Green Power is Part Time Power 

Guest opinion by Viv Forbes

Solar power only works while the sun shines – it is part-time power.

Wind power only works when suitable winds blows – also part-time power.

Batteries only work when charged – part-time power again.

Hydro fails in droughts – more part-time power.

And using full-time power like natural gas to fill the inevitable supply gaps from part-time power forces backup gas to operate like part-time power.

Moreover, on sunny windy days, wind and solar generators spew out electricity at little extra cost. These erratic surges of part-time power drive electricity prices so low that even low-cost full-time producers like coal cannot operate profitably at those times. They are throttled back and forced to operate as yet another part-time power plant.

24/7 electricity users such as hospitals, trains, factories, refineries, fuel and water pumps, cash registers, infrastructure and mines cannot operate on part-time electricity.

Moreover, every part-time power producer (using sun, wind, batteries, hydro, gas or coal) consumes money full-time for operations, standby, maintenance and replacement. Each also has to fund its own specialised generators, transmission lines, access roads and workforce. Electricity becomes both unreliable and expensive, and consumers suffer.

Using taxes, subsidies, dictates and mandates to replace a full-time power producer like coal with up to five part-time power producers only makes sense in the part-time minds that inhabit Greentopia.

Government cannot improve any of this with more laws and regulations – they must REPEAL all the legislation, regulations, subsidies and taxes that created the mess in the first place. State governments too should repeal their silly energy laws, and stop shutting and destroying power stations. More laws and regulations can only make things worse.

Viv Forbes is director of  The Carbon Sense Coalition

195 thoughts on “Green Power is Part Time Power 

      • It’s fine with natural gas the other time. So long as both are competitive as a team, i.e. not rooftop, not government favored insiders, not demonstration projects, and no subsidy in large utility scale solar by the majors.

      • Hydro ain’t part time in Canada – the land of bush, trees, mosquitos and water…lots and lots of water – though there has been so much political interference wrt to the energy file – we are stuck with overwhelmingly expensive part time power

      • It is good that the molten salt reactor cannot melt down because it is already a liquid, but [this is only partly sarcastic] we could go one better and and use a gas-core reactor (not gas-cooled, the nuclear fission takes place in a gas) and have a highly efficient and throttle-able reactor.

        The gas-core reactor uses a three stage heat extraction process. The main cycle is a closed cycle gas turbine. The topping cycle is a magneto-hydrodynamic generator. The bottoming cycle is a steam turbine. The hot gases from the reactor are routed through the MHD generator which converts some of the heat directly into electricity. Leftover heat of the hot gases is exchanged with the working fluid of closed cycle gas turbine. A heat recovery steam generator on the exhaust side of the gas turbine raises the steam for the steam turbine. Just using the lowest hanging fruit, an end-to-end thermal efficiency of 70% is available. Varying the efficiencies of the three conversion stages allows the combined cycle to respond to changes in energy demand at a faster rate than the ramping rate of the nuclear reaction. As the combined cycle reactor has greater thermal efficiency than reactors driving steam turbines (~30% – 40%), running them at part load will still be providing inexpensive power. Hypothetically, the fission rate could be slowly adjusted to keep load peaks and valleys within the throttle-able range, eliminating the need for any peaking power.

        A quick google on gas core reactors turned up this 2004 Masters’ thesis that examines just the sort of reactor that I was talking about (although, my quick scan did not find anything about dumping heat to run at part load):

      • Perhaps this should become part of the requirement of commercial RE generators. Contract with them for a certain ammount of MWh of generation. They cannot sell you more than that (overpower the grid) but THEY must be responsible for producing the short side through alternate methods (Gas gen, Battery backups, etc.) to maintain their promised input into the grid supply.

        If the Solar Project has a nampeplate capacity of 350MW and they want to contract to supply 350MW, then they must supply the alternate form of power input at times the sun is insufficient.
        Conversly, if their project has a nameplate capacity of 350MW but (knowing that they won’t produce more than 100MW) they contract for producing 100MW, they can sell no more than 100MW but still need to provide backup sources for times when they can’t even produce that much.

    • Only in the sense that getting one foot cut off is better than getting both cut off.

      And that you’re not taking the option that lets you keep both feet.

      • I have both feet. I am lucky enough to live somewhere where I am allowed non-grid tied arrays. They power my AC compressor during the summer when the sun is shining, which, by the way, is when I need it most. In the winter I just dump it to a resistive heater. Both of these activities seem to upset some people here.

        My other foot is that I am on the grid. Despite the local e- cooperatives building huge solar farms, I am still only paying 0.13 per KwH. Seems to me natural gas plants are fine at load following. They can also export and cut the trade imbalance.

        I am completely aware of all the NUMEROUS drawbacks of solar. I have never gotten more than 79% of the rated power of my arrays. (using voltage applied^2/voltage rated^2 x rated wattage) even on snowy, -10F days.

        I hate having to change the tilt 4 times per year. (I’m lazy)

        Nevertheless, If your argument against solar is that it produces electricity too cheaply when the sun is shining, might I suggest a new PR firm?

      • probono, I don’t think anyone here has a problem with you putting up non-grid tied solar. We start to have a problem when the purchase or installation costs are subsidized by the taxpayer.

      • Probono,
        Your responses make no sense. The article is clearly talking about grid level power, not non-tied supplemental power sources. Nobody cares what you do with your money on your property.

      • Probono;

        Instead of dumping the energy to a resistive heating element, you should be using a heat pump that can switch which coils are the hot side and the cold side. In the summer, you move heat from inside the house to outside the house and, in the winter, move heat from outside the house to inside the house.

        If your AC is just a window unit, you physically move it so it cools the outside and dumps heat into the room, but you must check the coils outside for ice buildup.

      • probono, whether your not using grid power makes grid less expensive depends on how fixed assets are being paid for.

      • markw

        the law of supply and demand is immutable. No taxpayers were injured in the production of this documentary. If it takes an extra year for the new natural gas plant to reach profitability, we are worse off because….? It was still built. so will the new ones.

        The only roving blackouts I get where I live are caused by raccoons.

      • The law of supply and demand is immutable, and less than half the story.
        If you want to be informed, read up on everything, not just the part that supports your beliefs.

    • That is akin to saying when you go to war, a gun that fires sometime is better than one that doesn’t fire at all. If you want to succeed and actually recruit soldiers you need to provide guns that fire ever time. if not the end result will be you lose the war and the few fools who volunteered to charge that hill will likely die.

    • Green eco-activists can live a part-time green life with part-time energy if they are stupid enough to want to , but don’t ever get sick and need treatment in a part-time hospital or need to get money or make a payment from a part-time bank, or go to work and find the job is now part-time and only there when the wind blows..

      Just stop trying to impose your madness on a sane world.

    • Let’s see someone live on a pace-maker that works ‘part time.’ The economy that presents us with our paychecks needs ‘full time.’

    • Just for fun try living without electricity for a week a month, for a year.

      Have you ever experienced loss of electric power? No street lights. No traffic lights. No refrigeration. No subway system.

      24/7 reliable energy makes it possible to have large cities, with a high standard of life.

      • William,

        Living without electrical power for even a few hours is a pain. Ask the Puerto Ricans about living without power for weeks or months.

      • William Ashley: I lived for 8 days without power in 1998 when a freak sleet storm hit eastern Canada. The ice deposited on the electrical pylons knocked them down. No fun. It was a one in a hundred fluke, and the weak point was the grid, not the power source which is hydro. Thank god for fossil fuel driven generators because I didn’t have a personal wind turbine on my front lawn, and the sun wasn’t shining enough to power a 40 watt light bulb using solar panels.

      • I grew up in a non-grid house in Central Scotland. We were off grid for electricity, gas, water and sewage. Lighting was by bottle gas, heating coal, wood, peat (some winters anything that would burn), water from a spring with a small header tank up the hill as a reservoir, a septic tank for waste water disposal, cooking was on a Rayburn or a 2 ring gas hob. The only concession to the early 20th century was a party telephone line. Without the internal combustion engine life would have been much harder than it was. When taking provisions home in a backpack then what is a necessity and what is a luxury becomes very clear.

        Any green who thinks fossil fuels are a bad thing should try it for a couple years without the aid of the ICE we had.

    • The big problem with that is few consumers buy power intermittently, aside from tanning salons, which negotiate a lower rate by volunteering to be the first rate payers to be cut off if load shedding must be done to avoid a brownout or blackout.

      In a fair market, the part time power supplier has the problem that if the power is bought when the wind is not blowing or the sun is not shining, the part time power supplier must cover the shortfall by paying another supplier to supply more power. As the other supplier is able to supply power on short notice, it will be supplied by an expensive peaking unit and the part time supplier will be buying power for a higher price than he is selling his renewable power. In the same fair market, if the wind starts blowing or the sun starts shining when he has not sold power, the part time power supplier either does not produce power even though he could, or sells the power to another power supplier at a price that convinces them to produce less power.

      The biggest subsidy given to renewables is that their power must be bought at any time that they produce any. Hydro power does not have that problem as it has inherent storage capacity and can schedule when they produce power.

      • “The biggest subsidy given to renewables is that their power must be bought at any time that they produce any.”

        Exactly. This has proven to be the kiss of death for an organized, efficient grid with low cost electricity. Governments, in the name of saving the environment, have cost the taxpayers countless dollars and not “saved” anything.

        • Continuation on this path will lead to a supply driven grid. Consumers then have to install equipment for storage. To save energy for a household for 1 week requires an investment of $100000 in Tesla wall Boxes. This explains why industry is overly enthousiastic about an energy transition.

      • Or in the case of South Australian Aluminum workers, the power went out and half the refinery was destroyed along with their jobs.

    • …part time better than no time…..
      This is not one bit true. You pay for installation of part time power but have to pay for the installation of backup as well. We had the best full time source in fossil fuel power and as long as it is still available we should be researching renewable methods to find one that actually replaces it as a reliable full time source.
      Also no science should be accepted for actual use without external verification. Peer review is an internal process and does not check on the same basis as proper quality control which demands not only that the methods are believed to be sound but that the results for the method can be proved true. This means not only both by comparison with the results but that the instrumentation should be regularly certified in both the actual instruments but the operating environment. Climate data dismally fails the certification test at a level below the very cheapest commercial standard let alone the life critical standards that should be applied if as they claim it is the fate of the world at stake.

    • Yes, come to think of it. The Canadian case is one of the most extreme distortions of energy markets by policy design or face plant in the midst of giant hydropower resources, oil and gas, uranium, and infrastructure.

  1. When you calculate the cost of wind and solar, most trolls just add up the cost of wind and solar along.
    In reality, in addition to the wind and solar arrays, you also need enough fossil fuel capacity to run your country when the sun isn’t shining and the wind isn’t blowing. You also need enough batteries to keep your country from going dark for the 10 to 15 minutes it will take to get either the diesel generator or the natural gas turbine running.

    The cost of the batteries and fossil fuel system is never added to the cost of renewable power, even though they can’t operate without them.

    On the other hand you can dump the wind/solar and batteries, and just build the same fossil fuel plant.

    • MarkW;

      You do not need that much backup energy. If there are enough spinning machines providing synchronous power to the grid, the inertia of all of those machines will cover shortfall as the prime movers for the peaking generators spin up. Diesel peaking generators can be up to speed and supply power to the grid in seconds [the fastest ones come up in a handful of cycles] and gas turbines for peaking generation spin up faster than a helicopter’s turbo-shaft engine.

      However, there is the rather odd problem that the times when back up must be able to cover the rated output of wind farms and photovoltaic sites coincide with the times that such backup is completely unavailable.

      That big blackout in South Australia happened when their wind farms were operating at full capacity. The large high efficiency wind turbines use rare earth permanent magnets to produce DC power which is directed to the grid with a twelve pulse rectifier bridge. Rectifier bridges allow the grid to pull power from the DC power bus driven by the wind turbine. Unlike spinning synchronous machines, rectifier bridges cannot supply reactive power, so if there is a grid transient (like a transmission line tripping out) that causes conditions where the power supplied does not cover the power demanded, the rectifier bridge cannot support the voltage at its connection to the grid, nor can it supply energy from the rotational energy of the turbine. As the grid frequency drops and the grid voltage drops, the power pulled by the grid from the wind farm through the rectifier bridge goes down, so the drop of frequency and voltage accelerates. Wind farms in South Australia were running at capacity, but the grid could not pull in the power, so everything went dark.

      Wind and solar need 100% backup available when they are operating at 100% capacity or a sudden loss of power could result in a complete blackout of the system, but those are the times when such backup is least available.

      • No, if you look at the actual time sequence of events, it’s a bit more complicated than that. But it’s important to note that, despite what the state premier keeps saying, the transmission tower failures did not contribute to the initiation of the blackout.

    • Richard, the synchronous power that you mention would at best reduce the number of batteries needed to maintain power while the fossil fuel plants are brought online.

  2. Add to that: progress always amounts to less dependency on land and nature. This started long ago by the construction of roads, bridges, tunnels, canals, dykes and greenhouses. Technology added machines for the heavy work. Transporation systems create independence from land. Windmills fail these criteria in all respects: immense land use and nature dependent.

  3. Green power also cannot produce enough electricity. There is the oft ignored limitation on how many W&S plants the available U.S. manpower could operate, maintain, tear down and dispose of. Millions new ones would be needed four or five times a century, equal millions dismantled, disposed of, and that many new ones erected. The same with solar plants. All of us would work for the W&S industry, its suppliers, operators, maintenance and line crews, etc. The other sources of green power potential are irrelevant on the scale of even the 2016 465 GW.

    • So true ! The Netherlands (17M inhabitants) would need 100000 large windmills and a thousend of H2, CH4 etc factories to maintain it’s lifestyle. These windmills alone would need twice the land area.
      For biofuels: The Netherlands uses the power of 500 million horses which would need 220* the land space for their food. Thanks to fossil fuels we have more nature (forests) then ever.

    • Along similar lines, has anyone worked out how much land would be required to replace all of our fossil fuel powered electrical supply with wind and solar at the greenies are demanding. By the way when you debate one in person and ask that question they will claim, “but oh, we don’t mean replacing all electricity production with renewables just enough to stabilize the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.” If you ask them about the number of raptors, endangered birds and bats killed by wind turbines they often have no response.

      • Ask them to define how much wind and solar WILL be needed to stabilize CO2 levels. Don’t forget to remind them that they are demanding that IC cars be replaced with electrics which will mean a huge increase in electric demand.
        Also point out that most of the best sites for wind and solar are already being utilized, so as the total amount of wind and solar are increased, the number of acres needed per megawatt is going to go up.

      • “worked out how much land’
        A lot more than they pretend……don’t forget you are going to need solar where the sun is shining…and wind where it’s blowing… make up for all the places where it’s cloudy and still….since the weather in one place is constantly changing….and the same people are saying because of global warming it’s going to change more

      • The further away those places where the sun is shining and the wind is blowing are from where people actually live, the more energy will be lost in transmission.
        Which means bigger wind and solar farms to make up for those losses.

    • In New Zealand renewable energy sources account for about 80% of the electricity supply. And if the only aluminium smelter in the country shut down then renewables would account for 110% of the electricity supply. So it is possible to get 100% of your electricity from renewables if you live in the right place.

      • Germonio

        Your 80% figure is only true if you define ‘renewable’ as including hydro. I have looked through the NZ government docs and the current contribution from wind and solar is tiny.

        “Renewable electricity in New Zealand is primarily from hydropower. In 2015, 81% of the electricity generated in New Zealand came from renewable sources.”


      • NZ has 60% hydro with wind and geothermal (base load) doing the balance of the 80%. No real PV, it isn’t competitive. If the smelter load disappeared there would still be the need for significant amounts of fueled generation (currently natural gas and coal) for peaking (hydro can only do so much) and dry year cover.

      • Jane,
        the blog author defined renewable as including hydro – right at the top he said that when claiming that it doesn’t work in dry years. So including it in NZ’s power capabilities is valid.

        But more critically what works in NZ will not work in most places. It is a large mountainous island with a small population making hydro schemes practical. There is also an increasing abundance of electricity from wind farms and the potential to scale that up even further. NZ could easily get 100% of its required electricity from renewable sources. The aluminium smelter is an exception since it is only kept open due to a desire by the government to avoid job losses – it runs at a loss and is only kept open by the government subsidising its electricity costs.

      • Germonio, there are two main islands last time I looked. They are on a plate boundary in the roaring 40, hence hydro, geothermal and good quality wind. But to repeat my comment above, 100% renewable isn’t easy because of those peaks in demand.

        BTW no one knows apart from the operator if the smelter is profitable. They use the threat of closure when negotiating their electricity supply contracts and the government has rolled over, but all’s fair in love and war.

      • Supply is not the same as consumption. In the NZ on-line statistics I checked, capacity and consumption are often treated as either synonymous or the calculations between power and energy-per-time are incorrect.

      • So why not just say hydro, unless your intent is to fool people into thinking you are claiming wind and solar are 80%?
        Regardless, the same people who don’t want us using fossil fuel also want to tear down most hydro dams.

  4. The world’s first floating wind farm today started delivering electricity to the Scottish grid.
    “Five giant turbines have been tethered to the seabed, at 175 meters from sea surface to blade tip, they extend another 78 metres below the surface and are chained to the seabed to stay in place.”

    gigantic project at (unknown) possibly gigantic price.

  5. “Moreover, on sunny windy days, wind and solar generators spew out electricity at little extra cost. These erratic surges of part-time power drive electricity prices so low…”
    Doesn’t sound entirely bad.

    • Another Stokes shift. He understands the issues and the article very well, but chooses to pretend it doesn’t matter.

      The article is admirably brief and simple. Modern civilisation depend on continuous electricity supply 24-7 and 365 days per year. Part time electricity is about as useful as part time oxygen.

    • So you’re OK with subsidizing a coal plant so it remains ‘profitable’ in spit of forced shutdowns on windy days.

    • Stokes, did you read the rest of the sentence (after your ellipsis)? Or more importatnly, can you comprehend the economics of it?

    • The article, which you either didn’t read or are pretending not to understand, already explained why this is a problem.

    • The prices aren’t affected by whether it’s windy or sunny on any particular day – prices are agreed to in advance. The problem is that the grid is forced to take renewable when available and not generated power (even from a lower carbon, lower emission nuclear plant!!!) – what this does is to reduce the capacity of reliable power plants, which increases the cost of its units of power (kWhr). THAT is exactly why nuclear plants (which operate at or over 100% capacity when operational) lose money when grids do not buy all of the power they are producing. Fuel costs for a nuclear plant are less than 3/4th of a penny per kWhr, and wouldn’t make up for the losses, even if they could throttle back and forth quickly, like a peak load power plant, to save fuel. Their power production costs are very nearly linear as a function of output capacity. So now the nuclear plants are threatening to shut down, which would destroy a grid dependent upon too much unreliable renewable power, and now states, like NY are signing contracts that pay nuclear plant operators way more for those nuclear kWhrs than they would have if they had bought all of their power, which is what they were designed to provide, as a baseload generator. And THAT, my friends, is what a side effect of an unreliable power generator looks like. This is a very simple concept, but of course, far beyond the capabilities of the greenies and their lapdog politicians to comprehend.

      • “The prices aren’t affected by whether it’s windy or sunny on any particular day – prices are agreed to in advance.”
        Not, I think, in the market Viv Forbes is describing – in fact the bit I quoted contradicts that. He laments part-time power, but that is really a result of the free market that has been set up. Coal stations can be outbid by wind, but also by gas, or even other coal. It’s also possible for people to contract for power within the market, which is the intended way to achieve stability. The problem seems to be that too many people are preferring to buy on the spot market. That is, presumably, because they find it cheaper.

      • “The problem seems to be that too many people are preferring to buy on the spot market.”

        Totally agree.

        Electricity should be tendered for at least a day in advance, with no rules that a person has to buy from one source or another. Wouldn’t you agree, Nick. 😉

        Those sources that cannot meet their obligation should wither and die, like any other UNRELIABLE supplier.

      • Coal stations can be outbid by wind

        As long as coal is forced to pay for the extra cost of wind, I presume.

      • “As long as coal is forced to pay for the extra cost of wind”
        No, the market is bidding for the next half-hours power. Sellers in the market currently accumulate an obligation to acquire REC’s, but that does not bear on the competition for short-term slots that VF is talking about.

    • … surges of part-time power drive electricity prices so low…” – That’s great. No need for subsidies or renewable energy targets. Governments can now scrap all the subsidies and renewable energy targets, and let renewable energy compete on its own merits. To anyone who objects, just quote: “drive electricity prices so low…“.

  6. The price of renewables in actual service, in places like Germany, Denmark, or South Australia, is about three times that of more conventional sources in the US. Wind and solar are not technologically ready for general service, given both cost and intermittency.

    • “Wind and solar are not technologically ready for general service, given both cost and intermittency.”

      Because of cost and intermittency they will never be “ready”.

  7. Variable sources like wind and solar reduced the amount of fuel that is used. That is what they are competing with, the price of fuel because the infrastructure still has to be there. Gas still wins because of it’s very low cost infrastructure and fuel costs, and why it’s being built. LNG rarely makes sense when it has to be compressed and it might as well be coal and why not use coal, it’s why Japan is going back to coal with their brief stint trying to get LNG. I believe LNG is why Obama was pushing renewables, it would make LNG exporting happen which North America has in spades. Without the green push LNG would flounder, it needs some way to promote it. Obama set and funded the infrastructure for the US to dominate LNG market in the world market. If only coal would get out of the way.

    • LNG is an ever growing commodity. 10% of global natural gas is liquefied. That is forecast to go to 15% by 2025 or so. And it has little or nothing to do with green energy. The cost per BTU of LNG is simply economically a good deal and power generation is NOT the main use case.

      So, if you take a look at China which is rapidly increasing LNG imports, only about 20% of their overall natural gas use is for electricity. It’s roughly 5 equal parts:

      – Truck Fuel (17% of all natural gas consumption in 2016 – rapidly increasing)
      – Residential heating (single home – also rapidly increasing)
      – Central heating (a large boiler that pushes out hot water to surrounding residences)
      – Industrial Consumption (as a feedstock, like for making plastics – usage is capped in preference to the above 3)
      – Electricity generation

      China in 2016 actually had more wind+solar power generation than natural gas power generation. 307 TWh vs 188 TWh.

        The interesting thing is the ratio TWh produced / GW
        absolute 2016 (bissextile year) maximum (24×366/1000): 8,784 (100%)
        nuclear: 6.3 (71%)
        thermal: 4.1 (46%)
        hydro: 3.6 (40%)
        wind: 1.6 (18%)
        solar: 0.9 (10%)
        So China needs 2.5 x wind turbine or 4x solar power to provide as much electricity than a thermal facility.
        As everyone else in the world.
        To make “renewable” significant you have to include good old hydro.

      • “Remember, the Greenies don’t support Hydro. It is lumped in with the evil coal and gas.”

        Unless its inefficient “pumped” hydro.

        They luv that !!

      • Chinese haven’t started exploiting their gas yet, focussed on nuclear too much? 30 nukes or so in build. They will need to burn gas next to clean up coal, that gets rid of all the polution, simply by gas firing, even replacing coal firing of exisiting plants.Just a different and cleaner way to make steam, also gets all this coal trucks off the road. Pipelines are good. Just have to get gas flowing and distributed, as the US and the UK has, and will again in UK case where fracking on land can replace North sea gas. CCGT cheaper and quicker to build than coal at £1B/GWh versus £2B /GWh for coal, 50% more thermally efficient and massively reduces CO2/KWh, by 60%, 24/7, compared to coal. Far better than reducing it 100% 8/7. Do te maths. Always remembering less than 200ppm CO2 is dangerously low for plant life, hence us, and 1,000ppm is ideal for market gardening. We are at 400ppm and any warming is trivial and not accelarating, we are following a typical ice age interglacial climate patern..

      • Not sure if we are agreeing or not. That is now, the future will be gas then nuclear plus hydro for 20% plus peak offset. LIke everywhere else with gas. Renewables are just froth, mostly for export cred and planet saving window dressing, not where 24/7 serious enrgy comes from, after all. Mr Putin currently leads the world i nuclear generation supply, the World isn’t waiting for UN Greenies to OK their plans, or impose undeliverable nonsense of weak 8/7 renewable energy powered grids with serious 24/7 demand. They are not as stupid as the West, which promotes one thing that depends on the other to work…

        Or you could check out Vaclav Smill, et al, on the science facts of energy, if you don’t know them by now?

        Best, Brian

  8. A lot of reasons why we shouldn’t use green up there. But the main reason that Viv Forbes doesn’t like them is buried in the middle of the article:
    “These erratic surges of part-time power drive electricity prices so low that even low-cost full-time producers like coal cannot operate profitably at those times.”
    It’s a sad thing that old established industries like coal and buggy whip manufacturing can’t remain profitable.

    • Let’s see, electric companies are required by law to buy wind and solar whenever it is available, even if it means shutting down their plants.
      Shutting down their plants forces them to be unprofitable.
      Therefore fossil fuel plants can’t compete and should be gotten rid of altogether.

      It really is sad the way trolls pretend to be able to do logic.

      • The pricing on wind and solar is precisely reversed. Instead of giving “renewables” priority and a premium price, they should be deeply discounted due to unreliability/nondispatchability.

        • RE should have fixed costs only because the wind blows for free. Also there is no need to switch the lights off when leaving your home.

    • This sort of variable power generation by solar/wind is affecting CA very heavily because the generation of electricity doesn’t track with peak power demand, thus too much electricity is generated when there isn’t anywhere for it to be used. Since it cannot be stored (at this time) the power is being “dumped” across state lines into states in a time zone where the peak demand hours have begun, and reports in local news have told of CA producers having to ‘pay other states and cities to take the power’. That’s more than just driving down prices, they’re having to pay somebody to use the excess power, hurting the operational revenues for the solar/wind farms. Whose idiotic idea is that?

    • “that old established industries like coal and buggy whip manufacturing can’t remain profitable” would be a good thing if they were out-competed by cheaper, as reliable, power. They are not. They are ruled out manu militari. To make a law to ruin someone as a name: dictatorship.

      • Wait till the Muzzies began producing the legal “thumb sized” wifey sticks, bet they will generate booming sales too.

    • Not the same thing at all. Buggy whip manufacturers were not put out of business because government forced people to buy automobiles.

  9. Green Power is Part Time Power

    I do not quite agree. I think it should read
    Green Power is unreliable Part Time Power

    • When I had a part-time job, I was told before hand what my hours were and I was expected to be there on my hours.
      I’ve never had a job where I could show up whenever I felt like it, and still expect to get paid.

  10. So long as back-up power is needed, every green gadget you plug into the grid drives cost UP. Not only do you have to pay for the windmill or solar panel, but you also have to pay for the gas plant that backs it up.

  11. How Much Fuel Does It Take To Power The World?

    According to the United States Energy Information Administration, the amount of energy supplied by all fuel sources across the world is tremendous: 155,481 teraWatt-hours as of 2014, the latest year on record.

    In order to meet this enormous energy demand in a given year, we need to burn 24 billions tonnes of coal, or 12 billion tonnes of oil, or a bit less of natural gas (10.4 billion tonnes).That’s for fossil fuels.

    If we were to use only conventional nuclear energy to power the world, we would need to consume approximately 7,000 tonnes of nuclear fuel (enriched uranium or mixed oxyde).

    However with nuclear fusion, only 867 tonnes of hydrogen would suffice…

    See complete article at: or click on image below:

  12. Here in Oz the Federal Govt is finally dipping its toe in the reliability pond due to the pressure of the highest world power prices for we deplorables-

    These unreliables have effectively been engaging in a Green sponsored form of domestic dumping that would normally raise the ire of the anti-competitive regulator the ACCC but naturally they’ve been political poodles to the emergent Green orthodoxy. Even the report into the electricity system by the Chief scientist Finkel danced around the problem of unreliables. He recommended any future renewables had to be despatchable but squibbed the bleeding obvious with retrospectivity and a level playing field with thermal power.

    The classic admission of defeat with these unreliables was the South Australian Govt in panic mode facing peak summer aircon blackouts ordering diesel generators while Elon Musk and Tesla build a unicorn battery to hide their technical bankruptcy. After all these virtue signalling tosspots were always trying to disprove a fundamental axiom of engineering that you can’t make a reliable system from unreliable componentry.

    Whilst it’s possible to make solar and wind reliable/despatchable, in SA we’ve reached the 53% mark with wind and solar installed capacity but alas all that’s achieved is the gong for the highest power prices in the world. Now they’re staring aghast at the bottomless pit of making it reliable when all along they were spruiking cheap energy via Gaia’s endless bounty to the punters. There’s nowhere to wriggle and squirm out of their mendacity and outright lies but there’s too many red faces at stake not to put the best spin on it they can. The greater problem for them long term will be the punters realisation that if all these movers and shakers could get unreliable energy so wrong, what else could they be wrong about? Their fall from the commanding heights of the virtue signallers could be as swift as Bollockswoods in that regard.

  13. I’m so sorry your baby died. But there wasn’t much wind power and we had to use it to charge Al Gore’s Tesla rather than little Nell’s incubator.

    But next time – ask Mom to give birth on a windy day, huh?’

  14. Hydro isn’t part time power. It is the best power you can get: cheap and when you need. If electric managers could go full hydro, they would. Unfortunately, this isn’t possible, and greens wouldn’t let it happen anyway (hoover dam just would be allowed nowadays, for instance).

    Storage is also “on demand” power, but it woks only half the time at most (hence 2x capital cost), and of course it need real power to charge up (nuclear can provide power at close to nil marginal cost, so if you have enough nuclear you have almost free of charge-up of storage; otherwise –and that includes wind and solar–, add another +1 to cost, for a total of 3x).

    • Hydro power only lasts as long as the water behind the dam lasts.
      That makes it part time.
      It’s a lot easier to get more diesel than it is to get more rain to re-fill the dams.

      • No. hydro could be full time if needed, you just have to tune power to average rain. but that’s not what is done, and it is on purpose. It is much more economical to have twice the hydro power half of the time, when needed, than to have the average full power.
        No power is really full time, you have maintenance and refill. Even nuclear is down 20% of the time, and thermal are down 50% of the time, just because you don’t need them.
        The important thing is to get the power when you need it, and hydro does that just like thermal

      • ‘you just have to tune power to average rain.’

        and then, presumably, have some mechanism to ensure that ‘average rain’ is what you get.

        Sadly an empty dam is just as much an inhibitor to hydro power generation as a calm day is to wind.

        It was watermills, just as much as windmills, that Boulton and Watt’s splendid engineering made obsolete.

      • I guess all generation is only as good as its fuel supply. Think gas pipe rupture. In NZ we have a system that can cope with around 7 year dry year conditions. You need contingencies to cope, but at least you get some warning. Here the price starts to go up and discretionary load gets curtailed and more expensive fueled generation gets used.

      • “you just have to tune power to average rain.”

        Now all you have to do is get nature to co-operate by always producing the average amount of rain.

      • It’s a lot easier to get more diesel than it is to get more rain to re-fill the dams.


        The rain hasn’t refilled Boulder Dam since the 1980s and the Boulder Dam produces electricity for Southern Nevada 24/7.

        There’s nothing part-time about it.

      • The output of the Boulder dam electric plant is a lot lower than it has been because lake levels are so low.

    • I believe there is at least one very extensive hydro system that must balance its power generation with other considerations, the Tennessee Valley Authority. Flood control on the Tennessee River and its tributaries factors into when and how much generation they can produce along with the need to maintain navigation on the Tennessee River. I’m sure that most other hydro facilities are also multipurpose and at times (drought or ‘monsoon’) their generation becomes secondary. That’s why TVA has nuclear, coal, gas, solar and wind facilities. So, in a sense their classic renewable, hydro, has plenty of backup too because it is in the final analysis part time. Hydro is in fact only about 9% of their output.

  15. Wind, solar and proper power stations. Only one is needed, the other two are unnecessary additions, ie three systems to do the job of one – no wonder the price of electricity becomes so high.

    • >>no wonder the price of electricity becomes so high.
      Wasn’t that the stated goal of 0bama’s energy secretary Steve Chu? To drive energy costs so high that people would be forced to simply stop using energy whatsoever.

      • Not quite. My memory heard: “We must make energy so expensive that renewable sources become competitive.”

  16. Wow. This site is still going on? You’d figure with 3 straight years of higher temps (4 probably as 2017 closes), what a trillion gallons pulled off the heated Gulf and dumped on Houston?, high-speed wildfires and now a tropical storm in Ireland, that you guys would finally realize 2 + 2 does equal 4…. Nope. God bless?

    [Ever heard of El Nino? all warm things must come to an end -mod]

    • Yes, Moderator, to answer your question to me, I have had heard of El Nino, and have experienced it’s effects directly over decades. I think we all know we’re talking about the mean adjusted trend, and contrary to this realm of people, the trend is solidly up, and at new highs. And as hurricanes do, they feed off of warmer water and now that warmer water is even warmer than warm water, we get 1 trillion gallons in 48 hours. That’s not your typical Houston flood. It’s a change, call it a change in the weather, call it a change in the climate, or go on and blog about batteries.

      [apparently you work for a financial services company – what makes you such an expert on climate and hurricanes then? -mod]

      • Please tell me how water being a few hundredths of a degree warmer is responsible of trillions of gallons being dumped on Houston, and why such storms have happened in the past when the water was cooler.

      • It ALL has to do with CO2
        If we weren’t here breathing, we wouldn’t be producing any CO2 and the changes wouldn’t affect us

      • Houston didn’t receive SO MUCH RAIN because of global warming (or Climate Change) Houston received SO MUCH RAIN because the storm stalled there, for 4 days, in a location where it could continually pull moisture from the gulf. If it had moved through like most storms do, Houston would only have received around 10 – 12 inches of rain

    • It would be nice if you could demonstrate that any of those things in your list had anything to do with CO2.
      Of course you won’t, because you can’t.

      • Neither did hurricanes Debbie (1961) and Faith (1966). Faith still had hurricane force winds well north of Ireland unlike Ophelia which was mainly remarkable for the windy retoric.

        Boards on the window, mail by the door
        What would anybody leave so quickly for?
        Ophelia – Where have you gone?

    • Neraho,

      tell us why you ignore the failed IPCC predictions?

      They say this in 2007,which is similar to 1990:

      “For the next two decades, a warming of about 0.2°C per decade is projected for a range of SRES emission scenarios. Even if the concentrations of all greenhouse gases and aerosols had been kept constant at year 2000 levels, a further warming of about 0.1°C per decade would be expected.”

      .30C PER DECADE warming rate is what the IPCC says, yet it is warming at HALF of the predicted rate.

      1990-2017 .15C per decade rate

      2001-2017 .10C per decade rate

      Warming rate is going down over time.

      What were you talking about?

  17. On a historical note, windmills were made obsolete in the 1820s when Boulton and Watt began to produce economical steam engines to replace them.

    Their engines were controllable, predictable, reliable and despatchable..all the things windmills were not.

    Renaming them ‘wind turbines’ has changed nothing. They are still obsolete now.

      • Indeed. Not too long ago some of us celebrated 300 since the greatest technological achievement in history. For more’ read:
        In 1712, a young, uneducated, English ‘ironmonger’ demonstrated a machine he invented and was perfecting for some years. The machine workings added to the food-to-work path a new, heat-to-work path thru mechanical means. A revolutionary idea, it introduced a change to our civilization far more reaching than any in history. In fact, it enabled the creation of our modern world with its high standard of living and myriad of subsequent inventions.

        That talented lad, Thomas Newcomen figured out how to build what’s today called, alternately, the steam or atmospheric engine. Intended for pumping water out of mines, it turned out to become the forefather of the millions of steam engine derivatives, actually of all reciprocating engines. To distinguish the very original atmospheric engine we call it the “Newcomen engine” today. The following picture portraits the schematics of the 1712 version of it.

        It has been called an atmospheric engine, because, unlike the steam engines of today, it produced work by harnessing the pressure of the atmosphere rather than the pressure of steam. Steam was used only for producing vacuum, that is a pressure differential to the atmosphere, which then developed the force pushing the piston through the downwards stroke. The piston motion was transferred to the water pump located in the mine via the illustrated rocking beam.

        The basic principle of its operation was simple. Just before the piston reached the bottom of the cylinder a valve opened a passage to the steam boiler enabling steam rushing into the cylinder and to even the pressure on both sides of the piston. The weight on the other end of the beam then lifted the piston up filling the cylinder with steam. Just before reaching the upper end of the stroke the valve at the boiler closed and another valve opened a passage to cold water which, sprayed into the cylinder, quickly condensed the steam renewing the vacuum.

        Despite the simple principle, the atmospheric engine was rather complicated, far more so than the later, pressurized steam engines “invented” a century later. It took Newcomen 15 years to develop the engine to the commercial level of performance and reliability. Then it became an instantaneous success, and thousands of his engines were built in various sizes up to the monstrous 74 in. [~1900 mm] bore. By the time of Newcomen’s death, his engines operated all over England and also in a dozen countries on the Continent. The design was so good that it remained in production unchanged for over fifty years, decades after the inventor’s death. The last one of its kind was erected as late as 1906.

        Steam engine hobbyists and museum models builders will appreciate the difficulties Newcomen must have been facing trying to make this machine work with the early 18th century technology. Aside from that, he must have spent years on small scale prototypes only to conclude that the engine just will not and cannot work reliably below a certain size. Then air, the medium that provided the power stroke, caused endless challenges. Even the large enough models would start up fine only to be slowing down and eventually stop dead. Air leakage into the cylinder was the cause, and it originated from numerous sources as is known to anyone today who built a working model of the “atmospheric” machine.

        Trying to eliminate the air seepage Newcomen invented, among other details, the most important device for pistons – the piston ring. With it, the engine performance started to look promising. Then Newcomen arranged a layer of water above the piston so that the ring leakage, inevitable with the poor surface smoothness and cylindricity of the bore, would bring water into the cylinder instead of air. Now the engine produced surplus power consistently, albeit still not long enough. An air snifting [sic] pump took care of the remaining air incoming inevitably with the sealing water and boiler steam. A stage was reached when the engine could “run forever.”

        Contrary to the popular perception, there was no little boy employed in moving the various valves – see the schematics for them; the production engine was fully automatic from the beginning. There must have been dozens of patentable ideas implemented in that mechanism alone, but no patent was granted. More about that, and other engineering details an accidents contact the author.

        Watt, indeed, contributed little to the steam engine invention. His patents were related to the atmospheric engine, although applicable elsewhere also.

    • But they were still primitive in not understanding tax credits, advocacy armies, and extensive use of executive orders with loans and grants to non-players with connections, and orders for program officers to look the other way on misuse of taxpayer funds. The modern world runs on political engineering now.

    • if (and it’s a big if) it can be shown to produce more electricity over its lifetime than it took to produce and install, how can anyone call it obsolete?

  18. Can we see now where and how it went wrong?

    The ‘system’ we’ve got now is nuts and horrendously expensive and it the cronies that made it that way. And they were allowed to do it via dull minded and hence easily panicked politicians. One of the things that causes them most panic is the prospect of losing their seats and The Voters are in an emotional blackmail trap. You simply CANNOT say a single word that perceived to be anti environment.

    The expense comes from having let the cronies build each generating system, no matter how small, as a separate little power station, Doing so massively increases the complication and expense but mainly and importantly, the potential profit to be made.
    Positive feedback then kicks in as once a complicated system has been constructed, it becomes ever easier to confuse the slow-witted politicians who control the whole thing.
    They (that’s us tax payers in reality) simply get milked.

    The harvesting of renewable energy should have been done so that it complements and more directly replaces the fossil fuels.
    Somehow the solar & wind energy should have gone to existing power stations and been used as fuel. This lets it compete on a $ for $ basis with the fossils but most important, keeps the fossil station spinning
    So, if the wind drops or the sun goes into a cloud, the mechanism and reserve is already up and running and ready to cope. If the sun goes down they shovel in more coal, if the wind picks up, shovel in less – EXACTLY as they already do already to cope with changes in demand.
    Take the solar and wind energy to existing power stations and use it as an ‘afterburner’ on the existing boilers. Or simply use it to do the scrubbing and cleaning that goes on inside most power stations already.

    Wind turbines are a perfect example of this (deliberate) over complication – why the fook is it necessary to put a humongous great big unreliable gearbox plus all sorts of electronic controls on top of a huge pole?

    Why not make the turbines slow spinning asynchronous machines – perfectly feasible with using Neodymium.
    No gearbox and a slow speed permanent magnet alternator built using ferrite magnets.
    If you want electronics, bolt a big old rectifier directly onto the alternator and bring DC down to the ground.

    For your wind-farm, simply sum all the DC outputs into one huge great fook-off DC motor (as found in steel rolling mills, stone crushers or what will be pushing Moonbeam’s new train along) and have it driving a single, large, mains-connected, synchronous alternator.
    Just like a real power station, and, it obviously gives grid inertia plus black/cold start capability.
    Brings all the complication (read= expense) down to the ground and uses existing technology.
    Same would work for large solar farms..

    But now the cronies have the upper hand, they’ve made it complicated from the start and as we all know, ‘advances in technology’ will always make things ever more complicated.
    Because our leaders panicked.
    Think of any other examples where they’ve panicked………..?

    YMMV but I say we’ve GOT to get them off their high carb diets and NO BOOZE.

    Made a start with Mr Tump

    • It was a big mistake to connect unreliable energy sources directly to a demand driven grid. There always should be an intermediate buffer for the production of 2 weeks minimally. Right now, the system seems to work but that’s only because the percentage is small. No upgrade is possible without loss of stability.

  19. . . . only makes sense in the part-time minds that inhabit Greentopia.

    Any sufficiently advanced malice is indistinguishable from incompetence.

  20. I drove past the wind farm at Trochu, Alberta a couple weeks ago after the early season blizzard. Less than half were operating, the rest had one or more of their blades ripped off. How long before they’re all repaired and back on line? How much extra cost for re-building them every time there’s a blizzard? Meanwhile the coal plants just kept generating power.

    Thinking we can rely on wind power is insanity.

    • for the record, I am a private pilot. so I, of course, love cheap fossil fuels. I have flown over numerous wind farms. I have seen countless turbines not rotating on extremely windy days (presumably they feather to avoid over-speed) but I have never seen even one turbine missing a blade. I always look because I am a skeptic/slayer.


      • pb, i think you’re nailing it with your comments upthread… What folks don’t realize is that the more we use renewable/alternative energy the less we use traditional sources of energy. This brings prices down on the whole which means cheaper gas prices and low inflation (energy cost of doing business). Just a decade ago when the unemployment rate was higher than it is today in the u.s., gas prices were $4 a gallon and inflation reached 5%. Now, thanks to the push for alternate sources of energy, gas hovers around $2.50 a gallon and the inflation rate is a comfy 2%. Anybody remember bush crawling to opec and begging them to produce more?! No mas. (at least for the time being) Folks have to realize that there could be a silver lining to the green dark cloud…

      • Both have, dred. NG more so than W&S, but still. One can also lump natural gas in with renewable/alternative in that it’s been part of the green push for lower emissions. (unless we don’t consider obama to be a green)…

      • Afonz, I don’t think it was intentional, but you couldn’t have cherry-picked a better date for your comparison. 10 years ago oil prices and inflation were both high (as was the stock market) because we were still in a booming economy (read bubble). Over the next couple years, they all collapsed because of the mortgage meltdown. Oil prices fell due to a lack of demand, not because of wind and solar. By the time demand for oil began increasing again, U.S. production had almost doubled. Supply grew faster than demand, keeping prices down.

        Your timing was perfect for the unemployment rate, too. 10 years ago the rate was higher than now, but you wouldn’t have been able to say that as recently as May.

      • Can you provide some evidence to support your belief that renewables have reduced fossil fuel demand sufficiently to have any impact on price?
        BTW, please provide evidence that renewables have reduced fossil fuel demand at all. As a recent article showed, Minnesotta hasn’t reduced CO2 emissions at all, desptie $15 billion spent on renewables.

  21. When people argue that renewables are becoming cheaper than fossil fuels I wonder whether Theyre comparing apples with apples. Without analysing the maths if renewables need base load power ( in the form of coal , gas or nuclear) and that base load power is used only when renewables don’t work , then cut out the middle man and use base load power only. A system of renewables and base load can’t be cheaper than the same base load by itself. It’s like believing you can buy cheaper from a retailer than wholesaler.It can’t happen.

    • It drives me nuts hearing that wind & solar energy is free. So is, of course, coal, natural gas, uranium, … No difference. What costs is the process that changes that energy into, mostly, electricity. Obviously that process is far cheaper with the FREE fossil fuels and uranium per unit of electricity produced than with W&S. And yes, even hydro when the acquired land’s non-use is accounted for.

  22. Essentially all the value in energy is in it being where/when you need it. The grid more or less solves the “where” but wind/solar are simply too erratic.

    Think about their operation in a REAL market where they aren’t guaranteed a fixed price. Normally they simply do not produce enough power to pay for their installation. Then because capacity factor means you need to install about 5X as much capacity as your normal need, when they DO produce, they will crash prices to near zero…again, not paying for themselves. The fact that this can’t help but happen is basically summed up by the first thing I said “Essentially all the value in energy is in it being when/where you need it”. Excess power is nearly worthless. And obviously a lack of energy is worthless (indeed, it drives up costs of other sources so it’s value is negative)

    • Which is why solar has value in desert climates that use air conditioning, so demand is matched by supply. But only as a top up to the base load supply required the rest of the time for industry, business and public services or when its dark and cloudy. tt seems far too many commenting here are concerned about their own selfish situation, not even the common good of their fellow citizens, never mind country.

      This debate is about the grid supply to majrity of people in developed contries, and whether adding renewable energy to it actually improves that supply in any way vs. what we already had. If you want to live off-grid, fine. Bye. Just don’t expect the rest of us to pay for it. Most people can’t be off grid, most probaly don’t own a house, but are forced to pay subsidies for so called solutions that make things worse in technical and economic fact, including CO2, if that matters, mostly to profit lobbyist industry, rich house and landowners, certainly not the majority of city dwelles. Scientific facts here:

      • Starting 1500 the Netherlands showed great innovation in wind energy. These windmills were used to press oil, pump water and mill grains: all non time critical processes. So, use windmills to load batteries, generate hydroxen… It was a big failure to attach them directly to a demand driven grid.
        I install solar panels only when they generate oil.

  23. I depends on which timescale you use.

    In a longer timscale you may say that fossil fuel only works as long as the reserves last.
    More part-time power.

    In year 3000 they will look back on our time and consider fossil fuel age as a very short time of our civilization.

    Renewables last forever and are therefore full-time power


  24. On a related topic, the continued hard-sell of windturbines is governments is on the strength of claims that battery tech will soon be available to deal with the intermittency. A quick calculation shows that to provide backup for a week without wind in the UK with Tesla Powerwalls would cost well over a trillion USD. Yet, outages can be much longer than that. That is a crazy amount of money. It would pay for the ITER fusion test about 50 times over.

    Thing is, if the money wasted on this green tech had been put into fusion or thorium LFTR we’d have had the whole issue solved by now. A fact I’m keen to point out to the naysayers is that wind turbines have been in development for 40 years -nearly as long as fusion- and have had many times more money poured into them, with little useful result. It’s time to stop flogging the dead horse of wind energy.

  25. There is a simple way to end this debate and allow renewables to compete with fossil fuel technologies on an even basis. Simply require any generation facility to offer electricity by contract specifying the steady amount and the duration. Any batteries or other storage facility needed to provide power according to the contract thus becomes the responsibility of each generation facility, not the grid operator. Because renewables are inherently intermittent and electrical storage is currently expensive, that means at the present time renewables could only compete on the spot market and for relatively brief periods (i.e. 12 hours or less). As storage technology improves and the cost per megawatt hour declines, renewables would become more competitive for larger contracts.

    I don’t know how power contracts are currently written, but I suspect renewables could also bid on a load-balancing contract which specifies a variable output between 0 and some maximum with guaranteed ramp-up and ramp-down rates. In that role they would be competing against single cycle gas plants and hydro.

    In either role, intermittent technologies will require storage to provide the contracted power output. The amount of storage relative to the nameplate capacity will determine the size of the contract they can bid on.

  26. This falls short of the quality standard for articles here. Batteries only work when they’re charged? Now apply the same logic to fossil fuel systems: they only work when they’re refueled, therefore they only work part time.

    The problem with this kind of thinking is that it is subject to obsolescence. Imagine someone taking the same attitude about Watt’s steam engine. Actually, you dont have to imagine it because this is exactly the kind of charge people used to level against those ridiculously quaint ideas about a generation before they became commonplace.

    • I love this logic.
      People once ridiculed a technology, and now it’s common place.
      Ergo, the technology that I support will one day be common place as well.

      • Like the “new age” sciences that attach prefix “quantum” to their theories. In quantum physiscs strange and unexpected things are happening so….”quantum” makes everything work!

    • producing will never be economical Vs using already produced goods.
      Fossil fuel is already there, ready to be used. Producing new fuel will be competitive only when fossil fuel will start missing, in 200y in worst case scenario (exponential growth, no new finding). This leave humanity a century to figure out what to do next: we better use it, instead of pretending we already need to apply current days solution to next century’s problem

      • Wasting resources on solutions that don’t work means that much less to spend on looking for solutions that might work.

      • you’re right, i should had written “current days not working solution to next century’s problem”

  27. Far as I am concerned it’s all part time power.
    Coal, oil, uranium and gas will last as long it dug out of the ground.
    Wind, sun, water will as long it’s blows, shines and rains.
    We néed system that will provide base load power at cheapest rate without it crashing.

Comments are closed.