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Rethinking wind: Harvard research suggests the generating capacity of wind farms at large scales has been overestimated

From a press release today from Harvard’s School of Engineering:

“People have often thought there’s no upper bound for wind power—that it’s one of the most scalable power sources,” says Harvard applied physicist David Keith. After all, gusts and breezes don’t seem likely to “run out” on a global scale in the way oil wells might run dry. Yet the latest research in mesoscale atmospheric modeling, published today in the journal Environmental Research Letters, suggests that the generating capacity of large-scale wind farms has been overestimated.

Each wind turbine creates behind it a “wind shadow” in which the air has been slowed down by drag on the turbine’s blades. The ideal wind farm strikes a balance, packing as many turbines onto the land as possible, while also spacing them enough to reduce the impact of these wind shadows. But as wind farms grow larger, they start to interact, and the regional-scale wind patterns matter more.

If we were to cover the entire Earth with wind farms, he notes, “the system could potentially generate enormous amounts of power, well in excess of 100 terawatts, but at that point my guess, based on our climate modeling, is that the effect of that on global winds, and therefore on climate, would be severe—perhaps bigger than the impact of doubling CO2.”

“Our findings don’t mean that we shouldn’t pursue wind power—wind is much better for the environment than conventional coal—but these geophysical limits may be meaningful if we really want to scale wind power up to supply a third, let’s say, of our primary energy,” Keith adds.

And the climatic effect of turbine drag is not the only constraint; geography and economics matter too.

“It’s clear the theoretical upper limit to wind power is huge, if you don’t care about the impacts of covering the whole world with wind turbines,” says Keith. “What’s not clear—and this is a topic for future research—is what the practical limit to wind power would be if you consider all of the real-world constraints. You’d have to assume that wind turbines need to be located relatively close to where people actually live and where there’s a fairly constant wind supply, and that they have to deal with environmental constraints. You can’t just put them everywhere.”

“The real punch line,” he adds, “is that if you can’t get much more than half a watt out, and you accept that you can’t put them everywhere, then you may start to reach a limit that matters.”

MP: Here’s a link to the abstract, full article and video abstract (watch it above).

90 thoughts on “Rethinking wind: Harvard research suggests the generating capacity of wind farms at large scales has been overestimated

  1. I think I’ll sit here in my lofty office at Harvard to make some “research” about what can or can’t be done. No, I won’t go out in the field and DO what can be done. I might have to suffer the elements out there. Besides, I have to write a paper to get my next “grant” for more of my illustrious “research”.

    • if he thinks this is the problem with wind power, then he has never really looked at wind power.

      amount of wind is not the issue. the inconsistency of wind and the fact that power over sweep is a third power function of wind speed is the issue. this is why wind farms produce 15-20% of faceplate power.

      add to this the fact that turbines break and require a ton of very expensive maintenance and wind will always be a loser.

      it can never provide baseline power and is wildly uncompetitive on costs. take away subsidies and wind farms for electrical gen would disappear and likely never return.

      • Correct. The problem with wind is that it is not reliable and it is not economic. The entire industry depends on hype and support from cheap loans and government handouts.

        • solar in and of itself is not reliable either but when you combine it with storage… it is.

          a flashlight, a cell-phone, a car, even a power plant – use stored energy….. right?

          oil, gas, coal are all “stored” energy resources also… right?

          ethanol is… another… as is hydro-power.

          • solar in and of itself is not reliable either but when you combine it with storage… it is.

            But it is far too expensive. You increase the price substantially and users, including employers, will suffer. There will be far less income to invest into capital accumulation or consumption. The favoured industries do well but everyone else suffers.

          • “But it is far too expensive. You increase the price substantially and users, including employers, will suffer. There will be far less income to invest into capital accumulation or consumption. The favoured industries do well but everyone else suffers.”

            right now.. for most things – yes. one or two more breakthroughs and things might change…

            have you heard of solar-powered cell towers? that’s how you get communications into remote areas.

            or how about those solar-powered school warning signs? why use solar instead of grid power?

            or solar powered river stage stations…???

            solar has some uses… in areas where electricity is expensive to place or power outages cause serious damage.

            traffic signals that are converted to LED use much less power then in turn allows them to primarily operated from solar. one light – makes little difference. one million lights lessens the load on the base power grid.

            Most stores – are now completely internet-wired and they cannot even tolerate a few minutes ‘offline’ so many have natural gas backup generators.

            think about an electric grid that works that way.

          • right now.. for most things – yes. one or two more breakthroughs and things might change…

            Right now solar is only good for some remote areas and some niche applications, not for general power generation. Yes, there may be a breakthrough, and when there is we could look at solar. But there could be breakthrough in cold fusion, genetically modified pigs that urinate diesel, or unicorn power. If they are, we can deal with those breakthroughs when they appear.

            have you heard of solar-powered cell towers? that’s how you get communications into remote areas.

            I have no problem with that. If telecom companies think that solar is their best option let them use solar and pay the full cost.

            or how about those solar-powered school warning signs? why use solar instead of grid power?

            Because government bureaucrats want to make a statement that they are green, not because it is cheaper to use solar. When cost in no object, you are not spending your own money, and you are free to write cheques to anyone, it is easy to do things that others would not do. But when you have to pay for it or the money is tight the stupidity ends.

            solar has some uses… in areas where electricity is expensive to place or power outages cause serious damage.

            As long as the users choose to pay I have no problem with hamsters turning wheels. The debate is about using solar where it makes no sense and others are forced to pay more than they want.

            traffic signals that are converted to LED use much less power then in turn allows them to primarily operated from solar. one light – makes little difference. one million lights lessens the load on the base power grid.

            Yes, and they also freeze up as the bulbs no longer generate enough heat to melt the ice and snow. Or fail when the unreliable solar system does not work very well.

            Most stores – are now completely internet-wired and they cannot even tolerate a few minutes ‘offline’ so many have natural gas backup generators.

            think about an electric grid that works that way.

            I do not need to plan how things work. If the market is allowed to work consumers will choose the best product at the lowest cost.

          • Larry,

            solar in and of itself is not reliable either but when you combine it with storage… it is.

            As usual, being the idiot that you are, you ignore the crucial word “economic” in Vangel’s statement “that it is not reliable and it is not economic” (emphasis mine). Economic considerations are at least as important as reliability considerations. That you ignore the economics of the situation only shows how little you understand economics and the way the world actually works.

            Thank you for beclowning yourself, again, for all to see.

          • yep.. I knew it would not be long before the name-calling began.

            It’s not me Ken doodle. the world uses solar and wind… so are you saying they’re all wrong and “idiots”?

            that seems to be what you are saying nimrod.

            go stuff yourself boy. and anyone else who wants to name call here.. get a life.

          • yep.. I knew it would not be long before the name-calling began.

            Me too but you deserve it. You can really be dim most of the time and come up with some of the dumbest and most ignorant arguments. You can do better but don’t even try.

          • larry-

            um, no, it’s not.

            there is no way to store such power cost effectively. the battery in a tesla holds 53 kwh. to put that into perspective, that’s about $4.50 in electricity at retail. the battery costs $36,000. it last 7 years. making and disposing of it is an environmental catastrophe.

            you cannot store power like that, especially not at scale as heat diffusion become too big an issue.

            if you try to run pumps during the day to raise water and recapture it through a waterwheel, you lose 75% of your power to the system.

            just how do you propose to store all this power?

            even then, solar is not reliable. you get cloudy days. you get storms. output varies massively by season (due to w/m2 changes due to angle and due to hours of sunlight changes) unless you happen to live on the equator.

          • re: the cost of storage…

            generally agree.. we’re not there yet – but there are applications where solar + batteries is cheaper than stringing grid power lines.

            for instance, study of the world’s oceans is done with floating solar sensors…

            valuable information is collected that can be done no other way as cheaply.

            ditto when you’ve got a weather station on a mountain…

            re: pump-storage Hydro. Yes.. it actually costs MORE to do it but it defrays the cost of more power plants because it pumps the water back at night from surplus base power then supplements the grid during peak hour so that more plants are not needed.

            agreed it is limited… but it is an example of how power can be stored then used later.

            if we could replicate that with wind/solar some day

            but even now… if you have a grid capable of dynamic load balance – you could use wind/solar and supplement it with cheap natural gas -now that we’re fracking it.

          • have you heard of solar-powered cell towers? that’s how you get communications into remote areas.

            or how about those solar-powered school warning signs? why use solar instead of grid power?

            or solar powered river stage stations…???

            solar has some uses… in areas where electricity is expensive to place…

            You have answered your own question. There are limited uses for solar power, but they not cheaper than the same applications where grid power is readily available.

            …or power outages cause serious damage.

            Critical systems requiring uninterrupted power are usually supported by battery backup systems and diesel generators to supply power when grid power fails, but they are not cheap systems.

          • Most stores – are now completely internet-wired and they cannot even tolerate a few minutes ‘offline’ so many have natural gas backup generators.

            Do you have a citable reference for that?

          • larry-

            those are ridiculous examples.

            they are boondoggles. a solar powered school sign is a massive waste of money.

            a solar traffic signal is preposterous. it’s WAY more expensive and has batteries that need to be replaced. there is no economic basis for using them. led is different. it saves power and, more importantly, saves labor as bulbs do not need to be replaced. that kind of thing makes a ton of sense.

            but you are just trotting out some vanity boondoggles, subsidy sucks, and special cases that are mostly meaningless.

            solar powered buoys are a special case as what else could you use? they are quite expensive as a result and have very low power.

            the dynamic grid you describe is a fiction. it does not and cannot exist with current technologies. the quick spin nat gas turbines you seem to think are so pervasive are not and cannot be. they are extremely inefficient. they produce power at 7-10X the price of a big gas plant. i have direct personal experience with them. we looked at a company that ran them as surge capacity is California. they barely ever ran and when they did averaged something like $90c/kwh selling into the grid. they are so far off the baseline price curve that they have no place in a daily grid cycle.

            wind will never work. it’s doubtful you can even get enough power (at wholesale prices) out of a wind farm to pay the costs of building it during its whole life.

            solar may come along, but notions that we are 1-2 breakthroughs away from it being competitive and that new battery tech is right around the corner are pure fantasy.

            i have no idea what your source is on a lot of this stuff, but you need a new one.

          • agreed it is limited… but it is an example of how power can be stored then used later.

            Everyone knows that energy can be stored and used later, but there is nothing available that is even close to providing storage on the scale, efficiency or cost required to power a grid.

        • LarryG -

          “but there are applications where solar + batteries is cheaper than stringing grid power lines”

          There are applications where walking is the cheapest way to get where you’re going. Doesn’t make it a viable alternative for any significant portion of the current transportation system.

          • re: ” Doesn’t make it a viable alternative for any significant portion of the current transportation system.”

            agree totally.

            but look at the car when it first became a new technology and it competed against walking and horses….

            perhaps wind is in that same stage?

            or perhaps wind is the Stanley Steamer of our time, eh?

            we see more and more wind/solar where putting new power lines in – is more expensive.

            a good portion of the world does not have grid power – and in that situation – it appears than wind/solar is cheaper than new power plant + grid …

            I do not pretend that right now that wind nor solar can compete head-to-head with a modern country power grid especially if more and more of that grid is powered by natural gas… which is probably a more potent competitor to wind/solar than coal is.

            and here’s one more example. think about where many islands in the world get their electric power – take Bermuda or other similar islands… Many of those islands have to pay to import oil or coal to burn and the killowat hour rates are pretty high compared to mainland power.

          • but look at the car when it first became a new technology and it competed against walking and horses….

            perhaps wind is in that same stage?

            To prevent being called a moron, Larry, you should consider not writing moronic nonsense like the above.

    • stevor: “I think I’ll sit here in my lofty office at Harvard to make some “research” about what can or can’t be done. No, I won’t go out in the field and DO what can be done. I might have to suffer the elements out there. Besides, I have to write a paper to get my next “grant” for more of my illustrious “research”.

      Not sure your point. Do you think David Keith would have a better understanding of the physics involved if he sat in a windy field somewhere?

  2. Isn’t this sorta like saying that forests and mountains slow down the wind?

    Wind is not one layer at the ground. It extends thousands of feet up…. only the smallest layer actually interacts with structures – nature and man-made at ground level.

    I agree with morg about base power but point out that a smart grid combined with natural gas turbines – that can fire up much quicker than coal or nukes could harvest the wind when it was available and fire up the NG turbines when not.

    re: subsidies – well.. Nukes are heavily subsidized and so are coal plants because coal has some very expensive collateral damage. First, much of it has mercury in it and mercury bio-accumulates in critters including the ones we eat. Second, coal damages lungs… with serious dollar costs associated and finally coal – damages the ability to add capacity to the transportation network when it pushes urban areas into non-attainment status.

    No energy source is completely without downsides.

    • Wind is not one layer at the ground. It extends thousands of feet up…. only the smallest layer actually interacts with structures – nature and man-made at ground level…

      The problem Larry is that we do not have turbines thousands of feet up. Many of the wind farms that I have seen seem to have been set up without regard for the actual wind as they have been set up in areas where the topography means less that optimum generation.

      But as morganovich points out, the problem goes far beyond wind. It is about very poor economics and a process that will always be a destroyer of capital without significant advances that do not seem to be coming any time soon. Wind power is not pursued for its technical or economic promise but for political purposes.

    • that is also completely wrong.

      fast fire gas turbines are very small and inefficient. they get used for peaking, but cannot generally produce power economically at less that about 50c/kwh which is many multiples of baseline cost.

      the big, efficient gas turbines take a long time to warm up and cannot be shut down quickly either.

      the “smart grid” is a complete fiction when you are talking about economic baseline power.

      • Actually the newest combined cycle gas plants ramp up and down fairly fast. The example cited in this link is a 510 mw plant that can ramp up or down 50 mw per min. Overall the plant starts in 30 mins. Also note the plant runs at 61% input energy to electricity: http://www.ecomagination.com/portfolio/flex-efficiency
        For many renewables this is a more than adaquate response rate. In particular now that meteorologists have begun to look seriously at forecasting winds in the lower velocity range. For solar one would need to watch the weather radar, and combine that with rise set times to handle this. A large part of using renewable s is thinking differently about managing the grid, which results in handling the large renewable inputs. Once again give the engineers a challenge and get the management out of the way and it can be handled.

        • Lyle: “Once again give the engineers a challenge and get the management out of the way and it can be handled.

          It’s not that it can’t be done, it’s that it can’t be done *economically*. That’s the whole point.

          • lyle-

            it goes beyond that though.

            wind just flat out cannot pay for itself.

            solar has a shot, wind never.

            it’s simple physics. power over sweep is a a 3rd power function of wind speed.

            thus, a turbine that produces 2mw at 10m/s produces .25 at 5m/s and is useless at 2.5.

            turbines produce 15-20% of faceplate in terms of actual production.

            at $2 million/mw, look at the math. 1 mwh of power is worth about $50. so, a wind turbine at 20% of face give you 4.8 mwh/day per mw of faceplate.

            4.8 X $50 = $240 a day. that’s $88k a year. if the thing never breaks once and runs all the time, that’s over 22 years just to pay the cost of the turbine, much less interest on financing etc. and, of course, it will break.

            “Based on experiences in Germany, Spain, the UK and Denmark, O&M costs are generally estimated to be around 1.2 to 1.5 eurocents (c€) per kWh of wind power produced, over the total lifetime of a turbine. Spanish data indicates that less than 60 per cent of this amount goes strictly to the O&M of the turbine and installations, with the rest equally distributed between labour costs and spare parts. The remaining 40 per cent is split equally between insurance, land rental and overheads.”

            so, we’re talking 2c US per KWH, or $20 per mwh which takes the profit down by about 40% and now makes payback 38 years which may well be beyond the life of the turbine.

            it does not matter what you couple that to, it still stinks.

            even if power costs doubled it would stink. 19 years is still lousy payback.

    • Isn’t this sorta like saying that forests and mountains slow down the wind?

      No. It’s sorta like saying that there’s an amount of kinetic energy in a mass of moving air, and when you remove that energy with a wind turbine and convert it to another form, the mass of air is no longer moving as fast, and that amount of energy is gone from it. You can’t put another turbine downwind because there is no longer enough wind.

      At 100% efficiency a wind farm would stop the wind entirely.

      • To harness the massive amounts of wind energy required to replace existing sources, would mean potentially disrupting wind patterns and perhaps climate. The very thing many wind power advocates are hoping to avoid. What irony.

    • I agree with morg about base power but point out that a smart grid combined with natural gas turbines – that can fire up much quicker than coal or nukes could harvest the wind when it was available and fire up the NG turbines when not.

      So, you agree with morg that wind can never provide baseline power, but you believe that when combined with natural gas turbines, wind power can provide baseline power?

  3. @ morganovich
    There actually IS a “lost” storage technology developed for utility load-leveling applications back in the early 80′s that would efficiently address the issues with both wind and solar power. Energy storage AND conversion efficiencies were better than 90%, and materials were common and cheap.

    Unfortunately, company internal politics killed it, even after the large-scale successful demos for EPRI, and smaller systems were built and installed for other government programs. I recently reminded some folks of this on one of the alternative energy forums, and it’s now being studied by at least one university and it sounds like a few companies.

    Take away the hype and do a proper job of designing and locating wind and solar power systems, then add this critical piece or a similar storage system, and both solar and wind energy become much more viable parts of the energy grid. But until you solve the storage issue, you’ll still have to build reserve capacity from hydro or fueled power generating systems.

    • rob-

      i am extremely skeptical of your claim. just what is this wondrous technology? please be advised, if you say mag bearing flywheels, i’m going to laugh out loud.

      people have been making that claim about them for ages and yet they never get implemented because the math on which the claims are based is mostly wrong and i can walk you through why.

      so what is this amazing and much maligned tech?

      contrary to the claims of conspiracy theorists and malcontents, incredibly promising technologies of this import do not get lost in the couch cushions especially after big successful demos. you sound like a penny stock newsletter.

      hey look, i’d love you to be right, but i doubt that you are.

      i am actually a professional technology debunker and pretty good at it. happy to take a look, but you’re going to have to tell me what this is.

      your claims remind me of the pebble bed reactor nuts who claim that they are the future and were a better tech killed by corporate interests and hidden from the world. in fact, they just didn’t work and the guys who tried them ran into severe issues with overheating and sticking as well as having far more nuclear waste at depletion.

      conspiracy theories around some sort of control rod illuminati abound, but the truth is, alas, far more pedestrian. it just doesn’t work. the germans knew it in the 80′s. every now and then someone (recently the south africans) fall for this tech and think they can make it work, but, oops, same issues. dog don’t hunt.

      • I understand, but I was part of the engineering team that designed, built, and installed these systems, and I know what worked and what didn’t, which claims were “over-hyped” by corporate marketing, and where the viable applications really were. (Not where they were trying to go.)

        I just hesitate to be more specific because there were certain groups claiming we exaggerated the performace, very loudly, though they didn’t have the expertise to understand it, nor did they ever look at the actual data we, EPRI, GM, and Sandia collected. I don’t want those working on it now to get splashed by any of that crap. Most of what they need to “re-discover” this are in the patents, which have since expired.

        As for my own expertise, besides that work, I’ve also been in the PV solar power industry as a product development engineer, and both General Motors and General Dynamics are currently building hybrid/electric vehicles based at least in part upon designs I’d developed and supplied them with. So yes, I really do know what I’m talking about. ;-)

        • Rob B.: “So yes, I really do know what I’m talking about.

          Rob, can you see the problem here? It doesn’t matter what you know because you’re not talking about anything.

          Just saying you know of a mysterious “lost” energy storage technology that works much better than any current system, but which has somehow escaped widespread attention for 30 years, despite development efforts by some major players, is kind of pointless, don’t you think?

          Just sayin’.

  4. How about some math?
    Commercial windmills cost an average of $1.75 million per megawatt and the typical windmill is a 2 megawatt unit so the installed cost is $3.5 million. There are 8760 hours in a year times 2 MWs equals a potential of 17,520 MWs a year.

    Unfortunately the best grids only produce at about a 20% efficiency so that cuts real production down to 3,504 MWs annually. 3.5 MW’s has a wholesale electrical value of about $140,000.

    A 25 year loan at only 3% means an $18,500 monthly payment or $222,000 a year. You’re losing $82,000 a year and you haven’t bought any land, put in any roads, or strung one inch of wire. Maintenance costs are probably going to eat another $75,000 a year per unit.

    I’ll leave it to Larry to explain how this will save the world.

    • good math… bad reality?? … turbines going up in the Appalachians, Texas, North Dakota, Washington/Oregon – and for that matter around the world. Must be a lot of bad math going on , eh?

        • re: ” The economics part really does get by you doesn’t it?”

          and the real world of countries actually building it – gets by you , eh?

          I look at the theory – at the ideology and I also look at the real world.

          when the real world builds wind turbines and the folks who blather about “economics” say it’s uneconomic – we have a conundrum but when ideology gets mixed with economics.. what happens in the real world – seems to be also “wrong”….

          Now it could well be that all these countries are engaging in what boils down to – pilot projects to see what happens to the economics long term and perhaps to support R&D efforts to see where a more efficient path for the technology…

          but the fact that countries from China to Australia t the US are building them does indeed affect my view – and I think – yours. you just ought not to deny the real world.

          • I look at the theory – at the ideology and I also look at the real world.

            Translation: “I’m out of arguments – even meaningless ones.”

          • when the real world builds wind turbines and the folks who blather about “economics” say it’s uneconomic…

            Can you understand that political decisions have been made worldwide, and that taxpayer’s money has been, and continues to be, poured into wind projects that will never pay for themselves?

            Wind power is well understood and there are no “breakthroughs” lurking around the corner to change the current reality that wind power will never be practical on a large scale.

  5. Screw it! More oil more oil,we ain’t suffering enough at hundred dollars a barrel,lets hit two hundred what the hell.Keep on hearing how much US production is up more than Saudi Arabia,but it don’t mean nothing oil is going up up up,but yet the global economy is in the crapper,it’s all a load of bs.We consumers are gonna pay what the man says we’re gonna pay,don’t matter if we have oil coming out our ears,up it goes.

    • We consumers are gonna pay what the man says we’re gonna pay,don’t matter if we have oil coming out our ears,up it goes.

      I think that you need some perspective. A barrel of oil is cheaper than your barrel of coffee at Starbucks, a barrel of milk, a barrel of beer, or a barrel of mineral water. It is cheap even as it provides the fuel that makes society work.

  6. This study errs in its assessment of potential wind energy resources by ignoring real-world data and experience and instead relying on crude theoretical modeling techniques. In reality, wind project developers and investors work closely with atmospheric scientists and other experts to make sure that their projects will produce as much as expected, and real-world data from large-scale wind installations in the US and Europe confirms that they do. Regardless of who is correct, the inescapable fact is that America’s developable wind energy resources are many times greater than our country’s energy needs.

    For more, see:
    http://www.awea.org/blog/index.cfm?customel_dataPageID_1699=21714

    Michael Goggin,
    American Wind Energy Association

    • This study errs in its assessment of potential wind energy resources by ignoring real-world data and experience and instead relying on crude theoretical modeling techniques. In reality, wind project developers and investors work closely with atmospheric scientists and other experts to make sure that their projects will produce as much as expected, and real-world data from large-scale wind installations in the US and Europe confirms that they do. Regardless of who is correct, the inescapable fact is that America’s developable wind energy resources are many times greater than our country’s energy needs.

      What matters are the return on energy invested and the cost of the energy produced. Wind is a loser on both counts. Remove the subsidies and reality destroys the industry.

    • Regardless of who is correct, the inescapable fact is that America’s developable wind energy resources are many times greater than our country’s energy needs.

      But that’s hardly the point. There is an enormous amount of sunlight, thermal energy, and ocean wave energy available, as well as fissionable and fusionable material.

      There must be other reasons none of them are more widely used. Simple economics is one of them.

      • re: economical

        turns out that quite a few islands that provide electricity have to do it by importing coal or oil and in those places, electricity can cost 5-10 times what it costs on the mainland and in those cases wind/solar can win economically.

        that essentially means that there actually is a demand for the equipment as well as interest in improvements to the technologies.

        http://bermudasun.bm/Content/FEATURES/Go-Green/Article/Solar-power-can-halve-those-rising-electricity-costs/60/765/59266

        • Point to a single post where anyone said there was no demand for wind energy please. An isolated island is hardly representative of an entire country. We actually have such an island right here. North Captiva Island. No bridge either. 30 years ago I built a house for client there. All the houses had generators or windmills since that was all they could have. The power company ran electric lines over there about 20 years ago.
          Now we’ll have a quiz. How many windmills are there on North Captiva today?

          • re: Islands – there are quite a number of islands in the world that do not have native fossil fuels nor significant hydro power and they usually import oil/coal and electricity can and does fetch 50 cents and up per kilowatt hour 5-10 times what it costs for coal-generated grid power in most places.

            What I was pointing out was that when we say wind and solar are not economically competitive as a blanket statement – while it’s true on non-island countries – wind/solar become much more competitive on those islands.

            In fact, there is quite a number of them:

            http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_islands_by_area#Islands_500.E2.80.931.2C000.C2.A0km2_.28190.E2.80.93390.C2.A0sq.C2.A0mi.29

            not all of them are devoid of natural resources for power but many are and those would be places where wind/solar would be economically competitive – and other places not ideal for habitation because of the high cost of imported fuels for electricity – may become more so.

            so we’re going to have both continue to be manufactured – and as many other products… they will undergo continuous improvements to make them more reliable and more efficient – and as they do that they’ll become more competitive for more sites – previously not so.

            It might well be a long, long time, if ever before they will be dominate as grid power … I agree – especially if we move away from coal and towards natural gas but I just would not write them off – forever or even now – for some places.

          • that ought to be a pretty easy economic calculation and the subsequent choice based on which is the least costly proposition.

            Well one would certainly think so, but you have been unable to do so for some reason. where are the numbers? Where’s the “real world experience” you are so fond of claiming? All you have are estimates and assumptions.

            In situations where grid power is provided through imported fossil fuels, the costs are much higher.

            Where are the numbers, Larry? You keep claiming that without supporting it. Don’t you know the difference? This nonsense just keeps flowing out of your ass.

            this is the real world situation on many islands in the world – big and small – including Hawaii and hundreds of other similar size islands that are inhabited..”

            Great! Where are the numbers?

            If you want to make the economic argument between grid power and solar/wind – then do it for all situations not just the ones where on-site fossil fuels tip the scales in their favor and reject the ones where there are no on-site fossil-fuels that then have to be imported.

            Solar and wind are far more costly than fossil fuel for 99.9% of the world’s electrical needs. You keep pointing to isolated niche applications like ocean monitoring stations where no other source of power is available, and tiny isolated islands, and then you don’t even support those with actual data.

            Again – my argument here is that wind/solar do have cost advantages over imported fossil-fuels – in those places where that is the circumstance.

            Oh, that’s a good one. Nice circular reasoning. “wind and solar have cost advantages over fossil fuel where wind and solar have cost advantages over fossil fuel.”

            Even at that, you are unable to provide proof. Pathetic.

            that differs from the point of view that wind/solar are not cost effective compared to fossil fuels – no matter what and never will be.

            Larry – Wind and solar have special small niche uses that make them a good choice for those applications. No one has argued otherwise. you are being dishonest to suggest they have.

            But wind and solar will NEVER be practical or economic at the scale necessary to power cities and factories. They are more expensive than fossil fueled power plants, and without massive subsidies they would fold.

            “they are cost-effected in many more situations than realized on first blush and they are in the here and now right now – not just into the future.”

            No they’re not. They can only be used for small, exceptional applications. Nowhere near a significant fraction of all our power needs.

            that means that this IS a MARKET for wind/solar products and that market is a competitive one in which competition will improve the product, make the more efficient, and less expensive – and that, in turn, will enhance their economic position against fossil fuels.

            Once again. There IS a small market for solar and wind applications, but nothing that seriously challenges fossil fuel powered grids at meaningful scale.

            and it turns out – in Hawaii – that if a utility has a monopoly that there actually is a perverse incentive for them to NOT improve their grid and make it smarter and more able to dynamically load-balance.

            Every regulated utility has a monopoly. How many electric companies can you buy from where you live?

            I hate to say that you don’t understand one more thing, but here it is: You don’t understand load balancing. In Hawaii load balancing for the violent swings in solar output would require storage devices, which don’t currently exist.

            At a larger scale, wind power is causing the same problems in Germany, which generates 10% of it’s electricity with wind. From wiki:

            “In 2012, the use of wind power is, according to the German newspaper Der Spiegel, causing increasing electricity prices and power outages, and due to these factors, renewable energy usage is forcing industries to close, move overseas, and the loss of German heavy industry jobs.[8]”

            could that also be a problem where fossil-fuel grid power predominates ? that it’s actually NOT in the utility’s best interest to upgrade to a smarter grid and they won’t as long as it keeps fossil-fuels more profitable to them than customer-owned solar and wind?

            Regulated utilities are monopolies, and are guaranteed a profit. They don’t care about cost. It goes directly to the rate payer. If costs go up, rates go up. You don’t need to make up a sinister conspiracy by utility companies.

          • re: the calculation..

            I think what I said was that if wind/solar end up being cheaper than imported fossil fuels – we’ll see more adoption of wind/solar.

            re: monopolies – monopolies are subject to citizens concurrence via the granting of the monopoly from citizens via govt.

            nothing sinister.. but utility monopolies are not property rights – they’re contracts.

            re: dynamic load balancing.

            re: network surges due to power outages… transformers, etc… “smart grid”

            what is a “smart grid”? dynamic load balancing, etc et al:

            http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Load_balancing_(electrical_power)

          • what is a “smart grid”? dynamic load balancing, etc et al:

            Read your own reference and more importantly UNDERSTAND it before continuing to embarrass yourself with this moronic drivel.

          • well I did nimrod… smart grids/load balancing are an issue when it comes to wind/solar but power companies already protect the grid in a number of ways from surges and the like right now … but the system also was designed mostly on output surges not the reverse.

            power companies are public utilities than are operated essentially on contract to rate payers – “franchise agreements” I believe – where part of the contract is the type, quality,quantity of service.

            the grid in large respect is not a wholly owned and operated private property.

            if rate payers want the grid to not use coal or nukes to generate power – they often have some level of say in the issue.

            if the grid keeps going down or does a poor job of sustaining itself in a hurricane then ratepayers will complain and changes will often occur as a result.

            if rate payers in an island nation believe that installing solar (or wind) can help provide them with lower cost power and other benefits but the grid needs to be upgraded to be “smarter” – ANYHOW – then ultimately the rate payers are going to have a strong say in that issue.

            the utility is not a wholly owned privately operated enterprise and if the rate payers want to start using other technologies to generate electricity – even if more expensive but with lesser externalities even – it basically becomes a contract issue.

            It’s clear to me that in the article that the utility in Hawaii does not want people to use solar and the irony in their reason is that when power is being fed into the grid – it is disrupting the grid. They don’t want the competition so they don’t want to upgrade the grid to support it.

            surprise. surprise.

          • I think what I said was that if wind/solar end up being cheaper than imported fossil fuels – we’ll see more adoption of wind/solar.

            umm. No that’s not what you said. You can easily scroll back to see what you said. It’s there for all to see.

          • You are now repeating yourself, leaving nothing to respond to. Only you could repeatedly pull the same stuff from your ass with no hint of embarrassment.

          • It’s clear to me that in the article that the utility in Hawaii does not want people to use solar and the irony in their reason is that when power is being fed into the grid – it is disrupting the grid. They don’t want the competition so they don’t want to upgrade the grid to support it.

            If that’s clear to you then you didn’t understand what you read. Ask someone to read that article to you, and explain it. Also ask them for definitions of load balancing, smart grid, and, and power surge.

            The erratic and variable nature of solar power causes systems to crash, resulting in outages. Power outages are considered to be BAD things, Larry, and everyone, including public utilities, wish to avoid them, as they DO as you mentioned have goals for service levels.

            Just so you’ll know in case you can’t find anyone right away to read for you, I’ll give you this:

            Load leveling by smart grids involves managing load so as to limit demand. This includes shutting off your air conditioner on an extremely hot afternoon when power demand is highest, and allowing it to run again at night when it’s cooler, and you don’t need it.

            Supply variations, on the other hand, due to a wildly variable source such as wind or solar cannot be managed by turning off loads, but requires that a variable load be ADDED to cushion the shocks to the system. This requires a storage device of some kind, like batteries, pumping water for later use, or some other kind of expensive and inefficient system.

          • re: grid interconnectivity , what happens in a power outage… how are inputs managed both before, during and after – when coming back online?

            have you done all your required reading?

            http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Load_following_power_plant

            there’s more nimrod. as usual you not only have no idea what you are talking about – you don’t care either as long as it gives you opportunity to play your silly ad hominem games for “sport”. you really are a pathetic soul for someone who is your age.

          • Larry sez: “Load Following Power Plant”

            LOL!

            Oh lord, Larry, there is apparently no limit to your pathetic need to post wiki articles that contain some reference to power generation, whether or not they are relevant, and thus continue to embarrass yourself.

            I’ve repeatedly recommended that you ask someone to read and explain to you these articles you dredge up, to make sure they describe what you think they do, and I can only continue to urge you to do so.

        • turns out that quite a few islands that provide electricity have to do it by importing coal or oil and in those places, electricity can cost 5-10 times what it costs on the mainland and in those cases wind/solar can win economically.

          Some references showing rates of 5-10 times the cost on the mainland for comparable amounts of electricity please, and the cheaper wind/solar costs if available. Then please explain why those locations are still using fossil fuels for electricity generations.

          • primarily as baseload to carry the times when the wind don’t blow or the sun is not shining…the the amount of baseload required is less overall because it’s more economical to use solar and wind when available which coincides with peak loads.

            what I’ve pointed out here is that there ARE places which DO use it BECAUSE it is more economical.

            it’s not a all or nothing proposition on a worldwide basis.

            there are still lots of continental areas off grid and likely will not be on grid for some time. In those areas, solar and wind do make sense economically especially when combined with more efficient appliances and lights.

            In many of these places, it enables the placement of a cell tower which in turn provides vital communications for things like clinics and even farmers to deal with markets for their products. Friends recently visited Tanzania – where many of the rural/remote crossroads has a solar array and a cell tower now and people come in from the surrounding areas to use their phones ..and get pumped water.

            wind and solar are not going to go away. they are going to stay and gradually get more efficient and incorporated more and more.. in places where they do make economic sense.

          • primarily as baseload to carry the times when the wind don’t blow or the sun is not shining…the the amount of baseload required is less overall because it’s more economical to use solar and wind when available which coincides with peak loads.

            Just as I thought. You can’t support that claim. You pulled it from your ass.

          • Voice of America spam boy?!?!

            LMAO!

            What’s next? Wikipedia? Media Matters? Daily Kos?

            Spam boy always ready with a useless comment….

          • here’s your wiki:

            ^ PUC issues interim decision in Hawaiian Electric rate case
            ^ Oahu Wind Integration Study
            ^ Hawaii Study: Wind and Solar Can Reliably Supply 25% of Oahu Electricity Needs
            ^ U.S. Solar Market Insight Report
            ^ Hawaii State Solar Power Rebates, Tax Credits, and Incentives
            ^ Isles power up in solar rankings
            ^ Sherwood, Larry (August 2012). “U.S. Solar Market Trends 2011″. Interstate Renewable Energy Council (IREC). Retrieved 2012-08-16.
            ^ Sherwood, Larry (June 2011). “U.S. Solar Market Trends 2010″. Interstate Renewable Energy Council (IREC). Retrieved 2011-06-29.
            ^ Sherwood, Larry (July 2010). “U.S. Solar Market Trends 2009″. Interstate Renewable Energy Council (IREC). Retrieved 2010-07-28.
            ^ Sherwood, Larry (July 2009). “U.S. Solar Market Trends 2008″. Interstate Renewable Energy Council (IREC). Retrieved 2010-07-24.
            ^ State of Hawaii Data Book 2011 Table 17.07 page 13
            ^ The State of Hawaii Data Book 2008, [1], page 761
            ^ 2009
            ^ 2010
            ^ Environmental Leader news: DuPont cuts ribbon on Hawaii solar panel project
            ^ Star Bulletin: Kona Commons gets solar system
            ^ Lanai Solar Farm Generating 1.5 MW
            ^ “Castle & Cooke’s Lanai solar farm getting battery boost”. 14 September 2010.
            ^ La Ola Solar Farm Now Operating at Full Capacity
            ^ REC Solar unveils Hawai‘i’s largest operational solar system
            ^ New Kauai solar farm could power 300 homes
            ^ Large Solar Farm in Hawaii Opens on Kaua’i Island
            ^ Lana’i – Going Green
            ^ Castle & Cooke gets waiver for solar farm
            ^ Sustainable Future
            ^ Hawaii’s biggest solar farm proposed for Mililani fields
            ^ Anahola Kaua’i, HI
            ^ Renewable Energy Projects in Hawaii

            called footnotes boy – would you prefer than I supply them?

          • Try these out larry g:

            Ozzie Zehner at the University of California, BerkeleyUnintended Consequences of Green Technologies

            From the UK Daily Mail: Solar panels swindle: It was Labour’s big idea to cut global warming. But all it did was make a lucky few very rich

            Re: Hawaii’s solar power flare-up: Too much of a good thing?

            Well what sources of energy does Hawaii have besides solar, wind, tidal?

            Geothermal…

            All expensive technologies today…

            Hawaii can’t be compared to the lower 48 and Alaska which does have reasonable access to coal, gas, and oil…

            Those energy sources have to be shipped to Hawaii…

            What would solar be without ‘Friendly tax credits‘?

            How come users of coal, gas, or something else entirely don’t get those ‘Friendly tax credits‘?

            Leave it to the LA Times to get it wrong: “Solar tax credits cost the state $173.8 million“…

            It costs the state NOTHING, not one damn penny…

            It costs the citizens money in the form of extorted tax dollars…

            Government in its infinite stupidity is trying to pick winners and losers in the energy game but the bureaucrats and politicos aren’t using their own personal wealth in that venture socialism foray, they’re using other people’s money, the taxpayer’s money…

            Suprisingly or mistakenly the LA Times also let this fact slip into their story: “Hawaiian Electric Co. on Oahu, which oversees subsidiary utilities on Maui and the Big Island, has warned that the explosion of do-it-yourself solar could threaten parts of the power grid with the possibility of power fluctuations or sporadic blackouts as the power generated by homeowners — unpredictable and subject to sudden swings — exceeded output from power plants in some areas“…

            Unless solar can stand on its own without government crutches it will continue to be a rip off…

          • re: ” warned that the explosion of do-it-yourself solar could threaten parts of the power grid with the possibility of power fluctuations or sporadic blackouts as the power generated by homeowners — unpredictable and subject to sudden swings — exceeded output from power plants in some areas“…

            yeah.. I woulda thought you libertarian types would just like the “disruptive” nature of this and decry the fact that the utility is basically trying to shut down the competition and actually refusing to utilize solar power giving the “excuse” that they have an obsolete grid they don’t want to update.

            they’ll lose anyhow because people will still buy the solar and maximize it’s off-grid capabilities – depriving the utility of revenues – which will drive up the price on a smaller number of customers.

            there are a lot of islands in the world – many of them are in the same situation as Hawaii. They have to import fossil fuels to burn.

            because of that – the economic costs factors between fossil fuels and solar/wind go upside-down.

            solar/wind are not going to go away. They will continue to be manufactured and improved – and as they are improved they will become more cost effective in even more places.

            so my point was/is that there are many places in the world, Islands being the most apparent, where solar/wind win the economic balance and disprove the idea that wind/solar will “never” be economic.

            there are also many other places on the continents which are far away from fossil fuel grid power … a lot of Canada is, for example but many parts of Russia and China.. Africa…etc.

            Fossil fuel, Grid Power is really the exception, not the rule.

            if one island can save money by using wind/solar, many more will follow and if the price of fossil-fuels goes up – the pace will accelerate.

          • yeah.. I woulda thought you libertarian types would just like the “disruptive” nature of this and decry the fact that the utility is basically trying to shut down the competition and actually refusing to utilize solar power giving the “excuse” that they have an obsolete grid they don’t want to update“…

            Gosh! Why am I NOT suprised that you didn’t understand any of it…

            I don’t know what kind of ‘libertarian types‘ you know but I don’t know of any that really want to screw with the neighbors or the infrastructure…

            larry g are you having a hard time differentiating between a libertarian and an ‘anarchist‘?

            What I do see in your comment is that you must think its OK for these people to leech off of the investors of the present power grid and also expect them to update the power so as the leeches can have an easier time of it collecting what they think they’re due…

            Let the ‘solar leeches‘ pay for the grid upgrades, after all they’re the ones that need it…

            they’ll lose anyhow because people will still buy the solar and maximize it’s off-grid capabilities – depriving the utility of revenues – which will drive up the price on a smaller number of customers“…

            Put money on it that once the fad of solar shows its myriad downsides (which were plainly stated in the first link) people will want to go back to steady electrical output…

            solar/wind are not going to go away“…

            Not suprisingly you’re WRONG AGAIN as the second link also showed you…

            there are also many other places on the continents which are far away from fossil fuel grid power … a lot of Canada is, for example but many parts of Russia and China.. Africa…etc.“…

            I guess you’ve not gotten out much…

            Fossil fuel, Grid Power is really the exception, not the rule“…

            Did you pull that nugget of nuttiness out of your own personal library or make it up on the fly?

            if one island can save money by using wind/solar“…

            That’s amazing that you totally and completely missed the whole pint but its not suprising…

            They’re not saving money on that damn island, they’re leeching off others so your bogus point is just that, bogus…

          • Jundoz – who owns the grid as a monopoly?

            do you think citizens have a say in what utility gets a monopoly status and the conditions thereof?

            if citizens actually could choose between two electric providers – there WOULD be competition and one of them would likely decide to invest in a smart grid to be able to accommodate adding solar –

            but when you have a monopoly, it operates with the support and concurrence of the rate payers who likely do have a say in it’s operation via it’s franchise agreement that is a contract between the utility and the govt that represents the citizens and ratepayers.

            as far as solar/wind vs imported fossil fuels.

            that ought to be a pretty easy economic calculation and the subsequent choice based on which is the least costly proposition.

            In situations where grid power is provided through imported fossil fuels, the costs are much higher.

            this is the real world situation on many islands in the world – big and small – including Hawaii and hundreds of other similar size islands that are inhabited.

            If you want to make the economic argument between grid power and solar/wind – then do it for all situations not just the ones where on-site fossil fuels tip the scales in their favor and reject the ones where there are no on-site fossil-fuels that then have to be imported.

            Again – my argument here is that wind/solar do have cost advantages over imported fossil-fuels – in those places where that is the circumstance.

            that differs from the point of view that wind/solar are not cost effective compared to fossil fuels – no matter what and never will be.

            they are cost-effected in many more situations than realized on first blush and they are in the here and now right now – not just into the future.

            that means that this IS a MARKET for wind/solar products and that market is a competitive one in which competition will improve the product, make the more efficient, and less expensive – and that, in turn, will enhance their economic position against fossil fuels.

            and it turns out – in Hawaii – that if a utility has a monopoly that there actually is a perverse incentive for them to NOT improve their grid and make it smarter and more able to dynamically load-balance.

            could that also be a problem where fossil-fuel grid power predominates ? that it’s actually NOT in the utility’s best interest to upgrade to a smarter grid and they won’t as long as it keeps fossil-fuels more profitable to them than customer-owned solar and wind?

          • Yet again larry g has a rant that is both windy and worthless since its fact free and chock full of clueless cliches…

            if citizens actually could choose between two electric providers – there WOULD be competition and one of them would likely decide to invest in a smart grid to be able to accommodate adding solar “….

            Well then maybe the solar leeches should start their own grid…

            this is the real world situation on many islands in the world – big and small – including Hawaii and hundreds of other similar size islands that are inhabited“…

            Again, long on blather and short on substance…

            that means that this IS a MARKET for wind/solar products and that market is a competitive one in which competition will improve the product blah, blah, blah“…

            That reminds me, you didn’t answer the question why shouldn’t consumers of coal, oil, or gas generated electricty get the same tax breaks that the solar leeches are getting…

          • re: ” That reminds me, you didn’t answer the question why shouldn’t consumers of coal, oil, or gas generated electricty get the same tax breaks that the solar leeches are getting…”

            well they do in a way. they do not pay for the externalities nor do they pay true cost for peak hour costs.

            If consumers had to pay for the external damage done to other property owners…. there would be a huge fund – like an asbestos or tobacco fund to pay for those who were harmed and that cost would be passed on to rate payers.

            right?

          • well they do in a way. they do not pay for the externalities nor do they pay true cost for peak hour costs“…

            Yet another nugget of nutty, factless, nonsense…

          • http://www.gov.bm/portal/server.pt?open=512&objID=728&&PageID=233574&mode=2&in_hi_userid=2&cached=true

            the Bermuda government announces a white paper? Do you even know what that is?

            Did you even read your own reference?

            This is calling for *future planning* to address global warming and energy security – two of the phoniest political scams there are.

            Where is the “it makes economic sense” part of it? Not a word about costs.

            Try harder, Larry, this isn’t what you were asked.

            Tokelou? Give me a break. Estimate, estimate, estimate. Where’s the numbers? Do you realize how tiny this nation is, and how tiny that solar project is?

            Even so, it cost 5 times Tokelou’s GDP, and provides less than 1 KW per resident. How about the 1300 batteries needed? That’s about 1 per resident to level the load on the 3 solar panels per resident. Can you do the math to scale that up to a meaningful size?

            No one has questioned the fact that there are some small isolated practical uses for solar. The question is about large scale. Try to provide something meaningful for a wealthy, large island. Try the numbers for Hawaii.

            Juandos is right – you really are a Spam Boy. Anyone can copy and paste stuff they find on the internet. We were hoping for actual support for the stuff you previously pulled out of your ass.

            Can’t do it, eh?

          • California Girds for Electricity Woes –

            Hmm. I wonder how one “girds” for electric woes? There was no explanation. Maybe that means “gird yourself a backup diesel generator”.

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