Monday, January 26, 2009

Renewables in Fairyland

Yesterday I participated in a discussion on Rod Adams's Atomic Show. Part of the discussion focused on the inability of renewables to reliably deliver electricity when it is needed. Probably I wrote more about the problem than any other energy-related blogger on the internet, and renewables advocates, with the exception of Ed Ring almost completely ignore the problem. Today I have posted a brief discussion of materials issues effecting the production and cost of windmills.

You will never, never, never hear about such problems from renewables advocates. The
term renewables advocate almost always refers to husters who are totally lacking in intellectual integrity. The renewables advocates are selling green myths that have little basis in facts. In fact the community that supports renewables is a bunch of off-the-wall fairyland-based champions of unreality. Not only do they ignore obvious facts, but the offer the most gossamer of excuses for doing so. No pro-renewables argument is ever so ludicrous, or illogical that it isn't instantly bought by the entire crowd of pro-renewable idiots lock, stock and barrel.

For example renewables advocates point to a study by Stanford "researchers" Cristina Archer and Mark Z. Jacobson titled "Supplying Baseload Power and Reducing Transmission Requirements by Interconnecting Wind Farms. The claim is made that Archer & Jacobson demonstrate that Wind can provide practical base power. But Archer & Jacobson actually say that windmills at 19 highly selected locations in Oklahoma, Texas, Kansas and New Mexico, if linked, can be counted on to produce at least 21% of their rated power 81% of the time. This system would seem to possess some but not all characteristics of base generation capacity. Its down time cannot be scheduled to reflect low power demand, as true base power can. A glance at the Archer & Jacobson data set reveals huge weakness for the system. The system has no ability to produce electricity during daily peaks of summer electrical demand. Thus as electrical demand rises during the summer days, electrical generation drops sometimes to virtually nothing. Thus the so-called wind base generation system fails to provide electric when it is needed the most.

Finally, since "base" capacity is 21% of name plate capacity, the real cost of of "base" electricity is 5 times the cost of "nameplate" rated capacity. Thus if 1f a 1 MW electrical generator costs $2 million the cost of base capacity will be 5 x $2 million or $10 Million. This price comes in at the high end of nuclear range and the whole system is less capable than nuclear, since it can be counted on to not deliver electricity during periods of peak demand. Thus careful attention to Archer & Jacobson, far from revealing the advantages of wind, actually testify to its weaknesses.

This you are never going to hear from renewables advocates, who were either too lazy to look carefully and critically at the Archer and Jacobson study, or who are not smart enough to figure out the problems on their own. Indeed Archer and Jacobson do not focus on the enormous cost of their wind-based system or its inabiliy to produce electricity during periods of summer peak demand. But this sort of sloppy scholarship is the sort we have come to expect from California fairy-land renewables scholarship.

11 comments:

donb said...

Charles Barton wrote:
But Archer & Jacobson actually say that windmills at 19 highly selected locations in Oklahoma, Texas, Kansas and New Mexico, if linked, can be counted on to produce at least 21% of their rated power 81% of the time.

I have partially read this paper. Archer & Jacobson claim that the 81% availability is on the same order as a coal-fired plant. This may be true, but equating the two requires some intellectual dishonesty. They arrive at the "comparable" claim by lumping together scheduled and unscheduled outages. However, this is an "apples and oranges" comparison. Turns out that the vast majority of the outages for wind are unscheduled, while the outages for the coal-fired plants are roughly half scheduled and half unscheduled.

There is a big difference in the effect of the two outages. Planned loss of generation during periods of lighter demand (weekend, holiday, much of the spring and fall) is not a big deal as there is a surplus of generation resources to cover needs. Outages are NOT planned during peak demand periods. In addition, the unscheduled outages of coal-fired plants are more or less random. For wind power, as Charles Barton has pointed out, there is good correlation between high demand and low availability of wind power.

Charles Barton said...

Not only are all lf the putages of "base" wind systems unavoidable, but they come at the most in opportune times, Thus wind basic, is vary expensive, and fails to fulfill reasonable expectations of renewable power sources.

Anonymous said...

I live in an area with 121 wind turbines. Their performance is so sporatic that it would be laughable, except that they are being subsidized out of my tax dollars. If the government decides to invest in renewables over nuclear, I'll have to get to know my Amish neighbours better. Perhaps I can learn how to make candles and cook with a woodstove.

Anonymous said...

Why can’t U232/U233 Uranium hydride provide an ideal backup to wind and solar electric production utilized in the form of a thorium based nuclear battery? The Hyperion like nuclear battery is a potential ideal electric power load following partner to a wind farm. If each 30 Megawatts of wind capacity were paired with a nuclear battery as a backup, full reliability and availability of the wind electric generation is possible. The windmills provide value to the nuclear battery in that it would extend the life of nuclear uranium hydride fuel in the battery from minimum 5 years to 10-15 years. It’s not nuclear or wind, it’s nuclear and wind.

mdf said...

Where is the logic in (roughly) doubling the cost of the entire system to save a few bucks on some nuclear fuel?

Pairing with other backup sources gives rise to similar questions. For instance:

a) to pair with hydro: you save some water, but at the cost of allocating a portion of your existing hydro system to cover for the vagaries of the wind farm. Building a new dam as a backup again (roughly) doubles the cost of the project. (And building dams is one of the more reprehensible things we can do to the land.)

b) to pair with gas, coal, etc: you save some fossil fuel, but to what end? A huge goal today ought to be to rid ourselves of this yoke of CO2, not to just delay the inevitable. Fortunately (and more importantly), the writing is on the wall for carbon; chances are almost certain we aren't going to burn it all. If true, why take any special effort to "save" what is dying anyways?

Charles Barton said...

mdf, of course. The best, the most capable, and the most flexible backup to renewables is nuclear. But since nuclear technology is capable of offering low cost electricity 24 hours a day, the real question if we went to a nuclear backup, why would we need renewables at all?

donb said...

Renewables make sense when fuel is expensive or limited, the additional capital cost for the combined system is tolerable, and there are no alternatives. An example I have in mind is energy for polar research stations. I remember reading about one such (unmanned) station originally powered by propane, which was then supplemented by wind energy. This allowed more experiments to be powered using the same amount of propane. Since the aircraft bringing in the fuel was load-limited, the wind energy addition made a lot of sense.

This is a "corner case". In most situations, the case for renewables is no where near as good. For unschedulable renewables to supplement nuclear successfully, the fully loaded cost of the renewable energy would need to be lower than the marginal cost of the nuclear energy. This is a tall order!

Anonymous said...

U235 is a finite resource. What price will result if 500,000 small nukes all around the world burn it in an exponentially expanding electric economy? You pro nukes are as myopic as the greenies; the future lasts longer than tomorrow; nothing lasts forever. Think sustainability.

Charles Barton said...

Anonymous We of course understand that U-235 is a finite resource, but U-233 is renewable through thorium conversion. For all intent ane purposes thorium is not a finite resource. Anti-Nuclear fanatics like youare simply in denial about the thorium fuel cycle.

Anonymous said...

All nuclear fissile fuel is ultimately derived from U235, even U233. The U233 breeding margin is so painfully small. U235 should be held precious to the “nuclear nation”. This extreme value behooves you to conserve it as the very precious commodity that it is. Even if it takes a symbiotic partnership with all those hated renewable energy forms.

Charles Barton said...

Anonymous, there is enough recoverable U-235 to start LFTRs capable of supplying all of the world's energy. U-235 can be recovered by reprocessing so called depleted uranium and so called spent reactor fuel. There is a large amount of U-235 in phosphate tailings. Uranium mine tailings can also be reprocessed. you are such an typical anti-nuk spinning your fantastic and idiotic lies. Grow up, face reality, and stop lying.

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