February 8, 2005

Annual average output only one third of the time

This graph is from "Wind Report 2004," by Eon Netz, the grid operator for a third of Germany. It shows how many quarter-hours of the year the total infeed from the 5,900 MW of installed wind capacity on their system was at or above a certain amount.

For example, the highlighted horizontal rule indicates the average infeed over the whole year. It intersects the curve at about 12,500 quarter-hours, meaning that the total infeed from wind was equal to or more than the annual average for only 12,500 out of 35,040 quarter-hours, or about one third of the time.

Because wind turbine generation falls off logarithmically when the wind speed is below the ideal 30 mph or so, and the turbines have to be shut down when the wind is too fast, I would guess that this experience would also apply in regions showing better performance than the Eon Netz region's annual average of one sixth of capacity. That is, even as the average annual infeed approaches a third of capacity, and much of the curve shifts upward, it would be at or above the annual average still only a third of the time.

Environment vs. industrial wind power

"My involvement in this issue began when a wind facility was proposed for the mountain I live on. I thought I supported the development of wind power, but the idea of turning a prominent wilderness area into an industrial facility was obviously incompatible with the environmental concerns of promoting renewable energy. More research revealed many more problems with large-scale wind power, notably the disproportion of their size and impact to whatever benefit they might provide."

[Click the title of this post to go to the paper "A Problem With Wind Power."]

February 4, 2005

Expensive side show

The Scotsman features a debate this week between David Bellamy, botanist and conservationist, and Duncan McLaren, chief executive of Friends of the Earth Scotland, on the question, "Are wind farms the answer to Scotland's energy needs?" A comment:
Duncan McLaren describes the urgency of the climate crisis and the need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. He does not, however, describe any evidence that sprawling wind facilities (30-60 acres per installed megawatt) are in fact a good way to reduce such emissions, let alone preserve the environment.

A year ago, the Irish grid published a study among whose findings was, "The cost of CO2 abatement arising from using large levels of wind energy penetration appears high relative to other alternatives."

A similar conclusion was found in a leaked German government report, as recently reported in the Telegraph: that reduction of greenhouse gas emissions could be achieved much more cheaply by simply installing filters on existing fossil-fuel plants.

At a Danish Wind Industry Association meeting in May last year, the head of development of Elsam, which operates over 400 MW of wind power in Denmark, stated, "Increased development of wind turbines does not reduce Danish CO2 emissions."

At best, large-scale wind power is a very expensive (to most, not to the investors of course) side show and certainly not worth industrialising the landscape for.

Bob Herbert in today's Times

'In her decision, Judge Green wrote, "Although this nation unquestionably must take strong action under the leadership of the commander in chief to protect itself against enormous and unprecedented threats, that necessity cannot negate the existence of the most basic fundamental rights for which the people of this country have fought and died for well over 200 years."

'The fundamental right in the case of the Guantánamo detainees is the right not to be deprived of liberty without due process of law. A government with the power to spirit people away and declare that's the end of the matter is exactly the kind of government the United States has always claimed to oppose, and has sometimes fought. For the United States itself to become that kind of government is spectacularly scary.

'In seeking the stay of Judge Green's ruling, the administration showed yesterday that it is committed to being that kind of government.'

February 2, 2005

Ireland: Wind-generated power is expensive and ineffective

Similar to the leaked report from Germany (see earlier post) a study published last year by the Irish grid manager (172-KB PDF) found the benefits of wind-generated power to be small and that they decreased as more wind power was added to the system and as the system as a whole grew. Their model assumed that all energy produced from wind facilities would be used and did not consider less than hourly output fluctuations -- quite generous assumptions.

Three problems they described that mitigate the benefits of wind power were the large amount of extra energy required to start up thermal generators that would otherwise never have been turned off, the mechanical stresses of more frequent ramping of production levels up and down, and the increased prices of energy necessary to pay for any lower usage of thermal plants. They noticed that there was very little possibility of closing any non-wind facilities, because their capacity would still be needed to respond to periods of peak demand. So wind plants add more capacity (requiring more infrastructure) with almost no reduction of non-wind capacity, the latter of which must be used more inefficiently than otherwise.

As for CO2 reduction -- the primary argument for wind-generated power -- the study concludes, "The cost of CO2 abatement arising from using large levels of wind energy penetration appears high relative to other alternatives."

February 1, 2005

Recovered history

Courtesy Sam Smith's Progressive Review.

PETER GROSE, NY TIMES, SEP 4, 1967 -- United States officials were surprised and heartened today at the size of turnout in South Vietnam's presidential election despite a Vietcong terrorist campaign to disrupt the voting. According to reports from Saigon, 83 per cent of the 5.85 million registered voters cast their ballots yesterday. Many of them risked reprisals threatened by the Vietcong. The size of the popular vote and the inability of the Vietcong to destroy the election machinery were the two salient facts in a preliminary assessment of the national election based on the incomplete returns reaching here. ... A successful election has long been seen as the keystone in President Johnson's policy of encouraging the growth of constitutional processes in South Vietnam.