Monday, May 03, 2010

"Power Hungry" by Robert Bryce

Robert Bryce is a writer who has published several books on energy. His latest, Power Hungry, is a thorough rejection of wind power and a promotion of nuclear power.
So you want to build a wind farm? OK, Mr. Bryce says, to start you'll need 45 times the land mass of a nuclear power station to produce a comparable amount of power; and because you are in the middle of nowhere you'll also need hundreds of miles of high-voltage lines to get the energy to your customers. This "energy sprawl" of giant turbines and pylons will require far greater amounts of concrete and steel than conventional power plants—figure on anywhere from 870 to 956 cubic feet of concrete per megawatt of electricity and 460 tons of steel (32 times more concrete and 139 times as much steel as a gas-fired plant).

Once you've carpeted your tract of wilderness with turbines and gotten over any guilt you might feel about the thousands of birds you're about to kill, prepare to be underwhelmed and underpowered. Look at Texas, Mr. Bryce says: It ranks sixth in the world in total wind-power production capacity, and it has been hailed as a model for renewable energy and green jobs by Republicans and Democrats alike. And yet, according to the Electric Reliability Council of Texas, which runs the state's electricity grid, just "8.7 percent of the installed wind capability can be counted on as dependable capacity during the peak demand period." The wind may blow in Texas, but, sadly, it doesn't blow much when it is most needed—in summer. The net result is that just 1% of the state's reliable energy needs comes from wind.

If using a huge amount of real estate to generate a tiny amount of energy from an intermittent energy source sounds deranged, consider, too, that we haven't yet found the holy grail for storing wind-generated energy. Wind is either an instant energy snack or a famine. It must be used when it's there or immediately replaced when it isn't.

But if you are managing an energy grid, you have to meet constant demand or face blackouts, which means that you will have to have conventional power plants to back up the wind farms. As Jing Yang reported in The Wall Street Journal last year, this strategy is precisely the one that China is pursuing, adding in one province alone the coal-fired equivalent of Hungary. These plants, Mr. Bryce notes, are designed to run continuously and will in all likelihood "be run continuously in order to assure that the regional power grid doesn't go dark." The irony of wind power is that it "doesn't displace power plants, it only adds to them."

It is not for nothing, then, that the scientist and ur-environmentalist James Lovelock (the author of the Gaia theory of holistic planet-nurturing) now thinks that wind power and renewable energy are "rotten ideas." What is arguably worse are rotten ideas that no one is allowed to criticize: Last year, Britain's minister for climate change, Ed Miliband, declared that the British government had to make opposition to wind power "socially unacceptable." _WSJ
PowerHungry

Here is an excerpt from a recent post in Robert Bryce's blog:
The wind energy lobbyists love to claim that installing new wind turbines is the cheapest form of new electricity generation capacity. In fact, I heard that very claim while at a party here in Austin a few weeks ago. But as usual, there’s the hype and there’s the reality.

Today, the International Energy Agency, in cooperation with the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development’s Nuclear Energy Agency, released a study called “Projected Costs of Generating Electricity.” The results are yet another refutation that wind is the least-costly source of new generation. Using what it calls the “levelized costs of electricity,” a metric that includes key factors like the discount rate, construction costs, load factors, fuel prices, and carbon costs, the study found that nuclear power is the least-expensive option for new generation in North America, Europe, and Asia Pacific when the discount rate is 5%. Meanwhile, wind energy was often the most expensive option regardless of location and whether the discount rate was 5% or 10%. _Bryce

PowerHungry

Anyone who bothers to check the underlying data and reality understands that big wind energy is the worst possible investment -- if not for ruinously huge government subsidies. Obama, Brown, and the other usual suspects love wind energy. Why not? None of them understand the technology or economics of energy, so why not promote the most idiotic approach to large-scale energy in existence? At least they are being consistent.

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1 Comments:

Blogger Ronduck said...

I think a lot of congressfolk get the false impression that wind power will be viable countrywide because they see windpower working in DC. Those of us out in flyover country need to remember how much hot air is available in DC to power windmills.

Hell, the neighborhoods around Capital Hill could become the wind capital of America.

8:14 PM  

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