American Elephants

Misconceptions About Wind: Basic Arithmetic by The Elephant's Child

Here’s the headline from an article in the Spectator, dated May 13: “Wind turbines are neither clean nor green and they provide zero global energy” with the subhead “We urgently need to stop the ecological posturing and invest in gas and nuclear.” The post is from Matt Ridley.

The Global Wind Energy Council recently released its latest report, excitedly boasting that ‘the proliferation of wind energy into the global power market continues at a furious pace, after it was revealed that more than 54 gigawatts of clean renewable wind power was installed across the global market last year’.

You may have got the impression from announcements like that, and from the obligatory pictures of wind turbines in any BBC story or airport advert about energy, that wind power is making a big contribution to world energy today. You would be wrong. Its contribution is still, after decades — nay centuries — of development, trivial to the point of irrelevance.

Here’s a quiz; no conferring. To the nearest whole number, what percentage of the world’s energy consumption was supplied by wind power in 2014, the last year for which there are reliable figures? Was it 20 per cent, 10 per cent or 5 per cent? None of the above: it was 0 per cent. That is to say, to the nearest whole number, there is still no wind power on Earth.

Basic math. World energy demand has been growing about two percent a year for nearly 40 years. Between 2012 and 2014 it grew, according to International Energy agency data, just under 2,000 terawatt-hours. If all that had to be supplied by wind turbines—just that and no more—how many new turbines would have to be built? Nearly 350,000. A two-megawatt turbine can produce about 0.005 terawatt-hours per annum. That’s 1½ times as many as have been built in the world since governments first started subsidizing them with taxpayer money.

Wind farms typically have a density of about 50 acres per megawatt, at that density, that many turbines would need a land area larger than the entire British Isles. In 50 years, if we kept this up, we would have covered a land area the size of Russia. But there’s more, hidden pollution, rare earths, the materials required, how turbines are made. Do read the whole article.  Matt Ridley is always worth our attention.

It just turns out to be that wind and solar are essentially very costly and extremely useless pursuits. Aside from the intermittency problem, the arithmetic just doesn’t work. Lot of people  have made some big money on the subsidies though.

The Green Bubble Collapses. by The Elephant's Child
December 8, 2010, 6:09 pm
Filed under: Economy, Energy, Environment, Junk Science | Tags: , ,

On Friday, Spain cut their payouts for wind projects by 35%, and denied any support for solar thermal projects in their first year of operation.  Their renewables industry has a new cap placed on the number of megawatt-hours that are eligible for subsidized rates.  In November, Spain announced that payouts for solar photovoltaic plants would be cut by 45%.  The industry was somewhat relieved, for in June the government had threatened to renege on contracts, effectively bankrupting it.

—France announced a four-month freeze on solar projects on Friday, and a cap on the amount of solar that can be built,  out of concern for a speculative bubble by its renewables industry.  Industry payouts in France have been cut twice earlier this year.  Opposition is growing to France’s rapidly rising tax on electric power.  The renewables industry predicts job losses and disappearing projects from the continuing regulations changes.

—Earlier last week, the German government announced that it may end the solar industry’s generous tariffs in 2012.  There was a surprise reduction in 2009 and another is to start in 2011.  In October, the German Energy Agency called for Germany to “cut back quickly and drastically” in its drive towards solar by capping its installations of solar panels at a mere one gigawatt per year.  This is down from the estimated eight to ten gigawatts being installed this year.

—New South Wales, Australia’s most populous state, cut by two-thirds the amount that homeowners who had installed solar panels would receive from 60¢ per kilowatt-hour to 20¢.  The State’s solar manufacturers say that this cut will put them out of business. Other states may follow.  New South Wales was Australia’s most generous subsidizer, and is now the least.

—The United Kingdom announced in October that big spending cuts were coming to renewables projects.  Government austerity measures and consume backlash against rising power rates play a part, but there is fierce grassroots opposition from the U.K.’s 230-odd anti-wind organizations. Local governments have shelved or rejected two out of three wind-farm applications that have come before them.  Changes in planning laws will strengthen local councils over a national planning agency.

—The market for wind is shrinking, and Denmark’s Vestas, the world’s largest wind-turbine company, recently announced that it is closing five production facilities in Denmark and Sweden and laying off 3,000 workers, 1/7th of its global workforce.

—In this country, state regulators in Florida, Idaho, Kentucky, Rhode Island and Virginia have either canceled or delayed renewable-energy projects that would raise power rates on consumers, even when the rise would be under 1%.  New wind-power installations in the U.S. were down by more than 70% in the first three-quarters of 2010 compared with 2009.

President Obama’s enthusiasm for renewables is unflagging, but more and more evidence is emerging that the industry is simply not ready for prime time.  The “capacity” that lobbyists and supporters bragged about turned out to be a mythical figure that referred to a perfect wind, blowing constantly at the correct speed; and real energy produced was an entirely different kettle of proverbial fish.  Obama is not known for changing his mind.  His basic beliefs seem set in concrete.

Last week  17 Senators signed a letter calling ethanol “fiscally indefensible” and “environmentally unwise.”  Democrat Dianne Feinstein and Republican John Kyl said Congress should  not extend subsidies that expire at the end of the year, including the 45¢ per gallon tax credit for blending ethanol into gasoline, and tariffs on cheaper imports.  Even Energy Secretary Steven Chu went so far as to say that “ethanol is not an ideal transportation fuel,” but he still supports so-called advanced fuels that are not made from  corn and are not commercially viable; but that’s partial progress.  The EPA ruled last week that under the 2007 energy bill Americans must use at least 13.95 billion gallons of ethanol next year.  The ethanol lobby is preparing for a fight to protect its free ride.

When the temperature drops, the turbine stops, and needs electric heat! by The Elephant's Child
January 31, 2010, 3:45 am
Filed under: Energy, Environment, Junk Science | Tags: ,

Like many states, Minnesota has invested in alternative energy.  It’s the in thing to do.  The state has spent $3.3 million on eleven wind turbines, but in an economy where everyone seems to speak in billions and trillions, that doesn’t seem like news.

But it seems the turbines don’t work in cold weather.  The special hydraulic fluid used for colder temperatures was used in the turbines, but it’s not working, so neither are the turbines.

There is a plan to heat the fluid, but officials must find a contractor to do the work.

So they need heaters to warm the hydraulic fluid.  How will the heaters work?  They will have to use either electricity or natural gas at each turbine to keep the mechanism lubricated.  That reduces the net energy gain from each turbine, depending on how much heating the turbine fluid needs, to stop congealing in the winter.  Minnesota winters last anywhere from four to six months, so that makes the wind farm fairly inefficient as an energy source.

As we were saying, you simply can’t rely on what the turbine salesmen are claiming about the efficiency of wind power.  Sometimes the wind blows, sometimes it doesn’t.  It is simply not reliable enough to be a primary energy source. But it is “Green” so there are brownie points involved.

(h/t: Hot Air)

Hypocrisy in the Bureaucracy, and In the Courts As Well. by The Elephant's Child
September 8, 2009, 11:38 pm
Filed under: Energy, Environment, Law | Tags: , ,

The Wall Street Journal  has a story by Robert Bryce, that just knocked me out.  It is a splendid example of the utter dysfunction of today’s world.

On Aug. 13, ExxonMobil pleaded guilty in federal court to killing 85 birds that had come into contact with crude oil or other pollutants in uncovered tanks or waste-water facilities on its properties. The birds were protected by the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, which dates back to 1918. The company agreed to pay $600,000 in fines and fees.

ExxonMobil is hardly alone in running afoul of this law. Over the past two decades, federal officials have brought hundreds of similar cases against energy companies. In July, for example, the Oregon-based electric utility PacifiCorp paid $1.4 million in fines and restitution for killing 232 eagles in Wyoming over the past two years. The birds were electrocuted by poorly-designed power lines.

Yet there is one group of energy producers that are not being prosecuted for killing birds: wind-power companies. And wind-powered turbines are killing a vast number of birds every year.

A July 2008 study of the wind farm at Altamont Pass, Calif., estimated that its turbines kill an average of 80 golden eagles per year. The study, funded by the Alameda County Community Development Agency, also estimated that about 10,000 birds—nearly all protected by the migratory bird act—are being whacked every year at Altamont.

Altamont’s turbines, located about 30 miles east of Oakland, Calif., kill more than 100 times as many birds as Exxon’s tanks, and they do so every year. But the Altamont Pass wind farm does not face the same threat of prosecution, even though the bird kills at Altamont have been repeatedly documented by biologists since the mid-1990s.

“Somebody,” Mr. Bryce said Mr. Fry told him, “has given the wind industry a get-out-of-jail-free- card.  If there was even one prosecution the wind industry would be forced to take the issue seriously.”

The world’s environmentalists, and their bureaucratic enablers who expect to profit vastly from taxing carbon dioxide and raising the cost of energy on everyone ; are in love with the idea of “clean, renewable energy” from “free sources” like the wind and the sun.

But neither the wind nor the sun are free when it comes to generating electricity. In spite of the promises and posturing and platitudes, there is little evidence that either wind or solar can ever make a significant contribution to our energy needs.

The wind blows at the right speed only intermittently. When the wind does not blow, there must be backup from a regular power plant.  The effective locations for wind farms are usually far from urban centers.  Although the wind is free, making electricity from the wind and connecting it to a grid are very, very expensive.  The U.S. government subsidizes wind power at $23.34 per MWh. This compares with 25¢ per MWh for natural gas or 44¢ for coal.

Most people need more electricity at night when it gets dark.  The sun sinks beneath the horizon at night.  Solar panels require vast acreage to produce power in any significant quantity.  We are not able at the present time to store electricity in any sizeable amount.  Solar panel manufacturers are going out of business everywhere except here where they are being subsidized enthusiastically by our government.

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