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Wind Spin: Misdirection and Fluff by a Taxpayer-enabled Industry

Trying to pin down the arguments of wind promoters is a bit like trying to grab a greased balloon. Just when you think you’ve got a handle on it, it morphs into a different shape and escapes your grasp. Let’s take a quick highlight review of how things have evolved with wind merchandising.

1 – Wind energy was abandoned well over a hundred years ago, as even in the late 1800s it was totally inconsistent with our burgeoning, more modern needs for power. When we throw the switch, we expect that the lights will go on – 100% of the time. It’s not possible for wind energy, by itself, to EVER do this, which is one of the main reasons it was relegated to the dust bin of antiquated technologies (along with such other inadequate energy sources as horse and oxen power).

2 – Fast forward to several years ago. With politicians being convinced that Anthropogenic Global Warming (AGW) was an imminent catastrophic threat, lobbyists launched campaigns to favor anything that would purportedly reduce carbon dioxide. This was the marketing opportunity that the wind energy business needed. Wind energy was resurrected from the dust bin of power sources, as its promoters pushed the fact that wind turbines did not produce CO2 while generating electricity.

3 – Of course, just that by itself, is not significant, so the original wind development lobbyists then made the case for a quantum leap: that by adding wind turbines to the grid we could significantly reduce CO2 from those “dirty” fossil fuel electrical sources (especially coal). This argument became the basis for many states implementing a Renewable Energy Standard (RES) or Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS)– which mandated that their utilities use (or purchase) a prescribed amount of wind energy, by a set date.

4 – Why was a mandate necessary? Simply because the real world reality of integrating wind energy made it a very expensive option. As such, no utility companies would likely do this on their own. They had to be forced to.

5 – Interestingly, although the stated main goal of these RES/RPS programs was to reduce CO2, not a single state’s RES/RPS requires verification of CO2 reduction from any wind project, either beforehand or after the fact. The politicians simply took the sales peoples’ word that consequential CO2 savings would be realized!

6 - It wasn’t too long before utility companies and independent energy experts calculated that the actual CO2 savings were miniscule (if any). This was due to the inherent nature of wind energy, and the realities of necessarily continuously balancing the grid, on a second-by-second basis, with fossil-fuel-generated electricity. The frequently cited Bentek study (How Less Became More) is a sample independent assessment of this aspect. More importantly, there has been zero scientific empirical proof provided by the wind industry to support their claims of consequential CO2 reduction.

7 – Suspecting that the CO2 deception would soon be exposed, the wind lobbyists took pre-emptive action, and added another rationale to prop up their case: energy diversity. However, since our electricity system already had considerable diversity (and many asked “more diversity at what cost?”) this hype never gained much traction. Back to the drawing board….

8 - The next justification put forward by the wind marketers was energy independence. This cleverly played on the concern most people have about oil and Middle East instability. Many ads were run promoting wind energy as a good way to reduce our “dependence on Middle Eastern oil.”

None of these ads mentioned that only about 1% of our electricity is generated from oil. Or that the US exports more oil than we use for electricity. Or that our main import source for oil is Canada (not the Middle East). Despite the significant omissions and misrepresentations, this claim still resonates with many people, so it continues to be pushed. Whatever works.

9 – Knowing full well that the assertions used to date were specious, wind proponents manufactured still another claim: green jobs. This was carefully selected to coincide with widespread employment concerns. Unfortunately, when independent qualified parties examined the situation more closely, they found that the claims were wildly exaggerated. Big surprise!

Further, as attorney and energy expert Chris Horner has so eloquently stated:

There is nothing – no program, no hobby, no vice, no crime – that does not ‘create jobs.’ Tsunamis, computer viruses and shooting convenience store clerks all ‘create jobs.’ So that claim misses the point. Since it applies to all, it is an argument in favor of none. Instead of making a case on the merits, it is an admission that one has no such arguments.

See a very detailed critique of the jobs situation at PTCFacts.Info. Listed there are TEN major reasons why using jobs as an argument is not appropriate or meaningful. Additionally there is a list of some 45 reports written by independent experts, and they all agree that renewable energy claims are based on numerous fallacies.

10 – Relentlessly moving forward, wind marketers then tried to change the focus from jobs to “economic development.” The marketers typically utilized a computer program called JEDI to make bold economic projections. Unfortunately, JEDI is a totally inadequate model for accurately arriving at such numbers, for a variety of technical reasons. The economic development contentions have also been shown to be inaccurate, as they never take into account economic losses that result from wind energy implementation – for example agricultural losses due to bat killings, and job losses due to higher electricity costs for factories, hospitals and numerous other employers.

Additionally, as with jobs, economic development in-and-of-itself has nothing to do with the merits of wind energy as a power source. Let’s say we have a transportation RES mandating that 20% of a state’s vehicles be replaced by horse power by 2020. There would be a LOT of “economic development” (making horse carriages and buggy whips, building horse barns, growing and shipping hay) that would result from such an edict. But would that be any indication that it is an intelligent, beneficial policy?

11 – Along the way, yet another claim began making the rounds: that wind energy is low cost. This is surprisingly bold, considering that if that were really true, RES/RPS mandates would not be necessary. For some reason all calculations showing wind to be “low cost” conveniently ignore exorbitant subsidies, augmentation costs, power adjusting (see next item), additional transmission costs, and so on. Independent analyses of levelized costs (e.g. from the EIA) have concluded that (when ALL applicable wind-related costs are accurately calculated) wind energy is MUCH more expensive than any conventional source we have.

12 - A subtle (but significant) difference between wind energy and other conventional sources of electricity is in power quality. This term refers to such technical performance factors as voltage transients, voltage variations, waveform distortion (e.g. harmonics), frequency variations, and so forth. The reality is that wind energy introduces many more of these issues than does a conventional power facility. Additional costs are needed to deal with these wind-caused problems. These are rarely identified in pro-wind economic analyses.

13 – When confronted with the reality that wind energy is considerably more expensive than any conventional source, a common rejoinder is to object to that by saying that once the “externalities” of conventional sources are taken into account, wind is less expensive than those conventional sources.

To gullible sheeple, this might make sense. But consider the following two points. First, externality analyses posited by wind zealots never take into account the true environmental consequences of wind energy (rare earth impacts [see below], human health effects, bird and bat deaths, the CO2 generated from a two million pound concrete base, etc.).

Second, the “externalities” for things like coal are always only the negative part. If these advocates want a true big picture calculation, then they need to also add in the benefits to us from low-cost coal-based electricity. Considering that coal played a major part in our economic success and improved health and living standards over the past century, such a plus factor would be enormous.

[BTW there is some evidence that the negative externalities (e.g. about coal related asthma claims) are exaggerated. What a surprise!]

14 – A key grid ingredient is Firm Capacity. (A layman’s translation is that this is an indication of dependability.) Conventional sources (like nuclear) have a Firm Capacity of nearly 100%. Wind has a Firm Capacity of about 0%. Big difference!

15 – Since this enormous Firm Capacity discrepancy is indisputable, wind energy apologists then decided to adopt the strategy that wind energy isn’t a “capacity resource” after all, but rather an “energy resource.” Surprisingly, this may be the first contention that is actually true! But what does this really mean?

The reality is that saying “wind is an energy source” is a trivial statement, on a par with saying “wind turbines are white.” Lightning is an energy source. So what? The fact is that your cat is an energy source too. In this Alice-in-Wonderland reality, connecting the cat to the grid (after heavily subsidizing it, of course), makes as much sense as does connecting puff power.

16-One of the latest buzz-words is sustainability. One has to give these marketeers credit for being persistently imaginative. The truth about sustainability is:

a) It is totally hypocritical to have wind advocates attacking fossil fuels as unsustainable, when the wind business has an ENORMOUS dependency on fossil fuels for their construction, delivery, maintenance and operation. This article explains some of it.

b) Nothing is sustainable, as this piece accurately explains.

c) Wind energy is our LEAST sustainable option!

17 – A related pitch is that our adoption of wind energy will help us break “our fossil fuel dependence.” Guess what? The reality is that wind actually guarantees our perpetual dependence on fossil fuels! In addition to wind turbines’ dependence on fossil fuels for manufacture, delivery and maintenance, the only way wind energy can quasi-function on the grid is to have it continuously augmented by a fast responding power source – which for a variety of technical and economic reasons is usually gas. It’s rather amusing that the same environmental organizations that support wind energy are also against shale gas. That’s like saying that you love Italian food but hate tomato sauce. The two are paired together like Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers.

Realizing that their best defense is a good offense, some of these hucksters are now contending the inverse: that wind actually augments gas! So wind that generates electricity 25±% of the time is “augmenting” gas, which has to supply the 75±%! This immediately brings to mind the British army band playing “The World Turned Upside Down.”

18 – The claim that wind energy is “green” or “environmentally friendly” is laugh-out-loud hilarious – except for the fact that the reality is not funny at all. Consider just one part of a turbine, the generator, which uses considerable rare earth elements (2000± pounds per MW).

The mining and processing of these metals has horrific environmental consequences that are unacknowledged and ignored by the wind industry and its environmental surrogates. For instance, a typical 100 MW wind project would generate approximately: a) 20,000 square meters of destroyed vegetation, b) 6 million cubic meters of toxic air pollution, c) 33 million gallons of poisoned water, d) 600 million pounds of highly contaminated tailing sands, and e) 100,000 pounds of radioactive waste. (See this, and this, and this.)

19 – Modern civilization is based on our ability to produce electrical POWER. Our modern sense of power is inextricably related to controlled performance expectations: when we turn the knob, we expect the stove to go on 100% of the time – not just on those wildly intermittent occasions when the wind is blowing within a certain speed range.

Underlying a lot of the wind lobbyists’ claims is a carefully crafted, implied message that there is some kind of wind energy “equivalency” to conventional sources. This assumption is the basis for such assertions that XYZ wind project will power 1000 homes. Such claims are totally false. They are dishonest from several perspectives: the most obvious error being that XYZ wind project will NEVER provide power to any 1000 homes 24/7. It might not provide power for even one home 24/7.

Yet we see this same “equivalency” message conveyed even more subtly on EIA tables for levelized costs. Wind and conventional sources should not be on the same table, but they are (defended only by a small footnote). One useful analogy is to consider the cost, speed, reliability and load capacity of a single eighteen-wheeler truck in making daily interstate deliveries of furniture, heavy equipment or other large products. This semi-truck is equivalent to a nuclear plant.

In energy generation terms, the wind turbine equivalent is to attempt to replace the single truck with golf carts. How many golf carts would it take to equal the cost, speed, reliability and load capacity of a single eighteen-wheeler in making daily interstate deliveries? This is a trick question, as the answer is that there is no number that would work: not ten, not a hundred, not ten thousand, not a million. Exactly the same situation exists in the electricity sector: no number of turbines will ever equal the cost, reliability and output of one conventional electricity plant.

20 – A close cousin of the prior illegitimate contention is that “The wind is always blowing somewhere, so spreading wind projects out will result in a combination that has a dependable output.” Like essentially all the wind industry mis-infomercials do, this bald assertion has a soothing, reassuring ring. But this marketing claim is unsupported by any empirical, real world evidence. For instance, in southeastern Australia about 20 wind projects are spread out over a single 1000± mile long grid. Yet the combined result in no way even approximates the consistent dependable performance of our primary conventional sources.

Again, our modern society is based on abundant, reliable, affordable electric power. All these specious claims for wind energy are simply part of a long line of snake oil sales spiels – intended to fool the public and enable politicians to justify favoring special interests by enriching various rent-seekers (which will then return the favor via campaign contributions and other reelection support).

They get away with this primarily for three basic reasons.

1 - Wind proponents are not asked to independently PROVE the merits of their claims before (or after) their product is forced on the public.

2 - There is no penalty for making bogus assertions or dishonest claims about their product’s “benefits,” so each successive contention is more grandiose than the last.

3 - Promoting wind is a political agenda that is divorced from real science. A true scientific assessment is a comprehensive, objective evaluation with transparent real world data – not on carefully massaged computer models and slick advertising campaigns, which are the mainstay of anti-science evangelists promoting political agendas.

So, in effect, we have come around full circle. A hundred-plus years ago, wind energy was recognized as an antiquated, unreliable and expensive source of energy – and now, after hundreds of billions of wasted tax and consumer dollars, we find that (surprise!) it still is an antiquated, unreliable and expensive source of energy. This is what happens when science is relegated to a back-of-the-bus status.

Paraphrasing Dr. Jon Boone:

Let’s see the real world evidence for the lobbyists’ case. I’m weary of these relentless projections, uncontaminated as they are by reality. In a nutshell, what these profiteers are seeking to do, through methodological legerdemain, is to make wind appear to be what it is not. This is a plot lifted out of Cinderella and her step-sisters, or the Emperor’s New Clothes. It’s really a story of class aspirations, but one that is bizarrely twisted: giving wind a makeover to make her seem fetching and comely when in fact she’s really a frog.

When you hear that wind opposition is all about NIMBYs, think about the above points, and then reflect on what NIMBY really means: The Next Idiot Might Be You.

But consider the sources. When a major turbine manufacturer calls a catastrophic failure like a blade falling off component liberation, we know we are in for an adventurous ride in a theme park divorced from reality.

See EnergyPresentation.Info for more detailed explanations, including charts, photographs, entertaining graphics, and numerous references.

John Droz, Jr. is a physicist & environmental advocate; contact him at aaprjohn@northnet.org.

27 comments

1 Coronabunny { 02.24.12 at 4:52 am }

“…not on carefully massaged computer models and slick advertising campaigns…”

I would contend that the above (and the rest of their shenanigans) is what present-day professional scientists do. Furthermore it is what they have been trained to do. Yet furthermore, it is what they are being paid to do, by government and industry.

And the last ‘furthermore’ is this: all their ‘work’ has been incorporated into the peer-reviewed literature, textbooks, etc. It has been baked in.

Therefore, what they are doing IS science. What it may have been before, or not, is of no consequence.

You are conflating ‘rationality’ with ‘science’. Mere wishing does not change what IS, and what science IS, is quite clear is it not. Also, science was always intended to MERELY be a tool in aid of furthering rationality – it was the Leftists-hippies who chose to elevate science above reason itself, thus creating the neo-religion of the humanist-atheists.

If you wish to say that science has been corrupted, then please feel free to do so: you are free to your own opinion, not your own facts. You may not reinterpret reality to suit your desires… unless, of course, you yourself are a present-day scientist? In which case, you are excused from being either factual of rational.

2 jdroz { 02.24.12 at 8:39 am }

Mr. Bunny:

Just because those promoting political and/or financial agendas have been able to successfully corrupt some scientists, does NOT mean that is what science is — any more than pedophile priests mean that is what religion is.

Science is a standard PROCESS whereby we have the best option available to us to get to the Truth of technical matters.

In every case where promotion of self-serving agendas gets involved, one or more of the four scientific process items gets aborted.

Science has not been corrupted, some scientists have.

3 donb { 02.24.12 at 11:07 am }

Much of the push for the “Smart Grid” is in line with the push for wind energy. It enables the power utility to control when you will use energy, either by direct control of appliances or by punitive pricing. In the old “dumb grid”, the power utility would monitor peak demand. As peak demand grew and approached their generation capacity, they would build a new generating plant. This simple model does not work with wind, since building more wind farms does not insure that more generation is available when needed. The new solution is the “Smart Grid”. With it, what was the utility’s problem is now the consumer’s problem.

Some say that by using “Smart Grid” technology, the consumer can reduce his cost of energy. This may be true if the consumer is willing to make major adjustments to his lifestyle to accommodate the utility’s (wind) generation problems. Saving money this way is no bargain for the consumer — the energy IS less valuable because it is not available on demand!

4 Jon Boone { 02.24.12 at 12:40 pm }

Here’s how several prominent scientists have defined their enterprise:

“Science is the disinterested search for the objective truth about the material world”. – Richard Dawkins

“Theories crumble, but good observations never fade.”—Harlow Shapley

“The less one knows about the universe, the easier it is to explain.”—Leon Brunschvicg

I also recommend virtually any commentary on this by Richard Feynman. Here’s a wonderful distillation by the great man himself: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yvfAtIJbatg

Let me also add to John’s list the latest wind industry Uri Geller ploy to make people think that the spoons of wind can bend at will: The primary goal of wind is now as a “back up” for natural gas, used to conserve natural gas when the wind is blowing in the right speed ranges–but of course not mentioning that the wind volatility is causing those gas units to perform more inefficiently, subverting the quest to reduce the fuels consumption while substantially magnifying maintenance problems that, ultimately, must shorten the gas unit’s operating life.

The goo used to sell this nonsense stems from some of the best Madison Avenue chemistry sets. It is a tribute to an ultimately ineffable admixture of a few truths, many half truths, an avalanche of free associations, and whole oceans of utter fantasy. Words can’t convey how silly the bloviation has become. There is no Occam’s Razor at work here. Rather, it’s the Dragon in My Garage, complete with non sequiturs encased in a fallacy of composition vat.

5 Wind Spin: Misdirection and Fluff by a Taxpayer-enabled Industry « WIND CONCERNS ONTARIO: On Wordpress { 02.24.12 at 12:41 pm }

[...] Wind Spin: Misdirection and Fluff by a Taxpayer-enabled Industry — MasterResource: “When a major turbine manufacturer calls a catastrophic failure like a blade falling off ‘structural liberation,’ we know we are in for an adventurous ride in a theme park divorced from reality.” [...]

6 Lionell Griffith { 02.24.12 at 1:59 pm }

coronabunny,

You have been taken in by one of the major scams put forth by your hated “Leftists-hippies”. It is the Name makes the thing. It scam was constructed over the past several hundred years ago by Kant et.al. and by modern day leftists and progressives.

Their first premise was that you could not know anything about reality because you could not directly sense it. You had to use eyes, ears, touch, taste, smell and the like. Hence you could not know a thing in itself.

Now since that it was the case you cannot know anything about reality, you are left with knowing only what the next person knows, and he the same across all of society in and endless self reenforcing circle. In other words all you can know is social knowledge.

Since it was the case that social knowledge was not about reality but was self referential, the thought made the thing and the name WAS the thing. Change the name and the thing is new. Change the thing and the name attached meant something else. It was all according to the whim of society and reality had nothing to do with it.

Hence the name Science, became whatever it was that people who called themselves Scientists said they did and that others believed was Science. This was taken to be true especially since neither the Scientists nor the general populationy could not know what the Scientists were actually doing. So both the name Science and what the word was attached t could become anything, everything, or nothing depending upon the whim of the thought maker and name giver.

Ultimately Knowledge becomes anti-knowledge, thought becomes anti-thought, reason becomes anti-reason, and Science becomes anti-Science in a huge world wide Orwellian cacophony of New Speak. None of which is connected to reality to any extent beyond it’s catastrophic consequences.

I am a humanist – atheist. I know what reason and Science is. It isn’t what you or anyone else thinks it is simply because you or they think it. Reality is real, knowledge of that reality is possible to man, and the only way that man can ultimately live and thrive is if he uses his capacity to sense reality and his ability to reason to integrate the observed facts of reality into a coherent body of knowledge (Science). He must then use that knowledge to guide his thoughts, choices, and actions (Engineering) to create those things that are required for his continued existence and thriving.

Society, as such, knows nothing and can do nothing only individual humans can know and act. Because they have the power to learn and choose, individual men are the only moral agents on earth. THIS is what being a humanist means.

In the several millions of years of humanoids seeking gods, goddesses, spirits, demons, and devils, there has been zero evidence that they exist except in the imagination of men. Hence, because of lack of objective evidence, I am an atheist. However, I am in no way shape or form of the tribe you call “Leftists-hippies”.

7 Ken Langford { 02.24.12 at 4:52 pm }

Lionell,

You sound more like an objectivist than a humanist. Your ideas abound in Ayn Rand’s “Atlas Shrugged”.

I support anything anti-collectivist and find your comments refreshing even though I don’t support atheism myself. It takes a strong individual to throw off today’s social propaganda.

8 Lionell Griffith { 02.24.12 at 5:37 pm }

Ken,

I don’t think objectivist thought and humanist thought are mutually exclusive. They both place the idea of a human living as a human among their highest values. After all, one identifies concepts by their most fundamental attributes rather their irrelevant or accidental ones. The last thing one can properly say about the modern day Leftists-hippies is that they exalt humans living as humans. In fact, they seek the exact opposite. THAT was one of the implied points of my previous post.

9 Phil { 02.24.12 at 8:27 pm }

I wish the media would ask Cadillac Deval Patrick about his Green Communities Act while he is on his media tour this weekend.

This article debunks just about everything he is doing here in Mass. He will be long gone (rumor is he plans to run for POTUS in 2016) from Mass before the sheeple wake up. Right now the green scam gold rush is on, these wind turbine boondoggles are popping up all over our state.

Keep up the great work, John. People are starting to wake up to these scams, even here in blue mass.

My group, the Watchdogs of Carver, we are fighting back against the big green mafia. And there are many small groups popping up all over the place, fighting back against these scams.

10 Ed Reid { 02.25.12 at 9:47 am }

donb { 02.24.12 at 11:07 am }

donb,

Electricity costs vary as a function of demand and have done so since before the current fascination with wind energy and the smart grid. Electric utilities have imposed demand and TOD rates on certain classes of customers to reflect those differences, though residential and small commercial customers have largely been exempt from those rates. A higher rate, reflective of higher costs, is hardly “punitive”. Arguably, it is “just and reasonable”. I believe it is highly unlikely that a state regulatory commission would approve “punitive” rates. I believe it is equally unlikely that consumers would surrender control of their usage to their utilities willingly.

11 UzUrBrain { 02.25.12 at 11:54 am }

Ed –

I strongly suggest you research how time-of-day (TOD) and demand meters work. When I lived in New Jersey I got talked into TOD metering. The peak rate was more than twice the non peak. After a few bills I had to put a cardboard clock over the clothes dryer with the peak times colored red to remind my wife not to run the dryer or dishwasher then. I quickly had to put a timer on the hot-water heater and take Navy showers (shut off the water except when getting wet and rinsing off.) It was not uncommon to run out of hot water. When winter came, I had to put a timer on the furnace so that it would not run during peak time. To say that it had no effect upon our daily habits or that the rate was not punitive is absurd to the max. I would have changed in a heartbeat but they wanted $150 to replace the meter (and that was in 1980 So we are talking the equivalent of $500 of today’s dollars.)
Worse yet, my father’s house had a “peak-demand” surcharge. An indicator on the meter showed the max, instantaneous, demand at any time during the month. This number was written down along with the usage reading. If less than 2 kW, then no surcharge, if above 2 kW, then a modest surcharge, if above 4, a larger surcharge, and so on for various amounts. In case you are unaware two burners on an electric stove with a few light bulbs will exceeds 2 kW, invoking the surcharge. Unless well planned, it was impossible to cook thanksgiving dinner without exceeding the 6 kW surcharge hit which almost doubled their bill. Made no difference that the total usage was the same as last month, you got the privilege of paying double to cook thanksgiving and/or Christmas dinner.

12 mike { 02.25.12 at 1:43 pm }

John,
All good points on the wind industry misusing the term “science” to disguise the propaganda. Like the pedophile priests, these folks tarnish the image of science by making it difficult for many people to determine truth from fiction.

And like the small number of unethical clergy, these wind-spinners are leaving a large number of victims in the wake of their false religion and manipulation of child-like trust of people who assume “of course these are good men”.

n.

13 mike { 02.25.12 at 1:43 pm }

John,
All good points on the wind industry misusing the term “science” to disguise the propaganda. Like the pedophile priests, these folks tarnish the image of science by making it difficult for many people to determine truth from fiction.

And like the small number of unethical clergy, these wind-spinners are leaving a large number of victims in the wake of their false religion and manipulation of child-like trust of people who assume “of course these are good men”.

n.

14 Tom Stacy { 02.25.12 at 2:35 pm }

A very well done post and good comments. I would like to embellish Mr. Droz’s points by number:

7. AWEA CEO, Denise Bode used the “energy diversity” come-on during a cable news station interview last fall. It was not challenged by the host, but the way she propositioned that point was absolutely hilarious – with an inflection one might imagine coming from a high-heeled ‘lady’ through a cracked-open car window on a darkened street corner in a seedy part of town…

10. Recently I have noticed that economic development “pressures” mounted by wind landmen aided by state departments of development focus more on “bribing the county coffers” than direct and indirect jobs. Folks like Carolyn Gerwin and others who have done research on the cost of subsidies per full time wind job have contributed to a thorough trouncing of the ‘job creation’ sales pitch, in my opinion. Instead, coercion by “environmental sensitivity shame” and threatening to abandon their local wind project (turning local farmers against local officials) are common sticks complementing bottom-line carrots of tax revenue and PILOT payments.

Part two of your point 12 is fabulous, and deserves a stand alone retrospective treatment.

14. Capacity Value definitions in the manuals of grid operation organizations have eroded in recent years. PJM, for instance, now defines capacity value as simply a subset of capacity factor, considering the average output of windmines over the hottest hours of the year rather than their guaranteed availability (lowest output) during these time windows. This is a shameful substitute for a dependability metric.

Wind behaves worst at times when all generators must be on their best behavior. And that has implications the post doesn’t clarify.
The result of low guaranteed availability means the LCOE of wind substitutes not for the LCOE of new (or existing) coal (or gas or nuclear) plants, but only for the fuel and other variable costs of operation of those conventional sources. Fixed costs, which often make up the lion’s share of LCOE for conventional sources, must remain – no matter how many wind energy projects are built.

DOE clearly breaks out fixed and variable cost components of each electricity generation technology (www.eia.doe.gov/oiaf/aeo/electricity_generation.html). In the stacked bar graph IER constructed from this data (http://www.instituteforenergyresearch.org/wp-content/uploads/2009/05/Estimated-Levelized-Cost.jpg), the total cost of wind only really substitutes for the lime-green portion of the cost pillars of conventional generators.

17. The idea that the fossil generators that host wind’s parasitic existence are “usually gas” deserves comment. Many grid regions have little or no gas capacity or energy production, but those regions still must accommodate wind. In fact, Ohio’s generation is 83% coal, 11% nuclear, and only about 4% gas – almost all from simple cycle combustion turbines (peakers). Unless the state mandates gas+wind in the right proportions going forward, coal plants will be forced to do the cycling work wind imposes on the rest of the fleet. Gas may be the most efficient fuel for balancing wind fluctuation, but for some grid regions it is (unfortunately) not the “usual” one.

To your second point in 17, more wind may well mean a higher capacity factor for gas peakers in the near term. But that alliance effectively LOWERS the capacity factor of higher capital cost, but more economical energy producing base load coal plants. That’s bad for rate payers because the less we run our base load plants, the more expensive energy from them becomes. This appears to be a very real hidden cost of wind energy in regulated utility states, and ultimately even in unregulated utility regimes.

Finally, I would caution against taking a strong environmental defense posture surrounding rare earths and concrete. These materials are vital to efficiency improvements and infrastructure in our society today. Personal and manufacturing electronics, factories, highways and office buildings all require these materials. Put to their best use, their environmental impacts must be tempered (and regulated to some reasonable extent) against their contributions to “public interest, convenience and necessity.” Wind development just happens to be a very poor use of such materials.

Again, great post I intend to “borrow from” in my work. Thank you!

15 Jon Boone { 02.25.12 at 6:34 pm }

First rate emendations, Tom S. Grids like the PJM have interchangeably confused terms for capacity credit and capacity value, which is why I’ve used effective capacity and, increasingly, firm capacity, instead of capacity value. Capacity credit should continue to be used with its traditional definition.

And for many reasons, I’m not a fan of smart metering, in larger part because I don’t think something that is so important to our welfare should be differentially (and regressively) priced and, in smaller part (but perhaps not less importantly) for the reasons so perfectly captured by UzUrBrain.

16 antostoof { 02.26.12 at 1:30 am }

If you are interested in free energy, check out these kids…http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Vo2-Qb3fUYs

17 archaeopteryx { 02.26.12 at 9:42 am }

An excellent overview.

You have mentioned the lack of evidence regarding actual CO2 savings. One way to estimate real CO2 savings would be to measure true conventional fuel substituiton. For that, one needs a closed system, as in an interconnected system reality is lost (as in the case with Denmark).

One closed system is the Falklands (reputed to have “continuous” wind). An initail advertorial claimed 40% energy savings. Subsequent fuel measurements mentioned a 4.3 to 8.3% diesel fuel savings. I wonder whether Hawai might also demonstrate that energy savings claims are half bogus (hence CO2 savings grossly overstated).

Germany’s example however is also indicative . Germany has about 22,000 installed wind MW. It claims to contibute 6,5-7%of its electricity demand fron wind. HOWEVER, in 2011 it had about 900 grid srabiliity incidents, because of the removal form the system of some nuclear capacity following the Fukushima tsunami. Blackouts are habitually avoided by importing nuclear electricity from France and the Czech Republic. A major crash was avoided in December by emergency firing of diesel generators in Austria. This is half the problem; Germany also fries the Polish and Czech grids by dumping excess power when it does blow. The bottom line is that wind power is OK only if it is a negligible component of a grid’s load. Or as long as it has non-wind neighbors with excess baseload and peak capacity. Unfortunately, North America is huge and they will try to install many of them, fully knowing they will be negligible (but not so to peoples’ pockets and the landscape).

Unlike subsidies for other energy forms, wind subsidies do not subsidize energy (not until hot air can be commercially exploited)

18 Ed Reid { 02.26.12 at 4:18 pm }

UzUrBrain { 02.25.12 at 11:54 am } 11

I am sufficiently familiar with how various electric rate structures operate. Obviously, in your case, the TOD rate worked exactly as intended. Unfortunately, both TOD rates and demand rates are “blunt instruments”. TOD rates charge an average high and an average low, blurring the cost message. Your parents’ demand rate applied the demand charge regardless of actual system demand.

Real time pricing, enabled through the smart grid, has the potential to reflect real power costs in rates. It may surprise you to learn the both the PJM grid and the Texas grid actually experience negative wholesale power costs during some periods.

Your water heating and Thanksgiving experiences are both relatively strong arguments for gas appliances, which would have been unaffected.

My parents’ home in NJ on PSE&G’s lines was originally equipped with an oil boiler with a gravity circulation “instantaneous” hot water heater with an extremely limited heating and storage capacity. When I installed an electric water heater, so that they actually had enough hot water with which to do anything meaningful, I discovered that I could only install a heater with a limited kW rating because of limitations imposed by PSE&G. (That was many years ago and may no longer be the case.) I still got in a bit of “hot water” with my dad, because of the cost of actually having hot water. :-)

19 Industrial wind hostage tape released. | Allegheny Treasures { 02.27.12 at 5:36 am }

[...] While you’re at it, have a glance at this Washington Post commentary, in which the author tries to convince readers that “Wind power is worth the investment of $2 a month for Maryland households.”  It’s right out of the wind playbook Mr. John Droz Jr. describes in his excellent post at MasterResource - Wind Spin: Misdirection and Fluff by a Taxpayer-enabled Industry. [...]

20 China’s US wind strategy: “globalization through localization” | Allegheny Treasures { 02.28.12 at 7:25 am }

[...] insure his wind friends continue to receive taxpayer subsidies.  Seems he’s fallen for the wind spin claim of ”green [...]

21 Tonya B. { 02.29.12 at 7:12 pm }

John,
As a NC resident (and energy layperson) who has been fighting the wind scam for for several years, I would like to thank you and many others who contribute to Master Resource. Your articles and comments are an invaluable source of information.

22 Eugene Goodrich { 02.29.12 at 8:08 pm }

This is the best summary of the dirty truth about ‘clean’ wind power that I have yet read—clear, succinct, witty and extremely effective. Congratulations John!

23 structural liberation…divorced from reality | pindanpost { 03.01.12 at 12:02 am }

[...] more HERE. (See the original for links) Share this:ShareDiggEmailRedditPrintStumbleUponTwitterFacebookLike [...]

24 Kristi Rosenquist { 03.01.12 at 8:57 am }

Great job! You forgot one wind industry claim: saves people from respiratory illness and death caused by coal plant emissions. Never mind that emissions dropped dramatically in 1980 and that asthma rates continued to rise. Never mind that top thoracic radiologists say there is no connection. This crazy claim causes the reaction the lobbyists want – “We must do something” (Pay no attention to the fact that the cure is worse than the illness.) BTW – it is “component liberation” – General Electric. GE’s letter is actually on the MN Public Utilities Docket where GE is supplying the turbines – T. Boone Pickens’ AWA Goodhue project. (08-1233)

25 jdroz { 03.01.12 at 9:20 am }

Kristi:

Thank you. I have now corrected “structural liberation” to now read “component liberation.” I did not intend to misquote GE.

I also added a note after #12 to mention your good point about some externality claims being specious.

26 FBastiat { 03.02.12 at 2:15 pm }

John, You summed up, in the spirit of Frederic Bastiat’s “That Which is Seen and That Which is Not Seen,” conveniently hidden unflattering facts of the Wind Power Industry in most the succinct manner that I have seen. Am Bri Danae! (I am the spear that wages battle with plunder.)

27 paul beck { 03.05.12 at 8:20 pm }

I am opposed to transportation bill amendment #1709

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