Industrial wind: “enough to run 70,000 clothes dryers”

Our regular visitors know that the popular IESO Wind Tracker is “stuck” in first post position.  The IESO (Independent Electricity System Operator) of Ontario states that “Ontario is on the forefront of wind in Canada with almost 1,100 MW of installed capacity on the transmission grid,” and the “tracker” provides a nice, hour by hour report of the actual production of Ontario’s “wind farms” against the installed capacity.

Another thing the IESO folks do is write a footnote with each reading to give a sense of what all that MW stuff means.  For example, the title for this post (enough to run 70,000 clothes dryers) is part of a larger footnote published on the Ontario IESO Wind Tracker which, when expanded reads:  “359 MW or enough to run 70,000 clothes dryers 3 am to 4 am March 4, 2010.”  I could have easily chosen from any of these examples from the “tracker” library:

  • 412 MW or enough to run 6.6 million ceiling fans 11 am to 12 pm February 25, 2010
  • 45 MW or enough to meet the needs of Innisfil 6am to 7am March 2, 2010
  • 525 MW or enough to run a million refrigerators 4 pm to 5 pm March 19, 2010
  • 84 MW or enough to meet the needs of Welland 5 am to 6 am March 6, 2010
  • 840 MW or enough to run a million vacuum cleaners 10 am to 11 am February 26, 2010

With all the push for wind as an energy source and the billions of tax dollars being pumped into the wind business by governments across the world, I though it might be worthwhile to put this all into terms I could relate to, and perhaps understand in terms of the cost and benefit to my simple little world.  Maybe some of you will find this interesting.

First – the 70,000 clothes dryers:

The figure, 359 MW or enough to run 70,000 clothes dryers 3 am to 4 am March 4, 2010, sounds pretty impressive.  But once you realize that if the dryers were actually running at the same time, Ontario’s 1,100 MW of total installed wind capacity would leave nothing to run your toaster, or electric blanket, or a light to read by.  And this measurement, from 3 am to 4 am, represents wind’s actual output v wind’s installed capacity at 32.6% of installed capacity, significantly higher than 27.6% average actual output v installed capacity for the 30 days surrounding it.

Think of it this way.

According to the Ontario Ministry of Finance, the 2006 Census counted 4,555,025 private households in Ontario in 2006.

This suggests that if 70,000 lucky Ontario dryer owners flip on the appliance between 3 am and 4 am on March 4, 2010, the remaining 4,485,025 households in Ontario won’t be able to run a clothes dryer even if they own one, or any other electrical gadget, at least courtesy of the wind.

So how might this translate to us folks in the US?  Let’s use some admittedly rough numbers to place US performance in the same context:

Now that sounds like a lot too, until:

According to the US Census Bureau, there were 105,480,101 households in the US in 2000.

This suggests that  if 2,100,000 lucky US dryer owners flip on the appliance at a time when wind is generating at 32.6% of rated nameplate capacity (higher than average), the remaining 103,380,101 households in the US won’t be able to run a clothes dryer even if they own one, or any other electrical gadget, at least courtesy of the wind.

Not very impressive, is it?  Well, it gets worse.  If you look at Ontario’s reports over time, the severe hourly and daily fluctuation of the wind means there will be times that you can run as many as 15% of the total dryers – and nothing else; and times you’ll be able to run less than 1% – and nothing else … at least courtesy of the wind.

And the big problem with all this?  The wind will set the schedule for your dryer, not you!

Of course, backing up the unreliable and expensive wind energy will be the coal, nuclear, natural gas and hydro power plants that provide the backbone of today’s “on-demand” and reliable power structure, which does so consuming remarkably less land and air space than wind.  But that’s a whole other story, as they say!

To be fair, recognizing these measurements are a snapshot in time, I selected a 30 day period from February 19 to March 20, 2010, because of the “in like a lion and out like a lamb” nature of March and the possibility that the winds would be more favorable to output.  You can certainly choose own time frame, if you wish.

Unlike here in the US, the history of Ontario’s energy output is all here for your convenience:  Hourly Generator Output & Capability.  And believe me, I’m not picking on the IESO.  At least they provide a convenient, user friendly way to show their electricity consumers what is happening across their grid and what their money produces.  Try this little exercise down here in the United States of Transparency.

Using IESO’s hourly data I put together a few charts to help visualize the numbers over these 30 days.  They’re admittedly not the best charts, but then, I’m not the best chart maker by a long shot.

In the first chart I conveniently named Item 1, what you will see by scrolling down the chart from hour 720 (March 20) to hour 0 (February 19) is the hourly fluctuation of actual output v availability capability (1,100).  At the end of the visual chart, I left the source data for you to check for accuracy.

Item 1:  Hourly chart of 30 days of actual v capability (720 hours) Source IESO

  • Date Range Feb 19 (hour 1) thru Mar 20,(hour 720)
  • Scroll down to view hourly impact of variability.
  • Input data follows chart.

The next chart – Item 2 – is for you folks who wish to see the daily detail charted.  My attempt here is to show the hourly fluctuation of wind’s output over a 24 hour period for each day in the period I selected.  The data is from the same source, which is linked at the top of each chart.

Item 2:  Daily Report (hour by hour) Charted:

So, what to make of the all this 70,000 clothes dryer thing?  Here are a few of my thoughts:

  • wind chooses when the electricity is available to run the clothes dryers, not the owners of the clothes dryers.
  • if there were actually 70,000 clothes dryers in Ontario or 2,100,000 clothes dryers in the US running, the wind would be powering nothing else … NOTHING!
  • if Ontario or the US were to substantially depend on the wind, all other energy sources must still remain available to ramp up or down almost minute by minute to compensate for the poor and variable performance of these wind turbines.
  • if wind’s installed capacity were to be increased to a level simply to run all the clothes dryers in the US, and nothing else, how many square miles of land and air would have to be consumed by tremendous numbers of massive turbines?
  • since every spot is not a good spot to plop a “wind farm,” will the cumulative impact caused by consumption of prime land overwhelm the environment?
  • what about the little problem of having wind turbines situated far from the consumer and the whole transmission line and power drop issues?
  • and finally, industrial wind should not be considered a bonus.  It is an extremely high cost, heavily subsidized, under-performing, erratic, unreliable antiquated technology which produces, at best, meager energy to the grid on a uncontrollable schedule.

But don’t take my word for all this.  Review the detailed performance of wind provided by your US suppliers, NREL, Department of Energy, American Wind Energy Association and your friendly local wind developer.

Having a little trouble finding the convenient, user friendly information these folks provide to their electricity consumers?  Well, why don’t you contact your state and federal legislators.  They must have the detail at the ready since they are so willing to throw your hard earned tax dollars at industrial wind.

On the other hand, if they don’t know the answers and continue to waste your money … throw them out of office.  It is your money, after all.

Allegheny Treasures note:  We make every effort to be accurate.  Should you find an error, omission or broken link, please contact us via the comment section.  And please, PLEASE write if you agree or disagree.  The intent for posts is to create a dialogue.

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3 Responses to Industrial wind: “enough to run 70,000 clothes dryers”

  1. Zen2then says:

    I enjoy your site. Industrial wind output is more variable than the hourly outputs displayed at the IESO site. The kinetic energy of wind varies to the cube of the speed so the amount of power available to an industrial wind that should be translated into variable power. The only way to smooth that variable output is to add another energy source when needed. Even the magical industrial wind turbines cannot create power from nothing. We know that no industrial wind turbine can operate without a reliable source of electricity. What is wind power and what is taken from the grid to smooth the wind creates a situation where it would be difficult to determine what is wind power and what is not. 20% of the power produced in Ontario is lost (line, heat, ground, used but not paid for etc. so not really lost but not delivered to a paying consumers). If the variability of wind creates situations where an increased loss is realized it would mean industrial power is a waste of time and most likely uses more power than it produces at times. I think you know that already. If find the IESO provides information on output, but the values are more consistent than possible if it is wind generated.

    • morgan says:

      Thank you for your comment.

      Complexity is the wind developer’s friend, and exactly why the wind folks are successful in presenting output in terms of “millions of ceiling fans.” The illusion of green and free has been rather successfully sold to the general public. Even the politicians controlling the purse strings would much rather accept that the wind in Ontario is “enough to power Windsor” than to attempt to understand the critical flaws you address.

      If they would take the time to understand the foolishness of relying on wind as an energy source, funding would perhaps be diverted to development of energy techniques which could really pay off for the future.

      I hope you will continue to drop by and contribute as your time allows.

  2. Allegheny Front Alliance says:

    Remember the Pogo…
    “We have met the enemey and he is us”.

    Thank you Zen2then for you contribution.

    You are correct. Another way to think about the situation,
    “there is no such thing as a free lunch” .

    Big Wind, rpresents high costs with little social value.

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