“The explanation of [wind speed anomalies] points to the phenomenon called global stilling and it is related to #climatechange induced warming in the poles.” (Roberta Boscolo, UN World Meteorological Organization, below)
“… we were told not to worry … it would resolve itself, they said, either because wind is usually blowing somewhere, or through the development of electricity storage in giant battery farms. This was plain wrong.” (Matt Ridley, September 20, 2021)
The present UK/EU energy crises, expected to head into the winter, have much to do with forced energy transformation from coal/natural gas to wind/solar. After looking the other way, the mainstream media now recognizes the problem but is offering excuses.
Excuses, excuses. It’s COVID and an economic snap-back that was faster than expected, as well as poorly coordinated international energy planning, states Thomas Friedman in the New York Times. Or it’s just a cost of doing business in the climate emergency: a bump in the road, not overinvestment in dilute, intermittent energies and underinvestment in dense, mineral energies.
Add something else. Someone, somewhere has a brand new theory–and the cause of the global energy crisis is … you and me via the human influence on climate. Global warming for global stillness….
Surprising? Not really. The human influence on climate is all bad things, after all. (Anthropogenic benefits? That’s politically incorrect, relegated to the sidelines.)
Add to our sins global stillness, which is responsible for the lower-than-expected wind output of northern Europe and is allegedly caused by global warming. A consulting firm, Vortex, calculated that up to 15 percent less wind on average was occurring. (Never mind that other studies point toward the opposite, so “Wind Speeds Drop as They Speed Up!“)
Roberta Boscolo, Lead of Climate & Energy, UN World Meteorological Organization, stated:
Great coverage of Financial Times on the wind speed anomalies that affected #windpower generation in Europe. According to @vortex (https://lnkd.in/dsGt8Fb7) the wind strength across northern Europe was 15% less on average since the beginning of 2021. The explanation of this trend points to the phenomenon called global stilling and it is related to #climatechange induced warming in the poles.
An article in the Financial Times (paywall), “Europe’s electricity generation from wind blown off course,” pushed this narrative.
On LinkedIn, where you can actually debate climate science issues, some comments raised some questions to one Stilling post.
“Of course, more hurricanes and cyclones from climate change, but also less wind because climate change. Completely logical.” (Geoff Cruickshank)
“Climate change the great explainer for everything. All of a sudden we have this global shortage of energy yet 2 years ago the papers were full of oil and gas consumption falling due to energy efficiencies, renewable capacity increasing, nuclear, electric cars, hybrids etc, all softening demand. Two yrs ago the price of renewable energy stocks like Vestas, Hylion, Siemens price going through the roof and barrel of oil on the floor. Now renewables share prices getting hammered…. ” (Michael Desmond)
“Having priced and structured many derivatives on wind speed, a monthly average windspeed 15% lower than average is not that big and will happen sometimes…. In terms of wind stilling causing these low speeds this year it may have had an impact, however it will be dwarfed by the volatility in the wind speed that is usually there.” (Antony Stace)
“One possible explanation is that we always underestimate the range of natural variability. “Since records began” , “in living memory” are pretty irrelevant when establishing a realistic base-line and ranges. Maybe, just maybe, periods of calm are normal, if not frequent or typical….” (Richard Norris)
And of course I had to chime in:
Climate change lost my homework.
We live in a crazy world where emotions and agenda drive climate science, at least in the telling. The experts are getting edgy and concerned; will midcourse corrections be made?
Fossil and nuclear generation cannot be reliably replaced by intermittent renewables. They can only be reliably replaced by massive grid-scale storage.
There may come a day when grid=scale storage is more cost-effective than fossil and nuclear generation, but that day is not today, or any time soon.
Growing renewable generation is increasing the real cost of the required conventional backup, but will do the same to the real cost of grid-scale storage as well.
Truth really is stranger than fiction.
Storage may solve intermittency problem, but it does not solve the massive consumption of land problem.
“They can only be reliably replaced by massive grid-scale storage.”
Storage alone solves nothing. Electricity supply is a system problem, not just a source problem. If there is to be storage, it must be filled by an electricity source while demand is met and how is that to be done? It is clear from current European experience that wind cannot fill demand and fill the storage machines and world-wide experience shows that solar cannot either. I suppose that all electricity generators could be base-load (coal, gas and nuclear) with storage filled as needed from base load, and then storage used for peaking. But would that be cheaper than existing peaker gas plants? Would it reduce CO2 emissions? Perhaps such storage would fill a gap while nuclear is built out?
Somewhere down the line we can hope that the politicians who are eager to make electricity system engineering decisions begin to understand that the whole system must be addressed.
Denis, Renewables will always need to be backed up by something dispatchable. Today it is fossil and nuclear, but they cannot be replaced by more intermittent renewables, but only by massive gri- scale storage of some type. In a post-fossil and nuclear world, should it ever come to pass, renewables would have to both meet demand and charge storage. The biggest challenge would be recharging storage after a long “wind drought” such as the UK experienced recently while still meeting demand.
I’m somebody that likes to check the math, so on the question of how much do wind turbines affect global wind speeds, hold my beer…
>> Listed installed capacity for 2021: 837 GW (google search “global wind power capacity 2021”)
Using a charge factor of 25% and an efficiency of 45%, nominal kinetic energy extraction comes out to 837 * 0.24 / 0.45 equals 465 GW. Multiplying that by the number of seconds in a year (86400 s/day * 365.2419 days) comes out to 1.467 x 10^19 J/year. Dividing that by google’s value for the mass of the atmosphere (search “mass of earth’s atmosphere”) of 5.1480 x 10^18 kg, we have an annual global wind depletion of 2.85 J/kg for the entire atmosphere up to space.
Given a 2003 value of 150 J/kg for the Earth’s atmosphere (an average wind speed of ~24.5 m/s) means we are currently removing nearly 2% of our atmosphere’s kinetic energy per year without a corresponding input increase from the environment.
If we want to be honest about the human contribution to climate change, we need to admit our mistakes when we find them. Yes, wind turbines are affecting global wind speeds, especially where the wind turbines are installed and we shouldn’t turn the other way because of our huge investment in wind turbines while we continue to blame CO2 for everything.