Where The Texas Winds Blow

Guest Post by Willis Eschenbach

There’s a typically hyper, deceptive, and Pollyanna article in the Houston Chronicle with the headline “Texas has enough sun and wind to quit coal, Rice researchers say“. You gotta watch out for these folks, it’s the old bait and switch.

Because sure enough, as they say, there’s more sun and wind in Texas than would be required to quit coal. But then, there’s enough sun alone to quit everything. Texas uses about 450 terawatt-hours (million megawatt-hours) of electricity per year. And there are about a million terawatt-hours of sunshine falling on Texas every year. In short, every year the sun pours down on Texas about two thousand times the amount of energy that Texas uses in the form of electricity.

So there’s more than enough sun and wind, just as they say … but is it economical to harvest it? That’s the real question.

Let’s start by looking at the evolution of the fuel mix in Texas over time. Figure 1 shows the situation from 1990 to 2016.

Figure 1. Evolution of Texas electricity sources by fuel, 1990 – 2016. Other biomass includes agricultural byproducts, landfill gas, biogenic municipal solid waste, other biomass (solid, liquid and gas) and sludge waste. Other gases include blast furnace gas, and other manufactured and waste gases derived from fossil fuels. Other includes non-biogenic municipal solid waste, batteries, chemicals, hydrogen, pitch, purchased steam, sulfur, tire-derived fuels, waste heat, and miscellaneous technologies. Note: Totals may not equal sum of components because of independent rounding. Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration, Form EIA-923, “Power Plant Operations Report” and predecessor forms.

Recall that we set out to see if Texas wind energy is economical. I note that the US Congress is up in arms about whether to spend five billion dollars or less on a border wall … and meanwhile, we’ve already wasted over seven billion dollars in US taxpayer subsidies to prop up the Texas wind producers.

Note that this sum was paid, not just by the Texans who will presumably benefit from it, but by every taxpayer—including taxpayers who live in states where there is no wind energy generated.

In addition, Texas has had to spend an additional seven billion dollars to upgrade and extend their grid out to the remote locations where the wind is blowing. So we’ve blown fourteen billion on this nonsense.

The other deception in the Houston Chronicle article involves solar energy. Over the years we’ve spent billions of dollars propping up the solar industry … and at the end of all of that, solar is a measly two-tenths of one percent of the Texas electricity generated. Two-tenths of one lousy percent! On the graph above, it’s too small to even see.

Conclusions?

It has cost us fourteen billion taxpayer dollars to provide 13% of Texas electricity … and all that we’ve gotten from that is some unreliable wind power that requires gas-powered backup generation for when the wind doesn’t blow.

So yes, as the headline said, Texas has enough sun and wind to quit coal … but at a billion dollars in taxpayer subsidies per 1% of the total generation, it is totally and completely uneconomical to use it.

This is my shocked face … the only good news is that the US Federal windpower subsidies are supposed to end in the next couple of years. Well, that is, unless the Trump Administration caves in to the predictable pressure from the wind parasites and extends the subsidy …

It’s enough to make a man say bad words … not that I would do such a thing, you understand … in public, at least …

Best wishes to all,

w.

PS—Misunderstandings are the curse of the intarwebs. When you comment, please quote the exact words that you are referring to, so we can all know who and what you are discussing.

0 0 vote
Article Rating
125 Comments
Oldest
Newest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Krishna Gans
January 4, 2019 3:10 pm

Switch off light, will just be night…

Reply to  Krishna Gans
January 5, 2019 12:40 am

You are correct Willis – Wind power is a great big scam, due primarily to intermittency.

https://wattsupwiththat.com/2018/11/16/stacking-concrete-blocks-is-a-surprisingly-efficient-way-to-store-energy/#comment-2520849

Here’s an even better solution:
1. Build your wind power system.
2. Build your back-up system consisting of 100% equivalent capacity in gas turbine generators.
3. Using high explosives, blow your wind power system all to hell.
4. Run your back-up gas turbine generators 24/7.
5. To save even more money, skip steps 1 and 3.

Sam Pyeatte
Reply to  ALLAN MACRAE
January 7, 2019 5:31 am

In the “olden days” we used windmills to pump water from shallow reservoirs to surface water towers for livestock and residential purposes. Today we don’t see windmills to pump water anymore – they use electric water pumps…it is called rural electrification – very popular, this new stuff…

Reply to  Sam Pyeatte
January 13, 2019 2:04 am

Actually, they still do in places. My nephew’s ranch in Arizona uses wind. The rural electrification goes only to the house and not out the additional mile or two to the cattle.

Reply to  Krishna Gans
January 5, 2019 1:09 am

https://wattsupwiththat.com/2017/10/22/weekly-climate-and-energy-news-roundup-288/comment-page-1/#comment-2643835
[excerpt]

WHAT IS GRID-CONNECTED WIND POWER REALLY WORTH?

Wind power is intermittent and non-dispatchable and therefore should be valued much lower than the reliable, dispatchable power typically available from conventional electric power sources such as fossil fuels, hydro and nuclear.

In practice, one should assume the need for almost 100% conventional backup for wind power (in the absence of a hypothetical grid-scale “super-battery”, which does not exist in practical reality). When wind dies, typically on very hot or very cold days, the amount of wind power generated approaches zero.

Capacity Factor equals {total actual power output)/(total rated capacity assuming 100% utilization). The Capacity Factor of wind power in Germany equals about 28%*. However, Capacity Factor is not a true measure of actual usefulness of grid-connected wind power. The following paragraph explains why:

Current government regulations typically force wind power into the grid ahead of conventional power, and pay the wind power producer equal of greater sums for wind power versus conventional power, which artificially makes wind power appear more economic. This practice typically requires spinning backup of conventional power to be instantly available, since wind power fluctuates wildly, reportedly at the cube of the wind speed. The cost of this spinning backup is typically not deducted from the price paid to the wind power producer.

The true factor that reflects the intermittency of wind power Is the Substitution Capacity*, which is about 5% in Germany – a large grid with a large wind power component. Substitution Capacity is the amount of dispatchable (conventional) power you can permanently retire when you add more wind power to the grid. In Germany they have to add ~20 units of wind power to replace 1 unit of dispatchable power. This is extremely uneconomic.

I SUGGEST THAT THE SUBSTITUTION CAPACITY OF ~5% IS A REASONABLE FIRST APPROXIMATION FOR WHAT WIND POWER IS REALLY WORTH – that is 1/20th of the value of reliable, dispatchable power from conventional sources. Anything above that 5% requires spinning conventional backup, which makes the remaining wind power redundant and essentially worthless.

This is a before-coffee first-approximation of the subject. Improvements are welcomed, provided they are well-researched and logical.

Regards, Allan
____________________________________________________________

NOTES (Edited):

The excellent E-On Netz Wind Report 2005 (1) provides excellent information. See Figure 7 re Substitution Capacity.

Cheap, abundant reliable energy is the lifeblood of society – it IS that simple, and driving up energy costs with intermittent and costly “green energy” schemes is proving to be a disaster, as we confidently predicted in our 2002 written debate for APEGA (2).

Sadly, green energy is not green and produces little useful energy – intermittency and the lack of practical energy storage are the fatal flaws.

Germany has calculated that it needs 95% spinning backup of conventional energy (e.g. natural gas turbines) to support their wind power schemes – it would make much more economic sense to just scrap the wind power and use the gas turbines.

Driving up energy costs just increases winter mortality, which especially targets the elderly and the poor. Excess Winter Deaths in the UK this year totaled over 50,000, half the annual average 100,000 in the USA, which has FIVE times the population of the UK.

When politicians fool with energy policy, real people suffer and die. Most politicians are so scientifically illiterate they should not even opine on energy, let alone set policy.

Posterity will judge this climate/ green energy nonsense harshly, as the most costly and foolish scam in human history.
____________________________________________________________

REFERENCES:

1. “E.On Netz Wind Report 2005” at
http://www.wind-watch.org/documents/wp-content/uploads/eonwindreport2005.pdf

2. DEBATE ON THE KYOTO ACCORD
PEGG, reprinted in edited form at their request by several other professional journals, THE GLOBE AND MAIL and LA PRESSE in translation, by Baliunas, Patterson and MacRae, November 2002.
http://www.friendsofscience.org/assets/documents/KyotoAPEGA2002REV1.pdf

This is what we KNEW in 2002:
[excerpts from our Rebuttal in the APEGA debate}

“The ultimate agenda of pro-Kyoto advocates is to eliminate fossil fuels, but this would result in a catastrophic shortfall in global energy supply – the wasteful, inefficient energy solutions proposed by Kyoto advocates simply cannot replace fossil fuels.”

“Climate science does not support the theory of catastrophic human-made global warming – the alleged warming crisis does not exist.”

Reply to  ALLAN MACRAE
January 5, 2019 1:24 am

I wrote above:

“I SUGGEST THAT THE SUBSTITUTION CAPACITY OF ~5% IS A REASONABLE FIRST APPROXIMATION FOR WHAT WIND POWER IS REALLY WORTH – that is 1/20th of the value of reliable, dispatchable power from conventional sources. Anything above that 5% requires spinning conventional backup, which makes the remaining wind power redundant and essentially worthless.”

This 5% is for a very large grid in Germany with a large wind power component. The 5% will be higher in grids with a lesser wind power component, but it does not matter – grid-connected wind power is simply uneconomic, unless one puts a very high value on phony green virtue-signaling nonsense.

Sam Pyeatte
Reply to  ALLAN MACRAE
January 7, 2019 5:43 am

The obvious factor is that so-called fossil fuels are really “stored solar energy”. Nature already supplies the fuel for us to use, but the left is too stupid and politically driven to see it.

Reply to  Krishna Gans
January 13, 2019 2:06 am

“So there’s more than enough sun and wind, just as they say … but is it economical to harvest it? That’s the real question.”

Absolutely!

Greg
January 4, 2019 3:21 pm

It has cost us fourteen billion taxpayer dollars to provide 13% of Texas electricity

and how many GW is that 13% ?

Total look just north of 420 TWh/yr = 420×1000/24/356 GW = 50GW

So the 13% looks like 6.5 GW . Since this is from GWh/yr I presume this is measured energy / yr , not boilder plate numbers.

So about $2bn / GW of production capacity. Your main point is that this is unaffordable. How do other fuels compare?

Greg
Reply to  Greg
January 4, 2019 3:46 pm

Hinkley C seems to get two1.6GW EPRs for a grand total of 16bn GBP. ( 18bn USD ? )

That is probably a worst case cost on a global scale thanks to incompetent / corrupt UK govt. negociations but that does not include end of life decommissioning and indefinite burial costs and UK govt. takes on the cost of any accident liabilities.

I expect coal looks a lot better. If only Trump got off his butt and got rid of Obama’s CPP.

Greg
Reply to  Greg
January 4, 2019 4:01 pm

In October 2006, E.ON UK announced plans to build two new 800 megawatt ‘supercritical’ coal units at the power station (Units 5 and 6) at an estimated cost of £1 billion.

https://www.sourcewatch.org/index.php/Kingsnorth_power_station#Proposed_power_station_expansion

sounds like 1.6GW of clean modern coal powered generation for £2 billion at 2006 prices. Texans wind is starting to look affordable.

Alan Tomalty
Reply to  Greg
January 4, 2019 4:39 pm

Not when you factor in all the hidden and lifecycle costs. Wind turbines are notorius for not lasting as long as adverised. There is a huge cost of dismantling an old wind turbine. Costs of keeping back up gas plant ready to go on a moments notice, maintenance costs on the extra tranmission lines……… etc. It seem the costs for solar and wind never end.

3) It takes 7 wind energy jobs to produce the same amount of MWH as 1 fossil fuel fuel worker.
4) Almost 100 bats a year are killed by every windmill. The bats are able to avoid the blades but as soon as they fly to the other side their lungs collapse from the pressure difference.
5) When you kill off bats you are affecting the whole ecosystem. A single brown bat can eat up to 1000 mosquito size insects per hour or one every 3.6 seconds.
6) Many other birds are also killed. In the US alone as many as 200000 birds die each year from windmills.
In Canada 8.2 birds per year per turbine
http://naturecanada.ca/initiatives/save-bird-lives/wind-turbines/
7) Windmills require significant upfront costs for transmission lines as they have to be built in pristine areas away from people and near high wind alleys
8) Wind power causes voltage transients costs, inverter costs, voltage variation costs, waveform distortion costs, frequency variation costs etc at the power plant. These costs are rarely factored in in windcost analysis
9) Humans that live within a couple hundred metres of windmills complain of the noise an eerie infrasound (below the threshold of human hearing). However that sound is sensed by the inner ear. The infrasound is hazardous if felt on a daily basis.
10) Wind is much less efficient for runtime availability
11) Rare earth metals are used in the wind generators.
12) Destruction of pristine environment to set up the windfarms
13) A typical 100 MW windfarm generates 280000 lbs of radioactive waste in its lifecycle of 25 years
14) When subsidies come off windfarms are left to die.
15) Wind farm owners are paid not to deliver the wind power when there is an overload.
16) Wind turbines in Germany put out only 18% of their rated capacity
17) Every where in the world where windfarms have been built have seen electricity prices double or triple
18) Danger from flying ice from the blades in wintertime
19) Wind turbines require 2 to 3 times more land area
20) Increased wear on base load equipment because of too frequent shutdown caused by wind powerup
21) Weather radar reporting is negatively affected by nearby windfarms.

Dave in Puna
Reply to  Alan Tomalty
January 5, 2019 11:13 am

And flashing red lights drowning stars shining bright, as far as the eye can see.

Greg
Reply to  Willis Eschenbach
January 4, 2019 5:02 pm

It has cost us fourteen billion taxpayer dollars to provide 13% of Texas electricity

I thought that statement meant that is what it had cost.

You included $7bn for grid upgrades so if the first $7bn was not paying for the turbines, what was it for , kickbacks ?

Your point is about whether it is affordable or not but you don’t seem to say what it does cost nor is there any comparison to other technologies. Both of those factors would seem to be essential to making your point.

Menicholas
Reply to  Willis Eschenbach
January 4, 2019 5:22 pm

Taxpayers do not have to give anyone free money for a coal plant to get built.
People will do it with their own money and make a profit if the government lets them.
Those figures are for subsidies, not what it costs to build them.
But my guess is that it costs us even more than the direct subsidies and the cost of grid extensions…because typically the people that are getting these handouts also get a guarantee of a jacked up rate for the power they provide into the grid, which is then passed along.
And how much does it cost to have backup on permanent standby for when the wind dies down?

Tom Abbott
Reply to  Willis Eschenbach
January 4, 2019 5:35 pm

“Affordable? Texas wind to date has received SUBSIDIES of 7 billion.”

I don’t know the exact figure for the amount of tax money Oklahoma has paid in the form of subsidies to Oklahoma wind farms, but whatever the amount was, it was too much, and the Oklahoma legislature voted last year to terminate all future windmill subsidies. The legislators said if they had continued with the subsidies, they would have bankrupted Oklahoma.

Frank
Reply to  Willis Eschenbach
January 4, 2019 8:57 pm

Menicholas wrote: “Taxpayers do not have to give anyone free money for a coal plant to get built. People will do it with their own money and make a profit if the government lets them.”

Wrong. Who in their right mind is going to invest in a coal-burning electric plant when the next Democratic administration can come in and shut it down with regulations like those imposed under Obama. IIRC, the US hasn’t built a new coal plant in more than 30 years except perhaps one in Wyoming to power computers running climate models.

Trump hasn’t changed anything PERMANENTLY. Not the Clean Power Program. Not the Paris Accord. His term is half over and 2020 doesn’t look promising.

Alan Tomalty
Reply to  Willis Eschenbach
January 4, 2019 9:17 pm

Greg if those $7 billion in subsidies would not have been promised or paid no one in the world would have invested in the wind turbine projects. Drop the subsidies for taxpayer sanity and let us see what wind and solar projects get built? The day the subsidies go goodbye wind and solar. Why should 2 industries get these massive subsidies when in the end all it does is triple the electricity costs? This is pure madness .

Duane
Reply to  Willis Eschenbach
January 5, 2019 6:21 am

You mixed many apples and oranges in your figure and your post.

Mixing terrawatts of power generated with Federal subsidies paid .. while conveniently excluding the reduction in the levelized cost of energy which is verified by US DOE arising from use of wind power in Texas. Along with mentioning the “cost” of strengthening our power grid, which is an investment that has many benefits, while failing to mention the cost of producing coal, transporting coal, removing contaminants from coal fire emissions, and the imposed health risks due to residual emissions.

Oh, and one of your earlier cheerleaders in this threat brings out the same old, same old argument about “intermittency”, while being obviously clueless about the fact that in West Texas where most of the wind farms are located, the wind blows like hell all the time. That’s why they are located in West Texas. All powerplants are “intermittent” – no plant operates 24/7/365. The very best most efficient and modern coal plants operate at a peak of mid-80s%, compared to that 50% power factor typical for wind farms in West Texas. It is not an either/or situation.

Your little exercise is yet another example of the wisdom of Mark Twain’s famous quote, “There are lies, damned lies, and then there’s statistics.”.

D. J. Hawkins
Reply to  Greg
January 4, 2019 5:09 pm

Dude, that’s 1billion total, not per. Fossil fuel plants are ROM at $1/kW capacity. At under tbat, it would have been a bargain.

Greg
Reply to  D. J. Hawkins
January 4, 2019 5:19 pm

what is “1billion total” , what is ROM ? I can’t make any sense of that comment.

D. J. Hawkins
Reply to  D. J. Hawkins
January 7, 2019 6:13 am

@Greg;

The total cost for BOTH 800 MW units is £1 billion. ROM is “rough order of magnitude”; engineers use this all the time, so sorry if it’s jargon to most people. Fossil fueled plants cost basically a gigabuck per gigawatt output, or about a dollar per watt. That’s the cost one should keep in mind when comparing other forms of energy production, less fuel and maintenance.

Johann Wundersamer
Reply to  Greg
January 5, 2019 1:18 pm

easy now. You are feeble-minded and you know that.

Just stay home.

Johann Wundersamer
Reply to  Greg
January 5, 2019 1:30 pm

If one is already called Greg.

who would trust a Greg.

Trebla
January 4, 2019 3:23 pm

In the graph, coal is 27% and natural gas is 50% but fossil fuels are shown as 86%?

Greg
Reply to  Trebla
January 4, 2019 3:30 pm

yes I wondered about that too. It seems nukes are now fossils.

FrederickMichael
Reply to  Willis Eschenbach
January 4, 2019 7:03 pm

What about oil?

JimG1
Reply to  Trebla
January 4, 2019 3:37 pm

Fossil plus nukes would get you to 86%, but I don’t get the point (or need) for such a post. Did we just discover that media will lie, misdirect and obfuscate when it comes to left wing propaganda? No news here.

troe
January 4, 2019 3:23 pm

And it’s a travesty that this is a state run by Republicans. The green money machine is an amazing leveler. Often times it really does seem like we have a choice between bad and worse. When discussing the effect of subsides on energy cost comparisons it’s common to get a blank stare in return. Usually the same look you get when discussing free health care and college.

eck
Reply to  troe
January 4, 2019 6:41 pm

I believe the subsidies are Federal and so do not have much to do with which party “runs” the state.

ATheoK
Reply to  troe
January 4, 2019 8:28 pm

Don’t forget that T. Boone Pickens pushed wind farms for years; and used his influence (money) to install wind turbines.

The Government should demand compensation for Pickens shilling wind at the expense of citizens.

January 4, 2019 3:34 pm

Public perceptions of green energy supply are distorted in order to keep the subsidies going. A recent international survey by Ipsos covered 37 countries and reported (regretfully) that people overestimate the amount of green energy they consume. I provide an analysis of Canada and the Netherlands to show how badly people have been misled.

https://rclutz.wordpress.com/2019/01/03/exaggerating-green-energy-supply/

Grumpy Bill
January 4, 2019 3:36 pm

Had a salesman from a “clean” energy company ring the doorbell today.
Claimed we could save the planet and money by switching.
I asked if he could guaranty that we’d get 100% “clean” electric 100% of the time.
As he stammered and hemmed and hawed, my wife told him what we currently pay per kWh.
He turned and walked away without saying another word.

RobR
Reply to  Grumpy Bill
January 4, 2019 3:50 pm

He was prolly grumpy when he rang the next bell.

jorgekafkazar
Reply to  RobR
January 4, 2019 6:02 pm

Or maybe he just went and got drunk.

Johann Wundersamer
Reply to  jorgekafkazar
January 4, 2019 8:35 pm

Chorghe,

You’ve lost that big T.

Big Tchorge.

Johann Wundersamer
Reply to  RobR
January 4, 2019 8:11 pm

Chorche, shore

he went and got drunk.

And spilled himself all over.

What you tell his wife and children.

william kotcher
January 4, 2019 3:42 pm

CERES with the United Nations states the price is $40 trillion, to make a significant Green Energy impact. CERES is the Clean Green Renewable energy industry research group so they should know the facts. $40 trillion to make wind and solar 5% of the energy mix? Who gets rich using heavy industry to manufacture $40 trillion in natural resources into the largest eye sores in the world? Politicians, investors, and those who print the money?

RobR
January 4, 2019 3:45 pm

Texas (being Texas) is the only state that is interconnected to other grids by direct current. This makes it more difficult for Texas to lean on her neighbor’s during power shortages.

RobR
Reply to  RobR
January 4, 2019 3:47 pm

Should read: for Texas….

Menicholas
Reply to  RobR
January 4, 2019 5:26 pm

Des anyone know why the site features that used to allow editing have not been restored?
I know that it went out at some point, but howcumzit cannot be fixed back again?

John F. Hultquist
Reply to  RobR
January 4, 2019 4:13 pm
RobR
Reply to  John F. Hultquist
January 4, 2019 4:26 pm

Interesting.

beng135
Reply to  John F. Hultquist
January 6, 2019 7:05 am

Thanks, John — as a former power plant engineer, that’s interesting. CA can occasionally do something right……

nc
Reply to  RobR
January 4, 2019 4:35 pm

No, power flow can be increased or decreased at will. I am a retired grid operator and once operated the DC link between Vancouver Island and mainland.

RobR
Reply to  nc
January 4, 2019 4:42 pm

Is it not the case that Texas is loathe to do so, as it desires to remain free of federal regulations?

nc
Reply to  nc
January 4, 2019 4:49 pm

Here is an interesting fact, the western and eastern power systems are not tied with AC lines but DC connections. DC flow can be controlled but AC cannot. Simply put the eastern power system is so much larger than the western, it would drive the western side uncontrollably.

RobR
Reply to  nc
January 4, 2019 5:09 pm

Good stuff. Obviously, I need to do some more reading. ERCOT does in fact operate semi-independently from the other grids.

Another interesting fact: The company I work for sells NG gensets to a company who leases the sets to supermarkets for emergency power. These same engines are operated as peaker plants to sell power to the grid.

They make a killing during peak demand.

Wharfplank
January 4, 2019 3:48 pm

This is clearly a socio-political movement and not based on science or economics. All children are taught to love windmills and solar panels in school then it’s just a matter of time till they vote.

Goldrider
Reply to  Wharfplank
January 4, 2019 4:53 pm

They’re taught there are 52 genders, too, but that doesn’t make it so. Reality’s a bitch!

January 4, 2019 3:50 pm

This comment by Willis Eschenbach on the Houston Chronicle applies not only to Texas but to every place on the surface of the Earth. In many places there is not enough sun year-round to make any sense in thinking about using it, but even on the equator, where there is plenty of sun energy, present technologies are totally uneconomic to use it for electricity and are cripplingly costly to dabble with.

Menicholas
Reply to  nicholas william tesdorf
January 4, 2019 5:32 pm

At one point a few years back I calculated that a small percentage of the state of Arizona has enough sun impinging on it to theoretically make all the power the entire country uses.
But as a practical reality, even getting one small solar plant built in the most God forsaken desert in the Western US was so costly and problematic, that it may never be profitable, unless you are one of the ones that pocketed a giant subsidy and walked away.
Even in a desert, the environmental impact on habitat sounds like the end of the world by the time the green leftists get done telling the tale.

griff
Reply to  Menicholas
January 5, 2019 12:48 am

Really? The Chileans have no problem sticking them up in the Atacama desert. but I guess these days the USA is falling behind the world’s more technically advanced nations…

Alan Watt, Climate Denialist Level 7
Reply to  Willis Eschenbach
January 5, 2019 5:14 am

A really interesting article Willis and one everybody in this debate should read. Technically solar power in the Atacama Desert in northern Chile has been a great success, but that very success has caused it to be a financial failure:

Originally intended to supply the copper mining operations in the north, solar power promoters were unable to negotiate long term power purchase agreements (PPAs) with industrial users because the intermittent nature of solar power did not fit their operational needs. So solar promoters built on spec, counting on sales to the residential spot market at traditionally high prices.

Note to renewable power advocates: in a free market a reliable megawatt-hour of electricity is always worth more than an unreliable one.

The proponents for merchant [spec-built solar] made the case that the spot price was likely to remain high: because oil prices would continue to rise; because droughts would be the norm and keep competing hydro energy expensive; because Chinese demand for commodities like copper would remain high and keep the Chilean economy humming (copper provides about a fifth of government revenues and represent almost half of all exports).

In retrospect, none of these came to pass. That “near perfect storm” was badly mis-read.

All of those assumptions turned out to be untrue and the result has been that at peak solar production hours the spot electricity price drops to less than needed to repay the investment, and even down to $0. Predictions are very difficult, especially concerning the future.

Even worse, there is an additional 2GW of solar generation capacity at some stage of construction.

There are no less than 350 MW of solar plants in operation that depend entirely or partially on the spot price: a third of all installed solar capacity in Chile. They are scrambling to sign PPAs but find no takers. Some will go bankrupt, with a resultant massive loss of asset valuation. Yet one group’s loss is another’s opportunity; you can expect to see some big players sweep in and buy perfectly good assets at a deep discount in the coming months.

The article is dated March 2016; if someone could dig up and supply a link to what has happened since, I’m sure it would be of interest.

Toto
Reply to  Willis Eschenbach
January 15, 2019 11:00 pm

It would be really interesting to see the current stats for the Chilean solar projects. They should be as good as it gets. “Atacama is the world’s driest desert and receives more solar radiation than almost any other spot on Earth.” Which is not to say that there are no clouds. There is also good wind and geothermal potential. The two grids in Chile were linked in November 2017. The projects might be more profitable now than the above article said.

The following recent article has some great photos of the various projects, including the Cerro Dominador Solar Thermal Plant.
https://www.bloomberg.com/news/features/2018-08-07/these-massive-renewable-energy-projects-are-powering-chilean-mines

The Cerro Dominador Solar Thermal Plant “can generate electricity for up to 17.5 hours without direct solar radiation”. Nice trick.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cerro_Dominador_Solar_Thermal_Plant

The Cerro Dominador project will have a 110 MW solar-thermal tower. This technology uses a series of mirrors (heliostats) that track the sun on two axes, concentrating the solar radiation on a receiver on the upper part of the tower, where the heat is transferred to molten salts. The molten salts then transfer their heat in a heat exchanger to water, generating superheated steam, which feeds a turbine that transforms the kinetic energy of the steam into electric energy using the Rankine cycle.

M__ S__
January 4, 2019 3:54 pm

May as well say sail power will replace engines. If that were the case, we would not have seen suck an expansion of wealth after the development of hydrocarbon-fueled engines.

Perhaps those arguing for a return to a low energy economy should start by example, giving up all use of hydrocarbon benefits, rather than demanding that everyone join their cult.

nw sage
Reply to  M__ S__
January 4, 2019 5:46 pm

Ahh for the day soon to come when the four masted square rigged ships will replace the airplane and once again set records for New York to San Francisco ‘around-the-horn’! Coming soon to a seaport near you.

Alan Watt, Climate Denialist Level 7
Reply to  griff
January 5, 2019 5:24 am

From your article:

It is anticipated the new age sailing ships will slash emissions by 90% compared to conventional freighters.

Only in someone’s fantasy. There are a bunch of reasons ships abandoned sail as soon as hull capacity for fuel and engine efficiency combined to enable trans-oceanic powered voyages. All those reasons still apply today.

michael hart
January 4, 2019 4:03 pm

Does it make sense to examine only electricity consumption and production only within Texas? I understood they were part of a larger grid in that part of the USA.

The reason I mention it is because Germany has also famously increased its wind generation at great expense, but also manages to partly disguise the poor economics of it by exporting at times of surplus (some of it to Scandinavian fjord storage) and importing traditional generation from France, Poland etc when the reverse is the case. Of course there is nothing wrong, in principle, with import/export schemes. But it does allow for significant fudging of the figures, which always seems to be done to show wind and solar in a more favourable economic light because if every nation did the same then it could not work.

Steven Fraser
Reply to  michael hart
January 4, 2019 4:18 pm
michael hart
Reply to  Steven Fraser
January 4, 2019 6:08 pm

Thanks.

Earl Smith
Reply to  Willis Eschenbach
January 4, 2019 5:19 pm

There is part of Texas that is part of the Eastern Grid, so you always have a small portion of the total that sneaks in from Louisiana. (because of ownership issues the area around Beaumont is nor part of the Texas grid)

Tom Abbott
Reply to  Earl Smith
January 4, 2019 5:53 pm

Earl answered my question before I even asked it. I was wondering why Texas would import even 1.7 percent of its electrical power, and now I know.

Flight Level
Reply to  michael hart
January 4, 2019 5:53 pm

My department. Germany has achieved a potentially very unstable grid.

Plain whitish container like structures are ubiquitous on several industrial sites. Those are generators and, in the early cold morning, one can see the condensing exhaust from quite far.

What was once Europe’s most reliable power supply has become a nightmare for those relying on grid stability and they have to let some gensets run h24 as hot synchronized reserve.

griff
Reply to  Flight Level
January 5, 2019 12:49 am

The German grid is still the world’s most stable… (you can ignore that 172,000 outages nonsense which just isn’t true)

Gamecock
Reply to  Flight Level
January 5, 2019 6:38 am

“Those are generators”

This is the end point: decentralization of energy production.

People will be forced to make their own electricity.

Rocketscientist
January 4, 2019 4:06 pm

I might imagine that Texas is using a fair amount of the solar energy that falls upon it. It is merely that Texas is using it to heat the air, rivers and lakes. Flora are using it to produce biomass (and sequester CO2!)
…and a paltry amount is used to inefficiently generate electricity.

Coach Springer
Reply to  Rocketscientist
January 5, 2019 8:24 am

Like

January 4, 2019 4:20 pm

No way will they give up their “Dream”. That is that we must “Save the Planet”, “, just as long as it is us and not them who have to suffer the decreases in our standard of living.

MJE

kent beuchert
January 4, 2019 4:25 pm

I point out that a recent study of thousands of wind farms found that wind turbines, particularly
the big ones, are deteriorating far faster than claimed, their lifespan half that promised and their capacity dropping abruptly as well. Wind proponents have always lied about the cost of wind power – the study indicates that costs are double estimates

Chris Hanley
January 4, 2019 4:29 pm

The underlying purpose of increasing wind and solar is to gradually reduce overall consumption by jacking up costs, first affecting the lowest income groups and gradually moving up the income scale and gradually de-industrialising the economy in the process, as in Europe, an effect diametrically opposite to Trump’s avowed intentions.

M__ S__
Reply to  Chris Hanley
January 4, 2019 10:35 pm

The true underlying—long term—purpose is to reduce the human population through poverty.

Populations shrink to the level that can be supported by resources—often catastrophically.

Reply to  Chris Hanley
January 5, 2019 1:31 pm

And diametrically opposite to the flourishing of humanity.
Cheap reliable abundant energy = people flourish;
Expensive unreliable scarce energy = people suffer and die.

Jeffrey Stanley
January 4, 2019 4:56 pm

“Never argue with a man who is handing you money.” -Old Texas Proverb

john
January 4, 2019 5:14 pm

Meanwhile in Ca…

https://www.zerohedge.com/news/2019-01-04/pge-shares-plunge-30-reports-possible-bankruptcy-filing

Kinda gives you that Enron feeling… May a bunch of globull warming hedge funds go the same way.

kenw
January 4, 2019 5:16 pm

Most of the shuttered coal plants in Texas are lignite plants that have ALWAYS struggled with margins. So much so that they use captive mines. Lignite is barely better than peat in heat content. Low natural gas prices pushed them out, not wind.

Editor
January 4, 2019 5:17 pm

The crazy thing is that wind works better in Texas than pretty-well anywhere else in the world… And… at best, it breaks even with coal… If, and only if, you ascribe value to the reduction of CO2 emissions…

Where’s that Yakov Smirnoff clip?

https://youtu.be/OzZHrtAuCm8

Steven Mosher
Reply to  David Middleton
January 4, 2019 6:06 pm

Have you shopped for excess wind power in texas?

Johann Wundersamer
Reply to  David Middleton
January 5, 2019 11:42 am

Steven, the excess wind shoppers searcher.

Presenting no new talents. Best 2019.

steven mosher
Reply to  Johann Wundersamer
January 5, 2019 8:47 pm

note the question remains.
want to know how much lower it is than coal

Farmer Ch E retired
January 4, 2019 5:27 pm

New years salutations –
To my skeptic and realist friends, Have a Happy and Prosperous New Year,
To my activist and renewable friends, Have a Sustainable and Carbon-Free New Year
/s

Flight Level
January 4, 2019 5:29 pm

I hate such boilerplate arguments. Akin saying, there is that much cash in this bank without specifying how much of it is on your account,

And another layman question to those speculating over 1 / 1’000 of a degree putative climate models model accuracy.

What is the impact of massive surface energy harvesting by solar panels ?

I mean from altitude they are clearly visible, a very different from the surroundings color perception.

Even quite like outrageously bright mirrors when I guess we have the right angle with respect to the sun elevation and their orientation.

I mean this should have some impact in the energy balance.

Are there viable studies on this topic ?

Menicholas
Reply to  Flight Level
January 4, 2019 5:40 pm

I hear-tell there are entire websites where large numbers of people have been trying to get at the answers to your questions.
It has been ongoing for many years, and is a 24/7/365 endeavor.
One might think that questions would be getting firm answers at a rapid clip.
One would be wrong.
Only in the imagination of warmistas are any questions settled.

Menicholas
Reply to  Menicholas
January 4, 2019 6:40 pm

Sorry,
Last sentence should be:

Only in the imagination…

Flight Level
Reply to  Menicholas
January 4, 2019 7:05 pm

Thanks Menicholas, this is what I feared. Fundamentals of earth / climate energy balance are still in the making. And, from my experience with weather, I don’t think this complexity will be cleared and scientifically settled anytime soon.

John F. Hultquist
Reply to  Flight Level
January 4, 2019 7:37 pm

Flight, What is the impact of massive surface energy harvesting by solar panels ?

Some solar energy would be reflected from the ground — depending.
If you see “bright mirrors” then that likely is greater than ‘ground’ reflection, other than snow or some waters.
The solar energy that is converted to electricity is then sent somewhere and used, say to run an air conditioner, oven, radial arm saw, light bulb ….
These uses, all of them, produce heat. Correct me if I am wrong.
Will it not then be the case that solar panels tend to warm the world?

Alasdair
Reply to  Flight Level
January 4, 2019 8:30 pm

Flight Level:
You don’t have to study this topic for long. The Stephen- Boltzmann equation (S-B Equation) provides the answers. These units are designed to absorb as much radiation as possible by being of low Albedo (ie: Black). Just like CO2 we are told.
A small percentage of this absorbed energy is then converted to electricity. The rest results in a temperature increase depending on the Emissivity of the unit. (The Heat Island Effect). The electricity then goes to power facilities and again winds up as low grade heat .
Low Albedo and Emissivity both increase the resultant overall temperature (see the S-B equation) and these units are specifically designed to have a low value of Albedo but with as high an Emissivity as possible.
Overall they tend to warm the planet more efficiently than purported CO2; but much depends on their location and the Albedo of the ground that they cover.

trafamadore
January 4, 2019 5:38 pm

When you get down to it, bottom line, switching to renewables will not be about price.

Phil
January 4, 2019 5:40 pm

Don’t forget the excess electricity that is shunted into the ground, due to the need to have backup power plants running all the time.

Menicholas
Reply to  Phil
January 4, 2019 6:42 pm

It should be possible to come up with something useful that excess power can be used for, if the cost of it is moot because it would otherwise be wasted.

A C Osborn
Reply to  Menicholas
January 6, 2019 3:33 am

But why bother?

KaliforniaKook
January 4, 2019 5:51 pm

Always love to hear from you, W. I don’t always agree. Just 98% of the time.

John Sandhofner
January 4, 2019 5:52 pm

“So there’s more than enough sun and wind, just as they say … but is it economical to harvest it? That’s the real question.” How about how many square miles of land will it take to provide all this energy. Does the state really want to encumber itself with all that infrastructure? Will it guarantee enough energy to meet the demand 24 hr/day all year? Not hardly. Still need fossil fuel or nuclear to fill the gaps. Fools errand using these two renewalables.

Cliff Hilton
January 4, 2019 6:13 pm

We Texans don’t mind taking all the other Americans money. As long as you continue to be foolish with it! My average electric bill per month for my home is $47.38.

Farmer Ch E retired
Reply to  Cliff Hilton
January 4, 2019 6:32 pm

Trouble is, we are paying for California and other states, not just Texas (no offense to my Texas and California relatives).

Robert of Texas
January 4, 2019 7:04 pm

This isn’t all Federal Money…

As for building new power transmission lines in Texas: “The project cost $7 billion, a price that will be paid for by tacking on a fee to Texans’ utility bills. On average, your power bill could go up several dollars a month.” (Source: https://stateimpact.npr.org/texas/2014/06/26/how-new-transmission-lines-are-bringing-more-wind-power-to-texas-cities/ )

Texans have paid more than $7 billion in building new power transmission lines that only benefit wind production companies. They could have never gone into business in the first place without tax payers paying the bills to move the power generated from the fields to the cities. So calling wind power cheap is nothing but either ignorance or deception.

You can build a nuclear power plant fairly close to the city that needs the power. You can build the gas generator inside the city (if you can find room). But wind is where you find it, so you have to build massively long power lines that have no other purpose then to get the wind electricity to the consumer.

Besides trashing out landscape, and kill birds and bats, these monstrosities suck out household budgets dry whether we “want” the power or not.

And yes, there are also Federal subsidies going to these same wind power producers, so they are making a LOT of money and causing the other producers harm…all paid out of YOUR wallets.

End the subsidies – either wind can or cannot compete fairly.

Start counting and reporting on the number of dead birds and bats (including protected species) found under the wind turbines. Mayne people will suddenly wake up to the fact that wind is not so harmless.

Farmer Ch E retired
Reply to  Robert of Texas
January 5, 2019 5:46 am

R of T,

“wind is where you find it, so you have to build massively long power lines that have no other purpose then to get the wind electricity to the consumer.”

In addition, those power lines have to be sized for full load when the average load is a small fraction of that. Same goes for solar. This is very inefficient use of resources, especially if you oppose mining for copper, etc.

JPinBalt
January 4, 2019 7:06 pm

This is the problem with such federal programs. Say for simplicity population among states is uniform, Texas (and other states same) gets $50 in federal subsidies for every $1 extra in federal taxes paid by Texas residents, looks like mostly free cash for individual states to grab and waste. Rational to take, but inefficient. In economics, opposite of public goods problem, and sometimes called the ‘tragedy of the commons’ or ‘split-the-check’ problem. Say 10 people go to lunch at a restaurant and split the check, the lobster and champagne is on the menu for $100 which you would not purchase alone, say you value the meal at $20, but on the margin your share of the bill split with 9 others rises by only $10, thus you order, everyone else does same and over-orders too. Problem gets worse with number of people. Wasteful spending results. Texas’s benefits are less than national costs. It would be better for Texas taxpayers or utilities or electricity consumers to weigh and bear the costs and benefits for a more efficient allocation of resources.

It also gets worse with bureaucrat approval processes and rent-seeking. Senator Byrd sitting on a key appropriations committee in Congress was able for years steer federal money wasted on massive unneeded federal highway projects in West Virginia, they are huge and empty. The nationally funded ‘Bridge to Nowhere’ in Ketchikan Alaska (replacing the ferry) would have served 50 residents and was earmarked to cost cost $400 million, doubt those 50 in AK would be willing to put up or value it at $8 million a person. And for solar and wind or EVs, we also also have the armies of lobbyists making campaign contributions and private companies pushing to make a buck on what is completely inefficient where benefit is less than cost. Environmental concerns are just propaganda marketing to sell, e.g. EV subsidies to rich EV consumers and Tesla Corp for downstream coal powered cars.

The myopic green jobs argument is there too for marketing, but for every dollar more in public spending, you have one less dollar in private sector spending, more public sector jobs and fewer private sector jobs, net is zero, real incomes fall due to inefficiency. People with blinders on always conveniently forget the fact that income and property tax payers fleeced will spend equivalently less destroying jobs. Collective socialism to allocate resources by decree replaces more efficient private sector decisions. True overall costs and benefits become disjoint by a political process. Plus we have watermelon idiots elected like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) who cannot do simple 3rd grade math with cool sounding green idea “solutions” for 100s of $ billions from taxpayers and the economy to “fix” things out of fairy tail fiction books she and millennials are delusioned to believe.

You have yellow-vests in France or electricity consumers in OZ unhappy with the bill, but it is usually too late as the waste has already been done like a lost and unrecoverable sunk cost.

Dennis Sandberg
Reply to  JPinBalt
January 4, 2019 8:22 pm

Agree. Misallocation of resources resulting from federal money that disportionately benefits individual states. Ethanol mandates and subsidies for Iowa, wind for Texas. The general voting public now understands, as do the greenies that originally supported it, that ethanol fuel was and continues to be a financial and environmental mistake (on the face of it, converting a carbohydrate to a hydrocarbon replacement should have raised questions. My analogy, like converting electricity to coal). In a few years that same understanding will develop about wind “power”. In the meantime, $ trillion or so “misallocated”, and practically impossible to get rid of because of all the (make believe) jobs.

Earthling2
January 4, 2019 7:19 pm

We already know that solar and wind isn’t a viable alternative to base load requirements, and adding too high a component of such on the grid introduces grid instability if duplicating base load isn’t idiling on standby to back up. There is enough examples globally to back that statement up. Plus it has been massively subsidized for a technology that only has a operating life span that is half to a 1/3 of a clean coal or NG facility. I think this point is the demise of wind and and solar, in that when it comes time in 15-20 years to replace all that solar/wind hardware, there will be no subsidy available and it will die a natural death. In all the calculations by the proponents of green tech wid and solar,I have yet to see the deprecition and replacement schedules. Which would prove that they are uneconomic now even with subsidies.

The only place that solar/wind might have some utility, is in area’s that are currently supplied by a diesel ICE tech. Surprisingly, the 3rd world has a lot of such and also reasonable solar insolation. Plus it is predictable time wise. If supplemented with high efficiency solar hot water heating, a lot of diesel can be conserved for maybe a 1/3 to half of the day. There is a place for some of this tech, but I don’t think on a large scale grid, plus it doesn’t work without subsidies. The only long term solution is advanced Nuclear Power of some type. In the shorter term, we are better off with clean tech fossil fuels and exporting that technology to China, India and the Third World.

Dennis Sandberg
January 4, 2019 7:34 pm

From above:
So the 13% looks like 6.5 GW . Since this is from GWh/yr I presume this is measured energy / yr , not boiler plate numbers.
So about $2bn / GW of production capacity. Your main point is that this is unaffordable. How do other fuels compare?
Note: Isn’t it about time we stop trying to compare reliable, cost-effective, dispatchable power to “public enemy nuisance” non-dispatchable, interruptible, undependable, off-spec, unsustainable without subsidies and mandates junk “power”? Everything about wind “power” is bad somethings worse than others. The whole thing was an expensive foolish mistake. The discussion needs to be, how do we stop this madness? If CO2 really is poison instead of plant food then put all this”free” $ into nuclear subsidies and mandates, or, better still just burn more NG and be happy.

Alasdair
January 4, 2019 8:50 pm

Usually I am very suspicious of graphs as they rarely provide the logic of the calculations behind them. However figure1 showing the escalating costs due to an increase in the intermittent power percentage looks very much like (I suspect) a graph of cost against the intermittent/reliable ratio. However it needs to have the actual figures included and the cost calculations very transparent.
It would be a frightening image for the Greenblob and would probably be banned from the MSM.

JPinBalt
January 5, 2019 12:12 am

You get 77 comments posted here on Wattsupwiththat.
In the two newspapers cited
http://www.houstonchronicle.com/business/energy/article/Texas-has-enough-sun-and-wind-to-quit-coal-Rice-13501700.php has 24 comments, e.g. “and it will create jobs” “…and save the planet!” [Err for me as it does neither.]
http://www.texastribune.org/2011/08/24/cost-texas-wind-transmission-lines-nears-7-billion/ has 4 comments.
A bit unbalanced. Instead of just preaching to choir here, maybe some also should be posting at source or writing letters to editor.
There is a lot of mainstream MSM AGW religion out there which needs debunking, e.g. about 99% of watermelons I talk to to their shock have no idea that it has been getting colder almost 3 years now (and say fairly it is post el nino), and think CO2 is causing imminent collapse, never thought EVs were really coal powered, even smart people hoodwinked, such driving things like support of wasteful public policies, solar and wind and EV subsidies.
https://moyhu.blogspot.com/p/latest-ice-and-temperature-data.html#Drag

Johann Wundersamer
January 5, 2019 7:30 am
Johann Wundersamer
January 5, 2019 7:39 am
Rud Istvan
January 5, 2019 8:19 am

Some years ago I wrote a guest post for Judith calculating “the true cost of wind” by correcting egregious EIA errors. We used the Texas ERCOT grid for backup and transmission figures. Result (ifnoring subsidies) wind $146/MWh, CCGT $56/MWh. End of story, and fully supports WE.

ossqss
Reply to  Rud Istvan
January 5, 2019 8:53 am
michel
Reply to  Rud Istvan
January 5, 2019 11:54 am

Yes. Its a really simple point. You cannot lower the cost of running a grid by replacing reliable cheap generation plant with unreliable, intermittent and expensive generation plant.

This is why the wind lobby is forced into all their intellectual contortions to try to argue that wind is competitive or cheaper than coal or gas. The usual way being to leave out half the costs, or pretend that intermittent generation is worth the same and functions the same as continuous and reliable.

Its really weird. Even if you think emissions are taking us to catastrophe, wind and solar are not going to help and are not fit for purpose. Not to mention that reducing emissions from generation are only addressing a tiny proportion of the supposed problem.

One feels these guys are emulating the early Church father who practised believing at least two impossible things before breakfast….

A C Osborn
Reply to  michel
January 6, 2019 3:49 am

This is not the only problem, there is also the “cascade effect”.
Anybody wanting to build new generation of any kind in such a skewed market will require the same, or even more expensive subsidies to make it worthwhile investing.
That means that even the traditionally cheaper Base Load generation will have to become more expensive.
This has already happened in the UK with the Hinkley C Nuclear Power Station and even on the backup baseload generation to keep them in operation, which by the way has just been banned by the EU.
This is the exact opposite of a free Capitalist Market and precisley what the UN Agendas are all about.

Coldish
January 8, 2019 1:54 am

Can’t see a scale bar for the subsidy line on Fig. 1. There’s room on the R of the graph.

%d bloggers like this: