Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Wind on Brave New Climate

Barry Brook's blog "Brave New Climate" is one of the best climate/energy blogs. Barry is an Australian climate scientist who is generally clear thinking about climate/energy issues. Barry is a fan of the Integral Fast Reactor. I believe that the LFTR represents a safer, more flexible, lower cost technology that possesses enormous potential. Other than our sometimes raucous disagreement on most favored nuclear technology we seem to agree on most issues.

During the last few days Barry has conducted a debate on wind issues under the title "Does Wind Power Reduce Carbon Emissions?" Barry's position is derived from a study titled, "Cost and Quantity of Greenhouse Gas Emissions Avoided by Wind Generation," by Peter Lang. Lang is a retired engineer who has over 40 years experience on a wide range energy projects and issues, including managing energy R&D and providing policy
advice for government and opposition. The money quote from Lang states:
“These calculations suggest that wind generation saves little greenhouse gas emissions when the emissions from the back-up are taken into account.

Wind power, with emissions and cost of back-up generation properly attributed, avoids 0.058 to 0.09 t CO2-e/MWh compared with about 0.88 t CO2-e/MWh avoided by nuclear. The cost to avoid 1 tonne of CO2-e per MWh is $830 to $1149 with wind power compared with $22 with nuclear power. If the emissions and cost of back up generation are ignored then wind power avoids about 0.5 t CO2-e/MWh at a cost of about $134/t CO2-e avoided. Even if the costs of and emissions from back up generation are ignored, wind is still over six times more costly that nuclear as a way to avoid emissions.

A single 1000 MW nuclear plant (normally we would have four to eight reactors together in a single power station) would avoid 6.9 million tonnes of CO2 equivalent per year. Five hundred 2 MW wind turbines (total 1000 MW) would avoid 0.15 to 1.3 million tonnes per year – just 2 to 20% as much as the same amount of nuclear capacity. When we take into account that we could have up to 80% of our electricity supplied by nuclear (as France has), but only a few percent can be supplied by wind, we can see that nuclear can make a major contribution to cutting greenhouse emissions, but wind a negligible contribution and at much higher cost.“
Lang's conclusions are truly devistating to the argument that wind electrical generation represents a major solution to the problem of global warming.

In the course of the debate on Barry's blog, Mark Jacobson's work on base wind was touted. Barry responded:
Jacobson’s work on distributed wind and vehicle-to-grid backup have been savaged by Charles Barton at Nuclear Green. . . .

I’d be interested (sincerely!) in knowing where Barton is wrong.

Barry thus challenges wind defenders to answer my criticisms of the Archer-Jacobson wind system. There were a few feble attempts to answer my challenge, which mainly offered alteration to the Archer-Jsaconson rules. For example Fran Barlow suggested
Whatever Jacobson proposes it seems to me that the overbuild for wind need be no higher than the CF would imply for 100% of nameplate.

So assuming a CF of, say 35% (the starting point for feasibility IMO) the overbuild should be no more than 2.84 so that taken together the farm’s reticulated components produce the output almost all the time. Only on those occasions wherea) there was a: decline in output below the anticipated output


b) demand implied the anticipated output

would redundant capacity be brought online. Ideally the sites in question would be highly predictable on 2 hours notice.

Order of call would be

a)demand management measures


b)pumped hydro/V2G



Note that NG need not be a fossil fuel — waste biomass from ADs or syngas from CSP usaage are options
Barlow's analysis simply assumes that average wind speed over the entire 17 site array would be constant, and simply by multiplying the generating capacity by the inverse of the capacity factor would give you a reliable supply of electricity. The rub is of course that the average wind speed over the entire array is not constant. Thus more wind capacity replication than Barlow calculates is required to create the base load level of reliability.

My reading of Archer-Jacobson is of course influenced by the fact that their analysis was conducted for Southern Great Planes wind resources. The most likely time for there to be a wind problem would be during Summer days, during periods of peek power demand by Texas electrical consumers. Supplying these demands is very much a quality of life issue, and on very hot summer days, when wind generation can drop to an absolute minimum, a significant public health issue. Demand management would be an extreme measure in these situations. My critique of Jacobson on the rationality of a V2G system was part Brook's challenge, and Barlow cited the use of V2G technology without defending that technology against my critique. She also advocates pumped hydro, but fails to offer a convincing analysis of how pumped hydro would provide a low cost solution to the problem of summer winds on the Southern Great Planes. Finally Barlow falls back on hydro-carbon solution including natural gas. The Natural gas solution of course does what we are trying to avoid, that is adds to the atmospheric CO2 levels. The other Barlow solutions, "waste biomass from ADs or syngas from CSP usage," involve further replications and added expenses. Needless to say Barlow does not stop to ponder the questions that her solutions raise.

Barry Brook has generated a necessary conversation on the limitation of wind, a conversation that will need to be repeated over and over again during the next few years.

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