True & Staggering Cost of Intermittent & Unreliable Wind Power – Unplugged

The total cost of attempting to incorporate intermittent, unreliable and chaotic wind power into a grid designed around stable, controllable, dispatchable power generation is utterly staggering.

In those places attempting to run on sunshine and breezes, grid managers are forced to regularly intervene, compelling the owners of conventional fossil-fuelled generation plant (coal and gas) to burn fuel and remain online, even when the wind is blowing which, due to the subsidies provided to wind power, prevents them from dispatching power to the grid and earning revenue from doing so. Compensating the owners of coal and gas-fired plant for burning fuel for no commercially defined purpose (other than keeping the grid from collapsing) has a cost.

The alternative to these massive ‘capacity payments’ is simply allowing the chaotic delivery of wind power to destroy the stability of otherwise reliable grids, outright.

There are 3 electricity essentials – that the power source and its delivery to homes and businesses be: 1) reliable; 2) secure; and 3) affordable. Wind power – a wholly weather dependent power source, that can’t be stored (save at the margins in the odd, insanely expensive Tesla battery) and costs 3-4 times the cost of conventional power – scores NIL on all three counts.

Over time, STT has sought to pull together fairly technical aspects of power generation in an effort to demonstrate the patent nonsense of wind power.

We’ve attempted to cover the engineering and economics of trying to add a chaotic power source to a grid designed around narrow physical tolerances; and which requires constant second-by-second management to deliver that which – until wind power entered the equation – we all largely took for granted. And we’ve tried to do so in a style and with language that doesn’t require an engineering degree to follow (as in this post).

Here’s a pretty decent primer to that same end.

Technical Problems with High Levels of Wind on Christmas Eve
Irish Energy Blog
25 December 2017

On Christmas Eve, wind was providing just over 60% of electricity demand. This is new territory for the Irish grid (or indeed any grid). Eirgrid began trials of allowing a maximum of 65% for wind energy (wind penetration) in November. Wind generation was also exceeding the wind forecast.

Jolly good I hear you say. However, it can be troublesome balancing this level of wind as other plant are forced to run below their optimum efficiency.

The additional unforeseen wind also creates more problems as scheduled plant are constrained off. Variances in the frequency are a good indicator of just how much trouble these high wind conditions can cause. A stable frequency is required for a stable grid and a certain amount of conventional plant is required to maintain the frequency within a tiny range.

As the wind level rises, the frequency falls below 50Hz. At around 15:40, some of the wind energy is shut off and the frequency returns again to 50 Hz.

These technical problems have been highlighted in a new report on the German electricity grid (Hidden Consequences of Intermittent Electricity Production).

Another important difficulty caused by intermittency is the increased vulnerability of the electricity grid to instabilities. This is particularly visible in countries that are not so well interconnected like Ireland. An example of a threatening oscillation occurring at a 400MW power generator (24/4/2014 between 21:40:40 and 21:41:00) is shown in Fig. 3 (adapted from M.Zarifakis et al., “Models for the transient stability of conventional power generations stations connected to low inertia systems”, Eur. Phys. J. Plus 132, No.6, 289 (2017), op. cit.).

Grid stability is now a major issue around Europe :

Further, if one keeps the current Alternative Current grid technology, a certain minimum amount (~ 20-25%) of “rotating mass” has to be present to guarantee stability. If this cannot be sufficiently provided using biomass, and if fossil and nuclear based power stations are not allowed, problems will arise. Instabilities caused by large contributions of intermittent power e.g. from wind or solar PV pose a major threat to the stability of the electrical network of a country and to the safe operation of conventional generator systems, as exemplified in Ireland. If no economical solution can be found for such difficulties, conventional backup power based on fossil fuels or nuclear power will necessarily have to remain part of the electricity system.

Their conclusion is in agreement with the work carried out on this blog :

A last point is the economic feasibility of such a system. Germany, with currently an installed capacity of about 90GW in solar PV and wind, has one of the largest renewable systems installed in the world. The cost (including feed-in tariffs, subsidies, extra costs because of court cases due to unfulfilled promises etc…) is estimated between 250 and 300 billion Euros, integrated over the last 10 years. The CO2 reduction on world scale realized by this system is less than 1%. As discussed above, a 100% iRES without backup or storage systems makes not much economical sense and will lead to a doubling or tripling of the total costs, compared to the conventional system in use now. It is to be expected that not many countries are able to pay for such a costly and inefficient system. The question can thus be raised if the current EU plans for the electricity sector are bound to fail?

Finally, the electricity sector is only a minor part of the problem. If one wants to completely decarbonise our economy then one should also include other private and economic sectors. Given already the challenge of a 100% renewable electricity system and the complexity of replacing the present primary energy supply based mainly on chemical energy by renewables, this total decarbonisation looks to be wishful thinking, at least at the present stage of technology. Would it not be more useful to invest in research and development of conventional and new energy systems rather than blindly investing in an existing “green” technology which seems bound to miss its goal? The other question is whether decarbonisation should be our primary concern. Is this really the best investment for a better future for mankind, as discussed in B.Lomborg, “Cool It”? A critical assessment of the EU plans is also voiced in countries outside the EU, in particular the United States under the presidency of Obama. Does transforming the present primary electricity supply (based presently mainly on fossil and nuclear sources) into a 100% intermittent Renewable Energy System, as imposed by the EU, need to be the challenge and moral quest of the 21st century? This will for sure affect our society and standard of living if current EU plans are not corrected for the problems that are emerging from the grand renewable experiment in Germany of the recent years.

The full report can be found here:
Irish Energy Blog

About stopthesethings

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


  1. Reblogged this on UPPER SONACHAN WIND FARM and commented:
    If you had any doubts….this will disperse them.

  2. Both the Irish Energy Blog primer and the paper on which it is based should be compulsory reading for our current prime minister and his acolytes. Oh I forgot, of course he already knows everything doesn’t he?

  3. “There are 3 electricity essentials – that the power source and its delivery to homes and businesses be: 1) reliable; 2) secure; and 3) affordable. ”

    I’d argue 1) should be available, not reliable. You can argue wind power is reasonably reliable, when its running

    I’d add 4) should do no harm to grid stability or force expenditure on others

  4. Terry Conn says:

    No doubt in my mind that the reality outlined in this post by STT and the comments will see the ‘revolt’ sooner rather than later – why, all of a sudden the populace has begun to catch on to what happens when the wind doesn’t blow.

  5. drgenenelson says:

    Thank you for this summary and a link to the more in-depth criticism of the currently – failing approach to German energy. Here are three more references: Clack et. al. roundly criticized Mark Z. Jacobson’s 2015 Proceedings of the National Academy of Science (USA) in which Jacobson makes the readily-rebuttable claim that a 100% “Wind-Water-Solar” system may be constructed quickly and with only modest cost. (There is evidence that Jacobson’s funding stems from fossil-fuel interests.)

    Evaluation of a proposal for reliable low-cost grid power with 100% Wind, Water, and Solar
    Christopher T. M. Clack et. al. 16 June 2017 Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences

    Click to access 1610381114.full.pdf

    Highlights from the Clack et. al. paper are found in James Conca, Ph.D.’s “Debunking The Unscientific Fantasy Of 100% Renewables”
    Forbes Energy blog, 26 June 2017

    A seven-page presentation by Gene A. Nelson, Ph.D. that contrasts the large and steady annual power production of Diablo Canyon Power Plant (DCPP) near San Luis Obispo, California, USA with ALL of California’s solar power production or ALL of California’s wind power production for the half-year period ending on January 31, 2017 – and with the two largest California pumped hydroelectric plants is found in: “Diablo Canyon Retirement” 11 January 2018, Nuclear Economics Consulting Group,

    A single 2,240 MW nuclear plant (DCPP) produced more power than ALL of California’s almost 10,000 MW (nameplate) of solar power during the half-year period analyzed. DCPP produced 180% of all of California’s wind power during the same period. California hydroelectric pumped storage could be used to properly integrate non-dispatchable solar and wind power into the grid at a utility scale. This is not how California pumped storage is being used, which points to defective market design. However, for each year from 1984 to present, DCPP produced considerably more power than both California pumped storage plants combined. The nameplate capacity of the two California pumped storage plants (2,459 MW) exceeds the DCPP’s nameplate capacity of 2,240 MW.

  6. It’s obvious that billions or trillions of dollars are going to be squandered on this de-carbon insanity. It will continue until economies are ruined and real pain hits the masses. It’s going to get ugly because people usually make the wrong choices.

    Just look at history.

    • In ‘Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds (Charles MacKay 1841) it’s stated:

      Men, it has been well said, think in herds; it will be seen that they go mad in herds, while they only recover their senses slowly, and one by one.

      STT likes to think that slowly, but surely and one by one, sensible men and women are breaking away from the herd.

      Reading the several hundred comments to 2 recent articles in The Australian (one on Frydenberg arguing in favour of using international carbon credits to meet Australia’s Paris target, the other on SA’s battery and diesel generators) we gained the impression that many people have already recognised the danger of remaining locked in with the herd. Australia hasn’t had the best its Summer can dish out yet. When we do get a long and truly hot spell the system (or large parts of it) will fail; power prices will continue to rise.

      Sooner or later we all sit down to a banquet of consequences. The dinner has begun, the staples on the menu are penury and unemployment. The general populace will get it, as soon as the suffering is immediate and direct. The revolt will look like the uprising against the carbon tax, which a large proportion recognised and reacted to as a threat. For some reason, the same class of characters have been missing in action in relation to the much more destructive and costly RET. History tells STT that there will be a popular revolt against the green-left and the policies that their whining and ranting have engineered.

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