A free-market energy blog
Random header image... Refresh for more!

New England’s Renewable Energy Mandate: Reality Anyone?

“Onshore wind in New England currently demands between 9-11 cents per KWh, more than twice the wholesale price of natural gas. Offshore wind is even more expensive starting at over 18 cents a KWh. More wind energy in the fuel mix will cause upward pressure on energy prices for the life of the power purchase agreements.”

- Lisa Linowes (below)

Last week, the New England Energy Alliance of Boston released its annual survey of New England energy consumers. Paul Afonso, executive director of the Alliance and a former Massachusetts utility regulator, summed the results:

Overall, the main concern of New Englanders continues to be the economy and pocketbook issues. If voters think any policy – private or public – will bring down the cost of energy, they will support it.

But if this is the case, the survey’s findings reflect a sentiment that’s entirely contrary to New England’s current energy policies. In particular, the region’s renewable energy mandate should receive public scrutiny with public-policy reform in mind.

Background

The six New England states have aggressively pushed for renewable energy development, with particular emphasis on wind power. All but Vermont have adopted a Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS) mandating that a percentage of the electricity sold retail into the region come from renewables.

RPS obligations for 2010 were about 14% of demand — an amount satisfied through a combination of existing, qualified resources in New England, and renewable energy imported from neighboring New York and Canada (mostly hydro). Reaching 20% by 2020, however, will require new wind capacity–very expensive and unreliable capacity.  Critical adjustments in RPS policies are thus necessary to avoid ballooning energy costs that would severely compromise New England’s economy.

The cautionary tale for New England is provided by California as documented in Robert Peltier’s post yesterday, Energy Policy in California: Turning Gold into Lead.

Wind in New England: Today vs. 2020

New England currently claims 48 wind energy projects totaling 318 megawatts. Maine has the most wind installed at 266 megawatts; Connecticut the least at 0.1 megawatts.

Assuming a generous 30% annual capacity factor, wind in New England produced around 836,000 megawatts hours (MWh) in 2010, substantially below other fuel options, including natural gas that produced over 50 million MWh (that is, 60x that of wind).

New England would need to add 23 million megawatt hours (MWh) of new renewable energy in order to satisfy state mandates by 2020. Since wind energy is the primary resource proposed to be built in the region, and the resource most favored by New England’s ‘ruling class’, future RPS obligations will likely be met by in-region wind power.

But what will this look like?

Meeting the 2020 obligation dictated by state laws will require a 28-fold increase (9,000 megawatts) in wind energy over the amount installed today. Measured in actual turbines, nearly 3000 3-megawatt turbines would be needed by 2020, which comes out to 300 new turbines erected every year for the next nine-to-ten years.

Building will be tough given that nearly every wind project proposed in New England has encountered substantial opposition. Historically, opponents argue local siting concerns including the impact of the turbines on the natural environment and properties in proximity to the towers. Local opposition will certainly intensify. But wind development on the scale necessary to meet RPS mandates will also trigger region-wide fights with complaints expanding to cost and the impact on New England’s economy.

Wind Integration: More Problems

In December 2010, the ISO-New England [1] released the findings of its New England Wind Integration Study (NEWIS). The study, conducted by General Electric, assessed the operational effects of integrating large amounts of intermittent wind power into the ISO’s control area. The NEWIS study concluded that significant wind resources could be added to New England’s power grid but for a price.

It was the price of this integration that caught our attention.

Existing Power Plants. Despite adding thousands of megawatts of new wind to the grid, the NEWIS study assumed the existing fleet of New England’s power plants would remain with no significant plant retirements relative to capacity resources. The study also assumed that new capacity resources proposed to be built would be brought online and the grid’s regulation capacity requirement would grow to 313 MW, nearly 4-times the current level.

Twenty-percent wind in New England would not result in the decommissioning of existing capacity nor would it negate the need to build new generation. While wind might displace fossil fuel, it cannot replace it.

Transmission. Since many favorable sites for wind development are remote from New England’s load centers, development of these distant sites would require significant transmission development. According to NEWIS, 20% wind penetration in New England would require 4,095 miles of new lines at an estimated cost of between $11 and $15 billion dollars. [2]

This cost would be in addition to the $5 billion already approved in New England to address existing reliability requirements. None of the wind-related transmission has been proposed to date nor has any public discussion been initiated on who would pick up the tab. In the survey cited above, the Alliance found that New Englanders disliked high-voltage transmission lines even more than wind turbines having registered a 14% decline in support from last year’s poll.

Energy Costs. The NEWIS report is mainly silent on the effect of large-scale wind integration on energy prices, but it does acknowledge two important points:

1) A wind plant’s revenue may be below its annual total cost which could require the plant owner to secure higher than market value power purchase agreement(s);

2) By displacing conventional generation, primarily natural-gas-fired resources, revenues for displaced plants would decrease and their economic viability put at risk. Increases in capacity market payments may be necessary to ensure these plants do not shut down.

Adding large amounts of wind to the region may reduce marginal electricity prices since wind has no fuel cost, but the energy costs passed on to ratepayers are derived from power purchase agreements negotiated between the utilities and wind plant owners.

Onshore wind in New England currently demands between 9-11 cents per KWh, more than twice the wholesale price of natural gas. Offshore wind is even more expensive starting at over 18 cents a KWh.

More wind energy in the fuel mix will cause upward pressure on energy prices for the life of the power purchase agreements. As these agreements expire in 15–20 years, prices may drop but by that time the turbines will be coming to the end of their operating life.

Other significant integration costs will also be imposed on the region — outside energy costs — in order to accommodate wind’s intermittency, including billions in new transmission costs.

Measuring the benefit. According to the NEWIS study, achieving 20% penetration of wind in New England will reduce yearly CO2 emissions by 12 million tons per year, a decline of 25%. This percentage is significant, but placing a value on this reduction paints a very different picture.

In today’s dollars, RGGI carbon allowances are trading at the reserve price of $1.89 per ton, which would place the value of the benefit at $22.7 million per year–a fraction of the transmission costs alone, even if paid out every year for 20 years, the life of the wind plants.

In fact, just to break even on the $15 billion in new transmission costs, the price of a carbon ton would need to be over $60 per ton. Clearly, there are less costly, more appropriate methods of reducing carbon emissions.

Conclusion

We do not object to the findings of the NEWIS report that large quantities of wind can be injected into the region. As an academic analysis, the report is reasonable.

However, the requirements necessary to meet a 20% wind scenario in New England are wholly unrealistic. Each state can try and overrule local opposition to individual wind projects and fast-track approvals under the pretext of ‘public benefit’, but the effect of above-market power purchase agreements, high-priced transmission construction, and other related integration costs will soon weigh on the region’s economy.

Unless changes are made to current RPS policies, New England is headed for an energy crisis of its own making. But who will press for change? Those making energy policy decisions are driven by ideology and appear unaware of the pending costs. And those likely to benefit financially from the policies, including big utilities wanting to build big transmission, are happy to comply.

The smartest-guys-in-the-room energy planning plus concentrated benefits/ and diffused costs of business subsidies has created a public-policy problem, Unfortunately for New England’s energy consumers, no one is watching out for their interests–yet. With public education, one can hope and perhaps even predict that consumers, taxpayers, and grass-roots environmentalists will come together to stop Big Wind.

——————–

[1] The ISO-NE is a non-profit entity tasked with managing the New England grid system and ensuring the day-to-day reliable operation of the region’s bulk power generation and transmission system.

[2] Figures from the ISO-NE Governors’ Economic Study referenced in the NEWIS report.

12 comments

1 rbradley { 06.24.11 at 11:08 am }

Jon Boone wrote:

“We do not object to the findings of the NEWIS report that large quantities of wind can be injected into the region. As an academic analysis, the report is reasonable.”

I object to it because it doesn’t pass the smell text. It’s sponsor, GE, has a substantial financial interest in inculcating the belief that wind technology can achieve the goals stated for it–that is, can offset substantial greenhouse gas emissions, fossil fuel consumption, AND provide the New England region with 20 percent of its electricity.

Despite the presence, worldwide, of about 170GW of wind, produced by around 150,000 wind turbines, there is no evidence that all that wind has resulted in lessening fossil fuel consumption. In areas where there is substantial wind penetration, viz, Denmark or the Pacific Northwest, the fact is that most of it is dumped, curtained, or exported. What remains within the system (much less than half of any yearly output) puts a strain on the conventional generators, which are, in most regions (such as Germany), fossil fired–in the process subverting overall greenhouse gas emissions reductions.

It is maddening when well intentioned people concede nonsense to the wind enterprise just to move the argument along to grease the issue of consumer cost. There are too many people out there, even in New England, glad to pay increased costs if they think they’re saving the world. Spurious “academic” reports, billowing with self interest, should be exposed for what they are.

2 Willem Post { 06.24.11 at 9:37 pm }

Jon,
I agree with your comments. Lisa Linowes does not mention one little hitch: cycling facilities to mirror/backup/balance the wind energy. I just wrote an article about it. http://theenergycollective.com/willem-post/57905/wind-power-and-co2-emissions

In a nutshell 10,000 MW of wind facilities at today’s prices costs about $25 billion, will require 10,000 MW of quick-starting, quick-ramping OCGT/CCGT cycling facilities at about $12.5 Billion, plus $19 to 25 billion grid overlay and grid build-outs; source: NEWITS.

The wind facility production would be 10,000 MW x 8760 x 0.31 = 27,156 GWh/yr
The cycling facility production would be 10,000 MW x 8760 x (1-0.31) = 60,444 GWh/yr. Together they would be seen by the grid as a base-loaded plant producing 87,600 GWh/yr. The current New England Electric Grid is 130,000 GWh/yr, i.e., wind energy would be the 800-lb gorilla.

It gets more interesting. Currently the NEEG has enough quick-starting, quick-ramping OCGT/CCGT for its own needs to follow demand, plus some spare capacity. Current wind energy penetration is about 0.5%, it provides about 650 GWh/yr and the cycling power is about 1447 GWh/yr, well within current capability of the existing fleet of quick- starting, quick-ramping plants attached to the grid. However, with 3% wind energy penetration this spare capacity is used up and ADDITIONAL quick-starting, quick-ramping OCGT/CCGT cycling facilities would need to be added as more wind facilities are added.

Note: the slow-starting, slow-ramping plants on the NEEG are not useful for cycling to accommodate wind energy and some ramping energy will always needed for NORMAL daily demand following; i.e., wind energy cycling cannot eat into that.

I gets even more interesting. The cycling facility will ramp up and down AND do it at part load, a double whammy which significantly affects heat rates.

For example: a car driven on a level road at a steady speed of 40 mph has a mileage of, say 26 mpg. The same car driven on a level road at irregular and rapidly changing speeds that average 40 mph has a mileage of, say 22 mpg. The mileage degradation due to the speed changes would be (26-22)/26 x 100% = 15%.

The result is that the CO2 emissions of the wind+cycling combination are slightly, about 2%, greater than if the cycling facility had performed the dual function of being in base-loaded/follow-demand mode while producing 87,600 GWh/yr; is not that a blast!

The fuel consumption is also about 2% greater. Gee, how is that possible? Well, the cycling facility in base-loaded/follow-demand mode is producing much more energy at a higher efficiency.

What wind proponents want to do is spend about $57 billion and create huge quality of life (noise, visuals), property values and environment impact.

What should be done is to build the 10,000 MW OCGT/CCGT facility which would have a much lower capital cost. It would produce 87,600/130,000 x 100% = 67% of the NEEG energy at a LOW cost AND have no huge quality of life (noise, visuals), property values and environment impact.

Please read my article line by line: it is long and complicated, but you will be rewarded by having a better understanding of the issues.

3 Jon Boone { 06.25.11 at 7:12 am }

Excellent work, Willem. I found your argument lucid and consistent with my own findings over the years (see my essay of nearly six years ago, Less for More: http://www.stopillwind.org/downloads/LessForMore.pdf and my more recent piece, here on MR in four parts, Overblown:http://www.masterresource.org/2010/09/windpower-overblown-part-1. I’m delighted to see that Australian Peter Lang has commented approvingly about your work, for I’ve cited his work often. Perhaps Kent Hawkins and Tom Tanton will weigh in as well.

I do have a few quibbles about your article, however, and with one of your comments afterward:

1. Granting wind a 31% capacity factor is more than circumstance should warrant. More wind would push the annual average downward. There may be pockets in New England that could achieve that production over, say, a five year period. But they would be few in number–fortunately. I say fortunately because the more wind on any system, the more problematic its variable output, making the integration dance more challenging–in terms of cost and emissions abatement. Moreover, in the best windy places (the mountains and the ocean) the potential for equipment damage increases; any projections of wind production should factor increased downtown for repair and maintenance.

2. I assume your recommendations for making wind variability more grid “friendly” are both earnest and tongue-in-cheek, since no wind outfit is likely to submit to curtailment or spilling on a routine basis, nor is it likely to install its own (very expensive) equipment to make wind production whole as it enters a grid. Still, these techniques would go a long way toward making wind pay the real costs of doing business on the grid (if not to local governments, property owners, and threatened wildlife and habitats).

3. Current wind energy accommodation fees are a joke–no where near what reality would dictate. Don Hertzmark, if I recall, has some good data on this.

4. Your recommendation that the installation of more OCGT and CCGT farms, in combination, without any wind, would abate nearly as much CO2 emissions than they could partnered by wind, thereby avoiding wind’s expensive capital and integration costs, is one that should be shared by the natural gas industry, and its acolyte, Bentek (which is wholly owned by the industry). However, both in the Bentek report you cite and in another, more recent analysis, Bentek calls for more wind, claiming that natural gas enables wind on the grid. Recall ANGA’s ad slogan: “The success of wind and solar depends on natural gas.” When challenged to show, as you have, that natural gas needs wind like a prom queen needs acne, Bentek becomes–uh–quiet.

5. In your last comment to Alex, you state: The CCGTs produce just as much power as the wind facility at a MUCH lower cost/kWh.” Yes and no, I think. You imply that the “power” produced at either facility is equivalent. It is mathematically. But not functionally. The former produces modern power capacity; the later produces archaic “power”–but no effective capacity. There is a substantial difference.

But these are indeed quibbles. I’m very grateful for your contribution to this discussion and how wonderfully you’ve put the shoulder of your expertise to the wheel of better energy policy. Thank you.

4 Willem Post { 06.25.11 at 11:50 am }

Jon,
All good points.
1. I agree with more O&M in ridge lines and will add it to my article.. O&M offshore is about 3 times Kansas on shore and about 2 times ridge line.
2, 3 and 4 I agree.
5. (wind energy+cycling energy ) is seen by the grid as a base-loaded source.
My main point is the combination is an inefficient base-loaded source. It is much better to have a CCGT facility (capacity = the cycling facility) operate at its highest efficiency near its rated output most of the time, except if and when it is needed to follow daily demand.

The capital cost would be much less than wind, the CO2 and fuel consumption would be about the same as with wind, the owning and O&M cost of producing power would be less, and the impact on quality of life (noise, visuals, social unrest), property values and environment would be much less; what is not to love?

GE makes wind turbines, CCGT systems, steam turbines, electric generators, heat recover steam generators, etc.; no wonder it wants to promote wind power, as do renewables vendors, developers, financiers, (growing businesses on subsidies) hood-winked legislators (getting campaign donations and reelected) and an uninformed, duped public which generally does not know up from down and are kept that way by the sweet-sounding PR of special interests.

5 Jon Boone { 06.25.11 at 12:32 pm }

Amen, Willem. I agree with your argument re point 5. A wind/gas tandem would not just be more inefficient as baseload, however; it would be incredibly more expansive, for in addition to the wind/gas, there is also the issue of transmission “improvements” and voltage regulation adjustments. In terms of greater reliability, grid security, and consumer affordability, such a tandem is stupefyingly ridiculous.

But, as I said in my first comment here, GE is literally banking on the prospect that many people will pay more–and blithely impose those costs on their neighbors without blinking an eye–if they think they’re saving the world. You might enjoy part 2 of my recent essay, Oxymoronic Wind, in which I lay out the strange fellows in bed with wind: http://www.masterresource.org/2011/01/wind-howlers-part-i.

Again, thanks for the valuable work you’re doing.

6 Lisa Linowes { 06.25.11 at 3:22 pm }

Jon, Thanks for your comments. GE did not shy away from acknowledging the limitations of the NEWIS, nor did the ISO-NE. The purpose of the study was to determine IF large quantities of wind could be introduced into the NE’s control area. And I have no doubt New England can achieve 20%. Throw enough money at engineering questions like this one, and a solution will be found.

But the point of the essay was to demonstrate the cost of getting to 20% wind and to show how the cost overwhelms the value of any benefit. In this case I look only at the monetary outlays but enormous payments will be exacted both as impacts to quality of life and a severe degradation of our New England’s open spaces. NEWIS did not address policy; it addressed engineering concerns. We can attack the methodology GE employed and delve into particulars but why bother. The NEWIS study still makes the point: RPS policies in NE have established unworkable mandates.
–Lisa

7 Willem Post { 06.25.11 at 4:40 pm }

Lisa,
The NEWIS authored by GE is very long and detailed. As I wrote in my article, the NEEG and almost all other grids do not have enough SPARE cycling capacity (OCGT/CCGTs) to accommodate wind energy.

Bonneville Power Authority has much wind energy on its system, but it is starting to run out of excess cycling capacity and will be installing OCGT/CCGTs, because of the “must-take” mandate. Is that crazy, or not?

New England would have to do this at about 2-3% wind energy penetration; currently it is at 0.5%

RPS policies in NE ARE workable, but they are highly uneconomic.

Owning and O&M Costs of Wind Turbine Facility Plus Cycling Facility Versus CCGT Facility Plus Increased Energy Efficiency

Wind Turbine Facility Plus Cycling Facility

Wind turbine facility capital cost = 10,000 MW x $2,500,000/MW = $25 billion. 
Wind turbine facility useful service life is about 20-25 years.
Wind turbine facility energy production = 10,000 MW x 8,760 hr/yr x CF 0.31 = 27,156 GWh/yr*

Cycling facility capital cost = 10,000 MW CCGT x $1,250,000/MW = $12.5 billion.
Cycling facility useful service life is about 30-35 years; short because of cycling.
Cycling facility energy production = 10,000 MW x 8,760 hr/yr x (1.0 – 0.31) = 60,444 GWh/yr
Cycling facility CO2 emissions = 63,399 million lb of CO2/yr.
Cycling Facility fuel costs = $2,167 million/yr
Extra annual costs for ISO-NE operating costs to deal with wind power.^

Capital cost of expanded overlay and T&D systems about $19 to $25 billion (source: NEWIS report) 
Capital cost of expanded weather prediction facility.^
Capital costs of increased frequency regulation capacity.^

Annual owning and O&M costs of wind turbine facilities^
Annual owning and O&M costs of cycling facilities.^
Annual owning and O&M costs of expanded overlay grid and T&D systems.^
Annual owning and O&M costs of expanded weather prediction facility.^
Annual owning and O&M costs of increased frequency regulation capacity.^

Quality of life (noise, visuals, social unrest), property values and environment are negatively impacted over a large area.

CCGT Facility Plus Increased Energy Efficiency

CCGT facility capacity = (27,156 +60,444) GWh/yr x 1,000 MW/GW)/(8,760 hr/yr) = 10.000 MW
CCGT facility capital cost = 10,000 MW x $1,250,000/MW = $12.5 billion.
CCGT facility useful service life is about 35-40 years. 
CCGT facility energy production = 87,600 GWh/yr*   
CCGT base-loaded CO2 emissions = 64,770 million lb of CO2/yr #
CCGT base-loaded fuel cost = $2,215 million/yr  

Capital cost for expanded overlay grid and T&D systems: minimal compared to Alt. No. 1 
Annual owning and O&M costs of CCGT facility: less than Alt. No. 1
Annual owning and O&M costs of built-out T&D systems: minimal compared to Alt. No. 1

Quality of life (noise, visuals, social unrest), property values and environment impact: minimal compared to Alt. No. 1

* the CF gradually decreases as the facilities age.
# this reduction reduces the NEEG average of 1.0 lb of CO2/kWh.
+ the cycling facility produces 60,444 GWh/yr of power to balance 27,156 GWh/yr of wind; together they act as a base-loaded facility.
^ not quantified in this study.

Capital Cost Alt. No. 1 Alt. No. 2
$billion $billion

Wind facility 25.0
Cycling Facility 12.5
T&D build-out 19-25
CCGT 12.5

Alt. No. 2 would produce (87,600/130,000) GWh/yr = 67.3% of the energy on the NEEG at a cost of about $0.0631/kWh, whereas Alt. No.1 would at about $0.10/kWh, or at about 58% greater cost making New England less competitive in the US and the world.

Adding Alt. No. 2 to the existing low-cost, CO2-free nuclear energy and the existing low-cost, CO2-free hydro energy of Hydro-Quebec and New England, would place New England in a better competitive position versus the rest of the world than at present.

The fuel cost reduction is 2,215 – 2,167 = $47.2 million/yr, about 2% less than Alt. No. 2
The CO2 emissions reduction is 64,779 – 63,399 = 1,380 million lb of CO2/yr, about 2% less than Alt. No.2

The above indicates Alt. No. 2 (base-loaded/part-loaded CCGT facilities) requires much less capital cost, consumes slighly more fuel, emits slighly more CO2 and has almost no quality of life (noise, visuals, social unrest), property values and environment impact compared to Alt. No. 1 (wind facilities+cycling facilities).

The enormous capital cost difference could be much more effectively used for investments in increased energy efficiency which would more effectively reduce energy costs and CO2 emissions per invested dollar. 

http://www.coalitionforenergysolutions.org/renewables_are_expensive_an.pdf
http://theenergycollective.com/willem-post/47519/base-power-alternatives-replace-base-loaded-coal-plants
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/europe/denmark/7996606/An-ill-wind-blows-for-Denmarks-green-energy-revolution.html

8 Jon Boone { 06.25.11 at 4:44 pm }

Lisa:
I was with you until your statement that GE’s NEWIS study was “reasonable,” even quoting from the report how much CO2 emissions 20% wind penetration would offset. Do I think New England could integrate that much wind usefully? No. At least not as presently configured for electricity production. And I think few other places could do so as well. Such a region would require ginormous “sinks,” a la Denmark, so that most of it could be exported via an outlet drain, even at a financial loss. New England doesn’t have this luxury. It’s marginal reserves would soon be cannibalized, as Willem shows, requiring that more conventional generation be brought on board–sooner than later–at a level nearly equal to the amount of wind capacity. More wind. More conventional generation–in what would be likely an infinite spiraling regression. Willem’s wind elephant in the room would quickly become an 800 pound gorilla. Under such an ongoing, highly dynamic, circumstance, what would be the baseline snapshot from which to measure wind’s 20% contribution in the overall generation mix?

Even if such a dystopean future could be achieved, GE’s claim about CO2 emissions savings, which you evidently accepted, and the concomitant savings in fossil fuel consumption expected, would not be reasonable. In fact, it would be untrue. Any reasonableness that might accrue from the proposition that New England could integrate so much wind must stem from certitude that the technology would be truly an alternative energy source. As you know, it can only be a supernumerary.

I’m sure you are aware that NEWIS is the third major regional proprietary GE wind integration report, the first being done for Ontario about six years ago, the second, for New York State a few years after that. Aside from not passing the smell test, neither report can pass muster even after casual scrutiny. Although I haven’t examined the NEWIS document in detail, I can’t imagine its home cooking is much different that that of its elder siblings.

What I find more than passing strange is that these GE wind documents, like those from NREL, don’t refer to past or present reality, given so much extant worldwide/North American wind. I realize that each grid region is different, some much more than others. But surely GE could provide properly vetted and accessible data showing how–and where–wind has been successfully integrated at high levels of penetration comparable to what is modeled for New England–say in Germany, Denmark, Spain, California, Texas, Ontario, the BPA–while causally reducing claimed amounts of CO2 emissions/fossil fuel consumption.

The obvious answer–and the reason GE engages in documents that have the explanatory power of college football polls, is that they don’t– because they can’t.

9 Power Engineer { 06.26.11 at 7:13 am }

I prefer to keep the argument simple. Even if NEWIS is correct, the the wind is very expensive and the land use for transmission and wind towers is extensive:
1) $60+ billion capital for wind and transmission at time when little generation is needed.
2) 24+ cents per kWh all-in costs to save 3.5 cents per kWh of natural gas
3) $450 per ton of CO2 removed versus ISO market estimates of $40 per ton.
4) The NEWIS study has a scenario in which retiring 4 GW of units over 60 years old removes exactly the same CO2 (16milllion tons per year) as 12 GW of wind for a cost of $5 billion versus $60+ billion for 12 GW of wind.
5) 4700 circuit miles of 500 KV transmission encircling New England. Good luck siting this in the mountains of Vermont and the suburbs of Boston and Hartford.

10 JohnOfEnfield { 06.26.11 at 4:43 pm }

In the UK we are experiencing many problems integrating wind power into the existing power infrastructure.

http://www.ref.org.uk/publications/217-low-wind-power-output-2010

Note that – for all the wind power we might produce – there will be no reduction possible in the conventional generating capacity. I do also like the comment that “wind output is approximately synchronised across very large geographical areas”.

From memory – maximum wind power in the UK only matched maximum demand on 3 occasions in a year. What use is that?

Any analysis from Denmark about the practicality of obtaining a large proportion of their power supply from wind has to take account of the fact that they are a small country and take and give power to their larger neighbours.

“If wind was capable of providing industrial scale power – oil tankers would be sailing ships”.

11 Jon Boone { 06.26.11 at 5:34 pm }

Power Engineer: Well said.

Willem: Your alternate 2 would be mainly a gas operation, with wind a minor partner in the tandem. Given a likely inflated 30% capacity factor for all that wind, and given the technology’s performance history elsewhere (where about 10% of the time it produces nothing and more than 60% of the time it produces less than its capacity factor), the natural gas combo would actually infill over 70% of wind’s rated capacity over time. And, as you know, whatever wind does produce will make the gas units work much harder. The whole thing is quite nuts–and probably unworkable as GE attempts to sell the idea, even with all that expense. Certainly, even if it did get integrated, providing a lot of makework for engineeers, the Rube Goldbergesque mechanism would subvert the very reason for wind’s being….

JohnOfEnfield: Quite right. Jim Oswald of the UK, among others, actually examined this claim using real data. His conclusions mirror yours: http://www.ref.org.uk/publications/227-new-study-confirms-ref-intermittency-studies. See also: http://docs.wind-watch.org/oswald-energy-policy-2008.pdf

12 Byron Wooldridge { 07.13.11 at 3:59 pm }

All the points addressed are good, valid insights in my opinion. There are however a few additional items to consider.

1) The massive use of construction materials for wind turbine foundations, towers, and generators for the low return as measured in MWh must surely be impacting the price of concrete, steel, copper and other materials. Consider also, the massive use of construction materials to build the additional transmission infrastructure and service roads to the wind turbines.

2) Since many wind developers are getting either production tax credits, grants-in-lieu of tax credits, additional favorable tax treatments in the form of accelerated depreciation and such not granted to other generators, wind farms are effectively government subsidized entities. In merchant markets such as ERCOT, these subsidies are discouraging construction of the new power plants needed to replace older, less efficient generation and the American taxpayer is footing a hefty portion of the bill. In fact, if one considers the subsidies plus the costs of the transmission buildout, it is agruable that the portion of the cost that falls on the backs of the taxpayers will pay for construction of an equivalent nameplate POWER RATING of CCGT plants that will deliver 3+ times the amount of ENERGY to the grid while actually replacing lower efficiency, more polluting plants–which as the group of you has pointed out wind energy cannot do.

3) More and more frequently, we are seeing magazine and trade journal articles about simple cycle gas turbine plants being installed to provide spinning reserve and backup for wind power. While everyone touts the rapid start and load of these machines and the efficiency, no one really discusses the fact that these SCGT units will be running part load much of the time, considerably off their ISO heat rates and that they will not be running ISO conditions since ISO does not include inlet and exhaust losses and the equipment will often be operating at higher inlet temperatures and elevations than ISO conditions.

Leave a Comment