September 12, 2015
Low Winds In America Cut Wind Power Output

In spite of a rapid pace in new wind farm construction wind electric power output dropped 4.2% in the first 5 months of 2015 as compared to a year earlier. The drop was most severe in the West.

In the future we won't just have drought years and hot or cold years. We will also have low wind years. Wind drought? We need a term for it. Imagining a commentator in the year 2035: "The western United States is in the 5th year of a wind drought that has seen rationing of power in many areas and a flurry of solar panel installations".

Share |      Randall Parker, 2015 September 12 10:27 AM 


Comments
Wesley Barrios said at September 13, 2015 3:33 PM:

I look forward to the future lawsuits from "downwind" cities claiming that their local air has become overly stagnant from the "upwind" wind farms. And Gaia forbid if it should ever be found that some "endangered species" like the 5-spotted left-circling blind moth requires an average wind of x mph, which is no longer being met because of the upwind wind farms slowing down the wind.

Engineer-Poet said at September 14, 2015 7:02 AM:

I've asked "ruinable" energy devotees to tell me what they'd do in the case of a prolonged energy deficit.  The major reactions are to ignore the question or deny there's any problem.  Now that this is a desmonstrated phenomenon, it might force some of them to take it on and question their assumptions.

Oh, who am I kidding?  Most of these people are so deep in their dogma they can't climb out.

Nick G said at September 16, 2015 12:18 PM:

E-P,

I think you're talking about seasonal lulls in wind or solar output.

I've already talked about this, but let me try again: there are many related strategies, but the primary one is overbuilding (just as is currently done with fossil fuels), combined with the use of the resulting surplus power to electrolyze hydrogen, which can be stored cheaply underground and burned cheaply in turbines or ICEs (as opposed to expensive fuel cells, which are likely not optimal for the majority of backup generation).

The capital equipment for electrolysis would have high capacity factors, because there would be surplus power for the majority of the year. This isn't intuitive because we don't overbuild nuclear, wind or solar right now: we underbuild it, and compensate with other sources. But, in a world where we don't want to use fossil fuel, we would indeed overbuild wind, solar and perhaps nuclear.

Nick G said at September 17, 2015 8:24 AM:

The post about EVs with surplus computing capacity got me thinking: autonomous vehicles could move around very cheaply. That means that in some situations it might make more sense to move power demand closer to supply, rather than maximizing the buildout of long distance power lines to link up and average out wind power production.

So, if the local wind farm output falls, all of the EVs in the valley troop over to the next valley and charge up there, returning when they're full or when they're needed.

Migrant cars...

Engineer-Poet said at September 17, 2015 10:37 AM:

Nick G, have you calculated the per-km equivalent "transmission loss" of your nomadic-car idea, or are you innumerate?

Nick G said at September 18, 2015 9:33 AM:

E-P,

Have you ever persuaded anybody of anything by insulting them??

If you think the idea through, you'll realize that that even large "transmission loss" may be acceptable if there are large differences in wind resources between areas: if the power would essentially be wasted otherwise, efficiency becomes largely irrelevant.

Think of it as arbitrage: if the price of marginal (not average!) power supply is 50 cents per kWh in one area due to a temporary lull in power output, and it's 2 cents per kWh in another, then it's worth up to 48 cents per kWh to move power from the low cost area to the high cost area. If an autonomous vehicle has capacity of 50kWh, and has an existing charge of 10kWh, then it can "save" about $14 by travelling 30 miles (at 3kWh/mile) to collect power. If the wear and tear to the car is less than about $.23/mile (which is very likely), then it pays off.

Nick G said at September 18, 2015 9:50 AM:

Here's a related thought: electrified freight transportation (both rail and truck, or even electrified highway guideways for trucks) would connect the whole country in a grid of high capacity transmission. It could provide Demand Side Management by tapping it's power from wherever in the country power was cheapest, and even provide arbitrage by transmitting power to where it's needed (and therefore most expensive).

I wouldn't be surprised to see swappable batteries for trucks and farm combines: they could be economically charged wherever power was cheapest.

Engineer-Poet said at September 18, 2015 2:54 PM:
Have you ever persuaded anybody of anything by insulting them??

Never.  But I've shamed people into shutting up about idiotic notions many times.  Idiots don't have the wits to be persuaded by facts.

If you think the idea through, you'll realize that that even large "transmission loss" may be acceptable if there are large differences in wind resources between areas: if the power would essentially be wasted otherwise, efficiency becomes largely irrelevant.

If you think the idea through, you'd realize that the new 30 kWh Nissan Leaf, with its rated range of 107 miles, could potentially transmit 15 kWh per round-trip over a distance of 26.75 miles.  Now, if you think that it is likely that there are vast differences in the availability of wind power over distances less than 30 miles, and it is worth both the losses in power and the vehicle's time out of service to use it to travel to capture them, I cannot help you.  It is obviously implausible in the extreme.

But that is what happens when you hypocritically ask others to think through what you so obviously have not.  If you want me to do your work for you, the least I'm going to do is tell you to quit pushing stupid notions.

Nick G said at September 21, 2015 9:59 AM:

you'd realize that the new 30 kWh Nissan Leaf, with its rated range of 107 miles

Now, obviously I was thinking of a point well in the future. It's likely that there will be many EVs with much larger batteries than that, and their maximum kWh/mile efficiency (with improved engineering, no need for maximum speed, and the ability to travel at time of low traffic) is likely to be much higher.

if you think that it is likely that there are vast differences in the availability of wind power over distances less than 30 miles

Well, earlier you cited low output from wind farms that are mostly within a 30 mile area, and scoffed at the idea of transmission (despite the utility in question routinely transmitting large amounts of power on the order of 1,000 miles). And, yes, there could easily be areas where peculiarities of transmission networks create significant differences (e.g., the Hawaiian islands - EVs could hop a ferry; or the boundary between ERCOT and a neighbor). Finally, EVs could easily carry swappable battery packs and carry a very large multiple of their own internal battery pack capacity - that would amplify the value of arbitrage, and potentially give the carrier a very large range.

Heck, this is brain storming. At this point in an idea, it works much better to be open minded.

I've shamed people into shutting up about idiotic notions many times.

Maybe. Or maybe they simply gave up on talking to you, and you never had the chance to find out they actually knew something you didn't. Or perhaps they never intended to discuss at length, so this was a "false positive" for the "shutting up" tactic.

I don't have much hope of convincing you that this style of argumentation is pointless (likely even counter-productive, as it's likely to reduce your credibility with readers) and annoying to everyone....but it's worth a try. Ask Randall - I'm sure he'll agree on this.

Engineer-Poet said at September 22, 2015 3:06 PM:
earlier you cited low output from wind farms that are mostly within a 30 mile area

[A sentence from E-P was deleted here due to lack of decorum; no technical content was lost]

  The zero-output wasn't just from "the mostly within a 30 mile area", it was EVERYTHING in the BPA.  Making your case requires that you show that there was good wind within the BPA area that just wasn't being tapped, preferably in areas where wind is counter-cyclical to the rest.  You have not even tried.  You haven't done so much as supply a usable map of the "within a 30 mile area" wind farms to prove your assertion.

Now, obviously I was thinking of a point well in the future. It's likely that there will be many EVs with much larger batteries than that

So guesstimate some figures (hint, a Tesla consumes about 380 Wh/mi).  Calculate some numbers, especially your losses in transit and cost of time out of service.  Draw conclusions from them.

[A couple of sentences from E-P were deleted here due to lack of decorum; no technical content was lost]

Nick G said at September 22, 2015 3:25 PM:

Sigh. Suggesting that you not alienate everyone by accusing them of psychobabble....isn't psychobabble. It's just suggesting that you use common courtesy. Well, I'm happy to drop that if you are. It's just a suggestion.

Okay. Think of it as arbitrage: if the price of marginal (not average!) power supply is 50 cents per kWh in one area due to a temporary lull in power output, and it's 2 cents per kWh in another, then it's worth up to 48 cents per kWh to move power from the low cost area to the high cost area. If an autonomous vehicle has capacity of 100kWh, and has an existing charge of 20kWh, then it can "save" about $38 by travelling 100 miles (at 5kWh/mile) to charge. If wear and tear and cost of time out of service is less than about $.19/mile (which is very likely), then it pays off.

Will there be large differences within 100 miles? Very likely, in limited circumstances.

Again, maybe it will apply more to swappable batteries in bulk deliveries. If you're skeptical about passenger cars roaming around for cheap power, then think about freight and ag applications.

Nick G said at September 22, 2015 3:49 PM:

Here's the wind map. http://www.bpa.gov/transmission/Projects/wind-projects/Documents/bpa-wind-map.pdf

You'll see that most of the projects are in the center of the map, roughly in a circle with a radius of perhaps 15 miles. All but 5 are in a circle with a radius of perhaps 45 miles. It's pretty mountainous area - it would be interesting to look at maps of wind resources. Probably not easy to find a customized analysis of covariance for these specific wind farms.

Engineer-Poet said at September 22, 2015 8:13 PM:

The vehicle would have to travel 200 miles round-trip to get that charge.  Recalculate your numbers accordingly.  Also calculate losses and compare to performance of the US grid (average 7% loss).  Last, if there is no electric transmission of reasonable capacity between two points just 100 miles apart, consider the likelihood that there are any roads that are beeline-direct.  Given that power lines are more easily built to cross rough terrain than roads are, I make that likelihood to be zero.

The BPA map shows wind farms in Pacific County, WA (around Grayland, well SW of Seattle/Tacoma), one in Harney Co. OR around Burns, four installations around the NW Utah/Idaho border, and another 3 around Great Falls, MT.  Marking off intervals on my screen, I make that a gross separation of more than 600 miles... and there have been multiple periods of a week or more in the last year when ALL of them were mostly or completely becalmed.  Geographic separation simply isn't worth all that much when the weather decides not to cooperate.

Nick G said at September 23, 2015 3:12 PM:

Look more closely at the green circles on the BPA map: There's only one operational wind farm in Pacific County, WA (around Grayland, well SW of Seattle/Tacoma); none in Harney Co. OR around Burns, only one installation around the NW Utah/Idaho border, and 0 BPA wind farms around Great Falls, MT. So, only a total of two, and we don't know how large they are.

So, only 2 out of about 36 operating wind farms are outside the circle with a radius of perhaps 45 miles.

Nick G said at September 23, 2015 3:34 PM:

I had a moment to look them up: There's a small 6MW Coastal Energy Project in Grayland, WA; and a 58MW installation in Idaho Falls, around the NW Utah/Idaho border. So, only 2 out of about 36 operating wind farms are outside the circle with a radius of perhaps 45 miles, with a total capacity of 64MW, out of BPA's total of 4,782MW.

That's only 1.3%.

http://transmission.bpa.gov/business/operations/wind/WIND_InstalledCapacity_LIST.pdf

Engineer-Poet said at September 23, 2015 8:16 PM:

Look at the map legend again; the blue triangles are also operating wind farms in BPA territory, just not under BPA authority.

And again I have to remind you, it doesn't matter HOW little capacity was located outside that 30-mile circle (where the winds are particularly good); there are weeks at a time when EVERYTHING, even sites 300 or more miles away, is becalmed.

Nick G said at September 25, 2015 12:34 PM:

the blue triangles are also operating wind farms in BPA territory, just not under BPA authority.

Sure. But I wouldn't think that BPA would include wind farms that aren't under their authority in their power production reporting.

there are weeks at a time when EVERYTHING, even sites 300 or more miles away, is becalmed.

Do we have evidence/numbers for that? I don't think the charts you showed previously are detailed enough to tell us if 1.3% of production was still producing.

Engineer-Poet said at September 25, 2015 6:54 PM:
Do we have evidence/numbers for that?
Of course we do, and it hits zero starting just 21 hours into year 2015 and doesn't rise above 1 megawatt until after New Year's.

[a sentence from E-P's comment deleted here due to lack of decorum]

Randall Parker said at September 26, 2015 7:29 PM:

I do not, for the record, think insults are productive in discussion threads. I reserve the right to delete the insults while keeping the technical content of comments intact.

Randall Parker said at September 26, 2015 7:40 PM:

As for the technical topic being debated: It seems very telling to me that the utilities and wind farm operators seriously overestimated the floor on the strength of wind blowing over wide areas for extended periods of time. Their models lacked enough historical data and they obviously do not know how far down wind power can drop and for how long. We are going to find out the hard way. This does not inspire confidence about the more optimistic efforts for how much we can rely on wind in the future.

Randall Parker said at September 26, 2015 7:41 PM:

As for the technical topic being debated: It seems very telling to me that the utilities and wind farm operators seriously overestimated the floor on the strength of wind blowing over wide areas for extended periods of time. Their models lacked enough historical data and they obviously do not know how far down wind power can drop and for how long. We are going to find out the hard way. This does not inspire confidence about the more optimistic efforts for how much we can rely on wind in the future.

Engineer-Poet said at September 27, 2015 4:02 PM:

"Anyone who cannot cope with mathematics is not fully human. At best he is a tolerable subhuman who has learned to wear shoes, bathe, and not make messes in the house."

If one cannot call out the people who push moronic notions and refuse (even after multiple notices) to do reality checks, the only alternative is to leave the forum to them.

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