Showing posts sorted by relevance for query wind power. Sort by date Show all posts
Showing posts sorted by relevance for query wind power. Sort by date Show all posts

August 30, 2005

Real emissions reduction caused by wind generators

From "Estimation of real emissions reduction caused by wind generators," Olev Liik, Rein Oidram, Matti Keel -- Tallin Technical University, Tallin, Estonia. International Energy Workshop, 24-26 June 2003, IIASA, Laxenburg, Austria.

Problem of balancing of wind power fluctuations [slides 5-8]
  • Wind power plants are almost uncontrollable.

  • Integration of windmills with the existing power system depends on the size and structure of concrete power system and on the capacity of links with neighbouring systems.

  • Until all the fluctuations of wind power can be compensated with the hydro power plants, the integration of windmills does not trouble the existing system too much and the environmental gain is linearly proportional to the produced amount of electricity.

  • If the power systems contains only thermal power plants or if the installed capacity of windmills exceeds the regulation capacity of hydro plants:

    • As the CHP plants usually follow the thermal load, the condensing power plants must participate in the compensation of wind power fluctuations.

    • Large condensing units cannot be switched on and off frequently and for a short period and their speed of increasing and decreasing of power is limited.

    • Most suitable thermal plants for the load regulation and fast reserve capacity are the gas turbines.

    • If someone wants to introduce large amount of wind power then the power regulating range and speed of the existing plants must be also extensive.

    • Operating a thermal plant with and without the need to compensate the fluctuations of wind power is similar to the running of a car in the city and on the highway, respectively. Fuel consumption of a car can be even double in the city comparing with the highway.

    • The thermal power production without wind generators is equal to the load and it is distributed among the thermal power plants according to the optimality criterion and using static input-output characteristics.

    • When the wind power appears in the system, thermal power stations have to keep constantly additional spinning reserve capacity equal to the maximum total power of windmills. This makes the thermal plants run inefficiently and increases fuel consumption (emissions).

    • Under the fast changes of wind power, the real fuel consumption will increase even higher. The actual operation points of thermal plant will form a curve that is similar to a hysteresis loop. This is the dynamic fuel consumption curve.
Denmark exports wind generated electricity [slide 8 shows that a greater proportion is exported as more wind-generated power is produced, approaching 90% at 2000 MWh/h]

Conclusions [slide 21]
  • Participation of thermal power plants in keeping the reserve capacity for wind turbines and in compensation of the fluctuations of wind power increases the fuel consumption and emissions substantially.

  • Linear methods of calculation of emission reductions from wind energy use cannot consider this increase and therefore special methods for correct accounting of environmental gain have to be elaborated.
categories:  , , ,

March 10, 2018

Wind power does not reduce CO₂ emissions.

“In a wind-thermal system, production variations from the intermittent character of wind power results in an increase in system costs and a decrease in the efficiency of wind power as a means to reduce CO₂-emissions from the system. This effect gets increasingly pronounced with increased levels of wind power grid penetration and is due to the adjustment in production pattern of the thermal units to the variations in wind power production. As wind power grid penetration increases, the conventional units will run more at part load and experience more frequent starts and stops. Also, wind power may need to be curtailed in situations where the costs to stop and restart thermal units are higher than the difference in running costs of wind power and the thermal units. Thus, variations in wind power reduce the possibility of the power system to lower CO₂-emissions by adding wind power capacity to the system.”

—“Large scale integration of wind power: moderating thermal power plant cycling” by Lisa Göransson and Filip Johnsson, Wind Energy 2011; 14:91–105


Olaf Errwigge (Facebook) —

There is no argument that burning fossil fuel to generate electricity releases CO₂ into the atmosphere, or that using the wind to generate electricity does not. But it does not follow that adding wind to the grid reduces CO₂ emissions from other sources: Where there is little hydropower (no CO₂ emissions) to balance the highly variable wind, fossil fuel–fired generators are forced to work less efficiently, ie, with more emissions per unit of electricity generated. Furthermore, the best “balancing” plants for wind are open-cycle natural gas–fired turbines (OCGT), which can respond quickly enough to compensate for the continual changes of wind generation. But combined-cycle natural gas–fired turbines (CCGT) are substantially more efficient efficient, such that wind + OCGT may not represent lower emissions than CCGT alone. Thus, wind power’s manufacture, transport, and maintenance would indeed contribute to increased CO₂ emissions. And there is no benefit at all to weigh against its other adverse impacts on the environment, wildlife, and human neighbors.

Result: Wind + fossil fuel generation does not necessarily mean lower CO₂ emissions, particularly in the comparison of wind + open-cycle gas (necessary to quickly respond to wind’s continually variable generation) vs. the much more efficient combined-cycle gas alone.

And, of course, where there’s hydro, that’s the preferred source to ramp back as the wind rises: no CO₂ involved at all.

With virtually no benefits, wind power’s many adverse impacts – on the environment, wildlife, and human neighbors – not to mention its financial cost and the carbon and materials footprint of its manufacture, transport, and maintenance – are impossible to justify.

Also see: Why wind power does not substantially reduce emissions

June 22, 2006

Wind power found wanting

ABS Energy Research of London has recently published its 3rd "Wind Power Report." It costs £830, but the description gives one an idea of the main issue, namely, that the claimed benefits from wind power are not actually seen.

... Significant industry issues are emerging as operational data becomes available from the major wind power operators such as E.ON Netz, Eltra and ESB.

In 2003 the Irish government declared a moratorium on further wind power development. This opens many questions about the assumptions and claims made for wind power.

Key Findings

The wind power industry is reaching a highly controversial phase in its development as solid operational data becomes available about its performance, limitations and effects on the grid.

The ABS report concludes that governments, developers and operators should seriously consider their options regarding wind power.

Wind power reports have now been published by energy agencies and the network operators in USA, Germany, Spain, Denmark and Ireland, delineating critical problems. Deutsche EnergieAgentur (dena) has published a comprehensive report on German wind power on behalf of the Federal Government, together with the utility and wind and industries.

The dena report assessed the capacity credit of wind power in Germany in 2003 as 890-1,230 MW, i.e. 6% of installed wind capacity of 14,603 MW, rising to 1,820-2,300 MW for 36,000 MW installed in 2015, with a reserve capacity requirement of 7,000 MW.

The claimed savings in GHG emissions has been questioned.

Denmark exported over 80% of wind generated electricity to Norway in 2004, which has 98.5% carbon-free hydro generation, because wind delivered a surplus of 84%, according to the CEO of Eltra, almost nullifying any emissions savings.

Wind's intermittency places a large strain on system balance.

A new understanding is emerging about the relative efficiencies and emissions of base load operation of fossil fuel plant versus plant used in back up of a variable source.

Wind power has been promoted for politico/environmental reasons and wind developers have benefited from substantial subsidies, leading to exaggerated claims. A reality check is needed.

Reasons to Buy

With the first real evidence of performance from some of the most authoritative sources in the power industry, the claims for wind power are being called into question.

Anyone involved in this industry should have this information and be aware of these results.

Be wary when the wind industry describes a criticism of wind power as a "myth."

Industry figures like the CEOs of E.ON Netz and Eltra do not deal in myths and solutions, they have real experience and more data than anyone else. They record what has actually happened.
You can save yourself a lot of money and read "The Low Benefit of Industrial Wind," which appears to contain much of the same information, for free.

wind power, wind energy

August 28, 2011

Which Side Are You On?

Eric Rosenbloom, president of National Wind Watch, replies (larger roman type) to Robert Freehling, research director of Local Power, Oakland, California (smaller italic type) ...

Subject: RE: [Fwd: rfk jr + on wind energy]
Date: Mon, 22 Aug 2011 19:15:25 -0700
From: rfreeh

... Wind Watch, the principle source of anti-wind material in this thread, opposes all wind power and refuses to support any form of renewable power. See this quote from their FAQ webpage:

“What do you support?

National Wind Watch supports an open and honest debate about our energy use and the costs and benefits of all methods of generation, efficient use, and conservation. NWW supports continuing research and development of new energy sources. NWW supports the protection of rural communities and wild places threatened by fruitless industrial development. The mission of National Wind Watch is to provide the information needed for proper debate about industrial wind power, particularly that which isn't provided by government agencies or the industry and its supporters.”

In other words the only things that Wind Watch supports are “debate” and “research and development”. They cannot name one source of renewable energy that they support, even on their own FAQ page when they ask themselves this question. On this same FAQ page, Wind Watch acknowledges climate change and the destructive character of our current energy use.

Wind Watch's mission is to provide information about industrial wind, not to endorse any other energy source, renewable or otherwise. It is true that many opponents of industrial wind are skeptical about other renewables as well. It is also true that most support decentralized solar and geothermal. But Wind Watch's mission is to serve all opponents of industrial wind, no matter their views on other forms of energy.

They are the archetype of the NIMBY organization, yet they deny that they are NIMBY’s because they don’t like the negative implication of that label. In reality, they are planet destroyers claiming the garb of being pro-environment. They twist the facts to their case, and make statements removed from the full context. For instance, they try to minimize the contribution of wind to getting rid of coal, based upon the argument that “wind power does not and cannot contribute significantly to our electricity needs.” ( ( faq page)

The negative implication of "Nimby" derives from hypocrisy in one's opposition. Wind Watch supports such "Nimby"s in their local battles, but not their suggestion that industrial wind development is more appropriate elsewhere. Wind Watch advocates for local opposition because it is more more meaningful to fight to protect your own back yard, and most opponents — because they have been compelled to learn about what will be affecting their back yards — recognize that industrial wind development is not appropriate anywhere else as well.

In other words, most opponents are indeed fighting locally — that's called civic engagement — but without the hypocrisy implied by the "Nimby" pejorative.

Similarly, it is ridiculous to call such people "planet destroyers" who are fighting, after learning and weighing the costs and benefits of industrial wind development, to protect their part of the planet from large-scale industrial development.

What they fail to mention is that they personally want to do everything in their power to insure that wind never contributes significantly to our electricity needs.

This would be a more valid criticism if we did not already have the experience of Europe to learn from. Large-scale wind, even to the extent that Denmark boasts of, has not appeared to reduce coal use. It is the nature of wind energy that ensures that it can never contribute significantly to our electricity needs.

They also do not mention that wind is by far the most successful and fastest growing source of renewable energy. And that wind is on track to become one of the world’s major sources of energy within the next two decades. And that is why it is so important for opponents of renewable energy to take down wind above all.

This year worldwide installed wind power grew past 200 Gigawatts, with about 40 Gigawatts of new wind going in every year. By 2015 the rate of installation is forecast to increase to over 80 Gigawatts per year, with cumulative capacity reaching 500 Gigawatts. Total installed wind capacity should reach one Terawatt (trillion watts) sometime in the early to mid 2020s.

News on global wind capacity:

Success in building wind turbines is not success in replacing other sources of energy. In fact, there was virtually no new coal capacity built in the U.S. for 20 years, until wind energy started to be developed in a big way. Similarly, natural gas keeps pace with wind, because it is necessary to add for dealing with wind's variability.

For scale: one Terawatt is the capacity of all the generation in the US combined, and the total world electric generation capacity is today about 4.5 Terawatts.

One Terawatt of wind will generate more electricity than all the coal plants in the US combined. Wind infrastructure has the fastest payback for embodied energy and carbon used in its construction of any energy source currently being used; and when generating electricity it consumes no fuel and emits zero carbon or other greenhouse gases. Thus, to say that hundreds of Gigawatts or a Terawatt of wind cannot contribute significantly to our electricity needs, and cannot reduce pollution and help protect the climate, is beyond absurd.

If there is already 200 GW of wind capacity installed, surely its contribution to meeting electricity demand, reducing pollution, and protecting the climate should be detectable.

I became involved with this issue in 2003 when I sought out information about what a small wind facility bordering where I lived at the time would entail. While I was concerned about the impact of such constructions on a wild ridgeline, I had no reason to be skeptical about the benefits. But I started to notice that the promises of wind were always in the future or expressed in theoretical equivalencies. There were no actual data showing benefits that justify the industrialization of any rural or wild place. There still aren't.

As comments about wind only being commercially viable due to “subsidies from taxpayers” in the form of tax credits, this is at best a half truth. The wind tax credit is about 2 cents per kilowatt-hour and it is only paid for the first ten years of a wind plant’s operation. Since wind turbines have an economic life of 20 years, this tax credit is only about 1 cent per kilowatt-hour when averaged over the life of the plant. This credit is paid for every kilowatt-hour generated, and thus is performance and value based.

Very few wind turbines last 20 years. Ten years is in fact a more realistic span for their useful life. Many don't make it that long. Besides the production tax credit, wind developers enjoy 5-year double-declining depreciation and in many places a forced market, not only of actual energy generated but also of "green tags", or renewable energy credits, a lucrative secondary market invented by Enron.

Again, however, generation of energy by a wind turbine does not necessarily translate to comparable reduction of fossil fuel use or carbon or other emissions.

This compares with solar power, which gets a 30% tax credit upfront. An investment credit established as a percentage of the initial cost of the solar plant means that the more the solar plant costs the higher the value of the tax credit. It also means that the solar plant gets the credit irrespective of how much electricity it generates. Thus, the wind power—unlike solar— has to actually earn its tax credits.

As part of the recent economic stimulus package, wind developers also have had the option of taking a 30% tax credit up front, or a 30% cash grant, instead of the 2.2-cents/kWh production tax credit.

In general, wind power tax credits are not “paid for” by taxpayers, they are simply taxes not collected by the federal government. In the case of wind, the infrastructure would mostly otherwise not get built; thus there is little or no real “revenue loss”. However, there are US congressional rules that require the credits to be offset by other adjustments to the budget.

On the other side of the balance, there will be significant tax revenues gained by the commercial activity of manufacturing, constructing and operating a wind plant. The California Energy Commission’s most recent in-depth report on cost of electricity generation shows that wind plants would pay, over the full life of the plant, about 8/10ths of a cent per kilowatt-hour in “ad valorum” expenses; i.e., property taxes. The report also shows that a wind plant will pay four times the amount of property tax per kilowatt-hour than a natural gas combined cycle baseload plant.

CEC Cost of Generation report (Table 6 on pdf p. 46 = document p. 28):

If wind worked, this would be a valid — and unnecessary — argument. Since wind does not show measurable benefits to the environment, and in fact shows significant adverse impacts to the environment, proponents are reduced to presenting it as a (very inefficient) works program.

The message to rural towns throughout the country, like that from any predatory capitalist in a third-world country, boils down to: "Give us your mountain/fields and we'll give you a shiny new firetruck."

The new local tax revenue from a wind plant offsets the federal tax revenue lost due to the Production Tax Credit. Thus, the federal government’s Wind Production Tax Credit helps local government raise more taxes by stimulating local economic activity in renewable energy. Other tax revenues will be created by employment and business activity of the wind plant, both direct and indirect. The result is that there is little to no net cost to taxpayers.

Again, that's no doubt what Exxon and GE and Florida Power & Light say to rationalize their nonpayment of income tax. And this critique does not consider the simple passing on to ratepayers the costs to utilities of integrating wind.

As for the ultimate NIMBY group Wind Watch’s claim that wind power is not “competitive” without tax credits, the RETI data base shows wind projects with cost of energy averaging about 13 cents per kilowatt-hour—with all tax benefits stripped away, and the CEC Cost of Generation report shows new natural gas combined cycle plants generating electricity at a levelized cost of about 12.5 cents per kilowatt-hour. If tax benefits are factored in, then the cost is lower. Both natural gas and wind power vary in cost over a wide range, and thus wind projects can generate electricity at a similar cost of energy as a new natural gas plant, when both plants are compared over their full lifecycle. It is noteworthy that the CEC’s cost estimate for natural gas power does not include any cost for carbon, and thus does not capture the externalized burden of climate change.

RETI database of potential renewable energy powerplants and cost of energy from them:

Externalized costs are indeed important to consider. Wind has them, too, including a complete dependence on petroleum products, steel, concrete, and rare earth metals. But again, these are accounting games. Wind does not appear to measurably reduce the impacts of other sources; it just adds its own.

The email thread also points to an article and video from in Portland citing a staffer from Bonneville Power Administration that wind does not provide any carbon benefit. Taken out of context that might seem an embarrassment for wind. However, Bonneville is quite different from most electric power providers in the US in its carbon profile, since its primary source of energy is from hydropower which has no carbon emissions. If you actually read the article it paraphrases a secondary source— Todd Wynn— from the Cascade Policy Institute who is paraphrasing a statement allegedly made to his think tank by an unspecified staffer from Bonneville. But the actual quote from Wynn is quite specific:

“So when the wind blows, the dams stop generating electricity, and when the wind stops, the dams continue to generate electricity,” said Wynn. “So, in fact, wind power is just offsetting another renewable energy source. It’s not necessarily offsetting any fossil fuel generation.”

In other words, zero carbon wind power is displacing zero carbon hydropower in Bonneville’s service territory. Of course, if you start with a source of power that has no carbon emissions, then adding wind will have no carbon benefit. By cherry picking such cases as Bonneville, wind can be made to look bad to those who don’t have any information to make a reasonable judgment. It would be far more valid to look at how adding wind affects carbon emissions in the US as a whole, which gets about 70 percent of its electricity from the greenhouse gas emitting sources of coal and natural gas. The US electricity supply does not look anything like Bonneville’s.

Thus, this Bonneville case is an idiotic argument against wind. Sorry, but there is no kinder word for it.

But it is a very good argument against wind in the BPA control area. And it is a good example of how the claims made for wind by its salespeople and lobbyists don't quite hold up in the real world.

There are so many misleading statements in this thread of emails and articles, that it would be very time consuming to disprove them all. I am only picking some key issues to provide a sense of the scale of misrepresentation. The most amazing, is that Marin critics of the oil, gas and coal industry would first accuse MEA and wind developers of being pro-nuclear and pro-fossil fuel, and then include a full article by Robert Bryce (see below in thread)—one of his attack pieces on wind.

Bryce throws in “everything but the kitchen sink” in his attempt to “refute” wind power, piling bits of “evidence” taken out of context, to “prove” that wind a) causes noise, b) costs too much, c) does not reduce carbon emissions, and d) kills bats and birds. Some of these have a loose connection to reality. The wind industry is not, after all, spotless, and has significant problems which we have a duty to press wind developers to address. However, several major problems caused by our current reliance on coal, nuclear and natural gas electric power- causing catastrophic climate change, killing tens of thousands of people per year from air pollution, nuclear proliferation and radioactivity, and global energy wars— are not among the problems caused by wind, to put the discussion in the correct perspective.

(Briefly, again, there is a leap from noting the problems of our current energy use to claiming wind as a solution — that is a form of both ad populum and non sequitur logical fallacies. But we are not arguing about the existing problems; we are arguing about wind's usefulness.)

The low frequency whooshing noise from the rotating blades can be a problem for some people who live near large wind turbines. The facilities should probably be generally located at a good distance from people, and especially so for those who are sensitive to this sound. On the other hand, there are many noises that people accept as part of daily life that probably do not have worse effect than wind, such as the sound of cars and trucks on freeways and streets, construction equipment, the repeated humming and buzzing of electrical appliances such as air conditioners, refrigerators and transformers, the ground shaking and squealing sounds of railroads and light rail, etc. But the one that gets singled out for major action is, of course, windmills.

It is callous to disregard the continuing reports of people suffering ill effects from wind turbine noise. Noise regulations exist — often already inadequate — for noises we have had experience with. The unique sounds generated by giant wind turbine blades moving through different layers of air at tip speeds approaching 200 mph — and their physiological and psychological effects, from loss of sleep and stress to "wind turbine syndrome" — are still being researched and are clearly not adequately regulated.

As for cost, Bryce discusses the variable price of natural gas as the “determining factor” for whether wind power is competitive. However, he is misinformed, as apparently is his favorite source for information on wind cost and aesthetics: Texas fossil fuel billionaire T. Boone Pickens. At this point in time, natural gas is not the main expense for new natural gas plants in the US. Fuel may be the big expense for legacy plants that have paid down their initial investment, but not for new plants. Natural gas fuel becomes the main expense only when power plants operate in “base load” mode—running at steady output 24/7. Coal and nuclear plants operate that way, but most natural gas plants do not. When natural gas plants operate at fractional capacity, then the major cost is not the fuel, but the power plant. And while natural gas fuel prices are relatively moderate in 2011, natural gas power plants have skyrocketed in cost. Indeed, all new conventional power plants—coal, natural gas and nuclear power, have gone up dramatically in cost over the past decade. This is reflected by the Power Capital Costs Index, which reached 219 based upon a 100 starting index in 2000, meaning that a power plant built in North America in 2011 would cost more than double what it did in the year 2000.

A natural gas plant built today and operating at, say, only 23 percent capacity, would produce electricity at about 13 cents per kilowatt-hour. This assumes the current cheap price for natural gas that Bryce proposes--$4.50 per million btu. Most modern wind plants can beat this cost of natural gas electricity—even without any tax subsidies. With tax benefits and offering lower early year prices in a escalating price contract, the first year price of wind may be as low as 4 cents per kilowatt-hour. Take away the tax credit and the first year price on a similar contract might go up to 5 or 6 cents per kilowatt-hour. Fixed price contracts might be 8 or 9 cents per kilowatt-hour. This is cheaper than any other new form of electric generation, including nuclear or coal.

Again, these are arguments as if there is a choice. Since a complete non-wind grid needs to be in place for times when the wind is not blowing sufficiently (or blowing too hard, or not in the right direction), you have to pay for both. So the comparison needs to be between wind plus gas versus gas alone.

... [Robert Bryce on Cape Wind costs] ...

Bryce’s analysis of the cost of natural gas power is closely related to his misrepresentation of the carbon benefits of wind. When modern “combined cycle” natural gas plants operate as base load—steady 24/7 at full output—they can reach efficiencies near 50%. Bryce argues that wind pulls natural gas plant out of operating as efficient base load to operating at part load to compensate for wind power. In partial or variable load, the natural gas plants may only operate at 35% or less efficiency, meaning the plant burns more fuel to generate each kilowatt-hour of electricity than when operating as a base load plant. Thus, if wind changed natural gas plant operations from base load to partial and variable load, the efficiency loss would increase fuel use and offset much of the carbon benefit of wind.

This assumes, however, that current natural gas plants generally operate in base load. That turns out to be quite incorrect for the general fleet of gas plants in the US. The vast majority of base load power in this country comes from coal and nuclear power, and to much a lesser extent from hydro and natural gas. In general, natural gas is used as a flexible resource mostly operating in partial and variable load—meaning it is already operating at lower efficiency in the vast majority of cases. This can easily be demonstrated with data about operations of US natural gas plants.

The US Government reports that as of 2009 there was 459,000 Megawatts of nameplate natural gas capacity. Those plants generated 920 Billion Kilowatt-hours of electricity. If 459,000 Megawatts of power plants operated 24/7 year round, they would generate .459 × 8760 = 4020 Billion Kilowatt-hours of electricity. In other words, natural gas plants only operated about 920/4020 = 22.8% of their capacity. That means that natural gas plants in the US overall do not typically operate in highly efficient base load, but rather operate at their least efficient mode— the same as they would do for backing up wind.

In other words, Bryce’s argument that wind power reduces the efficiency of natural gas plants is highly misleading, since natural gas plants already operate at relatively low efficiency, and in this context wind power will make relatively little difference.

But the goal is to replace coal, i.e., base load. That could be done with very efficient combined-cycle gas turbines, effectively reducing carbon emissions by three-fourths. If wind is part of that effort, then half as efficient open-cycle gas turbines would have to be used, since CCGT isn't able to respond quickly enough to wind's variability. So the question is, again, what is the carbon effect of wind plus OCGT versus CCGT alone? Many analysts have found it to be no better and in some cases worse.

This also means that Bryce’s argument for “cheap” natural gas power— based on the current low fuel price— is wrong, since the low capacity utilization of natural gas plants means that the power costs are mostly driven by the cost of the power plant, not the cost of natural gas.

Bryce brings back another round of “bait and switch” comparisons on carbon benefit of wind power. He says:

“The American Wind Energy Association insists that the wind business ‘could avoid 825 million tons of carbon dioxide annually by 2030.’ ( That 825 million tons sounds like a lot. It’s not. In 2010, global carbon dioxide emissions totaled 33.1 billion tons. Thus, if the US went on a wind energy binge, and installed thousands of turbines in every available location, doing so might reduce global carbon dioxide emissions by about 2.5%. And that calculation assumes that global carbon dioxide emissions will stay flat over the next two decades. They won’t.”

It is a clever trick to make 825 million tons of annual carbon dioxide emissions avoided by wind power disappear into insignificance. This is actually a double bait and switch. First, if you go to the linked article, this savings claim is NOT from the American Wind Energy Association— it is a scenario from the US Department of Energy. The scenario is that 20% of US electricity comes from wind by 2030, which is equivalent to taking 140 million cars off the road and offsetting 20% to 25% of greenhouse gas emissions from the electricity sector. Not a trivial accomplishment. The second bait and switch is that Bryce compares the US wind scenario against global carbon reduction. This assumes that only the United States is installing wind, which is very far from the truth, and it compares apples to oranges. US wind power should be compared to US carbon emissions or you will make incorrect inferences about the result.

These criticisms are valid. But Bryce doesn't need to make 825 million tons look insignificant. That avoided CO₂ is already an imaginary projection based on theoretical equivalences, not real-world data.

Bryce goes on to the “bird and bat” argument. He cherry picks a study about bird kills at Altamont, considered by most wind experts as just about the worst case scenario for wind. Indeed, some wind advocates think that wind power should never have been developed at Altamont, as— in addition to being questionable environmentally— it is not a particularly good wind site.

Nevertheless, wind turbines do kill lots of birds and bats. Of course, so do many other things, such as power lines, buildings, cats, chemicals, and catastrophic climate change. It has been estimated that the average turbine kills about 2 to 3 birds per year. Getting all US electricity from wind would take about 1 million turbines that are 1.5 megawatts in size. That might kill about 2 to 3 million birds per year— assuming we got all of our electricity from wind, which no one expects ever to happen.

By comparison, communication towers are estimated at present to kill between 4 million and 50 million birds per year, and electric power lines may kill anywhere from hundreds of thousands to 175 million birds per year.

And cats are estimated to kill hundreds of millions of birds per year, and more than a billion small mammals—including rabbits, squirrels and chipmunks— according to the American Bird Conservancy.

All this is not to minimize the very real problem with birds and bats.

Actually, it obviously is meant to minimize the problem by comparisons irrelevant to the issue of wind's additional impacts.

Wind turbines do threaten certain specific species, such as raptors and certain types of bats. However, Bryce again goes out of his way to present selective data that skews the results against wind. He mentions that “In 2008, a study funded by the Alameda County Community Development Agency ( estimated that about 2,400 raptors, including burrowing owls, American kestrels, and red-tailed hawks – as well as about 7,500 other birds, nearly all of which are protected under the MBTA – are being killed every year by the wind turbines located at Altamont Pass, California.”

True enough, but he leaves out the most important finding of the study—the new “Diablo” turbines killed between 60% and 80% less birds than the old “Non-Diablo” ones. This means that the high level of bird kills at Altamont is a mostly legacy problem that can be greatly reduced with modern wind technology. Bryce is absolutely silent on this aspect of the Altamont study. Table ES3:

A reduction of an appalling death rate remains unacceptable. If bird mortality were no longer a problem, then why is the AWEA fighting new Fish and Wildlife guidelines that would make them comply with migratory bird treaties and eagle protection laws? Besides the 3,500 to 5,000 raptors estimated by ecologist Shawn Smallwood being killed annually at Altamont, other facilities also continue to report thousands of bird and bat deaths, e.g., at Wolfe Island, Ontario, and Maple Ridge, New York.

This takes us back to the question about why Bryce is chasing wind with a hatchet. What is his agenda?

Bryce, in his banner energy policy book “Power Hungry”, supports a vision very different than what anti-wind environmentalists claim to believe:

“The United States has built a $14-trillion-per-year economy based on hydrocarbons: coal, oil, and natural gas. We cannot— and will not— quit using carbon-based fuels for this simple reason: they provide the power that we crave. Nine out of every ten units of energy we consume come from hydrocarbons.

Power Hungry proves that what we want isn’t energy at all— it’s power. Bryce masterfully deciphers essential terms like power density, energy density, joules, watts, and horsepower to illuminate the differences between political rhetoric and reality. Then he methodically details how the United States can lead the global transition to a cleaner, lower-carbon future by embracing the fuels of the future, a future that can be summarized as N2N: natural gas to nuclear. The United States sits atop galaxies of natural gas, enough to last a hundred years. By using that gas in parallel with new nuclear technologies, America can boost its economy while benefiting the environment.”

Bryce also hates energy efficiency, and explains why in his book:

“He goes on to eviscerate the notion that the United States wastes huge amounts of energy. Indeed, the facts show that over the past three decades the United States has been among the world’s best at reducing its energy intensity, carbon intensity, and per-capita energy use.”

In other words, Bryce opposes the entire green agenda. Bryce is a big believer in nuclear and natural gas power— explicitly. He defends these sources as cheap and necessary, and in this context attacks solar, wind and even energy efficiency. Bryce is a key policy guy at the Manhattan Institute, an institution described in Sourcewatch:

The *Manhattan Institute* (MI) is a right-wing 501(c)(3) non-profit think tank founded in 1978 by William J. Casey who later became President Ronald Reagan's CIA director.

The Manhattan Institute is "focused on promoting free-market principles whose mission is to 'develop and disseminate new ideas that foster greater economic choice and individual responsibility.'"

"The Manhattan Institute concerns itself with such things as 'welfare reform' (dismantling social programs), 'faith-based initiatives' (blurring the distinction between church and state), and 'education reform' (destroying public education)," Kurt Nimmo wrote October 10, 2002, in CounterPunch.

The Manhattan Institute, when it is not trying to destroy the environment and social programs, also likes to promote global energy wars. Perhaps its most famous contribution to public discourse was from David Frum, who left the institute to become a Bush speechwriter and coined the term “Axis of Evil”, a key concept that helped push the US into several international conflicts. The Manhattan Institute is big on “market competition”, also hard right style, which explains why it is so important to make the case that wind is dependent on welfare subsidies and “can’t compete” on the free market. Because if wind is lower cost without subsidies, Bryce and the other pro-fossil fuel and pro-nuclear folks decisively lose the battle on the conservative side of the political spectrum. Then they have to decide between dirty fuel and conservative principle.

So, if MEA and the wind developers are guilty of promoting wind and renewable energy, those who oppose wind are clearly siding with the authors of global energy wars, nuclear and fossil fuels.

Like Earth First, who have consistently recognized the predatory nature of industrial wind and led protests against construction of a facility in the mountains of Maine? Or the Zapatistas in Mexico supporting the Zapoteco farmers of the Isthmus of Tehuantapec against the theft of their land for a giant Spanish wind energy facility (the Zapotecos have written about "the imposition of neoliberal megacorporations destroying nature and our cultures")? Or the Adivasis of India, who are against being evicted from their forests so they can be mowed down for giant wind turbines? Or the diverse group of protesters camping out in northwest Denmark determined to save one of their last large forests from clearance for a giant wind turbine "test facility"? Or the anticapitalist antiwar Bread and Puppet Theater, who have been fighting big wind on Vermont's mountains? Or the established environmental advocate who lives off-grid and is leading the fight against industrial wind in Vermont?

Or do all supporters of wind power share the world view of all other supporters, such as T. Boone ("Swift Boater") Pickens; wind pioneers George W. Bush and Kenneth Lay of Enron (Bush was keynote speaker at the American Wind Energy Association convention in 2010); AWEA's own CEO, Denise Bode, former natural gas and petroleum lobbyist; anti-environment Christian fundamentalist Rick Perry; anti–environmental regulation lobbyist Frank Maisano of Bracewell-Giuliani, the spokesman for mid-Atlantic wind developers; nuclear plant builder and war profiteer GE, the country's biggest manufacturer of wind turbines (after buying Enron's wind division)? Or indeed, nuclear giant Electricité de France?

In fact, all of these supporters of wind are featured at, and Counterpunch regularly reproduces Robert Bryce's work and has published an article by Nina Pierpont about wind turbine syndrome.

It is true that conventional energy companies are developing renewable energy projects, since many people in the energy industry see the writing on the wall. As Helen points out: “Wind developers are also oil and gas developers, they are one and the same.”

Well, the evidence shows that the opposite is true too: the wind opponents are supporters of oil, gas, coal and nuclear— they are one and the same. For, among renewable energy sources, wind is the closest to seriously challenge or displace fossil fuels in a big way. Strike down wind and you will set back renewable energy by 5 to 10 years. Of course, Bryce and Wind-Watch do not just want to get in the way of wind; their efforts also create roadblocks to other sources of renewable energy as well.

After the ad populum, non sequitur, red herring, and ad hominem efforts, now it's time for the straw man, or paper tiger. Robert Bryce does not represent all, or even most, opponents of wind. From that misrepresentation it is an unsupported leap to claim that "wind opponents are supporters of oil, gas, coal and nuclear" and "create roadblocks to other sources of renewable energy as well". Would Freehling similarly claim that opponents of big hydro are against other renewables? Rather than creating roadblocks, fighting the harm and waste of resources caused by industrial-scale wind is to the benefit of other renewables, such as decentralized small-scale vertical-axis wind. It would be more reasonable to argue that industrial wind itself has set back the cause of renewable energy with its aggressive encroachments on rural and wild land and habitats.

There is no choice about the fact that we are all— people who take pro-wind and anti-wind positions alike— enmeshed in a world controlled by conventional energy resources. But there is a big difference which side of this paradox you are on. Those who oppose wind because oil and gas interests are involved will leave us addicted to fossil and nuclear fuel, with no alternative energy source. That is not smart.

It was argued earlier that association with fossil fuel and nuclear interests adversely colored at least one writer's opposition to wind. But now it appears to be acceptable for wind proponents to consort with big energy. Clearly paradox, or real-world complexity, is allowed only for those who agree with Robert Freehling. Those with differing views must remain a caricature.

But to his final assertion, big wind is indeed big energy, and there is no sign that wind seriously threatens fossil fuels or nuclear. There is no justification for its novel impacts if it can not meaningfully diminish existing impacts from other sources of energy. At best, it might help drive the replacement of coal or even nuclear with natural gas (as required for back-up), but it would require less efficient gas turbines to be built than would be possible without wind. And then there's fracking.

To be pro-wind requires being pro–natural gas. Can we say therefore that to be pro-wind means to be pro-fracking? And to be pro-fracking is to be pro-Halliburton, and to be pro-Halliburton is to be pro-war ... (and former Halliburton division and war contractor Kellogg Brown & Root used to boast of being "in the vanguard of the development of offshore wind power in the UK" and still notes, "KBR has established itself as a key provider of services for the indispensable wind farm industry")?

Which side are you on, indeed.


~~Eric R.

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

September 6, 2004

High time to strike back

Windpower Monthly, in its September editorial, is alarmed at the public reaction in the "has-been island" of Britain against the government's aggressive pursuit of wind power.
"Anti-wind power sentiment boils down to four main concerns: [1] that wind turbines spoil attractive landscapes and wildlife habitat, [2] that when the wind stops blowing so does electricity supply, [3] that only vast arrays of turbines can provide enough power to make a difference, [4] that wind power is expensive.

"The concerns are easy to counter.

[1] "Environmental opposition crumbles in face of the alternatives: global warming, storing nuclear waste, unproven renewables, or living with power shortages. That is why mainstream environmental groups like Greenpeace back wind."
Note that the charge is not denied but is argued to be worth it. Unfortunately, there is no sign anywhere of wind power bringing about a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions, nuclear power, or blackouts. It is a false choice. With or without wind power, the same energy problems remain, so it is not at all necessary to despoil the few wild places left for humans and other animals.

It must be remembered that nuclear plants provide nonfluctuating base load, which wind power -- even by the claims of the sales brochures -- would never impact. And most greenhouse gas emissions are from burning fuel for needs other than electricity, which again wind power would have no effect on.
[2] "The technical concerns have no foundation. More than 40,000 MW of wind power stations daily demonstrate that wind makes a significant contribution to electricity supplies and lower greenhouse gas emissions. The lights stay on without dedicated back-up power -- even in regions where for periods wind meets total demand ..."
40,000 MW of installed wind capacity translates to an output of about 87,600 GWh/yr (assuming a capacity factor of 25%). World energy use in 1990, according to the U.N.'s International Panel on Climate Change, was 106,645,000,000 GWh. Wind's "significant" contribution represents eight 100,000ths of that.
[3] "[I]f a small land like Denmark can get 20% of its electricity from wind turbines without being overrun by them, so can other countries."
Denmark is overrun, so much so that even the government has noticed and has stopped development of any more on-shore facilities. And Denmark does not get 20% of its electricity from the wind turbines. The turbines may produce that amount, but more often than not demand does not rise with the wind, so the extra electricity is exported to Norway and Sweden, where they can use it to pump hydro, and to Germany, which is large enough to absorb it. The western Denmark transmission company, Eltra, exports 87% of the wind energy in their grid, according to their 2003 annual report.

Eltra also says that for every 1000 MW of wind capacity added to the grid, 300-500 MW of back-up power has to be made available. That is, at a 25% capacity factor for wind, 1.2-2.0 times as much "conventional" power dedicated to making the "free and clean" wind power work. Such back-up power can not be the newer cleaner more efficient plants, because they are not able to respond quickly enough to the rapid fluctuations of wind-generated power. So wind power not only requires at least an equal amount of back-up, it also ensures the continuation of less efficient plants to provide that back-up.
[4] . . .
The editorial skips the last charge about expense. Later, it admits the charge by urging developers to work on changing the subsidy and "renewables obligation" structures to try bringing down the cost.

September 11, 2008

Wind increases dependence on natural gas

Edgar Gärtner of Germany writes:

... Wind turbines generate electricity very irregularly, because the wind itself is inconsistent. Therefore wind turbines always need backup power from fossil fuels to keep the electricity grid in balance. Gas turbines are the best way to do this. They are able to respond quickly and push power production when wind generators stop suddenly. They can be turned on and off almost instantly [though at a cost of extra fuel consumption --Ed.], whereas traditional coal-fired plants need to be maintained in a very inefficient standby mode if they are to respond to large fluctuations in power demand.

A proliferation of windmills, then, can become a windfall for gas sellers. Just look at the cases of Spain and Germany, Europe’s leading producers of wind power.

By the end of 2007 Spain had 14,700 megawatts (MW) of installed wind capacity, according to Enagás, which manages the national gas network, producing 8.7% of the country’s total power supplies. Most of these wind generators are located in sparsely populated areas, while the power consumption is concentrated in big cities with their many air-conditioned buildings. The peak load of the Spanish power grid is thus in the hot summer months -- but this is precisely the time of year when there usually isn’t much wind.

For this reason, more and more gas turbines are being installed near consumers in the suburbs of Spain’s cities. Only last year, Spanish power providers added 6,400 MW of gas-turbine power capacity, taking the total installed capacity of gas turbines to 21,000 MW. Natural gas has become the main source of electricity generation in Spain, and according to Enagás, 99.8% of the gas used in Spain is imported. Most of this comes via pipeline from Algeria, but the import of liquid natural gas (LNG) by ships will increase.

In Germany, more than 20,000 wind turbines with a total capacity of 21,400 MW are now “embellishing” landscapes. Wind power’s share of total electricity generation has risen in line with that of natural gas since 1990. Germany’s gas consumption for power generation more than doubled between 1990 and 2007, and now represents 11.7% of the country’s total power generation. The country imported 83% of its natural gas supplies. ...

In the U.S. ... [t]his may explain why Shell, BP, Chevron and T. Boone Pickens are investing in wind power. It’s a clever strategy to add value to their gas assets by boosting demand.

These gas players can afford to lose money on wind power in the short term to reap huge profits in the long term. In fact, this was the strategy first implemented by Ken Lay of Enron in 1990s. Enron was the power and gas company that started the first large-scale manufacturing of wind power in the U.S. It also brought up the ideas for a cap-and-trade system, to increase the competitive edge of gas over coal.

Wind power is clearly not reducing the dependence on imported fuel, contrary to the frequent claims of its proponents. In fact the experience from Germany and Spain shows that it is increasing the dependence of imported natural gas.

wind power, wind energy

January 13, 2005

The wind power song

On The Simpsons yesterday, a scam artist suckered Springfield into building a monorail (season 4, episode 71). A timely repeat, substituting a certain current craze . . .

Lyle Lanley: Well, sir, there's nothing on earth
Like genuine,
Bona fide,
Wind power!
What'd I say?
Ned Flanders: Wind power!

Lyle Lanley: What's it called?

Patty & Selma: Wind power!

Lyle Lanley: That's right! Wind power!

[crowd chants 'wind power' softly and rhythmically]

Miss Hoover: I hear those things are awfully loud...

Lyle Lanley: They spin as softly as a cloud.

Apu: Is there a chance the blades could bend?

Lyle Lanley: Not on your life, my Hindu friend.

Barney: What about us brain-dead slobs?

Lyle Lanley: You'll be given cushy jobs.

Abe: Were you sent here by the devil?

Lyle Lanley: No, good sir, I'm on the level.

Wiggum: The ring came off my pudding can.
Lyle Lanley: Take my pen knife, my good man.

I swear it's Springfield's only choice...
Throw up your hands and raise your voice!
All: Wind power!

Lyle Lanley: What's it called?

All: Wind power!

Lyle Lanley: Once again...

All: Wind power!

Marge: But Main Street's still all cracked and broken...

Bart: Sorry, Mom, the mob has spoken!
All: Wind power!
Wind power!
Wind power!
[big finish]

Wind power !!!!

Homer: Wind... D'oh!

December 8, 2005

Charles Komanoff is not an environmentalist

Charles Komanoff is a valiant activist for changes from fossil fuel guzzling. And I agree with him that many of the opponents to the giant wind project in Nantucket Sound appear to be NIMBYs when they say they support wind power but not there where they live or vacation (though most opponents question the value of large-scale wind anywhere). But his desire to replace fossil and nuclear fuels, which together provide almost 95% of our energy, appears to have caused a blindness to wind power's shortcomings for achieving even a small part of that goal. By presenting himself as an energy expert, when in fact he is not an engineer but an economist, and studiously rejecting mitigating reports, he attempts to browbeat the doubters with a simple-minded formula that every kilowatt of power from wind means one less kilowatt from fossil or nuclear fuel. Though easy to say and believe, the tenet is not true.

If every bit of power generated by wind turbines does indeed go into the grid, the formula as stated is true, assuming there are not substantial renewable sources in the area (as in Vermont, which gets more than a third of its electricity from hydropower). In fact, if there is hydropower in an area, it is likely to be the first source to be switched off; relatively clean natural gas plants are the next choice. Base-load coal and nuclear plants, which can not as readily be switched on and off, are unlikely to be affected.

As wind-generated power feeds into the grid, therefore, power from other sources is indeed cut back. But the burning of fuel is not necessarily reduced -- thermal plants are simply switched from generation to standby. Their electricity output is reduced to maintain the grid's balance, but their fuel consumption continues.

Unlike a diesel-powered backup generator for the home, most thermal plants can not simply switch on and off; they take hours and even days to heat up or cool down. Even for those that can switch more quickly, they use more fuel in doing so. And because of the constant fluctuations of power from wind turbines, it is unwise to do so. A rise in the wind only means that a drop will follow, and so the standby source must be kept burning so it can switch back to generation mode at any moment.

Komanoff's vision of the ways things ought to be is threatened by environmentalists who haven't swallowed the sales spiel and instead have determined that industrial wind turbines on rural and especially wild sites bring negative impacts that far outweigh the elusive benefits. He spent almost two months repeatedly pestering an environmental leader in western Massachusetts for opposing giant wind turbines in the Berkshires. Though Komanoff contacted her through a mutual friend, she quickly saw that he was not at all interested in discussion and she rightly ignored his continuing prods. He took this turning of the cheek as a sign of defeat and posted the "exchange" on his website as a trophy of victory.

But if one does not deny the impacts nor the shortcomings of big wind on the grid, the only conclusion is that the benefits do not justify its industrialization of rural and wild areas. Komanoff and other pro-wind environmentalists are on the wrong side of this issue.

In a Dec. 2002 letter to anti–big wind environmentalist Bob Boyle, he asserts that the noise level at 2,000 feet from a large wind turbine is barely more than that in a remote forest and less than that by a remote pond. Besides ignoring the cumulative effect of a large collection of turbines, Komanoff appears to be ignorant of the difference between the pleasant sounds of nature and the intrusive sounds of giant machinery.

In a Jan. 2003 open letter to environmentalists on behalf of building 130 giant turbines in Nantucket Sound, he writes, "The value of the windmills goes beyond energy-share percentages to the plane of symbols and images. ... Seeing the beauty in windmills could be a turning point, making possible a wider appreciation of what are now, we should admit, a beleaguered minority's values: trust in energy efficiency, devotion to conservation, identification with the natural world." It is irrelevant (if not insane) to connect aesthetic admiration of industrial wind turbines with identification with nature. One can enjoy both, of course, but they certainly are not connected. And one certainly can not enjoy both at the same time. It is also illogical to assert that building more power generation plants, however "green" one believes them to be, encourages values of conservation. If anything, it provides a "green" light to continue using as much energy as ever.

In a May 2003 letter to environmentalist Alex Matthiessen, Komanoff presents a variation of his 1-to-1 tenet: "To stand in the way of eminently reasonable windpower projects like Cape Wind and Jones Beach is to encourage the continuing destruction of Earth's air, water and climate by fossil fuels. ... A decision to stop the Cape Wind and Jones Beach wind farms is a decision to keep polluting and poisoning."

That is true only if one accepts without question -- on faith, as it were -- that wind power can actually make a difference on the scale of its own environmental and social impact. Which, of course, Komanoff does believe. But where is the evidence from countries that have already installed substantial numbers of turbines that their fossil fuel use, their pollution and poisoning, has decreased because of wind power? The evidence is instead that substantial installation of wind power has had no positive effect at all.

In "Wind power must be visible," a June 6, 2003, opinion in the Providence Journal, Komanoff most admonishingly presents his thesis: "[E]very unit not produced because a wind project has been blocked means more carbon fuels burned, more carbon dioxide filling the earth's atmosphere, more ruinous climate change. ... And, sure as daylight, continued reliance on oil will not only contaminate the environment but also fuel the cycle of war and terrorism. ... Nor does it seem to matter to them that other precious -- albeit less prosperous -- places, from West Virginia mountaintops to Wyoming sandhills, are sacrificed daily to yield the very fuels that the wind farm would displace." An attractively dramatic alternative, but is there any evidence of wind projects reducing environmental ruin, let alone war and terrorism? Komanoff never presents any.

In "Wind power works," a Jan. 8, 2005, opinion in the Berkshire Eagle, he revives this Manichaean doctrine that wind power is the good whose turn it is to conquer the darkness of fossil fuels. In a direct attack on the environmental group Green Berkshires, he warns of their denial of this truth. Similarly in "Wind power's benefits outweigh risk to scenery," a September 2005 opinion in the Hill Country Observer, he writes, "Through dependence on fossil fuels, humankind has come to a point where a windmill-less Adirondack vista or Berkshire ridgeline is hitched to ruined climate and global violence. Conversely, admitting clean, quiet, graceful windmills into our Northeast landscapes could show the way out of this dependence and to the recovery and continuance of our world." Komanoff leaves no room for discussion here, no room for honestly assessing industrial wind's own negative impacts or examining the claimed benefits. There is only salvation or doom: Accept wind power development or die.

The message of redemption continues with "In the wind," a Sept. 18, 2005, opinion in the Albany Times Union, in which he slithers under the mantle of environmentalist Dave Brower (deceeased) to claim that the construction of ten 425-ft-high turbines at an abandoned mine site in the Adirondacks would be an act of "restoring Earth." Most environmentalists might suggest that restoring the site would require returning it to wilderness, not simply changing the use from one industry to another. But Komanoff's brand of environmentalism, one he shares with many who once put nature first, is nothing without conquest: "Good" human use is better than no use at all, than mere wilderness. This is someone who doesn't know the difference between man-made machine noise and rustling leaves or lapping water. He is not an environmentalist.

categories:  , , ,

September 23, 2010

Wind industry continues to lie

Here are a couple of examples of the alternate reality in which wind industry executives operate, hoping that the rest of the world will join them.

In today's Daily Mail report about the U.K.'s new sprawling wind energy facility off the coast of Kent, an unnamed spokesman for Renewable UK, responding to criticism that this 13.5-square-mile, £780 million plant will produce at an average of only 35-40% of its capacity, said, ‘You have to bear in mind that coal and gas-fired power stations don’t work at full capacity either – and even nuclear power stations are taken off line.’

He does not mention that other power stations are used according to demand, not the whims of the wind. Using a peaking plant (at full rated power) 35% of the time, that is, when you need it, is very different from wind turbines producing power, at variable rates, whether you need it or not. An average of 35% is meaningless: If it can not be produced on demand, it is worthless. Wind turbines produce at or above their average rate — whatever it might turn out to be — only about 40% of the time — at whatever times the wind wills.

Also in the article, an item in the sidebar says that it "generates power at wind speeds between 8mph and 55mph". Elsewhere in the article, however, it is noted that the the plant will generate at full capacity only if the wind is blowing at 16 metres per second, i.e., 36mph. Below that speed, production falls precipitously. At 8mph, it is barely a trickle. Furthermore, after the wind gusts above 55mph and the turbines shut down, they don't start up again until the wind goes down to 45mph.

Let us now turn our attention to Vermont, where the founder of anemometer maker NRG Systems David Blittersdorf (his wife Jan is still CEO; David went on to Earth Turbines and then All Earth Renewables, which applied for millions of dollars of grants this year, so Mr B got himself appointed to the state committee disbursing the grants ...). As reported by the Rutland Herald, Blittersdorf gave a talk about wind power at the annual meeting of the Castleton Historical Society.

He said that "wind power is practically unsubsidized when compared to power sources like oil and nuclear energy." Federal financial interventions and subsidies in the energy market were examined by the Energy Information Administration in 2008. They found that wind energy received $23.37 per megawatt-hour of its electricity production in 2007, compared with 44 cents for coal, $1.59 for nuclear, and 25 cents for natural gas and oil.

He also said that "many of the objections to wind power, such as danger to birds and concerns about noise, are no longer true due to newer technology". In fact, "newer technology" simply consists of taller towers with larger blades, which now reach well into the ranges of migrating birds, both large and small. Every post-construction survey of a wind energy facility continues to report more deaths than predicted. (And yet permitting agencies and bird protection organizations continue to believe the developers' assessments.) In addition to birds, the toll on bats has become an increasingly alarming concern. The size of modern turbines has also only increased, not decreased noise problems. Everywhere that wind turbines are erected within 2 kilometers (1.25 miles) of homes, people complain of disturbed sleep, consequent stress and irritability, and often worse health problems that may be a direct result of the throbbing low-frequency noise on the balance organs of the inner ear. (And yet permitting agencies and neighbors continue to believe the developers' reassurances; the latest victims of this willful obtuseness reside on the island of Vinalhaven, Maine.) Again, the problems with wind have only become worse with "newer technology"..

And so he said that the only real remaining objection is the aesthetic one: "Some folks don't want to see a wind turbine on a mountain. We have to choose something. By denying wind power, you're supporting coal, oil and nuclear energy."

Bullshit and bullshit. Not to mention, the aesthetic objection is valid, considering that wind turbine facilities are generally built in previously undeveloped rural and even wild areas. You can't have environmentalism without aesthetics. Vermont doesn't allow billboards on the highways. It essentially bans all development above 2,000 feet on the mountains. 400-feet-high machines blasted into the ridges and connected by wide straight heavy-duty roads are rightly seen as an insult to what we hold dear.

Anyway, many objections — as described about birds, bats, and noise — remain. And the benefits to be weighed against those "aesthetic" costs are hard to find. By denying wind power, you're not supporting other forms of energy any more than you are by promoting wind power. Because wind, which answers only to the whims of Aeolus, not to the actual minute-to-minute needs of the grid, has not replaced and can not replace other forms of energy on the electric grid.

David Blittersdorf may think it's worth killing birds and bats, destroying the neighbors' health, and wrecking the landscape in the belief that if we erect ever more wind turbines we might actually see some positive effect (ignoring all the havoc wreaked to get there). But instead he denies that these well documented impacts actually occur. That is quite disturbing.

wind power, wind energy, wind turbines, wind farms, environment, environmentalism, human rights, animal rights, Vermont

October 11, 2008

Wind energy myths on the grid

Michael Goggin has written a paper for the trade group American Wind Industry Association titled "20% Wind Energy by 2030: Wind, Backup Power, and Emissions". It is an attempt to claim -- in the face of conflicting evidence and reason -- that wind energy, even at substantial "penetration", does not require extra "backup" capacity and substantially reduces carbon emissions from other fuels.
The "no reduction in emissions" myth

Wind opponents sometimes argue that wind energy doesn't actually reduce the fuel use or harmful emissions of other power plants. On its face, this claim does not make sense: utility system operators must precisely balance the total supply of electricity with the total demand for electricity at all times, so the electricity produced by a wind plant must be matched by an equivalent decrease in electricity production at another plant.
The unstated part of that equation is that a decrease in electricity production does not necessarily mean an equivalent decrease in fuel use or emissions. In other words, a thermal plant simply diverts its steam past the turbines, but it doesn't stop creating steam. That is because it may take several hours to reheat. Plants that can switch on faster must use more fuel to do so (like stop-and-go city driving versus steady highway driving). Plants that can modulate their electricity production do so by operating at a lower efficiency, i.e., with more emissions.
• In 2007, wind energy in the U.S. reduced CO2 emissions by over 28 million tons, equivalent to taking almost 5 million cars off the road. On average, each Megawatt- hour (MWh) of wind energy -- the amount produced by two typical modern wind turbines in an average hour -- reduces CO2 emissions by 1,200 pounds.
There is no citation for this claim, because it based only on the above assumption that reduction of electricity production is the same as reduction of fuel use is the same as reduction of emissions. It is not based on actual data.
• The U.S. Department of Energy's (DOE) 20% Wind Energy by 2030 Technical Report calculated that obtaining 20% of our electricity from wind energy by 2030 would [emphasis added] cut cumulative CO2 emissions by over 7.6 billion tons.

• The DOE report found CO2 emissions would [emphasis added] be reduced by over 825 million tons in the year 2030 alone, an amount equal to 25% of all electric sector carbon dioxide emissions in that year -- the equivalent of taking 140 million cars off the road.

• The DOE study also found that wind energy would [emphasis added] cut the amount of natural gas used for electricity generation by 50% in 2030.

• A study by the grid operator in Texas found similar results, concluding that adding 3,000 megawatts (MW) of wind energy to the state's grid would [emphasis added] reduce CO2 emissions by about 5.5 million tons per year, sulfur dioxide emissions by about 4,000 tons per year, and nitrogen oxide emissions by about 2,000 tons per year.

• In regions where a large share of electricity comes from coal power, the emissions savings of wind energy can be [emphasis added] even larger. A DOE analysis found that Indiana could [emphasis added] reduce CO2 emissions by 3.1 million tons per year by adding 1,000 MW of wind power.

• The 30 MW Kaheawa wind plant in Hawaii directly offsets power from oil-burning power plants, reducing oil imports by almost 10 million gallons per year.
The company web site cited for this statement actually says: "Kaheawa Wind will [emphasis added] eliminate the use of over 236,000 barrels of oil or 69,000 tons of coal annually." (236,000 barrels = 9,912,000 gallons.) So again, offsetting the electricity production (which is rarely all oil or all coal based) is not the same as reducing fuel use or emissions, and thus it is not actual data cited but conjecture based on incorrect assumptions. In short, these are made-up numbers that have a shaky relationship with reality.
The "backup power" myth

Sometimes wind opponents claim that because wind energy output varies with the wind speed, wind plants require an equivalent amount of "backup power" provided by fossil fuel plants, negating the environmental and fuel savings benefits of wind energy. Understanding why this myth is false requires some explanation of how the electric utility system operates.

Overview of Power Grid Operations

System operators always maintain significant "operating reserves," typically equal to 5-7% or more of total generation. These reserves are used to deal with the rapid and unpredictable changes in electricity demand that occur as people turn appliances on and off, as well as the very large changes in electricity supply that can occur in a fraction of a second if a large power plant suffers an unexpected outage. Instead of backing up each power plant with a second power plant in case the first plant suddenly fails, grid operators pool reserves for the whole system to allow them to respond to a variety of potential unexpected events.
That is exactly why wind energy facilities can not claim to be replacing other sources. Because wind energy production is intermittent and highly variable -- and typically a small percentage of total generation -- the facilities are like "negative demand" to the grid, balanced by the operating reserves.
System operators use two main types of generation reserves: "spinning reserves," (regulation reserves plus contingency spinning reserves) which can be activated quickly to respond to abrupt changes in electricity supply and demand, and "non-spinning reserves," (including supplemental reserves) which are used to respond to slower changes. Spinning reserves are typically operating power plants that are held below their maximum output level so that they can rapidly increase or decrease their output as needed. Hydroelectric plants are typically the first choice of system operators for spinning reserves, because their output can be changed rapidly without any fuel use. When hydroelectric plants are not available, natural gas plants can also be used to provide spinning reserves because they can quickly increase and decrease their generation with only a slight loss of efficiency. Studies show that using natural gas plants or even coal plants as spinning reserves increases emissions and fuel use by only 0.5% to 1.5% above what it would be if the plants were generating power normally.

Non-spinning reserves are inactive power plants that can start up within a short period of time (typically 10-30 minutes) if needed. Hydroelectric plants are frequently the top choice for this type of reserve as well because of their speedy response capabilities, followed by natural gas plants. The vast majority of the time non-spinning reserves that are made available are not actually used, as they only operate if there is a large and unexpected change in electricity supply or demand. As a result, the emissions and fuel use of non-spinning reserves are very low, given that they only rarely run, the fact that hydroelectric plants (which have zero emissions and fuel use) often serve as non-spinning reserves, and the very modest efficiency penalty that applies when reserve natural gas plants actually operate.
There are two important things to note here. First, no-carbon hydro and low-carbon gas are the sources most likely to be used to balance the fluctuating feed from wind turbines. Yet, the industry always compares the equivalent carbon from coal, oil, or automobiles, when any carbon savings would actually be minimal. Second, since wind must be balanced as "negative demand", those other plants would have to be used more. In the case of gas, that means more carbon emissions, not less.
Accommodating Wind Energy

Fortunately, the same tools that utility system operators use every day to deal with variations in electricity supply and demand can readily be used to accommodate the variability of wind energy. In contrast to the rapid power fluctuations that occur when a large power plant suddenly experiences an outage or when millions of people turn on their air conditioners on a hot day, changes in the total energy output from wind turbines spread over a reasonably large area tend to occur very slowly.

While occasionally the wind may suddenly slow down at one location and cause the output from a single turbine to decrease, regions with high penetrations of wind energy tend to have hundreds or even thousands of turbines spread over hundreds of miles. As a result, it typically takes many minutes or even hours for the total wind energy output of a region to change significantly. This makes it relatively easy for utility system operators to accommodate these changes without relying on reserves. This task can be made even easier with the use of wind energy forecasting, which allows system operators to predict changes in wind output hours or even days in advance with a high degree of accuracy.

Moreover, changes in aggregate wind generation often cancel out opposite changes in electricity demand, so the increase in total variability caused by adding wind to the system is often very low. As a result, it is usually possible to add a significant amount of wind energy without causing a significant increase in the use of reserves, and even when large amounts of wind are added, the increase in the use of reserves is typically very small.

The conclusion that large amounts of wind energy can be added to the grid with only minimal increases in the use of reserves is supported by the experience of grid operators in European countries with large amounts of wind energy, as well as the results of a number of wind integration studies in the U.S.
Actually, the experience in Europe is the opposite of this claim. As wind "penetration" increases, the ability of existing reserves to balance it quickly diminishes and more excess capacity has to be added. See for a summary. The fact is that the wind doesn't always blow, even over a whole continent at the same time. Therefore, the grid has to be built as if the wind isn't there, because so often it won't be. And with the wind turbines added in, the grid needs even more capacity -- and more high-voltage interconnection lines -- to balance that energy.

The bottom line is that very little can be achieved with large-scale wind power on the grid. It simply adds expense and impacts without replacing other expenses or impacts to any degree that can justify it.

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

May 31, 2006

Wind integration follies

At the end of 2005, the Power Engineering Society (PES) of the Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers (IEEE) published a special issue of its Power & Energy Magazine (Volume 3, Number 6, November/December 2005) focused on integrating wind into the power system. This document provides a brief summary of many of the salient points from that special issue about the current state of knowledge regarding utility wind integration issues.
The May 2006 report ("Utility Wind Integration State of the Art") prepared by the Utility Wind Integration Group (UWIG) has been frequently cited recently as showing that wind power can easily provide 20% of our electricity. In fact it doesn't say that at all. Even their own press release misrepresents the report in that way.

The report does constructively address some of the market structures that complicate integrating a variable and intermittent source of energy such as that from the wind, but it glosses over the fact that such integration has little effect on the use of other sources. Even as it notes that wind is an energy, not a capacity, source -- that is, it can't replace any other source of electricity on the grid, it disregards the costs of keeping that excess capacity on line and using it all that less efficiently, nor does it consider the madness of, for example, calling for building excess, redundant, wind facilities in the dim hope that somewhere the wind will be blowing and for more transmission lines to deliver this marginally useful energy -- instead of spending that money to better use what we already have (or even, damn your eyes, to use less energy).

It also inconveniently declines to provide the sources it refers to ("two major recent studies," "have been shown," "one major study"), instead simply referring to the P&E Magazine. So one reads the UWIG summary with no idea of the reliability of its sources. Here are some extracts, with commentary in brackets.
On the cost side, at wind penetrations of up to 20% of system peak demand, system operating cost increases arising from wind variability and uncertainty amounted to about 10% or less of the wholesale value of the wind energy.
Besides obviously ignoring the cost of the wind plant itself and its supporting transmission infrastructure, it should be noted that this is about cost only. As noted above, the publicizers of the UWIG report have misread this to say that the problems of integrating that amount of wind energy are minimal and even that there are corresponding benefits. But nothing in the UWIG report says that.
Since wind is primarily an energy -- not a capacity -- source, no additional generation needs to be added to provide back-up capability provided that wind capacity is properly discounted in the determination of generation capacity adequacy. However, wind generation penetration may affect the mix and dispatch of other generation on the system over time, since non-wind generation is needed to maintain system reliability when winds are low. [That is, wind does not need new back-up capacity, because it should be generally ignored in capacity planning, anyway (since the wind will be low so often).]

Wind generation will also provide some additional load carrying capability to meet forecasted increases in system demand. This contribution is likely to be up to 40% of a typical project’s nameplate rating, depending on local wind characteristics and coincidence with the system load profile. [Utter fudge. First, typical generation reported to the EIA is 27%. Second, that "depending on" is the starting point of the problem not a minor sideshow.] Wind generation may require system operators to carry additional operating reserves. [Just don't call it new back-up!]

In areas with limited penetration, modern wind plants can be added without degrading system performance.
And there's the crux of the matter. What is "limited penetration"? It certainly isn't 20% of peak demand. As long as wind penetration is low enough so that its variability can be accommodated as easily as demand fluctuations, it doesn't present a problem. And that limits the possible contribution wind power can make to meeting our electricity needs.
Because of spatial variations of wind from turbine to turbine in a wind plant -- and to a greater degree from plant to plant -- a sudden loss of all wind power on a system simultaneously due to a loss of wind is not a credible event. [Hogwash. It is wishful thinking (and more madness: to build more wind turbines to back up other wind turbines, further diminishing their usefulness) and it is not at all borne out by actual experience.]

The addition of a wind plant to a power system does not require the addition of any backup conventional generation since wind is used primarily as an energy resource. In this case, when the wind is not blowing, the system must rely on existing dispatchable generation to meet the system demand.
This contradicts the earlier statement that "[w]ind generation will also provide some additional load carrying capability to meet forecasted increases in system demand." It states that wind has no -- zero -- capacity credit. In other words, it is not a choice between wind turbines and smokestacks or cooling towers. Erect and connect all the wind turbines you can, and you'll still need the same amount of "conventional" plants.
The addition of a wind plant to a power system increases the amount of variability and uncertainty of the net load. This may introduce measurable changes in the amount of operating reserves required for regulation, ramping and load-following. Operating reserves may consist of both spinning and non-spinning reserves.

Wind’s variability cannot be treated in isolation from the load variability inherent in the system. Because wind and load variability are statistically uncorrelated, the net increase of variability due to the addition of wind is less than the variability of the wind generation alone. [Nonsense: The addition of times of high wind generation during low demand (and, to a lesser extent, since wind has zero capacity credit, vice versa) obviously increases load variability.]

Upgrades or additions to transmission facilities may be needed to access locations with large wind-energy potential.
For more information on the actual contributions of wind power and its effect on other sources, see "The Low Benefit of Industrial Wind."

wind power, wind energy, environment, environmentalism

February 9, 2006

market scams, dead bats, and big business

Here are a few abstracts from Windpower Monthly's February issue.

China changes tack on wind market structure and drops fixed purchase prices for competitive tenders:  Companies which a short time ago were rushing to develop wind projects in China are now having second thoughts after the government announced last month it would not be introducing a premium wind power tariff, as widely expected. Instead, the market structure will be a competitive bidding process controlled by government. "The zeal for wind development in China is likely to cool down," says Zhu Junsheng of China Renewable Energy Industries Association.

Plans for Scandinavian green certificates market hit icy patch:  Europe's first cross-border market for trade of green power certificates is looking unlikely to go ahead at the start of next year as planned. All eyes have otherwise been on Norway and Sweden to demonstrate that the environmental value of renewable energy is a commodity that can be sold separately from the physical electricity. Green certificate trade, increasingly common in America, allows a country with poor wind resources to buy cheaper wind power from a distant windy neighbour. [This echos the arrangement of powerful nations enriching themselves with the resources of weak nations. --KM] But Norway is still wrangling over the details, while a Swedish fear is that as long as Norway can produce wind power more efficiently than Sweden, Swedish subsidies to renewables will end up in Norwegian pockets. ... [W]ind industry views remain mixed on whether these are teething problems or a more fundamental flaw in the concept of green certificate trade.

GE Financial Services aiming to be world's biggest wind power investor:  With last year's purchase of seven small German wind farms and the commissioning of a 50 MW project in California, GE Energy Financial Services (EFS) has joined the list of institutional investors aiming to build substantial portfolios of wind plant assets. Right now wind is a "sweet spot" for new energy investment, says the company's Tim Howell. This year EFS is forming a dedicated team to focus exclusively on renewables, chasing deals in Europe and the US. We interview the men with the ambitions -- and the billions of dollars -- to make EFS the largest, most profitable owner of wind assets in the world.

Investigating mystery bat deaths in Canadian wind farm:  A leading Canadian power producer is launching two bat research programs after site monitoring at a southern Alberta wind farm revealed hundreds of bat mortalities. About 90% of the bodies were found during the fall migration in August and September. The mortalities were largely silver-haired and hoary bats, neither of which is a species at risk [small comfort if you or your mate is one of the individuals killed --KM]. The company is funding research to track bat behaviour and hopes the findings can be used to identify potential issues at other sites.

Merger of American power giants seen as benefit to wind industry:  A pending merger between US electricity majors FPL Group and Constellation Energy will create a giant among giants and has likely wide-reaching implications for the future of wind power development across the country. "Constellation has flirted with the wind industry and as a combination they'll be the leading players in the market," says Randy Swisher of the American Wind Energy Association. "It's very, very interesting." FPL assures that its intention to add up to 1500 MW of wind power to its portfolio remains unchanged. "A market with larger players and larger control areas is more attractive to the wind industry," adds Swisher. [This, along with the GE story above, underscores that industrial wind power is not an alternative to but increasingly a symptom of the same big-energy control that got us into the mess we're in. --KM]

tags:  , , , , ,

April 7, 2007

The gap between the blades

A story from this week's Billings (Mt.) Outpost (click the title of this post), brought to our attention by the News Watch service of National Wind Watch, describes the problem that wind brings to the grid, namely, the need for NEW backup power. This is the same case described in an earlier post, a unique situation where the utility is actually stuck with the wind energy rather than just shunting it off into the larger grid where its effects are minimal.

Who will spark the gap?

With the standby power necessary to smooth the erratic output of Montana's premier wind power facility becoming difficult to come by at any price, the state's energy technocracy wonders.

The Judith Gap wind farm is an impressive operation. According to the company that runs it, Invenergy, its 90 turbines stretch 400 feet into the Big Sky when the blades are fully extended, and each one produces enough electricity to power 300 homes. It's a showcase project in Montana's move toward renewable energy.

Yet the cluster of dynamos itself faces a looming power shortage.

To integrate the Gap's green electrons into the area's power delivery system, a back-up source of power is required. When the wind isn't blowing, the power that is scheduled to come from the farm has to come from somewhere else.

All forms of large-scale power generation need other sources of power to help them stay in sync with the demand for electricity or the "load" as the pros call it. Those sources are sometimes called "regulating reserve." NWE had some trouble matching the wind to the load during Judith Gap's first year of operation, an activity that Mr. Fine described as "chasing the wind."

From moment to moment, government regulations require that supply stays within 90 percent of demand, or the utility is considered to be out of compliance. If the company stays out of compliance for too long, fines result.

Before Judith Gap, NWE had never been out of compliance. In 2006 the company violated the standard repeatedly, NWE officials told the PSC. In order to stabilize its lines, the company added another 25 megawatts of reserve power to the 30 megawatts that it traditionally required, PSC Vice Chairman Doug Mood said. The cost of reserve power is passed on to ratepayers.

NWE has the situation under control for now, but at the end of the year one of the primary contracts for that back-up juice will end, and so far NorthWestern hasn't found a new outlet to plug into, company and PSC officials have said.

Public Service Commissioner Brad Molnar, R-Laurel, has noted that with other wind projects in the region coming online, firming power might become impossible to obtain. If that leads to crippling fines for line instability, the Judith Gap facility might have to shut down, he said. ...

Gov. Brian Schweitzer added that energy costs from the wind project are competitive with new coal plants.

"Here are the numbers," the governor said. After one year of operation the Judith Gap project was producing power at $41.63 per megawatt. The wind portion of that was $32 per Mw. That was put together with natural gas from Butte to get $41.63. The new coal plant in Hardin came in at $44 per Mw, and the proposed Great Falls plant will produce power at $48, the governor said.

"Those are the facts," he said. "That's NorthWestern Energy's numbers. It may be that some people don't have all the facts."

The governor was comparing apples and oranges, Mr. Molnar said. The power generated at Judith Gap could not be matched to the load. It was not "dispatchable, curtailable or reliable," meaning that the wind power couldn't be used to back up other sources of power and can't easily be reduced to match demand.

The governor's remarks were "just the usual blather," he said.

Forty percent of the power produced at Judith Gap has been sold into the Idaho system at a loss, because there was no market for it here, Mr. Molnar said. "Why would you pay $42 for a waste product when you can buy usable product for $46?" ...

As back-up power resources get scarcer and more expensive, the company has had to look at building its own, [NWE Communications Director Claudia Rapkoch] said. ... Will Rosquist, a rate analyst for the PSC, concurred that NWE would have to provide its own ancillary power if the third party market dried up. Failure to do so was not an option. ...

wind power, wind energy