By now, you would think folks at the NY Times would know that the installed capacity (nameplate rating) of a power unit is not the same as the actual production output generated by a power unit. But time and again we see the terms used interchangeably, mostly to the benefit of the extremely inefficient and heavily subsidized erector sets known as industrial wind turbines. After a while, you begin to wonder if the portrayal is intentional. After all, you have to think the reporters writing these articles are fairly intelligent people and should know the difference.
Take as example, the article in today’s New York Times Environment section – Green Blog which claims that “the amount of power generated by new wind turbines in the European Union this year will be about the same as the amount from new gas plants, according to the European Wind Energy Association, an industry group.” Note the use of “power generated” to imply that gas and wind are producing at equivalent levels.
But that’s not exactly what was said. Actually, when author James Kanter quotes a wind industry executive it comes out this way, “It is too early to say whether, for a third year running, there will be more wind energy capacity installed than any other electricity generating technology, but it is clear that wind energy will be competing for the top spot with new gas power plants.” Note that the wind exec used the term “wind energy capacity installed” instead of “power generated” as Mr. Kanter initially suggested. Yes, maybe I’m picky … but it is very important to know the difference and very misleading to readers when not used properly.
The article also mentions how four years ago “nearly 20 gigawatts of new gas capacity compared with 9 gigawatts of wind,” but last year wind overtook new gas installations by a measure of 10 gigawatts to 7 gigawatts of installed capacity. Again, “capacity!”
Then there’s this: “Gas still is in the lead in the E.U. in terms of overall generating capacity. Gas plants produced 119 gigawatts in 2007, according to the latest figures available from Eurelectric, an industry group representing European utility companies. That figure was up from 112 gigawatts in 2006.” You might note how easily you’re led from the concept of “overall generating capacity” to “gas plants produced” in the same paragraph as it relates to gas performance. What is sorely missing is the same set of figures for wind’s “overall generating capacity” and “wind plants produced.”
So, to bring a little reality to the discussion, let’s take a look at electricity generation v nameplate (rated) capacity. The wind groups themselves suggest that we should expect turbines to produce at a 30% level of their nameplate capacity. Historically, many would argue that even this low estimate is much too high. Then there’s the issue that when wind does arrive at the blades of the turbine, it does so on its own schedule and at its own speed.
Some time back I asked Jon Boone of Stop Ill Wind for his thoughts on the topic of industrial wind as it relates to the Appalachian Mountain range, which is in the cross-hairs of US wind developers. What he said then is well worth mentioning here: “Let’s say there were 3000, 2.5MW wind turbines providing a combined installed capacity of 7000MW. Because their performance would be a function of the cube of the wind speed, they would be continuously skittering between zero and, extremely rarely, their installed capacity. Together, their likely capacity factor would be 25%, meaning that their actual output would produce an annual average of around 1800MW to a grid that generates over 140,000MW at peak demand times. Sixty percent of the time, the aggregate wind projects would produce less than 1800MW; around 20 percent of the time, they would produce 700MW or less. Around 10 percent of the time, they would produce nothing, particularly at peak demand times. Always they would be changing their production from one minute to the next, unpredictably. Occasionally, they would produce wide swings of energy, increasing in one hour, say, from producing 50MW, to, in the next hour, 5000MW–and vice versa. All this would threaten grid security by commandeering the grid’s marginal reserves.
Coal and natural gas generators would have to be entangled with the wind generation and these would actually provide around 75 percent of the wind projects’ installed capacity. Since they would be operating inefficiently to follow and balance the continuous wind flux–remember, supply and demand must be balanced at all times–the harsh truth is that the wind projects would induce more net CO2 emissions than would be the case without any wind at all. And the need for more coal and natural gas consumption.
In terms of the expectations of those who support the idea, wind technology wholly subverts their goals. It really is the dumbest modern energy idea imaginable. And this dysfunctional production would require 600 miles of terrain and would likely clearcut 60,000 acres. To coin a phrase, “What hath God wrought” with this kind of pretension?”
We are pleased to provide the full text of Mr. Boone’s excellent paper – Why Wind Won’t Work – for your convenience. Perhaps even reporters will find it helpful.