Nick Smith: heed German dilemma

German wind turbine

This account is the more arresting for being written by a man clearly well-informed about and sensitive towards environmental considerations. If even he is questioning the wisdom — financial and environmental — of wind turbines, we should take notice. It is also instructive that this is the experience of the largest and strongest economy in Europe; if they cannot solve the problems even with their enormous resources in both research and manufacturing, then New Zealand cannot. You’ll read below how German consumers are grossly overcharged for the generation AND DISTRIBUTION of electricity — surely the only financial reason these behemoths can survive. If you want energy now, don’t rely on wind generation. I’ve said before that the only sensible use for wind power is for digging a big hole you don’t need yet.
Richard Treadgold


A new dark age for Germany?

published at CFACT Europe December 1, 2010 – h/t Roger Dewhurst

Offshore wind power projects pave the way to frequent blackouts


This is an adopted article.

Thousands of bureaucrats are preparing for another cushy climate confab in Cancun — while U.S. Senators Bignaman, Brownback and Reid are contemplating how to ram renewable energy standards through a lame-duck session of Congress. If they’re wise, American voters and congressmen will pay extra careful attention to the awful dilemma of German climate and energy policy, as exemplified by recent events, and make sure their country doesn’t make the same “green” mistakes Germany did.

Designed to last 25 years, failed inside 2 months

Barely two months after the inauguration ceremony for Germany’s first pilot offshore wind farm, “Alpha Ventus” in the North Sea, all six of the newly installed wind turbines were completely idle due to gearbox damage. Two turbines must be replaced entirely, the other four repaired.

Edgar Gaertner

Edgar Gaertner

Friends of the project, especially Germany’s environment minister, Norbert Roettgen, talked of “teething problems.” The problem is far more serious than that, for wind turbines in the high seas are extremely expensive for power consumers, even when they run smoothly. When they don’t the problem intensifies. Germany could face blackouts — a new dark age.

The Alpha Ventus failures created intense pressure for Areva Multibrid, a subsidiary of the semi-public French nuclear power company Areva. Every “standstill day,” with the expensive turbines standing idle and not generating a single kilowatt hour of electricity, causes lost revenue. Environmental economist and meteorologist Thomas Heinzow of the University of Hamburg estimated the operator’s revenue shortfall at almost $US6,500 (€5,000) per turbine per standstill day. Giving greater pause to Areva was the certainly not unreasonable fear that the already skittish investors could get cold feet and wander off in search of less risky ventures.

Actually Areva, Areva Multibrid and the construction engineers can consider themselves lucky that the North Sea was relatively calm, thanks to the hot summer. Installing turbine blades is done via jack-up platforms and is a tricky business under the best circumstances. With anything above Beaufort Wind Force 3 (a 13–16 kph “gentle breeze”), the work becomes downright risky.

Precision-made, $US5.2 million each — and we stand them in the ocean

The six Areva Multibrid wind turbines stand 280 feet (85 metres) above the waves at the gearbox and turbine hub. Their heavy blades are 380 feet (116 metres) in diameter. Each turbine weighs 1,000 metric tons (2.2 million pounds), including the tripod base, which rises up from the sea floor 100 feet (30 metres) beneath the surface of these notoriously rough and frigid North Sea waters.

Imagine trying to disassemble and then rebuild these monsters in anything other than calm seas. Thankfully, “Alpha Ventus” also includes six even bigger wind turbines supplied by the formerly German company REpower, which now belongs to India’s Suzlon Corporation. These turbines have thus far been running faultlessly. However, there are enough other issues associated with operating offshore turbines to send additional shivers up the spine. Monster turbines rated at 5 megawatt maximum power generation impose high costs even when — perhaps especially when — they are running full blast. As each turbine costs $US5,200 (€4,000) per kilowatt in initial investment, European legislators have decreed that turbine operators must be rewarded with 20 cents in incentives for every kWh generated at sea.

Mockery of user-pays — gouge the consumer

Europe’s energy consumers must pay 20 cents per kWh generated, plus an additional 5 cents per kWh for transmission costs. They must pay this regardless of whether they need the electricity at the moment and despite the fact that a kWh of wind electricity is worth less than 3 cents on the Leipzig Power Exchange due to the intermittent and highly variable nature of wind.

Even crazier, when high winds generate huge quantities of electricity, but power consumption is low, the Power Exchanges must then sell the electricity at a loss to persuade purchasers to buy the excess electricity. At the moment the most common purchasers are Austrian pumped-storage operators who use wind turbine power to pump water into mountain lakes, so they can later use the water to run hydroelectric generators during peak demand periods — and sell that power at premium prices. Heinzow calculates that water equivalent to Lake Constance (13 cubic miles or 55 cubic kilometers) must be pumped up 1150 feet (350 meters), just to buffer the supply-demand discontinuity caused by the thousands of wind turbines that are already planned for the North and Baltic seas.

There are only two alternatives to this. One is using gas turbines as backup generators that can supply power whenever winds are not blowing at usable speeds. But unless shale gas development proceeds apace, this would increase Europe’s dependence on Russian gas supplies. It would also result in inefficient gas use and higher carbon emissions as generators ramp up and down every time wind turbine output changes.

The other is nuclear plants. High performance nuclear plants can adjust their electricity to replace the highly variable output from wind farms, but that reduces efficiency and causes irregular burn-up of fuel rods. This is a serious concern as high efficiency is the primary way nuclear plants recoup their high capital costs. A bigger concern is that the German government has reversed only partially its decision to phase out all nuclear plants. [There’s also oil and coal generation, but for some reason he doesn’t mention them. -ed.]

It only gets worse — more expensive and more power cuts

However, the lack of suitable backup power generation may still be a relatively small problem. Billion dollar investments in transmission lines are needed to bring expensive wind power from offshore sites north of Germany to big industrial consumers hundreds of miles south. Resistance to new high voltage lines in urban and recreational areas is high and rising.

A Lower Saxony law already requires the use of ground cables in certain areas, however, those are ten times more expensive than above-ground lines and less reliable due to constant assault by water, salt and subterranean animal life.

The bottom line is this: Germans will have to prepare for significantly higher electricity tariffs and more frequent blackouts. “If all German wind power projects are realized as planned, the country will incur economic losses well over €100 billion by 2010,” Heinzow reports. “The only word that describes this ‘world improvement’ strategy is suicidal.”

Does America [or New Zealand? – ed.] really want to follow Europe down this suicidal path?

About the author: Edgar Gärtner is a prolific journalist, analyst and editor. He recently served as Director of the Centre for New Europe’s Environment Forum. He previously served as Editor-In-Chief for the German Branch of the WWF. Edgar Gärtner is the author of Eco-Nihilism: A Critique of Political Ecology, TVR (Jena) available (in German) in the CFACT Europe bookstore.

Views: 484

33 Thoughts on “Nick Smith: heed German dilemma

  1. Richard C (NZ) on 04/12/2010 at 7:09 pm said:

    “Does New Zealand really want to follow Europe down this suicidal path?”

    NZ has been paying unnecessarily for the failed de-regulation of the electricity sector for some time now but at least in our case, the generators assume the economic risk when they deploy wind farms.

    It remains to be seen whether the present generation/transmission infrastructure can cope with an extreme event such as was experienced by South America this winter past. Argentina was forced to shut down industry in order to supply domestic needs. The NZ electricity sector has had the benefit of a benign and relatively warm climate so has not had a real test for decades. Wind power will not contribute then if there are very cold and still conditions so what will make up a shortfall assuming it can be transmitted?

    The wind power tragedy for NZ is people cost – a visual blight, a sensual torture, and the loss of land rights and value if you are not a beneficiary. So we’re not on a suicidal path in NZ, we’re on a path of physical and mental assault combined with the odd mugging.

    • We have the capacity for a crisis. Once before, the government forced Comalco to close down one potline (perhaps two) at the Bluff smelter when our hydro lakes were too low. Then we had power and to spare for our domestic requirements. They had to pay compensation. I forget when it happened; the 1980s?

    • Richard C (NZ) on 05/12/2010 at 12:26 pm said:

      Good point.

      Did a quick search and found this snippet from a 1992 letter

      Due to a combination of severe drought in the hydro catchment and Electricorp’s profit- driven mismanagement, New Zealand has been plunging into a severe power crisis. This has occurred, with virtually no warning, in the midst of a particularly severe winter. Hot water is currently cut off for up to 17 hours per day; total blackouts are threatened. Comalco has closed one potline at its Tiwai Point smelter, for a limited period, claiming this is the first time it’s done this anywhere in the world. Commentators point out that the world aluminum price is currently down US$66 per ton, so it is a useful time to stockpile. Electricorp is also paying Comalco up to NZ$10 million of taxpayers’ money, as compensation.

      That was then, what about now?

  2. Andy on 04/12/2010 at 7:55 pm said:

    I am intrigued by the NZ wind industry, because it seems, on the face of it, to be just about the only example in the world that is not surviving on subsidies (other than the ETS of course).

    Am I missing something here?

    • I’ll ask Bryan Leyland, he’s familiar with the economics of generation.

    • Richard C (NZ) on 05/12/2010 at 12:10 am said:

      TrustPower Presentation to Investor Briefings May 2010

      Mahinerangi Stage I

      Capacity: ————————–36MW
      Commissioning: —————-May 2011
      Wind Turbines: ——————Vestas V90
      Capital Cost: ———————Circa NZD 75m
      Expected Output:—————-105 GWh pa
      Project IRR: ———————->12% [Expected]

      Australian wind production (Snowtown first full year) of 373 GWh
      was 17 GWH (4%) down on long term expectation

      Infratil Investor Briefing March 2010

      Carbon Pricing
      • Phase 3 Europe forecast €25 CER (Barclays)
      • UNFCCC October forecast of €20/t at 2020 lags expected abatement cost of €40/t required to stabilise the global climate, but still results in the “high” scenario shown below in $NZ

      TPW Third Quarter Operating Results 2009

      The Tararua Wind Farm had a strong third quarter compared with prior period [Huh ???]

      Tararua Wind Farm

      The Tararua Wind Farm is productive at wind speeds above 5-metres per second, through to 25-metres per second, with an annual mean wind speed at hub height of close to 10-metres per second. With average wind speeds of 35 km/h, 85% of the time, the scheme’s performance ranks amongst the best in the world, producing 46% of its rated output on an annual basis in an environment where the international wind farm average is around 30%.

      The Tararua Wind Farm is New Zealand’s largest wind farm, with an installed capacity of 161 MW, and an average annual output of 620 GWh.

      Carbon credits Tararua wind farm

      TrustPower was granted tradeable greenhouse gas emissions units (carbon credits) for Stage 2 and 3 as part of the Ministry for the Environment’s Projects to Reduce Emissions Scheme (PRE) in 2003/2004.

      Wind farms are no longer eligible for carbon credits [in NZ],

      Economic success or failure comes down to actual performance vs expected performance. Any return above whatever “hurdle” rate that the company establishes is economic profit , any return below hurdle rate is economic loss.

      For Mahinerangi Stage I, the hurdle rate is probably the risk free rate (3%) plus ? say 5% but that is a different rate than IRR economically. The company will be very quiet if long-term performance is below expectations and the economic profit/loss is probably not even monitored unless there’s an analyst to do it. The accounting profit/loss of the project may not be known either because revenues are consolidated. As long as the project generates a revenue stream close to expectations, no-one will quibble.

      TrustPowers wind generation is now geographically diverse so the chance of all NZ and AU farms performing below par is remote but the risk is that Tararua is the one large NZ farm and Snowtown the one large AU farm, if either is beset with problems it would have an impact on total wind return. The risk is greater with hydro – think Wheao and Ruahihi collapse.

      Then there’s long-term operating costs and how do the assumptions stack up against actual. Also there’s bound to be unforeseen corrosion, structural failure or the like as in the post above.

      The farms must be earners for TrustPower, otherwise they wouldn’t keep building them.

    • Jantar on 19/12/2010 at 9:38 pm said:

      How come I didn’t know this site existed ’till now?

      However, to comment on wind farms: In general they are uneconomic in New Zealand. When the wind is blowing and their generation comes on-line the wholesale prices on our electricity market tumble and are erratic, thus making other forms of generation also unpredictable. When they are not generating much then wholesale prices are solid.

      Mahinerangi stage 1 is an exception to this generalisation. Its output is fed to Dunedin via the Waipori-Halfway Bush 33 kV lines and the limits on these lines mean that Trust Power must balance wind generation against its own Waipori generation. This is where wind is a good resource. it is closely aligned electrically and geographically with a hydro scheme that has good storage capability, and the two (wind and hydro) can swap generation outside the market.

    • Andy on 20/12/2010 at 8:43 am said:

      Interesting comments re. hydro and wind used together. This was something that I suspected to be true.

    • Richard C (NZ) on 20/12/2010 at 9:29 am said:

      Hi Jantar.

      “the wholesale prices on our electricity market tumble and are erratic”

      These are the spot prices you are referring to?

      “Mahinerangi stage 1 is an exception to this generalisation. Its output is fed to Dunedin via the Waipori-Halfway Bush 33 kV lines and the limits on these lines mean that Trust Power must balance wind generation against its own Waipori generation.”

      Does this mean that the only balancing that can be done wind/hydro is on the same network? Or the same feeder? Or do the Transpower operators juggle wind as a special input to the national grid?

      BTW – please see some tips at your second comment down-thread re this site.

  3. Andy on 04/12/2010 at 7:59 pm said:

    Good grief, even the HT regulars are showing their true colours now:
    In a previous life I used to sell wind turbines and there is one small item the manufacturers fail to explain. A big one is one megawatt, so on the face of it you need one thousand to replace Huntley coal power station. The problem is that the one megawatt rating is at a wind speed of twenty five miles per hour. Nearly a gale. In a good windy position you would need five thousand wind generators to replace Huntley.
    They are noisy as the wing tip travels faster than the speed of sound and makes a steady drone that can be heard miles away.

    Words fail me.

    • Your link to HT tempted me to take another look. Please don’t post a link to them ever again! :>) The dreary stream of not-listening-to-each-other, insulting ad-hominems is as depressing as it ever was. Almost nobody over there wants to accede the smallest point in comments which disagree with theirs. Much of it is infantile. Even the science is used as a blunt weapon to injure others.

      When they grow up they are welcome to come here.

    • Andy on 05/12/2010 at 11:55 am said:

      OK, no more links to HT, I promise!
      (And I agree on all your points, Richard)

    • Richard C (NZ) on 05/12/2010 at 1:24 pm said:

      RT, I think you are overlooking the sporting element. My current strategy is to see how many “Dislikes” I can amass.

      Managed to achieve 13 and “Hidden due to low comment rating. Click here to see.” for some inconvenient sea level info on Bryan Walkers latest weepy “We want to survive”.

      A personal best.

      And watching warmists hide inconvenient truths does provide excellent spectator value when mental images of squirming are conjured.

      Just because you have been banned doesn’t mean you have be a spoilsport for the rest of us but your aversion to HT links is understandable under those circumstances.

      Perhaps in the absence of the HT avenue of amusement your alternative diversion could be – classic news headlines.

      Here’s one to start your collection

      “Are we freezing because of global warming?” – Telegraph UK

      You can quickly build your collection from a plethora of easily accessible gems like.

      ‘Snowfalls are now just a thing of the past ”

      You’ll be able to derive hours of enjoyment (and guffaws) from this pastime while the rest of us joust with equal (smug) satisfaction at HT. That way you wont feel left out.

    • Ha, ha, ha. Yes, you are hilarious. Hard to argue because I’m laughing so much — I love those links. Nice of you to find an alternative pastime for me. Man alive!

      Dear Andy was flabbergasted at the attitude of that HT commenter towards an icon of the warmistas, and so was I. However, my tongue was firmly in my cheek when asking him for no links to HT. I don’t at all mind links to posts related to our topics, wherever they are. That’s what you’re making this site famous for!

      But I don’t want to help Hot Topic climb the search engine rankings any more than necessary, so I just hope you keep them to useful info. Of course, if I want incoming links, and one must give what one wishes to receive, then I should encourage all the outgoing links that are possible.


    • Richard C (NZ) on 05/12/2010 at 2:34 pm said:

      RT, I’m bemused by Gareth’s challenge below made prior to my demotion (but I can still respond).

      He’s asking me to disprove what is happening naturally which I obviously will not do and ascribes no AGW influence to the phenomena he presents.

      Gareth has either had an epiphany or he’s lost the AGW plot in a big way.

      He’s totally disconnected AGW from climate change phenomena by default.

    • I’m working on a response to that. I’ll type faster.

    • Richard C (NZ) on 05/12/2010 at 2:18 pm said:

      Have now achieved “permanent moderation” status for “simple trolling”
      Author: Gareth
      Here’s a telling little snippet that throws a harsh light on the commenter known here as Richard C2, but at Treadgold’s place just Richard C. There he writes, in response to Treadgold moaning about someone posting a link to Hot Topic:

      RT, I think you are overlooking the sporting element. My current strategy is to see how many “Dislikes” I can amass.

      Managed to achieve 13 and “Hidden due to low comment rating. Click here to see.” for some inconvenient sea level info on Bryan Walkers latest weepy “We want to survive”.

      A personal best.

      And watching warmists hide inconvenient truths does provide excellent spectator value when mental images of squirming are conjured.

      “Richard C” is henceforward on permanent moderation. His comments will only appear here if I consider them to be an attempt at good faith discussion and debate, not simple trolling.
      Looks like I’ll have to take up a new pastime – classic blog headlines perhaps.

      Sophisticated trolling is just too much hard work and no fun.

      Gareth did issue this challenge however
      Author: Gareth
      OK, RC2, here’s your challenge. Demonstrate that the balance of evidence on sea level rise indicates that these islands do not face inundation as this century proceeds.

      Note: to do this you will need to demonstrate that:
      a) current warming is not causing SLR, or
      b) future warming will either not happen, or will not contribute to SLR
      c) that major ice sheets are not melting due to the current warming
      d) that future warming will either not happen, or will not cause increased melting of those ice sheets
      e) why paleoclimate studies of the last interglacial (Eemian) are wrong when they show sea levels 6 m higher than today at a time when global temperatures were only slightly warmer than present
      f) why rapid surges in sea level rise are not possible (where “rapid” means greater than 1m per century).

      NB: “demonstrate” in this context means showing that the balance of real scientific evidence supports your contention. Blog posts, non-peer-reviewed articles, or any mention of Mörner, simply won’t cut it.

      Thanks. I’ll wait.
      Seems to be conditional on the assumption of “current warming” and “future warming” but due to what?.

      What Gareth probably doesn’t realize is that I’m a coolist/warmist i.e. 2050 will probably be warmer than present due to natural cycles (not CO2) but in the intervening time we’ll have a cool phase also due to natural cycles. Generally however, the earth is warming naturally.

      A specious challenge then, given that none of what he says I must disprove is predicated upon fossil fuel emissions.

      So on that basis there really isn’t much to disagree with except “current warming” and even that’s reasonable as long as CO2 is not blamed for something that is happening due to natural cycles.

      All Gareth has done is present an argument for warming due to natural cycles, which is odd for an AGW proponent – maybe he’s figured it out.

    • That was fast of Gareth! I had no idea we were under such close scrutiny from HT.

      As to his challenge to you: he names a large number of things to prove, but why? His main statement is to prove a negative, which is entirely impossible. What is inundation? Will it be defined by 500 mm? By half the present “freeboard” being lost? By 100% freeboard lost (complete flooding)? By salt water intrusion into potable supplies? Which islands?

      You can only present evidence of sea level rise or fall (not of the absence of inundation); the various conflicting causes for the rise/fall hardly matter to the islands or their inhabitants. Present SLR is, what — about 3mm per year? You’ll have the latest refs. But Willem de Lange is cautious towards increasing rates of SLR.

      He said this two days ago in response to a claim by James Renwick published by the Science Media Centre that “sea levels look set to keep rising for a thousand years or more”:

      Pity sea levels are currently falling around NZ, and the rate of rise globally is dropping significantly.

      Satellite altimeter data indicates a decrease in rate (about 2.8 mm/y).

      Tide gauges indicate a decrease (harder to pin down, but around 1.4 mm/y and -1.2 mm/y since about 2002).

      GRACE gravitational data indicates a decrease (about 1 mm/y since 2003) — and falling sea levels in areas experiencing the most “ice melt”.

      I think it more likely that sea levels will fall significantly in the next millennium.

      His comments are quoted out of context and of course are not prepared for the scrutiny this little tussle would give them. But can you support his statements with refs? If not, I can ask him to give some; he always does his best to oblige.

    • Richard C (NZ) on 05/12/2010 at 4:14 pm said:

      I’ve given HT SEAFRAME and Jason/TOPEX for Kiribati that shows a falling trend since 2004 and a falling height since 2006 but these are “short-term” apparently but it depends whether the time frame is 10 years, 100 years or 1000 years.

      My thrust in response would be a headline “Hot Topic Disses AGW – Pushes Natural Cycles”.

      It’s no-win arguing sea level rise or fall unless man-made climate change is introduced as a factor, otherwise we are ostensibly arguing the same point of view.

      Gareth’s point is that there is an inexorable long-term rise so that short-term falls are of no consequence which I agree with to a certain extent.

      The point of difference that Gareth has not stated in his challenge is that mans carbon emissions since circa 1970 are magnifying a natural process that has been underway since the LIA.

      So it’s not WHAT will happen to sea levels this century but WHAT AND WHY it will happen and to what degree man is influencing the process. Clearly carbon emissions have not caused alarming sea level rise over the last 6 years.

      James Renwick’s article on the other hand makes a connection to “Global temperatures inevitably rise in the long-term with increasing greenhouse gas concentrations” which is a different story altogether.

      Lief Svalgaard (a gravitational expert) argues that sea levels would fall around 60m locally due to gravitational change if the Greenland ice mass I’m not fixed on Renwick’s or de Lange’s predictions for a 1000 years out. What if there was another Maunder or Dalton minimum this century? It’s not out of the question.

    • Richard C (NZ) on 05/12/2010 at 4:17 pm said:

      locally at Greenland that is

    • Richard C (NZ) on 05/12/2010 at 7:49 pm said:

      My response to Gareth’s challenge (in moderation until released – or not)
      “Demonstrate that the balance of evidence on sea level rise indicates that these islands do not face inundation as this century proceeds.”

      Inundation is one of a number of scenarios that may play out over the next century due to natural climate change.

      For the record, I don’t deny the natural climate change that you posit and happen to loosely subscribe to the notion of a warmer than present climate circa 2050 as a result of a warm phase of the natural cycle and general warming coming out of the LIA. Hence the possibility of inundation. Before that happens though, the indications are that there is a cool phase on the way that is restricting sea level rise for the time being.

      The repeat of phenomena such as a Maunder or Dalton minimum is not out of the question during that cool phase. On the other hand, what will be the magnetic effect on sea level due to gravitational changes from Greenland ice melt? Rise or fall? And where?

      What the last 10 years have shown is the broken correlation between anthropogenic carbon emissions and atmospheric temperature. The last six years have shown a similar break in carbon emissions and oceanic temperature. But because the long-term trend as projected from the LIA indicates a warm phase will return circa 2040, the Islanders will still have to adapt to natural sea level rise again at that time and will require assistance for that but the motivations should be as per each countries normal aid policy and not as recompense for carbon emissions. In the meantime they have maybe 30 years to plan, which should be plenty.

      What Greenland has shown by virtue of its name is that adaptation as a consequence of natural climate change is achievable, so the Islanders can take heart in that.

    • Samoht on 05/12/2010 at 10:14 pm said:

      The 11 year solar cycle variance in irradiation is equivalent to 7 years CO2 increase at current rates. In other words on the down side of the solar cycle the lower irradiance is balanced by the climate forcing gasses and their increase (CO2, CH4 etc.). The current solar cycle was followed by a particularly long and deep low out of which the sun is only now slowly emerging again.
      Despite this we had the warmest decade on record with 2010 tying with the warmest year on record (2005). When you look at the long term temp trends you will see that the general warming trend of the past decades is happening on the backdrop of natural variability.

    • Richard C (NZ) on 06/12/2010 at 9:41 am said:

      We have not yet felt the full effects of the quiescent sun due to thermal lag of the oceans but it has certainly been a factor in the last four NH winters counting this one and the last SH winter was a harbinger for the future – ask the South Americans about that.

      That this is the warmest decade since the LIA is to be expected due to the general warming trend since then overlaid with a warm-cool cycle but the apparent CO2 correlation only explains 1970-1998. That correlation has been broken for the last decade so you’ve no recourse to that now and the longer the CO2/temp divergence continues the less the CO2 forcing argument holds.

      Natural cycles are far more than just “The 11 year solar cycle variance in irradiation”. Just for solar there is the extra influence of sunspot number and area for example. Then there’s the cosmic ray-albedo (cloud cover) relationship and Milankovitch/magnetism effects.

      Your statement

      “When you look at the long term temp trends you will see that the general warming trend of the past decades is happening on the backdrop of natural variability.”

      could equally be

      “When you look at the long term temp trends you will see that the general warming trend of the past decades is happening due to natural variability.”

      without conflict with any scientific understanding.

      It is also premature to fixate too much on the warm decade just past when both atmospheric and oceanic temperatures are cooling at present. Watching the sea surface temperature anomaly is instructive to the understanding of thermal momentum. Yes the ocean takes a while to take up or give up heat but once the process starts then momentum builds in either direction. The momentum at present is building a cool phase in the ocean that is most evident in the Pacific with -3.5C in the East. That’s a lot of heat gone somewhere and it must pass through the atmosphere on its way to space so it follows that atmospheric temps will be effected by that for a while.

    • Richard C (NZ) on 06/12/2010 at 1:32 pm said:

      Gareth unimpressed by my response to his challenge – must have got it right then.
      Gareth December 6, 2010 at 9:20 am

      Sorry RC2, this is just incoherent. You don’t rise to my challenge in any material respect, but just offer your views — and they seem to depend on a rewrite of the radiation physics of CO2. Good luck with that. Come back when you can answer a) to f) in the terms I outlined.
      A belated CO2 connection given that it wasn’t at issue in his challenge. Now he’s contradicting himself – what tangled web.

      I did like this though from Carol on my 13 “Dislikes”

      (I have others on 12, 14 and 15 – they sure can’t handle inconvenient data).
      Carol Cowan December 5, 2010 at 8:56 pm

      I hope 13 brings him bad luck.

  4. Samoht on 05/12/2010 at 9:39 pm said:

    Germany produced about 38,000 GWhrs of electric power with its wind mills in 2009. That’s the energy equivalent of 19,000,000 (19 million) Tons of coal.

    • Richard C (NZ) on 06/12/2010 at 8:51 am said:

      They’re also emulating China with the number of coal plants they’re bringing on-line to replace nuclear.

      Germany’s Coal Boom Highlights Nation’s Big Energy Dilemma

      May 1, 2009

      Germany plans to bring a slew of new dirty coal plants online by 2012 and even later, Reuters reports. That fact highlights both the extent of its coal addiction and the growing energy and climate dilemma facing the nation as it prepares for a nuclear phase-out.

      Specifically, 14 coal plants, totaling 14,000 MW of capacity will open by 2012. At least 9,000 more megawatts worth could be built after 2013.

      The news comes at a time of mounting global policy backlash against coal. The UK and Canada are moving to impose moratoriums on new coal plants that don’t capture and sequester climate-warming CO2. Germany is moving in the opposite direction.

      Wind can supplement conventional power generation in the right conditions but can’t replace it. If a massive cold snap is accompanied by calm conditions – what then?

    • Samoth on 06/12/2010 at 10:52 am said:

      yes, terrible indeed.

      Nobody says that Wind can replace all installed capacity. However wind can replace large amounts of costly and environmentally damaging fossil fuel consumption! This is the main point to be made here. Wind is foremost about replacing fuels whenever possible.
      Also with weather prediction now becoming more and more accurate wind predictions are becoming rather accurate with a window of days ahead so that thermal power plants can be throttled or turned off ahead of time.
      Wind is a very successful element in the power mix of Germany and much more so NZ with its better wind resource.
      Wind is economical in many places of the world and the outlook for wind economy is up due to the fact that fossil fuel cost will be rising. US pension funds are investing in NZ wind farms because of its dividends not because they are interested in lofty green ideology.

    • Richard C (NZ) on 06/12/2010 at 12:15 pm said:

      Those dividends are not guaranteed from a purely wind operation. A good example is TrustPower up-thread that has wind-hydro, NZ-AU diversification. If dividends were reliant on say Snowtown AU, they probably wouldn’t get a payout this year:-

      Australian wind production (Snowtown first full year) of 373 GWh
      was 17 GWH (4%) down on long term expectation

      If we look at TrustPower’s dividend growth however,

      TrustPower Presentation to Investor Briefings

      Although the 2010 dividend was greater than 2009, dividends as a percentage of underlying earnings was way up at a time when Trustpower has invested significantly in wind i.e. they’ve had to take much more from earnings to satisfy shareholder requirements for dividends than in 2009. So it’s a long-term investment that has its risks like any other, with the most significant variable being climatic conditions as in hydro.

      What will be worth watching is whether TrustPower’s wind performance meets or exceeds expectations or whether it falls short and doesn’t contribute economically to corporate earnings. One things for sure, it’s their hydro that takes up the slack.

      It should be remembered that a number of smaller hydro projects had to be bailed out by the govt during the time of high interest rates back a while. There’s all sorts of unforeseen events that can upset expected performance of power projects and wind is not immune to that.

    • Andy on 06/12/2010 at 12:58 pm said:

      Nobody says that Wind can replace all installed capacity.

      Except in the UK, perhaps.

      The UK climate bill, expected to cost upwards of 1 trillion pounds over the next 40 years, has a target of 80% renewables by 2050.

      Hydro is not an option, solar isn’t, so we are left with wind.
      The current energy secreary, Chris Huhne, is anti-nuclear.

      Clearly, unless something is done soon, the lights will go off.

    • Jantar on 19/12/2010 at 9:55 pm said:

      The theory that wind can replace costly thermal generation is deeply flawed. Wind can vary its output rapidly and the only plant that can match its ramp rates consistantly is hydro. Therefore wind replaces hydro, not thermal, and we have seen many instances of high wind generation causing hydro stations to spill water.

      When New Zealand had plenty of traditional thermal generation, the theory of wind replacing thermal may have stood the test. But since 1990 we have shut down Meremere, Marsden Point, Otahuhu A and New Plymouth thermal stations. Huntly is near the end of its econonic life and may be phased out in a few years. The modern replacement plant like Otahuhu CCGT, Taranaki CCGT and Huntly E3P are not designed to ramped around. Otahuhu for example can only ramp at 4 MW/min whereas wind can change at 50 MW/min or even more. Similarly the start time for these CCGTs are slow. Its not uncommon to have a unit come out of maintenence and take 4 days to start up. Once running they tend to be on a steady load with only a few load changes per day. Thus once again it is hydro that must be ramped back when the wind blows.

    • Richard C (NZ) on 20/12/2010 at 9:14 am said:

      Jantar, thanks for stopping by and some interesting info – call again.

      “Thus once again it is hydro that must be ramped back when the wind blows”

      It’s my understanding that a hydro turbine is most efficient when running full bore so to ramp hydro on account of wind seems so be a bad operational policy (unless there’s low lake levels) especially if it means spilling water.

      Re the station closures you list.

      I unearthed a 2004 report that showed some recommissioning plans for some of those plants.

      See (on this site) “Energy and Fuel”

      “Electricity generation: NZ and selected OECD countries”

      “Possible Future Plant Changes”

      I’d also be interested in your opinion of this statement in the Introduction:-

      “requiring over 150MW of new generation capacity on average each year”

      BTW – there’s a great deal more at this site e.g you can start your own thread on this page

      As you can see at the bottom, I have a thread on pollution and the sub-categories “Coal-fired Power Plant Pollution” and “Development Pollution” may be of interest to you.

      Also – subscribe to blog COMMENTS on this site via Google Reader.

      Bookmark this INDEX

      And use the “Open Threads” button on the top blog option bar


  5. Pingback: Climate Conversation Group » NZ wind farm subsidies

  6. Richard C (NZ) on 29/12/2010 at 11:42 am said:

    Bryan Leyland: Wind farms not everything they’re cranked up to be

    5:30 AM Wednesday Dec 29, 2010 – NZH

    Virtually all the main electricity generators in New Zealand have wind farms in operation, under construction or going through the Resource Management Act approvals process.

    The primary driver seems to be that we need more renewable energy to “fight climate change” and that wind power is a very good way of doing this. It isn’t.

    The fundamental problem with wind power is that it is intermittent and unpredictable. This means that the system operator must take a pessimistic view and assume that no wind power will be available over critical periods.

    In other words, he has to make sure that there are sufficient conventional power stations available to meet peak demands. It is often claimed that New Zealand has ample hydropower that can easily back up wind. While this tends to be true during a normal rainfall year, it is most definitely not true during a dry year. Dry years, not normal years, dictate the need for new power stations.

    The wind blows least during the autumn-early winter period when the lakes are low and at a maximum in the springtime when the snow is melting and, usually, it is raining.

    So windpower generates most when it isn’t needed and least when it is most needed. As a result its contribution is less than it would be if the wind blew hardest in the autumn.

    Windpower is expensive. According to my calculations, its true cost is between 11c and 17c/kWh. This is between 50 per cent and 100 per cent more expensive than conventional power. As an expert witness in the wind farm debate, I have put forward my evidence and my calculations on a number of occasions. No one has refuted them.


    Bryan Leyland is a power industry consultant.

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