Category — Hawkins, Kent
It may be a bit of an exaggeration to say that understanding power density may be all the average person requires to put our energy sources and needs into perspective, but there is some merit in this argument. Unfortunately, this view of energy matters remains little discussed, probably because it appears rather academic.
This post attempts to overcome this by further illustrating the concepts. It will also demonstrate how industrial-scale wind and solar PV electricity generation plants fail to meet this important, high-level standard of performance for electricity sources required by mankind, particularly in developed societies, but increasingly in developing and even undeveloped societies.
This is even without taking into account:
(1) The persistent erratic (short term – minutes) and unreliable (medium to long term – hours to days) nature of electricity production that wind and solar PV provide; (2) their high costs; and (3) many other considerations described here.
This is not to diminish the importance of these other matters, but the contemplation of them all together is fairly elaborate and perspective is easily lost.
In summary, power density is the “gold standard” as a high-level pass/fail measure of an energy source’s value to humanity. [Read more →]
February 20, 2013 4 Comments
Part I yesterday addressed the drivers and flawed approaches to current energy policy in many developed Western countries. Part II today describes the rational approaches necessary to best position us to withstand all challenges/threats that face us, both known and unknown.
Time frames are an important consideration in assessing the various elements of sensible and feasible energy policy programs. Here are the periods used in this discussion, which are nominal in nature:
- Short term (Up to about 10 years) – In this time frame, major radical changes in our energy infrastructures are not advisable and should be avoided, because energy is so intrinsically bound up in everything we do. Ill-advised, extensive tinkering with these is dangerous to our well-being. Best use must be made of reliable and powerful energy sources which are consistent with existing energy infrastructures and uses. Sufficient, sound R&D initiatives must be established. This is largely an initiation period.
- Medium Term (approximately next 30 years) – This period should ensure improvements in: (1) the best practices across the fuel life-cycle; and (2) technologies for existing energy infrastructures. R&D is important to the success of this but should also be at least equally directed to new technologies needed in the longer term. This is a transition period.
- Long Term (beyond approximately 40 years) – This period is the realistic time frame for new technologies to start to make major, fundamental changes to existing energy infrastructures. It is a period of fulfilment of energy policies and programs put in place starting today.
In general terms, these time frames put activities and developments roughly into the first and second half of the 21st century. It is emphasized that these are not rigid boundaries, but realistic expectations of developments. Pleasant surprises are always possible and could change some aspects. It also best positions our societies to meet unpleasant surprises against which reliable, extensive and powerful energy sources are the best defense. [Read more →]
January 17, 2013 1 Comment
For well-being, present and future, including overall governance, health and medical care, financial, economic, human rights, equality, peace, security and liberty, etc., we have to stop playing political games with energy policy in the developed countries in the West and turn to sound approaches.
In particular, Europe must withdraw from its desperate and destructive attempts at regaining some measure of world ‘leadership’, which it deservedly lost in the 20th century as a result of succumbing to dangerous extremist policies in many areas, including political, social, judicial, economic, military and international matters.
Europe’s ”leadership” conceit includes questionable, radical energy policies, particularly in electricity systems, to ”de-carbonize” the world with “new” (really ancient) renewables. This futility is wasting resources on a grand scale as is now beginning to be realized (here and here).
Unfortunately this may be a case of too little too late unless we act now to get off this lemming-style dash to catastrophe, energy being the master resource. We face more than one such ‘cliff’ today, and any that can be avoided must be.
This cannot be stated too strongly. It is not an argument from a special interest point of view or in support of any specific economic theory, not to say that any of these is necessarily invalid. It is from the perspective of what is best for mankind, and based on the work of internationally respected energy experts. I repeat a disclosure statement which I have stated before.
The case for the current flawed energy policies (primarily focussed on electricity) in the West is based on issues surrounding climate change, 21st century industrial development (jobs), fossil fuel and nuclear concerns, and energy independence/security. The following is a necessarily brief overview of very complex matters, but should serve to provide an instructive, broad context.
Part I today addresses the drivers and flaws of current energy policies in many developed Western countries. Part II tomorrow deals with sensible approaches, which are quite evident, but apparently politically impossible within most Western democracies. [Read more →]
January 16, 2013 2 Comments
“The following overview on these issues, and my concluding remarks, should leave little doubt as to the worthlessness and serious consequences of pursuing policies of supporting and implementing wind plants in particular. Will the other side respond in the interest of more informed public policy?”
As shown in Part I (Introduction & Summary), Part II (Analysis Approach & Implementation Costs), Part III (Total Costs), and Part IV (Subsidies & Emissions), wind fails on the major considerations of cost and emissions. Yet unbelievably, it still enjoys general popularity and significant government support and subsidization. The answer must be in my response to question 1 in Part I: Wind is seen as a silver bullet – environmentally and politically.
On top of this, there are many other problems with wind that can cause serious, and needless, damage to society. I do not typically focus on most of these, and I cannot do justice to them, but they are worthy of attention. So I shall try, but I will only be scratching the surface. References cited for these are my selections only. Readers are invited to supply additional support with comments.
Anyone wishing to know more about these issues can start with the wealth of information that Lisa Linowes at Industrial Wind Action Group has compiled on wind matters. Also included in references below are examples of other excellent sources of general information on wind.
The following overview on these issues, and my concluding remarks, should leave little doubt as to the worthlessness and serious consequences of pursuing policies of supporting and implementing wind plants in particular. Will the other side respond in the interest of more informed public policy? [Read more →]
September 27, 2012 9 Comments
This post is part of a five-part series on the adverse consequences of imposing industrial-scale wind plants on electricity systems. The series shows that there is no valid reason to pursue the policy of implementing new renewable energy sources in electricity generation, especially wind.
This post provides more information on the subsidies and emissions considerations for the scenarios summarized in Part I. Parts II and III dealt with cost implications. Part V this Thursday will focus on a number of other issues providing a complete picture of wind’s undesirability and unfeasibility in all respects.
Part I also provides links to the rest of the series.
Because subsidy issues are often raised, comparing those for wind and other generation plants, it is appropriate to show their effect on a MWh basis, regardless of the absolute amounts. The subsidy related to producing a useful output is the important consideration, because this is how electricity is generated, used and paid for. Table IV-1 shows this, but at the level that the wind plant owner experiences, not the full costs of wind to society, that is including wind balancing plant and unique-to-wind grid investments. Note the very high wind subsidies, especially relative to this limited view of costs. [Read more →]
September 25, 2012 2 Comments
This post completes the determination of wind costs, and Part IV covers subsidization and emissions. Part I, Introduction and Summary, contains links to all the posts in this series.
Just about any analysis you see understates wind’s cost. In fact there can be no comparison between the costs for wind and reliable, dispatchable generation plants such as coal, nuclear and gas plants. Reliability is so important in electricity systems, and wind’s persistent erratic behavior is so problematic that any electricity it produces is not usable and is a threat to electricity system reliability.
Add capacity from reliable generation plants flexible enough to balance wind’s erratic output and a steady, reliable electrical energy flow can be provided. However there is a substantial cost associated with this. As shown in Part II, for wind to produce the same amount of useful, reliable electricity over 40 years, wind and associated balancing overnight plant capital costs are almost 3 times that for nuclear, the most expensive conventional generation plants reviewed.
Many of these considerable costs can be “hidden” within a new generation plant program and arguments that the grid must be improved anyway. See Part II for further discussion on the so-called “smart” grid considerations.
As wind penetration increases into high single digits, another approach becomes increasingly necessary. That is to dump wind production in excess of some minimal amount by curtailment, or by selling it to some customers or other jurisdictions at almost no cost, and who are sometimes paid to take it. The real, full costs will be borne by the jurisdiction hosting the wind plants through increased electricity rates or taxes. Further, depending on timing and other circumstances, it may not be possible to find such customers.
In this post we will see: (1) the impact of such measures when wind plants are present, and (2) in the Wind scenario, with wind penetration at 38%, that it is not supportable. [Read more →]
September 20, 2012 4 Comments
Part I yesterday provided an introduction and summary of results; this post describes in more detail the analysis approach and implementation costs. Parts III and IV will cover the full costs and other results.
As will be seen, dealing with wind is not as easy as some would suggest.
This analysis looks at a 13 year period (years 0-12) in which the demand growth and plant retirement due to obsolescence/age will be each 2% per year compounded. Assuming year 0 is 2012, year 12 is 2025. Table II-1 shows the situation at year 12.
Table II-1 – Year 12 Situation for a Year 0 Demand Level of 1.0 TWh
Using demand of 1 TWh in year 0 allows easy scaling for a particular jurisdiction. For example in 2010 the total US electricity production was about 4,000 TWh.
The profile of the new generation capacity to meet the electricity production gap of 0.48 TWh would normally be a combination of plant types depending on a number of considerations. However in most cases, this analysis shows the effect of using one plant type only to meet the electricity production gap. This is done to illustrate the performance of the energy source involved.
When wind is present, another plant type must also be included to balance wind’s persistent erratic behavior. This is otherwise redundant new capacity, meaning over and above that which would normally be required. There are two “wind” scenarios. One is a combination of wind and natural gas to meet the electricity production gap. Given the belief, by some at least, that more extensive wind implementation is desirable, the second scenario addresses this, allowing wind to provide the full 0.48 TWh, which we will see is not feasible. [Read more →]
September 18, 2012 No Comments
This post introduces a five-part series that summarizes some of the most important information about the present and future of industrial wind power in light of the growing backlash against the industry’s taxpayer dependence. Readers are invited to add anything that I have missed.
Continuing government support for windpower must confront two questions. First, why do so many people think that we have to revolutionize our energy systems right now to avoid the consequences of running out of fossil fuels (or suffering very high costs), climate change, or other possible challenges that we might face? Note the emphasis on “right now,” meaning starting now with substantial changes in energy system directions, especially electricity systems, involving massive implementation of grid-connected, industrial-scale wind and solar generation plants.
Second, what is required for wind-subsidy proponents to agree that forced energy transformation is not feasible? A notable and growing number of people have tried with some success to close the gap between reality and romance, but progress has been slow because of the size, power, and persistence of the pro-wind movement. Without enough knowledge on the subject, the general public and media naturally rely on this movement in government, some of the scientific community, and many environmental groups.
Later posts will show why industrial wind fails the feasibility test to constructively change our electricity systems. The implications for government/taxpayer policies are obvious. [Read more →]
September 17, 2012 9 Comments
“Recouping cost of wind turbine may take more than a lifetime” (Consumer Reports confirms micro-wind diseconomies)
“At the rate the WT6500 [off-grid wind turbine] is delivering power at our test site, it would take several millennia for the product to pay for itself in savings—not the 56 years it would take even with the 1,155 kWh quote we received.”
Is there a role for new renewables, specifically wind and solar PV in our electricity generation portfolio? And if not at the industrial-scale, grid-feeding level, what about at the micro-turbine level for local electricity use? This Consumer Reports (CR) study answers just this question.
Before examining the verdict, CR’s claim that wind power is the fastest growing source of new electric power deserves a critical comment. “Fast growing” from a small base too often is hype over substance.
Take the example of the lemonade stand of a little girl on our street, Suzie, just this summer. She sold one glass the first day, four the second, and 15 on the third. I’ll bet she is the fastest growing soft- beverage maker on the planet, but the big soft drink industry is not much concerned. I know this is a very simple comparison, but the lesson should be clear.
As far as having stand-alone wind turbines to meet energy needs is concerned, and basically this is what we are talking about here, is there a role? Well yes and no. It sort of depends.
A Little History
It might come as a surprise to many, but the U.S. was the world leader in wind turbine capacity for most of the 20th century. A later comer to this scene was Germany, which temporarily took the lead in the late 1990s, and of course lost it again in the early 21st century. The Germans had the worst record for renewable energy use in Europe and felt they had to do something about it.
The U.S. was the world leader for so long because of the size of the country and the limited extent of the electricity grid in some rural areas for much of this period.
What were the wind turbines used for? I’m not sure, but I imagine with some confidence it was to provide electricity to pump water and possibly to provide some lighting at night. Note the storage capability that pumped water provides, and wind tends to blow more at night than during the day.
Another interesting perspective is China, the major producer of off-grid wind turbines (100w to 10 kW), and I can imagine the domestic applications are similar to the U.S. as described above for remote areas.
What Role Micro-Turbines?
So what is the role for micro-turbines in modern societies? I suggest three: [Read more →]
August 14, 2012 9 Comments
“The curious task of economics is to demonstrate to men how little they really know about what they imagine they can design.”
- F. A. Hayek: The Fatal Conceit: The Errors of Socialism (1988), p. 76.
The European Commission’s (EC) just-published Energy Roadmap 2050 (Roadmap) updates its last analysis (which I criticized here) of EU forced-energy-transformation projects to 2020 , as well as scenarios reducing greenhouse gas emissions to 80-95% below EU 1990 levels by 2050. The forecast is stated (postmodernism?) as coincident with the need for energy security and affordability.
As one should ”follow the money” when it comes to political capitalism, one should “follow the assumptions” when it comes to any roadmap pertaining to a post-carbon-based energy world.
1. Renewables The share of renewable energy sources is projected to be 75% in gross final energy consumption and 97% in electricity consumption by 2050. Electricity is projected to provide a substantially increased share of final energy demand reaching almost 40% by 2050 versus just over 20% today. A chart on page 5 of Roadmap shows renewable targets of 40–60% versus the above-75% as reported on page 4.
Either way the renewables portion is unrealistically high.
2. Costs The costs involved are substantial. Cumulative grid investments alone could be 1.5 to 2.2 trillion Euros between 2011 and 2050 according to the Roadmap. Remember much of this will have to be front-loaded to provide the infrastructure to theoretically support the projected deployment of renewable energy sources, and could easily be under-estimated given the uncertainties of such long term projections.
To this must be added an amount in the same order of magnitude for the renewable generation plants. Then there is also the additional cost of duplicate capacity of conventional generation plants required to compensate for wind’s unreliable and erratic behavior. These very high costs are consistent with those I previously described here and here.
Interestingly, as part of the process, the EC saw fit to establish an ad hoc Advisory Group (Group) to provide independent, expert advice on the proposed Roadmap. The following is a brief review of this energy policy approach in terms of the Group’s report published in December 2011. [Read more →]
January 30, 2012 4 Comments