Nature’s Revenge: Europe’s Big Calm Reveals Wind Power’s Hopeless Unreliability

Being unable to deliver electricity as and when power consumers demand it means wind power will never be a meaningful power generation source. So much has been revealed by the burst of calm weather that struck Western Europe last month. Call it Mother nature’s revenge.

Where the wind power acolyte waffles on about the percentages delivered by wind power generators, over time, grid managers and engineers are only ever concerned about power generation on a second-by-second basis. As well they should be: delivering electricity reliably is all about maintaining voltage and frequency in sync with power output and power demand – all day, every day, irrespective of the weather.

No one cares about average wind power output when the lights go out and they’re left freezing or boiling in the dark.

It’s a point well made in the piece below.

Wind over math
Climate Discussion Nexus
29 September 2021

Behind most economic mistakes is some kind of math error, technical or intuitive. And it’s certainly true of the energy crisis sweeping Britain and Europe. Terry Etam writes in BOE Report that enthusiasts for alternative energy in Britain were hypnotized by the average output of wind farms and did not consider the old joke about the statistician who “drowned because he forded a river that was only three feet deep, on average”. They really forgot, or chose to ignore, that wind blows hard on some days and not at all on others, even though demand exists on both. Which makes you wonder what else they don’t know.

As Etam writes, “The UK has 24 GW of wind power installed. The media loves to talk about total renewable GW installed as proof of progress, and the blindingly rapid pace of the energy transition. However over the past few weeks wind dropped almost to zero, and output from that 24 GW of installed capacity fell to about 1 or 2 GW. Ordinarily, that would be no problem – just fire up the gas fired power plants, or import power from elsewhere. But what happens when that isn’t available? More pertinently, what happens when the likelihood of near-zero output happens to coincide with the times when that power is needed most – in heat waves, or cold spells? That brings us to the current grave situation facing Europe as it heads towards winter.”

It is not some stuffy bourgeois prejudice to observe that a major advantage of certain types of power plants, mainly coal and natural gas (and some types of nuclear), is the seamless, rapid way they can increase or decrease power to meet demand and indeed smooth over external disruptions. Perhaps the lack of disruptions was one reason people didn’t notice this math problem about the wind not blowing and the sun not shining in a dependable, adjustable-as-needed way. (Another underappreciated aspect of conventional power that armchair geoengineers might not recognize is the dependence of actual civilization on high temperatures. We don’t mean in your living room or on the sidewalk outside. We mean in manufacturing, many of whose vital processes require the capacity to bring thousands of degrees to bear quickly and precisely. The kind of temperatures fossil fuels can deliver, particularly natural gas, but windmills cannot, even through batteries (unless they catch fire which has its own drawbacks.)

Etam doesn’t mince words: “The world has been sold a faulty bill of goods, based on a pathetically simplistic vision of how renewable energy works…. So they all start dismantling the natural gas system – not directly by ripping up pipelines, but indirectly by blocking new ones, by championing ‘fossil-fuel divestment campaigns’, by taking energy policy advice from Swedish teenagers – and then stand there shivering in dim-witted stupor when the wind stops blowing, and the world’s energy producers are not in any position to bring forth more natural gas.”

Again, the consequences are real, and dreadful to contemplate. As he says, “Hundreds of millions of people without adequate heating fuel in the dead of winter is not particularly funny. If a cold winter strikes, all the yappiest energy-transition-now dogs will fade into the woodwork, distancing themselves from the disinformation they’ve propagated and the disaster they’ve engineered.”

One hopes so. But so far it’s not happening. Some Australian guru [Saul Griffith] just chirpily said his nation could be sitting pretty if it just spent a trillion dollars electrifying everything. Yes, a bargain at a mere $100,000 per household. And who among us isn’t sitting on that much cash wishing we could find a use for it? As for practical difficulties, he sneers that “It is an easy slam dunk. It’s not even particularly invasive to our quality of life. For every other country, including America, it’s much harder and the economics are not as good.”

People still get paid fancy speaking and consulting fees for peddling this stuff. Though that “not even particularly invasive” line surely caused some suspicious ears to perk up. As did the apparent belief that the laws of economics and physics are quite different in Australia. As the news story itself noted, “Outside the suburbs, there would be enormous solar and wind utility projects, many of them exporting energy to countries with less land and larger populations. Many of these utilities would require new transmission lines. Heavy industries would also need to switch from fossil fuels to electricity.”

People like this “inventor” have endless fun flinging other people’s lives about. The other people, not so much.
Climate Discussion Nexus

Big Freeze and/or Big Big Calm kills output, every time.

3 thoughts on “Nature’s Revenge: Europe’s Big Calm Reveals Wind Power’s Hopeless Unreliability

  1. In all scientific books on energy, it is written that “coal and oil also come from solar energy”. It is the concentration and condensation of solar energy! It is the long-term precipitation and accumulation of solar energy. Compared with the so-called photovoltaic, they have higher energy density. It is stupid and bad to stigmatize coal and oil with “black and dirty”.

    1. All well and good but money is decider regardless of what is called ‘democracy’. AU is a constitutional monarchy, and like all colonies, is resource controlled by the crown.

      Politicians of colonies swear allegiance to the governing crown, not citizens. That citizens were not allowed to come home proves their ‘rights’ were worthless.

      Where the freedom and for for who?

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