Michael Cobb – He Gets It

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Every now and again …

Every once in a Blue Moon STT gets sent an article where the author actually understands the Australian energy market, the Renewable Energy Target AND the fiasco that is the great Australian wind power fraud. Well, the Moon just turned a delightful shade of Blue.

Here’s a cracking piece written by Michael Cobb, who – if we weren’t so modest would think – might have just been taking the odd peak at our posts.

RURAL VIEW
Blayney Chronicle
Michael Cobb
12 December 2013

Flyers Creek Wind Farm

It was sad but no surprise that the State Department of Planning and Infrastructure has overridden the objections of the majority of locals and given the go-ahead for the Flyers’ Creek Wind Farm.

In a clear conflict of interest, this state department has a brief to approve such projects at increasingly rapid rates no matter what local people want, as long as they are placed in country areas and not in or near cities. Consequently, they approve all projects that are placed before them.

While the final tick of approval needs to be given by the Planning Assessment Commission to each project, this body is little more than a rubber stamp, too.

The debate over wind energy is a complicated one because there are so many aspects to it, be they economic, health, environmental, vested interests and so on. Here are just a few of the reasons why increasing numbers of people are against wind turbines.

High cost electricity

Official government figures show that wind-generated electricity is at least 200% to 300% more expensive. This extra cost is passed onto your quarterly bills. Obviously if early on there are only a few wind farms in existence producing very little of the total electricity generated, then the cost of this spread over all users is relatively manageable. However, as the number of wind farms grows towards 10% and ultimately 20% or more of all electricity used, then your electricity bills will be markedly inflated. Not only will house bills soar, but marginal businesses that use a lot of energy will be forced to close or move offshore.

Small CO2 savings

The only reason wind farms are built is to displace CO2 production from fossil fuels. There is no other reason. The argument goes that wind power is CO2 free, unlike coal or gas, so any extra cost of wind is worth paying for. Sounds great, but it is largely false.

Leaving aside the CO2 produced in constructing these huge towers – just think of the 1000s of cubic metres of concrete alone needed to hold them up so they won’t blow over – they surprisingly save very little CO2. This is because they need back-up coal or gas when the wind drops or stops blowing, as it does on a frequent and unpredictable basis. This back-up power is needed immediately. Even a fraction of a second delay in supplying the shortfall to the electricity grid can cause immense damage, such as has happened in some European factories.

Because a coal plant takes several hours to fire up, it is obvious that it has to be running on standby. The CO2 it produces largely offsets the ‘savings’ of the wind tower. The same principle applies for gas when this is used as the back-up fuel.

Studies in various countries, including Australia, now conclusively show that the net saving of CO2 by wind towers is actually quite small.

This means that cost per tonne of CO2 saved will be very high, often around $2,300 per tonne. Note that this is 100 times dearer than the much-maligned Rudd-Gillard $23 a tonne scheme.

This simple point alone demonstrates how foolish it is for a country to be spending 100s of millions of dollars building wind farms.

There are much cheaper and more effective ways to cut back on CO2, if that is your aim. However, it is amazing the lengths to which the wind industry will go to deny it and up until now they have been successful.

Cost of back up

Though you would think the cost of having coal or gas plants idling on standby would obviously be factored into the overall cost equation, this is not the case. Wind companies invariably ignore this huge factor when presenting their sums to the public.

But the costs are even greater than just the wasted fuel burned.

The rapid and frequent ramping up and down of gas plants, for example, trying to fill in for the constantly changing wind output, puts an immense strain on the back-up equipment which is designed for a constant output. Maintenance costs increase as a result.

This shortens their operating life considerably and is a constant bane of contention for the owners of these very expensive plants.

High subsidies paid

No wind farm would be built without subsidies as there is no way they can compete on their own against traditional forms of energy production. Their claims of closing this gap have never materialized. If anything, with new gas extraction techniques the gap is widening.

There may be merit in some subsidy if the CO2 saving was as the wind industry claims. However, as we have seen the real need for back-up means the savings are very small.

Preferential legislation

No electricity supply company would buy the very expensive and intermittent wind power if it did not have to by law. This law says each company must use a certain percentage of renewable power.

Despite the cost, or whether it needs it or not, the company must, in effect, accept it.

If the wind is blowing at 3am when the demand for electricity is minimal, this ‘unwanted’ electricity is still fed into the grid to, in effect, displace a cheaper and more reliable source.

The company must give priority to its least preferred source. Not the usual way you like to do business. The wind industry gives all sorts of tortured explanations to try to muddy this point, but it is nevertheless true.

Unpredictability

This is one of the major factors as to why it is illogical to create grid electricity from wind. As the wind is forever changing its speed a wind farm’s contribution to the grid fluctuates wildly and unpredictability.

This creates enormous headaches for grid operators who all describe the difficulties of matching supply and demand, which must always be executed perfectly.  Numerous published articles describe how increasing the total amount of wind in the supply mix poses significant security and reliability concerns to the grid. Error management must be measured on a sub-second time-scale with correction control adjustments made to match all detected variations on an almost instantaneous basis.

It is obvious that the wear and tear on back-up systems is great and the chances for costly mistakes are magnified each time a new wind farm is connected to the grid.

Actual data

Lest anyone think the above is an exaggeration, it is instructive to look at the official figures from the Capital Wind Farm near Canberra.

In the first six months of 2010, there were a staggering 559 occasions when this wind farm had a zero output lasting for five minutes or more.

In fact, one of these zero output periods lasted for 2.8 days. The total time of these zero outputs added up to 70.4 days or 38.9% of the total time. Even a waterside worker unionist would blush at that effort!

The output chart for the Capital Wind Farm also shows extreme rapid variations which would normally put nightmarish strains on the grid operation and cause large amounts of CO2 to be vented into the atmosphere from the back-up plant.

The last figure I saw had this wind farm operating at only 26.7% of its capacity. By contrast, if you look at the conventional generation output over a much longer period, from 2006-2011, there were no, repeat no, major zero output failures recorded. The outage frequencies of the wind industry would never be tolerated in the conventional sector.

I will leave mention of the other deficiencies of wind power, including the environmental and health concerns, for another day.
Blayney Chronicle

Hats off, Michael – STT has nothing to add.

michael cobb

STT Champion, Michael Cobb – He Gets It!

About stopthesethings

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

Comments

  1. Thanks Michael – putting the problems of wind in a nutshell very nicely. This is a great article – nice and easy to read and understand – and one we will be using in our fight against wind farms here in the UK. You’d think, with all the weight of evidence all around the world that someone in government (any government!) would have the sense to stop this nonsense now.

  2. Stand against wind says:

    Yep, Michael gets it. Now let’s get his message into other media, as often as we can. Channel his inspiration (or just plagiarise!) and write a letter to your favorite mainstream daily and/or politician!

  3. Jackie Rovenksy says:

    Thank you Michael Cobb, it could not have been put more clearly that those who believe energy produced wind is free and clean, that they are being duped that the story of Wind Energy is one of the wind industry blowing a gale of deceit and deception.

  4. It is refreshing to hear how it is at the fans. The fans are just no bloody good.

  5. I would just like to add one further thing regarding the capacity factor Mike quotes of 26.7%. Dismal as this is, it actually significantly overstates the typical (i.e. most common) daily power rating.

    The capacity factor (26.7%) reflects the averaged power over (typically) a whole year. But the energy presented to a IWT is governed by a cube law so double the wind speed – get 8 times the energy. Sadly the reverse is also true.. half wind speed get 1/8 the energy.

    The end result of this is that half of the annual energy generated by a IWT is produced in around 15% of the time period – or less than 2 months. The other half gets smeared over the remaining 10 months.

    So if you look at the output of an IWT you see a series of random and unpredictable high energy spikes smeared over a grindingly low background which is significantly below the (already meagre) capacity factor.

    Wind Power is the only major power generation method where the typical output is below the capacity factor.

  6. Can’t explain it any clearer than that! Well written article…..thanx Michael.

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