Worthless Wind Power: Why A Dollar Spent on Wind Power Capacity Is A Dollar Wasted

In the absence of subsidies there would not be a wind industry, period. As Warren Buffett said: “We get a tax credit if we build a lot of wind farms. That’s the only reason to build them. They don’t make sense without the tax credit.” Indeed!

Every wind turbine on earth could be sucked into outer space, right now, and it wouldn’t make a jot of difference to the provision of electrical power to businesses and households anywhere on Earth. Simply because for every MW of wind power capacity there has to be a MW of reliable, dispatchable, controllable, dependable, consistent, grown-up electricity generating capacity – connected to the grid and ready to throw power into it, in a heartbeat, at all times. Those qualities are limited to coal, gas, nuclear and stored hydro (ie with water captured by dams).

Pumped hydro is just another way of consuming electricity to pump water uphill. And batteries at the scale necessary to store volumes of wind and solar are an economic nonsense.

As Donn Dears details below, we could merrily do without wind power. But the reverse is never true: the world will continue to depend upon conventional generation between now and kingdom come.

Wind Power Warning
Power For USA
Donn Dears
2 April 2019

There have been warnings that wind power will cause blackouts.

A few years ago, the New York Times noted:

“Peak supply is also becoming a vexing problem because so much of the generating capacity added around the country [US] lately is wind power, which is almost useless on the hot, still days when air-conditioning drives up demand.”

Last year, New England was saved from blackouts by oil supplies that allowed a few power plants to remain in operation when wind and solar power weren’t able to meet demand. See, Oil Saves New England

The New England system operator warned it was a virtual certainty New England would experience blackouts over the next few years. See, Blackouts Are Coming to New England

Now, this year, wind turbines in the mid-continent, i.e., Minnesota, Iowa, etc., shut down because of cold weather.

The  Mid-continent Independent System Operator (MISO) said,  “Generation fell faster than anticipated during the polar vortex as turbines automatically shut down as temperatures fell below minus 20 degrees Fahrenheit.”

Cold weather can cause two wind power events: First, cold weather is frequently accompanied by the absence of windy days. Second, when temperatures go below 20 degrees F, the turbines are shut down to protect them from damage.

The result? No wind, no electricity. Freezing temperatures, no electricity.

But the blackout threat doesn’t stop there. Hot weather can also result in a lack of wind.

The Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) is warning that there may be “a need to call an energy alert at various times this summer, i.e., 2019.”

The problem in Texas is high demand, the closure of coal-fired power plants and high summer temperatures.

ERCOT’s reserve margin is dangerously low at 7.4%.

Quoting from a report, “The ISO’s [i.e. ERCOT] total resource capacity for the upcoming summer is expected to be 78,154 MW—though only about 64,952 MW will be from operational baseload thermal and hydropower capacity. For the rest, ERCOT will depend on [small miscellaneous contributions] and coastal and non-coastal wind, and solar capacity contributions (5,884 MW).”

In other words, ERCOT will have to depend on unreliable wind to keep the lights on this summer.

But, as noted earlier, and as reported by the New York Times, wind power is problematic on hot summer days when the air is thinner.

Defenders of wind and solar rushed forward to defend wind by saying coal and natural gas can also have problems in the winter. While it’s true that freezing weather can interrupt coal supplies, problems with natural gas are mostly caused by New York and other states preventing the building of new pipeline capacity that natural gas power plants need.

And, the supporters of wind and solar failed to mention that wind can’t be relied on in the summer on hot days.


Because of wind power’s low capacity factor, it’s necessary to build nearly three times as much wind capacity as it is to build natural gas capacity in order to produce the same amount of electricity.


Wind won’t generate electricity when the wind goes above 55 mph, or when the temperatures go below 20 degrees F. Or, on hot summer days.

Natural gas and nuclear power will generate electricity 24/7 with very few interruptions.
Power For USA

Critical Reserve Margins
Power For USA
Donn Dears
5 April 2019

Are reserve margins for the grid a quaint idea from the past? One would think so, given how RTO/ISOs are approaching the question.

Reserve margins are supposed to ensure there will be sufficient generating capacity even if demand suddenly and unexpectedly surges.

This could happen during a heat wave when the use of air-conditioning increases.

As mentioned in the last article, ERCOT has seen its reserve margin become dangerously low, at 7.4%. In the past its reserve margin was 13.75%.

But, what is the reserve margin when wind and solar are added to the grid?

How can they be included as a reserve for use in an emergency when the reserve might not be there? As the last article explained, power from wind might not be available if there are freezing temperatures, or if it’s too hot. Or, when the wind isn’t blowing.

Power might not be available from solar when skies are cloudy for several days.

There have been attempts to use probabilistic analysis to estimate how much of installed wind and solar capacity should be included in the reserve. Though based on probabilities, it’s still only an estimate.

The only certain method would be to exclude wind and solar from any reserve margin.

The accompanying chart shows how much new build will be required in ERCOT’s territory to ensure a safe grid without blackouts. But how much of the new build can be wind or solar while still maintaining a safe grid?

ERCOT has said that the 10% of new build required in 2020 will be from new wind installations. Are they really counting on wind to provide sufficient reserve to bring the reserve back to 13.75%? A reserve that is only 3.5% if the wind doesn’t blow? And what about the following years? How safe will Texans be from blackouts when there is a negative reserve, i.e., shortfall?

The purpose of the reserve margin is to guarantee that electricity will always be available, barring system failures, so that there won’t be blackouts. But, any reserve based on estimates, no matter how scientifically made, can’t make that guarantee.

This is just another way in which wind and solar make our lives less safe.
Power For USA

Wind ‘powered’ South Australians know the drill.

3 thoughts on “Worthless Wind Power: Why A Dollar Spent on Wind Power Capacity Is A Dollar Wasted

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