The “Great Oz” has spoken: the wind will no longer be “intermittent”

News in from the Merry Old Land of Oz:

Flustered and flummoxed by the fact that the average windfarm only produces power about 25% of the time and, worse, that no one could tell him just what time of day that wind power was actually going to flow, the Great and Powerful Wizard determined that there was only one solution. To order the wind to cease being intermittent.

Renowned for his ability to “hoodwink” the little Munchkins under his control, using a sophisticated array of audiovisual techniques, no doubt, the Almighty Oz thought making the wind blow around the clock would be a doddle.


“The Wind will stop being intermittent, or my name’s not the Great and Powerful Oz”


Greentard blog site, Climate Spectator, reports from somewhere on the Yellow Brick Road.

Wind isn’t intermittent
Climate Spectator
Dr Jenny Riesz
1 May 2013

The terminology of wind generation being described as ‘intermittent’ has become pervasive. However, based upon the actual characteristics of how wind varies over time this is a misleading description, and the language matters.

In normal usage, the term ‘intermittent’ is usually used to refer to things that suddenly switch on and off, with a ‘flickering’ characteristic. When people think of intermittency, they think of things cutting in and out, being there and then suddenly not there.

This is not at all a good description of how wind generation varies over time. Even a single wind turbine will have some degree of physical inertia, meaning that in usual operation it doesn’t suddenly cut in and out (with the exception of high speed cut outs in some designs). This is then aggregated over the whole wind farm with many turbines, such that the total wind farm output will show a much more gentle variability over time. When this is then aggregated over the whole power system, summing the output of many wind farms, geographical diversity means that the total wind output supplied to the system shows something that varies gradually hour to hour, rather than cutting in and out in seconds.

The pervasive use of the term ‘intermittent’ to describe wind generation is perhaps a part of the reason why the general public is so susceptible to the idea that wind generation can’t provide reliable power. How can you possibly rely on something that cuts in and out all the time? How could other power stations possibly cope with the extreme ramp rates required to match against that?

Researchers at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), based in Colorado in the USA, have proposed an alternative term that they believe better describes the characteristics of wind. They propose using the term ‘variable generation’. This accurately describes the changing nature of wind generation over time, but avoids the association with rapid flickering. NREL has adopted this terminology in most of their literature on integration of wind and solar PV into power systems. Perhaps this can help with the challenges of describing complex topics such as power system reliability to a general audience.

Solar photovoltaic generators could perhaps be described as intermittent, because the generation from a small solar field can rise and fall very rapidly from almost nothing to almost full capacity, particularly on days with sporadic cloud cover passing over the panels. However, as solar installations become larger this effect will be dampened – a 100 MW solar PV farm would cover anywhere from one to five square kilometres (depending upon the packing density), which is an area that would take some time for a cloud to cover, slowing the rate of power change over time.

Furthermore, at a system level geographic smoothing means that the aggregated output from solar PV will be nowhere like ‘intermittent’. So here, too, the term ‘variable’ is a better description of output characteristics in most cases.

Dr Jenny Riesz is Principal Energy Market Analyst with Riesz Consulting, and a researcher with the Centre for Energy and Environmental Markets at the University of NSW.
Climate Spectator

When our boys in the meteorology department heard news of the happenings in Oz, they were delighted. On the news that the wind is no longer intermittent, they immediately went out and bought the biggest sailing ship they could find, planning to conquer the Seven Seas with a fleet of Giant Clippers and to put those diesel chewing monsters out of business.

sailing ships

No sooner had our weather boys cast off, when the killjoys from our crack windfarm power output data squad, “” chimed in and took the wind right out of their sails. Apparently, the Wiz is “full of it” – the wind really is intermittent.


But Tinman, he said the “the wind ISN’T intermittent”??


Start with the language. “Intermittent” means: occurring at intervals; not continuous; stopping and starting at intervals.

Then add some facts.

The boys over at are always ready to rain on the wind industry’s parade, so they sent us some data from the last few months.

Let’s start with 30 April. And a tip, if the graphs below look less than crystal clear on your screen, click on them, and they will open in a new window and be razor sharp.

30-April 2013-2

But before we get to the numbers, there are a few points to note.

The top graph shows the “capacity factor”, which is the percentage of actual output versus the rated capacity for all windfarms connected to the Eastern Grid.

Every windfarm in Tasmania, Victoria, New South Wales and South Australia is connected to the Eastern Grid which is, geographically, the largest single interconnected grid on the Planet. Note too the synoptic chart showing a big fat high pressure system covering the entire South-East of Australia – where all the wind farms are. That regular occurrence chops to shreds the wind industry’s standard waffle (touted by Climate Spectator above) that the “wind is always blowing somewhere”.

The middle graph shows the total output of all windfarms connected to the Eastern Grid in Megawatts (MW) over the course of the day. All of the individual windfarms are identified below that.

Note, if you go to the website you can deselect States or wind farms and work out just what is happening at the windfarm annoying you. And you can hit “change date” to see what’s happened previously. The data is all pulled from the AEMO website, so it’s as “Kosher” as a New York Bagel.

The bottom graph shows total aggregate demand for electricity from users drawing on the Eastern Grid over the same period.

The boys at tell at us that, at present, there is 2,512 MW of installed wind farm capacity on the Eastern Grid, which is more capacity than any single conventional coal-fired power-station on the Eastern Grid.

Okay, so let’s look at the numbers for 30 April.

In the middle of the day, the entire windfarm power output totaled 30 MW. That’s the equivalent of 10, 3 MW turbines operating at rated capacity – except, on 30 April, it’s being produced by every single turbine hooked up to the Eastern Grid.

This ENORMOUS contribution from wind power occurred at a point when total demand was in excess of 24,000 MW. A wind driven contribution of a MIGHTY 0.125% towards satisfying total demand. And for around 8 hours from 9am, the giant that is the Australian wind industry couldn’t top a piddling 100 MW of output.

If the “wind was always blowing somewhere”, as the wind industry and its parasites assert, then that day it would have struggled to put out a candle anywhere from Hallett in SA to Collector in NSW.

Back in 2010 this situation occurred over 100 times through the course of the calendar year. Remember the wind industry’s standard spiel about the proposed windfarm near you that is going to “power 500,000 homes”? Hands up those householders who want to freeze while sitting in the dark.

Now let’s look at 6 May.

6-May 2013

The contribution from all wind farms during the middle of the day reached an enormous 200 MW, at a time when demand exceeded 24,000 MW.

No doubt, a massive improvement on the 30 April effort, but still only 0.83% of what was being chewed up by electricity punters hooked up to the Eastern Grid.

What about the next day, 7 May – did things get any better?

7-May 2013-2

Having produced a laughable output – relative to total demand – averaging about 500 MW during the day, wind power output finally hit its straps around midnight. 500 MW represents about 20% of total “installed” windfarm capacity; and a measly 2% of total demand that day.

The big surge in wind power output occurring at the point when demand had dropped some 5,000 MW from 26,000 MW to 21,000 MW.

And at about the same time that the boys and girls at Macarthur, Waubra and Waterloo were being driven completely mad by turbine noise, as they were trying to sleep.

Note again those “pesky” high pressure systems on 6 and 7 May, sitting over the entire South-East of the country like giant jellyfish sucking up the precious wind. Surely, that meteorological monstrosity must have been part of a gas or coal industry plot, right?

Could 22 May be the day that proved once and for all that the “wind isn’t intermittent”, after all?

22-May 2013

Bugger! Once again, total windfarm output hit its peak – of just under 1,000 MW (around 40% of total “installed capacity”) – around 11pm, just as demand was dropping off. What a pity that electricity produced by wind farms can’t be stored. Oh yes, it has to be used the instant it’s produced. So if there is no demand and buckets of supply the wholesale price collapses. But because of the RET & REC the price retailers pay (and pass onto their consumers) is still 4 times the cost of hydro, gas or coal.

Australian windfarms had spent the day slacking off, yet again, with little more than 200 MW being produced for the 6 hours between 6am and 12 noon – at a time when total demand was in excess of 24,000 MW.

Electricity consumers should give a big round of applause to the wind industry for the 0.83% contribution it made to satisfy total power demand from breakfast to lunchtime that day.

STT thinks that there are two possible explanations for this latest wind industry “wheeze”.

Either the greentards that came up with the furphy that “wind isn’t intermittent” have just started smoking the really good stuff flown in from Mexico; or they are simply lying to us? Or maybe they think we’re as smart as sticks in a bucket of pig-swill?

True, STT was caught out once before by video of an exploding turbine, thinking it an accident, until “Prowind” tipped us off to the fact that wind farm manufacturers and developers are “purposely” causing giant industrial wind turbines to self-destruct. So when we learned that the industry was spruiking a story that “wind isn’t intermittent” we thought we’d best put our top people onto it.

You’ve got to get out of bed pretty early in the morning to beat the boys from STT says thanks and “hats off”.

Oh, and if anyone wants to buy a very big, and only slightly used, sailing ship, give Mad Mick a call.

mad mick

About stopthesethings

We are a group of citizens concerned about the rapid spread of industrial wind power generation installations across Australia.


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  3. […] Even with the most geographically widespread grid-connected set of wind farms in the world (the 3,342 MW of wind power capacity connected to Australia’s Eastern grid across SA, Victoria, Tasmania and NSW) there are dozens of occasions each year when total wind power output struggles to top 2% of installed capacity – and hundreds when it fails to muster even 5% (see our posts here and here and here). […]

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  6. […] reduce CO2 emissions in the electricity sector (see our posts here and here and here and here and here and here and […]

  7. […] collapses in wind power output (our posts here and here and here and here and here and here and here and […]

  8. […] but which happen on a routine basis (see our posts here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here). The greater the installed capacity of wind power, the more OCGTs that are […]

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  11. […] few “unlucky” days for wind power generators see our posts here and here and here and here and here and […]

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