Wind Power: Just an Ugly ‘Hood Ornament’ on the Conventional Power System

hood ornament
Wind Power: One Ornament that will will never ‘fly’ …


As time marches on, the ability of the wind industry to ‘hood’-wink power punters is running into a deluge of ‘unhelpful’ facts: here’s some more from Michigan Capitol Confidential’s Jack Spencer.

Renewables Just a Hood Ornament on Fossil Fuel Power System
You can’t have renewable energy without fossil fuels backing it up
Jack Spencer
4 September 2015

General Electric Co. and the Environmental Protection Agency know better than most that renewable energy sources — which are the recipients of billions of dollars of taxpayer largesse in many forms — are in the end dependent on fossil fuels. In a document submitted to the EPA on June 25, 2012, GE urged the agency to keep this fossil fuel dependency in mind when considering emissions standards:

“However, if flexible generation assets, such as gas turbines, are not available, these renewable technologies will not be deployed. In other words, gas turbines are an essential component of renewable energy sources’ ability to penetrate the market.”

Nevertheless, the public remains mostly unaware of the degree to which the heavily subsidized or mandated renewable energy sources, including wind and solar, rely on fossil fuels. More than half the electric generation nominally credited to wind power is actually produced by fossil fuels, mostly natural gas. And on the rare occasions when renewable energy advocates are forced to admit the fossil fuel dependency, they refer to it as only “backing up” the renewable source.

GE, the huge multinational corporation, has been described as President Barack Obama’s “favorite corporation.” It has contributed heavily to Obama’s political campaigns. And like all other large corporations it is vulnerable to the administration’s regulatory arms. So it is not a company one would expect to state so unambiguously facts that the administration would prefer to downplay, such as descriptions of why renewables are dependent on fossil fuels.

Nevertheless, here’s another example from the GE document:

“Renewable power, especially from wind and solar, will be expected to fluctuate hourly and even minute-to-minute with changes in wind speed, cloud cover, and other environmental factors. With this generation mix, electric supply must be available to quickly compensate for the combined variability of demand and fluctuation in the renewable supply.”

The GE document is titled: “Comments of the General Electric Company: Proposed standards of performance for greenhouse gas emissions for new stationary sources: Electric utility generating units.” The document includes a great deal of technical information and is available for public viewing.

However, as is typical of such documents, it omits the percentage of electricity attributed to the “renewables” that is actually generated by the fossil fuel component. When this information is repeatedly denied to the public it is fair to ask: “What are they trying to hide?”

Jack Spencer is on the right track, but the missing answer as to GE’s love of wind power is staring him in the face – as his following pieces detail.

GE isn’t backing the wind power fraud to sell wind turbines – these things are being slapped together in workshops in China and India at a fraction of the cost of the American built GE units.

GE’s real interest in wind power is about selling thousands of fast-start-up Open Cycle Gas Turbines (OCGTs) – which are being rolled out any where that there is any significant wind power capacity.

OCGT peaking plants are essential to covering the inevitable, but wholly unpredictable collapses in wind power output that occur almost every day, and for days on end (see our posts here and here).

Whether or not GE sells wind turbines (and it hasn’t sold many in Australia) – as long as these things are being speared into rural communities, GE still gets to sell OCGTs – a market in which it dominates.

In an effort to flog its gas turbines, GE advertised heavily in The Guardian – under the banner “Powering People” and in The Australian – where, earlier this year, GE “sponsored” numerous “features” under its banner “Powering Australia” (see our post here).

OCGTs are used – along with gazillions of gallons of gas, diesel or kerosene that run them – to plug the ‘gaps’ in wind power output around the globe: they’re a daily occurrence; total; and totally unpredictable.

June 2015 SA

We’ll let Jack off the leash again, as he homes in on the fact that wind power’s really just a ‘gas’.

How Wind Energy Creates More Dependence on Fossil Fuels
‘Any informed student of wind energy … understands that’
Jack Spencer
2 March 2015

Truth has a habit of emerging from unexpected places. An article in the Daily Kos about the desire to end dependence on fossil fuels for energy needs reveals a “nasty little secret” about wind energy: It relies on fossil fuels. That’s a message wind energy opponents in Michigan have been trying to get across to the news media and the public over the past few years.

The article is part of a series titled “Getting to Zero,” by Keith Pickering, and is written with the premise that global warming is a dire and immediate threat. It states, “If civilization is to survive, we need to get to zero emission of fossil carbon, and we need to get there rapidly.” Overall it paints a pessimistic portrait of efforts to reduce carbon emissions from human sources.

A major aspect of the article’s pessimism about actually “getting to zero” pertains to wind energy. The following paragraphs serve as an example:

Wind farms are dependent on the weather to work, and most of the time they’re sitting idle or underperforming because the wind isn’t strong enough to turn the blades. The capacity factor (CF) for wind varies by location, but Iowa is pretty good, so let’s assume a CF of 35 [percent]. Nuclear has no such dependency and can operate around the clock.

In the [U.S.], nuclear plants have an average CF of 90 [percent].

So when we factor CF into those prices … most of wind’s advantage is wiped out by just that factor alone.

Over the long term it gets even worse for wind, because nuclear plants today are engineered for a 60-year lifetime, and wind generators are engineered for a 20 or 25 year lifetime. … That means that wind is cheaper than nuclear in the short term, but more expensive in the long term. Then there’s the backup problem. … When the wind dies, the lights still have to stay on. Right now that’s done with natural gas. …”

According to Kevon Martis, director of the Interstate Informed Citizens Coalition, a non-profit organization concerned about the construction of wind turbines in the region, what the Daily Kos article shows is that people knowledgeable about the technology understand that wind energy depends more on fossil fuels than on wind, no matter their views on contentious issues like global warming.

“Any informed student of wind energy, regardless of whether they are on the left or the right politically, understands that, far from freeing Michigan ratepayers from fossil-fueled electricity, wind energy actually binds us to fossil fuels at roughly a two-parts-fossil one-part-wind ratio,” Martis said. “Properly understood, wind energy should always be called ‘fossil-wind.’ What’s sad is that the vast majority of Michigan residents and probably members of the news media as well are not aware of this information. That situation needs to be remedied.”

In its assessment of wind energy, the Daily Kos article states: “Wind-plus-gas-backup is certainly better than gas alone, but it’s not the endpoint of a fossil-free grid, and it never will be.”

One of the strongest arguments against wind energy is the assertion that “natural gas alone” would produce fewer emissions than when it is combined with wind. That’s because having to switch natural gas generation on and off, literally at the whim of the way the wind blows, is less efficient and therefore less clean.

However, a news media and public that mistakenly believe wind energy is just wind, rather than two-thirds fossil fuels, cannot be expected to comprehend or participate in such a debate. Restricting important facts or (as some still insist) “alleged facts” about wind energy to the province of “experts only” is an affront to transparency and an obstacle to open public discourse. The Legislature owes the people of Michigan a hearing or series of hearings on this issue.

David Wand, deputy director of strategic communications with the American Wind Energy Association, did not return a phone call offering him the opportunity to comment.

Where all that wind ‘power’ really comes from …


Natural Gas to Wind Energy: You’re Nothing Without Me
Energy from windmills is mostly backed up by fossil fuels
Jack Spencer
11 April 2015

Wind energy in Michigan is approximately two-thirds fossil fuels (predominantly natural gas) used in a less than efficient way, coupled with one-third wind. Most people are unaware of that reality and misinformation flourishes as a result.

Case in point: a new study claims to provide comparisons between wind and natural gas by treating them as if they were two totally separate and distinct forms of energy generation.

The University of Michigan and Lansing-based consulting firm 5 Lakes Energy are touting a joint study based on a “model” produced at the university. The stated purpose of the study is to provide policymakers with a “tool” to help them choose between wind and natural gas. Unfortunately the model upon which the study was based is so flawed that the only “tool” it brings to mind is a toy hammer used in an attempt to force a square peg into the proverbial round hole.

The outputs of the model and resulting study attempt to justify the expansion of wind energy (the term “renewables” is used — but that means wind) in Michigan to meet energy demands resulting from the impending closure of coal plants. Its main argument is that wind energy would be a wise choice because natural gas prices are likely to fluctuate.

The idea here is that wind energy should be seen as a hedge against the possibility that natural gas prices could increase. It is basically an attempt to use the old “don’t put all your eggs in one basket” analogy. This is persuasive only when one ignores the fact that wind energy is 65 percent natural gas, which is precisely what the model does.

For those who understand that a dependable blend which includes wind energy must contain mostly natural gas, the analogy of “not putting all your eggs in one basket” used to promote the study is ludicrous.

“The operative word is ‘or,’” said Tom Stacy, an electricity generation analyst and independent regulatory and policy consultant who signs his correspondence “Ohioan for Afford Electricity.” He explains that the “eggs in one basket” warning doesn’t make sense. “There is no ‘or.’ It is either 100 percent gas or 65 percent gas plus 35 percent wind.”

“The catch,” he continued, “is that compared to the cost of the natural gas basket, consumers are forced to pay triple for baskets because the wind basket costs twice what the gas basket does, yet the gas basket is still required to hold 65 percent of the eggs.” He continued, “The end result: For our dozen eggs, we pay for three baskets when we could have paid for one. In exchange we get four free eggs. The problem is the extra baskets cost far more than the eggs.”

Although fortified with the usual officious-sounding phrases and sprinkled with expert-speak acronyms, the 5 Lakes study is rooted in the popular, but inaccurate, fantasy that wind energy is what wind supporters wish it could be, rather than what it actually is. At one point the study report reveals its imaginary basis with the following statement: “If we choose the natural gas path and natural gas prices rise, we may regret that we are stuck using expensive natural gas when we could have had free wind or solar fuel.”

Free wind? That phrase alone seems contrived to deceive the uninitiated and validate the green faithful. Again, since wind is so unreliable, wind energy has to be backed up by natural gas 65 percent of the time. Under that circumstance — obviously — the cost of wind energy will always largely reflect the price of natural gas. What’s more, the impact of any natural gas price change on wind energy is really more that 65 percent, because natural gas, when hooked up to wind energy, is put to a less efficient use. This is due to the requirement that it be constantly adjusted for when the wind is or is not blowing or not blowing enough. It is exactly the same dynamic that takes place with an automobile’s use of gasoline when driving in city traffic as compared to coasting down the open highway.

In the real “power pool,” wind is not physically paired with just natural gas; it is also paired with coal. The example used in this article gives wind the benefit of the doubt by only using natural gas, and not coal, as the balancing source in the hybrid. The average emissions intensity of coal plus wind is far higher than for gas plus wind. In other words, coal gets terrible “city mileage MPG” compared to natural gas and the pairing of wind with coal results in the excessive inefficiency of stop and go traffic.

The flawed and dishonest premise of the 5 Lakes Energy Study marks it as just the latest attempt by wind energy advocates to promote their product by masking wind energy’s true nature. Wind energy is a less than 30 percent add-on to natural gas. Its effect on emissions, as compared to just natural gas alone, is debatable and at best minimal. The failure of the study to acknowledge this spoils all of its conclusions and suggestions.

A glance at a list of 5 Lakes Energy principle founders reveals more than one official from the administration of former Gov. Jennifer Granholm. Michigan Capitol Confidential emailed the following questions to Douglas Jester, the author of the report on the study, and later to other 5 Lakes Energy officials. They were: Are you denying that wind energy is primarily fueled by natural gas? Why does your study appear to have not accounted for this reality? Is there something we are missing here that you should make us aware of?

Thus far, there has been no response to these questions.

Don’t get uppity, darling, as you know, you get what you pay for.


9 thoughts on “Wind Power: Just an Ugly ‘Hood Ornament’ on the Conventional Power System

  1. “””The University of Michigan and Lansing-based consulting firm 5 Lakes Energy are touting a joint study based on a “model” produced at the university””””……..

    Funny thing about that statement is, the U of M in Ann Arbor, Michigan refused to put a wind turbine in their community a couple of years ago. Besides that, they are ‘thee’ University in Michigan for Medical Degrees, and when you need the best care, this is where you go !! U of M Hospital is a mini indoor city itself.
    Why would they refuse a turbine? Maybe they would be to close to causing problems for people? Would the patients be in jeopardy?

    Every year U of M has what they call the “Hash Bash” festival.
    I think it’s a week long event where you are allowed to smoke’m and toke’m at the festival, in public. So I’m not so sure I would trust their opinions since they were probably stoned when they did the study? ( a little sarcastic funny : ) .. )

    MSU, Michigan State University in Lansing Michigan is mainly an Agricultural University. MSU has Ag testing ground in and around Michigan’s thumb area. There is a large swath of land they purchased in the last few years one mile from me as the crow flies. They lost acres during this recent destruction to all the new electrical poles leading from a new substation that was put on a piece of land that is the beginning point of all the turbines leading north to the thumb area. From my recollection, they were pretty upset about it.

    As our college kids say around here, Michigan State Rules, U of M drools…..
    Unless you’re in the medical field, I suppose.

    Our main local news organizations will not report on turbines at all. Any T.V. commercials touting wind always have one single turbine with some person standing in front, never showing the true height or the true picture of the hundreds of turbines you can actually see from many different vantage points. My local small paper has had an ad on the last page for two months, Turbine Tours are available for FREE, yes folks, free tours ! oh Joy !!

    I was taught to be a lady, but, sometimes I have to scream at the t.v. ……….. F*** U !! show the truth you B**tards

  2. Wind turbines are operationally dependant on fossil ‘backup’ yet established PPA’s, current subsidies and profiting from our power bills richly lines the pockets of many supporters of wind energy developments at public expense.

    In 2011 Australia had the fourth most expensive energy prices in the world and with added reliance on fossil fuel back up and wind energy costs to communities are soaring. 58,000 homes are disconnected in Victoria a year because people cannot afford their expensive energy bills.

    Comprehending the findings of the Senate Inquiries into Wind Farms and then endorsing the recommendations of the Inquiry must become a top priority for Energy Ministers supporting sustainable energy. Ms D’Ambrosio the Victorian Minister for Industry and also the Minister for Energy and Resources, a huge supporter promoting wind energy manufacturing jobs, duly recognises there is a problem with our energy system when she says there is ‘something terribly wrong’ with our energy supplies being cut off.

    Wind energy production is developed and supported through shoddy practices and regulations set up by wind energy agencies and proponents, allowing this public rip-off and harm to health and life to be endorsed all over the world.

    Supporting fossil fuel reliant wind energy as a deterrent to increased greenhouse gasses is illogical and as useless as driving faster from point A to B to use less fuel; and as useless as a handful of wind energy jobs while our States are being governed into energy poverty and increasing broader unemployment as other industries are impacted by energy costs.

  3. Well done STT. Still, ‘reality’ is avoided in the places where it is needed most — in a recent discussion with a ‘senior’ energy guru in one of our 4 major banks I was informed that the ‘credit’ boss is a moron who still believes in fairytales and will be directing major finance towards wind farms, his belief being that problems being expressed about wind farms are just about ‘perception’ and that facts, as expressed in this article, are not ‘real’ . This is the problem that appears to have no solution ie ‘how to reach overpaid ,smug city dwelling idiots who run our financial and decision making bodies’.??

  4. I seem to recall that the Kelley NASA studies of the 1980’s investigating adverse health impacts for neighbours involved a GE prototype wind turbine. They have known all along about the health problems. And about the realities about the failures of wind turbines to deliver meaningful energy. It is all about gaming the system for maximum profits. Who would have thought! (and the shallow greens are sucked into the corporate windscam vortex)

    30 years of deception. Being confronted by FACTS. Keep it up STT!

    1. If it were not for you and your good people’s anecdotes many would not be the wiser.

      And, if it were not for the super heavy-duty all wheel drive vehicle that is STOP THESE THINGS, we would have struggled to have a voice that is both admired and feared, and particularly feared by the morons and sycophants, Terry Kallis of the infamous and community-local government opposed industrial wind farm named CERES, Miles George, Ketan “Rogan” Joshi, Leigh Ewbank, of ‘Unfriends of the Earth’ and continual feeder of questions to Senator Urquart during the recent Senate Inquiry, the lightweight Delerious Dave Clark, Andrew Bray of the communist wind alliance, and with most disgust, the Australian Medical Association (WTF are they thinking or moreso WHO is pulling their strings?????)

      I would have thought there was a philosophical principle at stake that had existed for a couple of thousand years that would not allow on ethical thought and meaning such disregard of the obvious.

      Is this indicative of a rapid escalation of a lack of integrity, code and moral fibre?

  5. Reblogged this on ajmarciniak and commented:
    Truth has a habit of emerging from unexpected places. An article in the Daily Kos about the desire to end dependence on fossil fuels for energy needs reveals a “nasty little secret” about wind energy: It relies on fossil fuels. That’s a message wind energy opponents in Michigan have been trying to get across to the news media and the public over the past few years.

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