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January 25, 2009

Comments

Long live state's rights!

Are you also willing to submit all the renewable energy schemes to scientific scrutiny as well? I think you'd find a serious lack of scientific validation of, for example, the benefits of wind energy.

cw,

Absolutely. In fact, alternative energy should be scrutinized and regulatd by eac state and othe political subdivision.

cw: Yes. I don't have any particular attachment to turbines. I just want CO2 emissions down, and less dependence on repellent foreign regimes.

cw, could you describe the nature of the problems you believe wind turbines have? I mean, you're not subscribing to some crazy conspiracy theory are you? Anyway, I'm very curious: what are the specific problems with wind energy that you're getting at?


jrudkis: if you have an argument, I'd love to see it, but if you just want to make nonsensical cracks, don't be surprised if people don't take you seriously.

Turbulence,

I would say that wind power has its share of problems. The wind mills make formidable dents into the skyline, they are noisy and they kill birds. Moreover, the wind power plants are often located on coastal areas which are very important nesting places for marine avians. In addition, the wind power plants are constructed of high-quality steel which takes up a great amount of energy to manufacture. Even a rather large 3 MW plant unit will take a lengthy time to produce the energy used in its manufacturing process.

The unreliability of wind power means that you have to have a rather robustly designed power grid, with a good amount of back-up power that can be switched on when needed. Alternatively, the grid operator must be able to selectively black out large load units in case of still weather.

None of the problems I described is unsolvable. With good engineering, they can be overcome. However, that will take some serious effort.

On a different note, I find Obama's respect for EPA refreshing. I've had the occasion to see EPA in action a few times and I respect them highly. They have a good number of excellent scientists and a solid engineering approach to environmental protection.

Lurker - the idea that wind turbines kill significant numbers of birds is an Urban Legend (or oil industry propaganda if you're feeling less charitable).

How long is it going to take before good news about what the US government is doing becomes commonplace?

As a friend said: it's like watching The West Wing. Only better.

*mellowing out like a mellow thing* *needs coffee*

I call dibs on playing Toby!

In addition, the wind power plants are constructed of high-quality steel which takes up a great amount of energy to manufacture. Even a rather large 3 MW plant unit will take a lengthy time to produce the energy used in its manufacturing process.

Recycle!.

These guys have plans for DIY wind turbines made from repurposed Volvo front strut assemblies. Among other things. Including a hamster-powered nightlight.

All quaint and amusing, except it works.

The hippies are back, except they're all real-life steampunks now, and they can generate their own electricity.

The culture that can turn its own garbage into gold has a distinct adaptive advantage.

I would say that wind power has its share of problems.

As would I. As would everyone I know. But cw's comments spoke to an overall lack of merit implying that wind power was some sort of crazy boondoggle.

The wind mills make formidable dents into the skyline, they are noisy

They do? The big farm I've seen proposed in MA is off shore so this doesn't seem to be a problem. Inland farms seem to be placed in areas where there are low population densities, so while they might be noisy, I'm not sure irritating half a dozen people in the middle of nowhere is a serious problem. I mean, have you seen what we do to people who live near coal mines?

and they kill birds.

If this was true, then it seems awfully strange for the Audubon Society to approve and recommend a large wind farm near here. Perhaps you know and care more about birds than they do?

In addition, the wind power plants are constructed of high-quality steel which takes up a great amount of energy to manufacture. Even a rather large 3 MW plant unit will take a lengthy time to produce the energy used in its manufacturing process.

So do buildings, jets, cars, and every other piece of power generating equipment. If you feel that wind turbines consume much more energy in their construction than alternative energy sources, please say so, but the fact that they consume non-zero energy in their construction is not really an issue.

The unreliability of wind power means that you have to have a rather robustly designed power grid,

In an age of terrorism, are you saying that we can get away with a non-robust substandard grid? That we can tolerate a few more events like the 2003 blackout that deprived 50 million people of power for hours and days?

None of the problems I described is unsolvable. With good engineering, they can be overcome. However, that will take some serious effort.

How does that amount of effort compare to building a coal plant or a nuclear plant? I was under the impression that the basic engineering challenges in wind power have been solved, so which challenges do you think remain?

Aside from the birds and bats - and the story on them would take another thread - I pose this challenge to any and all. Find me one, just one, study that demonstrates CO2 savings. I don't mean calculations of savings based on assumptions. I mean measured, as the scientific method requires. You'd think after almost 100,000 turbines someone would do such a study, and if it was favorable you can bet your bottom dollar the industry would be making sure we all knew of it.

And then when you've found that study, find another study that reports how much energy the turbines consume in their normal operation, so we can figure out their net production.

I eagerly await your reply.

In the meantime, there's a nice series of slides that applies scientific reasoning to the question.

Ah, just as I expected cw, you're a nutty conspiracy theorist who is utterly ignorant of science and engineering. Carry on then.

Turby: Please refrain from personal attacks.

I've been hearing for years that one of the most dramatic things the government could do for fuel efficiency is eliminate the loophole that allows SUVs to be considered "light trucks" and thus subject to far more lenient standards than passenger cars. Does anyone know if changing this situation might be in the offing? I don't remember hearing anything from Obama's campaign about it.

None of his concerns are really all that new, cw. Hopefully, they're not all that new to most other readers, either.

Typically, wind turbines cost between $1 million and $2million per megawatt capacity to install. Whatever the real number is, that's your sunk cost. Probably you're going to have to buy maintenance, too, at some cost per year, but that might be folded into the installation.

That aside, energy at 11 cents per kilowatt-hour is going to cost out at very close to $1 million per megawatt-year. I say this because that's just about the full cost recovery period for a 1 megawatt-capacity turbine, running at full capacity for an entire year. The slide show had an example wind turbine that was averaging out to about 12.5% capacity; that one (assuming it could do that every month) would take eight years to pay for itself, at current energy prices.

Anyone looking to set up wind turbines has already considered this kind of thing, hopefully. You don't, if you're sane, set up wind turbines where they're not going to be cost-effective, any more than you set up solar panels in the shade.

Eric, my apologies. I tend to lose patience with pseudoscience folks who insist that every individual thing has to be measured rather than, you know, measuring each class of things once and then applying grade school math.

Turbulence,

please, do not take offence. I believe that wind power is usable, but still, it does have also cons, not only pros. Birdlife Finland, the most important Finnish society for avian welfare notes that wind power should not be built into migratory routes of birds, nor near wetlands as migratory and wetland birds suffer the most from wind turbines. (Birdlife Finland is definitely an independent, respected NGO with 10.000 individual members, not a puppet for oil industy.)

An offshore wind farm will not have effects on the skyline, but a wind farm on the shore has a marked effect on landscape. Any 100 meter high tower has. And wind turbines make a lot of noise. I walk by one every day, and it makes as much noise as the paper mill nearby.

And on the grid: In the US, you have a sub-standard, badly-maintained power grid, terrorism or no terrorism. You cannot afford that bad grid anyhow. However, the costs of upgrading depend on the power generation methods. Wind power requires more back-up power generation capacity.

Turbulence,
The vehemence of your reply maybe just proved my point. I always thought "pseudoscience" involved believing something in spite of the evidence.

Apparently your understanding of the scientific method is about 180 degrees away from mine. Please take a step back and think through why you believe turbines save CO2. And then ask yourself what evidence exists to support this belief.

Slarti -

Your numbers on the economics are close enough for me, with the addition of maybe $20/mw-hr of maintenance cost, which is a pretty small component of the overall cost. The 12.5% is pretty low; I expect most projects produce more than that.

For the large wind projects the money they make selling power to the grid is only part of their attraction to investors. At least as important are the carbon credits and other subsidies.

That said, I'm not convinced we really know what any of the sources of energy truly cost, especially if you get into externals like wars and climate change.

Sun power and solar have a similar (although not all that similar to each other, in nature) kind of problem: their supply is not keyable to demand. What's needed to make them both more useable is a breakthrough in energy-storage technology.

Which in general means batteries, but may come to mean something else.

More good news: Kristol Ends Times Op-Ed Column.

Here is an article that discusses the impact of wind farms on surrounding farmland.

"By disrupting airflow to nearby turbines, turbulence can significantly reduce the efficiency of a wind farm. But turbulence produced by turbine rotors also can have a strong impact on local ground temperature and moisture content.

“Turbulence creates stronger mixing of heat and moisture, which causes the land surface to become warmer and drier,” Baidya Roy said. “This change in local hydrometeorological conditions can affect the growth of crops within the wind farm.”"

I have two questions: 1) How far downwind does the affect by wind farms extend, and 2) as more and more wind farms are installed, would such a thing as "wind rights" come into play by farmers trying to protect their downwind cropland?

Wind turbine installation sites indeed need environmental review to minimize avian mortality and other impacts. Necessary steps include siting them out of major flyways and the turbine design itself (early California wind farms were often sited in busy flyways and did in fact kill a lot of birds). IIUC the newest very large turbines are inherently less hazardous because their very large blades spin at lower rpms than smaller designs (although blade tip speeds are still darn fast). They’re also reviewed for sightline and noise impacts prior to approval.

I’ve worked on a couple of wind farm projects in California. The biggest technical issue has turned out to be interference with Air Force radar installations. Who knew? FWIW routine avian mortality monitoring is part of the permitting requirements.

The cost per MW of wind, solar-thermal, geothermal and other renewable power sources continues to drop, and is becoming rather competitive with traditional supplies. With adequate power grid upgrades, we can commit ourselves to developing large windpower installations in the U.S. interior, where the most dependable wind resources are and where they can easily mix with existing agriculture and sparse populations.

Slarti - totally agree. If the storage problem is fixed then solar and wind become much more effective. Batteries are the most obvious, and there's some interesting possibilities there. Electrolysis and hydro storage are other possibilities, but neither is very efficient (yet).

But none of these are cheap (nor is the necessarily more robust grid). Beyond that they may never prove out at all, and if they don't we will have spent huge sums for very little if any benefit (unless you are in that business, of course). I'd much rather we wait until the storage issue is solved before we go around ripping up the environment.

Sorry for the partial hijack, but back on thread - I also think the EPA does a pretty good job when they're left alone. The problem always seems to be the politics of unpopular decisions.

Here's another vote for fixing the light truck exemptions. Mini-SUVs and tall wagons should not be on this list. I'm all for giving legit exemptions for good reasons but these things stink of lobbying gone awry.

With regard to avian mortality, I would think that direct bird kills as a result of windfarm placement need to be compared with possible CO2 savings generated by those same wind farms and what effect that is likely to have on wetlands. Many avian species are highly dependent on wetland environments, which of course are directly impacted by rising sea level. We may be trading off localized avian losses vs. globablized avian preservation.

Which in general means batteries, but may come to mean something else.

The more advanced solar thermal stations store heat energy in molten salt. This decouples electricity production from solar collection, so output can be keyed to demand on a daily basis. But for photovoltaics and wind turbines, I think we will have to hope for better batteries.

Re. the concern trolling(?) about wind power not being carbon-reducing, here's what Vestas has to say:

"Wind is clean. It doesn’t produce CO2 and other greenhouse gasses. And it doesn’t use up our already scarce drinking water. It just produces energy.

"Energy efficiency for the entire life cycle
Wind power is clean. A Vestas V90-3.0 MW wind turbine produces the same amount of electricity as 13,000 barrels of oil each year – without the emissions. And each year the 35,500 Vestas wind turbines around the world save the planet from more than 40 million tonnes of CO2 compared to oil.

"But clean energy is about more than that. You also need to consider energy consumption throughout a power plant’s entire life cycle, from construction to dismantling. Even with the environmental impact of raw materials, manufacturing, transport, service and disposal, a V90-3.0 MW onshore turbine is carbon neutral after only 6.6 months of energy production. And 80 percent of each turbine we make is recyclable.

"Leading the world in sustainable energy
At Vestas, we already lead the world when it comes to turning wind power into clean, sustainable electricity. But we want to do more. So by 2020, we’ll use clean electricity for more than 90 percent of our internal energy consumption."

www.vestas.com

Apparently your understanding of the scientific method is about 180 degrees away from mine.

Yes, but as a practicing engineer, I have a lot more confidence in my understanding than that of some guy on the internet who can only point to long winded slide shows.

Please take a step back and think through why you believe turbines save CO2.

"Turbines" save nothing in and of themselves. What matters is how much CO2 is generated per kW-hour by a windfarm versus other sources. Wind farms consume some CO2 in their construction, but the amount of CO2 we're talking about here is relatively small compared to the amount emitted on an ongoing basis by burning coal to generate an equivalent number of kW-hours.

And then ask yourself what evidence exists to support this belief.

Well, this paper from Stanford provides some numbers on the lifetime energy production of wind turbines as well as the total energy cost of need to build, operate, maintain, and scrap a wind turbine. Basically, wind turbines displace enough dirty energy to cover their own carbon costs after a few months of operation. See Section 4a.i for more info.

So, I've pointed you to a scientific paper that justifies my beliefs. Can you point me to a scientific paper that justifies your claims?

Re the exemption for SUVs, I agree, but we need a corresponding change in safety-seat regulation. I despise SUVs/minivans and don't like driving them...but I'll have to if I have a third child in the next few years, because it is physically impossible to fit three child safety seats into a standard-size car, and I can get arrested for not having all the kids in them. Heck, I'm not even sure that I can fit two little kids' seats and one big kid in a station wagon back seat (and I suspect that if I can, the car seats themselves would pose a threat to the kid in the middle seat in the event of a side impact), so I may need an SUV if I ever want a third child. The risk reduction from 'safety' seats is slight at best, and I doubt it is worth their sticker price, let alone the bother of installation, use, cargo space reduction, and visual clutter. But we have to have them, the law says so. I often wonder whether Detroit backed the car-seat lobby to increase SUV sales.

ZPG may be a good idea for other reasons, but let's not do it as an accidental side effect, or with such punishing effect on those who already have >2 children.

That's a good summary of things, Turbulence. I have to think that it partially cancels out that drying effect you can have on crops.

//Absolutely. In fact, alternative energy should be scrutinized and regulated by each state and other political subdivision.//

"Other political subdivision". OMG.

Story: My local city council asked the national AIA (architects association) to do a sustainability presentation. They talked about saving energy, easing traffic flows, conserving water, density, pedestrian friendliness, all the usual things. Then one of them stood up to talk about energy security. He said each town should consider having it's own power plant. Then he pointed at a map of the town and said "You could put a solar-thermal plant here for example". He pointed at my property downtown opposite the town green.

The next day I got a call from a city council person asking me to consider doing it. A week later she called me to say she had been inquiring at PGE to see how to get it accomplished.

It is complete lunacy to put a huge field of reflecting mirrors in the middle of downtown in order to create intense heat in a tower and thereby run a generator. The upshot would be ugly to say the least. But would also involve transmission lines and such coming out of downtown. If you had to do such a thing, the outskirts of town would be better. Not to mention that we have 5 months of clouds here in the winters.

She's an idiot who jumped on the sustainable bandwagon without thinking and is now trying to influence policy in a stupid direction. But how do you say 'no way' gently to someone whose vote you might need later?

I told her a huge power plant downtown is a great idea but that nuclear is really the way to go. I have photos of nuclear plants in my briefcase to show her next time she brings it up. If it comes to it i'll have my architect draw a rendering of huge power lines going across the center of the town green and a cooling pond/water park nearby.

Gerbil power is cheaper, and is self-sustaining.

hilzoy
//I don't have any particular attachment to turbines. I just want CO2 emissions down// I disagree.

//and less dependence on repellent foreign regimes.// I agree.

Re: CO2
There is very good science that says warming is caused by solar cycles (milankovitch, etc) and that elevated levels of CO2 follows warming rather than leads it. The ice core record suggests that atmospheric CO2 peaks and average of 800 years after temperature peaks.

IMHO there is no reason for us to do anything one way or the other on greenhouse gasses.

[I'm sure I've completely discredited myself now. Ha.]

"I'm sure I've completely discredited myself now. Ha."

I don't have the qualifications to pass judgment on atmospheric science, myself: what are yours?

Do you also have opinions on quantum theory? What do you think they're worth?

//I don't have the qualifications to pass judgment on atmospheric science, myself//

I guess you can't make a judgement on my 4:21p comment then.

Be careful on the climatology; lots of things have been done in recent years and a lot of folks have been citing old, outdated material.

Latest analysis of the ongoing literature in climate science may not show what you think it does...

Good grief, where to start? Hilzoy, if you want me to shut up just let me know.

First, Trollhatten. From Vestas, and I've been all over their site, you get lots of assertions. Their life-cycle numbers, by the way, seem to be well thought out but that's a side issue. They do present a number, somewhere in the 500g/kw-h range, of their savings from not burning fossils. Where does that number come from? I've been researching this for over a year, and I've been quite surprised to never coming across the primary source, where the savings are documented. If you can find same PLEASE cite it, I'd really like to see it. And just assuming avoidance is not sufficient, see below.

Turbulence - the slide show was just an appetizer, an example of someone who is asking the right questions at least. If you want to get into the details we can, but probably not here, unless Hilzoy etc. approves. Earlier, you mentioned "measuring each class of things once". You have apparently are aware of something that I am not. Could you tell us the circumstances of this measurement? A cite would be nice, but I am not Gary. Later on, you ask "Can you point me to a scientific paper that justifies your claims?" First, that isn't how science works. It's not my job to prove a negative. It's you who wants to spend billions, and it's your job to prove (as best as we can) that it it worthwhile. Can you do so? Second, I've never made claims one way or the other. All I've said is that the evidence, as far as I can tell, does not exist. That is bothersome, and I think it would be bothersome to most people. Third, while the co2 savings may seem intuitive, a closer look at the nature of the grid and the storage problem tell me there's plausible reasons why the savings are illusory. Here's an example with numbers, and I can provide other links as well. As long as these plausible reasons exist, it is imperative that actual real-life measurements are made. In fact, since getting real measurements is pretty expensive (monitoring equipment on every stack), I'd settle for the power plants' calculations of emissions.

There is very good science that says warming is caused by solar cycles (milankovitch, etc) and that elevated levels of CO2 follows warming rather than leads it.

Under conditions of natural warming you are mostly correct. The rise in CO2 is one of the factors that exacerbates natural warming -- a natural positive feedback effect.

However, the current warming is not due to increased solar input. Solar input has actually decreased slightly in the last few decades. Nor is the rise in CO2 levels due to natural causes -- it is due to the activities of humanity.

What happens if CO2 levels rise? The laws of physics predict the planet will get warmer. Global warming is simply a matter of physics.

It's this last part that I think many people don't understand. Add CO2 to the atmosphere, and it will get warmer. There are a number of secondary effects, like cloud formation, that need to be taken into account, but we know how to do that. So if CO2 levels are rising (and they are), we will get warmer, unless the laws of physics are wrong.

There is very good science that says warming is caused by solar cycles (milankovitch, etc)

Well, in the past, certain warming cycles did correlate with solar cycles, but there's no reason to believe that's the case now. Can you link to any scientific papers published in refereed journals that claim that the last few decades worth of warming is primarily driven by changes in solar output?

and that elevated levels of CO2 follows warming rather than leads it.

This is very correct: if you raise the temperature, the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere increases. One mechanism by which this happens is that warmer water can hold less CO2 than colder water; there's lots of CO2 in the oceans, so if you turn up the temperature, they release lots of CO2. I totally agree with you that this phenomena is real and quite significant.

The problem is that the relationship between temperature and CO2 concentrations is one of feedback rather than one way causality. That means that increasing the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere will cause an increase in temperature. The fact that we see CO2 concentrations increase following temperature increases in the distant past (that were not caused by CO2 increases) does not mean that CO2 increases now won't increase temperatures.

The ice core record suggests that atmospheric CO2 peaks and average of 800 years after temperature peaks.

When last I looked at graphs showing ice core records, I didn't see that. Can you give a link to a source?

I've been researching this for over a year, and I've been quite surprised to never coming across the primary source, where the savings are documented. If you can find same PLEASE cite it, I'd really like to see it.

I'm not sure what you're talking about here. On the one hand, there's the question as to how much CO2 is produced per kW-hr using our current energy production mix. Is that what you want to see broken down?

On the other hand, there is the question of how much CO2 is produced during the lifecycle of a typical wind turbine. One source for that is S. Krohn, ed., The energy balance of modern wind turbines, Wind Power, 1997, 16, 1–15.

If you want to get into the details we can

Yes, yes I do.

but probably not here, unless Hilzoy etc. approves.

The blog owners can tell us to shut up if they want, but usually they prefer that people make arguments justified with facts and cites. So please don't hide behind them.

Earlier, you mentioned "measuring each class of things once". You have apparently are aware of something that I am not. Could you tell us the circumstances of this measurement?

You seemed to be suggesting that one must measure carbon production associated with each individual wind turbine rather than, say, figuring out how much a turbine weighs and looking up values for CO2 production for that volume of steel. Perhaps I misread you, but the slideshow you linked to was extremely dull.

First, that isn't how science works. It's not my job to prove a negative. It's you who wants to spend billions, and it's your job to prove (as best as we can) that it it worthwhile. Can you do so?

The policy I'm advocating is a cap and trade regime for greenhouse gasses. I'm not pushing for any subsidies for particular technologies. If your wacky ideas are correct, then windfarm owners would not get a dime under a cap and trade regime.

Second, I've never made claims one way or the other. All I've said is that the evidence, as far as I can tell, does not exist.

This is a claim. It is an extremely vague claim. Evidence of what precisely does not exist?

Third, while the co2 savings may seem intuitive, a closer look at the nature of the grid and the storage problem tell me there's plausible reasons why the savings are illusory.

Wind speeds on the surface at any one point are quite variable. Wind speeds higher up averaged over many locations are a good deal more consistent. The storage problem is a big deal if you want to get 80% of your energy from wind power but it is not a big deal if you only want 20%.

Here's an example with numbers, and I can provide other links as well.

Your example seems misleading at best. It implies that power plant turbine efficiency is the only way to vary power output in conventional power plants. This is simply not true. Power plants consist of a number of units that can be independently controlled. Each unit consists of a number of turbines that can be engaged or disengaged. There are a lot of options available for modulating production without sacrificing efficiency.

As long as these plausible reasons exist, it is imperative that actual real-life measurements are made.

Measurements of what exactly? Please be specific.

Turb

http://www.sciencemag.org/cgi/content/abstract/283/5408/1712

I guess you can't make a judgement on my 4:21p comment then.

I will. It was exactly the sort of comment one would expect to see around 4:20 PM.

There is reasonable science suggesting that some climate oscillations with 10,000 year periods are related to solar cycles.

We are not on course for one of those rising temperature cycles right now.

That means the current warming has a different cause. A cause that is very well understood by science, because the climate system is behaving exactly as you would predict if you were to double atmospheric CO2 concentration.


Reality check for the turbine debate:

Assume a wind turbine was made of 100% pure energy. Since it produces only energy, the financial break-even point on your turbine investment will tell you exactly how long it will take to be energy neutral. Typically, this is 5-10 years (if it were 15+, no one would build turbines).

Of course, the actual break-even point on energy is much earlier than the financial break-even point, because wind turbines aren't made of energy, they're made and installed with labor and machinery and capital.

I'm quite curious about people like CW who go around claiming that the initial energy cost of doing anything (hybrids, turbines, efficiency) exceeds the long term benefits, when thinking about it for one minute will convince anyone otherwise.

Are they just overgeneralizing from the fact that a few urban Priuses may not offset their initial energy cost?

Or do they really believe they are privy to the secret knowledge of contrarian geniuses?

"I guess you can't make a judgement on my 4:21p comment then."

My judgement depends largely on what your qualifications are to speak to your opinion.

d'd'd'dave,

Can you explain what point that cite makes? Are you suggesting that the fact that CO2 increases came after temperature increases in the past proves that rising CO2 concentrations will NOT cause rising temperatures?

I'm quite curious about people like CW who go around claiming that the initial energy cost of doing anything.

What? I've never claimed that. I don't even believe that.

looking up values for CO2 production for that volume of steel

What? I have never worried about that, never said a word about that, except to say I think Vestas did a pretty good job of figuring it out.

Perhaps I misread you

I think so. I hope so. Are others having trouble understanding my point, that the entire basis for claiming co2 savings has not been demonstrated? But I'll keep trying. And to suggest that I'm "hiding" is not called for. I simply try to be respectful to our hosts.

My only claim is that the co2 savings that are assumed for turbine operation have not been demonstrated, and there are plausible reasons to think they may in fact not exist.

Enough for now, gotta go to dinner. I'll read your comments in more detail later.

My only claim is that the co2 savings that are assumed for turbine operation have not been demonstrated, and there are plausible reasons to think they may in fact not exist.
I think you are deeply confused. However, if you could perhaps explain this with specifics rather than vague generalities then perhaps we could discuss it. How could such savings be demonstrated, more than they already have? In what sense is a running, generating turbine not already a demonstration of this?

//My judgement depends largely on what your qualifications are to speak to your opinion.//

As if reason and facts should be put aside and all disputes should be resolved by a game of rock paper scissors where the one with the highest degree wins.

Aside from that, my qualifications are the absolute highest anyone could have for speaking to my opinion.

"As if reason and facts should be put aside and all disputes should be resolved by a game of rock paper scissors where the one with the highest degree wins."

No. But I know which topics I know enough about to know what I'm talking about, and am qualified to speak to, and which I am not.

I don't offer opinions on topics I'm not qualified to speak to, because my opinion would be worthless.

I'm simply trying to determine whether your opinion about global warming is worth anything or not, or if you're one of those people with opinions and no idea what you're talking about.

Obviously, you need not satisfy me as regards any question. But it's a public forum, you've offered an opinion, and so I've responded by asking for some clue as to whether or not you have any idea what you're talking about.

So, again: what are your qualifications -- informal, formal, simply qualifications of any sort -- to speak to the topic of CO2, our atmosphere, global warming, and atmospheric science? Which are the top five books you've read on the topic? Have you taken any courses? Or is the extent of your knowledge... what? Some magazine articles? Or what?

Feel free to respond, or not respond.

Specifically, d3, you wrote:

There is very good science that says warming is caused by solar cycles (milankovitch, etc) and that elevated levels of CO2 follows warming rather than leads it.

[...]

IMHO there is no reason for us to do anything one way or the other on greenhouse gasses.

And I'd like to know what your qualifications are to judge "good science" in this area. If you don't actually know much about the topic, then your opinion, you know, wouldn't be worth anything.

Just as my opinion on how to fix a car engine, or determine which theory of dark matter is correct, or how we can cure cancer, isn't worth anything, because I don't have sufficient knowledge of these fields to be able to competently pass judgment on those questions.

Presumably if you have some expertise in atmospheric science, you wouldn't have a reason to be shy about mentioning how you've obtained that expertise.

If you actually don't know what you're talking about, but like offering opinions on topics you don't know much about, hey, fine. It's hardly uncommon.

Responding to Gary's post at 7:50pm,

Gary, few people have degrees in atmospheric science, not all of those are qualified to judge the particular studies that would show whether the majority of current global warming is anthropogenic -- and none of that subset are personally setting policy. At best, a few advise policymakers.

Yet you strongly imply that nobody else can have meaningful opinions on the topic. This in turn strongly implies that no policymaker is qualified to make policy on this subject. Either the logic is wrong, or only random chance leads to good policy on this subject. Or any subject in which some Cabinet member or similarly high-level administrator is not an expert.

But experience shows we do better than random chance at policy making. Why? In my own professional experience as a lawyer, I find that it is usually not all that hard to figure out which experts are worth listening to, and to get a reasonably-close understanding of their conclusions on any one subject, if you put a little time into it. You don't have to become an expert, to understand an expert, or even to judge his level of expertise. Granted, you can never be sure which of two experts is right when they disagree -- but neither can the experts. And you'll miss flaws that another expert would spot -- but the best cure for that is to discuss the work with other people, including experts and intelligent, interested laymen.

Like, say, at ObWi.

Now, I think d'd'dave is out to lunch on this topic, for all the reasons others have stated upthread, and because of my own reading on the subject. But I learned a lot more from reading the critiques here which addressed the merits of the subject than from yours.

"This in turn strongly implies that no policymaker is qualified to make policy on this subject."

Nah. Policy makers, like many of us, can use their skills to evaluate experts, and follow their advice.

This is different than offering expert advice, or evaluating, say, a specialized argument yourself.

As a friend said: it's like watching The West Wing. Only better.

Yeah, unlike WWW, every single person in the Obama Admin doesn't speak with the exact same annoying and contrived cadence.

What's needed to make them both more useable is a breakthrough in energy-storage technology.

Some sort of carbon tax wouldn't hurt either.

Off topic, but what else is new? ....

I see on FOX that Sean Hannity (really needs to be challenged to fight in the street, for keeps) is interviewing Rush Limbaugh (dumber than than a dumb guy's bowel movement) and Glenn Beck (silly blonde pastry-faced-ness that would be turned back even by Goebbels because the latter would detect weakness despite the need for manpower)is interviewing Sarah Palin (dumber than previous guy's etc...).

I think we are just at the point in "Deliverance" when Burt Reynolds puts an arrow or two through the heart of toothless, but still horny, inbredness.

They talk funny but they seem to understand each other.

The Republican Party is dead.

Keep the silver stakes handy, though. They hateses their taxes so much that they'll burst free of the wormfarm to bite our necks another day.

Turbulence

//Are you suggesting that the fact that CO2 increases came after temperature increases in the past proves that rising CO2 concentrations will NOT cause rising temperatures?//

No, CO2 is a feedback mechanism. It stores and thereby magnifies the trends. And yes, mans activities have caused greenhouse gases and warmth to increase to some extent.

I just think that it is arrogant to think that mankind can have a significant impact on ice age cycles that have been going on for hundreds of millions of years. For all we know, our scientists just happened to start observing this after a peak in solar input and before a peak in warming and greenhouse gas accumulation. (During the 600 year +/- 400 year lag). It is a fact that greenhouse gases are rising. It is a fact that science is learning more about the mechanics of it all every day. But the primary cause? I think it's the sun.

Pope Gary Urban VIII

I didn't get a degree at the Supreme Church of Global Warming Submission if that is what you mean. Here is my defense:

http://www.law.umkc.edu/faculty/projects/ftrials/galileo/defense.html

Thank you for the link help. I apologize for not memorizing it yet.

Platinum Jester
How could such savings be demonstrated, more than they already have?

By having some country, or some grid that is relatively isolated, show how the introduction of turbines has lessened the output of co2. It'd be a little tricky - you'd have to split out the savings from other changes, like changing from coal to gas. But not impossible, and as a practical matter probably only Denmark or Germany has a sufficiently large turbine presence to be able to detect any effect.

In what sense is a running, generating turbine not already a demonstration of this?

In the sense that we don't know what effect that turbine is having (or not having) on the rest of the system. It's natural to assume that if the wind turbine is running, other turbines are not, but that isn't necessarily so.

A paper by David White explains some of the difficulties in directly translating wind turbine output to co2 savings.

d'd'd'dave = Galileo. Got it.

Turbulence at 3:37
So, I've pointed you to a scientific paper that justifies my beliefs. Can you point me to a scientific paper that justifies your claims?

I checked your Stanford paper, and for me the money sentence is "assuming carbon emissions based on that of the average US electrical grid." Left unsaid was how they made the connection between running wind turbines and less carbon emissions. I'd bet they took the natural route and did a simple displacement. That connection was not the focus of their paper, but without knowing how they did that, the paper is unpersuasive to me. YMMV. What I don't think you can reasonably claim is that that paper is conclusive.

As for a paper that justifies my claims, again I say - I can only present other papers that are asking the same questions as I am, and are also unable to get satisfying answers. The White paper cited above documents some of this. Again, I make no claim if wind turbines are actually saving co2 or not. My claim is that given the evidence I've seen to date, the question cannot be definitively answered.

How Bill Kristol was canned.

Gary:

I prefer Mr. Galilei, if you don't mind.

Jane Mayer on reversing the executive orders.

[...] he Obama Administration’s reforms may have seemed as simple as the stroke of a pen. But, on Friday afternoon, the new White House counsel, Greg Craig, acknowledged that the reversal had been gestating for more than a year. Moreover, Craig noted in his first White House interview that the reforms were not finished yet and that Obama had deliberately postponed several of the hardest legal questions. Craig said that, as he talked with the President before the signing ceremony, Obama was “very clear in his own mind about what he wanted to accomplish, and what he wanted to leave open for further consultation with experts.”

No, CO2 is a feedback mechanism. It stores and thereby magnifies the trends. And yes, mans activities have caused greenhouse gases and warmth to increase to some extent.

Wow. Look, I get the fact that most people have never taken a semester long class entitled "Feedback Control" and I get the fact that most Americans, being functionally inummerate, have never taken the two or three years of college math needed to make heads or tails of controls class. I get all that. But really, could we at least try to keep this discussion reasonable? CO2 is not a feedback mechanism. CO2 is a gas. Its concentration in the atmosphere and oceans plays an important role in several feedback loops but that doesn't make it a mechanism of anything. "CO2" doesn't store and doesn't magnify a "trend", whatever the hell that means.

I just think that it is arrogant to think that mankind can have a significant impact on ice age cycles that have been going on for hundreds of millions of years.

I think it is arrogant to think that man can change the atmosphere such that lacks in upstate NY acidify to the point that all the fish die. And yet it happened. Funny that.

You wrote earlier that you thought human activity had increased the temperature but you also think it is arrogant to believe that. So, where exactly do you stand? Do you think human activity was responsible for a only a tiny fraction of the observed warming? Where exactly do you draw the line, and how do you justify placing it there?

For all we know, our scientists just happened to start observing this after a peak in solar input and before a peak in warming and greenhouse gas accumulation. (During the 600 year +/- 400 year lag).

That could be true, except for the fact that we have some good paleoclimate studies that have reconstructed solar intensity and greenhouse gas concentrations going back millions of years.

It is a fact that greenhouse gases are rising. It is a fact that science is learning more about the mechanics of it all every day. But the primary cause? I think it's the sun.

The vast majority of climatologists disagree with you. I don't understand why I should believe your opinion when you've gotten such basic facts wrong when there are lots of scientists who disagree with you.

I strongly suggest that you download part of the IPCC AR4 report. There's a non-technical summary document for policymakers that helps explain the state of what we know and what we're confused about. Or just read a book.

// I don't understand why I should believe your opinion//

You shouldn't believe my opinion. You should form your own based on your study of the data.

That's what I have done. And it is why I don't value your opinion much.

Turbulence, 5:59
If your wacky ideas are correct, then windfarm owners would not get a dime under a cap and trade regime.

As long as you don't have to actually show the savings and everyone accepts the current assumed numbers, why not? And I still don't understand why asking for real numbers is wacky.

Evidence of what precisely does not exist?

Evidence that the production of a kw-h by a wind turbine directly offsets the emissions involved in the non-production of a kw-h by fossil fuels.

This seems to be a point of confusion. Perhaps an example will help. Vestas claims that their 35,000 turbines save 40 million tons of co2 every year. How did they come up with that number? They measured how many mw-h's they produced and multiplied that by the co2 savings on each mw-h. How did they come up with the co2 savings on each mw-h? Their standard method is to calculate the amount of co2 created by the burning of just coal (this gives the best answer, about .9MT/mw-h) or maybe a more realistic mix of fossil fuels (about half that). The unstated assumption that seems so obviously true is that this direct substitution is valid. I'm looking for evidence that would confirm (or not) this assumption. I think the links I've given provide reasonable doubts that this is valid, thus the importance of actual measurements. The only way I know how to make these measurements is described above in a previous comment. I've never found a paper that does so. Any thoughts on how else we should proceed would be appreciated.

You had mentioned measurements before, and perhaps you were talking about how much co2 different fossil fuels emitted. That is not at issue. You and others also mentioned the co2 required to build and then tear down a turbine. That is also not at issue.

Wind speeds higher up averaged over many locations are a good deal more consistent.

The only paper I've ever seen that quantifies this is here. The gist is that for wind farms within 400km the outputs "will rise and fall together". If you know of a similar paper showing something else, I'd like to see it.

It implies that power plant turbine efficiency is the only way to vary power output in conventional power plants.

Can we agree that as power output falls efficiency falls, and as efficiency falls the emissions go up? With a lot of wind power you need a lot of fossil backup that is spinning, synchronized and ready to take over if the wind falls. All of this backup is necessarily running at below full power, thus at sub-prime efficiency.

Enough for tonight. Are everyone's eyes glazed over yet?

I just think that it is arrogant to think that mankind can have a significant impact on ice age cycles that have been going on for hundreds of millions of years.

I just think the Earth is flat.

It is arrogant to think that mankind can...
...use up in a few centuries oil supplies that took hundreds of millions of years to create.
...work hard to not kill all the whales (the whole genus, not just a species or two). Great apes, too.
...wipe out smallpox
...use up the topsoil of the Great Plains in less than a century
...turn the Fertile Crescent into desert without even using steam technology.

"it is arrogant to think we can" is not evidence or reasoning. If you have some, let's hear it.

Heck, d'd'dave, you are arrogant.

That's what I have done.

That's not evident from your writings.

And, again, there's been considerable changes over the last 2-3 years in climate science. Basing your understanding on anything four years or older is kinda iffy.

Bagram, finally addressed in mainstream news.

As long as you don't have to actually show the savings and everyone accepts the current assumed numbers, why not? And I still don't understand why asking for real numbers is wacky.

I don't think you understand how cap and trade regimes work. Here's the deal. An electric utility has to purchase power from providers. They get to choose between conventional power plants (that burn coal or natural gas) and wind farms. They establish contracts with the providers that specify prices they're willing to buy power at. Let's say that a new windfarm comes online but you're ideas are correct: that means the utility has to generate power in its conventional plants at lower efficiency thus generating more CO2. Except the utility can't emit more CO2 without buying up permits, so it has to spend money. When it negotiates a contract with the windfarm, the cost of those extra permits will be factored in. If those costs are prohibitive, it won't even both renewing its contract. After all, why should it if buying power from the windfarm will end up increasing its total carbon costs?

Behold, the power of the market.

Now, I suppose that the conventional plants can try emitting extra CO2 without buying the needed permits. Then again, I can choose not to pay my taxes this year. There aren't that many power plants and it isn't that hard though for the government to audit them though. This doesn't seem like a significant problem to me.

I just happened to attend a lecture on the topic of grids and storage problems yesterday evening. In Germany there is a double problem. The main production of energy from windpower is in areas that have very low energy needs. The most efficient large scale storage method to compensate for varied need is currently the "pump-that-water-up-the-hill-and-store-it-there", which is also difficult in those same areas (extremly flat). Thus the grids have to be vastly extended (both the medium range transport and the distribution network. They work at different voltage. The large distance network even runs on DC not AC) and also need more connections and more flexibility. At the moment the grids are able to cope with the currently installed windpower capacities and their changing output although there have been 4GW gaps (+/-) between production and consumption for some hours at certain times (at 32 GW average total output inthe area). But between now and 2017 (doubling of windpower capacity planned/approved) the grids will not be able to cope anymore, especially with the nuclear power plants going out of commission. The general solution has to include:
1. even higher grid density
2. even more European/North African grid integration
3. using a very diverse energy mix with conventional backup to even out the varying output of the different sources
4. Vast improvement and expansion of storage technology/capacity

For the US the primary target would have to be the grid network because it is decades behind the European standard. Otherwise all else will fall far short (or totally).
In short: alternative energy does not really work without thinking and planning big (that once was a US talent but it has, alas, fallen into disrepute outside the lala land of foreign policy fantasies).
---
Btw, are US wind turbines so much louder than the models used over here? I have come close to a number of those but can't remember much noise.
---
One problem with birds is that they are attracted at night to the warning lights on the towers (especially when the sky is clouded and winds a re strong). During the day they are able to make out the structures and avoid them.
Bats are not killed directly be the blades but by the pressure differences created by the blade tips.

Btw, are US wind turbines so much louder than the models used over here? I have come close to a number of those but can't remember much noise.

Having stood close to both I can say no.

Storage does not have to be batteries. Probably wouldn't be, as a matter of fact. More likely to be either hydro storage or CAES (compressed air energy storage).

If anyone is still watching, this is the first of several clean-up comments to this already long thread.

TJ -

There's no turbines close to where I live, but my understanding is that the noise is more problematical at a distance, in certain angles and wind conditions etc. The horror stories are so numerous and widespread that I'm inclined to believe them.

Do you have any information how much energy is typically lost in hydro storage? I'd think it'd be considerable, pumping water uphill, but I've never come across any estimates.

I've also read about compressed air, like filling caverns at 1000 psi. Is that the sort of thing you're thinking of? I just wonder about the consequences of a leak/rupture.

Turbulence -

Your hypothetical at 12:52 was interesting enough that I had to think about it for a while. My answer lies in the different way the emissions are determined for the purposes of meeting the carbon caps.

In the case of fossil plants they either have equipment in the stacks (the best technique) or they have some algorithm that involves the types/amounts of fuel consumed and hopefully includes the efficiency with which it is burned. I don't know how widespread monitoring equipment is, either in general or specifically for power plants, so if anyone has any insights I'd like to get them. In any event, I've always assumed the emissions from power plants is "known". If someone knows differently please correct me.

On the other hand, wind turbines are assigned an offset (technically, a Renewable Energy Credit, which ends up being used as an offset) based on the assumptions we've discussed endlessly.

In an attempt to put some numbers in place, let me propose the following case. Let's say the power company generates 9.0 mega metric tons of co2 a year to generate 10 mega mw-hr and is capped at that value. These numbers, by the way, would be typical for goal plant that could service a medium-sized city. They would like to increase their output to 11 mega mw-hr. One of their options is buying .9 mega mw-hr's worth of offsets. Assuming a capacity factor of 25% and an assigned offset of .5mt per mw-hr, they'd have to buy up the offsets from a 410 mw capacity wind farm. So now they add on to the coal plant and are now emitting 9.9 mega mt of co2.

My whole point comes down to: does a 410 mw wind farm actually offset 900,000 mt of co2? Let's say my suspicions are only partially right and instead of offsetting .5mt/mw-hr the wind farm only really offsets .25mt. That translates to an extra 450,000 mt of co2 per year, in an undetectible violation of the cap.

Other thoughts, based on this hypothetical. If the offsets were selling for $30 they'd be spending $27m each year for them. In a normal world they would have to compare that cost with the cost of improving their current plant i.e. sequestration. So the market in that sense works. I understand that in the current recession the cost of offsets has gone down, to the point where it is much cheaper at least in the short term to buy them up and continue polluting away. While I agree that C&T may be the best solution in a perfect world, these and other administrative problems strike me as so formidible that in the end I'd opt for a carbon tax. Opinions on this vary all over the place, as you probably already know. And you probably also know that a 410 mw farm would likely be the largest in the world, just to cover a 10% increase for a small part of the grid.

I think all these assumptions are very plausible and shows why taking actual measurements are so important. Also it is very possible I've screwed up the calculations - carrying zeros is so tedious. Let me know if I have.

does a 410 mw wind farm actually offset 900,000 mt of co2?

What are you asking, here? And is it really all that important, outside of the cap-and-trade world, whether wind power actually offsets the amount claimed? As long as it offsets any at all, and pays for itself in the process, isn't that an advantage?

Failure to offset the claimed amount could be due to a couple of things that I can think of; perhaps you can add some. What I can think of are: inadequate wind field, and truly staggering CO2 required for construction. If you're taking the latter into account, consider that power-generation plants, too, take substantial amounts of energy (and, inevitably, CO2 production) to construct. When comparing, you need to be comparing the same things. The first of the possible contributors would be a reason not to build the windpower complex on that site to begin with, one would hope.

Pumped hydro is probably the most efficient power storage existing. Pump and turbine efficiencies are easily 95%+; throwing in friction losses you can easily get 85-90% power out/power in. Power Vista at Niagara falls reaches that. Most battery systems get 80-85% including charging losses.

Compressed air systems would be somewhat lower than the above. If you have a handy cavern, however, they can require less investment. BTW, I believe cavern systems are only pumped to 300 psig or thereabouts, not 1000 psig.

I can tell you I've been to the wind turbines south of Buffalo multiple times and the noise is the same at different wind speeds. A 1/2 mile away I can't even hear them.

Slarti, cw isn't worried about any of the problems you mention. They've got this theory that because wind power is intermittent, whenever the wind spikes up, you need to make your coal or natural gas plants that are providing baseline power lower their output, but doing that forces their turbines into a region of operation where they are producing more CO2 per kW-hour than normal.

This is a perfectly reasonable concern if you assume that (1) there is no variation in the load (good thing that no one ever turns on a piece of electronics), (2) there is exactly one giant turbine shared by multiple power plants and that's the only way to reduce output, (3) there are no higher efficiency alternative power supplies (like hyrdo) that can be used to compensate for wind power fluctuations, and (4) at the levels of wind power penetration we're talking about (less than 20%), these fluctuations are significant.

Of course, none of this is a problem if we get rid of random renewables tax credit and replace them with a real cap and trade system for CO2.

Turbulence, still in response to your 12:52 -

This is the third and hopefully last comment from me until there's something of interest to respond to. The only claim I've made so far is that we don't know what the true carbon offset from wind turbines is. Any number of papers are available giving reasons why it may be much less, i.e. the White paper. The guy from amherstislandwindinfo.com calculated it could plausibly be zero. My suspicion is that it's somewhere between the assigned value of about .5mt per mw-hr and 0. Here's some thoughts on factors that might determine where it is.

Certainly the ISO's (who operate the grids, aka TSO's) will find ways to optimize the grid's production. Part of that optimization will involve emissions, but part of it also involves cost, wear and tear, etc.

From an operational standpoint it seems there are typically two time frames that ISO's use to assist them. There's the minute-to-minute operation. Traditionally this involved making small changes to meet current demand. After all the years the ISO's have a pretty good idea of what the demand will be and can be very efficient in meeting it. The other time frame is the day-ahead, where the various suppliers commit to providing certain amounts of energy, from which the ISO can plan how to best use it.

I would think avoiding large unexpected changes is an important, perhaps essential, key to running an efficient grid. Without it the ISO is forced to maintain large amounts of spinning reserve. Before the advent of wind the unexpected changes were rather small. The output from wind farms can go up or down very quickly (on the order of at least 50 mw from a 200 mw farm over an hour), to the point where they represent the largest unexpected changes on the grid. As a consequence, the ISO's have started requiring wind farms to forecast their output on a fairly small time scale. A google of "wind energy forecasting" will provide lots of hits. Slide 43 of Droz's much-maligned slides (and I'll admit, they are pretty strident) shows how poorly the forecasts sometimes work - in his sample the deltas are as much as 200mw in a 15-minute window. Apparently there are now penalties associated with not meeting your forecast, and I'd think the penalties reflect the inefficiencies that the deltas create on the grid. It'd be interesting to see how big the penalties have been; I might take some time and google around. It would also be interesting to see how the deltas are accommodated and what emissions result.

To sum up my points. (1) There is a lot we don't know about what effects wind turbines produce in our grids. (2) The savings may be much less than assumed; it is at least arguable they are non-existent. (3) A careful measurement of a grid's emissions correlated with the introduction of wind turbines would be a very useful "moment of truth" for the industry and such a measurement, in spite of its obvious (to me, at least) value has never been published.

Oh my, responses! Thanks for continuing.

TJ - thanks for the information. Another request, if you don't mind. I've read somewhere that transmission lines are assumed to lose 10% per 60 mi or some such thing. That seems high to me. A typical total loss ratio for delivery ranges in the 10% range. Comments?

Slarti -
inadequate wind field
That would certainly change the numbers, but I think the carbon offsets at some point have to be tied to actual production.
truly staggering CO2 required for construction.
I don't think that's the case, but I've never studied it, so don't know. As Turbulence says that's not part of my argument.

If it saves at least some carbon, isn't it a good thing?

The main problem is that other potentially better alternatives are under-valued. There's also the effect of potentially allow excess emissions.

My suspicion is that it's somewhere between the assigned value of about .5mt per mw-hr and 0.

My suspicion is that the assigned offset is kind of arbitrary, and so this whole analysis is worthless. Just a hunch; I've really got nothing to support it. But the thing about the whole offset/cap/trade business is, I believe, that the real, usable values that get used are going to be tweaked over time as the real numbers come out, and may even vary according to location and demonstrated performance. That would make sense to me, anyway.

To me, the really important thing is how quickly a given windpower site can pay for itself, because everything between that point in time and the useful life of the site is mostly gravy. The fact that such power can replace a given amount of coal-generated power is even more gravy.

Which is kind of simplistic, really; possibly pessimistic. There is repair and maintenance to consider, but there's no reason why a windpower site can't be run for at least a couple of decades.

There's a conversation that involves CO2 and carbon offsets and the like; that's a reasonable conversation to be in, but I think there are arguments for windpower that stand all by themselves.

The main problem is that other potentially better alternatives are under-valued.

You should specify those alternatives, so we can talk about them, then.

There's also the effect of potentially allow excess emissions.

I don't know what you mean by this. Excess emissions? From what?

Turbulence -
To your points
(1) I think I covered at least part of this in my last missive.
(2) Whether it be one big turbine or lots of littles, the same effect occurs, you're just on a different part of the curve. Certainly the ISO can shut down some turbines, but it gets tricky, and becomes trickier as the wind penetration increases. Several months ago Texas screwed it up and had to shut down some of their "disconnectible" users and came pretty close to disconnecting normal users.
(3) Agreed. This gets back to the storage issue that Slarti and I touched on awhile back. With good storage most of my objections go away.
(4) 20% is often quoted, but Alberta, with 4%, is now in the process of building a new gas plant to "stabilize the grid".

Whether it be one big turbine or lots of littles, the same effect occurs, you're just on a different part of the curve.

In terms of CO2 production, these two cases are very different. If you assume one giant turbine, then the only way to lower output is to move the giant turbine into a lower efficiency operating regime. If you have a more granular system (which we do; this giant turbine stuff is absurd), then you can keep 90% of your turbines maxed out running in their highest efficiency mode of operation while the other 10% are running in low efficiency modes. Because efficiency curves are nonlinear, this makes a huge difference.

Trained electrical engineers are allowed to assume that nonlinear systems are linear because they know what they're doing (i.e., they know when and how the approximation breaks down). You are not.

This gets back to the storage issue that Slarti and I touched on awhile back. With good storage most of my objections go away.

No, this is a different issue from storage. Some non-wind power sources produce more CO2 per kW-hour when you ask for less power from them, but some don't. In particular, coal and natural gas plants have this property whereas hydroelectric dams do not. This isn't really a question of storing energy for later but a question of whether other power sources can be modulated without altering how much CO2 they generate per kW-hour.

The guy from amherstislandwindinfo.com calculated it could plausibly be zero.

Yes, he calculated it could be zero under some absurd assumptions that we know are not true. I calculated that my investments are worth a billion dollars, but only under the assumption that Barack Obama just wrote me a check for $1,000,000,000.

Without it the ISO is forced to maintain large amounts of spinning reserve.

I thought the ISOs have to keep enough reserve capacity online to tolerate the loss of any single generating unit. If they don't do that, then any single failure could take down their whole grid, yes?

20% is often quoted, but Alberta, with 4%, is now in the process of building a new gas plant to "stabilize the grid".

Is there any reason to assume that the only or even primary driver of this need is wind power? I can think of a bunch of other reasons, so I'm not sure why we should just assume that it is the big bad evil wind power that is responsible.

Turbulence -

Of course I do not know all the details of how the turbines are run etc. All I can do is learn what I can, and maybe spot the larger unknowns and untruths. We could discuss the details endlessly and not get any agreement on the details, and its time to move on. But my main point is that the effect of wind upon the grid is more complicated than a simple displacement would indicate. So I keep coming back to getting a real life measurement so we can at least get an idea of what we're working with. Without that, we can conjecture endlessly, without effect.

I'm confused about your storage confusion. Of course you are using it to modulate the supply. The storage is fairly short-term, like capacitors vs. batteries. Still, you have to have enough farads to do the job.

Slarti -

My suspicion is that the assigned offset is kind of arbitrary, and so this whole analysis is worthless.

I'd agree, per above.

as the real numbers come out

Oh thank you, thank you. My point precisely. I'd like to get them out before we invest all this money, though.

To me, the really important thing is how quickly a given windpower site can pay for itself

At what price for the electricity? Abandon all hope, ye who enter the world of subsidies. Just looking at production costs compared to coal I calculate it comes out in 25 years, past the life of the turbine.

Your other questions:
(1) Other alternatives could be nuclear, sequestration, conservation, conversion to gas, the list goes on. I personally like conservation the best, as probably everyone does. But if governments think wind is more effective...

(2) I screwed up the grammar, didn't I? Sorry. The excess comes from the utility being allow to emit the 900,000 mt under the assumption that 900,000 mt is being avoided somewhere else, as evidenced by the creation of the offsets. That assumption may not be correct.

This has been a really interesting discussion to read. I work on climate change policy in Australia, where we're largely dependant on coal power and wind really does represent an emissions saving.

However contrary to what somebody suggested upthread, even the prospect of 15% wind power has big implications for our electricity grid. When we evaluate our electricity market capacity, the important thing is not to be able to meet average demand but peak demand. Peak demand is what drives the planning.

Unfortunately you can't count the capacity of your new wind generator against peak demand, because wind is unpredictable. So you have to back it up with other generation which is quickly responsive (mostly gas in our case, because coal takes a long time to ramp up and ramp down.) Wind even getting to 15% is going to give us planning headaches. We've also got the problem that the wind resources are far away from demand load and will require big investments in transmission.

But I'm not too worried about embodied emissions. In Australia, manufacturing will be included in our emissons trading scheme, so any CO2 emissions from the steel in a wind generator will be priced into their business model.

Ultimately I think with the electricity sector there's no one perfect power source. You want to have a diversity of generation options that complement each other - that's what will give you the best stability and reliability.

My point precisely. I'd like to get them out before we invest all this money, though.

Wait...it's your point that windpower cannot be cost-effective without cap-and-trade kind of credits? If so, please substantiate.

At what price for the electricity?

We could start at the national average of 11 cents per kilowatt-hour, if you like. I don't think the cost is going to decrease from that point. I think I presented a case where initial investment could be paid in about a year, if the plant operates at full load. Eight years, for the 12.5% load case referred to way upthread.

Possibly I've made a math error somewhere. I get breakeven at a year or two, without allowing for cost of money.

No subsidies assumed.

But yes, there is a problem: energy companies typically don't buy energy for anywhere NEAR what they sell it for (I've seen a factor of five difference in rates) which makes it kind of important that the utility companies take ownership of the windmills, or that some more advantageous buyback arrangement be reached.

This, perhaps, is where the government might need to intervene.

Keep in mind we're not talking small, household-scale turbines here. We're talking megawatt-capacity turbines. The household-scale windmills cost a LOT more per megawatt to purchase and install.

Slarti -

I don't know if not selling carbon offsets would be a project killer or not. I do know that in the (even potential) absence of all the various subsidies (and now the renewable mandates), few projects have been started. But this gets tricky because all the sources get subsidies. This is a nice summary of what they get, from the doe. They are quite lucrative, apparently.

As for your payback - we're working from different numbers, that's all. The entire discussion about subsidies gets too involved for me, especially if you start comparing coal to nuclear to whatever. So I avoid using the 11 cent price altogether - for me that's MEGO territory (my eyes glaze over). If the variable cost to produce a wind kw-h is maybe 2 cents - yep, you are profitable pretty quickly, but to me only in a business sense. Of course that's exactly what the developers care about. I think your calculations are accurate.

Omitting the cost of capital is a major deal, though. Wind is far more capital-intensive than any other source, except maybe solar, about which I know little. Of course if the government covers a fair portion of the capital, and I think they do, even if only indirectly, then this doesn't matter much.

Finally, I too have looked at home systems and they just don't make it. I'm in Ohio, which is mostly poor territory to begin with.

As I have already said above, the primary problem at the moment is the grid because it is the limiting factor. A given grid can compensate a limited amount of variability in power output. The larger and denser it is the likelier it is also that a local maximum/minimum can be equaled out by a minimum/maximum elsewhere. In the German case the grid is close to reaching its limit as far as the compensation for changes in windpower goes. As a result expanding windpower without updating and expanding the grid (and energy sources that go at cycles different from wind) is not viable. The US grid is far inferior to the average European these days. On the other hand the US is geographically/climatically diverse and large enough* to install alternative energy producers that can compensate each others changes in output, provided there is a sufficient grid connecting all those areas.
As for the losses in electricity transport, that depends on the distance and the transport mode. Very High Voltage DC is good for very long distances but crap at short distances (because of the need for AC=>DC + DC=>AC transformation at both ends and the relative inflexibility), High Voltage AC is good for medium distances (losses are less in AC(X Volt)=>AC(Y Volt) transformation than in AC<=>DC but the transport losses are higher).
An intelligent grid would have to be strong both on the transport (not local) and the distribution (local) aspects.

*and the lower population desnity makes it much easier to stay out of people's backyards with both the energy producers and the transport lines than in Central Europe

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