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Clean Power wind intermittency is not a problem

Published on May 10th, 2011 | by Guest Contributor

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Why Wind Intermittency is NOT a Big Deal

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May 10th, 2011 by
 
wind intermittency is not a problem

This is a special guest post by Chris Varrone, Founder & President of Riverview Consulting and former Chief Strategist, Technology R&D at Vestas Wind Systems.

The anti-wind people are at it again, saturating the media with claims that wind energy is “worthless” because wind doesn’t blow all the time. Nothing could be further from the truth.

In a recent interview, host Stuart Varney on FOX-TV hammers at his guest Denise Bode, head of the American Wind Energy Association, saying, “You don’t create electricity when the wind doesn’t blow and the wind doesn’t blow all the time.” Varney is really up in arms about it.

Not to be outdone, our British cousins have been fuming about the Stuart Young Consulting study which came out this month, commissioned by the John Muir Trust. Its author states: “Sadly, wind power is not what it’s cracked up to be and cannot contribute greatly to energy security in the UK.”

This all sounds very plausible until you think about it a bit, which is hard to do while the sound bites are flying back and forth. The truth is that the variable nature of wind resources doesn’t matter very much. We can quantify exactly what the cost of this variability is, and it turns out to be very modest.

This article explains, in layman’s terms, how wind energy is just that, energy, and how this is different from capacity or what are called “ancillary services.” It then goes on to quantify the cost of the ups-and-downs of wind energy, based on multiple academic and industry studies — the answer is that it costs about 4 tenths of a cent per kWh. Finally, it asks the question whether this low cost would continue indefinitely as wind grows to be a large part of our power system, or whether there might be limits to the use of variable resources like wind (and solar).

Wind Provides Energy

Electricity markets reward generating companies in three different ways:

  1. Energy
  2. Capacity
  3. Ancillary services

Energy is straightforward: the buyer pays for energy, measured in kilowatt-hours. It’s like buying ice cream on a hot day: the seller gets paid to meet an immediate need. There is no guarantee that either party will come back tomorrow.
Capacity is also easy to understand. If you can guarantee me in January that you will be there to meet my need for ice cream on the hottest day of July, then that’s valuable. And it gets a separate (smaller) payment.

Finally, there is a market for ancillary services, which is more complex. Ancillary service providers are there to step in when the grid needs help — to maintain voltage or frequency, or to maintain technical parameters like power factor. To stretch the ice cream analogy a bit, it would be like having a friend follow you around with a cooler filled with ice cream just in case you needed it. Even if you never had a craving, you’d still have to pay them something to be “on standby” all the time.

For the most part, wind farm owners rely on getting paid for “energy-only.” There are occasions where wind energy warrants some degree of capacity payment or even ancillary services payments. But for the most part, the value of wind capacity is low, about 10 to 20% of nameplate capacity. So, a 100-MW wind farm is only worth as much as 15 MW of nuclear power from a capacity standpoint.

However, the energy in wind is worth 100% of the energy in nuclear (or anything else) in the spot market; wind energy in the day-ahead market may be worth a little less, but this can be “firmed” using energy trading desks or by using other assets in the operator’s fleet (e.g., wind farm owners may also own natural gas turbines that can deliver any shortfall in the forecast).

So, the first answer to Stuart Varney and the John Muir Trust and the rest is: wind gets paid for “energy-only,” while fossil fuel generation gets paid for energy plus capacity plus ancillary services. So, intermittency is no big deal — the energy markets have already accounted for all this.

Isn’t There an Externality Here?

By now, our TV presenter is probably scratching his head, but scholars like Robert Bryce of the Manhattan Institute will step up and claim that things are not right, not right at all. “You see, there is an externality,” he will explain. “A hideous externality driven by the near-zero marginal cost of production for wind. Wind turbines use no fuel. This means that wind farm operators can always underbid fossil fuels in the spot market.”

Always. Think about that: the fossil fuel plant is humming along and a storm front moves in. The wind whips up, and the wind farms bid in nearly free power. Well, fossil fuel costs money, so the fossil-plant operator will often choose to ramp down rather than sell electricity for free. But then the storm front moves through quicker than expected — and the fossil plant has to ramp up again. Up and down, over and over, all year long. This is wasteful. It causes increased maintenance. It is an externality imposed on the fossil fuel operators by those darned, fickle winds.

The cycling of fossil fuel plants has been studied for many years, and the generalized form of this problem is called the cost of “wind integration.” As Michael Milligan, a researcher at the National Wind Technology Center, puts it, there are four costs to integrating wind:

  1. Committing unneeded generation
  2. Allocating extra load-following capability
  3. Allocating additional regulating capacity
  4. Increased cycling operation

I will spare you the details (you can read them here).

The key point for the layman to understand is that the implicit cost of all of these effects can be seen in the ancillary services market (i.e., what it costs the system operator to pay for backup). If there is greater uncertainty, then generators will charge more for providing backup.

How much more? Many studies have found the cost of wind integration to be in the $3 to $5 per MWh range. Or about FOUR TENTHS of a cent per kWh.

That’s it. All you are paying for is a little fuel and a little maintenance.

So Stuart, it’s NO BIG DEAL, okay?

What if Wind Provided 20% of Our Energy?

By now, even the Manhattan Institute’s best and brightest would have sweat on their brow. In my imagination, they would grasp at the final straw, arguing: “Well, that’s all well and good, but you’re forgetting that wind is a marginal player today. It’s easy to integrate a LITTLE wind. But once you get to 10% or 20%, the system breaks down. For every MW of wind you put on the system, you need to add a full MW of fossil fuel to back it up. It’s completely uneconomic from a capital cost perspective.”

Of course this is all specious, too.

Such scholars love to remind us how wind is just 2% of the US Energy pie today, neglecting to mention that 35% of the new-build for the past three years has been wind power.

The fact is that there are already states and countries that have 20% or more wind power over the course of a full year — Iowa for one; Denmark and Northern Germany for another. And, in some of these places, wind accounts for 50% or even 100% of electricity demand for certain periods.

Are there rolling blackouts in Europe due to their reliance on wind energy? No, far from it. The reliability of European grids is far better than US grids. In fact, according to Jay Apt, Executive Director of the Electricity Industry Center at Carnegie Mellon: “The United States ranks toward the bottom among developed nations in terms of the reliability of its electricity service… The average U.S. customer loses power for 214 minutes per year. That compares to 70 in the UK, 53 in France, 29 in the Netherlands, 6 in Japan, and 2 minutes per year in Singapore.”

So, European grid operators have learned how to integrate wind in large quantities. Have they built large numbers of natural gas peaker plants to “back up” wind? No, not at all. European power system experts tell me that they are not aware of even a single gas peaker plant added to balance wind energy — not even in Northern Germany or Denmark.

There is enough capacity in the system to handle everything without adding any extra capacity.

In this context, and given that in 2007, under George W. Bush, the US Department of Energy came out with a plan called “20% Wind Energy by 2030,” it would seem that we are okay for at least the next 20 years.

What happens beyond 20% or 30% wind penetration, it is hard to know for sure. I asked Mr. Peter Jørgensen, Vice President of International Relations at Energinet, Denmark’s grid operator, who told me: “We are able to balance the present system with strong interconnectors, market-based trade with the neighboring countries, and good wind forecasts.”

No one is saying that a country can run solely on wind all year long, but Denmark does plan to reach 50% wind penetration by 2025.

Jørgensen says: “It is a big challenge to integrate even more wind power in the system, but we think that we can manage this task, and we base our activities on the development of a strong international transmission grid, a flexible and coherent energy system and SmartGrid solutions.”

So the key is not “backup” for wind – that’s the wrong concept entirely – but flexibility for the entire system across all generation types. Flexibility comes in four flavors: 1) forecasting and scheduling, 2) transmission, 3) demand-side management, and 4) energy storage. You can explore this more in an article of mine that appeared in International Sustainable Energy Review in Dec 2010.

Conclusion

So, we’ve seen that the variability of wind is really nothing to worry about. Grid operators and power markets already know how to deal with energy, capacity and ancillary services, and while the variability of wind is not costless, the cost has been measured many times, and it is consistently in the half-a-cent per kWh ballpark.

So you can rest easy, Stuart Varney. We’ve got you covered.

Related Stories:

  1. Cost of Wind Power — Kicks Coal’s Butt, Better than Natural Gas (& Could Power Your EV for $0.70/gallon)
  2. Wind Power is Making Electricity Cheaper (Exxon: Wind to be Cheapest Source of Electricity)
  3. World Wind Power
  4. Wind Power Beats Nuclear Power in Texas

Photo via Jasmic

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  • Quetzal2

    Firstly – using examples such as Denmark as a poster child for the wonders of wind is a two edged sword. Costs per kw/hr are many multiples most North American jurisdiction well over 40 cents/kw hr. Most NA locations are 10 to 20 cents. My boss has to send funds to his mother in Denmark as her small < 1000 sq ft house costs $3600 a year for energy.
    Wind integration costs that I have seen for California are over $10 in the studies that I have seen. New transmission required for wind – an example is the $2+ billion Sunrise Rainbow line was all about greenwashing transmission for free for wind and geothermal. Of course the costs don't go to wind developers – or show up as a cost to wind – but to system upgrades. And what about the cost of backstopping wind intermittancy. You conveniently ignore this. So as an example: how about if I sell you an expensive electric car that you need to commute. It is expensive you say – don't worry with subsidies it is cheaper than a fossil fuel car. OK – not my money you say – good deal. But then I tell you It works maybe 25 to 30% of the time. Except in peak rush hour whe it is only available 5 to 15% of the time (as is the case for wind in study after study – talk to BPA or anyone at Texas ERCOT commission). But you need to be sure you don't get stranded on your commute you say – no problem – you will also pay for a taxi service to be nearby so that it can step in when your elec trip car doesn't work. And boy what about those fuel savings on your electric car – no stops at the gas station for you. Baloney you would say – I am also paying for the taxi so it's not so cheap after all. But the taxi schedulers know how to work this out – and after all you are saving the earth – and helping out manufacturers of green energy. Oh well you say – that is true – no worries – cost doesn't matter and I can tell all my friends that I never have to stop and get gas and I can pretend that this is "free" transport.
    There seems to be no end to the pimping that greenwashers will go to to hide the true costs and the environmental impacts of wind. But throwing around quasi literate energy industry jargon makes it sound as though you know what you are talking about I guess. But not to anyone who knows the industry.

    • Chris Varrone

      Wind energy has no relation to greenwashing whatsoever. If wind energy were a “scam,” then 50% of the world’s wind industry would not be in China today. Wind is a highly practical energy source that we have learned over the past 30 years how to take advantage of. The Chinese are now the world leaders in putting up wind turbines, and they are NOT doing it out of altruism or concerns about global warming.

      Your points: 1) Denmark has high energy costs. This is true, but this has to do with tax policy. Residential rates are very high to encourage energy efficiency and gain revenue for the govt. Commercial electricity in DK is actually not very expensive, again this is govt tax policy. Nothing whatsoever to do with wind’s role in the energy mix (which BTW is still mostly coal).

      2) Balancing is costly. There are two ‘externalities’ to wind energy – transmission and balancing. Both cost society roughly $5/MWh. Maybe $10/MWh in some markets, that could be — studies vary. But when one compares to fossil fuel externalities, there is no comparison: the health care costs of coal alone are $180/MWh (Harvard Medical School study, Feb 2011).

      Finally, your snide comment at the end “But not to anyone who knows the industry” is unwelcome. Look up my several articles on this topic, or see my website (www.riverviewconsultinginc.com) and you will see that I am a very active participant in this industry.

      • http://rucio.livejournal.com/ Rucio

        ‘If wind energy were a “scam,” then 50% of the world’s wind industry would not be in China today.’ Wuhh? It has been reported that many, perhaps most, of China’s wind energy plants aren’t even connected to the grid. They are subsidy farms, just like everywhere else. What they sell are RECs for Europe.

        Denmark’s costs are certainly not helped by having to dump most of their wind production into the Nordic and German pools and then buy back more useful energy.

        And just as Denmark is still mostly powered by coal, comparing the externalities of wind to those of coal is irrelevant since wind is clearly ADDING its own without correspondingly reducing others. Furthermore, wind’s externalities include more than transmission and balancing: habitat destruction and degradation, migratory birds, raptors, bats.

        • Chris Varrone

          Rucio, you are making up all your own facts to suit your argument.

          China’s wind turbines not connected? FALSE.
          China’s wind turbines are all connected except for the ones erected in the past few months – this is typical delay of interconnection in China. China is desperate for energy, and wind is a major part of delivering that energy – which they also are putting up massive amounts of transmission for at Ultra High Voltage. I guess those billions of dollars in transmission investment are also to deliver RECs to Europe?

          Wind raises consumer prices? FALSE.
          It has been demonstrated time and again that wind energy LOWERS the average cost of energy for Danish households, and in fact every nation that I have ever seen. Simple reason: wind energy has near-zero variable cost, and therefore forces market prices down. Very healthy for the market and for consumers.

          Wind not subtracting coal’s externalities? FALSE.
          For every MWh of wind that comes on the grid, that is one less MWh of coal – and fewer sick kids in cities, less Mercury in our water, and all the rest.

          Your last point is on “Habitat degradation.” You are really going to compare coal and wind on destroying habitat – really? Comparing wind with coal on such an issue is like comparing a summer rain with a Category 5 Hurricane.

          • http://twitter.com/windwatchorg National Wind Watch

            As El Rucio said (and has asked us to post here in reply, as he is now banned from this site), there is no need to weigh wind’s externalities against coal’s, because wind only ADDS its own to those of coal. The simple-minded equation that “For every MWh of wind that comes on the grid, that is one less MWh of coal” reveals just who is making up facts.

          • Chris Varrone

            I challenge your statement, Mr. National Wind Watch – and your handle gives away your bias. There is no doubt in my mind that for every MWh of wind that goes on the grid, one MWh is displaced. Even my kids understand that. In most jurisdictions, this means a MWh of coal – which means avoidance of all the ills of coal.

          • http://twitter.com/windwatchorg National Wind Watch

            Coal generates less than 50% of U.S. electricity. Many regions use very little. Furthermore, because wind production ramps quickly without warning, it is more likely natural gas or hydro plants that are affected, i.e., no avoidance of coal whatsoever.

            As for bias, you are a wind promoter.

          • Chris Varrone

            Wind production does not ramp “quickly and without warning” – in fact the conservative journal the Economist just ran a piece showing how excellent wind predictive models are. And in any case, wind plant owners can and do sell “firm” power to the grid on a day-ahead basis. The point is that when 20% of a state’s energy comes from any source, it affects the #1 fuel most – this is simple math that you are trying to avoid looking in the face. It is true for the Midwest, and it is true for Denmark.

          • Chris Varrone

            NWW: Your website is filled with statements like this: “The fact is that wind power does not and can not contribute significantly to our electricity needs.”
            How is that a “fact” when every day more wind turbines go up across the country and around the world? Iowa has 20% of their electricity from wind – Denmark 26% – and it keeps climbing all the time!

          • http://twitter.com/windwatchorg National Wind Watch

            Both Iowa and Denmark are parts of much larger grids, in which the true level of “penetration” should be considered.

          • Chris Varrone

            The US Dept of Energy (2007) published a plan called 20% by 2030 – and we are ahead of schedule. I suspect your website’s comment was made back in 2005 when Iowa was at 2% wind or something. Maybe it needs revision?

  • Anonymous

    Yes, yes, yes, wind is better than nukes, and donkey-cart is better than Nissan Leaf. And life in torch-lit caves vastly reduces consumption of electricity.
    Renewables are obsolete. They were so 200 years ago. Get informed!

    • Chris Varrone

      I would be interested in your comment, if I understood it. What are you saying, Praos. You like donkey-carts?
      Perhaps you think renewable energy requires a move back to caves. If so, you should get informed. Modern advocates of renewables are NOT requiring Jimmy Carter sweaters. I am an economist and 25 years veteran of industry.

      • Anonymous

        Well, you are an economist, and that’s problem. Let suppose that I start arguing that conch shells are the best means to make financial transactions, and that all that happened in meantime – from gold standard to American Card – is penny dreadful dangerous, because when you start thinking where is all your wealth stashed (in computer memory) you could easily burst your brains. I am an engineer, and the very idea that humans in their long history were incapable to invent anything better for power generation than that stupid, primitive, hunter-gatherer Phoenician contraption is deeply insulting to me as a human being.. Renewables were obsolete even at the start of Industrial Revolution, and now you try, by this Great Leap Backward, to solve the problems of the 21st century by the technology of the 1st! What’s next in this progress-retrograde? Genocide, infanticide, and slavery to solve the problem of overpopulation? (We are on the good – green — way, by the way, anyway.) The problem is that people who are not tech savvy, simply have no eyes to see elegant, sophisticated, intelligent and agile beauty of the nukes – and the ugly, disgustingly simple, moronically obvious and beastly primitive face of that old hag – Ms Windmill. Windmills are just stupid!

        • Anonymous

          “praos”: i’m afraid you’re off your rocker. it’s an insult to engineers that they and others create machines that can capture the enormous energy of the wind and turn it into electricity?

          that we have developed tremendously efficient and powerful wind turbines is a step backward?

          renwables obsolete?

          have you heard how much new power wind is responsible, it is ‘flying’ ahead of outdated energy sources like coal and nuclear. or do you plug your ears to that bcs you want to move backwards into the 20th century again?

          • http://rucio.livejournal.com/ Rucio

            Rube Goldberg designed wonderful machines, too. And I would put nuclear into the same class as wind, requiring more energy to deal with it than it produces.

          • Anonymous

            Oh, Jesus! Nuclear is outdated 50 odd years after start of the first experimental plant, and wind is obviously wave of the future 2000 ys after Phoenicians invented windmills – and 200 ys after civilized part of the world sent them hellwards hopefully for good. As for “tremendous energy of the wind”, I .know only that nuc powers the sun, while wind powers my bowels. As for “move[ing]ing backwards into the 20th century”, it’s surely better to do it with 20th AD than with 20th BC in mind! Windmills are nothing new, they are resurrected phantom of preindustrial age, a vampire thirsting for taxpayers’ blood.
            Windmills are a joke, stupid and expensive one. Will our grandchildren be able to grasp that we, after discovering the forces that make galaxies shine, idiotically turned to catching the bags of wind? After 2000+ ys of R&D windmills could only produce junk (=intermittent) power 2-10 times more expensive than nukes, that in 50 ys were never given a Chinaman chance. Where they were, nukes made a miracle – just look at France, in 10 ys she painlessly solved its problem of power generation for three generations. And that’s real source of “nuclear scare” – nuc power is so modern, so new, so clean, so safe, so inexhaustible, and so cheap, that all the Enrons, Shells, Gazproms, seeing that juggernaut coming their way, to stomp them into oblivion, started spreading superstitious fears of mythical “radiations” and launching urban legends about (totally uncompetitive and therefore non-threatening) renewables. All that wind & solar retrograde & retarded indigestible nonsense is just a hype to give fossil-fuel moguls a new lease of life while waiting for their inevitable demise. The only real why of windmills was to prevent people to see which way the wind really blows. Just see what Merkel did – with her mouth full of wind, she started building 26 new coal plants. Windmills are nothing but a scam – insanely expensive, maddeningly unreliable and environmentally more devastating even than dirty coal. Let wind be gone with the wind.

  • Sjlee2226

    The analogy to the icecream is incorrect, the vendor of power does make the guarentee that it can deliver power in a consistent manner to the customer for signing on with the service. I myself have a electric bill related to that service independent of usage.
    Suggesting the wind act as cheap suppliment to power generation is fine, but a suppliment still leave us with political, social and ecoligical issues to solve. The solution of course involves wind, but a combination of renewables and progressive funding of known and developing technologies is the short and long term answer. These answers dont all originate in wiping fossil fuels off the map. It cannot be expected of society to willing sacrifice these things. We can currently make cement from coal or gas power production. We can make nuclear reactors that destroy nuclear waiste. We can make more efficient houses that use Fuel Cells

    • Chris Varrone

      Sorry that you did not understand the ice cream analogy. You may not be familiar with Independent Power Producers, merchant power contracts, etc. The ice cream analogy is quite perfect for WHOLESALE power markets. Nothing to do with retail distribution.

      No one is suggesting that fossil fuels get wiped off the map, but in fact other than Nat Gas, probably no (or very little) fossil fuel generation will get built from here on out. No need for it. BTW, we do not need to “give up” or “sacrifice” anything, other than some old-fashioned mind-sets.

  • Anonymous

    Let post the first part of a great article…

    Solving Wind’s Variability with More (Dispersed) Wind

    Fri, June 3, 2011 – John Farrell

    The solution to the variability of wind power is more wind.

    The output from a single wind turbine can vary widely over a short period
    of time, as wind goes from gusty to calm.  The adjacent graphic (from this report)
    illustrates how a single turbine in Texas provided varying power output
    over a single day, varying from under 20 percent of capacity to near
    100 percent!

    But the same report also illustrated the smoothing effect when the
    output from these five wind sites was averaged.  The following chart
    shows (in dark orange), the smoothing effect of output when the wind
    output was averaged over five sites.

    http://energyselfreliantstates.org/content/solving-winds-variability-more-dispersed-wind

    Look at that orange line….

  • Craig Wyant

    Excellent news!!!

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  • Anonymous

    Dear Frogfather Not Registered User:
    1) Roads have to be built to deliver components, but these roads are of very minor consequence compared to suburbs or any of the other types of generation.  I would like you to propose an alternative to Wind that has LESS environmental impact.  To my knowledge there are NONE.
    2) You repetition of the ice cream story just proves you did not read the article very carefully. Balancing is simply not very expensive — nor does it have large carbon footprint impact, despite the Rocky Mountain Petroleum club’s contrived claims to the contrary.

    At the end of the day, Americans have to build/replace at least 20 to 30 GW per year of generation.  Much of this will be Nat Gas (maybe half) — but with coal and nuclear essentially sidelined by environmental, financial and other problems, much of the rest (maybe 30-40% over the next 10 years, or 60 to 120 GW) will be Onshore Wind.  

    There is no lie in that!
    Chris

    • http://rucio.livejournal.com/ Rucio

      Since wind requires the presence of other sources to cover for it, its environmental impacts are always in addition to, not instead of, those other sources.

      • Anonymous

        Rucio,
        The environmental impact of balancing is even less of an issue than its economic cost.

        For example, in Scandinavia, the hydro facility is already there – and produces no emissions. Natural gas-related emissions for the few hours when wind fails to meet forecast are an issue in some places in the US, but tiny compared to the thousands of hours in the year when wind DID meet forecast. And therefore saved coal emissions if coal is all you have.

        What, you say you’re ramping coal up and down? I have an answer to that: don’t! 

        In any case you cannot blame wind for the sins of coal!

        Over time dirty coal plants will be less and less of an issue in the US and Europe, since virtually no one is permitting, financing or building them.  This is good for nearly all citizens except perhaps owners of coal companies. 

        Your pal,
        Chris

  • http://www.LivelyUtility.com Mark Lively

    Some have talked about wind causing an increase in the amount of CO2 produced by gas and coal units.  I believe it happens occasionally, though not often.  I base that conclusion on looking at some of the advanced electricity markets and note that they sometimes have negative prices for the fossil fired generators, which means wind is increasing the amount of CO2 being produced.
     
    In competitive markets, the price will be equal to short run marginal costs, which conversely means that short run marginal costs will be equal to the price.  For a given gas price, the price of electricity will equal the marginal heat rate of the generator times that given gas price.  When the price of electricity is high, the marginal heat rate of the last generator is very high.  (A high marginal heat rate means very low efficiencies.)  And when we follow the price of electricity down through the night as demand drops (or wind surges), that means that the marginal heat rate gets very low (marginal efficiency very high).  If the fossil units accept a negative price, that means that the marginal heat rate is negative, that the gas units produce more CO2 as they produce less electricity, (or equivalent going up the production curve, to produce more electricity the gas units would produce less CO2.)
     
    The various production credits available to some forms of electricity generator distort the above simple analysis.  For instance, ERCOT (the Electricity Reliability Council Of Texas) serves about 80% of the State of Texas, including wind rich West Texas.  As I reported in “Renewable Electric Power—Too Much of a Good Thing: Looking At ERCOT,” Dialogue, United States Association for Energy Economics, 2009 August, during about 25% of the time in April 2009, the electricity prices in West Texas were negative.  But since most fossil generation in West Texas was probably turned off during this time, the CO2 implication is inappropriate.  But during about 1% of the month of April, transmission constraints were such that the rest of ERCOT had negative prices, including the area around Houston with its immense petrochemical industry.  These negative prices for 1% of the month of April 2009 means that wind was causing an increase in the amount of CO2 being produced in Texas, probably not much of an increase, but some.
     
    I greatly believe that we need more storage so that we have less CO2 production that can be attributed to wind gusts.  I note that storage is very expensive, not just to build but to operate.  One concept mentioned by others is that of having a water turbine spinning at low level to provide immediate back up.  Hydro Tasmania says that spinning a generator at 10% power uses four times the water per kWh than does operating the same turbine at 100% power.   I have asked gas turbine operators for their heat rate curves and been told of a similar four times penalty as about 10% power.  Flywheels and batteries are probably more efficient in sitting in standby mode, but very expensive to own.
     
    In my other comments on this article I suggested responsive prices such that my good wind mill got rewarded at the same price that a bad windmill got punished during the same time period, such as the 4 second periodicity with which utilities measure Area Control Error (ACE)  and control their generators.  These prices should not change based on how bad or good I and my fellow wind farms are but how healthy the system is.  With more bad wind farms, the prices should get more extreme, encouraging me to build more good wind farms or reach some tipping point where storage is no longer too expensive to install and operate.

    • Anonymous

       “they sometimes have negative prices for the fossil fired generators,
      which means wind is increasing the amount of CO2 being produced.”

      Nuclear is non-dispatchable which means that it’s going to have to sell power at a loss at times since it can’t shut down when there’s less expensive power available to grid operators.  Does that mean that we should charge wind for nuclear being non-dispatchable?

      What’s happening is that wind is forcing down the cost of electricity to the end user.  And that’s a good thing. 

      If nuclear or gas peakers become not profitable then utilities will start putting their money into cheaper solutions.  And the cheaper solutions such as storage and load-shifting are greener….

    • Anonymous

       “With more bad wind farms, the prices should get more extreme,
      encouraging me to build more good wind farms or reach some tipping point
      where storage is no longer too expensive to install and operate.”

      Sure, at some point quite a number of years into the future the market might become saturated with wind farms that produce mostly at night.  That will be, most likely, after we’ve built a lot more storage, largely converted our personal vehicles to EVs, and done a fair amount of load-shifting. 

      At that point it will make more sense to build generation capacity which operates best during other times of the day. 

      PV, and perhaps thermal solar will likely create a lot of our peak hour power at a very good price which will remove a lot of incentive for building lots of “nighttime” wind just to get its “daytime” output.

  • http://www.LivelyUtility.com Mark Lively

    Some have talked about wind causing an increase in the amount of CO2 produced by gas and coal units.  I believe it happens occasionally, though not often.  I base that conclusion on looking at some of the advanced electricity markets and note that they sometimes have negative prices for the fossil fired generators, which means wind is increasing the amount of CO2 being produced. In competitive markets, the price will be equal to short run marginal costs, which conversely means that short run marginal costs will be equal to the price.  For a given gas price, the price of electricity will equal the marginal heat rate of the generator times that given gas price.  When the price of electricity is high, the marginal heat rate of the last generator is very high.  (A high marginal heat rate means very low efficiencies.)  And when we follow the price of electricity down through the night as demand drops (or wind surges), that means that the marginal heat rate gets very low (marginal efficiency very high).  If the fossil units accept a negative price, that means that the marginal heat rate is negative, that the gas units produce more CO2 as they produce less electricity, (or equivalent going up the production curve, to produce more electricity the gas units would produce less CO2.) The various production credits available to some forms of electricity generator distort the above simple analysis.  For instance, ERCOT (the Electricity Reliability Council Of Texas) serves about 80% of the State of Texas, including wind rich West Texas.  As I reported in “Renewable Electric Power—Too Much of a Good Thing: Looking At ERCOT,” Dialogue, United States Association for Energy Economics, 2009 August, during about 25% of the time in April 2009, the electricity prices in West Texas were negative.  But since most fossil generation in West Texas was probably turned off during this time, the CO2 implication is inappropriate.  But during about 1% of the month of April, transmission constraints were such that the rest of ERCOT had negative prices, including the area around Houston with its immense petrochemical industry.  These negative prices for 1% of the month of April 2009 means that wind was causing an increase in the amount of CO2 being produced in Texas, probably not much of an increase, but some. I greatly believe that we need more storage so that we have less CO2 production that can be attributed to wind gusts.  I note that storage is very expensive, not just to build but to operate.  One concept mentioned by others is that of having a water turbine spinning at low level to provide immediate back up.  Hydro Tasmania says that spinning a generator at 10% power uses four times the water per kWh than does operating the same turbine at 100% power.   I have asked gas turbine operators for their heat rate curves and been told of a similar four times penalty as about 10% power.  Flywheels and batteries are probably more efficient in sitting in standby mode, but very expensive to own. In my other comments on this article I suggested responsive prices such that my good wind mill got rewarded at the same price that a bad windmill got punished during the same time period, such as the 4 second periodicity with which utilities measure Area Control Error (ACE)  and control their generators.  These prices should not change based on how bad or good I and my fellow wind farms are but how healthy the system is.  With more bad wind farms, the prices should get more extreme, encouraging me to build more good wind farms or reach some tipping point where storage is no longer too expensive to install and operate.

    • Anonymous

       Mark, would you please hit the Edit button and cut that block of text into paragraphs?

      • http://www.LivelyUtility.com Mark Lively

         Bob,

        Glad to but don’t see how do so.  It was in my submittal.

        Contact me off line at MbeLively@aol.com to let me know how to do so.
        @aol:disqus 
        Mark

        • Anonymous

          done

      • http://www.LivelyUtility.com Mark Lively

         Bob,

        Glad to but don’t see how do so.  It was in my submittal.

        Contact me off line at MbeLively@aol.com to let me know how to do so.
        @aol:disqus 
        Mark

  • Anonymous

    Is it not the fact that wind farms with operate “contra-cyclically to the wind farm that is so bad” is not going to be selling its product into a more profitable market segment? 

    If you produce power when most farms aren’t you’re going to benefit by higher merit order pricing.

    • http://www.LivelyUtility.com Mark Lively

      Bob makes a good point that all wind is not alike, and treating it all like a source of identical energy is inappropriate.  Wind blows at different times, with the energy at some times being more valuable than at other times.  Standard feed-in tariffs do not recognize the time  varying value of wind.  And 15 minutes is too long of a settlement period.  Utilities measure the balances on their systems every three or four seconds.  

      • Anonymous

         Mark and Bob. There are wind farms that have high positive correlation to load, and there are jurisdictions that recognize this in the form of capacity payments.  This does not have anything to do with ancillary services or grid support, which are different concepts (spinning reserves, LVRT, voltage support, black start, inertia, etc).  

        PPAs are the world’s most simplistic form of payment — but no one forces you to take them.  You can negotiate other forms of payment or go “merchant.”  The problem is that Project Finance (i.e., banks) like PPAs.  But if you have your own financing, there are many possible contract forms.

        The 15 minutes mentioned elsewhere referred to the day-ahead Unit Commitment interval, which is now replacing one-long-slots in the US.  This has nothing to do with minute-to-minute balancing.

        NordPool does not store anyone’s energy – it is a marketplace in which parties bid supply and demand.  the Norwegians who have hydro gain from the arrangement by getting cheap wind power from DK; the Danes gain by getting cheap wind/hydro power and reducing their reliance on dirty coal, which has many negative effects.

  • Anonymous

    Mr. Varrone apparently understands eletricity as much as he understands ice cream, which is not much.  Buying ice cream on a hot day is not an “energy” analogue but a capacity analogue.  You want the darn stuff NOW.

    • Anonymous

      Analogies are analogies – not everyone gets them.  Let me try to spell it out for you:

      Ice cream = consumable good
      Ice cream store = capital good

      Consumer of ice cream = Utility buying energy on the spot market

      The spot market price is for ENERGY, not CAPACITY
      Capacity is something the grid operator plans for well in advance — often YEARS in advance.  This is NOT like ice cream (at least how I buy ice cream).

      With all due respect, pistach, do you work in the energy business?  I do.

      Knowing how energy markets work in various parts of the country and world, I realize that utilities have to plan long term (for capacity), plan short term (for unit commitment) and buy short term (day ahead, hour ahead).  In this grand dance, there is plenty of room for both stalwart, slow sources of energy (nuclear, coal) and for nimble, fast sources of energy (wind, NG).

      • Anonymous

        I think we’re getting closer to agreement, although ancillary services (which is a spot market) is not energy.  and yes, I’ve held responsible positions for over forty years internationally in energy markets, primarily electricity. I do note you’re correct that utilities PLAN years in advance for capacity (they also PLAN years in advance for energy services, but also need to OPERATE on a much shorter basis. 
        wrt to capacity credit, many areas use default values until they have historical performance data.  PJM, for example started out with a relatively higher value which has dropped every year under the rolling average.  CaISO has never seen more than 5% during peak hours.

        • Anonymous

          Okay, great, pistach.  (Once I know someone is knowledgeable, it is never very long before we can come to an agreement – it’s all math and data, after all.)For ERCOT, check out RTWG presentation from July 14, 2009, by Henry Durrwachter, p 21 capacity value of wind.  There are a lot of values to choose from on that page, but generally the range 10% to 20% summarizes it pretty well.CA is a tough state for wind due to the extreme air conditioning load that forms a peak (1-year) and super-peak (5-year) in early afternoon  – but on the other hand, northern European countries that use electric heat are a terrific fit for the January/night peaks of wind in that region.  So I think 10% to 15% is not a bad number to use for general audiences.  What do you think?

          • Anonymous

            Load patterns, such as in Ca, are not a factor in the low capcity credit for wind (although the two are correlated.)  I do not think that 10-15% is a “good” number to use for a general audience, but only because I’m predisposed to looking at the specifics of any particular grid.  EVERY grid has different needs, but also different resources, topology and weather patterns so some “average” or “typical” is misleading, in my view.  As such, your article’s title, implies intermittency is never a problem, when in fact it is OFTEN a problem for many grids. (and in fact I’ve never found one where it isn’t, at some level of penetration, but agree there may be places that’d do just fine.) The use of “average” or “one size” is what’s behind the disastrous (for consumers) RPS and RES.

          • Anonymous

             “Load patterns are not a factor for the low capacity credit for wind.”  How can you say that? The capacity credit is determined by the amount of power that can be expected in the peak period (defined in various ways) — so of COURSE the load pattern is a factor.  It is THE factor.

            Did you read the ERCOT paper?

            As for intermittency being a challenge for grid operators, of course it is — but grid operators LEARN how to handle it to the point where it is “no big deal.” That’s the point of the article.  Sorry if that was not clear.

            Energinet people in 1995 said “No more wind,” we cannot handle it.  That was with wind at 5% penetration. Now they are planning how to get from 20% to 30% to 50% in the coming years.  They don’t even talk about pct of electricity any more but pct of national energy needs including heat as well as electricity (CHP is rampant there).  Their goal: 30% of national energy needs from Wind Energy.

            BTW, this is in a CONSERVATIVE government that has not promoted wind development onshore since 2001.

      • Anonymous

         Chris – I really appreciate the information that you’re giving us, but might I suggest you consider your audience for a moment? 

        We, in general and speaking for myself, are not ‘energy experts’ and aren’t necessarily up to speed with some of the technical jargon that those in the field commonly use.  (Many of us have our own set of professional terms that we’ve learned don’t work around the family Thanksgiving dinner table.)

        I can work my way through “The spot market price is for ENERGY, not CAPACITY”, but I suspect people would get a lot more from your posts if you could put it in plainer English or define more esoteric terms as you go along.

        People get concepts, no dummies here.  But best to not suppose an insider’s grasp of terms and how things like pricing strategies work.

  • Anonymous

    Cost.  We’ve got to get carbon out of our electricity.  The cost on continuing to increase our atmospheric CO2  levels is more than we, as an entire planet, can afford.  Our options are renewables and nuclear.

    Nuclear is clearly a very expensive new source of power and brings with it dangers that we would be best to avoid.  Even existing nuclear, if we add in subsidies is not cheap.

    Right now PV solar is fairly expensive, but rapidly falling.   PV solar also has ‘time of day’ problem.  PV prices are rapidly dropping and will be quite affordable in a couple of years and later cheap.  But storing PV power for 24/365 power would be costly.

    Geothermal is affordable, under a dime.  But until/unless we perfect hot rock geothermal it won’t be a one-size-fits-all solution.  Wave and tidal will play a role, prices are not yet clear.

    New wind can be brought on line for somewhere between a nickle and dime per kWh.  Only natural gas can meet or beat the cost of wind, and the price of NG is temporarily low due to oversupply.  That cost will rise.  And NG puts a lot of carbon into the atmosphere.

    Environment.  Wind has a small footprint.  Someone calculated that if we powered the US with nothing but wind turbines the land used would be the size of Manhattan.

    Wind brings no dangers like nuclear.  It has a very small lifetime carbon footprint.  The equipment is recyclable.  It kills almost no birds.  It can actually be beneficial for some crops.

    The only complaint against wind is a NIMBY one and few people live where the wind blows strong.  Most of the folks in wind country are very glad to lease out a bit of their ranch or farm as long as the turbine isn’t right up next to their house.

    • http://rucio.livejournal.com/ Rucio

      If wind meaningfully reduced CO2 emissions then it would indeed have something in the plus column to weigh. Meanwhile, the tack here is to dismiss everything it its negative column, most heartlessly the ruined lives of many people living near them. Wind does kill birds, particularly raptors. If they did not, the industry would not now be up in arms about the new Fish & Wildlife Service guidelines that actually require efforts not to.  And it kills bats to an even greater degree. Furthermore, it is generally developed in rural and even wild areas, clearing forest, leveling ridgelines, compacting earth, and adding heavy-duty roads to further degrade the environment and fragment habitat. Only by counting just the area of the buried concrete and rebar platform can it be said that the land use is small. 400+ feet tall machines with blades cutting through a vertical air space of 1.5-2 acres obviously dominate a much larger area around them — that’s why they have to be spaced well apart from each other (50-100 acres around each tower).

      And again, denying these impacts does not improve the benefits column. At best, wind requires replacing coal with natural gas. So we would see more fracking (which probably adds more greenhouse gases, not to mention poisons, to the atmosphere than is saved by switching to natural gas) instead of mountaintop removal.

      • Anonymous

        ” most heartlessly the ruined lives of many people living near them”

        Please document that claim.  (One or two isolated anecdotes is not sufficient.)

        “Wind
        does kill birds, particularly raptors.”

        Please document that claim.  Do not use the crap put up by the Heritage Foundation or the American Thinker.  Do not go back to Altamont Pass data of decades ago.

        “And it kills bats to
        an even greater degree.”

        Yes, there is a minor bat kill problem in a few locations which seems to be solved by keeping turbines shut until wind speeds reach an adequate level to keep insects from flying.  Energy loss is minor.

        “Furthermore, it is generally developed in rural
        and even wild areas, clearing forest, leveling ridgelines, compacting
        earth, and adding heavy-duty roads to further degrade the environment
        and fragment habitat.”

        Bull.  Wind farms do not clear forests nor compact earth, nor require heavy-duty roads except for some road improvements during construction. 

        98%+ of the land in a wind farm remains unchanged for farming, ranching or wildlife. 

        “Only by counting just the area of the buried
        concrete and rebar platform can it be said that the land use is small.”

        Well, dud.  See above.  Name any form of electricity generation other than rooftop solar which does not require some land disruption.  Then name any form of generation which causes less disruption than wind.

        “… 400+ feet tall machines with blades cutting through a vertical air space
        of 1.5-2 acres obviously dominate a much larger area around them —
        that’s why they have to be spaced well apart from each other (50-100
        acres around each tower).”

        Pile of crap claim.  Come on, be a responsible participant in this discussion and not some sort of tin foil hat ranter.

        • http://rucio.livejournal.com/ Rucio

          Ah — reduced to name-calling on top of ever more adamant denial.

          Wind is a diffuse resource, so the machines and infrastructure required to collect any meaningful amount are necessarily huge, with consequently substantial negative impacts. H.G. Wells foresaw this in 1897: “And all over the countryside, he knew, on every crest and hill, where
          once the hedges had interlaced, and cottages, churches, inns, and
          farmhouses had nestled among their trees, wind wheels similar to those
          he saw and bearing like vast advertisements, gaunt and distinctive
          symbols of the new age, cast their whirling shadows and stored
          incessantly the energy that flowed away incessantly through all the
          arteries of the city. … [T]he great circular shapes of complaining
          wind-wheels blotted out the heavens …”

          To pretend that they are only benign is indeed irresponsible. As is doing so only to avoid the question of wind’s true benefits.

          • Anonymous

             I called you no names.

            I asked you to support your claims with data, which you have failed to do.

            I denied nothing.  I acknowledge that harvesting wind creates some problems, but I hold that those problems pale in comparison to the problems created by fossil fuel and nuclear energy.

            Now, have you something of substance to offer?

          • http://rucio.livejournal.com/ Rucio

            Do you? Now you deny your name-calling and denial of serious impacts! Again, the issue is the cost-benefit balance of wind. Its problems may, for now, be dwarfed by those from fossil fuels and nuclear, but how much does wind reduce those problems to justify its own? The burden of proof is on the industry to provide those numbers.

          • Anonymous

            1. List the name(s) I called you.

            2. List the “serious impacts” I’ve denied.

            3,  Support your claims with facts rather than dodge. 

            The wind industry has produced cost of power numbers, bird and bat kill numbers, environmental impact numbers.  You, my friend, make claims but do not support them with facts.

             

          • http://rucio.livejournal.com/ Rucio

            The wind industry is selling a product. You have already predismissed all evidence of adverse impacts. You are dodging the all-important question of wind’s benefits in terms of, e.g., CO2 emissions per unit of electricity consumed. I am not your friend, let alone a “tin foil hat ranter”.

          • Anonymous

             1.  I did not call you a “tin foil hat ranter”.  Please list the name(s) which I did call you.

            2.  I “predismissed all evidence of adverse impacts” exactly how?  By asking for actual data and not made up stuff and tales of one or two individuals living by badly sited turbines?

            If you’ve got real data put it on the table.

            3.  I’ve already posted that wind has the lowest lifetime carbon footprint of all forms of electricity generation except for hydro in best locations. 

            Wind has essentially zero “CO2 emissions per unit of electricity consumed” once it is up and running unless you want to include things like gas burned by maintenance workers going to/from the site.

          • Anonymous

            how about the extra fossil fuel consumption forced onto thermal power plants because of wind’s intermittency and resulting heat rate penalties?  ind is NOT CO2 free when measured on life cycle basis.  Google “Bentek” for a real study. 

          • Anonymous

            I’m sorry, who said that wind had a zero CO2 lifetime footprint?  Certainly not moi.  I said that wind’s lifetime CO2 footprint was one of the lowest, not zero.

            I also said…

            “Wind has essentially zero “CO2 emissions per unit of electricity
            consumed” once it is up and running unless you want to include things
            like gas burned by maintenance workers going to/from the site. ”

            If you think that wind should be charged for the CO2 produced by peaking plants, that’s an arguement you can make, but I don’t think a lot of people will get behind it.  There’s no “extra fossil fuel consumption forced onto thermal power plants … and resulting heat rate penalties” when wind is backed up by storage or response demand. 

            That extra peaker fuel would be better charged against choosing gas peakers rather than storage or load-shifting. 

            As for googling Bentek, I did…

            BENTEK Energy® is an energy market analytics
            company, providing data-driven research and deep market understanding
            to our clients. We are a recognized leader in natural gas, oil and NGL market fundamental analysis.

            Do you have something in particular from them which you would like to share?

          • Anonymous

            Ok, let’s agree that no one is wearing any tin foil hats.  There are real environmental impacts that need to be taken into consideration in CERTAIN instances — Altamont being the famous one.  But it is also true that many times, anti-wind people abuse these “sage grouse” and “native peoples” issues to disguise their NIMBY objections.  (Maybe their neighbor is getting rich off wind and they don’t like it.)

            But Rucio, if we are down to arguing about birds and bats, presumably all the real economic argumentation is over.  If we can agree that wind is cheap, plentiful, and (relatively) clean, then I will certainly be the first to agree to Environmental Impact Statements and the like.  Because I know that society needs energy, and that wind has LESS impact than just about anything else.

            Cape Wind, as an example, passed all its EIS hurdles years ago — the problem there is NOT the environment, it is a few powerful neighbors with NIMBY issues.  They are holding back an entire industry.  I think they will eventually lose, but it may take years more, and it has already been a decade.

      • Anonymous

        On Coal, from LBL and US DOE, 2009 Wind Techn Report, p 5 – if you look at the graph on that page, Coal is NOT VISIBLE in any year until 2007, where it becomes barely visible, but much smaller than wind. And that’s COAL, with one of the largest lobbying presences in Washington, and the #1 incumbent position in electricity in the country.

        From the report:Wind power now represents one of the largest new sources of electric capacity additions in the
        United States. For the fifth consecutive year, wind power was the second-ˇlargest new resource
        added to the U.S. electrical grid in terms of aggregate capacity, behind the 11,500 MW of new
        natural gas plants added in 2009, but ahead of the 3,200 MW of new coal. New wind power
        projects contributed roughly 39% of the new nameplate capacity added to the U.S. electrical grid
        in 2009, compared to 44% in 2008, 35% in 2007, 18% in 2006, 12% in 2005, and less than 4%
        from 2000 through 2004 (see Figure 2).5footnote 5:  The same trend is apparent in Europe. In 2009, for example, more wind power was installed in the EU than any
        other generating technology, with 39% of all capacity additions coming from wind power (EWEA 2010). From
        2000 through 2009, 33% of capacity additions in the EU came from wind power, second only to natural gas.

        • Anonymous

           From the  EIA/DOE 2009 Electric Power Annual

          Installed Capacity

          Coal 1998 – 315,786MW
          Coal 2009  – 314,294MW

          Wind 1998  -  1,720MW
          Wind 2009  – 34,262MW

          Something is increasing and it’s not coal.

          • Anonymous

            Great facts, Bob!
            It’s ironic how anti-wind (pro-coal) people like to marginalize wind by saying it’s “small-scale” when in reality it is not the SMALL scale of wind that worries them.  It’s the fact that wind is eating their lunch!

  • EnergyExpert

     I’ll start a new thread in response to Mr. Varrone’s comments.

    No one questioned his credability other than sayng that he worked in the wind business and all of his observations should be considered in that light.

    A historical history of wind energy is a fascinating study, as it has changed it’s reason for existence numerous times — each time in response to revelations that its current claims were bogus.

    Mr. Varrone is no esposing the latest tactic: that wind is a capacity resource, but rather an energy resource. It’s good that he is ackowledging the obvious, but the question is do we need an energy resource?

    Fact one is that an “energy resource” adds significant burden to all the other capacity sources on the grid. If these costs were carried as wind energy costs, that would be a good first step. The reality is that wind has disavowed all of its grid impacts, and takes economic responsibility for none of it.

    Fact two is that we have no need for an “energy resource”. Lightening is an “energy source” and so is your dog. Should we connect them to the grid?

    Well we could do this, but at what expense and for what benefit? High/Low.

    That is the exact story of wind energy: High Cost/ Low Benefit.

    • Anonymous

      Again, I will try to separate the objections:

      1) Disavowed grid impact.  I would not disavow grid impact.  All generating equipment has impact on the grid.  If you put coal plants close to load, it’s cheaper but then they may be farther from the ports where the coal comes in. This was Germany’s choice 40 years ago.  More recently (20 years ago), they have built the plants on the North Sea.  Closer to coal shipments, better access to water, but it meant having to build hundreds of miles of transmission.  It’s always something.

      With Wind, there are two reasons for Grid buildout 1) the plants are typically at least some distance from the existing Grid, so OHLs and S/S may have to be built — and on occasion, the transmission line itself may have to be strengthened.  So that is a cost. 2) the overall grid may start to experience congestion and/or balancing problems due to so much wind being built in a single development zone, like the CREZ in W Texas.  Interconnects may be required in the long run; strengthening of certain stretches (bottlenecks) in the short run.  This will relieve curtailment and provide greater stability and flexibility.

      The point of all the NREL and DOE studies is that the COST of the transmission (mostly capital cost) and balancing (mostly fuel cost for gas peakers) is remarkably low — about half a penny each per kWh.  These are not my numbers, but I have been through the reports and I believe them.  Milligan has published extensively on balancing; the 20% in 2030 paper from the DOE quotes half a dozen papers on transmission, and more are being done by WECC and ERCOT and so on every few months or so.

      So contrary to your claim, the COST of all this is very low — certainly lower than the externality cost of Coal.  The health care cost alone for coal was recently estimated at 18 c/kWh by Harvard Medical School.

      2) Sprawling.  Is not really a problem in a free society.  No one (in the US) forces ranchers to put up a wind farm.  They see it as good income, and the land between the towers continues to be used for grazing, farming, etc.  This is a red herring entirely, especially for the US which has lots of land and strong property rights for ranchers.

      3) Storage.  As I mentioned, storage is not really needed to make wind energy work, but it can play a helpful role for the system, and does already.  Islands like Hawaii are completely different electrically from the mainland, and often use diesel for electricity generation.  This costs from 50 cents to $2 or even $3 per kWh, so we’re in a different league there!  Wind energy costs about 5.6 c/kWh in the midwest WITHOUT subsidy.  So you can afford some batteries and still save tons of money (and gain reliability) versus diesel, which is subject to supply line problems, price volatility, safety issues, etc.  Not to mention it smells bad and pollutes the environment like crazy.

      • http://rucio.livejournal.com/ Rucio

        Sprawl is a serious environmental impact.

        • Anonymous

          No, Rucio.  Sprawl is not, in general, a serious environmental impact.  The machines fit nicely into the landscape, cows and sheep like them, etc.  

          A serious environmental impact is removing a mountaintop for its coal, the BP oil spill, Three Mile island, or thousands sickened from hydrofracking solution dumped in watersheds.  Not kinetic sculptures dotting the landscape on private lands.

          BTW, Rucio, you need to amplify your answers if you want to be taken seriously.  Six words do not an argument make.

          • http://rucio.livejournal.com/ Rucio

            “Kinetic sculptures”? Give us a break! etc.

    • Anonymous

      http://www.uwig.org/NERC092006/NERC_UWIG_9.16.2006.pdf

      this is a good, basic treatment from UWIG on wind integration
      excellent primer for anyone interested in the topic

  • Wilmot McCutchen

    Wind is most available at night, when power is cheap.  Justifying wind on the basis of cost competitiveness seems like a lost cause to me.  Although Mr. Varrone has tried valiantly to explain the favorable economics, I am still troubled by the 25 TWh of curtailed wind energy in 2010.  And there is the additional problem of transmission lines (at $2 million a mile, if you can overcome the environmental objections) to connect the wind sources to the grid.

    Wind should look for another job (such as providing the energy to deal with coal emissions by electrolytic dissociation of CO2, NOx, and SOx for oxygen recycling into oxyfuel combustion) instead of continuing the futile quest to sell power into the grid. 

    • Anonymous

       Wind is most available at night in some locations.  So what?

      If it’s cheapest to supply our non-windy time electricity needs with stored wind energy why would we continue to burn more expensive fossil fuels?

      If wind is cheap enough to offset the cost of building transmission lines why would we not build the needed transmission lines?

      (We’re building those needed transmission lines right now so that we can “un-curtail” some of that 25 TWh.)

      And let’s wait for someone to actually produce affordable oxyfuel before we repurpose wind.  In fact, when/if someone can actually produce affordable oxyfuel why would we not build even more wind capacity and make use of the cheapest way to produce electricity for both grid and fuel?

    • Anonymous

      In the period 2007-2010, Wind represented 35% of all generating facilities built in the US, on a MW basis.  Is that “futile”?

      This DWARFS the amount of coal, solar, hydro added during the period.  And we all know Nuclear’s share since the 1970s: zero.

      After a down year in 2010, it looks like wind will grow 40% this year (from the low base, admittedly, but still).

      In other countries, Wind is doing even better (e.g., DK, Germany, UK, F, IT, Spain, Portugal, Ireland, China, India).  Emerging markets in Turkey, S Africa, Brazil and the rest of LatAm look excellent. Maybe even Japan’s wind industry will perk up now…

      • http://rucio.livejournal.com/ Rucio

        Erecting the machines in and of itself is not proof of their usefulness.

        From 2007 to 2010, electricity use actually declined slightly. And rather than “dwarfing” the growth of other sources, the graph in the AWEA release touting that figure shows that in 2010, coal increased about the same as wind (or 4 times, since wind averages only 25% of its capacity) and natural gas increased about 1.5 times as much (or 6x).

        So what is wind contributing, or changing, if it is not futile.

        • Anonymous

          Rucio, you really need to distinguish between power and energy, and between capacity and energy.

          The fact that electricity use goes up or down has nothing to do with new-build.

          The capacity factors you cite are incorrect – the wind fleet in the US averages 34% (Wiser and Bolinger 2009), and in any case, there has been almost no coal built in the US for the past 10 years, so I do not see how one could compare coal’s build with wind’s over that period, even on a CP-adjusted basis – I would like to see your analysis.  

          Wind is cheap, it is winning deals every week.  Coal plants that have been approved in the past are getting canceled; people are realizing that coal plants cannot be upgraded to new code economically, and are going to replace them with NG or wind.  These forms are cleaner and cheaper than coal today.

          So the “futile” energy forms in the US (if any deserve that ignominious monicker) at the present time would be coal and nuclear — losing out to NG and wind.

          • http://rucio.livejournal.com/ Rucio

            As I noted elsewhere, the AWEA shows that as much new coal capacity was added in 2010 as wind (or 3-4 times more, considering that wind capacity really means 20-35% nameplate).

          • Anonymous

            you are looking at one yearlook at the past TEN years and tell me what you find

          • http://rucio.livejournal.com/ Rucio

            You said “there has been almost no coal built in the US for the past 10 years”, but last year as much new coal was added as wind. Although coal capacity decreased to a low of 312,738 MW in 2007, it has been steadily increasing since then, even as electricity consumption has decreased slightly.

  • http://rucio.livejournal.com/ Rucio

    West Denmark is connected to Norway and Sweden, east Denmark to Germany. Yes, Germany has a significant amount of wind itself, but then it has other interconnections. And yes, Iowa is part of the MISO network.

    • Anonymous

      Rucio, 
      Pardon me for saying this, but you’re sort of missing the point.  If there are great interconnects between Norway, Denmark, Sweden and so forth, this makes the system MORE efficient, not less.  More FLEXIBLE, not less.  

      The cost of building the interconnects, while substantial in the short run, is small in the long run.  Such connections last 50 years or so.  Again, the cost of incremental transmission for wind, like the cost of balancing for wind, is low. Each is on the order of half a penny per kWh.  There are many studies of this (see US DOE 20% Wind Energy by 2030).

      • http://rucio.livejournal.com/ Rucio

        I’m afraid it is you missing the point. Those interconnects indeed increase flexibility — for the necessary purpose of dispersing the ill effects of wind energy.

        • Anonymous

          Rucio, you seem like a economically-savvy guy.  There is benefit and there is cost.  The benefit is grid-flexibility, the cost is building interconnects.  Now I’m sure you’d admit that if the interconnects were “free,” then it would be worth having them.  

          My point is not that they are free, but that their INCREMENTAL COST taken over their lifetime amounts to about half a penny per kWh of wind energy.  So it is rational to build them — as almost every European country is now doing, so that solar energy from Spain can be used in Germany and North-Sea-wind energy can be used deep into the Continent.

          Can we at least agree on that much, that if the interconnects are really cheap, they might be worth building?

          • http://rucio.livejournal.com/ Rucio

            It’s a big if, but I would grant that. But they would also allow France’s nuclear and Germany’s coal to expand.

          • Anonymous

             Yes, it is true that all forms of energy are tradeable.  There have been times when DK has imported German nuclear, though they do not like to admit that.

            But the marginal cost of wind energy is nearly zero, so it moves faster than others.  Nuclear can have a very low marginal cost (even negative), but it is very static in its output; coal is higher marginal cost and also very static; NG moves fast also, though again at higher marginal costs than wind or nuclear.

            In any case, Rucio, all these interconnects ARE being built, and the reason is because there are “gains from trade” (see Ricardo).  Basic Econ 101 stuff.

  • EnergyExpert

     “Energy is straightforward: the buyer pays for energy, measured in kilowatt-hours. It’s like buying ice cream on a hot day: the seller gets paid to meet an immediate need. There is no guarantee that either party will come back tomorrow.”

    This is the absurd spin put on reality by people like Mr. Varrone, whose employment depends on the success of wind energy. Consider what he says in that light: he is anying but objective.

    That key quote sets the stage for his other conclusions, but they are based on the veracity of his analogy. Buying ice cream is an occasional, optional practice. Is that how our grid works? I’m sure that any thinking person would conclude otherwise. A better analogy would be:

    “Energy is straightforward: the buyer pays for energy, measured in kilowatt-hours. It’s like buying water from your utility company: the seller gets paid to meet a need. There is a definate guarantee that both parties will come back tomorrow, and the only variable will be the exact quantity (which will be quite close to today’s usage).” Etc.

    If you fill in the rest of the analogy (replacing the inapplicable one in the article) you’ll see that the “intermittancy is not a problem” is an absurd exercise to test just how gullible the public is. 

    See EnergyPresentation.Info for a scientific assessment of wind energy, by a qualified expert who had no financial connection to any energy supplier.

    • Anonymous

       Exactly why is that “absurd”?

      Power needs vary from day to day, hour to hour, and sellers are not always the same.  If there’s cheap wind available then the buyer is going to buy cheap wind.  If not, they’ll buy more expensive power from a fuel-burner or a storage facility.

      I have a problem with your example.  There’s only one pipe running to someone’s house and it’s hooked to only one supplier.  There’s no ability to choose among sellers.

      • http://rucio.livejournal.com/ Rucio

        It’s absurd because buying electricity is not at all like buying ice cream on a hot day. It’s done 24/7, not just when the ice cream truck comes around (and changes its schedule and route every day, often coming only late at night. But maybe adding more trucks on random schedules and routes would help …).

        • Anonymous

           When it comes to electricity there are lots of “ice cream trucks”.  We can buy “ice cream” 24/7, as we wish.

          More and more often the “Wind Company” trucks are driving through our neighborhoods selling excellent quality “ice cream” at bargain prices.  And that means that we can satisfy our “ice cream” jones for less cash out of pocket and pump less CO2 into our atmosphere at the same time.

          • http://rucio.livejournal.com/ Rucio

            Only wind operates like a roving ice cream truck, and an unreliable one. Its brand may be desirable, but you can’t count on it. Like a nice sunset, you take it as it comes; you can’t demand it. The rest of the grid is an on-demand delivery service.

          • Anonymous

             You can’t count on any source of electricity 24/365.  Coal is about 85%, nuclear between 70% and 90% reliable.  Of course nuclear in Japan is a bit below that 70% level at the moment.

            The grid of yesterday was built to handle that non-reliability.  It relied on over-capacity and dispatchable generation such as hydro and gas peakers as well as storage and load shifting.

            The grid of tommow will be built to handle non-reliability.  It will rely on over-capacity and dispatchable generation such as hydro and gas peakers as well as storage and load shifting.

            The difference will be that renewables will replace fossil fuel sources as the backbone of the grid.   Storage and load shifting will gradually replace gas peakers.  Fuel sources come with fuel costs and higher operating/maintenance expenses.

          • http://rucio.livejournal.com/ Rucio

            You’re just replacing on-call surplus capacity with storage, as if there are no costs of storage — financial, efficiency, and environmental. And you still have surplus capacity to fill the storage! Again, you’re only adding on to the system, making it more complex and more inefficient, with greater impacts on the landscape, habitats, and pocketbook.

            And you are confusing two types of reliability: A wind turbine is indeed very reliable, but only in responding to the wind. They are not reliable sources to ask for power when you need it. In contrast, when conventional generators are not down for maintenance or refueling or the occasional accident, they are reliable sources to ask for that power.

          • Anonymous

            Yes, we will replace “on-call surplus” (we call that dispatchable) generation with storage.  We’ll do that because storage will be cheaper than burning natural gas and won’t add CO2 to the atmosphere.

            The system will be no more complex than it now is.  It will just be different.

            Remember, we built 21.5GWs of pump-up storage in order to utilize nuclear.   We did with nuclear what we will do with wind (and solar).  We will over-build just as we did with nuclear and use storage to match supply to demand.

            Storage is nothing new nor exotic.  Supply shifting has been going on for a century or more.

            If you would take some time and read the paper I linked perhaps you would better understand how wind performs.  You act as if the wind seldom blew, which is very far from the truth.

             

          • http://rucio.livejournal.com/ Rucio

            More apples-to-oranges. Storage for nuclear is necessary because it can’t be turned off, so where nuclear is providing all or most of the base load, when that load goes below nuclear’s supply, the extra power has to be dumped. A significant fraction is lost (about 30%; >4,000 GWh in 2010) by the time it is later released, and even fully “charged” it is able to supply only a few hours of energy. The environmental footprint, of course, is huge.

            Now you will say, as if you weren’t the one who raised pumped hydro, that modern battery technology is much more efficient. Indeed, lithium-ion batteries may return 85% of the energy put into them, supercapacitors 90%. And they can provide helpful smoothing of wind’s output. The 15-MW Kahuku battery in Oahu requires a 2,500-sq.ft. building. It is paired with a 30-MW wind facility and able to provide 10 MWh when fully charged.

            It would take a monstrous amount of such batteries to provide the 982 TWh of our electricity generated by natural gas in 2010, let alone the 1,851 TWh from coal. It doesn’t sound like much of an improvement. Nor does it sound the least bit practical.

          • Anonymous

             One source you can’t turn off when you don’t need it, so you solve that problem by building storage.

            Another source you can’t turn on exactly when you do need it, so you solve that problem by building storage.

            Fruit salad to fruit salad.

            The environmental footprint of what is huge?  Certainly not wind.  Wind has the lowest lifetime carbon footprint of all forms of electricity generation except for hydro in excellent settings.

            As for your storage numbers, you’ve gotten yourself way out of reality-land apparently because you continue to avoid reading ‘the paper’.  Your argument makes zero sense.

          • Anonymous

             One source you can’t turn off when you don’t need it, so you solve that problem by building storage.

            Another source you can’t turn on exactly when you do need it, so you solve that problem by building storage.

            Fruit salad to fruit salad.

            The environmental footprint of what is huge?  Certainly not wind.  Wind has the lowest lifetime carbon footprint of all forms of electricity generation except for hydro in excellent settings.

            As for your storage numbers, you’ve gotten yourself way out of reality-land apparently because you continue to avoid reading ‘the paper’.  Your argument makes zero sense.

          • http://rucio.livejournal.com/ Rucio

            Your denial of my storage numbers calls into question your ability or desire to face reality.

            But as to your fruit salad, storage that you can turn to when you need it still requires a source charging it that you can count on having done so.

            Footprint (not just carbon): Wind is a diffuse resource, so it is inevitable that giant machines over large areas are required to to collect it to any meaningful degree.

          • Anonymous

            This is a huge thread with many excellent comments, but let me see if I can reply systematically.

            1) Ice cream.  I am referring to the spot market for energy, as opposed to the system-planning function of the grid operator.  The analogy refers to the grid operator’s purchases, not a homeowner.  Grid operators can buy energy at different time-scales — day-ahead market is critical for unit-commitment decisions; hour-ahead can also be very important for the ancillary services market.  All this varies a lot by geography.  

            The point is that a wind-operator can bid-in their power a day ahead.  They do so VERY CHEAPLY because they do not have fuel cost to worry about.  They can do so very accurately not because they have storage but because either A) they own dispatchable generation that can complement their wind farms (e.g., gas peakers), or B) they artificially firm their power with a trading desk.  At the end of the day, the energy really is like ice cream: very time-dependent (it “melts” quickly), and NOT related at all to capacity payments, which are a separate matter entirely.

            2) Storage.  As you have discussed, storage is nice to have, and we have quite a bit of storage already.  This will increase in the future and will make some of my clients money (e.g., it may save traders who have put themselves in a corner, enable operators without trading desks to sell firm power anyway, enable them to sell ancillary services, etc).

            However, storage is _not_ required for wind energy to be integrated successfully into the Grid, not even to 20% of 30% of total annual load.  What is required is FLEXIBILITY.  This is provided by several things – forecasting, transmission, demand-response programs, etc. See my article in ISER, Dec 2010 available here: http://www.riverviewconsultinginc.com/power-of-ideas

            3) Moving from 1-hour blocks to 15 minute blocks gives the system operator more flexibility.  It is better to have the option of scheduling a unit for 1:15 instead of having to choose between 1 hour and 2 hours.  More flexibility is a good thing for system stability and efficiency.

            4) Randomness.  Many studies have shown the so-called Portfolio Effect.  However, I am not a big believer in the strength of this effect.  I think it is there, but should not be overstated.  Even if Europe were a copper-plate, the “capacity credit” of its wind fleet would only be 18% (EWEA).  So that’s not so great.  

            The person (above) who questioned my credibility, should consider that I have just debunked a widely-held belief in the pro-wind community in the US!

            Wind is not a capacity resource in the system, it is an energy resource.  The point of my article is: “it’s okay to be an energy-only resource.”  Grid operators can handle it — as long as there are other resources around that CAN serve as capacity-resources. (Baskins-Robbins, to use the ice cream analogies: there MUST be such shops in the neighborhood.)

            5) Curtailment.  Is a terrible thing to waste.  However, it is mostly a “growing pain” — long-term models show curtailment coming down to about 3% at a system-wide level.  And that 3% curtailed power can in future be useful: it can charge up electrical vehicles (or batteries in forklift trucks); it can run electrolysis to make H2 for fuel cells; it can pump water or heat water; it can drive various chemical processes, some of which make useful products and others store energy for later.  So I am not overly worried about curtailment.

          • http://rucio.livejournal.com/ Rucio

            Nobody doubts that wind can be integrated and even provide useful energy — the question is at what cost? Redundant sprawling facilities (in rural and wild areas) for geographic diversity, a massive expansion of the high-voltage grid, massive storage projects … it’s looks more like a descent into madness than a sensible solution.

          • http://rucio.livejournal.com/ Rucio

            You act as if the wind normally blows steadily, not only at a constant speed but also in one direction, which it almost never does.

            It is clear from time-production graphs that a single wind turbine or a facility of several produces at or above its average rate (20-35%) only 40% of the time.

          • Anonymous

             No, Rucio, I do not “act as if the wind normally blows steadily, not only at a constant speed but also in one direction”. 

            Were that the case I would not have been talking about storage, dispatchable backup and load shifting.

            The average capacity for wind farms in the US is 30% of nameplate.  A bit lower in the UK.  Significantly higher offshore.

            But that does not mean that the wind blows only 30% of the time.  If you would read ‘the paper’ you would understand the reliability of wind issue a lot better than just grabbing “stuff” out of thin air.

          • http://rucio.livejournal.com/ Rucio

            You stated that “the paper” is “not hypothetical, it’s real world reality”, but in fact it is based on “[h]ourly and daily averaged wind speed measurements”. From those measurement, the performance of imaginary wind facilities are projected. Hello, that’s hypothetical, not the real world, not even a very good approximation of it.

          • Anonymous

            “in fact it is based on “[h]ourly and daily averaged wind speed measurements””

            ’nuff said.

          • http://rucio.livejournal.com/ Rucio

            Please see the 15-minute spot market mentioned elsewhere. Please see the second-to-second variability of wind turbine production in that real world you are determined to shun (why do they need batteries [line conditioners] on the wind facilities in Hawaii? because there’s no interconnect to disperse the effect of that variability.).

          • Anonymous

             Again, all energy generators bring a set of problems to the grid along with the power they provide.  Wind can vary from minute to minute but it ramps up and down much more gradually than a nuclear or coal plant which suddenly goes offline.

            What we use for our future grid will be a combination of the least expensive and least damaging.  Right now it certainly looks like wind will play a large part in that grid supply and to maximize its value we will build storage and control demand to some extent.

            For some reason that bothers you.  You seem to think that we should opt for more expensive and/or more damaging to the environment sources of energy.

            You’ll have to explain that to yourself….

          • http://rucio.livejournal.com/ Rucio

            My impression is that wind is the more expensive and environmentally damaging source. It is a diffuse source requiring massive plants to collect it, and its intermittency and variability reduce the efficiency of the rest of the grid. As “EnergyExpert” said, its costs and impacts are high and its benefits are low.

            To compare the continuous variation of wind operation to the occasional unplanned loss of a nuclear or coal plant is ridiculous. And in fact, whole wind facilities often drop and rise precipitously.

          • Anonymous

            Your “impression”?

          • http://rucio.livejournal.com/ Rucio

            Yes, the effect on the mind and senses by reality.

          • Anonymous

            sorry, you have to do better than post your “impressions,” Rucio
            facts and data are welcome — synthesis, conclusions are okay when based on facts and judgment

            impressions are strictly for art galleries, my friend

          • http://rucio.livejournal.com/ Rucio

            For “kinetic sculptures”, as an example?

            Your hangup over one word that can easily be construed as “synthesis”, “conclusion”, or “judgement” is a transparently weak ad hominem dodge.

            And I am not your friend.

          • Anonymous

            you’ve confused capacity credit with capcity factor for coal, nuclear etc.  Wind has a capacity credit less than 5%, if that.  It is capacity…not energy…that keeps the grid operating. Storage and wind (and most renewables) may not have fuel costs, but they do havae maintenance costs and typically have high capital costs. And reliability has a very high VALUE.

          • Anonymous

            you’ve confused capacity credit with capcity factor for coal, nuclear etc.  Wind has a capacity credit less than 5%, if that.  It is capacity…not energy…that keeps the grid operating. Storage and wind (and most renewables) may not have fuel costs, but they do havae maintenance costs and typically have high capital costs. And reliability has a very high VALUE.

          • Anonymous

            Pistach.  Capacity credit for wind is modest, but not below 5%.  ERCOT uses between 10% and 20%.  National Grid uses 16%.

            Capacity has a value, and so does energy.  As it happens, energy is more valuable — just look at the NYISO payments broken by capacity, energy and ancillary services.  Energy is by far the largest portion, as is fair.  It is energy that does real work. The others are just supplementary – like insurance policies.

          • Anonymous

            yea, but they’re selling ice cream in the cold of winter, not having product in the heat of summer.  Hence the drive for storage (i.e. a freezer) which is NOT available in quantity, nor capable of handing the short term bursts up and down of wind (recall the cube factor of wind output.) 

          • Anonymous

            Who’s “selling ice cream in the cold of winter”?

            Wind is selling into a market that wants it.  The market wants it because it’s cheap.  The market would like to buy even more and with affordable storage that can be arranged.

            Storage is build-able in quantity and some types of storage have faster response times than any form of generation.  You can’t turn on a peaker plant as fast as a battery can pump out power.   And batteries, unlike gas peakers, are “instant off”.

            As for the “heat of summer”, don’t forget about PV solar, thermal solar with heat storage, and offshore wind.  The future grid will not be 100% wind, storage and peakers.

          • http://rucio.livejournal.com/ Rucio

            More of your self-delusion: “a market that wants it … because it’s cheap” — ignoring renewable energy portfolio standards forcing utilities to buy it and feed-in tariffs forcing them to buy it at an inflated price.

          • Anonymous

            The claim they are selling into a market that wants it because its cheap is downright silliness.  Worldwide, the only places that are growing wind have either a mandate (e.g. RPS) or similar government forcing (e.g. China.) And to think that wind is “cheap” is also silly as it is more expensive than most traditional sources (check with Energy Information Administration) and require the highest per unit subsidy of any option to even be competitive.  Storage is great, but needs full turn around in 10 minutes or less (see NASA/NOAA definition of “gusty”) not to mention most storage technologies add at least 150% to the cost.  Batteries may be instant off, but they must also, but are not, be instant fill. Day/night variation in wind is NOT the issue.

             PLease do not confuse the subsidized price with the total cost.

          • Anonymous

             You really think that wind is more expensive than coal and nuclear if you charge each with their subsidies and hidden costs?

            Wind in the US wholesales for about $0.045/kWh.  Add in $0.022 PTC.  Wind is $0.067 including wind farm profits.

            Coal wholesales for a bit less but brings as much as $0.20/kWh of hidden costs with it.  Realistically coal is as much as 3x as expensive as wind.

            Nuclear wholesales down with coal but recieves about $0.06/kWh in subsidies.

            Because wind has no fuel cost it can bid at zero cents per in merit order pricing.  That forces fuel-dependent sources off the grid.  Places with lots of wind on their grids are reporting lower electricity prices.

            And you do realize that we’re comparing new wind turbines against coal and nuclear plants which have already been paid off, don’t you?  New coal or nuclear would be extremely more expensive. 

            As for where wind is growing, there’s a good article on this site.  Just click on Wind at the top of the page and follow down the page.

            Battery storage is instant on, as is pump-up hydro if the turbine is left spinning without load.  Gas peakers are in the 10-15 minute range.

            Batteries, pump-up, flywheels and CAES are ready to take power with no start up times.

            It’s not like the current grid isn’t constantly dealing with abrupt changes in supply and load.  Incorporating wind is just one more variable and actually reduces grid variability.

          • http://rucio.livejournal.com/ Rucio

            “Coal wholesales for a bit less but brings as much as $0.20/kWh of hidden costs with it.  Realistically coal is as much as 3x as expensive as wind.” — Please document that claim.

          • Anonymous

             No.

            I’ve asked you repeatedly to furnish support for your questionable statements and you have, to date, not provided any data to show that you are not just making stuff up.

            You look it up.  “Coal and hidden costs” will get you there.

          • http://rucio.livejournal.com/ Rucio

            I asked for support of your statement, not another dodge.

          • Anonymous

            Rucio, Pistach, Bob…

            Gentlemen, there is no need to quibble.  Wind energy is selling for 3.4 c/kWh in Iowa today – check any of the many recent PPAs (e.g., NextEra).  This is cheaper than ANYthing else in that market, including NG.Now it is true that this energy is subsidized, so to back out the subsidy, add 2.2 c/kWh.  That yields 5.6 c/kWh.  This is, by anyone’s standards, very cheap energy.As for the Chinese, who now make up 50% of the world market, they may be communistic, but they are not stupid.  Wind energy is VERY rational in their internal market — and you notice they are not building so much solar, which is more expensive, despite their being the #1 panel manufacturing nation in the world. Wind IS cheap.  This is no delusion.

            As for the 20 c/kWh for coal, that is from the Harvard Medical School’s study that showed 18 c/kWh for health care costs alone.  Add two cents for the coal, and you get 20!

  • http://rucio.livejournal.com/ Rucio

    This apologia works only as long as you talk about averages instead of the essentially random correlation of wind production and demand. Denmark’s wind works because it is actually only about 1% of the international grids it is connected to. Wherever a system is looking at wind getting out of the low single digits, they are looking for expanded transmission interconnections to reduce its effect. Finally, as to increasing inefficiency in fossil fuel plants (like forcing them into city driving instead of highway), it should be mentioned that the usual plants built to balance wind are open-cycle natural gas plants. But if wind were not on the system, combined-cycle gas plants could be built, which are almost twice as efficient.

    • Anonymous

      In order to make wind a large percentage of our grid supply we will have to build transmission. We had to build transmission to utilize hydro, coal and nuclear.

      The US grids can handle 20% – 35% wind input with no changes other than purchasing power in 15 minute blocks rather than one hour blocks. (20% for the Eastern grid, 30% for the Western grid, 35% for the Hawaiian grid.)

      In order to make wind a greater than 20%-35% supplier for our grid we will have to build more storage. We had to build 21.5GW of pump-up hydro to make nuclear work for us. We’re starting to get serious about storage once more. Immediate response storage for wind is being met by battery storage at the wind farm.

      We’re going to see lots more “dispatchable demand”. Systems which cool water/salts for AC systems are extremely dispatchable. EVs will bring a very large amount of demand which can be switched on when the wind is blowing hard. Even seemingly little things like controlling refrigerator defrost cycles add up to impressive numbers.

      Gas peakers are quite expensive on a kWh basis. They are likely to get priced off the grid as storage increases.

      • http://rucio.livejournal.com/ Rucio

        Wouldn’t purchasing in 15-minute blocks require more gas peakers? And building new transmission just for wind makes it clear that wind is an add-on: the rest of the grid must still be maintained, at greater expense than if wind was not intruding. Add to that cost the massive storage required to make wind dispatchable for even an hour or two … It’s starting to look rather like a Rube Goldberg contrivance.

        • Anonymous

          We know that hooking multiple wind farms together on the grid makes wind input less variable.  Farm 1 might have good wind for a while and as the system moves Farm 2 might increase in production.  If Farm 1 can sell power from 8:00 to 8:45 and Farm 2 can sell power from 8:30 to 9:00 then the grid can use clean wind power for the entire hour and not have to burn any NG.

          In this situation the clean power from both farms would have to be curtailed as neither could furnish a full hour but if they can sell in smaller blocks we don’t have to toss that fuel-free energy away.

          On a simpler level,  suppose only Farm 1 is available.  If power can be could be bought and sold only in one hour blocks the grid operators would have to burn gas for the entire 8:00 to 9:00 time block rather than only the last fifteen minutes.

          Fifteen minute blocks might mean less peakers, certainly not more.

          The existing grid is a Rube Goldberg contrivance.  It’s been pieced together over decades without the sort of planning needed to make it as reliable and efficient as it could be.  We’re rebuilding it now.  We’re making it smarter and more efficient so that we waste less power and suffer fewer disruptions.

          Wind will, and already is, causing electricity prices to drop.   Wind will pay for its transmission line costs by giving us a cheaper source of power.  Building transmission lines for wind is a great investment which will continue to pay dividends for decades, perhaps centuries.

          • http://rucio.livejournal.com/ Rucio

            Besides the fact that tying together two random-correlating facilities only increases the effects of that randomness, this model requires building two or more wind facilities just so that together they “might” guarantee a certain output from one of them. That can not be called efficient. And it can hardly pay for the extra transmission lines that would have to be built to accommodate only an occasional surge of full production. Again, that sort of overbuilding can not be called efficient.

          • Anonymous

            No, Rucio.  You’ve got that 100% backwards.  Tying together multiple wind farms decreases the effects of randomness.  That’s not hypothetical, it’s real world reality.

            Here – read this…

            http://www.stanford.edu/group/efmh/winds/aj07_jamc.pdf

            We, in general, do not build the transmission lines to carry 100% output (nameplate) power as that level of wind is not common.  And if the wind is blowing that strong at one farm it’s blowing hard at others, so the small amount of wind that is curtailed is unimportant.

             

          • http://rucio.livejournal.com/ Rucio

            Why, if you believe that if the wind is strong at one facility it will also be strong at the other, yet if the wind is weak at one you believe it will still be strong at the other? Your model does indeed illustrate an increased randomness effect. Sometimes both facilities won’t be producing, sometimes both will be, sometimes one will. That is not different than a single facility, but the effects are magnified.

            Curtailing wind production when it’s too high further illustrates the absurdity. And your dismissal of it brushes aside the fact that the annual average output of wind turbines would be significantly less without those periods of full production. So paying for the extra transmission would be even more difficult.

          • Anonymous

             Wind is not a random event.  It follows the laws of physics and systems move across geography in observable and predictable ways. 

            here’s real world data available if you will take a few minutes to educate yourself.  I gave you the link.

            If the wind blows “100%” only a few hours per year but up to “80%” a considerable amount more, it makes little sense to build transmission to capture those few hours of 80%+ watts.  If the farm is producing more than the lines will carry then one or more turbines are curtailed.  That’s a simple economic decision.

            Obviously if there are lots of 80%+ hours we’d string larger wire.

    • Anonymous

      In order to make wind a large percentage of our grid supply we will have to build transmission. We had to build transmission to utilize hydro, coal and nuclear.

      The US grids can handle 20% – 35% wind input with no changes other than purchasing power in 15 minute blocks rather than one hour blocks. (20% for the Eastern grid, 30% for the Western grid, 35% for the Hawaiian grid.)

      In order to make wind a greater than 20%-35% supplier for our grid we will have to build more storage. We had to build 21.5GW of pump-up hydro to make nuclear work for us. We’re starting to get serious about storage once more. Immediate response storage for wind is being met by battery storage at the wind farm.

      We’re going to see lots more “dispatchable demand”. Systems which cool water/salts for AC systems are extremely dispatchable. EVs will bring a very large amount of demand which can be switched on when the wind is blowing hard. Even seemingly little things like controlling refrigerator defrost cycles add up to impressive numbers.

      Gas peakers are quite expensive on a kWh basis. They are likely to get priced off the grid as storage increases.

  • sola

    An important point of the article is Demand Management.

    Even here in Hungary, in most houses, there is a special off-peak connection type for water heaters and other big consumers which don’t need continuous input power. This connection is automatically switched on-off by the grid operator (it is not really off-peak, we call them “controlled”).

    Power on this connection costs only 2/3 of the normal. If we had a lot of wind, I assume, this electricity type would be even cheaper.

    My house has electric heating, now I am planning to heat it from my 1m3 water storage (originally for the solar collectors) which can be heated with off-grid power.

  • BlueRock

    I knew a lot of the things described here, but to have them all brought together and explained in one article is very useful. I’ll be using this often to refute the nonsense from the anti-wind gang!

  • http://twitter.com/WholeBuffalo Whole Buffalo

    Excellent article. It really breaks down a lot of the objections to wind power.

  • Anumakonda Jagadeesh

    Excellent article on Wind. Wind is the oldest among Renewables.
    I
    n the near future, wind
    energy will be the most cost effective source of electrical power.Dr.A.Jagadeesh Nellore(AP),India

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