Revisiting wind turbine impacts – Erroneous recent calculation highlights need to assess renewable energy sustainability claims

Guest essay by Paul Driessen

Foreword:

An article I wrote several weeks ago had a couple of stupid math errors. This column attempts to correct them – and take readers on a journey to the futuristic world of 100 percent “clean, green, sustainable, renewable” wind energy. Since the assumptions always guide the analysis, this column lays mine out, crunches the numbers, and concludes that replacing the 2.85 terawatts of electricity generated worldwide in 2016 – while ensuring stored power for just 48 windless hours – would require:

14.4 million 1.8-MW turbines … 570 million acres (30% of the Lower 48 US states) … and 1.4 trillion Tesla 100-kWh lithium-ion battery packs!

Need stored electricity for seven windless days? 50 million turbines, the US-Canadian land mass, and 5 trillion battery packs should do it.

Disagree with this analysis? Wade in with your own. Let’s have a wide-open debate, before renewable energy activists and politicians lock us into an energy future that might be horrendous for humanity and planet. (Or might save us from calamitous climate change.)


It’s amazing, though hardly surprising, how quickly some used Hurricane Harvey’s devastation to claim that fossil fuel emissions are driving catastrophic climate change and weather. Their proffered solution, of course, is to replace those fuels with “clean, sustainable, renewable” energy.

I’ve criticized this supposed solution many times, on multiple grounds. Unfortunately, a hasty numerical calculation for a recent column was way off base, and readers properly chastised me for the error. I just blew it, using megawatts instead of megawatt-hours to derive the number of wind turbines … and amount of land … it would take to replace the world’s 2016 electricity entirely with wind energy.

My conclusion that it would require 830 million turbines and twice the land area of North America was thus off by embarrassing amounts. However, my reviewers offered many “correct” numbers.

Their turbine totals ranged from 2 million to 4, 10 and 12 million; their acreage figures from 0.5 to 40, 60 and even 247 per turbine. Total acreage for all the turbines ranged from the size of France or Texas – to half of North America. Energy scholar Cork Hayden graciously provided analytical aid.

Bottom line: Assumptions are key – about turbine size; number, location and extent of good wind sites; ability to actually erect turbines on those sites; wind turbine capacity factor, in average hours per day of electricity generation; duration and quality of wind power per year, especially as turbines proliferate into increasingly poor wind areas; and power generation needed to charge huge battery arrays to ensure reliable electricity during multiple windless days (2, 7, 14 or more) when turbines provide no power.

Another variable, of course, is the amount of electricity that is to be replaced by wind. In 2016, the world used 25 billion megawatt-hours (MWh) of electrical energy, generated by fossil fuel, hydroelectric and nuclear power stations, with minor contributions from wood (biomass) and trivial amounts of wind and solar. Year-round average power generation was 2.85 million megawatts (MW) or 2.85 terawatts (TW) – compared to zero generation in 1881.

Electricity makes our industries, jobs, travel, communication, living standards, health and safety possible, and demand will certainly grow as more nations electrify, and more vehicles are battery-powered.

Here are my fundamental assumptions: Wind turbines replace 100% of today’s 2.85 TW global electricity generation, by some future date – as many activists and politicians insist we must (and can) do. Turbines are all 1.8-MW nameplate power. Average turbine capacity factor gradually falls from 33% to 16.5% as the best wind sites are utilized, and much poorer sites must be developed.

(In the USA many of the best wind sites are off the Washington-to-California and Maine-to-Georgia coastlines, and in the Great Lakes, where water depths and powerful local opposition would make it impossible to install many turbines. Onshore turbine size is limited by the size of blades that can be hauled by trucks on winding roads. The same situation would likely apply around most of the globe.)

Further assumptions: One-third of turbine output powers society; two-thirds charge batteries that provide power for 48 of every 72 hours that wind is not blowing. And winds always cooperate with that scheme – always arriving just in the nick of time, as batteries are depleted, and never disappearing for more than two days, even during sweltering summers or frigid winters when demand soars but winds disappear.

Of course, most of these assumptions exist only in the realm of fairies, pixie dust, green energy utopia and easy number crunching. They are meant to initiate important analyses and debates that climate alarmists, renewable energy proponents, legislators and policy makers have never conducted.

Using these assumptions, generating 25 billion megawatt-hours would require 1.6 million 1.8-MW turbines functioning at full 1.8-MW capacity in strong winds, all day, every day, with no worries about storage. If they operate only eight hours a day (33% engineered capacity), we just use electricity when it’s available, instead of when we need it. But that’s terribly inconvenient and disruptive.

So we employ the Dr. Hayden system, instead. We erect 4.8 million turbines that operate steadily for eight hours, sending one-third of their electricity to the grid and two-thirds to batteries. That would yield 8 hours of direct power while the wind is blowing (33% capacity factor) – and let us draw power from the batteries for the next 16 hours, until the wind regularly picks up again. “I love magic,” he says.

That clearly won’t work. We really need at least 48 hours of storage – and thus three times as many turbines, under a similar arrangement, but providing more flexibility, to recognize unpredictable wind patterns and the likelihood of two windless days in a row. We’re up to 14.4 million 1.8-[MW] turbines.

Want a bigger safety net? To assure against seven windless days? 50 million turbines should do it.

But then we’re really into the mediocre wind sites. Capacity plummets to 16.5% or so. Perhaps 100 million turbines will do the trick. Pray that lulls last no more than a week. Or send the army to those intransigent, unpatriotic coastal communities, and forcibly install turbines in their super windy areas.

That would also ensure that electricity generation is close to our big urban centers – hence shorter transmission lines, and less cement, steel, copper, et cetera to build the power lines. It’s a win-win situation, except for those who have to look at or live next to turbines and transmission lines, of course.

How much land are we talking about, to generate 25 billion megawatt-hours of global annual electricity? Assuming top quality wind sites, at 5 kilowatts per acre (average output per land area for any turbine at the windiest locations), onshore turbines operating 24/7/365 would require some 570 million acres.

That’s 25% of the United States – or 30% of the Lower 48 US states. It’s almost all the land in Washington, Oregon, California, Idaho, Nevada, Montana, Wyoming, Utah and Arizona combined!

Change the assumptions – change the numbers. To store electricity for windless days, total power generation (and thus turbine numbers and land acreage) begins to skyrocket. For 48 hours of backup, triple the power generation; that’s the entire Lower 48. For a full week of backup, add in Canada.

Let’s not forget the transmission lines and batteries. They also need land (and raw materials).

How many batteries? Storing 1 gigawatt-hour (GWh) of electricity – to provide power for 48 windless hours for a US city of 700,000 people – would require 480,000 of Tesla’s new 100-kWh lithium-ion battery packs. Backing up 2.85 TW for just two windless days would require 1.4 trillion Tesla units! And this assumes the batteries are charged and discharged with 100% efficiency.

Just imagine the land, raw materials, mining, manufacturing and energy that would be needed to make all those batteries (and replace them every few years). As energy and technology analyst Mark Mills has noted, all the world’s existing lithium battery factories combined manufacture only a tiny fraction of that.

I’m sure the world’s battery makers would be more than happy to take our hard-earned taxpayer and consumer cash to build more factories and make all those batteries – to save us from dangerous climate change that is no longer governed by the sun and other powerful natural forces.

Let’s get real. It’s time to stop playing with pixie dust and renewable energy utopia schemes. Time to open our schools and legislatures to actual thinking about energy, sustainability, climate change and what makes our jobs, health and living standards possible. Time for full-bore studies and legislative hearings on all these issues – in the USA, UK, EU and everywhere else.

Sustainability and renewable energy claims are too grounded in ideology, magic and politics. Wind and solar energy forecasts ignore the need to find and mine vast new metal and mineral deposits – and open US lands that are now off limits, unless we want to import all our wind turbines, solar panels and batteries. They assume land use impacts don’t really exist if they are in other people’s backyards.

Worse, too often anyone trying to raise these inconvenient truths is shouted down, silenced, ignored. That has to stop. The stakes are too high for ideology and pixie dust to drive fundamental public policies.


Paul Driessen is senior policy analyst for the Committee For A Constructive Tomorrow (www.CFACT.org), and author of Eco-Imperialism: Green power – Black death and other books on the environment.

Note: My article fixing my previous math error has a stupid typo. It’s in the paragraph beginning “That clearly won’t work. The reference at the end of the paragraph to “1.8-GW turbines” should obviously read “1.8-MW turbines.”

Advertisements

190 thoughts on “Revisiting wind turbine impacts – Erroneous recent calculation highlights need to assess renewable energy sustainability claims

    • “1.4 trillion Tesla units” This is only US$80 million trillion dollars and 75 years to build. A political wet dream. The epic carbon neutered energy transition. Carbon credits from Gaia herself.

      Just create an alternative universe in the socialist neuron holders, then all is easily possible.

      Don’t ask any engineers. They might be naysayers. Seek only meaningful dialogue with the main stream media. They create words, about feelings, that result in fertile imaginings, or as we say at the work face, “when mainstream media talks, people who have never built anything feel better”. Feelings are more important than “doings”.

      At least until the power runs out. Then we are all “greenies” and engineers’ feelings no longer matter.

      • Do your calculations only include generation to meet total 2016 electricity demand?
        If this is so, then you will need to redouble your totals to include electric demand for replacing transportation fossil fuel demands. I believe that the fossil fuel used for electric energy production in 2016 was around 29% of total fossil fuel usage while that used by transportation was 28% almost the same amount. So electrifying transportation would effectively double the amount of generation needed.

        Then you would also need to electrify shipping and air traffic

        More than likely you are still talking about 100-150 billion MWh or around 6 times your current figures to electrify current societal energy needs.

        Then you will have the additional requirements for increased needs of developing countries. This could effectively increases energy needs 10 fold as the have not nations become developed.

      • Geoff and Bryan, here are might thoughts on this piece and in the context of Monckton’s open letter to Their Holinesses:

        Unfortunately for their Holinesses, Driessen seriously understates the size of the problem. Just replacing current world electricity production with wind (or solar) does nothing for the poor of Africa and elsewhere without the affordable reliable power essential to lift them out of poverty. It also fails to address any growth in demand from higher populations anywhere, or for the replacement of fossil fuels for transport as some dreamers imagine can be done or, critically, for the massive increase in power required to make the concrete and steel etc. required for the millions of turbines and their transport erection, maintenance etc. And, it does not address the inevitable consequential massive environmental destruction that necessarily would follow such a crazy plan if it ever were to be attempted. Nor does Driessen address the trillions of dollars that all this would cost and where that would come from or what other necessary programs would be sacrificed to fund even a fraction of this foolishness. I’m sorry your Holinesses, your nice dream is just that; it will not happen because it cannot.

      • Barbara, thanks for bringing this ‘reality check’ into the discussion. The Chatham-Kent story will force the government of Ontario to finally realize that residents are not just going to quietly relocate because turbines have been placed too close to their homes. The Ontario government has made some huge errors in siting. The Ministry of Environment and Climate Change was not/is not prepared to protect residents from the harm that industrial scale wind has caused. Lawsuits are coming.

    • Did I miss something, or did we go back and forth from 1.8 megawatt turbines to 1.8 gigawatt turbines there?

    • I only read the first 4 paragraphs of your article, mainly because I don’t doubt your numbers, but, your conclusion of only using batteries as a back up is a little narrow minded. Why didnt you include the use of clean burning hydrogen, or methane powered generators? This fuel can be produced and stored during low power consumption. Did you also factor in that homes might have a back up battery or fuel cell, or the use of electric cars to add power to the grid? Sadly I don’t have the numbers about how much fuel needs to be stored to run 5, 1 MW generators for 3 days straight.
      Of course my biggest complaint about your artical is why you are only using wind power?

      • The author is only addressing wind power generation. That should be obvious. The original article had replied to an article about wind power; this is a correction, and does not expand upon the original focus. Please keep up.

      • Duane: I think he only used wind power because the other renewables are even worse. The low energy density, huge footprint and non dispatchabilty of solar makes it a non-starter. Biofuels are a joke. I did a back-of-the-envelope calculation on how much land would be required to “grow” the biodiesel that a city bus would consume in a year. It turned out to be the equivalent of 35 football fields! I did the calculation in my head while driving behind a city bus that had a sign on it proudly stating that “this bus runs on biodiesel”.

  1. How about calculating what effect all these windmills have on the rotation of the earth. Crazy? Who would have thought that construction of the three gorges dam would change the inclination of the earth’s axis?

    • Who would have thought that construction of the three gorges dam would change the inclination of the earth’s axis?

      Fascinating. Slowed the rotation albeit by a minute amount. Didn’t know that.

      For link lovers:
      China’s Monster Three Gorges Dam Is About To Slow The Rotation Of The Earth
      http://www.businessinsider.com/chinas-three-gorges-dam-really-will-slow-the-earths-rotation-2010-6

      From Rutgers: Three Gorges Dam and the Earth’s rotation
      http://sci.rutgers.edu/forum/showthread.php?131082-Three-Gorges-Dam-and-the-Earth-s-rotation

      HOW INFAMOUS HYDROELECTRIC DAM CHANGED EARTH’S ROTATION
      http://www.physics-astronomy.com/2014/05/how-infamous-hydroelectric-dam-changed.html

      • 0.06 microseconds.
        Which is 0.0000006 seconds.

        That is; assuming they’ve properly calculated a tiny drop of water, globally speaking, alleged leverage against a comparitively massive iron core planet.

        • Up to 44 miles (70km) relatively light crust. Not overlook the crust’s significant water content and oceans. @2.2 to 2.9 grams per cm³, @2.2 to 2.9 metric tons per m&#179

        • 1,800 miles (2,900km) of mantle. @3.3 to 5.6 grams per cm³, @3.3 to 5.6 metric tons per m³

        • Approximately 1,430 miles (2,300km) outer core @9.9 to 12.2 grams per cm³, @9.9 to 12.2 metric tons per m³

        • Approximately 750 miles (1,200km) inner iron/nickel core @12.8 to 13.1 grams per cm³, @12.8 to 13.1 metric tons per m³

        leaving one with the impression that:
        A) NASA is abusing mathematic skills.
        B) NASA’s rotation estimate is swamped by error range.

        Which equates NASA’s “Three Gorges” rotation estimate to NASA “Sea ice predictions”. It sure appears NASA scientists are bored if dammed water Earth rotation effects are where they waste their time and computers.

        Here’s hoping Bridenstine improves NASA’s talent usage quickly!

    • I thought dams sped up the rotation the close you got to the poles.

      It is like a skater in a spin , who pulls their arms in toward their bodies central axis.

      • AS they explain in the first link:

        For example, a figure skater attempting to spin faster will draw her arms tight to her bodies, and thereby reduce her moment of inertia. Similarly, a diver attempting to somersault faster will bring his body into a tucked position.

        Raising 39 trillion kilograms of water 175 meters above sea level will increase the Earth’s moment of inertia and thus slow its rotation.

      • A hard-boiled egg will spin much more easily than a raw egg. Do bodies of liquid water have a similar impact on Earth’s rotation? Would a frozen planet spin faster?

      • It’s not that the hard boiled egg spins faster, it’s that the energy from the spin is more efficiently transferred to the entire egg.
        With a raw egg, you spin the shell, but the yolk doesn’t move. As a result, as soon as you let go, the shell starts slowing down while the energy is finally transferred to the yolk.

    • Sam: It may not be so crazy. The moon is slowing down the earth’s rotation due to the drag of the tides it creates and the law of conservation of angular momentum.

  2. I like people who admit when they make a mistake. I have had to do so several times in my career. Yet I am still trying to get my head around why people outside the realm of Mann and his associates, the MSM and environmentalists believe that anthropogenic global warming is actually happening. I have followed almost every supposed evidence only to find that (a) it has been happening forever, (b) it is not really happening, or (c) if it is happening there are several other reasonable and provable explanations. Ask one “who believes in the orthodoxy” to explain sometime. Just sit back and listen. You probably will get either the simplest of answer, “why it must be happened since we burn all this fossil fuel” or bizarre answers “97% of the climate scientists say it is and we have proof.” Like most things now days there are those that prefer we be divided and never ever partake of real and objective debate. I remain amazed that there are people who claim AGW is based in good science but refuse to listen when someone presents hard data question that “good science.” As for what to do with wind turbines and solar arrays, there are ways to “store” wind and solar energy besides batteries, you could convert water into hydrogen, store the hydrogen or use it directly No I have worked out the conversion rates or cost, though certainly it would be another water use after the environmentalists have begun announcing that water is running out. I use to ask environmentalists if there was anything humans did that they approved of other than die. Never got a good answer.

    • Splitting water to make hydrogen and storing the hydrogen is not viable as storing hydrogen under pressure and for extended periods is dangerous, it eats steel for one thing. Using metal sponges is not cost effective at all. Pumping water with excess energy for hydroelectric later is site-limited and requires even more structures and infrastructure.

      Also, the trillion battery packs not only have a limited lifetime, but so do the 100 million wind turbines. 10–15 years down the lone, all of these will need to be replaced and most of the materials are not recyclable. Denmark is up to its ears in broken turbine parts it cannot do anything with, other than just burying it all; like Denmark has lots of real estate for burying stuff.

      Lithium hydride batteries also use coal in the cathode, which makes another pollution hazard when you make a trillion that need to be retired and replaced.

      • “Denmark is up to its ears in broken turbine parts it cannot do anything with, other than just burying it all; ”

        I suspect environmental journalists sometimes hear of such downsides but “spike” them. I doubt that they seek out such facts when they interview people in the field; they never ask “Any negatives?”

  3. The fun part is how you go about replacing those windmills when they wear out.

    Suppose we wave a magic wand and ONLY build five million of them – magically efficient, magic storage. They’ll last for 25 years, maybe. So, every year, you’ll need to replace 200,000 of them, and salvage the 200,000 that fell over or caught on fire.

    Five hundred and forty-seven new windmills, more or less, every single day.

    Forever.

    • That’s an excellent point to make. When you look at production capabilities, trying to complete 547 entire turbines every day—even across multiple manufacturing sites—would be difficult if not impossible to do. The complexity of these units is not as obscene as an airplane but it’s no simple widget assembly either.

      Assume 25 manufacturing plants around the U.S. That’s ~22 turbines per plant, per day, seven days a week, 52 weeks a year, or nearly one per hour per plant ’round the clock, all year long. Even if you upped the manufacturing plants to 100, that’s still 5.47/plant/day. And it also assumes 24/7/365 production. If the supply chain breaks down for whatever reason, you’re screwed.

      • But no-one has mentioned the elephant in the room. I doubt that they have tried making windmills (or batteries or solar cells) with just wind power

      • Or make the aluminum arms. There isn’t a wind farm or solar park in the world that can run one aluminum smelter!

        [BTW, bye-bye Apple laptops.]

  4. Your numbers are roughly in line with what would be expected. BTW, it should be noted that under real world conditions, even a national grid of wind turbines averaged out an entire year can vary by +/-20%.

    The battery backup is the real kicker. Without massive battery backup renewables basically give all the negatives of centralized and decentralized energy production…but the energy storage costs alone are enough to make renewables unprofitable (even if the renewables themselves were free).

    It should be noted that switching to an all-nuclear system would also require some kind of storage but the storage is only slightly more than is necessary to average out the daily load. Storage equivalent to 1/4 of daily load would do it with the plant capacity running roughly down the middle between peak/base load.

    Interestingly enough, I found the cheapest way I could think of to deal with intermittency of wind (without depending on things like fossil fuels) would likely be to bore gigantic tunnels, line them with metal…and convert about half of wind turbine output straight into hydrogen…to be burned in conventional gas turbine peaking plants.

    • Poitsplace – all nuclear would not need energy storage. Where does that come from?

      Using LIFTR and burning thorium and all our old nuclear waste, getting the leftover energy not used the first time, would allow largely decentralized energy, with each town and city independent of all others and each factory with its own power source. Perhaps some grid for back up, just in case, but a grid would largely be unneeded. A UPS truck-sized LIFTR would power a school for 9 or 10 years, before needing to be refueled. As the reactor is self-leveling and already liquid, it does not need human operators and thus is immune to human error.

      If we went all nuclear for electricity, coal would be used for plastics and pharmaceuticals and would last 100s of years or more, natural gas and oil for transportation (the most energy dense and safest transportation energy and renewable from Earth’s core), and wind and solar just used at small scales for sites that are remote from other energy sources and do not need a constant energy supply.

      • Well the vast majority of reactors aren’t ones that can be varied substantially. And while it’s true the LFTR could be throttled a lot more easily, I don’t really consider them truly mature technologies. I know they will likely be like that and I expect them to be…but I know if we started building right now we’d be stuck with older stuff. I don’t want to let a case of the “s’posed-to’s” blind me…the same mentality that blinds people pushing for renewables and people thinking global warming is a certainty.

      • What most people don’t get is through the nuclear island is slow to react to change in the load, as long as it has enough cooling the steam island can change with the closing of a valve. You dump the extra heat into the cooling towers as waste and you can follow any load.

      • Good comments on nuclear. Yes it s not great at load following but it can and it does, and yes the nuclear equivalent of simply dumping steam (blowing the safety valves) isn’t such an issue when the fuel cost is trivial.,

        AND a massive boiler that can store superheated steam is probably easier than a molten salt/hydrogen store etc etc

        Nuclear storage doesn’t have to be great: seasonal variation is accounted for by scheduling maintainence for low demand months. Reactors can be throttled back at weekends, Short term demands can be met by steam reservoirs or pumped storage or hydro.

        It is solar that is the absolute worst in terms of storage needs. Winter output is minimal, and that’s peak demand time any latitude where houses don’t routinely come with air con.

        Good baseload reduces grid problems to demand fluctuations. Adding intermittent renewable energy increases the problems of dispatch.

        I.e. demand fluctuation is already a problem,, but its made infinitely worse by adding intermittent renewables as the first choice of generating plant.

      • What you’re talking about is a decentralized, non-governmental controlled energy web that meets the needs of discrete population centers. That is the exact opposite of the globalist, One World Order garbage that the Left seems intent on shoving down everyone’s throat. Ergo, it won’t gain any traction. Pity, though. It really could work very well.

      • What you’re talking about is a decentralized, non-governmental controlled energy web that meets the needs of discrete population centers. That is the exact opposite of the globalist, One World Order garbage that the Left seems intent on shoving down everyone’s throat. Ergo, it won’t gain any traction. Pity, though. It really could work very well.

      • The problem with a nuclear only energy system dealing with variable demand is economic, not technical.

        Nuclear is very capital intensive and must be run 24/7/365 in order to get a good return on capital. Building sufficient nuclear capacity to deal with peak load implies that there is excess capacity that is not needed all the time.

        80% nuclear is about the right level of nuclear supply. The last 20% is best provided by natural gas that has low capital cost and high fuel cost, just right for a peaking application. Given the cost of natural gas is currently very low, that is an added bonus.

      • Not so. Nuclear plants can always run at full capacity, the fuel is inexpensive. In case of less demand, synthetic fuels are produced for transportation. Also, heat may be stored as hot water for homes.

    • XYZZY.11: Actually they did. The engineers at Google came to the conclusion that it was impossible to generate enough energy with renewables for them to renew themselves.

  5. This post demonstrates why clean energy is but a pipe dream. It is politically unfeasable. Once people come to realize what clean energy means pragmatically, they just vote the bums out of office. Kind of a political “negative feedback loop” of sorts. (keeps the system stable… ☺)

  6. I’ve done similar calculations for the UK, using actual national grid dataset and historical data to estimate what would

    The one thing I will add is the “7 windless days” assumption, which is common throughout this kind of analytical work, came up as very much conservative. OK, sometimes it’s 2,3, or 5 days, but the general assumption is that the battery buffer needs to be in this order of magnitude. But wind has multiple periodicities, and the 6-month seasonal lags are much bigger than the 5-day “weather system” lags.

    This means that, when you look at real world data, its not the “5 bad days” that break the buffer. Its “5 fairly bad days”, followed by another “5 fairly poor days” then another….then another…a string of below average conditions rather than a single cataclysmic “no wind” event. I don’t know what the US figures would be like, but for the UK the actual battery storage requirement was 55 (fifty five!) full days per annum at a 1-to-1 supply-to-demand pure renewable build. And that only handled 10-year weather events. I was horrified; it was much worse than I had imagined.

    • Yep, I guestimated a bit more but yeah. If you really want to be horrified, look into the amount of concrete and steel necessary to make them. It would take about 10% of world production of concrete/steel every year to build/maintain that much wind capacity. It takes about 5X the concrete/steel it would take to make the same capacity of even the older style of nuclear plant BUT…those would last about twice as long, wouldn’t require the backup systems…

      The planet simply won’t use renewables unless there is literally no other choice…the cost, materials, labor, environmental footprint, and inconveniences are simply too high. It is insanity to even consider current renewables in any kind of global rollout.

      • And if it turns out that hydro-carbons are actually renewable, via some here-to-fore unimagined tectonic or other sub-surface process deep within the Earth, we will have to figure out what to do with the eventual excess inventory of coal and crude. Or do we still assume that only a finite amount of the stuff was always there, however it got there, and wherever “there” happens to be?

      • Fossil fuels being fossils is not some mere assumption.
        It is a conclusion based on large amounts of evidence.
        It could be wrong, but it is not an assumption…it was not simply “assumed” to be true one fine day.
        But whatever the process by which it originated…there is more of it than most people suppose.

    • I recall the UK winter of 2010. Here is the Met office report. http://www.metoffice.gov.uk/climate/uk/interesting/jan2010

      From Thursday 17 December 2009 to Friday 15 January 2010 the UK experienced a spell of very low temperatures and significant snowfalls which affected almost the whole country.

      During this period, which is approximately 1 month, there was a blocking high siting off the UK and which brought calm and windless conditions not simply to the UK but also to much of North West Europe.

      i recall check every day the energy grid outputs during this period. During this period, the maximum wind output was 8% of nameplate capacity which was reached on a few days, most of the days it was between 3 to 5%, and it was not infrequently the case that it was listed at less than 1% of nameplate capacity.

      In these very cold conditions, it is necessary to not only keep the rotors spinning so as to avoid bearing/shaft deformations, but also to heat the oil and possibly defrost the rotors. This consumes quite a lot of energy and it is likely that when the grid listed wind as producing about 4% nameplate capacity, wind as a whole was probably a net drain on the grid. The national grid never detail how much energy is being drawn by windfarms not producing energy.

      During this winter, the entire country was blanketed in snow such that solar panels would be producing very little if any energy at all, and of course in the winter there are few hours of sunshine and the low solar angle means that solar irradiance reaching the ground is weak.

      The fact is that 48 hours of spare downtime capacity is insufficient. With the variances of the weather one needs at least a week, and if one is 100% reliant upon renewables then one needs at least a month of spare capacity.

      Renewables need to be able to hand disaster scenarios so as not to exacerbate what is already a catastrophe, Had the UK been 100% reliant upon renewable energy there would have been tens of thousands of deaths. Many people do not appreciate that if electricity is down then even if one has gas fired or oil fired central heating this does not work wince the starter and circulating pump is inactive. Even modern pellet burning stoves do not work without continuous electricity.

    • Hi Alistair, any chance you could put these into a post for here ? Or, if you already have them posted, a link to that would be great.

      It would be very useful as I’m waiting a date to meet the Prime Minister (my MP) in the next few weeks to discuss electric vehicles, renewable energy generally and explain some of the nonsense being put about.

      I’m currently having ‘exchanges’ with OLEV (Office for Low Emission Vehicles) about the increased CO2 emissions from battery manufacture. They appear to believe there will be be none as all batteries will be manufactured using renewables (based on Tesla’s Gigafactory)….. Just in the process of pointing out to them that the Nissan Battery plant in Sunderland which has 11.35MW renewable nameplate capacity (6.6MW wind, 4.75MW solar) will only produce at an annualised rate of ~2.14MW based on UK figures from DECC of 27% for wind and 9% for solar …… and as Nissan state the nameplate capacity is sufficient to meet (just) 7% of the plant’s needs this falls to an insignificant 1.32% once nameplate is converted to real generation. So we have a real example here in the UK of increased CO2 emissions from battery manufacture.

      Nissan have just sold the plant to the Chinese along with their other global battery plants – Bloomberg and Forbes are predicting Chines share of the vehicle battery market at between 65% – 84% by 2020 and as we know from the Paris Climate ‘Agreement’ and INDCs Chinese CO2 emissions are set to Double between now and 2030. How much of that will be making Lithium Ion batteries is anyones guess, but it is going to be significant.

      Thanks
      OE

      • Should have explained the Nissan plant in Sunderland is their main UK car manufacturing plant and the renewables were for that – the battery plant was a more recent addition.

  7. For that many lithium batteries, all the lithium mining sites in Australia, China, Chile etc. would become huge toxic waste areas as would the refining and battery manufacturing sites. Where will all the power come from to manufacture the batteries, make all the steel and concrete for the turbines and transport to site? The neodymium and dysprosium used in the generator magnets are rare earth metals also with toxic wastes and huge mining impacts. The mining for coking coal and cement ingredients will have large environmental impacts. The coking coal used to make steel and the kilns used to make cement have massive amounts of emissions.

    Until a turbine can generate enough power to replicate itself and related batteries we are just going backwards using more and more fossil fuels.

    You haven’t factored in turbine failures, maintenance downtime. Probably need to add another 5 to 10% to the numbers.

    Finally, how long before all the bats and birds are dead?

    • @Musk Lemon

      “Until a turbine can generate enough power to replicate itself and related batteries we are just going backwards using more and more fossil fuels.”

      I think it can just about do that….but it’s very thin margin and the cost likewise spirals towards infinity. A good turbine with good placement can get an EROEI of 8-ish, but on a civilisation scale project like this most of them will be 4. Once you add battery back up manufacture it drops again.

      A 1.8 MW onshore nameplate will be about 0.4 MW mean output for a civilisation scale project. 5 days of backup for that is 24x 0.4 x 5 = 48 MWh of batteries. The batteries will be, say, $200/KWh or $9.6m for this one turbine alone. The LCE for the turbine is about $60/MWh, IIRC. For a generous 25 (hah!) years life of both systems the turbine cost is ~3500 MWh per year x 25 years x $60 = $5.25m

      So the costs of the batteries is actually going to be greater than the cost of the turbines for this kind of set up. Total EROEI will be about 2, or slightly lower than that of a feudal agricultural society and a standard of living to match.

    • ML,
      You should study the record of average and better mining companies to be assured that in even moderately advanced countries there are not any or many examples of uncontrolled toxic wastes no matter what is being mined. Accidents can happen of course, as we see with everyday automobile use. But, overall, the fears you express about lithium mines in Australia are essentially groundless.
      There is more to life than worrying yourself sick over imaginary scenarios. Geoff

    • If you use the published figures e.g. from ‘save the eagles’ all US eagles are already dead.

      In fact apart from a few first generation wind farms like Altamont Pass, bird deaths are exceptionally low (yet people use the few worst cases to extrapolate to all wind farms)

      • Ah! Proof by assertion.

        I spect bird deaths are now low, Griff, because the birds were all killed a decade ago.

        Not that you would care.

      • All the more reason to site future wind farms over the water. It is REALLY hard to count dead birds floating (or not) in the ocean. They get eaten very fast!
        In the minds of the media a low dead bird count equals not many birds killed. That fact shows that the ‘media’ are not the brightest bulbs in the basket.

      • More lies…
        Call yourself an environmentalist?
        But hey, just as long as you’re getting paid for it, you’ll make excuses for anything, no matter how flat out evil, won’t you?

        Now go and apologise for slandering Dr. Crockford.

        But you won’t will you, because you’re one of the worst types of coward there is, the type that will never admit to his mistakes.

  8. “replacing the 2.85 terawatts of electricity generated worldwide in 2016” – do I need to read further or first wait until another correction when the author’s learned the most basic units?

  9. I have a question. It is stated that there would be 5kW per acre land area average output for a turbine at the windiest locations. Once installed, the turbine occupies very little acreage. And that includes the converter site. So where does the 5 acre per turbine come from?

    • You can’t put turbines next to each other as turbulent wake effects screw each other up.

      It’s worse for large fields, which grossly underperform equivalent stand-alone turbines by a factor of 2.

      The 5kW per acre is an average figure based on a “reasonable” wind resource and turbine spacing. I’ve also heard 2w/m^2 quoted.

      • 2W/sq m is a fairly consistent figure used industry wide.

        However:

        1/. Offshore my be better. 20-40% better
        2/. Going higher collects more wind per square meter. Often better than linear if the turbine blades get further out of the boundary later.
        3/. For a given size, turbine efficiency is probably as close to the Betz limit as its worth trying to get.
        4/. Turbine development is therefore towards increased height and MTBF.
        5/. Do not underestimate the unbelievable stresses on a cantilevered bearing carrying a HUGE turbine blade set whose blades are chopping into low speed ground effect air and turbulence and passing a support tower three times a revolution, and may be called upon to operated from -20C to +40C in all conditions up to and including strong magnetic fields and salt spray – a recipe for instant corrosion of most metals, as well as asymmetric build up of e.g. dead insect bat and bird parts, ice and snow..on the blades
        6/. Do not underestimate the problems of maintenance in such conditions either.

        The final answer? wind turbines are basically a huge engineering problem whose limitations are not being and cannot be overcome – certainly not at sensible levels of cost.

        If you want rotating machinery to last and be safe, you put it inside in a controlled environment and keep things like birds and hang gliders and parachutists away from it, and if you want it to be cheap and easy to maintain you do the same thing. And you dont allow members of the public to be within the distance that a blade of 200mph tip speed is capable of being thrown either.

        If it were any other firm of engineering these would be banned on safety grounds, No 1 on any environmentalists lists to be outlawed, and would fail as economically totally unviable .

        And yet, there they are, giving the three fingers to common sense and the environment and economics.

  10. Good article, Paul. One more thing though – how to engineer a vast (or even a small) national or regional power network completely without synchronous 60 Hz baseload power? I am not a power engineer, but my understanding from reports about the recent South Australian blackout was that to recover their power network a large baseload power plant had to be started first, because the individual turbines need to synchronise their output (in voltage, frequency and phase) to the voltage, frequency and phase of the power from the baseload generator before they could be connected to the network. The reverse apparently does not work. So, in a network with no baseload power source, how does the network ever get started, let alone recover from a major failure?

  11. To avoid the mentioned mistakes, usually a result of mixing kWh, GWh, with “kWh in a day or year”, in other words erroneously treating kW and kWh as synonymous, can easily be avoided by using joules (J) instead or alongside watthours (Wh) with the appropriate prefix. I wish WUWT writers would at least include the J with Wh. Combined with prefixes, we would replace also such violation of brevity as millions of kWh and billion of millions …..
    The treatise below is intended to help in this mater and also provide useful numerical values with the joule.
    Energy and power terminology and units:

    Life would be simpler and calculations easier, if we accept that energy has the unit joule (J), and power, being a measure of energy flow, is in joules per second (J/s), which is conveniently expressed in watts (J/s = W).

    To see the inconvenience of having more than one power and energy unit, look at your household appliances – toasters, air-conditioners, heaters, ovens. They are all energy consuming devices, but their power consumption is expressed in varied units such as kWh/d, Btu/hr, hp, V·A, and W. On the other hand, energy producing devices, such as wind mills, solar panels, home generators, and coal and nuclear power plants, are almost universally in watts (kW, MW, GW). Sharing data would be a breeze if the unit were just the watt in both cases. Then, thinking of efficiency, you could readily see that if a given amount of heat flow generated by burning coal produces 1/3 of that as electricity flow, that plant has 33 % efficiency. Similarly, the efficiency of your solar panels would be immediately apparent by comparing the wattage of the solar insolation reaching them with the wattage of the AC electricity flowing out.
    Now a few examples for illustration:
    You may consider buying a wind mill with a rating of 10 kW, and you want to know if that’s enough for your small, all-electric house. Your old utility bills state that the household consumes 40 000 kWh/y. The answer to the question is readily seen when the house usage is converted into watts: Since 1 kWh is the same as 3.6 MJ and since there are 31.5 Ms in a year, your house uses 40 000 x 3.6 / 31.5 = 4600 J/s which is 4.6 kW, less than half the wind-mill’s capacity.
    That “half” sounds great, but not quite that great when we consider that the 10 kW rating is the maximum power the mill is capable of generating when the wind is blowing at the designed-for speed. Of course, it will not blow that way all the time and sometimes not at all. The actual output depends on many factors, but a good guess is that the mill will net 1/5th of the capacity rating. Thus the mill, at 10/5 = 2 kW average output, is, contrary to above, not big enough. A 25 kW rating would do (with means for electricity storage for calm days, of course).
    All such calculations are this simple when you know your energy consumption in watts. For example, you may want to know how much area of photovoltaic cells would be needed to provide for the house’s 4.6 kW, and the house is located in a region where the Sun delivers the U.S. year-average insolation of 200 W/m2 at the ground level. Then, 4600/200 = 23 m2.
    Again, this is for a 100 % efficient panel. In reality, only about 1/6th of the incoming energy changes into electricity, and so the actual area would need to be six times that, or 138 m2.
    Now let’s look at some cost comparisons. With W and J, they are similarly easy to do.
    How much would it cost to buy and install a PV system for that 4.6 kW house? Reading about solar energy in the news you notice the lowest, installed cost quoted as 7 $/W (a bit less in Arizona, a bit more in New England). Thus the cost is 7 x 4600 = $32,000.
    Here again, that price per watt is for the case of peak output, i.e., perpetual noon sun. With the Sun sleeping at night, and napping behind clouds occasionally, the year-average power will be about 1/6th of the former, and thus the real best cost is six times that, or $192,000.*
    Now the cost of energy: Comparisons among electricity, oil, gas and other fuels are again easy if we employ only joules regardless of the “kind” of energy. Say you pay 10 ¢/kWh for electricity generation cost. Converted, that is 10/3.6 = 2.8 ¢/MJ. And you buy natural gas at 80 ¢/100 cubic feet; now 1 ft3 of natural gas contains 1.1 MJ, so the cost is 80/110 = 0.7 ¢/MJ. Comparing the two numbers shows that electricity costs 2.8/0.7 = 4 times more. Energy in fuel-oil priced at $4 per gallon, where 1 gal contains 150 MJ, costs 400/150 = 2.7 ¢/MJ, about the same as electricity except that here it includes the delivery charge. Adding the delivery charge to electricity, typically another 10 ¢/kWh on a residential bill, yields 5.6 ¢/MJ which is twice the oil energy cost.
    Stan Jakuba

    • From my experience with island systems we would need 5KW installed wind power and ca. 0.5 Tesla packs per person to produce and back up 22,000TWh of electricity produced worldwide.

    • Do not forget the amount lost during the storage and retrieval part of the equation.
      Then to is the fact that some devices use power at a rapid rate.
      So discharge rates will have to be sufficient.
      Since there is no way at present to store grid scale electricity for anywhere near the intervals required, it is just dumb, IMO, to even be talking about this.
      Hard to believe we are still talking about this as if it was not some delirious fantasy.

  12. Your analysis ignores solar, which could pick up half of wind’s down days, esp in the south, esp during the day when the load is high. It also makes the assumption that we must always have continuous non brown power, which ain’t necessarily a truth, and ignores the fact that battery whole house backup might become common place.

    Exciting times are coming, who knows what will be around in 10 years.

    • battery whole house backup?

      According to a Solar City sales manager I know, batteries for solar cost $5,000 a pop, and can only store 1.5 hrs worth per before having to be recharged.

      He said if you’re off the grid completely, and not using the local utility, you need an absolute minimum of six batteries per house which is nine hours of peak load. Solar, he said, cannot power your AC or refrigerator without the batteries.

      I asked why he was telling me this. He said he joined the company full of green sustainability fervor and ‘wanting to save the environment’. Now he thinks Solar City is a scam. What he was bitter about was that the Solar City brass (and Musk) knew all this.

      • And this is why it is very misleading for warmists to claim the cost of solar is going down.

        It is true that the price of solar panels has decreased, but this is a very small part of the system, and the costs of associated equipment batteries, inverters, wiring etc has not dropped, and is unlikely to drop.

        You can buy yourself some panels, an invereter and limited storage for around €6,000 which is fine if you want to use the grid for most of your power needs, but a proper off grid system costs more in the region of €25,000 to €30,000, and therein lies the problem.

        I have a holidiay home in Spain. My neighbour has an integrated diesel generator of around 8kW which in 2006 cost about €2,000. When there are power outtages, and these are a frequent experience in Spain, it will run his fridges, 1 aircon and miscellaneous demands.

        One could buy 2 of these generators for around €5,000 and then be left with some €20,000 to €25,000 for fuel. It makes more sense to go off grid with a diesel generator than it does with solar panels.

        It is only the subsidies that might alter the equation. Without subsidies, solar makes no sense unless there is no other alternative..

    • Skeptical,
      We don’t require continuous, non-brown power? Really? Are you an idiot? If you want to find out just how wrong you are, I suggest you have someone come over to your house at irregular intervals and turn off your power for random amounts of time. Let’s see how well you get along. Like it or not, our current civilization is completely dependent on continuous, non-brown power. End that, and our civilization ends. No more Internet, no more cell phones, no more computers. Forget about maintaining the current population without reliable refrigeration.

      • Forget about living in the deep south in Summer in closed up houses with few windows.
        You can go all summer in Florida without ever seeing wind over 5 MPH after sunset, or much above 8 MPH during the day.

      • Bye-bye southern Nevada (Vegas) and the southern half of Arizona (Phoenix and Tucson). Unless the Climate Police allow the Boulder Dam.

      • The sun, I think, very often shines down on the rooftops of southern homes and factories? just when they need their aircon?

      • <blockquote.The sun, I think, very often shines down on the rooftops of southern homes and factories? just when they need their aircon?

        Once again Griff appears to be demonstrating a lack of understanding. I have lived and worked in a number of Northern European countries and have a holiday home in Southern Spain so I am well acquainted with a range of climates and living styles.

        In Northern European countries, there is all but no aircon fitted to people’s homes. Work places may well have aircon, but a roof top array is incapable of providing the needs of work places located in blocks of flats which is the norm in major cities.

        From a domestic point of view, even in Southern European countries the requirement for aircon during the day is limited. Most people spend much of the day outside, and the property is not excessively warm during the day. A house begins to feel excessively warm in the evening when one sits down. It is at this stage when the heat is really noticed and is brought about by two factors.

        First, it takes many hours of afternoon sunshine to warm the bricks of the building. Gradually the building becomes more and more like a storage heater and the heat built up during the course of the day, radiates at night just when the sun is beginning to get low and set, and just when solar has little practical use. Second, sitting down and being inactive highlights the heat. Just getting up and walking around one immediately feels cooler, possibly this act alone assists evaporation and thus the skin is cooled. thus aircon becomes useful in the evening but this is when there is little sun.

        Solar powered aircon may be useful in a countries in the Middle East (where there is a high demand for aircon midday), but has limited application in Europe even in Southern Europe.

        Whilst discussing solar, I will comment upon the intermittent non dispatchable nature of solar. I have solar heating on my swimming pool, and it is generally useless. It will not heat my swimming pool to acceptable temperatures in Feb, March, April, October and November. It works very well in June, July and August, but it is not required in those months. At most it extends the swimming season by 2 to 3 weeks either end of the season due to the intermittent nature of sunshine.

        The problem is the sunshine hours, and there is no sun at night. My solar can heat the water by around 4degC in around 8 hours, but the problem is that when the pool is say 13degC in early March, and the solar heating during the day raises the temperature to say 16 deg C, or so, the sun sets, it is cold at night and the following morning the pool is back at 13 degC. It never has a chance to build up temperatures because the sun does not shine 24/7.

        By contrast my neighbour has a heat pump. It can only increase the temperature by about 2 degC in 24 hours, but it can do this 24/7 for weeks on end, so that when the pool starts off at 13 degC, the next day it is at 15 degC, the next at 17 deg C, the next at 19 degC etc.so that eventually it reaches about 30 degC and maintains that temp.

        In July and August I can heat my pool up to say 37 degC but I do not need that temperature. With no solar heating the pool will be between 30 to 33degC

        I am not suggesting that solar has no uses, but one should not oversell its use.

    • In the UK low wind generally coincides with winter highs, zero solar and peak demand.

      Solar is especially useless after dark. When you need lighting.

      I am sure that you have a solution for that though. Involving unicorn fart and pixie dusts.

      • Demand of course falls dramatically after about 10 pm in the UK until 6 the following morning.

        There are about 5 days a year in which there is high pressure and high demand across all of the UK – a not insolvable problem.

        and of course the UK 2050 target is only for 80% renewable electricity

      • It appears that Griff has little knowledge of UK conditions and weather patterns and weather events.

        It appears that Griff is unaware of the winters of 2009/10 and the winter of 2010/11 when there was next to no wind for almost a month.

        I have posted above (September 4, 2017 at 3:08 am) details for the winter off 2009/10. Details of the winter 2010/11 are set out at: http://www.metoffice.gov.uk/climate/uk/summaries/2011/winter

        December was exceptionally cold across the UK; the coldest December in over 100 years, with the highest number of air frosts in at least the last 50 years.

        Wikipedia states:

        The winter of 2010–2011 was a weather event that brought heavy snowfalls, record low temperatures, travel chaos and school disruption to the islands of Britain and Ireland. It included the UK’s coldest December since Met Office records began in 1910, with a mean temperature of -1 °C, breaking the previous record of 0.1 °C in December 1981. Also it was the second-coldest December in the narrower Central England Temperature (CET) record series which began in 1659, falling 0.1 °C short of the all-time record set in 1890.[2]

        Once again, on a daily basis I monitored the details provided by the national grid for wind energy and once again, wind did not produce more than 8% of nameplate capacity and was generally around the 3 to 4% of nameplate capacity for a best part of a month.

        As I mentioned above, any energy has to be capable of handling disaster scenarios and wind energy just cannot meet the winter energy requirements of the UK.

        The winter of 2009/10 was described as a 1 in 30 event. This was followed the next year by the winter of 2010/11 which was described as a 1 in 100 event. The fact is that 1 in 100 events not infrequently occur, and even if an event is a rare event of that nature one cannot allow a developed country like the UK to grind to a halt. Quite literally there would have been a huge death toll had the UK been reliant only upon wind and solar during those winters.

      • There has been a vast amount of wind added since 2010.

        We’ve seen December figures of 18% of demand met by wind – with 150% of 2016 capacity intended to be added by 2020. We are looking at 50% of demand met by wind in a typical December beyond 2020.

        Look at the figures with that level of capacity, more widely distributed, in mind (and an increase to 10GW installed solar, with much more to come)

      • There has been a vast amount of wind added since 2010.

        There has, but it does not overcome the problems caused by wind which the variability.

        Just for simplicity sake, if one were to just consider 100% reliance on wind and if the UK requires 60GW grid capacity, and if wind has an average capacity factor of 25% if the UK installed 240GW of wind, on average it could supply all the UK energy demands.

        However, and herein lies the problem, since there would still be periods when the combined output of wind would total less than 1GW, the UK would still need 60GW of back up generation.

        One has to build 2 grids, not one and the backup power is being used very inefficiently and therefore producing a lot of CO”.

        Below I have set out details of the UK experience for the years 2013 and 2014. I attach a similar report covering the period 2008 to 2010 which identifies similar problems with wind.

        http://www.templar.co.uk/downloads/wind-report.pdf

        In 2008, the UK had some 2,974MW of installed capacity, which by 2010 had risen to 5,204GW of installed capacity and yet for many days in December 2010, under 100MW, ie about 1.9% of installed capacity.

        So if the UK had had 60 GW of installed wind capacity (instead of some 5.2GW), the total output on those many December days would have been no better than 1.15GW requiring some 59GW of backup.

        It is the intermittent and variable nature of wind that is the problem.

      • “There are about 5 days a year in which there is high pressure and high demand across all of the UK”

        More drivel.

        Sometimes a blocking high can persist for weeks.

        I presume you DO realise there British citizens on here that read your lies about the British Isles and can call you out for the mendacious little ‘Unreliables’ paid pimp that you are?

        Or are you so lacking in self-respect that you truly don’t care what a laughing-stock you are?

        Now go and apologise to Dr, Crockford for trying to harm her employment prospects.

    • Has anyone done an analysis of space-based solar collectors? Is it possible/feasible to collect solar energy in space and beam it to earth? Would the collectors block too much sun from reaching the surface?

      • The problem with space-based power generation is in getting the power back to the ground. All feasible solutions have too much loss to make them practical.

      • I found a 2015 IEEE article that indicates the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) is actively researching microwave transmission of power from space. According to the article, JAXA expects to have a small demonstration of power transmission from low space orbit sometime next year. This might be a key technology for really harnessing reliable power from the sun, but it is a long way off right now.

  13. I believe that “renewable” energy is a fraud. But, if you tried to make it work, you would install a lot of solar to go with the wind. But, that is a quibble. You would have to install four systems where we now have one. (Solar, Wind, Battery, and Gas Turbine so we don’t freeze in the dark next Jan 4th). Which is so wildly uneconomic as to be insane.

  14. One way to skin this cat would be to find industrial processes that can be run intermittently (i.e., when the wind feels like blowing) and which run with minimal human intervention. Some ideas are electrolyzing water to produce hydrogen, liquifying air, and producing ammonia. All of these products can be used to produce energy, and have many other important uses in the economy. Such as ammonia which is important for making fertilizer. Could this system replace rel electricity generation usinf fossil fuels or nuclear power? No. But, it might be useful.

    • Don’t those processes have physical capital required- they required lots which costs money. They also require some degree of reliability because the processes need management. Would you build a house that you can use sometimes? If your general production is rather low you’d really prefer a small plant that you use continuously rather than a large plant that is sitting around a good deal of the time especially in an erratic pattern.

  15. Has anybody calculated how many turbines required to provide electricity for electric vehicles should they replace petrol and diesel?

      • Ha! Not even close. Where did you get those numbers? Multiply those numbers by a thousand and you might sound a little more credible.

      • I notice you didn’t show any of your calculations to support your claim, nor any of your base assumptions. Until you do that, it’s just all guess work as far as I’m concerned. And my guesses are just as valid as yours.

  16. Paul a 1.8 GW wind turbine, now that really would be something! No doubt the world’s biggest gyroscope. I presume you mean 1.8 MW?

  17. The problem for windmills is several-fold. One, the drivers are renewable, the technology is not. Two, they cannot be reasonably isolated from the environment, which limits their utility. Three, as for any low-density, low energy producer, there is a environmental blight factor. Four, they create an ecological hazard for endangered and protected species. So, windmills should be properly characterized, then selected to purpose. Unfortunately, the political myths invented and spread by politicians, scientists (e.g. prophecy of catastrophic anthropogenic global warming), industry (e.g. clean, green, renewable energy), and lobbyists (i.e. environmentalists) are first-order forcings of resource misallocation and developmental misalignment.

    • 4 million for the existing electric power, 1 million for cars. Or divide by two if half of that is produced by photovoltaic.

      • BTW Germany would need 200,000 total. Currently we have 29,000 and there is hardly any place left where wind is strong enough.

      • “there is hardly any place left where wind is strong enough.”

        And yet warmist extrapolations probably don’t make deductions from this “low-hanging fruit” factor.

      • @Roger Knights, yeah the problem is: power is proportional to the third power of wind speed. And if nominal wind speed is 12m/s, then 6m/s wind produces only 25% of the nominal power. And the best places are already in use. In Baden-Würtemberg (where the government is Green) they place wind turbines now where average wind speed is below 5m/s. So the electricity generation by the new turbines will be only half as large as for the old ones.

  18. The calculations are so riddled with errors, they do not deserve to be taken seriously, but no doubt the site readers will brandish them as proof we can never go clean.

    World electricity consumption 25 terawatt hours/per anum.

    A 2.5-3 MW wind turbine (the current on-shore size) produces 6 Gigawatt hours/per anum.

    Thus, the number of turbines would be about 4 million, worldwide, and take up something about the size of Alaska.

    However, most wind is heading off shore, and the largest of these turbines are the 10MW devices. This would bring that down to about 2 million, taking into account that some countries are land locked.

    Batteries are only used for transient spikes of minutes, hours at most. To use them for mass storage is uneconomic, at least at the moment. Pumped hydro, compressed air, and for solar thermal, molten salt are the storage means of choice. These typically have 80-90% + recovery rate.

    But even this figure is clearly ridiculous, as solar is making great strides, and quite cheap these day, many contracts now being signed in the 3-5c per KWh range, about the same price as coal, cheaper than gas, and much, much cheaper than nuclear.

    But please, do keep producing erroneous calculations, calling people “warmists” and “green fascists”. Your collective help is greatly appreciated.

  19. This study is flawed from the start, because it only considers wind turbines.

    It needs to consider existing hydro power, solar PV, solar CSP, demand reduction (e.g. LED street lighting), demand management (co-ordination of power for refrigeration and air con), anaerobic digestion and tidal power (both turbine and lagoon). I don’t think it considers floating turbines in deeper water.

    Further it needs to consider that HVDC lines can ship power from distant windier/sunnier areas.

    I might add that the best wind resource being situated in central USA I don’t see any problem shipping blades across the prairie… there is no problem shipping them across Germany (a country much more congested in its road system than the USA).

    Please run this again will ALL forms of renewables in the mix.

      • Is any country planning on using just wind power?

        No.

        So the study needs to take into account all forms of renewable energy. The UK uses all the forms I listed except solar CSP (and even then I left out natural gas from sewage plant and power to gas injection of hydrogen into the gas grid and small scale hydro)

  20. Maybe we could have a big war. Lots of people will die, and then we wont need all that supposed power! Problem solved? (sarc)

    • The problem is getting the greens and the art students to fight it., They are notoriously workshy and I cant see them cooperating.

      Simple small nuclear detonations at green rallies might work though.

      As might secret infusions of chemical sex hormones into the tofu.

      There are signs from the growth of LBGT activism that this is already happening.

  21. There’s also an energy pay-back problem. Older solar cells would never pay-back the energy used to make them. Newer cells are more energy efficient and use less energy in manufacture, so they do have a pay-back potential. (Whether or not they do pay-back the energy depends on their actual, useful lifetime.)

    As for windmills, the concrete used to support these structures have an energy cost. It takes about 3 to 6 GJ per ton of clinker produced. Clinkers are then ground to produce cement–the main component in concrete. It took many years of windmill operation to pay-back the energy used in the concrete support structure. I don’t know how much energy is required to produce the other components in a windmill–it’s not nothing.

    Jim

    • Given that there are no economies of scale, and each turbine has to be individually sited, when one takes into acoount all the associated cost and CO2 involved in shipping, transport, siting, foundations, coupling remote and distant places to the grid, the requirement for backup power and grid balancing/stabilisation, windfarms are never cost effective nor do the reduce CO2 by any significant amount.

      Indeed, since about 2005 Germany has been unable to reduce its CO2 emissions notwithstanding its drive towards renewables. The last couple of years, Germany has been increasing its CO2 emissions. The UK has also struggled to reduce CO2 emissions since around 2009 notwithstanding the roll out of ever more windfarms.

      • Increases in Germany (and lack of progress overall) have been in the heating/transport area… in electricity progress is steady. but note the decision to switch off 45% of nuclear power in 2011 didn’t help things, in CO2 reduction terms.

        and a wind turbine saves the CO2 from its entire lifespan, construction to dismantling, within 18 months.

      • note the decision to switch off 45% of nuclear power in 2011 didn’t help things, in CO2 reduction terms.

        You are right, and herein lies the problem. Wind requires 100% backup and unless this backup comes from CO2 free energy eg nuclear plants in Germany, nuclear plants in France, via the interconnect, or by hydro (possibly via Norway or Switzerland), then wind does not reduce CO2 emissions to any meaningful degree.

        Wind has a nominal average output of around 25% nameplate. the average can be as low as just over 20% to around 30% depending upon siting, but whatever it is, wind requires backup for all the time it is generating less than its capacity factor.

        Now then one might imagine that if wind on average produces on average about 25% energy that will lead to a similar 255 reduction in CO2 emissions. But it does not work out that way because unless the backup is CO2 energy, the backup produces much more CO2 than had it been left to run in steady state 24/7 52 weeks per year operation.

        Some of this backup is produced by coal fired generation which cannot because of its design be ramped uped/ramped down, but instead runs 24/7 whether or not any power is needed from it. It produces as much CO2 as it would even if there were no wind turbines.

        Other back up is provided by gas generation which can be ramped up/ramped down with demand, but this is a very in efficient mode of operation and it means that the gas plant is producing almost as much CO2 if it were left to run at optimum level 24/7 52 weeks per year. There is only a little CO2 being saved.

        then because of the intermittent and non dispatchable nature of wind and the lack of spinning reserve, diesel generators (STOR) are additionally used to balance the grid. These of course produce even more CO2 than coal.

        The net position is that no significant CO2 is saved and that is why Germany has been unable to reduce its CO2 emissions recently and indeed the last couple of years have shown an increase in CO2. this trend will continue.

        You can check the principle to which I refer by comparing how much fuel your car uses when it drives 100 km on a motorway (steady 100km per hour) and compare this with how much fuel your car consumes when it drives 75 km (ie., 100 – 25%) in urban conditions. Driving in urban conditions uses a lot of fuel because of the ramp up/ramp down manner in which the car is being used.

        Taking a relatively small car for example purposes.(a BMW 320i)

        Fuel consumption (economy) – extra urban 5.6 l/100 km.
        Fuel consumption (economy) – urban 10.7 l/100 km.

        So on a motorway ,driving 100 km at a steady speed the driver uses some 5.6 litres of fuel. By comparison driving 75 km in urban environs, the driver uses 8.025 litres of fuel (ie., 10.7 x 75/100). The same principles applies with the backup required for wind; the energy used in overcoming the inertia (speeding up of the the generators) means that one might as well let the gas generator run at its optimum design speed 24/7 all year long.

        Windfarms only result in a measurable reduction of CO2 if the backup comes from non CO2 energy sources, so Denmark achieves a saving because it can rely upon Norwegian hydro. Of course, it pays a very high price for this and that is why Danish electricity is about the most expensive in Europe.

      • Sorry a typo. Should have read:

        Now then one might imagine that if wind produces on average about 25% energy that will lead to a similar 25% reduction in CO2 emissions. But it does not work out that way because, unless the backup is from CO2 free energy, the backup produces much more CO2 than had it been left to run in steady state 24/7 52 weeks per year operation.

        `The BMW data is set out at: https://www.auto-data.net/en/?f=showCar&car_id=9929

      • The bulk of western Europe is connected, or being connected, with HVDC interconnectors and part of a single day ahead electricity market, ensuring maximum use of priority dispatch renewables…

        that’s the way it is designed to work…

        wind offshore has a capacity factor of 30 to 40% – that’s from measured operational data from N Sea wind farms.

        I don’t know what you mean by 100% backup exactly: certainly if wind or solar is producing energy, then the fossil fuel plants are turned off… if you look at UK coal power from April to date, it has hardly been used – in Q2 I believe it contributed 1.8% of demand.

        Wind is predictable to 95% confidence a day in advance, thus allowing efficient ramp up and down of gas and switch off of coal. spinning reserve is increasingly being replaced by fast acting grid storage allowing slower ramp up of gas plant (at an efficient rate).

        In short, I think your figures incorrect.

      • My figures are general and illustrative. No doubt the best sited off-shore windfarm will peak at well over 50%, but on average 25% is a good ball park figure for the average wind capacity factor, but it make no difference to the principle if this figure is 23% or 28%. the same problems and issues arise.

        When I say it requires 100% backup, I mean that there are times when wind and solar produce no measurable energy at all. Thus if one has say 16GW of installed wind and solar, one needs 16 GW of backup to cover the situation when these forms of renewables produce nothing to speak of. How that backup is made up is material, and to the extent this is made up by fossil fuel generated power this is relevant to how much CO2 is saved by utilising wind and solar in the grid system .

        So for example during the UK winters of 2009/10 and 2010/11 for the best part of a month wind produced close to zero energy, and solar produced zero energy during the hours of darkness and little energy during sunlight hours because of the low angle of solar irradiance and because the solar panels were covered in snow.

        I have 30 years experience in shipping, and I can tell you that wind and weather is anything but predictable.

      • You might like to look at a report issued by the Renewable Energy Foundation 2012. This is not an impartial report and is a issued by a foundation that promotes windfarms. http://www.ref.org.uk/attachments/article/280/ref.hughes.19.12.12.pdf

        The figures I suggested were for onshore wind, I having not specifically considered off-shore wind when I was commenting.

        This report (page 40) shows that for England the capacity factor varied between 20.8% (2010) and 26.6% (2011). I suspect that the low percentage for 2010 was the result of the 1 month period during that winter when wind produced next to zero energy thereby depressing the average for the year. So one can see that my ball park figure of 25% is a fair figure. The report does not cover off-shore for the UK, but no doubt that is higher and may be around 35%

        You should also look at http://www.caithnesswindfarms.co.uk/Intermittency_report.pdf which reviewed all sources of UK wind and analysed the results for 2013 and 2014. I have only read the summary, from which it appears that:

        * >The average capacity factor of all monitored wind turbines, onshore and offshore, across the whole of the UK was 29.4% in 2013 and 28.8% in 2014

        *>The monthly average capacity factor varied from 11.1% (June 2014) to 48.8% (February 2014).

        *>The time during which the wind turbines produced less than 10% of their rated capacity totalled 3,278 hours or 136.6days over the two year period.

        *>The time during which the wind turbines produced less than 5% of their rated capacity totalled 1,172 hours or 48.8 days over the same period.

        *>Minimum wind turbine outputs averaged 132MW (1.8% of capacity) in 2013 and 174MW (2.1%) in 2014
        as measured over 30 minute intervals.

        *>Variations in output of 75 to 1 have been observed in a single month.

        *>Maximum rise and fall in output over a one hour period was about 1000MW at the
        end of 2014 with a trend increase of about 250MW per year as measured over four
        years.

        The take home from the above analysis is that combined on-shore and off-shore has a capacity factor of a little under 30%, and the output is highly variable with approximately 37% of the time windfarms were providing less than 10% capacity factor.

      • correction:

        The take home from the above analysis is that combined on-shore and off-shore has a capacity factor of a little under 30%, and the output is highly variable with approximately 19% of the time windfarms were providing less than 10% capacity factor.

  22. Tony Mills

    “A 2.5-3 MW wind turbine (the current on-shore size) produces 6 Gigawatt hours/per annum.”

    Just a shade optimistic?

    • No, it is simple arithmetic. Say a 2MW turbine, produces, at 100% capacity, 48 MWh per day.

      Multiply that by 365 = 17,520MWh, or 17.52GWh per year. Average wind turbine capacity, at 33% = 5.78 GWh/pa. (as turbines are closer to 3MW these days, 6GWh, per year is very conservative)

      Calculations like these, and similar ones involving storage, and cost of solar generation, is why WUWT arguments are falling on deaf ears. Nukes and fossil fuels are simply no longer economically competitive. I wonder how long site readers can tilt at windmills before economic reality caches up with them. Indefinitely I guess.

  23. This is absurd and unhelpful. No one in the world is proposing using wind (or any other single technology) to provide all our energy. The fact is, most Americans can produce all their own energy on site each year, using a combination of technologies. I know this, because I’ve done it. I transitioned a home built in 1950 to net-zero energy.
    The first step is efficiency: reducing energy consumption by air sealing and insulating the building exterior, upgrading to LED light bulbs, low-flow 1.5 gallon per minute showerheads, )putting in a new high efficiency refrigerator, and sealing and insulating the ductwork. This cut the homes energy consumption by more than half.
    The next step is on-site energy production: we installed solar hot water (an 80-gallon hot water tank acts as a big battery, and stores several days worth of hot water!), a 4 kw solar PV array, and replaced the 65-year old oil furnace with a ground source heat pump to provide both winter heat and summer air conditioning for the house. The ground source heat pump has coils of tubing 6 feet deep in the back yard to exchange heat with the earth around us seasonally. This uses the entire year like a big long-term battery, storing summer’s warmth for winter time and keeping the house comfortable year-round!
    Each one of these upgrades was a good investment individually. When combined, the energy savings paid for the whole-house retrofit in ~8.5 years, meaning these investments have a 12% return on investment. Additionally, these improvements increased the home value significantly.

    If you want more details and to see for yourself, there’s a short video on my website explaining this project, and examining what can be done in one state (Nevada) to transition to 100% clean energy, and become a significant exporter as well.

    http://www.poweredbysunshine.org

    • This is absurd and unhelpful. No one in the world is proposing using wind (or any other single technology) to provide all our energy.

      I consider the article to contain a number of errors, and I agree that no country is proposing to be reliant solely on wind for all its energy needs.

      That said, it is quite clear from the article that there are significant problems with wind energy, and in particular in having wind energy forming a substantial part of the energy mix, let alone the bulk (say more than 50%) of the energy mix.

  24. I have a few points where I disagree with your “analysis”. This is more of a thought experiment, in my opinion. I’m a wind advocate, and even I would not claim that we can or should replace all traditional generation with wind. In my view, solar will be the dominant generator on the future grid, with wind will occupying a medium – large niche below solar and above hydro and any remaining thermal resources. Thermal resources will mostly consist of gas, and these will be used entirely for capacity, but only to the that there is a storage shortfall.

    Your thought experiment ignores solar, ignores power markets, and relies on turbine performance specs that are a decade out of date. With solar and wind making up a large portion of generation, we would need a long string of days that are both sunless and windless across, if not the entire country, than across huge regions of it. Power markets are good and getting better, and (just like they do today) will use the bulk electricity transmission grid to mitigate supply / demand mismatches in specific localities. Thus, you are vastly over-estimating the amount of storage required. In my view you are also vastly overestimating the number of wind turbines that will be installed because A) solar will dominate and B) where wind is installed, mostly in the midwest and offshore, it will achieve a 40% – 50% NCF (this is reality in the midwest today).

  25. I am a strong supporter of nuclear and hydro power generation, and definitely not a fan of wind power. However, I need to point out an error with the analysis in this article.

    To use the author’s own words, there is a “stupid math error” in this article too. Specifically, the author has overestimated, by a factor of 1,000, the number of Tesla battery packs needed to provide 7 days of backup.

    Let’s do the maths:
    The author states that “year-round average power generation was 2.85 million megawatts (MW) or 2.85 terawatts (TW)”. In seven days, this equates to 2.85 million x 24 hours x 7 days = 478.8 million MW/hours of power generation. This is how much power would need to be stored in powerpacks to provide 7 days of backup.

    1 megawatt = 1,000 kilowatts. In other words, a 100KW/hour = 0.1 MW/hour.

    To store 478.8 million MW/hours of power, you need 478.8 million/0.1 = 4.788 billion powerpacks. Like I said, more than a thousand times fewer than the author suggests.

    Intuitively this makes sense to. My house, with a family of 4 in Toronto Canada uses an average of 14kw/hours of electricity a day, so a 100 kw powerpack would provide electricity for our home for 4 people for a week.

    The word population is approximately 7.5 billion, so 5 trillion powerpacks would mean that there would be 667 per man, woman and child on earth. That’s a lot of power!

  26. You assume wind is your only option.
    If you want to use a more realistic model. You need to combine wind, solar, hydro, and geothermal (where applicable). And nuclear.
    Plus a battery doesn’t have to be in the classic definition. Use excess power to pump water uphill and stored in a dam to be used when demand rises. It is a more efficient use of excess power.
    I appreciate the effort to make a factual argument, but in reality it’s still narrow minded in scope and far from a realistic scenario.

    • Don’t forget thousands of hamsters running wheels. We ALL alternatives, no matter how expensive or rediculous. I’m checking out using lighting strikes to power my house. An email alerted me to this new source. So I’m going for ALL alternatives. Hamsters, lightening, tesla machine, perpetual motion machine that’s been hidden for centuries. ALL of them.

      • Should have been “We need ALL alternatives”. Time to fire those lazy hamsters that rested while I was typing.

  27. And still ignored is the fact that on an annual basis, Wind Turbines use about 10 percent of name plate capacity for what we call in the utility industry “hotel loads.” Hotel load is the power needed to keep the oil pumps running, computers energized (look at the power use of your Desktop PC and multiply that by 2 – 4), Control systems, yaw mechanism, electronic controller, hydraulics system, cooling unit, tower, HVAC, Ice removal heating, anemometer and wind vane, and positioning equipment for the Nacelle and blades (to collect the wind.) If it is not aimed into the wind it does not generate power and it will not move there without using power like the old mechanical wind driven water pumps you see on the prairies do.

    Nameplate capacity is the maximum continuously deliverable power. Utilities sell all power generated from the generator to the customer. This is measured on the generation output meter. They measure all of the power they are using for the generation unit on a separate (or even multiple separate) meter. What the utilities and the Greenwhackos do not tell you about Wind Power is that power is used up 24/7/365 just to keep the Wind Turbine “Ready to Operate” or in standby. So, for each 2 MW turbine built and put into operation about 10% or about 200 KW per hour 24/7/365 is being added to the grid. Like leaches, they are sucking off power that has to be supplied by batteries, reservoirs, fossil fuel plants, etc just so they can make power when the wind blows.

    A wind farm off in the boondocks with no connection to the grid will not work without an external power source – Diesel Generator, Battery, etc. And in inclement climate many of the components and systems must be kept warm (like oil, water cooling) or cooled (like electronics) or it will not work – period. When the wind starts blowing, the Wind turbine and blades must be positioned into the wind.

    Thus when you take a two megawatt wind turbine that has the capacity of producing 2MW/H X 24H X 365 = 17,520 MW (note the hours cancel out). 10% of that is 1,752 MW. However, even the best sited Turbine only has a 30% capacity factor. Thus the average annual yield is only 5,256 MW per year and from that you need to subtract 1,752 MW per year giving you a net yield of only 3,504 MW. This means that you need about 1/3 more Wind Turbines to meet your 100% Renewable goal.

      • I work in the industry. The capacity factor does NOT include Hotel Load. Period. I have seen and read the meters. I have collected the days for Management. The utility gets paid for power produced and delivered to the grid. The utility pays for power they take off of the grid. Often the generating source is in a service district controlled by another utility. That utility wants payed for the power consumed in their service district. Court cases have supported their right to be paid for that use. Further, the power generated is at a higher voltage than the power consumed and it is not economical to use the existing see ice.

      • I work in the industry. The capacity factor does NOT include Hotel Load. Period. I have seen and read the meters. I have collected the days for Management. The utility gets paid for power produced and delivered to the grid. The utility pays for power they take off of the grid. Often the generating source is in a service district controlled by another utility. That utility wants payed for the power consumed in their service district. Court cases have supported their right to be paid for that use. Further, the power generated is at a higher voltage than the power consumed and it is not economical to use the existing see ice.

      • @Griff – Now find the data on the load that is used by each of these off-shore Wind Farms and subtract it from the so called (phoney) Capacity Factor. I have seen data sets that show that several Wind Farms in the North Atlantic actually use more power over a year than they produce in a year due to the necessity of heating the nacelle, hydraulics, deicing, and other equipment use over the winter.

      • @Griff, The hotel load is more like a well hidden whale than a red herring. AWEA – American Wind Energy Association and the manufacturers keep this whale well hidden as their business depends on the secret.

        Obviously you are NOT using your brain. Simple math.
        1. The utility only reports and uses the generator output electricity for capacity factor. Meter #1
        It is to expensive to provide local transformers at each and every Wind Turbine to decrease the output power from the generator to the voltage needed for the power used to operate the Wind Turbine. Keep in mind that they must have a separate source of power because if there is no power the Wind turbine will NOT operate to generate power.
        2. The utility measures the hotel load on a separate meter, Meter #2.
        3. Even someone with your intelligence can deduce that it takes some power to pump hydraulic oil. heat and cool the nacelle, operate the control system, etc. It is not ZERO. The lowest that I have seen is typically 10% of name plate, the highest I have seen is over 16% of name plate.
        Just what is your complete disbelief in the fact that this is the way that wind turbines operate? By the way, same is true for Solar Farms with Axis/Azimuth adjusting panels. Each of these positioners is using about 100 watts per hour weather moving or not. That is two per panel.

        Enlighten yourself GOOGLE “power consumption of idle wind turbine”
        Even Google give some decent information on how much they use and links to articles on how it is kept hidden.

  28. Ones quibble. When Mr. Driessen said storage would have to be 48 hours instead of 16, he increased the number of turbines:

    We’re up to 14.4 million 1.8-GW turbines.

    By my way of thinking the number shouldn’t have changed from the 4.8 million he reached when he assumed an average 33% availability. That is, a change in the assumed possible length of a calm period doesn’t necessarily change the average availability.

  29. Just my own opinion but I think it’s less harmful to the environment to use the wind, than all the solar panels that produce enough heat to cook a bird in full flight.
    Yet, not one person ever seems to bring up this factor into the problems global warming.
    Why is that??? And do they have a way to reduce this powerful heat?
    Thank you for your information and much more.

    • er… the problem with birds was not with solar panels, but with concentrating solar, a quite different technology (and they solved the bird frying thing anyway)

  30. well already “renewables” accounts for about a quarter of world electricity production, so I think there must me something amiss here.

    • “renewables” means various things. In the US, hydro does not count. I am told this is because they cannot get subsidies on the hydro. Only things with subsidies count—wind, solar, ethanol, etc. Other countries count biomass, hydro, wood, etc. Lack of an agreed upon definition makes accurate discussion impossible. One must refer to the exact source, such as wind turbines, hydro, pumped hydro, etc.

      • This is because in part, California designated any hydro larger than 10 Mw as Not renewable, because it had too big a footprint with reservoirs and dams etc. Obviously, a large creek with a large elevation drop that produced 50 Mw, would be just as renewable as solar or wind. And much more energy density and a very long term life span for the civil infrastructure. But there is a movement against all types of water based hydro as well. I don’t think that Griff is even that radical…are you?

  31. This article is making the most absurd straw man argument. Literally no one is talking about 100% wind power.

    • How much Solar do you get between dusk and Dawn? Where will this lack of power be supplied from? Now add in a week of no wind and do the calculations again. Simplest solution is Hydro, however that has even more problems in that environmentalists are removing dams and preventing the construction of pumped storage. Thus we are stuck with the Hydro we presently have.

  32. You people are overlooking the fact of the population growth expected to reach 9 billion or more in 10 years
    How many turbines will then be needed, the rationale behind the enviro’s is to get rid of 90% of the world’s population.

    • Honestly, the enviros do not care. By then, the scam of wind will be evident or everyone will be living in the dark fighting over food. Either, way it’s a self-correcting problem.

  33. One of the things that irks me with citing certain renewables costs such as solar PV, is that they say that solar is now competitive with NG at $30 to $50 a Mw/h and can be installed for that price. Or .03 to .05 cents a Kw/h. Forgetting to mention that the solar PV has a capacity factor (CF) of at best, 25%. Which is to say, it only produces total installed capacity for 6 hours of the day. When averaged over the 24 hour day, or 365 day year, you have to multiply the 3-5 cent per Kw/h x 4 for the CF. So while they claim they can install the entire capacity for $30 to $50 per installed Mw, they only generate 1/4 of that installed capacity over the year.

    That makes the sporadic solar electricity about 4 times as expensive as the NG base load (dispatchable) power. So the true cost is $120 to $200 per Mw/h (12 cents to 20 cents per Kw/h) for the solar PV. And that is generous to use a 25% CF. My point being that renewable advocates try to say that installing solar PV is comparably priced for either NG or solar PV. Not to mention that the Nat Gas base load plant that is producing dispatchable power at a 90%+ CF, and solar PV is dumped on the grid when the sun shines.

    It is an apples and oranges comparison to begin with, since the cost to supposedly install both are the same price, but the renewable solar PV only produces 1/4 the output of equivalent sized NG of non dispatchable quality/quantity. I have a hard time understanding that there are some people who don’t understand this simple truth and/or use it to make it sound like the two sources are identical. But what makes me a bit mad is when it is stated unequivalently that firstly, by people who know better, the two electricity products are the same, and secondly, that the installed capacity of both create the same amount of electricity. They obviously don’t. When solar PV power producers are ready to sign contracts for 3-5 cents per Kw/h, without any direct subsidy, then solar PV can perhaps be taken more seriously and looked at more closely.

    • you don’t use electricity at the same rate over a 24 hour day.
      From midnight to 6am, you may well not be using any at all.

      solar plus a battery will get you through your daily domestic use in many places today.

      UK large solar projects now typically claim no subsidy. In India they are getting to the sort of costs you mention (haven’t checked latest rounds of figures)

      • The point is Griff, is that solar electricity is a different product than baseload power being generated by NG, nuclear, coal or large hydro. One is firm power, or dispatchable and solar/wind etc, is non firm, or intermittent. They really shouldn’t be worth the same, in at least as far as electron’s are concerned. One has a higher value than the other, at least as far as what those electrons are capable of supplying. Once you throw in the battery, then the cost for solar is out the window on a pure price play. My point was that it is very misleading for renewable activists to say that solar PV is now on parity with NG when only the capital cost was compared, and not the product delivered, or the quantity of Kw hours. It still makes no sense on an investment basis as it is at least 4x as expensive for the inferior solar electrons on the same installed capacity.

        For an off grid scenario, then this is very appealing as compared to running a fossil generator. In fact, on a much smaller scale for off grid, I have a 1 Kw solar array and inverters/batteries, and it is a very nice feeling to have electricity available 24/7 in a remote location. But it barely runs my sat TV/internet/electronics and small fridge/LED lights when the sun is shining in summer. Which is when I want it, but it still costs north of 40 cents per Kw/hr I estimate, when a diesel genset would be costing $1 a Kw/h just for fuel only. So it has its place, but I don’t think on economics alone, solar PV can ever compete. Solar thermal hot water maybe for domestic heating etc, but no one in the west is talking much about this. That sure wouldn’t make sense to generate electricity with solar PV and then use that electricity for heating hot water tanks or electric heat when that same water could have just have been heated with a small solar thermal panel.

      • If you can predict solar and wind in advance -and you can to a very high degree of accuracy – then there isn’t a problem with intermittency. There is no quality difference.

        I don’t know your location, but check latest panel + battery prices. Still falling: may be economic when it wasn’t before. anyway, for my fellow UK citizens offgrid isn’t a reality – nearly all of us are on grid.

      • “then there isn’t a problem with intermittency”

        If the intermittency lasts for weeks – as can be the case when a blocking high gets stuck in the North Atlantic during the winter, as happens regularly – you have a Hell of a problem with intermittency.

        Now go and apologise to Dr. Crockford for slandering her.

  34. The math in this “correction” is terribly erroneous, as some simple post-calculation checks can validate.

    If average generation is 2.85TW, and there’s 6b people on the planet, then the average person uses 2.85 trillion / 6 billion people = 475w. Using 475w per hour, or 475Wh, for a day = 475Wh * 24 hr = 11,400Wh, or 11.4kWh.

    So if I want to back up power for two days, I need two times that, or 22.8kWh. So how many 100 kWh battery packs would I need? 22.8/100, or about one quarter of a battery pack.

    Expand that out to 6b people, and we’d need ~1.5b (billion) battery packs for two days of backup power, NOT 1.5 trillion packs. Still a lot, and this still ignores other massive capacity backup power supplies like pumped water, compressed air, etc., as others call have rightly called out in the comments, but this error in the calcs is clearly mis-stating the size of this potential solution, and skewing the conversation.

    Would love for the “correction” article to be corrected! Thanks!

  35. Good catch – I found some other boo boos too; e.g., providing 2 days worth of backup power for Mr. Driessen’s hypothetical city of 700,000 souls would require about forty eight (not one) GWh’s worth of storage capacity (1 GWh could provide its residents with just 29.8 watts/each during that supply hiatus. On the other hand, his estimate of 480,000, 100 kWh, batteries for that scenario is reasonable because it would supply everyone with 1428 Watts – about 15% of an average US citizen’s current “primary energy” consumption and close to their average electricity consumption).

    However, I’m also very much pro nuke & therefore totally agree with the point he’s making – there’s no way that batteries could ever render any of Jacobson’s WS scenarios practical/acceptable. For example, there have been lots of papers recently published/presented about such scenarios’ storage requirements (e.g., https://www.researchgate.net/publication/315334530_How_much_energy_storage_is_needed_to_incorporate_very_large_intermittent_renewables and https://www.researchgate.net/publication/257125700_Estimation_of_the_energy_storage_requirement_of_a_future_100_renewable_energy_system_in_Japan ) which, depending upon their authors’ assumptions, have concluded that any such system must be capable of storing from 1 to 18 days worth of energy. Assuming eight days – a common, mid-range, estimate – and that everyone, all 7.5 billion of us, is to become as energy-rich as we in the USA are now (i.e., consume about 4 kW of “energy services” all of which will eventually become electricity), that translates to needing 2.07E+19 J worth of storage capacity. Accomplishing that would take 57.6 billion of Tesla’s 13.5 kWh “power walls”, which, at $6200 each (https://www.tesla.com/powerwall ) would cost $2650 trillion – about 100 x the USA’s current GDP. There is simply no way that either we or our children would ever choose to spend even 10% of that much money for any sort of energy storage system.

  36. In Germany mass fields of wind turbines. It’s a start. Do nothing and the USA population grows and so would the demand for electricity from fossil fuels. There are wind studies, solar energy studies that provide reams of data . And why are we concerned about Africa, maybe fossil fuels do have an impact? It seems the nay sayers may be the fossil fuel lobby itself. We should be working toward a solution of many sources. As our forward jump in technology moves at light speed (electricity does lol) it could be possible to use less fossil fuels and technology could find more efficient ways to produce electricity and use it as lower voltage and current fuel our applications, appliances and overall needs. Batteries maybe much smaller too. It took 2 d cell batteries to use a flashlight. We now have led lights that run on a AA battery and better illumination too! Dont over calculate the need as technology makes a triple jump toward you!

  37. According to the U.S. Energy Information, the total (not just electricity) energy consumed by the United States is about 100 quadrillion BTU per year. According to my calculations, this corresponds to about 10 kW per person (1016 BTU*0.003 kWh per BTU/(3.21*108 people*365 days per year*24 hours per day)). By the end of the century, the population of the Earth will be about 10 billion people. In order to provide everyone with a U.S. standard of living, this corresponds to a total about 1014 W (100 TW). Assuming, a wind turbine farm can produce on average 2 W/m2 (generous). this corresponds to 50 million square kilometers. The total area of North and South America is about 42.5 million square kilometers. Assuming, solar cells can produce 10 W/m2 (very generous), 100 TW would require 10 million square kilometers. The area of the United States is about 9.8 million square kilometers. Imagine the environmental impact of that! According to Wikipedia, The IEA estimates that, in 2013, total primary energy supply (TPES) was 1.575 × 1017 Wh or an average of 18 TW (1.575 × 1017 Wh/(365 days per year*24 hours per day).

  38. The program screwed up my exponents:
    According to the U.S. Energy Information, the total (not just electricity) energy consumed by the United States is about 100 quadrillion BTU per year. According to my calculations, this corresponds to about 10 kW per person (10^16 BTU*0.003 kWh per BTU/(3.21*10^8 people*365 days per year*24 hours per day)). By the end of the century, the population of the Earth will be about 10 billion people. In order to provide everyone with a U.S. standard of living, this corresponds to a total about 10^14 W (100 TW). Assuming, a wind turbine farm can produce on average 2 W/m2 (generous). this corresponds to 50 million square kilometers. The total area of North and South America is about 42.5 million square kilometers. Assuming, solar cells can produce 10 W/m2 (very generous), 100 TW would require 10 million square kilometers. The area of the United States is about 9.8 million square kilometers. Imagine the environmental impact of that! According to Wikipedia, The IEA estimates that, in 2013, total primary energy supply (TPES) was 1.575 × 10^17 Wh or an average of 18 TW (1.575 × 10^17 Wh/(365 days per year*24 hours per day).

    • You are about 2 billion to high as global population will likely peak within 30 years.
      As third world nations become first world, their population growth drops precipitously.

  39. situation in the Netherlands: total energy 3TWh /day. Windmill 4Mw, production factor 33%.
    Storage by synthetic CH4 production (or other carbohydrate) at 50% efficiency. Needed per day: electr. 1,5Twh, gas etc 1.5Twh.
    Requirement: 22.5TWh/day is satisfied by 235000 windmills = 1500 large windfarms, space 3* Dutch land area + space for hydroxen, methane factories.
    If heat from CH4 production is used for heating buildings then less windmills are needed,
    Next questions is how to produce required steel and concrete? How to produce them without coal?

Comments are closed.