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

Category — False promises (wind and solar)

The New Renewables Narrative: Buyer Beware

“Georgia … Texas … Arizona…. One story is an anomaly; two, a coincidence; three, a trend. When a so-called conservative Republican talks green energy and sounds like he or she is hitting the right notes, be careful. It’s probably the wrong song.”

Creating jobs…. enlarging the tax base… access to markets … energy choices for consumers…. monopoly busting … resource conservation….

The words and terms are being used by two government dependent renewable energy industries to sucker citizens and legislators to retain, if not enlarge, their taxpayer subsidies and ratepayer cross-subsidies in the current energy debate.

Make no mistake: This is an organized attempt to hoodwink  Republicans, conservatives, limited-government and free-market supporters, and even fiscally minded Democrats. Yet the means and ends of the deceivers are 180 degrees from what ordinary fiscally prudent citizens would support if they understood the gloss and what was underneath the hood.

If supporters of renewable energy, such as wind and solar, said it was heavily subsidized on both the state and federal level, had an artificial market created by government mandates, would help mitigate global warming, was the recipient of taxpayer dollars through Obama’s 2009 stimulus bill that funded projects like Solyndra, and was marred by cronyism, the right would run. [Read more →]

October 29, 2013   No Comments

“Wind Power: A Turning Point” (Revisiting Worldwatch Institute Paper #45 from 1981)

“From all signs, the wind-energy field has reached that all-important turning point.”

- C. Flavin, Wind Power: A Turning Point (Worldwatch Institute: July 1981), p. 47.

Christopher Flavin, long associated with the Washington, DC-based Worldwatch Institute (see appendix below), was among the most thoughtful and prolific energy writer in the neo-Malthusian energy/environmentalist camp. His tone was positive, his writing clear, and his research well documented. Flavin’s work is scholarly compared to his (shrill) predecessor, Lester Brown, the founder of WorldWatch. Still, Flavin’s final products are little more than lawyer briefs for energy/climate alarmism.

Flavin is now paying the price for assuming alarmism to hype market-incorrect energies. He banked on wind and solar as primary energies despite the fact that they were dilute, intermittent, and environmentally invasive. Flavin pretty much forgot his early caution and warnings about windpower (see his introduction to Paul Gipe’s Windpower Comes of Age).

Flavin’s writings on the inevitability of windpower and the global warming issue inspired none other than Ken Lay, whose Enron invested in and lost money with solar, wind, and energy efficiency. That is a story for another time.

“Oil Short” World

Here is Flavin’s bio at the time of this piece, which reveals another spectacularly wrong prediction from the title of his then new book. [Read more →]

May 6, 2013   No Comments

Wind Consequences (Part V – Other Considerations and Conclusions)

“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

Wind Consequences (Part IV – Subsidies and Emissions)

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.

Subsidies

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   4 Comments

Wind Consequences (Part III: Total Costs)

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

Wind Consequences (Part II: Analysis Approach and Implementation Costs)

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.

Analysis Approach

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

Windpower Consequences (Part I: Introduction and Summary)

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

Ending Windpower Subsidies for Deficit Reduction (failed promises have consequences)

“The interventionist in advocating additional public expenditure is not aware of the fact that the funds available are limited. He does not realize that increasing expenditure in one department enjoins restricting it in other departments. In his opinion there is plenty of money available. The income and wealth of the rich can be freely tapped…. It never occurs to him [think Obama] that grave arguments could be advanced in favor of restricting public spending and lowering the burden of taxation. The champions of cuts in the budget are in his eyes merely the defenders of the manifestly unfair class interests of the rich.”

- Ludwig von Mises, Human Action: A Treatise on Economics (1949), 1966, pp. 856–57.

“This is where we stand in our current debt ceiling debate. Government is too big, too bloated. Washington faces a spending problem, not a revenue problem.  But too many within the economy depend on the government transfers to live and to work. Yet the economy is not growing at a rate that can afford the illusion. Where are we to go from here?”

- Peter Boettke, “Why The Great Stagnation Thesis is the Most Subversive Libertarian Argument of Our Age,” July 15, 2011.

Energy subsidies are now on the table in the debt-ceiling debate now raging before Congress. But a macro approach needs to be taken to encompass subsidies in the electric generation market (wind and solar in particular), not only in the transportation fuels (oil and ethanol).

Background

Congressional lawmakers interested in budget reduction have set their sights on eliminating ethanol subsidies and oil and gas tax breaks. But renewable energy subsidies–the holly grail of Big Environmentalism and the Obama Administration–are also under pressure.

Earlier this year, the Department of Energy’s Section 1705 loan guarantee was cut. The popular Section 1603 cash grant program created under ARRA is expected to expire later this year. And some industry insiders indicate the federal production tax credit, in effect since passage of the Energy Act of 1992, will be allowed to sunset at the end of 2012.

Indeed, the moment has come to consider eliminating all of the energy subsidies–simultaneously–to let the natural economics of a freer market prevail.

Consumer-driven energy decisions will create winners and losers, for sure. That is the creative destruction of the marketplace. The public is far better served when industries compete for market share and profits rather than fight for political favoritism and handouts.

Windpower: A Trail of Broken Promises

The U.S. wind market, which has relied on public funding since its inception in the 1970s, has a long trail of false expectations and broken promises.

[Read more →]

July 21, 2011   18 Comments

Overestimating Wind Power Generation: From the UK to New York State

Wind generation as an intermittent power source adds to the total variability of a regional grid system. A number of studies have been completed that model and analyze wind profiles by region with the intent of better understanding how high penetrations of wind energy might impact system reliability and what steps could be taken to minimize the impacts.

In most cases, these studies are based on available wind data (speed, direction, timing) collected over many years–the type data used by developers forecasting project performance prior to construction. These wind studies are also used by legislators and regulators when evaluating policies that mandate renewable energy development.

Growing evidence from both sides of the Atlantic indicates that performance models based on wind data often promise levels of generation substantially above actual wind power output.

UK: John Muir Trust Challenges 2005 Analysis

The  United Kingdom has long been regarded as having the best wind resource in Europe. A 2005 analysis of hourly wind speeds collected from  sixty-six UK locations identified three characteristics of the wind resource that proponents rely on to justify an expansive build-out of wind energy facilities. [Read more →]

June 6, 2011   8 Comments

Joe Romm: “It is clear that solar and wind are competitive in many situations right now” (Where have we heard this before?)

“It is clear that solar and wind are competitive in many situations right now — see Wind now on even playing field with gas and Solar costs may already rival coal.  And continued aggressive deployment along with continued R&D will keep driving the price down (see Energy Sec. Chu sees “wind and solar being cost-competitive without subsidy with new fossil fuel” by 2020.”

- Joe Romm, “Fred Hiatt Back to running Climate and Energy Disinformation from the Likes of Bjorn Lomborg,” April 21, 2011.

Are wind and solar really “competitive in many situations right now”? For decades, we have heard that this is the case. But the reality is that dilute energy flows do not compete on either a price or a reliability basis with the stock of energy that is oil, gas, and coal.

Why would anyone buy a product that is more expensive and of poorer quality than a ready rival? Would you pay extra for a car with a trick motor–an engine that went on and off at any time? Of course not! And this is why wind and solar as grid electricity must be taxpayer-gifted to the hilt and in some states (Texas being foremost) have a mandated market share.

If Joe Romm thinks that politically correct renewable energies “are competitive in many situations right now,” then let him 1) define those situations and 2) recommend that preferential subsidies/mandates be removed. Let’s see what consumers want in terms of price and reliability. (And sure, we can end all government energy subsidies while we are at it.)

Wind/Solar Exaggerations

Romm circa 2011 continues a multi-decade siren song of wind and solar becoming affordable, prime time, industrial energies. Yet the litany of exaggerations and disproven claims should give pause to current claims–and increase understanding about the density problem with wind and solar. The diluteness of wind and solar as on-grid electricity is not the result of a lack of inventive effort (a breakdown of human ingenuity), insufficient taxpayers subsidies, or a conspiracy by rival energies. It is basic physics.

In 1983, s study by Booz, Allen & Hamilton for the Solar Energy Industries Association, American Wind Energy Association, and Renewable Energy Institute concluded:

The private sector can be expected to develop improved solar and wind technologies which will begin to become competitive and self-supporting on a national level by the end of the decade if assisted by tax credits and augmented by federally sponsored R&D.” (1) [Read more →]

April 27, 2011   7 Comments