Simply Staggering: What Weather Dependent Wind & Solar Really Costs

Assume, for the moment, the wind always blew and the sun always shone, then wind and solar power just might make sense. That’s why those talking about an ‘all wind and sun powered future’ sound like they’re coming from another planet.

Renewables rent seekers keep telling us how cheap wind and solar are, compared to those ‘evil’ fossil fuels, coal and gas.

But ‘price’ and ‘value’ are not the same animals. What we pay for something, and what it’s worth depends entirely upon what we get. And, in relation to the consumption of electricity, whether or not we get it, at all.

Wind power might be ‘free’, but try purchasing it, at any price, when the wind stops blowing. Ditto with solar power, when the sun does what it’s been doing every day since the dawn of time.

Comparing weather dependent wind generation and sunshine dependent solar with sources available, around-the-clock, irrespective of the weather or where the sun sits in the sky, is a game played by intellectual pygmies. There is, of course, no comparison.

So when you’re faced with a pile of numbers said to show how wind or solar stacks up against the big boys, the obvious retort is, ‘when’? When I need it, or when the wind is just right or the sun is at its zenith?

Charles Rotter runs the numbers and identifies the true cost of weather and sunshine dependent wind and solar. Spoiler alert: it’s truly staggering.

The excess costs of Weather Dependent Renewable power generation in the EU(28): 2020
Edmhdotme
Charles Rotter
8 June 2020



These straightforward calculations are intended to answer the simple question:

“roughly how much would it cost to generate the same amount of power as is produced by the present fleet of EU(28) Weather Dependent Renewables, using conventional generation technologies, (Nuclear or Gas-firing) ? and how do those figures compare ?”.

Accordingly the post quantifies the scale of the fiscal waste and the burdens on utility bills attributable to the use of EU(28) Weather Dependent Renewables as installed at the end of 2019. It combines the comparative costs of generation technologies, published by the US Energy Information Administration in 2020 with information on the Nameplate rating of installed EU(28) Weather Dependent Renewable installations and their actual productive power output as of 2019. This data on Renewables performance at end 2019 is accessed from EurObserv’ER.

According to this costing model, the approximate EU(28):

  • capital cost commitment to the current EU Renewables installed is ~520 €billion: of which the excess costs over Gas-firing is ~450 €billion and ~85 €billion over the costs of Nuclear.
  • long-term cost commitment of the current EU(28) Renewables generation of ~65Gigawatts installed is ~2,000 €billion: of which the excess costs over Gas-firing is ~1,800 €billion and ~980 €billion over the costs of Nuclear power.

As can be seen later, these estimates show that using Weather Dependent Renewables in the EU(28) costs 7 – 9 times as much as using Natural Gas for electricity generation and about 1.2 – 2 times as much as Nuclear power.

The impact of the poor productivity of Weather Dependent Renewables is shown in these two pie charts:

UK Renewables Productivity: what do the numbers mean – https://edmhdotme.wordpress.com/uk-eu28-renewables-productivity/

 

The EU(28) installed Weather Dependent Renewables amount to ~344GW of Nameplate capacity but produced the equivalent of 65GW over the last year, a productivity level of ~19% overall.

Comparative Costing Model for Electricity Generation Technologies
The comparative costings are derived from US EIA data updated in January 2020.

The values used in this model ignore the “EIA Technological optimism factor” above, which would adversely affect the comparative costs of Offshore wind, (by about 9€billion/Gigawatt: long-term) and to a much less extent Nuclear power. These costs are summarised and translated into €billion/Gigawatt in the table below.

The US EIA table quotes the overnight capital costs of each technology and the above table condenses the total costs of the technology when maintained in operation for 60 years expressed as €billion/Gigawatt. 60 years is chosen for these comparisons as it should be close the service life of current generation of Nuclear installations.

EIA 2020, Cost and performance characteristics of new generating technologies, Annual energy outlook, 2020 (PDF)

The above comparative data should realistically avoid the distorting effects of Government fiscal and subsidy policies supporting Weather Dependent Renewable Energy, whereby it might be claimed that Renewables can reach cost parity with conventional generation technologies. The promoters of Weather Dependent Renewables always seem to conveniently forget their productivity differentials with conventional dispatchable power generation.

The service life allocated for Renewables used above may well be generous, particularly for Offshore Wind and Solar Photovoltaics. The production capability of all Renewable technologies have been shown to progressively deteriorate significantly over their service life.

Recent 2020 EIA updates fully account for any cost reductions or underbids for Renewable technology, particularly those for Solar panels. The costs of solar panels themselves may be reducing but this price reduction can only affect about 1/4 of the installation costs, these are mainly made up of the other costs of Solar installations, those ancillary costs remain immutable.

It is hoped therefore that these results give a valid comparative analysis of the true cost effectiveness of Weather Dependent Renewables. It should be noted that unlike real microprocessor technologies “Moore’s Law” cannot be applied to Solar Panels. As the Solar energy they collect is dilute and diffuse, in order to be effective they have to be of large scale, so the progressive miniaturisation of “Moores Law” is irrelevant to Solar PV technology.

However the actual costs of power generation shown above do not account for the productivity of the generation technologies. The table below therefore shows the true comparative cost of the Weather Dependent Renewables, when accounting for the productivity of the generation technologies as achieved in 2019.

In addition that these comparative figures are underestimates of the true costs of using Weather Dependent Renewables. The results above only account for the cost comparisons for capital and running costs of the generation installations themselves and the actual electrical power generated accounting for the measured productivity capability of each generating technology. Thus these figures represent the true comparative cost of the power produced by Weather Dependent Renewables installations.

The costs projected here ignore the ancillary costs inevitably associated with Wind power and Solar Renewables resulting from:

  • unreliability in terms of both power intermittency and power variability
  • the non-dispatchablity of Renewables: the wind will not blow and clouds will not clear away to order when needed
  • poor timing of power generation, often unlikely to be coordinated with demand: for example Solar energy is virtually absent in winter, 1/9th of the output than in the summer period of lower demand
  • long transmission lines to remote generators, incurring both costly power losses in transmission and increased maintenance
  • additional infrastructure necessary for access
  • the costs of essential back up generation only used on occasions but wastefully running in spinning reserve nonetheless
  • any consideration of electrical storage using batteries, which would impose very significant additional costs, were long-term, (a few days), battery storage even economically feasible
  • unsynchronised generation with lack of inherent inertia to maintain grid frequency
  • Weather Dependent Renewables cannot be relied upon to provide a “black start” recovery from a major grid outage

Importantly, in addition, these cost analyses do not account for:

  • inevitable environmental damage and wildlife destruction resulting from Weather Dependent Renewables
  • The “Carbon footprint” of Weather Dependent Renewable technologies: they may never save as much CO2 during their service life as they are likely to require for their materials sourcing, manufacture, installation, maintenance and eventual demolition. When viewed in the round, all these activities are entirely dependent on the use of substantial amounts of fossil fuels as feedstocks or as fuels.
  • The Energy Return on Energy Invested: Weather Dependent Renewables may well not produce as much Energy during their service life as was needed for their original manufacture and installation. They certainly do not provide the regular excess power sufficient to support the multiple needs of a developed society.

Renewables K.O.-ed by EROI?

Comparative Costings for Renewable Generation technologies in Europe
The table above gave a capital valuation of the current 2020 EU(28) Weather Dependent Renewables fleet at ~500 €billion with probable ongoing costs of ~2,000 €billion. Overall in EU(28) this Renewables investment accounts for ~35% of the nameplate generation capacity but only provides ~8% of the actual power contribution. This is approximately twice the cost of providing the same power output with Nuclear power stations and more than 11 times the cost of using Gas-firing for equivalent power generation.

The three tables above show how the different Renewable technologies contribute to the Government mandated excess costs overall in Europe.

Onshore Wind power is the most cost effective Weather Dependent Renewable technology. In general it is just 10% cheaper than Nuclear power in capital spend and is only about 1.4 times as expensive in the long-term. However this cost differential does not account for the problem of Weather Dependent non-dipatachability. Onshore wind power is only about ~6 times more costly in capital and long-term spend than Gas-firing.

Offshore wind power is the least cost-effective being some 2 – 3 times more costly than Nuclear but in the region of 11 – 15 times more costly than Gas-firing.

Solar PV is slightly more cost effective than Offshore wind power being 1.6 – 2.6 times more costly than Nuclear to install and 10 – 12 times more costly than Gas-firing in the long-term.

Offshore wind and Solar PV together are responsible for more than 60% of the excess costs of the EU(28) Renewables fleet even though they are responsible for only ~37% of the Renewable power output produced.

These significant excess costs represent the wastage imposed on the European population both via direct taxation by supporting subsidies to Weather Dependent Renewables and then also added to utility bills Europe wide by the Government mandates imposing Renewables on European electricity generation. That wastage amounts to a very regressive tax burden imposed on the poorest in European society. It is leading to ever increasing Europe-wide “Energy Poverty”.

Participation and Costs to Individual European Nations
The primary Nations involved with Weather Dependent Renewables in the EU(28) and their local commitments amounting in total to ~344GW installed are shown graphically below. These results are based on up to date EurObserve’ER information and 2020 comparative cost information from US EIA.

The name plate value of the 2020 EU(28) Weather Dependent Renewable installations reported by EurObserv’ER is shown below:

Accordingly, Germany as a result of its long-term ”die Energiewende” policy has about about 3 times the commitment to Renewables of other European Nations.


The comparative take-up of EU(28) Weather Dependent Renewables by individual Nations in 2020 as measured by Gigawatts of nameplate capacity per million head of population is shown below.


The National contributions to the ~500 bn€+ capital investment in Weather Dependent Renewables is shown below:


The National contributions to the likely ~2,000 billion€+ long-term expenditure on EU(28) Weather Dependent Renewables is shown below:


The recently recorded cost differentials between Generation technologies, when accounting for their productivity, is shown below:

A more detailed assessment of UK Weather Dependent Renewables is shown here.

https://edmhdotme.wordpress.com/excess-costs-of-uk-weather-dependent-renewable-energy-2019/

Details of the excess costs by individual European Nations is included here.

https://edmhdotme.wordpress.com/comparative-cost-estimates-for-eu28-weather-dependent-renewables-2020/

Comparisons to Gas-firing
At ~1.1bn€ / Gigawatt in capital costs and ~3.5bn€ / Gigawatt for the 60 year long-term, the use of natural gas is the most cost effective and efficient means of power generation currently available. In comparison with Gas-firing the additional capital costs that are incurred by each Renewable technology in the principle European countries committing to Renewables.

These excess costs calculations indicate of the scale additional costs that burden the economies of individual European Nations according to the US EIA 2020 data and recorded Weather Dependent Renewable productivity figures shown above, these total ~450 bn€ in capital costs.


The long-term excess costs in comparison to the use of Gas-firing amount to ~1,800bn€ distributed as shown below.

Comparison to Nuclear power
At ~6.7bn€ / Gigawatt in capital costs and ~16.1bn€ / Gigawatt for the 60 year long-term, Nuclear power is an effective and efficient means of consistent power generation with nil CO2 emissions and low land take. In capital cost terms Onshore wind power can be nominally cost competitive, however that comparison is just for total power output which does account the intermittent and variable performance of Renewable Wind power, which make real difficulties for Grid reliability.

These excess costs calculations indicate of the scale additional costs that burden the economies of individual European Nations according to the US EIA 2020 data and recorded Weather Dependent Renewable productivity figures shown above, these total ~85 bn€ in capital costs. However Offshore Wind power and Solar voltaics impose significant capital cost burdens when compared with Nuclear power.


The long-term excess costs in comparison to the use of Nuclear power amount to ~980 bn€ distributed as shown below.

Conclusions
These straightforward calculations show the scale of immediate and long-term costs associated with Weather Dependent Renewables across the EU(28). They amount to a capital sum in excess of 500 billion€ and a sum exceeding 2,000 billion€. were they to be maintained for the long-term, for ~10% of the EU(28) power production.

The capital costs of replacing the full 65GW of European Renewable generation output with reliable, dispatchable Gas-fired generation would be ~71 billion€ and the whole 600GW European Generation capability could be replaced by Gas-firing for ~660 billion€. CO2 emissions from Gas-firing are 1/2 those from coal-firing and about 1/3 of those from the burning of Biomass.

The benefit of these expenditures on Weather Dependent Renewables is the replacement of about 10% of European power output capacity by “nominally” CO2 neutral technologies. Electrical power generation results in about 1/4 of the total CO2 emissions output from Europe.

In 2019 Europe emitted 3,330 million tonnes of CO2, ~9.7% of the Global CO2 emissions. Accordingly at ~10% of ~25% of 3,330 million tonnes, the Renewable expenditures are being made to avert an annual maximum of ~83 million tonnes of CO2 emissions. Thus the CO2 emissions savings achieved from European Weather Dependent Renewables are as follows:

  • of the 2019 European CO2 emissions 3,330 million tonnes ~2.5%
  • of the 2019 Global CO2 emissions 34,164 million tonnes ~0.24 %
  • of the 2019 CO2 emissions growth growth from developing world 504 million tonnes ~16%

https://edmhdotme.wordpress.com/global-man-made-co2-emissions-1965-2019-bp-data/ 

So the question should be asked “does the capital commitment of ~1/2 trillion€ and the probable future expenditures of ~2 trillion€ to replace ~10% of European power output and to avert ~2.5% of European CO2 emissions make economic good sense ?”

If the objectives of using Weather Dependent Renewables were not confused with possibly “saving the planet” from the output of the diminishing EU(28) proportion of CO2 emissions, their actual cost, their in-effectiveness and their inherent unreliability, Weather Dependent Renewables would have always been ruled them out of any engineering consideration as means of National scale electricity generation.

The whole annual EU(28) CO2 emissions output will eventually be far surpassed just by the annual growth of CO2 emissions across China and the Developing world.

https://edmhdotme.wordpress.com/quantifying-futility-2020-estimate-of-future-co2-emissions/

It is essential to ask the question what is the actual value of these EU and government mandated excess expenditures in the Western world to the improvement of the Global environment and for the value of perhaps preventing undetectable temperature increases by the end of the century, especially in a context where the Developing world will be increasing its CO2 emissions to attain it’s further enhancement of living standards over the coming decades.

Trying to reduce CO2 emissions, in the Western world alone, as a means to control a “warming” climate seems even less relevant when the long-term global temperature trend has been downwards for last 3 millennia, as the coming end of our current warm and benign Holocene interglacial epoch approaches.

https://edmhdotme.wordpress.com/there-is-no-man-made-climate-emergency/

The Context in 2020
In spite of all the noisy Climate Propaganda of the past 30 years, in Spring 2020 the world was faced with a different but very real economic emergency arising from the political reactions to the COVID-19 pandemic.

That emergency, with the world facing global economic breakdown as well as the immediate death of many elder citizens, should put the futile, self-harming and costly Government mandated attempts to control future climate into stark perspective. This real pandemic emergency and the self-harming reactions to it clearly shows how irrelevant concerns over probably inconsequential “Climate Change” in a distant future truly are.
Edmhdotme

About stopthesethings

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

Comments

  1. Units are confusing. I wasn’t sure what the table in “Comparative Costing Model for Electricity Generation Technologies” meant. Is the “Total including capital cost” for the amount of energy generated (GWe-yr?) during the source’s lifetime, or for the power (GW)? The most important units for consumers are cents per kilowatt hour, even if it’s hiding in their tax bills.

  2. Bruce Gooderham says:

    I know what people have been putting up with over the years, even before we had our day in Canberra at the wind turbine protest. The Coopers Gap Wind Farm is up and running. The nuisance noise from the turbines is something else, as it’s very unsettling and disturbing, as they get up a real roar, if there is a gale when there is only a breeze from the west & south west. I also get noise from the east & south east. The Wind Farm is between Kingaroy and Dalby in QLD. Guess who runs it? … AGL.

  3. Peter Pronczak says:

    Just checked the turbinesonfire.org site before sending it to find a search link directed me to an online chemist. So I let turbinesonfire.org know of the ‘Google glitch’.

  4. Reblogged this on ajmarciniak and commented:
    Assume, for the moment, the wind always blew and the sun always shone, then wind and solar power just might make sense. That’s why those talking about an ‘all wind and sun powered future’ sound like they’re coming from another planet.

    Renewables rent seekers keep telling us how cheap wind and solar are, compared to those ‘evil’ fossil fuels, coal and gas.

    But ‘price’ and ‘value’ are not the same animals. What we pay for something, and what it’s worth depends entirely upon what we get. And, in relation to the consumption of electricity, whether or not we get it, at all.

    Wind power might be ‘free’, but try purchasing it, at any price, when the wind stops blowing. Ditto with solar power, when the sun does what it’s been doing every day since the dawn of time.

    Comparing weather dependent wind generation and sunshine dependent solar with sources available, around-the-clock, irrespective of the weather or where the sun sits in the sky, is a game played by intellectual pygmies. There is, of course, no comparison.

    So when you’re faced with a pile of numbers said to show how wind or solar stacks up against the big boys, the obvious retort is, ‘when’? When I need it, or when the wind is just right or the sun is at its zenith?

    Charles Rotter runs the numbers and identifies the true cost of weather and sunshine dependent wind and solar. Spoiler alert: it’s truly staggering.

  5. Delighted to see my post on Excess costs of EU Weather Dependent Renewables on the “stop these things” site. The calculations are trivial and damming. Given the installation and production data they can be repeated for any country or state.

    Please provide an email address and I would be happy to pass on the EU(28) spread sheet or point me in the direction of the current Australian data and I will provide you with similar estimates for the Australian states

    • I would be very interested in seeing a similar analysis of the Australian situation. Am I correct in assuming that solar may be slightly less bad in Australia given that peak demand for air-conditioning (duck curve aside) coincides with peak supply in summer? Integrating costs of intermittency would be great. As would more info about South Australia’s need to import base-load power, and possible future costs of battery storage.

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