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No One Can Force the Sun to Shine or Wind to Blow

June 26, 2015

Two facts are incontrovertible:

  • Wind turbines don’t generate electricity when the wind isn’t blowing
  • Solar power plants don’t generate electricity when the sun isn’t shining

Storage can mitigate this to some extent, but it can double the initial investment in wind and solar.

Because wind and solar don’t generate electricity when the wind isn’t blowing or the sun isn’t shining, there must be backup fossil fuel generation sufficient to meet demand.

When wind and solar provide small amounts of electricity, maintaining the fossil fuel backup is a nuisance and moderately expensive.

But what happens when wind or solar provide very large amounts of electricity, especially if they provided 80%, as proposed by Germany and as espoused by extreme environmentalists?

No bureaucrat can force the sun to shine or the wind to blow, so backup fossil fuel generation must be maintained to meet total demand at any time of day.

As this curve from Germany demonstrates, approximately 70 GW of generating capacity must be maintained so that total demand can be met when the wind stops blowing and the sun stops shining. (The red line approximates 80% production from renewables.)

Who is going to pay for maintaining this capability?

German Load Curve at 60% Renewables

But Germany is part of the European grid so it can export or import electricity to help mitigate the problem of generation by renewables.

Denmark is a good example of why the investment in renewables is actually wasted.

Denmark Generation by Category with Consumption

Denmark Generation by Category with Consumption

The green bars represent power from central stations, which is essentially from fossil fuel power plants.

The brown line shows total consumption.

Clearly, all of the load could have been supplied solely by fossil fuels, possibly with some small assist from combined heat and power (CHP).

The investment in wind turbines has been completely wasted.

Considering that wind is more expensive than fossil fuels in most countries, it makes no economic sense to build wind turbines.

In actuality, Denmark exports a large amount of its wind generated electricity to Norway, because Norway, where over 90% of its electricity is provided by hydro, can absorb the excess wind generated electricity from Denmark, which would otherwise have to be dumped.

The two countries that are consistently held up as examples of the wonders of renewables are both wasting billions of dollars in their quest to eliminate CO2.

The average citizen is footing the bill with higher rates for electricity and higher taxes.

 

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15 Comments leave one →
  1. usurbrain permalink
    June 26, 2015 2:31 pm

    The problem the greens ignore is that the operation and maintenance cost of the plants in standby is exactly the same as if it were operating. Further the reduction in fuel costs is minimal as the efficiency is designed in at 100% power. Even Hydro plants are not exempt. The Greens have forced river flow requirements on most hydro generating stations to the point that they are dumping water when they are not generating electricity. The Columbia Generating Station, a NPP, can not perform a refueling outage during the salmon runs and other periods requiring high flow.
    And the biggest thing one must factor in is the fact that essentially every electric utility is actually a tax collector in disguise. Every foot of wire, power pole, substation, power plant, automobile, truck, building, etc is taxed under the state property tax program and license plate fees. At the several companies I have worked at, this plus the federal tax is over 50% of the companies expense’s. But the state takes another bite. Look at your electric bill, they add sales taxes and other “fees” to the cost of the electricity. Another 5 -7 % (Average) So, regardless of where that electricity comes from, even your roof or wind tower, you will continue paying through your nose for that electricity.
    Now look closely at the EIA kWh price of electricity. It is for the electricity NOT for all of the taxes, fees licenses, etc.

    • June 26, 2015 2:44 pm

      Thanks for your comments.

      • June 26, 2015 6:21 pm

        Donn, while I agree with your comments about the wind not always blowing and the sun not always shinning, there is a viable alternative. Len Daniel (www.lpdaniel.com) has developed a Hybrid Solar Thermal Closed Loop System that will produce 432,000 MWh of stable, Baseload, spinning reserve renewable energy annually at competitive pricing with no governmental subsidies or grants.

        The system accomplishes this by gasifying organic material in non-solar hours in an oxygen free environment. Not only will the system produce renewable energy, it also will produce 6.4 million gallons of Ultra Low Sulfur Diesel, 12.4 million gallons of water, 4.9 million lbs. of Silicon plus trace amounts of Iron and Aluminum annually.

        You may have heard of Len. He designed, built and operated the 9 SEGS plants in the Mojave while he was VP of LUZ. Those 9 plants have operated continuously at better than 100% of design capacity for over 25 years and are still in operation.

        Len and I would be happy to discuss the state of the renewable industry with you.

        Thank you,

        Timothy W. Metz
        President/Managing Member
        Bethel Energy, LLC.
        Bethel Solar LLC
        Bethel Solar X Project, LLC.
        1347 Tavern Road, Building D30
        Alpine, CA 91901
        USA
        direct: 360-961-1419
        Skype: twmetz
        metz36@comcast.net
        http://www.lpdaniel.com

  2. June 26, 2015 7:10 pm

    I’m always interested in learning about new energy applications.
    I know that PV solar has been coupled with NG power plants, but I’m not familiar with the precise development you are referring to.
    My usual approach is to see what the economics are with any application. Why is this approach more economic than NGCC power plants? NG power plants generate electricity at 5 cents per kWh, possibly less.
    Except for some applications such as the one you are describing, I have pretty good handle on the renewable industry per se.
    What is the investment required? What is the ROI? It appears as though the process banks on income from other byproducts, I assume diesel fuel. Gasification is an interesting term, but can require a large investment, such as with IGCC power plants. Of course, manure has been gasified to generate methane for small NG power plants with a small investment.

    • June 26, 2015 7:25 pm

      Donn, the cost is $300 million, the EBITDA is $57 million and the construction time to COD is 10-12 months. We have a commitment on the full debt financing. I was suggesting a conversation regarding our system not the ones that you mention. We are not creating methane.

      Len Daniel has been called the “father of solar thermal”.

      • June 27, 2015 8:35 am

        $300 million sounds like a pilot plant. Since you have the financing, why not build the plant and prove it works as advertised.
        You can send me information at ddears@powerforusa.com
        I’m interested in the basic process. For example I am very familiar with GTL and CTL and have followed SASOL for decades. You intimate that your gasification process is different.
        I noticed Bethel is using parabolic solar system, which would fit the small investment. I also noted the SDGEA contract to provide solar thermal. I also noted the D&B reports. You certainly can see why I am somewhat skeptical.
        Please send me whatever information you have to support your thesis.
        Many thanks.

  3. Jason Roberts permalink
    June 28, 2015 11:47 am

    Sounds fine for a place like the Mojave Desert. Not many people around to complain about land use, visual clutter, etc. Probably a reasonable percentage of sunshine. I’m wondering how well such a system would work where I live (Midwest). Lots of neighbors around, permitting and siting requirements, relatively poor weather (I’m seeing the sun for the first time in about six days, much of that time there was rain). This is the problem I have. If your primary energy source (sun or wind) is unavailable for an extended period, eventually your storage capacity will be challenged. Then you need conventional backup, which will be priced far beyond what it is today because it isn’t used as much but still has to be built and maintained and ready to go when needed. All that costs money.

    • June 28, 2015 12:15 pm

      Thanks. Excellent point.

      • June 28, 2015 2:23 pm

        Our Hybrid Solar Thermal plant only requires 155 acres. We do not use storage. We generate power in non-solar hours the same way we do in solar hours, by heating water to make steam to turn a turbine. The only difference is in solar hours, we get the heat from the sun and in non-solar hours we get the heat from the gasification process.

  4. June 28, 2015 2:49 pm

    Timothy:
    What is the gasification process being used?

  5. Jason Roberts permalink
    June 28, 2015 2:58 pm

    OK, so your system is pretty conventional at its basis. You use solar when the sun shines. You use something else (gasified organic material) when it isn’t. You need delivery of your fuel (organic material) as feedstock for your gasification process (I’m assuming there isn’t much organic material available in the Mojave Desert). It’s basically a twist on the coal gasification gambit, although perhaps there are those who would classify coal as “organic material”. What gas does your process produce? How well does the system perform in environments that doesn’t have the same amount of sunny days as the Mojave? I’m guessing the winters where I live are a lot colder and darker than Southern California, and I wouldn’t want to be caught short of power during one of those long sieges.

    • June 28, 2015 3:59 pm

      Thanks. Good questions.

    • Jason Roberts permalink
      June 29, 2015 7:19 am

      Sorry for the lousy grammar above. Didn’t proofread very well. Anyway, my point was that for millions of years mankind has striven to free himself from reliance for life and sustenance on the vagaries of natural phenomenon. That has driven him to irrigate deserts, live in harsh environments, and produce food in prodigious amounts with relatively little labor. He has freed himself from the life-threatening illnesses that only a century ago even in this and other developed countries were a fact of life, wherein children would often die at a young age and adults would be made prematurely old from a lifetime of hard labor. And education, art, and leisure were luxuries available only to the very wealthiest of citizens. Our upward advance has been the result in no small measure to the availability of energy in copious quantities, on demand and at reasonable cost. Any proposition that seeks to take us back to reliance on an inherently unpredictable and variable source seems more like regression than progress.

      • June 29, 2015 8:26 am

        Jason.
        Many thanks.
        Couldn’t agree with you more. And wind and solar are moving us backwards.

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