For wind power advocates, reality delivers bad news
Again I feel compelled to say, “hey, if we can develop a feasible and affordable clean alternative to petroleum, I’m all for it”. But, we’re not even close in most areas, such as wind power. Obviously I and everyone else hope we can develop this particular technology to take advantage of a natural phenomenon to generate power, but for then next few decades we really need to be exploiting what works – oil and gas.
A new analysis of wind energy supplied to the UK National Grid in recent years has shown that wind farms produce significantly less electricity than had been thought, and that they cause more problems for the Grid than had been believed.
The report (28-page PDF/944 KB) was commissioned by conservation charity the John Muir Trust and carried out by consulting engineer Stuart Young. It measured electricity actually metered as being delivered to the National Grid.
So, as usual, theory and predictions were “significantly” off base. The assumption, and probably the selling point, was that wind power would deliver 30% of its maximum capacity over time. But it hasn’t:
Average output from wind was 27.18% of metered capacity in 2009, 21.14% in 2010, and 24.08% between November 2008 and December 2010 inclusive.
Apparently the new target output should be figured around 25% over time or worse. And note it has gotten worse over time.
Another critical part of this is when it delivers power. You’d want it at peak use periods wouldn’t you?
At each of the four highest peak demands of 2010 wind output was low being respectively 4.72%, 5.51%, 2.59% and 2.51% of capacity at peak demand.
The way UK wind farmers make money and stay in business is through Renewable Obligation Certificates (ROC) or what we would call carbon offsets. They sell them to more traditional power generators who need them and the trade is quite lucrative for the wind farmers (in fact, ROCs make up the bulk of their income). The end result is higher prices electricity, both from wind power and the added cost to traditional power generation the ROCs impose.
And – Catch 22 – high electricity prices make the conversion to electric transportation, heating and industrial use less feasible and affordable.