January 22, 2010
Eastern US Could Get 20% Electricity From Wind In 2024

The United States could get a lot more of its electric power from wind.

Today, the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) released the Eastern Wind Integration and Transmission Study (EWITS). This unprecedented two-and-a-half year technical study of future high-penetration wind scenarios was designed to analyze the economic, operational, and technical implications of shifting 20 percent or more of the Eastern Interconnection’s electrical load to wind energy by the year 2024.

“Twenty percent wind is an ambitious goal, but this study shows that there are multiple scenarios through which it can be achieved,” said David Corbus, NREL project manager for the study. “Whether we’re talking about using land-based wind in the Midwest, offshore wind in the East or any combination of wind power resources, any plausible scenario requires transmission infrastructure upgrades and we need to start planning for that immediately.”

NREL says that while transmission infrastructure would need some big expansions the transmission costs would make up a pretty small portion of the cost of wind electric power.

If I understand this correctly 20% of wind power for the Eastern Interconnect would by itself mean 14% of total US electric power would come from wind.

“To put the scale of this study in perspective, consider that just over 70 percent of the U.S. population gets its power from the Eastern Interconnect. Incorporating high amounts of wind power in the Eastern grid goes a long way towards clean power for the whole country,” said Corbus. “We can bring more wind power online, but if we don’t have the proper infrastructure to move that power around, it’s like buying a hybrid car and leaving it in the garage.”

The Eastern Interconnect covers a large portion of the United States.

DOE commissioned the Eastern Wind Integration and Transmission Study (EWITS) (PDF 17.8 MB) Download Adobe Reader through its National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL). The investigation, which began in 2007, was the first of its kind in terms of scope, scale, and process. The study was designed to answer questions posed by a variety of stakeholders about a range of important and contemporary technical issues related to a 20% wind scenario for the large portion of the electric load (demand for energy) that resides in the Eastern Interconnection. The Eastern Interconnection is one of the three synchronous grids covering the lower 48 U.S. states. It extends roughly from the western borders of the Plains states through to the Atlantic coast, excluding most of the state of Texas.

The full report is 242 pages long (PDF).

My interpretation of page 37 is that the northern plains states will continue to have low costs for electricity due to large amounts of high quality wind and low population density. Maybe big computer server farms will get moved into the Dakotas and Manitoba Canada.

Regarding costs see page 68. My interpretation of that graph is that the marginal cost of additional nameplate capacity goes way up as higher quality wind resources become more fully utilized and additional capacity gets built in lower wind areas and at even higher cost offshore. Costs more than double and the cost slope becomes very steep. Wind has real penetration limits. Beyond some point nuclear power makes more sense.

We can't displace coal for electric power generating using wind alone. Much more nuclear power is needed. Currently nuclear supplies about 20% of US electric power while coal is near 50%. To displace coal would require 20% of power from wind along with about a tripling of current nuclear power capacity.

Share |      Randall Parker, 2010 January 22 12:38 AM  Energy Wind


Comments
Black Death said at January 22, 2010 6:22 AM:

A very good source of wind energy is all the hot air coming out of Congress.

LAG said at January 22, 2010 6:44 AM:

Is this to be the last nail in Teddy Kennedy's coffin?

I recommend calling Boone Pickens. I understand he has a lot of windmills available now that he's moved on from this ridiculous idea.
Is there no way to put this to death?

Nukes!

random said at January 22, 2010 8:54 AM:

How much energy goes into the production & maintenance of a wind turbine vs the amount of energy produced? People have commented here about wind turbines being horribly inefficient, but there was never any real data.

Rob said at January 22, 2010 11:51 AM:

It's not the turbines that are the problem. It's the grid and the fact that politicians aren't particularly honest. When they build out wind power, as they have in Texas and California to a good degree, they never build out much in the way of storage systems. Storage systems are very expensive and add inefficiencies that make the basic wind power look less attractive, so out they go. This leads to a simple problem: if you're getting 20% of your power from wind, and the wind stops, what do you do?

It can take 24 hours to bring a gas turbine plant online, some older plants take even longer. Your only recourse - which is what they do in Texas and California today - is to keep gas and coal plants up and spinning in reserve, in case the wind goes offline. These plants don't have to be running at full capacity, of course, but they do have to be manned and running and synchronized to the grid, ready to throttle up if needed. This cost, plus the extra cost of transmission often associated with wind, is NOT counted as part of the price of the wind power. It's a scam, pure and simple, but it's a green scam, so everyone lets it ride.

The study says, "any plausible scenario requires transmission infrastructure upgrades and we need to start planning for that immediately" and you can bet that the planning and implementation of those "upgrades" will not be counted as part of the cost of the wind power. Those will be chalked up to "infrastructure upgrades" or "infrastructure maintenance" or some such benign-sounding budget item.

Lastly, no one on earth yet understands the requirements for an electrical grid that gets a substantial amount of its power from "renewables". Both California and Texas have been working at "smart grid" studies for years and they still don't know just what they're going to have to install to make it all work. So, yes, the eastern US COULD get 20% of its electricity from wind by 2024, but the chances that it WILL are damned slim.

Nick G said at January 22, 2010 1:03 PM:

It can take 24 hours to bring a gas turbine plant online, some older plants take even longer.

As I understand it, that's misleading: most gas generation can be brought online much faster than that. Do you have data?


Your only recourse - which is what they do in Texas and California today - is to keep gas and coal plants up and spinning in reserve, in case the wind goes offline.

I believe this incorrect. Wind power doesn't create the need for more standby generation or reserve, it just doesn't reduce it as much as other forms of generation.

This cost, plus the extra cost of transmission often associated with wind, is NOT counted as part of the price of the wind power.

I believe this is also untrue: generators are paid separately for their KWH's and their firm generating capacity - so other forms of generation are paid for the capacity they provide, and if wind doesn't provide it, it doesn't get paid for it. There's no hidden subsidy by conventional generation.

Randall,

1)If I understand it, the study also says that 30% is feasible, and doesn't say that this is an upper limit.

2) This study appears to completely omit Demand Side Management from their load-following and grid management analysis. This is an enormous omission. A very large portion of demand can be managed very, very cheaply and effectively. Further, It's very likely that in 14 years a significant and growing portion of electrical demand will be PHEVS (and EV's), which are ideal for this.

3) The chart on page 68 doesn't represent all possible wind resources, just those used for this study. There's a great deal more than 580GW of onshore wind resources in the US. So, I don't think that this chart tells us anything about the limits to wind penetration.

Nick G said at January 22, 2010 1:26 PM:

Here's the discussion of DSM (aka Demand Response):

Page 57:

"• Smart grid implications and demand response sensitivities: The Eastern Interconnection load considered in EWITS was based on regional projections out to the study year (2024). For the most part, load was considered “static.” Major industry initiatives are currently exploring means by which at least a portion of the load might respond like a supply resource, thereby relaxing the constraints on scheduling and dispatch of conventional generating units. The implications for wind generation are potentially very significant, which is why alternative 2024 scenarios that consider the range of smart grid implications for the bulk electric system merit further consideration (scope limitations prevented these from inclusion in this phase of EWITS).

• Nighttime charging of PHEVs: Widespread adoption of electric vehicles has the potential to alter the familiar diurnal shape of electric demand. Because the wind resource is abundant at night and during the low-load seasons, increases in electric demand during these times could ease some of the issues associated with integration."

I think that the following is their way of saying that they deliberately excluded imports from the band of high-value wind resource running down the central states, Page 62:

"The Eastern Wind Data Study (AWS Truewind 2009), a precursor to this study, identified more than 700 gigawatts (GW) of potential future wind plant sites for the eastern United States. The hourly time series data produced in that study were used as primary inputs to this study’s analytical methods."

Nick G said at January 22, 2010 1:44 PM:

North Dakota alone appears to have wind resources for about 460GW of wind (nameplate), so clearly this study greatly limits imports from the central plains states.

http://www.awea.org/newsroom/pdf/Top_20_States_with_Wind_Energy_Potential.pdf

Nick G said at January 22, 2010 2:14 PM:

Here we go: 30% is feasible, and not an upper limit.

"the study shows the following:
• High penetrations of wind generation—20% to 30% of the electrical energy requirements of the Eastern Interconnection—are technically feasible with significant expansion of the transmission infrastructure."

See page 27

EconRob said at January 22, 2010 2:46 PM:

"Eastern US Could Get 20% Electricity From Wind In 2024"

And by 2024 pigs could fly. Could. Unlikey but could.

What is the problem with oil, natural gas, coal and nukes. The will be cheaper...in 2024.

Koblog said at January 22, 2010 2:48 PM:

Nick G.
You ask if there is data on how fast a gas turbine power plant comes on line.

I toured the Redondo Beach, CA AES power plant some years back. It hasn't changed much since then.

They told me that they rarely operated because the cost of natural gas is so much more than the almost free cost of hydroelectric. Falling water is a lot cheaper than burning gas... and a quantum leap more reliable than wind. Before the conversion to natural gas, the plants burned oil. (There are actually three separate plants on the location; as I recall, two are decades old and not used, the newest is the gas version.)

Anyway, the plant operators told us it takes at least a couple of days to get the plant up and running from a cold start. You have no idea how complex it is to convert pure water into the plasma that turns those turbines. It's a thing of beauty.

Electricity is the most marvelous invention/discovery of all time. We should treat it as the precious commodity that it is, not vilify it or punish its generation and use.

Electricity, after functional sewer systems, is the surest sign of civilization.

Roderick Reilly said at January 22, 2010 2:54 PM:

20%?

TWENTY PERCENT?

Uh Huh, sure you're right.

Why, that's almost as much as the 25% we could get from harnessing rainbows and unicorn farts. I have it on good authority . . . . somewhere (let's see, was that my back pocket, or my jacket pocket? Darn.)

Who are these grifters at DOE?

Koblog said at January 22, 2010 2:58 PM:

Does anyone actually believe this study? You just accept it at face value? As if the government can accurately predict anything?

Can the government predict next week's weather? Nope.
Climate change? A hoax and fraud.
Economics? Obama said if we gave him $780 billion to stimulate the economy unemployment would be held to 8%. It's at 10% and rising.
Length of a war? Ha.
Head Start helps kids? Not a bit.

Every government estimate is off by several factors or simply flat out fails or goes broke.

If the DOE predicts 20% from wind by 2024, be sure it will be more like 5% by 2030 at best and cost 500% more than estimated.

Sean said at January 22, 2010 3:09 PM:

As long as we heavily subsidize politically connected and preferred companies, I'm sure significant inroads in wind power generation.

What's more, I can imagine that having several hundred thousand 1-2 Megawatt wind power generators, substations, etc. is anymore environmentally friendly than a few dozen conventional coal or nuclear power generators.

Ken Royall said at January 22, 2010 3:24 PM:

No chance. As others have mentioned, the intermittent nature of wind requires conventional plants to remain on spinning standby. We have no large scale energy storage systems in place that would allow wind power to become dispatchable to accommodate fluctuating demand. Industrial wind and solar energy are a politicians pipe dream, subsidized with taxpayer dollars for decades with virtually no usable energy to show for it. Their total contribution of supply stands at about 1% at this time. It is part of the green jobs delusion created to combat criticism for penalizing the use of traditional energy sources through cap and trade.

Wind and solar, even if they were effective, are merely more expensive replacements for energy sources we have in ample supply, namely coal, natural gas and nuclear. They contribute nothing to the unrealistic goal of achieving energy independence as we only use a tiny amount of crude oil to produce electricity. Investing in wind and solar is like buying a car that that only runs 30% of the time yet is more expensive than the one you already have.

Some say we could create a grid that could deal with the intermittency of supply (trillions of dollars no doubt) and convert personal transportation to electric cars. The problem with this of course is that the transformers used all over the country couldn't handle the off-hours demand as they need to cool in the evening hours. Instead of demand going down at night we would have millions of people plugging in their cars. In addition, we would trade dependency on fossil fuels for that of lithium and heavy metals for the batteries, which the US has virtually no domestic supply of. So instead of OPEC we would be dependent on China or Bolivia for the materials. Not to mention that electric cars in cold weather climates are basically a non-starter, literally!

Forget it folks, give the current state of the art, we will be using massive amounts of fossil fuels for decades to come. There are simply no alternatives that come close in terms of cost and supply at this point. Better we face that right now and start being honest with the American people. We need to open up exploration offshore and vast areas within the US that show promise.

Punkindrublic said at January 22, 2010 3:31 PM:

Just curious if they've looked at how many migratory birds the windmill farms would kill,...which leads to increased insect populations,...which leads to reduced crop yields,...which leads to higher food prices/more starvation of the local populace,...and more (etc.)

DOES ANYONE THINK THESE IDIOTS HAVE DONE THE A-Z OF POTENTIAL... ahem, "unintentional consequences"? Caveat emptor.

A. Noniemouse said at January 22, 2010 3:49 PM:

Remember common folks, that's 20%.

Not 17.4% or 13.2%, or 7.8%, but a nice round target easy for dumb hicks to understand and good for the enviro nuts. Was this a technical study or a policy b.s. roundtable. How do we get the number to 20%. Study it for another year. Work those numbers.

Politically connected businesses please line up at the government feeding trough.

Wind Professional said at January 22, 2010 3:56 PM:

Wow. Impressive amount of intentional ignorance here. Pretty much every single criticism made in this thread has been considered at length and addressed, and it would take but a few minutes with google to learn. Of course, that assumes that you actually want to learn about wind energy instead of just enjoying your ignorance-fueled orgy of naysaying. Sure, there are legitimate concerns and issues with wind energy, but there really is no need to invent more.

But hey - whatever floats your boat.

A. Noniemouse said at January 22, 2010 3:57 PM:

In July 2008, DOE said 20% by 2030.
Now we have 20% by 2024 in a partial region.

to paraphras a movie quote
8 minute abs. Someone going to do a video for 7 minute abs.

whats next DOE?

JoeH said at January 22, 2010 4:03 PM:

The first question that occured to me was the ability to manufacture and install 337,000 Mw of capacity by 2024. The GE web site shows that they mfg a 2.5 MW unit and a 3.6 MW off shore unit. Using the lower figure, if installation started on 1/1/2010 to reach the desired capacity by the end of 2024, 19 turbines per day (six day work week) would have to be installed over the course of the 15 years. That's almost 6,000 per year. Starting in say 2012, the numbers go to 22/day or 6,900 per year. GE's lit states that they have manufacuted about 5,000 turbines and now we want to ramp that up to more than that figure for a single year. Not saying it can't be done but would like to see the plans to do so.

mitchel44 said at January 22, 2010 4:06 PM:

Wind is not the future, it's the past.

Great article, http://www.energytribune.com/articles.cfm?aid=2469

Andrew_M_Garland said at January 22, 2010 4:19 PM:

Disaster Resistant Energy

=====
[edited excerpts] Advocates of alternative energy seem to work from an unconscious conception that energy is to some degree a luxury good. They believe that we can live safely, healthily, and well without it. They plan in a cavalier manner, assuming that conditions will always be ideal and predictable, and if not, well, we can do without luxuries if we have to.

At 6:41 p.m. Feburary 26 2008, the wind stopped blowing in Texas. The grid couldn’t adapt to the loss of wind generated electricity and they had to kick people off the grid.

Currently, Texas receives 3% of its electricity from wind, the highest percentage in the nation. What will reliability be like when windpower contributes 10%, 20%, or more, as many people want to require by law? Is it even possible for backup generators to compensate for the loss of 10% or more of total power?
=====

Andrew_M_Garland said at January 22, 2010 4:32 PM:

To Wind Professional (or whoever you are),

An anonymous poster can add information to a discussion. An identified poster can give an opinion, backed up by whatever real identity he has.

An anonymous poster who gives just an opinion is worthless. You say that everyone here is "just enjoying your ignorance-fueled orgy of naysaying". Of course, this is the learned opinion of a nonentity, or a troll, or someone pushing an agenda, anonymously.

Ken Royall said at January 22, 2010 4:38 PM:

Wind Professional -

I have studied industrial wind energy extensively although I admit I am a software engineer, not an energy expert. Before I researched the subject, I was a supporter of alternative energy and I still am. However, whatever solutions are adopted need to be effective. You claim the arguments against wind energy are easily refuted, but didn't bother to offer even one small example in your favor. Perhaps you can enlighten us.

The bottom line is this. A wind farm producing at 30% of nameplate capacity is considered GOOD in the industry. That leaves 70% of the time when nothing is being generated. I share with you the 6 principle requirements for commercial electric energy sources as defined in the excellent presentation by John Droz:

http://www.slideshare.net/JohnDroz/energy-presentationkey-presentation

1. Provide large amounts of electricity (Dozens of turbines are needed to supply equivalent of one conventional plant)

2. Reliable and predictable (Wind is intermittent, conventional will produce 90%+ of the time on a predictable basis)

3. Dispatchable - meet fluctuations in demand (Not possible with wind, if anything wind is less likely to produce when it is needed most. Hot, still days when A/C is being used)

4. Service one or more grid demand element - base load, load following, peak load. (Again, wind is unpredictable and intermittent)

5. Facility is compact in terms of land use and ability to locate near high demand areas (Land footprint of wind is enormous as compared to conventional and are located in the middle of nowhere)

6. Economical (cost per KWH is much higher with wind)

Wind (and solar) meet NONE of these criteria at this time. Perhaps they will meet some of them in the future. Until then...


Wind Professional said at January 22, 2010 4:40 PM:

To Andrew Garland:

... or somebody who has no time to correct all the misconceptions in this thread.

I simply want people to do some research instead of throwing out opinions. Google is your friend. Want to know about migratory bird kills? Google. Want to know about CT cold start times (or warm start times)? Google. Want to know about manufacturing capabilities (including the many non-GE manufacturers), historical and future? Google.

Wind has been around a long time. The information is out there, if you bothered to look.

Or you could just criticize me for saying that you guys should do some research. Whatever.


Mitch said at January 22, 2010 4:47 PM:

I can blow those 242 pages to confetti with just two words: Cape Wind.

Ken Royall said at January 22, 2010 5:08 PM:

Wind Professional -

The research has been done. But better than research is actual results. We have subsidized industrial wind power for decades. At this point wind is supplying less than 1% of our total electric power generation needs. It is so small it doesn't even appear in its own slice on the pie graph here:

http://www.eia.doe.gov/cneaf/electricity/epa/figes1.html

In other words, if all industrial wind farms disappeared tomorrow, nobody would notice except the wind power industry lobbyists. You claim that wind energy is a viable alternative. How can that be with such a pathetic result? Can you name one conventional power plant that has been taken off line that was replaced solely by wind farm? I will save you the trouble, there isn't one and probably never will be.

Koblog said at January 22, 2010 7:40 PM:

Has anyone here actually seen a wind farm?

I live in Southern California. If you drive out to Palm Springs from LA you drive through the ugliest wind farm ever. It covers square miles of ground. It covers the valley and flows up and over the hills. Many wind machines are broken and hang there like aircraft that crashed into oil derricks. All of them are taxpayer-subsidized scams for rich "investors" who needed a writeoff.

To understand the "promise" of wind power and the rosy DOE estimate, one need only mention the words "General Electric."

Jeffrey Immelt is in bed with Obama's DOE. Wind is one of Obama's pet projects. His wet dream is to create green jobs with taxpayer debt.

In reality, billions of dollars are set to flow from taxpayers to fatcat special interest General Electric. This, while Obama claims to be against fatcat special interests.

There's a reason GE's NBC News, NBC dramas and MSNBC are so in the bag for Obama. Obama bought and paid for them.

Comparing these ugly wind farms to the conventional gas powered plant in Redondo Beach, the San Onofre nuclear plant down the coast and even hydro generators like Parker Dam in Arizona that creates Lake Havasu (itself useful as water storage and flood control modulator), all have smaller footprints than wind farms while generating the safe, reliable electricity we all need.

Wind is a joke. It's for recreational boating purposes and even then you better have an engine to get you out of trouble.

LAG said at January 22, 2010 8:14 PM:

Rob wrote: "It can take 24 hours to bring a gas turbine plant online...."

So, Rob, how many gas turbines have you ever started? As a former operating engineer, I can tell you that even an old steam plant can be brought online from cold iron in many fewer hours than that. A gas turbine can be at idle in seconds and under load in much less than a single hour, let alone 24.

I recommend you stick to things you know, however narrow that subject might be.

M. Simon said at January 22, 2010 9:49 PM:

"It can take 24 hours to bring a gas turbine plant online, some older plants take even longer."

As I understand it, that's misleading: most gas generation can be brought online much faster than that. Do you have data?

There are two kinds of natural gas turbine plants. One is simple cheap and not too efficient. Those can be brought on line quickly. Their capital costs are about the lowest you can get per watt of output. They are peaker plants.

And then there are the kind with a steam cycle to increase the efficiency. Those take a long time to bring up. The capital costs are about 2X the simple plants - about in line with a coal plant. Also like coal they handle base loads.

You pays your money and takes your choice.

M. Simon said at January 22, 2010 10:02 PM:

And let me add some BOE calculations.

A wind plant costs $1 per peak watt. It produces 1/3 of its nameplate rating over time. So you are at $3 a watt capital. Then you need back up at about 50% of name plate rating. So add in another 50 cents a peak (maximum wind rating)watt for the backup. You are now at $3.50 a watt for the whole shebang. Plus fuel costs for your backup. It can be replaced with a $1 a watt coal plant. (Plus the coast of fuel).

The numbers are approximate. But they will get you thinking in the right direction. To be competitive wind probably has to get to under a dime a watt (peak). Maybe less. Maybe much less.

Rob said at January 23, 2010 9:04 AM:

Let's just say I was wildly wrong and you can bring ANY conventional power plant up from cold start in only ONE hour. Does that solve the problem? No, not really. You going to just tell your customers, "Hey, no problem, we'll have the power back up in an hour or so."

Here is a speech given by Jim Detmers, who at the time was a big shot at the California ISO (the folks who run the grid):

http://deimos3.apple.com/WebObjects/Core.woa/Browse/itunes.stanford.edu.1291176865.01291176868.1427408599?i=1204795563

(Note, iTunes URL, you'll need iTunes to listen)

You gotta figure that this guy probably knows what he's talking about (and I have heard other industry types say the same thing). His message is simple: renewables are killing our grid and we don't know how to get to the 20% renewables target set by the state legislature. He figures that wind power actually costs about three times what it's said to cost, when you factor in transmission, standby power and so on. The whole speech is one long cry for help.

Wind power, as it's purveyed today, is an absolute scam. Some day that may change (I hope so), but we have to work with the reality of today.

Nick G said at January 23, 2010 9:47 AM:

Rob,

We've had this whole discussion before. See http://www.futurepundit.com/archives/006228.html

"Rob said at May 26, 2009 1:52 PM:

In 2007, Jim Detmers, VP of the California ISO gave a talk at Stanford in which he said this:

"Wind is not produced on peak. This last summer, when we went across the summer peak, I had 3,000 megawatts of capacity of wind. How much did I have on the summer peak, back in August? No, no, no, I didn't have zero. I had a total of 63 out of 3,000. And we're investing all of this money in wind...""

I replied:

Many ISO's don't like wind. This isn't surprising: it makes their lives harder. Utilities don't like the best solutions to wind variability (inter-grid balancing, DSM, time-of-day pricing, etc), because utilities are paid for their investments, not for fine-tuning of demand.

BTW, 3GW isn't very much - it's not surprising that it sees high variance.

See the previous thread for much more discussion of all of these details...

Ken Royall said at January 23, 2010 6:33 PM:

One of the biggest problems with wind is that much of the American public actually believes it works. They are being told that it is a true alternative to fossil fuels. We are wasting time, taxpayer dollars and manpower on a non-solution. If folks truly understood the infinitesimal amount of energy we are getting from wind I think they would be surprised. The greenies, liberals and corporate interests like GE who stand to profit from this nonsense are lying to everyone. Obama is doing it right now talking about the non-existent "green jobs" revolution.

The bottom line is that if wind were truly a viable alternative it wouldn't require subsidies, end of story. Yes other forms of energy are subsidized but that amount is nothing compared to the amount of energy being supplied. They also don't REQUIRE subsidies to be economically viable. Wind power is actually a fairly mature technology, if it made sense it would have been deployed on a massive scale years ago. We need to face reality or we are going to find ourselves with massive energy shortages in the future which would be disastrous for our quality of life and the economy.

Nick G said at January 23, 2010 11:02 PM:

Ken,

That DOE chart is badly out of date. In fact, wind provided 1.8% of total consumption in the 1st 10 months of 2009: http://www.eia.doe.gov/cneaf/electricity/epm/tablees1b.html , and 42% of new generation.

th said at January 24, 2010 6:43 AM:

nickg,
Wind's 53769 mwh generated is only 2240 mw, that makes it 13% of it's total generating capacity of 16,904, if mcdonalds bought 17000 lbs of beef and made only 2000lbs of hamburgers and the government made up the difference would that be like the ecodunce model we have here?

Nick G said at January 24, 2010 2:00 PM:

Tth,

53,769 GWH divided by 10 months and multiplied by 12 to get an annual figure = 64,523 for the year.

64,523 GWH divided by 24 hours and 365 days gives an average output = 7.366GW average output.

US total generating capacity in the 1st 10 months of 2009 was very roughly 27GW (25.4GW at the end of 2008).

7.366GW divided by very roughly 27GW = very roughly 27%

27% capacity factor is well within the design specifications for wind turbines (which is what you use as a standard, not hamburgers).

Randall Parker said at January 24, 2010 6:53 PM:

Ken Royall,

By not forcing coal electric power generators to pay for the external costs of their plants (e.g. pollution causinng respiratory diseases including asthma, cancer, other illnesses) we have subsidized the generation of coal electric for a far longer period of time than we've subsidized wind electric.

The coal industry has done a good job of slowing the adoption of regulations that would force all external costs to be internalized. In that light I see a big net benefit from the subsidies for wind and solar power. They reduce the amount of pollution we are exposed to.

Ken Royall said at January 25, 2010 11:00 AM:

Nick,

You are comparing all of 2008 to Jan-Oct of 2009. The true % of wind generation will be known once we get through the winter months. Either way, your number is wrong. The % is actually 1.63%, which is still next to nothing as compared to the investments made with taxpayer dollars.

Randall,
Are you saying the coal producers aren't paying billions in taxes? Please cite the research that proves Coal plants are causing cancer. The amount of subsidy for coal is tiny as compared to the energy we are getting from it. We literally DEPEND on coal for our very lives so they benefits FAR outweigh the drawbacks. The entire industrial revolution would have been impossible if not for coal. It is also a domestic energy source which is an enormous benefit. Wind and solar will never produce the amount of energy we get from coal and they are far more expensive as well. The key metric here subsidies per Unit of Production, here are the results:

Natural Gas and Petroleum Liquids 0.25
Coal 0.44
Hydroelectric 0.67
Biomass 0.89
Geothermal 0.92
Nuclear 1.59
Wind 23.37
Solar 24.34
Refined Coal 29.81

http://tonto.eia.doe.gov/energy_in_brief/energy_subsidies.cfm

The numbers speak for themselves. We are spending alot money on failed solutions.

Ken Royall said at January 25, 2010 11:22 AM:

One other point on those "evil" coal plants. The more we penalize energy producers here the more it makes the US uncompetitive in the global economy. This causes industry to locate in places like China where they build coal plants without regard for emissions standards. The net effect is MORE worldwide pollution, so the entire exercise is self-defeating. We ruin the US economy and get more emissions as well. In fact much of the pollution from Asia ends up over the US! A more prosperous nation is a cleaner nation.

Nick G said at January 25, 2010 4:35 PM:

Ken,

You are comparing all of 2008 to Jan-Oct of 2009.

No, I was adjusting for the fact that the latest data is only for 10 months. I wasn't comparing to 2008 at all.

The % is actually 1.63%

Could you show your calculations? I showed mine.

which is still next to nothing as compared to the investments made with taxpayer dollars.

Again, I disagree - could you show your math? The subsidy in question, the Production Tax Credit, is pretty small - much smaller than the external costs of coal (i.e., pollution).

Are you saying the coal producers aren't paying billions in taxes?

Everybody pays taxes - it's just overhead - the cost of being in business.

The amount of subsidy for coal is tiny as compared to the energy we are getting from it.

No, the cost is quite large. There's No Free Lunch - shouldn't coal generation pays it's own way for its costs?

The key metric here subsidies per Unit of Production

Assuming for the moment that the reference is complete and accurate, it's beside the point: those are direct subsidies, not indirect subsidies like pollution.

Remember - There's No Free Lunch!

Regarding China: they're installing even more wind and solar than the US. How are they competing, if wind & solar makes countries uncompetitive? Germany is the same way - Germany is widely acknowledged as an leading exporter, with a very large trade surplus, and yet they're pushing wind and solar very, very aggressively.

Engineer-Poet said at January 25, 2010 9:24 PM:

I see we have a new set of trolls here.

Rob:  I've seen datasheets for GE gas turbines which say 15 minutes, start to full load.  46% rated efficiency.

Ken Royall:  If your "spinning reserve" is 80% of your EV fleet (the fraction parked at any time) and it can go from 100% charge to 100% backfeed in half a cycle, a big enough fleet means you don't need to burn fuel.

There is a simple solution to the "cool down in the off hours" problem for transformers:  require all new A/C units to have ice storage (Ice Bear or equivalent) and then run them at night instead of daytime.  The ambient temperatures are cooler so the transformers stay cooler and the A/C is more efficient too.

Lithium isn't an issue.  Lithium demand is about 80 grams per amp-hour.  Lithium carbonate currently costs a bit under 3/10¢ per gram of elemental Li.

At this point wind is supplying less than 1% of our total electric power generation needs.
Actually, US wind passed 1.2% back in '08.  It's growing on an exponential curve (which will turn into the logistic curve soon enough, but not for a while).

I've driven through the wind farms around Palm Springs.  I've also driven through the one SE of SF (with the tiny old turbines on lattice towers), the old one over by Sacramento (the old Darreius units which I believe have been removed), and several in Texas, New Mexico, Kansas and Iowa.

What do you want me to say about them?  They're another feature of the landscape, and don't seem to impress the cattle grazing around them.  I had to look hard to spot the lines carrying power away from them, which is the only impact they have once they're below the horizon.

For a while, wind was doing an excellent job of taking the load off the gas turbine plants in Texas.  It inspired T. Boone Pickens to propose taking that as far as practical, and using the freed-up natural gas to run vehicles and displace imported petroleum.  It was and remains a completely feasible thing if we put all the pieces together, but the politics of transmission lines and such stands in the way.

Engineer-Poet said at January 25, 2010 9:26 PM:

Sorry, I think I have the lithium figure wrong.  I'd have to dig to check it.

Nick G said at January 25, 2010 11:14 PM:

E-P,

I'd guess that the average vehicle is only 5% utilized. 13K miles/yr divided by 30 MPH avg speed = 433 hours per year

433 hrs/yr divided by 8760 hours per year gives 5%!

5% x by average passenger utilization of 20% gives total utilization of about 1%!!!

Says something about the number of electric vehicles really required to transport everyone, even after figure peak utilization during rush hour....

Ken Royall said at January 26, 2010 11:37 AM:

Nick, the calculations I made were based on the data at the link you posted. It doesn't matter, we are arguing about 10ths of percentage points here. Even if we can all agree that wind is supplying less than 2% of our needs, the point is made. We are spending time and money on a system that isn't producing.

In terms of subsidies, it isn't just the production tax credit, states all over the country are using taxpayer dollars to subsidize wind. I have already shown that the subsidy per unit of production is many times higher than most energy sources. The reason being that industrial wind is not viable unless it is subsidized. There is simply no business case for private investment at this point. This will doom the industry eventually because we cannot afford to subsidize it forever.

As for for the subsidies for fossil fuels, I say end them all tomorrow. End them for all energy sources. Fossil fuel producers don't need them to be economically viable. Of course in the case of fossil fuels subsidies at least we are getting enormous quantities of usable energy in return. The taxes the government receives on the use and income from fossil fuels also offsets the subsidies 100's of times over.

Everybody pays taxes? It is just overhead? Interesting. Not every industry is being targeted by liberal politicians for special sanctions like the energy industry. Whatever they pay we pay because the cost is passed on to the consumer. It also makes the US even more uncompetitive in the global economy, lost jobs and tax revenue are the result. Your admonition that there is "no free lunch" is correct, although you appear to be applying it incorrectly. China is building coal plants constantly, whatever wind and solar development they are doing won't put a dent in their overall emissions output.

It is really quite simple, no energy source that is *not* producing 70% of the time and is completely unpredictable will every be a major contributor to our energy supply. We need power 24/7/365. A reliable, cost-effective, predictable, dispatchable supply. Wind will never be that.

Engineer-Poet

So anyone who disagrees with you is a troll? OK. You said:

"Require all new A/C units to have ice storage (Ice Bear or equivalent) and then run them at night instead of daytime. The ambient temperatures are cooler so the transformers stay cooler and the A/C is more efficient too."

So all we have to do is retrofit the millions of air conditioners out there and somehow control when people run them? Good luck with that. No politician would ever get that off the ground as there would be justifiable outrage. It is also completely impractical from an implementation standpoint. If only new units were affected it wouldn't accomplish the objective.

Lithium is an issue:

http://www.thedailygreen.com/living-green/blogs/cars-transportation/lithium-batteries-electric-cars-460209

Even if we don't run into shortages, we will be dependent on other nations for supply. The mining and processing is a dirty business, no way environmentalists are going to allow that to happen in the US. If other countries went the electric car route the prices would of course go up. Electric vehicles are already non-competitive from a price perspective. Pickens abandoned his plan because he couldn't get the amount of subsidies he needed. The entire notion was a trillion dollar pipe dream.

There has also been push back from the environmental community in regard to land use for wind and solar. See the recent legislation that Feinstein is proposing to limit solar deployment in California. In fact the more farms that are built, the more NIMBY opposition there is.


Ken Royall said at January 26, 2010 12:12 PM:

Engineer-Poet -

By the way, your "Ice Bear" idea is the exact opposite of what would be needed. Transformers currently cool at night during off-peak hours. If electric cars were being charged at night that would not allow them to cool and they would blow. The system you mentioned also runs at night to create ice which only makes matters worse. Not to mention installation costs seem to start at about 20 grand. The system seems to be designed to avoid peaks in the daylight hours, in that regard it may have value. Either way, it is an unproven system that has not been deployed in any meaningful way to know for sure if it would be effective. So far all we know is what the press releases tell us from the company how makes the system.

Suffice to say that if everyone went out and bought an electric car tomorrow, the grid would not be able to handle the additional demand without enormous investments to upgrade it. Fortunately, that won't happen because most people have no interest in buying an electric car. That is another product that doesn't sell too well without some sort of tax credit. The Obama Motors "Volt" will be a non-starter at $35,000.

Nick G said at January 26, 2010 5:33 PM:

Even if we can all agree that wind is supplying less than 2% of our needs, the point is made. We are spending time and money on a system that isn't producing.

Um, no. Just because wind is currently smaller than some other sources tells us nothing about it's cost effectiveness or ability to produce. 1.8% is 1.8% - that's a lot of power.

states all over the country are using taxpayer dollars to subsidize wind.

I'm not aware of any state taxpayer dollars to subsidize wind. Could you give examples?

I have already shown that the subsidy per unit of production is many times higher than most energy sources.

Uhm, no. You showed US Federal expenditures. The cost of pollution is much, much larger - 24,000 deaths per year from air pollution ( http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/5174391/ ). That doesn't include many other costs such as occupational health costs, CO2, acid rain, or mercury in food.

As for for the subsidies for fossil fuels, I say end them all tomorrow. End them for all energy sources. Fossil fuel producers don't need them to be economically viable.

Well, that would kill nuclear first, as that means eliminating Price-Anderson liability caps, without which nuclear won't be built. And, it would kill coal 2nd. New coal plants are already in the same capital cost cost range as wind and nuclear (around $7/average watt) - if you assesses all of coal plant emissions costs, no more coal would be built.

no energy source that is *not* producing 70% of the time and is completely unpredictable will every be a major contributor to our energy supply.

And, that brings us back to the article which is the subject of Randall's original post, which says otherwise. Did you read it?

Ken Royall said at January 26, 2010 6:05 PM:

Nick -

1.8% is alot of power? Wow. So 98.2% of our electricity comes from other sources and you think wind is generating alot of power? That's pretty funny. Plenty of states subsidize wind power including mine. The incompetent governor sold the idea as a jobs program to an electorate that has been hearing propaganda about renewable energy for years. Months later it was announced the turbines would be built off shore. I would hazard a guess and say that any state that has industrial wind power is subsidizing them in some fashion.

24,000 deaths due to air pollution? How about over 300 million people in the US are alive because of fossil fuels? This planet could never support 6 billion people without them. Not to mention the "study" referenced in the MSNBC report was commissioned by environmental groups. The thing that kills nuclear is excessive government regulatory compliance costs.

And yes, I read the article. It mentions a study done by people with an agenda. If you look you will see that companies who sell wind power infrastructure products were involved. The world is littered with articles touting the promise of renewable energy systems that were later proven false. The results are what counts. Show me any region on the planet that is operating solely on wind energy and then you might have have a point. Hell, name one instance where a conventional plant was decommissioned due to being replaced by a wind farm.

Randall Parker said at January 26, 2010 7:32 PM:

Ken,

Regarding health costs from coal emissions, a debate back in 2004 comes to mind. If New EPA coal emissions rules will reduce deaths by 14,100 per year then surely coal is now killing at least that many:

A separate Bush administration proposal would require utilities to cut their emissions of sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides by 70 percent after 2015. Democrats and environmental groups unsuccessfully sought steeper cuts on a faster timetable.

The EPA estimated its new rules would result in 14,100 fewer annual deaths a year by 2020 from fine particles emitted by power plants that cause respiratory problems like asthma.

More lives could be saved:

But the environmental groups’ report said that enforcing rules set by the existing Clean Air Act would prevent about 18,000 annual deaths over the same period.

The data was compiled by Abt Associates Inc., a consulting firm that the Bush administration and EPA have used to analyze their air-pollution policies.

A power outage showed the scale of the pollution caused by fossil fuels burning electric power plants:

In a separate but related study, University of Maryland scientists reported Wednesday that the skies became dramatically cleaner when power plants had to shut down during the August 2003 blackout that hit the Northeast.

Measurements found a 90 percent reduction in sulfur dioxide, a gas that leads to haze and acid rain, and a 50 percent reduction in smog, or ground-level ozone. The amount of light-scattering particles in the air dropped by 70 percent and visibility increased by some 20 miles.

"In addition, skies cleared up far from some power plants. "The improvement in air quality provides evidence that transported emission from power plants hundreds of kilometers upwind play a dominant role in regional haze" and smog, the scientists write in a paper appearing in the next issue of Geophysical Research Letters.

"What surprised us was not so much the observation of improved air quality during the blackout, but the magnitude of the observed improvement," lead author Lackson Marufu said in a statement. "The improvement in air quality was so great that you could not only measure it, but could actually see it as a much clearer, less hazy sky."

For this reason alone I would like to shift to nuclear and wind power and eventually solar when costs drop. The coal burners have dragged their feet with their lobbyists for decades killing hundreds of thousands of people in the process. Enough already.

2 cents a kilowatt hour more seems a small price to pay.

Randall Parker said at January 26, 2010 7:38 PM:

Ken,

Regards our dependence on fossil fuels: We used to depend on horses for transportation. We used to depend on candles for lighting. We used to depend on TB sanitariums too. Lots of things get replaced by better technologies. We no longer need coal in order to support 300 million people at our current standard of living. We could gradually replace coal electric with nukes, wind, and solar over the course of 30 years.

Again, the price differences are affordable. Lower the cost of capital for a nuclear plant by a few percentage points and it can compete with coal electric. Or put in a $50 per ton CO2 emissions tax. Many more nukes will be built.

Engineer-Poet said at January 26, 2010 8:11 PM:
So anyone who disagrees with you is a troll?
No, Ken, the people who suddenly appear in hordes out of nowhere echoing various propagandistic talking points are trolls.

You don't need to retrofit A/C units (though it wouldn't hurt to add ice storage to existing systems).  They wear out by themselves, or are scrapped when buildings are remodelled or demolished.  New units are installed.

You don't need to control when people run them, because they'll do it themselves.  If they have storage they're going to use it to do electric-rate arbitrage (because the units will come from the factory programmed that way to save money).

California won't have any problem mandating ice-storage for several reasons.

  1. A state which is regulating power consumption of TVs can deal with A/Cs.
  2. The state already has issues with rolling blackouts during peak-demand periods, and smoothing demand over the daily cycle will push that point way off.
It really doesn't matter what Feinstein thinks about solar farms in the deserts.  California has hundreds of square miles of roofs just begging to be shaded by PV.  Ice-storage A/C and EVs can handle the production swings without missing a beat.  These things were made for each other.
By the way, your "Ice Bear" idea is the exact opposite of what would be needed. Transformers currently cool at night during off-peak hours. If electric cars were being charged at night that would not allow them to cool and they would blow. The system you mentioned also runs at night to create ice which only makes matters worse.
You have it backwards.  Night-time loads operate when the outside temperature is lower and the transformers can dissipate heat better.  Also, smoothing the power curve reduces the root mean square power demand and thus the total heat produced.  Better dissipation of less heat means cooler transformers.  In addition, operating the A/C compressor at night means lower condenser temperatures, less back pressure on the compressor and lower energy consumption for cooling.
Suffice to say that if everyone went out and bought an electric car tomorrow, the grid would not be able to handle the additional demand without enormous investments to upgrade it.
Straw man (straight out of propaganda at that).  Where would everyone find an EV to buy tomorrow, and the money to buy them?

If a crapload of EVs are added, more or bigger transformers will be required; this is something which can be built up over the decade or two required to build the cars.  The amount of iron, copper, etc. in the transformers is relatively small compared to the cars.

These are the same Big Lie talking points I've been seeing for years.  Stupid exists, but it isn't orchestrated like that; when a bunch of new names show up all saying the same oft-refuted nonsense, it's a given that they are trolls.

Randall Parker said at January 26, 2010 8:12 PM:

Ken claims:

It is really quite simple, no energy source that is *not* producing 70% of the time and is completely unpredictable will every be a major contributor to our energy supply. We need power 24/7/365. A reliable, cost-effective, predictable, dispatchable supply. Wind will never be that.

If you go to page 16 of the PDF I link to above and look at the technical review committee for the report you will see several affiliations that have acronyms which represent ISOs in the United States. ISO technical people reviewed this report. They apparently didn't have a problem with its conclusions.

Now, wind probably can't go to 50% of total electric power demand. But given smart grid technology and customers who are willing to cut power for short periods of time wind can certainly contribute far more than it is contributing now. Even residences can have their power demands lowered easily for 15-30 minutes by, for example, turning off refrigerator compressors while dispatchable power spins up to replace wind when the wind dies down.

Given larger numbers of wind farms over geographically dispersed regions and computers to track trends in wind intensity it should be possible to begin to start up dispatchable power before most turbines stop spinning.

Bob Badour said at January 26, 2010 8:20 PM:

I don't know how relevant this is. Yesterday, we had a windstorm here. 90km/h+ winds. It's a windy island so we have lots of windstorms like that here.

Apparently, though, it was newsworthy that the wind farm in Summerside actually ran at nameplate wattage yesterday. I don't know for how long.

Randall Parker said at January 26, 2010 8:21 PM:

E-P,

When a large number of new commenters show up and espouse right-libertarian views it is usually a sign that Glenn Reynolds linked to a post I wrote. It is not a sign of conspiracy.

Glenn links to me on many subjects. When it comes to global warming, fossil fuels, and renewables a fairly decent number of the active commenters he sends pretty much take the view that if you think global warming is real or that we need to migrate away from fossil fuels then you must be a fascist left-wing environmentalist.

The funny thing is that politically I'm somewhere to the right of Genghis Khan (Jerry Pournelle's formulation).

But facts are pesky things. Fossil fuels are causing environmental damage and health problems. Peak Oil is near. I do not feel a need to join in ideological solidarity with right-wingers who would deny the obvious any more than I'd join with left wingers to defend the Blank Slate view of human nature.

Nick G said at January 26, 2010 10:57 PM:

Bob,

That's pretty consistent with industry standards. If you look at the article which is the subject of this original post, you'll see a cost for onshore wind of a little less than $2/watt nameplate (for much larger windfarms than this very small installation).

Ken Royall said at January 27, 2010 10:05 AM:

Randall -

We could save thousands of lives by banning cars, too many car accidents right? We could save hundreds or thousands more by banning natural gas heating for homes as there are explosions and fires linked to that every year. There are any number of aspects to modern living that come with hazard and risk for a small percentage of people. Even if I bought into the notion that emissions from coal powered plants kill 14,000 people every year, compared to the general population that is a tiny percentage. Thousands of people die from poisoning every year, should we ban all household products that contain poisons? Of course not. You balance the net benefit in any given situation. In regard to fossil fuels, the analysis isn't even close. They are the engine of the world economy, we would simply be dead without them.

Air pollution is a concern, but as I already stated heavily regulating coal here only means more coal plants are built somewhere else, probably with lower standards. It doesn't accomplish anything. That is why China is now the biggest emitter of greenhouse gases. We destroyed our heavy industry here and they are reaping the benefit. Along with it we have an economic meltdown and massive unemployment.

Engineer-Poet -

So you are for mandates like what California is doing? Perhaps you should read the news, industry and job producers are leaving that state in droves. The entire state is headed for fiscal collapse. This is the model you have in mind for the entire country? No thanks. You think you can just force people to buy $10,000 air conditioners? Wow, I see you are not too big on personal or financial freedom. What other budget busting mandates do you have in your bag of tricks?

You claim I am spouting "big lie talking points" but you entire argument is based on theoretical, unproven nonsense. Can you really know for certain what the effect of a massive ramp-up of electric vehicles would be? Of course not, it hasn't happened. There are things we do know right now though. EV's are expensive to the consumer, their range is limited, the manufacturers that sell them lose money on them and the main driver of sales has been taxpayer funded credits. We haven't even discussed the battery disposal issues. They are a half-assed solution, just like corn ethanol, another subsidized boondoggle that the lefties bought into. Of course now we can't even get rid of the subsidies due to politics.

Randall -

Most people can't even agree on what "smart grid technology" even means. Regardless, we are talking trillions of dollars in upgrades to the grid and the ability to store massive amounts of energy. Neither one of those is even on the drawing board right now much less budgeted and planned. We don't have the money to pay for it, we are broke. The Europeans are further along than we are with wind and they are finding that it is not panning out as planned, support for subsidies is diminishing. They made all the same assumptions you are and are finding out what is really obvious. Wind power is merely a more expensive, less reliable alternative to power sources we already have in ample supply. Coal, NG and nuclear. The ONLY case to be made for wind is an environmental one and even that argument is dicey as conventional plants will always be needed to back up the supply. Given all of the issues facing the country and the limited resources we have to deal with them, deploying wind and solar rightfully belong at the bottom of the list. It is a boondoggle created by the green lobby, companies like Vestas, and left-wing politicians peddling their "green jobs" nonsense in order to get people to agree to regulate carbon.

th said at January 27, 2010 3:30 PM:

nickg
3600 mw of wind was added in 09, 24% of nameplate is in line with 07's wind, how pathetic is that? Well solar @ 19% is, but IPCC himalayan ice melt predictions are even more pathetic so I guess its all relative. I notice proposed added wind generation is falling off the edge, only 90mw in 2011 and none in 2012, it looks like even the northeastern prius flakes are getting annoyed with these things, http://www.wind-watch.org/

Engineer-Poet said at January 27, 2010 6:29 PM:
heavily regulating coal here only means more coal plants are built somewhere else, probably with lower standards.
Is that so?  If Oregon refuses to buy power from coal, is that going to push plants elsewhere?

Of course not.  The displacement of some hydropower aside, what that will do is cause gas-fired plants and wind farms to be built instead.  What YOU mean is that activities powered by coal will move elsewhere.

Even that's not a given.  Before China was admitted to the WTO, Chinese efforts to use cheap coal to displace US and European manufacturers would have been blocked by tariffs and quotas.  We gave China the ability to use dirty power for competitive advantage, and we can take it away.

So you are for mandates like what California is doing? Perhaps you should read the news, industry and job producers are leaving that state in droves.
More because of rising taxes and falling human capital due to low-skilled immigration.  Mandates for things like unleaded fuel and catalytic converters actually made California more desirable by making it more livable; do you think people moved to LA for the smog, or away from it?
You think you can just force people to buy $10,000 air conditioners?
Try as I may, I can't find where you got that figure (and I'm not about to look where you habitually keep your head).  Ice Energy quotes the cost to modify a roof unit to ice-ready status at $1200-1500, which probably includes both the kit and labor.  I found a reference to $8000 for an entire new system.  I haven't had to replace a central A/C system so I'm not familiar with what conventional ones cost.

It appears that a PG&E customer can save roughly 20¢/kWh between peak and off-peak.  For a 2 ton average cooling load and SEER 15, that's $0.20/kWh * 19.2 kWh/d = $3.84/d = ~$115/mo.  You can amortize an investment of several thousand dollars quite rapidly at that rate.

Can you really know for certain what the effect of a massive ramp-up of electric vehicles would be? Of course not, it hasn't happened.
Can you really know for certain what the effect of the sun rising tomorrow will be?  To use your "reasoning", because it hasn't happened, we can't.  People who actually look at evidence and think about it can state with assurance what the outcome of various changes will be.
we are talking trillions of dollars in upgrades to the grid and the ability to store massive amounts of energy.
Trillions in new investment, when the existing infrastructure is only valued at $800 billion and $75 billion in backbone upgrades could eliminate half of oil use?  We're using about a billion dollars of oil a day, so that $75 billion would be another investment with a really fast payoff.
I notice proposed added wind generation is falling off the edge, only 90mw in 2011 and none in 2012
The planning horizon for wind farms is about 18 months.  In other news, there are ZERO enrolled students scheduled to graduate with associate's degrees in 2014.

Randall Parker said at January 27, 2010 7:27 PM:

E-P,

A savings of $115 per month would pay back about $13k of investment over 15 years at 6.5% interest. After that you make money on each additional year your investment lasts.

BTW, online mortgage calculators are handy for calculating energy investment paybacks.

Ken,

The 14k deaths per year is a low figure. That's how much the EPA expects to save by a reduction of coal electric pollution, not an elimination. That also doesn't include costs of illnesses. You are underestimating the costs of pollution.

Phasing out coal really amounts to paying the marginal additional cost of switching to nuclear instead. That marginal cost in the short term would be paid back in the 50-60 year time span as the nukes continue to generate electricity long after they've paid off their bonds.

Smart grids: I do not see why a large amount of storage is needed. Again, lots of ways to shift demand given financial incentives and automation.

Since wind requires a production tax credit of only 2 cents per kwh to cause a large build of turbines then wind's added cost is pretty small. The environmental advantages are real. The fossil fuels plants run less because wind turbines provide a rising fraction of all electric power.

I agree with E-P that tariffs could prevent production from moving to higher polluting countries.

Ken Royall said at January 28, 2010 8:18 AM:

Engineer-Poet -

China has massively increased their manufacturing output at our expense. The more we penalize manufacturers in the US the more likely it is that will continue. Increasing the cost of doing business by penalizing carbon output in the US will hasten the process. China will continue to build coal plants to meet their increased energy needs. There is nothing controversial here. Your spin won't change the facts.

Producers are leaving California because it has become hostile to business. Taxes are a problem but so are expensive environmental regulations and high energy costs. ANYTHING that increases the costs of doing business or living there will have a detrimental effect. Your idea is to create more mandates that would only worsen the situation. California has a particularly aggressive "Renewable Portfolio Standard" that causes their energy prices to be significantly higher. I would predict that rolling blackouts will return to that region as they have failed to build more conventional power plants due to the "green" delusion. Luckily for them neighboring states haven't been as stupid so they can get some power from them for now.

Ice Energy doesn't post their pricing on their web site (that should tell you something), the costs I quoted were based on estimates from other sources. Either way, it would take many years to retrofit all air conditioners and the cost would be enormous. A mandate like that isn't going to happen, you need to face that.

There is no "evidence" related to massive deployment of electric vehicles, because it has never happened anywhere on earth. We have observed the effect of the sun rising every day since the beginning of time. Your analogy fails completely.

The value of the "existing infrastructure" is meaningless in regard to what it would cost to upgrade the grid. We are not talking about rebuilding what we have, but deploying an entirely new system (in TODAY'S DOLLARS), much of which hasn't even been defined much less built. The existing grid took decades to build out, to retrofit or upgrade it will be a herculean effort as well as expensive. Your own source states there are 3100 electric utilities with 10,000 power plants. Good luck getting them all to buy into your scheme. Your link says nothing about "75 billion in backbone upgrades could eliminate half of oil use", please share your source on that. Electrical Energy from oil is running at about 13%, so please explain how we can reduce oil use by 1/2 by "upgrading the backbone". The majority of our petroleum use is for transportation, industrial processing and other products.

Randall Parker -

Wind power does not eliminate pollution. Coal plants will still be needed and there are hundreds or thousands of other contributors to air pollution. Regardless, you cannot repeal the laws of physics or economics just because you *want* wind to be a solution to our energy needs. Wind power has been around for a long time, there are many reasons it is not a major factor in our energy production which we have already discussed. You can talk about air pollution all you want, it doesn't compensate for the shortcomings of industrial wind power, you are making an emotional argument based on wishful thinking.

Of all the ways we could save lives in the world, investing billions in wind energy is probably one of the least effective. For the money we are spending on wind energy in Michigan, I would rather double the size of the Detroit Police force to restore order and halt the urban decay that is destroying Southeastern Michigan. We can all make these arguments based on our pet issues.

Renewable energy advocates say storage is needed to even out the intermittent flow from wind and solar. One of the only ways to make them dispatchable. No such system exists so it is a dead letter anyway. Tariffs? So you want to start a trade war now when we are dependent on imports on everything from energy, semiconductors to everything under the sun? The protectionism train left the station about 20 years ago, it won't be stopping here again.

In general I think it would benefit the greenies to read up on economics. I would suggest "Basic Economics" by Thomas Sowell or "Economics in One Lesson" by Henry Hazlitt. Reading those books will help you understand why government subsidized boondoggles like this always fail. This notion that politicians and lobbyists with their own agendas can dictate policy on matters they know nothing about is dangerous. Our energy security is too important to play political games and lie to ourselves.

This thread is very instructive. For every objection raised against alternative energy sources, the answer is some other market distortion like mandates, subsidies and tariffs. It is like playing whack-a-mole with public policy, one unintended consequence after another pops up, another government regulation is passed which only causes more unintended consequences. In the end you have a Rube Goldberg scheme that is supposed to pass for an energy policy. The market is capable of delivering energy, the people with the most knowledge need to be allowed to do their jobs. Until our government officials can prove they can perform their most basic constitutionally mandated duties I would prefer they stay out of the energy business.

anonyq said at January 28, 2010 1:33 PM:

The USA has 308 million people so anything which will be used by a significant portion of them will have enormous total cost.

Engineer-Poet said at January 28, 2010 8:50 PM:

I have no idea what happened to hose my link.  Here is the link to the Bloomberg story claiming $75 billion to cut oil use in half.

China has massively increased their manufacturing output at our expense. The more we penalize manufacturers in the US the more likely it is that will continue.
You make two mistakes here.
  1. China achieved this with a lot more than just race-to-the-bottom environmental standards; currency manipulation and IP theft also figure prominently.  We didn't have to allow that, and we can stop it if we get the political will to do so.
  2. Forcing manufacturers to clean up isn't a penalty.  Making Chinese pay for our cheap goods with unbreathable air and polluted water is a penalty, just one we've largely externalized.
Europe actually has a pretty good system.  Goods produced for the EU zone have to meet certain standards, and producers aiming for the EU market find it easier to make their entire product lines conform to EU standards (like ROHS) than to have EU and non-EU products.  If we did the same, we'd freeze Chinese products out unless their makers adopted the same standards we ask of our own companies.  (We could use the results of pollution tests in Chinese cities and villages as a subversive way to attack their mercantilist exploiter class.  Just reviving Communism as a reaction could bring the government down; if their economy collapsed, it would clean things up quite a bit. ^_-)

I think a few million parents who just threw out their girls' toy jewelry out of fears of cadmium would like this idea.

Ice Energy doesn't post their pricing on their web site (that should tell you something)
Yes, it tells me that they have a dealer network and don't want to undercut the people who sell their stuff.  It's something I've run into many times before in regard to many kinds of non-commodity products; you are obviously not in business, or you'd find nothing odd about it.
There is no "evidence" related to massive deployment of electric vehicles, because it has never happened anywhere on earth.
Strangely, you think electric vehicles are sui generis, a type of electric load never before seen and without precedent.  You think nobody has any kind of plan for supplying EVs, nobody has ever run any tests.  EPRI laughs at you, and so do I.
The value of the "existing infrastructure" is meaningless in regard to what it would cost to upgrade the grid. We are not talking about rebuilding what we have, but deploying an entirely new system (in TODAY'S DOLLARS), much of which hasn't even been defined much less built.
Entirely new system?  You obviously don't understand the problem, or any of the proposals.  HVDC transmission is just a new set of long-distance links between parts of the existing grid.  The $75 billion figure is a tiny fraction of your $trillions bogeyman.
The existing grid took decades to build out, to retrofit or upgrade it will be a herculean effort as well as expensive.
$75 billion isn't cheap, but saving 10 million barrels a day ($800 million per day at $80/bbl) would pay it off in less than 100 days.  How much effort does it take to buy all that oil?
Your own source states there are 3100 electric utilities with 10,000 power plants. Good luck getting them all to buy into your scheme.
They don't have to.  Are you foolish enough to believe that the utilities necessarily buy into each other's programs?  You are really good at setting up straw-man arguments, but not good at reasoning.
Wind power does not eliminate pollution. Coal plants will still be needed and there are hundreds or thousands of other contributors to air pollution.
I'm not sure exactly which logical fallacy or fallacies you've committed there, but that second sentence is a doozy.  You dismiss coal pollution because e.g. Little League play kicks up dust as kids run the bases.  You are a real piece of work.

We could do a tremendous job of cleaning up coal using technology that's going on 20 years old already.  Look up the Wabash River Repowering Project on the DOE website and start reading.  The higher thermal efficiency reduces carbon emissions with no changes, removing CO2 from the syngas and sequestering it would reduce it further, and the next step in technology could eliminate the emission of carbon almost completely... while still burning coal.

For the money we are spending on wind energy in Michigan, I would rather double the size of the Detroit Police force to restore order and halt the urban decay that is destroying Southeastern Michigan.
As one whose taxes help subsidize Detroit's dysfunction, I disagree with you.  Changing the DPD's size will not fix the problems of the city.  But that's a discussion for another thread.

Randall Parker said at January 29, 2010 12:16 AM:

Ken,

A key element to your style of argument is the straw man. Here's an example:

Wind power does not eliminate pollution. Coal plants will still be needed and there are hundreds or thousands of other contributors to air pollution. Regardless, you cannot repeal the laws of physics or economics just because you *want* wind to be a solution to our energy needs.

The first sentence is the straw man. Eliminate? Wind power reduces pollution. Those kilowatts coming from wind are kilowatts that otherwise would have come from burning coal and natural gas. Do you deny this?

Then you get into hundreds or thousands of other pollution sources. Other pollution sources exist. The logic you would have us believe then is we shouldn't eliminate any one pollution source as long as other pollution sources exist. By this logic we should repeal regulations that reduce car pollution or steel plant pollution. You do take us to be stupid? Gullible?

If something costs 2 cents per kwh more but pollutes much less you might prefer the lower electric bill. But straw man arguments aren't going to persuade anyone who isn't already invested in the same callous disregard toward pollution that you apparently have.

Ken Royall said at January 29, 2010 12:18 AM:

Engineer-Poet -

OK, so now all we have to do is convert trucks to NG and everybody needs to be buy a hybrid car? None of that cost was factored into the $75 billion estimate (and who knows if that is even accurate). There is also nothing in that article that makes a case for wind power really. Sure it is mentioned but the premise seems to be to add massive amounts of new electric capacity and a backbone to carry it. Of course this will require more coal, nuclear and NG plants. The guy mentions that wind could supply 20-25% of our needs, but his dollar figure doesn't seem to include the costs of building out all of the wind farms.

Overall the solutions seems massively complex, expensive and would basically require a totalitarian government to implement. Enormous sectors of the energy and transportation economy would need to be mobilized as well as dictating to consumers what kinds of vehicles they should buy. That is probably why this "solution" is at the stage of an article on the web and has gone no further.

If China collapsed it would take the entire world economy down and a major source of credit would be gone. It would have an incredibly destabilizing effect. It isn't going to happen and we shouldn't be wishing for it. You forget all of the everyday goods we get from China that would no longer be available or come at much higher prices. It would take years to ramp up production again in the US. The fact that you advocate recklessly manipulating the geopolitical situation in the world without understanding the consequences reveals you to be a mental case so we could probably stop right there. If only the entire country and world would go along with your Utopian delusions.

I don't know where your information regarding electric vehicles came from because it has been archived. I wouldn't put too much credence in a document that is no longer available on a live web site. The point stands, no country on earth has deployed massive numbers of EV's, and for good reason. They are basically overpriced crap and nobody wants them. They are a marketing ploy to create the impression that automakers are "green". The companies themselves make no money on them and even they know there are a niche product with no real future.

The $75 billion is a tiny fraction of the real cost and is also a number somebody pulled out of their ass. NOBODY could know what the real costs would be at this preliminary stage. Air pollution from coal is a minor issue as compared to the benefit. Learn to do math and try to pay attention. A dubious estimate of 15,000 deaths due to coal power plants is not a case for abandoning it any more than 15,000 deaths from falling is a case for banning ladders. We cannot and will not do that. The proof is in the results. Your alternative energy ideas aren't producing anything that comes close to what we need and they won't in the near future. By the time wind gets to 5% of nameplate supply it will be time to replace the turbines.

Ken Royall said at January 29, 2010 12:29 AM:

Engineer-Poet

By the way, the author of your $75 billion dollar miracle plan totally trashes wind and solar in this LATER article:

http://www.city-journal.org/2009/19_2_carbon.html

"Shoveling wind and sun is much, much harder. Windmills are now 50-story skyscrapers. Yet one windmill generates a piddling 2 to 3 megawatts. A jumbo jet needs 100 megawatts to get off the ground; Google is building 100-megawatt server farms. Meeting New York City’s total energy demand would require 13,000 of those skyscrapers spinning at top speed, which would require scattering about 50,000 of them across the state, to make sure that you always hit enough windy spots. To answer the howls of green protest that inevitably greet realistic engineering estimates like these, note that real-world systems must be able to meet peak, not average, demand; that reserve margins are essential; and that converting electric power into liquid or gaseous fuels to power the existing transportation and heating systems would entail substantial losses. What was Mayor Bloomberg thinking when he suggested that he might just tuck windmills into Manhattan? Such thoughts betray a deep ignorance about how difficult it is to get a lot of energy out of sources as thin and dilute as wind and sun."

"It’s often suggested that technology improvements and mass production will sharply lower the cost of wind and solar. But engineers have pursued these technologies for decades, and while costs of some components have fallen, there is no serious prospect of costs plummeting and performance soaring as they have in our laptops and cell phones. When you replace conventional with renewable energy, everything gets bigger, not smaller—and bigger costs more, not less. Even if solar cells themselves were free, solar power would remain very expensive because of the huge structures and support systems required to extract large amounts of electricity from a source so weak that it takes hours to deliver a tan."

I guess that settles that.

Engineer-Poet said at January 29, 2010 5:45 AM:
Learn to do math and try to pay attention.
The irony is strong in this one.  Bwahahahahaha!
Nick G said at January 29, 2010 10:37 AM:

Ken, a few thoughts.

First, I agree with you: Peter Huber really isn't a good authority for anything. He sometimes has interesting ideas, but he seems to be much more interested in promoting himself by disparaging others than he is in getting his facts right.

2nd, new coal plants in the US are just as expensive as wind power. It's old, dirty coal that is very cheap, and the US just isn't going to build more of those. Even China is starting to recognize the enormous pollution costs of coal - it's building more wind power than the US.

3rd, if you read carefully, you'll note that no one in this discussion is talking about banning coal, just about allocating costs correctly. Free markets require accurate allocation of costs to distribute goods and services properly - again, there's no free lunch.

Ken Royall said at January 29, 2010 5:21 PM:

Nick,

The only reason building coal plants has slowed is due to government regulation or overt actions from Democrat politicians to prevent them from being built. We have 100's of years of domestic supplies of coal, we are going to need them. Wind (and solar) doesn't come close to replacing coal in terms of output. You would need 100's of times the number of turbines that we have now. Once the plum locations have been built out, the rest gets harder and harder. In the end, you will still have an intermittent source of supply. This isn't right wing propaganda, but scientific fact. Even if coal plants were as expensive as wind, at least once they are built you get a reliable source of power.

The "costs" of building new coal and nuclear plants is largely artificial and is as a result of government action. If what you say is true wind and solar wouldn't be the most subsidized form of energy per unit of production. The ONLY way either of them can survive is with mandates and subsidies. That tells you all you need to know about their economic viability. China's coal plants apparently were built without proper emission standards, the air quality in the US has IMPROVED over many decades, not gotten worse. You can use fossil fuels and have clean air. Life span has been improving in the US due to lower pollution, and it isn't because of wind power!

Drop in U.S. air pollution linked to longer lifespans
http://edition.cnn.com/2009/HEALTH/01/21/healthmag.airpollution.lifespan/index.html

The debate goes beyond those participating on this thread and the green lobby is DEFINITELY trying to prevent coal plants from being built, and sadly they have succeeded. We have a president and vice president that have made reckless statements about "bankrupting" the coal industry. This betrays their total ignorance of energy and economic matters. Obama now claims to support nuclear power but stopped funding for Yucca mountain. This sort of political nonsense is putting us in peril.

We will have another 80-100 million people in the US by 2050 if current trends hold. We are going to need even MORE energy in the future, not less. It is simply irresponsible and dangerous to delude ourselves into thinking that renewable energy sources are going to get us anywhere near what we will need. Fortunately people are starting to wake up to this fact as the green propaganda is being exposed for what it is, which is a pack of lies. It is merely another attempt by liberals to impose their will on the rest of us using scare tactics. It has been tried before. Do you truly believe that if the greenies succeed in preventing all new use of fossil fuels they are going to be "for" marring vast portions of the landscape in the US with windmills and solar panels? Please, they have already tipped their hand on that.

Their true agenda is to depopulate suburban and exurban areas, horde everyone back into the cities (where they can control them) and force them to use public transportation. I have debated these idiots for years, they will tell you their real plans if you engage them long enough. Why do you think the current crop of Democrat politicians, many of them over the hill 60's radicals, have such disdain for middle class suburban people? They hate us because we stand in the way of their true agenda. They have gotten in bed with big corporations so they got the super rich on board. Obama cries about corporations having undue influence on politics while he lines his pockets with their money. Corporate interests are giving far more to Democrats than Republicans now, they are in bed with big government because they can inhibit competition. The poor have been bought off with entitlements and class warfare rhetoric. Fortunately people like me still have some political and economic power as a group so it is starting to grind to a halt.

I am sure there are some true believers out there that really do care about clean air and conservation, in fact I am one of them. I am a SUPPORTER of alternate energy sources as long as they are viable and sensible. I would LOVE to get off the grid personally if I could. Unfortunately for now, small scale wind and solar have an extremely poor return on investment picture. I came into this debate a few years ago as a SUPPORTER of renewable sources, the attraction was obvious. The problem is I started reading the actual data and once I put my emotion aside I see them for what they are, at least given the current state of the art. It also made me suspicious that the same people who were advocating green energy had a political agenda in mind as well.

The ecology movement has allowed itself to be hijacked by people like Al Gore, whose credibility is in tatters. His true goals are political in nature. The lies and propaganda are actually HURTING the environmental movement (and legitimate science) and that is sad. At one point groups like the Sierra Club were for RESPONSIBLE, common sense policies to help the environment. The movement actually was a success as the consensus goals have been met long ago. We do have cleaner air and water in the US and that is a good thing. However we now see left wingers using environmental scare tactics to further their political agenda. Companies like GE and Vestas are more than happy to play along because they benefit from it.

Nick G said at January 31, 2010 2:10 PM:

Ken,

Here's an good article about US-China competition:

"In 2006, Chinese leaders redoubled their commitment to new energy technology; they boosted funding for research and set targets for installing wind turbines, solar panels, hydroelectric dams, and other renewable sources of energy that were higher than goals in the United States. China doubled its wind-power capacity that year, then doubled it again the next year, and the year after. The country had virtually no solar industry in 2003; five years later, it was manufacturing more solar cells than any other country, winning customers from foreign companies that had invented the technology in the first place. As President Hu Jintao, a political heir of Deng Xiaoping, put it in October of this year, China must “seize preëmptive opportunities in the new round of the global energy revolution.”

http://www.newyorker.com/reporting/2009/12/21/091221fa_fact_osnos?currentPage=all#ixzz0e2rw4QMT
http://www.newyorker.com/reporting/2009/12/21/091221fa_fact_osnos?currentPage=all

Randall Parker said at January 31, 2010 2:42 PM:

Nick G,

It is my understanding that China still doesn't have a feed-in tariff for solar and that the Chinese government isn't doing a lot to incentivize solar installations. What percentage of Chinese PV production gets used in China? My guess is way less than half. They are happy to use tax subsidies in Germany or Spain or Italy or California to pay for their own production.

Wind doubling: But what's the absolute value and what percentage of new electric generation capacity does it represent.

A few weeks ago I tried seeing how to use the New Yorker article as a basis for a post. But I couldn't find enough meat in it.

Nick G said at January 31, 2010 5:42 PM:

Randall,

It looks like they do have solar subsidies:

"The government has put in place two significant subsidies for solar photovoltaic installations.

Through the "Golden Sun" program, the National Energy Administration and ministries of Finance, Science and Technology are offering to subsidize half of the construction and connection costs of on-grid solar power plants and 70 percent of the cost of off-grid installations from now until 2011. The program's goal is to produce 500 megawatts of solar power.

An earlier plan established subsidies for rooftop demonstration projects. In addition, many local governments have solar subsidy programs of their own. "

On the other hand, domestic consumption hasn't responded quickly: " 98 percent of the solar cells, which use domestically produced polysilicon, are exported..."

http://www.entrancechina.org/news.php?id=93696

It looks like expected capacity build for 2010 is 10GW, more than the US's roughly 8GW.

"Currently, wind power accounts for around 2 percent of China's total power generation. Industry insiders said, by 2020 wind power will likely surpass nuclear power as China's third-largest source of electricity, after thermal and hydropower. "

http://www.entrancechina.org/news.php?id=87369

Ken Royall said at February 1, 2010 3:48 PM:

Does anyone know if those figures from China indicate nameplate capacity or the actual expected yields? There is a huge difference. Sounds like they are building out wind power to appease the environmentalists who accuse them of stonewalling on carbon limits. As they are exporting the vast majority of their wind turbines, it is probably good business for them to appear they are pursuing wind power as well. I can hear it now, the greenies will accuse China of polluting, they will say "but we are investing heavily in renewable energy, what else can we do?" This of course allows them to point the finger back at us. Great strategy actually. Meanwhile nobody is fooling anyone, and emissions will increase across the board.

Ken Royall said at February 1, 2010 4:12 PM:

In addition, don't you guys find it odd that everywhere in the world wind power is in use, there is the constant refrain that it is difficult to use? The article on China for example:

"However, Shi noted that there were still some problems in the sector. "Currently, our grid capacity cannot keep pace with the development of wind power, and it is hard for some wind power plants to connect to the grid." "We should improve our grid capacity to make sure all the wind power can be fully used."

Even in Denmark, who is really far down the path with wind, needs to export roughly half of their generated output to countries who have hydro plants within a certain proximity. This allows them to ratchet down their hydro generation when wind power is available. This implies that some sort of storage technology is needed because clearly you aren't always going to have hydro plants in the right place. Of course no such system exists nor is even on the horizon. So, we have all of these wind turbines being erected that are running at 20-30% capacity if you are lucky, but even then you can't easily integrate the power into the grid when they are producing. Sounds like we are putting the cart before the horse here.

Poor Minnesota, they bought 11 turbines at $300,000 each and none of them are turning because of the cold weather:

http://kstp.com/news/stories/S1390565.shtml

Seems that they are going to need to heat the hydraulic fluid with (you guessed it) an electric power source. I know, these engineering problems have been resolved in the "new models" right? :) Or, maybe we will get some global warming so the turbines will spin again.

Engineer-Poet said at February 21, 2010 1:24 AM:

China has a problem with broken incentives.  It pays for wind generation installed, but does not require connection to the grid; the result is that 'developers' put up turbines without bothering to connect them to anything.  The obvious solution is production credits rather than capacity credits, but it is obvious to me that the Mandarins of Beijing are either (a) not smart enough to grasp the obvious, or (b) taking their skim from the system and don't care if anything is actually produced.

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