The Great Wind Delusion: Why Wind Power Is Worse Than Useless

The notion that a nation can run on sunshine and breezes is worse than delusional, it’s flat out dangerous. Once resilient and reliable electricity generation and delivery systems designed around the certitude of coal, gas and hydro have been replaced by pure and utter, weather driven chaos.

Rapid and reactionary load shedding (“demand management”) and widespread blackouts (“demand mismanagement”) are now the order of the day, thanks to an obsession with the occasional, unreliable and unpredictable delivery of wind and solar.

In a world where hyperbole and hysteria have kidnapped, bound and gagged our good friends, logic and reason, it’s understandable that people might fall for the idea that we can merrily run on sunshine and breezes, alone; albeit with a few trillion dollars worth of mythical mega-batteries providing backup for a few minutes, when the sun sets and the wind stops blowing.

The mob panic and overreaction in response to the Coronavirus calls to mind Charles MacKay’s observation that:

“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, one by one.”

One upside of people responding like doomsday cultists to the threat of what will turn out to be no more deadly than last year’s flu strains, is that Greta the Fretter and her fellow weather-worriers have barely scored a mention in the mainstream media over the last month.

Funny how what was the most pressing and urgent catastrophe five weeks ago, has given way to another pressing and urgent catastrophe which was, of course, “unprecedented”. Provided you don’t count the Spanish Flu, which killed some 50 million worldwide, when the world’s population was about 1.8 billion.

Anyhow, we digress.

The common feature of all of the above is that you might not be able to fool all the people, all of the time. But the entrenched belief that the world can run on wind and solar power alone is a fair indication that you can fool a fair proportion of them, for long enough, to enable profiteering renewable energy rent seekers to enjoy the obscene benefits of the greatest economic and environmental fraud, of all time.

Rafe Champion drills down on the nature of the delusion below.

The Great Wind Delusion
Quadrant Online
Rafe Champion
10 March 2020

One of the most common delusions propagated under the umbrella of the climate caper, as Garth Paltridge calls it, is the idea that sun and the wind can replace coal to generate sufficient electricity at the right times. The brutal reality is that the intermittent providers will experience “choke points” when the sun isn’t shining and the wind scarcely blowing. Obviously, the sun is off duty every night, and the records available on the Australian Energy Marketing Operator website show that the wind across SE Australia dies several times a month.

The chart shows how much of the installed or “plated capacity” of the wind fleet is coming through from hour to hour. How many times a year do we want the lights to go out?


The choke point was not an issue when we had reserves of conventional power but this is no longer the case after several coal-fired power stations closed, most recently Hazelwood in Victoria. AEMO warned that when demand peaked in high summer we would be “running on the rims” with no spare. We almost squeaked through in the summer of 2018-19 until, in January, some coal-fired capacity went off line in NSW and parts of Melbourne blacked out.

The Victoria’s energy minister blamed “old and unreliable” coal stations that will soon be replaced by wind and solar factories across the nation. Of course equipment can fail, which is why we need spare capacity. The blackouts didn’t demonstrate that coal power is obsolete; rather, it showed it is indispensable — most obviously at the choke points when wind and solar fail to deliver.

The great expectation for renewable energy is that the peaks and troughs of supply will be evened out by batteries and pumped hydro to store power when the sun is shining and the wind is blowing (but not too hard!). Brutal reality bites again: the Chief Scientist of Australia repeated a warning from Bill Gates and everyone who understands the difference between storing data and storing power. Moore’s law in computing states that storage capacity will double every couple of years, but that is not happening with battery storage of power for very good scientific and technological reasons.

The fabled Elon Musk battery in South Australia cost $60 million [er, Rafe, try $150,000,000] it is connected to one wind farm and will maintain a flow of power from that facility for some 20 minutes in the absence of wind. That translates into enough power to sustain the entire state for a pitiful three or four minutes. So forget about batteries as a serious answer to the choke point problem.

Meanwhile, massive and incredible claims for the capacity of wind power keep coming.

In October 2019 the renewables industry boasted that solar and wind power had beaten the output from brown coal over the September quarter. Glossed over was the background information that, for much of that time, two generators were down and brown coal output fell to 3.1 gigawatts.

In January this year and with all hands on deck, brown coal could deliver up to 4.7 gigawatts. Since September, in the windiest quarter of the year, South Australia — the “wind power state” — has imported lots of coal power.

Installed capacity is indeed expanding, but the critical number is the lowest point – the choke point- that kills the grid. As the lowest point of oxygen supply kills a drowning or choking victim, it is not the average amount of electricity calculated over a lifetime but the specific points of the greatest shortfall.

Another way to demonstrate the limitation of wind power is to see what it contributes at the evening peak of demand when dinner is cooking and air conditioners are turned on at home after work. The following numbers indicate the percentage of demand that wind contributed at 6.30pm during the month of January 2020:

6, 5.5, 6, 12, 12.5, 8, 6, 8, 9, 10, 8.5, 5, 6, 10, 14, not recorded, 8, 12, 10, 3.2, 8, 8, 7, 6, 6, 5, 6, 3, 1.7, 5.5.

The wind only managed double figures seven times in that month at the peak of demand. Contemplate the number of wind turbines and the thousands of kilometres of new transmission lines required to lift those numbers to the 65 per cent coming from reliable coal at present. All the periods below 10 per cent would call for at least a six to sevenfold increase in installed wind capacity, but still with no guarantee of service availability because the wind can fall away at any time.

In the worst-case scenarios, at the very lowest level of wind, the wind farms’ contribution is effectively zero, regardless of the installed capacity.

What will happen when the Liddell coal-fired power station closes, as planned in three years time? Calculate the amount of installed wind capacity required to replace 1.8 gigawatts when the fleet of windmills is operating at 10 percent capacity. The number is 18 gigawatts and that is more than twice the current capacity of the wind system! The fleet may double but the lights will still go out when the wind falls below the 10 percent level.

This all means that there is no way in the foreseeable future that wind power can replace coal. Any further loss of coal-fired capacity will be catastrophic unless some other cost-effective and reliable substitute can be found before 2023. Gas is a possibility, but will the Greens let us extract it?
Quadrant Online

Adelaide 28.9.16: what relying on wind power looks like.

8 thoughts on “The Great Wind Delusion: Why Wind Power Is Worse Than Useless

  1. Oh where Oh where are those halcyon days when the wind industry repeated constantly that all was well and we would not need ‘backup’ when the wind stopped blowing.
    Why, because the wind would always blow somewhere.
    Of course we all knew that was true but it wasn’t whether it would be blowing somewhere but how strong and exactly where it would be blowing – if its not where the turbines are then its not any use. Then when that was pointed out to the industry they came back with well all we need to do is build more turbines.
    That is exactly what they did and have continued to do and still they cannot ensure the wind will be blowing strong enough and/or where it’s needed.
    Then of course the renewable zealots decided large scale solar was the answer – it would be able to cover for turbine failures, but even then they could not get over that the sun doesn’t shine at night and is pretty poor when there’s cloud or smoke in the sky’s.
    Of course through all this there was a move to install batteries – well they keep your mobile phone charged don’t they so they should be able to keep the energy Grid functioning!
    The only problem being to re-charge these very expensive and useless batteries they need Wind turbines and Solar panels to top them up – and if they are not performing what can be done to keep the Grid functioning – yes of course good old coal, gas and diesel, and if anyone in Government could get activated there could be Nuclear which would answer all the questions of energy from a ’emissions free’ process.
    The Wind industry has always and continues to be blowing in the face of reason and solar is OK for a home which is connected to the Grid or has it’s own, small of course, battery.
    Unfortunately though expecting Large scale solar to reliably supply the Grid on a 24/7 call is going beyond the realms of reason.
    If they could only accept that even working in unison wind and solar are and always will be reliant on the wind blowing and the sun shining.
    Their unreliability is something Governments need to come to terms with and stop this wholesale waste of OUR money and start working towards security of this Essential Service for the good of the people, the environment and the Nations prosperity.
    We had enough of the blustering and pouting from the ‘renewable’ industry and its flouncing, prancing puppets.

  2. It would seem that there is no limit to the talents of Yoda Yates,the Renewable Energy messiah and journalists, such as PVO in the Australian.

    Having espoused the virtues of the “coming” wind and sun powered revolution for years they have now morphed into infectious disease experts.

    Why Yoda went hard early when the Coronavirus came on the scene early in January, in a spiteful tirade on Twitter, blasting the Morrison govt over its handling of the lack of antibiotics in Australia to combat the virus.

    Unfortunately for the big fella someone immediately rebuked his comments stating antibiotics would do nothing against a virus.
    Similarly, if climate change is your poison wind and solar won’t be your vaccine.

    How many errant knees to the Jatz crakers can a man take?

    Having lost his court case against the Libs in the Kooyong seat, Yoda’s now been handed the bill for the proceedings.

    Why with the share market in free fallI, I just hope for Yoda’s sake that the Messiah is still handing out the cash?

    When the world around these boys starts to crumble you see their true colours, it’s the green found in bank notes not the environment.

    1. Why, what’s wrong with a little perspective in a world awash with panic and hysteria? The flu kills up to 49,000 Americans each year. COVID 19 has killed 6,500 worldwide, the number of cases in China has plateaued and compared to the Spanish flu is a troubling sniffle.

  3. A quick look at the Aneroid website reveals just how many diesel plants there are in South Australia (March 2020). Clicking on Fossil Energy / South Australia illustrates how diesel is being used to prop up renewables during periods of peak demand, usually in the morning and evening rush hours. Additional gas power generation is also featured on the website.

    South Australia (SA1)

    AGLHAL Hallett Power Station. Natural Gas / Diesel, Open Cycle Gas turbines (OCGT)

    ANGAST1 Angaston Power Station. Diesel, Compression Reciprocating Engine

    LONSDALE Lonsdale Power Station. Diesel, Compression Reciprocating Engine

    POR01 Port Lincoln Gas Turbine. Diesel, Open Cycle Gas turbines (OCGT)

    POR03 Port Lincoln Gas Turbine. Diesel, Open Cycle Gas turbines (OCGT)

    PTSTAN1 Pt Stanvac Power Station. Diesel, Compression Reciprocating Engine

    SATGN1 Temporary Generation North. Diesel, Open Cycle Gas turbines (OCGT)

    SATGS1 Temporary Generation South. Diesel, Open Cycle Gas turbines (OCGT)

    SNUG1 Snuggery Power Station. Diesel, Open Cycle Gas turbines (OCGT)

    Renewables? It’s all smoke and mirrors. And I don’t mean of the solar kind!

    1. All true Crispin these diesels and OCGTs are not only very expensive forms of generation but they also spew out large amounts of real pollutants e.g. carcinogenic particulates, NOx and SOx. Of course they do also emit CO2, that much demonised harmless, life giving gas we all depend on for our very existence.
      Truly the madness of crowds no bounds.

    2. Hi Crispin,

      How dumb are we.
      Australian LPG leaves Darwin in Japanese tankers, then heads to power Adelaide’s back up generators.
      We pay more for our gas than Japanese consumers.

      Without Japanese gas SA’s lights go out

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