07 October 2012

Big Wind Energy: A Green Fantasy of Destruction

Leftist greens fantasise of replacing all nuclear and fossil fuel power plants with big wind farms and big solar energy arrays. But there is a huge problem with that approach, which if pursued will lead to a drastic reduction in available electric power and a general impoverishment of any society that proceeds too far.

The most that big wind, for example, can safely contribute to a modern power grid, is between 6% and 20%, at the most.
The analysis reported in this study indicates that 20% would be the extreme upper limit for wind penetration...

Very high wind penetrations are not achievable in practice due to the increased need for power storage, the decrease in grid reliability, and the increased operating costs. Given these constraints, this study concludes that a more practical upper limit for wind penetration is 10%.... _Reason Foundation

The Korchinski Report "The Limits of Wind Power" (PDF)

...wind turbines by themselves do not add electrical capacity to a grid. They must be paired with other generators of equivalent power to compensate for wind variations and for the stability of the electricity grid.

This pairing—wind and backup—has limits because of the huge rapid variability of wind that must be compensated for by the backup power source. It is estimated that this pairing can account for only 20 percent of the capacity of the grid. This means that wind can be only 6 percent of the generation (.20 x .3). This limit has already been reached in Europe by countries such as Germany and Denmark. _Ulrich Decher PhD

In addition to Germany and Denmark, other countries under EU environmental laws and regulations -- including the UK -- are in danger of entering the blackout zone via a green dysfunction of faux environmental zeal.

Al Fin began his exploration of energy with a strong a priori belief in support of both big wind and big solar energy. In the course of teaching himself about energy, he assisted a number of installations of home-scale wind, solar, and micro-hydro systems. These projects were educational as well as fun. People who are willing to work to build off-grid small scale power can be fun to be around, and often know how to party.

But there is a huge difference between using wind (and solar) for off-grid residencies, and attempting to use large-scale wind as a large proportion of total energy generating capacity for a finely balanced continental power grid. That is the lesson that Al Fin had to learn, and which modern societies must now learn -- before they destroy themselves in pursuit of impossibilities.

Good intentions can make one feel good about himself, but hard-headed, knowledge-based policy is what will keep a society prosperous and healthy. Green policies -- such as the lefty-Luddite green dieoff.orgiast policies promoted by the US Obama administration, the Julia Gillard government in Australia, or any one of a number of European governments (and the EU in general) -- will eventually destroy a society through energy starvation and impoverishment. Such societies eventually pollute the air, water, and soil in far more damaging ways than societies which were allowed by prosperity to move up the energy technology curve -- eventually arriving at safe, clean, and abundant sources of reliable and predictable power supplies.

Ideological efforts to short-circuit that trajectory of development -- such as modern green leftist ideologies -- will doom any societies which adopt them to ultimate failure.

Wind energy is unpredictably intermittent -- and thus unreliable. It is also enormously expensive in terms of materials, land, money, and other scarce resources.

Big wind will take any problem you are trying to solve -- and make it worse.

The renewable energy industry cannot survive without massive government handouts and stimulus. As economic slowdowns settle over Europe, the US, China, etc., governments can not afford to be as generous to big wind and big solar as in the heady days of economic booms and bubbles. Consequently, the renewables industry is beginning to suffer.

It is fine to hold strong opinions. But make sure that they are backed up with something stronger than good intentions. Parts of this article were adapted from an earlier Al Fin Energy piece.

h/t Anti-Green blog


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Blogger opit said...

One startling note on 'wind energy' is that financing is predicated on a 20 year amortization - on devices subject to catastrophic failure at 7 years.

Monday, 08 October, 2012  
Blogger al fin said...

Yes. That is a very important point.

But with all the government subsidies, tax breaks, loan guarantees, and other bennies, investors are often guaranteed a profit even if the wind farm never adds any power to the grid.

It's a great scam if you can live with yourself and sleep at night. Apparently a lot of wealthy green investors and Obama bundlers have no problem with that whatsoever.

Monday, 08 October, 2012  
Blogger Michael Goggin said...

If you read the Reason Foundation's report, it actually says that wind energy can provide a large share of our electricity (at least 50%) and that wind's benefits are roughly as large as expected (9% reductions in pollution when we get 10% of our electricity from wind, 18% reductions at 20% wind, and 54% reductions at 50% wind). That's even after the report uses a seriously flawed methodology that overstates the challenges of integrating wind onto the grid and understates wind's benefits. For more, read the explanation here:

Michael Goggin,
American Wind Energy Association

Thursday, 11 October, 2012  
Blogger al fin said...

Thank you for your response, Michael. You have a curious way of reading and interpreting reports and data.

I recommend, as always, that readers read the report (PDF) for themselves, and form their own opinions.

Thursday, 11 October, 2012  
Blogger Kate Dunkin said...

Great post! I came across your blog while I was doing some research on San Francisco solar power and I'm happy I did because this was a very informative and interesting post. Thank you for sharing this with us!

Friday, 12 October, 2012  
Blogger Peter MacFarlane said...

One aspect you may not have considered is that - in the EU at least - the plan is actually to balance the grid by managing (read controlling) the DEMAND side. Hence the rush to smart meters; the idea is that when the wind doesn't blow (or when it blows too hard) the "system" will reach out into peoples' homes and just shut down various classes of appliance, thus reducing demand in real time. A degree of storage is also planned, by encourarging electric cars which amount to a huge diversified and distributed storage capacity which can be charged up again when the wind starts to blow, or whatever. In this way, they hope to make things work after a fashion.

Of course, the intention is that the elites and their more important acolytes won't suffer the consequences of this: only the "little people" will have their computers, cookers, lighting, and so on, turned off at the whim of the authorities. And after all, it's for
their own good. Or so they'll be told.

I make no comment on whether any of this is actually practicable; but it is the plan.

Sunday, 14 October, 2012  

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“During times of universal deceit, telling the truth becomes a revolutionary act” _George Orwell

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