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.
Germany is a country that has been a leader in many aspects of “clean” energy development during the past decade. They were among the leaders in establishing pricing mechanisms for wind and solar, phasing out nuclear power and granting incentives to biomass energy producers. Germany has the highest proportion of wind in its generation mix, now around 20%, but is no longer the absolute installed capacity leader behind the U.S. and China.
With a vast investment in above-market generation resources some in Germany are channeling “Mad Man Muntz” of early US television history – “lose money on every sale but make it up with the volume.” It did not work for Muntz TV and it will not work for Germany.
A New Fairy Tale, Starring Wind Energy Generators
Lately, a story has gone round with the following general points:
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.…