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Limitations of Unreliable Energy Sources, aka 'Renewables'

Rod Adams's picture
President and CEO, Adams Atomic Engines, Inc.
  • Member since 2006
  • 969 items added with 328,020 views
  • Nov 23, 2013

renewables limitations

As part of the discussions stimulated by their airing of Pandora’s Promise, CNN hosted a debate between Michael Shellenberger of the Breakthrough Institute and Dale Bryk of the Natural Resources Defense Council.

That debate included some commentary that I thought was worth promoting to the front page.

A commenter named Fred, a tech who has worked in the power generation industry on hydroelectric and diesel power systems, provided the following background information for Shellenberger and others that might engage in debates about energy sources in the future.

Shellenberger really missed the ball by not mentioning the inherent energy inefficiency of the main renewables: wind & solar.

  1. Induced cycling inefficiency in the shadowing fossil fuel power plants
  2. Necessity of long distance power transmission to get rid of surpluses and import shortages due to the vagaries of wind & solar, waste energy in transmission & the energy of construction & maintenance of the transmission lines
  3. Economics of heavily subsidized fluctuating renewables favors low capital cost, low efficiency generation to backup and shadow the Wind & Solar. That is mostly diesel generation, OCGT and archaic low efficiency coal burners. Utilities are now being forced to pay expensive capacity payments to keep these inefficient generators operational.
  4. The inevitable overbuild that comes with wind & solar generation. Even renewables advocates admit that. In order to supply peak energy, winter in the north, summer in the south you need to greatly overbuild the renewables. That inevitably means throwing energy away in the fall & spring. Compounded by the fact that hydro is max in the spring, when energy demand is minimum. That is the epitome of energy inefficiency.
  5. Need to heat & power wind turbines when they are not generating electricity, especially in the north.
  6. The inherent energy inefficiency of energy storage, very much needed by wind & solar. Typically batteries with about a 70% round trip energy efficiency. Pumped hydro about 80-90%. CAES about 65%. Hydrogen about 40%. Add to that the embodied energy in all that additional infrastructure.

In his response to my request for his permission to promote his comment to the front page, Fred added the following information:

One additional point on electricity transmission. The substations, transformers, switchgear and transmission lines must be sized to carry peak load, while only carrying an average ~15% of peak for solar & ~30% of peak for wind. The actual transmission conductors are made of aluminum. A high energy input material. Normally the conductor size & number of conductors is determined by economics, the marginal cost of increasing conductor size or number of parallel conductors to reduce line loss should equal the revenue gained by the increase in available power sold.

With solar & wind you are only transmitting a highly peaked power for an average of a few hours per day, so it is not economical to reduce line loss to a minimum by adding a lot of aluminum. Thus line losses are going to be considerable for long distance transmission. An absurd fantasy to send solar from the SW to match wind from the plains. A ridiculous waste of energy.

Like Fred, I am intimately aware of the limitations of wind, solar, geothermal, biomass, and hydro energy sources. Despite all of the attractive sales pitches that have been given for the past 40-50 years, I believe that continued pursuit of them as major contributors to our energy supply will impoverish our society, even if a few people at the top of the economic heap may be able to continue to live like nobility.

This is an area where I often part with other energy observers; building large scale wind and solar power systems is inherently a bad idea. It is not because the systems do not scale well; it is because they depend on diffuse, highly variable energy flows that cannot be controlled by humans or human-designed control systems.

Bright, observant people — starting with the first people who learned to control fire — have been struggling for millennia to develop machines and systems that enabled them to control their environments. As a species, we have worked hard to eliminate the limitations imposed by nature. Why are so many people enthralled with the idea of going back to a time when weather and climate tightly limited our daily routines? Do they really believe that life without controllable energy supplies is wonderfully utopian?

The post Limitations of unreliable energy sources (aka “renewables”) appeared first on Atomic Insights.

Photo Credit: Renewables Limitations/shutterstock

Ed Dodge's picture
Ed Dodge on Nov 22, 2013


You make good points and there are many other details as well for why 100% Renewables plans fall woefully short of meeting society’s needs.  The materials impacts of producing copper and aluminum for all the transmission is generally never mentioned by advocates.  Copper and aluminum production are not low impact industries, they are very resource and energy intensive.  Plus the transmission lines themselves take up a lot of land and invariably need to intersect private property and often times sensitive areas.  Natural gas transmission is cheaper and lower impact than electrical.

WInd and solar require the existing infrastructure to be manufactured.  Wind and solar are themselves unable to provide for their own physical production, so how are they supposed to scale out to power all of society?  Can anyone point to a PV factory that runs on PV?  Or a battery powered crane used to install wind turbines?

Electrical solutions, this goes for nuclear as well, are unable to power high horsepower vehicles.  Container ships, freight trains, construction and mining equipment; none of these can operate on batteries, much less solar powered batteries.  In reality these industries are shifting to natural gas, specifically LNG.  Aviation presents even stiffer challenges, but ultra clean synthetic fuels are available.

Yes we do have a nuclear navy, but that is only for the biggest ships and something tells me we are not about to turn that technology over to third party merchant marine ships.

Any way you slice it, we still need hydrocarbons in the mix.  They get the job done and can be stored and stockpiled indefinitely.  The question is which hydrocarbons to use?  I favor methane because it is the cleanest, most versatile and most abundant.

Rod Adams's picture
Rod Adams on Nov 22, 2013

@Ed Dodge

Thank you for the kind words, but allow me to continue disagreeing about the possibility of relatively near term nuclear ship propulsion. It is not limited to “the biggest ships”, the USS Nautilus only displaced 2500 tons and the NR-1 was a nuclear powered research vessel that only displaced a total of 400 tons – including all of its research capability AND the nuclear propulsion unit.

Though we do not need to turn the technology over, it would certainly give commercial nuclear ships a huge jump start if we selectively used the engine technology that the US, Russian, Chinese, British, and French navies have refined during the past 60 years. 

You might be interested in my recent post on just that subject:

Rod Adams

Publisher, Atomic Insights

Ed Dodge's picture
Ed Dodge on Nov 23, 2013

Fair enough, thanks for the info.  Still all military though, not handing the technology out to civilian merchant marine.  For those guys LNG is the way to go to improve emissions while lowering costs and maintaining (or even improving) engine performance.

Broadly speaking though, we need plenty of nuclear in a hybrid gas-electric clean energy system.

Rod Adams's picture
Rod Adams on Nov 23, 2013

@Ed Dodge

Are you aware of the cost per unit heat of LNG (it ranges from about $10 to $20 per MMBTU right now) and the volatile nature of methane pricing? 

Unless the vessel is already an LNG carrier, why would the owner invest the capital required to burn such an unreliable and expensive power source? The added demand on the natural gas production and delivery system will simply add to the upward price pressure.

Commercial nuclear fuel has an average cost of about 70 cents per MMBTU with little variation around the world or over time — for the past 25 years.

And who said anything about “handing out the technology”? Governments that have control over nuclear ship propulsion might be interested in the revenue potential that would result from enabling a highly competitive shipping industry and the shipping industry might be willing to pay a substantial amount for technology that enables them to operate at high, efficient speed without being beholden to multinational petroleum companies.


John Miller's picture
John Miller on Nov 23, 2013

Rod, you make some good points about the complexities, challenges and added costs of expanding renewable, variable power sources.  However, I noticed some areas you should consider further fact checking on.  Your referenced efficiency factors for power storage appear high.  Granted, small (<100KWh) state-of-art batteries can have 70% efficiencies (new), but industrial scale (>10MWh) is basically undeveloped/unknown.  Hydropower pumped storage efficiencies are closer to 80%.  Compressed air energy storage (CAES) efficiency is dependent on the energy cycle pressure, but the recently advocated (100 PSI +/-) will have efficiencies less than 50%.  Hydrogen (electrolysis-fuel cell) efficiencies may also be significantly less than 40% when you include the full energy cycle steps.  One other Commercially available power storage technology you might consider is solar thermal, but the efficiency is also somewhat less than 50%.

Ed Dodge's picture
Ed Dodge on Nov 23, 2013

The maritime industry is already beginning the shift to LNG, precisely because of the costs, LNG is about half the cost of low sulfur diesel, and similar in price to bunker fuel, at least in America.  USA and Europe are implementing emisisons standards that are forcing any ship operating within range of the coasts to have low emissions.  This is forcing the ships to install exhaust scrubbers, burn low sulfur diesel, or go to LNG.  Many are choosing LNG and the refueling facilities are beginning to be built out.

The major downside to using LNG is positioning the large tanks, but this is a resolvable engineering issue.  The upside to using LNG is existing engines can be converted and retain excellent engine performance, very clean emissions, reduced carbon, and  avoidance of complex and expensive exhaust scrubbers.  LNG is available globally and with the shale gas revolution new reserves are being brought to market all the time.  Industry expects that US prices for gas will remain low and long term projections for gas prices globally seem favorable.  Gas and oil prices have truly decoupled and natural gas is far less dependent on accessing reserves in hostile countries.

I am fully on board with promoting nuclear, and I see no technical reason why not to have merchant nuclear vessels.  The hangup is political, and with the international political mood regarding Iran and N. Korea, etc, etc, it seems like proposals to initiate bringing nuclear merchant ships into international ports would not get very far.

I stand by my comment that nuclear is suitable only for big ships, its not like nukes scale down to pleasure craft or a Boston Whaler.  LNG/CNG/synthetic liquids are still neccessary if we are serious about cleaning up emissions.  I have spent a lot of time on boats and it has distressed me ever since I was a child to see how much pollution boats produce in normal operation.  I would love to see ultra clean fuels become the standard for all machines.


Wilmot McCutchen's picture
Wilmot McCutchen on Nov 23, 2013

Order of magnitude sanity check from the EPA:  “Non-hydroelectric renewable energy refers to electricity supplied from the following renewable sources of power: solar, geothermal, biomass, landfill gas, and wind. Although installation of these renewable energy resources is growing, non-hydro renewable energy is currently responsible for less than two percent of the electricity generation in the United States.”

Robert Bernal's picture
Robert Bernal on Nov 23, 2013

I like the idea of designing MSR’s (and their high temps) to match Brayton NG generators for a baseload. Eventually, PV may amount to a substantial input to daytime loads. When solar is “down” then NG can be added without the inefficient cold starts.

Can the molten salt mix also be load following? If so, we don’t need solar and only need NG if it ramps up faster (in the already hot turbine).

Rod Adams's picture
Rod Adams on Nov 23, 2013

@Ed Dodge

I have not consumed any petroleum industry kool aide. I’m way out in left field – along with a few petroleum geologists like Arthur Berman and an oil economist named Powers – but I am pretty confident that methane prices are going to equalize around the world at levels closer to those of Japan than the artificially low prices current available in North America. Squeezing shale is far more capital intensive than conventional drilling; production comes in quickly, but the high rate lasts for a depressingly short period before slowing down.

According to data from Barnett wells, a shale well owner can expect half of the production that the well will ever produce to come out during the first two years.

I never said that nuclear would be used to power true “boats” like Boston Whalers, but it is fully capable of powering anything larger than about 2500 tons displacement. That is a pretty small ship in today’s market. Obviously, the early adopters of the ultra low emission, ultra low fuel cost machines are going to be the larger ships, but the revolution will not stop there if the machinery is properly designed for high unit volume production. My colleagues and I computed optimal engine size of 10 – 20 MWe. Larger ships will just use more engines, analogous to the multiple machines used when QE II was repowered with 9 diesels.

Anyone who is serious about low emissions and low fuel costs should look to nuclear, not LNG.

Ed Dodge's picture
Ed Dodge on Nov 23, 2013

Prices go up, prices go down.  Certainly natural gas prices will level out globally in time.  America’s divergent prices are something we should simply enjoy while it lasts.  

I don’t see though how you replace hydrocarbons with electrical solutions for all purposes, regardless of where the hydrocarbons are sourced from.  With enough nuclear we could manufacture all the hydrocarbons we need synthetically.  Methane in particular is easy to manufacture, especially if you had abundant heat and power from nuclear.

Rod Adams's picture
Rod Adams on Nov 23, 2013

@Ed Dodge

We agree. With abundant nuclear energy, there are no real limitations on the amount of hydrocarbons that are available. However, for ship propulsion, it would be very “Rube Goldberg” to build reactors on land to produce heat to manufacture synthetic hydrocarbons and then regularly load those synthetic hydrocarbons onto ships so they can be burned to produce heat in a heat engine.

It would be a lot easier, cheaper and functionally more effective to simply do what we learned how to do about 60 years ago – put the reactor on board the ship and turn the heat directly into motive force on board the ship. That gives the ship a long lasting, emission free, low fuel cost, abundant power source that can propel the ship at high speeds.

There is no reason to think that fission is just an electricity source; it is a heat source with substantial advantages over combustion.

Nathan Wilson's picture
Nathan Wilson on Nov 25, 2013

I think your source may be out of date.  The DOE LawrenceBerkeleyNationalLaboratory  reports that as of year-end 2012, the US had enough wind power installed to provide 4% of US electricity, based on 60 GW of turbines (no growth in first half of 2013).

The Solar Electric Industries Association reports 9.4 GW of installed solar power in the US  (2nd quarter 2013 market report).  Assuming the solar capacity factor is half that of wind, this would suggest 0.3% percent of US electrity comes from solar now.  The annal growth rate is about 5 GW/year; and unlike the Federal wind subsidy, the solar subsidy does not expire this year.

The 2008 annual wind report from the AWEA provided a chart showing that at that time, wood, other biomass, and geothermal combined to provide 1.7% of US electricity.  These source are not growing rapidly, so their total is not likely to be much different now.

So I believe non-hydro renewables provide about 6% of US electricity – about the same as hydro.

But the important thing to understand is not that these energy sources are too small to make a difference; it is pretty clear that the grid could be made to work with 20% of our energy from wind and solar (Texas is already at 8% wind, mostly in the isolated ERCOT grid).  The important thing is that in the long run, sun and wind cost much more than nuclear (nuclear delivers most of its energy decades in the future, and wind requires a lot of new transmission, neither of which is reflected in the levelized cost), and their cost rises rapidly as the penetration exceeds 30% (due to increasing curtailment and the need for energy storage).

donough shanahan's picture
donough shanahan on Nov 25, 2013

According to the IEA geothermal and other sources such as wind and solar accounted on average (for this year Jan to Aug) for 5.2% of US electricity indegeniuos production

Some other renewable sources are lumped into their combustible fuels term so that figure is probably heading towards 6%. Definitions below.


– ‘Production’ =     Net generation excludes power station own use. – ‘Combustible Fuels’ =   Production from coal, oil, gas and other combustible fuels including combustible renewables and wastes. – ‘Nuclear’ =     Electricity produced using heat generated from nuclear fission. – ‘Hydro’ =     Net generation from hydro facilities including pumped storage production.   – ‘Geoth./Wind/Solar/Other’ =   Generation from geothermal, solar, wind, and other non combustible fuels. – ‘Indigenous Production’ =   The sum of electricity production by energy source. – ‘Imports/ Exports’ =   Amounts of electricity that have crossed political boundaries of the country,         whether customs clearance has taken place or not. – ‘Electricity supplied’ =   Indigenous production + Imports – Exports.
Davis Swan's picture
Davis Swan on Nov 27, 2013

I thought that my critique on this subject was pessimistic but the points brought up here especially about the environmental impact of building the transmission infrastructure are real cause for second thought. 

The argument that “the wind is always blowing somewhere” implies that the “somewhere” can meet the total local demand as well as the total demand in all of the areas where the wind is calm.  It further implies that the total energy needed to meet the demand for all areas where winds are calm can be transmitted between those two arbitrary points.  A spider’s web of extremely high capacity lines would be required – lines that would be met with citizen protest and law suits from one part of the continent to the other.

My simple assessment – it won’t happen.

Michael Hogan's picture
Michael Hogan on Nov 27, 2013

Willful ignorance is inexcusable and is on parade in this post and many of the responses. It is at this point a settled matter that intermittent renewables can be the basis for a reliable power system at a cost comparable with “businesses usual” using existing technologies. It is also a matter of discoverable fact that nuclear is not cheaper than most renewables (it is cheaper than some, but you tend to ignore the fact that those are nascent technologies with huge cost reduction potential whereas nuclear has been commercial for over 50 years and is not getting any cheaper). It is a fact that nuclear, as a technology that cannot for various reasons be sited close to major population centers, also requires large investments in transmission. And it is a fact that nuclear, as a technology that is only economically viable (if at all) operating at full load all the time, faces similar integration challenges to intermittent renewables in terms of energy storage and uneconomic curtailment If it constitutes more than a modest share of overall production. That is not to say that nuclear does not have a role to play, but it is to say that the decarbonized power system can and will have very large shares of renewables, it can be as reliable and affordable as the “business as usual” alternative, and nuclear as a strictly baseload technology can and may play only a limited role in that future. These are all inconvenient facts for many of the posters here, but they are facts nonetheless. You may want to bring yourselves up to date on all of the published literature. Your current narrative, while it must be comforting to you, is about 10 years out of date and has been soundly debunked.

Davis Swan's picture
Davis Swan on Nov 28, 2013

I do not want to start an uncivil exchange but I would challenge your statement that “intermittent renewables can be the basis for a reliable power system”.  Everywhere that renewables are a significant percentage of the total generation fleet there has been no ability to close down any thermal generation capacity at all.  In Denmark, Germany, Italy, Texas etc. thermal assets are run intermittently and inefficiently as “spinning reserves” required to backup renewables.  If you have an example of where renewable generation has reliably replaced (not reduced the use of) a thermal generation facility please provide a reference.

In most of these jurisdictions imports of electricity from nearby states or countries has increased as the renewable generation fleet has grown (see my blog posting on the California Electrodox  There is also credible academic research which points to the need for MORE firm and dispatchable thermal generation as renewables increase – please see

Comments that imply that we have solved all the problems that prevent us from moving to a majority of renewable electricity generation are not helpful in my opinion.  We have big problems to overcome – with energy storage, with optimizing our investments in renewables, and with building out a transmission system to shunt power from where it is generated to where it is needed.  We need to get on with tackling the tough problems rather than being content to take the “easy path” – that leads to the dark side.  See



Mike Barnard's picture
Mike Barnard on Nov 28, 2013

Unreferenced wishful thinking by a proponent of yesterday’s technology. A guy saying so in comments without links is not the basis of an article.  Here’s some leavening material, fully referenced to credible sources:

Wind farms reduce greenhouse gases; real world results in Texas, the UK and Australia prove this is true. Industry standard, full lifecycle analyses for all forms of energy find that wind turbines pay back their carbon debt faster than any other form of generation. Every MWh produced by wind energy eliminates 99.8%+ of the CO2 that would have been generated by shale gas or coal, as they are first to be eliminated from the grid as generation sources. As the full lifecycle analyses show shale gas has 50 times the CO2e and coal has 100 times the CO2e per MWh, that’s a lot of global warming gases that are eliminated with every MWh of wind energy.

Wind turbines produce vastly more energy than they consume. De-icing is just starting to penetrate the market, air-conditioning doesn’t exist and published and reviewed lifecycle cost analyses (LCA) following ISO methodologies suggest that electrical consumption by wind towers is insignificant, so the ratio is extremely high. The Hepburn wind farm in Australia produces 302 times the energy annually that it consumes.

Wind farms don’t require any more backup than coal or nuclear plants do until they are supplying a very large percentage energy, and when wind energy drops, it’s predictable and minor, unlike major transmission or generation failures. And the backup usually comes in the form of grid interconnections with neighboring jurisdictions, not diesel; that’s just ludicrous.

You want the reality? Nuclear isn’t a viable technology despite its statistically good safety record and low CO2 emissions. There’s no social license, it’s terrorist gold, financing is extraordinarily difficult, skilled and educated labour for nuclear is an enormous problem and that’s just a few of the problems. Wind energy is being built much, much faster than nuclear and that will continue to occur.


Michael Keller's picture
Michael Keller on Nov 28, 2013

Liquid hydrocarbons (e.g. diesel, jet fuel) are significantly more energy dense and easier to deal with than methane and thus the better fuel for commercial ships. I seriously doubt the capital cost of a nuclear plant would support using reactors on commercial ships. There is also the matter of collisions.

The actual nuclear technology a commercial ship would employ (water reactor and steam generator) is pretty mundane; well known and no need to keep secret. 

The aero derivative combustion turbine is likely the better solution for a commercial ship as well as really big diesel engines; both can use liquid hydrocarbons as well as LNG.

Michael Keller's picture
Michael Keller on Nov 28, 2013

Liquid hydrocarbons (e.g. diesel, jet fuel) are significantly more energy dense and easier to deal with than methane and thus the better fuel for commercial ships. I seriously doubt the capital cost of a nuclear plant would support using reactors on commercial ships. There is also the matter of collisions.

The actual nuclear technology a commercial ship would employ (water reactor and steam generator) is pretty mundane; well known and no need to keep secret. 

The aero derivative combustion turbine is likely the better solution for a commercial ship as well as really big diesel engines; both can use liquid hydrocarbons as well as LNG.

Davis Swan's picture
Davis Swan on Nov 28, 2013

Do you really think things are that black and white?  You are incorrect about what energy sources get displaced by wind.  It depends upon the economics.  In Germany the most energy efficient CCGT plants are being shut down and coal-fired plant utilization is going up because of the low cost of coal and increasing amounts of wind generation.

I won’t dispute any of your comments on turbine generation versus cost in the CO2 balance.  But surely you would recognize that constructing very long, very high capacity transmission lines which use very large amounts of energy-intensive aluminium and copper is not a very “green” activity.  This is the first post that I have seen that even discusses that issue.

“Wind farms don’t require any more backup than coal or nuclear plants do” – I respectfully disagree.  Check out the wind variability for jurisdictions like Germany and Alberta, Canada  Wind is cycling 30-40% every few hours. 

There are numerous articles on the web that discuss the added wear and tear on thermal plants that have to cycle up and down to match wind variability.  That is on a daily basis.  So no, backup of wind is in no way similar to backup for other forms of energy.

The tone of your comment is that only you have the truth in hand.  I think it is fair to say that NOBODY has the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth in any of these debates about renewable energy.  Let’s have a rational discussion and lay out facts and arguments but not be dismissive of others.

If we came up with a reasonably priced energy storage system then I think wind turbines could basically power our entire economy.  But without storage we will be left maintaining two complete generation fleets.  Wind for when there is wind and all the legacy assets for when there is no wind.

Robert Bernal's picture
Robert Bernal on Nov 28, 2013

How do you suppose we provide the power requirements for planetary civilization? Your renewables can’t even make themselves much less provide even 20%. Hmmm, all the mass required to make the diffuse and intermittent sources actually do cost A LOT. Perhaps, when machine automation devoid of profits comes online, then we can cover 200,000 – 500,000 square miles with solar, dot the oceans with wind turbines AND provide all the utility scale batteries necessary to store all the excess from such a required overbuild. But it ain’t happening anytime soon. Why? because no one is going to allow for all the required machine made parts without making a profit. Gees, just the installation would be questionable on a costs only basis (But I do like the idea of a hundred thousand square miles of solar install jobs). All the parts including the framework, etc, must be made quite literally for dirt cheap (by machines), in order to pull it off.

How do I suppose we provide the same by nuclear? Nuclear can’t really make itself, either, can only provide about 20% of global power and also really does cost a lot. Hmmm, well it’s NOT diffuse… it’s not intermittent and thus, its costs is NOT associated with a high mass requirement. Perhaps, then, nuclear’s high costs would be attributed to something a little bit more artificial than real physical mass constraints. Perhaps heavy regulatory burden? Why? Because of the fear of meltdown.

Iran will develop their own “terrorist gold” regardless of how we choose to power ourselves, so that part of your argument is invalid. We need even MORE power to combat such a threat in the future, too. Do ya think your high priced, greeny backed renewables will ever be able to provide the power to counter… didn’t think so… Especially since the proceeds of the “carbon tax” will most probobly not go into the development of dirt cheap machine automation, but instead, into the general fund.

I believe that the high process heat of a molten salt reactor canindeed make liquid fuels (some say methanal, others say ammonia).

Either way, we still need machine automation of the car batteries (because they are more efficient). Nuclear is in a better (physical) condition to do that.

So, what you need to do is promote the machine automation of the renewables and of the batteries, devoid of (much) profit. That is what I like to do.

And what I need to do is promote the molten salt reactor because it’s meltdown proof and which wastes can actually be isolated from the environment for the time required for its radioactive decay (which is 300 -400 years for fission products).

Why should we do these things? Because the greenies just might be correct about global warming, but most importantly, because our emergent type I civilization requires an adequate pollution free power source.

60,000 MSR’s could power the planet without need for a “carbon tax”. But people need to learn about it and promote it, if we are ever to excape fossil fueled depletions…

Kevon Martis's picture
Kevon Martis on Nov 28, 2013

Mike Barnard of IBM’s Global Business Services in Singapore operates an internet blog site where he posts his opinions on industrial wind energy.

Like many people who opine on this topic, Mr. Barnard has very strong opinions.

But when the passions that drive those strong opinions lead people to use their global electronic megaphone to threaten people with ridicule and embarrassment, a line is crossed. This is commonly called cyber bullying.

Mr. Barnard’s employer recognizes this phenomena and, like all responsible global corporations, is rightly concerned that the private behavior of their employees can harm the value of their brand.

Quoting from IBM’s Social Computing Guidelines: “IBM’s brand is best represented by its people and everything you publish online reflects upon it.”

Further: “Respect your audience. Don’t use … personal insults, obscenity, or engage in any similar conduct that would not be appropriate or acceptable in IBM’s workplace.”

IBM partners with to help combat bullying. Pacer defines bullying as behavior that “…is intentional, meaning the act is done willfully, knowingly, and with deliberation to hurt or harm…”

Recently Mr. Barnard blogged about Dr. Nina Pierpont and her husband Dr. Calvin Martin and their work regarding health impacts from industrial wind turbines. Pierpont and Martin informed Mr. Barnard that a recent post made false statements about Dr. Pierpont’s credentials that they felt were libelous.

Mr. Barnard responded to their complaint by email. He said in part: “ And of course you should realize that I am laughing at the thought of you attempting to find jurisdiction for any court action as I am a Canadian living in Singapore and using free blogging software based in the Cloud somewhere; you might have wanted to actually speak to your lawyer before writing this. Given the nature of this email I’m sure that you realize that I am going to share it publicly and others will join in the laughter at your expense. [emphasis added]“

He then published this blog post:

This is not an isolated incident.

Again: Pacer defines bullying as behavior that “…is intentional, meaning the act is done willfully, knowingly, and with deliberation to hurt or harm…”

Mr. Barnard’s online behavior is consistent with cyber bullying and wholly inconsistent with IBM’s published employee guidelines.

No one minds a vigorous and passionate debate.

But electronic humiliation of respected and credentialed individuals-by an uncredentialed

 individual- as a game of sport is uncivil and reflects poorly on IBM.


If you can document cyber bullying by Mike Barnard please contact IBM:

Davis Swan's picture
Davis Swan on Nov 28, 2013

It is good to learn that IBM has firm policies in this area.  I think in this current post Mr. Barnard has not crossed the line although his tone would tend to suppress contrary opinions. 

Building consensus on issues involves convincing people to alter their opinions to some extent on both sides of the argument.  We do that by listening carefully and respectfully and responding to concerns based upon as much factual evidence as we can find.  Unfortunately in many cases the evidence is both plentiful and contradictory which makes it difficult to even get close to “the truth”.  But be that as it may we can but keep trying.

One of the main reasons that I started the Black Swan Blog was to try and present balanced and rational analysis of the complexities around renewables which I felt was in short supply (and I fully appreciate that some readers will feel that I display biases as well).  My goal to to promote a rapid transition to a sustainable energy environment.  I truly believe that we are not headed down the right path at this time and could well hit the wall very soon without major changes to the approach – Spain has already reached that point and has essentially killed their renewable energy industry.  

A focus on energy storage solutions, conservation, energy efficiency, demand response and regional energy management optimization is required in my opinion.

Strongly stated opinions indicate passionate beliefs and in my mind that is not a bad thing.  Apathy and complacence are the real enemies.  So let the debate rage on – respectfully!

Michael Hogan's picture
Michael Hogan on Nov 29, 2013


Nowhere did I say it is easy. Nothing in the energy sector is easy – as I’ve learned the hard way developing, financing and operating over $8 billion in power and natural gas projects on 4 continents over the past 34 years. I said we know how to do it with existing technology, something about which Mr. Adams appears to be blissfully unaware. You are also misinfofmed on a number of key points. There are two extensive analyses of what an affordable, reliable power system based on very high shares of renewables would look like assuming continued developments in existing technologies: Power Perspectives 2030 (for Europe) and Renewable Energy Futures (for the US). These are robust power system analyses by reputable power system experts. They are not the last word by any means – the system is simply too complex to capture every dimension in a single study – but they are thorough rebuttals of the tired old canards about “need for baseload” and “the technology costs and the cost of integration would be prohibitive.” Without entering into a lengthy tome I would point out a couple of flaws in your response that are more extensively rebutted in these and other recent studies. First the impacts on thermal plants. The idea put forward by “Fred” that the cycling of thermal assets to complement the production profile of renewables is a significant cost and largely offsets the CO2 reductions from renewable production is a vestige of a thoroughly discredited “study” released by Bentek about 5 years ago – even Bentek published what amounted to a retraction. Yet it continues to appear in the rants of deniers as a credible claim. The most definitive reversal of that thesis came in last year’s report from GE and Aptech that showed that for an appropriate mix of thermal assets the impacts on cost and CO2 emissions are in fact de minimis. The problem is not that renewables cause thermal plants to adjust their output – the thermal fleet is full of plants designed and fully capable of operating in mid-merit mode – the problem is that when you add any new capacity, renewable or otherwise, to a fully served system (as has been the case in most of the US and Europe) something else becomes redundant, and study after study (reputable studies, that is) have shown that what is no longer needed in significant quantities is baseload power plants. And by baseload I’m referring to the proper power system engineering meaning of the term – a plant that is uneconomic to run in anything other than full load all the time – not the common misconception of a plant that is available to run all the time as so often found in amateur commentaries. Also, your comment about countries importing more energy is misleading. Germany, for instance, is actually becoming a net exporter of power to its neighbors. The larger point, however, is that with a proper rationalization of the existing fleet of thermal plants – reducing its size to some extent to reflect the firm capacity value if the various renewable resources added and making sure that what’s retired is what’s least valuable, which is baseload plant, while what’s kept is what’s most valuable, which is mid-merit and peaking plant – the thermal fleet and a growing share od intermittent renewables can prosper side by side just fine thank you very much. A few other measures are also crucial. First, exploiting the ready potential for dynamic control of various end-use power uses by the system operator to better match consumption of primary electricity to the availability of production (usually referred to as demand response but a very different kind of demand response from what the great majority of people usually think of). Second, more integrated market operations across larger geographic balancing areas, already being done in some areas but still in early stages of development In others. Third, well planned investments in transmission. Fourth, energy storage, but not necessarily the kind of space-age grid-based storage you appear to have in mind (though that certainly would be nice if it ever becomes technically and economically feasible). There is vast potential for end-use energy storage in various thermal applications and other high-potential end uses using well-proven, low-cost technologies. There are numerous pilot projects in various regions across the US and Europe that have successfully demonstrated both the costs and the technical feasibility of this option. Renewable penetration in most of the US is still too low for there to be a market need but where there is an emerging need there is already a major effort under way to open the markets to commercial businesses like GE, Siemens and Nissan as well as smaller players in markets like hot water heaters and commercial refrigeration systems who are looking to invest in the space. That is not an exhaustive list of the readily available steps we could take to facilitate the transition but it gives you a flavor for how an open-minded power system approach would look. Is all of this easy? Of course not. Neither are any of the alternatives you and others have suggested. But it is simply misinformed to try to claim that it’s not feasible with existing technology or that it would be prohibitively expensive. Those claims have been soundly rebutted. As with any acceptable ways forward, we just need to get on with it.

Michael Hogan's picture
Michael Hogan on Nov 28, 2013

Most well informed power system experts, including NERC and the IEA, know that a predominantly renewable power system that is reliable and affordable is entirely feasible using existing technologies. You’d know that if you’d invested the time and effort to actually become a power system expert and had read all of the current literature. Instead you choose to waste your time and ours with your ignorant commentary.

Mike Barnard's picture
Mike Barnard on Nov 29, 2013

Kevon Martis, who runs the small anti-wind energy group IICC, continually crosses the line into direct attacks but pretends that I’m the transgressor. Odd that. 

Note the complete lack of substantive content, and the entire focus on ad hominem and one sided personal attacks. Compare this to my contributions. Judge for yourself.

Mr. Martis is the problem contributor, not me.

Kevon Martis's picture
Kevon Martis on Nov 29, 2013

Kisses all ’round.

Mike Barnard's picture
Mike Barnard on Nov 29, 2013

Note that Mr. Martis chases me around the ‘net to deliver his ad homs. Bizarre stalking behaviour, but what can you do?

It would be great if he actually had some content, but he’s a content free zone.

Marijan Pollak's picture
Marijan Pollak on Nov 30, 2013

My WindSolars, joined new CSP Solar and new, much more effective WPSs that can use 5m/sec. wind or slower (and of course faster too) would work 24/365 without need for backup of any kind. So, all “intermitency problems” with use of Sun and Wind are solved, we can have distributed power supply so less transmission lines are required and it do not depend on grid in least so each factory can have its “captive” WindSolar. In addition they can be built in Skyscrapers and so work in the cities……..

Michael Goggin's picture
Michael Goggin on Dec 2, 2013

Rod, each of your attacks on the efficiency of wind is factually incorrect, and most actually highlight ways in which wind energy is superior to other energy sources. I’ll take them one by one here:


  1. Recent analysis of the impact of wind on the efficiency of fossil-fired power plants found that at 33% renewables, the impact was only 0.2%. So wind produces 99.8% of the expected fuel use and CO2 emissions savings, or 1190 pounds of CO2/MWh, after accounting for all cycling impacts at a high wind penetration. This analysis is based on real-world hourly emissions data for all fossil-fired power plants in the Western U.S.
  2. Almost all line losses occur on low-voltage distribution lines, and thus apply to all energy sources evenly. (, page 30). The attempt to add transmission costs to wind’s costs actually becomes a benefit for wind, as numerous studies show that grid upgrades more than pay for themselves through the reliability and economic benefits they provide to consumers.,,
  3. Adding wind energy to the grid does not cause any need for new power plant capacity, and actually significantly reduces the total need for power plants. Every wind integration study has found that there is more than enough flexibility on the power system today to accommodate very high levels of wind energy. In contrast, the need for contingency reserves to accommodate the sudden failure of conventional power plants is far larger and about 40 times more costly.  (, see calculations in footnotes 6 and 7) Regardless, capacity is cheap, with the total cost of capacity in the PJM market accounting for only 1/8 of the energy cost in the PJM market. Regarding the false claim about a need to add inefficient power plants, Spain is able to obtain around 20% of its electricity from wind while accommodating any incremental variability using a gas generating fleet entirely made up of highly efficient combined cycle power plants.
  4. Wind energy curtailment has only occurred due to localized transmission constraints, and never because the amount of wind output exceeded total demand on the power system. Even the curtailment caused by localized transmission congestion is being eliminated as long-needed grid upgrades catch up with wind energy’s rapid growth, with curtailment cut in half from 2011 to 2012. (, page 44) Further declines are occurring in 2013, with curtailment in ERCOT now approaching zero.
  5. The “parasitic losses” are far higher at conventional power plants, on the order of 7-15% of power plant energy production.$file/Energy%20Efficiency%20for%20Power%20Plant%20Auxiliaries-V2_0.pdf  In contrast, the figure for wind plants is typically far less than 1%. A comprehensive literature review of all peer-reviewed studies on the lifecycle carbon emissions impacts of all energy sources demonstrates that wind’s impact is a fraction of all conventional energy sources, and is also much lower than most other renewable energy sources.
  6. Energy storage is not needed for wind energy. The U.S. has added 60 GW of wind, and Europe even more, with zero need to add energy storage. As explained above, there is plenty of flexibility on the existing power system. Interestingly, nearly all of the 22 GW of pumped hydro energy storage in the U.S. was added to help accommodate the inflexibility and additional reserve needs imposed by large nuclear power plants.


Finally, it seems strange to talk about the efficiency of different energy sources without discussing the fact that most fossil and nuclear power plants immediately waste 2/3 of the energy in their fuel as waste heat at the power plant, while most modern wind turbines capture around 50% of the energy available in their fuel. DOE’s data on the average efficiency of different types of power plants is here:


Coal: 32.7% efficiency


Gas: 41.9% efficiency


Nuclear: 32.6% efficiency (divide 3412 Btu/kWh by the numbers provided by EIA to get efficiency)

Michael Goggin,
American Wind Energy Association



Kevon Martis's picture
Kevon Martis on Dec 2, 2013

Virtually everything Mr. Goggin says is rebutted by NERC in this paper released last month:



Michael Goggin's picture
Michael Goggin on Dec 2, 2013

I don’t see anything in that report that contradicts anything I’ve said below, let alone “virtually everything” as you claim. Please explain and provide specific citations to sections that contradict what I’ve said.

Davis Swan's picture
Davis Swan on Dec 2, 2013

@Michael Goggin

I completely disagree with your statements about the ability to integrate large amounts of wind without storage.  The jurisdictions with the highest penetration of wind energy in Europe (Denmark, Germany) rely upon very large imports and exports particularly with Norway and Sweden which have plentiful hydro which in effect acts as storage for the wind.  There is also a financial penalty to this approach as wind is often exported at night at low prices while hydro is imported during the day at higher prices. 

In Texas, as in almost every jurisdiction, wind capacity has been added to a system that already had sufficient firm capacity including a reserve so that it was by definition surplus.  When the wind blows hard it displaces thermal generation which is a good thing.  But when the winds die out over large areas the grid survives only because none of the pre-existing thermal assets have been decommissioned.  A quick look at the variability of wind across the whole of Germany confirms that there are many times each month when there is essentially no wind generation – see

You have a position which you believe is correct and you are certainly entitled to that belief.  If you are in fact correct then wind energy can continue to be developed in relatively high penetration areas like Germany and Texas even with the decommissioning of nuclear in Germany and coal-fired plants in Texas because of MACT.  I personally believe that your position is not correct and that there will be increasing problems up to and including grid failure (some readers may find my Christmas blog on this topic at amusing).  But I can no more prove that will happen than you can prove that it will not.  And in my mind the complex computer models and simulations that NREL has been using recently as the basis for its findings do not represent proof and are certainly not “facts” and may not represent real world data even if they are based upon real world data.  Again, only time will tell. 

Personally I hope that I am wrong and you are right because I want us to transition away from hydro-carbons and to renewables as quickly as possible.  But if I am correct than the path we are on will not allow us to reach that goal.  I have offered up my ideas for a more holistic approach in my Sustainable Energy Manifesto at

Kevon Martis's picture
Kevon Martis on Dec 3, 2013

Why should I explaing something to a young man whose job depends upon him not knowing the irght answer?


Rod Adams's picture
Rod Adams on Dec 3, 2013


With regard to point #6, how do you propose to expand wind to a point at which it can make a significant dent in overall greenhouse gas emissions if you are depending on the present power plants on the grid to supply the flexibility needed to provide power when the wind is not blowing? As you know, about 75% of our current electricity is supplied by burning either coal or natural gas.

In the Pacific Northwest, where there is plenty of hydro, a week long loss of 4500 MW of wind due to a high pressure zone is no real problem from an emissions point of view, but what happens when similar events take down large quantities of wind in other parts of the country? (By the way, the BPA balancing site shows that there have been two separate occasions in the past couple of months when virtually all of its 4500 MW of distributed wind generation has been missing in action for a week or more.)

With regard to point #2, I will agree that transmission upgrades are often beneficial, but specifics matter. When the upgrades occur in parts of the grid that is already developed, there is an improvement in flexibility. When the transmission project is solely aimed at connecting a nearly unpopulated area with reasonably good wind or solar resources into the grid, there is no overall benefit. The cost of that connection should be born solely by the developer of the remote resource.

BTW, transmission upgrades are generally included in the budget for new nuclear projects as a result of Nuclear Regulatory Commission rules regarding backup power supplies.

Rod Adams, Publisher, Atomic Insights

Michael Goggin's picture
Michael Goggin on Dec 3, 2013

That’s the best excuse you can come up with for not answering my question? “Young man?” Since when was age a qualification for discussion here? Keep digging that hole, my friend. Let me know when you are ready to answer my simple question or have a substantive discussion of the points I made in my post.

Kevon Martis's picture
Kevon Martis on Dec 3, 2013

See you in an hour. 

Kevon Martis's picture
Kevon Martis on Dec 3, 2013

See you in an hour. 

Marijan Pollak's picture
Marijan Pollak on Dec 5, 2013

My WindSolars would work 24/365 guaranteed, without need of backup of any kind. That is because Solar is CSP with nearly perfectly isolated Thermal Storage, and all surplus electricity produced by wind could be transformed to heat and stored in Thermal Storage of Solar, to be used when required.

Since WPSs would require just 5m/sec. wind speed, and such wind can be found nearly anywhere, my WindSolars could be also built nearly anywhere and be baseload PSs distributed near electricity consuments, thus saving on cost of long distance transmission lines, too.

All this with nearly ZERO “Land Footprint”, because there would be Greenhouses built in my new Solar Concentrator units.

Since WindSolars would work at last 50 and probably over 100 years, electricity would cost under 10€ for Solar and under 5€ for WPSs.

This is future of Renewable Energy production, 100% clean and adding at least 360 times greater wind resources beside already known as required for standard 3 bladed models, that use wind of 10m/sec. or faster.

What else anybody may want? With cheap and 100% clean electricity all that is wrong could be turned right, starting with Energy Crisis, Global Warming, Unemployment, Thirst and Hunger………

Anyone wanting to coperate and help me to start it all is welcome!

Contact me on mpollak(at) anytime!

Regards from Croatia, the Homeland of Engineer Nikola Tesla!

Marijan Pollak

Michael Goggin's picture
Michael Goggin on Dec 18, 2013

I’m still waiting on an answer, Kevon. You do realize that it is OK to admit that you were wrong?

Marijan Pollak's picture
Marijan Pollak on Dec 19, 2013

Gentelmans, my WindSolars bridge apparent problems of both Wind and Sun use with using thermal storage with molten salt that can keep accumulated heat for months without loses, thus enabling Solar to work 24/365 guaranteed without need for any kind of backup. Since same instalation has WPSs also, when wind appears, electricity produced by using it replaces one from Solar, without noticeable change in power supply to consumers. Any surplus energy harvested from Wind can be stored as heat in same thermal storage practicaly for free and reused at other time. WindSolar can produce double quantity of electricity at time of high consumption, so even for this no other power stations are required. It would not require subsidies or special feed in tarriffs, because cost of electricity would be under 10 € per MW from Solar and under 5 € from the Wind. Moreover, WPSs would be able to use Wind from 5m/sec. and  produce their rated output in MW, and can deliver more if Wind is faster, up to capacity of their generators, which can be easily and cheaply (for about 300,000.00 € per additional MW of capacity, where each MW has 2 MW more in reserve for same money) without need for change of turbine.

Can You help me to start production of my WindSolars  instead of wasting time on discussions about problems that would be overcome by simply using WindSolars?

Oh, yes, kindly forget Betz Limit as it does not exist at all and never had existed except by mistake in printing. Real limit is set at 50% of turbine efficiency coefficient, which is 50% only in case of 100% effective turbine, which does not exist, just like mr Betz turbine with “countless blades”….. This limit was also mistaken for total Kinetic energy of wind, which is another mistake I discovered in formulas that are in dayly use as sacrosant. This second mistake is probably cause of WPSs failures and breakdowns in the field, because everything is designed to withstand just half of force that the Wind actualy extert on WPS as whole, in order to make WPSs cheaper.

That limit does not apply to my turbine as it has no wings, sails, blades or paddles…….

Regards from Croatia, the homeland of Engineer Nikola Tesla!

Whoever want to contact me can do it on email oberon(at) any time.

Respectfully, Marijan Pollak  


Michael Goggin's picture
Michael Goggin on Jan 10, 2014

No answer? I’ll take that as a concession that you were wrong.

Marijan Pollak's picture
Marijan Pollak on Jan 10, 2014

Mr. Martin,  what You say is true for plants burning fuel. Imagine however plant (CSP Solar) where Steam Generator is imersed in molten salt at temperature of 800 to 1000 C, so if one need steam. just some water ought to be sent to it, in proportion to quantity of steam required. So, such CSP Solar can start at once or very fast, and when wind start only supply of water could be diminished or turned off completely. In normal operation when there is no wind produced electricity, CSP Solar can produce its average quantity of electricity of 10 MW per hour, produce twice as much at “Peak Consumption Periods” or 20 MW per hour, or produce 5 MW or less in “Low Demand Periods”.

Therefore WindSolars would not be dependent on any other PS for backup, would be fault tolerant because it would have 2, 3 or even 4 systems of Steam turbines with generators. Moreover, such system would be able to use all available Kinetic Energy from wind, not just enough to fulfill demand from Grid, as electricity that cannot be consumed at once would be stored as heat in Thermal storage of Solar by using heater wires, and electricity could be regenerated from heat whenever it is required.

My new WPSs would not need any electricity for their own work, unlike contemporary models, where Windfarms could bring the Grid down when thousands of WPSs would start using generators as motors to reach critical RPM or turn themselves into the wind. Therefore my WindSolars would work on  or off Grid equally, and this can save costly Long Distance Transmission lines cost. They would utilize wind with 5m/sec. speed, which could be foumd nearly anywhere, at least 80m above ground. Since I would be able to put 18 WPSs on space required by standard 3 bladed models of big capacity, that would open su far underutilized wind resources at least 360 times greater than those that can be used by standard WPSs, and to this should be added  all unused resources of wind with 25m/sec. speed or greater, also not utilized by standard WPSs. Sunshine is present nearly everywhere too, and in case solarization periods are shorter than usuall, then more Solar Concentrator units would be utilized to achieve same thermal capacity for electricity production, increasing energy capture from 2x per day to 3x or even 4x per day.

That way electricity production from wind and sunshine would be constant and dependable 24/365, without additional cost for energy storage, without need for backup and fault tolerant as well.

Regards from Croatia, the Homeland of Engineer Nikola Tesla! .

Kevon Martis's picture
Kevon Martis on Mar 4, 2014



Absent the financial support from industry that you possess, I have only so much time to respond to you. We are busy enough in MI, OH, IN, KY, PA and AL as it is.


Let me read the NERC report for you.

You said:

 “Adding wind energy to the grid does not cause any need for new power plant capacity, and actually significantly reduces the total need for power plants. Every wind integration study has found that there is more than enough flexibility on the power system today to accommodate very high levels of wind energy. “


And you said: “Wind energy curtailment has only occurred due to localized transmission constraints, and never because the amount of wind output exceeded total demand on the power system.”

And you said: “Energy storage is not needed for wind energy. The U.S. has added 60 GW of wind, and Europe even more, with zero need to add energy storage. As explained above, there is plenty of flexibility on the existing power system.”

And you said: “Regarding the false claim about a need to add inefficient power plants, Spain is able to obtain around 20% of its electricity from wind while accommodating any incremental variability using a gas generating fleet entirely made up of highly efficient combined cycle power plants.”


I said that NERC’s review of CalISO contradicts these points. And it does:


“Integrating large quantities of variable energy resources (VERs) (predominantly wind and photovoltaic (PV) solar) into the North American bulk power system (BPS) requires significant changes to electricity system planning and operations to ensure continued reliability of the grid.”




“Electricity supply traditionally has been provided by fossil-fueled, large-scale hydro and nuclear resources synchronously connected to the grid. Industry has established reliability expectations with these generating technologies through knowledge accumulated over many years of experience. These traditional generation resources have predictable operating performance with well-understood reliability characteristics.

VERs have different characteristics and respond differently on the system. System operators have much less knowledge and experience with such resources on a large scale. As larger amounts of variable generation are added to the system, they will displace the traditional large, rotating machines and the operating characteristics those machines provided.”




“Operationally, an increase in wind and solar resources continues to challenge operators with the inherent swings, or ramps, in power output. In certain areas where large concentrations of wind resources have been added, system planners accommodate added variability by increasing the amount of available regulating reserves and potentially carrying additional operating reserves. Because weather plays a key factor in determining wind and solar output, enhancing regional wind and solar forecasting systems can provide more accurate generation projections. Other methods include curtailment and limitation procedures used when generation exceeds the available regulating resources.”




“By 2020, an additional 11,000 MW of VERs are expected to be connected to the CAISO grid, which is anticipated to add to the uncertainty and variability of the future resource mix. As this report will explain, CAISO projects that more flexibility in accessing essential reliability services will be needed to reliably meet net load, manage approximately 3,000 MW of intrahour load-following needs, and provide nearly 13,000 MW of continuous up-ramping capability within a three-hour time period.”




“Active Power Control: NERC’s findings show that with large amounts of VERs, active power control may be needed to maintain reliability. VERs should have the capability to receive and respond to automated dispatch instructions as well as maintain an ability to limit active power output, should there be a reliability need.

Plants should be designed with consideration of more flexible ramp rate limit requirements. Requirements for certain operating conditions could possibly be removed. Variable generation plants should not be required to limit power decreases due to declines in wind speed or solar irradiation (i.e., down-ramp rate limits). However, limits on decreases in power output due to other reasons, including curtailment commands, shut-down sequences, and responses to market conditions, can be reasonably required. In addition, when a fuel source returns, VERs should have the capability to ramp up in controlled increments.”




“Dispatched resources are expected to move to their new operating target every five minutes, while resources not receiving a dispatch instruction are expected to remain at their target (as they were not instructed to move). VERs such as wind and solar generation contribute to uninstructed deviation (i.e., negative flexibility) because their production levels can change significantly within five-minute dispatch intervals.”




“Predispatch practices used for conventional resources cannot effectively accommodate the variability of wind and solar generation according to hourly schedules because of potentially limited capabilities (i.e., fast ramping capabilities). This becomes more challenging as wind and solar products increase beyond the 20 percent RPS milestone. It creates a potential need for increased regulation reserve.”




“Existing real-time market applications cannot predict and use the deviations from VER forecasts, although deviations will be minimized when the real-time variable forecasts are integrated into the real-time market software applications. This variability could cause short-term ramping shortages that result in dynamic market prices and fluctuating dispatch instructions to units in the real-time supplemental energy market.”




“The uncontrolled but relatively predictable output of VERs often results in large intraday ramps. As more VERs are added to the electric system, steeper ramps are likely and therefore require flexible resources that can follow those steep ramps. Two key components are required to ensure net load can be met: an accurate forecast and a resource pool with the capability to provide flexible, fast-acting response.”




“Overgeneration occurs when there are more internal generation and imports into a Balancing Area than load and exports. Typically, before an overgeneration event occurs, the system operator will exhaust all efforts to send dispatchable resources to their minimum operating levels and will use all the decremental energy bids available in the imbalance energy market. Via the real-time unit commitment, CAISO may also decommit resources. The system operators will also make arrangements to sell excess energy out of market if bids to balance the system are exhausted. Additionally, with a high ACE, the energy management system will dispatch regulation resources to the bottom of their operating range.

When expecting overgeneration, the system operator sends out a market notice and requests scheduling coordinators to provide more decremental energy bids. If no decremental energy bids are received (or insufficient ones are received), the system operator may declare an overgeneration condition if it can no longer control the ACE and the associated high system frequency. During overgeneration conditions, the typical realtime imbalance energy price is negative, meaning that CAISO will pay entities to take their excess power. There are compelling reliability and market reasons to avoid overgeneration situations.

Currently, the capacity of nondispatchable resources serving load within the CAISO Balancing Area varies between 12,000 MW and 14,000 MW based on the maximum capability of the resources within each category. CAISO plans on exploring ways to incentivize Qualifying Capacity (QFs)9 to curtail production during low net load demand periods in order to minimize the magnitude of potential overgeneration. CAISO also plans on partnering with storage and incenting load shifting during the hours of low net load demand. Nondispatchable capacity can be significantly higher in years with high rainfall or snowpack, especially during the spring months, when temperatures are high and can result in early snow melt and hydro spill conditions. During these operating conditions, hydro resources tend to operate close to their maximum capability to maximize production.”


And most interestingly:


“As the penetration of variable generation increases, additional system flexibility and essential reliability service requirements will also increase. This flexibility manifests itself in terms of the need for dispatchable resources to meet increased ramping, load-following, and regulation capability—this applies to both expected and unexpected net load changes. This flexibility will need to be accounted for in system planning studies to ensure system reliability. System planning and VER integration studies focus both on the reliability and economic optimization of the power system—here the emphasis is on reliability.”




“Empirical analysis from CAISO’s 20-percent RPS study10 demonstrated a shortage of five minutes of net load-following capability in the downward direction when resources were self-scheduled, compared to scenarios where actual physical capabilities were offered for economic dispatch. These results were further substantiated by using a production simulation application. The 20-percent RPS study made it clear that CAISO must pursue incentives or mechanisms to reduce the level of self-scheduled resources or increase the operating flexibility of otherwise dispatchable resources. CAISO is pursuing incentives and mechanisms to either reduce the level of self-scheduled resources, or increase the operating flexibility of otherwise dispatchable resources.”




“System operators must rely on ramping capability to balance the less predictable energy production patterns of VERs like wind and solar resources. The underforecasting of demand and underdelivering of scheduled supply in production requires dispatching flexible resources at higher levels. The alternative case results in overforecasting delivery. System operators must accurately follow load and minimize inadvertent energy flows. This calls for ramping capacity in both speed and quantity, which is dictated by how fast and how much the production patterns of VERs change. To meet this operational challenge, system operators need enough flexible resources with sufficient ramping capability to balance the system within the operating hour. As shown in Figure 6, the typical CAISO load (blue curve) has ramps that are of small capacity and long duration. However, with high penetration of renewable resources, the net load11 (red curve) is the trajectory conventional resources would have to follow. It is comprised of a series of ramps of significant magnitude and shorter duration. It should also be noted that neither wind nor solar peak production coincides with the system peak load.”




“Also, to meet the double peak shown, CAISO may have to cycle resources on and off more than once a day. At times this may not be an option, because the down time between shut-down and start-up of a resource may be too long, which would prevent the resource from being restarted in time for system peak.”




“CAISO has identified the need for flexible resources that are committed with sufficient ramping capability to balance the system within the operating hour and between hours for scheduled interchange ramps. To help manage this challenge, CAISO is implementing a ramping tool to predict and alert system operators of the load-following capacity and ramping requirements needed on the system in real time. CAISO is also introducing a flexible ramp product to ensure enough dispatchable capacity will be available on a five-minute dispatch basis in the real-time market.”


And (I am sure you want this cost added to wind’s LCOE):


“The increased supply variability associated with a significant penetration of variable resources will cause more frequent dispatches and the starting and stopping of flexible, gas-fired generators, which will potentially incur more wear and tear. Lower-capacity factors for dispatchable generation combined with potential reduced energy prices also result in decreased energy market revenues for the gas-fired fleet in all hours and seasons. This condition raises concerns regarding revenue adequacy, as well as challenges in supporting gas-fired generation resources that are necessary for dispatch flexibility and reliability. Through technical studies, CAISO has determined that gas-fired generators will be operated at lower capacity factors and will experience more frequent start–stop and cycling instructions that could increase wear and tear on these units. Consequently, increased wear and tear can reduce mean time to failure on generation components and potentially lead to increased forced outage rates, which ultimately results in a need for additional ancillary services.”




“Compared to conventional generation, VERs are less effective in providing the system with sufficient inertia to arrest frequency decline. Similarly, VERs may not create adequate governor-like response to stabilize system frequency following the loss of a large generator. Frequency excursions caused by overgeneration are possible during periods of high VER production and low system demand. If dispatchable resources are already operating at minimum load levels and regulation down capacity has been exhausted, higher-than-scheduled or higher-than-expected VER production levels can result in overgeneration and, ultimately, overfrequency conditions.”




“The crucial difference between the variability of renewable generation and demand is predictability. Demand can be anticipated to within a few percent points based on history, weather forecasts, and timing of major events such as television programs. Renewable generation depends primarily on weather, which does not occur in regular patterns and is not correlated to diurnal patterns of demand. Ramping up or down dispatchable power sources (such as natural gas turbines or hydroelectric power) to follow variable generation is a fundamental reliability challenge.”




“Forecasts must improve to accommodate the two high-priority challenges in generation variability: up-ramps at times of low demand and down-ramps at times of high demand. In the former case, conventional reserves may already be turned off so that accommodating the up-ramp may require turning down base-load conventional generation or curtailing renewable generation. Both options can be inefficient and expensive. In the latter case, most conventional reserves may already be turned on, leaving few options for compensating the power lost in the renewable down-ramp. In the February 26, 2008 ERCOT event, service to certain customers had to be curtailed because of an earlier-than-expected wind down-ramp.”




“Wind and solar energy production is dependent on localized weather information. The electrical grid has evolved to the point at which operators need to know what the weather will be within a one-square-mile area inthe next two hours or less.

Since 2004, CAISO has received hourly energy forecasts for wind farms participating in its market from an external forecast service provider. However, two-hour-old forecasts are highly weighted on the current weather condition. Because of the lack of upstream, or ahead-of-the-air-mass observation points, the forecasts tend to be accurate but too late (as shown in Figure 8) to predict the actual wind farm production. This is referred to as the forecast being “out of phase.””




“California currently has a 33 percent RPS and the California Global Warming Solutions Act (see AB 32), which calls for reductions in greenhouse gas emissions. These two policy initiatives may seemingly be at odds with: 1) the increased variability resulting from a large portion of the renewables portfolio, which indicates the need for additional flexible resources (expected to be predominantly provided in the near term from conventional generation)”




“Market enhancements are intended to provide an orderly transition that offers an opportunity for a variety of solutions, including demand-side resources, storage, regional coordination, VER control, and flexible conventional generation to develop and be considered to meet the operational needs.”




“A significant operational challenge for CAISO is to reliably maintain continuous system balance given the variability of the energy output of VERs, which is caused by the variable nature of their fuel source (e.g., solar irradiance and wind speed). Increased variability in the output of the supply portfolio will result in less predictability and, therefore, greater operational uncertainty. CAISO must anticipate and manage this variability to balance supply and demand as well as to meet reliability criteria. Greater uncertainty indicates the need for additional resources to provide dependability at an appropriate level of confidence (i.e., to provide adequate certainty).”




“The flexible ramp product will complement the existing flexible ramp constraint to create an actual product that ensures sufficient upward and downward ramping capability is available in real time and that resources are appropriately compensated for providing the service. The flexi-ramp constraint—enforced since December 2011—only addresses the upward ramping capacity. Yet, with large amounts of self-scheduling renewable generation coming on-line, studies indicate that overgeneration is likely to occur. Addressing this operational concern will require downward ramping capability. Further, the short-term flexible ramping constraint does not contemplate day-ahead procurement of flexible capacity or offer any opportunity for resources to indicate their desires and costs for providing this service.”




“The current bid floor level of negative US$30/MWh does not provide a sufficient economic signal for variable renewable resources to curtail output, because such resources often receive additional revenues from outside the CAISO market for their energy production. That revenue prevents these resources from submitting economical decremental bids. Given this constraint, CAISO proposes to move the bid floor in two stages with an effective date of April 1, 2014.48 First, CAISO will move the bid floor to negative US$150/MWh, then to negative US$300/MWh. CAISO will evaluate the impact of reducing the bid floor to negative US$150/MWh based on a full year’s data. If there are no significant, unanticipated negative effects, then CAISO will initiate a stakeholder process to lower the bid floor to negative US$300/MWh and file the appropriate tariff amendments.”




“This special assessment provides insight into CAISO’s approach on renewables integration. A primary conclusion from this review is that when thresholds are reached at the level CAISO is experiencing (i.e., the 20–30 percent level), constraints are experienced on a system that was designed with a different class of equipment in mind. Policymakers should give due consideration to the impacts and potential reduction of essential reliability services (system inertia, frequency and voltage control, power factors, ride-through capability, etc.). The operating characteristics of VERs—not just the energy or capacity being provided—will fundamentally change the basic composition of essential reliability services. The system must continue to work reliably.

As shown by CAISO’s actions, there are solutions. Whether through market rules, technology tools, or regulatory requirements, various approaches exist to address concerns. This report offers recommendations and considerations related to standards that are associated with reactive power control, active power control, inertia, and frequency response, as well as steady-state, short-circuit, and dynamic generic model development.”


And most damningly for AWEA:


“Finally, NERC recognizes that the question of “who pays” still exists. If this question is not resolved, it will impede further progress.” [I think AWEA should pay. It was your successful lobbying that induced these costs for ratepayers.]


Yet you said:


“Adding wind energy to the grid does not cause any need for new power plant capacity, and actually significantly reduces the total need for power plants. Every wind integration study has found that there is more than enough flexibility on the power system today to accommodate very high levels of wind energy. “


It is simply dishonest to state that very high levels of renewables can be accommodated with little problem while NERC states that until we figure out who pays for all the substantial operational and reliability challenges those VERs bring to the system, higher penetrations much above 20% become problematic.

Of course GE said the same thing to the Obama Administration: if CO2 emissions limits are set too low, renewable energy development will be limited because of the need for wind to be balanced by CT and CCGT.

I would rather not have to read the thing to you.

But I did anyway, in between construction estimates.

Kevon Martis

Volunteer Director



Michael Goggin's picture
Michael Goggin on Mar 4, 2014

Yep, I’d already read all of that. None of it contradicts what I said.

Kevon Martis's picture
Kevon Martis on Mar 4, 2014

Yup. Black is white.

Same old Michael.

Like I told the OH Senate PUC:


Testimony of Kevon Martis

Concerning SB 58

Submitted November 13, 2013

Before the Ohio Senate Public Utilities Committee


Chairman Seitz, Vice Chairman LaRose and Ranking Member Gentile: my name is Kevon Martis. I am the director and senior policy analyst of the Interstate Informed Citizen’s Coalition, Inc. We are a bipartisan non-profit based in SE Michigan, just a few miles from Toledo, OH. We represent citizens living on the front lines of industrial wind development in Ohio, Michigan and Indiana.

As a volunteer ratepayer advocate, I believe I bring a unique perspective on what I will today call the “bizarro world” of industrial wind energy policy. Having been involved with those who are living on the receiving end of wind energy mandates like Ohio’s SB221 or Michigan’s PA295, I am in a position to testify about things that lobbyists roaming the halls of Columbus or Lansing prefer to keep unseen.


As those who testified before me have elegantly demonstrated, the world of wind energy lobbyists, developers and their “environmental group” advocates is one in which up is down, black is white, loud is quiet, double talk is the lingua franca and the US Constitution does not apply.

Permit me to share my observations from a front row seat across the rural Midwest over the last 4 years:

·         I have watched Exelon Wind developing wind projects across Michigan even as their CEO was stating publicly that natural gas fired energy is the most cost effective means of reducing emissions, bar none.

·         I have watched Spanish utility Iberdrola’s CEO lobby for reducing wind and solar subsidies in Europe as being destructive to the integrity of the grid. Yet their sales agents in Ohio argue in favor of preserving similar policies. What I have not seen is Iberdrola’s US sales team talk about the $1 billion in US profits they strip mined from the US treasury and exported back to Spain in just a single year.

·         I have seen Duke Energy sign a wind lease with a township supervisor in Michigan who claimed it was not a conflict of interest to then create legislation that would make that project possible. And when that man was removed by legal force, he became Duke’s sales agent.

·         Despite wind energy’s alleged purpose, I have never seen a wind developer show that adding wind to an existing generation portfolio like Ohio’s is the low cost means of avoiding emissions.  In fact, it is nearly 10x the price per unit of CO2 avoided than replacing coal generation with Combined Cycle Gas Turbines. Could that be why they instead prefer to talk about jobs and economic development? Is it because they fail the only test that matters?

·         And with respect to green jobs creation, I have seen legislators and policymakers alike fall for the green jobs claims while never realizing the jobs wind promoters are most concerned with are their own.

·         I have watched NextEra Energy- claiming to be green- receive so much benefit from the Wind PTC that they pay essentially no income tax on their vast fossil fuel generation fleet even as they built the world’s largest gas-fired generator in the heart of the Everglades.

·         I have heard wind promoters tell Michigan policymakers that they can “win the wind race” by increasing wind mandates and that they do not want to lose out to states like Iowa. But I have never heard them tell the rest of the story-that Iowa’s renewable energy mandate is only 150MW and was fulfilled long ago and that despite more than 20% wind penetration in Iowa, coal emissions have risen every year and are not expected to drop until coal generation is replaced with gas.

·         I have observed AWEA telling Ohio that by preserving or even increasing the RPS mandates that Ohio can become a national leader in green job creation. And I have seen them tell that same “love story” to Michigan, Wisconsin, Minnesota, New York, Pennsylvania, North Carolina etc….. It appears to this observer that AWEA is a fickle lover indeed!

·         I have witnessed wind developers tell Ohio policy makers that wind is a cost effective means of generating electricity despite being far more expensive than wind from the Prairie States. Cost effective for whom?

·         I have heard wind developers talk about wind energy being “grid competitive” in some markets while never once stating what is undeniably true: the bulk of that energy is generated at times of low demand and thus has a value of far less than $35/MWh and that often these same wind generators actually pay the grid to take their unneeded energy as the taxpayer makes them whole.

·         I have observed AWEA justifying their massive subsidy regimen by suggesting that all forms of generation are “subsidized”, irrespective of the fact that wind energy subsidies equal or exceed the wholesale value of the electricity they produce and are 80x the value per MWh of gas or coal fired generation.

·         I have witnessed Republican politicians quote free market economist Fredrick von Hayek as a justification for increasing unconstitutional instate wind energy “must produce, must purchase” cartels.

·         And I have witnessed Democratic politicians attack fossil fuel monopolies for their corporate oppression of the common man while ignoring those same loathsome behaviors by those same fossil fuel entities as they construct irresponsibly engineered wind projects with their onerous impacts upon humans, wildlife and the social fabric of our rural communities.

·         I have watched AWEA operatives attack citizens who assembled to protest wind energy mandates as being secretly funded by some dark “fossil fuel interests” even as they jetted to Midwest wind energy summits on the largess of E. On, AEP, FPL/NextEra and Iberdrola- fossil fuel companies all.

·         I have read statements by AWEA’s Michael Goggin as he speaks in glowing terms about how the US has a “world class” wind resource compared to Europe while neglecting the fact that-regionally- NREL shows that Ohio’s wind resource is poor or marginal and is far more expensive than Iowa, Minnesota or North Dakota. And neither does Mr. Goggin rush to Europe to proclaim that they have an inferior wind resource and should immediately stop their mandates.

·         I have watched promoters of wind like Sierra Club oppose fracking while AWEA and CanWEA promote the replacement of coal and nuclear with gas+wind while claiming that the obviously increased use of gas generation in that scenario would somehow keep gas prices down.

·         I have read articles by the Farm Bureau favoring wind subsidies and mandates and then I have taken phone calls from farmers in tears as they beg me to find a legal means to escape their predatory wind lease.

·         I have heard Iberdrola claim to be a good neighbor while hearing testimony from those in Paulding and Van Wert counties with respect to cut field tile, road damage and a turbine base constructed too closely to a gas line in defiance of a Power Siting Board order.

·         I have heard wind developers state with a straight face that yes, 150’ tall power transmission lines are known to affect property values but 494’ tall turbines 1,000’ from your bedroom have no “statistical effect” upon home values. Is it because they spin and make noise?

·         I have heard a wind developer’s noise consultant approve 1,000’ turbine-to-home setbacks in Michigan despite having testified in Vermont that similar turbines would cause health impacts from more than a mile away.

·         I have heard countless wind developer acoustics “experts” testify that wind turbines are no noisier than a “conversation”, a “refrigerator” or a “quiet library”, only to have people inside those developments later resort to building noise bunkers, taking sleep medication or home abandonment to escape the turbine noise. And I have also heard developers claim those examples are outliers. Yet every major wind development in Michigan is experiencing those effects including 73 folks that signed a petition asking that the 12 turbines in Delta County be turned off due to the noise.

·         I have routinely witnessed wind developers claim wind capacity factors of 30, 35 and 40% in Michigan and Ohio yet neither state has yet to reach even 30% in actual operation.

·         I have watched wind developers claim that their study found no endangered Indiana Bats near a proposed wind project. Yet an Eastern Michigan University biologist had just studied those “nonexistent” bats the several years prior.

·         I have heard AWEA suggest that wind subsidies made possible by taxpayers somehow reduce the price of electricity for ratepayers. Has no one told them that ratepayers and taxpayers are the same people?

·         I have seen wind promoters claim that wind energy is “grid competitive” and that it has dropped in cost from $90 to $50 per MWH  and that subsidies are no longer needed even as they urge congress to extend the subsidies or wind development will end.  Yet if the cost of producing wind is grid competitive today, then no mandates should be required at all

·         I have heard Michigan wind developers claim to be environmentally friendly while building 3 wind projects within 3 miles of the Great Lakes shoreline, in direct defiance of the USFWS recommendations.

·         I have read articles stating the wind PTC needs to be extended for the sake of the climate even as the National Academy of Sciences reports that the net effect of the PTC is perhaps a “0.3% reduction” in CO2 emissions and is a very expensive means of avoiding CO2 compared to alternative solutions.

·         I have heard wind proponents like AWEA say that wind energy is a wise investment in a cleaner tomorrow. Yet Michigan has spent $2.5 billion dollars on wind energy that produces an effective capacity of only 250MW and can never retire a single coal plant. Further, wind avoids only trivial quantifies of emissions. That same investment in combined cycle gas turbine plants could have permanently closed nearly one half of Michigan’s coal fleet, thereby reducing fine particulate and Hg emissions by 50% and CO2 by 25%. And gas fired electricity is low in cost and high in value, the exact opposite of wind energy.

·         I have heard boisterous claims of how green energy mandates will drive jobs creation while those who consume electricity have far graver concerns.

·         I have stood by and listened as wind promoters in Ohio and Michigan both concede that instate wind generation mandates are likely unconstitutional, but since no one has yet initiated legal action, who cares?

·         And of course replacing gas or nuclear generation with wind sounds great until you really  look at it.

So you see, that’s what things look like from where I sit.

I speak today on behalf of those rural resident in Ohio on the receiving end of SB221 when I say that the bill before us today is a good start but it does not begin to unravel the “bizzarro world” of wind speak where expensive is cheap, noise “like a refrigerator” drives people from their homes, predatory wind leases are good for farmers, paying $50-100 for Ohio wind energy is better than buying it from Iowa for $30 and that it is somehow green to kill bats and raptors with a technology that has only a trivial and expensive ability to reduce emissions.

We must recognize that the policy package AWEA was selling starting in 2005 was never intended to yield tremendous benefits to anyone except their own affiliates. And we must recognize that those self-serving benefits come at a substantial loss to the taxpayers/ratepayers who enable their ignoble work.

Energy policy is quite literally a matter of life and death. It must not be the playground for armchair environmentalists’ latest pet theories.

We applaud this very heroic attempt to begin to unwind the economic and environmental absurdity of Ohio’s instate wind mandate. But we ask that this be only the first step in wresting Ohio’s energy policy from the hands of ideologues and returning it to the realm of science and economics.

Kevon Martis, Director

IICC, Inc.

101 E. Adrian Street, Blissfield, MI




Michael Goggin's picture
Michael Goggin on Mar 4, 2014

Please explain how any of the passages from the NERC report contradict what I said.

Kevon Martis's picture
Kevon Martis on Mar 4, 2014

No one is that dense. Not even lobbyists.

You have wasted enough of my time.

Robert Bernal's picture
Robert Bernal on Mar 4, 2014

Thanks for posting all this, it will give me (and hopefully others) something to learn. Years ago, I was like Michael, saying “but NOTHING should get in the way of more wind and solar!”. But now, I realize, there is A LOT of real world variables in the utility business that I had no clue about. I would simply “wish” away any real mechanical “obsticals” such as what happens when there is too much wind and nobody to buy.

I’d say the best way to “pay” is to wait until machine automation can make wind (and solar) for less than half price, then demand a reasonable storage such as pumped water or molten salts (so that the overall costs could actually compete with hydrocarbons and nuclear).

Or, we should demand closed cycle nuclear, now, because it should be intrinsically less expensive, 100x less wates issues and easier to contain (than LWR nuclear).

Marijan Pollak's picture
Marijan Pollak on Mar 5, 2014

Mr. Matis, my WindSolars would be able to work 24/365 and to provide double quantity or greater at “Peak Consumption Periods” at cost under 10$ per MWh. Therefore all problems You mentioned would be solved  and Grid stability would be guaranteed without single thermoelectric PS or Nuclear Power Plant neccessary. Even 264% of necesary capacity can be available by year 2020 and surplus would be put to good use in CCS (Carbon Capture and Storage) and providing water on agricultural level. Since new Wind Power Stations would use new kind of turbines, it would enable them to work at full capacity using 5m/sec. Wind speed which can be found nearly anywhere, and because I can place 18 WPSs of 1 to 3 MW of capacity at area required by just ONE standard WPS of same capacity, that opens at least 360 times greater Wind Resources than presently known and not yet fully utilized resources of 10m/sec, Wind or stronger. That would make distributed Power supply practical, saving on cost of long distance Transmission Lines as well.

I wrote about this before and have been censured as obviously this site is supporting Fossile fuel burning PSs and Nuclear Power plants, so such writting is going againest grain and is unwelcome.

However, progress cannot be stopped and people cannot let selfish interests of Big Money to destroy Planet as would happen if we continue with CO2 emissions and overheating athmosphere.

Regards from Croatia, the homeland of Engineer Nikola Tesla!



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