On February first I attended a Wyoming Public Service Commission (PSC) meeting regarding public need and public convenience (PNPC) of a purchase and construction of electric generation and transmission assets in southeastern Wyoming. During the seven hours I attended the meeting I provided public comment on three separate topics. However, I spent most of the meeting listening to presentations by Rocky Mountain Power (RMP) and Q&A exchanges between representatives of PacifiCorp, the parent of RMP and the commission. Despite some of the background information being proprietary and not available to the public, there was much to learn in what was made public. A template for the next two decades to make our modern electric grid is becoming clear – details required to make this vision actually work are not made clear, however.
The central focus of this meeting was allowing RMP to justify their acquisition of a wind power plant (Rock Creek I and Rock Creek II) and associated transmission lines and substation modifications it requires to connect to the RMP grid through a build transfer agreement (BTA) with the developer. With the blessing of the PSC, the developer can proceed with purchases of materials and supplies and begin construction.
Let’s be clear about two things
How does the deceptively named Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) impact the spread of renewable energy? This hearing provided an answer. Last fall a number of people suggested here on WUWT and in other places that the prevailing wage demands of the IRA would put the kibosh on renewable energy plants. I crossed my fingers then, but it is quite apparent now that the IRA contains tax subsidies so sweet that it actually encourages renewable energy adoption even though the prevailing wage demands make all these projects more expensive. This is obvious when one sees the enthusiasm of the PacifiCorp and developer of the Rock Creek projects over the opportunities provided by the IRA. On the part of PacifiCorp, they are convinced that benefits will flow through to ratepayers despite Rock Creek I and II being made more expensive by the IRA.
However, subsidies do not make anything less expensive. They simply shift costs from one economic group to another. Furthermore, it is very difficult to figure out who benefits from tax credits. Empirical data shows that vendors manage to capture the tax benefits often because they are in the best position to do so. If you do not believe this, just read the provisions of the IRA dealing with tax credits for purchasing environmentally preferred vehicles (H.R. 5376, Subtitle D, part 4 – clean vehicles).
Finally, despite the executive order signed by Biden enabling this legislation claiming that it will lower energy costs for consumers and encourage good paying union jobs nationwide (E.O. 14082 of Sep 12, 2022), a revealing exchange during the meeting between the PSC and PacifiCorp reveals that no one thinks energy costs will fall. Instead what is being promised is that what rates result from our adventure in energy systems design by voting will be lower than all competing options. How could it be otherwise?
It is a mathematical certainty that if one searches for an optimum in a very constrained space of possibilities the best one can expect is merely a local optimum possibly very far from any global best solution.
Rock Creek I and II
According to projections and modeling by PacifiCorp there will likely be a shortfall of 1,800MW of generating capacity within their service area beginning in 2023, mainly during summer months. This combination of adjacent wind plants Rock Creek I and Rock Creek II, near the town of McFadden, Wyoming represent part of an effort to build or acquire assets to close this deficit. Rock Creek I and II have a combined nameplate rating of 590MW. However, nowhere in the preliminary remarks was any clarification of the difference between nameplate capacity and deliverable capacity. As everyone who visits WUWT knows, wind plants present a large and highly variable difference between the two measures of capacity. Thus in my first public comment I made clear that what 590MW of nameplate capacity means is probably 200MW of deliverable capacity on the basis of an annual average but the actual capacity on any given day, or fraction of a day, could range from zero to perhaps 400MW.
To emphasize the consequences of this variability I appealed to empirical observations regarding the reserve capacity estimations of the Ercot network. Ercot had in 2016 projected year 2019 reserve margins (based on seasonal capacity averages) during the summer to be nearly 20% of system capacity. However, with changes to generating sources, renewables replacing fossil fuel fired assets mainly, the actual 2019 reserve margin had shrunk to less than 9% and on various days was less than 2%.This should have raised alarm bells about possible reserve deficits in future years, and in winter as well as summer, but failed to do so. Nowhere, I pointed out, does empirical data support the notion that addition of so-called renewable energy to an electrical grid ever results in lower prices for consumers.
Late in the meeting, in response to a line of questioning by the PSC, PacifiCorp admitted that purchase of this 590MW of nameplate wind plant would only add somewhere between 59MW and 100MW of real capacity to fill the 1,800MW shortfall. For all their hoopla and fanfare wind plants don’t add much.
The Executive Director of the Albany County Conservancy in her public commentary made a pitch that the external costs of wind power should be made a consideration of costs of power. These externalities are not negligible. They include destruction of viewshed, which even various county ordinances make explicitly clear cannot be mitigated, and hazards to wildlife.
In regard to hazards to wildlife one cannot help but mention Bald and Golden eagles in particular. The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) in an environmental assessment (EIA) dated to December 2022 estimated that the complex of energy facilities within an 89 miles radius of the town of Medicine Bow, Wyoming including some 2,000 square miles of wind plants, operating, permitted and planned would lead to a mortality of some 28% of the local area population (LAP) of Bald eagles. This exceeds the typical take allowed in a incidental taking permit of 5%, but also greatly exceeds an estimated growth of eagle populations across Wyoming in general – a growth enabled by careful management of resources and consideration of hazards during the past 50 years.
Moreover, research conducted by a Laramie-based wildlife biologist calls into question any utility to the idea of a local area population. Through a decade of careful tracking of eagles he has shown that eagles residing for parts of the year in southeastern Wyoming can migrate to western Canada or into Central Mexico over a period of 10 days. The local area population is possibly a North American continental population and these wind plants are right on the flyway.
There are potential impacts to game animals, recreation and tourism, as well as significant threats to employment in the region. The externalities are not negligible.
The PacifiCorp 2021 IRP
The template for this clean grid is PacifiCorp’s 2021 integrated resource plan (IRP). The non-proprietary version of this plan is available here. I see there is now a 2023 version, but the 2021 version seems more complete. Those noteworthy parts of this plan for purposes of the PNPC hearing are:
- Dispatchable assets employing combustion are gone by 2040 and replaced with wind, storage, solar+storage, a great deal of energy efficiency gains, demand side management, a small amount of nuclear and unspecified “non-emitting peaker” plants.
- Storage is listed in terms of MW not MWhr and mainly consists of batteries colocated with solar with a small amount of pumped hydro.
- Modeling is done through Monte Carlo simulation of random draws of a small set of sources from a finite distribution of loads and some unspecified distribution of weather-related disturbances. The modeling effort was largely directed toward obtaining a lowest-cost combination of resources.
- Reliability is evaluated by requiring that suitable model results always managed to achieve a 13% of capacity reserve margin.
Figure 2 is extremely current data showing much about operating an electrical grid containing significant non-dispatchable wind and solar. I used it in my final public comment to introduce a number of questions about the IRP. First, the character of solar is easily visible as the pulses of capacity along the bottom of the graph. Solar takes a couple of hours to ramp up to its full value each day, remains flat for five to six hours then ramps down over a couple hours more. The pulses being different heights reflect variations in weather day to day. These day-to-day variations amount to one third of typical capacity as the difference between the 19th and 21st shows.
PacifiCorp said during testimony that coal plants balance solar, and while Figure 2 shows that coal does curtail slightly on most days as solar capacity rises, it is natural gas plants that provide most of the balance. Figure 2 clearly shows it. Up goes solar capacity; down goes gas. Once I illustrated the clear relationship between gas and solar, I proceeded to show the same was true of wind as balanced against the sum of natural gas, coal and hydro. Apparent clearly is the rising baseline of gas and coal on the early morning of January 19 just as wind is fading away, combined with the decline in coal plus natural gas as wind recovers at mid-day on the 21st. Then again during the morning of the 22nd wind fades again while gas and coal rise to backfill the deficit. On the 22nd I drove past the Roundhouse I wind plant near Cheyenne, Wyoming twice to observe only a few of its turbines turning in the morning, and none turning at all later in the afternoon. Thus, the wind deficit made apparent by motionless blades in the far east of RMP territory is shown by Figure 2 to have extended throughout the entire Northwest. The low point of wind turbine capacity reached on the 30th at mid-day was a paltry 1,600MW or about 5% of regional wind capacity. There was nothing special about this time period – one would expect to see such weather, and such variations in solar and wind, a dozen times during a winter. It ought to be obvious that one cannot run a grid with solar and wind without the balancing capacity of gas and coal, or something like gas and coal.
Many dispatchable assets shown operating in Figure 2 are scheduled for retirement in the near future. Three Wyoming coal fired units (Jim Bridger 1 and 2 and Naughton 3) will be converted to gas peaker plants in 2024 but even these will be retired by 2037. What will replace them is non-emitting peaker plants which are left completely unexplained in the IRP. The IRP also envisions a Natrium 350MW (electric) SMR plant becoming available in western Wyoming in 2028, which seems a bit optimistic for a design not yet approved. Only the Nuscale SMR is presently approved.
What balances solar and wind is storage – mostly batteries colocated with solar plants and a small amount, nearly insignificant compared to the nameplate capacity of wind resources promised, of new pumped hydro. The IRP lists a capacity for the planned storage assets in MW, but not a figure for available energy in MWhr. In my comments I pointed out that without clear language about what is being proposed one cannot determine if the balancing can last 3 hours, or a day, or what is likely needed, many days in a row. The wind deficits shown in Figure 2 go on for days and can be backed-up with coal and gas as long as fuels are delivered or available on site – batteries and pumped hydro lasts only as long as its total storage in MWhr.
Reliability claims are vague in my view, but are built on Monte Carlo simulations. PacifiCorp claims that there is at least a 13% reserve in their lowest cost mix of sources. This seems already slim enough. However, it appears that one-half this reserve exists on the demand side – load shedding in other words.
In addition to their own modeling PacifiCorp did examine Western Electricity Coordinating Council (WECC) Western Assessment of Resource Adequacy Report and the Long-term Resource Adequacy (LTRA) study of the North American Electric Reliability Council (NERC). These assessments date from before the Texas February 2021 fiasco, and one might wonder if they are still relevant. In particular WECC uses a One Day in Ten Years (ODITY) planning threshold, which they believe a 15% reserve margin can meet (note this is above the IRP reserve minimum of 13%). WECC also recommends in portions of the NW region that “…as more variable resources continue to be added to the grid, a larger planning reserve margin may be needed to compensate.”
In addition, in subportions of the NW region there are potentially 200 hours to as many as 4,000 hours per year of potential reliability problems without import of energy from other grid sub portions.
Perhaps PacifiCorp has modeled all the way to a probability of service disruptions of all sorts and this information is proprietary and available only to the PSC. Yet, there is the tendency, groupthink-like, to view climate change as increasing reliability problems in warm months rather than in cold, which is exactly how Ercot was thinking pre-2021. I suggested that PacifiCorp could help their case by demonstrating a reasonable reserve in weather like January, 1963 – pick a most troublesome historical analog and demonstrate reliability.
Reading through the 2021 IRP for PacifiCorp reveals how utilities are hemmed-in by state laws, Federal laws, and the magical thinking of voters. I don’t know if their plans represent the best possible responses to their constraints, but they are sincerely trying. The Q&A between PacifiCorp and the PSC suggests to me the PSC are grappling with this complex problem and trying their best as well. Yet, what I absorbed from the hearing shows that in addition to the constraints being applied there is also some unrealistic group think. The entire process could use many knowledgeable independent critics to help guide it.
Wind turbines seem to me the worst possible way to deliver electrical energy. For the capacity they actually provide they impose costly externalities through destruction of wildlife, scenery, and the unknown cost of failure to show up when needed most; no matter where they are located – onshore or offshore. They require very great amounts of resources in terms of steel, concrete, other highly processed materials, and transportation to build plus the fossil fuels expended to do all this. They impose complications on the operation and maintenance of the grid in addition to a need for other expensive physical assets to run the grid reliably that would not be needed in their absence.
One statement made by PacifiCorp pointed out a final worrisome hazard for Wyoming in particular. Wyoming produces 12% of the U.S. energy supply. Our entire economy is built around energy, fossil fuels overwhelmingly, and extractive industries. This applies to most of the service industry as well. Perhaps government can maintain their own employment with the new energy excise and ad valorem taxes replacing sources of revenue destroyed, but everyone cannot be employed by government in anything other than a make-believe way; the transition time available to make an entirely new economy is very short. In the worst case we will go from the sixth best per capita income to a rival to Mississippi for the lowest.
PacifiCorp stated that the best options for their future grid are solar plus co-located battery storage in Utah and wind plants in Wyoming. This is where the resources are. Given the constraints involved (and potential group think on the part of voters and politicians) no can reasonably think otherwise. What this means is that Wyoming will end up with the worst performing and most costly and destructive portions of the grid. I fear we are the sacrificial state.
1.Implementation of the Energy and Infrastructure Provisions of the Inflation Reduction Act of 2022, A Presidential Document by the Executive Office of the President,
E.O. 14082 of Sep 12, 2022
Section 1 . Background. The Act is the single largest and most ambitious investment in the ability of the United States to advance clean energy, cut consumer energy costs, confront the climate crisis, promote environmental justice, and strengthen energy security, among other vital provisions that will lower costs for families, reduce the deficit, and grow and strengthen the economy. The Act will:…
2. As an example of groupthink, during the Energy Conference I described on WUWT last year I heard many people exclaim that they didn’t want other state’s nuclear waste coming to Wyoming. Yet, a safe and lucrative recycling industry meant to recover the enormous energy potential of spent nuclear materials stored onsite around the U.S. is exactly the sort of opportunity we should pursue. It is anyone’s guess if this might be considered rationally.
They are mad.
They are also planning on MAD (Mutually Assured Destruction).
“They” being the U.S., western Europe, and the Aussies and the Kiwis. The costs and inefficiencies of renewables are assured to crater the economies of those countries.
The rest of the world is not so stupid as to follow us down this MAD path.
If only that were true. Unfortunately, it is really PAD – poor are assured destruction.
As I was reading the article, I was thinking that it was a bit long and that a brief summary would be useful.
Then I saw Stephen Wilde’s brief summary.
Way too long.
I bet even the minutes of the hearing are shorter.
Along the way, I lost interest as well as the point of the post.
Thank you Kevin. Excellent work. The old saying, “Follow the money” sures comes to mind while reading the article.
Nice report from the front lines. So, the wind advocates:
And the commission ignored these ignored factors, of which had they been semi-literate should have brought them up themselves.
I don’t know that the PSC considered or ignored anything until a decision has been made, but I suspect an approval and their written justification will indicate what factors they believed to be important.
How would anyone in RMP’s position characterize the capacity factors? One could say zero and be correct or nearly so a fair portion of time — yet how could anyone expect approval by saying zero? I thought the RMP and PacifiCorp folks were more straightforward than I have observed in any public meeting by suggesting only a 10% capacity factor.
The externalities is where the future battle will focus. You are right to call this intermittancy an externality. The Dallas Fed put the cost of the Ercot disaster at 130 billion (USD).
Agree. There are two big grid externalities that the pure wind players avoid, both of which PSC as a grid operator has to confront:
Maybe the IRA is so sweet they don’t care.
The intermittency of wind and solar, combined with the regulatory environment giving “renewables” preference, could not present a more perfect “block” for a capital-heavy but potentially cheap and reliable source such as nuclear in either its present form or any probable future incarnation.
Is that a coincidence or was it a long-range intent? Right now, flexible natural gas powered generators are the only thing keeping the lights on along the west coast.
It all sounds” good” on paper to leftists who know nothing about climate science or grid engineering. Until the Flounder Limit is reached, which will differ for each electric utility, depending on local weather conditions.
Never mind the Pollock Limit — wrong fish. The Flounder Limit will be difficult to predict but it will be reached. when an electric grid flounders with a rolling blackout or unplanned blackout. And when a Flounder Limit is exceeded more than once or twice in a nation, with blackouts, politicians who promoted Nut Zero will be in trouble.
The Flounder Limit is the percentage of unreliables that make a local electric utility susceptible to blackouts. The grid involved has become unmanageable and will not withstand very unfavorable conditions, such as low wind and low solar energy, at peak electricity demand hours. Nut Zero will be defeated by the Duck Curve,
Hardly so. They will blame it on Republicans in general and Trump supporters in particular plus racism, gender inequality ,and who know how many other targets of the day. And they will get away with it , including receiving the full support of all true believers.
I need a better definition of “grid inertia”.
In a traditional grid it is the flywheel energy stored in the attached generators and motors. When supply and demand start to go out of balance then generators respond by slowing down (shortfall) or speeding up (surplus), with some of the inertia converted to extra amps. However, the frequency drops or rises. It is then important to adjust the fuel balance to restore the supply/demand balance, otherwise frequency can wander too far, which threatens mechanical damage to generators that are designed to spin under load at a constant rpm with oscillations that could cause destructive vibrations well damped: to avoid damage, generators trip offline. However the inertia gives a vital few seconds to respond, and allows for the delayed response.
Grid inertia is usually reported in GVAs, which is a unit of energy (power =volts x amps, x seconds is energy). An alternative is to relate it to the level of power demand, so inertia/demand has units of seconds. A traditional grid probably runs at 7-10 seconds of inertia: you could think of it as the length of time the grid could operate if ALL the fuel were cut and it continued to meet demand by running down inertia. High renewables grids are now operating at down to 3 seconds or so, which gives little time for reaction, compounded by the fact that neither wind nor solar provide useful inertia or response capability. This is where grid batteries come in: they are able to switch rapidly to inject or withdraw power to help keep the grid balanced. If they can’t cope, then the defence is to impose some power cuts before the grid collapses.
I wonder if they are considering the capacity factor to equate to…
35% capacity factor…
35% of nameplate being produced 100% of the time
100% of nameplate being produced, at most, 35% of the time
…(likely with 0% usable generation being produced 65% of the time)
Avery nice distinction. Both are disasreous.
The capacity factor they used in their financial projections was proprietary and not available to the few of us there as public parties. It might be very site specfic. I first mentioned to the commission 1/3 as a yearly average, but as I noted, there are days near zero or even zero. They mentioned capacity as a resource of 10-20% which suggests they even discount the annual average in some way, which I think is smart, but it still doesn’t get to the issue of having nada when it’s really needed.
Little or no electricity 60% of the time for bird and bat shredders. For solar panels, decent output only 25% of the time from 10am to 4pm, minus effects of clouds.
What a way to ruin an electric grid ! Of course leftists ruin everything they touch — why would electric grids be an exception? It seems like Communist China is in charge of redesigning the US electric grids … for their benefit.
The only comments mentioned in the article about “externalities” were some destructive environmental effects and the effects on landscape. From the viewpoint of advocates, the huge cost of equipment and operations necessary to make wind and solar work at all are unrelated externamities, not really part of the “clean energy” dream.
Monte Carlo simulation for renewables is an absolute no-no. The problem is that such simulations are based on mimicking very short term correlation behaviour between the variables. It utterly fails to capture the longer term features of weather – periods of Dunkelflaute lasting days or even weeks, a “bad year” for renewables output, etc. By way of very simple illustration I downloaded the daily generation data for PACE for a year from the EIA, and simplified by ignoring interconnection. Since hydro is a small part of the picture I ignored that as a balancing resource, and simply looked at multiples of the existing wind and solar against total generation as a proxy for demand, which totals about 56.5TWh over the year. If you tried to meet demand with just wind, solar and batteries (ignoring intra day fluctuations) you would need 3 times the wind and about 6.7 times the solar, and 5.4TWh of batteries (assuming a generous 80% round trip efficiency) for a zero curtailment solution with 1.7TWh of round trip losses through the batteries. Other variations require more expensive batteries. The storage use is highly seasonal, relying on low demand in late winter and spring to fill to meet summer demand when wind generation collapses. See chart.
You can cut the requirement for storage at the expense of overbuild and curtailment. Doubling the capacity gets you close to a 100% renewables solution without storage (99.7%), but of course it doubles the average cost of power, with half of it being curtailed.
A multi year analysis, conducted at a more detailed hourly level would show these figures are significant underestimates. A period of winter Dunkelflaute would soon make the requirements for overbuild or storage shoot up.
All good points. Thank you.
Confirmation bias aided by money to be made from subsidies and guaranteed financial returns on bird and bat shredder investments! This has nothing to do with climate science or grid engineering.
Mandates + subsidies + censorship of other opinions = fascism
Don’t you see the endgame? Wyoming’s power is cheap and comparing it to jurisdictions with lotsa wind will expose how expensive they are. The alarmists urgently need to make Wyoming’s power more expensive by adding wind and solar so as not to embarrass other jurisdictions. Wouldn’t want a repeat of what is obvious now in Europe, so best to install wind everywhere:
I wish I’d had that graph at the meeting. What drove the cost calculations away from fossil fuel fired plants were assumptions that regulators and politicians, or voters if you will, will impose a penalty like social cost of carbon on these assets and that makes wind+solar cheaper. It would probably embarrass wind+solar to have coal as a competitor far into the future but it actually seems that worry about political risk is the determining factor.
They update it every couple of years:
The single biggest change is the UK which was at about 21.7/kWH back in 2019 and now is at 52.4/kWH you would need to extend the chart by another 4 lines at the top to get from 35 – 40 – 45 – 50 – 55 just so the UK could still fit.
Proof positive of what a Bad Domestic Energy Policy can do to energy prices.
as Rud pointed out you still need the fossil fuel plants as well. Adding cost to fossil fuel plants with a carbon tax is sheer financial nonsense. The consumer suffers as does industrial and comercial competitiveness.
And quite how they expect the grid to still function if the plan is to eleiminate them by 2040?
This graph is out of date. But it is also misleading in that a lot of the variation is due to taxes, rather than the cost of generating electricity. Here is a more recent one (in euros) showing the tax components:
In fact Germany is no longer way out in front, with or without tax. They have weathered the gas price rise fairly well. Denmark excluding tax is also not way out in front.
Nice try Nick. So Denmark and Germany are high instead of outrageous, that’s your point? In your own graph, are there ANY high wind/solar (taxes removed) on the low end of the scale? So if we accept your graph at face value, wind and solar “only” make things 2X or 3X and you think impacting the most vulnerable amongst us that way is OK?
What kind of monster are you?
And here Nick is the members only page where big wind scoops EU subsidies into their coffers. Where are the subsidies in your chart NICK?
Big Wind and Big Solar are filthy with subsidies, tax breaks, credits, feed in mandates, every form of lucre that there is. Put those back into the mix before bloviating about taxes. Bid Wind and Big Solar would not exist without government intervention because they are the worst ways to power a grid there is.
What really p*sses me off about you Nick is that you’ve demonstrated more than enough technical knowledge to know that, yet you persist in dragging discussions of course with superficial comments that nonetheless require debunking. You’re frequently first up to comment on technical threads, you constantly divert discussiosn off course, and you provide just enough technical information to show that you know better.
When a numpty with no physics says the GHE doesn’t exist I forgive them their ignorance. When another numpty says we’re all gonna die if we don’t lock down the population and reduce living standards to stone age I forgive them for their ignorance. YOU however, I do NOT forgive because you’ve demonstrated that you know better.
“Where are the subsidies in your chart NICK?”
It, like the old FOS chart, shows the price of electricity to consumers. It is not specific to wind.
But there is some subsidy, shown by the tax component. NL has a large negative tax. They subsidise electricity of any origin, directly. DK, on the other had, taxes it.
Again, nice try. You know very well that wind and solar raise the cost of running the grid, yet you obfuscate at every turn. Subsidising electricity “of any origin” is just a clever way to cover up the fact that wind and solar are raising costs. Ontario does the same. The subsidy is there BECAUSE of the additional costs of wind and solar and only clever accounting hides that fact.
“to cover up the fact that wind and solar are raising costs.”
No, it’s a very explicit response to the huge rise in the cost of fossil fuels.
The same relationship existed in the previous version of the graph from before Covid and the run up in the price of fossil fuels so once again.. no.
When it gets to your bill it is the cost of electricity, period.
Thanks Nick, I appreciate graphs/data.
It seems strange that the UK, aside from Ireland, isn’t on that graph.
Actually it is, which shows how old the graph is.
“The line implies that …” wealthier nations can pay more for inelastic resources.
‘Wind turbines seem to me the worst possible way to deliver electrical energy.’
That appears to be so. I recently did a back of the envelope calculation on PJM hourly wind generation during 2022 – – it’s anti-correlated with load, meaning that the hourly variance (in MW) of load net of wind is actually higher than that for the load by itself. Toss in the fact that wind output is also much less predictable than hourly load alone, and you’ve got a mess. By analogy to financial risk management, if you were short load, you’d also want to be short wind to minimize your risk…
If you think about it, the anti-correlation likely exists in all localities. The weather systems that bring uncomfortable heat in summer and deep cold in winter are continental scale high pressure which are also without wind. Occasionally we get wind with very cold arctic air but not often.
+ an arctic cold front usually pulls in a blizzard with winds so high they have to shut down the windmills for safety. What an insane way to generate electricity!
Good point. To be fair, my analysis also indicated that solar is correlated with load, so there is some reduction in hourly load net of solar variance up to a point. The greatest benefit, with respect to variance from solar is at 88% of current solar output and there’s still some benefit at 100% of current output. But somewhere between 100% and 200% of current solar output the net variance exceeds that of load by itself.
Btw, I have no idea what wind and solar nameplate is within PJM, but they only contributed 4.0% and 1.1%, respectively toward PJM’s metered load in 2022.
10 yard penalty for mentioning typical weather conditions when discussing weather dependent energy sources. That is not allowed. Keep this up and there will be a visit from the Joe Bidet FBI.
How were your comments received, Kevin?
I felt the comments were taken very positively. The commission appreciated having public input other than the “I’m a retiree and please don’t raise rates!” sort of input.
I would suggest several SMR plants and just go nuke.
“it’s the only way to be sure”
I like nuclear. Occasionally someone makes the mistake of asking me how I would handle the situation. Then I tell them…
‘Stop burning natural gas to make electricity; it is too valuable as building heating and chemical feedstock to put up with the thermal losses.’
Could say something similar about oil – it’s too valuable for use in transportation, space heating and, of course, as a chemical feedstock, to use as base load generation, although resid worked pretty well in a number of urban areas until the ‘troubles’ began.
Except for the humongous waste disposal and toxic chemical cleanup.
I agree, AndyHce. The landfill near Casper is going to become a soil covered mountain of chopped up blades and nacelles.
Some chopped up blades are being recycled into cement making, though this is in its infancy. A search for wind turbine blades recycled for cement brings up a number of sites.
This seems to be the solution proposed for many kinds of waste, grind it up and use it in road beds and such. Aside from similar projects, like using the bodies of slaves as fill for building huge walls, does this not assume the whatever the fill is being used for is a permanent structure? In many possible projects it seems more like just shifting the problem to the next generation.
There are treatments such as transformation in plasma, which has a number of different approaches
but they seem to me to be very energy intensive. They have a certain similarity to making hydrogen and then considering it an energy source when in fact it is a great energy waste. Hydrogen produced for industrial process or other uses that depend on hydrogen per se, not as a means to supposedly produce less CO2, are a different matter as their aim is something useful that cannot be done less expensively.
Yes, I know that report suggests the process can result in net energy production and earn money rather than just bury it. It may be worth pilot projects to prove that possibility but certainly not just nilly willy adoption like wind turbines.
Great report. One of the clearest written articles on the current fantasy program of the Biden administration.
With the Bidet Maladministration, Kilty might have to wear a dress, blonde wig and lipstick to get attention. And I don’t know if he has the legs for high heels. A normal white male = forget it — he’s just a wind denier!
Never fail to bring a smile, RG.
You can put a blonde wig, lipstick and a dress on a pig but it’s still a pig.
The Bald and Golden Eagle Act of 1940 makes it a Federal Crime to possess even a single eagle feather, with first offense of a fine up to $100,000 and up to one year in prison. Indigenous groups can apply for an exemption due to use of eagle feathers in ceremonies. The Windmill Eagle Killers can chop up eagles (and anything else that flies) with a yearly taking quota. This is Tyranny.
I don’t know how “Rachael Carson Branch” of Big Green justify this.
They might as well subsidize and mandate DDT!
Well wind turbines do kill trillions of flying insects every year. In some places this might include mosquitoes so the RC Branch will be carrying on the “good” work!
They lost me at “viewshed.”
Without verified hourly performance data from already developed sources, in multiples of watts per hour, it is all a shell game and fakery. 13% reserve is most obviously false.
Figure 1 shows disturbance to viewshed. The photo shows northern part of the Laramie range from just north of Medicine Bow, Wyoming. Without all the turbines in the way a person would describe it as a “vista”. Not now. The City of Laramie and Albany County use the viewshed provided by the Medicine Bow mountains to our west on their webpages, letterhead, etc. What residents and visitors may eventually see, however, are wind turbines marring the view.
The 13% seems arbitrary. Roger Caiazza and I correspond occasionally and he pointed out to me that the New York Systems Reliability Council is suggesting 200% reserve once all combustion assets are gone by 2050.
Thanks. My comment was ill considered. I think that we are in agreement that they are an eyesore. The word viewshed itself seems like unitless and immeasurable double-talk, and prone to be either stolen and repurposed or deprecated by the opposition.
The horrible damage to wildlife is probably a better argument.
Agreed that the NY council, as described by Caiazza and Menton, seems to be relying, unchecked, on overblown figures. I suspect the reserve “13%” for other reasons. I don’t believe that the numbers are arbitrary, but that the promoters are using different marketing strategies. Consider that neither group expects to be challenged, and likely will not produce the data for examination.
“once all combustion assets are gone by 2050.” To be revisited in 2049. Maybe we’ll have flying cars?
I was termed a denier on LinkedIn yesterday as I pointed out that here in little Alberta of 4.5 million people we have an 11GW grid load and we have close to 5GW of installed wind and solar which provide “net Zero” much of the time.
Electrification implies tripling the grid load, to 33GW assuming no economic growth.
Solar is a joke up here so with wind AESO shows 1/3 availability so you need 99GW, call it 100 for fun just for base load.
That means 20,000 5mw wind turbines, each requiring 100tons of concrete and 10 tons of rebar, so x20k that is 2 million tons of concrete and 200,000 tons of rebar.
Then because it all goes flat for a week at a time in winter we need 33 x 24 x 7 5500GWHR battery back up, a battery that if we could build it would cause a black hole to form after it deforms the earths crust.
And yes, I underestimated needed quantities in all of this.
Clown show forever.
What did they say you were denying Pat?
Got it – this had been a numbers question before edits – “we need 33 x 24 x 7 5500GWHR battery back up,” The 33 is for the 33GW grid load
Kudos Kevin for attending and commenting at that meeting. I couldn’t do it. It is critical for someone like you who understands the language of power generation and regulators. What is really needed however is a translator to define in real time exactly what these people are saying. Much of the language you used explaining to us what happened at the meeting is absolutely correct but to the average guy is vague and not easily understood. The most important thing to remember is that we have to communicate to the average guy. My suggestion is to use a glossary defining all technical terms in plain English for every presentation or report. It should be posted and referred to throughout the presentation or report. Even something like dispatchable needs to be explained or defined in plain language.
Great report. Be happy to buy you lunch next time you’re in the neighborhood. (Sadly, I can see Roundhouse from my yard.) I need coaching on how to influence state government, as well as the regulatory agencies. Thanks again, for the news from the trenches.
Good suggestion about lunch. I wish I knew how to influence state government also.
Become a billionaire. Money talks. Facts and logic are an inconvenience, at best.
I don’t know if you are able to access my email via my membership in the enlisted on the WUWT site, but if so, feel free to contact me directly. I’m in the southwest this week, headed for Casper and Gillette next week, and North Carolina the following week; but after that I should get a week at home.
Why random draws? Why not a loop through all possible loads, and plot the output versus input to understand the behavior? If necessary, select most probable, worst case, and best case weather scenarios.
Usually because the parameter space is so large (of such high dimension) and the computations behind calculating the objective are complex. Possibly there are integrations involved to produce marginal distributions of interest and these integrals can’t be done analytically in closed form…
This is a brilliant, detailed article that immediately made my daily list of the best 12 to 24 climate and energy articles I read each day, at:
Honest Climate Science and Energy
I want to thank any readers here who visited my new free no ads blog, launched on January 25, 2023, with only one person knowing the URL that day: Me. After 5,000 page views so far. I hope the climate science and energy articles I recommend, like this one, get all the attention they deserve.
The only change I would recommend for this article is to start with the conclusion, by relocating a paragraph near the end of the article to the beginning. That paragraph starts with: “Wind turbines seem to me the worst possible way to deliver electrical energy. … “
An article title should get people interested by summarizing the article. The first paragraph should be the conclusion, or a summary. The rest of the article should defend the conclusion, or summary. The goal is to convey the message quickly because some people will not read the whole article. With a complicated article like this one, that “start with the conclusion” strategy could be especially useful.
I thank Kevin Kilty for being on the front lines trying to defeat the Nut Zero insanity,
Nice collection of articles, Richard!
To summarise the public inquiry into the expansion of weather dependent energy systems being loaded onto the electricity grid.
” We are proposing to increase the number of unreliable electricity generation options. We are also building back up generation/storage alternatives, to cover the regular occasions when the unreliable installations do not produce any electricity.”
The alternative option, i.e. continue using reliable constantly available, none weather dependent electricity generation has been banned by federal law.
This report mentions observations of numerous turbines not turning.
Comments in another recent article about wind turbines
makes clear statements that the large axles and bearing of wind turbine generators will be seriously damaged if left still for very long. Auxiliary electric power must be used to turn the turbines when the wind does not. This probably would show up as slowly turning blades unless the blades can be decoupled from the generators during times of such operation. Were the turbine blades reported here actually not turning or merely turning more slowly than useful for producing electricity?
Probably turning so slowly that I could not resolve such from completely still from my moving car. However the output is either zero or slightly negative. Not helpful in either case.
100% spot on. Everything you’ve said here is common sense widely known by the engineering planners in the utility industry.
The regulators typically don’t have the resources to have any idea. And the engineers from utilities don’t speak at these things. Business people do.
One minor note for improvement: maybe look for data on wind and solar performance during peak load periods. It tends to be worse than average. The wind blows less during the hottest parts and coldest parts of the hottest and coldest days. The sun doesn’t shine at when it is snowing, or when people get crank up the AC to cool their house to a lower temperature for bedtime on the hottest days.
Renewables aren’t non-coincident with peak load hours, they are anti-coincident with peak load hours. This makes their capacity contribution nearly zero, and sometimes negative.
I consider myself as a layman, when it comes to the subject of renewables, and understanding many of the nuances of the presentation, is a minefield. Whereas Kevin has a good understanding and able to raise relevant questions and highlight inconsistencies.
So, it makes me wonder, just how many people who attended the event truly understood, what they were being told and the implications of the strategy.
Were there no $ figures quoted? I am curious what the wind install costs were projected to be, as well as the wind+storage, solar+storage, and SMR costs estimates are.
Rate setting is part of a completely different hearing. This was a hearing to get permission to engage in some expensive construction.
Unless the rate setting hearing already took place, this sounds like a hearing to get a “blank check” to go ahead?
Good post, Kevin.
Interesting that the experts candidly predicted a real capacity factor of more like 10% for their own windmills while we skeptics, trying to be fair, usually assume something like 30%.
which I reviewed on Manhattan Contrarian’s post of 4 Feb shows the dramatic impact of IRA subsidies on the estimated LCOE for solar, dropping it (courtesy of the taxpayer) from $41 to $22 per MWh. Only with subsidies does this fall below the marginal cost of existing coal plants. Presumably similar impacts on wind, which the article didn’t go into, but if the LCOE is not based on true, fair estimates of capacity factor, all costs will in reality be much higher.
Thanks, Leslie. I always appreciate your commentary at Manhattan Contrarian.
When people are making stuff up at max speed, adding dollar signs throws gas on the fire. Glad they did not.
Looking at Figure 2, it’s easy to put some numbers around solar panels, though turbines are more difficult to define.
Add up your total monthly annual energy bill – gasoline + electrical + heating. A fair number is about $500. If you don’t like my numbers, use your own.
That works out to about $16.7 dollars per day. If you spent that much on electricity (the average US cost is about a dime per kW-h) that comes to about 167 kW-h/day. 167,000 W-Hr. per day, or 33,000 W-hr. per hour of available sun.
That would take 2,222 sq-ft of solar panels at 15 Watts per sq.-ft. – the best on the market.
However, you would have to store that energy overnight. The average EV has at least $10,000 cost in batteries in it, and they store about 67 kW-h of electricity. It would take 2.5 of these batteries to store the 167 kW-h of energy for when you need it.
This gets you through ONE SUNY DAY!
You need to double the 2,222 sq-ft. of solar panels and2.5 EV batteries if you want to make it through a cloudy day. Add that much more if you have 2 cloudy days in a row.
If you want to make it through the winter forget about it! There is no known technology that will do that.
Interesting way to look at this issue.
Novel approach and quite illustrative. I was going to quibble that you don’t need to store the entire 167 kW-h in a battery because some you use while it’s being generated. But then I realized that peak demand is early morning and late afternoon and evening, outside the peak sun…so in fact you really do need to store almost all that electricity from 4 p.m. till 10 a.m., 18 h. Will there be enough in the battery at dawn to heat water and cook breakfast while keeping the fridge running and the EV charged up for a sun-up start to the day? Well done. That’s why solar is useless for residences. Daytime businesses have to be ready to run before peak sun and the world doesn’t stop at 5 just because the civil servants do.
That’s only your own direct residential use of energy. There is also the energy embedded in everything you buy and use. Everyone who grows and makes stuff is going to be trying to find enough space for enough solar panels to power their processes, too.
Kevin, this is a very well done report. I have some random thoughts to add.
Northwest Power and Conservation Council, 2027 Resource Adequacy Assessment
From their website:
Reading through the Council’s assessment, it is apparent that storm clouds are developing on the horizon. Much of the coal-fired generation capacity which now serves the region is likely to be retired early without full replacement. Wind and solar will cover a part of the required new generation, but energy conservation must cover any gaps.
Looking at the politics of the situation, I will surmise that the Council’s technical staff is not yet in a position to say the words out loud in clear and unambiguous terms — we’ve got a problem developing, possibly a very serious problem.
Integrated Resource Planning (IRP)
In 2023, low-level integrated resource planning for the power grid is handled by the individual power utilities which supply and operate the grid. PacifiCorp’s IRP is an example.
But there is this problem. Transforming the power grid for a Net Zero future is a multi-megaproject effort. The level of planning coordination needed among the various power utilities and power transmission organizations to achieve Net Zero is enormous.
The resource planning needed to create a Net Zero power grid is so large and so complex, and the level of coordination needed is so extensive, that leaving detailed IRP activities in the hands of the individual utilities and power transmission organizations isn’t realistic.
Net Zero requires that a central IRP organization be established for each of the three major power transmission interconnections, and that each centralized IRP organization must have the authority to enforce its planning decisions on the individual utilities and power transmission organizations within its scope of responsibility.
Small Modular Reactors and Nuclear Fuel Reprocessing for Wyoming
TerraPower’s target of 2028 for its Natrium SMR reactor is hopelessly optimistic. 2032 or even 2035 is a more realistic target given all the work which must be accomplished to get a reactor design as ambitious as the Natrium into commercial operation.
Reprocessing of commercial spent nuclear fuel in the US is a long way off. However, we are already engaged in two major nuclear-chemical processing operations for purposes of vitrifying the radioactive chemical wastes left over from defense nuclear weapons production.
Nuclear waste vitrification is the closest thing to spent fuel reprocessing one can do without actually doing spent fuel reprocessing. Two major vitrification plants are presently in, or about to enter, production operation in the US. One is located at the Savannah River Site in South Carolina, the other is located at the Hanford Site in Washington State.
Each of these two DOE sites already has possibly 80% of the nuclear-chemical processing infrastructure needed to reprocess commercial spent nuclear fuel. The addition of a fuel separation plant to each of those DOE sites could easily cover any US spent fuel reprocessing needs which might emerge in the future.
In any case, we will not be reprocessing our stock of spent nuclear fuel anytime in the next twenty to thirty years. We aren’t running out of nuclear fuel; our spent fuel is perfectly safe staying right where it is; and it will remain safe for another hundred years or more. We have plenty of time to decide what we want to do with it.
Multi-billion Dollar Mega Projects
The Empire Center for Public Policy has an article concerning multi-billion dollar megaprojects and why 90% of them blow their original budget and schedule by factors of three, four, and five times. New York State’s 2019 climate act involves twelve or more multi-billion dollar megaprojects. Roger Caiazza adds his thoughts here.
The Center lists some of these New York State megaprojects:
— The build-out of electric vehicle charging infrastructure;
— Transitioning the state’s school buses to all electric;
— Transitioning the state’s public transit buses to all-electric;
— Promotion of smart-growth for mobility-oriented (biking and walking) development.
— Electrifying 85 percent of residential/commercial space by 2050;
— Achieving 70 percent renewable electricity by 2030;
— Developing 6 megawatts of battery storage;
— Building 9,000–18,000 megawatts of offshore wind;
— Building the grid for renewable energy transmission;
— The overall agricultural and forestry portion of the CLCPA Scoping Plan;
— Achieving dramatic reductions in the amount of solid waste being produced and disposed of;
— Decarbonizing the statewide natural gas distribution system;
We can add to this list a variety of very expensive and very time-consuming energy efficiency initiatives. How many megaprojects would it take to achieve Net Zero for the United States as a whole? A hundred? Two hundred? Three hundred?
The Department of Energy’s loan office has a rough estimate that achieving Net Zero for the US requires ten trillion dollars to be spent between now and 2050. But is the true figure 30 trillion? Or 40? Or 50?
BB, I always appreciate your insights, and carefully consider what you have to say. In Wyoming the responsibility to provide for reliability is given to the PSC along with rate setting. We could probably use an independent reliability council.
I too think 2028 for the Natrium reactor is far too optimistic. I am more disappointed by what you say about PNWL and Idaho National lab handling the waste reprocessing. I see Wyoming as just getting beat with the dirty end of the stick over all this, and, well resent isn’t too strong a word, having such a huge fraction of our economy wantonly destroyed. I would love to have something big and important to turn to.
I cannot fully understand why the rush to close coal plants early, but PacifiCorp points to the near term closing of these plants as a rationale for hurrying up with building wind plants. They have initiated the early closing of plants they own, outright and in partnerships. Self fulfilling urgency I guess.
One great concern for me is ending up with a system having to be so overbuilt and complex that even were it completed we wouldn’t be able to capitalize its costs as a perpetuity. Individuals are sometimes bankrupted by owning expensive and poorly performing assets. I know a few. Nations too. Look at 1690s Scotland and the Darien fiasco.
Thanks for the info and comments.
Kevin, you ask the question, why would PacifiCorp be on board with the early retirement of Wyoming’s coal plants? Why are they pushing so hard for wind and solar? Here are three reasons:
— A firm public policy decision has been made to eliminate most of America’s coal-fired generation by 2030, and all of it by 2035. This policy decision is being implemented through state-legislated mandates and through aggressive anti-carbon regulations at the federal level.
— For those power utilities which get on board with Net Zero, the transition away from coal offers good profit making opportunities for harvesting federal subsidies through a process of Green New Deal asset churn. Those utilities would be foolish not to make use of these opportunities.
— Most electricity consumers have drunk the Kool-aid that wind and solar is cheaper. The voting public is on board with the Green New Deal and with Net Zero and has no understanding of the serious implications for the future cost and future reliability of our electricity supply by eliminating coal-fired and gas-fired generation from the grid.
PacifiCorp is a subsidiary of Berkshire Hathaway Energy and has customers in California, Oregon, and Washington. PacifCorp and all the other utilities which serve those three states are under strict state legislated mandates to eliminate their reliance of most sources of coal-fired generation by 2030, and all coal-fired sources by 2035.
Berkshire Hathaway Energy has other subsidiaries which serve other states. All of these subsidiaries are under zero-carbon mandates of one kind or another, and all of them are in a position to harvest federal subsidies for wind and solar.
Another question — will the Wyoming PSC put the brakes on the Net Zero transition for the power generation assets which are under its jurisdiction?
Probably not. The political pressure to ‘go with flow’ of the Net Zero transition is too strong to overcome. The Wyoming PSC is likely to approve the initial construction of any and all wind and solar farms proposed for Wyoming, using the initial low-ball cost estimates as their justification.
The PSC and its members cannot allow themselves to be seen as roadblocks to making Net Zero progress.
Once construction of these wind and solar farms has begun, and the predictable cost overruns and schedule delays begin to roll in, the Wyoming PSC will approve any and all future rate increases needed to cover the true costs of the Net Zero transition.
As I’ve said earlier, the internal technical staffs of the Northwest Power and Conservation Council and of all the utilities which serve our region certainly have to know what the implications are for the near-term elimination of coal-fired generation from the energy mix — higher costs for electricity and less of it.
I would encourage you to continue your efforts at publicly voicing the concerns of those many knowledgeable people behind the scenes who are not in a position to speak the truth themselves.
“Comrade Commissar, how will we hang the owners of capital when we have no money to buy rope?” asked the chairman of the workers’ committee.
“Not to worry, Comrade Chairman. The capitalists will compete to offer us the best terms to lend it to us.”
I won’t stop trying to educate, but you will note that what you say here are generally points I made in the essay. I could surmise that this is what is afoot. What I don’t understand is how this will actually happen since it all violates so many well established rules of goverance in the U.S.
“a revealing exchange during the meeting between the PSC and PacifiCorp reveals that no one thinks energy costs will fall“. Happily, gasoline was down about 25% yoy at my nearest pump this morning.
“destruction of viewshed” Viewshed? Many here could coin a better word for it, but please don’t. It might catch on.
“assets employing combustion are gone by 2040″ Far enough out to ignore or forget until 2039.
“and replaced with wind, storage, solar+storage” Maybe something will change in 15 years? Wierd if it didn’t.
“a great deal of energy efficiency gains, demand side management” Demand side management? I think that might mean shutting off my air conditioner without asking.
“a small amount of nuclear and unspecified “non-emitting peaker” plants.” A small amount of nuclear would solve the whole problem, though probably create new problems to schedule meetings about.
“The entire process could use many knowledgeable independent critics to help guide it.”
NoooooOOOOoooOOOoOooooOooooo! That’s code words for semi-retired 70+y/o power industry veterans looking to suplement the retirement plan.
In case Im not the only dummy…
“In the renewable energy sector, a dunkelflaute (German: [ˈdʊŋkəlˌflaʊtə], lit. ’dark doldrums’ or ‘dark wind lull’) is a period of time in which little or no energy can be generated with wind and solar power, because there is neither wind nor sunlight. In meteorology, this is known as anticyclonic gloom.”
Again, for the less versed…
“Advanced Small Modular Reactors (SMRs) are envisioned to vary in size from tens of megawatts up to hundreds of megawatts, can be used for power generation, process heat, desalination, or other industrial uses. SMR designs may employ light water as a coolant or other non-light water coolants such as a gas, liquid metal, or molten salt.”
I lived in the Seattle area for a while and have been enjoying the coverage of power out there. I knew someone who was involved in getting a coal plant in Idaho shut down. Their official power plan is a joke – more concerned with ‘equity’ than providing power. It’s nice that they have hydro in the area or they’d be in real trouble a lot sooner.