It Don’t Take Sherlock to Know; When the Wind Don’t Blow, The Power Don’t Flow

yacht

Another day in the doldrums …

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STT has – just once or twice – smashed the myth that wind power can provide a meaningful supply of electricity (ie power “on-demand”) – and relegated to the fiction aisle the the wind industry’s “playbook”, where you’ll find, in bold print, the oft-told furphy about wind farms “powering” 10s of thousands of homes.

At STT the term “powering” means exactly what it says: that when someone – at any time of the day or night – in any and all of the thousands of homes claimed to be “powered” by wind power – flicks the switch the lights go on or the kettle starts boiling.

The wind industry never qualifies its we’re “powering thousands of homes” mantra by saying what it really means: that wind power might be throwing a little illumination or sparking up the kettle in those homes every now and again – and that the rest of time their owners will be tapping into a system of generation that operates quite happily 24 x 7, rain, hail or shine – without which they’d be eating tins of cold baked beans, while sitting freezing (or boiling) in the dark.

Here’s a little collection of posts busting that and other wind power myths in Australia:

And hammering the same myths, elsewhere around the world:

Now, Andrew Rogers of Energy Matters has done a beautiful number on the same myths, as relentlessly pedalled by the wind industry in Europe. (Oh, and if the graphs are too puny or fuzzy, click on them, they’ll pop up in a new window and you can magnify them from there.)

Wind Blowing Nowhere
Energy Matters
Roger Andrews
23 January 2015

In much of Europe energy policy is being formulated by policymakers who assume that combining wind generation over large areas will flatten out the spikes and fill in the troughs and thereby allow wind to be “harnessed to provide reliable electricity” as the European Wind Energy Association tells them it will:

The wind does not blow continuously, yet there is little overall impact if the wind stops blowing somewhere – it is always blowing somewhere else. Thus, wind can be harnessed to provide reliable electricity even though the wind is not available 100% of the time at one particular site.

Here we will review whether this assumption is valid. We will do so by progressively combining hourly wind generation data for 2013 for nine countries in Western Europe downloaded from the excellent data base compiled by Paul-Frederik Bach, paying special attention to periods when “the wind stops blowing somewhere”. The nine countries are Belgium, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, France, Ireland, Germany, Spain and the UK, which together cover a land area of 2.3 million square kilometers and extend over distances of 2,000 kilometers east-west and 4,000 kilometers north-south:

map

Figure 1: The nine countries

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We begin with Spain, Europe’s largest producer of wind power in 2013. Here is Spain’s hourly wind generation for the year. Four periods of low wind output are numbered for reference:

Hourly wind generation Spain 2013

Figure 2: Hourly wind generation Spain 2013

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Now we will add Germany, Europe’s second-largest wind power producer in 2013. We find that Spanish low wind output period 4 was more than offset by a coincident German wind spike. Spanish low wind periods 1, 2 and 3, however, were not.

Hourly wing generation, Spain and Germany, 2013

Figure 3: Hourly wind generation, Spain and Germany, 2013

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Now we add UK, the third largest producer in 2013. Wind generation in UK during periods 1, 2 and 3 was also minimal:

Spain + Germany + UK, 2013

Figure 4: Spain + Germany + UK, 2013

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As it was in France, the fourth largest producer:

Spain, Germany, UK, France, 2013

Figure 5: Spain, Germany, UK, France, 2013

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And also in the other five countries, which I’ve combined for convenience:

The others

Figure 6: The others

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Figure 7 is a blowup of the period between February 2 and 15, which covers low wind period 2. According to these results the wind died to a whisper all over Western Europe in the early hours of February 8th:

Feb 2013

Figure 7

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These results are, however, potentially misleading because of the large differences in output between the different countries. The wind could have been blowing in Finland and the Czech Republic but we wouldn’t see it in Figure 7 because the output from these countries is still swamped by the larger producers. To level the playing field I normalized the data by setting maximum 2013 wind generation to 100% and the minimum to 0% in each country, so that Germany, for example, scores 100% with 26,000MW output and 50% with 13,000MW while Finland scores 100% with only 222MW and 50% with only 111MW. Expressing generation as a percentage of maximum output gives us a reasonably good proxy for wind speed.

Replotting Figure 7 using these percentages yields the results shown in Figure 8 (the maximum theoretical output for the nine countries combined is 900%, incidentally). We find that the wind was in fact still blowing in Ireland during the low-wind period on February 8th, but usually at less than 50% of maximum.

fig 8

Figure 8

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But even Ireland was not blessed with much in the way of wind at the time of minimum output, which occurred at 5 am. Figure 10 plots the percentage-of-maximum values for the individual countries at 5 am on the map of Europe. If we assume that less than 5% signifies “no wind” there was at this time no wind over an area up to 1,000 km wide extending from Gibraltar at least to the northern tip of Denmark and probably as far north as the White Sea:

Figure 9:  Map of percent of maximum wind generation, February 2013

Figure 9: Map of percent of maximum wind generation, February 2013

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During this period the wind was clearly not blowing “somewhere else”, and there are other periods like it.

Combining wind generation from the nine countries has also not smoothed out the spikes. The final product looks just as spiky as the data from Spain we began with; the spikes have just shifted position:

Figure 10: Spain wind generation vs. combined generation in all nine countries, 2013 (scales adjusted for visual similarity)

Figure 10: Spain wind generation vs. combined generation in all nine countries, 2013 (scales adjusted for visual similarity)

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Obviously combining wind generation in Western Europe is not going to provide the “reliable electricity” its backers claim it will. Integrating European wind into a European grid will in fact pose just as many problems as integrating UK wind into the UK grid or Scottish wind into the Scottish grid, but on a larger scale. We will take a brief look at this issue before concluding.

Integrating the combined wind output from the nine countries into a European grid would not have posed any insurmountable difficulties in 2013 because wind was still a minor player, supplying only 8.8% of demand:

Figure 11: Wind generation vs. demand, nine countries combined

Figure 11: Wind generation vs. demand, nine countries combined

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But integration becomes progressively more problematic at higher levels of wind penetration. I simulated higher levels by factoring up 2013 wind generation with the results shown on Figure 12, which plots the percentage of demand supplied by wind in the nine countries in each hourly period. Twenty percent wind penetration looks as if it might be achievable; forty percent doesn’t.

Figure 12:  Percent of hourly demand supplied by wind at different levels of wind penetration using 2013 data

Figure 12: Percent of hourly demand supplied by wind at different levels of wind penetration using 2013 data

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Finally, many thanks to Hubert Flocard, who recently performed a parallel study and graciously gave Energy Matters permission to re-invent the wheel, plus a hat tip to Hugh Sharman for bringing Hubert’s work to our attention.
Energy Matters

sherlock-holmes

Why, it’s elementary, my dear Watson: wind power is a fraud.

About stopthesethings

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

Comments

  1. Noel Dean. says:

    Prince Phillip makes supporters of windfarm developments look like monkeys
    21/11/ 2011
    The Daily Mail

    Former Chancellor Lord Lawson yesterday led the backing for Prince Phillip after he branded wind farms “absolutely useless”.

    In a scathing attack, the Duke of Edinburgh said turbines were “completely relying on subsides” and would never work.

    His comments are a rebuke to the Government, which is trying to increase the amount of energy generated by wind farms and other renewable technologies.
    Last night Lord Lawson said the duke was “spot on” and speaking on behalf of ordinary people in fuel poverty.

    Prince Phillip made the remarks to Esbjorn Wilmar, Managing Director of Infinergy ,which is building offshore turbines around Britain.

    Mr Wilmar said he introduced himself to the 90-year-old Duke at a reception and suggested he put wind turbines on royal property.

    He said that they were absolutely useless, completely reliant on subsidies and an absolute disgrace. I was surprised by his frank views, he said.

    When Mr Wilmar tried to argue that onshore turbines are one of the most cost-effective forms of renewable energy , the Duke apparently replied; “You don’t believe in fairy tales do you?”

    Has the Duke become a Knight because of his support for people suffering fuel poverty?

    Noel Dean

  2. mcguintylies says:

    Happy to see you are still out there Billy Slycat! Long time no see. Keep up the good fight for the good of ALL! Mel aka Mcguintylies.

  3. Another great article STT. You must feel at times like you’re repeating yourself, but eventually it will pay off as more people are discovering the truth. Thank you again, for your perseverance.

    • Naz, we think it noble work, and we try to do it nobly.

      As Sister Maria sang: “Let’s start at the very beginning, a very good place to start”.

      Wind power is not, and will never be, a meaningful power generation source – for all the reasons outlined above.

      Consider a country where its electricity supply was exclusively based on wind power generation; a place where businesses would attempt to run around the vagaries of the wind; where houses would be well-stocked with candles and their occupants left to keep food cold with kero-fridges or iceboxes – and those homes otherwise run on wood, sticks or dung, used for cooking or heating. Sounds like fun, doesn’t it?

      As soon as that country had the chance (due to the availability of technology and/or as a process of economic development) it would build a system based on power generation sources available “on-demand” (ie coal, gas, hydro, nuclear, geo-thermal).

      Its people would then be able to enjoy around the clock illumination; factories could run to the clock, and not the weather; homes would be heated and cooled according their occupants’ needs, making life safer and more comfortable (no-one need be frozen to death or expire from the heat because the wind stopped blowing and the power stopped flowing); economic development and prosperity would follow, as night follows day.

      Placed in the practical context of the needs of a functioning society, wind power can be seen as the patent nonsense that it clearly is. If a country didn’t have a conventional power system (as we have), it would build one, anyway.

      Once people grasp that fact, the rest of the wind industry’s ‘case’ falls away.

      Talk about “wind farms being in the right place” just sounds silly; ergo, with arguments about distances from homes; separation from bird nesting sites or migration routes etc, etc.

      All of these other considerations – while legitimate – simply jump to the periphery and dilute the strength of the key argument.
      Keep hitting our political betters with the pointlessness of wind power as a generation source, and the rest falls away.

      What reasonable decision maker would back policies that favour something that has no economic benefit and causes untold harm? Moreover, as the central claim that wind power reduces CO2 emissions in the electricity is a complete falsehood, the justification for the hundreds of $billions in subsidies directed to wind power looks like pure lunacy, at best; or is simply a smoke-screen for a system built on graft and corruption (aka ‘crony’ capitalism), at worst.

      What the wind industry hates most are facts.

      STT dishes them up on a daily basis. The facts outlined above – and which we’ve detailed many times before – are unassailable.

      Wind power is a fraud, pure and simple.

  4. With these wind weasel grubs, the only place where the wind is always flowing is out their a—, and that does not turn turbines.

    • Martin Hayles, Curramulka says:

      Bruce, I attempt to be as “cutting edge” as you and as direct, but nonetheless, left wanting.

  5. Jackie Rovenksy says:

    What is so disturbing is there are people who actually believe the mantra that if the wind isn’t blowing in one place it will be in another. Even the most juvenile brain should be able to recognise a statement like this may be at times true but it offers nothing to the need to produce and provide energy as and when it’s needed.

    How do they think a situation such as this will power the whole country’s need? Are people so blinded by the flicker of money wafting like a demented turbine blade, that they cannot see if one project is stated to be able to supply 27,000 homes which would require it to operate at full capacity 100% of the time, how the heck can it possibly be expected to supply a whole state if the wind isn’t blowing anywhere else in that state?

    It’s mind bogglingly disturbing that educated and apparently intelligent people can support and propagate such a blatantly useless statement, and one which is only used to deliberately mislead people.

    Nature is fickle and cannot be controlled by the wishes of an industry or its supporters.

    Look deep into nature, and then you will understand everything better.
    Albert Einstein

  6. Another obvious flaw in “the wind is always blowing somewhere” wind industry excuse comes to light if you apply the same BS to another form of energy. Imagine if all the fossil fuel plants on the grid were extremely intermittent like wind turbines are. Society couldn’t tolerate gas plants that are turned off or producing well below 40% of capacity the majority of the time. Government and industry wouldn’t tolerate the excuse that “somewhere out there a few gas turbines are spinning even if the ones on your part of the country aren’t”

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