It’s Really a ‘Gas’: Microsoft Caught Pretending to Run its Servers on Wind Power

Bill-Gates

Microsoft Buys Tons Of Wind Power, Complete With Back Up Generators
The Daily Caller
Andrew Follett
14 November 2016

Tech giant Microsoft announced Monday that it has signed a deal to power its American data centers with wind energy, despite the inherent unreliability of the technology.

The tech company announced two new contracts representing 237 megawatts of wind power generating capacity, backed up by several natural gas generators to compensate for the unreliability. Microsoft did not disclose the amount of money they spent purchasing the wind power or the natural gas backup.

“These agreements represent progress toward our goal of improving the energy mix at our data centers,” Brad Smith, Microsoft’s president, said in the company statement.

Microsoft isn’t the first tech company to purchase large amounts of wind power. Google made a similar purchase back in 2013, but didn’t end up actually using any of the energy because it wasn’t reliable enough to power their servers.

Experts believe that the ability of an electrical grid to absorb unreliable green energy becomes increasingly more difficult at scale.

For example, South Australia’s reliance on wind power makes blackouts more likely because the amount of electricity generated by a wind turbine is very intermittent and doesn’t coincide with the times of day when power is most needed. This poses an enormous safety challenge to grid operators and makes power grids more fragile.
The Daily Caller

Good to see Australia’s so-called “wind power capital”, South Australia, making international news (for all the wrong reasons).

South Australia’s power pricing and supply calamity is due to an infantile obsession with wind power, which ought to be sufficient signal to the world’s biggest software company; and anyone else looking for a reliable power supply, for that matter.

While Microsoft might look keen to engage in a little confected, moral posturing, aimed at satisfying a few inner-city hipsters, it wasn’t so long ago that its founder, Bill Gates spelt out why wind power cannot and will never amount to a meaningful power source. Here’s one from the archive.

Gates: Renewable energy can’t do the job. Gov should switch green subsidies into R&D
‘Only way to a positive scenario is innovation’

The Register
Lewis Page
26 Jun 2015

Retired software kingpin and richest man in the world Bill Gates has given his opinion that today’s renewable-energy technologies aren’t a viable solution for reducing CO2 levels, and governments should divert their green subsidies into R&D aimed at better answers.

Gates expressed his views in an interview given to the Financial Times yesterday, saying that the cost of using current renewables such as solar panels and windfarms to produce all or most power would be “beyond astronomical”. At present very little power comes from renewables: in the UK just 5.2 per cent, the majority of which is dubiously-green biofuel burning1 rather than renewable ‘leccy – and even so, energy bills have surged and will surge further as a result.

In Bill Gates’ view, the answer is for governments to divert the massive sums of money which are currently funnelled to renewables owners to R&D instead. This would offer a chance of developing low-carbon technologies which actually can keep the lights on in the real world.

“The only way you can get to the very positive scenario is by great innovation,” he told the pink ‘un. “Innovation really does bend the curve.”

Gates says he’ll personally put his money where his mouth is. He’s apparently invested $1bn of his own cash in low-carbon energy R&D already, and “over the next five years, there’s a good chance that will double,” he said.

The ex-software overlord stated that the Guardian’s scheme of everyone refusing to invest in oil and gas companies would have “little impact”. He also poured scorn on another notion oft-touted as a way of making renewable energy more feasible, that of using batteries to store intermittent supplies from solar or wind.

“There’s no battery technology that’s even close to allowing us to take all of our energy from renewables,” he said, pointing out – as we’ve noted on these pages before – that it’s necessary “to deal not only with the 24-hour cycle but also with long periods of time where it’s cloudy and you don’t have sun or you don’t have wind.”

So what are the possible answers, in Gates’ view?

Gates is already well known as a proponent of improved nuclear power tech, and it seems he still is. He mentioned the travelling-wave reactors under development by his firm TerraPower, which are intended to run on depleted uranium stockpiled after use in conventional reactors. He also spoke of methods of using solar power to produce liquid hydrocarbons, which, unlike electricity, can be stored practicably in useful amounts: “one of the few energy storage things that works at scale”, as he put it.

Gates also spoke of the radical plan of high-altitude wind farming using kite-balloons flying high up in the jet stream – though he admitted that that one was something of a long shot.

In Gates’ view, decades from now a few of today’s new-energy companies will have become massive and early investors will have reaped the sort of rewards that he, Paul Allen and Steve Ballmer have from Microsoft. But many others won’t be so lucky.

“Now there’s a tonne of software companies whose names will never be remembered,” he told the FT interviewers.

Analysis

Gates has said a lot of this before. The main new thing is the firm assertion that renewable energy technology as it now is has no chance of powering a reasonably numerous and well-off human race.

This is actually a very simple thing to work out, and just about anybody numerate who thinks about the subject honestly comes to the same conclusion – examples include your correspondent, Google renewables experts, global-warming daddy James Hansen, even your more honest hardline greens (they typically think that the answer is for the human race to become a lot less numerous and well-off).

Unfortunately a lot of people aren’t numerate and/or aren’t honest, so it’s far from sure that the colossal subsidies pumped into today’s useless renewables will get diverted into R&D which could produce something worthwhile.

In the UK at least this would be quite difficult, as the subsidies are not actually subsidies as such – no tax money is paid out to windfarmers and solar-panellists from the Treasury.

Rather, the system works by artificially pumping up the price of ‘leccy and gas and channelling the extra cash – minus various margins for various people involved – to the windfarmers and panel people, such that they get paid vastly more than the market price of the power they produce.

A lot of people – including the government at times – prefer to pretend that this isn’t happening at all: that prices are going up because of the gas market, or corporate profiteering, or something, and that green policy is actually saving people money in some way.

So given that officially nobody is paying any more money and therefore there aren’t any subsidies, they probably can’t be diverted to anywhere. The newly-reelected Chancellor is trying to stop them getting bigger, but he probably won’t manage to seriously reduce them overall, let alone re-purpose them.

Bootnote

1DUKES chapter 1 (pdf page 1) and chapter 6 (pdf page 4)
The Register

coal-seam-gas

What really keeps Bill’s servers up and running & hipster-techies happy.

About stopthesethings

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

Comments

  1. estherfonc says:

    Hi,

    I started a PETITION “SA PREMIER JAY WEATHERILL : Demand the RESIGNATION of the Energy Minister for HIGH POWER PRICES CAUSING SA’s JOBS CRISIS and 15,000 household POWER DISCONNECTIONS, frequent POWER BLACKOUTS and the JULY 2016 POWER CRISIS” and wanted to see if you could help by adding your name.

    Our goal is to reach 100 signatures and we need more support.

    You can read more and sign the petition here:

    https://www.change.org/p/sa-premier-jay-weatherill-demand-the-resignation-of-the-energy-minister-for-high-power-prices-causing-sa-s-jobs-crisis-and-also-15-000-household-power-disconnections-frequent-power-blackouts-and-the-july-2016-power-crisis?recruiter=135406845&utm_source=share_petition&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=share_email_responsive

    Please share this petition with anyone you think may be interested in signing it.

    Thankyou for your time.

  2. Solar panels are just glorified pains of glass, that produce a little bit of power. Windmills are just glorified pieces of steel that produce a little bit of power. Bill Gates is absolutely right, they don’t even come close to producing an amount power (for the cost) that can make a difference on a large scale. The sustainable cost is around 10 times the price of coal power, and if it becomes a significant part of a power system, it’s even more because you gotta build the backup for the slow times.

  3. Energy poverty and the economic hardships that go hand-in-hand with the hair shirt of the Green, “sustainable” lifestyle definitely aren’t for the likes of Bill Gates or Leonardo Dicaprio. 
    Oh no, it’s the little people who must cut their “carbon footprint” in order to “save the planet”, most definitely not Bill or Leo.

  4. “even your more honest hardline greens (they typically think that the answer is for the human race to become a lot less numerous and well-off”.
    Typo, should be … and less well off.

  5. Brian Johnston says:

    Bill Gates has still got this CO2 nonsense in his head
    He wants reduced carbon yet carbon is not a problem
    He wants low carbon technologies
    He says use solar power to produce liquid hydrocarbons
    Oil is a liquid hydrocarbon before it solidifies into coal
    A coal seam is not an old forest lying on its side
    Oil and coal are not fossil

    Think about it. A 30′ coal seam 50′ below the surface. The trees would have to be the size of houses and a mile high. Then the pressure. Where does that come from and then the heat. Doesn’t happen. An old forest can however turn into peat and then maybe brown coal

    The oil and coal are abiotic. The only other oil is sourced when planet earth passes through the hydrocarbons in the tail of a comet. Which is believed to have occurred.

    Bill Gates did not invent the computer

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