

” So far we have found no alternative.”

And there is the rub. Apart from EV cars for the wealthy, as far as tranportation goes there is no alternative. It may prove to be a problem that is unsolvable by more technology.

Patrick MJD
Reply to  tony mcleod
March 18, 2017 2:07 am

“tony mcleod March 18, 2017 at 1:39 am

…as far as tranportation goes there is no alternative.”

Electrically powered trains seems to be a viable transport option for many people in high density city locations. I myself use Sydney trains 5 days per week. In fact I pass the 1977 Granville train disaster site, twice week days.

Reply to  tony mcleod
March 18, 2017 2:38 am

And there’s a hydrogen (from renewables) train in Germany. The UK train network is being extended and electrified… including (probably!) the new HS2 lines.

Patrick MJD
Reply to  tony mcleod
March 18, 2017 2:59 am

“Griff March 18, 2017 at 2:38 am

And there’s a hydrogen (from renewables) train in Germany.”

From renewables, go references? Hydrogen take ALOT OF ENERGY!

“The UK train network is being extended and electrified…”

Extended? To replace rail networks decimated in the Beeching report, initiated by the left leaning Labour Govn’t, acted on by the following Conservative Govn’t? Not so much, because of 18th century infrastructure issues like bridges, Brunel tried but was constantly rejected. I will admit his Great Western Railway gauge was wrong, standard gauge won! Electrified, sure, since the 1970’s matey! You don’t even have any idea what is happening in the UK with regards to that.

tony mcleod
Reply to  tony mcleod
March 18, 2017 4:19 am

” hydrogen (from renewables) train in Germany”
Fair enough but there is a big jump to powering bulk ore carriers or 747s.
Oil is the ‘enabling’ resource. Without it we’re back to a world made by hand.

Reply to  tony mcleod
March 18, 2017 4:21 am

“Electrically powered trains seems to be a viable transport option for many people in high density city locations.”

The problem is that if liquid fuels are affected by lower production and/or high prices high density cities become non viable, as every basic product needs to be transported to big cities.

Patrick MJD
Reply to  tony mcleod
March 18, 2017 6:25 am

“Javier March 18, 2017 at 4:21 am”

Indeed! GranularIty is key!

Reply to  tony mcleod
March 18, 2017 1:18 pm

“It may prove to be a problem ”

I see no problem. Carbon based liquid fuels are never an issue so long as you remove the particulates and the nasty nox, Sox, and the monoxide carbon compound stuff from the exhaust

The rest is just water and plant food.

Reply to  tony mcleod
March 19, 2017 11:12 am

HS2 is a completely new high speed line, with branches from London to Scotland, Patrick.

Is that an extension?

What about Crossrail?
brand new line right through Lodon.

Is that an extension?

This is the electrification of Brunel’s GWR line:

March 17, 2017 6:41 pm

Exergy is just an unnecessary buzz word created to complicate thermodynamics, confuse people, and misdirect while the hustlers go for your wallet. “Entropy” and “available energy” had it covered for decades. BTW, BSME & PE.

1) You can’t get more out than you put in and 2) you can’t create/destroy energy. Unlike the GHG RGHE loop that allegedly does both.

“In thermodynamics, the exergy (in older usage, available work and/or availability) of a system is the maximum useful work possible during a process that brings the system into equilibrium with a heat reservoir.[1]”


March 17, 2017 6:42 pm

Key question: Can renewables ever replace fossil fuels and nuclear?


March 17, 2017 7:02 pm

As stated, the existing power plants were the cheapest backup power. So in reality the simplest economics works out to this…

Power Plant + Fuel Costs
Power Plant + Renewables + Fuel Costs – Fuel Savings

Notice that, the renewables are really competing against just the cost of fuel. If it costs any more than that, its more expensive. But then there’s a second problem, under/overproduction by renewables. Simply put, renewables will cause price spikes and crashes in the wholesale market as they fall short of demand and produce more than demand can use. And in practice what this works out to is…wind energy either not being able to pay for its self when it’s not producing and not being able to pay for its self when it IS producing.

Normally the market takes care of these issues in one simple way. They recognize that there is almost no value in the product (renewables), and cease production

Leo Smith
Reply to  poitsplace
March 17, 2017 10:21 pm

nice analytical approach.

correct conclusion…

Reply to  poitsplace
March 18, 2017 5:15 am

I do not agree. If I/you had a coal powered electrical generator plant and could save 100 trucks of coal every time the wind blows, would you build a windmill. YES. now that is simple and the numbers work and over time a sensible percentage of coal burning is avoided and has all the benefits that go with that. Of course you need to keep a high percentage of coal input. So? It is not black or white – there is a grey area and wind power does help out. Don’t fall for contrived/artificial pricing market numbers on a screen benefits to a select few leeches on the bill/taxpayer

Reply to  Neillusion
March 18, 2017 11:16 am

Well a 3mw wind turbine, even assuming a 33% capacity factor (which is high) will only make 219000 mwh over its entire life. Coal makes about 2mw/ton and costs $40/ton right now. So BASICALLY that works out to $20 (per mwh fuel costs) times 219000mwh or 4.3 million dollars.

HOWEVER, the wind turbine costs 1.3 to 2.2 million per mwh of installed nameplate capacity. So the 3mw turbine costs between 3.9 million and 6.6 million. Most nations have been averaging a 20% capacity factor though. So most will actually NEVER be profitable. And these are high capital costs…the equivalent of buying ALL the coal a power plant will use over its entire life.

Bruce Cobb
Reply to  Neillusion
March 18, 2017 12:01 pm

No, wind power does not “help out” in any way, shape or form. That is simply Greenie pie-in-the-sky unicorn farts emotionalism. Saving coal from being burned is no advantage except in the feverish minds of Greenie ideologues.

Reply to  Neillusion
March 20, 2017 6:43 am

The problem is that due to the nature of a coal fired power plant, it’s output cannot be ramped up and down quickly. Therefore the idea that you are going to save on coal when the wind blows is nonsense.
Beyond that, one of the biggest expenses for such plants is labor. Do you believe the manager is going to send everyone home for a couple of hours just because the wind has picked up?

Reply to  poitsplace
March 18, 2017 5:56 am

@ poitsplace
Your simplistic analysis is appealing and captures the generation redundancy, but it doesn’t address the thousands of line miles of new transmission required to integrate diffuse and remote RE to the grid. You need to add that term.

And by adding both more power generation and more transmission without being able to retire any, the overall utilization rate of infrastructure is reduced, lowering efficiency of operations, increasing lifecycle costs, and increasing environmental footprint per unit of energy delivered. U.S. annualized capacity factor for generation has dropped from 47% to 40% since our second government push for renewables began in earnest in 2005. I can only imagine how it has dropped in Germany.

Reply to  Ike Kiefer
March 18, 2017 5:35 pm

$3 billion + to build 500MW coal power station. Whilst cost of coal is cheap the actual cost of a unit kWh to make break even is 15cent or more. The cost of road infrastructure/maintenance, the nuisance of thousands of heavy lorry trips destroying roads. The pollution from the plant.
I know its gotta be done, I just don’t agree with the financial accounting which has three problems – one is the opportunist profiteering that makes wind cost what it allegedly does, two that the issue is not a straight forward calculation on cost/kWh. The whole pricing of power is contrived and artificial, wherever it comes from, just as the price of oil used to be controlled (was quite low). Three, the fact that wind is free but inconsistent and coal is cheap but the investment needed to exploit it is huge.
The price of anything depends to a large extent on what people can pay. If you subsidise wind then the price of turbine goes up. In the beginning this subsidy needs be done to protect investment/people, but profiteering/political and financial advantaged entities have exploited it all for profit. There is no way a 1MW wind turbine costs 2.2Million, or should cost that.
Why not have a free market where consumers put there money where their choices dictate. When wind blows, buy, perhaps more expensive wind electric, if so inclined. If wind stops blowing buy coal electric. You would have a situation where people would perhaps not be so inclined or able to afford wind so its price would come down to a truer value point. Coal would get cheaper too or even put their price up a bit when the wind stopped!, a bit of competition perhaps. I would hope that wind could compete at this stage in the game, even wiithout subsidies. Gets complicated.
I can run a diesel genny and get kWh price equal to the electricity board charge and not have to pay standing charge. That is just wrong wrong wrong. There is something seriously wrong with power production and pricing. I don’t trust the financial/profit/business corruption that exploits people and the confusion in an issue.

March 17, 2017 7:04 pm


Reply to  AndyG55
March 17, 2017 7:05 pm

sorry, just has two posts disappear into the ether !

Reply to  AndyG55
March 17, 2017 7:10 pm

I don’t know.. where are they?

Nothing rude or untoward at all in them.

Doesn’t say “in moderation” just gone !!!

Reply to  AndyG55
March 17, 2017 7:16 pm

Last try…. I apologise if the other three appear.

Another way of measuring is with a “reliability factor”

ie, what percentage of nameplate can the source “guarantee to deliver” 95% of the time.

For coal, gas, nuclear, this would be somewhere reasonably close to nameplate value.

A couple of years ago, I did the calculations on one month of UK wind, (10 minute values iirc) and came up with an answer of around 4-5% of nameplate.

Solar of course scores a big fat zero.

Reply to  AndyG55
March 17, 2017 7:17 pm

Moderators…Ok, I’ve tried 4 times now.

Please only post one if they appear.

don penman
March 17, 2017 7:13 pm

You would have to include the cost of road repairs in any calculation of the cost of having vehicles to get around as road repairs seem to constantly needed (more and more pot holes) perhaps it would be a good idea to have vehicles that don’t require roads or roads that don’t need repairing.

March 17, 2017 7:20 pm

The Greens promised us steady wind electricity production, because “THE WIND ALWAYS
BLOWS SOMEWHERE” (German Green leader Kuenast)….. which makes the problem just
to a logistical problem of operating the grid.

Leo Smith
Reply to  weltklima
March 17, 2017 10:19 pm

and droughts and famines never happen because it is ‘always raining somewhere’…

Ah! The liberal at student mind!

March 17, 2017 8:53 pm


Solar and wind are not “renewable”.

March 17, 2017 9:04 pm

With the exception of perhaps pump storage systems, these economical energy storage systems often do not include the costs of security. The energy density of the storage systems make them a real target of terrorist-type crazies.

Leo Smith
March 17, 2017 10:17 pm

The triumph of the 20th century was to use government intervention to destroy the relationship between money and value.

this is what the argument is all about: the value of renewables versus the value of a self storing energy source.

money depends on the subsidy regime.

March 18, 2017 12:46 am

Is all energy equal in value? Similarly are all dollars equal in value? I’m now offering 200 000 ZW dollars in return for 100 000 US dollars. http://www.xe.com/currencyconverter/convert/?Amount=200000&From=ZWD&To=USD

Any green blob representatives on line? No need to look into commas here either. Hurry, the offer expires soon.

Patrick MJD
March 18, 2017 12:57 am

Where is Griff to refute this, well written, article?

/Sarc off

Reply to  Patrick MJD
March 18, 2017 2:30 am

I don’t hang around here like the unemployed all day.

See above.

This is an abstract article which pays no regard to actually operating renewable power across the world.

Patrick MJD
Reply to  Griff
March 18, 2017 2:52 am

Refute the article.

Reply to  Griff
March 18, 2017 4:07 am

Heard rumours gang green employment peaking at 97%, but wonder what it is nowadays. Perhaps Trump can get it to 0.04%. Having said that the same sources claim even it can be excessive, but I’m generous – it’s far less than the global error margin.

tony mcleod
March 18, 2017 1:45 am

None of it can be refuted if one assumes CO2 increase attributable to human activity is not a problem.

Patrick MJD
Reply to  tony mcleod
March 18, 2017 1:50 am

“tony mcleod March 18, 2017 at 1:45 am”

Then show actual evidence that the increase in CO2, by~40%, *IS* a problem. So far, it’s pure bunkum, not even a hypothesis.

Reply to  tony mcleod
March 18, 2017 2:28 am

Are you holding your breath now Tony?

Reply to  tony mcleod
March 20, 2017 6:45 am

tony, that has already been proven. Not only is CO2 not a problem, it’s a huge net benefit.

March 18, 2017 1:54 am

Better late than never. This satirical sketch is about Australia, South Aus specifically, but could be generic.

Patrick MJD
Reply to  Peter Gardner
March 18, 2017 2:12 am

Too funny! Thanks for posting that link! Markets and Govn’t policy, markets with energy *BILLERS* too too funny!

Reply to  Patrick MJD
March 18, 2017 3:46 am

No wukkers, mate!

Johann Wundersamer
March 18, 2017 2:24 am

Exergy, a new term to get acquainted with.


Germany is apparently burning Euro notes for power and, fairly large denomination Euro notes at that.

D’accord at once.

Thanks, Andy May.

March 18, 2017 3:10 am

Factor in all the other costs,

Destruction of forests for the Windturbines, the heavy use of fossil fuels to have the windturbines built, transported and erected. The Building of roads to maintain the turbine spread across the countryside using fossil powered vehicles. The 1000 tonnes of concrete under each one. the 40 + lorries trucking across the countryside to pour the concrete. FInally at the end of the turbines life the fossil fuelled trucks needed to take aways the rancid carcass.

Reply to  richard
March 18, 2017 5:20 am

Wow, what a vindictive bias. Totally emotive and exaggerated and contrived rant.

Bruce Cobb
Reply to  Neillusion
March 18, 2017 10:39 am

We need a helping of wind and solar the same way ice cream needs a helping of bird poop on top.

Reply to  richard
March 18, 2017 6:15 am

For @Neillusion, facts without emotion.
Wind has a far larger environmental land and habitat footprint per unit of energy than fracking, and yields a fraction of the energy over its lifetime. Compare power production of 1.1 W/m2 for U.S. terrestrial wind national average to 90 W/m2 for 10 barrel/day stripper well in a played-out oil field to 300+ W/m2 for fracked gas well. Wind requires large, permanent pads and access roads for giant cranes to do maintenance, and involves trenching and permanently burying miles of cables. Here’s an aerial shot to illustrate the permanent scaring that wind involves.


Reply to  Ike Kiefer
March 18, 2017 6:59 am

Scarring the land is only bad when the oil companies do it.

Reply to  Ike Kiefer
March 18, 2017 8:33 am

Why you call it ‘scarring’? I live near a wind farm that has 70 x 850KW windmills. It was built on top a bog mountain – where much peat had been harvested already. It is windy and produces plenty of electricity. No trees cut down. No scenary issues. No problems – just harvesting the wind energy, saving use of peat in peat fired power station. The trees uprooted in pic above could/would/should have been planted elsewhere – so what it problem? Harvest free energy. Sure it costs to build it, what doesn’t – how many cars are there? But it does save on burning peat, in my example, which probably saves many peat bogs. My point is that arguments based on finance/land/copper/concrete/bird/bat are nonsense in bigger pic. And just as you have a pic and call it scarring, others would see sensible development and bigger pic advantage. Just to be clear I would keep coal power plants (keep the CO2 coming, but clean up the rest a bit) and gas but supplementing them with wind is just big pic good common sense in my opinion. It is just that money talks the loudest and goes to but few who have control and connections – robbing the tax/bill payer little by little (or not so little) There is so much nonsense from greens and anti greens alike who I think miss the real control factors which amount to human privilege and greed – the rich are always trying to line their pockets deeper and deeper with money from those who have the least. The arguments in respect of birds and examples above, is just nonsense in bigger pic. If you decide to live longer on this planet you/we need power. I hope Thorium MSR comes out big soon – I think the time until that gets a hold we will manage with what we have – coal, gas, oil, nuclear as is with a helping of wind/solar.

Harry Passfield
Reply to  Ike Kiefer
March 18, 2017 2:01 pm

Of course, this is the classic aerial shot of gas wells vs windmills (h/t BH). It shows there are 11 gas wells in the picture, but they’re difficult to see. The ruinables aren’t so difficult to hide…


Ron Williams
Reply to  Ike Kiefer
March 20, 2017 3:46 am

That is a bit of an emotive cheap shot…sort of like what the radical enviros do when take a picture of a recently clear cut forest. Fast forward 15-20 years, and it is all in grown in with new plant life. Nature abhors a vacuum.

Johann Wundersamer
March 18, 2017 3:14 am
March 18, 2017 3:36 am

This is the insanity this climate change nonsense has resulted in. Germany is building wind farms and not funding NATO.
Climate “Science” on Trial; Germany Builds Wind Farms While NATO Burns

March 18, 2017 4:11 am

There also is a qualitative consideration: in what type of country do we want to live? A country covered with wind turbines and high voltage lines, large areas inaccessable due to hydro storage?
Progress, in many cases, amounts to less dependency on land and nature. (housing, roads, transporation systems, electric light) Any technology that highly depends on land and nature should be regarded with great scepsis as it likely is backwardness. In this regard nuclear power is the best, leaving land for trees and animals.

Reply to  David
March 18, 2017 6:58 am

Environmentalists want land covered with turbines, panels, high voltage lines and huge reservoirs as long as it puts us back in the 18th century. The environmental damage is not based on reality, but rather one’s particular end goal. If destroying the environment is necessary to punish people for being capitalists and successes, then so be it.

Reply to  Sheri
March 19, 2017 11:06 am

There will be a considerable increase in power lines in the UK due to new nuclear plants.

UK HVDC lines to help ship Scottish wind power south have been deployed offshore or buried.

solar panels very often go on roofs.

There is no large scale hydro planned for the UK – exception one large potential pumped storage plan.

Very many new UK wind turbines are far offshore. They are even trying floating ones.

Reply to  Griff
March 19, 2017 11:26 am

Compact nuclear reactors are the future, installed close to the consumer, saving power grids, saving nature.

March 18, 2017 4:11 am

It’s like this-

“In physics, power is the rate of doing work. It is equivalent to an amount of energy consumed per unit time. In the SI system, the unit of power is the joule per second (J/s), known as the watt in honour of James Watt, the eighteenth-century developer of the steam engine.”

and why some can now happily reminisce about horsepower rather than manpower although brainpower was always the implicit assumption-

Sandy In Limousin
March 18, 2017 4:30 am

I see numerous comments about Europe in general Germany in particular and electrical generation, here are sources for several European countries




this one is good for seeing imports and exports


Finally as European wind speed map

Coach Sprnger
March 18, 2017 5:30 am

Meh. As written, this is a contortion of the problems of comparison. Generally true, specifically less true. One thing specifically true by anecdote is that if you subsidize wind, you are forced to subsidize its back up. Illinois is paying nukes to stay open, primarily because of the problems nukes have selling electricity against subsidized wind. No subsidies for coal though. Prices rise. Ergo, government pays our money to energy producers to raise prices to us.

Coach Sprnger
March 18, 2017 5:40 am

On the subject of comparability and the not so hidden costs of government and political interference, one might start with the Clinton nuclear power plant in Illinois. Originally budgeted at $400 million, it was built just after Three Mile Island at a cost of $4 billion. When it’s builder went bankrupt, it was sold to Exelon for $40 million. Still, Exelon can’t afford to keep it open with its costs (despite setting records for efficiency in refueling and other operations) and the market price of subsidized wind. So the state just granted the plant a generous subsidy package. Exelon calls that a level playing field.

Keith J
March 18, 2017 5:43 am

So Germany is being taxed without benefit out of guilt from something they had little control over..we know what happened last time. So instead of barrels of DMs to buy a loaf of bread, it is a euro per kW-hour 😉

Bruce Cobb
March 18, 2017 5:57 am

The disingenuity of Gang Green and their cohorts and useful idiots is amazing. First they punish fossil fuels and reward “renewables” aka “green” energy. Then they have the gall to crow about how well their “planet-saving” (and economy-destroying) energy is doing. Incredible.

March 18, 2017 6:41 am

Wind and solar electricity production is a tax of energy consumers. Full stop. Like all other taxes it is meant to provide for a common good. In this case abatement of CO2 emmisions preventing harmful climate change. That is your case and it does not hold up to scrutiny. There is zero evidence that increased atmosperic CO2 levels result in harmful climate change.

What you have are flawed model projections and rent seeking economics. We are moving to educate the public on your flawed political science and defunding the impoverishing rent
seeking behaviour. Not all that complicated.

Reply to  troe
March 18, 2017 1:11 pm

Even if the models are true, is there any evidence that solar and wind reduce CO2 emissions?

Reply to  Jay
March 19, 2017 11:03 am


Just go google it.

UK now has same CO2 output it did in 1894.

Reply to  Griff
March 19, 2017 11:24 am

The environmental organisations declare we have only some decades left, but to achieve their renewables goals an incredible amount of steel etc must be produced which needs carbon and produces CO2. This is a contradiction. To save CO2 exhaust, build nuclear power plants.

Reply to  Jay
March 20, 2017 6:48 am

England also has the same economic output that it did in 1894.

March 18, 2017 6:50 am

So let me get this straight. If I need a back up system capable of replacing a solar farm when the sun is not shining, why do I need the solar farm at all. Just run the back-up system full time.

Reply to  joselori
March 18, 2017 6:53 am

Same for pumped-storage. You build two power sources where one would have been enough.

Reply to  joselori
March 19, 2017 11:02 am

Well, the constant cost of the fossil fuel is going to be expensive… especially if you are a state with no fossil fuel resources or worse an island where you have to ship the fuel in…

And most of the world and the scientific community believe we need to reduce CO2.

March 18, 2017 6:52 am

Why is it that people who shout “It’s simple physics” about global warming immediately shout “It doesn’t matter about the physics” when it comes to renewable energy?

tony mcleod
Reply to  Sheri
March 18, 2017 7:40 am

I’d give you a +10 too Sheri if you hadn’t just made that up.

Bruce Cobb
Reply to  tony mcleod
March 18, 2017 12:06 pm

Face it, tony, renewables are only being pushed for ideological reasons.

Reply to  Sheri
March 19, 2017 8:33 am

The physics always matters, it cannot be overcome. However, renewable energy is all about the economics, which are improving rapidly year over year. Wind power in the US is now profitable at US $0.043 per kWh, of which $0.02 is paid by the utility, and $0.023 is by the government as a tax credit. Note: the wind power producer must have profits from somewhere to take advantage of the tax credit. The proof of this (profitability) is the rapid growth of wind power installations in the US, both onshore and now offshore.

Solar PV at grid-scale is not far behind.

From the US Dept of Energy, “2015 Wind Technologies Market Report”: link is https://energy.gov/eere/wind/downloads/2015-wind-technologies-market-report

o Installed cost in the windy Great Plains is $1,640 / kW, continuing the downward trend of the past several years.

o Also, wind power is sold at very low prices under a Purchase Power Agreement, for $20 / MWh. The federal tax credit continues at $23 per MWh.

o Finally, capacity factors for 2015 are higher than ever, at 41.2 percent among projects built in 2014.

More about renewable economics: California residential prices have not increased due to renewable power installations and production. Wind is a minor player in California, with almost all the available sites already built out. Solar PV has substantial future growth potential.

Installed generating capacity in California is about 70,000 MW, of which 40 percent is renewable (24 percent solar, wind, geothermal, biomass, and 12 percent large hydroelectric). We don’t have grid instabilities, nor blackouts, nor huge price increases from renewables. On an annual basis, total kWh supplied to the grid by renewables in 2016 was approximately 27 percent (excluding large hydroelectric). Large hydroelectric supplied approximately 5-6 percent in a drought year. In average rainfall years, large hydroelectric contributes 15 percent.

Now that the California drought is over, 2017 is expected to have 45 percent combined renewables plus large hydroelectric power (approximately 30 percent solar, wind, etc, and 15 percent large hydroelectric.)

Reply to  Roger Sowell
March 19, 2017 1:15 pm

Mr May, as others have already informed you, EVERYthing requires 100 percent backup. To suggest otherwise is simply not true.

Your comment re backup requirements suggest you don’t truly understand how a modern power grid is designed and operated. A grid operator must at all times have sufficient reserves ready for any unplanned outage, no matter how great. When a nuclear plant of 1100 MW is online, there must therefore be 1100 MW of backup ready to take over.

The key is to make calculated, manageable risks. With wind power, as anti-renewable folk like to point out, wind output varies hour by hour and day to day. However, as they refuse to point out, grid operators have substantial knowledge of what the wind will be doing, with wind forecast algorithms in wide use. The same is true for solar. It is therefore not necessary to have 100 percent spinning reserve, when one can dispatch modern gas-fired plants to operate within a few minutes.

So, my question to you is, how much does the cost to install a nuclear plant include for backup? Your answer must, if it is honest, include the cost to build and operate many pumped storage hydroelectric facilities such as the Ludington Plant in Michigan.

Furthermore, if you truly believe that any power generating system operates at 100 percent capacity, online 100 percent, you must take a look at the actual figures.

One such article (my own) uses monthly capacity factors from EIA.
link here: http://sowellslawblog.blogspot.com/2016/06/us-monthly-power-generation-capacity.html

or if you prefer the EIA article: https://www.eia.gov/todayinenergy/detail.php?id=14611#

Retired Kit P
Reply to  Roger Sowell
March 19, 2017 8:47 pm

And what per cent of power does California import? Same for natural gas?

March 18, 2017 7:20 am

I just switched my (UK) gas & elecricity supplier, to EDF (Électricité de France, oh the irony), who run the UK’s nuclear power plants. For the next 12 months I’ll be paying 13.6 p/kWh for electricity instead of the 16.4 SSE were going to try and charge me. So I pay less, AND the money I do pay goes to help maintain reliable low CO2 (if you think that matters) generation. A win-win situation.

March 18, 2017 7:34 am

Why do people living outside of Germany care about the Energiewende? One, we enjoy comedy. Two, Germans insist that we care by leeching their mania into the world financial system. BMW, Siemens, Mercedes, AXA, reMunich, and many other German companies flex their economic muscle locally in pursuit of their banker of last resorts (German government) strategic political agenda. Deals made with the Greens in Berlin find their way into the city council meetings of Cleveland, Tennessee.

I understand that as an American I have little room to talk this way. I accept our responsibility under several administrations for playing a key role in advocating bad science and policy on others. We wear a dirty shirt. Knowing that we are working diligently to reverse course leading us out of the climate change morass.

Love the sausages, beer, and leather pants. You can keep the politics.

March 18, 2017 8:30 am

The entire supply chain for the manufacture of so-called “renewable” energy production equipment (windmills, solar panels, etc.) is entirely dependent on oil. Mining and transportation don’t happen without oil. The foundries that melt metal and silicon are the most energy intensive and, therefore, energy price sensitive of all industries operating. And then to pretend, as leftists do, that the total environmental footprint for renewables doesn’t exists has gone from tragedy to farce.

March 18, 2017 10:28 am

Andy May – good review of Weissbach.
Note: Solar needs three breakthroughs: $/m2, conversion efficiency, and storage.
PS Our society is far more dependent on long term transport fuel or transport energy, as coal / nuclear can supply electricity for the interim.

March 18, 2017 11:49 am

All that is needed is a solar panel that works in the dark. Problem solved.

Bruce Cobb
Reply to  Billy
March 18, 2017 2:59 pm

Simples. Kerosene or diesel-powered lights shining on solar panels.
You’re welcome.

Reply to  <