40 thoughts on “US Dept of Energy levelized electricity generating costs”

  1. The numbers for Wind appear to be low also, given how dilute it is, unless I’ve misunderstood the figures.

  2. Biomass may include landfill methane.

    A couple of years back I emailed Western Power and asked them how many kilowatt hours were in a ‘unit’ shown on my power bill, because I wanted to compare the price of electricity here with other places.

    I got an unhelpful dismissive response.

    Government monopolies really are the worst.

  3. Dave N,

    The wind numbers are probably right, but it’s the way of doing the sums that’s wrong.

    These “levelised costs” divide the total energy generated over the life of a facility by the total price of building and running it. This gives a massive unjustified cost advantage to intermittent, unpredictable sources such as wind, because no account is taken of the value of having power when you need it.

    A much more sensible way of doing this would be to compare the value of electricity generated with the cost of generating it. That would be the normal market calculation, and it would be what would happen if renewables mandates, feed-in tariffs and other distortions were not wrecking the electricity market and driving prices through the roof.

    For sober, well-written scientific accounts of this, see articles by Paul Joskow of MIT, or his quick presentation here. Money quote:

    Levelized cost comparisons are meaningless because they ignore variations in the price of electricity at the actual time when supplies are forthcoming from intermittent technologies:
    • 6 cents/kWh cents/kWh levelized levelized cost is not cheap if it is produced at night when the market value is 2 cents/KWh
    • 9 cents/kWh levelized cost is not expensive if it is produced during peak
    periods when the price is 10 cents/kWh.

  4. Warwick,

    thanks for posting this chart.

    One of the first things that people are drawn to on a chart like this is that figure in the last column, the (wholesale) price that all these forms of generation will be selling their power to the grid for.

    What is important here is that all of these types of generation need to be ‘coming from’ an equivalent base, in this case ‘TIME’ and in the text that comes with this chart from the EIA, they say:

    The levelized cost shown for each utility-scale generation technology in the tables below are calculated based on a 30-year cost recovery period…

    In the case of coal fired power, and most especially Nuclear Power, those types of plant typically have a life span of 50 years and even that can (and regularly is) be extended out to 60 years and even beyond. Consider in the US, where there are more than 600 coal fired power plants, the AVERAGE age is currently at 49 years, with 230 of them 60 years and older, and of those 230 plants, 65 of them are older than 70 years with 5 plants between 80 and 90 years old, still in operation.

    A similar situation applies with Nuclear Power plants which can also be extended out to 75 years.

    Now, compare that with Wind Power. This LCOE chart calculates the end cost on a 30 year recovery, and every site detailing existing Plants and proposed plants states there that they only have an expected life of 20 to an upper mark of 25 years.

    The same applies for any version of Solar Power, also only 20 to 25 years.

    Note also the Capacity Factors quoted, because they also are indicative of the end operation of a Plant, whether the plant can supply its power on a regular basis for when that power is actually needed for Demand.

    Nuclear power is quoted there as 90%. In the US, which currently has 104 Reactors the CF is running at a yearly average of 92%, with the Summer Capacity regularly at and above 95%.

    Compare that, and coal fired power, here quoted at 85%, with Wind Power at 34%, still basically a theoretical total, because it has only just crept above 25% in recent times, and on a current Worldwide basis is still only delivering its power at around 20%

    Note the CF for any form of Solar Power, also both exceedingly low. When comparing with solar power, you also need to be aware that solar plants are still only at ’boutique’ small power generators, having only recently reached 250MW, some higher, but nearly all of them considerably lower than that 250MW, while a large scale coal fired plant is 2000MW+, so again comparisons can be misleading.

    Note wrt coal fired power, that they are still labouring under the false impression that CCS is actually viable, something patently false for the scale required. Yet they still factor in that as part of their LCOE, again in the hope that this will influence people away from Coal fired power. The reason the LCOE for coal fired plants with CCS is so high is that up to 40% of the actual power being generated by the plant is being consumed by the CCS part of that plant.

    As with every chart, it can be used by whichever side wishes to take advantage of it for an agenda, there is always the need for a correct explanation of some of the factors used in the constructing the chart.

    Now, notice those LCOE, there, (for any proposed new plants coming on line in 2016) and compare that with the current costs for the supply of coal fired power, around $30/MWH, and Nuclear power (in the U.S.) currently running at about half that for coal fired power.

    Why are those current figures so low?

    Because the plants can actually extrapolate their costs over the full and expected life of the plant, 50+ years.

    I understand full that this makes me sound like an ‘urger’ for coal fired power, but the reality is that it is the cheapest form of power generation (that we have available now, here in Australia) and also as an urger for Nuclear Power, (correct) however, full in the knowledge that Nuclear power in Australia is at least 15 to 20 years away at the soonest.

    Charts like this can be latched onto by ‘green’ supporters in an effort to convince people that renewable power is indeed coming down in price while the others are rising, but again, perspective is needed, and that can only be seen when there is a correct explanation of what you are actually looking at.

    Look, I apologise for taking so much space with this comment, but it’s easy to point at that end column and say that prices can be used as a comparison, when in fact something altogether different may be the case.

    Tony.

    POST SCRIPT: For those who think that figure I have quoted for currently existing Nuclear power is ‘seemingly and puzzlingly’ so low, I would direct you to a wonderful site from someone who has worked at the one Nuclear Power plant for more than 20 years, Jim Zimmerlin. Read the text especially, and below that large block of images is even further text, all of it interesting, where he mentions comparisons with what happened at Fukushima compared to the plant he works at The Diablo Canyon Plant in San Luis Obispo in California, in fact this plant built very close to the San Andreas fault line. Jim also mentions the cost of electricity being sold by the plant to the California grid, coming in at 1.6 cents/KWH which is $16/MWH

    Link to Site: www.zimfamilycockers.com/DiabloCanyon.html

  5. Warwick,
    this was the subject of a Post by Willis Eschenbach “The Dark Future of Solar Electricity” Posted December 3, 2011 on WUWT.
    The comments were lively. The more interesting were

    Assumption: a capacity factor for wind of 34% – much too high; a likely figure in Australia would be the German 15-17%.

    Underestimation of wind turbine maintenance costs. “maintenance costs underestimated. The world’s largest off-shore wind fleet at Horn’s Reef has been a nightmare of huge cost overruns and very high outage rates. Salt water tends to eat fragile things like gear boxes and inverters”.

    The assumed lifetime for wind turbines is higher than occurs in the UK or the USA. The actual lifetime for conventional generation plants (even nuclear) is much higher than estimated, but this isn’t strictly relevant as a standard lifetime is used for comparison PROVIDED the method can meet that lifetime. It was noted that 14,000 wind turbines has been abandoned in the USA because they were uneconomic to run.

    A 3-percentage point increase in the cost of capital is added when evaluating investments in greenhouse gas (GHG) intensive technologies like coal-fired power without carbon control and sequestration (CCS). Has a similar impact to a $15/tonne carbon tax

    Spinning reserve backup costs are estimated to be around 2.5ct€/kWh_windpower – however no official estimate is available
, because these costs are born by existing power stations. Germany and UK. EON, the largest wind farm owner in Germany claims that 98% backup capacity is necessary.

    Wind costs based o.n the wind maps of the US geological survey These wind estimates in no way reflect the actual capacity factors a wind turbine will produce; the government assessments are inflated by at least 50 per cent from what will be actually achieved.

    The cost of collection of the renewable power wasn’t addressed e.g. power lines, substations etc. nor the cost of transport to remote (wind swept) sites.

    Wind power isn’t always wanted when generated e.g. maximum output seems to be at night in winter. So countries like Austria, Sweden and Norway with large hydro pumped storage buy power at low rates and resell it later at a high rate. THEY make a profit from wind power, although it is noticeable they avoid having many turbines themselves. The Czechs have ben doing well during the current freezing winter selling nuclear power to the Germans. The Poles with their brown coal stations are annoyed with German wind power surges and are talking of refusing to take the extra from the new (German) large wind farms in the Baltic Sea.

    The capacity factor of 85% penalises coal stations. These are usually capable of 90% minimum for their first 20 years of operation. 85% would be the figure afterwards as maintenance needs rise.

  6. Incidentally, with respect to that Diablo Canyon Nuclear Power Plant, there is an interesting piece of information about it.

    With judicious use, the nuclear fuel rods can be cycled carefully so that reactor refuelling can be achieved on an 18 Month basis.

    Such was the case here at this Plant when the Number One unit was refuelled before the start of the yearly 12 Month data recording and the next refuel was 18 months away.

    This one generator unit ran flat out for the whole 12 Month recording period, and in fact operated at 101.2% Capacity Factor.

    Just this ONE 1122MW generator supplied 40% of the power that was delivered from EVERY Wind plant in the U.S. that was operational at that time, 2006, delivering almost 10TWH in that year.

    Tony.

  7. I agree with Graeme I about the distortion of costs.
    Good designed coal fired plants can have an average running time (calculated over 10 years) of over 90%. I believe that has been achieved by some of the Queensland power stations.

    For wind and solar it is necessary to cost standby power.
    A report on wind farms in UK showed that there was a period in winter for about two weeks that the total country-wide generating capability of wind generation was less than 5%. So basically, it is necessary to add the capital cost of gas fired standby for every MW of average annual wind generating capacity and it is also necessary to make an allowance for the operating cost of the standby units. Wind energy is not free as some make out.

  8. cementafriend-

    they cannot run wind turbines in really cold conditions for several reasons;
    1. there is usually not enough wind
    2. In icy conditions the blades “ice up” and are unbalanced, so would break if running OR
    3. Turning iced blades can release aerodynamic “daggers” of ice (think 2-3 metres long) which can fly some distance and slice people
    almost in two if they get hit (as in Germany).
    4. For the last two reasons the Insurance companies won’t cover them in icy weather.

    For prolonged cold periods (such as Europe has been having the last few years) the amount of electricity produced can be below 0.1% of nominal capacity. Hence the panic in Germany, restarting nuclear power stations, importing power from the Czech Republic etc. I don’t know if they drew any (brown coal) power from Poland, but it seems likely. Their usual standby, French nuclear, wasn’t available as the shortage of Russian Gas left France short of electricity esp. as they had contracts to supply the UK (to make up for their useless turbines) and to Spain and Italy.

  9. I was asked the following questions by email about the EIA LCOE projections for 2016.

    The text says that their LCOE is based on a 30 year recovery period for all listed plant types.

    If Nuclear power plants, and coal fired power plants have an active life span of 50 years with the capability to extend that life out even further, is this chart misleading?

    Also, if Wind and Solar only have an active life span of only 25 years, again, is that chart misleading?

    If so, in both cases, is there any reliable method that could be used to give a more realistic way of showing an even more accurate way of showing it?

    I reply as follows:

    LCOE is a way to compare technologies on a level playing field. It is used as a very early stage screening method. It is not used at the detailed options analysis stage where proper financial analysis is required.

    So, to compare technologies you need to select the parameters you want to vary and the parameters you want to hold constant. You can certainly change the life expectancy. But what do you mean by the life expectancy? Is it the book life for financial depreciation purposes or for Tax Office depreciation requirements? Is it the plant life without further capital investment (i.e. before major mid-life refurbishments)? Just what do we mean when we say economic life or book life or whatever?. The current Australian practice is to use 40 years for fossil fuel plants, 30 years for solar and geothermal and 25 years for wind. I think the figures for solar and wind are too long because they have not been demonstrated that the plants can remain economically viable for that long. In fact, there are many examples where they are being found to be uneconomic and are being discarded or replaced long before they reach their expected life expectancy.

    Here is a calculator you can use very easily to calculate LCOE.
    www.nrel.gov/analysis/tech_lcoe.html Unfortunately it is US centric so they require fossil fuel inputs in Btu. You can also download and use the calculator at the bottom of the Excel spreadsheet linked in this post: www.warwickhughes.com/blog/?p=1339

    It should also be noted that capital and operating costs are about 50% higher in Australia than in the USA. That is because labour productivity is lower and labour costs higher than in the USA. www.ret.gov.au/energy/Documents/AEGTC%202010.pdf . Our costs are roughly double the costs in Asia. However, our coal costs are much lower than in the USA and lower still compared with EU and Asia. So caution is needed in converting costs in other countries to costs in Australia.

  10. I was asked a second question:

    Do you have any thoughts on CCS, and if it is something that is unable to be achieved on the scale required, why is it that this is included in that LCOE?

    My personal opinion is the developed countries will play with demonstrations of CCS for a while and there will be some minor achievements in places where the geology is favourable. It will be very expensive and tokenism, like renewables. It will also be dangerous. From time to time pipes will leak / burst / be sabotaged and CO2 will flow down and fill low lying areas; unseen and undetected it will kill all animal life. Even if it is detected, cars will not run so there can be no escape. It will happen. It is inevitable. Australia’s best site by far is the Great Artesian Basin. It has up to 30% porosity in some places and high permeability. It is very desirable. I can just see the creeping pressures from business to do trials, and bigger trials and … You can fill in the blanks as to where this will lead over time.

  11. This comment should have been posted before the previous one. I must have done something wrong. Please read this first.

    I was asked the following questions by email about the EIA LCOE projections for 2016.

    “The text says that their LCOE is based on a 30 year recovery period for all listed plant types.

    If Nuclear power plants, and coal fired power plants have an active life span of 50 years with the capability to extend that life out even further, is this chart misleading?

    Also, if Wind and Solar only have an active life span of only 25 years, again, is that chart misleading?

    If so, in both cases, is there any reliable method that could be used to give a more realistic way of showing an even more accurate way of showing it?”

    I reply as follows:

    LCOE is a way to compare technologies on a level playing field. It is used as a very early stage screening method. It is not used at the detailed options analysis stage where proper financial analysis is required.

    So, to compare technologies you need to select the parameters you want to vary and the parameters you want to hold constant. You can certainly change the life expectancy. But what do you mean by the life expectancy? Is it the book life for financial depreciation purposes or for Tax Office depreciation requirements? Is it the plant life without further capital investment (i.e. before major mid-life refurbishments)? Just what do we mean when we say economic life or book life or whatever?. The current Australian practice is to use 40 years for fossil fuel plants, 30 years for solar and geothermal and 25 years for wind. I think the figures for solar and wind are too long because they have not been demonstrated that the plants can remain economically viable for that long. In fact, there are many examples where they are being found to be uneconomic and are being discarded or replaced long before they reach their expected life expectancy.

    Here is a calculator you can use very easily to calculate LCOE.
    www.nrel.gov/analysis/tech_lcoe.html Unfortunately it is US centric so they require fossil fuel inputs in Btu. You can also download and use the calculator at the bottom of the Excel spreadsheet linked in this post: www.warwickhughes.com/blog/?p=1339

    It should also be noted that capital and operating costs are about 50% higher in Australia than in the USA. That is because labour productivity is lower and labour costs higher than in the USA. www.ret.gov.au/energy/Documents/AEGTC%202010.pdf . Our costs are roughly double the costs in Asia. However, our coal costs are much lower than in the USA and lower still compared with EU and Asia. So caution is needed in converting costs in other countries to costs in Australia.

  12. Peter makes an excellent point here.

    What is hidden in that chart with respect to CCS is why is it so much greater in cost.

    The process itself, while being enormously expensive to install (think here of the similar process of water desalination) is that the process itself consumes (up to) 40% of the electrical power actually being generated by the plant with that CCS, which sort of defeats the purpose of large scale coal fired power, that being to generate huge amounts of power.

    Because of that large reduction in output, there is consequently less power being generated by the plant for sale to the grid at that wholesale price.

    People fail to grasp the complexity of the process itself, and all they see is what is shown in charts like the one shown here from the EIA, and this is then used to ‘drive’ an agenda saying that coal fired power will be inherently more expensive, and in this manner, it makes those renewables of choice (Wind and Solar) ‘seem’ that little bit less expensive.

    It is a process that will never become available on the scale required.

    When you have a typical large scale coal fired plant emitting one tonne of CO2 every 1.7 seconds, then imagine that this has to be extracted from the exhaust, the CO2 separated from that exhaust, then converted to a liquid, and then pumped down pipelines to the sequestration site, and then pumped into the ground, and all of this has to be accomplished at the same rate as it is being emitted.

    The process to liquify the CO2 is at a temperature well below zero, so it also has to be kept at the temperature during piping to the site, and then during injection, it reverts to its gaseous state. The weight remains the same, but the volume then increases.

    That typical large scale coal fired power plant will have a life span of 50 years, hence that ONE plant alone will have to sequester into the ground forever, never seeping back to the surface or into surrounding areas a total of almost ONE BILLION tons of CO2.

    See now what is required.

    See now why it is so expensive.

    As Peter mentions, you will see demonstrations on what will in effect be a tiny scale, and for only a fractional part of a plant’s total CO2 emissions, but for the large scale, it will not be achieved.

    Green sympathisers can use charts like this to run their agenda, but what they won’t tell you is when, and more importantly, if this will be achieved, because it won’t.

    Meanwhile Governments will still allocate funding to groups investigating it and fiddling around with minor experiments, but pity help the first grant recipient who comes out and says it won’t work. You can bet London to a brick they’ll lose their funding right quick.

    Tony.

  13. cementafriend mentions the Capacity Factor of some new technology coal fired plants.

    Admitted, Stanwell Power Station outside Rockhampton is not the most recent technology currently available, but it does in fact hold a World record for power delivery.

    One of its generating units ran continuously, at its maximum, for 1073 continuous days, almost three years.

    Tony.

  14. Ignore my comment # 11. It is a duplicate of #9. Sorry. Comment #9 was held in M<oderation, it turns out.

  15. Congratulations Warwick on starting a very interesting Forum which has posted a lot of interesting facts and Thoughts.
    It all helps to counter the Warmist push to have us sitting at home at night pedaling away to keep the lights and TV running.

  16. This news today in Canberra Times about multinational energy giant AGL over plans to build a $1.5 billion gas-fired power plant in the sleepy little hamlet of Dalton, which is just north of the Hume Highway between Yass and Goulburn.
    What interests me is the quoted expected use of the $1.5 billion facility of only 20 days per year – sounds crazy to me for such an expensive facility with a 1500 megawatts capacity. Is it an accident that this is in the middle of “windmill country” ? – and are we seeing here some of the true cost of windpower. Is this plant being placed out in the boondocks to help balance the erratic windpower supply ? Still researching this.

  17. WSH,

    this highlights another case where journalists especially have no concept of what some terms mean when explaining things like this.

    This Plant will have a Nameplate Capacity of that 1500MW, and in all probability will be an Open Cycle Gas Turbine Plant. (OCGT)

    The nature of these plants is that they can run up to speed in a short time, and supply large amounts of power at short notice. While ever this plant is actually running, it will be supplying its full rated power.

    That power is used for Peak Power, and here is where those journalists have little understanding of what that term actually means.

    It is actually Peaking Power.

    60 to 65% of every watt of power in Australia is being consumed 24 hours of every day. That is what is euphemistically referred to as Baseload Power, again, another term not understood by journalists. This is the absolute physical requirement for power to be available on that 24/7/365 basis. The Base Load.

    Everything above that is termed Peaking Power Load.

    In the main, this Peaking Power Load is for a couple of hours in the morning, say 6AM till around 8AM, and for time in the late afternoon and early evening, say 4PM until 10PM, and from that you can guess this is around the times that the Residential power is greatest, early morning when people wake and go to school/work etc, and when they get home, have dinner, do the clothes washing drying, have their heaters or coolers on, etc, in the evening and early night period.

    While large scale coal fired power provides that constant power for that absolute Base Load requirement, a range of plants are brought on line to ‘top up’ the power as it is required and for when it is required. As these times are ‘relatively’ known, and keeping in mind that OCGT can come on line quickly, most Peaking Power Plants are indeed these Natural Gas OCGT.

    Now, keeping in mind the times required, they may only be in full operation for a few hours a day, depending upon requirements.

    Add up all those few hours a day, and you get a total, and in this case, this total has very drastically been underquoted at only 20 days.

    This article misrepresents this as being that the plant will only be in operation for 20 days, and in all actuality, it would be closer to 60 to 90 days ….. the equivalent if all those 4 to 6 hours a day, every day, are added together, if you can see that, because a plant of this nature and being new will be called upon every day to supply that Peaking Power requirement.

    That is why, when you look at the above chart for LCOE, the Capacity Factor for OCGT is in fact so low at that quoted 30%.

    That doesn’t mean they are only 30% efficient, because while ever the plant is running, it is delivering its full power for Demand purposes. It is because it is only running for a few hours every day. On some days it may be running longer, as on extremely hot days in Mid Summer, and in the depths of Winter.

    I hope that this explains it a little better.

    Tony.

  18. These numbers are bogus. The DOE is doctoring numbers to make renewables appear to be more competitive to support the Washington, DC administations attempt to eliminate fossil fuel use in the future. True renewable costs are probably 2 to 5 times higher. Expect no truth from Washington

  19. TonyfromOz says

    The nature of these plants is that they can run up to speed in a short time, and supply large amounts of power at short notice. While ever this plant is actually running, it will be supplying its full rated power.

    That may be true but the entire 1500MW power station will be made up of a number of smaller generators that can be brought on line sequentially. This is indicated when considering the staged nature of this development as explained by AGL

    Over the next decade, it is predicted that rising electricity demand in NSW along with a change in the mix of generation sources as a result of the expansion of Renewable Energy Targets will substantially increase the need for rapid response “peaking” power generation within NSW. To meet this rapidly changing electricity supply landscape, AGL proposes to construct and operate an initially 250 megawatt to 780 megawatt (and ultimately up to 1500 megawatt) gas turbine power station on rural grazing land approximately 3km north of the town of Dalton, NSW

    WSH’s comment about wind farms and their need for reactive backup seems spot on in light of the comment AGL makes about the changing mix of generation resources.

  20. Dr Rust,

    thanks for this comment.

    I have been using that EIA site for just on 4 years now.

    Up until 18 months ago, the site was user friendly, and nearly everything I wanted to know could be easily accessed.

    Admitted, now the site’s ‘look’ has changed, it probably looks better, but the data is nowhere near as easily accessible as it once was. It’s all still there, but now you have to go specifically looking for it with virtually the exact words entered into their ‘search’ capability, and any data is now not as easy to access, unless you know exactly what to look for, and then go searching for it.

    I have also noticed that documents similar to this LCOE chart have started appearing, documents that on the surface make the new renewable forms of power generation look to be catching up to the traditional forms of power generation.

    I’m not, er, polite enough to say that this is done in the form of an agenda, because, speaking from here in Australia, that is not my place to say things like that.

    Tony.

  21. John Bromhead Says:

    Agreed. When wind power capacity is low then the existing grid system can cope, because it has some flexibility built into it. I say capacity because on rare occasions the turbines suddenly deliver near maximum power. But when the total capacity installed rises then more and more fast acting backup is necessary. In Europe this is largely supplied by hydroelectricity, hence 50-80% of Danish generation from wind turbines goes to the Norwegian (and Swedish) hydroelectric system. (From the Danish Wind Energy Assoc.)

    EON is the largest wind turbine manufacturer and wind farm owner in Germany, so possesses expertise in this area. In the UK they submitted to an inquiry that for 3-4% capacity only around 88% backup was necessary, although higher would help. For 8% installed capacity they suggested 94%. With the 20% capacity installed in in Germany they claim that 98% backup capacity is necessary.

    So the Greens want wind turbines but have banned the best method of making them viable. Instead, for every MW of wind there will have to be a MW of open cycle gas turbine, running expensively and generating high levels of CO2. If we get 20% wind capacity in Australia, my estimate is that we will get 4% of our electricity from that, and reduce Australia’s CO2 emissions by 0.53%. Doesn’t seem worth the cost.

  22. Graeme,

    you hit the nail on the head exactly in your last paragraph, where you say Australia hopes to get 20% Wind Capacity in Australia, but they need backup, because they don’t deliver their power for the specific times it is required, hence requiring backup mainly from gas fired ‘peaking power’ plants.

    I’m not sure if you are aware of it, but there is an excellent resource available that shows exactly Wind Power performance in Australia, on a day to day basis, and for each day, on an hour to hour basis.

    That shows the output from the 24 operational wind plants in South East Australia. That is 965 separate wind towers totalling 2003MW Nameplate Capacity. There are times when all 965 towers are barely managing 100 to 200MW in total from all of them combined.

    That resource also has a graph showing actual demand across the same area, so a daily, and an hour to hour comparison can be seen on the one page.

    The date can be changed with the button at the top right, and while seemingly only showing information for the last 4 weeks or so, you can check any day in their previous history by changing the numbers in the main address line for the site. You’ll work out how when you change the date a couple of times and note that address details.

    Wind Farm Performance

    Tony.

  23. Thanks for the link.
    I am surprised by the high Capacity Factors displayed, but I suppose that merely represents that the best sites were chosen.
    With large scale adoption I would expect the overall Capacity factor to drop from the current 25% down to that of German on-shore turbines (15-16%).

    After all they’re much closer to the Pole )and stronger winds) than we are.

    Also I note that even with 12 hour smoothing that the turbines never rise above 76% of capacity, and bottom at zero. “WE KNOW IT IS A HOT DAY LADIES, BUT YOUR FRIDGE WON’T BE WORKING UNTIL TOMORROW” doesn’t strike me as a winning slogan for wind power.

    Even with 7 day smoothing the range is from 5 to 59% of capacity, surely conclusive proof of the need for conventional back up.
    And, as I noted above, this is likely the best that wind turbines can do.

  24. Graeme,

    of note when you look at this link, it shows in that second image from the top the overall power produced from all towers, that solid black line.

    Note the vertical axis, total power, with a Maximum power for 28Feb of 1500MW.

    Then look at the third graph by scrolling down, and note the total Demand and see the Vertical axis there with a maximum of 30,000.

    Wind supplies a mere fraction of the total, and notice that its maximum and minimum might never correspond with max and min on total Demand.

    The daily average for Wind on that day would be around 800MW, while total Demand average is around 25,000MW, meaning that on average, for this day, Wind supplied 3.2% of all Power.

    That 3.2% is close to average at around 2.8/2.9% for a 12 month period.

    Now, try and extrapolate that out to the hoped for 20% from renewables, and the current total wind towers come in at 965 towers.

    Work out how many towers would be needed to reach that total, and those 965 towers for the 24 Plants comes in at $5.2 Billion.

    Then find equivalent sites with comparable wind and then do all the planning, financing, construction, etc, and they want this done when???

    I know that renewables mans a mix of wind and solar, but that is currently running at around 85/15 Wind/Solar, so the bulk of it is going to come from wind.

    Yeah! Right!

    Tony.

  25. Tony,
    on those figures the necessary new towers would only cost $31.2 billion. Our current Government wouldn’t hesitate to throw sums like that away.
    It is true that there would probably have to be more turbines than 5790 because less windy sites would have to be used. Then the cost of putting in all the necessary high tension pylons should be added in. After all those turbines would cover a minimum of 6000 sq. kilometres, probably a lot more. And not forgetting the 25-27 new gas burning plants as necessary back up, nor the roads for access. It would all add up to an astronomical sum, and be of very little benefit. We agree on that.

    I think you could count on this government scrimping on the planning. They always do.

  26. IEA (2012) – “The Impact of Wind Power on European Natural Gas Markets”
    www.iea.org/papers/2012/impact_of_wind_power.pdf

    This paragraph from the Executive Summary reinforces an important message:

    An analysis of the effect of an increasing wind market share on residual demand shows that wind significantly alters the load duration curve (LDC) of residual demand, changing not only its size but also its slope. Comparing the LDC of demand and residual demand shows how wind strongly decreases the average capacity factor of residual demand; the share of capacity running at high capacity factors (70% to 100%) decreases, while the amount of capacity running at low capacity factors (0% to 30%) increases strongly. A decreasing capacity factor can have a significant impact on the relative profitability of investments in different types of generation capacity. As the capacity factor decreases, the levelised costs of electricity (LCOE) of generation technologies with high investment costs, such as coal‐ and especially nuclear‐fired capacity, increase faster than those of technologies with lower investment costs, such as gas‐fired capacity.

    So wind generation increases the cost of electricity by more than just the higher cost of the wind energy alone. It also increase the cost of electricity from the whole system because causes the cost of electricity from the baseload generators to be increased (because their capacity factors are reduced).

  27. Thanks Graeme,

    I was waiting for just this exact response.

    The money being no object here for Government, and keep in mind they chuck in half. So now all we need is to find private enterprise to pony up only $16 Billion of that. (What?)

    Now, any power plant of any variety is seven years in the planning etc until it is actually delivering power, that’s if all the ducks line up in a row first time around.

    So, find the best sites where there is good wind.

    Do all the Impact studies etc. Arrange all the admin. Arrange all the financing, and all the legals.

    So, on the existing average 24 Wind farms of 965 towers, that’s an extra 145 Wind Plants, hence that 5790 Towers.

    All this by 2020 remember.

    So, starting right now, if all the above was miraculously already in place, they only need to construct one new wind plant every 20 days between now and 2020. So that’s 2 wind towers a day for the next 8 years, starting today.

    Then they just have to keep on going, because at the absolute best, these Plants only have a lifespan of 25 years, so the existing ones now will need replacing on a regular basis.

    See just how stupid this whole thing is?

    The actual money thing, as horrendously huge and stupid as it is, is actually the least of their worries.

    Then there’s transmission etc, transport to get those nacelles and blades to the sites, a vast new trained workforce, probably a whole new manufacturing industry to support this stupidity, and need I go on?

    As that famous Australian saying goes.

    Tell ‘em they’re dreamin’

    Tony.

  28. Some figures from Bishop Hill courtesy of Bernie

    World wide – Actual power generated over a year is 20% of the face plate capacity of the installed wind turbines.

    Australia 31% Austria 24% Canada 28% China 13% Denmark 23% Finland 17% Germany 15%
    Greece 26% Ireland 23% Italy 17% Japan 20% Korea 24% Mexico 29% Netherlands 23%
    Norway 24% Portugal 26% Spain 24% Sweden 18% Switzerland 8% United Kingdom 22% United States 27%
    Totals 20% Total Global Installed Capacity 169703MW Total Global Power Generation 297.34TW

    I am skeptical of the US and Australian numbers which appear to be outliers. Later this was pointed out (for Oz) that it represented the small number of wind farms in he best sites. The figure for the USA may be inflated by Texas figures of 33.9%, whereas other reports claim 9% is the figure (ERCOT). Certainly ERCOT who regulate texas wind farm energy are less than complimentary about it as a source of electricity. I might add that I have seen slightly lower figures for both the UK and Denmark, but that might just be year to year variation.

    Greece, Italy, Sweden, Norway and Switzerland all have few turbines installed. The Swiss machines were installed in the ’80s and there is no enthusiasm for more (smart people).

    The figures for China and Germany seem odd. Possibly the claim that many chinese turbines aren’t connected to the grid is true, but there is no doubt that the German figure is accurate. Which makes you wonder why the German Government wants to install more. Really, many of their Ministers would fit straight into our Cabinet.

  29. Graeme Inkster,

    We have to be careful that the figures reported are consistent. Are all these figures from one authoritative site, such as the IEA or from different sites? Wind advocates often quote the capacity factor based on what the wind turbines would have produced if all their power output was accepted by the grid. But often the grid cannot accept all the output for various reasons – usually because the wind turbines are producing power when not needed. What is important is the capacity factor based on what was actually accepted by the grid. For comparison, hydro and fossil fuel plants distinguish between their availability and their actual capacity factor. The actual capacity factor they produce is less than they could have produced, because much of their time their available but their power is not needed. If wind power was not mandated, we’d buy probably none of it, because it is expensive, unreliable and causes all sorts of problems for the grid management. It’s a high cost, low value product. In short, a bl–dy nuisance.

  30. Peter Lang

    Figures were said to be all from the IEA, although the reference to the PDF didn’t work.

    I rechecked the Texas figures from ERCOT. The 33.9% figure for wind turbine capacity factor seems correct. The 9% figure is from “For years, ERCOT has counted just 8.7 percent of the state’s installed wind-generation capacity as “dependable capacity at peak.”

    Nuclear at 7% of installed capacity delivered 12% of energy produced. Coal at 23% of installed capacity delivered 39% of energy produced. Figures for Wind were 13% installed and 8.5% of delivered.

    They run “close to the wind” in Texas. Their Reserve margin: 13.86%. Their peak demand in 2011 exceeded their conventional installed capacity, so they might have been relying on wind to take up the extra. More likely they drew on available private generation and switchable resources. But it would seem likely that the output of those wind turbines is all used when available.

    ERCOT are not that pleased with wind power. They refused to pay for the connecting pylons to the proposed wind development of T. Boone Pickens, leading to the project being cancelled. Nor are the customers “Texas has far more super-hot days than it does frigid ones. And on nearly every one of those hot days, ERCOT’s wind capacity has been AWOL. Each afternoon, as the temperature — and electricity demand — soars, the wind dies down:” There might be a lesson there for Australia.
    ALSO
    “The $800 per-household expenditure is merely the cost of building the transmission lines. Wind power is more expensive to produce than conventional power sources, so Texas consumers will also pay electricity premiums every year.”
    AND
    “There’s no question Texans would be paying less for energy and there would be more capacity if the state had spent the money instead on nuclear, coal-fired, or natural gas power plants. The main problem has been the federal subsidies. Without them we wouldn’t be the leading generator of wind power. Also, without the federal subsidies no one would be building the transmission lines, because no one would be able to make a profit on wind power.”

  31. Peter Lang:

    wrote the above because of sleep deprivation (2 parties nearby, although to give 1 neighbour his due, it only happens 2-3 times a year. The other neighbour [renter] hasn’t had one for 3 weeks (which went until 6.30 am)) so a little disjointed.

    Yes there is a problem with wind turbines delivering power at the wrong time, but in Texas they can use their federal subsidies to drop the price (even to zero), so the electricity is bought. Then there is the problem, which is not confined by any means to Texas, of the Renewable Mandate which, as you will be well aware, forces electricity grids to accept a set percentage of “renewable” electricity.

    It is well known that wind turbines normally generate most during night in winter (locations with icy winters apart). Since the peak demands in the USA occur in summer, the regulatory authorities there are starting to rate supply from turbines for the period May or June to the end of August. The Capacity Credit as they call it e.g. the 8.7% figure from ERCOT above. Similar ratings are 13, 10 (New York), 5!! (Idaho), 17 (Nebraska), 12.2 (Colorado). New Mexico didn’t issue a rating, but noted that in summertime a maximum of 16% of nominal capacity could be expected, and similarly the Tri-State Authority found a variable contribution between 2 and 12%.

    The 10% figure (Summer) should be contrasted with the 30% figure (Winter). Since Australia has peaks in summer and winter I suppose it could be a somewhat better place for wind turbines, but I can’t see much reason for using them.

    There is a nice graph (from ERCOT) in www.nationalreview.com/…/texas-wind-energy-fails-again-robert-br... which would interest TonyfromOz.
    It shows what wind power was available in summer falling at the time of daily peak demand to 1% of supply.

  32. The Wind Farm Performance site I linked to in Comment 23 above shows the performance of those 24 most recently constructed Wind Plants.

    I would suggest that the current data that was mentioned in Comment 30 is data for Wind that is just from this site alone, which in fact gives us an indicator as to Wind. Those 24 Wind Plants shown there are the most recently constructed, and those recently constructed Plants are a little more efficient than older Plants, and in those other Countries, their data reflects ALL wind power.

    What I have noticed, having used that EIA database is that over the last 4 years the Wind Capacity Factor in the US is slowly rising, as more recent Plants are starting to deliver their power. Even so, it is barely scraping above 25% now, having been at under 20% four years ago. Even so, in the US, Wind of itself is barely providing 2% of Demand, higher in some jurisdictions, and again, that figure has barely moved from the 1.5% of Demand four years ago, even while Nameplate Capacity has doubled in the same time frame.

    The same applies everywhere those newer Plants are going in, and the CF is slowly rising.

    Now, that Australian site shows those 24 Plants with a Nameplate Capacity of 2003MW, and while they ‘may’ be running at a Capacity Factor of the quoted 31%, they are still supplying for Demand a total that stumbles along between 1.8 and 3% depending upon the day the data is recorded. (check 16 Feb)

    Also worthy of note from that same site is the graph showing total demand, third graph down, and I have a small bug about the scales of the graphs being similar giving (the average unknowing reader) the impression that Wind is supplying large amounts of power. Then also note that on nearly every day, Peak supply of Wind does not match with Peak Demand, and in most cases Wind is supplying its maximum power when Demand is not as critical.

    You can change the date with that button at the top right of the charts, and while it may only show the last month’s data, look at the address line and note the date, so you can effectively change that date on that address line to bring up the charts for any day in its previous history.

    Again, it seems to me that they are using selective data and then displaying it to its best advantage for people who have not much concept of what it actually means.

    I’m getting feedback from Wind supporters disgruntled with the way I am portraying Wind power that in fact in South Australia Wind power is filling 22% of TOTAL Demand, and using that AMEO data, they can then extrapolate that it is indeed a viable option for wider Australia.

    Mention anywhere against Wind Power, and it seems supporters come in from everywhere to quote data that they themselves do not even understand.

    There is a concerted effort underway to make Wind Power look like something it is patently not ….. a constant and reliable supply of electricity.

    Tony.

  33. I mentioned above that Wind Performance site, and then mentioned 16 Feb.

    At the minimum there on that day, all those 24 Plants were supplying only around an average of 100MW of power for a four hour period. That time was when total Demand was creeping up to the daily maximum, and during those three hours, that total demand was 26,000 to 27,000MW.

    In effect at this time when Peak demand was almost at its maximum, Wind was supplying less that 0.4% of that Demand.

    That average 100MW is from 24 Wind Plants, the total output of 965 Wind Towers.

    Do not ever tell me Wind Power can answer the question.

    Tony.

  34. Graeme,

    Thank you for all that. I sometimes point people to May 2010 when the combined output of all the NEM wind farms was negative in 65 5-minute periods over a period of about a week. During that week, the average capacity factor of all the NEM wind farms was less than 5% (from memory). Here is the chart for May 2010 windfarmperformance.info/documents/analysis/monthly/aemo_wind_201005_hhour.pdf . The NEM wind farms are spread over an area 1200 km east-west by 800 km north-south.

  35. Tony;
    the link www.nationalreview.com/…/texas-wind-energy-fails-again-robert-br... doesn’t work from here, but will work pasted into a browser. Alternately try Robert Bryce + wind-energy in Google. He’s a kindred spirit.

    There are only 2 answers to those critics.
    1. Have you noticed the rising electricity prices in the last year? That is to pay for the pylons and transmission lines for your “alternative energy”.

    2. Wind might be free, but collecting the power is expensive. The cost of a turbine is only part of the overall cost. About half as much again for the installation, plus enormous sums for the distribution details (as above) which are paid for by the electricity user as another subsidy for wind.

    Mind you, I think they will stop listening after 2 words. “Four turbines good, two turbines bad” is the limit of their grasp.

  36. Warwick,

    Below the EIA chart you stated:

    The DoE numbers for Biomass seem low – maybe be from projects utilising existing waste material.

    There are two reasons it is low:
    1. The LCOE is calculateds assuming a capacity factor of 83%. That is baseload. If we calculate it for a capacity factor of 13%, which is what Elliston et al. used in their simulation of 100% renewable electricity NEM, the LCOE is $484/MWh.

    2. The second reason is that the plants are assumed to run on wood (2000 tonnes per day for a 50 MW plant), whereas the Elliston et al. simulation assumes residue from grain crops.

    www.eia.gov/oiaf/beck_plantcosts/pdf/updatedplantcosts.pdf

    www.eia.gov/forecasts/aeo/assumptions/pdf/electricity.pdf

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