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

May 30, 2006

"The Evil Within," by Paul Craig Roberts

[published on Counterpunch, May 27]

... Bush damns the "axis of evil." But who has the "axis of evil" attacked? Iran has attacked no one. North Korea has attacked no country for more than a half century. Iraq attacked Kuwait a decade and a half ago, apparently after securing permission from the US ambassador.

Isn't the real axis of evil Bush-Blair-Olmert? Bush and Blair have attacked two countries, slaughtering their citizens. Olmert is urging them on to attack a third country -- Iran.

Where does the danger to the world reside? In Iran, a small religious country where the family is intact and the government is constrained by religious authority and ancient traditions, or in the US where propaganda rules and the powerful executive branch has removed itself from accountability by breaking the constitutional restraints on its power?

Why is the US superpower orchestrating fear of puny Iran?

The US government has spent the past half century interfering in the internal affairs of other countries, overthrowing or assassinating their chosen leaders and imposing its puppets on foreign peoples. To what country has Iran done this, or Iraq, or North Korea?

Americans think that they are the salt of the earth. The hubris that comes from this self-righteous belief makes Americans blind to the evil of their leaders. How can American leaders be evil when Americans are so good and so wonderful?

How many Serbs were slaughtered by American bombs released from high above the clouds, and for what reason? Who even remembers the propagandistic lies that the Clinton administration told us about why we absolutely had to drop bombs on the Serbs?

Wasn't it evil for the US to bomb Iraq for a decade and to embargo medicines for children? When US Secretary of State M. Albright was asked if she thought an embargo that resulted in the deaths of 500,000 Iraqi children was justified, she replied, "yes."

The former terrible tyrant ruler of Iraq, Saddam Hussein, is on trial for killing 150 people. The US government murdered 500,000 Iraqi children prior to Bush's invasion. When the US government murders people, whether Serbs, Branch Davidians at Waco, or Iraqi women and children, it is "collateral damage." But we put Saddam Hussein on trial for putting down rebellions.

Gentle reader, do you believe that the Bush Regime will not shoot you down in the streets if you have a rebellion?


May 25, 2006

Wind turbines part of torture and misinformation mission at Guantánamo

This is in an article from the American Forces Press Service:
Each turbine is anchored in "a giant, swimming pool-sized block of concrete, through which 22 soil anchors are drilled into the mountain," Johnston said. [Navy Cmdr. Jeffrey M. Johnston is the base’s public works officer.] He explained that the soil anchors are sunk 30 to 40 feet deep, then sealed with grout. "So they are essentially nailed to the mountain," he said of the turbines.
The four turbines at Quantánamo are relatively modest 950-KW machines, apparently from NEG Micon, which was absorbed some time ago by Vestas. Turbines over twice their capacity, exceeding 400 feet in height, are being proposed for the wild mountains of the eastern states.

wind power, wind energy, wind turbines, environment, environmentalism, anarchism

May 24, 2006

Nordhaus and Shellenberger are not environmentalists (2)

[Click here for part 1]

Excerpts, part 2, "The Enemy Within," by Mike Roselle, Lowbagger:

What really irks me is not just that it has become fashionable among consultants to argue against using boycotts, legislation, litigation and other confrontational and coercive approaches to going after polluter and despoilers. But that you must also differentiate yourself from those who do. This is accomplished by demeaning the efforts of those very environmental activists who have been out there on the front lines doing the heavy lifting over the last few decades. And we can't just be wrong in our approach; we are also selfish, ignorant, irrational, rich, elite or even worse, we are radical.

There are two problems with this thinking, and the first is that the only reason those corporations are sitting down with Breakthrough or any environmental groups is because they don't want to see those sign-waving hippie scum on their doorsteps. Would The Home Depot be talking to any of us if the Rainforest Action Network hadn't picketed hundreds of their most profitable outlets?

And the second problem is that this attitude by the well heeled, well paid professional environmental consultants serves to de-legitimize those very front line soldiers that we are going to need when the going gets rough. What happens when a company refuses to work with the new compliant environmental movement? We have the carrot, but where is the stick? The public may not identify with environmental or animal rights activists, but companies live in fear of being the target of a well coordinated campaign. It is very easy to make fun of the activists, but without them where would we be? ...

I think it should be quite clear by now that Nordhaus and Shellenberger are not, and never were, environmental activists. They have cast their lot with the promoters, developers and opportunists who have taken up residence under the banner of the environment. It is far easier to sit down with big business and cut deals and to give away more wildlife habitat than it is to stick to your guns on principle. You don't have to fight anybody. You don't have to go out into the community to organize the opposition; you don't have to risk being portrayed by these same corporations as unreasonable and confrontational. Indeed, you look out from your conference room table and agree with these bastards, that yes, these scruffy activists are a well-meaning bunch, but they are not realistic. They don't represent anybody, and we represent the voice of reason.

This is horseshit. The conservation movement is a modern, global, political force with historic roots and a clearly defined mission to protect nature. We understand that the survival of humanity depends on the survival of wilderness and natural diversity. We recognize that far too much of the Earth has been sacrificed for industrial and agricultural development, and this has led us to the brink of a mass extinction event and the onslaught of global warming. Without challenging the dominate paradigm of growth for the sake of growth, and getting serious about protecting habitat, a few more windmills and a new $30,000 car with double the gas mileage is not going to make much difference. By rejecting a government role in addressing the global warming crisis with stronger laws in favor of playing patty-cake with developers and alternative energy hucksters, they are abandoning the most powerful tools for achieving corporate responsibility -- the courthouse and the jailhouse. ...

If we cannot get coal mining and oil drilling under control soon, no amount of wind energy is going to affect global warming. We need to continue to question the rapid growth of the human population, and the loss of bio-diversity. If the Breakthrough Institute were doing more to address these problems rather than just play cheerleader for private sector voluntary acts of environmental sanity, maybe I would believe them. But: I don't.

wind power, wind energy, environment, environmentalism, anarchism, ecoanarchism, animal rights

Nordhaus and Shellenberger are not environmentalists (1)

Excerpts, part 1, "The Enemy Within," by Mike Roselle, Lowbagger:

The Death of Environmentalism [by Ted Nordhaus and Steve Shellenberger of the Breakthrough Institute] was a broadside at the conservation movement disguised as friendly criticism from veteran strategists. Our tactics, which were indeed coercive and confrontational, were ultimately successful. We wanted to forge a new conservation movement that would fight, not roll over, to defend the natural world from industrial development. ...

Breakthrough wants to define a new environmental movement, broader in scope and more willing to come up with solutions and work with businesses to implement them. They suggest we abandon our efforts to get new laws or to use the courts to enforce existing laws, arguing that saving nature is for elitists who don't care for the plight of the poor and the oppressed. ...

According to Breakthrough we need new ones. And so they are going after that well known elitist, demon, plutocrat, Yankee, robber-baron, Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. They’re mad because he wrote a widely published op-ed opposing the Cape Wind project, a group of 130 windmills to be built in Nantucket Sound. Kennedy's opposition was for environmental reasons, which he laid out in his article. This large-scale industrial wind farm is being supported by the Breakthrough Institute and, for some unexplained reason, by other environmental organizations like Greenpeace. It is planned for a popular recreation area, an important fishery and wildlife preserve, not to mention near a busy ship channel. We could certainly disagree about whether or not this was the only possible location for a project that would help stop global warming, or about its environmental impacts, but in his response Shellenberger goes further, and suggests any opposition to the project is from rich and famous celebrities on Martha's Vineyard, similar NIMBY's, or environmental extremists.

I had previously read Kennedy's editorial and found it very convincing. It was written in the language of conservation. He mentions the importance of wilderness and wildlife habitat. [H]e described what he thought were the negative impacts of the proposed project. [T]here were no personal attacks and it was a simple appeal to find a better location. It was a passionate argument against an industrial development ...

The response from the Breakthrough Institute and from a Greenpeace "Energy Campaigner” was swift and personal. Not to mention highly technical and legalistic. Some of the arguments in favor of wind derricks are strikingly similar to Ted Stevens's arguments in favor of derricks in the Arctic. They also avoided the central points of Kennedy's arguments by casting aspersions against his integrity. They never mentioned wilderness or wildlife as a value to be cherished. They state flat out that this project won't affect wildlife or the solitude of the area, and would even be an improvement. They accuse Kennedy of "threatening what is arguably the most important clean energy development in the world while encouraging the already substantial public perception that environmentalists are elitists who only care about protecting their own private playgrounds." ...

I don't have as much money as Bobby Kennedy, but I too have been called an elitist and a NIMBY. So now we have something in common other that our rugged good looks and love for running wild rivers. As far as being an elitist goes, if you are a Kennedy living on Martha's Vineyard, you pretty much have to prepare yourself for that one. But was he really a self-interested, vicious liar who couldn't give a rat's ass for the Earth and who doesn't care about global warming at all? ...

If I were going to award points on poise and style, Robert F. Kennedy would win this one hands down. But I will flat out say it is hypocritical of the Breakthrough Institute for criticizing the environmental movement for demonizing our opponents on one day and then to come back and personally attack Robert Kennedy and other environmentalist the next day and accuse them of being elitists, liars and a threat to the movement.

[F]rom an environmentalist's perspective, large-scale industrial development is not the solution, but is the problem itself. Windmills, although better than oil wells, are no panacea for the energy crisis. We are brushing up against the limits of what the natural resources of this planet will support, and a headlong rush into alternative energy production will not affect global warming unless some aggressive steps are also taken soon to address our overall growth and energy consumption in the so-called developed world. Otherwise, we will have wind farms and solar collectors all over the countryside trying to replace energy consumption that in the beginning was subsidized by burning copious amounts of forests and fossil fuel.

... [I]f we are to settle for large-scale industrial wind and solar projects, the threat of global warming should not be used as an excuse to trample the last good places for recreation or wildlife. It is hard to believe that suddenly the only place suitable for wind generators is also a place that has been considered for a wildlife refuge for endangered whales.

[Click here for part 2]

wind power, wind energy, environment, environmentalism, anarchism, ecoanarchism, animal rights

Derelict wind derricks

From a lawsuit in Abilene, Texas:
Dale Rankin et al. vs. FPL Energy et al.
Filed Feb 24, 2006, District Court of Taylor County, Texas

IV. Background Facts

61. The huge wind turbines in this project will produce very little electricity, and that electricity is of less value than electricity produced by reliable coal and gas fired generating plants. This means that when the government subsidies ... run out, Plaintiffs and others similarly situated in Taylor County are likely to be confronted by a poorly maintained and deteriorating wind energy facility that may one day become derelict because ... the provision in the lease agreements for the dismantling of non-operational turbines is not absolute.

South Point, Hawaii

The primary plaintiff in the Texas case has noted in correspondence that there is a gaping loophole in the lease that FPL Energy had landowners sign. It is normal to include a "decommissioning" fund to remove the turbines, towers, and the top part of their foundations and restore the land (except for the bulk of the foundations). This is to comfort the landowner that the company is serious about meeting the obligation to remove everything. Anything three feet or so below the surface, however, including the miles of transmission cable, is usually to be left. Nor are the roads that fragment the land required to be removed. If the Tug Hill lease from PPM (Scottish Power) is typical, the amount deposited in the fund is determined by an "independent" expert chosen by the company, and potential scrap value is deducted. In other words, when the company is long gone, the money in that fund will be meager indeed.

Back to FPL's loophole, Dale Rankin noted that if the turbines are mortgaged and later foreclosed on, then the mortgagee is not bound to remove them. Considering that a third of the federal tax benefits are used up in six years and the other two-thirds last ten years, but the leases are for 25-30 years and wind turbines are very expensive to maintain, this situation is very likely.

That leaves the landowner with exactly what paragraph 61 in the suit asserts is likely and the derelict turbines at South Point on Hawaii stand testament to.

wind power, wind energy, wind farms, wind turbines