Posts Tagged ‘wind power’

“Offshore wind power is not affordable” – KPMG

November 15, 2011
Any Old Wind That Blows

There are some simple and rather obvious matters that the “green” lobbies prefer to ignore.

  1. In spite of twenty years of subsidies wind power is still not commercially viable without subsidy. Solar thermal power plants enjoy feed in tariffs some 3 times higher than the cost of conventional fossil power generation. Wherever renewables have been used to any extent, electricity prices for the consumer have increased.
  2. Intermittent sources of power (which cease when the wind does not blow, or blows too hard or when the sun does not shine at night or when clouds appear) are – by definition – unreliable. They do not add to the reliable, base-load, generating capacity that any electricity grid requires and must be backed up.  In Scotland for example – as Professor Colin McInnes points out – wind power capacity now exceeds nuclear capacity but only produces about one-third of the energy.
  3. Electricity is energy in motion and cannot be stored as electricity. For any electrical grid, at any instant, generation must, perforce, equal demand – and pumped storage schemes are merely devices to try and ensure such balance. Since the outages of wind and solar power are unpredictable (though it is generally predictable that solar power will not be available at night), and cannot be relied on to meet load demand fluctuations, “balancing power” (usually from gas turbines) must be arranged for whenever wind or solar capacity is added.
  4. In addition to the direct subsidies, whenever wind or solar power is available at times when there is low load, the subsidised regime forces the turning-down of other capacity – to the detriment of that capacity – and adds to the total cost of the grid.
Now – finally – some of the real numbers are beginning to be acknowledged but not, of course, by the green lobbies. KPMG has produced a new report “Thinking about the Affordable” and Power Engineering International reports that:

New Scientist blog: CEO of “Good” Energy complains that sceptics are resorting to emotion rather than science

September 23, 2011

Juliet Davenport, founder and CEO of something carrying the subjective and emotive name “Good” Energy writes in the New Scientist blog today bemoaning the fact that climate sceptics are winning the argument by the use of emotion rather than science!!

Scientists – she believes – are not doing enough to help her cause. But she might carry a little more credibility if she attempted to use science rather than dogma and consensus. And of course if she did not have a vested interest in extorting subsidies from taxpayers. Clearly Al Gore has failed her in being “charismatic and campaigning”- but then he is no scientist and perhaps he does not count.

A charismatic campaigning voice from the scientific community would make a huge difference in helping to combat the small but vocal minority of sceptics who tend to resort to emotion rather than science to make their arguments. …….. 

…. I can’t help but think it would be better to see all government departments arguing more loudly about the long term benefits of tackling climate change and the transition to a low carbon economy. To do that convincingly, however, they need to have information at their fingertips. Scientists have a huge role to play here, debating and responding to claims made through the media and simplifying messages for the public. They need to make the case that a low-carbon economy is not only necessary for tackling climate change, but also that it is technologically possible.

If we are going to act in time on climate change, it is vital that we keep up the pressure on the government to form a policy framework that we can then deliver.

The coming gas glut and the availability of shale gas – now even in the UK – must be giving her nightmares. Without climate change alarmism and the demonisation of carbon dioxide, the cost of wind and solar power would make them non-starters.

But the tide is turning.

Wind power has less potential than claimed and the role of gas is underestimated

August 14, 2011

That the intermittent nature of solar and wind power inherently limits how such capacity can be installed and despatched seems pretty obvious but has always been underestimated by the renewable energy lobby. As subsidies are reduced in the face of government cutbacks and as the still very high costs of renewable power work their way into electricity tariffs some of the “green sheen” surrounding solar and wind power is becoming decidedly tarnished.

A new  study of the UK energy system has been published by the Oxford Institute for Energy Studies 

The Impact of Import Dependency and Wind Generation on UK Gas Demand and Security of Supply to 2025

By Howard Rogers

Summary: This paper by Howard Rogers challenges the assumption of UK government policy papers and projections that, as a result of substantial increases in renewable and other low carbon generation capacity, the role of gas in the will decline rapidly over the next decade and beyond. The study suggests that gas will retain a central and undiminished role in the UK power generation sector. Although its role in the power generation sector may change, gas is likely to be particularly important in respect of ensuring security of supply in the context of increasing intermittent wind generation. As a result, additional gas storage will be needed and, given current market conditions, immediate attention needs to be devoted to creating incentives to ensure this will be provided.

The Telegraph writes:

UK Windpower targets are ‘unfeasible’

Howard Rogers, senior research fellow at the Oxford Institute for Energy Studies, said in a study that Britain’s power network is not built for wind power accounting for more than a third of capacity on the system.

He said that any more than 28 gigawatts of wind would mean it is likely that turbine owners would regularly have to be paid to keep capacity off the system. Earlier this year, six wind farms were paid £900,000 to stop generating for one night, because the system became overloaded.

The study challenges the ambitious estimates in a study commissioned by the Government which estimates that 58 gigawatts of wind is likely to be built in a “medium activity” scenario by 2030, out of a total system of 80 gigawatts of capacity. …. Mr Rogers said this does not fully consider the ability of the grid to cope with the intermittency of wind, which often does not blow at all or can be too strong, causing overload.

“It would appear that the more ambitious targets for wind generation in the UK have been formulated without a full appreciation of the costs and complexities caused by the intermittency of very substantial levels of wind generation,” the report says. “The analysis concludes that the maximum feasible level of wind generating capacity is 28 gigawatts.

At higher levels than this, the country faces the prospect of short notice intervention to reduce turbine output with the added complication that forecasts of wind speed beyond six hours into the future are inherently uncertain.”

The Oxford Institute for Energy Studies is allied to three Oxford University colleges but also receives funding from “members” and sponsors, such as gas producers BP and BG Group and companies with huge investments in wind power, including Centrica and Dong Energy. Its gas research is also sponsored by National Grid.

Professor Jonathan Stern writes in the preface to the study: “It is no part of the remit of the Oxford Institute for Energy Studies gas research programme to promote natural gas, either in the UK or more generally. We are gas researchers not advocates or lobbyists. However, our research increasingly suggests that the likely future role of gas in energy balances has and continues to be underestimated.”


Wind stops wind power….. 

Bio-gas is out, shale gas is in and there is no “peak” gas in sight!

Renewable Energy follies: Subsidies discourage maintenance

July 6, 2011

A key problem with subsidising “renewable energy” is that the economics become so distorted that developers/owners focus first on maximising the extraction of subsidies and not on the long-term operation of the plant or the production of power. As soon as payback is achieved the focus is on generating revenues while minimising  expenditure on operation and maintenance (O & M). Inevitably such plants are abandoned as soon as the O & M costs approach the level of revenues. Whereas conventional power plants (coal, gas, hydro and nuclear) have a design life of 30 – 40 years and often carry out maintenance to extend this lifetime, subsidised “renewable energy” plants have a lifetime of less than 10 years and often even less.

For example grants for construction and high tariffs were used for many years to encourage sugar producers in India and Brazil and other countries to build power plants burning bagasse (the waste matter left after crushing sugar-cane to extract juice). But the consequence was that sugar producers could generate more revenue by producing power rather than sugar – especially when the sugar price was low. Sugar producers built power plants which were larger than they needed themselves and based solely on the level of grant that could be extracted. Access to the grid was guaranteed. But again many of these plants were abandoned as soon as the O & M costs became too onerous. Effectively the developers had recovered all the investment (which was mainly grant money anyway) and more from the allowed 16 – 20% rate of return (which in practice was more like about 30-50% ) of the supposed investment. As plants were “cashed out” and abandoned, the grid just had to absorb the disturbances – which were not negligible.

The subsidies in Europe for wind and solar power are encouraging the same behaviour. In Germany the almost profligate subsidy regime has encouraged the implementation of less than serious power projects by less than serious developers. The game has been the extraction of subsidies not of generating power. In Germany wind turbine and photo-voltaic solar cell plants popped up everywhere. Farmers and shop-keepers and schools all have became power generators. Grid stability has been weakened to cope with the plethora of small plants cutting in and out of the grid. The obscenely high feed-in tariffs in Spain have encouraged solar plants to burn more gas than permitted and pass off the power generated as being “renewable power” at the high tariff. But as the subsidy regime weakens and tariffs reduce and grants are scaled down, the likelihood of these plants being abandoned is increasing. Certainly there is no incentive to spend any money on maintenance.

P. Gosselin at NoTricksZone has this about a pv solar plant (2.7 MW) after less than 2 years:

Weed-Covered, Neglected Solar Park: 20 Acres, $11 Million, Only One And Half Years Old! 

solar plant weeds

Over the next few years we shall see many more solar and wind power plants in Europe where money will not be spent on maintenance unless it is absolutely necessary for the generation of short-term (subsidised and inflated) revenues. Long-term maintenance will just not happen. And when the O & M costs become too onerous the plants will simply be abandoned. No doubt bankruptcies will be arranged when the plants are cashed-out such that there is no recourse to the developers/owners for any remaining liabilities.

Subsidies just don’t work for their intended purpose in power generation – but they are short-term gold mines for some developers.

UK to outsource wind farms to Ireland

June 20, 2011

From the ever-reliable Guardian comes the story of high level diplomatic activity to get Ireland to be the wind-power producer for the UK.

I wonder if this means that all the UK taxpayers subsidies for wind power will also then flow to Ireland?

Ireland’s unspoiled, windswept west coast could become the focus of a new wave of wind farm construction in the wake of a high-level diplomatic meeting to be held tomorrow in London.

UK deputy prime minister Nick Clegg, Taoiseach Enda Kenny and other senior members of the British-Irish Council will gather to discuss a plan to expand electricity grid connections throughout the British Isles. In particular, they want to build new inter-connectors to link the electricity grids of Ireland and Britain in order to transmit power from new windfarms in Ireland to England.

The aim of the plan, created by the British government, is to open up remote regions that could provide Britain with more power generated by wind farms, as well as by tide and wave plants, and so reduce its reliance on fossil fuels.

Republic of Ireland, Kerry county, Dingle peninsula, Sleahead beach

Sleahead beach on the Dingle peninsula in Kerry, Ireland, which fierce winds make suitable for turbines. Photograph: Hemis/Alamy

“The west coast of Ireland has some of the fiercest winds in Europe,” said Charles Hendry, the UK energy minister, who will be attending the meeting. “They whip in off the Atlantic which makes it is an ideal location for wind farms. However, the Irish market for electricity is less than a tenth of that of Britain. That means that companies cannot afford to build wind farms in Ireland because there is no market for their power. We want to put that right.”

The construction of wind farms in Ireland that would supply power to neighbouring countries could help to put the UK back on track in its use of clean, renewable energy. Britain has recently been criticised for falling short of its targets for constructing wind power plants and for cutting its carbon emissions. Importing clean power could help to resolve the problem.

New report: “wind cannot be relied upon to provide any significant level of generation at any defined time in the future”

April 6, 2011

It is a bit like belabouring the obvious for the upmpteenth time but it has the stamp of authority of  a Consulting firm supported by the John Muir Trust and it is reported in the main stream media. Perhaps – one can dream – some realism will return to the rose-tinted views prevailing about renewable energy.

Intermittent sources of energy cannot – by wishful thinking and pious platitudes alone – become continuous suppliers of electricity until the storage of electricity becomes real. And since electricity is itself energy in a state of flux, it is not amenable to any simple storage as a flux.

The BBC reports:

Wind farms are much less efficient than claimed, producing below 10% of capacity for more than a third of the time, according to a new report. The analysis also suggested output was low during the times of highest demand.

The report, supported by conservation charity the John Muir Trust, concluded turbines “cannot be relied upon” to produce significant levels of power generation.

… The research, carried out by Stuart Young Consulting, analysed electricity generated from UK wind farms between November 2008 to December 2010. Statements made by the wind industry and government agencies commonly assert that wind turbines will generate on average 30% of their rated capacity over a year, it said. But the research found wind generation was below 20% of capacity more than half the time and below 10% of capacity over one third of the time.

It also challenged industry claims that periods of widespread low wind were “infrequent”. The average frequency and duration of a “low wind event” was once every 6.38 days for 4.93 hours, it suggested. The report noted: “Very low wind events are not confined to periods of high pressure in winter. “They can occur at any time of the year.” During each of the four highest peak demands of 2010, wind output reached just 4.72%, 5.51%, 2.59% and 2.51% of capacity, according to the analysis.

It concluded wind behaves in a “quite different manner” from that suggested by average output figures or wind speed records.

The report said: “It is clear from this analysis that wind cannot be relied upon to provide any significant level of generation at any defined time in the future. There is an urgent need to re-evaluate the implications of reliance on wind for any significant proportion of our energy requirement.”

Wind Power capacity compromised in Texas: Rolling blackouts as Mexico supplies some back up

February 4, 2011

That wind power generating capacity is intermittent capacity and cannot be relied upon is obvious but sometimes escapes notice in the enthusiasm for “renewable energy”. That wind power must be backed up by other more reliable generating capacity for the periods when winds are too low or too high or when the weather is too cold is also often glossed over. That wind power must be used when the wind does blow irrespective of level of demand  and thereby displace more stable power (thus rendering it more expensive) is an inevitable consequence.

The following report comes as no surprise.


The Electric Reliability Council of Texas said 7,000 megawatts of generating capacity tripped [“tripped” means failed]Tuesday night, leaving the state without enough juice. That’s enough capacity to power about 1.4 million homes. By rotating outages, ERCOT said it prevented total blackouts.
“We have the double whammy of extremely high demand, given the lowest temperatures in 15 years, combined with generation that’s been compromised and is producing less than expected or needed,” said Oncor spokeswoman Catherine Cuellar. Oncor operates power lines in North Texas and facilitated the blackouts for ERCOT.
The article didn’t give a clue as to what generating capability failed, but I can make a pretty good guess: Wind energy…
For a time, Texas was bragging about being the #1 state for “wind power” (it still is) and we were bombarded with TV commercials and newspaper editorial touting the “Pickens Plan” for massive spending on wind energy. Pickens himself was building a huge wind farm in northwest Texas. He has now ceased construction.
Now, because of relying so much on wind power, the state is suffering blackouts.
Mexico is trying to help by shipping power to Texas, but it is not enough.

Wind turbine manufacturers in trouble

January 7, 2011
Suzlon wind energy project

Suzlon wind energy project: Image via Wikipedia

Beleaguered wind power major Suzlon, may be on the block. Sources indicate that Spain’s Gamesa is looking to pick up a majority stake in the company. Suzlon added in its statement to the stock exchanges that the news was both speculative in nature and inaccurate. Market rumours also have it that Suzlon’s founders the Tanti family may sell its entire 55% stake to Gamesa’s UK unit.

Suzlon is the most leveraged wind company with net debt to earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortisation ratio of 4.2, say JPMorgan analysts. That compares with less than 1 for global peers.
There are two ways out when saddled with Himalayan debt – either sell assets to pay off the debts, or declare bankruptcy. Suzlon is selling off stakes in assets such as gearbox-maker Hansen. But the question is what could be going on in the mind of promoter Tulsi Tanti, who was the nation’s eighth-richest man in 2006. After all, Mr Tanti had picked ‘Suz’ in Suzlon from the word, soojh-boojh, which means intelligence, and ‘lon’ from the word, loan. One part of it, ‘lon’, seems to have run longer than desired. So, will the other inspiration, intelligence, come into play?
If investors bet that intelligence would play a more dominant role than passion, then they may not be wrong in speculating that a possible stake sale could happen. Of course, at what valuation is anyone’s guess.
Mr Tanti, who once delivered fortunes for private funds such as Chryscapital and Citigroup, now heads a company whose shares are down more than 85% from their peak. The company may have created a record in going for seven share sales in five years, but there may be no one to buy in the next issue.

Britain’s nascent wind manufacturing industry has suffered a blow after the owner of Scotland’s only large turbine plant went into administration. The plant near Campbeltown, owned by Danish firm Skykon, has been closed and more than 120 staff sent home without pay after Ernst & Young was appointed as administrators this week.

A spokesman for the administrators said several expressions of interest had been received for the business and that staff would be updated next week. The future of the plant has been uncertain for several years. The Scottish government last year agreed to provide a £9m rescue loan to persuade Skykon to buy it from Danish rival Vestas. But Skykon has been in insolvency proceedings for months in Denmark after a slowdown in wind turbine orders across Europe. Only about £2m of the loan has already been paid. Ernst & Young declined to comment on whether the Scottish government would get that money back.

The prospects of production resuming at the plant are bleak. The number of new wind farms being planned in Europe is falling because governments are withdrawing subsidies to cut budget deficits while energy companies’ balance sheets are becoming increasingly strained.

Now conservationists come out against wind power

January 3, 2011
Whooping Crane

Whooping crane: Image via Wikipedia

Officials with American Bird Conservancy on Wednesday cited data from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service that estimates 400,000 birds of various species are killed by turbine blades annually reports the Omaha World Herald.

One of the nation’s largest bird conservation groups says rapid construction of wind energy projects will endanger several avian species……That includes the whooping crane, a famous migratory bird and annual visitor to central Nebraska.

“Golden eagles, whooping cranes and greater sage-grouse are likely to be among the birds most affected by poorly planned and sited wind projects,” said Kelly Fuller, a spokeswoman for the conservancy.

“Unless the government acts now to require that the wind industry respect basic wildlife safeguards, these three species will be at ever greater risk.”

Officials with Nebraska Public Power District and MidAmerican Energy Co. said potential wind farm developments are carefully examined by experts and conservationists to determine their ecological impact.

“We monitor for bird kills but haven’t seen anything of significance,” said Mark Becker, an NPPD spokesman. “But we have not heard of any endangered species or any endangered birds being killed in Nebraska.”

Bleak future for wind power generators in Sweden

November 22, 2010

Swedish P1 Radio had a broadcast this morning where wind turbine owners in southern Sweden were interviewed. Wind turbines in Southern Sweden operate at an average capacity of about 25% but when the wind blows in in Sweden it usually blows in Denmark as well. As Denmark builds more subsidised but intermittent wind turbines they become more dependant upon the import of hydro and nuclear power from Sweden and Norway.

It could be a dark future for wind power, at least for wind power owners in southern Sweden. As wind turbines multiply, the surplus power when the wind blows reduce prices and wind turbine revenues are reduced drastically.

The Marketing Director for Lunds Energi said that they had no plans for building any more wind turbines to add to the 6 small wind turbines they already had.  There was no chance, he said, of the Danes importing wind power from Sweden when the wind was blowing for then they had their own power. And when the wind was not blowing and prices were better there was no power to sell!

Vindkraftverk i Vänern. Foto: Fredrik Sandberg/Scanpix

Wind power plant in Lake Vännern. Foto: Fredrik Sandberg/Scanpix

Kjell Jansson, the Managing Director of Svensk Energi was also interviewed and pointed out that electricity could not be stored except as hot water. Therefore using surplus wind energy to store in heating systems was at best a partial solution but did not help the fact that industry and people needed electricity as electricity – and not just as hot water. Even the planned Danish solution of using surplus power to “charge up” heating systems for district heating as hot water or for “charging up” electric cars relied on having electricity – from nuclear and hydro power from Sweden and Norway – available to be imported for the Danish electricity system.

Therefore, he continued, when the wind did not blow in Denmark  – and then usually did not blow over the whole of Scandinavia – the high electricity price was an advantage for the hydro and nuclear generators. In any case this would require much more investment in transmission systems and in hydro power generation.

But I can see a situation where Denmark will pay swingeing prices for imported electricity when the wind is not blowing and a cold wave is sweeping across Europe. And if it is a really severe cold wave then there may be no electricity available for import.

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