The Arguments For and Against Wind Power

The main arguments in favour of wind power are reduction in balance of trade deficits in countries that import energy and, longer term, mitigating for energy scarcity and the reduction in supplies of affordable fossil fuels.

The main arguments against are higher primary cost plus ancillary costs of mitigating irregular intermittency that are paid by the consumer, landscape and amenity degradation and possibly grid destabilisation.

The same benefits can be delivered by nuclear power that also solves the main problems except the higher primary cost of supply. But nuclear power of course introduces its own list of liabilities.

There are a host of other factors, half truths and bogus arguments that are discussed below. Furthermore, the geo-political-physical circumstances vary greatly from one country to the next and there is not a single correct answer. The arguments for and against are in fact finely balanced but both disappear in any country that opts for nuclear power.

The energy and climate debates seem to have no end. This is symptomatic of  complex, multi-facetetd issues that in fact have no unique solutions. Individuals, or vested interests, can cherry pick the arguments they like whilst ignoring those they don’t, often trying to discredit their opponents en route. In this post I attempt to cover the main arguments in favour of and against wind power. This is inevitably written from a UK perspective that may not be representative for all and whilst I am endeavouring to be objective there will no doubt be individuals who disagree strongly with the balance I try to strike. Over the years I have flipped from being pro to anti wind on a number of occasions and readers of Energy Matters will be aware that in recent months I have had both feet firmly in the anti camp. That remains the case mainly because I see nuclear power as the 21st century solution to our energy enigma. I do not view the energy debate through the clouded lens of CO2 abatement but through a lens of providing citizens with affordable, reliable and secure supplies of electricity.

Wind power is used to make electricity directly. This is one of its greatest strengths but also it greatest weakness. It is a strength because it is highly efficient to make and to use electricity directly. Using coal, over 60% of the energy in the coal is lost as waste heat. Making electricity directly circumvents this thermal loss. In fact the main energy losses with wind power comes from the energy used to make the turbines in the first place. Multiple studies have concluded that wind has an energy return on energy invested of around 20. And so the energy efficiency is around 20-1/20 = 95%. The weakness stems from the fact that industrial society has evolved to its current point around the energy stored in fossil fuels. Stores are important because this allows us to use energy on demand. Electricity is always there to boil a kettle, mow a lawn or run a computer. Just three of the things I have done today which is sunny and completely calm in Aberdeen. At present wind electricity needs to be used the instant it is made and there is no match between wind electric availability and our society’s very specific pattern of electricity demand (Figure 1). It is the uncontrollability of this energy flow that is wind’s Achiles heal.

Figure 1 The very specific pattern of electricity demand in the UK. There are three cycles. The daily cycle sees peak demand around 18:00 hrs every day and minimum demand around 06:00 hrs. The weekly cycle sees higher demand Monday to Friday with reduced demand Saturday and Sunday. The annual cycle sees higher demand in winter than in summer. In the example shown Peak winter demand at 18:00 hrs on a day in January is almost three times the minimum demand at 06:00 hrs on a warm Sunday morning in July. The power generation system needs the control mechanisms to be able to ramp up and down production with a high degree of precision to match this very specific demand pattern. The health of our whole economy and population is dependent upon this control.

The arguments in favour of wind

Balance of trade: The main argument in favour of wind power is that indigenous primary energy production, as opposed to energy imports, is favourable for any country’s balance of trade. See for example the combined impact of wind and hydro on the economy of Portugal [1].

Energy security: Another argument often made in favour of wind power is that indigenous primary energy production provides energy security. This is only partially true. Security of supply needs to be broken down into three components 1) dispatchability, 2) geopolitcal risk – supply disruption and 3) scarcity leading to high fossil fuel (FF) prices and physical shortages. Intermittent wind fails on the dispatchable front. How serious this is depends very much upon the geo-physical setting of the nation involved. Furthermore, for so long as a country is dependent upon FF imports at all to provide balancing service and cover for extended lulls then wind does not provide security against FF supply disruption either. It is on the final point of reducing dependency on dwindling supplies of FF that wind may score. In 2012, Europe produced 99 MTOE (million tonnes oil equivalent) of wind electricity [2] compared with gas demand of about 450 MTOE. Gas supplies to Europe were tight that year and wind therefore alleviated gas scarcity and arguably contributed to keeping the lights on and spot gas and electricity prices down. This benefit from wind may increase going forward.

CO2 abatement: The argument most frequently made in favour of wind is that it reduces CO2 emissions. This argument only carries weight in the event that atmospheric CO2 does in fact lead to harmful global warming and despite the thousands of pages published by the IPCC, there are in fact considerable grounds to be optimistic that the worst warnings of the IPCC are unfounded, no global warming for 16 years being the most obvious line of evidence. It may of course be argued that the 99 MTOE of wind produced in Europe in 2012 represents unburned FF. This argument only holds up for so long as it can be proven that no one else burned or will ever burn the FF displaced by wind in Europe. The unilateral action taken by Europe to reduce global CO2 emissions by deploying renewable energy like wind has singularly failed so far [3] and looks likely to continue to do so for the foreseeable future. Furthermore, it is a mistake to assume that 99 MTOE of wind has displaced that much FF since the gas power stations being used to balance the grid in many countries are now running at sub-optimal efficiencies. I remain unpersuaded by the argument that it is worthwhile tolerating the negative aspects of wind power detailed below in pursuit of a goal (reducing CO2 emissions) that seems unachievable and that may end up having no point.

Distributed power: Community or localised ownership of power generation is one final argument often made to support wind power. A village can erect and own a wind turbine more easily than it can a nuclear power station. Community ownership varies greatly from country to country. For example, high community ownership in Denmark and low community ownership in the UK. In the UK, wind ownership is in fact highly discriminatory. Wealthy farmers can put up a turbine and have it subsidised by poor city dwellers who are largely excluded from this opportunity. Everyone has the opportunity to buy shares in listed utilities, and so I’m not sure I buy into community ownership as a significant argument in favour of an industry that seems destined to move offshore and to be owned by major utilities.

The arguments against wind

Intermittency: The main argument against wind power is irregular intermittency. The practicality and cost of dealing with this varies from country to country. Small countries with extensive hydro like Portugal and New Zealand can assimilate wind onto a grid with much greater ease and with low to zero costs than can large countries with little hydro like the UK, Germany and The Netherlands. The measures to counteract intermittency include balancing against conventional FF, normally gas; greater grid connectivity and more storage, preferably all three. It can be done but this means escalating the size of infrastructure and costs.

Consumer paid subsidies: The higher cost of wind power, compared with current alternatives, is also viewed by many as unfair and discriminatory, poor city dwellers being asked to line the pockets of wealthy farmers and wind development companies. This comes down to the policies deployed in Europe that guarantees wind power access to the grid at a higher price that has to be borne by the consumer. While this is a very real complaint today, it is also necessary to look to a future where ongoing scarcity of gas leads to even higher prices in which case wind may begin to look like a good deal, if only it weren’t for the ancillary costs associated with intermittency.

Blot on the landscape: Landscape and environmental degradation is another very real concern for some but not all people. It is easy for evangelistic Green city dwellers to dismiss the environmental impact if they never venture into the country. But for many who live in the European countryside and who enjoy walking in the mountains, wind turbines can be a blot on the landscape and can blight individual lives [4]. Turbines killing large numbers of birds is often cited as another evil of wind power.

Killing the grid: Wind power is killing the grid host in large industrialised economies where legislation is specifically designed to push FF generators out of the market but at the same time wind is dependent upon these same generators to balance the grid [5]. A continuation of the current trend will see the FF generators go out of business leaving the government to assume ownership and consumers to pick up the bill.

Destabilising the grid: Variable wind power may also potentially destabilise a grid. A recent widespread blackout in Northern Scotland is suspected to have been caused by a sudden fluctuation in regional wind strength.

False arguments, half truths, beliefs and market manipulation

Greater connectivity solves intermittency: Proponents of wind like to argue that increasing the connectivity of the European and American grids will smooth out the intermittency problem – the wind will always be blowing somewhere. This is one of these half truths. Greater connectivity will reduce the intermittency effect a little all of the time and a lot on occasions. But it is not a reliable engineering solution. A large investment in grid infrastructure is required to provide a partial solution for some of the time. Real time data from across Europe exists that demonstrates this fact and this argument should be banished from the wind debate [6].

Demand management: The argument is often made that society will have to adapt to working when energy is available, i.e. schools, hospitals and factories may only work when it is windy. This would be a direct route to economic collapse with our current system, and so it is often argued that we need a new system. This is Green pipe dreaming. We may well end up with a new system but it would resemble more Medieval times than the 21st century. But demand management is another one of these half truths. Taking steps to reduce peak demand is a very sound strategy since it would reduce dependency upon peaking power plants. But this is a completely separate argument to managing wind intermittency.

Combining different renewables sources: Combining wind with solar, wave and tide is often put forward as a way to mitigate for intermittency. This is another half truth and partial solution that is very expensive. Europe currently has 100 GW of installed wind capacity and effectively zero wave and tide. Surely if this were to be a solution we should wait for these technologies to arrive lest they never get off the drawing board? To be useful at smoothing the supply different sources need to be negatively correlated. Tides are predictable, regular, and continually shifting, while wave is likely to be correlated with wind. Solar is also regular and predictable and may on occasions be negatively correlated with wind while on other occasions, not. Wind and hydro of course work a treat where hydro can be switched on and off creating a perfect negative correlation with wind. Control is all important.

The price of fossil fuels is set to rise further: Increasing demand and degrading resource quality may well lead to further market led increases in the price of FF and this is a valid argument detailed above in favour of wind power. But excessive environmental legislation on the production and use of FF seems designed to artificially raise their price and in so doing make wind and other renewable sources more cost competitive. Extensive and excessive government meddling in European energy markets does in fact make any rational price comparison or forecast impossible.

Wind is making electricity cheaper: How can one of the more expensive sources of electricity make electricity cheaper? It is the case that when the wind blows in Europe spot electricity prices are depressed. But the wind producers are guaranteed that the glut of power they are temporarily producing is given access to the grid at a guaranteed high price. The consequence of low spot prices means the traditional base load and load following producers make a loss. This is the destruction of the market based system that has served the OECD well for many decades.

Storage is the solution: This is entirely correct. It is just that affordable grid scale storage technologies do not currently exist and so this remains a false promise for the time being. The minute grid-scale, affordable storage becomes available the usefulness of all intermittent renewable technologies is transformed. At present the storage solution does not exist and it may never do so. And so again we are embarking upon a journey without the resources to complete it.

Conclusions

Wind advocates have a habit of proposing as many of the half truths and partial solutions as possible in the hope that they may add up to whole system. This is of course nonsense. We are set on a course of building thousands of turbines, inter connectors and storage facilities whilst still on many occasions being 100% dependent upon the legacy FF producers that are slowly going out of business, which is after all the motive behind the CO2 abatement strategy.

There are examples such as Denmark, Portugal and New Zealand who all have access to significant hydro capacity, where wind may make some sense – reducing FF import bills and creating independence from future scarcity of FF supply. But elsewhere, wind is simply adding complexity and costs to electricity grids, creating more expensive less reliable electricity for consumers whilst degrading the landscape with turbines, power lines and pumped storage dams. We do have a choice – nuclear power.

[1] Portugal – renewables to the rescue?
[2] BP: Statistical Review of World Energy 2013
[3] The Failure of Kyoto and the Futility of European Energy Policy
[4] Alliance for Wise Energy Decisions
[5] Parasitic wind killing its host
[6] Correlated wind and incoherent energy policy

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55 Responses to The Arguments For and Against Wind Power

  1. Roberto Zavattiero says:

    apparently nature has decided that we cannot store electricity in useful manner. http://thebulletin.org/limits-energy-storage-technology

    The limits of energy storage technology
    Kurt Zenz House

    For the past several years–until the credit crisis–investors have flocked toward renewable energy. Their hope is that solar radiation can be harnessed directly and through intermediaries such as the wind and biosphere to power the global economy into perpetuity. This hope is understandable since renewable energy has benefits that range from the environment to geopolitics. Nevertheless, care and scientific rigor should be used to quantify the challenge of converting society to renewable energy…..

    • Euan Mearns says:

      Good link! I am more optimistic on solar, especially in sunny climates. Pretty opposed to trying to use (destroy) the biosphere to replicate the solar energy stored in FF over 100s of millions of years. I can’t think of any renewable technology that I’d invest in today, apart from hydro (and pumped hydro). But then there is no energy company I’d invest in today since governments have made energy uninvestable – and that is a major problem for everyone.

      • Craig W. Crosby, Sr. says:

        Have you considered geothermal electric? Binary systems sound good for many locations where flash steam is impossible. What would be the investment negative for such? Like you, I believe that our economy will have to make the decisions on these things, and it will do that by assessing ROIC.

        http://www.nrel.gov/learning/re_geo_elec_production.html includes a brief discussion on geothermal; do you have any details? Being near(er) Iceland one would think this might work for you. I know the Geysers site (in Cal.) is working, and have heard of some development under way somewhere near Malaysia. One in So. Cal. was producing, and I recently heard negative feedback about it – I will have to look it up. Something about chemicals in the water creating problems IIRC.

        It will be a few days before I can get free to really dig into this. Meanwhile, keep the faith and thanks for the feedback.

        Craig

  2. Craig W. Crosby, Sr. says:

    “The main arguments against are … possibly grid destabilisation.”

    I hope to have time for a more lengthy reply to the entirety; it is well reasoned I would say, as a local statement. There are considerations to be made as to each anti-wind asserting though, and especially in other locales.

    For instance, as to grid distabilisation, the major argument underlying that would be the cost of replacing the present grid with one that allows multiple inputs. Or in fact, replacing the grid in general. Which is a ‘sunk cost’ argument.

    Here in the U.S.A., we have the problem of a grid that is breaking down and needs to be replaced. Our question is, what sort of grid do we use? Repair the present grid (and have it break down again since it really needs to be replaced), or rethink the entire power structure?

    Recent articles have shown that the costs for PV input from rooftop installations is dropping dramatically. Advances in geothermal power production from “low temperature” sites, increasing development of the wave and tidal power sources would contribute to continuity. If you put your eggs all in the present infrastructure, plus costly nuclear plant construction, you will shut off development of truly sustainable power infrastructure.

    As for the argument that it takes a high level of subsidy from government to develop these sources, the answer to that is to end all energy subsidies . . . including of course tax breaks, special tax measures and the like that favor the status quo.

    As a skeptic, I also question the assertion that there has been no global warming in the past 16 years. The most recent data I have available indicates that the 10 warmest years in history all occurred during that 16 year period, with 2013 being the fourth warmest on record.

    http://www.ncdc.noaa.gov/sotc/global/2013/13

    In addition CO2 continues to increase, and to do so at an accelerating rate of increase.

    The problem of intermittency, I first refer you to: http://www.ncdc.noaa.gov/sotc/global/2013/13 for a discussion of social costs. To which I would add that there are some solutions easily adopted in regions with large elevations disparities, to-wit: pumping water uphill during periods of high production, and use it as a source for hydro-electric power during periods of low production. Though more expensive, level terrain can build large scale structures using extremely long lasting concrete construction (Roman concrete aquaducts lasted millennia).

    I hope to continue a conversation about this; as my favorite philosopher, David Hume, is noted to have said: “Truth springs from argument amongst friends.”

    Best always,

    Craig

    • Euan Mearns says:

      Craig, I hope you find time for your more full response. Be advised that I am more favourably disposed to solar, especially in sunny climates. Less so in Aberdeen (57˚N) where we get long, cool cloudy winters that correspond with peak demand.

      Our local situation regarding pumped storage is also dealt with in this post:

      The Coire Glas pumped storage scheme – a massive but puny beast

      The UK neither has the land area, rainfall catchment area or relief to give pumped storage muscle and stamina. I am positively disposed to pumped storage and believe we should have more of it. But in the UK it is not a solution to long lulls in the wind. But I’m keen to hear how this may vary in other countries. One of my main messages is that every country is different, and different solutions need to be sought.

      Our “mountains” here tend to reach a plateau level of about 2500 to 3000 ft. When I am climbing up the side I tend to take the view I am going up. But when I reach the plateau and wander about I tend to believe that I have stopped climbing, even though I may be up high.

      No one knows the answer or where the truth lies and so please fire away.

      Best,

      Euan

  3. Roger Andrews says:

    Euan: Good post.

    What I find most disturbing is that the governments that are currently redesigning their energy systems to save the Earth from global warming, achieve sustainability, ensure energy security and/or reduce energy costs, or whatever the flavor of the month happens to be, have no idea whether their redesigned systems are going to to work because they’ve done no detailed planning. They simply stumble forward in the pious expectation that they will work, even though there are good reasons to believe they won’t, because science takes a back seat to doctrine when it comes to going green.

    The shift to renewable energy is in fact the world’s first example of a faith-based engineering project.

    • Euan Mearns says:

      because science takes a back seat to doctrine when it comes to going green. The shift to renewable energy is in fact the world’s first example of a faith-based engineering project.

      Roger, I think you are on the same page as John Droz.

      • Roger Andrews says:

        Euan: John and I were on pretty much the same page when we collaborated on the North Carolina sea level rise legislation a couple of years ago. 🙂

        While I’m here let me cite a specific example of the extent to which the green crusaders are divorced from reality. I refer to the DEFRA pathways calculator, which I just used to design a scenario that achieves an 80% reduction in UK carbon emissions by 2050. The scenario assumes ~300GW of wind, solar etc. and zero conventional generation by 2050, and DEFRA presumably considers it valid or the calculator, which as you know is tweaked to reject politically-incorrect options, wouldn’t have let me run it. But from the practical standpoint it’s a joke.

        I don’t propose to waste any time trying it, but I suspect it would in fact be impossible to design a scenario using the DEFRA criteria that a) achieves an 80% emissions reduction by 2050, b) is practically feasible, c) ensures security of energy supply, d) meets winter peak demand and e) doesn’t bankrupt the country.

  4. Joe Public says:

    An excellent analysis Euan.

    One suggestion:-

    “Intermittency: The main argument against wind power is intermittency. ”

    Unpredictable intermittency.

    • Euan Mearns says:

      Joe, the MET office will claim they can predict the wind so I changed it to “irregular intermittency”. It is an important distinction between wind and solar.

  5. Glen Mcmillian says:

    This is indeed an excellent post. It’s obvious you are trying hard to be objective but maybe a little hint of anti renewables prejudice is showing thru here and there.

    For instance when you say in relation to availability and price of fossil fuels in general and gas in particular ”This benefit from wind may increase going forward ” I find it hard to believe you should be using the word may instead of the word ”will”.

    Surely you do not think there is any significant chance for the price of natural gas to decline significantly over the long term?

    I will not ask you to go out on a limb but so far but I would like to know what you think the price of natural gas is going to be in ten years? Twenty years? In constant money of course compared to today.

    For that matter you do not give any serious consideration in this post to the high probability that wind and solar generation will get cheaper in constant money for a good many years to come.

    Fukushima hit me like a Mike Tyson punch to the solar plexus but I agree with you about the need for nuclear power. As a practical matter of politics however I do not believe we can hope to get enough new nukes permitted to solve the problem.

    In my view we are going to need any workable and affordable source of energy to make up for the depletion and consequently rising prices of fossil fuels which means building wind and solar farms too.

    Now as to how energy security plays out in terms of imported coal and gas you are certainly right that so long as a country is dependent on imported gas for fuel to balance its grid wind is no answer -within the context of the long term.

    But in some cases and perhaps many cases there is substantial storage available for gas .

    Depending on the amount of storage available it is possible that imported stored gas could last long enough to keep a grid balanced for weeks or months – which will probably be long enough in some future instances to restore deliveries interrupted by acts of terrorism or conventional war or natural disasters such as earthquakes or severe storms.

    I agree that storage is a really tough nut but you have not mentioned any of several strategies in this post that will enable people on the user’s end of the grid to utilize intermittent supply efficiently.

    Not being an engineer I cannot offer truly good numbers but I know that residential thermal storage is practical and not outrageously expensive. A couple of cubic yards of stone with heating elements embedded can be heated up with a smart grid to the extent of available delivery capacity when the wind is blowing and the heat drawn of over a period of hours or days for instance. Of course this solution is not often easily implemented in an existing house but it is easily accommodated in new construction.

    It seems reasonably certain that some industries can adapt to using intermittent power to a substantial extent .
    I do a little small scale irrigation with electricity for instance and pumping irrigation water is not so critical in terms of time that it cannot be scheduled to match wind power assuming there is good wind sometime almost every week.

    Batteries are expensive indeed in terms of storing enough energy to run a home or business for any extended period of time but I believe personally that the effective price of the ones used in battery powered cars will cost only half as much five years from now in line with the projections of the industry.

    It seems perfectly reasonable to me to think that a battery using the same technology but constructed for stationary use in nice little utility room or shed where it is not subject to vibration or at risk of a crash and fire because of the crash or major swings of temperature can be manufactured even more economically by a considerable margin.

    This would still be a pretty expensive storage option but it might be a workable solution to the problem of making hay while the sun is shining – er, storing up some kilowatt hours cheaply when the wind is cooperating.

    Now as to how much gas can be saved by utilizing wind power – that is a question I have asked many times without getting a good quantitative answer.My personal guesstimate is that on average a megawatt hour of wind juice saves enough gas to generate about 0.8 megawatt hour. That could be off in either direction by a good bit.Hard numbers are devilishly hard to come by although the bean counters at the generating plants and corporate offices must have them available at the press of a key.

    • Joe Public says:

      Glen

      “But in some cases and perhaps many cases there is substantial storage available for gas.

      Depending on the amount of storage available it is possible that imported stored gas could last long enough to keep a grid balanced for weeks or months”

      Not really.

      The Rough field, having a storage capacity of 2.8 billion m^3, is 70% of the UK’s storage volume, which is all of 9 days UK demand. (Approx.)

      • Glen Mcmillian says:

        I have read a lot about the UK potentially running out of gas in uncommonly cold weather.If you are correct- and I see no reason to doubt you – then the country has only about two weeks storage. To me that seems a very small safety margin in case of international incidents or acts of God that might interrupt deliveries.Are there any unused good storage sites large enough to matter?

        Of course there is some domestic production that allows that two weeks approximate storage to be stretched. How far?

        If there are unused good sites why are they not in use?

    • Joe Public says:

      Glen

      “……..but I know that residential thermal storage is practical and not outrageously expensive. A couple of cubic yards of stone with heating elements embedded can be heated up with a smart grid to the extent of available delivery capacity when the wind is blowing and the heat drawn of over a period of hours or days for instance.”

      Again, night-storage heaters (for that is what they are), have very many failings.

      New homes tend not to have the space available. The heat store is a significant and heavy lump. To try to improve control of the rate of heat dissipation adds more to that bulk.

      But their greatest failing is their inefficiency-in-use. The changeability and unpredictability of the (British) weather and a home-owner’s habits, mean that a significant proportion of the stored heat may not be needed the following day, yet its dissipation is difficult & expensive to reduce. Residential peak demands are morning (no problem from a fully charged system), and evening. The latter can be challenging during extremely cold weather. Not insurmountable – just install a yet bigger & bulkier night-store-heater.

      Of course the power suppliers love them. Steady, predictable better-than-base load, because peak demand is when few others want their output.

    • Euan Mearns says:

      Glen,

      For that matter you do not give any serious consideration in this post to the high probability that wind and solar generation will get cheaper in constant money for a good many years to come.

      Well I do say this:

      While this is a very real complaint today, it is also necessary to look to a future where ongoing scarcity of gas leads to even higher prices in which case wind may begin to look like a good deal, if only it weren’t for the ancillary costs associated with intermittency.

      The post is about wind and not solar. From memory the cost of wind went up with the cost of FF since the turbines are to large extent manufactured using FF. And so if you believe the cost of FF is going to rise, then I’m guessing the cost of turbines will rise too. Solar is different.

      I will not ask you to go out on a limb but so far but I would like to know what you think the price of natural gas is going to be in ten years? Twenty years? In constant money of course compared to today.

      You don’t want me to go out on a limb but you want me to tell you what the price of inflation adjusted natural gas is going to be in 10 years time 🙁 You seem to think “it” is going to go up. Here are the 2012 averages from BP, $US per million BTU. USA $2.76. EU $11.03. Japan $16.75. If Japan switches back on the nukes, then nat gas prices in Japan and EU will fall sharply in the near term. If China and the UK make significant shale gas discoveries then nat gas prices in the EU and far East will fall sharply. If Europe continues on the current renewables path, displacing more and more gas, then gas prices may fall making renewables increasingly uncompetitive.

      An alternative story line. Russia invades Ukraine. Oil and gas prices double over night as Obama imposes sanctions. European tanks run out of fuel half way across Poland.

      How much gas saved?

      BP report global wind production of 118 MTOE in 2012. Some of that will be displacing coal, but most of it is displacing gas. Compare with total gas consumption of 2987 MTOE – its 4%

      • Glen Mcmillian says:

        I am sorry about that minor failure to communicate.

        They say Yankees and Limeys (please accept my apologies if Limey has morphed into an insult.I haven’t seen this word used recently.) are two peoples separated by a common language and in my idiom the question as asked is rhetorical.

        I did not actually expect an answer beyond something to the effect that future prices are impossible to predict.

        It is true that the manufacture of steel and concrete are mature industries and that the cost of both materials can only be expected to go up with energy costs since both are extremely energy intensive materials. But I can’t really see that turbine towers will need to be replaced on any regular schedule. Most of them in my estimation should last a very long time with possibly a lighter turbine and generator assembly mounted a some decades down the road.The foundations should last just about indefinitely.Ditto transmission infrastructure and roads and so forth associated with land based wind.

        Offshore is really questionable isn’t it ?

        Steel is more or less completely recyclable if it can be separated from other waste products and the steel in a turbine tower can certainly be recycled.Unfortunately old concrete isn’t good for much except maybe a foundation layer under a paved road.

        But the generators and turbines themselves do not contain all that much material and just about all of that can be recycled except maybe insulation and the turbine blades themselves. The actual constant money cost of turbines and generators in my opinion is likely to fall considerably even as the energy and materials content costs go up.

        The reason for this is that the manufacture of these machines is NOT a mature industry. There are many patents to expire and many little incremental improvements to the manufacturing process to be made.There will be economies of scale to be realized at many levels from the manufacture of individual components to the final assembly of the units on towers.I am assuming of course that the industry is going to continue to grow.It must unless it is possible to eventually replace depleting coal and gas generation with nuclear generation which is of course technically possible but politically a tremendous question mark.

        It is easy to forget when you are a Yankee that a folks blogging from the UK are apt to be thinking in local terms.I can see that installing a thermal storage system could be a real problem in a small house in a country where materials and land are much more expensive than they are here in the US. Most of the houses built here are still ” mcmansions ” and a few more square feet and few more dollars are not deal breakers here.

        As a matter of fact there must be tens of millions of existing houses in this country with space to spare to install thermal storage.I live in a relatively depressed area and just counting on my fingers a full third of the houses built around in recent decades here have little used basements with garage doors and concrete floors. A 240 volt 200 amp electrical service is mandated by code. Now our rural grid is certainly not able to support everybody drawing so much power silmantaneously….

        Of course you are right about the price of gas falling if there are big discoveries in Asia and the UK and other possible spots. But if these discoveries are actually made and the gas actually recovered in quantities really useful on a national scale it is my impression that it will take at least ten to fifteen years to reach high levels of production from this date. Perhaps I am wrong about that. The Chinese at least are not apt to let political or environmental considerations hold them up and if they find new gas in large amounts they may well go about extracting it on a war like footing.

        Within that time frame depletion will have ” had it’s way ” with a lot of legacy gas production elsewhere and the new gas may not be sufficiently plentiful to keep prices steady never mind actually drive prices down.

        Anybody talking about such matters as these is apt to be talking right past his audience unless both talker and listener are on the same page in terms of the time frame intended by the talker.

        In the short term and medium term meaning a decade or possibly somewhat longer in my own layman’s opinion your arguments are rock solid.

        But looking a little farther out- what choice is your country going to have except to depend on either renewables or nukes?

        And if you can’t get the nukes permitted…. you will be as we say over here in deep doo doo.

        You will be in it up to your knees any way due to the intermittency of wind power but knee deep is better that up to the chin due to a possible lack of fuel due to war or financial crisis or plain old depletion.

  6. Euan:

    By-and-large you have written a thoughtful, well-reasoned analysis.

    My main suggested modification is that Science was not mentioned in your critique, and this is at the core of the issue. IMO the fundamental question is: what is the basis for our energy policies?

    Right now, energy policies are being written by lobbyists representing those with political or economic agendas. Is it any wonder that the results of following their advice is problematic?

    The solution is a simple, but profound change: all technical policies (e.g. energy) should be based on real Science.

    The discussion of what that means is the subject of another article, but I can say that such a change would solve 95%± of the issues we are facing with such unscientific alternatives like wind energy.

    EnergyPresentation.info is a useful reference — which is at WiseEnergy.org.

    • Euan Mearns says:

      The solution is a simple, but profound change: all technical policies (e.g. energy) should be based on real Science.

      John, I agree with you 100% here and I don’t really understand how “we” could have wandered so far from the science and engineering path when it comes to energy policy. The subversion of real Science maybe begins with Al Gore and the IPCC. This is supplemented by, in the UK at least, a dreadful fall in University standards brought about by broadening the intake from 5 to 50% of the population – Tony Blair to blame for that. Blair thought that America was wealthy because of such wide access to education and most politicians do not yet understand that America has wide access to education because it is wealthy.

      Our main political parties seem to believe that Green is popular with the electorate. Clive Best PhD who comments here often points out that this will change when blackouts begin. We just had a major blackout in Scotland – it remains a mystery since it would be politically unacceptable to blame this on wind power. We have a European Parliamentary election coming up and a fringe party called UKIP is on the up. They are the only party who have the vestiges of a sensible energy and climate policy and are likely to do very well at these elections.

      http://www.ukipmeps.org/uploads/file/energy-policy-2014-f-20-09-2013.pdf

      I have some very bright Green friends 😉 many with PhDs and yet we manage to look at the same data and reach different conclusions.

  7. Susannah says:

    Thought you might be interested to see the SPICE briefing on the future of renewables in Scotland for the meeting of tomorrow’s E, E & T Committee (it’s after the agenda). Do read/scan to the end.

    http://www.scottish.parliament.uk/S4_EconomyEnergyandTourismCommittee/Meeting%20Papers/Papers_20140430.pdf

    I am truly shocked – this is supposed to be a briefing by an impartial, objective, informed civil servant and it reads like a crib sheet for SNP spin doctors.

    • Euan Mearns says:

      Thanks, I don’t really have time to get into it in detail. This caught my eye:

      Estimates suggest that heat accounts for over 50% of current total energy demand in Scotland,

      Utter rubbish! And this guy lined up as an expert:

      http://www.abdn.ac.uk/socsci/staff/details.php?id=d.toke

      Is a Green evangelist.

      • Joe Public says:

        Euan

        “Estimates suggest that heat accounts for over 50% of current total energy demand in Scotland,”

        Genuine question – what % of energy demand is the space heating (plus presumably domestic hot water) demand?

        • Euan Mearns says:

          Joe, can’t quickly find a definitive answer, but maybe my comment was a bit hasty. Transport accounts for about 37% of all energy use. And so most of the rest would have to be used for heating. It depends how you define “heat” . If you include appliances like tumble driers, washing machines, dishwashers etc, plus cooking and kettles then maybe you get there. But a fair chunk goes on cooling, lighting, manufacturing and appliances like TVs, computers etc. The power stations themselves use a lot of energy, as does oil and gas extraction, refining, pumping oil and gas, construction, brewing, distilling, agriculture etc.

          • Joe Public says:

            Euan. I’ve found this Sankey-diagram Energy Flow Chart (which a few of my remaining grey cells lead me to think you may have previously posted or linked-to)

            https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/224122/energy_flow_chart_2012.PDF

            But that just shows demand-sectors, not ultimate uses.

            Whether 50% is used for ‘heat’ depends upon how you define the usage. One could argue that all natural gas consumption except where used as chemical feedstock, is for ‘heat’. Burning gas to provide cooling is just one sub-classification conundrum.

            Traditionally, energy use was heat / light / power. If transport is 37%; industrial and domestic motive-power plus lighting has to be greater than 13%, so space + water + cooking ‘heat’ must be less than 50%. Surely?

          • Jamie says:

            “Almost half (46%) of the final energy consumed in the UK is used to provide heat. The main other uses of energy are split between energy for transport (41%), energy to provide electricity for our lighting and appliances (8%), and a variety of other uses including agriculture and waste. Of this heat, around three quarters is used by households and in commercial and public buildings.The remainder is used for manufacturing materials, chemicals and goods in the industrial sector.”

            https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/48574/4805-future-heating-strategic-framework.pdf

            Given that Scotland is colder than the rest of the UK I would expect it hits 50%.

          • Euan Mearns says:

            OK, I retract my “utter rubbish” statement. But an interesting discussion. I’m surprised that so much of our energy use is directed at heat. Of course it all ends up as heat at the end of the day. Even cooling produces heat – but now I’m beginning to sound like a climate scientist 😉

  8. Jamie says:

    “Demand management: The argument is often made that society will have to adapt to working when energy is available, i.e. schools, hospitals and factories may only work when it is windy. ”

    Really? I don’t know anyone who’s suggesting shutting down schools and hospitals as a demand management strategy. Certain industrial loads yes, but not service loads.

    Demand management is about shifting discretionary demand away from peaks and having access to aggregated loads that can be postponed or called upon at short notice to balance the system.

    A couple of examples…

    In the UK there is something like 60GW of immersion heaters that could be made smart at low cost to soak up off-peak renewable generation (primarily displacing gas demand in the process). This would give a ‘storage’ capacity of about 120GWh (with ‘ around the storage because it’s one way)

    And a quite modest penetration of 10% of new car sales being EVs (200,000 per year) would give us something like 1GW of new demand each year which would be primarily recharging overnight but would be parked for much of the rest of the time and could offer balancing services.

    • Joe Public says:

      “In the UK there is something like 60GW of immersion heaters that could be made smart at low cost to soak up off-peak renewable generation (primarily displacing gas demand in the process). This would give a ‘storage’ capacity of about 120GWh ”

      I very much doubt it.

      1. There maybe approx 20,000,000 3kW immersions, but those installed in houses with gas central heating that have storage hot water, are for ‘back-up’ only. (i.e. used only when the boiler breaks down). There is rarely an economic case for a user with mains gas to choose to use an immersion.

      2. Many of those which are used as the only means of heating water may already be on an off-peak tariff.

      3. An immersion heats just it’s storage tank’s capacity. Once that’s been drained, reheating then has to occur on-peak.

      4. In view of the above, would you care to re-estimate the ‘storage’ capacity of about 120GWh?

      5. With stored hot water, there’s inevitable heat & transmission losses. Modern combi-boilers have nil, or minuscule ‘storage’, because gas/oil can input their entire 10-15-20kW of heat into the water to satisfy instantaneous demand.

      • Jamie says:

        **1. There maybe approx 20,000,000 3kW immersions, but those installed in houses with gas central heating that have storage hot water, are for ‘back-up’ only. (i.e. used only when the boiler breaks down). There is rarely an economic case for a user with mains gas to choose to use an immersion.**

        Apologies, I just checked the numbers and there are about 23m oil and gas boilers and 60% of those are combis which is more than I thought. So let’s call it 10m 3kW immersion heaters (plus a few more substantial immersion heaters in the commercial / service sector).

        But my point that there is a large storage resource out there still stands.

        I’m talking about future smart grid technologies here, not the current, dumb, situation. Making an immersion heater smart is quite simple and cheap – a switch linked to a smart meter, GPRS or wifi will do the trick quite nicely.

        The householder would make their immersion available for very cheap off peak electricity (cheaper than the off peak rate for Economy 7 which is already pretty close to the price of gas when you take into account boiler inefficiencies). Given that the householder will be providing grid balancing services and avoiding curtailment that electricity can be sold to them quite cheaply, enabled by smart meters which will be able to do half hourly pricing for those who wish to adopt it.

        **2. Many of those which are used as the only means of heating water may already be on an off-peak tariff.**

        And? It’s still storage capacity and currently it’s dumb, not smart. (for info around 18% of GB households currently have restricted meters and 10% of GB households have electric heating. By 2020 all GB households should have smart meters)

        **3. An immersion heats just it’s storage tank’s capacity. Once that’s been drained, reheating then has to occur on-peak.**

        People already tend to heat their hot water needed for the next day in the off-peak hours but they almost exclusively use gas at the moment. In gas heated homes, peak time reheating would be delivered by gas, not electricity because gas will be cheaper.

        **4. In view of the above, would you care to re-estimate the ‘storage’ capacity of about 120GWh?**

        I’ll revise it, but only in reference to the reduced numbers of hot water cylinders. I don’t believe that your points present significant barriers to accessing this resource.

        **5. With stored hot water, there’s inevitable heat & transmission losses. Modern combi-boilers have nil, or minuscule ‘storage’, because gas/oil can input their entire 10-15-20kW of heat into the water to satisfy instantaneous demand.**

        Standing losses are quite modest in a well insulated hot water cylinder. And homes with combi boilers won’t contribute because they don’t have hot water cylinders.

    • Euan Mearns says:

      Really? I don’t know anyone who’s suggesting shutting down schools and hospitals as a demand management strategy. Certain industrial loads yes, but not service loads.

      Part of your reply is about peak load shifting which has nothing to do with managing intermittency of wind. Fplks on blogs have been discussing this for the 8 years I’ve been blogging. I think its a great idea, but nothing / very little progress has been made on the domestic front but I seem to recall some company offering a load management service to industrial users.

      The point about managing intermittent load (without 100% FF backup) is that it is chaotic and not managed. You get blackouts that hit everyone.

      This from my Coire Glas post (link below)

      The idea is to pump water into the reservoir when it is windy. The UK wind carpet recently produced 6GW peak output and so let’s assume that 3 of those 6GW were used to pump water into Coire Glas and other such schemes, and 3GW got fed directly onto the grid. If we are to have a renewables based system that can run independently of fossil fuel back up then it needs the stamina to survive a 7 day lull in the wind. So what we need to know is the amount of storage for 3GW of supply to run continuously for 7 days. This also assumes that we had 7 days producing 6GW of wind beforehand to fill the reservoirs – and we are still light years away from achieving that!

      3GW * 24 hours * 7 days = 504 GWh of storage

      That is 17 times greater than Coire Glas and 3 GW is only about 5% of UK peak demand. Coire Glas, therefore, is simply window dressing in efforts to “Green” UK power supply with pylons, turbines and dams.

      So your 120 GWh is a tiny, irrelevant amount. Simply more partial solutions and false promise, money spent and costs up, achieving nothing.

      • Glen Mcmillian says:

        Forgive me for changing the subject but this seems to be a good spot to ask a question after posting a little background. It is my impression that the large majority of houses in the UK are fairly old houses – a lot of them very old and obviously very well built since they are still in use-but poorly insulated or uninsulated since insulation is relatively recent innovation in residences.

        How fast does your housing stock turn over?

        And how much effort is being expended on renovating the huge number of older houses so as to conserve energy?

        It would seem to me that the best option by for in terms of short and medium term management of imported energy problems would be a massive effort to increase energy efficiency.

        This is certainly the case here in the US where energy is cheaper than in the UK.

        • Joe Public says:

          Glen

          “How fast does your housing stock turn over?”

          In ‘the old country’ we have the irony of slapping LISTED BUILDING CONSENT on our oldest residences. This means that if you wish to demolish a listed building, or alter or extend it in a way that affects its character or appearance as a building of special architectural or historic interest, you must first apply for permission from the local planning authority.

          Some residences are quite old, and consequently have uninsulated walls, single glazing, and minimal roof insulation.

          http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Windsor_Castle

          http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dunvegan_Castle

          😉

      • Roger Andrews says:

        “Demand management” is an oxymoron. Like “sustainable energy” and “common sense”. 😉

        And those who believe that energy efficiency is the solution should familiarize themselves with the Jevons Paradox:

        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jevons_paradox

  9. Roger Andrews says:

    Euan: A couple of comments on your comments re balancing wind fluctuations with hydro.

    Established practice in countries where wind fluctuations have a significant impact on grid operations is to smooth them out by cycling thermal generation. Germany is an example. Even Denmark, which gets rid of its wind spikes by exporting them to hydro plants in Norway and Sweden, cranks up its thermal generation when the wind doesn’t blow:

    http://oi58.tinypic.com/zy6jvn.jpg

    There’s no technical reason I know of why hydro shouldn’t be used to balance wind, but a practical problem is that 1GW of wind capacity will generate power fluctuations of up to 1GW while 1GW of hydro might only have 0.5GW of cycling capacity (and maybe none at all during a drought) because of water storage or environmental restrictions. So to use hydro to balance wind would require maybe twice as much hydro capacity as wind capacity, and even then it wouldn’t be a sure-fire solution.

    There’s also the question of whether it makes sense to cycle hydro to smooth out wind surges. Why not just keep the hydro and forget about the wind?

    • Euan Mearns says:

      The spikes in Danish wind are in fact exported to Norway and Sweden who shut down Hydro production conserving water. I suspect this will work on a 1GW for 1GW basis. Why do it? The Danes export their surplus power at times of glut at low price and buy it back from Norway at times of scarcity at high price. The Danes have a sense of altruism wanting to enrich their northern cousins even more.

      • Roger Andrews says:

        “The Danes export their surplus power at times of glut at low price and buy it back from Norway at times of scarcity at high price.”

        Things actually work this way only during wet periods when Norway and Sweden have spare hydropower to export back to Denmark. During dry periods when they don’t the Danes get little or nothing:

        http://www.masterresource.org/wp-content/uploads/2010/10/Part-II-Fig-3.jpg

        The result is that Denmark has to ramp up domestic thermal generation to meet demand during windless periods when no power is forthcoming from Norway and Sweden. You can see this clearly in the January 2007 grid output graph for West Denmark that I posted in my earlier comment.

        From this we can conclude:

        * That ~45 GW of Norwegian and Swedish hydro isn’t enough to balance ~5 GW of Danish wind for 100% of the time. (Yes, I know it’s not dedicated hydro, but even so …)

        * That Denmark will continue to need backup dispatchable power to meet demand during windless dry periods regardless of how much wind capacity it installs.

        * That Denmark’s goal of running the entire country on renewables by 2050 is pie-in-the-sky.

    • Glen Mcmillian says:

      Hydro during drought conditions generally still produces some power – but perhaps only a small portion of what the generating plant is capable of during wet weather.

      It is to the best of my knowledge the case that water in hydro facilities is also usually the potable water supply (perhaps after some treatment of course ) for nearby cities.

      So if you can actually shut down generation in such a hydro plant for a few hours or a few days it would serve the purpose of increasing water supplies. Just how much this aspect of wind power would be worth is questionable of a general basis but it could be a lifesaver in a some specific instances in places such as the dry American west.

      And it were to be absolutely necessary any water saved could be released any way to help balance loads.

      But in the end you are right; a near empty reservoir is not going to be a whole lot of use in load balancing.

  10. Jonathan Madden says:

    Pumped storage works. The water is reused and I guess that the whole cycle electrical efficiency is about 75%. But it needs to be large scale, comparable to the surges, and preferably built reasonably close both to demand and to wind and solar generation to minimise grid transmission losses. Hilly and mountainous areas suitable for pumped storage tend of course to be away from centres of population.

    I chortled at:

    ‘Proponents of wind like to argue that increasing the connectivity of the European and American grids will smooth out the intermittency problem – the wind will always be blowing somewhere.’

    Even at 1MV there wouldn’t be much power left after the trip across the Atlantic!

    • Euan Mearns says:

      The Coire Glas pumped storage scheme – a massive but puny beast

      I’m a fan of pumped storage and believe we need much more of it. But the scaling problems are formidable. It is a mistake to deceive yourself and others that this is any kind of solution to bridging lulls in the wind. And it is environmentally destructive. The best sites are along the Great Glen but you quickly run into problems of altering the hydrology of the lochs.

      The greater connectivity statement relates to greater connectivity within and not between the US and European grids.

    • Craig W. Crosby, Sr. says:

      “Even at 1MV there wouldn’t be much power left after the trip across the Atlantic!”

      Yes, that is strange concept. Consider, though, that there are those who believe it possible to construct a solar collector in space, and send the product to earth using extremely tight microwave beams. Then, if you can get your head around that concept, consider what happens when something moves the beam off of the collector. Even a small ‘shove’ from a micrometeor would be sufficient to have the beam moving, and cooking everything in its path.

      I think that creating a grid that utilizes input from multiple small sources would be a better way to go. Some envision all of those EV’s being plugged in and used as input/output devices, storing excess and releasing it. Somehow I do not believe that is feasible, and yet seemingly intelligent scientists have agreed. Better, to me, is rooftop solar and backyard wind, taking as many homes and businesses off line as possible and reducing overall energy need from the grid. Again, intermittency is the problem.

      I recall that one apartment I rented in Germany had only a small space heater, using coal oil. The oil ran out after about 3 hrs, and at night we simply slept on featherbeds, under thick feather tics. Woke up with ice in the sink, and frost around the small hole I breathed through. Getting up to light that sucker was an experience, and yet I do not remember having any ill effects. We are resourceful – we will find a way when (not if) it becomes necessary.

      Craig

  11. A C Osborn says:

    Please note that ““Almost half (46%) of the final energy consumed in the UK is used to provide heat. The main other uses of energy are split between energy for transport (41%), energy to provide electricity for our lighting and appliances (8%), and a variety of other uses including agriculture and waste.” that the 46% of final energy probably includes coal and Gas Heating, not just Electrical Generation.
    I think you will find a large percentage of Electrical Generation goes to Industry which is totally missing from that statement.

  12. Roberto Zavattiero says:

    and the German green revolution is effectively dead anyway http://notrickszone.com/2014/04/27/angela-merkels-vice-chancellor-stuns-declares-germanys-energiewende-to-be-on-the-verge-of-failure/

    By P Gosselin on 27. April 2014
    The green energy orgy in Germany is over. The music has stopped and the wine that once flowed freely has long run out. The green energy whores and pimps can go home.

    In a stunning admission by Germany’s Economics Minister and Vice Chancellor to Angela Merkel, Sigmar Gabriel announced in a recent speech that the country’s once highly ballyhooed transformation to renewable energy, the so called Energiewende, a model that has been adopted by a number of countries worldwide, is “on the verge of failure“.

    • Craig W. Crosby, Sr. says:

      ” … Energiewende, a model that has been adopted by a number of countries worldwide, is “on the verge of failure“.”

      It seems to me that any change powered by direct subsidy is going to fail in times of “austerity.” Of course, that is simply a matter of economics in a free market society, and it goes to the short to mid term of the underlying predicament.

      The real question is not whether the present system will ultimately fail due to inadequate fossil fuels and/or nuclear fuels, but rather what will take its place, and to how large an extent that new paradigm in energy production will suffice to power something recognizable as a modern, industrial society.

      Other, longer term questions ‘out there,’ and not yet answered include: the extent to which CO2 emissions will impact the weather; will that impact at some point reach a ‘tipping point’ wherein release of methane gas from the permafrost regions and/or sea beds will add further forcings, exacerbating climate change (and whether to the better or to the worst), and whether or not the ‘new paradigm’ will provide sufficient food for all of the Homo Sapiens, sapiens, then living on the planet.

      Of those other questions, the most problematic would appear to me to be the possibility of methane release in the Arctic and from the ocean beds. This is the true wild card, and to me we cannot be certain one way or the other how it will be played. I believe that if the possibility is even quite remote, the danger is so great that we should take every precaution to reduce emissions. I do not see that happening, and wonder at the use of “sapiens” in conjunction with such a species.

      Craig

      • Roger Andrews says:

        I don’t have a problem describing a species that ignores blatantly alarmist propaganda like death-by-methane as “sapiens”. However, I do have a problem applying the adjective to a species that thinks it can power our modern industrial society with intermittent renewables like wind and solar.

        • Craig W. Crosby, Sr. says:

          I don’t know that it is blatantly alarmist to let us know that there is some danger. The scientific community involved does qualify their output, and the most they claim is that there is some possibility this could occur. Also, that we have never been in this situation before (e.g. whilst we are at solar minimum, and all indicators show that we should be cooling, we are still warming – note that 9 of the 10 warmest years on record are since 2000, and 2012 was 3rd warmest ever). Also, in all past warmings, the CO2 increase has been a following and reinforcing event, not a leading event as it is today.

          What concerns me most is that the people who are the most concerned are the scientists who deal with it directly. And that the “skeptics” all seem to be hired by the O&G and Coal companies. Then I ask myself, “Where is the payoff” for each group, and find none for the “alarmists” and direct profit for the “warming skeptics.”

          Now, if you choose to select your input to conform with your beliefs, you can find “some” evidence that this may all be a hoax. Again, what is the payoff for those allegedly participating? And, how were so many scientists suborned into the plot?

          So… I am left with a truly skeptical position: It is possible there will be no adverse impact. It is also possible that warming might be “good” for the planet. It is equally possible that warming could have serious negative effects, and that at some time we would find that we have reached a true “tipping point” where something like methane release, sudden collapse of ice sheets, shutting down of the thermo-halene currents or the like could happen. No one claims omniscience in any of these, and if there is even a 5% probability we should not wait for that to happen. If we can prevent it, then we won’t see ourselves having a “done deal” and figuring out some way to survive.

          And, since “spaiens” means “wise,” which is wiser? To wait until we are over the cliff, or to take action to turn away?

          Craig

  13. A C Osborn says:

    Euan, you mentioned Solar Power in Germany in your comments.
    There is an interesting article by Reuters that states the following 2 statistics.
    “The additions in the last three months brought the total of installed capacity to 36.2 GW.”
    and
    “Solar power contributed 4.5 percent to overall German power supply last year”
    What is of interest is that German Consumtion is estimated at 54GW, so 4.5% of 54GW is 2.43GW from an installed capacity of 36.2GW which equals only 6.7% of installed capacity.
    Can that really be true?
    Is that because the overall consumption is distorted by the fact that some of the “installers” are taking the energy from solar instead of the Grid?
    see
    http://www.reuters.com/article/2014/04/30/solar-germany-idUSL6N0NM3ZZ20140430

    • Euan Mearns says:

      AC, I think to get the load factor / efficiency you need to look at TWh generated relative to installed capacity. In 2012 Germany had 32.6 GW of solar capacity * 24 * 365 = 286 TWh if the system was running 24/7. It in fact generated 28 TWh so the load / efficiency is about 10%.

      I will look at Germany next in my countries series.

  14. A C Osborn says:

    Here is another interesting comparison, based on the German Fraunhofer solar research institute results.

    http://www.carbonbrief.org/blog/2014/05/high-renewables-ambition,-but-fossil-fuels-still-dominate-uk-and-germany-electricity-systems-compared/?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+carbonbrief+%28The+Carbon+Brief%29

    Due to the preference given to renewables the conventional production is being really squeezed and you can se why the producers are mothballing production facilities.

  15. peter2108 says:

    Because wind is intermittent you need something to fill in the gaps. I read at http://www.world-nuclear.org/info/Nuclear-Fuel-Cycle/Power-Reactors/Advanced-Nuclear-Power-Reactors/ that 3rd generation reactors were “dispatchable” – they could ramp up their power at 2.5% per minute to 60% of maximum output and then at 5% per minute to 100% power. Would this be fast enough to compensate for the vagaries of wind power? PS The question is not why we need wind power at all.

    • Euan Mearns says:

      Nuclear + wind is a very poor solution. You can maybe ramp a nuke up and down – but why? What are you saving? The fuel just keeps on burning. Once you opt for the nuclear route, why do anything else? You do need to provide a system that follows load. So some solar may help provide day time peaks and pumped storage can help absorb night time surplus and feed it into the day time peak.

  16. Pingback: Recent Energy And Environmental News – May 5th 2014 | PA Pundits - International

  17. patrickej says:

    I commend to everyone a book by Dieter Helm, an Oxford academic who has various connection to government and the EU commission entitled ” the Carbon Crunch”. It should be required reading for any politician involved in energy

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