Paying Much More For Much Less

Guest Post by Willis Eschenbach

There’s an interesting and authoritative new [commenters pointed out it’s from 2012, I can’t find any newer research] study on the lifespan of those ugly bird-and-bat-choppers yclept “wind turbines”. It’s called The Performance of Wind Turbines in the United Kingdom and Denmark.

Here’s the Executive Summary, all emphasis is mine:

Executive Summary

1. Onshore wind turbines represent a relatively mature technology, which ought to have achieved a satisfactory level of reliability in operation as plants age. Unfortunately, detailed analysis of the relationship between age and performance gives a rather different picture for both the United Kingdom and Denmark with a significant decline in the average load factor of onshore wind farms adjusted for wind availability as they get older. An even more dramatic decline is observed for offshore wind farms in Denmark, but this may be a reflection of the immaturity of the technology.

2. The study has used data on the monthly output of wind farms in the UK and Denmark reported under regulatory arrangements and schemes for subsidising renewable energy. Normalised age-performance curves have been estimated using standard statistical techniques which allow for differences between sites and over time in wind resources and other factors.

3. The normalised load factor for UK onshore wind farms declines from a peak of about 24% at age 1 to 15% at age 10 and 11% at age 15. The decline in the normalised load factor for Danish onshore wind farms is slower but still significant with a fall from a peak of 22% to 18% at age 15. On the other hand for offshore wind farms in Denmark the normalised load factor falls from 39% at age 0 to 15% at age 10. The reasons for the observed declines in normalised load factors cannot be fully assessed using the data available but outages due to mechanical breakdowns appear to be a contributory factor.

4. Analysis of site-specific performance reveals that the average normalised load factor of new UK onshore wind farms at age 1 (the peak year of operation) declined significantly from 2000 to 2011. In addition, larger wind farms have systematically worse performance than smaller wind farms. Adjusted for age and wind availability the overall performance of wind farms in the UK has deteriorated markedly since the beginning of the century.

5. These findings have important implications for policy towards wind generation in the UK. First, they suggest that the subsidy regime is extremely generous if investment in new wind farms is profitable despite the decline in performance due to age and over time. Second, meeting the UK Government’s targets for wind generation will require a much higher level of wind capacity – and, thus, capital investment – than current projections imply. Third, the structure of contracts offered to wind generators under the proposed reform of the electricity market should be modified since few wind farms will operate for more than 12–15 years.

Not much more that I can say after that most devastating indictment of wind turbines. In a mere ten years, the UK wind farms are producing less than half of what they produced when they were new.

So … why do people still want to build wind farms in the UK? The simple answer is … subsidies. The UK populace is getting royally screwed by their government with its insane subsidies. Here’s an example, the subsidies for some of the largest solar plants in the UK:

I’m sure that you noticed the oddity … in each and every case, the government subsidy is more than the value of the energy produced … I gotta say, that’s dumber than cubical ball bearings. 

Now, the UK government did get smart and end onshore wind subsidies … so of course, there are lots of people screaming and pressuring the government to lift the ban on the subsidies. From the Guardian:

The wind industry said if a bar on onshore windfarm subsidies was lifted it would allow the construction of 794 projects which have won consent through the planning system and are ready to build.

Yeah, I bet it would allow construction. Throwing big piles of money at construction projects tends to do that. The most significant point is this:

Without subsidies, nobody is building windfarms in the UK …

The total cost of UK subsidies for renewables is stunning. Renewable subsidies in the UK in 2016, the most recent data I could find, is just under £5 billion with a “b” UK pounds (US$ 6,000,000,000). And since the start of the subsidies in 2003 up until 2016, the total spent is £23 billion with a “b” pounds (US$28,000,000,000).

And what did they get for that £23 billion? From 2003 to 2016, UK renewables generated about 242 terawatt-hours of electricity. This means that the renewable subsidies have been 9.7 UK pence per kilowatt-hour (kWhr) (11.6 US cents per kWhr).

Here is the truly tragic part. The UK subsidy of 11.6 US cents per kWhr is about 10% more than the current US retail electricity price of about 10.7 cents per kWhr … so the UK consumer is paying more in renewable subsidies than the US consumer pays retail for its electricity.

Now the US is not without fault in this matter. However, our renewable subsidies are much smaller, only 1.7 cents per kilowatt-hour … bad, but not outrageous.

TL;DR version?

Solar and wind power are worse than useless. Useless would be bad enough, but they are also horrendously expensive, and subsidies make it worse. The UK population pays more in renewable electricity subsidies per kilowatt-hour than the US pays retail for electricity. And to add insult to injury … the windmills are failing faster than anyone but work-hardened cynics like myself would have imagined.

Best to all from our home on the hillside, where from my window I see the cat out hunting in the evening summer grass and the sea wind is bringing us tantalizing hints of its oceanic home …

w.

DATA: UK Renewable Subsidies

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183 thoughts on “Paying Much More For Much Less

  1. That is really stunning that the fall off in load factor is over half after 10-15 years. That part is new to me but not surprising given that we don’t really have a half century of utilizing this low capacity technology and therefore no way to really know what this has been since the wide spread implementation of big wind has also been about 20-25 years if that. Which makes wind energy really, really useless and expensive. Not to mention introducing junk electricity that makes the grid even more unstable at a huge cost that doesn’t really reduce CO2 emissions much if it is truthfully analysed.

    Not that solar is much better, but I wonder what that spec is long term for capacity factor with the newer solar PV tech? It also is about the time frame for widespread recent adoption the last 15-20 years.

    • As of about 8 years ago, there were over 15,000 dead wind turbines in the US, just sitting there because there was no plan for removing them. It’s a given that the number is much higher now.

      People who have added rooftop solar panels have also reported that the production from solar panels also ages and drops off in roughly the same curve as wind. One person indicated that it would take him 30 years to break even with this degradation rate. People assume that solar panels are more or less ageless, but this is far from the truth.

      • We had one of our cities foot the bill to light up an interstate exchange using solar as a showcase to promote solar power. When a reporter dug into the particulars it was going to be an 80 year payoff assuming zero maintenance/upkeep costs.

      • In practice, renewable energy means that the generating equipment needs renewing quite regularly. Paid for with renewable subsidies from renewable taxes.

      • Charles,
        By any chance, do you have a source for the 15,000 wind turbines in the U.S. that are idled/out-of-use? I want to pass on to my favor climate advocates who feel strongly about wind and solar. As you suggested, what happens with these after their useful life? Who will want to dismantle if there is no subsidies to do so or some other funding source? What a blight on our landscape.

    • P&L statements are for 25 years for the life of the system. At year 20 the P&L adds the cost of replacing the inverters. Usually sooner in reality.

      • The superior scientific minds over at skeptical of science – were bragging about the profitability of wind vs coal. They were citing audited financial statements of the some of New zealands & Australia’s major wind farms. The financial statements were depreciating the wind farms over a 30+35 years while the coal plants were depreciated over 25-30 years.

        No sense of reality

        • Joe tncs: ‘No sense of reality’ – no, this is either just fr@ud by those who prepared the accounts, , or at best incompetence by the auditors.
          If you are involved in the wind farm business, you must know the innards of it, so you must know how much electricity the turbines can produce at each site, what the load factor is going to be, how much the electricity will sell for and to whom, how much the subsidy/ies are worth, what the maintenance costs are going to be, etc. otherwise you wouldn’t get into this business. Er, unless you are corrupt of course.

      • The sale of the balance of 60% of Collgar wind farm in Western Australia to Rest Super lifted the lid on the wind generators balance sheets because being a super fund everything is exposed. This is an older farm with a very generous supply agreement with the state electrical supply utility.

        https://www.afr.com/street-talk/no-rest-for-super-fund-as-collgar-wind-farm-auction-heats-up-20180619-h11k2y

        Initial 2011 construction cost: $750M
        Profit Pre-Tax and Interest 2016-17: $52M
        60% sale price in 2018: $263M

        A super fund is about the only thing that could make money from those numbers becuase they don’t actually have to finance.

    • techological advances – have led to smaller more efficient means of production – from computers, cell phones, crop yields, medical surgical tools, engines, all types of machinery, less manpower

      REnewables on the other hand, less efficient, larger footprint, increased manpower, lower productivity.

      Ass backwards is progress!

    • Willis wrote:
      “Solar and wind power are worse than useless. Useless would be bad enough, but they are also horrendously expensive, and subsidies make it worse. The UK population pays more in renewable electricity subsidies per kilowatt-hour than the US pays retail for electricity. And to add insult to injury … the windmills are failing faster than anyone but work-hardened cynics like myself would have imagined.”

      All true Willis – thank you for this article.

      Energy experts have known most of this reality since ~forever, but green energy scams have a life of their own – due to kickbacks to corrupt politicians and the ignorance of the average consumer, who falsely thinks he/she is “saving the planet”.

      Here is some history of the green energy. This note is from 2012, but I’ve written about green energy scams since 2002.

      I tried to “dumb down” the message on green energy, but even this was too complicated for the average politician:

      “WIND POWER – IT DOESN’T JUST BLOW – IT SUCKS!”

      “SOLAR POWER – STICK IT WHERE THE SUN DON’T SHINE!”

      Enjoy the rest of your summer.

      Best, Allan 🙂

      https://wattsupwiththat.com/2012/02/02/big-wind/#comment-761699

      As a professional engineer. I confess that I don’t think that wind power farms are as esthetically ugly as some other people do. Engineers tend to like large pieces of equipment – you know, “big toys for big boys”.

      BUT:
      1. Wind farms produce essentially no useful, economic energy;
      AND
      2. Wind farms are probably net-energy-value-negative over their project life;
      AND
      3. Wind farms require essentially 100% active standby backup from conventional power generation plants;
      AND
      4. Wind farms require huge life-of-project subsidies;
      AND
      5. Wind farms needlessly increase the cost of electricity for all, including those who can least afford it, contributing to “energy poverty”;
      AND
      6. Wind farms can de-stabilize the electric power grid, due to the huge peaks and lulls in their power generation profile;
      AND
      7. Wind farms kill millions of birds and bats worldwide, including some seriously endangered species.
      AND
      8. Wind farms may be one of the most useless, counterproductive devices ever invented by humankind.

      So wind farms are economically ugly and environmentally ugly, and in summary are just plain old ugly.

      “WIND POWER – IT DOESN’T JUST BLOW – IT SUCKS!”

      *****************************

    • Several years ago there was an article about repairing non functioning offshore wind turbines in the UK. They weren’t being serviced because there was only one floating crane capable handling the job, and it was being used exclusively for new construction. Another reason for the drop off, is repairs simply can’t be done during late fall and winter because of high winds and waves. Having to wait six months does not help the average load factor.

  2. The wear and tear you describe (the load factor which I presume means less energy production), does that suggest the blades only have to be replaced or the entire wind turbine (stress on the structure/metal fatigue) and depending on what has to be replaced is it worth it in the end to continue? I doubt it. Sounds as though another fanciful waste of money for really nothing in return, except inefficient use of capital (taxes paid by the UK citizen) to prop-up a form of corporate welfare.

    Save the trouble and invest in nuclear, if in deed CO2 is their real concern which it is not.

    • George T

      I understand that the reason is failures of components become more and more common as they age. Spectacular failures of bearings is the exception in the list of repairs. The norm is the bearings wear and it must be stopped and the armature hoisted to change them (a huge undertaking because of the location and mass involved).

      So it is not in the same manner as Solar PV, the deterioration of which is inherent in putting things out in the sun. The wind generator efficiency is not degrading, but the mechanical system that increases the rotating speed, does. It is inefficient to increase the rotating speed of a shaft.

      I further understand that the main problem with bearings is not the loading, but the frequency of the vibrations that pass through the gearbox. If one knows the number of teeth on all the gears, it is possible to predict accurately the number of bumps the inner and outer races of the bearings will develop. Adding the blade’s rotational frequency, you can predict the harmonics that will create a pattern of shallow divots in the bearing.

      As you probably know already, the blades passing the tower at the bottom of the turn causes a low frequency “beat” that affects the gearbox under load.

      These are the mechanical facts of life. Things with gears have fundamental vibrations and overtones coursing through the drive chain. Even a literal drive chain will have a vibration that is the same as the number of chain teeth engaging the sprockets in one second.

      • While the bump caused by the blade passing in front of the support column is probably the biggest problem, there’s also the more gradual change in torque caused by the fact that wind speeds at the top of the arc are greater than wind speeds at the bottom. This will also cause uneven wear on the bearings.

      • Precession must also place considerable strain on components as the blades would be moving constantly towards whichever way the wind is at any moment.

        Would this also apply to the generator which would be spinning at a far higher rate but moves with the blades? Any engineers with knowledge of this?

      • “I further understand that the main problem with bearings is not the loading, but the frequency of the vibrations that pass through the gearbox. If one knows the number of teeth on all the gears, it is possible to predict accurately the number of bumps the inner and outer races of the bearings will develop. Adding the blade’s rotational frequency, you can predict the harmonics that will create a pattern of shallow divots in the bearing.”

        As an engineer working full-time with bearings (including bearing damage, also in gearboxes) I kindly suggest you put the damage description quoted above aside, and instead read e.g. the article of the link below (which in it self is already some years old, and newer results are currently being studied).

        http://evolution.skf.com/premature-bearing-failures-in-wind-gearboxes-and-white-etching-cracks-wec/

    • Richard, like you I expected the load factor to drop over time, but nowhere near that much.

      w.

      • Mr Eschenbach, it is not just the Efficiency of the Turbinesin the UK that has rduced it is also the actual Wind Speeds. Which appears to be a worldwide issue.
        Not only are we paying the subsidies you highlighted, but also a further subsidy if the damned things have to be switched off or curtailed.
        There is also a serious Blade degradement problem with offshore turbines.
        Our Government just ignores such studies.

        • Could it be that sucking energy out of the air via turbines has caused the reduction in wind speed?
          It stands to reason that at some point it will, maybe.
          The other possibility is that the wind, being a response to particular forces, will not diminish at all, and wherever the energy from the wind comes from to begin with, it will just take more to keep pushing as hard as it needs to.
          As for the general issue of degradation, I was reading somewhere recently that at least part of the problem is turbulence from placing them too close together.
          It messes up the bearings and possibly the blades.
          That same source I was reading said that on one almost new offshore wind farm, the blades already needed to be replaced. No word on whether it was covered by a warranty.
          Marine environment is very harsh…hardly surprising that the degradation would be not only worse, but underestimated.

      • In the UK, part of the subsidy for renewables comes in the form of capacity payments. It would be interesting to know if the capacity figure that that payment is based on is the plated capacity, or the actual degraded figure they are able to produce after a few years in use.

      • Willis,

        It is good to know we agree (but in some ways it is better when we don’t).

        It seems you are noticing my comments to you here, so I take this opportunity to say to you what I said to Allan MacRae in the other current WUWT thread about problems of UK wind powered subsidy farms.

        I need to reduce my pain relief to return to involvement in these matters and, therefore, it takes something as serious as the ‘Nature Blacklist’ to get me to do it. My abilities are slowly fading and, therefore, I take pleasure in knowing there are worthy people including yourself who continue to champion the cause of real science.

        All the best

        Richard

        • Richard:

          It may not help, but CBD reduced my wife’s need for as much pain medication. Nerve damage and shooting pains in legs, arms and feet.

          Paul R.

          • “…work- hardened cynic…”
            Another Willisism which is just as much fun as the science.

      • I wonder how much wind blown dust (not to mention various bird carcasses) causes degradation to the blades reducing their efficiency over time.

        • There is another problem with the blades. Over time, as they degrade, they shed fibres. If the land beneath the turbines is used for grazing, the animals can ingest these fibres.

  3. Nice post. Nothing like a little data to show how ridiculous wind power is. I remind the true believers that the more something costs, the more pollution was created to manufacture it.

    • A little data indeed.

      Socialism sounds great. It has always sounded great. And it will probably always continue to sound great. It is only when you go beyond rhetoric, and start looking at hard facts, that socialism turns out to be a big disappointment, if not a disaster. Thomas Sowell

      Pesky facts tend to upset a lot of apple carts. The left has a problem with that.

      • “Pesky facts tend to upset a lot of apple carts.”

        The leading Democrat candidate for President revealed that Democrats have little interest in facts:
        “We choose truth over facts.” – Joe Biden.

        Of course, truth without facts is very convenient for politicians because it allows ‘truth’ to be whatever you want it to be. And it allows them to preach the ‘truth’ of dangerous climate change without having to show fact-based evidence for their predictions of gloom and doom.

    • JS – It is actually more frightening when you consider the required taxes to pay for the subsidies. Governments are not very efficient and as such a US dollar/GBP collected in taxes will not pay for a US dollar\GBP of subsidies.

        • And what replaces the tax revenue from fossil fuels if we stop using them? Nothing. It’s simple. Like when you buy an electric car. You don’t pay the road tax that’s included in the cost of gasoline. That’s the magic of the green new world.

          • Electric cars are heavier and damage the roads more, but there is no road tax on the electricity. The road tax revenue from gasoline sales goes down, so they raise the tax on gasoline to pay for the electric car freeloaders. Nice system.

          • And battery cars don’t pay the London congestion charge because….they somehow don’t cause congestion? Although they deny it – but then when has government not lied – road charging is what they have in mind so that you pay per mile with no doubt peak rates etc.

  4. I think that these machines have tended to become larger over time, and the offshore ones are made to be very large.
    I wonder if there has been such a general trend, and if so, is it perhaps related and maybe even the cause for decreasing longevity of them as they get older?
    We have heard from many people that these devices are near the limits of material strength and durability and such.
    Have they pushed past the limits of what can be expected of materials over time under hard conditions?

    • As the wind turbines get larger, the unequal loading on the axial bearing(s) gets greater and the maintenance problems more severe. Hence expect the capacity factor to worsen more rapidly.

      • Rud,
        We need to keep a close eye on the companies that manufacture these useless machines. If you are correct (of which I am pretty sure) then these companies will go bust a few short years after their customers figure out this scam and stop buying them. Or, at least I hope…

      • Read my coauthored essay True Cost of Wind circa 2015 over at Climate Etc.

        We explained this in detail. In summary, wind speed generally increases with height. So the bigger (taller) a wind turbine is, the more severe the wind speed difference and rotational top to bottom axial bearing misloading. Is inherent. And the resulting potential axial bearing stress cracks grow with age.

        And that ignores the second axial bearing problem: Reverse load torque distortion when the things are forced to brake when wind speeds exceed max can even force bearings out of the bearing trace. Overengineer the trace as a solution, and the bearings crack instead.

        Most of the spectacular flaming wind turbine pics available are the result of an axial bearing failure.

        • I would imagine that in addition to differences in wind speed at the top and bottom of the turbine blades, there would also be significant differences in the amount of turbulence. Could this potentially cause more problems than just a differential of wind speed (where the wind is in the same direction)? I think you would end up with a high load when the blade is at top, then a lower but somewhat random (or at least unpredictable) load at the bottom. Or, is the bottom of the blade high enough off the ground to avoid these effects?

          • You have exactly described the inherent axial bearing torque problem. The bottom of the rotation lower load torques the top of rotation higher load. An inherent bearing ‘wobble’ eventually kills them, always.

      • Rud,
        In the business I used to work in, over time we found more and more large three phase electric motors failing due to three phase imbalances.
        It was my job to talk to the power quality specialist from the utility (typically FPL) and try to get them to pay for damages.
        Of course they never would, as the imbalances were always under the specific tolerances they are obligated to meet.
        It turned out that a small voltage imbalance between the three legs of incoming power would induce a much larger amperage imbalance in the current going to the motor.
        The power quality engineers from FPL knew this from the get go, but never said anything helpful, ever. I had to figure it all out myself, as no one else in the company, and very few even in the technical support departments at companies like Franklin Electric and even Grundfos were in the least bit helpful.
        Every one of these various groups of people, it became clear over time, actually had the job of making very sympathetic noises while saying little except everything on their end is within spec, then waiting for the customer (me) to get tired of asking questions while continuing to pretend to be helping.
        In the end, I found out that the basic issue originated when some community was being constructed, and a decision was made to install not true three phase power, but to use only two transformers to make what is called an open delta or open wye configuration, whereby the two transformers use a trick of physics to create three legs out of two.
        Everything is fine as long as the total power draw does not approach the limits of the transformers.
        Money is saved by only needing to buy two transformers, and have two power cables coming into the place from the distribution lines. Typically residential communities have few large motors, which are the one that have the bearings near design limits regarding stresses: The imbalance causes the motor to wobble on the bearing, instead of spinning smoothly. It is slight and causes premature failure, but only occasionally within the warranty window.
        Most manufacturers offer a warranty, but when you send something back for warranty consideration, they refuse the claim and jabber some technical nonsense that fools most people but not me. It became apparent that they would refuse any claim, with Franklin Electric being the worst. If the company was ethical, when you called them on that BS, they would agree to warranty the motor after that. Only one I found to be ethical was Grundfos. But the first reaction is always to refuse the claim.
        After a while, I found out from having to learn pretty much everything there is to know about three phase power transmission and electric motor engineering, that there was no way the power companies were ever going to correct such an imbalance.
        I eventually came across a technical bulletin that described about the only solution: Oversize the motor, or trim the pump impellers so that the amp draw was well below the Full Load Amp rating of the motor.
        Motors can tolerate a 5% imbalance at FLA, but it falls off rapidly above that. To get optimum performance of the feature, and save money, most manufacturers in our industry would build the units to be close to, and sometimes above, FLA… and into the 15% service factor.
        When a motor is oversized, say by pairing a 25 HP motor with a 20 HP pump, the same imbalance will barely affect it, being that they have a more robust bearing and a greater capacity to dissipate heat (this last being the only real difference between one HP of motor and another…they all output the same RPMs since the speed the motor spins is due to the frequency of the AC power supply.
        3450 RPMs to allow for the motor always lagging the rotating magnetic field of the power supply.
        I would up making it a net plus for our company in the end, by getting the owners to agree that for the relatively small increase in price for the next largest motor, we would not only be protected from warranty issues due to voltage imbalance, but also from everything else that causes motors to wear out. Like putting a truck engine in a small car, it will be lightly loaded and last a long time.
        So we were able to innovate a best in the industry warranty, much longer than that offered by the motor manufacturers, simply by oversizing the part that wore out the most frequently…the weak link in the chain.
        A warranty issue costs many thousands of dollars, but a step up to the next largest HP motor is a few hundred bucks.
        Even still, it was like pulling teeth to get the production department to go along with it, and in the end they just started building in the cost of a replacement motor and going back to the motor that matched the HP of the unit as sold. Some BS about how we would be misrepresenting something by oversizing a motor.
        This is how things go in industry.
        Planned obsolescence, not caring what happens down the road as long as it was not a warranty issue, etc.
        But, I found out, since I was in charge of the service department, if I gave customers the option during a repair to pay a small amount of extra money, and explaining the whole thing to them, almost every single one gladly paid extra to have a larger and more robust motor. Paying an extra couple of hundred on a repair way up in the thousands is a no brainer to a property manager.
        But not to pencil pushers, desk jockeys, and especially not to salesmen who work on commission…charging more sounds much better to them, rather than making it better.
        Planned obsolescence is everywhere.
        They can make motors and almost everything that will last forever, but the company that does…well…several things can happen.
        There was a company called Red Jacket, which up to the late 1980s made a motor that as far as our original production manager, the guy who hired me, was able to tell…never wore out. Ever.
        When they started to get a larger market share, guess what happened?
        Franklin electric bought them out.
        Then immediately shut down the factory and fired everyone.
        No more of that last forever crap messing up everyone’s business model.
        Franklin later redesigned the thrust bearings on their motors, and made them very unreliable…but they always lasted longer than the warranty, and the Kingsbury Thrust Bearing is cheap to make.
        But they will not hold up when near FLA and mounted horizontally.
        Bottom line: It costs money to make stuff better, and unless someone who can do something about it has a conscience, no one will look out for the customer, especially if it is a government and no one spending the money is spending their own.

        • I should have said they usually lasted longer than the warranty.
          Not always.
          And often not by much.
          And nothing makes people more angry and abused that something that fails just outside the warranty period.

          • Excellent advise about oversizing the motor which should just be common sense to many but sure does fall on deaf ears a lot. How anyone could not understand this is beyond the pale, but in my case I had to actually change the name plate rating on the motor since was using a 3 phase induction motor as a single phase generator and getting near 3 phase efficiency whilst producing single phase. By turning the induction motor 50 rpm faster and adding capacitors to the two unused phases, it turned into a single Ph generator of course on delta wye single phase, and if the proper capacitance achieved 100% PF and the generator oversized by 33%-50%, would run completely smooth with no vibration and cool to the touch. Added maybe 25%-30% extra cost to the cost of the generator, but would basically run forever since everything was running luke warm with no stress whatsoever on the bearings and not much heat in the windings when the core not saturated. Zero maintenance except for greasing, or get the sealed greased bearings and some are still running perfectly after 25 years.

            The utility I was selling the electricity to had a stipulation that the ‘generator’ name plate couldn’t be larger than the rated output for that unit. If you had to follow that requirement, the 3 Ph motor Kw rating that was operating as a single Ph generator wouldn’t last a 1/4 time of the warranty since the heat from the saturation of the core would just fry it sooner than later, even if still within the technical size. The bearings would be first to go since the grease just melted in the bearing race making them dry and of course one would always be changing bearings until the windings fried. Hence, get or make up a new name plate badge on an over sized motor/generator, and the utility idiots didn’t even know what they were looking at. Was the best solution for everyone, whether they knew it or not.

          • Part of the reason for them not wanting to just keep oversizing every motor was because although it was simple for a three phase motor, in the case of a single phase motor it was not so simple.
            Another was like you say related to the electric control circuits, breakers, magnetic contactors, overload relays and the rest of it including sire sizing, all have to be based on the FLA of the motor, not the nominal amp draw of the entire unit as assembled.
            And NEC codes then stipulated everything must be sized at least 125% of the Max amps, not FLA, which includes the FLA and a 15% service factor.
            And upping some components one size can be inordinately expensive when they are already large, increments in the available equipment get more widely spaced the higher you go, and they are already oversized by code to begin with.
            Which is an issue.
            I actually came up with the same idea as you: We get our supplier to put a name plate and a special part number specific to our company (we were the single largest US customer of the Grundfos US groundwater division), and label the amperage according to the pump specs. They would do it. After all, the only thing that makes one motor a given FLA is how much the manufacturer is willing to warranty it for. Any induction motor will pull as much power as it needs to spin at the rate determined by the frequency of the power, so putting a 10 HP pump on a 5 HP motor, and that motor will draw 10 HP of current right up until it burns itself out due to overheating.
            NEC codes are necessary, but sometimes the realities on the ground mean that excessive safety factors just make stuff inordinately expensive for no real reason except it is the code.

        • For anyone who is not a mechanical or electrical engineer, and is lost when the subject of motor bearings comes up, here is a short video from the US Navy from back in the day.
          They want to make sure the people they train have a clear idea of what they are doing. This makes it simple, and it gets much more complicated then this, but for an outline of the concepts:

        • I worked for a large chocolate company that used a lot of large electric motors. At the time I left they were still running motors that were built in the early 1900’s and were nearly a century old. They were huge, ~5ft across and 3 ft thick. Relatively slow rpm. Huge bronze bearings that they rebuilt in the machine shop. Reminiscent of a steam locomotive. Actually they had hardly anything to break and anything that could wear out was replaceable.

    • I posted this on the thread about the UK grid issues, but that’s days old so I thought I would repost here.
      The interim report on the incident was published today here.

      There was a lightning strike that took out a transmission line (Eaton Socon to Wymondley) at 15:52:33.49UTC on 2019-08-09. Within a second Hornsea went off followed by a unit at Little Barford. The transmission line came back on within 20 secs but the local mains loss there caused ~500MW of local generation (local wind, solar, diesel) to shut down. The two other units at Little Barford shut down successively because of local steam overpressures caused by the first unit loss. In all they lost around 1800MW of generation during the incident. I could understand Little Barford going off as it’s connected at Eaton Socon & would get a voltage wobbly from the lightning strike, but Hornsea is well over 100 miles away. Looks like its safety trips were just too sensitive.

      What is appalling to me is that there was 500MW of local generation in a relatively small area affected by the transmission line trip – that is, small solar & wind turbine units run privately for subsidy farming (they are only economic if farming subsidies, as th above article points out)!

    • Willis – do you have access to the ratio of taxes collected to subsidies paid? Governments are notoriously inefficient so the real cost for subsidies in terms of taxes collected will be higher than their face value.

      • In many jurisdictions, there is a 10 year property tax holiday for building new wind turbines and for being ‘green’, so no new property tax revenues. I have also heard in some jurisdictions that many Gov’ts don’t charge state or provincial taxes because they are green renewables, and the GST federal tax in many countries is a flow thru tax anyways and they get GST/HST back like all business inputs.

        Also, many jurisdictions also have accelerated depreciation for the assets for 10 years, so effectively pay no income tax for at least 10 years. After 10 years as this post points out, the degradation of the output starts to decline so remarkably , they don’t actually make any profit and then are abandoned in the end after 15-20 years or whenever the subsidy ends. The public will have to pay tax to have those removed, after paying for the subsidy so some wind farming company gets rich. Or perhaps the private landowners that also got paid a rental fee for having them in their land will ‘inherit’ them when they are abandoned. Maybe scrap value in the end.

  5. Sadly not a new report, it was produced in 2012, since when wind turbines have been blessed with green fairy dust, and are now models of reliability and longevity … at extracting subsidies, even when they are curtailed.

  6. Who would have guessed? 😉

    I think this would bring up the true cost of the wind: Let’s not call these government outlays “subsidies” — call them “price of the wind!”

    As for the renew-ability: If they have to pay for the wind, the money spent are certainly not “renewable!”

  7. – It is not a new report, it was published 2012 by the charitable ‘renewable energy foundation’, which despite the name only ever publishes anti-wind power material.

    – It uses a highly criticised ‘standardised statistical technique’, rather than the more widely adopted wind indices.

    – A peer-reviewed study found a decline in load factor of 16%/decade with the average actual load factor of UK farms between the ages of 10 and 15 of 25%, with no trend over time. Few farms operate for more than 15 years.

    Ref: https://core.ac.uk/download/pdf/19783450.pdf

  8. I had a friend that was considering leasing land for the installation windmills. I suggested that an important consideration would be how the removal of the windmills was to be paid for once they were no longer used.

  9. typo: “pressuring the government to lift the subsidies”,
    should be lift the bar on subsidies.

    But why does performance fall off with age? That is on average, so is it that individual machines don’t fall off, but they die?

    • Thanks, Toto, fixed the typo. As to the performance falling off, the authors say:

      The reasons for the observed declines in normalised load factors cannot be fully assessed using the data available but outages due to mechanical breakdowns appear to be a contributory factor

      w.

    • It is lost time due to repairs and a reduction in maximum output of the wind turbine.

      Wind turbines’ power output must be reduced when a maximum wind speed is reached to avoid damaging some component of the turbine.

      There is a second problem that wind is gusty.

      The operational issues and limitations of wind turbines is hidden which is necessary to sell the scam.

      Of course at the point when power storage is required the wind scheme becomes comically ridiculous in term of cost and because there is no savings in CO2 …

      • I knew that this would happen because The failures of electro-mechanical devices have kept me employed for the last thirty five years. It is hard enough to keep them running at ground level, doing the same in a tiny room 400 ft in the air must be great fun.

  10. Willis — what’s new about it? The study your link points to is dated 2012. Have you seen a newer one?

    Still damning evidence, but not all that “new” and I’d love to see more recent reliability data.

    Also data about frequency and phase stability as a function of grid fraction of wind/solar power. I worked in the scientific instrument biz, and we spent our lives trying to defeat power problems, to the extent of sticking line conditioners between the wall and our power supply for anything shipped into Canada (for example) because of wonky mains power.

    • The fact that it is a 2012 report makes the blindness of our virtue signalling Goverment even worse, because no sane policy maker would continue pushing wind after its publication. They have stopped installing onshore in England (not in Scotland) but that was because the electorate was anti them. There is however a lot of pressure to reverse this now that the politicos have formally declared a ludicrous Climate Crisis.

      I will certainly contact the

      • I have done a brief search for a more up to date report and it appears that the R.E.F. Is virtually defunct. It was set up to fight on shore wind farms.

        Incredibly no one appears to have done a similar analysis more recently, despite the data being publicly available.

  11. Willis:
    Interesting if not too surprising. The report is dated 2012. Did you find anything comparable that is more current?

  12. Good article, states the obvious. For very little stable output, there are horrendous costs to these bird choppers – catastrophic utility bills, slaughtered bird life, wasted/corrupted (pay to play) subsidies, outright fraud, blighted landscapes. Fake News reports none of it.

    Germany is no different. https://stopthesethings.com/2018/08/13/germanys-renewable-energy-disaster-part-1-wind-solar-deemed-technological-failures/

    “the wind and solar industries are shrinking, as subsidies are slashed; old coal-fired power plants are being refurbished; and dozens of new coal-fired plants are being built. On any sensible reckoning, the Energiewende has been a monumental failure.”

    Germany, Denmark, UK, Spain….Massive social-climate engineering has achieved nothing but a lot of destruction of money, common sense and bird life.

  13. An alternative set of opinions, by the late Prof Sir David MacKay, physicist, mathematician, and academic. He was the Regius Professor of Engineering in the Department of Engineering at the University of Cambridge and from 2009 to 2014 was Chief Scientific Adviser to the UK Department of Energy and Climate Change.

    “On the Performance of Wind Farms in the United Kingdom
    David MacKay FRS
    Cavendish Laboratory, University of Cambridge and
    Department of Energy and Climate Change, London
    May 28, 2013 – Draft 6.0”

    http://www.inference.org.uk/mackay/windDecline.pdf

    Author of “Sustainable Energy — without the hot air”

    https://www.withouthotair.com/Electronic.html

    “The total cost of UK subsidies for renewables is stunning. Renewable subsidies in the UK in 2016, the most recent data I could find, is just under £5 billion”

    For 2019/20 they’ll total in the region of £10.3bn.

  14. I wish this report had been updated since its 2012 publication. Would love to see some of the longer term capacity declines on the systems that are 20+ years old.

  15. Fossil fuels were used to construct these wind farms and fossil fuels will be used to dismantle and clean them up.

  16. Like Toto, I too would like to know if the performance fall-off is due to all the turbines getting less efficient, or some continue working as normal while increasing numbers fail completely?

  17. I just posted a defense of Mr. Watts following a vicious personal attack made upon him at American Weather……here is there attack, “In the end, Mr. Watts, who has no background in climate science, much less the study of glaciers, reached an unsupported conclusion that has no foundation in the scientific literature. It is pure opinion spiced with baseless speculation. Its purpose is not to inform, but to mislead.”

    the conclusion that volcano activity could contribute to the glacier is indeed supported by the simple FACT Iceland is on a highly active volcano area.

    • If that was about the Ok glacier, that guy needs to be aware that last year was the first time in a quarter century that the 4 largest glaciers in Iceland stopped shrinking; 2 of them actually grew, one quite a bit. A glaciologist said it was because the 2018 summer was unusually colder. Ok lost its glacier status 5 years ago, so he needs to get up to speed. I can provide a link if desired.

  18. But didn’t you guys know? Wind turbines are 100% made from hemp! And the energy used to design, build, transport, erect and maintain them is generated by converting the matter contained in hemp directly into energy using the method discovered by Tesla but buried by the shape-changing alien reptiles of the oil industry!

    Sorry, feeling a bit frisky today…

  19. I agree with you. “Cubical ball bearings”!

    Unfortunately, the Government is keen on wind turbines – after all, the wind is free!

    • Thanks, Richard. There’s an old sailor’s maxim that goes:

      “The wind is free … but everything else costs money!”

      w.

  20. Wind and solar power industries consume more energy in their operations than they can ever produce with their monstrous turbines and solar panels. That’s why they always lose money without massive government subsidies or set-asides, regardless of the price of fossil fuels. And that’s without holding them accountable for their environmental devastation of wildlife habitat destruction and the slaughter of millions of birds and bats each year. That also doesn’t account for the cost of cleaning up their toxic waste messes. Rest assured that wherever a wind or solar toxic waste site is being cleaned up, they are using fossil fuel powered vehicles and equipment.

  21. And the US is plunging onward with off-shore wind farms in New England. I have read that prices are expected to be about 23.5 cents/kWhr (includes delivery charges,taxes, etc.) to the consumer.

  22. A number of folks pointed out that the study is 7 years old … however, I just took a look and haven’t found anything newer on the subject.

    w.

    • Willis Eschenbach
      August 20, 2019 at 11:39 am

      Yes, it’s a pity that it’s so old but…c’est la vie! You have to work with the data available and thanks for the analysis.

      Presumably the current generation of wind turbines has learnt from previous ones so would be more reliable, even if they would probably be bigger. Or is that just wishful thinking on my part?

      How do they plan to recycle the fibreglass blades? There must be a plan?

    • Hi Willis

      You could try the link I provided upthread, it’s a paper from 2014.

      You are getting your data from anti-windfarm lobby group the Renewable Energy Foundation. You need to do better than that if you want to persuade outside of the echo chamber. Your numbers are just not credible: for example :

      ‘From 2003 to 2016, UK renewables generated about 242 terawatt-hours of electricity.’

      The majority of the subsidy is from the Renewables Obligation, government statistics show renewable electricity under this scheme amounted to 386 TWh for 2010-2016 alone.

      Source : https://www.gov.uk/government/statistics/energy-trends-section-6-renewables
      Spreadsheet ET.6

      • Thanks, P. Clarke. Actually my data is not from the “Renewable Energy Foundation”. It is from the BP Statistical Review of World Energy, available as an excel spreadsheet from here.

        My figures are for the total renewable energy generated by wind and solar, as (AFAIK) those are the only ones getting big subsidies from the UK Government.

        w.

  23. “If You Want Renewable Energy, Get Ready to Dig”, August 5 article in Wall Street Journal, by Mark Mills, cites the actual costs of the non-renewables that go into making wind turbines:

    Building one wind turbine requires 900 tons of steel, 2,500 tons of concrete and 45 tons of non-recyclable plastic.

    Plastic?

    The International Renewable Energy Agency calculates that solar goals for 2050 consistent with the Paris Accords will result in old-panel disposal constituting more than double the tonnage of all today’s global plastic waste.

  24. I’m a reliability engineer working in electrical and electromechanical product development for over 3 decades. It should be no surprise if capacity factor declines due to increased maintenance requirements and that lifetime may be limited to no more than 15 years. Just imagining the bearing loads, for example, both static and dynamic has always made me wonder. I’ll bet the dynamic loads are all but impossible to model or simulate, and with a wide variety of operating conditions extensive field testing unlikely to uncover end-of-life issues. This would be especially true in the rush to get and maintain market share in an environment where government intervention practically created a huge worldwide market overnight.

    The products I work on are nothing on the scale of a commercial wind turbine, although my company does offer a 25 year full replacement warranty, which is kinda crazy and keeps me constantly thinking about better ways to do reliability design and verification. But I’m under no illusions that we don’t have to build some factor into our product pricing that takes wearout into account. I fully expect that has been done only rarely, if at all, in the rush to build wind power generators and grid-scale wind farms. Regardless, grid-scale wind and solar are folly no matter how you look at it.

    • As regards operating conditions, off-shore wind turbines are subjected to sea water spray, which is pretty corrosive to any type of machinery. Off-shore has higher maintainance costs because of this inconvenient truth and are more difficult to get to.

    • Kerry says:
      Just imagining the bearing loads, for example, both static and dynamic has always made me wonder.

      Yes, and wind turbine bearings are overhung w/a huge load, which are particularly tough conditions.

  25. The normalised load factor for UK onshore wind farms declines from a peak of about 24% at age 1 to 15% at age 10 and 11% at age 15. The decline in the normalised load factor for Danish onshore wind farms is slower but still significant with a fall from a peak of 22% to 18% at age 15. On the other hand for offshore wind farms in Denmark the normalised load factor falls from 39% at age 0 to 15% at age 10.

    As a retired power plant PE engineer, I shake my head in wonder at these low numbers. Such miserable load factors are being promoted as the answer to meet current/future power requirements???? Are the people promoting these things totally clueless? I’d have to say yes, they are. Pretty much all the the 40+ yr old coal plants (20+ units) on the utility I worked for had at least 90% availability factors (some weren’t run as much as in the past as their costs were no longer as favorable as newer plants) & 80% + capacity factors for those still w/favorable low costs.

    • Nothing new. In the 1940’s there was a lot of work expended on laminar-flow wings for aircraft, but this was ultimately abandoned, because just a few squashed bugs on the leading edge was enough to destroy the aerodyamic gain.

      • I fly fiberglass gliders with high aspect laminar flow wings. Before flying we try to clean the wings and horizontal stabilizer as carefully as possible. When we come back even the slightest speck of dust has caused a vee-shaped pattern the width of the chord. The more specs, the more turbulence in the laminar flow over the wing and the poorer performance of the glider. How often do they wax those turbine blades?

  26. Another profound kicker is that the taxpayer is going to be on the hook yet again when these unsightly monstrosities are no longer viable and have to be torn down. Pay in subsidies to construct and operate, pay again to tear down when they stop working and cost more to fix and operate than to tear down. Will any politicians be held responsible for wasting taxpayer monies? Answer: No, the ones responsible will be long gone, and won’t be available for comment.

  27. Too bad about it being 7 years old. It certainly deserved being brought up again. Thank you.

  28. In looking for something more recent, I found this. Once again, emphasis mine:

    Climatic Impacts of Wind Power
    Lee M. Miller and David W. Keith

    SUMMARY

    We find that generating today’s US electricity demand (0.5 TWe) with wind power would warm Continental US surface temperatures by 0.24C. Warming arises, in part, from turbines redistributing heat by mixing the boundary layer. Modeled diurnal and seasonal temperature differences are roughly consistent with recent observations of warming at wind farms, reflecting a coherent mechanistic understanding for how wind turbines alter climate. The warming effect is: small compared with projections of 21st century warming, approximately equivalent to the reduced warming achieved by decarbonizing global electricity generation, and large compared with the reduced warming achieved by decarbonizing US electricity with wind.

    Translation: if we use the wind to generate all our electricity, it will warm the US much more than the purported cooling due to reduced CO2 … go figure. I note also that their results are based on observational data, where the CO2 cooling is theoretical.

    w.

  29. One probable reason for reducing performance is blade deterioration. Gliders use the same high performance wings, and their lift can be seriously degraded by pitting and dirt. I am wondering how often they clean and re-gelcoat those blades.

    .

    Another problem is that the UK has just suffered its first frequency instability blackout, with 5% of the nation going dark. This is the same failure as South Australia, where there is too little base-load to frequency for the renewables to synchronise with, and so they get destabilised and are thrown off the grid.

    And yet the UK is still determined to close our nine remaining coal stations. This is despite the fact that we don’t have enough non-renewable backup, and frequency stability depends upon these base-load stations. The UK needs 15,000 gWhr of backup energy, and yet we only have 10 gWhr (at Dinorwig) and 500 mW of diesel generators (or 120 gWhr over ten days).

    Ralph

    • Ralph, as always good to hear from you.

      ralfellis August 20, 2019 at 12:43 pm Edit

      One probable reason for reducing performance is blade deterioration. Gliders use the same high performance wings, and their lift can be seriously degraded by pitting and dirt. I am wondering how often they clean and re-gelcoat those blades.

      True.

      w.

  30. Paying Much More For Much Less

    Isn’t it usual, to pay more for an high quality product ? /sarc

  31. No directly relevant data here, but on p. 25 they do announce that they have decided to sell off their U.S. renewable generation assets.

    https://www.sempra.com/sites/default/files/content/files/node-page/file-list/2019/2018-corporate-sustainability-report-semprav2.pdf

    SDG&E is a subsidiary. This means that Sempra has sold off the generating capacity which currently supplies about 45% of its subsidiary’s consumption, and would have supplied 60% by the required date. That does not look to me like confidence in wind generation.

  32. Hey, didn’t the Dutch empire start to go down the tubes around the same time they reached peak installed wind power?
    I never connected those dots until reading Willis’s commentary today.

  33. Have a look at this opening page of Berkshire Hathaway Energy.

    https://www.brkenergy.com/energy/wind

    There seems to be a great disconnect.
    If the decline/failure of wind turbines is a general thing and well known, how is it that public companies do not report this in the annual statements?
    One might expect Warren Buffett’s comments at the annual gig in Omaha to include a questioning of the long term viability of this part of BH’s holdings.

    On a slightly different note: Individuals and small cities that go the wind route seem to experience failures beyond their abilities. Maybe there is some minimum number (a scale thing) needed to absorb the decline/failures.

  34. In the Keynesian formulation of GDP, government spending, regardless of how wasteful is added to the final product. Climate Hoi Polloi doesn’t care about the efficiencies of the final product. They care about the political outcome of the process.

    So for all the work that went into this article it fundamentally misses the key drivers of climate debate which is political not technocratic. Many of the usual skeptic ostriches are in the comment section applauding this road to nowhere approach.

    Meanwhile the Greenshirts feature pictures of dead fish and fraud temperature claims one after the other, daily. This is how you expect to survive their plans?

    • Cwon14,
      Agree, facts about renewables don’t matter. Many of those commenting on these pages wish for a more current analysis to determine just exactly how much less than worthless wind power is. Why? It’s already proven beyond any reasonable doubt that is an expensive waste of capital. Who should pay for the research? A conservative think tank? No, because no matter what the findings it would be labeled a propaganda flyer from Exxon and the Koch Brothers. The same voters that elect the AOC’s of the world would say, “I thought so, they can’t fool me, wind and solar power is “free”. The last time I looked the only person of influence expressing a dislike of wind “power” is President Trump. And even he has to support ethanol, which is even worse than wind, so that he polls will in Iowa, the wind and ethanol state ….the first state to caucus in the presidential nomination process.

      • My broader point is that this is typical skeptical debate self destruction. Focusing on trivia, which part of the WUWT protocol, rather then the essential political underpinnings that divide skeptics is why incoherent opposition to green globalism fails.

        If logic settled politics there would be no democratic party at all.

        • Disagree.
          This is how we keep ourselves informed.
          This is not trivial, it is major.
          It has resulted, all by itself, in a huge cost for every man woman and child in the industrialized world, and this is just the beginning of what they have in mind for this insane waste of money and ecological disaster in the making.
          Entire countries have seen power bills quadruple, while reliable sources of power are being decommissioned, and the net effect on the one thing they are trying to achieve, reduction of CO2 production, is net zero, and perhaps even positive in places.
          And in the process of quadrupling power costs, they have spent hundreds of billions on projects that involved chopping down forests, blighting landscapes, killing wildlife, and most probably causing health and quality of life issues for millions of people.
          Killing every bird on the planet for a useless gesture that robs us blind is hardly trivial.

          • Nicholas,

            The problem in is in central planning and irrational political cultures. When you frame the debate on those facts skeptics, actual skeptics, some resistance and push back is achieved. Climate change is an evolution of the broader Greenshirt movements of the 60’s and even earlier. Without that context the debate on details and data is pointless.

            It’s primary politics over science about 10 to 1.

            The issue is that skeptics come in many forms, many wish to deny the political reality for the safety of mundane spaghetti charts and nuanced cost benefits discussions. There is no science proof at all that the human input of co2, perhaps less then 3% of total input, has any impact on the climate at all. So if it was about empirical reason the climate movement would have died long ago. Climate change and “green” in general is an emotionally based cultural and political framing of issues.

            So you want to consider the blight of misbegotten wind investments? That’s not going to convince the hardcore green left of anything. The abstraction of AGW is religious in scale and scope. What ever is REAL is always dwarfed by the virtuous ideals of green culture. They’ll tell how 50 trillion really isn’t enough to create Utopia, they can’t resolve who is actually going to benefit by the crony effort but they include themselves as beneficiaries fighting for justice. So you think focusing on a 7 year old cost/benefit report about wind power is going to move the debate needle? Skeptics who think this, there are many, are the equivalent Charlie Brown letting Lucy hold the football for the 10000th time.

            The reason for being on the losing side, which I’m definitely on with this crew of obtuse skepticism, is to try to win and put off a little longer the seemingly inevitable Orwellization of the world at large. The skeptical consensus has to evolve to a corresponding political offset to the climate change movement, which is politically rooted. It has to reject the basic folly of validating what hasn’t been proven by classical science methodology by constantly reinforcing climate beliefs in debate as if it has actual proofed science results. So once it’s grasped the imagined “science” consensus is actually a political and crony belief system skeptics again make gains.

            The further fact that the Audubon Society and many other naturalists have abandoned concern for habitats consumed by wind for the sake of co2 reduction that can’t be quantified in results should illustrate how trivial the premise of the article is in political practice.

            A political argument can only be won politically. Many skeptics simply can’t accept that reality as it conflicts with their world views, they have more in common with climate promoters in many cases and represent a fifth column is the broader struggle. In itself there is no harm to this presentation and it illustrates malinvestment. In another way it represents the chronic distraction of thinking climate change debates are more complex then the political underpinning, that is harmful.

  35. On the subject of long-term costs, what are the economics of hybrid diesel-electric buses? They were very popular in the UK for a while but now they are being replaced by micro-hybrids with much smaller batteries. My guess is that the cost of replacing the battery in a full hybrid is almost as much as the cost of a new bus. Any comments?

    • My guess that is that big batteries for a full-size bus cost way more due to the much smaller demand and the difficulties engineering a big battery. Cooling, cell balancing, the large number of cells required, cost of replacing cells, etc.

  36. YAY! that means the .GOV will want to cut down MY forest to put up turbines in the near future. I had been worried I missed that gravy train.

  37. caveat on my useful life comment (in moderation?):

    These numbers are useful since they provide conventional thinking of experts in each field; it is important to understand that they do not include lifetime statistical data of actual projects.

  38. So any Brexit deal should include offloading of all wind farm projects and finance in the UK to the EU as a gift toward their climate goals.

  39. This also explains why solar projects in the UK have no time for dealing with low cost, best of breed solar providers. It’s more about who you know and how fast you can get the subsidy going than anything dealing with thoughtful cost competitiveness.

  40. Picture the scene:-
    A Green entrepreneur goes to see his bank manager to discuss his latest Green energy idea.
    “Ah, Mr Green do come in, take a seat, what can I do for you?”
    “Well Mr Banks I want to start a solar energy farm, about 100 acres” (40 hectares for our metric readers) That will provide enough area for about 20 MW output.
    “Very interesting Mr Green and how much will you need for the project”?
    “Well UK agricultural acres are roughly £10,000 each so £1 million for the land, then the solar farm equipment will cost around £1,000/kW installed so say £20 million for the panels. Assemble and installation cost plus grid connections say £5 million. I think £30 million should cover it, yes say £30 million”
    “Ah I can see you have done your costings, Mr Green, what is the revenue going to be, and will the farm run all year round?”
    “Yes, sort off, well, it will max out at 20 MW but of course it will not produce that much on days between October and February”. It will gradually build to 20 MW as the sun rises during the day and slowly decline as the sun sets.
    “Will it produce 24/7 during the rest of the year?”
    “Well no, but it will produce 12/7, sometimes”
    “I’m sorry, did I hear you correctly? It will produce 12/7 sometime!”
    “Well yes, it doesn’t work at night. Then sometimes during the day the sun is obscured, clouds, rain on the panels, fog. mists, snow, ice, hail damage that sort of thing, typical UK weather really. The efficiency then drops to single digit % output and of course the equipment will be idle for half of the day, well, all night actually”
    “And what efficiency will the farm operate at when the sun shines”?
    “Well, we estimate 10% conversion during the summer period initially, of course as the years go by the cleaning and decay of the panels will take its toll, after 15 years, the inverters/panels will need to be replaced.”
    “So, let me summarise what you are asking for.
    You want £30 million to operate a farm that only runs 12 hours/day in the summer…sometimes, it will average 10% energy conversion efficiency and will need constant cleaning and total replacement in 15 years’ time, have I understood you correctly?”
    “Yes that is about it”….
    “Very well, let us consider both sides of the business, income and expenditure
    “So, £30 million borrowed over 15 years is £2 million Capital repayment/yr.
    Interest at 8% will be on a reducing balance at £1.2million/yr. averaged over 15 years.
    Insurance, staff and security of the site will amount to £500,000/yr.
    Maintenance and management at the site will require round the clock on site technicians, employing highly qualified staff and will cost another £500,000/yr. electrical engineers are not cheap.
    That is the broad brush outgoings without getting too detailed.

    The income
    Sale of energy generated at £100/MWh x 6hr (i.e. bell curve light gain and decline) x 20 = £12,000/day x say 200 days/yr. = £2.4 million/yr. revenue.

    My conclusion Mr Green.
    Outgoings will be £4.2 million/yr and income will be £2.4 million/yr
    Have I missed anything?”
    “Well we might be able to generate for 300 days/yr. but there will be decommissioning costs of course”
    “Very good, so an income of £3.6 million/yr. and cost of £4.2 million/yr. plus decommissioning costs”
    Anything else Mr Green?”
    “Well the business rates on the site have yet to be decided, but we may be able to register as a charity”
    “Ah yes, a charity, you have my full support. Here is one pound for your charity box, come back and see me when you have secured the rest of the money from other generous donors”.
    “Is there anything else Mr Green?”
    “Did I mention my ideas for a wind farm, roughly 1000 acres….?
    “Good day Mr Green”.

    • However, in practice Mr. Green then explains to Mr. Banker that it will all be subsidized so they can’t lose. “There will be a guaranteed return on the investment perhaps several times over.”

      They will both make out like bandits. So will the local concrete company. And the local road builders. The local sheep ranchers will be able to retire in style. When the systems wear out they will just walk away.

      There won’t be much scrutiny from the local politicians of any party. It is a local politician’s dream. They will get their cut, from a revenue stream that stretches all the way to China and back. Funding for buying votes in perpetuity. Plus they will get on the evening news as saving the planet, guaranteeing reelection, and basking in the glow of virtue signaling.

      When the local working stiffs see their power bills sky rocket, the faceless evil energy companies will take the blame, but nothing can be done. The inevitable blackouts will just bring more calls for more.

  41. Add on-

    “Energy consumption in wind facilities
    Large wind turbines require a large amount of energy to operate. Other electricity plants generally use their own electricity, and the difference between the amount they generate and the amount delivered to the grid is readily determined. Wind plants, however, use electricity from the grid, which does not appear to be accounted for in their output figures. At the facility in Searsburg, Vermont, for example, it is apparently not even metered and is completely unknown [click here].* The manufacturers of large turbines — for example, Vestas, GE, and NEG Micon — do not include electricity consumption in the specifications they provide.
    Among the wind turbine functions that use electricity are the following:†

    yaw mechanism (to keep the blade assembly perpendicular to the wind; also to untwist the electrical cables in the tower when necessary) — the nacelle (turbine housing) and blades together weigh 92 tons on a GE 1.5-MW turbine
    blade-pitch control (to keep the rotors spinning at a regular rate)
    lights, controllers, communication, sensors, metering, data collection, etc.
    heating the blades — this may require 10%-20% of the turbine’s nominal (rated) power
    heating and dehumidifying the nacelle — according to Danish manufacturer Vestas, “power consumption for heating and dehumidification of the nacelle must be expected during periods with increased humidity, low temperatures and low wind speeds”
    oil heater, pump, cooler, and filtering system in gearbox
    hydraulic brake (to lock the blades in very high wind)
    thyristors (to graduate the connection and disconnection between generator and grid) — 1%-2% of the energy passing through is lost
    magnetizing the stator — the induction generators used in most large grid-connected turbines require a “large” amount of continuous electricity from the grid to actively power the magnetic coils around the asynchronous “cage rotor” that encloses the generator shaft; at the rated wind speeds, it helps keep the rotor speed constant, and as the wind starts blowing it helps start the rotor turning (see next item); in the rated wind speeds, the stator may use power equal to 10% of the turbine’s rated capacity, in slower winds possibly much more
    using the generator as a motor (to help the blades start to turn when the wind speed is low or, as many suspect, to maintain the illusion that the facility is producing electricity when it is not,‡ particularly during important site tours or noise testing (keeping the blades feathered, ie, quiet)) — it seems possible that the grid-magnetized stator must work to help keep the 40-ton blade assembly spinning, along with the gears that increase the blade rpm some 50 times for the generator, not just at cut-in (or for show in even less wind) but at least some of the way up towards the full rated wind speed; it may also be spinning the blades and rotor shaft to prevent warping when there is no wind§
    Could it be that at times each turbine consumes more than 50% of its rated capacity in its own operation?! If so, the plant as a whole — which may produce only 25% of its rated capacity annually — would be using (for free!) twice as much electricity as it produces and sells. An unlikely situation perhaps, but the industry doesn’t publicize any data that proves otherwise; incoming power is apparently not normally recorded.”

  42. The best part of Willis’s intelligent musings is that he does not really get personally worried about all the dumb things happening in our world today re policies on climate change. To him it is all just an amusing intellectual pastime. It is really far more important that he has had a great day, that the sun is shining, that he has had enough to eat, that he still has a roof over his head, that his health, mental and physical, is still good enough, that he feels good about what he is doing in life. True existentialism.

  43. This is from POWER Magazine, 05/01/19.

    Onshore main-shaft bearing failure rates have been shown to reach 10% and higher as some equipment approaches just six years in service, below expected performance (Figure 1). Many wind turbine owners are increasing the expected time they plan to operate a turbine from 20 to 25 or 30 years. However, some under-performing sites require a main shaft and gearbox rebuild every 7 to 10 years. If each main shaft and gearbox repair, including crane costs, is assumed to cost about $300,000, operators could spend up to $1.2 million per turbine over the course of a typical turbine lifecycle.

  44. Turbines are airfoils. Which even if made of cast forged extraterrestrial high tech titanium endure, alike all related elements, what nature, physics and material science has in stock.

    The entire contraption is in the maintenance realm of a “stationary airframe”. Which in the free market proves quite a costly endeavor.

    No wonder subside greedy green mafias actually hate the idea of anything freedom related, market inclusive.

  45. I’ve talked to various people who express the view that wind power cost is completely irrelevant; wind and solar are the only worthwhile approach. Their reasons vary considerably however.

    One friend follows the Democratic part line on climate strictly. He is quite capable of coming to logical conclusions from reasoned considerations, even regarding some favorites such as gun control, but seems to believe that anything not strictly complying with alarmists climate propaganda has to be incorrect.

    Another says she always believed the alarmists climate claims were just some kind of government attempt at mind control, probably actually originating with the republicans. However, oil companies are so evil that anything that might possible reduce their profit and power is the thing to do, no matter how expensive.

    Another hates oil companies but most especially oil and gas pipelines. Anything to get rid of all pipeline is worthwhile. It would not bother him in the least if most people had to stop running around in automobiles so much. Besides, man made climate change is certainly real and besides, a wind turbine completely pays for itself in nine months and produces completely free electricity after that. That wind turbines are the source of any damage or grid problems is just propaganda. His business, his likelihood is dependent on running around over several states in a large van full of equipment but electric vehicles are going to be so much better someday soon.

    The point of all this that I see is rational objections to wind turbines and other “renewables” makes no impression on many people.

    • Many have long noted that facts and logic are completely useless to people who operate at the level of emotions and irrationality.
      I include unearned trust in the honesty of someone else under the subheading of “irrationality”.

  46. I tried to sell some well characterized technology to wind turbine oems and operators that would have helped lifespan and time before overhaul. No takers. No one cared about anything that happened after the performance bond was met.

    • Jean Parisot,
      My understanding is that wind turbines became better designed, more reliable and longer lasting until about 1990. The costs associated with these improvements were found to be unjustified because the buyers were only interested in a turbine that lasted 10 years..until the accelerated depreciation and tax credit expired. Just good business…in the make believe world created by virtue signaling regulators and willfully uninformed voters.

  47. There’s a perverse logic to all this: the economy runs mostly on fossil fuel, renewable energy depends on subsides taken from the economy and, therefore, renewables mostly run on fossil fuel.

  48. The powerful interests that ignore facts for hype and foggy ideas will not be deterred. I can see the future and it is full of windmills generating solid gold electricity.

  49. Whoda thunk that Moored Helicopters would be as prone to maintenance expense and ‘serviceability interuption”as their untethered cousins?

  50. Those numbers are truly dreadful, now how much worse would they be if wing had to pay for its own spinning reserve back up?

  51. When I lived in So Cal, I often had occasion to drive the I-10 to points east – anywhere from Palm Springs to Las Cruces, New Mexico. Going through the San Gorgonio Pass, I had to endure the spectacle of some 2,000 wind turbines spoiling the view for miles and miles.

    The wind was always blowing hard, hard enough to buffet even my dual cab Tundra pickup. Whether anyone was riding with me or not, I’d always crack the joke that the wind wouldn’t be so bad here if they’d just shut all those damn fans off (of course, 10-20% of them weren’t turning at any given time).

    Which brings me to my solution: increase the availability by having the upwind half of every wind farm run in reverse, i.e. as a fan. That way, you’d start off with a windfarm not at 24% (onshore) or 39% (offshore), but a full 100% of nameplate capacity all the time!. Then the loss of 10 or 15% of output with age wouldn’t make as big a difference.

    Where do you get the energy to run the fans? Why, from the wind farm, of course. Silly…

    • Maybe they could put turbines on sail boats.
      While it is windy, it stores energy and drives a propeller, plus it blows on the sail.
      Then, they use everything in reverse when the wind stops: Ocean currents and the forward motion of the boat transmit power from the propellers to the wind turbine, plus the stored battery power, to use the turbine to blow on the sail some more.
      And vice versa.
      Probably need some warmista engineers to work out the technical details, what with it costing more than it saves and it does not actually save anything, plus you need a backup generator of course.
      I am sure it can be solved with subsidies and whatever other mojo they use for the wind farms.

      feverdreamoff/

  52. So basically the output graphs for a cohort of wind farms will just get lower over time?
    https://anero.id/energy/wind-energy/2019/april
    Personally I think it’s a second order problem but it’s good to have the odd diversionary input like this occasionally to prevent getting obsessed and paranoid with a one track mind as the State sponsored dumping juggernaut rolls on.

  53. Some 2017 yearly figures from Hepburn wind farm in Australia in A$:
    Nameplate rating: 4.1 MW
    Actual Output: 1.2 MW
    Electricity sales: $618,000
    Income from subsidies: $625,000
    Operating costs: $518,000
    Profit after tax: $634,000
    You can clearly see from the above figures that without the subsidies paid for by long- suffering taxpayers, the wind farm would be barely making any profit.

  54. Load Factor = average load / peak load
    Capacity Factor = actual kWh output / maximum possible kWh output

    In the electricity industry, we refer to a generator’s actual output as Capacity Factor not Load Factor (which is used for loads and also relates to Utilisation Factor for loads – which generators don’t have). Mathematically they are the same but the term Load Factor is incorrect. You’re more convincing when the right terms are used!

    Ps. I know the report uses Load Factor – it takes unnecessarily from its authority.

    Joe

    • Good to know.
      Communication of technical subject matter works best when proper terminology is utilized.
      Thank you Joe!

  55. The notion that wind turbines will all last 25 years and then all die at the same time, based on average lifetime, is a nonsense. When a 10 year old turbine breaks, are you going to repair it if the cost of repair isn’t subsidized? How about if it costs more to repair the turbine than the cost of buying a new, subsidized turbine?

    • In my experience, no machine has a lifetime that is that predictable and consistent.
      If you take ten of pretty much any complex machine, even if they have consecutive serial numbers and are built at the same time by the same person or people, and connected to the same power supply and are all in a row or circle, they will all fail at a different time, although there may be some clustering.
      One or more will fail early unless each component is very highly reliable and conditions are optimum.
      And a few will last longer than can be expected.
      The more moving parts subject to wear and stress, and more complicated the assembly or construction, the more variable and inclement the environmental conditions, the less likely that anything will be particularly predicable and consistent.
      How long after people started making automobiles did a manufacturer come along that built vehicles that were highly reliable and consistently so?
      I think it was not until the Japanese began to use automated production methods sometime in the mid 1980s, perhaps a few years sooner. No lemons, virtually zero warranty issues, not even a light bulb will burn out on some Toyota, Honda, and Nissan models.
      Others may have caught up by now, but for many years, there was nothing else like the reliability these manufacturers achieved.
      But is was no time soon after making automobiles for the first time.

  56. Casper WY is making a fair amount of money selling landfill space for worn out blades.

    https://cowboystatedaily.com/2019/08/07/wind-turbine-blades-being-disposed-of-in-casper-landfill/

    The Casper landfill will soon be the home of more than 1,000 decommissioned wind turbine blades and motor housing units.

    According to Cindie Langston, solid waste manager for the Casper Regional Landfill, the materials will be deposited in an area of the landfill designed to hold construction and demolition material.

    CRL is one of the few landfills with the proper permits and certifications to accept the decommissioned turbine materials.

    The turbine disposal project, which started this summer, is slated to continue until the spring of 2020, bringing the CRL estimated revenue of $675,485. Such “special waste projects” bring in about $800,000 a year, which helps keep CRL rates low, Langston said.

    The wind turbine components are being delivered by InStream Environmental, a company that recycles and disposes of other companies’ waste streams. The company is retrieving the blades from two different wind farm locations.

    Each turbine blade will need between 30 and 44.8 cubic yards of landfill space, using a total of 448,000 cubic yards of the 2.6 million yards set aside for construction and demolition material. The components are made of a fiberglass material that is one of the most inert, non-toxic materials accepted at CRL, Langston said.

    The average lifespan of a wind turbine is 20 to 25 years, and wind farms repurpose and recycle 90 percent of the materials in a wind turbine unit. The only materials not recycled are the fiberglass blades and motor housings. Nationwide, there are nearly 50,000 wind turbines, with 2,700 being decommissioned since the energy boom of the 1970s.

    Researchers at Washington State University are looking for ways to reuse the fiberglass components of aged-out turbines, but no practical commercial applications have yet been found. There is some hope that ground up blades can be used to create building materials, among other things.

  57. Michael Shellenberger – formerly a proponent of wind and solar has written extensively about the environmental nightmare solar and wind bring:

    “But aren’t renewables safer? The answer is no. Wind turbines, surprisingly, kill more people than nuclear plants.

    In other words, the energy density of the fuel determines its environmental and health impacts. Spreading more mines and more equipment over larger areas of land is going to have larger environmental and human safety impacts.”

    https://quillette.com/2019/02/27/why-renewables-cant-save-the-planet/

    My brother a retired engineer who now volunteers at a high desert poppy reserve in California wrote:

    “How can something that reminds me of an eastern Ohio strip mine be as good as it gets? “Something is rotten in the state of Denmark.” After analyzing the data, looking at the pros and cons, and going with my gut feel, I’m thinking this perpetual motion machine is just too good to be true. The current “green power” energy sources that I see are short term thinking at best. I see a not so friendly Eco-mess being left behind. ”

    https://fasmovin.com/f/it-doesnt-look-right

  58. I’m confused.
    Where’s Loydo and Griff to tell us how much cheaper and reliable wind is?
    Why, just look at Ger…er…Aust…er..uh….well someone is doing it cheaply and reliably. After all wind is free.

    • Fraizer,

      You say, “After all wind is free”.

      All energy is free but collecting it so it can do useful work is expensive.

      Fortunately, nature has collected energy and stored it in the forms of fossil fuels and radioactive materials so we only need to remove the energy stores from the ground.

      Richard

  59. Hello Willis.
    I used to read your entertaining blog and it’s good to see you exposing the idiocy of UK policy.

    The Climate Change Committee Report, which seems to be accepted by most British media and politicians, recently proposed that the UK goes ‘carbon’ zero by 2050 or sooner and our departing disaster of a PM had it signed into law before she was dragged away crying.

    They seem to be going against the advice of the late Prof MacKay, who accepted that warming and depletion of supplies of gas, which was to build nukes and run them all the time. I bought his book SEWTHA ten years ago and have insulated my properties using my knowledge as an architect and reduced my bills 50%- very inexpensively. He was above all an honest analyst with great mathematical skills.

    And so, after reading the pile of ignorant nonsense that the chairman Mr Gummer and his highly paid CEO (£320k pa), apparently with qualifications not disclosed, I wrote a piece for a woman’s blog, with figures reduced to a minimum. They still couldn’t understand it, or thought it was boring, and lost interest. Here it is, for grumpy geeks of the type reading your stuff.

    https://www.notion.so/shredded/Has-Gummer-Goofed-5511d6dcf68b43ee9fc5ad41bd744116

  60. This may sound silly, but I think at least some of the decreased efficiency of the wind turbine is due to the blades being deformed from sand in the wind. The blade will assume a less effective pitch over time with the elements working on it as it spins at quite high surface footage speeds.

    Just a thought.

  61. Lifetime extension of onshore wind turbines: A review covering Germany, Spain, Denmark, and the UK

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