There are lots of unfortunate side-effects of wind turbines on the environment, including effects on the electrical grid to which they are attached. It is no secret that the wind varies over time, and that variability translates to fluctuations in the electrical generation. These fluctuations occur on different time scales. Some years are windier than others, as are seasons, days, hours, minutes and even seconds. Over longer time scales these fluctuations are important because they necessitate having a reliable backup. Over shorter time scales they effect the reliability of the grid and increase the workload on the other generators – leading to a number of researchers to posit that this additional workload ends up increasing emissions to the point where there are no net savings at all. My personal perspective hasn’t changed in the years I’ve been doing this: we don’t know what the emissions savings from wind turbines are, potentially they are negligible, so why in the world are we spending billions of dollars when we don’t even know? Continue reading Turbulent Character
Category Archives: Emissions Savings
Heath Gets It
The town of Heath, Massachusetts, like many other town faced with wind turbine projects, formed a committee to study the issue. Their final report is a very accurate and very readable compilation of the issues surrounding wind energy. Hats off to the members who took the time to do the research and had the strength to do it honestly.
Unfortunately, the Town of Heath hasn’t posted the report on its web site, so there’s no link to the original. In the meantime, the town has proposed a bylaw that outright bans wind turbines within the town. UPDATE, February 27, 2013 – Heath voters unanimously passed the ban.
Palmer – the Real Coal Story
On January 10, 2012, the Ontario premier’s office was crowing about shutting down the remaining Ontario coal plants. That story was picked up by sympathetic outlets. It is expected that a politician will play loose with the facts when it suits them, but unfortunately many of the media outlets seem to not have the skills or interest to find out the real story. Bill Palmer is in a position to know and relates it below, in more details than he did on this site earlier. Note that Bill is politically even-handed in his criticism.
I’ve tried to respond to a number of newspaper articles and technical publications that ran this story … to date none have chosen to print my comment. However, you deserve the chance to know the truth.
Renewable generation, and in particular wind had very little to do with the reduction in the output of coal fired generators in Ontario. Here are the facts. You can refer to the attached figure if you like pictures better than words. [The little purple line in the lower right corner is the wind production.]
In 1994, nuclear generation supplied over 90 TWh of Ontario’s electrical supply, coal supplied about 15, and hydro about 35. Performance of the nuclear plants was deteriorating in part because of political decisions made by the Bob Rae (NDP) government to minimize maintenance and give early retirement to senior staff at Ontario Hydro in the early 1990’s due to the increase in costs brought about by putting Darlington into service after the start up was delayed by a David Peterson (Liberal) government decision to hold construction and start up in the late 80’s even though most of the costs had been spent, and high interest rates continued to rack up cost of the borrowed money. The rules were (and still are) that new “hydro” construction costs are not put on the consumer bills until a new station are put into service. The Darlington “cost over-runs” were mostly due to the political decision to hold startup at a time interest rates on borrowed money were double digit.
The Mike Harris (PC) government that followed Bob Rae decided that the nuclear units at Bruce A and Pickering A would be shut down to focus improvements on the newer B stations at Pickering B, Bruce B, and Darlington. The output of the nuclear generators dropped to about 60 TWh. Coal picked up the slack, increasing in output to about 40 TWh in the early 2000’s. 2003, the year the Dalton McGuinty (Liberal) government was formed, coal supplied about 40 TWh, nuclear about 62 TWh, hydro about 35 TWh, and the Ontario demand was about 155 TWh. However, the improvements in the nuclear plants, which had been started some years before resulted in the return to service of Bruce A units 3 and 4, and Pickering A Units 1 and 4 by 2004. The nuclear output started to rise and the coal output started to fall. Then after 2004, a further surprise occurred … the Ontario demand started to fall as mines, mills, pulp and paper, and other users closed up shop, or moved out of Ontario. From 2005 to 2012, the Ontario demand dropped by about 15 TWh, nearly 10% … not from conservation, but from loss of industrial output. As nuclear output continued to increase, including in 2012 the return to service of Bruce A units 1 and 2, the nuclear output rose to over 80 TWh again. The 20 TWh increase in nuclear output, the 15 TWh loss of Ontario demand, and the start up of a number of natural gas generators, bringing their output up to 20 TWh meant there was no need to run coal …
And the 4 TWh of output from the wind generators really had just about nothing to do with the reduction in the coal generation, as the wind production is mostly when coal generators are not needed – at night, and in the spring and fall. In the hot summer, and even in the cold winter days, when wind output is low, the coal plants continue to run. They can now be shut down now as there are enough gas generators to fill in … mind you at considerably greater cost.
And that friends, is the true story … the reason coal generation could drop 40 TWh was that the nuclear units picked up over 20 TWh, the system demand dropped 15 TWh, and natural gas generators picked up about 10 TWh. The 4 TWh of wind had very little impact on shutting down coal … no matter what you read elsewhere.
Feel free to share the truth, as it needs to be known. I’ve even shared it with some of the Liberal candidates … but it does not seem to be popular to say as it runs against the spin that “coal was shut down by bringing in clean renewables.”
U Minn and Vestas Reality Check
A commenter recently pointed me to a University of Minnesota at Morris study from 2008 that contained a wealth of interesting information about their one Vestas V82 1.65 mw turbine and how it has performed in 2006 through 2008. The V82 is a rather common wind turbine, deployed in large numbers throughout the world. Falmouth’s turbines are V82’s. Thank you John.
Recently I’ve been working on the apparent decline of Capacity Factor over time and since this report appeared to have fairly granular hub wind speeds and production levels perhaps I could see if it suffered the same loss (somewhere between 1.5% and 2% per year) as has been noted in Ontario, Denmark and now Ireland. The trend was in fact slightly downward, but the numbers weren’t consistent enough for just one turbine over just three years for me to put much confidence in that conclusion. But during my examination of the report I came across a number of other interesting tidbits.
In Vestas’ Life Cycle Assessment [backup link] of the V82 they “calculated”, per page 20, that at a Danish “typical” average wind speed of 7.38 m/s it would generate at a Capacity Factor of 40.8%, or an average of 673.2 kw out of its 1650 kw capacity. I took UMinn’s daily average production and wind speed figures and produced the following clickable chart:
The Vestas’ claim is represented by the yellow dot, which is clearly above the actual average of about 500kw – a decrease of 25%. This is not trivial. Adding to the exaggeration, below are the actual Capacity Factors for a selection of European countries – DK stands for Denmark. So their “typical” and their “calculation” are each off by about 25%. So instead of 40.8% we have 22.8%.
This exaggeration cannot be unintentional or uninformed. The value of the turbine is slightly over half of what they claim.
I have long been trying to nail down how much electricity a wind turbine consumes. The wind industry seems quite reluctant to publish this. As an example, in the V82 Life Cycle Assessment they lump all the manufacturing, operation, transportation etc. together into a 20-year lifetime total of 3392 mw-h, not willing to break it out. Luckily, the UMinn’s reports include negative production numbers when the wind isn’t blowing enough to produce – about 3.5 m/s. Each day they listed the minimum production, along with the minimum wind speed. UMinn didn’t reveal the time increments, but fully 85% of the days during the 3 years had a negative-production period. I graphed the results:
The above chart shows the minimum productions plotted against the minimum wind speeds. As you might expect, whenever the wind speed is above the 3.5 m/s cut-in speed the turbine starts producing, but not getting consistently into positive territory until about 4.5 m/s. Notice the results when the wind doesn’t get above 3.5 m/s – typically there’s a MINUS 50kw of production. This is power that must be supplied from the grid just to keep the turbine in business. And 50kw seems to be what the turbine uses to stay alive in good weather. In the winter it gets slightly higher – the highest negative numbers were in the 80 kw range.
So, finally, we have a measurement of just how much electricity they consume! 50 kw is quite a bit higher than my previous findings, which originated in industry statements and cash flow calculations. Recall that the average Danish turbine produces about 376 kw (1650 * .228). So a V82 operating in Denmark consumes roughly 13% of what it produces. No wonder they want to keep this quiet.
I think the reason it is so high for the V82 is that the generator must use an electromagnet, compared with newer turbines that use rare-earth-based “super” permanent magnets. In their Life Cycle Assessment for the V82 they mention the iron and copper in the generator but do not mention any rare earths.
The wind gets stronger the higher above the ground you get, generally in a logarithmic manner. The rate at which it gets stronger is embodied in the Wind Shear Exponent, which varies from 0.1 over water to 0.4 in urban areas. UMinn’s exponent was 0.244, which is typical of a rural landscape with trees and small buildings. UMinn produced the picture below which graphically represents how the wind shear affects the wind turbine.
Note that at the bottom of the rotors the average wind speed is 6 m/s, while at the top it is over 8 m/s. This is a big difference in terms of the forces, which flex the blades every rotation and no doubt contribute to their wear. This also contributes to noise generation, and may be responsible for the very annoying “thumping” that wind turbines sometimes produce.
Coal Reductions and Health
William Palmer continues to gather facts about Ontario’s electrical grid and the uselessness of wind energy in it. This is very much unlike Ontario’s government and any number of ENGO’s, who simply repeat their slogans over and over until enough voters believe them to keep them in power. This time he has put together two charts and a longer paper showing Ontario’s generation mix for the last quarter-century and they pretty much put to rest two of these pervasive slogans: (1) that wind energy is eliminating coal generation, and (2) that coal generation is related to asthma and respiratory deaths.
UPDATE – Feb 29, 2012. Palmer has also started a series at MasterResource that expands upon this topic. Part two.
Wolfe on the Ontario Grid
Denise Wolfe lives on Amherst Island (along with John Harrison and me, part time) and really knows how to do research and even better how to summarize it. As part of her efforts to convince the powers-that-be to stop the project on Amherst, she prepared a summary of what is currently known about the effects of wind turbines on Ontario’s grid. It is brief (6 pages) and to the point, and is totally accurate. If you need a good summary of what a mess wind energy has made of the Ontario grid this is excellent.
Denise Wolfe, Ontario Fact Sheet
AWEA vs. Bryce/Bentek, round #2
Round 1 occurred back in August 2010 when Bentek did a study and Robert Bryce placed an article in the WSJ casting doubt on wind energy’s main raison d’etre, lessening emissions. The Bentek study was notable in that they used actual emissions measurements – not models, calculations or assumptions. AWEA, the wind industry lobbyist, responded pretty strongly. With a second more robust Bentek study and another Bryce article, round 2 has just finished. It follows a remarkably similar trajectory to round #1. The main ingredients are:
- an emission-busting study by Bentek:
- Round #1: How Less Became More
- Round #2: The Wind Power Paradox
- a subsequent emission-busting article by Bryce:
- Round #1: In the Wall St Journal, Wind Power Won’t Cool Down the Planet
- Round #2: In Forbes, A New Study Takes the Wind Out of Wind Energy
- a counter-attack by AWEA:
- Round #1: Does Wind Power Reduce Carbon Emissions? Counter-response
- Round #2: AWEA Reponds to Bentek Study Questioning Wind’s Emissions Reductions
I covered round one with an earlier posting, which you should probably read just to get a sense of the deja vu here. The essence of that posting was the AWEA’s “facts” were hardly that, with lots of assertions but nothing of substance to back those assertions up.
The second Bentek study correlated wind generation data with emissions measurements and found that the savings were much less than advertised. I’ve read through all of AWEA’s round #2 counter-attack and through all of the references they have used to back up their assertions in an effort to see if they have any effective criticism of Bentek’s work. As it turns out, all of their references are recycled from round #1. As a consequence the result is the same as round #1 – they still don’t have any actual science on their side.
AWEA has had, between the rounds, almost a year to sharpen their counter-attack and to do some work on getting better references. Or even better, a year to go out and get some actual measurements showing their product is in fact effective in lowering emissions. However when wind-friendly references do not exist because a wind-friendly reality does not exist then you have a problem. But in a show of fairness, I’ll go through AWEA’s round #2 counter-attack with a fresh eye.
I started with AWEA’s press release [backup link]. It starts with typical accusations against the fossil fuel lobby, trying to delay discussing the actual data. Their release is full of obfuscation, for example: “the Bentek report is directly contradicted by a large body of government data and numerous studies by independent grid operators conclusively showing that the emissions savings of adding wind energy to the grid are substantially larger than had been expected.” But what does the word “showing” mean? Are they talking measurements, or just more simulations, models, assumptions and calculations? They also mention that there are errors in the Bentek study, notably that exports were not counted when doing the calculations. None of these assertions have any supporting references. It is pretty easy and even fun to point out where the other guy is “wrong” – but where is your answer? AWEA doesn’t bother supplying one.
Instead, they link to a more permanent posting of theirs, The Facts about Wind Energy and Emissions [backup link]. Here they provide some numbers for Colorado and Texas that purport to show the an increase of wind’s penetration into their grids created a decrease in emissions. These numbers sound convincing if read in isolation, but missing from AWEA’s discussion is any sense of context. If AWEA had provided links to their source data we could see if there was a larger picture that might not be so convincing. But, conveniently for them and inconveniently for us, they don’t. Instead they provide 2 links to other postings from wind-friendly sites, including their own:
- AWEA Debunks Colorado Study Funded by Fossil Lobby [backup link]
- The Facts About Wind Energy and Emissions [backup link], from renewableenergyworld.com, not to be confused with AWEA’s posting of the same name, even though it was written by the same guy, Michael Goggin of AWEA. So Goggin uses himself as a reference.
Both of these postings are leftovers from round #1, dated April 5, 2010 and September 1, 2010 respectively. We are now 3 levels deep (press release -> facts about wind energy and emissions -> 2 studies both written by them) into following AWEA’s evidence trail, and we haven’t yet seen anything but their own writings. One has to start wondering if this long trail is intentional, meant to discourage anyone from actually finding out if there’s any substance to anything they’ve written. Plus we now find out that there’s no new information from AWEA relating to the latest round #2 study from Bentek, which was substantially larger and more detailed than their round #1 study . I have a brother that argues the same way. By repeating the same points with more strident emphasis he thinks he will be more persuasive. OK, I’ll bite. One more layer, then we’re done.
AWEA Debunks Colorado Study Funded by Fossil Lobby
This debunking runs all of 2 pages and contains the same assertions regarding Colorado and Texas as AWEA’s other postings. It is curious that this debunking is dated April 5, 2010 while the “Colorado Study” (the Bentek “How Less Became More” study) was published April 16, 2010. Isn’t it nice that the debunking preceded the study? But at least there are 9+1 outside references in here. Let’s look at them one-by-one.
- The Bentek, How Less Became More [link supplied by me, obviously AWEA didn’t have one] [backup link]. While AWEA doesn’t much discuss the study itself, I certainly have.
- http://www.eia.doe.gov/cneaf/electricity/st_profiles/sept05co.xls [backup link] This chart lists the Colorado electric generation by source, and generally shows that wind/renewables and gas have been increasing while coal has been decreasing. This is not surprising, and was not discussed in the Bentek study. There’s no mention of emissions.
- http://www.eia.doe.gov/cneaf/electricity/st_profiles/sept07co.xls [backup link] This chart shows the estimated emissions from the various electric generation sources in Colorado. Apparently AWEA would rather we believe estimates from the government rather than measurements from Bentek. One has to wonder why the government doesn’t do its own study using measurements. The data is available.
- http://www.eia.doe.gov/cneaf/coal/page/acr/table26.html [backup link] This chart shows the coal consumption for different industry sectors, one of which is electrical generation, for the U.S. in years 2008 and 2009. It shows coal use decreased from 2008 to 2009. This is not a surprise, was not discussed by Bentek, and is mostly due to the recession. There is no mention of emissions.
- http://tonto.eia.doe.gov/dnav/ng/ng_cons_sum_dcu_SCO_a.htm [backup link] This web page shows the natural gas consumption by different end users, including electric power generators. Gas usage peaked in 2007 then went back to roughly the same level as 2005. This peak coincides with the gas price collapse brought about by the recession and the exploitation of shale gas. This is not a surprise, was not discussed by Bentek – at least not here. There is no mention of emissions.
- http://www.ercot.com/news/presentations/2006/ATTCH_A_CREZ_Analysis_Report.pdf [backup link] This is an appendix to a study by the Texas ISO, Ercot, entitled Analysis of Transmission Alternatives for Competitive Renewable Energy Zones in Texas. There’s no mention of emissions savings in it, let alone any measurements.
- http://www.windpoweringamerica.gov/pdfs/economic_development/2008/in_wind_benefits_factsheet.pdf [backup link] This is a 2-page DOE publication about the benefits of wind in Indiana, one of which is 3.1 million tons annually. There’s no indication of where this number came from, or how it was calculated. Certainly it involved no measurements. How did Indiana get into this?
- http://www.nrel.gov/wind/systemsintegration/ewits.html [actual study link][backup link] AWEA’s link goes to the introduction page for the EWITS (Eastern Wind Integration and Transmission Study), so I’ve linked to the study itself. It is 16mb, so be careful if you are on dial-up. As the title implies, this was a study of how a large amount of wind energy could be imbedded in the eastern part of the U.S. The study did include emissions savings with different scenarios, but these were all simulations. Keeping in mind that the models were created and run by people with an interest in the results, I’d rather take Bentek’s measurements any time.
- http://www1.eere.energy.gov/windandhydro/wind_2030.html [actual study link][backup link] AWEA’s link goes to the introduction page for the 20% Wind Energy by 2030 Study, so I’ve linked to the actual study. It is 9mb, so be careful. I have previously posted (twice, actually) on this very study, and suffice to say I found it not just unpersuasive, but downright disingenuous. Their calculation of emissions savings actually came from AWEA, certainly not from any measurements.
Plus another reference that slipped in: http://www.eia.doe.gov/cneaf/electricity/st_profiles/sept06co.xls [backup link] This chart shows electric power delivered fuel charges for Colorado. There’s nothing in here about emissions, let alone any measurements.
So what do we have from the Colorado “debunking”? Remember that Bentek took real measured emissions data and correlated it with wind generation data to see what effect the wind generation had on the emissions. What has AWEA answered with? A lot of assertions that are mostly cherry-picked, but more importantly do not involve a single measurement. Not a one. Nada. Zero. Zilch.
The Facts About Wind Energy and Emissions
For AWEA’s second part of their counter-attack they’ve referenced AWEA’s own more detailed explanation of their “facts” about wind energy and emissions. The links above are still good, and AWEA also posted the same explanation at masterresource.org. If you want to get some expert commentary on what AWEA presented, I’d suggest you look at the comments following AWEA’s posting.
There are 8 new references presented in this explanation that aren’t included in the list above. I’ll go through them one by one, trying to see if any of them in any way refute the results Bentek obtained.
- http://www.awea.org/pubs/factsheets/Backup_Power.pdf. This was a study about backup power written by AWEA itself, but the link has gone dead.
- This was a page reference in the EWITS that was listed above. Page 174 discusses the change in generation patterns that different levels of wind penetration might cause. Emissions were not discussed at all, let alone measurements.
- http://www.ercot.com/content/news/presentations/2009/Carbon_Study_Report.pdf [backup link] This study is titled Analysis of Potential Impacts of CO2 Emissions Limits on Electric Power Costs in the ERCOT Region. There are some simulations about what effects different carbon caps would have on the Texas grid. It contains no measurements of how wind generation would affect emissions.
- http://www.midwestiso.org/page/Expansion+Planning This link has gone dead and now bounces back to MISO’s home page.
- http://www.state.nj.us/dep/cleanair/hearings/pdf/09_potential_effects.pdf [backup link] This study is titled Potential Effects of Proposed Climate Change Policieson PJM’s Energy Market. It contains simulations of how different governmental policies would affect the PJM market. It contains no measurements of how wind generation would affect emissions.
- http://www.iso-ne.com/committees/comm_wkgrps/prtcpnts_comm/pac/reports/2010/economicstudyreportfinal_022610.pdf [backup link] This study is titled New England 2030 Power System Study. It contains different transmission and generation scenarios along with costs, including emissions. Nowhere does it say where the emissions numbers came from.It contains no measurements of how wind generation would affect emissions.
- http://www.eia.doe.gov/cneaf/electricity/st_profiles/sept07tx.xls [backup link] This chart shows the estimated emissions from the various electric generation sources in Texas. Apparently AWEA would rather we believe estimates from the government rather than measurements from Bentek. One has to wonder why the government doesn’t do its own study using measurements. The data is available.
- http://www.eia.doe.gov/cneaf/electricity/st_profiles/sept05tx.xls [backup link] This chart lists the Texas electric generation by source, and generally shows that wind/renewables have been increasing while coal and natural gas have been decreasing, sort of. This is not surprising, and was not discussed in the Bentek study. There’s no mention of emissions.
In parallel with the Colorado debunking study, this study contains no actual measurements of emissions, let alone any that might contradict the measurements that Bentek made. It is pretty obvious that AWEA has no interest is doing some actual science and using actual measurements to see if wind energy is effective in reducing emissions. Instead they write papers using whatever scattered numbers they can come across, choosing to look authoritative in contrast to being authoritative. In a way, they are being smart. When you don’t have the facts on your side, try something else.
Is there an echo in here?
I don’t take a lot of pleasure out of seeing what I’ve written confirmed, having the “I told you so” moment, just as I don’t take a lot of pleasure out of being the bearer of bad news about wind energy. But every now and then some industry insider confirms what I’ve been saying and at least that lets me know I’m not totally divorced from reality – that my wits are at least marginally intact. And I do enjoy having that confirmation.
At the American Public Power Association conference last week in Washington one Kevin Gaden, who is director of a power consortium in Nebraska, made a speech, that from the sounds of it, could have been based on my writings. Except, of course, it was based on his experience in the field.
Link to The Reality of Wind Power [backup link]. Compare that to my Emissions Savings Summary page.
The Cow Equivalence
UPDATE – I’ve rerun the numbers and checked my logic a zillion times and finally decided to pull all the “cow” postings.
Any electric grid is complicated to begin with, and trying to figure a secondary product (emissions) of anything complicated is even more so. I think my general technique is reasonable, but I can’t totally convince myself that it represents reality.
My apologies to everyone who took the time to read through these postings, and maybe at least they gave everyone something to think about.
Another Look at 20% by 2030
One of the major weapons in the wind energy proponents’ quiver is a report titled 20% Wind Energy by 2030. It was published by NREL, the National Renewable Energy Labs, which is part of the U.S. Dept. of Energy, in May 2008. It lays out a blueprint on how the U.S. could attain 20% of its electricity production by 2030. It has been widely used as an authoritative source by just about every industry body and many green-leaning politicians as well, all the way up to President Obama. Since the DOE is headed by a Nobel-prize-winning physicist (Dr. Steven Chu), and they’ve got lots of money and PhD-level people, you’d think such an important report would be unassailable, especially by a mere mortal from a small town in Ohio, working out of his garage (literally). You might be thinking that I’m just another anti-wind agitator who would always find something to quibble about in any otherwise solid piece of work. I hope that after reading this posting you’ll have some appreciation of just non-quibbly the problems are, and how truly stupid we are for using it to justify all the financial, environment and social costs of wind energy. Continue reading Another Look at 20% by 2030
Ontario ministers (i.e. Duguid and Wilkerson) have continued to justify forcing the installation of wind turbine projects into communities that don’t want them by claiming the greater good is being served – specifically that wind energy allows Ontario to burn less coal, thus preventing the early deaths of hundreds of people due to asthma etc. Their “hundreds of people” claim is highly dubious in the first place – see the research by Ross McKitrick. In the second place, as I have shown over and over again, there is no connection between wind energy production and lower coal production.
As always, me being me, I continued to wonder where all this wind energy went. The most obvious answer is that it was exported, at great loss, to Ontario’s neighbors. Certainly Ontario’s exports in almost all cases exceed whatever the wind is producing. But when I ran the numbers, the relationship between wind production and exports was roughly the same as between wind and coal – which is to say, almost non-existent. However, the relative shapes of the two sets of curves was close enough that I started wondering what the relationship of coal production was to exports. And since I’m writing this posting, you know I found something interesting. Continue reading Ontario’s Exports
Wind = Coal Reductions Jan
I’ve continued my series on Ontario’s failure to translate its wind production into reductions of coal production, now into its fourth month – January 2011. This follows the earlier reports: October’s Record Days, November 2010, and October/December 2010. In this series I’m using actual production numbers to see if more wind production ever leads to less coal production. So far during these three months there’s been no connection between the two – leading one to conclude that the IESO ignores the wind output and essentially exports whatever wind production there is, at whatever wholesale price that exists at that time (which fairly often falls below zero, where you are paying people to take it). For the first time the R-squared value, which is a reflection of how much of a relationship exists between the wind and coal production numbers, climbed above 0.05, to a still-unimpressive 0.08. Unfortunately, the relationship was in the wrong direction – as wind increased, so did coal. Oops.
I have now studied 4 traditionally windy months – where if a relationship existed it would likely have been found. Here’s the chart.
Wind = Coal Reductions NOT
In a recent posting I discussed the actual Ontario results of their 1200MW wind energy capacity upon their coal production. I used the most recent month, November 2010, and while there was a slight decline in coal production vis-a-vis an increase in wind production, it was so far buried in the day-to-day variations that whatever savings existed disappeared. I also will be quick to point out that even if there were production savings it does not necessarily follow (regardless of what the AWEA says) that there are consumption or emissions savings. But without production savings it is difficult to see how there could be any other types of savings.
Anyway, I thought maybe using hourly figures instead of the daily figures I used in that posting would show a trend more clearly. So I ran November again with the hourly numbers and the results were pretty much the same, with the r-squared going from an insignificant 0.02 to an almost equally insignificant 0.04. The spreadsheet is available – just ask – but there’s so many points on the resulting chart that it didn’t seem useful to publish it. From now on I’ll stick to using daily numbers, as they seem to fairly represent the reality – and doing the hourly numbers is quite a bit of work for little additional information.
And then I wondered if November was a particularly good or bad month to show any relationship. So I went back to October 2010 and ran the numbers again. Here’s the results.
As insignificant as any savings in November were, the savings in October are even more insignificant. Notice that the linear shows a very slight positive slope. So now we have two months’ data and both are in pretty close agreement that at least in Ontario wind production does not lead to any reduction in coal production. And since nobody even pretends that wind production leads to a reduction in gas production – if you don’t have coal savings you have no savings.
I also have to mention that a couple of days in October made the news due to their exceptionally good production numbers, and of course I commented on how even that good production didn’t lead to any reduction in fossil fuel use. That 3-day ineffectiveness also applies for the entire month.
Update, January 1, 2011. Happy New Year! I celebrated by going through December’s numbers to see if the IESO did any better at using the wind production to cut down on coal production. Almost needless to say, the results for December echoed October and November – which is to say wind production seems to have no effect on coal production. As I’ve written earlier, you might as well be digging holes as putting up wind turbines.
Wind = Coal Reductions?
The powers that be in Ontario (McGuinty, the Premier, and Duguid, the Minister of Energy) have prominently mentioned that getting rid of coal is the prime benefit to installing all the wind turbines. One thing missing from their statements is any mention of how much coal is actually saved by installing wind. In an earlier posting I dug into the numbers behind a couple of exceptionally good days for wind energy production and discovered all that wind energy didn’t translate noticeably to a reduction in coal consumption, let alone a reduction in emissions (a topic I covered in another earlier posting as well. But it struck me that maybe sampling 3 days wasn’t really fair; that maybe I ought to take a look at an entire month. So I took a look at the actual operating experience in the last full month – November 2010 – and while an argument could be made that coal consumption was reduced, it was so small as to disappear into the noise. Continue reading Wind = Coal Reductions?
Wind Power is Gas Power
Energy analyst Steve Aplin wrote an article for canadianenergyissues.com that explains in rather simple and explicit terms why wind + gas (actually, gas + wind) is a really terrible way to reduce our emissions, and that nuclear + coal would be far cheaper and (surprise!) cleaner. Perhaps if my musings on this topic aren’t convincing, maybe Steve’s are. And don’t forget masterresource and bravenewclimate.
More on the Laws of Physics
In a previous post I discussed the WSJ article [backup link]from Robert Bryce and AWEA’s response – went dead, wonder why – [backup link] to it. I recently reviewed that posting to see if it could be made more accurate or more understandable. As part of this review I created a transcription of Bode’s comments and added a “permanent” recording of them, given that they’re no longer on the front page of AWEA’s web site. As I mentioned in the previous post, the point that rankled me the most was her assertion that “Any claim that adding wind energy to the electricity grid would not reduce carbon emissions violates the laws of physics.” This assertion is nonsense, but it took me some time to come up with a reasonable analogy. Here it is. Continue reading More on the Laws of Physics
How Maine’s DEP Figures Emissions
In June 2009 Dr. Dora Mills released a health study, which (of course) I critiqued. Along with not being able to find any negative health issues with wind turbines she also mentioned their positive health benefits due to reduced emissions. Her numbers came from Maine’s Department of Environment Protection, but I couldn’t find how the DEP came up with them. Just recently I came across a series of emails that were obtained via the FOAA in Maine, and in there was my answer! My main concern with her health study is her inability to find any health effects from wind turbines so the emissions numbers are a sideshow. I ordinarily wouldn’t bother with a separate posting on them, except the DEP’s method was so dishonest I felt I had to.
AWEA Goes on the Attack
Over the last month the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) has been lashing out with increasing energy at wind energy opponents. Like all industry lobbyist groups they tend to do their best work in secret, behind closed doors, working with compliant bureaucrats, politicians and scientists. It is unusual when they come out of the shadows and bother themselves with the public. Their web site’s home page suddenly features their CEO, Denise Bode, in a video along with a message that “The American Wind Energy Association thwarted another attack against renewable energy by the fossil fuel lobby last Friday as they attempted yet another anti-renewable energy PR push based on falsehoods and inaccurate reports.” The previous sentence and her video contain so many untruths I’m not sure where to start. But I’ll try. Continue reading AWEA Goes on the Attack
Surplus Baseload Generation
In an earlier post, Emissions Savings Details, down in the “And Worser” section, I mentioned that between the not-entirely-dispatchable CHP plants and the entirely-not-dispatchable wind projects, Ontario has so much surplus generation at night that they end up paying other people to take it off their hands. This is called Surplus Baseload Generation, and as the number of CHP and wind generators continues to grow in Ontario’s attempt to shut down its last coal generators, it is becoming more common. Ontario’s IESO, the grid operator, now publishes a daily report that forecasts how big these surpluses will be. Take a look at a recent report – these numbers are BIG, and they seem to occur almost every night, at least during low-usage times of the year. Continue reading Surplus Baseload Generation
The Turning Point
In the Netherlands a pair of engineers, De Groot and Le Pair, have analyzed the purported emissions savings of wind energy. They follow in a long line of other engineers whose papers are posted on my Emissions Savings References Page. It was very gratifying to see how close their ideas are to my own. Both of these papers are well-written, with enough technical details and facts to back up their conclusions. The first paper, “Hidden Costs“, lays out the basic premise, while the second paper, “Fuel Consumption“, formally introduces The Turning Point, where the CO2 savings goes into negative territory. Basically this happens when the decrease in the efficiency of existing generation matches the wind production.