Published on June 29th, 2013 | by Andrew


GE’s Brilliant Wind Turbine — Wind Power Cheaper Than Coal Or Natural Gas (Part 1)

June 29th, 2013 by  

This is Part 1 of a 3-part series on GE’s Brilliant 1.6-100 wind turbine. Keep an eye on CleanTechnica or our GE Brilliant Wind Turbine archives for the rest of the series.

GE made a big energy industry splash recently when it introduced its Brilliant 1.6-100 wind turbine and power management system at the American Wind Energy Association’s (AWEA) WINDPOWER 2013 exhibition in Chicago in early May. One of the first utility-scale wind power systems to incorporate short-term, grid-scale battery storage, the GE Brilliant 1.6-100 addresses one of the criticisms (if not the biggest and most frequently cited criticism) of wind energy: its intermittent nature.

The GE Brilliant 1.6-100 Prototype; Photo: A. Burger/Clean Technica

The GE Brilliant 1.6-100 Prototype.
Photo: A. Burger/CleanTechnica

Already cost-competitive with thermal coal and natural gas power generation – not to mention its numerous other often ignored and unaccounted for social and ecological benefits and cost savings, which are substantial – GE’s looking to drive the cost of wind energy down further, pushing the envelope outward by incorporating “industrial Internet” capabilities and short-term, grid-scale power storage in the Brilliant 1.6-100 systems platform.

Clearly excited about the Brilliant 1.6-100’s prospects and the tremendous advances in wind power engineering that have been made to date, GE Power & Water invited a group of reporters, including yours truly, to take a tour of the GE Research wind turbine testing facility in southern California’s Tehachapi Mountains, between the San Joaquin Valley and the Mojave Desert.

The outing included not only the chance to see the GE Brilliant 1.6-100 turbine (1.6-megawatt max capacity and 100-meter rotor diameter) and real-time power management system up close and in action, but to climb 80 meters to the turbine’s hub, enter the machine head, and then step outside to see the 100-meter-diameter turbine rotor and get a birds-eye view of the wind turbine testing facility and surrounding area.

Dollars Blowing In The Wind: Improving Wind Farm Economics

Opening the hatch and venturing out atop the GE Brilliant 1.6-100's machine head; Credit: A. Burger/Clean Technica

Opening the hatch and venturing out atop the GE Brilliant 1.6-100’s machine head.
Credit: A. Burger/CleanTechnica

Ramp Control, Predictive Power Analytics, and Frequency Regulation (i.e. short-term grid power storage) make the Brilliant 1.6-100 more efficient, reliable, and grid friendly — as well as larger — than its predecessors. In short, according to Keith Longtin, general manager of Wind Products for GE Power & Water, the Brilliant 1.6-100 is the “latest and greatest” commercial wind turbine GE has built.

Enabling wind farm owners and operators to more efficiently and cost-effectively convert wind energy into electricity and supply it to power grids improves the economics of utility-scale wind power. One aspect of this is the capacity to generate additional revenue by selling electricity into the frequency regulation segments of regional grid power markets.

In the range of ~5% up to ~8.5% of annual energy captured is lost due to ramp rate curtailment, according to the US Dept of Energy “2011 Wind Technologies Market Report”, which was released in August 2012. “These losses stem from the fact that the grid isn’t as flexible as it could be and wind customers would benefit from recapturing some of that lost energy,” Theile explained.

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s pay-for-performance regulation – FERC 755: “Frequency Regulation Compensation in the Organized Wholesale Power Markets” – requires grid operators to pay power suppliers accordingly (i.e. more for electricity that can be brought onto the grid faster in order to match load demand).

Given adequate wind, turbines can ramp up from a cold start to full capacity in a matter of minutes. This quick-start capability confers wind farms a decided advantage over thermal coal and natural gas–fired power plants when it comes to balancing electricity supply and demand.

On the other hand, it often means that wind farm operators have to spill wind – reduce the amount of wind energy they capture, convert to electricity, and feed into the grid – ramping up to full output more gradually than is possible in order to accommodate grid conditions, a situation that Longtin likened to “dollars flying by” in the wind.

Integrating short-term, grid-scale battery storage into the Brilliant 1.6-100 system platform enables wind farm operators to capture the energy that’s now blowing by in the wind. The system’s Ramp Control features enable this wasted wind energy to be harnessed, converted to electricity, then stored in battery banks as electrochemical energy. It can then be sold and fed into the grid later in the day at a moment’s notice.

Moreover, “by integrating short-term grid storage into the system, we can go real-time into a wind turbine converter’s DC (direct current) bus, eliminating a big chunk of the power electronics,” Longtin elaborated. Conversely, taking advantage of battery storage also confers benefits when ramping down a wind turbine, smoothing out the electrical flow into the grid by drawing on batteries to supply power to the grid more evenly.

Check out the next post in this series tomorrow for more on GE’s Brilliant wind turbine and energy storage systems.

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About the Author

I've been reporting and writing on a wide range of topics at the nexus of economics, technology, ecology/environment and society for some five years now. Whether in Asia-Pacific, Europe, the Americas, Africa or the Middle East, issues related to these broad topical areas pose tremendous opportunities, as well as challenges, and define the quality of our lives, as well as our relationship to the natural environment.

  • Ross_Wexford

    Ireland’s grid can currently accept up to 50% electricity generation by capricous asynchronous wind turbines. This has been achieved without any special technical measures and with just one 300MW PHES. The grid has a max/min demand of around 5GW / 1.6GW from winter peak to summer night valley. Sufficient dynamic inertia is provided by running coal and some gas units at minimum load which wastes a considerable quantity of fuel pushing up the CO2 per kWh at times of high wind and low demand, but gets the job done.
    Measures are being taken to move the max instanious wind penetration to 75%. Suggested is; a combination of lowering the standard of frequency control (from 0.5Hz/sec to 1Hz/sec) and using 10% of the cost of electricity to fund the purchase of system services. Should the higher RoCoF not be approved the SS pool could grow to perhaps 15% of the electricity market’s annual value.
    Other major costs inherent in the move to reaching a target of 37% wind generated electricity are a REFIT price for wind power which pays wind farm owners considerably more than the true value of wind generated electricity to the grid, and a massive additional expenditure on extending the distribution and transmission networks so as to connect the many new wind farms. The technical challenges of getting a lot of wind power in a grid are often overstated by people with a vested interest in making things appear more difficult than they really are, it’s just a matter of spending lots of money while drip feeding information to the consumer so as to keep them ignorant of the true cost.

  • Peter Wilson

    I assume, given that wind power is “Already cost-competitive with thermal coal and natural gas power generation” that we can now cease paying subsidised rates for wind power and let wind operators accept the market rate for their electricity

    • Bob_Wallace

      Sure, Peter. That’s a great idea.

      We should cease paying subsidized rates for wind power and let wind operators accept the market rate for their electricity. Just as soon as coal starts paying for the health damage it causes and the bill for which taxpayers pay.

      Why don’t you talk coal plants into paying their fair share? You do that, get them to quit being free riders on the back of taxpayers and then I’ll have a serious talk with the wind industry.


      • Peter Wilson

        Deal. As soon as wind operators pay for the damage to health and environment caused by their monstrosities.And for the cost of decommissioning after 10-15 years – how long do you think those will last?

        As long as coal plants have modern smokestack scrubbers ( and all new ones do, in the west anyway), there is no real pollution from coal plants. And they pay a lot of taxes

        • Bob_Wallace

          Well, there aren’t any health problems caused by wind turbines. There seem to be a small group of people who worry themselves sick over wind turbines. All they need to do is to read the science and chill.

          Cost of decommissioning? Well, when the turbines are totally worn out after 30, 40 years then they can be sold for scrap. The 30 year old turbines which have been scrapped so far returned more in salvage value than it cost to take them down and clean up the site.

          And, please, don’t overlook the CO2 that comes out of coal stacks. It’s killing the planet.


          • Peter Wilson

            40 years? Yeah right. 10 to 15 more likely, and with decreasing output after just a few years – see this report by the Renewable Energy Foundation

            And sell them for scrap – are you kidding? How much will you get for the 800 tons of concrete in the base? Or the worn out fibreglass blades? No way will the scrap value pay for their (very expensive) removal, and the companies that built them will be long since bankrupt once the subsidies are gone, so they’ll just sit there and rot, creating vast hazardous no go areas of ugly skeletons.

            And no, I don’t count CO2 as pollution – its great plant food, and clearly has very limited effect on temperatures – otherwise temperatures would be rising as we increase our emissions, but they’re not.

          • Bob_Wallace

            Oh, Peter, how embarrassing for you. You let yourself get taken in by that Gordon Hughes paper. I kind of thought that was what had happened.

            I’ll post the actual capacity output graphs for the Danish offshore wind farms at the end of my comment. Then you can see for yourself that Gordon screwed the pooch.

            Do note that older farms had lower capacity than newer farms. People learn and improve. Note that those older farms, while they started low are hanging in there.

            Vindeby might be slacking off, but it will take a few more data points to know. It could just be local wind speeds.

            And do note how more recent European wind farms are displaying more than 40% capacity.

            Scrap? All I can tell you is what has happened. Copper and steel have value. Concrete rubble doesn’t have much value but it can be reused as road fill.

            Fiberglass blades (like old boat hulls) are chopped for fiberglass fill. You lay up layers of cloth and then blow on chop and epoxy for stiffening.

            That’s based on a ~100 turbine farm which has been taken down and scrapped in So Cal.

            You might not consider CO2 a pollutant. The Earth’s climate isn’t reacting all that well to the elevated GHG levels we’ve produced.

            I’ll bet you got suckered by the HadCUT4 temperature graph as well as the Hughes paper.

            You probably don’t know, but that’s a limited measurement of only atmospheric temperature. It under measures polar temperatures which is where the Earth’s temperatures are rising the fastest. It’s only kept for historical comparisons. When it was established we had no way to collect polar temperatures, measurements were limited to “land bases and ships at sea”.

            The HadCUT4 does not measure ocean temperatures at all. In the last decade or so, for some reason, most of the Earth’s heat gain has been going into the world’s oceans. We’re measuring major temperature increases there.

            Global warming has not ceased. It hasn’t even slowed down.

            Hang on, Peter. We’ll catch you up….

          • Peter Wilson

            So kind of you to share your wisdom with us pathetic proles who dare to question the wisdom of returning to a 18th century energy source. But you fail to specify what is wrong with the Hughes paper, other than that you would prefer not to think about the incredible wear and tear those bird mincers must undergo in even a moderate wind.

            As for the Danish wind capacity – thats why the Danish have the most expensive energy in the western world!. Much of that wind power gets given away free to Norway, who then sell back their hydro power to the Danes at top Krona when its actually needed. (Hydro being the only renewable that actually works – as long as you have bulk water and elevation). Also, much of their wind power is offshore – do you think that will last 40 years?!? The maintenance costs are already becoming horrendous, and will only get much worse

            I would think you guys would want to keep very quiet about the Danish experience with wind, its not something anyone else would want to emulate.

          • Bob_Wallace

            What’s wrong with the Hughes paper is that he screwed up his analysis. Other people took the same databases he used and found that there was no way to pull his results out.

            I can’t really share too much of the analysis with you since it was done by a major European bank, but they did make the graph public.

            Denmark has high electricity price because their tax load is high. I don’t know why the Danes decided to do that, but it’s not unlikely that they did to push efficiency.

          • Peter Wilson

            Convenient you cant share. Oh well, showing the data has never been a warmist strong point.

            Denmark has expensive electricity because they rely on a horrifically expensive and unreliable form of generation which requires massive subsidies to stay on line – hence the tax load.. To get what they’ve got, we should do what they do.

            Or not. I find sanity more attractive.

          • MorinMoss

            Hughes analysis was so wrong in just basic arithmetic that it boggles the mind.

            Here’s a straightforward critique of his “analysis”


          • Bob_Wallace

            Here’s a chart of all UK wind farms. And nicely broken down by region. Hughes claimed…

            “Analysis of site-specific performance reveals that the initial load factor of new UK onshore wind farms, normalized for wind availability and size, declined significantly from 2000 to 2011, especially in Scotland.”

          • Bob_Wallace

            Thinking about it, I’m guessing that you don’t have access to combined ocean and atmospheric temperatures given the disinformation sources you seem to be tuned into.

            So here’s what has been happening on home planet Earth. As you can see, global warming hasn’t stopped. We’re starting to cook ourselves.

            We’re packing a lot of heat into the top 700 meters of the ocean. That’s not good news for hurricane strength. And when we get the next El Nino, oops…..

          • Peter Wilson

            Why “combined ocean and atmospheric” temperatures all of a sudden. No one ever mentioned those when temperatures actually were increasing. Have you ever wondered where those temperatures for the pre 1990 ocean come from? How were they measured? (Hint – they weren’t, those graphs are just made up).

            What counts is atmospheric temperatures – we don’t live in the deep sea, do we?. And if you are going to claim the heat is going into the ocean, youi need to explalin how – magic?

          • Bob_Wallace

            “What counts is atmospheric temperatures – we don’t live in the deep sea, do we?”

            Gosh, Peter, thanks for setting us straight. I’m so relieved.

            We can ignore most of the planet heat gain thanks to your logic.

            Hot damn. Let’s go burn some coal!!!

          • Peter Sinclair

            wow. How does the heat go into the ocean. wow.

          • MorinMoss

            That study is bogus and it’s telling that it wasn’t published in a reputable journal.

            If you download the raw data and do your own analysis, you’ll find the collar doesn’t match the curtains.

            At least for the Danish turbines, the changes in output are better explained by year-to-year wind variations rather than wear-and-tear.

            Here’s what I found for the oldest of Denmark’s offshore farms which has been in operation for 22 years.

            11 450 kW Bonus installed Sep 1991 – all still operating

            Per-turbine power production averages over 5 years shifted by 3

            (in kWh)

            5 yr period Avg ann output AvgCap Fac

            ’92 – ’96 969127 .246

            ’95 – ’99 886745 .225

            ’98 – ’02 903564 .229

            ’01 – ’05 941155 .239

            ’04 – ’08 956802 .243

            ’07 – ’11 918452 .233

          • Bob_Wallace

            Thanks for posting that. It jogged my memory and I recalled the graph I had for Danish offshore wind which puts lie to low capacity and capacity dropping off after a few years.

            It’s down the page a ways.

          • MorinMoss

            The formatting was a bit better on my PC but it looks like the tabs were replaced by a single space when I saved it as a comment.
            Do you have graphs for the UK farms? I’ve not had time to crunch that raw data. Thanks.

          • Bob_Wallace

            Unfortunately most comment editors don’t allow one to post data in columns. I have no idea why not.

            I’ve downloaded the UK data but haven’t cranked through it yet.

          • Bob_Wallace

            OK, I started working on the UK farm data. It takes a bit of time and I’ve only done the first five farms listed.

            I used only years that had a least 11 months. Only 1 year for 2 separate farms include 11. The rest 12.

            I tossed years with less than 11 months. They were almost all the last few months of the first year or the first 3 months of 2012. Including early/late parts of a year might be misleading due to seasonal differences.

            I’ll post the graph and discuss it in a follow up comment….

            Here’s the key –
            Haf U I – Hafoty Ucha I & III (F9 L3)
            Hare H – Hare Hill Wind Farm – A (F9 L3)
            Alata – Altahullion Wind Farm (F8 L2)
            Four A – Four Burrows Wind Farm – A
            Thorf – Thorfinn Wind Energy Project (NM1500)

          • Bob_Wallace

            OK, I started working on the UK farm data. It takes a bit of time and I’ve only done the first five farms listed.

            I used only years that had a least 11 months. Only 1 year for 2 separate farms include 11. The rest 12.

            I tossed years with less than 11 months. They were almost all the last few months of the first year or the first 3 months of 2012. Including early/late parts of a year might be misleading due to seasonal differences.

            I’ll post the graph and discuss it in a follow up comment.

            Here’s the key –
            Haf U I – Hafoty Ucha I & III (F9 L3)
            Hare H – Hare Hill Wind Farm – A (F9 L3)
            Alata – Altahullion Wind Farm (F8 L2)
            Four A – Four Burrows Wind Farm – A
            Thorf – Thorfinn Wind Energy Project (NM1500)

            (Had a flawed chart up for a few minutes. Deleted it and posted the correct one.)

          • Bob_Wallace

            Here’s what the press release for Hughes’ paper linked in another comment says…

            “This groundbreaking study applies rigorous statistical analysis to years of actual wind farm performance data from wind farms in both the UK and in Denmark. The results show that after allowing for variations in wind speed and site characteristics the average load factor of wind farms declines substantially as they get older, probably due to wear and tear. By 10 years of age the contribution of an average UK wind farm to meeting electricity demand has declined by a third.”


            Now, I’ve charted only five farms so far. And I haven’t allowed for variations in wind speed nor have I done a statistical analysis. But my eyes tell me that there is no substantial decline in two out of the three farms for which we have nine years data.

            There is what seems to be a low wind year in 2010 when all farms drop in output but then pop back up in 2011.

            Outside of 2010, good old Four Burrows is flat as a board. (At least as flat as the piece of jatoba I’ve been working on today.)

            I’ll try to chart up another batch or two and let us see if Hughes was correct.

            I’m pretty sure if one averaged the first couple of years and then the last two years and compared they could report a big drop over time, but Hughes wouldn’t have done anything like that, would he?

            Of course, he did report that Danish wind farms lose output capacity over time when they don’t.

          • MorinMoss

            His analysis of the Danish farm output was so obviously wrong, he had me doubting my own arithmetic.

            2010 in the UK was a very low year for wind as the REF themselves point out and use as a club against wind power, citing that volatility as contributing to uncertainty and higher prices.


            I suppose coal and gas never suffer from volatility in pricing.

          • Bob_Wallace

            Here’s the next five in order from Hughes’ spreadsheet.

            There’s simply no drop in capacity over time except for the 2010 low wind year event.

            Unless the first ten wind farms in the database are not typical of the farms in general Hughes made a large mistake.

          • MorinMoss

            Good stuff. Wind turbine capacity factor is growing but I’m not sure where the upper limit will be. I doubt it’ll ever reach 60%.
            However, better blade designs do seem to produce power in low-wind situations, which is very encouraging.

          • Bob_Wallace

            Hey, Peter! I found out that there is something behind your claim that some turbines are being taken down after 10 to 15 years.

            You got the time line correct. But wrong on the reason.

            Turns out that several European wind farms are being upgraded. Older, smaller, shorter turbines are being taken down and replaces with more powerful units. By 2020 the UK will have upgraded some of its farms from 1,524 GWh to 8,221 GWh. That’s happening where the best sites were used early on with first generation turbines.

            But here’s some more good news for you. Those turbines aren’t being scrapped. They’re being sold on to other countries which have larger area and not enough capital to purchase state of the art turbines. Those turbines will produce electricity for another couple of decades before they get recycled.

            So much good news. I’m sure you’re smiling now….


          • Peter Sinclair

            wind baggers are generally hostile to, and ignorant of, actual science, as this poster shows. Thanks for the demonstration, Mr. Wilson.

  • Dave2020

    Rob, ab and Ivor, (for further elaboration see my ‘full profile’.)

    Thanks for the detailed responses. These are all interesting, but I should confess I was posting a partly rhetorical question. Still, actual figures aren’t readily available, if indeed they exist?

    Five years ago a report, commissioned by National Grid (UK), anticipated a cost “to pull back wind” – for about 4-6 hours overnight – of £1.6m on each occasion in 2020, rising to £5m in 2025. So, it’s always been obvious that, on a grid with little energy storage capacity, even a modest penetration of wind would be wasteful. (“wind generation has to be spilled”) The anti-wind lobby has been exaggerating the cost of this for years, but it can’t just be ignored.

    I offered National Grid a solution in 2009, but the law forbids it. Consequently, the ‘market signals’ for storage are all negative – the markets are broken:-

    “I asked the generators if they’d be willing to build storage capacity, and they don’t think it’s their responsibility; they think it’s a network function. And if you ask the network operators, they tell you government regulations say they’re not allowed to own generating capacity and storage, ironically, is classified as generating capacity.” So we’ve designed the mother of all market failure!!!

    Without storage, the whole-system costs of variable wind (and wave) plus intermittent solar (and tidal) are high and rising. The VDE study:-

    “To move beyond 40% to 80% renewable power (the 2050 target), Germany could need 14GW of short-term (electricity) storage to meet its peak demand of 80GW in a moderate scenario. Power prices would be roughly 10% greater than in 2011, but reaching 100% renewable power could be quite expensive. The German engineers estimate that the final 20% will triple the need for power storage, raising prices once again by around 19%.” (If the UK hadn’t shot itself in the foot, we’d have 20GW – 100GWh of ENERGY storage by 2020.)

    That study assumes an over-capacity of non-dispatchable renewables and those costings are for (wrong technology) electricity storage. Energy storage (before-generator) should be cheaper, especially on running costs, since power is ONLY transmitted when it’s needed.

    An adequate capacity of integral storage could be built into Scottish offshore wind to obviate the need for PHS (in Norway), which makes the NorthConnect 1.4GW cable redundant. (a saving of £1.75bn.) Storage pays for itself. It is NOT an expensive ‘add-on’ – it is THE requisite design premise.

    • Ronald Brakels

      It that money lost the opportunity cost of not being able to sell all the electricity generated? If so it’s not really a loss in the language of we common folk.

      • Dave2020

        “Is that money lost the opportunity cost of not being able to sell all the electricity generated?”

        No, it’s much, much more than that. (to electricity consumers)

        Firstly, there’s the inefficiency of failing to harvest the wind energy available to any one turbine. In good strong winds the blades are feathered. In gale force winds the turbine may have to be parked. During these circumstances you have “dollars flying by”. Currently, the wind farm suffers that loss, but with better design it could be largely eliminated.

        Secondly, and more expensively, you have the curtailment waste. In the UK, wind operators are compensated for the revenue lost when the grid operator tells them to shut down. So, that cost is added to your bill. All the costs of the balancing services end up on your bill.

        Without energy storage, curtailment can never be avoided. It will only get worse, as renewables’ penetration grows. This is a serious problem that should have been sorted out before large-scale offshore deployment such as the UK’s Round 3.

        Thirdly, there are high running costs inherent in the ‘conventional’ approach, which is to build facilities to store at least some of the ‘wrong-time’ electricity.

        The actual value of all this waste is reflected in the fact that a good business case can be made for investing in numerous types of conventional (PHS & CAES) and novel (Isentropic or MIT’s deep-sea sphere) electricity storage, but these are all inferior on a purely functional basis, day in, day out.

        Before-generator energy storage stops the waste, cuts out the ‘wrong-time’ generation and dispatches what you’ve saved to meet peak demand. What’s not to like about that? It may call for a higher Capex, but I doubt it. It would certainly be cheaper to run. That makes it a very good investment.

        If a period of low wind is forecast, you’d fill up your storage to full capacity.

        • Ronald Brakels

          We occasionly curtail wind power here in South Australia, but it doesn’t really bother us as it is still the cheapest alternative available. If we continued to expand our wind capacity we would eventually reach a point where other capacity would be cheaper, but we’re not there yet. And Australia’s other states have a very long way to go.

  • john wayne

    What about killing millions of birds…

    • Bob_Wallace

      Well “millions”, that would be house cats, windows and cars…

      “Domestic cats in the United States kill up to 3.7 billion birds and as many as 20.7 billion mice, voles and other small mammals each year, biologists estimated on Tuesday.

      Cats that have outdoors access kill between 30 and 47 birds apiece in temperate parts of Europe and North America each year, and between 177 and 299 mammals, according to past investigations.”

      Then putting wind into perspective…

      “Fossil-fueled facilities are 17 times more dangerous to birds on a per GWh basis than wind power. Wind turbines may have killed about 7000 birds, but fossil-fueled stations killed 14.5 million and nuclear 327,000.”,fossil-fuel,andnuclearelectricity

      Note that those kill numbers have been normalized on GWh of electricity produced.

      If you want to protect birds then close down coal and nuclear plants and replace them with wind and solar.

      You’re welcome….

      • john wayne

        How many house cats kill eagles?

        • JW, your argument is old and based on the wind farms of the 70s and 80s where turbines were placed on lattice towers to reduce cost and eagles nested in the towers. They would sometimes be struck when leaving the nest, but the numbers have been inflated by the anti-wind crowd. With modern pole towers this doesn’t happen.

          Millions of birds are killed each year by cars, why aren’t you calling them out? Even power lines are a much bigger culprit than wind turbines.

          As Bob says, if you want to stop bird deaths, ban domestic cats, cars and conventional energy generation.

          But really, you should know this, you have the entire planet’s knowledge resources at your fingertips and yet you dredge up fallacious arguments like “they kill birds”? I’m an Aussie and I know more about wind turbines in the US than you do. You should be embarrassed…

          • Billy___Bob

            Why is the Federal Government giving out licenses to kill eagles to wind farms?

            “As Bob says, if you want to stop bird deaths, ban domestic cats, cars and conventional energy generation.”

            But we can stop wind farms before they kill.

  • Ronald Brakels

    While any energy storage is useful, in Australia we do pretty well with predicting the output of wind power. Our forecast performance of wind is 98% accurate within a 5 minute pay period, for one hour ahead it’s over 96% accurate, and for 40 hours ahead it is over 90% accurate.

    • MorinMoss

      90% over a 40 hour period?? That’s really impressive – do you have stats to back that up?

  • Wayne Williamson

    nice…one thing I question is grouping gas with other base load energy. I believe that a gas turbine can “spin up” in a very short time.

    • Colin

      It’s a little more nuanced than that. Gas turbines that ramp up quickly are typically much less efficient than their slower counterparts. Large, slow-starting GT’s that recover exhaust heat can capture about 60% of the fuel energy. I believe nimble turbines are <45%. Fast starts also stress GT's such that more frequent maintenance may be necessary

      • Bob_Wallace

        GE is marketing a gas turbine that is designed for wind/solar fill-in purposes. That’s likely to reduce inefficiency over other gas turbines.

        That said, if Eos Systems is right and their zinc-air batteries can deliver stored off-peak electricity to peak hours for about a dime for storage/BoS costs then the life expectancy of gas peakers is likely limited. Off-peak wind purchased at 2 to 6 cents and delivered to peak demand at 12 to 17 cents (Eos’s numbers) significantly undercut peaking power at well over 20 cents per kWh.

  • jnffarrell1

    A little battery storage goes a long way. Smart ways to compensate for 20% variations over an hour are far more important than storing half six hours winds max power.

  • Needs too much wind and too much land and still yokes the consumer of energy to a central power utility while destroying landscape. Distributed generation with small wind, solar thermal, cogen, and geothermal on microgrids are the real solutions that shall free the masses from commercial tyranny imposed by mega-power-corporations. GE bites.

    • Bob_Wallace

      Small wind is ineffective wind. The good stuff is up high and we need great big swept area to make wind cheap.

      Homespun power sounds good until you actually think about running a city on it.

    • Ronald Brakels

      Wind doesn’t take up as much room as coal:

      • Peter Wilson


        Even open cast coal mines are relatively small compared to the vast swathes of Earth surface needed to provide industrial scale power from wind turbines, and coal plants are quite compact relative to the vast amounts of reliable power they provide.

        And will continue to provide – there has to be something to keep the lights on when the wind doesn’t blow

        • Bob_Wallace

          Overall, based on figures compiled by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for the years prior to the Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act, and by the Office of Surface Mining for the subsequent years, approximately 8.4 million acres of land have been surface mined in the United States. Continuing the current rate of surface mining for the next 60 years would require about 7 million more acres to be surface mined or longwall mined — and that’s based on the optimistic assumption that the quality of coal and the thickness of seams does not decline over time. In fact, such a decline is inevitable, based on the tendency to mine the best and most accessible coal first. So 7 million
          acres is a conservative estimate.

          So, if burn coal going forward, another 7+ million acres.

          10,937 square miles.

          Were we to generate all our electricity with 3 MW turbines we would use up 90,100 acres for tower footings, service roads, transmission lines and auxiliary buildings.

          141 square miles.

          It strikes me that 10,937 square miles for coal is larger than 141 square miles for wind. YMMV.

          • Peter Wilson

            Where on earth did you get 141 sq miles for wind? That’s only counting the footings, the real footprint is vastly larger than that. How much will that produce? Your figures for coal are for an immense amount of power over many decades – 141 sq miles of windmills will hardly power a small town.

            And if we generated all our power with turbines, we’d still need most of that coal as spinning backup, cos the wind stops blowing. Often

            Apples with apples, Dude

          • Bob_Wallace

            Well, Dude, I started with something I had worked out previously…

            “In 2010, the US used 4,143 TWh (terawatt hours) of electricity. (11,300,000 MWh per day.)

            Since we’re just guessing what our future grid would look like, let’s assume we get 40% of our electricity from wind, 40% from solar, and 20% from hydro, geothermal, tidal, wave, etc.

            4,143 TWh x 40% / 365 days = 4,520,000 MWh needed per day from wind.

            The average wind turbine is around 3 MW in size and median capacity is now 43%.

            So, 3 MW x 24 hours x 43% capacity = 30.1 MWh per day from each 3 MW turbine.

            4,520,000 MWh / 30.1 MWh per turbine = 150,166 3MW turbines.

            The footprint of a wind turbine is typically around 0.25 acres. This includes the tower foundation, roads, and support structures.

            150,166 wind turbines x 0.25 acres = 36,040 acres required for our wind turbines.”

            Since that’s for 40% I multiplied 36,040 x 2.5 to get from 40% to 100% and calculated 90,100 acres.

            Then I divided by 640 to convert from acres to square miles and I got 140.78.

            Then I rounded up to 141 square miles.

            How’s them apples?

          • Peter Wilson

            43% capacity? On which planet? The European experience is between 18% and 26%, but more importantly its rarely when you need it. And performance falls off rapidly as turbines age.

            And you still have no idea how to keep the lights on when the wind fails, as it did in Europe this March

            Did you mention that 3GW turbines are over 400 feet high? Very green, I think not

          • Bob_Wallace

            According to the EIA US onshore wind turbines have a median capacity of 43%. Of course this number includes older, smaller turbines so were we to build out 100% with wind we’d see that number climb. The highest capacity US onshore turbine reported a 50.4% capacity.

            (Of course no one suggests building a 100% wind or 100% solar grid except people setting up straw man arguments.)


            You’d have to show me some data that proves that turbine performance falls off rapidly as turbines age before I suspect you aren’t wrong.

            How do we keep the lights on? By using a mix of inputs along with storage and dispatchable generation. It’s how we keep the lights off now when coal plants suddenly fail or nuclear plants abruptly go off line.

            You are right though about wind turbines not being green. They’re generally white.

            (High is good. That’s where the sweet wind can be drunk.)

          • Peter Wilson

            Storage eh? Hows that working out then.? Where can I go to see a working example of the city sized energy storage units required?

            You are quite right about the need for dispatchable power though. What is unclear is why we would want anything else

          • Bob_Wallace

            Let’s see you could check out some of the 21 GW of pump-up storage we have in the US or the 35 GW of pump-up in Japan. Take a look at Raccoon Mountain. Wiki has a nice article that will show you how large scale storage works.

            Oh, wait. One GW of our large scale storage is CAES. Macintosh, Alabama is where I think it’s located.

            Of course we’ve got some very promising technologies making their way out of the lab that may turn out to be better than pump-up.

            Why would we want anything other than dispatchable?

            We wouldn’t. If we had ample affordable green dispatchable, but we don’t.

            That’s why we are likely to build our 21st Century grids around wind and solar, the most abundant and least expensive sources of energy. And fill in with storage and dispatchable sources such as biogas and hydro.

          • Peter Wilson

            Storage is specified in GW Hours, not GW. To back up a non dispatchable source like wind or solar, you need truly vast amounts of storage – those you mention are not even 100th of whats required. This piece by Willis Eshenbach gives a clue as to the scale of storage required.


            Of course, if we ever do have that much wind power attached to the grid, the real backup will be very simple – those that can afford them will have diesel generators, the rest will shiver in the dark. Very eco friendly.

          • Bob_Wallace

            Actually it’s pretty common in the storage sector to use GW. GWh is assumed.

            You kind of miss the storage point. We don’t need much storage right now and won’t for quite a while. Most of our grids can be around 40% wind and solar without making any changes in ratio of dispatchable generation or adding storage.

            No reason to build it before we need it.

            Right now we’re doing the grunt work to figure out what sort of generation will be best when we need to start adding some.

            Glad you posted that Anthony link. You got your freak flag flying high, guy. No doubt about where you gather your misinformation. Got some Robert Bryce for us? How about a memo from David and Charles?

          • Bob_Wallace

            Now, Peter, all the fun aside. Are you someone who is interested in learning? Or did you show up here just to run through the stand set of climate change/anti-renewable energy talking points?

            If it’s the latter you can either go away or we’ll have someone show you to the door.

            We’ve heard all this stuff you’re posting before. We know that it’s all bogus. And playing whack-a-mole with know-littles loses its appeal after a while.

            If you want to stick around and discuss how we transition from a fossil fuel grid to a sustainable low carbon grid you’re welcome.

            Up to you….

          • MorinMoss

            One storage tech that I hope will pan out is the Pumped Heat Electricity Storage (PHES) under development by Isentropic UK


            Approx 70% efficient and based on gravel and argon but I don’t see why they couldn’t use nitrogen.

          • Bob_Wallace

            I’m a bit disappointed in Isentropic. They received some significant funding (>$20 million) a year ago and they haven’t built anything yet.

            With that sort of money they ought to be able to build one of their heat pumps and hook it up to a couple of insulated containers full of rocks and demonstrate their concept.

            They don’t need a huge demo project. People can do the math of using bigger boxes of rocks. It’s their efficiency claim that needs some proof.

          • MorinMoss

            The ETI link below says it’s a 5-year project; I’m mystified as to what could take so much time but I don’t know very much about the technology involved but it’s supposed to be simple.


            And the membership of the ETI are some VERY big players who will have a minority share in Isentropic.
            Not sure if that’s supposed to reassure me or make my inner conspiracy theorist reach for the tinfoil.

          • MorinMoss

            So now it’s about dispatchable power? Whatever happened to the old baseload argument?

          • Bob_Wallace

            Peter, I’m sorry. I forgot to post a graph for Danish offshore wind which shows that you don’t know what you’re talking about.

            See how those early farms did have low capacity, but haven’t fallen off as you claim? And then notice how more recent wind farms are returning capacity numbers up above 40%?

            Got to watch where you get your info, old guy. Someone’s treating you like a mushroom….

        • Ronald Brakels

          Nonsense, Peter? I cordially invite you to read the article and tell me what, if anything, you think is wrong with it.

        • MorinMoss

          You can do a lot of farming in the spaces between turbines. That’s why farmers like wind – they get paid for their land AND get to keep growing their crops.

  • Dave2020

    “It often means that wind farm operators have to spill wind.”

    Can anyone quantify the value of “often”? Or more importantly, what is the value of these “dollars flying by”, and what will they amount to in future? (when we’ve built up a significant over-capacity of variable renewables)

    The developments outlined here have the appearance of a design premise that’s headed up a dead-end creek without a paddle.

    Not technology over-kill, as much as the wrong technologies – period.

    • Ivor O’Connor

      That’s a good question and probably has a different answer depending on many different factors. Like how big the wind park is, the types of base load used, and the customers using the electricity. This sort of data should be made available so we can all better understand the problems.
      I don’t understand why temporarily storing wasted energy is a bad approach. Especially if it is profitable for the turbine owner overall to do so. Could you elaborate?

    • RobS

      I agree with Ivor, highly variable depending on local characteristics and local grid composition. Here in Tasmania Australia we have 90% hydro and 10% wind with a new farm recently commissioned this year. Because of hydros ability to ramp up to full generator output in as little as 45 secs depending on turbine and control system design it makes it a perfectly matched accompaniment to wind where every kwh of wind generated power simply means a kwh of water left in a dam, every dip in wind generation can be rapidly filled by hydro. The only way for wind to ever be spilled here would be if wind generation out produced spot demand which as yet can not happen. If you look at a grid with a predominant coal grid like our neighbour Victoria, overnight all but the coal plants are idled and even the coal plants are throttled back somewhat, if there is a brief surge in wind generation overnight the coal plants have little to no capacity to be further rapidly throttled back therefore that wind generation has to be spilled. These turbines have very little role to play on our Tasmanian grid with clean highly adjustable hydro power on tap, whereas on the mainland they ahve the potential to store surplus off peak power and discharge it at peak times negating the need for expensive peaking plants and not only allowing otherwise spilled power to be sold but to allow it to be sold at the time of highest marginal power cost.

    • ab

      How often depends on the local conditions, significantly how much there is in the way of curtailment, when turbines have to spill wind to scale down output due to grid demand…That, as I understand it often reflects a lack of adequate transmission infrastructure…That varies widely from location to location…

      Actual prices for the PJM frequency regulation market are presented, which can be used to indicate value…

      How much of present-day generating capacity does wind and other renewables account for? Though growing rapidly, still very little…

      When the day comes when there’s a “significant amount of over-capacity of variable renewable,” market/price signals should show the way…

      “Wrong technologies”? Balderdash is my initial reaction…Please elaborate…

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