1. On the same thread, someone also drew an interesting parallel between dispatchable and non dispatchable energy sources.

    This is worth mentioning here.

    1. Dispatchable energy sources like nuclear should be attributed a premium value on the market.

      This would have prevented Kewaunee and Vermont Yankee from closing.

      1. And for some strange reason they don’t get the capacity payments that are being given to very inefficient diesel generators, open cycle gas turbines and archaic, inefficient old coal burners.

        1. @Fred

          The reason is not so strange; fossil fuel burning power plants have better lobbying groups — including the fuel suppliers, transporters, and pipeline operators — who do a better job of protecting their financial interests.

    2. In the current non sensical market non dispatchable sources are given a premium for being unreliable.

      Market forces according to Bryk.

      Love the Bryk.

  2. “Necessity of long distance power transmission ”

    There is a real killer of a market for SMR’s, isn’t it. Who needs SMR’s when you have HVDC lines going to remote locations.

    “Why are so many people enthralled with the idea of going back to a time when weather and climate tightly limited our daily routines?”

    Lots of reasons. #1 Financial derivatives. Thats the whole motivation behind the renewables scam.

    Then again, the nuclear utopians actually believe light water reactors with no growth prospects can do the heavy lifting. Just put on bag on their head and scream “AGW AGW” all day long…and point to France as the “success” model template. When the nuclear proponents actually get out of the universities and join the real world, then perhaps something can be done.

  3. The old coots might want to just keep on doing what they are doing (and hope consumers don’t discover the difference). I guess he is convinced costs for fossil fuels will remain the same, investors love taking risks on nuclear, and renewables aren’t going to get any cheaper. Once we invented fire, why didn’t our earlier ancestors take the same wise and sensible approach. Tomorrow … not my problem. Metallurgy … is it really worth the bother and all the wasted effort?

    1. Any comment on the substance of Fred’s allegations regarding transmission costs and other technical factors affecting the integration of solar pv and wind?

      1. Any comment on the substance of Fred’s allegations regarding transmission costs and other technical factors affecting the integration of solar pv and wind?


        A broad topic indeed … which deserves a great deal of discussion and careful thought (I have no doubt). None of this is particularly new to any of us (is it not). In fact, folks working on solar and wind integration have been doing it for decades now … and we’ve had very few problems. No scary blackouts, no crushing impoverishment, no return to cooking meals over campfires. In fact, wind and solar are among the fastest growing new capacity additions on a global basis (and our ability to “integrate” these energy resources is not an insignificant thing). Are there challenges, sure, but this has always been true. I don’t believe in perfect options. I believe in solutions.

        Since you asked, a few quick replies to items highlighted in post:

        1) Efficiency losses for operating of spinning reserves are very small (on order of $3-5/MWh).

        2) HVDC losses are also small (and easily offset by displacing high margin and carbon emitting flexible energy resources on the grid).

        3) The whole grid is overbuilt. This is nothing new. If you can cover costs and still make a significant return on investment, what is the problem. Curtailment isn’t the only tool in our grab bag to handle this problem (I thought we were building HVDC lines too)?

        4) Why do we have wind turbines not generating electricity in the North? Is heating them really a terrible and debt inducing problem?

        5) Energy storage will likely save in some investments in infrastructure (by offsetting the need for new capacity additions and some new transmission additions). And again, why is 70 – 90% round trip efficiency a problem if your capital cost is low enough to operate such plants on a feasible commercial basis, and you are able to provide much needed flexibility (where it is currently lacking). This is the goal, is it not. If Fred thinks it is not attainable, he should say so. Pumped hydro has been operating for 4 decades on a commercial basis at 80 – 90% efficiency. I’m sure this may come as a bit surprise to many people operating these plants, and updating their turbines and expanding them for 60 to 100 years of use (if not more).

        I’m not looking for a long drawn out discussion on any of these things. But I’d also like it if we didn’t spend all our time re-hashing ordinary points that are worn out and tired from the past. Yes, there are old coots out there who think it is all going to hell and a hand basket. Rather than complain about what is going wrong, we should be offering solutions (and be working to fix problems and provide better alternatives). The status quo has got us this far, but what’s coming next. These are interesting times and interesting questions. And no, we’re not all going to agree (and we don’t have to).

        1. If I can find time I would like to reply in detail to your post.

          But point #1 you missing the mark by a wide margin. Yes, keeping spinning reserves to protect against rapid changes in wind or solar energy uses about 6-8% of full output fuel consumption, not that major but energy efficiency improvements are usually won a percent or two at a time.

          The big part of induced cycling inefficiency losses is not spinning reserves, but forced inefficiency in the shadowing fossil fuel power plants that must mirror the wind mostly, but also to a lesser extent solar energy. Many studies, including ones that use actual utility fuel consumption data, show little or no improvement in electricity generated/fossil fuel consumed with increased wind generation:





          Colorado & Texas:




          Retired Bell Labs Electrical Engineer’s analysis showing Wind does not significantly reduce emissions:


            1. @EL

              just as AWEA would not consider a post from Atomic Insights to debunk anything, I don’t consider a blog post from AWEA to be a final word on anything. Jury — or reality — will decide.

          1. Fred,
            You state Holland (NL), my country. So I checked the link.
            It has little to do with reality. E.g. not even mentioning distributed (mini) CHP which generate ~40% of our electricity…

            Furthermore the author assumes almost all… He even does not taken into account seriously that wind turbine production variations are leveled off by the whole system; in-/export, variations in load, spinning reserve, short term storage, etc.

            Neither that grid management see the wind variations coming in advance (as an old wind surfer, I know we have rather accurate wind speed predictions) and take optimized actions.

            NL will expand wind turbine capacity substantial in the coming years as that will help to reach our CO2 targets.
            The CO2 savings with wind turbines were discussed in our parliament. That implies that real experts spent time/effort to calculate the right figures.

            So I think your link author delivers highly biased info, which does not reflect reality and is not supported by experts. The word ‘crap’ may apply.

            This is a rather old discussion as I remember similar roughly 10 years ago.

          2. @Rod. Agreed, blog posts do not constitute an ultimate authority. However, in this case the aweablog post EL provided seems worthy of consideration. For instance it has some primary literature references with tidbits like “From the investigated studies it follows that at wind penetrations of up to 20 % of gross demand (energy), system operating cost increases arising from wind variability and uncertainty amounted to about 1-4 euro/MWh. This is 10 % or less of the wholesale value of the wind energy.”

        2. the first or largest pump hydro in the U.S. is Helms Pump Storage 80 miles east of San Louis Obispo…built in conjunction with Diablo Canyon Nuclear Power Plant. Does work great. Too bad we are limited in building more of it since most sites are built out anyway and it’s way too expensive to put it on Grand Coulee or Hoover.

          David Walters
          IBEW 1245, Ret.

  4. @EL

    Who, exactly, are you calling an old coot?

    What makes you think that we are not working hard to reduce the investment risks associated with nuclear energy. I just want to clarify something – I am a nuclear energy investor and I am not particularly enamored with uncompensated risks. I am therefore, highly motivated to identify and mitigate the real sources of risk.

    When it comes to the cost trajectory of unreliables, I think it is highly optimistic for anyone to believe that the trends are always going to be down. What happens, for example, to the cost per unit of energy generated when locations with lower solar insolation or lower average wind speeds are developed because the best locations are — quite logically — used first?

    1. The cost for wind power has been going up for about a decade. From $1.4/watt bottom in 2004 to ~$2.5/watt today.


      Also, the O&M costs for wind farms have been rising by about 10% per year… and that’s with the vast majority of US turbines still in their warranty period! Turbine gearboxes are extremely unreliable, leading to direct drive turbines which cost 30% more than old gearbox designs.


      1. Ugh. Please go to most recent DOE Wind Market report for 2012 for more representative assessment of costs and operation expenses. Presumably, your DOE graph comes from such a source, but costs have been declining since 2008.

        Rising prices from 2002 to 2008 were due to several factors:

        “decline in the value of the U.S. dollar relative to the Euro; increased materials, energy, and labor input prices; a general increase in turbine manufacturer profitability due in part to strong demand growth and turbine and component supply shortages; increased costs for turbine warranty provisions; and an up-scaling of turbine size, including hub height and rotor diameter” (p. 32).

        O&M costs by operational date have wide range, but appear to have same downward trend (pg. 38+).

        1. A lot of “mays” used in their statements.

          Several key points from your own reference:

          Many of the projects installed more recently may still be within their turbine manufacturer warranty period, and/or may have capitalized O&M service contracts within their turbine supply agreement. Projects choosing the Section 1603 cash grant over the PTC may have had a particular incentive to capitalize service contracts (18 projects totaling roughly one-third of the sample capacity installed since 2000 were installed from 2009-2011 – i.e., within the period of eligibility for the Section 1603 grant – though only two of these eighteen projects actually elected the grant over the PTC). In either case, reported O&M costs will be artificially low .

          Kinda pokes holes in your argument that O&M costs are dropping if the those costs are being capitalized due to subsidies.

          And then there is this note, once again from your own reference:

          Figure 26 shows an upward trend in project-level O&M costs as projects age, although the sample size after year 4 is limited. In addition, the figure shows that projects installed more recently (from 2005–2008 and/or 2009-2011) have had, in general, lower O&M costs than those installed in earlier years (from 1998–2004), at least for the first 7 years of operation

          While not definitive it appears that as each windmill ages the O&M costs will go up. Imagine that. A rotating propeller gets more expensive to operate over time especially if there is a potential ticking time bomb of capitalized O&M costs due to 1603 subsidies.

          1. @Bill Rodgers.

            Market report does not suggest there is a “ticking time bomb” of rising O&M costs. We both made qualified statements about O&M costs, and I have no problem with your statement and quoting from the report. Please tell ZachF (as I did) that his source does not suggest there is a 10% growth in O&M costs per year. Rather, his source suggests many of these cost increases appear to be short term, as people gain more operational experience with out of warranty turbines.

            “The process of optimizing O&M activities and the spotting trends takes time and money – which is likely to be one of the primary reasons for the uptick in O&M expenses.”

            “It is logical to think that a maturing industry will drive down O&M costs over time.”

          2. EL,

            I know the report doesn’t talk about ticking time bombs. It wouldn’t since that report was written by wind cheerleaders who are paid by the US taxpayer to spin how wonderful wind power is for the US.

            I am making that comment from my own experience based on working through language of extended warranties for industrial equipment. And as one who has worked with accountants whose business it is to determine risks, quantifying risks then determine how to monetize those risks.

            I don’t consider it logical to assume wind facility O&M costs will drop strictly because it is already a mature industry. In fact I think the opposite due to the fact that wind is not viable without subsidies and without legal requirements placed on utilities forcing them to buy electricity from wind developers.

          3. I don’t consider it logical to assume wind facility O&M costs will drop strictly because it is already a mature industry.

            @Bill Rodgers.

            The article ZachF provided appears to contradict this view. O&M is not yet optimized (as the article describes). With coal and natural gas prices likely to rise (or paying carbon costs), I don’t see why wind doesn’t have grid parity (distorted markets to the contrary). If this is how you feel, I take it you think Hinkley C should be taken off the table. It’s loan subsidy, increasing tariff structure, above the market rate cost of energy are terrible for the consumer. They should be building a coal plant instead.

          4. @Bill Rodgers
            I don’t consider it logical to assume wind facility O&M costs will drop strictly because it is already a mature industry.
            Last week in NL a nacelle started to develop a fire during maintenance. The three maintenance mechanic’s died. Apparently there was no (good) fire extinguish equipment in the nacelle. The alarmed local fire brigade couldn’t do anything as they had no equipment to reach the nacelle ~100m above ground.
            This again shows that the wind industry still is in its infancy.

            Another indication: Wind turbines can be made at least a factor two bigger (20MW). Such factors do not happen in mature industries, such as cars or planes. Or only after decades of research spending billions.
            Even then; compare the last leap forward with airliners, the A380 versus the 747. Rather marginal.

            As wind turbines are relative simple, staying at the same place, I expect that we end with 20MW+ wind turbines that run at least 25years (probably 50years) with maintenance/repair visits less than once in 5 years (probably 10years).
            The Dutch wind mill we have here some hundred meter from home, is already ~four centuries old still working.

            Taken into account the necessary experience that has to be gathered in order to improve and the relative small research investment (still millions and not billions), that will take decades of slow improvement.

            I think that solar panel improvement will be faster and especially their costs will come down much faster.
            E.g. thin flexible sheets that you can glue on anything producing ~200W/m2. You may even glue those on your window as they are transparent for ~70% of the light.

          5. “that his source does not suggest there is a 10% growth in O&M costs per year.”

            Going from ~$20,000 per MW to ~$30,000 over a period of 3 years is OVER 10% pa per year.

          6. @EL,

            I do agree that O&M costs aren’t optimized but that won’t happen until the subsidies are eliminated. At which point the economics of wind power will make it unfeasible so O&M will become even more expensive.

            And the Bloomberg article you linked appears to be more about non-US countries who subsidize fuel at the pumps to assist lower income people not fossil fuel developers. The IAEA appears to state that the subsidies don’t help the poor that much. Haven’t read the report so won’t comment either way other then to say that some of the comments in the article make it appear IAEA is trying to get in the business of social engineering which isn’t their realm or at least should not be their realm.

            However the article doesn’t really apply to this argument. Wind subsidies, i.e. 1603 grants, are given directly to the wind developers not wind consumers. So you are mixing and matching revenue streams to try and make your argument. If wind were the dominant source of electricity (80%) and non-US electricity consumers were being subsidized as they are at the gas pump then your argument would be a valid starting point to continue this discussion.

            As far as Hinkley C, I haven’t looked at the fine print yet. So I have no opinion one why or the other. On the surface though I would have liked to see a deal similar to Vogtle. IOW no federal money or federal intervention to make it happen. However again by trying to compare the US power system to the British power system you are mixing and matching in an attempt to make your argument.

          7. @ Bas,

            Your argument has several flaws.

            Those workers didn’t need to die if standard industrial safety precautions had been followed. There is fire suppression equipment that could have integrated into the windmills to prevent the workers from dying. What is missing is the regulatory environment requiring windmill developers to include that equipment into their designs.

            Secondly, as the articles I have read on 20MW windmills state, a 20 MW windmill is NOT just an act of scaling up an existing 3 or 5 MW windmill. Additionally they will be over 600ft in diameter so many design issues will still need to be resolved. I can only imagine the harmonics of that system. So 2020 isn’t looking so good right now for those people who are pinning their hopes on off-shore 20MW monstrosities.

            Finally if you believe that a rotating piece of equipment will last 50 years then you have no understanding of the stresses and strains industrial power generation equipment undergoes.

            You are continuing to trumpet technology that is always over the time horizon. That is wishful thinking not sound planning.

          8. @Bill
            There is fire suppression equipment that could have integrated into the windmills
            That should have been done anyway, without regulation.
            A mature industry does not have that type of failures.

            Nobody says that upscaling to 20MW is easy. If so it would have been done long ago. It needs expensive (super)computer simulations, etc.
            But no fundamental breakthrough, as the EU study showed!

            As we see the first 10MW turbines on the market already, I’m confident.

            Especially since superconducting wired magnets do no longer require temperatures near -273 degrees Celsius. And cooling devices become more compact. So the weight of the nacelle can stay low enough to allow for easy field mounting ~200m high (no gearbox needed; which lowers maintenance costs).

            I’m not sure whether we will see 50MW wind turbines, as those may no longer be economic to produce compared to 20MW. I have seen some designs that intended to build a 300m stone tower (the height of the Eiffel-tower in Paris)…

          9. There is fire suppression equipment that could have integrated into the windmills to prevent the workers from dying.

            Bill – Automatic fire suppression equipment carries its own risks to workers, particularly in a place like a wind-turbine nacelle, which can be very difficult to evacuate quickly without a parachute. From a safety standpoint, one would need to balance the risk of injury or death from a fire with the risk of injury or death from the fire suppression equipment, either during a fire event or through an accidental discharge. The safest solution overall might be just to have a couple of hand-held fire extinguishers ready for maintenance workers to use in the event of a fire while they are working on the turbine.

            In terms of investment protection, considering the additional capital and maintenance costs associated with the fire suppression equipment, it’s probably more economical in the long run to just let the babies burn when they catch fire, and that appears to be exactly what the industry is doing.

            And cooling devices become more compact. So the weight of the nacelle can stay low enough to allow for easy field mounting ~200m high (no gearbox needed; which lowers maintenance costs).

            Bas – But you now have “compact” cryogenic equipment in a tin shack that is perched on a tower and constantly exposed to the elements (a corrosive salt-water environment, if off shore), which raises maintenance costs. What makes you think that cryogenic equipment is any more robust than the well-understood gearbox?

            I have seen some designs that intended to build a 300m stone tower (the height of the Eiffel-tower in Paris) …

            Oh … when that baby burns, I hope that someone catches it on video and posts it to YouTube. I’m going to pop some popcorn for that show. 🙂 It’ll be the ultimate bonfire!

          10. Going from ~$20,000 per MW to ~$30,000 over a period of 3 years is OVER 10% pa per year.


            So you are entirely discounting arguments made in the article (the source you are quoting), and comments made here, for why this is not a permanent trend, but a short term increase related to learning curves?

            1. @EL

              I cannot speak for ZachF, but I often discount other people’s interpretation of data and the predictions of future trends, even from sources that I am quoting.

              For example, I will point to a source of stock prices that records the actual trading prices over time, but discount the interpretation of why those prices existed and what drove changes in those prices.

              You do the same thing; picking the pieces that you like and discarding the ones that you don’t. For example, you often overlook the fact that spreading wind into less desirable places with less wind will drive up both the unit costs of the capital invested in the machinery and most likely increase the maintenance cost per unit of production.

          11. @ Brian,

            Agree with your assessment including your comments regarding fire extinguishers and letting them burn. Had to deal with Halon and other nasty fire suppression systems in my time in the Navy. My question is why weren’t there fire extinguishers in the first place? What were the training protocols for the workers knowing that they wouldn’t have access to full firefighting equipment? What was their escape route? Simple stuff but if NEC and NFPA codes are not being followed as design inputs then wind developers would have been allowed to bend rules.

            Point I was going for was that many industries would now be faced with severe fines, potential shutdowns, legal action, etc since people died. However, this event may end up fading away without substantial changes in worker environment for windmills since there isn’t a ruling authority such as NRC, DOT, etc. Decades ago the same type of arguments were used on mining, deep sea platforms, etc. (too remote, too hard to save the people, etc) until those industries were forced to start engineering safety systems.

            MSHA and others were forced to push new rules onto those industries after politicians were told to be concerned. Right now there is no push since wind is “green” and “needed” so a few people who die are probably seen a necessary evils by those who believe wind will save us from our own consumption excess, blah, blah, blah.

            Workers died, AWEA needs to step up push for safety or be told what those safety measures will be. Wind has been escaping those types of reviews since no one has pushed legislate wind into one of the alphabet soup of oversight agencies. That needs to come to an end.

        2. Some Wind farm costs I get:

          Granite Reliable, Wind Farm, NH, 99MWpk, 224GWh/yr, 26%CF, $275M, $2.78k/kw, $10.7k/kw energy

          New Wales Wind Farm, Latest & Biggest onshore in UK, 1600MWpk, 20% CF, $3.1B plus $620M for transmission is $2.6k/kw or $12.4k/kw energy.

          Note that unlike for wind & solar installations, usually transmission upgrades for new NPPs are included in the stated cost.

          Caithness Shepherds Flat in east Oregon, 845 MW, 1797 GWh/yr, 205 MWavg, 24% CF, $2.3k/kw, $9.6k/kw of energy not incl transmission.

          Kahuku Wind Farm in Hawaii, Wind Cost, $3.9k/kw, 30 MW, 71 GWh p yr, 27% CF, $14.4k/kw energy

          Kibby Mountain, Maine, 132 MW, capital cost $320 million, CF was 22.5%, $2.42k/kw, $10.8k/kw energy

          Hempstead, NY, 100 kw Wind Turbine, 180MWh/yr or 20.5% CF, $6.15k/kw, $30k/kw energy

          University of Maine, 600 kw Wind Turbine, est. capital cost $2M, actual 12% CF, $2M/.6k = $3.3k/kw, $27.5k/kw energy

          1. “Note that unlike for wind & solar installations, usually transmission upgrades for new NPPs are included in the stated cost.”

            Nuclear developers are paying for transmission upgrades beyond interconnection. Are you sure about that?

          2. Here’s an example for the proposed Levy County project

            The Levy County plants have been cancelled.

            And, to my understanding, these were voluntary arrangements (and exceptions to important FERC Rules), likely to sweeten the pot on a deal that may not have taken place otherwise. Nuke plants have no different requirements than other energy resources (broader system costs are “paid by the electricity consumer, usually as part of the transmission and distribution cost,” according to WNA). Developer pays for interconnect, the grid is a common resource shared by all (and to the equal benefit of all). We’re building several plants now on existing sites. Presumably we’d like to build more … and not always close to demand centers.

            Are you lobbying for a change to existing FERC Rules? You might be careful what you wish for. I’m not sure this would do much to enhance the cost competitiveness of nuclear vis a vis other more certain, easier to finance, and more reliable to build and stage alternatives.

        3. Wouldn’t the obvious conclusion from the observed trend in wind power capital costs be that they have only fallen because of the recession? A major drop in the cost of raw materials (steel, copper etc) and a global drop in investment (as well as the subsequent changes to monetary policy) would be expected to result in a drop in the price of wind turbines. It’s certainly not indicative of disruptive technological improvements or any kind of change that won’t be reversed by a strengthening economy.

          1. @Sb,
            As El showed here already, wind turbine designs are getting super conducting wired magnets (same type as the one used at CERN, Geneva), without the heavy gearbox. That imply the nacelle can be smaller and lighter, hence bigger and higher wind turbines.

            Easy improvements are made by using all weather info, also those of the other wind turbines, so the pitch can be adapted to coming wind blasts, etc. in order to maximize output.

            Blade design is still far from optimal. A few points:
            Hardly any adaptive torque (torque depending on wind speed), which would enhance production.
            Important as adaptive torque would also allow for much bigger turbines, hence lower cost per MWh.

            No blade design tailored specifically towards the local wind conditions, yet.

            Also the strength/weight of the blades can be improved, allowing for blades much greater than 100meter. So the tower will become more than 200meter, which again implies higher production as winds go faster at that altitude.

            So all in all one has to conclude these wind turbines are still in there infancy.
            It will take some decades before really optimized wind turbines are developed, just as it took many decades to develop an optimized airliner such as the A380.

      2. @ZachF
        When you talk about costs, cost price per MWh rules the waves!
        And that has gone down a lot. Even for wind turbines!

        For new projects I now see cost price ranges $25-35/MWh!
        Showing those costs are falling!

        Even if that price is twice in less windy places, it is still half of the new nuclear subsidized cost price of ~$150/MWh. And those subsidies, being the liability insurance premium (both for storage and accidents) and zero/low capital costs, add substantial extra to this ~$150/MWh.

        Realize that for new nuclear, prices in 2030-2050 are relevant. And then wind (and solar) will cost substantial less than now, as wind turbines are then in the 20MW+ range.

      3. @ZachF
        Also, the O&M costs for wind farms have been rising by about 10% per year…

        This shows again the wind industry still is in its infancy. Pushing wind turbines out, not having the time (it takes many years as history shows), money, research to develop real reliable wind turbines. Neither to speed up development of bigger wind turbines.

        Remember, cars were more than 50years rather dangerous until Ralph Nader published his book “unsafe at any speed” (not sure I remember the title well).
        Then it took many decades before the frequency of sudden break downs, decreased towards the present (still to high) level.

        1. @Bas : Claiming that bad news should be seen as being actually good news has a name : Newspeak , https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Newspeak

          The first large wave of turbine installation was in fact in 1984/1985 (at Tehachapi). This technology is far less new than frequently seen. Some of what happened with it can be seen as a case of negative learning by doing, as has been violently denounced against nuclear, turbine were getting larger and larger, but this did not actually lead to reduced price, maybe instead to more costly turbines.

          From 2004 to 2009, the cost has very significantly increased, as was reported in a succession of other US DOE Wind Technologies Market Report that the proponents conscientiously ignored, and that’s the reason why all the claim of cost reduction now use the 2009 date as a starting point.
          As can actually be seen in the UCS link you gave in your previous comment, the average price is now still slightly higher than in 2004/2005.

          The fact the report only talks about the decline since 2009, braging about 43% decline since 2009 is totally manipulative and dishonnest, even if people looking at the graph can see the truth.

  5. I would like to add two more examples of renewables inefficiency:

    7) The energy loss of having to build & maintain two complete energy systems, one (usually fossil fuel) to backup the wind & solar for the many times they are missing in action. The embodied energy in the backup system, energy consumption of maintenance including personal who man/maintain the backup plants.

    8) The high cost of wind & solar, pushes the electricity price sky high, as it has been doing. Electricity is the most efficient form of energy and the cleanest. The goal is to replace fossil fuels with green electricity = nuclear & hydro, predominantly. Making electricity expensive discourages that very important energy substitution. So electric vehicles are ~ 4X more efficient than ICE vehicles, making electricity more expensive makes the substitution of ICE vehicles by EVs less attractive. Heat Pumps are 3-6X more efficient than burning fuel for heat. Heat pumps rely on cheap electricity to be competitive. Making electricity expensive reduces substitution of fuel heat for heat pumps.

    High cost electricity encourages heavy industry moving overseas to cheap & dirty electricity generation. Means high inefficiency in electricity generation & energy losses inherent transport of materials across oceans.

    And huge amounts of resources wasted needlessly on expensive production facilities shutdown & trashed. Mines that must shutdown at 1/3rd or less of their normal lifetime due to expensive electricity costs. Energy needlessly wasted. And very little of those high energy input materials and equipment are recycled. Most of it is just buried.

    9) I would add that solar and wind of little opportunity for improving production efficiency. Wind is already close to optimized, while its effects on the power grid just keeping getting worse, much worse. Solar can be improved slightly, but the cost of that is usually too high. A minor improvement compared to the terrible effects of the intermittent power source on grid efficiency.

    Whereas nuclear energy has great opportunity for efficiency improvements. Fuel uprates and higher temperature reactors operating at much higher thermal efficiencies. And cogeneration efficiency improvements have scarcely begun with nuclear generation. Small modular reactors are particularly amenable to cogeneration. i.e building & low grade industrial heat in the north, desalination and domestic hot water in other areas.

    1. Great post, but one nitpick. Electricity might be a very efficient fuel, but the conversion of other forms of energy to electricity is not, excepting hydropower and wind. For thermal power plants, Carnot’s theorem establishes upper limits on conversion of heat to motion based on the highest temperature the plant achieves and the temperature of the cooling system. Thus, real world efficiencies of power plants are 30-35% in the case of nuclear (but the fuel is really cheap, so lower efficiency is OK), up to ~45-50% in the case of new build pulverized coal, and ~60% in the case of the newest natural gas combined cycle plants (but gas is an expensive fuel compared to coal and especially nuclear).

      Note that for simplicity, I didn’t get into the mechanics of the Brayton and Rankine cycles which are more complex.

      1. I don’t agree with that point, either for wind, solar or nuclear. Large wind turbines are about 44% efficient at extracting wind energy, solar usually around 15% at extracting solar energy. In all three cases the fuel is a minor part of the economic equation, and the current efficiencies of all three types is already including in all cost analysis, emissions analysis or EROEI analysis for all three energy sources, and hydro as well of course.

        The main point is starting with the given of these energy sources, the effects of adding wind & solar, especially the MARGINAL effect is a terrible reduction in energy efficiency. Whereas nuclear, more so than any energy source has the capability for large increases in energy efficiency WITHOUT degrading the overall efficiency of our current grid.

    2. The problem with your electrification pipedream is that there are no jobs. All those ICE service people are toast. Cars’r’Us immediately disappears because those EV suckers are taxed like crazy to compensate for widespread job loss. The planes bite the dust because you need all the costly synthetic fuels for agriculture. Thus trains become the grand solution. Trains can’t be replaced very often, thus no real industry. You are unintentionally deindustrializing on a huge scale and with it the subsequent political opportunity for marxists to amplify the removal of industry. Your paradise is France. It is failing badly and you do not know why.

  6. Willem Post has some information on wind energy inefficiencies. He puts the energy loss in trying to transmit wind energy from the great plains to the east coast via HVDC at 27%. So a high capacity factor 38% on the plains would amount to 28% on the east coast, assuming (wrongly) that the east coast could effectively absorb all of that wind energy. It would be interesting to see a cost breakdown of that scheme. I would bet the transmission system itself would cost more than local nuclear power plants. As you see from that example, big wind & big solar are examples of the centralization of energy supply. Nuclear, even large NPPs are much more decentralized.


    Willem Post also puts parasitic energy loss of wind turbines in cold environments at 10-15% of rated output, whether operating or not. For the Enercon-82, 2 MW IWT, blade heating/defrosting is 60kw plus 50kw for other parasitic loads.

    Normal temperatures, the IWTs consume 4-8% of rated output for power factor correction, heating, dehumidifying, lighting, machinery operation, controls, etc.

    And wind turbine capacity factors declining by about 1%/year.


    1. energy used to produce
      Whether a device spills 50% is hardly relevant.
      The relevant factors are costs (may be land used too) and environmental issues; versus the energy output (MWh) it delivers.

      Hence a wind turbine that use 10% of its produced energy internally (and consumes from the grid when there is no wind) may be far more favorable than a wind turbine that consumes nothing.

      Another example:
      A power plant may spend 5% of its generated energy for circulation pumps, crushing coal, etc. Another may spend only 1% for that. If the 5% spilling power plant has a 10% better yield while costing the same, everybody will choose that more spilling power plant.

      I shows a serious lack / poverty of arguments, that pro-nuclear now falls-back into using this type of nonsense arguments.

      1. @Bas,

        Again you exhibit a lack of understanding how power generation facilities are designed. it is very relevant how much power from an installation must be used for parasitic loads.

        A power plant capacity is established partly based on parasitic loads as a design input. It doesn’t matter what the source of fuel or motive force. The reason for accounting for parasitic loads is to assist in establishing the payback period. It is a fairly simple concept to digest. The larger the parasitic loads, the less power to sell to consumers and therefore the longer the payback period.

        That is unless there are 1603 grants for US wind and the Ponzi type payout scheme used for German solar. With those types of quick payback systems in place, the developers do not have to worry about the true payback period since they have been able to shift part of their risk to others.

        1. @Bill
          I think that I formulated my message unclear. We both agree ~.

          It is all about the MWh’s delivered to customers versus the costs: costs per MWh.
          If the power plant or wind turbine uses lot of ‘parasitic’ energy, that add to its costs.

          In the wind turbine case that ‘parasitic’ energy deliver so much extra MWh that it becomes beneficial (= lower cost price of the electricity delivered to the customer). If not, the designer will not incorporate that.

  7. Anyone having done architecture design of any sort know that you aim to reduce the number of failure points.

    The duck tape approach of wind and solar, needing external redundancies to perform marginally at best, is just unacceptable.

    Surely, there has to be some engineers somewhere that must have raised these issues and no one in Spain, Germany, the US has listened.

    And the virus just keeps spreading.

    Have the laws of sound architecture design changed ? We sure as hell do now that the laws of physics for solar and wind have not.

    1. Daniel,
      Any big (e.g. 1.5GW) power plant can completely fail within a second (e.g. if the turbine crashes, or a short cut in the generator) and stay off for months.
      So you need to have back-up for that 1.5GW ready, within seconds that also can run for many months.

      Solar and wind are much more distributed and predictable.
      A short cut, etc. in a wind turbine or PV panel has no sizable impact at all.
      So the back-up capacity that needs to jump in within seconds can be minimal, and the long term back-up capacity can also be far less!

      So from reliability point of view you should prefer solar+wind!
      This is supported by the German figures that show significant delivery reliability improvements since solar+wind became substantial.

      1. Utter rubbish, once again. The amount of backup capacity needed depends on the availability, but the utilisation of backup depends on the capacity factor.

        A nuclear power plant can easily have an availability of 90%, which means it requires 10% backup. In other words: if you have 10 nuclear power plants, you would need 1 plant to serve as backup. (In actual energy systems the total amount of generating capacity is typically about 130% of the peak power demand, including backup.) The capacity factor of nuclear is also about 90%, so only 10% of the energy supplied to the system would be supplied by the backup system.

        Conversely, a solar power plant has an availability of 0%, which means that it requires 100% backup. Moreover, a solar plant has a capacity factor of at most 20%, which means that the backup will provide 80% of the total energy!

        Again Bas: what you are displaying here is either incredible stupidity, or you are deliberately spreading lies and misinformation. Please stop!

        1. Moreover, a solar plant has a capacity factor of at most 20%, which means that the backup will provide 80% of the total energy!

          No … this is not what it means. This is not how resource planning and load and capacity profiling for reliability and cost effectiveness are done. Where did you get such an idea?

          There are very complicated methods for determining these things. Providing energy to backfill to nameplate of a particular energy resource is not one of them. You back up a grid, not a particular energy resource. It’s the job of state utility commission staff, project developers, industry groups, and other stakeholders to understand the risks, opportunities, and uncertainties of any resource balance, and appropriately plan for it. There are many resource plans out there. You might want to look at them, or other sources to learn more.

          1. If you want large penetration wind and solar (>30%), you are going to need copious amounts of storage or backup. period. It’s simple math.

            The largest users of energy (industry and commercial ventures) need a stable supply of energy. Forcing them to adjust to the whims of weather and dropping the capacity factor of factories is going to make them uncompetitive WAAYYY faster than expensive electricity ever will.

            PS are you a former Enron employee?

            Its only complicated if you want to add unreliable random sources of energy.

          2. @EL,

            First you use a very general reference source for a specific discussion about Levy. The question is if you knew about FERC Order 1000 and how it takes off from FERC Order 890 or were you just throwing Order 890 out there in an attempt to prove a point? While both would provide the required regulatory guidance for Levy County project within the larger ISO, neither Order would address the NRC requirements about nuclear power plants requiring off-site power availability. So what bearing do the FERC orders have to the Rod’s point above.


            Then if that weren’t bad enough you go and pull out very specific references about one specific utility when Joris’ comment was in regard to the large scale, back-of-the-envelope discussion regarding capacity factors.

            Pacific Power is in the area controlled by BPA and are primarily a coal and hydro power producer. So what relevancy does Pacific Power’s very specific situation within the BPA system where they can buy and sell to BPA to maintain a stable grid have anything to do with the very generalized comment from Joris? Especially since Pacific Power appears to be readying an Energy Imbalance Market with the State of California.

            Now why was the energy imbalance market created? Hummmm. Could it be that California is hoping for a market solution to the physical problem that wind and solar are intermittent and as a result have varying capacity factors? I believe so.

          3. @ZachF
            If you want large penetration wind and solar (>30%), you are going to need copious amounts of storage or backup.
            German scenario studies show that ~40% is the level which requires that.
            They expect to be near that level in ~10years.

            So they now started to stimulate storage developments (subsidies for consumers that install storage, etc). Expecting/hoping the costs will go down as the market grows (just as with PV-panels installation that cost now ~$2/W in Germany).

          4. So what bearing do the FERC orders have to the Rod’s point above.

            @Bill Rodgers.

            Rod didn’t raise an issue about offsite emergency power? He raised an issue of $3 billion in developer funds for transmission upgrades (which others have suggested have no equivalent in renewable energy development costs). System costs are paid by a broad range of market stakeholders (and not by an individual developer). I thought I provided adequate documentation of that fact. FERC Order 1000 expands on this principle to incorporate policy decisions at State and Federal level, and also guidance on the development of regional and inter-regional transmission plans. Levy’s $3 billion for transmission were voluntary costs and an allowable exception to these rules.

            It seems like you are knowledgeable about these things, and it is unclear to me what you disagree with in my characterization of load and capacity profiling in resource planning and grid operations. Adding solar at 20% CF does not mean you have to provide the remaining in generation to nameplate in order to successfully integrate this resource. The source I provided (among any other sources you could find) supports this statement. If there is anybody who does this (renewables integration, resource planning, or grid operations) along the way that Joris suggests could you please provide it for us to examine. I am not aware of a single example.

            1. @EL

              I did not raise the issue of offsite emergency power because I was commenting on a blog, not writing a dissertation. I pointed out that nuclear reactor projects are required to invest in transmission and to include that cost in their overall budgets, but I did not think it necessary to fully explain why they have to do that or under whose regulations that requirement is levied.

              For a reactor, transmission is both a way to get power out and a way to supply power to safety related equipment. It would be illegal to build reactors like we build windmills with a “build it and someone else will eventually build the transmission lines” philosophy. Examples of recent wind projects built with this philosophy include many farms in west Texas, the Lowell Mountain project in Vermont and off-shore wind in Germany.

          5. Sorry for the mistake with italics. Please read that as:

            So a conclusion that renewable allow for less spare/backup costs in a renewable situation such as in Germany, seems to be justified
            assuming fossil power plants as spare/back-up are allowed.
            These plants can be fueled primarily by waste & biomass (so fanatic greens will not become really angry).

            I did not consider the compensating influence of solar. With less wind, the sun shines more. Etc. That would require building a real model, for that we pay the experts.
            This new capability of grid management may be additional reason wind production did not rise while capacity rose ~10%.
            The new circulating fluidized bed plants do a cold start towards 70% full power electricity delivery within 8 hours (can be faster but then chance of failure rises).

        2. @Joris
          nuclear power plant can easily have an availability of 90%, which means it requires 10% backup … if you have 10 nuclear power plants, you would need 1 plant to serve as backup.
          Assume no other backup such as hydro, import, etc.
          Assume 2 backup NPP’s and 2% chance that a NPP is unplanned out in this grid with 2 spinning spare NPP’s and no planned outages at all!

          Then the chance that this grid is down is ~0.15% which is ~13hours/a (binomial distribution calc).
          With 8% planned outages, you need another extra spinning NPP.
          With those 13 NPP’s you still have underdeveloped country like bad availability!
          So you need 14 NPP’s (40% extra!) and then get a reliability comparable with that of UK, France (~1hr/yr down) only (Germans 15minutes, NL 30min).

          Renewable needs only 1 spinning plant extra. As with the weather prediction, there is time enough (~24hrs with sudden changes) to start additional plants!

          If grid management can see the Wind turbines spread over a 1000km range, it will take ~24 hours before an unexpected dip in the wind reach the other end…

          With a sudden jump upwards in the wind speed, the situation is far more easier than with NPP’s. Since last year, German grid management can remotely switch off (parts of) Wind parks.
          With power plants, grid management has to ask the operator which introduces mistakes and delays.

          So a conclusion that renewable allow for less spare/backup costs in a renewable situation such as in Germany, seems to be justified assuming fossil power plants as spare/back-up are allowed.
          These can be fueled primarily by waste & biomass (so fanatic greens will not become really angry).

          I did not consider the compensating influence of solar. With less wind, the sun shines more. Etc. That would require building a real model, for that we pay the experts.
          This new capability of grid management may be additional reason wind production did not rise while capacity rose ~10%.
          The new circulating fluidized bed plants do a cold start towards 70% full power electricity delivery within 8 hours (can be faster but then chance of failure rises).

  8. The wind and solar zealots seem to be able to find a report (?) to back up about any claim they make. I like KISS solutions… do a functional test… unhook from the grid and survive 24/7/365. Until you are willing to do that there is no reason to believe anything you say.

    1. or you can do another test. construct a nuclear reactor with no loan guarantees from the government. in other words tell the construction company they are liable for all gaffes/delays. Guess what, nobody builds it.

      1. Get rid of the NRC interfering in building a plant and have a utility draft whatever contract they want with a contractor to build the plant.

      2. @starvinglion

        There are no loan guarantees being used to finance existing projects. One was promised, but the government offered such onerous conditions that Southern refused to close the deal.

        1. You looking to break news Rod? Southern negotiated a fourth extension (to Dec 31), and “‘There continues to be constructive dialogue … and we are cautiously optimistic as we work toward the December deadline,’ Southern Co. spokeswoman Jeannice Hall said in an e-mail” (here).

          1. @EL

            Southern Co spokespeople are too polite to make statements that will offend the Administration. By extending deadline — again — they allow people like Moniz to continue claiming that the Administration supports nuclear. After all, we gave this — ahem, conditional — loan guarantee.

            By early next week I will have a chance to post some real news – I had a chance to ask Dr. Moniz a question about his demonstrated priorities. The question and Moniz’s nonanswer resulted in several handshakes and discussions at a recent National Academies event that I attended during the weekend.

          2. Yeah, and VC Summer has said they have no plans on utilizing loan guarantees at this juncture.

  9. The title is misleading, as it does not concern limitations regarding reliable 100% renewable electricity supply.

    Not strange, as it is shown that such 100% renewable system can deliver reliable electricity at an affordable price, which is going down fast (now below new nuclear)! So some more advanced developed countries make great progress towards 100% renewable electricity.

    The article only shows some inconveniences (some even wrong). Those concern mainly the transitional stage towards 100% renewable, that we are entering now.

    Few remarks concerning some points:
    4: “overbuild”
    Yes! Overbuild, we really need!
    As the low (near zero) electricity price in over-producing periods will allow for (large scale, decentralized) electricity-to-fuel/gas conversions! So that can fuel our cars, etc. without producing Co2!
    It also speeds the closure of expensive non-flexible ‘base-load’ power plants (often ‘dirty’, lot of CO2), those have no future anyway. In Germany those are now closing at high rate.

    5: “internal energy consumption while not producing”
    Nonsense. Every power plant (also nuclear) does that. The touchstone is net delivered energy versus the costs (and environmental issues).

    6.:“inefficient energy storage”
    This is only part of the storage business case. The storage itself may also cost $10/MWh.
    Even with 40% efficiency, buying at $10MWh and selling at $60/MWh brings a nice profit!
    Note that that $60/MWh is still only 40% of the cost-price of new nuclear.

    1+2+3:“fossil power plants cycling inefficiency”
    The present grid and power plant structure bring control and profit to the boards of big companies, at the costs of the subordinate customer.
    Renewable as implemented in Germany, brings control and profit back towards the citizen.
    It democratizes electricity against a very affordable price, which is goes down fast!

    As power plants will get only a minor share (e.g. 20% in a 80% renewable environment), the extra costs of that inefficiency is minimal as shown by German studies. Those plants fill the gaps. So flexible circulating fluidized bed plants that can burn a mix of waste/biomass/lignite/coal/(synthetic) fuel/gas. Distributed (micro) CHP will gain a share too (in NL ~40% now!).
    For speedy up- down-regulation (pumped) storage/hydro, batteries (as we see now already in use by utilities even in USA), CHP, etc.

    Diesel generation, old coal burners, etc. cannot compete in the near future and will become obsolete.

    Regarding the additional info:
    Thus line losses are going to be considerable … absurd fantasy to send solar from the SW to match wind from the plains. ” (also concerns point 2):

    This again shows the author does not understand the dynamics and implications of renewable, such as solar+wind. Even not the consequences of the fact that the sun provides energy to solar panels and wind turbines for free!
    As extra costs of solar and wind to continue to deliver are near zero (~$5/MWh), that line brings good profit if those can sell at the other end of the country for $60/MWh and the line costs $20/MWh.

    1. What the devil are you talking about now Bas?

      “This is only part of the storage business case. The storage itself may also cost $10/MWh.”

      If storage only cost $10/MWh then there would be no natural gas plants in Europe! Everything would be done with coal or nuclear, and such cheap storage would be used for supply peak load.

      You’re completely wrong. The cost of electricity storage depend crucially on the utilisation of the storage. In other words: the costs of seasonal energy storage (which is what you would need to balance seasonal differences in solar and wind power) are very high, while the cost of daily storage are far lower (but still far higher than $10/MWh. Just saying “storage costs xx $/MWh” indicates you have no understanding at all.

      Bas, will there ever be an end to your nonsense and lies? Who is paying you to keep doing this?

      1. He just makes numbers up that fit his narrative.

        He is dead set that nuclear costs $150/MWh, even though at that price every project under construction in the US and Europe would pay itself off in under a decade.

        He also thinks Fusion will cost $1/MWh. lol.

  10. Rod,
    Answers to your two questions at the end of your article:

    Why are so many people enthralled with the idea of going back to a time when weather and climate tightly limited our daily routines?
    Nobody is!
    But some people believed the experts that told that solar+wind can deliver excellent reliable real clean electricity, while at the same time giving them far more control over it!
    So those started to put solar on their roof, formed a cooperation to build a wind turbine, etc.
    And then many people saw that it really worked, so the became supporters too.

    Do they really believe that life without controllable energy supplies is wonderfully utopian?
    Nobody believes that!
    So citizens wanting to be in control put their own electricity generation into place.
    So German villages & cities throw big utilities out (referendum) and start their own more renewable one. Now even big cities, such as Munich.
    So citizens can share the profit!
    How this can develop you can see here: http://www.ews-schoenau.de/footer/international.html

    All the while electricity reliability gained too substantially (was a factor ~5 better than USA, now factor ~10 better). Not strange as distributed generation is less vulnerable, and production of wind and solar is highly predictable.

    1. You’d be well-advised to stop using so many exclamation points. It is lousy Netiquette, and gets very, very tiresome. (!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!)

    2. Rubbish.

      A city like Munich can only be ‘in control’ of its energy supply if it has dispatchable generators. Solar and wind are not dispatchable and thus grant no control at all!

      Moreover: predictability of wind and solar has nothing to do with reliability.

      1. … Especially with wind power as generation increases to the cube of wind speed. Being off in your forecast by just a few mph can mean huge swings in observed output vs predicted output.

        Wind power really is the most useless form of energy ever devised. One quick glance at a generation graph shows this, it looks like what I imagine a certain Toronto mayors’ EKG looks like… Solar is as least semi predictable.

  11. “ITER was originally expected to cost approximately €5billion, but the rising price of raw materials and changes to the initial design have seen that amount more than triple to €16billion”

    The fusion scam that BAS supports has already burned through 16 billion euros with absolutely nothing to show for it. Then the clown tells us he advocates the removal of Greece from the Euro union. Nah, he actually would give Greece more money to throw down the drain.

    That sums up the mentality of these creatures.

    1. I will second that motion.

      I can still clearly recall reading Nuclear News in the 60’s and their promises that “Fusion Power is less than ten years away. Recent tests have …. fill in the blank …… ” and that promise/prediction was repeated every few years. The only change I have seen is that the prediction is less frequent and the amount of money spent is drastically greater. I would not doubt that both father and son/daughter have retired from the same projects. And soon it will be grand-daughter/son.

  12. There is more to this than just a qualitative assessment of what Fred identified. For the past 4 years I sought to understand how the electrical grid works. Where this lead to is an understanding based on the statistical fluctuations. of demand and of the generators.

    The remainder is fairly technical, and most quantitative analysis is.

    I wrote up a paper that details the analysis here:

    What we observe with wind generators is that these generators have a strong covariance. As a result, capacity additions, occurring over a large area, fail to add to the overall system’s entropy and act to lower the grid’s entropy, by cooling the grid. To maintain equilibrium with load the thermal generators have to operate at a much higher entropy to maintain constant voltage and frequency. These are measurable quantities.

    The issue with the need for larger transmission lines goes a little bit beyond just wind. What has me most concerned is taking the regions served by the generators as quasi closed systems as discussed in Vol 5 Part I Chapter 1 Section 2 of Landau-Lifshitz. When I look at this and historic plant sizes I see back in the pre EPA world that plant sizes were much smaller and serviced smaller areas with more generators. Each of these generators is logically independent of each other. In their daily operations we had a patchwork of many smaller generators servicing more quasi closed subsystems. This equates to significantly more degrees of freedom within the system and therefor a higher entropy. These smaller subsystems when a “catastrophe” occurred would only then rely on the interconnecting grid.

    After regulation drastically increased in the 1970’s, none of the smaller coal plants were built and plant sizes increased. As a result, the size of the subsystems creeped up. The larger subsystems did not initially cause entropy to degrease as the demand for electricity grew steadily through the 1970’s-1990’s. Today, we have insignificant growth in demand. While many small natural gas fired power plants come online, they are not logically independent. Any “catastrophe” that affects gas distribution affects every generator tied to the pipeline. Additionally, the proliferation of renewable energy also causes a reduction in the grid’s entropy, which I show in the paper (highly correlated generation assets don’t add to entropy).

    What we are seeing as a result of our environmental and energy policy is simply a consequence of the second law.

    I want to also challenge the notion of distributed generation. Distributed renewable generation’s high regional covariance, reduces the entropy far below that of independent generators. Entropy is only additive if the components of the system are independent. I think the optimal mix is with thermal generators of the 150-300MW(e) range that store their energy on site. Natural gas fails due to the regional dependance on supply pipelines and periodic pumping stations. This leaves coal and nuclear. Nuclear is limited because of offsite power availability requirements in every FSAR. Rod, many others and myself included know from personal experience that offsite power is not required for safe reactor operations and that a self sustaining reactor is a safe one. Unfortunately regulations and designs prohibit such pragmatic commercial operations.

    1. Will written.
      Perhaps you can answer this for me. It is my understanding that to “move” electricity from where it is generated to where it is used requires that the phase at the source be slightly leading – to push it. That means there is wasted power in the VARs (volt amps reactive) that the turbine (power source) must provide and extra loses in the generator. It will even start limiting generating capacity. I know that normally the dispatcher keeps the VARS as low as possible to prevent this power/energy/fuel loss, but I never read any discussion about these losses in the discussion of “moving” the power from the windmills to the load hundreds of miles away. How much is this loss and is it anything to be concerned about?

      1. Rich,
        Thank you.

        The lagging (inductive) or leading (capacitive) power factor is a measure of the phase angle between the real [kW] and reactive [kVAR] load. There was some work done by ORNL that I am aware of that looked at dynamic control of the generators to vary armature field strength to cancel some of the noise generated by interface between the generator and the grid. This is an efficiency tweak, and it applies equally to all electrical generators.

        The problem of reactive load is why long distance transmission and boundaries between some of the interconnects use DC. Also why there is a lot of jabber about DC transmission lines feeding major metro areas with long distance wind power.

  13. Rod writes: “Why are so many people enthralled with the idea of going back to a time when weather and climate tightly limited our daily routines? Do they really believe that life without controllable energy supplies is wonderfully utopian?”

    As I have commented a few times on this website, it is my personal experience that there are at least some promotors of unreliable energy who fully understand the limitations of unreliable energy. However, they expect that the market will ‘solve’ these limitations by offloading the consequences of unreliability onto the poor. In other words: via ‘smart metering’ and ‘smart grids’ the intermittency of unreliables will be ‘solved’ by forcing consumers who aren’t willing – or able – to pay for energy off the grid during times of low wind and/or cloudy skies.

    So in response to your question, the answer given by at least some promotors of unreliables goes something like this:

    “We believe that our lives will be wonderfully utopian because we believe that others will feel the consequences of uncontrollable energy supplies, rather than ourselves.”

  14. I posted this in a previous entry, but It seems prudent for this thread:

    Zinc-Air batteries that store with similar economics to pumped hydro


    Looking at the EOS pdf data on page 16 the total system cost for those zinc air batteries is $1.7 per watt for a 6 hour charge… That means one days worth of storage for one gigawatt of electricity would cost $6.8 billion dollars(!)… and with a round-trip efficiency of only 75% you’re going to need 1.333 GWd to deliver that 1GWd when you want it.

    Considering the US uses 4,300 TWh per year and there are 8760 hours in a year that means average US power consumption is roughly 500 GW.

    500 x $6.8 billion = $3.4 trillion. lol. For one *day* worth of grid storage. With only one day you’d still likely need lots of backup for an RE only system. You’d need multiple days of storage, and 667 GW at least of generation to account for the cycling losses.

    Now lets compare an RE+storage system with a nuclear one for the US. You’re going to want at *least* 3 days worth of storage, but even with that you’re going to *still* need backup. 3 days of backup: = 3x500x$6.8 = $10.2 Trillion.

    Now, lets say you want a 50-50 solar wind mixup. We’ll put all the solar in the SW and most of the wind in the Midwest. This will need thousands of Gigawatts of HVDC covering thousands of miles. The HVDC line in Texas designed to transport a few tens of GWs a few hundred miles cost $7 billion, so $1 Trillion for a nationwide Multi Terawatt HVDC system is not out of the question.

    Now 50/50 wind solar means 250GW adjusted for CF for each. However since there is a 25% loss when put into batteries we need to multiply this by 1.3333. Now it’s 333 GW/adj. But wait, there is also a ~10% loss for all that HVDC interstate transportation. Now we’re up to 367GW(adj) each.

    Lets be generous and assume a 34% CF for wind and a 23% CF for solar.

    367/.34 = 1,079 GW wind
    367/.23 = 1,596 GW solar.

    Lets now assume a $2.5/watt installed cost for Wind and $2/watt for solar:

    1,079 x $2.5 = $2,697 billion for wind turbines
    1,596 x $2.0 = $3,192 billion for solar panels

    Now, added all up we have:

    $1,000 billion- Interstate HVDC grid
    $10,200 billion – 3 days storage
    $2,697 billion- 1079GW Windmills
    $3,192 billion- 1,596GW solar panels
    $17,089 billion

    Now, in order to compare this to a nuclear reactor, lets figure out the 60 year numbers for that. Windmills have a hard time lasting more than 15 years, but I’ll be generous and give them 20 years, so they’ll have to be replaced 3 times. Solar panels last 20-25 years, but I’ll be generous and give them 30.

    So, now:

    $1,000 billion- Interstate HVDC grid
    $20,400 billion- 3 days storage (30 yr life)
    $8,091 billion- 1079GW wind replaced twice
    $6,384 billion- 1596GW solar replaced once

    $35,875 billion(!!!!!!)

    A completely ridiculous sum. That’s why RE pumpers have there head in the sands as to the scale of the problem. They never put their ideas to paper and do basic math.

    And the funniest part? Even with all that you would STILL need backup.

    Now, how much for 500 GW of Nuclear power? At $5-6 a watt, a number that could easily come down with a large build out?

    500GW x $5-$6 = $2,500 billion to $3,000 billion.

    Its math like this which makes renewable energy such a joke. There is a reason why Denmark and Germany pay the highest prices in the developed world for electricity.

    1. You’re going to want at *least* 3 days worth of storage


      Yes … you posted these numbers before. And no, you didn’t respond to comments raised in that thread to your post. I called it “confused,” and not consistent with modern or anticipated grid storage applications (for high renewables or otherwise). I don’t know why such an analysis is being done or offered here. It has no bearing on the future. Posting it twice doesn’t make it any more correct?

  15. (may be a repost, ‘submit’ didn’t seem to work just now)

    Some promotors of unreliable energy here are suggesting that wind turbines are ‘still in their infancy’ and that new wind turbines ‘will last for 25 to 50 years’.

    On the contrary, wind turbine development is and has been focused on reducing costs by reducing quality. For example, wind turbine blades built today don’t last nearly as long as they did thirty years ago. New wind turbine designs are being optimized to last only as long as the subsidies, which typically last only for the first 10 or 15 years or so. After that, the wind turbines are taken down and scrapped parallel with the subsidies. Wind turbine manufacturers know this so they are reducing the quality of their product in order to optimize the (subsidized) business case for building them.

    Jorg Lempke, managing director of Zagons Logistik, believes the volume of used wind-turbine blades requiring recycling will increase substantially in a few years’ time. This is because the wind farms that will soon begin to be dismantled have blades that were not built to last as long as the initial, 1980s, generation. “I would say that about 80% of the old wind turbines that have been dismantled are being sold for reuse elsewhere, but that will change when newer wind farms are dismantled. Their blades are not as strong and will need to be recycled,” says Lempke. In part, this is because blades have become lighter and thinner than the heavier and less aerodynamic first-generation blades.


    So this is another way in which wind turbines are set to be only a passing fad, as compared to nuclear power. While new nuclear power development has very clearly been heading to extended service life of 60 to 100 years (in order to provide energy for future generations), wind turbine manufacturers are moving in the opposite direction, toward parts and materials that are optimized to last only as long as the subsidies are available. Their purpose is to satisfy the whimsical conception of sustainability promoted by the pseudo-green movement, so there is no reason to develop products that have a long service life.

    1. In mature industries, such as transmission equipment for telecoms providers, producers offer their product incl. maintenance during the life span of the equipment, and guarantee to take the stuff back at the end of the life span.

      Purchase contracts contain guarantees regarding the Mean Time Between Failure (MBTF), the Mean Time To Repair (MTTR), Availability, etc.
      Those guarantees involve compensation schedules, such as 10% of purchase price returned for each 0.1% that availability is below the guaranteed level.

      The wind turbine industry is not ready yet for this type of contracts.
      This again shows the infancy stage of the wind industry.

      1. Why do you keep saying wind power is in its “infancy”? Windmills have been around for almost a thousand years, going back to the Medieval Period. Phoenician sailors circumnavigated Africa in the Pre-Christian era using wind-powered sailing vessels. It is an ancient, ancient, intermittent, diffuse, unreliable technology, hardly something considered “infancy”.

        1. @Wayne
          The first wind turbines for real electricity production, connected to the grid, came in the seventies/eighties.

          Before that different targets, different materials, real inefficient blades (Dutch windmills even 4 blades; some of the first wind turbines 2 blades), etc.

          Then a 20KW wind turbine was already big. Now standard size 100 times bigger. While we are migrating towards 1.000 times bigger.
          Those huge steps are also an indication of immature industry..

          1. The first wind turbines for real electricity production, connected to the grid, came in the seventies/eighties. … Then a 20KW wind turbine was already big.

            Bas – The first MW-size wind turbine was built in the 1940’s.

            Before that different targets, different materials, real inefficient blades (Dutch windmills even 4 blades; some of the first wind turbines 2 blades), etc.

            Yes … the blades are now much more “efficient,” but at doing what?

            Wind Energy Company to Pay $1 Million in Bird Deaths

            Shouldn’t these costs be factored in as well?

          2. I’m just pointing out that using wind energy to do work is an ancient, primitive means of doing things. It is utterly dependent on the cycles of nature to get any work done. If the wind doesn’t blow, you are SOL. My mother remembered a time on her father’s farm back in what was then rural New Jersey that had no grid-supplied electricity. They had a windmill to pump water into a cistern. When the wind didn’t blow, the cistern tended to run dry, and they had no water. Sometimes it would last a while. Then she and her brothers would haul water from the creek up to the house in pails. Try doing that a few dozen times each day. I don’t think you’ll like it. Most people today wouldn’t.

            The rest of the story is, when her father’s farm got electricity, the first thing he did was put in a water pump and tear down his windmill. Sure, he had an electric bill to pay each month, but better that than no water.

  16. Rod, each of your attacks on the efficiency of wind is factually incorrect, and most actually highlight ways in which wind energy is superior to other energy sources. I’ll take them one by one here:
    1. Recent analysis of the impact of wind on the efficiency of fossil-fired power plants found that at 33% renewables, the impact was only 0.2%. So wind produces 99.8% of the expected fuel use and CO2 emissions savings, or 1190 pounds of CO2/MWh, after accounting for all cycling impacts at a high wind penetration. This analysis is based on real-world hourly emissions data for all fossil-fired power plants in the Western U.S. http://www.nrel.gov/electricity/transmission/western_wind.html
    2. Almost all line losses occur on low-voltage distribution lines, and thus apply to all energy sources evenly. (http://www.energy.nsw.gov.au/sustainable/efficiency/scheme/submissions-2008/sustain_neet_lend_lease.pdf, page 30). The attempt to add transmission costs to wind’s costs actually becomes a benefit for wind, as numerous studies show that grid upgrades more than pay for themselves through the reliability and economic benefits they provide to consumers. http://www.spp.org/publications/Benefits_of_Robust_Transmission_Grid.pdf, http://www.crai.com/uploadedFiles/RELATING_MATERIALS/Publications/BC/Energy_and_Environment/files/Southwest%20Power%20Pool%20Extra-High-Voltage%20Transmission%20Study.pdf, http://cleanenergytransmission.org/uploads/WIRES%20Brattle%20Rpt%20Benefits%20Transmission%20July%202013.pdf
    3. Adding wind energy to the grid does not cause any need for new power plant capacity, and actually significantly reduces the total need for power plants. Every wind integration study has found that there is more than enough flexibility on the power system today to accommodate very high levels of wind energy. http://variablegen.org/resources/ In contrast, the need for contingency reserves to accommodate the sudden failure of conventional power plants is far larger and about 40 times more costly. (http://democrats.energycommerce.house.gov/sites/default/files/documents/Testimony-Gramlich-EP-Energy-Security-Grid-Reliability-2013-5-9.pdf, see calculations in footnotes 6 and 7) Regardless, capacity is cheap, with the total cost of capacity in the PJM market accounting for only 1/8 of the energy cost in the PJM market. Regarding the false claim about a need to add inefficient power plants, Spain is able to obtain around 20% of its electricity from wind while accommodating any incremental variability using a gas generating fleet entirely made up of highly efficient combined cycle power plants.
    4. Wind energy curtailment has only occurred due to localized transmission constraints, and never because the amount of wind output exceeded total demand on the power system. Even the curtailment caused by localized transmission congestion is being eliminated as long-needed grid upgrades catch up with wind energy’s rapid growth, with curtailment cut in half from 2011 to 2012. (http://emp.lbl.gov/sites/all/files/lbnl-6356e.pdf, page 44) Further declines are occurring in 2013, with curtailment in ERCOT now approaching zero.
    5. The “parasitic losses” are far higher at conventional power plants, on the order of 7-15% of power plant energy production. http://www05.abb.com/global/scot/scot221.nsf/veritydisplay/5e627b842a63d389c1257b2f002c7e77/$file/Energy%20Efficiency%20for%20Power%20Plant%20Auxiliaries-V2_0.pdf For wind plants, the figure is far less than 1%. barnardonwind.com/2013/03/02/parasitic-power-and-wind-turbines-sounds-scary-but-whats-the-real-story/ A comprehensive literature review of all peer-reviewed studies on the lifecycle carbon emissions impacts of all energy sources demonstrates that wind’s impact is a fraction of all conventional energy sources, and is also much lower than most other renewable energy sources. http://www.nrel.gov/analysis/sustain_lca_results.html
    6. Energy storage is not needed for wind energy. The U.S. has added 60 GW of wind, and Europe even more, with zero need to add energy storage. As explained above, there is plenty of flexibility on the existing power system. Interestingly, nearly all of the 22 GW of pumped hydro energy storage in the U.S. was added to help accommodate the inflexibility and additional reserve needs imposed by large nuclear power plants. http://www.awea.org/Issues/Content.aspx?ItemNumber=5452
    Finally, it seems strange to talk about the efficiency of different energy sources without discussing the fact that most fossil and nuclear power plants immediately waste 2/3 of the energy in their fuel as waste heat at the power plant, while most modern wind turbines capture around 50% of the energy available in their fuel. DOE’s data on the average efficiency of different types of power plants is here:
    Coal: 32.7% efficiency
    Gas: 41.9% efficiency
    Nuclear: 32.6% efficiency
    http://www.eia.gov/electricity/annual/html/epa_08_01.html (divide by 3412 Btu/kWh to get efficiency)

    Michael Goggin,
    American Wind Energy Association

    1. @Michael

      Wow. Way too much there for me to respond in detail.

      However, I’d like you — and other readers — to think about something. About 75% of the supposed flexibility and capacity in our current grid is a result of burning massive quantities of fossil fuel. What possibility does wind have of doing more than marginally reducing the quantity of fossil fuel being burned?

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