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Debunking Claim that Wind Energy Increases Emissions

“Wind farms do not reduce emissions.” A commonly used talking point by those opposed to wind farms. This talking point is evidently enjoyed so much by some that this week the Global Warming Policy Foundation reposted a story from Natural News on the subject. Natural News is at a level nutbaggery that one would have thought that even the GWPF would be sensible enough not to use it as a news source. But one thing is clear, most of the people who claim that wind farms don’t reduce emissions first don’t care about emissions in the first place, and second don’t care if wind farms don’t reduce emissions. They just don’t want them built.

So, do wind farms reduce emissions?

Let’s first get out of the way that some don’t. Building wind farms on certain types of peat bog is probably not a good idea. There are of course plenty of onshore sites without peat bogs, and offshore wind farms quite obviously don’t suffer from this problem at all. What we are looking at is something that can be solved through regulation, or carbon pricing. As an anti-wind talking point it is quite limited.

This tweet by the United Kingdom Independence Party’s MEP Roger Helmer leads me to the other claim: “wind farms increase emissions.”

The gist of this argument is that wind farms have an average capacity factor of 25%. So, if wind farms have a total capacity of say 10 GW, on average 2.5 GW will come from wind farms and 7.5 GW needs to come from something else. The problem for wind power proponents is that when the wind farms aren’t running it will be less efficient gas power that provides the electricity. A CCGT gas plant running efficiently will produce 0.4 tonnes of CO2 per MWh, whereas a less efficient OCGT plant, or CCGT plant running inefficiently, will produce 0.6 tonnes of CO2 per MWh. Add in 10 GW of wind to the electricity grid, and you go from 10 GW of electricity supply from efficient CCGT gas plants at 0.4 tonnes of CO2 per MWh being replaced by 7.5 GW of inefficient gas and 2.5 GW of wind, which comes to 0.75*0.6 = 0.45 tonnes of CO2 per MWh. An increase, not a decrease in emissions. A major blow for wind proponents, and total nonsense.

Consider electricity demand on a typical day. I’ll show Spain’s, but you can easily find it for other countries at the data sources page on my blog.




These swings in demand are far greater than anything that can be expected for wind power less than between 20 and 30% of electricity demand. The impacts of wind on the need to run less efficient gas plants is currently negligible, and likely will be for the next decade in the UK. Just ask the UK’s National Grid, who using actual grid data found that wind farms currently have a close to zero impact on how often inefficient gas plants are run.

I can also refute the argument in the “excellent” analysis linked to by Roger Helmer above with one simple graph: wind power output in Germany today.


The total wind capacity in Germany is about 33 GW, but I believe only about 30 GW is represented by the graph above. Let’s think about what the “wind farms don’t reduce emissions” claim requires. Essentially between 12 am and 12 pm this morning German wind farms must have forced about 17 GW of electricity to come from inefficient gas plants. But, wind farm output is essentially flat all morning. So, the claim that wind farms increase emissions is blatant nonsense, which requires us to assume wind farms have magical powers.

Robert Wilson's picture

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Bob Meinetz's picture
Bob Meinetz on Mar 18, 2013 3:50 pm GMT

Robert, it's clear that wind reduces emissions when used as an adjunct to natural gas.

Wind farms also guarantee a place for natural gas in our energy future, when we can scarcely afford the CO2 it generates. Barring some miracle technological breakthrough, energy storage won't be competitive with natural gas for the forseeable future. Astute natural gas magnates like T. Boone Pickens have been bullish on wind for that very reason.

We should be putting all of our resources into zero-carbon nuclear and safer Gen IV nuclear technology. We're using pliers and screwdrivers for a fix that desperately demands power tools - and pushing climate ever closer to the edge of the cliff.

Wilmot McCutchen's picture
Wilmot McCutchen on Mar 18, 2013 5:32 pm GMT

Wind for baseload generation requires backup fossil fuel capacity for when the wind is not blowing.  Wind is mostly available at night, when power is cheap and demand is low.  Lots of wind is curtailed, wasted because of lack of storage.  Cycling the backup aggravates backup emissions and stresses the equipment so it wears out faster.  This recent analysis explains, in case anyone stlll has an open mind on this political issue: 

Michael Goggin's picture
Michael Goggin on Mar 18, 2013 6:57 pm GMT

If you actually read the NREL study referenced in that article, you'll find that it shows that wind reduces pollution and fuel use by as much or more than expected. In many cases, adding wind and solar actually increases the average efficiency of power plants by displacing the most expensive, and therefore least efficient, power plants first. The study uses real-world emissions monitors at power plants to confirm that, even after all cycling and other impacts are taken into account, wind produces 99.8% of the emissions savings that would be expected for a 1:1 displacement of fossil fuels. The claim that so-called "backup emissions" are significant has been conclusively put to rest. As I explained:

As wind energy’s growth has continued, spurred by improving technology and declining costs, wind energy’s role in reducing harmful pollution has become even clearer. Empirical data for the United States and Europe clearly indicates not only that wind energy results in the expected pollution reductions by directly offsetting the use of fossil fuels at power plants, but that by displacing the most expensive and therefore least efficient power plants first, wind energy results in even larger pollution savings than expected.

There is no dispute that every MWh of wind energy added to the power grid displaces a MWh that would have been produced by the most expensive power plant currently operating, which is typically the least efficient fossil-fired power plant. However, some have attempted to claim, without support, that adding wind energy to the power system can negatively affect the efficiency of other power plants, reducing the emissions savings produced by wind energy.

Fortunately, a large body of real-world data is now available to assess how wind energy affects the efficiency of other power plants, allowing one to approach the question from multiple angles. To start with, the U.S. Department of Energy collects detailed data on the amount of fossil fuels consumed at power plants, as well as the amount of electricity produced by those power plants. By comparing how the efficiency of power plants has changed in states that have added significant amounts of wind energy against how it has changed in states that have not, one can test the unsupported hypothesis that wind energy has a negative impact on the efficiency of fossil-fired power plants.

The data clearly shows that there is no such relationship, and in fact, states that use more wind energy have seen the efficiency of their fossil-fired power plants fare slightly better than states that use less wind energy. Specifically, coal plants in the 20 states that obtain the most electricity from wind saw their average efficiency decline by only 1.00% between 2005 and 2010, versus 2.65% in the other 30 states. Increases in the efficiency at natural gas power plants were virtually identical in the top 20 wind states and the other states, at 1.89% and 2.03% improvement respectively. The efficiency of fossil-fired power plants fared comparably well in the top 10 wind states (which obtain between 5% and 16% of their electricity from wind), with coal plant efficiency increasing by 0.51% in the top 10 wind-using states and declining by 2.65% in the other 40 states, while gas plant efficiency improved by 0.78% in the top 10 wind states and 2.17% in the other 40 states.

Similar results can be found in International Energy Agency data for Europe, which shows that the top 5 wind countries (which obtain between 7% and 23% of their electricity from wind) saw the average efficiency of their natural gas power plants increase by 11% as they ramped up their use of wind energy from 1999-2010, larger than the 7% increase in efficiency seen across all of OECD Europe. Over that time period, coal plant efficiency fell by 1% in the top 5 wind countries and remained unchanged across all OECD Europe countries.

Another method to assess whether wind energy is producing the expected emissions savings is to calculate whether increases in the use of wind energy are correlated with decreases in the amount of carbon dioxide emitted per MWh produced. A correlation coefficient of 0 would indicate that there is no statistical relationship between wind energy output and emissions intensity, a coefficient of -1 would indicate that wind output increases always coincided with increases in emissions, and the observed coefficients of nearly +1 indicate that increases in wind output nearly always coincided with major decreases in emissions. The correlation between increasing wind energy output and declining emissions intensity in the leading wind energy countries over the period 1999 to 2010 was extremely strong, with a correlation coefficient of.77 for Denmark,.82 for Germany,.86 for Portugal,.90 for Spain, and a whopping.96 for Ireland.

These correlation coefficients were far higher than for any other possible explanatory factors for the observed decreases in emissions intensity, such as increased use of hydroelectric or nuclear energy, increased use of natural gas instead of coal, changes in the efficiency of fossil-fired power plants, or changes in electricity imports or exports. If wind energy were causing large declines in the efficiency of fossil-fired power plants, zero or negative correlations would have been found, instead of correlations approaching 1.

These findings are further confirmed by the preliminary results of a new report from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory that uses empirical data from another source, EPA’s network of power plant continuous emissions monitors, to evaluate the impact of wind energy on the efficiency of all fossil-fired power plants in the Western U.S. The in-depth, multi-year, and peer-reviewed analysis found that even in a scenario with wind providing 25% of all electricity in the Western U.S., wind’s total impact on the efficiency of fossil-fired power plants would be “negligible,” accounting for less than 0.2% of the emissions savings produced by wind energy. As a result, carbon dioxide emissions declined by 29–34% in the 25% renewable energy case. Moreover, the analysis found that adding wind energy to the grid actually slightly increases the average efficiency of coal and natural gas combined cycle power plants by offsetting the least efficient plants.

No matter how one approaches the question, the data is clear that wind energy greatly reduces fossil fuel use and pollution. Moreover, the results discussed above are in addition to a large body of independent grid operator, utility, and government analyses and data that have already examined how wind energy interacts with the power system and unanimously found that wind energy produces pollution savings that are as large or larger than expected.

Michael Goggin,

American Wind Energy Association

Paul O's picture
Paul O on Mar 18, 2013 7:35 pm GMT

Please Refer to Bob Mienetz's post below.

Wind energy would make a lot of sense if we didn't already have better Carbon-Free (almost) alternatives, which we do have.

We could concievably replace the coal burners at today's coal plants with Gen3 and Gen4 nuclear plants, without having to wire up the countryside, and rely on Methane leaking, CO2 producing Natural Gas plants backup.

Robert Wilson's picture
Robert Wilson on Mar 18, 2013 8:19 pm GMT

Thanks for your comment Michael

I must dispute your use of statistics in your comment here. The correlation coefficient between wind power, or nuclear power, and emissions intensity seems to be a dreadful way to measure this. First off the intensity of electricity generation has a far from direct relationship with the amount of wind power on the grid. As the US gas boom shows you can get significant changes in emissions without building a single new power plant. The same is true in the UK in the last year. Emissions went up purely because more coal was burned in existing power plants. It's also very easy to get spurious correlations, simply because these countries are winding down coal use.

You also use these correlation coefficients to make it seem that wind is more successful at reducing emissions than nuclear or hydro, and some other things. This appears to be a complete abuse of statistics. The differences in the correlation coefficients between nuclear, hydro and wind are essentially meaningless, and are almost certainly due to spurious effects. It also should be borne in mind that wind is largely displacing gas. Nuclear historically displaces coal. So, if you ignore these spurious correlation coefficients, then the opposite of what you say is likely to be true.

I wrote the post to defend wind power against abuse of statistics, and am disappointed that a representative of the wind industry has come along and abused statistics in response.

Michael Goggin's picture
Michael Goggin on Mar 18, 2013 8:36 pm GMT

Robert, thanks for your feedback.

First, the correlational data was but one of many data points I used to support my argument, which together form a conclusive case that wind energy is causing significant emission declines. The correlation was between wind generation, not capacity, and emissions intensity. I never made the argument that wind was more effective at reducing emissions than hydro or nuclear; rather, my point was to counteract claims that some other factor had caused the observed declines. I also never presented the correlational data by itself as a causal argument that wind was causing all of the observed emissions. Rather, it was just one data point to counter the argument that wind is not reducing emissions, as I explained here: "If wind energy were causing large declines in the efficiency of fossil-fired power plants, zero or negative correlations would have been found, instead of correlations approaching 1."

I agree that there are stronger data to prove that wind is causing the expected emission reductions, such as the observed emissions of individual fossil fuel power plants demonstrating that states and countries that have seen significant wind development have not seen declines in the per-MWh efficiencies of their power plants, and most compellingly the NREL analysis that used real-time observations to conclusively assess all of wind's impacts on fossil-fired power plants and found that wind produces 99.8% of the expected emissions.


Jean-Marc D's picture
Jean-Marc D on Mar 18, 2013 9:02 pm GMT

Recent CCGT are optimized to restart frequently with little wear :
Siemens : Flexible future for combined cycle
Siemens : Fast cycling and rapid start-up: new generation of plants achieves impressive results

However reading carefully the first document shows the quick start consumes 43 tons of gas. And efficiency does go down a bit. So at very high penetration, CCGT used as back-up of a lot of wind does become less efficient.

The real problem currently is that there's so much coal on Germany's grid currently, that gas units are not profitable even Irsching 5 which is one of those the above document proudly refers to.

E.On is even threatening to close it ! : Updated: E.ON rejects 'slave labour' for loss-making German Irsching electricity plant




David Hess's picture
David Hess on Mar 18, 2013 10:19 pm GMT

Took me a little while to decipher Michael's comment here, and I must admit the endpoint strikes me as a bit of a let-down. It is an interesting statistical artefact that displacing the least efficient plant may drive up the average thermal efficiency of a particular subset of generators but it has little relevance. Presumably any other form of generation added will displace the 'least efficient' one - that ain't no wind specialty. Rather unfortunately, I'm also sensing a bit of a confounding of economic efficiency and fuel/thermal efficiency going on here. These are clearly not interchangeable. Fairly obviously, gas generators are typically more fuel efficient (at least in terms of gCO2/kWh) and less cost efficient than coal.


The real question is whether those remaining fossil generators have taken a hit to their individual fuel efficiencies or not, and whether they expect to at higher intermittent penetrations. This is certainly the point of interest to operators who are tallying their accounts at the end of the day and also a question they are well suited to answer. It is also the more interesting number for working out the climate impact of a high-renewables system. Perhaps I'm missing something but I don't think either of Michael's responses actually addressed this..

Michael Goggin's picture
Michael Goggin on Mar 19, 2013 3:21 am GMT

Willem, speaking of "cookbook" presentations, do you have any data or analysis to respond to any of the points I made, let alone the points Robert made in his initial post, or are you just going to spam us with your usual junk that has already been debunked a hundred times? If the answer is the latter, please don't waste our time.

Michael Goggin's picture
Michael Goggin on Mar 19, 2013 3:27 am GMT

David, the impact of very high wind levels on the efficiency of fossil plants was fully examined in NREL's analysis, and found to be "negligible."


Michael Goggin's picture
Michael Goggin on Mar 19, 2013 3:31 am GMT

Willem, do you have any response to the NREL continuous emission monitor data showing that any negative impact of wind variability on the efficiency of fossil-fired power plants is at most 0.2%, i.e. wind produces  99.8% of the emissions reductions expected under 1:1 displacement of fossil generation?

Michael Goggin's picture
Michael Goggin on Mar 19, 2013 3:36 am GMT

Good timing, given this article out today explaining how MISO and ERCOT, which have 12 GW and 10 GW of wind on their systems respectively, have been able to integrate that large amount of wind with virtually zero integration cost or incremental need for operating reserves:

Here's MISO explaining how that is possible:

Please note that a comment that simply re-posts your previous spam and does not respond to any of this data will be ignored.


Michael Goggin's picture
Michael Goggin on Mar 19, 2013 2:09 pm GMT

Willem, the NREL study does use field data, actual power plant emissions measured by EPA continuous emission monitors.

Robert Wilson's picture
Robert Wilson on Mar 19, 2013 7:06 pm GMT


The rather obvious question is why no electricity grid in the world agrees with your analysis. The National Grid in the UK (where wind power is greater than 3%) have looked into this and found absolutely no evidence that inefficient plants are running a great deal more often due to wind.

The arguments that wind does not reduce emissions appear to be largely theoretical, and questionable at that. What really matters is actual data from electricity grids, and I am not aware of a single reputable study indicating that wind is reducing emissions a lot less than expected.


Mike Barnard's picture
Mike Barnard on Mar 22, 2013 2:10 am GMT

The head of Energy Strategy for the UK National Grid agrees with you Robert.


"Dismissing this as one of the "flakier arguments" in the renewables debate, Smith points to arecent analysis National Grid undertook for the Scottish Parliament. It concluded that over an 18 month period, the expected emissions benefit of using wind power - that is the amount of carbon dioxide saved by using wind to produce power - was reduced by just 0.1 per cent as a result of the need to use fossil fuel power stations as backup." 

Here's the link to the quote:

Here's the link to the study:

Geoff Thomas's picture
Geoff Thomas on Mar 22, 2013 2:37 am GMT

Good to have the article, just the last paragraph looks a bit rushed and doesn't really explain the graph.

In reply to arguments for Nuclear, - certainly no direct carbon dioxide emissions during operation, although lots of other problems, but in regard to Grids, because it is so incredibly expensive when taking in the whole of life analysis, it requires to be run at 100% (or close) to it's rated output, so all other forms of generation have to handle the peaks and troughs of daily consumption, due to Nuclear's high cost.    Hardly fair to blame variable contributors like Wind or Solar when you have such capricious elements as customer usage

It would be interesting to see whole of life comparisons between the different energy sources, not cherry picking say just daily run cost, but genuine whole of life and with Nuclear as everything else the waste and de-commissioning costs must be included, - maybe Wind and Solar would be so much cheaper that they could afford to include batteries, - at least for shorter periods as gas gens get up to speed, - thus eliminating spinning reserve requirements.

In regards to capacity factor, when I was an agent for large wind turbines, a capacity factor of 30% based on wind speed was the minimum, with 40% the normal preferred.

I would suggest that wind farms at less than 25% (required to bring down the average) may have publicity/political elements not economic

Geoff Thomas's picture
Geoff Thomas on Mar 25, 2013 10:22 pm GMT

Rosa, you have totally missed the point, - perhaps the word capricious was not the best for you, the fact that the customer usage varies widely through the day is the point, not that it can be to a degree predicted.

Wind can also be predicted to a degree, - a low moving in or a cold front etc will have certain effects on the wind speed and spread over the whole country will be likely be an average.

At my place the wind will often blow strongly and steadily for days and there are predictably good wind months and bad, as with Solar.

The main point, and one which Willum is totally unable to understand, is that the grid has to handle large increases and decreases, has to supply a minimum load the rise to perhaps 5 times that in the morning peak, then falls, - different amounts on different days, then rises to perhaps 7 times the minimum for the evening peak, and with different patterns on the weekend, and if it is very hot and everyone turns on their air-conditioners you may have an extraordinary middle of the day peak causing system stress.

Solar is good for that event, but no help for the evening peak, but many areas have consistent wind in the evening, and in a well managed virtual grid would turn on hot water systems as the evening peak disappears.

The main point is that the grid has to handle an enormous range of output already, which it already does, and negative loads like Wind and Solar are easy for it, even at high levels of penetration.

Geoff Thomas's picture
Geoff Thomas on Mar 25, 2013 11:02 pm GMT

Bob, one could argue that natural gas is a good adjunct to a renewable mix, and the more different renewable energies one can input then the less the natural gas is needed.

However, the idea that Nuclear is the answer is not sensible, the majority of current Nuclear plants do not take well to ramping up and down several times a day, and in any case, - taking the whole of life costs for a Nuclear plant into account, are so hideously expensive that it is un-economic to run them at anything less than full.

That means that they can only supply the minimum load.

As the Peak is many times the minimum load, the bulk of the electricity generation capacity has to come from the rest of the generators, - sure over a country the minimum load will be higher as it is effected by the different time zones, although such huge dstances take their toll in losses, but nontheless it is not correct that Nuclear can be anything but part of the answer.

If you are going to spend such huge sums of money on Nuclear, you may be better off with Geothermal Hot Rocks, which is able to be ramped up and down very quickly, so being a good replacement right across the board for natural gas, and very renewable friendly, it can be viewed as a huge battery bank, which Nuclear can not.

On battery storage, it is already economical for short periods such as eliminating switching spikes, troughs and surges. a few minutes only required, perhaps with redox, or "flow" type batteries, that will become more significant.

Slowly are being developed and installed generators powered by gasification of municipal and industrial  Wastes, - they also can be used for peak lopping, and reduce the far more greenhouse harmful gas Methane.

Geoff Thomas's picture
Geoff Thomas on Mar 25, 2013 11:07 pm GMT

This article above, dealing significantly with Nuclear, was intended as a reply to Bob Meinetz.

Bob Meinetz's picture
Bob Meinetz on Mar 25, 2013 11:58 pm GMT

Geoff, what's your take on the so-called full lifecycle cost of nuclear? Any numbers, as in cost per kWh? I will warn you - I have a healthy skepticism of lifecycle cost accounting, because proponents of any technology are all too willing to jump off the train when it benefits their belief. For example, fossil fuels advocates don't like to discuss the health costs associated with breathing airborne hydrocarbons, although with 25,000 deaths a year in the U.S. they're not inconsequential. And you've probably seen this TEC article about the proposed Hinkley nuclear plant's wind analog occupying the land area of greater London. Are we taking into account the costs of land use? Transmission lines and infrastructure improvements will tack on $2 trillion to Germany's Energiewende. Are those off-limits?

Most of the pessimistic assessments of nuclear fail to acknowledge one undeniably successful case study: France. The country has managed to not only generate 75% of its energy with carbon-free nuclear safely but inexpensively as well - about $.05/kWh. They're the world's largest exporter of electricity because of this low cost, resulting in €5 billion annual income (2.4TWh of this energy is sold to their "nuclear-free" neighbors in Germany).

How do they do it?

Geoff Thomas's picture
Geoff Thomas on Mar 26, 2013 3:43 am GMT

Hi Bob, The costs would start at the planning stage, would include any approval activities, meetings to re-assure locals, finance/partnership/legal costs, land purchase etc, and the value of any Govt or other grants would be added to those costs, - just because a Govt helps fund, it still costs the same, just funded from a different source.

Next would come manufacturing and transport, I have heard some folk say that manufacturing is about $10/watt of capacity, transport can be a biggy also, then installation/buildings/power supply cooling requirements, fail safe matters, security provisions etc. - Security is important due to Terrorists wanting to get hold of atomic material as well as the destruction or sabotage aspect. Then is the waste disposal, still not solved after 60 years, so difficult to cost in, but must be, even if it includes having the premises guarded for however many hundreds of years before it becomes safe for humans to enter.

Then there are the running expenses, cost of fuel, - not a major cost but there doesn't seem to be enough good grade material around to last even the current crop of existing and commenced plants for that long so it may get a lot more expensive, - then maintenance,  staffing etc. with added danger loadings and insurance, currently provided by Govt. but the actual costs would be very high, possibly prohibitive, - What insurance company could pay for Chernobyl or Fukushima? - what is it? just last week 24 US servicemen claiming 2 billion from Fukushimo, due to people downplaying the dangers. - With new untried Nuclear reactors in the future, no doubt they will have their own unforeseen problems also, so how to cost in Insurance? - I guess work out all the costs that could be reasonably laid at the feet of Nuclear Power (including "Accidental" and "Negligence") over the years and divide that figure by the number of years of operation of all plants that have been commissioned and then you will get a figure that the insurance company can add it's administration costs and profit margin to. - Is there any wonder the Govt. is the insurer? Finally there is the de-commissioning and clean-up, that may not be a low amount either but as no one seems to have actually got around to doing that, (some half successful attempts at Chernobyl I believe) and indeed there seems a reluctance, - perhaps inability - so one would have to require a rather large deposit for ensuring an attempt would be made.

I may not have heard of a successful de-commissioning so if you know of one I will stand corrected.

Wind has the same requirements, permitting can be expensive, with some folk claiming that low frequency sound has caused illness, but that seems to be part of an orchestrated attempt by some interest group to discredit Wind, - I will leave you to speculate who would benefit, - as Waves crashing on the coast produce infrasound, also whales, movement of tectonic plates and the greatest culprit according to recent research, Air conditioners.

 Purchase and installation is a bit over $2/watt, Design life is 20 years, although they can last longer, - witness Nuclear power stations also lasting longer,maintenance is 1 to 2% de-commissioning is often a positive cost as it allows a much bigger unit to inhabit that spot and old wind turbines still command profit as they are sold.

So i would speculate that the French, having already paid for their Atomic Power Stations are not charging for the whole of life costing as a previous Govt. put them in and a future Govt will have to worry about the waste and de-commissioning, - thats how they do it and what does wind get for it's electricity? $.03/kWh in the US I believe, - How do they do it?





(as opposed to $2/watt or slightly more for Wind)

Mike Barnard's picture
Mike Barnard on Mar 26, 2013 3:50 am GMT

Geoff, ignore Rosa and Willem.  They spend their days spreading disinformation about wind energy. Willem has a nice line of quoting lots of numbers, but his sources are typically anti-wind energy blogs, and where they are from actual grid statistics they are cherry-picked.  

Neither are worth spending time talking to.  Their minds are made up and their data is bogus.

Geoff Thomas's picture
Geoff Thomas on Mar 26, 2013 4:13 am GMT

Hi Willem, good that you are admitting that the Grid operators are able to deal with significantly fluctuating loads, although you seem to think that they can only do that when they know what is going to happen, - I don't know about that, a lot of it is automatic, sometimes things like an election, big footbal game, Cyclones etc. have highly unpredictable results on demand and supply, and networks have been upgraded since the old days when Coal fired plants took a day to start up and you needed at least 20% spinning reserve, admittedly you still have some old timers who hate change and whinge about everything, but I think your German example is idiosyncratic to Germany and the resentment of those two power companies at the German Govt for being forced to buy Solar Power they didn't produce and so kicked the cat, - in this case the Czech Republic that didn't actually enjoy being kicked.

I find this in Oz as well, the local electrical monopsony does everything it can to continue it's monopoly,  any excuse to reject Solar or wind even though the conventional power comes from 2000 kilometres away producing a 2000 km radiator at peak load times.

The diehard conservatives (usually with deniers disease) claim electricity can only go one way, that all their system will collapse, that any of their 30 year old freon filled transformers that fail failed from Solar input, and on and on, - no proof just the same old same old asseverations.

AC power only goes one way? - give me strength, - although I guess any excuse if you have the power to say no.

Cooktown, a town just up the coast from me, has an average of 4 megawatts consumption, that gets down to 1 meg after midnight, and 20MW at peak, - I suspect cities with serious 24 hour industry would be closer to your estimate and dormitory cities closer to good old Cooktown at which the locals say the wind blows 11 months of the year, and on the 12th month? - the wind blows.

But has the local electrical monopsony installed a wind farm there on one of the excellent sites?


have they prevented anyone else from doing it?


Geoff Thomas's picture
Geoff Thomas on Mar 26, 2013 4:13 am GMT

Hi Willem, good that you are admitting that the Grid operators are able to deal with significantly fluctuating loads, although you seem to think that they can only do that when they know what is going to happen, - I don't know about that, a lot of it is automatic, sometimes things like an election, big footbal game, Cyclones etc. have highly unpredictable results on demand and supply, and networks have been upgraded since the old days when Coal fired plants took a day to start up and you needed at least 20% spinning reserve, admittedly you still have some old timers who hate change and whinge about everything, but I think your German example is idiosyncratic to Germany and the resentment of those two power companies at the German Govt for being forced to buy Solar Power they didn't produce and so kicked the cat, - in this case the Czech Republic that didn't actually enjoy being kicked.

I find this in Oz as well, the local electrical monopsony does everything it can to continue it's monopoly,  any excuse to reject Solar or wind even though the conventional power comes from 2000 kilometres away producing a 2000 km radiator at peak load times.

The diehard conservatives (usually with deniers disease) claim electricity can only go one way, that all their system will collapse, that any of their 30 year old freon filled transformers that fail failed from Solar input, and on and on, - no proof just the same old same old asseverations.

AC power only goes one way? - give me strength, - although I guess any excuse if you have the power to say no.

Cooktown, a town just up the coast from me, has an average of 4 megawatts consumption, that gets down to 1 meg after midnight, and 20MW at peak, - I suspect cities with serious 24 hour industry would be closer to your estimate and dormitory cities closer to good old Cooktown at which the locals say the wind blows 11 months of the year, and on the 12th month? - the wind blows.

But has the local electrical monopsony installed a wind farm there on one of the excellent sites?


have they prevented anyone else from doing it?


Geoff Thomas's picture
Geoff Thomas on Mar 26, 2013 4:26 am GMT

Thanks Mike, I should have woken up earlier, and have work to do so won't waste any more time on them, hopefully some of what i said might get through.



Bob Meinetz's picture
Bob Meinetz on Mar 26, 2013 4:53 am GMT

Geoff, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration the levelized system cost of wind energy is currently $.092/kWh, so in answer to your question of "How do they do it?", the answer is, "They don't."

Geoff Thomas's picture
Geoff Thomas on Mar 26, 2013 5:56 am GMT

Hi Bob, not sure what that figure has that is relevant to what people pay, so as they pay $.03/kWhr it is probably not what folk pay.

I understand there is a Tax credit for wind in the US, - and whilst not a scratch on the Nuclear and Carbon Industries subsidies, may have contributed to that figure, so who knows what bureacracies think.

The French sell for 5 cents, the US windfarms for 3 cents, the French do it because they have excess power for free, the Americans do it because they live in a free market economy of sorts and that is the going rate,

Interesting that it seems the French charge more yet capital costs are non-existent but US companies charge less despite having to pay full purchase price for the gear.

I think this situation needs clarifying, of course there are non-freemarket elements in France, but i suspect we need deeper info on this subject at this point.


Geoff Thomas's picture
Geoff Thomas on Mar 27, 2013 2:42 am GMT

OK Rosa, I will try one more time, let us look at a typical situation, at night, most are asleep, particularly in the suburbs, then in the morning more and more people wake up, dive into the shower, lights come on, they boil the kettle, make toast, fry eggs, etc, open the fridge, sometimes throw some clothes in the dryer, check emails,  more and more wake up, prepare for work, some drive cars, some catch the electric train, power usage will rise and rise, maybe 100%, maybe a lot more than that, - actual amount doesn't matter for this plain example, question is, how does the power station supply this  doubling of the amount of required power? wave a magic wand? put more grease in the generator bearings? change the computer program? no, it burns more fuel, a figure of almost exactly double as it was for half that load, because the energy comes from the fuel, - no where else.

That morning, a cold front moves in, and as sometimes happens brings a lot of wind, - the large wind farm down the road starts really spinning, generating, it just happens, the same amount that the morning peak is adding to the fossil fuel generator.

What happens? the load drops to half, - to what it was before all those folk awoke, and the fuel requirement drops to half as well, surprise surprise, you don't need to be Einstein to see that, it is just simple easy logic and indeed has been measured countless times and found to be so.

So thats your floor, now you have to prove that something different is happening.

I will add, I design and install stand alone power systems for families, communities and industries out in the bush, using wind, solar or hydro to provide the majority of power, - usually there is a back up generator to add some power to the batteries when the primary supplier is low, - eg if it is Solar and you get dark rainy days for a couple of weeks or so, - perhaps once or twice a year, like wise with wind you get wind draughts, so the main problem is that the fuel doesn't get used and the petrol tends to go off (also mud wasps build nests in the muffler) can you explain this in the light of your assertion that the renewable energy doesn't have a direct effect on the fuel usage in a grid situation? Thousands or millions live almost entirely on renewable energy, month after month, all over the world, how do they do it by not using their generator?

Interestingly by combining wind and solar you need hardly ever use the generator as they tend to complement. 

Jean-Marc D's picture
Jean-Marc D on Apr 2, 2013 11:04 pm GMT

If you need a successful de-commissioning story for a full scale plant, 900MW, here’s one, Maine Yankee :

$500 million for a nuclear plant that can be used up to 40 years is actually just cheap, and has negligible impact on the per kWh cost.

Manufacturing and transport is also very expensive for wind power, how easy do you think it is to transport a 100 meter high mast and many tons turbines ? And you need hundreds to generate as much as a nuclear plant.

So at the end it’s in the same ballpark between the two.

The main reason why waste disposal is still not solved is that there’s no urgency. The volume is small, all used fuel for Maine Yankee was still left and the surface of the storage area is a soccer field. The more you wait, the more the short lived highly active waste disappears and the easier it is to handle. Put it 300 meter down the earth, and it make it hardly hotter than it already is. You don’t need to monitor it any more. There’s no reason why it would move further away more than it did at the Oklo natural reactor during more than 1 billion years.

Consider that the initial situation is not a perfect world where nothing bad can happen when you dig deep. Deep down they are many dangerous things, like the arsenic that is slowly poisoning and massively killing people in Bangladesh just as we speak. They just tried to find drinkable water just 20 to 30 meters down, and they found it, but little did they guess it would come with just the amount of arsenic needed to slowly and silently poison them.


Robert Wilson's picture
Robert Wilson on Apr 2, 2013 11:39 pm GMT


I have asked you before to stay on topic. Can you please try to do this?

Mike Barnard's picture
Mike Barnard on Apr 3, 2013 2:33 am GMT

Mr. Post continues to spread disinformation while referring solely to his posts which in turn refer almost entirely to anti-wind blogs full of biased, a-factual disinformation.

To puncture just one balloon of hot-air in this bunch, early repowering of wind turbines isn’t a negative, its a positive.  They are replaced because it is profitable to replace them with modern wind turbines which generate much more electricity than the standard available 17 years earlier.  

This, of course, is due to the ongoing incremental innovation in wind turbine design as well as economies of scale due to world wide deployment of 200,000+ wind generators that have made them cheaper than any form of new generation with the exception of shale gas.

And to dodge the hype on shale gas, it’s only natural in a world where we want global warming to occur.  It’s better than coal from a pollutants and CO2e perspective, but much, much worse than renewables, with 50 times the CO2e per KWh on its full lifecycle of wind generation.  The question we should be asking about shale gas generation is how little we can get away with installing as we bridge to renewables.

Obviously there’s a wind farm proposed for a view Mr. Post has out his window in Vermont for him to be such a strident and tireless opposer of wind energy. After all, it’s only the horrors of being forced to occasionally look at a tall white pinwheel in the distance that could possibly explain the trauma he must be suffering to be so stridently vocal. The humanity, oh, the humanity!

Geoff Thomas's picture
Geoff Thomas on Apr 3, 2013 10:02 am GMT

This discussion is being repeated by another Energy Collective contributor, Barry Brooks,

– obviously hasn’t performed due diligence on The Energy Collective current discussions, – my answer is,


We just had this debate on the Energy Collective,  why have it all again? – doesn’t Barry Brook read his own group articles? – perhaps not as the arguments he puts forward are exactly the same as the ones debunked soundly (to all but the faithful Willum who is paid by the Carbon Economy anyway so nothing can change his mind) in last weeks discussion.

 It is said that ‘those who are convinced against their will, are of the same opinion still’ – fair enough, but what can be achieved if folk will not listen because what they hear does not conform to their previous mind set? The major problem with this BarryBrook re-iteration is as it was before, the Grid already copes with huge variations in demand due to customer inclinations, – sometimes predictable, sometimes not, but of far greater percentage than say what a wind farm losing it’s breeze would inflict,(and the blades hold a fair bit of rotational energy anyway which should be made available both for the best interests of the owners of the wind farm and the grid it supplies, – some wind turbines can’t do that, – they should not be selected). So, the grid can already cope, the argument is flawed, perhaps time to look at the situation more deeply, – are there generators other than Wind (currently a small percentage) in the system that might impose real problems with grid flexibility? Fortunately we do not have to go too far to find the culprit, – Nuclear, – so hugely expensive it has to sell virtually all it’s output, so dangerous it would be risky to raise and lower the fuel rods many times a day, – built in rigidity, a pie in the sky that has never really delivered, forcing all other generators to shoulder the whole responsibility of variable consumer demand, secretive as to it’s whole of life expenses, much of it’s expenses hidden in dubious military development and failure to include insurance and waste disposal.

Future generators need to be flexible, eg Hot Rocks Geothermal (see todays announcement,–-Commencement-of-Commi.aspx) it is getting slowly and carefully more serious, is able to ramp up and down really quickly, works well with renewables, (paricularly Solar Thermal with which it can share the generators and heat exchangers, – already fully developed technologies from Nuclear I blushingly admit) it can be used as a battery, so making wind and solar much more welcome, making Wave and Tidal also welcome, and the concept of a virtual power station so much more real, where the total load is supplied by many small contributors, where a small storage cushions quite cheaply the ups and downs, and total system collapse is almost impossible.

Most if not all of the BarryBrooks complaints are from Monopsonys trying to stop anyone else getting into their illegal monopoly, from Deniers trying to pretend the world is not changing, from the special interest group Nuclear, and from accountants trying to get one more year out of old outdated machinery that is probably not only in-efficient but dangerous.

Wilmot McCutchen's picture
Wilmot McCutchen on Apr 3, 2013 6:12 pm GMT

Why go ad hominem on a learned gentleman like Willem Post?  I find his comments factual, well stated, and rational, and his judgment well-supported.  The fact that you misspelled his name indicates to me that you either: (1) deliberately did so out of spite; (2) didn’t care and guessed; or (3) cared but were too lazy to check.  That and the persistent “it’s” error hurt your credibility.   

I too question the ambition of wind to supplant coal and nuclear for baseload generation.  Wind is mostly available at night, when nobody wants it.  So now you can hate me, too, along with Willem, for speaking the inconvenient truth that wind needs to look for another job. 

Paul O's picture
Paul O on Apr 3, 2013 7:31 pm GMT

So…Geoff Thomas  , I take it you hate both Willem Post and Nuclear Power?

Geoff Thomas's picture
Geoff Thomas on Apr 4, 2013 2:13 am GMT

Hi Paul, I don’t hate Willem, I just don’t accept that one has answered an argument by referring to links, – particularly vague links which have very little to do with the subject or the issue under discussion.

I believe that if you can’t answer the question directly, better to not waste our time. Certainly I never follow up those links, I am too busy.

Links are only as a reference to prove a point with back-up information, not make the point itself.

Nuclear, I keep seeing posts by folk who think Nuclear is the complete answer, i think is is not as good an answer as claimed, and for a similiar price Geothermal Hot Rocks is a much better and more suitable answer.

Nuclear fuel is not that plentiful, I think it would be better to save it for space travel.

If someone can advance arguments that contradict my arguments against Nuclear, not just state that they believe it is good, then we can have a genuine discussion, otherwise it is just that person stating a religious belief, – who cares? 


Paul O's picture
Paul O on Apr 4, 2013 1:40 pm GMT


One reason I will not go to other websites is because of harsh language and outright disrespect shown to people who have opposing or unpopular viewpoints. TEC has been a place where intelectual arguements can be made irespective of how popular or even misguided they are. 

Your response to my question is a good example of the Correct Way that we here at TEC should address one another.

For the record, I happen to agree with both you and Willem on many issues, even if it took me a while to get used to his style of writting, and  unfortunately I also disagree with both on other issues. I bet there are many other members who feel the same way.

I happen to believe Willem to be an honest man who tries to be methodical in his presentation, and I have never once seen him attack people who vehemently disagree with him. I do  think it wrong to accuse him of unproven bias or of being in the pay of special interests. I believe that he makes a good faith attempt to document what he says, and he corrects his errors when they are ponited out to him.

It is my hope that the commity and respectful deference to each other that has been the hallmark of TEC continues to be the way we interact here.

For me frankly, if TEC deteriorates in flaming and mutual attacks, I’ll be out of here in a flash.

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