Saturday, October 06, 2012

Why Wind Won't Work

The problem with big wind energy is so basic and elementary that it is easily overlooked by those possessing a strong a priori belief in the absolute necessity to develop wind "power."

Al Fin began his exploration of energy with such a strong a priori belief in support of both big wind and big solar energy. In the course of teaching himself about energy, he assisted a number of installations of home-scale wind, solar, and micro-hydro systems. These projects were educational as well as fun. People who are willing to work to build off-grid small scale power can be fun to be around, and often know how to party.

But there is a huge difference between using wind (and solar) for off-grid residencies, and attempting to use large-scale wind as a large proportion of total energy generating capacity for a finely balanced continental power grid. That is the lesson that Al Fin had to learn, and which modern societies must now learn -- before they destroy themselves in pursuit of impossibilities.
...wind turbines by themselves do not add electrical capacity to a grid. They must be paired with other generators of equivalent power to compensate for wind variations and for the stability of the electricity grid.

This pairing—wind and backup—has limits because of the huge rapid variability of wind that must be compensated for by the backup power source. It is estimated that this pairing can account for only 20 percent of the capacity of the grid. This means that wind can be only 6 percent of the generation (.20 x .3). This limit has already been reached in Europe by countries such as Germany and Denmark. _Ulrich Decher PhD
What is the problem, which makes it impossible for wind turbines alone to add electrical capacity to a finely balanced power grid? The wind itself tends to rise and fall -- unpredictably. This lack of predictability is very dangerous to a finely balanced grid. Grid output must be matched precisely with grid demand -- and grid demand itself is often unpredictable. Attempting to supply an unpredictable load with an unpredictable supply is the height of idiocy -- particularly when you are dealing with something as critical to the life or death of a society as electrical power.
...according to a new Reason Foundation/Independence Institute report, the storage, backup, and idling costs become prohibitive as wind’s share of total generation increases beyond 10-20%.

The report, The Limits of Wind Power by William Korchinski (PDF), contains several sobering graphics. Figure 6 from the study shows how variable (intermittent) the wind can be, reducing output as much as 16 MW per minute. _Marlo Lewis

It is crucial for anyone seriously interested in energy to become immersed in the type of details discussed in reports such as the one written by Korchinski (PDF).

Good intentions can make one feel good about himself, but hard-headed, knowledge-based policy is what will keep a society prosperous and healthy. Green policies -- such as the lefty-Luddite green dieoff.orgiast policies promoted by the US Obama administration, the Julia Gillard government in Australia, or any one of a number of European governments (and the EU in general) -- will eventually destroy a society through energy starvation and impoverishment. Such societies eventually pollute the air, water, and soil in far more damaging ways than societies which were allowed by prosperity to move up the energy technology curve -- eventually arriving at safe, clean, and abundant sources of reliable and predictable power supplies.

Ideological efforts to short-circuit that trajectory of development -- such as modern green leftist ideologies -- will doom any societies which adopt them to ultimate failure.

Wind energy is unpredictably intermittent -- and thus unreliable. It is also enormously expensive in terms of materials, land, money, and other scarce resources. Big wind will take any problem you are trying to solve -- and make it worse.

It is fine to hold strong opinions. But make sure that they are backed up with something stronger than good intentions.

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Blogger Contrapundit said...

Master Resource did a detailed analysis of the dis-economies of wind power, concluding: "wind plant implementations cannot be sustained because they divert a large portion of national wealth into unproductive debt-laden investments."

I replied:
Exactly. Look at Europe, on the verge bankruptcy after spending bundles of money on heavily-subsidized green energy. So, when the Democrats passed their cap & trade bill in the House in 2009 that mandated insane 83% CO2 cuts by 2050, if the bill had made it to Obama, we wouldn’t have seen wind and other fanciful green energies making up more than an iota of this lost energy. Our country, already in a fiscal mess, could not maintain such prodigal spending.
Moreover, as far as the full cost to society of wind power, consider also the documented health problems and loss in property values in the vicinity of windmills. And the thousands of pretty little birds, and Bald Eagles, killed by these monsters.

7:47 PM  

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