Dumb & Dumber: Why Trying to Rely On Intermittent Wind & Solar Power Is Utterly Stupid

A nine-year-old knows the sun sets and the wind stops blowing, but a cohort remain convinced that that an all RE future is upon us.

Which begs the question: which is dumber? Wind and solar power? Or those that believe they constitute meaningful power generation sources?

Norman Rogers provides a helpful analysis below for those struggling with that tricky conundrum. Rogers also has a book on the subject: Dumb Energy: A Critique of Wind and Solar Energy. And he runs a couple of websites, as well: DumbEnergy.com and ClimateViews.com.

Wind and Solar Energy: Good for Nothing
American Thinker
Norman Rogers
11 August 2018

The defenders of wind and solar claim that subsidies are a minor help to get a new industry going.  These defenders counter critics with the fallacious claim that fossil fuels receive huge subsidies. Actually, the fossil fuel industry pays huge taxes.

Focusing on explicit subsidies is the wrong approach for understanding the subsidies provided to wind and solar. The explicit subsidies include such things as a 30% construction subsidy for solar and a 2.3-cent-per-kilowatt-hour subsidy for wind. Both technologies benefit from tax equity financing, a scheme based on special tax breaks and gaming the corporate income tax of a highly taxed corporate partner.

better way to measure the wind and solar subsidies is to look at the benefits and losses to the economy. A net loss to the economy implies a subsidy. Once it is recognized that a subsidy is present, the next step is to figure out who is paying for it. Invariably, it is either the taxpayer or the consumer of electricity.

For example, if it costs $5 a bushel to produce soybeans, and they are sold in the soybean market for $4 a bushel, there is a net loss to the economy. Someone has to pay for the loss. That someone could be the farmers, soybean speculators, or taxpayers if the government subsidizes the loss. Selling soybeans for $4 that cost $5 makes the economy poorer.

Without subsidies, and in locations with good wind or sunshine, the cost of producing wind or solar electricity is about seven cents per kilowatt-hour. By coincidence, the cost is almost equal for the two technologies. These technologies don’t require fuel. Most of the cost is the amortization of the capital investment. If an installation has a useful life of 20 years, the annual, amortized cost of the electricity produced is essentially the annual payment on a 20-year mortgage to finance the project. Seven cents per kilowatt-hour is competitive with coal or nuclear and more expensive than natural gas. But, unlike conventional generating plants, wind or solar produces erratic electricity, that comes and goes, depending on wind and sunshine.

Wind or solar plants cannot displace conventional plants because the conventional plants have to stay in place as backup plants to supply electricity when the erratic wind or solar is not producing electricity. Although it is often claimed that wind or solar is replacing conventional generation, it only reduces the operating duty cycle of the conventional plants. The backup plants are usually natural gas plants, because natural gas plants are agile and able to follow the rapid ups and downs of wind or solar better than other types.

The economic benefit of wind or solar is fuel savings in the backup plants when backup plant electricity is displaced by wind or solar electricity. The cost of fuel for a natural gas plant is about two cents per kilowatt-hour. The difference, the seven-cent cost of generating wind or solar electricity, less the two-cent benefit for fuel saved, is a five-cent-per-kilowatt-hour subsidy for wind or solar.

Some real-world examples will further illustrate the point. Texas has a huge wind generation system with a capacity of 17,000 megawatts. On August 31, 2016 at noon, output from the wind system fell below 1% of capacity. The Texas wind system frequently has swings of thousands of megawatts within a few hours. It often produces at less than 5% of capacity.

On September 1, 2017, between 4 P.M. and 6 P.M., California experienced a record demand of a bit more than 50,000 megawatts. By 6 P.M., two thirds of solar generation was lost. By 8 P.M., all solar generation was lost, but demand was still 46,000 megawatts.

On August 2, 2017, the normally reliable California summer sunshine was interrupted by tropical monsoon weather in Southern California. Solar generation declined by half, and fossil fuel generation had to be mobilized to replace the lost solar.

Wind or solar is an appendage to the electrical grid rather than an essential part of the system. If all the wind or solar vanished, the grid would continue operation without the slightest problem, because the grid has to be able handle the load without wind or solar. Thus, wind or solar does not reduce capital investment for traditional generating plants. You may read in the press that coal plants have been replaced by wind or solar. That is never true.

Who bears the cost of the five-cent-per-kilowatt-hour subsidy for wind or solar? About three cents is probably accounted for by the explicit government subsidies; the other two cents is paid for by the consumers of electricity. The electricity that costs seven cents to produce has a five-cent subsidy, so approximately 70 percent of the cost is subsidized: 5 cents out of 7 cents.

For residential rooftop solar, the numbers are even more gruesome. Rooftop solar electricity, exclusive of subsidies, costs not seven cents per kilowatt-hour, but about 30 cents. These are small custom installations, and the capital cost is very high. But the benefit is still two cents per kilowatt-hour. The subsidy of 28 cents per kilowatt-hour is close to a 95-percent subsidy. This does not mean that the homeowner is providing the subsidy. Various explicit subsidies and the reality of tiered electric rates over 50 cents per kilowatt-hour, in places like California, can make it profitable for the homeowner to install a rooftop system. Everyone else pays for the homeowner’s special deal.

For solar or wind to be economically viable, either the cost per kilowatt-hour would have to be less than two cents or the cost of fuel in the backup plants would have to rise to seven cents per kilowatt-hour. Solar and wind are mature technologies with only modest prospects, according to the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, for lower costs in the future. Nor is it likely that the cost of natural gas is going to triple.

Believers in catastrophic global warming may justify the massive subsidies for wind and solar on the grounds that they displace emissions of CO2 from fossil fuel. The trouble with this idea is that wind and solar are expensive methods of reducing CO2 emissions.

If you apply the five-cent-per-kilowatt hour subsidy toward reducing CO2 emissions, it turns out that the price paid to reduce a metric ton of CO2 emissions from a backup natural gas plant is about $140.

You can buy a carbon offset from many suppliers that reduces CO2 emissions by a metric ton for about $10. The only practical method of greatly reducing CO2 emissions from electricity production is replacing fossil fuel with nuclear.

Prominent believers in a future global warming catastrophe are supporting nuclear electricity, including James HansenMichael Shellenberger, and Stewart Brand.

The bottom line is that wind and solar are useless – a complete waste of money.
American Thinker

About stopthesethings

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


  1. Graeme No.3 says:

    One of the problems is that the gullible believe that ‘peaker’ gas plants are clean and cheap, and that pumped storage costs little.
    Weaker meaning Open Cycle Gas (or diesel,kerosene etc) Turbines. OCGTs are quick to start and stop but their emissions can rival those from HELE black coal stations. However they are at least twice as expensive to run, even more expensive than wind turbines, and in SA were reluctant at one stage to undercut each other ssssxaxs
    Pumped storage merely loses some energy and releases it at a higher price. The Snowy Authority predicts 80% efficiency and an added cost of $40 per MWh (so if wind in 2020 sold at a non subsidised rock bottom price of $94 then Snowy would sell at $134. If the wind farmers wanted to make some profit then the selling prices go up. So wind with storage is going to be about twice that of HELE coal.

  2. My concern is that the EU finally has a price on CO2 that Brussels is happy with. That means the traders will be very pleased. The pressure on Australia to trade in CO2 is going to be intense. The Coalition needs to implement regulatory blocks or it’s quite probable that the next Labor government at some stage down the track, will be only too keen to join in. That’s assuming Morrison doesn’t try to implement policy where Turnbull failed.
    If the EU can’t get the US and other major trading partners to join it in trading on CO2, the European economy will tank. There’s a lot at stake. It’ll be imperative that Trump not get a second term and Australia implements CO2 trading one way or another.

  3. “The Guardian”
    “Renewables forecast to halve wholesale energy prices over four years
    Analysis shows 7,200MW of renewables added to grid after closures of coal-fired plants”
    There is no hope for Australia when this rubbish is continually posted by armchair experts in the media who haven’t the slightest clue or knowledge of how the electricity system works.

  4. Why oh why is this not compulsory reading for ALL our politicians & their advisers?? It really isn’t rocket science!!

    • No it’s not, but a politician can’t let a good crisis go to waste. Al Gore, media hungry non-profits, so-called scientists who prostituted their research for wealth while preaching scientific rigor in the classroom and journalists for whom the ideal of social change over-rode their own learned values of source and information verification, should have a lot to answer for, but like cockroaches, will scurry for the dark as soon as the light comes on. As with many scams, the idea is to ride it for as long as possible, but don’t be the one caught holding the bag.

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