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Category — Integration/firming windpower

Curtailed Hydro from Wanapum Dam Crack: An ‘Unpredicted Change in the Wind’?

“Projections show that wind generation will increase rapidly to approximately 6,250 MW by 2013.  This vast amount of wind power interconnected to the Bonneville Power Administration’s transmission grid will likely overwhelm the existing federal hydropower system’s ability to provide sufficient integration services in the future….

As the percentage of wind generation grows, the risk of having a major system event from an unpredicted change of the wind energy level increases.”

Technical Analysis of Pumped Storage Integration with Wind Power in the Pacific Northwest – Final Report, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (August 2009).

The magnitude and location of the current unfolding story of a large crack in the hydro-rich Wanapum Dam on the Columbia River in Central Washington became known only a week after the Grant County Public Utility District declared a potential emergency.  Officials reported there is no immediate threat of a catastrophic breach in the dam but called the situation a “serious problem.”  The cause of the crack probably will not be known for some time.  The dam is still producing hydropower, but curtailed production from a water drawdown behind the dam could be felt by California electricity users.

But what did the infrastructure consultants MWH (quoted above) mean when it stated in a technical report for the U.S. Corps of Engineers in 2009 about the problematic integration of hydropower and wind energy: “the risk of having a major system event for an unpredicted change of the wind energy level increases”?

According to the Wind Energy Resource Atlas of the U.S.: “Spring and summer are the seasons of maximum wind power” for the Columbia River Corridor.  Spring is also when snowmelt fills the reservoirs behind dams. [Read more →]

March 17, 2014   No Comments

‘Energy Imbalancing Market’: Bailing Out California Green Power Two Hours/Day

“An Energy Imbalance Market would mainly have to rely on cheap hydropower in the Western U.S. to offset high green power prices and high peaker power prices during the sunset hours of the day. Ironically, California banned hydropower as “renewable energy” under the California Global Warming Solutions Act …. Now, cheap hydropower has to come to the rescue of the green power grid.”

California is trying to do a quick splicing job to its green energy grid by creating an “Energy Imbalancing Market” to cut off an emerging daily two-hour energy-pricing crisis. The crisis isn’t so much an imbalance of the availability of electrons but imbalanced electricity prices during the sunset hours of each day.

In today’s California energy market, the grid operator must balance loads and resources within its borders. In an Energy Balancing Market, the grid operator schedules resources across regional balancing authorities to balance energy. An energy imbalance is the difference between live demand and prearranged scheduled resources. California is part of the Western Interconnection Coordinating Council (WECC), which includes 33 control areas shown here. The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) has approved California’s implementation of an Energy Imbalancing Market by October 2014.

California’s “Duck Chart” Problem Can’t Be Ducked

An emerging problem with California’s new green power grid is how to ramp up enough conventional power each day when solar power is sunsetting and mostly nighttime wind power isn’t spinning enough yet to take over. [Read more →]

November 13, 2013   4 Comments

Wind Energy Cost: Think Again ($0.15/kWh wholesale prohibitively expensive)

“Once these hidden costs [of windpower] are included and subsidies are excluded, wind generation is not close to being competitive with conventional generation sources such as natural gas, coal or nuclear.”

- George Taylor, quoted below.

“However, to meet the 33% RPS, technical studies show ramp rates may triple, which is not possible for the [California] ISO’s conventional generation as configured today.”

- Clyde Loutan (Senior Advisor, CaISO), “How Intermittent Renewables Impact CallSO.”

George Taylor and I have published a new study for the American Tradition Institute (ATI) that finds that on a full cost basis, wind electricity is nearly twice as expensive as what is typically reported. “The Hidden Costs of Wind Electricityprovides an analysis of three major costs that past estimates have ignored.

“The costs that have been left out of previous reports are the costs of paying for the fossil-fired plants that must balance wind’s variations, the inefficiencies that wind imposes on those plants, and the cost of longer-distance transmission,” said Taylor in ATI’s press release.  “Once these hidden costs are included and subsidies are excluded, wind generation is not close to being competitive with conventional generation sources such as natural gas, coal or nuclear.”

Adding a conservative estimate of the hidden but real costs to the Energy Information Administration’s (EIA’s) and the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy’s most recent generation-cost reports increases wind’s projected cost from 8 cents to 15 cents per kilowatt-hour (kWh).

AWEA’s Rebuttal: Misdirection I

Taylor and I summarized our findings in the Washington Times opinion-page editorial, “Blow off wind-production tax credit” (December 19, 2012). We described the Production Tax Credit (PTC) as a bad deal, imposing additional costs on consumers and taxpayers with no offsetting benefits.

Unsurprisingly, AWEA spokesman David Ward repeated some industry falsehoods in rebuttal to our piece. His assertions (in blue) are followed by my rebuttal. [Read more →]

January 8, 2013   16 Comments

Wimp Power: Some Quotations from Wind’s Critics

Energy and environmental issues need to be addressed using logic and scientific thinking, not emotion, wishes, and depiction.  On a realistic basis, industrial wind energy fails to deliver the goods. By this I mean that windpower:

1) Is not a technically sound solution to provide us electricity, or to meaningfully reduce global warming, and

2) Is not an economically viable source of energy on its own, and

3) Is not environmentally responsible

When you take away the wind lobbyists’ fast-talking shenanigans, their con comes down to these two things: They are telling us what we want to hear, and we’re not really verifying the truth of what they’re saying.

The intellectual conjurers have a clever one-two marketing campaign. First we’re told that the planet is facing imminent catastrophe. And then a salesman comes to our community with a solution! The spiel is that we can do something consequential to help prevent this global disaster — and we can create jobs doing it, and make some easy money in the process.

What a deal!

Wind magicians go into a rural community and carefully cultivate the idea that anything coming from them is found money. The trick is that it’s not coming from them at all, as it’s entirely paid by taxpayers and ratepayers.

Quotations from the Trenches

Realistic assessment is needed in the PR arena.  To this end, different bloggers at MasterResource provided some analogies to describe what wind power really is compared to consumer-chosen, market-proven energy.

“Wind energy can be likened to the wayward child. It’s unavailable when needed, shows up when unexpected, and when it does arrive it often behaves erratically. As a result, wind cannot be relied on as a primary fuel source.”

     – Lisa Linowes, Industrial Wind Action [

June 21, 2012   12 Comments

Wind Integration vs. Air Emission Reductions: A Primer for Policymakers

Many claim that wind generation is beneficial because it reduces pollution emissions and does not emit carbon dioxide.  This isn’t necessarily the case. The following article explains a phenomena called cycling where the introduction of wind power into a generation system that uses carbon technologies to back-up the wind  actually reduces the energy efficiency of the carbon technologies. Recent studies  with actual data have estimated the impact of cycling on air pollution and carbon dioxide emissions.

Energy modelers evaluating the impact of legislation such as Senator Bingaman’s American Clean Energy Leadership Act and the American Power Act proposed by Senators Kerry and Lieberman should take note for their models most likely are underestimating the cost of compliance by incorrectly modeling the integration of wind power into the electricity grid.

Wind is not a new technology. It was one of our principal sources of energy, along with wood and water, prior to the carbon era. But the use of renewables in the pre-carbon age was very different from the current use of renewables. Today, people rely on energy being available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year, regardless of whether the sun shines, the wind blows, or there are high or low water levels.  We now have over 1,000 gigawatts of generating plants[1], and a large and elaborate electrical grid that requires great coordination among system operators to avoid disruptions.

Also, in the pre-carbon energy era, when renewables were the sole source of energy, there were no coal-fired or natural-gas fired power plants to provide back-up power. Studies have found that the efficiency of those carbon-based plants is affected by incorporating wind energy into the system. [Read more →]

June 24, 2010   2 Comments

Subsidizing CO2 Emissions via Windpower: The Ultimate Irony

It is the irony of ironies. Taxpayer and ratepayer-forced subsidies for utility-scale windpower also subsidizes emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2). The same would be true under a national renewable portfolio standard as proposed in pending federal legislation.

Such is a vivid demonstration of the perils of unintended consequences and, to borrow a phrase, “an inconvenient truth” about wind power.

My recent four-part Wind Integration Realities reviewed two new studies, based on actual experience, that show fossil fuel consumption and CO2 emissions areincreased, not reduced, with the introduction of wind. Their results were compared as well as to those of my fossil fuel and CO2 emissions calculator for the same conditions. The brief summary in Part IV of the series is expanded upon here for clarity of this game-changing argument.

In general, the studies show that as wind penetration increases, the effect on fossil fuel and CO2 emissions worsens. Specifically, at wind penetrations of about 3% (as is the case in the Netherlands), the savings are zero. At 5-6% (as for Colorado and Texas) the “savings” become negative, that is, emissions actually increase due to the presence of wind power. [Read more →]

June 10, 2010   17 Comments

Wind Integration Realities: The Bentek Study for Texas (Part IV)

[Editor's note: This is the final post in the series reviewing studies for the Netherlands, Colorado and Texas on (elevated) fossil-fuel emissions associated with firming otherwise intermittent wind power. Part I introduced the issues. Part II showed negated emission savings for the Netherlands at current wind penetration (about 3 percent). Part III extended the Netherland's experience to the higher wind penetration in Colorado (6%) which demonstrates higher emissions. Part IV concludes with the Bentek results for Texas,which confirms those for Colorado.]

There are a number of relevant, notable characteristics of the 2008 Texas electricity production profile, 85% of which is managed by ERCOT:

  • The utility portion of the total electricity production is only about 24% of the total, with independent suppliers providing 57% and CHP installations, 19%. This distribution suggests that ERCOT’s ability to balance wind production is more limited than what might first appear.
  • Wind production is 5% of the total (less CHP), but a very large 17% of the utilities portion.
  • A large proportion of gas production is provided by independent suppliers and CHP, 45% and 39% respectively, again likely limiting ERCOT’s ability to balance wind with gas.
  • The ratio of utility gas to wind production is 192%, which suggests that this is tight if dedicated to wind balancing. This, plus high production from wind at night, explains the high degree of cycling of coal plants required.

Because of recycling events, arguably attributable to the presence of wind plants, the results are the same as for PSCO, that is, there is an increase in CO2 emissions with the presence of wind. In ERCOT, the coal plants produced an additional CO2 emissions in 2008 of about 0-566,000 tons over running stably without these events, and in 2009, an additional 772,000-1,102,000 tons. [Read more →]

May 26, 2010   10 Comments

Case Study on Methods of Industrial-scale Wind Power Analysis (Part II)

Part I of this two-part post reviewed most of the considerations that must be understood in evaluating analyses of wind power.

Part II completes this analysis by focusing on one of the most important considerations in the wind utility debate, wind’s capacity value.  To this end, I review a paper by Gross et al, which is relied on by Komanoff, and conveniently provides an opportunity for the review of a second paper.

Wind’s Capacity Value

Komanoff uses a flawed analogy by claiming that a backup quarterback contributes value to a team even if he never plays. First, the concept of “never playing” is arguably a reasonable notion with respect to industrial wind power. Second, the analogy applies more correctly to operating reserves, which are needed to fill in for the other generation means if, and when, needed.

These operating reserves have similar characteristics to that which is being replaced, that is they provide steady reliable power at the call of the system operator (football coach). The appropriate analogy with wind would be to have a basketball player sitting on the football team bench to back up the quarterback. The basketball player has different characteristics and does not add value to the team. If you prefer, substitute a guard or tackle as the quarterback backup, but this does not change the situation. In these cases an additional, and effective, backup quarterback would have to be added to realize the “value” that Komanoff claims. Table 1 further illustrates this point.

Table 1 – Comparison of Characteristics

Part II Table 1

Table 1 illustrates the capacity value aspects of generation plants. Wind has zero capacity value just as the basketball player, guard or tackle adds no value to a football team as a backup quarterback.

Another aspect of the analogy is a backup quarterback who has an extensive, “wild” social life. [Read more →]

April 7, 2010   5 Comments

Case Study on Methods of Industrial-scale Wind Power Analysis (Part I)

Is the introduction of industrial- or utility-scale wind power into our electricity systems good public policy?

This political economy question (wind power is government dependent, or it would only be a market question) hinges to a large degree on operations research, or engineering. And it is here that a hotly contested debate is going on, for it is an open question about how much wind power really displaces fossil fuels–the raison d’etre of wind subsidies in the first place.

This two-part series evaluates some of the latest approaches and considerations in this debate. One important paper published in 2009 by Charles Komanoff sees wind-for-fossil-fuel displacement as robust and is currently being cited by wind proponents in Maine. Another paper in my review is a study by Gross et al, which is relied on by Komanoff.

Part I critically evaluates Komanoff by extending the critique of Milligan et al; Part II focuses on the important consideration of electricity generation capacity value and analyzes some of aspects of the referenced Gross et al paper.


The following is a summary of important areas of consideration in assessing documents such as Komanoff’s:

· Treatment of wind volatility

· Use of emotive and pejorative language in referring to those of an opposing opinion. On the other hand, those with the same views are treated with complimentary descriptions. This treatment raises red flags that invite closer analysis.

· Distinction made between very small and larger wind penetrations

· The realities of wind production in Denmark.

· Complete consideration of the impact on overall system capacity requirements, fossil fuel consumption and CO2 emissions in connection with the displacing of some fossil fuel plant production with highly intermittent renewables.

· Evaluation of normal operating reserves as sufficient to act as wind shadowing/backup .

· Assumptions about the fast ramping capability of nuclear and coal-fired plants

· Assessment of wind’s capacity value

· Dependence upon a report by Gross et al, which itself is not convincing.

· Questionable arithmetic and graphical representation approaches

· Claims about the benefits of geographic diversity and the possibility of improved wind forecasting

Wind Volatility

At the beginning Komanoff quotes what he wrote a few years ago: [Read more →]

April 6, 2010   3 Comments

Integrating Renewables: Have Policy Makers Faced the Realities?

Most analyses and reviews of utility-scale, highly intermittent new renewables, especially wind power which will be the focus here, are lacking in perspective. This makes marginal aspects appear to have significance out of proportion to the very little value they represent.

A few examples are:

· A focus on the energy contribution (MWh) from wind power leads to error in assessing the contribution to electricity costs, reliability, impact on fossil fuel consumption and CO2 emissions, transmission needs and the operation of an electricity system.

· The possibility of some improvements in wind forecasting. Given the current state of weather forecasting in general, it seems difficult to believe that wind can be forecast for short time intervals, say 24 hours in advance. In any event, even if such forecasting was possible, it does not change the need for balancing generation plants to be ramped frequently to mirror wind conditions.

· The use of statistical averaging over long time periods, which obscures the more important real time effects, to show low impacts of various aspects of introducing utility-scale wind plants.

Similarly in media coverage,

· The Economist Technology Quarterly review in the March 6, 2010, issue  highlighted the use of a technology that will allow individual wind turbines to sense the upwind conditions and adjust blades accordingly. It concludes with, “The result is a system that can already improve electricity production by 5%.” What if increased electricity production from wind actually increases fossil fuel use and CO2 emissions, stresses the grid and other generation plants and leaves users more at risk when such production falls rapidly shortly thereafter?

· A Canadian national newspaper column proclaiming the virtues of new renewables over traditional electricity sources included a picture of a mass of electricity transmission towers to illustrate a disadvantage of existing technologies. What was not considered was that substantially increased grid deployment would be required to transport the output from new renewables in necessarily wide-spread locations to demand centers.

The result of these marginal, and often invalid, representations is to artificially make unfeasible new intermittent renewables, especially wind plants, somehow appear attractive.

USAEE Article

To assist in providing a basis for the effective evaluation of these renewable sources, my recent article in the USAEE Dialogue proposes a broad framework to assess how the available electricity generation sources, both new renewables and those that are more traditional, meet public policy objectives. These objectives are suggested to be: [Read more →]

March 31, 2010   7 Comments