Tuesday, February 16, 2010

20% wind by 2030 not on track

Questions should be asked about the National Renewable Energy Laboratory relationship to the American Wind Energy Association's propaganda machine. The DoE report 20% Wind Energy by 2030: Increasing Wind Energy’s Contribution to U.S. Electricity Supply acknowledges the reports dependency on data supplied by the wind industry.
The U.S. Department of Energy would like to acknowledge the in-depth analysis and extensive research conducted by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory and the major contributions and manuscript reviews by the American Wind Energy Association and many wind industry organizations that contributed to the production of this report. The costs curves for energy supply options and the WinDS modeling assumptions were developed in cooperation with Black & Veatch.
Black & Veatch cannot be regarded as an objective source on wind. In fact Black & Veatch boasts,
We helped launch the modern wind power industry in 1975 . . .
Questions must be raised about the validity of this DoE's "20% by 2030" report. One test of the objectivity of a wind study is how well it deals with the inflation of wind costs. Since 2004 the costs of wind projects have risen more rapidly than the underlying inflation rate. Yet the report chose to assume base line inflation rates in its future cost projections. This can only be described as a major error. The report states:
Black & Veatch analysts (in consultation with AWEA industry experts) developed wind technology cost and performance projections for this report (Black & Veatch, forthcoming 2008). Costs for turbines, towers, foundations, installation, profit, and interconnection fees are included. Capital costs are based on an average installed capital cost of $1,775 per kilowatt (kW) in 2007. After adjusting for inflation and removing the construction financing charge, this reduces to $1,650/kW for 2006.
Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory maintains a data base on wind costs. The LBNL report for 2008 titled 2008 Wind Technologies Market Report provides a empirical basis for evaluating the accuracy of the 20% wind estimates. The LBNL study states,
Among the sample of projects built in 2008, for example, the capacity-weighted average installed cost rose to $1,915/kW, up $190/kW (11%) from the weighted-average cost of installed projects in 2007 ($1,725/kW), and up $630/kW (49%) from the average cost of projects installed from 2001 through 2004. Project costs are clearly on the rise.
The LBNL report also found that the cost of wind turbines have been rapidly rising:
Since hitting a low point of roughly $700/kW in the 2000-2002 period, turbine prices appear to have increased by approximately $700/kW (100%), on average, through 2008. Between 2007 and 2008, capacity-weighted average turbine prices increased by roughly $90/kW (7%), from $1,270/kW to $1,360/kW.
A second appearant flaw in the "20% by 2030" report is its estimate of wind capacity. The report states:
Technology development is projected to reduce future capital costs by 10%.Black & Veatch used historical capacity factor data to create a logarithmic best-fit line, which is then applied to each wind power class to project future performance improvements
The report then projects rising wind capacity for dollar spent. But the the LBNL data in the hands of LBNL reporters tells a different story,
Despite this general improvement among more-recently built projects, the capacity-weighted- average 2008 capacity factor for projects installed in 2007 (35.0%) is down slightly from that for projects installed in 2006 (35.2%), which in turn is lower than for projects built in 2004-2005 (36.9%).
Thus not only are "20% by 2030" projected cost estimates likely to be quite low, projected capacity increases may be quite high as well, and in fact the observed trend toward lower capacity may continue into the future. The LBNL 2008 report states,
performance improvements appear to have leveled off in the most recent time period, however.
Thus "20% by 2030" cost estimates for wind are likely to be off by a wid margin to the down side.

The "20% by 2030" report states
Based on the assumptions used to create the 20% Wind Scenario, providing 20% of the nation’s projected electricity demand by 2030 would require the installation of 293.4 GW of wind technology (in addition to the 11.4 GW currently installed) for a cumulative installed capacity of 304.8 GW, generating nearly 1,200 terawatt-hours (TWh) annually.
Given the 2008 wind cost of $1915 per kW, the 20% goal would cost at least $550 billion, but this estimate is undoubtedly low, because it does not take inflation into account, and it assumes that 18% of the wind capacity would come from offshore, and offshore wind is considerably more expensive. The 20% by 2030 assumes a capacity factor of 40, and that is very ambitious. Realistically overly ambitions perhaps. At any rate that means that the average nuclear plant will produce 2.25 times as much electricity per unit of rated capacity as the average wind mill will. This gives us a figure of 4,3 billion 2006 US dollars for a wind array that would produce the equivalent amount of power to a 1 GW reactor. This figure would match the reactors cost, but the actual cost of wind would likely be higher, because the 18% offshore wind would be more expensive, the capacity factor of the 300 GWs of wind would probably be lower. Transmission system additions, required to accommodate wind would cost at the very least another $100 billion. It is quite clear that wind is not going to cost less than nuclear power, and according to EIA estimates future onshore and offshore wind will cost more.

Unfortunately then, the National Renewable Energy Laboratory appears to serve more as a front for the wind industry propaganda than as a source of reputable scientific research on renewable energy. For example, the NREL appears to not be researching carbon mitigation impact. But wind carbon mitigation can be inferred from NREL sponsored research, and it does not present a happy picture. Wind displaces carbon efficient closed cycle gas turbines before it displaces coal, and most or all of the displaced power in the 20% scheme is likely to come from the CCGTs, In contrast nuclear displaces coal rather than CCGTs, thus money spent on carbon mitigation with nuclear is 3.5 times more effective than the equivalent sum spent carbon mitigation with wind. This fact is carefully hidden by the "20% by 2030" report.


Anonymous said...

Check out this site. It shows that adding wind generated power to the grid takes more fossil fuel and creates a larger carbon footprint then generating all the power with fossil fuel. I am not able to evaluate the validity of Kent Hawkins' calculator. Since this is found on a blog site it probably has no had peer review.

Wind Integration: Incremental Emissions from Back-Up Generation Cycling (Part V: Calculator Update)
Kent Hawkins concludes,“ no plausible scenario seems to exist where wind can play a positive role as the means to achieve fossil fuel or greenhouse gas emissions savings”

Charles I know that you are well aware of government subsidies for renewables, but let's review subsidies again.
Not only do banks and the auto industry get large government bailouts. Wind and solar get continuous bailouts called government subsidy to keep then competitive. The Energy Information Administration reports the 2007 federal subsidy for wind at $23.37/MWh and for solar at $24.34/MWh. No wind or solar would be built without a large government subsidies. In contrast the federal energy subsidy for nuclear was only $1.59/MWh. The nuclear waste fee plus the costs for decommissioning nuclear power plants that close actually exceed the subsidy received by the nuclear power industry.

Building comparable generating capacity from diffuse and intermittent energy sources takes a toll on our mineral resources. I have calculated that wind needs 7 times more concrete and 90 times more steel than nuclear. Thermal solar requires 14 times more concrete and 140 times more steel than nuclear. Wind and solar are not “smart and sensible” energy solutions, and they are not environmentally friendly because they consume huge amount of natural resource and they occupy enormous amounts of land. Owing to their intermittent nature fossil fuel backup is needed.

Our fleet of reactors, built in about a twenty year period, is making a big dent, producing 20% of our nation’s electricity and 70% of our emission-free power at a cost of less than two cents/kWh.

The only way to move the world away from dirty fossil fuel is to find an energy source that is cheaper than dirty coal. Advance generation nuclear power holds promise of making cheaper power than coal.

Nuclear power is the safest, most achievable, and most economical energy solution. If we choose more expensive wind and solar power, the goods our factories produce will not compete well on the world market and our jobless rate will grow. Think twice about making a smart and sensible choice of power.

John Tjostem

Charles Barton said...

John I probably will post a list of subsidies that benefit the wind industry in the near future. I am aware of Paul Hawkins work, and have mentioned it in several past posts. I have been able to find at least partial support for his claim that wind is a weak carbon mitigator, and indeed have shown that carbon mitigation with wind is 3.5 times more expensive than carbon mitigation with nuclear.

Nathan2go said...

The other big question the DOE must answer about wind is how does it fit into a low carbon generation portfolio? The 20% wind report and EWITS indicated that wind power works fine as long as it's diluted 3:1 with fossil fuel (e.g. 20% wind, 60% dispatchable power, 20% nuclear). The EWIT study showed that there is a significant cost increase as wind power is raised to 30%.

Without revolutionary new technology (e.g. cheap and efficient storage), it appears that in order to meet our goal of 80% carbon reduction, wind must be phased-out along with fossil fuel (assuming it ever becomes big).


Blog Archive

Some neat videos

Nuclear Advocacy Webring
Ring Owner: Nuclear is Our Future Site: Nuclear is Our Future
Free Site Ring from Bravenet Free Site Ring from Bravenet Free Site Ring from Bravenet Free Site Ring from Bravenet Free Site Ring from Bravenet
Get Your Free Web Ring
by Bravenet.com
Dr. Joe Bonometti speaking on thorium/LFTR technology at Georgia Tech David LeBlanc on LFTR/MSR technology Robert Hargraves on AIM High