Thursday, March 11, 2010

Eric Rosenbloom Distortions - LI Offshore Wind Initiative

Promoters of an industrial wind energy plant off the shore of Jones Beach, Long Island, New York, attempted some time ago to debunk a few of the findings in the early but still comprehensive and persuasive paper “A Problem With Wind Power”. Theirs was a weak effort indeed, but since it is still occasionally cited as definitive, this refutation from January 2009 deserves to be reposted. Answers follow each “distortion” and “truth” pair from the Wind Works 4 LI group.
‘The Distortion’
No power plants have been shutdown in other countries with wind turbines because wind is an intermittent resource.

‘The Truth’
Both Germany and Sweden have shut down nuclear reactors with the intent of supplying the loss of capacity with wind power (
Intent is very different from what actually happens. In fact, Germany has essentially halted their planned shutdowns of nuclear plants and will now extend their operations. Germany is planning 26 new coal plants, 8 of them on a fast track for 2010. Sweden has not in fact shut down any nuclear plant and is now planning to build new ones.
‘The Distortion’
If you build wind turbines you need backup generation

‘The Truth’
Electric grid systems can handle a certain percent of wind power without needing additional generation. The 140MW able to be produced by the wind park is within these parameters. The grid is already designed to compensate for loss-of-load contingencies when large power plant units suddenly become unavailable.
Because a system can handle contingencies doesn’t mean that’s the way it should be operated normally. Furthermore, as the system is already designed to handle dropouts of major suppliers, then it would have to be expanded to also be able to handle sudden drops in production from a wind energy plant. In other words, most of the time the system can indeed already deal with large fluctuations of wind production, but it then also has to still be able to handle the loss of a major supplier or two – so more excess capacity is needed to ensure reliability.
‘The Distortion’
Because other electric generators need to be running at lower efficiencies in ‘spinning reserve’ they will actually pollute more than the avoided emissions from the wind turbines

‘The Truth’
The fact is: electrical generating units are constantly varying their outputs, starting and stopping, as the demand for electricity rises and falls throughout the day. When not running or burning less fuel, they pollute less!
This “distortion” isn’t even in Rosenbloom’s paper. Nevertheless, the fact is that running thermal plants at a lower output than their ideal, running them in spinning reserve, ramping them up and down, and starting and stopping them – all of this increases carbon emissions per unit of electricity supplied. It is like stop-and-go city versus smooth highway driving. Wind – intermittent, highly variable, nondispatchable – on the system would increase all of these inefficient uses. Whether or not that inefficiency would cancel the theoretical savings of taking wind energy into the system is easily determined by records of fuel use. And so far, there is no such evidence of less fuel use per kilowatt-hour provided on any grid. In fact, coal use in the U.K. and the U.S. has increased in recent years relative to electricity use.
‘The Distortion’
Other countries are reducing their subsidies for wind power

‘The Truth’
This is what is supposed to happen with any industry as it reaches a sustainable point in any market. E.g. Spain began to reduce subsidies in 2002 and their wind generating capacity still grew 33% in the last two years. (in the USA fossil fuels still receive very large subsides despite overwhelming market penetration)
Development in Germany has slowed dramatically with a decline in subsidies, and development in the U.S. has gone up and down with the existence of the Production Tax Credit. Spain continues to fund its wind industry with future carbon credits sold to others. The fact is, the wind industry lobbies hard for subsidies and could not thrive without them. In the U.S., compared with 44 cents for coal, $1.59 for nuclear, and 25 cents for natural gas (the three main sources of electricity in the U.S.), wind received $23.37 per megawatt-hour of its electricity production in 2007, according to the Department of Energy’s Energy Information Administration (click here). And that’s only federal (not state or local) financial (not legislative) intervention and ignores the 5-year double-declining-balance accelerated depreciation that is available to wind.
‘The Distortion’
The German Energy Agency report issued in February 2005 said increasing wind generation would raise costs by 3.7 times

‘The Truth’
Completely false. We encourage you to visit the agency’s website and read their report to see for yourself that Mr. Rosenbloom’s claim was uniformed [sic] ( The true additional cost per household is 12 euro a year.
Obviously, this means that projected increases of electricity costs would be 3.7 times more with a large wind program than without. Dena’s page for the publication states that “[t]he expansion of wind energy will cost private households between 0.39 and 0.49 euro cents per kWh in 2015”. That’s up to 25 euros for 5,000 MWh. Table 8 in the English-language summary shows the different costs between expanding wind and not from 2007 to 2015 under three pricing scenarios: While the cost increase from 2007 to 2015 for private households (“nonprivileged consumers”) is 1.9-2.8 times more with wind, for industry (“privileged consumers”) it is 3.8 to 5 times more.

Rosenbloom’s paper also puts this economics issue in the context of several studies having concluded that the goal of CO2 mitigation can be achieved much more cheaply by other means. The Long Island [N.Y.] Power Authority rejected the project in Long Island Sound for simple economic reasons.

The Distortion
The US Fish and Wildlife Service rejected the use of monopole towers as a means to mitigate bird deaths

The Truth
Completely False, the document Mr.Rosenbloom cites, actually promotes the use of monopoles to mitigate bird deaths. It appears he didn’t read his own citation. (, pg.6 statement #1)
The FWS recommendation to use monopole towers (on page 3 of the document) is simply an acknowledgement that lattice towers provide roosts. It does not suggest that using a monopole tower makes it safe to operate a wind turbine in flyways and feeding and gathering areas. While the industry points to the tower design to absolve itself, the problem remains the giant blades, both directly and by the turbulence behind then, not to mention habitat fragmentation, degradation, and destruction.

wind power, wind energy, wind turbines, wind farms, environment, environmentalism