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DOE Misdirection: 8/6/13 Press Release & Report on Wind Energy

“Secretary Moniz must know that the VALUE of a kilowatt hour (kWh) of electricity produced by wind turbines is much less than the VALUE of a kWh of electricity from reliable generating units….”

“It’s a sad fact that many reporters and editors either don’t have the capability to evaluate claims made by government officials, lobbyists, and/or organizations producing biased reports and press releases. Instead, they repeat misleading claims and help mislead the public, other media, and government officials that make policies that add unnecessarily to costs borne by ordinary citizens, consumers and taxpayers.”

A highly misleading August 6th press release and report from the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) press release and report claimed that in 2012, wind was “the fastest growing source of power in the United States.”

This raises two questions:

1. Why does the highly trained scientist heading DOE allow such a misleading claim to be issued by his Department?

2. Why do so many reporters and editors repeat such misleading claim?

Electricity Generation vs. Capacity

With respect to question 1, Secretary Moniz must know that there is a huge difference between wind generating CAPACITY (measured in megawatts – MW) and the amount of electricity that wind turbines actually GENERATE (measured in megawatt-hours — MWh). There is a huge difference because wind turbines produce electricity only when the wind at the turbine is blowing at the right speed (i.e., in a range of roughly 6 to 55 MPH).

In fact, the output of electricity from wind turbines is, therefore, intermittent, highly variable, and unreliable – unlike the output from reliable (dispatchable) generating units powered by natural gas, coal, oil, nuclear energy and, perhaps, biomass.

In fact, natural gas – not wind – was the “fastest growing” source of electricity generation in 2012 as clearly demonstrated in the table below which is based on data from the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA).

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Electricity Price per kWh vs. Value

The misleading DOE press release and LBNL report also claimed that the price of electricity from wind under 2011 and 2012 power purchase contracts “…averaged 4 cents per kilowatt hour – making wind competitive with a range of wholesale electricity prices seen in 2012.”

Secretary Moniz must know that the VALUE of a kilowatt hour (kWh) of electricity produced by wind turbines is much less than the VALUE of a kWh of electricity from reliable generating units because:

a. Wind turbines tend to produce electricity at night and in colder and shoulder months, NOT on hot weekday afternoons when electricity demand and true VALUE is high.

b. As indicated above, wind turbine output is intermittent, volatile, and unreliable.

c. “Sale price” for electricity from wind does NOT take into account the huge federal and state subsidies for “wind farm” owners that permit them to sell their electricity at artificially low prices – which subsidies are much higher per KWh for wind that for conventional energy sources.

The sale price of electricity per kWh produced by wind turbines cannot validly be compared to the price of electricity from reliable generating units that can be counted on whenever needed, including during peak demand periods when the output of wind turbines is often at or near zero.

Quite likely, Secretary Moniz also knows that the claimed $25 billion “investment” in wind turbines (heavily subsidized by taxpayers) could have purchased a lot more generating CAPACITY and electricity GENERATION if it had been invested in combined cycle generating units. They would also have provided many more jobs over a much longer period and the final cost of the electricity to electric customers would have been less.

Further, the generating units could be built near populated areas where the electricity is needed, thus avoiding the need, cost, and adverse environmental impact of transmission lines that would be needed to move wind generated electricity from remote areas.

With respect to question 2, it’s a sad fact that many reporters and editors either don’t have the capability to evaluate claims made by government officials, lobbyists, and/or organizations producing biased reports and press releases.

Instead, they repeat misleading claims and help mislead the public, other media, and government officials that make policies that add unnecessarily to costs borne by ordinary citizens, consumers and taxpayers.

4 comments

1 Miner49er { 08.12.13 at 11:49 am }

Pilots call an aircraft that is rarely in flying condition a “Hangar Queen”. Windmills are Hangar Queens. They don’t provide power when it is most needed; and provide unneeded excess power at other times.

Our Solons, in their infinite wisdom, have given wind farm owners the right to force-feed that unwanted power into electric grids. Ironically, they use government subsidies to pay the power companies to take the unneeded power So-called “smart-grid” projects are costly and unnecessary investments driven solely by the need to accommodate intermittent, out-of-phase, distant and small power sources (which are themselves unnecessary).

The people foisting this foolishness on us are an unholy alliance of puritanical radical idealists; crony capitalists; and big-government interests. Renewable power will fail sooner rather than later because of its extreme dysfunction. Where will we get our power then?

2 Willem Post { 08.13.13 at 8:16 am }

Grid Level Costs: As RE build-outs take place, more becomes known regarding grid level costs. The below OECD study quantified the levelized costs of the grid level effects of variable energy, such as wind and solar, on the grid. It includes the costs of wind energy balancing, PLUS the costs of grid connection, reinforcement and extension, PLUS the costs back-up (adequacy), i.e., keeping almost all EXISTING generators fueled, staffed, in good working order to provide energy when wind energy is minimal, about 30% of the hours of the year in NE, about 10-15% of the hours of the year in the US.

In the US, the cost of the 3 PLUSSES for onshore IWTs is about $16.30/MWh at 10% annual wind energy on the grid, about 19.84/MWh at 30%. This is significantly greater than the about $5/MWh usually mentioned by IWT proponents. See page 8 of this URL.

http://www.oecd-nea.org/ndd/reports/2012/system-effects-exec-sum.pdf
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cost_of_electricity_by_source 

wilpost37@gmail.com

3 Guests { 08.15.13 at 1:13 pm }

The far right column of the row “Increase” should be negative 46,711 rather than positive 46,711.

4 Weekly Climate and Energy News Roundup | Watts Up With That? { 08.19.13 at 2:04 am }

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