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A More Realistic Cost of Wind Energy

Wind Energy Costs


Like the corn-to-ethanol and solar industries, the Big Wind industry basks in political correctness and political favoritism. Big Wind has grown comfortable in its dependence on federal and state governments that decide which energy industries will be winners or losers — discrimination enforced by squeezing taxpayers, rigging the tax code and regulations, such as state-mandated “must-take” provisions and renewable portfolio standards, RPS. 

 

Various Big Wind promoters maintain the cost of wind energy is competitive with other sources of energy. As shown below, this is hardly the case. They often point to power purchase agreements, PPAs, between wind turbine owners and utilities to sell at 5 to 6 c/kWh as proof of market price parity.

 

However, costs are not the same as prices. Energy costs have to do with the unsubsidized cost of producing energy. Pricing that energy is greatly influenced by the level of subsidies. If that were not the case, wind turbine owners would not be fighting so hard for various subsidies, such as extending the 2.3 c/kWh production tax credit; its pre-tax value is about 3.4 c/kWh, depending on tax rates. This credit is not trivial, as the US average grid price is about 5 c/kWh.

 

The EIA calculates the levelized cost of NEW onshore wind turbine plants placed in service in 2018, capacity factor 0.34, 30-yr life, at $86.6/MWh, including transmission costs of $3.2/MWh.

These costs include various subsidies not available, or partially available, to other sources of energy, and exclude various hidden and not-so-hidden costs. Also, the assumed 30-yr life is grossly excessive, based on European experience; and the transmission cost is understated, based on examples in this article; and the costs of generation sufficiency (balancing, standby, etc.) and grid sufficiency (extending and augmenting the grid, energy storage, etc.) are not included. As a result, comparison with other energy sources, based on the EIA data, becomes invalid.

 

NOTE: To illustrate the EIA understatement of transmission cost: The components of the US levelized cost of energy are 58% generation, 31% distribution, 11% transmission. As wind and solar plants are added, the T&D percentages are likely to increase; the EIA assumed a transmission impact on levelized cost of 3.2/(86.6-3.2) = 3.8%, about 1/3 of 11%; the EIA gives no explanation for its low estimate.

 

http://www.eei.org/issuesandpolicy/transmission/Documents/transmission_i...

http://www.harriswilliams.com/sites/default/files/industry_reports/final...

 

NOTE: To illustrate the EIA understatement of transmission cost:  If the US investment in transmission were $7,000 million in 2007 without having to integrate wind and solar energy, then $8,902 – $7,000 = $1,902 was invested to integrate wind and solar energy, almost all for wind energy. US installed wind turbine capacity was 11,575 MW at end 2006 and 16,907 MW at end 2007, for an increase of 5,332 MW, at a capital cost of about $9,598 million, i.e., the transmission cost adder is about 1,902/9,598 = 19.8%. Similar calculations for 2008 through 2012 show percentages of 16.3; 19.7; 38.8; 40.8; 33.0; the EIA assumed a transmission impact on levelized cost of 3.2/(86.6-3.2) = 3.8%; the EIA gives no explanation for its low estimate.

 

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wind_power_in_the_United_States

http://www.greentechmedia.com/articles/read/transmission-investment-sees...

http://www.eia.gov/forecasts/aeo/pdf/electricity_generation.pdf 

 

NOTE: US installed wind turbine capacity was 60,007 MW at the end of 2012, which can produce 60,007 x 8,760 x 0.32 = 168 TWh/yr, or 4.4% of US energy generation. On a global basis, wind energy’s contribution is about 3.2%. 

 

Regional Variations in Capacity Factor: Based on a sub-sample of wind turbine projects built from 2007 through 2011, the regional average CFs in 2012 were:

 

– Central States……….0.36

– Great Lakes…………..0.28

– Northeast……………..0.24

– Southeast……………..0.23  

 

These CFs reflect the quality of the wind resource. See page VII of URL.

 

2012 CFs for NEW projects commissioned in 2010 and 2011 were: 

 

– Central States………..0.370

– Great Lakes……………0.280

– West Coast…………….0.260 

– Northeast………………0.252 

– Southeast………………0.247 

 

See page 48 of URL. 

http://www1.eere.energy.gov/wind/pdfs/2012_wind_technologies_market_repo...

 

Project capital costs are about $2,000/kW in the Central States; about $2,600/kW on 2,500-ft-high ridgelines in New England; and about $4,500/kW offshore. If O&M/MWh in the Central States is set at 1, ridge line New England is about 2, and offshore about 3.

 

As a result of a realistic 20-year life, instead of 30 years assumed by the EIA; a realistic CF of 0.25, instead of 0.33, or better, claimed to get permits; the higher O&M/MWh; the higher capital cost/MW, New England wind energy costs are at least 2 times Central States. Similar reasoning applies to offshore energy costs being at least 3 – 4 times Central States.

 

http://www.eia.gov/forecasts/aeo/pdf/electricity_generation.pdf

http://theenergycollective.com/willem-post/169521/wind-turbine-energy-ca...

 

A MORE REALISTIC COST OF WIND ENERGY

 

The below data are based on extracts from a report titled “The Hidden Costs of Wind Electricity”, December 2012, authored by Dr. Taylor and Tom Tanton. 

 

http://www.atinstitute.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/12/Hidden-Cost.pdf

http://eelegal.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/09/Hidden-Cost.pdf 

 

Assuming a realistic 20-year life of a wind turbine increases the levelized cost to $93/MWh; the EIA uses 30 years, the NREL uses 20 years. No wind turbine manufacturer claims 30 years. Some claim 25 years, others 20 years, but European experience indicates 20 years or less.

 

After backing out the effect of accelerated depreciation for wind turbine plants, the levelized cost increases to $101/MWh. Accelerated depreciation rules, just for wind turbines, allow the entire investment to be written off in 5 years, to make tax-shelter spreadsheets look good. The 5-yr write-off period is unheard of in the rest of the utility industry.

 

Adding the costs of:

 

– increased frequency of start/stop operation

– keeping gas and coal plants available in cold standby mode

– keeping some gas plants in synchronous (3,600 rpm) standby mode

– operating more hours in part-load-ramping mode (extra Btu/kWh, extra CO2/kWh)

 

to balance the variable wind energy, adds $17/MWh for natural gas, and $55/MWh for coal, and reduces the CO2 emission reduction effectiveness of wind energy, as more and more wind energy is added to the grid.


NOTE: In synchronous (3,600 rpm) standby mode (high-speed idling, 24/7/365, no or minimal energy sent to the grid), the fuel consumption is 6 to 8 percent of rated fuel consumption.

 

Extra balancing NG fuel adds $6.00/MWh, extra balancing coal fuel adds $9.00/MWh 

 

Transmission system investments to gather energy from the wind turbines and transmit it from less populated areas, via HVDC and HVAC lines, to population centers adds $27/MWh.  

 

Thus, the total levelized cost of wind energy averages $151/MWh with NG back-up/balancing and $192/MWh with coal back-up/balancing.

 

Absent economically-viable, utility-scale, energy storage, variable/intermittent, non-dispatchable wind energy cannot exist on the grid, unless balanced by dispatchable coal, gas and hydro plants. For that reason, any levelized costs should be stated as a combination of:

 

– wind energy balanced by coal energy 

– wind energy balanced by gas energy 

– wind energy balanced by hydro energy

 

System costs can be determined by the weighted average cost of the combinations, as proposed in the Taylor/Tanton report. 

 

NOTE: Levelized costs are the net present value of the total cost of new construction (including finance charges during and after construction), maintenance, and operation of a generating plant over its lifetime, expressed in dollars per unit of output, i.e. dollars/MWh. They are used to compare various generating sources to see which sources are the most cost-effective when constructing new plants.

 

GROSSLY EXCESSIVE WIND ENERGY SUBSIDIES

 

The Taylor/Tanton report may or may not overstate, but it certainly performs a useful purpose to attract attention to the heavily-subsidized, wind energy boondoggle, and the inane crowing about wind energy being at grid parity, and the inane crowing about it lowering grid electric rates (BTW, not the rates of rate payers), whereas, in fact, that is merely so, because of the various subsidies, such as: 

 

– accelerated depreciation to write off the entire project in 5 years, 50% in the first year, just for wind turbines, plus 

– the 2.3 c/kWh production tax credit, PTC, for 10 years, or 

– in lieu of the PTC, receive a 30% investment tax credit, ITC, or 

– in lieu of the ITC, receive a 30% CASH GRANT at commissioning of the project, in case the wind turbine owner claims he has no taxes due against which to apply the ITC; “1603c clause of ARRA”, plus other 

– government grants, low-cost loans, and loan guarantees, plus 

– the socializing, via rate schedules, of various other costs that are mostly hidden/not-easily-identified, as explained in detail in the ATI report by George Taylor, Ph.D. and Thomas Tanton, each with decades of experience analyzing the economics of energy systems.

http://eelegal.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/09/Hidden-Cost.pdf

 

With enough money, even pigs can be made to fly, and even wind energy can be made to appear at grid parity, with much of the costs foisted off onto the public via the rate schedules, the tax code and government hand-outs..

 

GRID LEVEL COSTS, PER OECD REPORT

 

The historic cost data of wind turbine plants in various geographical areas are well known. This is not the case with grid level costs, except in countries that produce 10 to 20 percent of their annual energy with wind turbines.

 

In Europe, several countries, such as Denmark, Spain, Ireland, Portugal, etc., produced 10 to 20 percent of their energy with wind turbines at least 10 years ago. As their build-outs took place, more became known regarding grid level costs. It appears these grid level costs are significantly greater than claimed by various wind energy promoters.

 

The below Organisation of Economic Co-operation and Development, OECD, study quantified the levelized costs of the grid level effects of variable energy, such as wind and solar, on the grid. It includes three categories of costs:

 

1) Balancing: 

 

Wind energy balancing by cycling generating units requiring: 

 

– increased cold starts and stops. 

– increased warm starts and stops. 

– increased synchronous operation (3,600 rpm) in regulating mode

– increased ramping up and down while operating at part-load. 

 

All four cause increased fuel consumption and increased wear and tear of equipment, just as would be the case with a car. 

 

2) Grid Level:

 

– the costs of connecting wind turbines to grid. 

– grid reinforcement and extension. 

– the cost of energy losses to transmit the energy from wind turbines in remote locations to end users in population centers; such losses will be significant if transmitting from west of Chicago to the East Coast, as envisioned by the NREL.

http://theenergycollective.com/willem-post/169521/wind-turbine-energy-ca...

 

3) System Level:

 

– the costs of back-up (adequacy), i.e., keeping almost all EXISTING generators fueled, staffed, and in good working order to provide energy when wind energy is minimal, about 30% of the hours of the year in NE, about 10 – 15% of the hours of the year west of Chicago. 

– the costs of capacity payments, to offset the hit to the economics of existing generators, as these units will be producing less kWh/yr, but still are needed when wind energy is minimal. With less kwh/yr produced, the cost of each kwh must increase to cover fixed costs, but that cost will often exceed the grid spot price!

 

NOTE: Here is an article regarding the intermittency of wind energy in the UK, which concludes, absent economically-viable, utility-scale energy storage (not yet invented), nearly all existing generators are needed to provide continuous electric service, as required by a modern society, no matter how many wind turbines are built in the UK.

http://www.scientific-alliance.org/sites/default/files/Partington%20wind...

 

In the US, the costs of the above three items for onshore IWTs are minimal, about $5/MWh, or less, when the annual wind energy on the grid is only a few percent, because most grids have some spare balancing and transmission capacity to absorb variable wind energy. As the wind energy percentage nears 3 – 5% (the current US condition), the spare capacity of most grids is used up.

 

Because the costs are minimal, and because there is so much “noise” in the data, and because adequate, real-time, 1/4-hour performance data is usually lacking, various claims regarding wind energy operational and cost impacts on the grid, and CO2 emission reduction effectiveness, are made that cannot be verified; an ideal situation for IWT promoters to spin their deceptive yarns.

 

The costs of the above three items are about $7.5/MWh at 5%, about $16.30/MWh at 10%, and about 19.84/MWh at 30%, according to the OECD study. 

 

This is significantly greater than the about $5/MWh usually claimed by IWT promoters, but those claims are for when the wind energy percent is only a few percent, as is the case in most of the US. See page 8 of below URL. Corresponding costs for offshore wind turbine plants would be significantly greater.

 

These costs are a significant part of the US annual average grid price of about $50/MWh. Mostly, they are “socialized”, i.e., charged to rate payers, not to wind turbine owners. As a result, wind turbine owners, with help of other subsidies, such as the $23/MWh production tax credit, and accelerated depreciation schedules just for wind turbines, can underbid other low-cost producers, causing them to sell less energy and become less viable over time, i.e., future investors would be less willing to invest in such producers, unless compensated with “capacity payments”, that also will be charged to rate payers, not wind turbine owners; a free ride all-around.

http://www.oecd-nea.org/ndd/reports/2012/system-effects-exec-sum.pdf

 

COMPARISON OF COSTS OF OECD AND TAYLOR/TANTON REPORTS

 

The OECD report states higher estimated costs for Europe than the US, even though Norway and Sweden are doing wind energy balancing with hydro plants at low cost for Denmark, the Netherlands, Germany and the UK; all these countries have robust HVDC and HVAC interconnections. Spain, largely an island grid, is using pumped hydro and gas turbines for balancing (more costly than hydro) and Ireland, largely an island grid, is using gas turbines for balancing (more costly than hydro).

 

The OECD estimated costs for Europe are higher than US costs, because Europe has decades of real-time, grid operations data, and decades of energy systems investment data to get to high levels of annual wind energy, such as 10 to 20 percent, i.e., the OECD study had no need for “modeling with supercomputers” or engage in estimating future costs, a la NREL studies. 

 

NREL STUDY OF WESTERN INTERCONNECTION

 

The NREL study titled “The Western Wind and Solar Integration Study Phase 2”, issued in 2012, analyzes the effects of having a total of 33% wind and solar annual energy on the grid by simulating grid operations on a sub-hourly basis using computerized modeling. 

 

The Western Electricity Coordinating Council, WECC, a.k.a. Western Interconnection, including the western states of the United States, the two western provinces of Canada and a small part of Mexico, had 885,000 GWh of energy on its grid in 2012, of which wind energy was about 38,055 GWh, or about 4.3%, and hydro energy was about 170,000 GWh, or about 20%. 

 

At that low annual wind energy percentage most grids have enough spare part-load-ramping capacity to balance wind energy with only minor impacts on the efficiency of fossil-fueled generators and on their CO2 emissions, especially if much of the wind energy balancing is performed by hydro plants.

http://www.wecc.biz/Planning/PerformanceAnalysis/Documents/2012_WECC_SOT...

 

The NREL extrapolating from the grid conditions at 4.3% annual wind energy to hypothetical grid conditions at 33% annual wind energy, 0.33 x 885,000 = 292,050 GWh/yr, with computerized modeling, and then make pronouncements regarding capital costs, operating costs, CO2 emission reductions, and rate payer cost savings, is beyond credible. This may serve the PR purposes of the AWEA, et al., to sway the public and legislatures, and to keep subsidies flowing, but will be of little use to grid operators. The NREL makes the claim capital costs for transmission system build-outs to go from 4.3% to 33% wind energy would be minor. This appears to be wholly unrealistic. See next section.

 

Here is a “Fast Facts” memo from the California ISO, CAISO, which indicates its grid’s flexible generator capacity is nowhere near where it needs to be to accommodate increasing wind and solar energy on the grid. Any capital investment costs for increased flexible generator capacity, transmission system build-outs, and associated O&M cost increases, will be charged to rate payers via rate schedules and fees on electric bills, not to wind turbine owners.

http://www.caiso.com/Documents/FlexibleResourcesHelpRenewables_FastFacts...

 

A much better approach would have been using the many years of existing grid operations data, emissions data, and cost data of the European countries that already have 15 to 20 percent of annual wind energy on their grids, and learn about their costs and CO2 emissions.

http://www.nrel.gov/docs/fy13osti/55588.pdf

 

The tendency in the US has been to underestimate wind energy costs to increase its political/economic attractiveness. As a result, the OECD report indicates lesser costs for wind energy than appears to be the case, based on the Taylor/Tanton report.

 

NOTE: Due to water supply conditions and reservoir storage capacities, the output of hydro plants cannot be augmented to increase energy production, as with a thermal plants. To maximize the capacity of wind energy balancing, the hydro plants would need to be centrally controlled.

 

NOTE: Denmark generated about 28% of its total energy with onshore and offshore wind turbines in 2012, but it uses the hydro plants of Norway and Sweden to balance almost all of it, because its domestic balancing capacity has been for some years, and still is, insufficient. Denmark usually generates wind energy at night when demand is low, i.e., it is exported (at low cost) to Norway and Sweden, according to energy flows over international connections. BTW, Denmark has the highest household electric rates in Europe, about 30.0 eurocent/kWh, including all fees and taxes; Germany is a close second, about 29.2 eurocent/kWh.

http://epp.eurostat.ec.europa.eu/statistics_explained/index.php?title=Fi...


Computerized Modeling is Subjective: Computerized modeling usually is highly subjective, as are cost estimates, especially if performed by pro-RE people in government trying to “prove” the positive aspects of their RE programs.

 

The IPCC used its methods to “prove” global warming, but its computerized modeling was found to be flawed.

 

CAPITAL COSTS OF TRANSMISSION SYSTEM BUILD-OUTS

 

Below are some examples of the estimated capital costs of transmission system build-outs to accommodate wind turbines. The costs are much greater than claimed by the NREL in its various studies, so as to make wind energy look more competitive, and not to arouse the public, as any costs of the transmission system build-outs will be “socialized”, i.e., charged to rate payers, not to wind turbine owners. 

 

New England Example No.1: The ISO-NE performed a study of having 23% of energy delivered to the NE grid from wind by 2030. 

 

– Wind turbine plants, roads, tie-ins to transmission systems 7,500 MW, onshore x $2,600,000/MW + 4,500 MW offshore x $3,600,000/MW = $36 billion; 61.9% of costs.

 

– HVDC onshore overlay + HVDC offshore transmission systems + modifications to existing HVAC systems, per ISO-NE, $19 to $25 billion, say $22 billion, or 22000/12000 = $1.83 million/MW of wind turbines; 38.1% of costs. 

http://www.nescoe.com/uploads/2030_power_system_study_rev.pdf

 

Production: (7,500 MW x CF 0.30* + 4,500 MW x CF 0.40) x 8,760 hr/yr = 35,478 GWh/yr^, less losses.

 

* The current ACTUAL Northeast CF is 0.24. See URL. The ISO-NE study ASSUMES the CF will increase to 0.30; no basis is given. A starry-eyed “assumption”? Will NE wind conditions be sufficient for this assumption? I think not. 

http://www1.eere.energy.gov/wind/pdfs/2012_wind_technologies_market_repo...

 

^ The current NE wind energy production is about 1,200 MWh/yr, i.e., almost ALL capital costs are yet to be spent.

 

New England Example No. 2: Northern Pass, an HVDC, north-south transmission system is planned from Franklin, NH, to Deerfield, NH; 187 miles; capacity 1,200 MW; capital cost $1.4 billion; 1400/187 = $7.49 million/mile, or 1400/1200 = $1.17 million/MW.

 

HVDC energy from hydro plants in sparsely-populated Quebec, New Brunswick and Labrador is fed into the system at the Canada-NH border and transmitted to southern NH, where it is fed, after conversion, into existing HVAC systems; any modifications required to the HVAC systems are not included in the cost estimate.

http://www.northernpass.us/project-overview.htm

 

Mid East Coast Example: Trans-Elect and Atlantic Grid Development are the project developers of the Atlantic Wind Connection, AWC. The AWC will be designed to transmit energy from 7,000 MW of offshore wind turbines to consumers in New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland and Virginia.

 

Construction period 2016 – 2026; the offshore HVDC transmission backbone will be built in five phases; total estimated cost $6.311 billion; this estimate likely excludes connecting the wind turbines to the HVDC backbone, as the locations of the wind turbines, spread out over an area of about 600 km x 40 km = 24,000 km2, or 9,266 sq miles, are not yet known. 

 

A series of offshore stations will convert the AC energy from the IWTs to DC and step up the voltage to 320 kV for transmission via HVDC lines to the onshore grids, where onshore stations will convert it to AC; 6311/7000 = $0.90 million/MW, comparable to the Northern Pass and Netherlands-Norway examples, which are 1.17 and 1.15 $million/MW, respectively.

 

The capital cost of the IWTs would be 7,000 MW x $3.6 million/MW = $25.2 billion, for a total project cost of $31.5 billion; transmission 6.311/31.5 = 20% of project costs. This does not include:

 

– any onshore grid modifications and 

– the extra OCGT and CCGT capacity required for balancing the wind energy, and 

– the above-mentioned wind turbine to HVDC backbone connection.

 

Energy production would be 7,000 MW x 8,760 hr/yr x CF 0.40 = 24.53 TWh/yr, less losses

http://cleantechnica.com/2013/01/17/atlantic-wind-connection-chooses-new....


Ireland Example: Element Power plans to build 3,000 MW of wind turbines, 10 clusters of 300 MW each, in the Midlands of Ireland and transmit the energy, via the Irish Sea, to Wales. Element claims an estimated total project cost of 8 billion euro and a completion date by the end of 2018. This estimate appears low compared to similar projects in the US. See URL.

http://theenergycollective.com/willem-post/47519/base-power-alternatives...

 

– Wind turbine plants, roads, tie-ins to transmission systems = 3,000 MW x 1,800,000 euro/MW = 5.4 billion euro; 67.5% of costs.

– Wind turbine clusters feeding into new HVAC systems to a common point, conversion to HVDC, then, via the Irish Sea, to Wales; about 150 miles; capital cost 2.6 billion euro; 32.5% of costs.

 

Element Power does not mention the levelized (owning + O&M) cost of:

 

– reinforcing the Wales onshore grid to take the additional energy and, 

– the increased UK OCGT/CCGT wind energy balancing operations, etc. 

 

Likely, they will be “by others”, i.e., UK rate payers.

http://theenergycollective.com/willem-post/98061/irelands-wind-energy-ex...

 

NOTE: For the above two examples, the percentages for transmission system capital costs are similar.

 

US Example: Investor-owned utilities and transmission companies invested a record $34.9 billion in transmission ($14.8 billion) and distribution ($20.1 billion) infrastructure in 2012, according to the Edison Electric Institute. The spending on transmission was about 24% greater than 2011, the greatest year-over-year percentage increase since 2000.

 

The spending is driven by many factors, including large transmission projects and interconnection of renewables, such as utility-scale solar and wind projects. EEI found in another report that about 75% of transmission spending through 2023 will be to integrate solar and wind projects. All these costs will be socialized, i.e., charged to rate payers, not to wind turbine owners.

 

http://theenergycollective.com/katherinetweed/320261/transmission-invest...

http://www.greentechmedia.com/articles/read/in-texas-big-wind-jumps-on-n...

 

The NREL has proposed the US get 20% of its energy from wind by 2050, or about 1,000 TWh/yr. During the past 15 years, the US has invested at least $25 billion in transmission systems to support 60,000 MW of wind turbines that can produce 170 TWh in 2014. 

 

The $25 billion would have been much greater, but for the use of existing spare transmission capacity. That spare capacity has been used up and the heavy lifting in terms of investment in augmented onshore and entirely-new offshore transmission systems is about to happen. 

 

As it took about $25 billion for transmission investments for the first 170 TWh/yr production level, future wind energy increments of 170 TWh will require at least $50 billion of transmission investments each. The above New England and Ireland examples show about 33% of total capital costs (wind turbines + transmission systems) is for transmission systems.

 

An ADDITIONAL energy production of 1,000 – 170 = 830 TWh/yr will require at least 830/170 x $50 billion =  $244 billion to be invested by 2050 just for the HVDC and HVAC transmission system build-outs, for example, to transmit wind energy from west of Chicago and the Atlantic Ocean to population centers.

 

Netherlands-Norway Example: There exists a 580 km-long (363 miles), underwater, HVDC line from the northern tip of Holland to the southern tip of Norway; capacity, 700 MW; voltage, 900,000 V; cable resistance at 50 degrees C, 29 ohm; cable losses at rated load, 2.5%; capital cost, 600 million euro ($780 million); in service 6 May 2008; 780/363 = $2.15 million/mile, or 780/700 = $1.11 million/MW; a second line is planned.

 

NOTE: Comparing the above New England Example No. 2 and the Netherlands-Norway Example, the onshore HVDC cost/mile is about 3.4 times the offshore cost/mile.

 

Sweden Example: HVDC underground cable, plus VSC systems; 1,440 MW (2 x 720 MW) 300kV; ordered by Svenska Kraftnät, the national grid operator; completion in 2014.

 

– ABB HVDC cable, 1440 MW (2 x 720 MW) 300kV, 125 miles; turnkey cost $160 million ($1.28 million/mile)

– Alstom Grid’s MaxSineTM Voltage Source Converters (VSC); turnkey cost $320 million

 

For 125 miles total cost $160 + $320 = $480 million, or $3.7 million/mile

For 200 miles total cost $568 million, or $2.84 million/mile

For 250 miles total cost $632 million, or $2.5 million/mile

For 400 miles total cost $824 million, or $2.1 million/mile

 

http://energy.gov/sites/prod/files/2013/05/f0/HVDC2013-Hingorani_0.pdf

http://123seminarsonly.com/Seminar-Reports/024/76914100-Comparative-Eval...

 

Western Interconnection Example: The NREL studied a wind energy increase from 38,055 GWh (4.3%, CF 0.26) in 2012 to 292,050 GWh (33%, CF 0.26) on the Western Interconnection by 2050. 

http://www1.eere.energy.gov/wind/pdfs/2012_wind_technologies_market_repo...

 

The capital cost for just the HVDC and HVAC transmission system build-outs will be

(292,050 – 38,055)/170,000 x $50 billion = $75 billion; see above New England examples. 

 

Based on the above examples, for the NREL study titled “The Western Wind and Solar Integration Study Phase 2”, issued in 2012, to claim transmission system capital costs to go from 4.3% to 33% wind energy will be “minor” is a high order of obfuscation and deception of the public and legislators.

 

THE MISO AND ERCOT GRIDS

 

The MISO grid has more than 11,000 MW of wind CAPACITY on its grid, but that capacity produces about 8% of annual energy on MISO’s grid. For that level, OECD calculates about $12/MWh for the below cost items:

 

1) Balancing: 

 

Wind energy balancing by cycling generating units requiring: 

 

– increased cold starts and stops. 

– increased warm starts and stops. 

– increased synchronous operation (3,600 rpm) in regulating mode 

– increased ramping up and down while operating at part-load. 

 

All four cause increased fuel consumption and increased wear and tear of equipment, just as would be the case with a car. 

 

2) Grid Level:

 

– the costs of connecting wind turbines to grid. 

– grid reinforcement and extension. 

– the cost of energy losses to transmit the energy from wind turbines in remote locations to end users in population centers; such losses will be significant if transmitting from west of Chicago to the East Coast, as envisioned by the NREL.

http://theenergycollective.com/willem-post/169521/wind-turbine-energy-ca...

 

3) System Level:

 

– the costs of back-up (adequacy), i.e., keeping almost all EXISTING generators fueled, staffed, and in good working order to provide energy when wind energy is minimal, about 30% of the hours of the year in NE, about 10 – 15% of the hours of the year west of Chicago. 

– the costs of capacity payments, to offset the hit to the economics of existing generators, as these units will be producing less kWh/yr, but still are needed when wind energy is minimal. With less kWh/yr produced, the cost of each kWh must increase to cover fixed costs, but that cost will often exceed the grid spot price!

 

According to the OECD report, the cost is about $5/MWh for item 1 and $7/MWh for items 2 and 3, for a total of about $12/MWh at 8% annual wind energy.

Note: None of these costs are charged to wind turbine owners.

 

Because of the low annual wind energy percent on the US grid, and the noise in the data, and almost nothing being measured, unverifiable claims can be made in impressive-looking NREL, et al, studies regarding fuel consumption, CO2 emissions reduction and cost impacts of wind energy.

 

At 10 – 20% annual wind energy on the grid, i.e., when MISO and ERCOT would each have about 20,000 MW on their grids, the above three items would be much greater in magnitude, and would have much greater costs, and the CO2 emissions reduction effectiveness would be much less, as was determined from the 1/4-hour real-time operating data of the Irish grid at 17% annual wind energy. See below Wheatley paper. The US, and many other countries, just have not yet gotten to that cost and ineffectiveness stage.

http://docs.wind-watch.org/Wheatley-Ireland-CO2.pdf


ERCOT GRID BUILD-OUTS


ERCOT has spent about $7 billion on several thousand miles of transmission lines to extend the grid from the about 10,000 MW of wind turbines (capital cost about $20 billion) in West Texas (Panhandle) to the population centers in Mid Texas, i.e., about 25% of the total capital cost of wind turbines + transmission. This percentage is within the typical range of 20 – 35 percent, as shown by several examples in this article.

 

Those costs were socialized via rate schedules, i.e., charged to rate payers (a surcharge of about $5/month for households), not to wind turbine owners. See above item 2.

http://www.texastribune.org/2011/08/24/cost-texas-wind-transmission-line...

 

Also, ERCOT encouraged private investments in OCGTs and CCGTs to augment the quicker-ramping capacity on the grid (ERCOT’s older coal plants were not quick enough), plus investments to implement other grid operation changes; the levelized costs are mostly socialized via rate schedules. See above item 3.


Wind energy promoters use the red-herring claim, “the US grid is aging, and these investments needed to be made anyway, so why charge them to wind turbine owners”, but to build-out wind turbines in remote areas with few people and transmit the energy 500 – 1,000 miles to population centers clearly is mainly for the benefit of wind turbine owners.

 

The Pickens Plan: T. Boone Pickens planned to build 4,000 MW of wind turbines in West Texas (The Panhandle), and wanted the state to provide about 500 miles of transmission to population centers in Mid Texas; the Pickens Plan.

 

He may not have had enough friends in state government, because the state did not agree. Pickens got out of the wind business and lost about a billion dollars. He knew without the free transmission, his project was dead in the water.

 

Subsequently, the federal government increased the wind energy subsidies, the pressure of lobbyists representing multi-millionaires with tax shelters became much stronger, and the state government did build the transmission systems, too late for Pickens, but in time to benefit other wind turbine owners, and make their tax shelters pay handsomely; the costs were charged to rate payers, not to wind turbine owners.


MISO WIND ENERGY VARIATION

 

MISO’s energy sources are: Coal 48%, Gas/Oil 32%, Nuclear 6%, Wind 8%, Other renewables 6%.

 

On November 29, 2013, at 6 PM, wind energy was 6,000 MW; at 11 PM  8,312 MW; at 1 PM  1,602 MW, and remained at that level until 5:30 PM, while normal daily demand was increasing to its daily late-afternoon/early-evening peak, a clear example of wind energy being out of step with demand. As wind energy decreased, OTHER generators (coal and gas/oil) made up for the partially-predictable lack of wind energy, PLUS provided energy for the highly-predictable daily peak demand. 

 

There likely were some impacts on fuel consumption and CO2 emissions due to changes in part-load-ramping operation, start/stop operation, synchronous and stationary standby operation, to accommodate wind energy to the grid, but as little, or nothing, is measured in real-time, every 1/4 hour, any statements regarding fuel consumption and CO2 emission impacts are not verifiable.

 

https://www.misoenergy.org/MarketsOperations/RealTimeMarketData/Pages/Re...

 

WITH WIND ENERGY, COAL AND GAS PLANTS NEED CAPACITY PAYMENTS

 

The MISO grid will be used as an example to demonstrate the need for capacity payments. The NREL claims 33% wind and solar energy is feasible in its Phase 2 of the Western Wind and Solar Integration Study (WWSIS-2). As the MISO grid area has an abundance of good winds, but somewhat meager insolation, this exercise assumes 33% wind energy for the MISO grid.

http://www.nrel.gov/docs/fy13osti/55588.pdf

 

MISO wo/wind energy: Coal 52%, Gas/Oil 36%, Nuclear 6%, Wind 0%, Other renewables 6%

MISO w/8% wind energy: Coal 48%, Gas/Oil 32%, Nuclear 6%, Wind 8%, Other renewables 6%*

MISO w/33% wind energy: Coal 35%, Gas/Oil 20%, Nuclear 6%, Wind 33%, Other renewables 6%

* The current condition.

 

Big Production Decrease: 

Assume capacity factor of coal plants wo/wind energy = 0.85, then w/32% wind energy the CF = 35/52 x 0.85 = 0.572, an energy production decrease of (0.85 – 0.572)/0.85 = 32.7% due to wind energy.

 

Small Cost Decrease:

Assume cost fractions of coal plants wo/wind energy: O&M fixed 0.65 + O&M variable 0.30 + Capital 0.5 = 1.00

Assume cost fractions of coal plants w/32% wind energy: O&M fixed 0.65 + O&M variable 35/52 x 0.30 = 0.202 + Capital 0.5 = 0.902, a cost decrease of 9.8% due to wind energy.

 

A big production decrease and just a small cost decrease spells financial disaster for the coal plants, as would be the case for the gas plants. Wind energy cannot function on the grid without the balancing and backup performed by coal and gas plants. A conundrum!!

 

Almost all EXISTING coal and gas plants need to be fueled, staffed, and kept in good working order to provide energy when wind energy is minimal, about 30% of the hours of the year in New England, about 10 – 15% of the hours of the year west of Chicago. i.e., absent economically-viable, utility-scale energy storage (not yet invented), nearly all existing coal and gas plants are needed to ensure continuous electric service, as required by a modern society.

 

The remedy is capacity payments to make ”whole” the owners of the coal and gas plants; these payments likely will be socialized via the rate schedules, not charged to wind turbine owners.

 

THE PRODUCTION TAX CREDIT

 

Note that the effect of the PTC is not included in the above ATI calculations. 

 

The PTC has been extended for one year by Congress and the President, but that one year extension means 10 years of PTC subsidies going to wind turbine plant owners who have begun construction of their turbines in calendar year 2013. 

 

The PTC provides owners with 2.3 c/kWh that the wind turbines generate over the next ten years, which is worth about 3.4 c/kWh in pre-tax income, as the PTC serves to reduce taxes dollar for dollar. The US Congress Joint Committee on Taxation estimates that the innocent-sounding, “one year” extension will cost American taxpayers over $12 billion over 10 years, for wind turbines with a construction start (not a service start) during 2013.

 

INTEGRATING WIND ENERGY TO THE GRID

 

Various wind energy promoters, such as the AWEA, NREL, et al, maintain integrating variable wind energy to the grid is similar to the minute-by-minute demand variations grid operators have had to deal with for decades. It is clear from the below report, this is not the case.

 

The report, dd November 2013, was jointly prepared by the North American Electric Reliability Corporation and the California Independent System Operator Corporation.

 

http://www.nerc.com/pa/RAPA/ra/Reliability%20Assessments%20DL/NERC-CAISO...


COMPARISON TO OTHER TECHNOLOGY COSTS

 

According to the EIA, the levelized cost of energy from an:

 

– advanced NG combined cycle plant is $65.6/MWh

– advanced coal plant is $123/MWh

– nuclear plant is $108.4/MWh

 

http://www.eia.gov/forecasts/aeo/electricity_generation.cfm 

 

The assertion made by the AWEA, et al, wind energy is becoming cost competitive with energy from other sources, the holy grail of grid parity, is not the case, based on the more-inclusive levelized cost estimates in the Taylor/Tanton report.

 

WIND TURBINE PLANT ENERGY DENSITIES, W/m2

 

Wind turbine plant energy densities are less than 2 W/m2, as measured at the wind turbine, less due to energy losses to transmit the energy to the user. Here is an offshore example.

 

Offshore Example: The Anholt offshore wind power plant has 111 Siemens wind turbines, 3.6 MW each, for a total of about 400 MW, on 88 km2, 14 meter deep water, capital cost $1.65 billion; inaugurated on September 3, 2013; energy density = 400 MW x CF 0.40/88 km2 = about 1.82 W/m2; the CF of 0.40 as measured at the wind turbine is assumed, less due to energy losses to transmit energy to the user.

 

http://www.pennenergy.com/articles/pennenergy/2013/09/denmarks-largest-o...

 

Onshore Example West of Chicago: Wind turbine plants west of Chicago have an average CF of about 0.36, as measured at the wind turbine i.e., the energy density is about 0.36/0.40 x 1.82 = 1.64 W/m2.

 

AREAS REQUIRED FOR NUCLEAR PLANTS AND WIND TURBINE PLANTS

 

According to Forbes, a power company in South Carolina is investing about $11 billion to construct two 1,100 MW nuclear reactors on about 1,000 acres, or 1.56 sq miles. Production = 2 x 1,100 MW x 8,760 hr/yr x CF 0.9 = 17,344,800 MWh/yr.

 

Wind turbine capacity west of Chicago required to produce the same quantity of energy: 17,344,800 MWh/yr/(8,760 hr/yr x CF 0.36) = 5,500 MW.

 

About 1,850 wind turbines, 3 MW each, 459-ft tall, 373-ft diameter rotors, CF 0.36, properly spaced to minimize airflow interference, would be required to produce the same quantity of energy, but it would be VARIABLE energy requiring OTHER generators to be more hours in inefficient part-load-ramping mode for back-up/balancing the wind energy, using more fuel/kWh and emitting more CO2/kWh, thereby partially offsetting what wind energy was meant to reduce. 

 

Land area required = 5,500,000,000 W/(1.64 W/m2) x 1 acre/4,047 m2 = 828,678 acres, or 1,295 square miles. The land can be used for agriculture, but any people living within 1.25 miles, or 2 km, from such wind turbines will find their quality of life, health and property values adversely impacted. Animals, especially birds and bats, will also be adversely impacted. See URLs.

 

http://www.wiseenergy.org/Energy/Setbacks.pdf

http://www.wiseenergy.org/Energy/Tourism.pdf

http://www.vce.org/Lempster

 

WIND TURBINES KILLING BIRDS AND BATS


Duke Energy Renewables, Inc. will pay $1 million in fines and restitution for unlawfully killing golden eagles and other threatened birds with its wind turbines, the Department of Justice announced Friday in its first criminal enforcement of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act.

 

Duke Energy Renewables Inc., a subsidiary of North Carolina-based Duke Energy Corp., pled guilty to violating the federal law that protects hundreds of bird species.

 

The company admitted killing 14 golden eagles and 149 other protected birds, including hawks, blackbirds, larks, wrens and sparrows, at two sites in Converse County, Wyo., from 2009 to 2013.

 

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/11/22/duke-energy-bird-fine_n_4326596...

 

The remedy is operational curtailments, which will reduce capacity factors and increase wind energy costs, or lobby the government to get “lawful” bird-kill permits. Some companies will do anything to “fight global warming”.

 

Breaking News: Their lobbying was successful. Killing birds is now legal!! Who would have thought.

http://www.pbs.org/newshour/rundown/2013/12/wind-farms-that-kill-bald-ea...

 

EIA LEVELIZED COST COMPARISONS

 

The EIA periodically publishes a table of levelized costs of various sources of energy. The EIA is comparing NEW plants, but the cost comparisons are flawed, because applying federal tax rates, depreciation schedules, and not counting various hidden and not-so-hidden cost impacts of variable wind energy, affects the values in the table. This is an irrational approach regarding comparing the costs of NEW plants.

 

There should be no problem for the EIA to use only capital cost estimates and only O+M cost estimates for NEW plants, and then compare levelized costs of new plant against new plant, without applying tax rates, etc.; it would simplify the EIA efforts and present a more realistic economic picture.

 

But there are various hidden and not-so-hidden costs, due to wind energy being on the grid, and due to gas and coal-fired generators being “paired” with wind energy, that the EIA does not identify nor quantify. These costs are being socialized via rate schedules, because it would be “unfair” to burden wind turbine owners with these costs, as they had made no provision for them in their tax-shelter spreadsheets.

 

The Taylor/Tanton report examined the EIA levelized cost methodology and quantified these costs. The AWEA does not want these costs known to the general public and legislators, as they would be casting a bad light on wind energy.

 

For example: The US has widely varying CFs for solar systems, because of insolation differences. Why not have a graph showing levelized cost vs CF? The same for wind turbine plants.

 

Here in New England, the CF for single-axis, properly-oriented PV solar systems is about 0.147, but because roofs are not facing due south, and are not at the correct angle, and the panels are aging (Chinese panels were found to age faster), covered with shadows, dust, snow and ice, the REAL WORLD CF is about 0.125, 18% less. The corresponding German numbers are 0.12 and 0.10. 

 

Yet, the CF numbers in the EIA table imply much greater PV solar energy production, as if New England conditions do not exist; an “official” method of fooling, befuddling the public, including legislators, etc.

 

Here in New England, ridge line construction costs of wind turbine plants are about $2,600/kW, (excluding transmission system build-out costs, etc.) and up, and O+M costs are about 2 times those in Kansas, while winds are just average, even on ridge lines. As a result, CFs are about 0.25 in the Northeast, but not anywhere near the 0.32 or better promised during permit hearings. 

 

Here is an article showing wind turbine CFs not being anywhere near promised values to get permits. Please read it.

 

http://theenergycollective.com/willem-post/169521/wind-turbine-energy-ca...

 

CONCLUSIONS

 

According to the Taylor/Tanton report, there are numerous hidden costs to wind power, including the cost of back-up power, the cost of extra transmission, and the cost of favorable tax benefits. And, the assumption of a 30-year life used in government calculations for wind power is optimistic, based on reports from European countries regarding the useful service lives of their wind turbines.

 

Including these hidden costs in calculating the cost of wind energy increases its cost by a factor of 1.5 or 2, depending on the power system that is used as back-up. Taylor/Tanton calculates

ratepayers are paying an extra $8.5 to $10 billion a year for wind energy compared to natural gas-fired generation, and this will only increase as more capacity is added.

 

Add to this the more than $12 billion that the American taxpayer is paying for the ‘one-year’ extension for the PTC, and one can see that the wind industry is a boondoggle at the expense of taxpayers and ratepayers, that is, slowly but surely, making the US economy less competitive.

 

The US economy is beset with a vast array of such wasteful, marginally effective programs, which, collectively, act as a wet blanket on the economy, preventing it from growing more rapidly and raising living standards, except of the few million well-connected, catered-to, households at the top. 

 

As a result, the Federal Reserve has to provide $85 billion/MONTH of credit to the federal government and banks to keep the present economy afloat, a.k.a. quantitative easing, or QE. The credit is created out of thin air, totaling about $3 trillion since 2008, and counting.

 

Europe and Japan are stagnating, largely because they also are afflicted by the same maladies and their central banks are similarly “pro-active”. 

 

REFERENCES:

 

Wall Street Journal, Renewable-Energy Tax Breaks Pass Despite Headwind, January 1, 2013, http://professional.wsj.com/article/SB1000142412788732363550457821579005...

 

American Tradition Institute, The Hidden Costs of Wind Electricity, December 2012, 

http://www.atinstitute.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/12/Hidden-Cost.pdf

 

Energy Information Administration, Levelized Cost of New Generation Resources in the Annual Energy Outlook 2012, July 12, 2012, 

http://www.eia.gov/forecasts/aeo/electricity_generation.cfm

 

The Hill, Issa takes aim at revised wind credit, January 2, 2013, 

http://thehill.com/blogs/e2-wire/e2-wire/275301-issa-wind-power-credit-o...

 

Forbes, Why It’s the End of the Line for Wind Power, December 21, 2012, http://www.forbes.com/sites/christopherhelman/2012/12/21/why-its-the-end...

 

Energy Tribune, Wind Turbines ‘Only Lasting For Half As Long As Previously Thought’, January 2, 2013, http://www.energytribune.com/69566/wind-turbines-lasting-for-half-as-long

 

OECD Report on Wind Energy Costs

http://www.oecd-nea.org/ndd/reports/2012/system-effects-exec-sum.pdf

 

Energy From Wind Turbines Actually Less Than Estimated?

http://theenergycollective.com/willem-post/169521/wind-turbine-energy-ca...

 

Wind Energy CO2 Emission Reduction Less than Claimed

http://theenergycollective.com/willem-post/89476/wind-energy-co2-emissio...

Willem Post's picture

Thank Willem for the Post!

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Recent Comments

Keith Pickering's picture
Keith Pickering on November 29, 2013

Citing a purely political (and anti-climate) “think-tank” like ATI as your primary source does you no favors. If you want to be taken seriously, stick to peer-reviewed literature.

Max's picture
Max on November 29, 2013

Willem,

Such a large increase in fuel consumption due to load ramping is not plausible. It may very well be the case if you pair a single wind turbine with a single gas turbine, but in reality, distributed wind farms are interconnected through the grid, which has a smoothing effect. That’s why the intermittency of wind farms has a very small effect on the emission intensity of the remaining electricity system (less than 0.01 percent up).

This is not pro-wind propaganda but the conclusion of Britain’s National Grid, which has to deal with a significant share of intermittent wind generation on its power grid on a daily basis.

 

http://www.scottish.parliament.uk/S4_EconomyEnergyandTourismCommittee/NA...

So, while I agree that the plant-level LCOE of wind power is not a reliable indicator of the cost associated with integrating large shares of wind into a power grid, you tend to overstate the system costs.

Mike Barnard's picture
Mike Barnard on November 30, 2013

As other commenters have pointed out, Mr. Post will cling to any source, no matter how tenuously credible, to support his bias.

The IEA takes full lifecycle costs of energy into account when it does its calculations. That’s because it’s the International Energy Association, a highly credible and professional organization.

Mr. Post, on the other hand, is a retired non-professional who hates wind energy.

I believe I won’t lose sleep over his miscalculations. And neither should anyone else unless they hate wind energy too.

Michael Goggin's picture
Michael Goggin on November 30, 2013

Nice try at plagiarizing the work of fossil fuel industry-funded groups, but all of your claims were already debunked here:

http://aweablog.org/blog/post/fact-check-fossilfunded-think-tank-strikes...

You should talk to the U.S. grid operators who have more than 10,000 MW of wind on their power systems, MISO and ERCOT. ERCOT’s incremental reserve needs for wind account for an additional cost of about $0.50/MWh of wind, or about 6 cents on a typical monthly electric bill. In contrast, the typical cost of the contingency reserves for large fossil and nuclear power plants is about 40 times higher. MISO has also explained that the impact of 10,000 MW of wind on its need for regulation is “little to none.”

http://www.uwig.org/slcforework/Ahlstrom-Session1.pdf

http://variablegen.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/12/Navid-Reserve_Calculat...

Michael Goggin

American Wind Energy Association

donough shanahan's picture
donough shanahan on November 30, 2013

But the distributed idea does not work. Consider if you have two regions A and B at the same power consumption , to power area A with only wind from B, you need to double the installed capacity at B and vice versa. Now while the truth is somewhere in the middle, a paper written For the UK case showed that two farms at opposite ends of the country were at best 90% independent. 

So distributed inherently means over capacity.

Keith Pickering's picture
Keith Pickering on November 30, 2013

Willem,

I have read the OECD study — indeed, I read it when it was first published and still have a copy on my hard drive. Which is exactly why I view the inflated ATI numbers with skepticism. If you had stuck to the OECD numbers instead if ATI, you would have been better served. I agree that the EIA’s LCOE numbers are flawed for a number of reasons, but they do take one of the system costs (grid connection) into account, which is more than some other sources do.

ATI, meanwhile, is best known in this country as one of the right-wing organizations that has been harrassing climate scientist Michael Mann for no good reason. The less said of them the better.

Edward Kerr's picture
Edward Kerr on November 30, 2013

 

Willem,

 

So if no wind power what is your answer? More coal? NG? Nuclear? (Except Thorium) Are you so dense as to not understand that none those power sources are sustainable? I’m guessing that you deny that burning fossil fuels is harming the environment that we depend upon for our very lives. If that’s is the case, then I have to say that you are out of touch with reality? The exigent costs of burning carbon-based fuels outweigh the pennies/KWh that you are griping about. Wake up man!!

 

With best personal regards,

 

Ed

 

 

Keith Pickering's picture
Keith Pickering on December 5, 2013

Which is yet-another reason ATI numbers are suspect: balancing does not, repeat not, require new build 100% of the time, nor even a small fraction of that. No wonder ATI’s balancing numbers are way, way, way too high, especially compared to OECD.

Roger Faulkner's picture
Roger Faulkner on December 6, 2013

The most cost effective innovation on the grid is barely discussed in the US: the supergrid. There is a trade-off between required balancing (dispatchable) generation and the size of the area that can exchange energy. A larger strongly-connected grid means less spinning reserve, less energy storage, and less peaker turbines are needed. Wind advocates have bet the farm on sweeping intermittency problems under the rug rather than by vigorously arguing for a supergrid, which would make wind & solar far more viable. A supergrid is cost justifiable just based on cost savings on deferred new generation capacity, but foks are too scared of big technology to even start down that road. A supergrid looks like a boondoggle until it is finished, because one needs fully redundant transmission before it is possible (under NERC rules) to commit huge energy transfers to a single connection:

http://elpipes.blogspot.com/2013/03/my-post-on-energy-collective-regarding.html

Only after redundancy is guaranteed (as can be accomplished with HVDC loops) can we begin to transfer the hundreds of GW that would need to be transferred to enable high wind penetration throughout the US. One needs very high capacity transmission that will have a capacity factor similar to wind in order to enable wind economically. That need not be as expensive as it sounds, if elpipes based on sodium conductors are used:

http://elpipes.blogspot.com/2013/06/arab-construction-world-article-on.html

The cost of conductor alone for a 10 GW elpipe system is only $22/meter if sodum is used as the conductor (the sodium would be contained in sealed steel pipes).

A supergrid is not just good for wind & solar, but also helps enable all sorts of remote site energy developments, including things that are anethema to environmentalists, like mine-site coal plants, far northern hydropower, and nuclear power too. My impression as to why environmentalists have not seized on the supergrid concept is that these complex economic effects are unpredictable. These undesirable effects of a supergrid could only be prevented by policy mandates or taxes, which can be changed at any time.

A supergrid would also be economically viable even keeping the generation mix the same as it is today, by reducing reserve margins and spinning reserve requirements (and thus deferring a lot of new generation: probably another reason that a supergrid gets zero support from generation developers). 

donough shanahan's picture
donough shanahan on December 6, 2013

To my post I will add

 

The 90% figures is a measure of independence of the wind speed i.e. 4 m/s (the baseline used). It is not a measure of power. So what the 90% is really saying that that 90% of the time both sites will be producing 4 m/s which is not necessarily good power return.

Unfortunately I have not got the link yet.

Roger Faulkner's picture
Roger Faulkner on December 6, 2013

nice detailed response, thanks.

you said:  very expensive to maintain and operate with higher energy and other resource prices. NOT TRUE. Maintenance in particular would be lower than for AC lines. The POINT is to utilize LOWER resource prices, and get those resources to market.

you said: Loss due to step up to HVDC voltage = 1%

Loss due to AC to DC, 2000-mile HVDC transmission, DC to AC = 14%*

Loss due to step down to East Coast AC voltage = 1%

FIRST, you are double counting. the two conversions are about 0.8% each, fair enough, but you more than counted them twice in the 145 loss. The 800kV lines you referenced in the EWITS and other related plans lose 3%/1000 km (at full rated capacity), or 10% per 2000 miles. My elpipes would lose one third as much as that. And I agree that EWITS was a bad design, what we need is a meshed grid that can deliver power from any point on the grid to any other point on the grid, which implies multi-terminal operation.

 

There are too many mistakes in your treatment to address them all right now.



Roger Faulkner's picture
Roger Faulkner on December 6, 2013

I’ve been writing quite a few papers, which are in general accessible on my website www.elpipe.com (really it is a blog site, but I have lots of hyperlinks to my papers). email me and I’ll send you some of my favorites. roger@elpipe.com

These particular posts get at some core arguments, and link to iportant papers:

http://elpipes.blogspot.com/2013/03/my-post-on-energy-collective-regarding.html

http://elpipes.blogspot.com/2013/03/intermittency-of-wind-power-supergrid.html

http://elpipes.blogspot.com/2013/06/arab-construction-world-article-on.html

http://elpipes.blogspot.com/2013/10/grounding-and-ground-current-return.html

http://elpipes.blogspot.com/2013/11/elpipe-patent-will-be-granted-in-us.html

http://elpipes.blogspot.com/2013/01/letter-to-prominent-person.html

http://elpipes.blogspot.com/2011/09/a-brief-history-of-epc-from-elpipes-to.html

What I’ve been trying to do is hard because it is a big change, but I am thoroughly convinced that a supergrid is the only way…no, theMOST ECONOMICAL way to move our economy off fossil fuels. and I think doing that is critical.

Roger Faulkner's picture
Roger Faulkner on December 7, 2013

Superconducting cables are only taken seriously in the US and Korea, and are flawed for several reasons, mainly their complexity makes them intrinsically unreliable; if they do have an accident they are hard to repair, and their maximum voltage (set by the interfaces with conventional power systems) is around 130kV…so superconductors need to be a complete new system; they cannot “play in the same sandbox” with overhead HVDC or HVDC cables. Superconsducting fault current limiters will have a vital role in a future supergrid, but actual superconducting lines are not yet feasible for supergrids.

In order to be economical, supergrids need to operate at one single voltage, probably between 600-800kV. My elpipes are quite different than prior approaches. You could say they represent the “brute force” approach to continental scale transmission, in that they achieve the requisite very low resistance simply by using a lot more metal than prior art powerlines; on the order of 3-18 times as much metal per amp-meter. In fact conductive metal per se represents 15-25% of the total cost of an installed project (metal per se is usually less than 2% of a transmission line cost). Only the metal carries the current; in one way of looking at it, a transmission system where only 1% of the investment goes into the portion that carries current is inefficient. In round numbers, extruded aluminum is 3X less expensive than wire, and sodium is 5X cheaper than that. Do have a look:

http://elpipes.blogspot.com/2011/10/chinese-journal-of-high-voltage.html

Nathan Wilson's picture
Nathan Wilson on December 7, 2013

 a supergrid is the MOST ECONOMICAL way to move our economy off fossil fuels

If you’re not familar with Gen IV nuclear power, I suggest you read Robert Hargraves’ book, Thorium  – energy cheaper than coal.  Even today’s Gen III light water reactors (LWRs) are much cheaper than renewables, if you look at future energy cost (i.e. fleet average cost, including older and newer plants, given the low replacement rate required by the 60-80 lifetime).  Transmission costs are lower too.  Ecological footprint is much, much lower.

Today’s LWRs are also safer and cleaner than any plausible combination of renewables with fossil fuel backup.  Gen IV technology improves the safety even more, adds the option for delivering high temperature process heat for industrial uses and cheaper hydrogen, and makes the fuel cycle indefinitely sustainable.

Nuclear also avoids the regional sovereignty issue that the super-grid causes (note that so far, northern Europeans are paying double to put their solar generation in their own cloudy towns, instead of across the border in the desert; when storage is added, the cost of cloudy-town solar will double again).

Nathan Wilson's picture
Nathan Wilson on December 7, 2013

Wow, you’re more optimistic about the likelihood of breakthroughs than I am.  It is hard to make breakthroughs when you work on problems than many others had failed at (note that before Apollo, no one had ever even tried to go to the moon).

With baseload nuclear power, we don’t need as much storage, hence we are less sensative to the cost, than when renewables dominate.  With dispatchable fuel synthesis and nuclear power, no energy storage (other than fuel storage) is required for a non-fossil grid.  Fuel synthesis works with renewables too, but the economics are worse.

But yes, there has been big money going into energy storage for decades.  It started with the oil shock of the 1970s.  We saw the first benefits when Nickel-metal-hydride batteries came to laptops and cellphones twenty years ago, then lithium ion thereafter.

Note that Bill Gates was an early investor in Donald Sadoway’s battery company Ambri, which is attempting to build a low cost liquid metal battery for stationary/grid-scale use (don’t expect to see these being uses by the do-it-yourselfers, they run at 700C).

 

Roger Faulkner's picture
Roger Faulkner on December 7, 2013

I too have advocated for the thorium fuel cycle. Much cleaner than uranium or plutonium. Not as good as LENR, as in cold fusion, if that works out. And I do not buy the anti-nuclear hysteria. I do worry about water resource & local heating effects. If nuclear power was as cheap and easy as LENR could make it, thermal pollution would rise to the top of environmental impacts. As much as possible, I advocate cogeneration; in an energy economy with widespread cogeneration and taxes on thermal pollution, we might see generators being primarily dispatched based on whether there is a local use for the heat produced. And the supergrid makes this sort of seasonal & weather-based dispatch based on need for thermal energy practical too.

Even an energy economy  based on nuclear power is more economical if widespread sharing of capacity (both heat and electricity production capacity) is enabled by a supergrid. There are other flaws in the argument for thorium reactors; one of which is that the fissile isotope Uranium-233 that is produced in these reactors is easy to extract, and can be used to make a bomb.

I am in favor of SMRs based on thorium, as long as they are mounted in barges, ships, or (best of all) submarine hulls, and are returned to a secure port for servicing. I do not favor SMRs that rely on evaporation of fresh water for cooling, or which put fissile materials under the custody of private industry or non-nuclear nations. Ideally, cooling should be by deep sea water, and discharge T should be similar to the local ocean temperature. All that is quite feasible, though no-one has bothered to do it right yet. When that happens, I’ll be pro-nuclear.

Nathan Wilson's picture
Nathan Wilson on December 7, 2013

Do you really think thermal pollution from nuclear plants is worse than the alternative (chemical and particulate pollution from renewables with fossil backup, ecosystem disruption due to solar and wind development)? If so, we already know how to build nuclear plants with air-cooling, but their electricity cost is around 15% higher (according to the B&W mPower brochure).  The high temperature Gen IV nuclear plants should greatly reduce the cost penalty for air cooling, but I believe our problem with CO2 and other energy emissions is urgent enough that we should be building nuclear plants as fast as we can, even with current technology.

On the nuclear weapons proliferation issue, the important thing to understand is the relavent benchmark is not “zero weaponization potential” but rather “less attractive than uranium enrichment”.  We will never be able to prevent sovereign nations from digging up uranium and enriching it in a secret lab, but we can avoid making it any easier than that.  We can start by engaging developing nations and encouraging them to deploy nuclear energy programs under international non-proliferation protocols & safeguards, with the carrot being assistance achieving energy security via safe, clean, and affordable advanced nuclear technology (rather than going rogue, and co-generating electricity and weapons as was common in the early days, using 1950s technology).

 

With regard to U233 weaponization, one option I like is the DMSR, which is a liquid fueled thorium reactor in which the U233 is always sufficiently diluted with U238, so that it can’t be used for a weapon.  But  even with the pure U233 cycle, there is no proliferation concern for nations that already have nuclear weapons (e.g. most major energy users); the U233 will always be contaminated with U232, which will lead to hard gamma ray emissions which render any resulting weapon hazardous to maintain and damage nearby electronics, hence such as weapon would grow unreliable over time and would therefore lack deterrence value (which is the whole point of nuclear weapons), which makes it  much less attractive than other weapons routes (e.g. enrichment). 

Kevon Martis's picture
Kevon Martis on December 7, 2013

For those of you unfamiliar with Mr. Barnard:

“Mike Barnard of IBM’s Global Business Services in Singapore operates an internet blog site www.barnardonwind.com where he posts his opinions on industrial wind energy.

 

Like many people who opine on this topic, Mr. Barnard has very strong opinions.

But when the passions that drive those strong opinions lead people to use their global electronic megaphone to threaten people with ridicule and embarrassment, a line is crossed. This is commonly called cyber bullying.

Mr. Barnard’s employer recognizes this phenomena and, like all responsible global corporations, is rightly concerned that the private behavior of their employees can harm the value of their brand.

Quoting from IBM’s Social Computing Guidelines: “IBM’s brand is best represented by its people and everything you publish online reflects upon it.”

Further: “Respect your audience. Don’t use … personal insults, obscenity, or engage in any similar conduct that would not be appropriate or acceptable in IBM’s workplace.”

IBM partners with pacer.org to help combat bullying. Pacer defines bullying as behavior that “…is intentional, meaning the act is done willfully, knowingly, and with deliberation to hurt or harm…” www.pacer.org

Recently Mr. Barnard blogged about Dr. Nina Pierpont and her husband Dr. Calvin Martin and their work regarding health impacts from industrial wind turbines. Pierpont and Martin informed Mr. Barnard that a recent post made false statements about Dr. Pierpont’s credentials that they felt were libelous.

Mr. Barnard responded to their complaint by email. He said in part: “ And of course you should realize that I am laughing at the thought of you attempting to find jurisdiction for any court action as I am a Canadian living in Singapore and using free blogging software based in the Cloud somewhere; you might have wanted to actually speak to your lawyer before writing this. Given the nature of this email I’m sure that you realize that I am going to share it publicly and others will join in the laughter at your expense. [emphasis added]“

He then published this blog post: http://barnardonwind.com/2013/07/07/first-barnardonwind-libel-threat-too...

This is not an isolated incident.

Again: Pacer defines bullying as behavior that “…is intentional, meaning the act is done willfully, knowingly, and with deliberation to hurt or harm…”

Mr. Barnard’s online behavior is consistent with cyber bullying and wholly inconsistent with IBM’s published employee guidelines.

No one minds a vigorous and passionate debate.

But electronic humiliation of respected and credentialed individuals-by an uncredentialed

 

individual- as a game of sport is uncivil and reflects poorly on IBM.

If you can document cyber bullying by Mike Barnard please contact IBM:

comadmin@us.ibm.com

 

Kevon Martis's picture
Kevon Martis on December 7, 2013

“Fossil fuel funded groups”

Isn’t that self-referential Mr. Grima, err, Goggin?

http://www.awea.org/About/content.aspx?ItemNumber=779

NextEra, Iberdrola, AEP……hmmm…perhaps Senator Seitz was right?

 

 

Keith Pickering's picture
Keith Pickering on December 7, 2013

Well, I hate to rain on your parade, but “only” $22 per meter is out of the ballpark compared to current powerline costs, which (according to EIA) average less than 30 cents per meter for underground rural — and half that for overhead.

 

 

Roger Faulkner's picture
Roger Faulkner on December 8, 2013

I am enjoying this interaction, though it is way off-topic from Willem’s post. You said something I did not know, and which I doubt:

But  even with the pure U233 cycle, there is no proliferation concern for nations that already have nuclear weapons (e.g. most major energy users); the U233 will always be contaminated with U232, which will lead to hard gamma ray emissions which render any resulting weapon hazardous to maintain and damage nearby electronics, hence such as weapon would grow unreliable over time and would therefore lack deterrence value (which is the whole point of nuclear weapons),

Where does the U232 come from? Th232 decays by alpha emission, the half-life is 14.6 billion of years. I do not see any mechanism to get to U232.

Make no mistake: I do think thethorium fuel cycle, and HTGRs based on that cycle, are a good idea. This does not make a supergrid irelevant at all.

Roger Faulkner's picture
Roger Faulkner on December 8, 2013

I see you were right about U232. Fascinating, really; it is a side reaction, parasitic (n,2n) reactions on uranium-233 itself, or on protactinium-233.

Perhaps one of us could pull our interaction out and repost it afresh as a post on thorium reactors vs supergrid: are they synergistic, compatible, or incompatible? If you post it, I’ll join in.

I aim to convince you that nuclear power must not use fresh water for cooling. I think oceanic cooling using deep water is the lowest impact. That could mean expelling the heated cooling water into a layer in the ocean with the same temperature or density, or one could use the waste heat of nuclear power to cause upwelling of deep, nutrient rich water. 

Clayton Handleman's picture
Clayton Handleman on December 8, 2013

Are the losses you estimate at full rated power or your estimated 30% utilization?  If they represent full power then could you comment on the reduction in losses given that the overall utilization is at 30% of full rated load. 

While this is an oversimplification, it gets to the heart of my point.  The voltage is constant so current will be proportional to power.  Most of the losses on a DC line are due to resistive losses.  Power loss through a resistor goes as the square of the current.  So reduction in power by 1/3 would result in a reducing losses to roughly 10% of the full load case.    

Also, since distribution losses and East Coast transmission losses are shared by all power sources except on-site such as solar, why are you including them?  From the context of your post it would be easy to assume that these are unique to the wind power when that is not the case. 

Clayton Handleman's picture
Clayton Handleman on December 8, 2013

Well said.  This paper looks at the aggregation of multiple wind farms that are still regional and therefore somewhat correlated.  Under those circumstances roughly 37% of the output can be counted as baseload of reliability equivalent to a coal power plant.  They also show that line losses from the cluster to a distant city are considerably less than the simplistic calculations of using peak load loss calculations. 

However this study was for a regional cluster of wind farms.  The Supergrid further smooths the sources by tying together decorrelated regions.  This reduces the production peaks and troughs and reduces the requirements for spinning reserve. 

When all is said and done perfection is the enemy of the good.  I do not think there is any particular solution that is a panacea.  Though I think that if I had to pick the most important it would be a SuperSmart Grid.  The “Super” as you said above, offers the opportunity to tie together decorellated renewables, reducing the amount of storage and / or spinning reserve required for higher penetration levels.  The “Smart” allows the grid to become a vibrant free market, decentralizing transaction control and allowing free market forces to play a much larger role in shaping our energy use and production and stimulating the quest for innovative new solutions.  I think that as market forces are allowed to provide a larger role more private capital will be brought in to support new approaches that will surprise us all. 

Roger Faulkner's picture
Roger Faulkner on December 28, 2013

Yes, 3%/1000 km is the resistive loss at full rated power for the state-of-the art 800kV overhead lines in China, and I designed my elpipes around a target of 1% resistive loss per 1000 km at full rated power. What you say is correct; on average the efficiency would be much better than that.

Roger Faulkner's picture
Roger Faulkner on December 8, 2013

you said:

>Multiple transformers and multiple AC/DC converters would be needed at all stations, to minimize losses, as they have poor efficiencies at part load.

Not true of voltage source converters, which get more efficient as load is reduced (to a point), since most of the loss is ohmic resistance in the IGBT transistors. VSC is essential for a supergrid; LCC thyristors are only applicable for point-to-point HVDC.

Roger Faulkner's picture
Roger Faulkner on December 9, 2013

All the majors: ABB, Siemens, Alstom Grid, and Mitsubishi expect IGBT-based VSCs to replace thyristor-based LCCs in around ten years. Meanwhile, the efficiency of the mutilevel VSCs is around 0.8% loss in each direction at full load. Not bad for such a flexible technology. And in fact, the supergrid can have both line commutated converters (LCCs) and VSCs on the same grid. That part of the technology is coming along very well. The missing bits are high capacity underground transmission (elpipes) and a more economical HVDC circuit breaker:

http://elpipes.blogspot.com/2013/03/my-post-on-energy-collective-regarding.html

http://ballisticbreaker.blogspot.com/2012/11/abb-announces-worlds-first-circuit.html

Willem: I do appreciate and understand your perspective. I agree that a lot of hidden costs are being swept under the carbet by all the players. Fossil fuels ignore the externalities of global warming and strip mining (to mention a few); nuclear power does not like to think about the cost of decomissioning or an accident; and wind/solar producers demur on the cost of load balancing. There is no free lunch, and I am convinced that the cost of global warming exceeds all the other costs combined. I start from the perspective of what must be done to prevent catastrophe, and I have adopted the supergrid as my piece of the puzzle for several reasons:

1) there are not too many people working on it (I run away from issues like wind & nuclear where everyone already knows what they think);

2) it is the one thing that helps reduce the cost of the energy system no matter how electricity is produced;

3) I have made useful inventions in this area that are game changers (elpipes and Ballistic Breakers), so I have a well-defined focus for my actions.

Of course, in trying to change something this big, I have had lots of frustration. At least I had good news recently that my US patent application on elpipes will be allowed:

http://elpipes.blogspot.com/2013/11/elpipe-patent-will-be-granted-in-us.html

Scott Luft's picture
Scott Luft on November 30, 2013

And the debunking has been debunked too…

“Giberson has responded to criticisms of his study on his Knowledge Problem blog …” 

The product is not valued, in most regions, at more than the displacement costs of fuel – which currently appears to be far below the true subsidy value (I wrote on this, including Giberson’s study, here)

John Miller's picture
John Miller on December 1, 2013

Willem, another factor is developing which could increase Wind Farm expenses, decrease capacity factors and increase overall costs of net generation: avian environmental impacts.  As you may have read recently, Duke Energy just got fined for killing protected birds.  Over the years, most Wind Farms with similar adverse environmental impacts have apparently gotten a free pass on known avian impacts (bird & bat kills).  This recent Government action could be just the beginning.  Besides the future risks of fines, Wind Farm operations could be restricted to help protect seasonal, migratory travel of avian flocks.  This would involve effectively shutting down the wind turbines during certain times a year to protect the migratory birds.  Capacity factors would be negatively affected as a result.    

Kevon Martis's picture
Kevon Martis on December 1, 2013

Michael:

As Senator Seitz already compelled you you to concede, AWEA is chock full of fossil fuel interests including Iberdrola who was seated at the table next to you as you tossed this same baseless ad hominem against me and my co-witnesses.

Shame on you.

Perhaps you should refer the readers to NERC’s latest paper that concludes:

” This special assessment provides insight into CAISO’s approach on renewables integration. A primary conclusion from this review is that when thresholds are reached at the level CAISO is experiencing (i.e., the 20–30 percent level), constraints are experienced on a system that was designed with a different class of equipment in mind.

Policymakers should give due consideration to the impacts and potential reduction of essential reliability services (system inertia, frequency and voltage control, power factors, ride-through capability, etc.). The operating characteristics of VERs—not just the energy or capacity being provided—will fundamentally change the basic composition of essential reliability services. The system must continue to work reliably. 

 As shown by CAISO’s actions, there are solutions. Whether through market rules, technology tools, or regulatory requirements, various approaches exist to address concerns. This report offers recommendations and considerations related to standards that are associated with reactive power control, active power control, inertia, and frequency response, as well as steady-state, short-circuit, and dynamic generic model development. 

Finally, NERC recognizes that the question of “who pays” still exists. If this question is not resolved, it will impede further progress. Integration of VERs cannot be done in a vacuum without full consideration of all approaches. “

Or:

“The increased supply variability associated with a significant penetration of variable resources will cause more frequent dispatches and the starting and stopping of flexible, gas-fired generators, which will potentially incur more wear and tear. Lower-capacity factors for dispatchable generation combined with potential reduced energy prices also result in decreased energy market revenues for the gas-fired fleet in all hours and seasons. 

This condition raises concerns regarding revenue adequacy, as well as challenges in supporting gas-fired generation resources that are necessary for dispatch flexibility and reliability. Through technical studies, CAISO has determined that gas-fired generators will be operated at lower capacity factors and will experience more frequent start–stop and cycling instructions that could increase wear and tear on these units. Consequently, increased wear and tear can reduce mean time to failure on generation components and potentially lead to increased forced outage rates, which ultimately results in a need for additional ancillary services. “

Or:

“A significant operational challenge for CAISO is to reliably maintain continuous system balance given the variability of the energy output of VERs, which is caused by the variable nature of their fuel source (e.g., solar irradiance and wind speed). Increased variability in the output of the supply portfolio will result in less predictability and, therefore, greater operational uncertainty. CAISO must anticipate and manage this variability to balance supply and demand as well as to meet reliability criteria. Greater uncertainty indicates the need for additional resources to provide dependability at an appropriate level of confidence (i.e., to provide adequate certainty).”

Who pays, Michael? Why would those additional and significant costs not be properly credited to AWEA’s account? You continue to fraudulently minimize the system-wide impacts of adding wind energy in order to help procure access to the federal treasury. When does that become fraud?

Perhaps thse nefarious fossil fuel interests have bought off NERC?

You are running out of cover, Mr. Fossil-fueled lobbyist.

Kevon Martis

IICC, Inc.

 

 

 
Kevon Martis's picture
Kevon Martis on December 1, 2013

And Mr. Barnard is a “non-professional” who loves wind energy.

I believe this makes your post of “low evidentiary value”, using your own bogus paradigm.

Kevon Martis's picture
Kevon Martis on December 1, 2013

Did you have a particular data point in the ATI study that you contest?

Or are you content to lob ad hominems?

Kevon Martis's picture
Kevon Martis on December 1, 2013

I think ATI, like the rest of the world, is pro-climate. Who is opposed to earth having a climate?

Did you meand anti-climate change? Even that is murky. I am guessing you are anti-climate change.

And have you ever emailed Taylor or Tanton to get their input? 

 

Michael Goggin's picture
Michael Goggin on December 2, 2013

Here’s the rebuttal to this fossil fuel industry propaganda:

http://aweablog.org/blog/post/fact-check-american-tradition-institutes-t...

Michael Goggin,

American Wind Energy Association

Kevon Martis's picture
Kevon Martis on December 2, 2013

Still behaving as if AWEA. ..like wind itself….is not fully fossil dependant. 

 

Am thinking that the best answer to Goggins is derisive laughter. 

 

Only a lobbyist would denigrate an opponent by calling them a lobbyist.

Keith Pickering's picture
Keith Pickering on December 2, 2013

Kevon,

* ATI includes transmission cost as a system cost for wind. Which is fine in and of itself, but ATI starts with the EIA baseline LCOE, which already includes wind’s higher transmission cost in its calculation. Thus ATI counts the excess transmission cost of wind twice: once in EIA’s baseline (2.6 cents/kWh above gas), and then again on its own (another 2.8 cents/kWh above gas).

* ATI considered only coal and gas as buffering generators for wind, specifically avoiding all non-fossil buffers, such as hydro and nuclear. Considering hydro is far cheaper than fossil, and considering nuclear is competitive with (if not cheaper than) fossil, one might suspect that ATI (which is financed by fossil-fuel interests) isn’t playing fair. 

* ATI counts 75% of the capital cost of a buffering fossil plant as attributable to wind. This would only be correct if (a) the gas plant were built specifically for wind buffering and no other purpose; and (b) the capacity factor for wind were 25%. Since ATI elsewhere accepts EIA’s capacity factor of 33% for wind, assumption (b), at least, is violated. This is certainly part of the reason ATI estimates backup cost to be $17/MWh, while OECD estimates backup costs in the US at $5.61 to $6.14/MWh, depending on level of grid penetration.

* ATI uses a 20 year lifespan for wind turbines, vs. 22 year average actually seen in real-world data from Denmark. 

 

Mike Barnard's picture
Mike Barnard on December 5, 2013

Hi Tom . . . Still intentionally misrepresenting the World Health Organization? Or have you actually stopped being an anti-wind fabulist? Oh wait, this comment thread involves Mr. Post repeating your disinformation, so I guess not.

For those unfamiliar to the extents to which Mr. Tanton will go to inaccurately malign clean, safe, economically viable and reliable wind energy, have a look at this: 

http://barnardonwind.com/2013/07/09/w-h-o-has-seen-the-wind-well-not-rea...

 

Keith Pickering's picture
Keith Pickering on December 9, 2013

U232 forms spontaneously (but rarely) from U233 by neutron emission. It also forms (rarely) from neutron emission of Pa233 into Pa232, which beta-decays into U233.

Peter Grossman's picture
Peter Grossman on December 9, 2013

This discussion, beginning with the original article, overall has been very interesting. I intend to direct students in my energy class to it.  Apollo analogies are, however, just political boiler plate and are inapt for any discussion of energy policy. As I make clear in my book, U.S. Energy Policy and the Pursuit of Failure (Cambridge University Press 2013), Apollo was a completely different kind of project from anything with a commercial purpose, like high density storage. Or as I once put it in an op-ed, “When was the last time you had to choose between a trip to Paris and a trip to the moon?” 

Joris van Dorp's picture
Joris van Dorp on December 10, 2013

Willem, I think your articles are excellent, but I strongly disagree with your vision of massively reducing the human population. I don’t think it’s feasible, I don’t think it’s necessary and I don’t think it is necessarily ethical. I think 10 billion people could live reasonably affluent lifestyles on this planet while the environment is spared. There is a lot of work to be done, but there are no hard limits that are unsurmountable, IMO.

By the way, your vision looks a lot like the rather repulsive (IMO) vision of Paul Watson:

“Watson feels that “no human community should be larger than 20,000 people,” human populations need to be reduced radically to “fewer than one billion,” and only those who are “completely dedicated to the responsibility” of caring for the biosphere should have children, which is a “very small percentage of humans.” He likens humankind to a virus, the biosphere needs to get cured from with a “radical and invasive approach,” as from cancer.”

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paul_Watson#Other_environmental_activities

donough shanahan's picture
donough shanahan on December 10, 2013

Took me a while and I stand corrected.

The 90% correlation is not referring to 4 m/s but to a power out correlation. Figure 5 is the main point of interest. The line I was thinking of

Over the course of a year, low wind speed events affecting more than half of the UK are present for less than 90% of all hours

 

http://www.eci.ox.ac.uk/publications/downloads/sinden06-windresource.pdf

Roger Faulkner's picture
Roger Faulkner on December 10, 2013

I support a strategy leading to population reduction over centuries, as long as it is not based on coercion or starvation. There is ample evidence that education and opportunity, especially for women, results in natural population shrinkage. I see a main challenge as being how to create this transition more rapidly and more evenly, because at present most rapid population growth is among the poorest and least educated people. This tends to widen the income disparity, and what we need is the opposite. I do have ideas on that besides the supergrid, but certainly one important thing to turn population growth around would be rural electrification. That could be done without a supergrid, but it will cost less if implemented via a supergrid. 

Joris van Dorp's picture
Joris van Dorp on December 11, 2013

Willem, I appreciate your concern, but I’d be interested to know how you propose reducing the population to 1 billion within 90 years in some more detail. The implication is a population decline greater than any experienced in human history, and far greater even than the population decline in Europe during the Plagues of the middle ages. How do you suggest this is done in a peaceful, agreeable way so that the worlds people can really commit themselves to it?

Even China – through it’s herioc one-child policy – has only succeeded in halting population growth. How will China reduce its population to 1/6th of it’s current size? How will India? etc?

I believe population growth will stagnate naturally as affluence increases, as projected by major research bodies. Growth in affluence allows reduction of population growth and reduction of environmental destruction, while poverty and lack of affluence will lead to further increase, IMO.

If we manage to switch to clean energy (which will include large amounts of nuclear power) then humanity will have solved the most imporant cause of environmental degradation. Abundant, clean, cheap energy will allow humanity to pursue known methods to halt further environmental destruction, even with 10 billion persons on the planet. Food supply and the supply of essential raw materials for economic development of 10 billion people is possible without unacceptable environmental degradation, provided modern methods are applied, reasonable environmental protection laws are applied (which is only possible in affluent nations) and if clean, cheap energy is ubiquitous (which is essential for affluence to increase).

Just my opinion.

Bas Gresnigt's picture
Bas Gresnigt on December 26, 2013

Cliff,

Just check Denmark.
That country now produces ~35% of its electricity by wind (sometimes more thann 100% if it blows at night), and plans to enhance towards 50% in 2020 (they always reached those targets).

It utilizes pumped storage via long distance lines to Norway and Sweden. Has furthermore interconnections with Germany.

Here you can see the actual Danish electricity volumes (updated every 5 minutes):
http://energinet.dk/Flash/Forside/UK/index.html

Often people point to the high consumer electricity prices in Denmark. But realize that most of it is tax. Government in Denmark needs lot of money to redristribute wealth, etc.
Realize that Denmark was chosen by the UN as the happiest country to live in.
That status is impossible if significant part of your population has to live on foodstamps.

The whole sale electricity prices (so without tax) of Denmark are quite competitive.
Here you can see those prices and production figures:
http://www2.emd.dk/el/ (adapt time periods, etc).

Netherlands will get a sea cable to Denmark, so we can import their electricity when their whole sale prices are lower than ours (which is quite often).

Bas Gresnigt's picture
Bas Gresnigt on December 26, 2013

German studies also concluded that in general, it is cheaper to enhance and extend the grid then to build more spare / storage.

The only problem with this (new major power lines) is the NIMBY issue. Solving that takes a lot of time and made grid adaptation the bottleneck in the implementation speed of more renewable.

Bas Gresnigt's picture
Bas Gresnigt on December 27, 2013

Willem,

Thank you for this clear explanation!
For a real big power grid we also need lines that can transport ~20GW each.

E.g.
In W-Europe the wind blows in Portugal / Spain, if it does not blow in the nordic (Denmark/Germany).
And the other way around.

So with a few lines through the sea that can transport that capacity, most storage issue’s are solved. Probably at lower costs than more pumped storage in Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Norway, Sweden.

Anyway, even for big pumped storage capacities in Norway we need such power ful lines.

What are developments here?
10MV lines?

Bas Gresnigt's picture
Bas Gresnigt on December 27, 2013

Thanks for these additions.

The issue now is that the EEG levy cannot be allowed to explode in the next years, else the Energiewende will loose support under the population (now ~90%).

At election time this summer, Merkel said that she would not allow further rises. And in general she keeps her promises. Allthough that may be difficult here.
Her new coalition partner, SPD, stated in its program 75% renewable in 2030 (was 50%). Now a compromise of 55-60% is reached. So I do not know how she can solve the issue; no higher levies but faster transition to renewable. 
She took already some action by decreasing the volume of offshore wind, preferring less expensive onshore. But that brings little as offshore is very small anyway.
May be a continued fall of solar prices, reaching grid parity even in Germany, will help her out.

A correction:
…4.2 eurocents/kWh, incl. VAT, or 16% of the consumer price of 26.3 eurocent/kWh in 2011.
According to my info the consumer price in Germany in 2013 is 26.3 cnt/KWh and the EEG levy in it 4.2 cent.

Bas Gresnigt's picture
Bas Gresnigt on December 27, 2013

Willem,

More people, especially more intelligence, implies more inventions more progress.
How more backwards would the world be without the input of e.g. Asian intellectuals.

More progress implies that we can organise the world such that it can support more people.
Regarding energy:
 – Wind turbine of 50MW without gearbox that use superconducting magnets.
 – Real cheap PV-panels with multi-junction cells that have yields of 45% and more (now ~15%).
 – Cheap batteries with huge capacities, e.g. using graphene. So only electric cars, etc.
 – Faster development of fusion which may bring electricity for 0.01cent/KWh if we also succeed in transforming the heat radiation (neutrons, etc) directly into electricity. E.g. using high temperature “PV-panels” at the walls of the fusion torus.

Gary Tulie's picture
Gary Tulie on December 27, 2013

The UK is moving in this direction, and effectively from 2016, new build houses will be built to a standard broadly comperable with Passiv house with PV – or in some other way be required to achieve carbon neutral status for heating, cooling, hot water and lighting. 

Already, every time a house is sold or let, an energy rating is required to be made available to the buyer / renter enabling them to take future energy costs into account when considering which house to rent or buy. 

As of 2018, this carbon neutral regulation will also apply to commercial buildings, although in some cases, there may be an agreement that a solar array or wind turbine elsewhere will be installed as part of a package deal. 

Incandescent light bulbs have now been largely phased out due to EU regulations, and halogen spotlights are due to follow shortly, and for some years now, many electrical goods have been required to display their energy rating label when sold. 

More needs to be done, particularly in regards to retrofit of energy efficiency measures to existing building stock, but I would say that the EU is at least moving in the right direction. 

Clayton Handleman's picture
Clayton Handleman on December 27, 2013

Thanks Willem.  If you can lay your hands on them would you mind posting or messaging me the link(s) to the NREL documents suggesting that they won’t allow wind any credit toward baseload?

 

 

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If you have an experience or insight to share or have learned something from a conference or seminar, your peers and colleagues on Energy Central want to hear about it. It's also easy to share a link to an article you've liked or an industry resource that you think would be helpful.

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