Whispering wind #2

The arrival of a Wind Energy Association Newsletter suggested it might be time for an update on wind power in New Zealand. It’s nearly two years since I wrote about wind farm prospects in my own Waikato region. The first of those wind farms, at Te Uku, is now up and running. The Prime Minister was present at the opening on 11 February, and is reported by the wind energy association as saying “In a world where we want to get away from fossil fuels and ultimately have a cleaner, greener environment, wind is a tremendous technology for us.”

The newspaper report, however, failed to report that remark and focused on his use of the occasion to defend the Government’s wish to privatise up to 49% of Meridian Energy. It also reported him as saying that new technology and generation such as Te Uku would only be introduced “when it pays for itself”. One would like to think that at this point he pointed out that fossil fuel-generated electricity doesn’t pay for itself but is heavily subsidised by future generations, but if he did the paper didn’t think it newsworthy.

Te Uku was a challenging construction effort on steep terrain, with the building of 26 kilometres of roads to transport the turbines to their foundations. The local economy benefited through direct employment and the engagement of local services, some of which will no doubt continue throughout the farm’s life. Seen from the road to Raglan the turbines are a clear feature of the landscape, and to my eyes visually pleasing –  certainly more so than many of the human constructions bordering that road.

The considerably larger wind farm proposed for the coast further north from Raglan, Hauauru ma Raki, ran into problems in the early stages of its seeking consent, as reported by us here. But happily the Board of Enquiry has recently announced its draft decision to grant resource consents for 168 wind turbines and designation for the transmission lines. Confirmation of that draft decision will open the way for a very substantial addition to New Zealand’s wind power resource if Contact Energy proceeds with its development. The decision was a good deal more favourable than that announced recently by the Board responsible for consent for the proposed farm at Turitea, near Palmerston North, where a proposal for 104 turbines has been scaled back to 61, impacting adversely on the economics of the project.

Te Uku is just one of four wind farms currently being built. When all four projects are complete New Zealand’s wind capacity will sit at 623MW, and supply around 5% of our electricity.

The activity at the four sites represents over $300 million of investment, which creates opportunities for local businesses and communities. These opportunities are not only associated with the initial construction of the farms. The newsletter points to ongoing economic benefits.  An example is the three Manawatu wind farms whose ongoing operation is estimated to inject $8 to $11 million into the Manawatu economy each year.

Locally based companies like Ashhurst Engineering and Construction have been able to expand their operations as a result of opportunities at these wind farms. AEC’s work in and around wind farms has taken them all over the world. They have built specialist equipment for use at wind farms and offer innovative solutions to new challenges.

The Association website provides five case studies of what a wind farm development can mean for the surrounding community and the electricity system.

The newsletter carries some interesting information on wind farm noise. A recently commissioned report shows that infrasound levels measured at two Australian wind farms were well below established perception thresholds and also below levels produced by other natural and man-made sources, including a beach. This supported existing overseas data. More generally a report commissioned by the Australian Clean Energy Council showed that the NZ Wind Farm Noise Standard, (used both in Australia and New Zealand) is among the toughest and most up-to-date of the guidelines used for controlling wind farm noise in the world.

Global wind capacity increased by 22% in 2010, and for the first time more than half all new wind power was added outside of traditional markets in Europe and North America, mainly in China. How far can wind go in supplying electricity demand? The Global Wind Energy Outlook considers that by 2030, at 2300 gigawatts capacity, it could be providing 22% of the world’s needs. The NZ Association considers a similar level possible for New Zealand. This is considerably less than the global level visualised by Lester Brown in his recent book World on the Edge, where he writes of 4000 gigawatts capacity by 2020, but he advocates a crash programme to meet it.

On an encouraging note the newsletter reported the cost of wind turbines in NZ terms had fallen significantly in the past couple of years by some 15 to 20%.

I mentioned briefly in the past the possibility of wind energy in New Zealand playing an important part in the electrification of our car fleet. Bruce Smith, director of modelling and forecasting at the Electricity Commission, was reported as telling the 2009 biofuels and electric vehicles conference in Wellington that electric vehicles have the ability to smooth the peaks and troughs of electricity supply so efficiently they could triple the country’s capacity to use wind power. Electric cars could make it possible to build many more wind turbines because they solved one of wind power’s major inefficiencies – that energy is wasted overnight and at other times when people use little electricity because the wind is blowing and not being used. It’s a scenario which is not infrequently canvassed in writings about vehicle electrification and renewable energy and one which would seem to have particular relevance to New Zealand, perhaps indicating a fuller use of wind energy than might otherwise be contemplated.

The New Zealand Wind Energy Association has a conference and exhibition coming up in April in the Wellington Town Hall.


69 thoughts on “Whispering wind #2”

  1. One would like to think that at this point he pointed out that fossil fuel-generated electricity doesn’t pay for itself but is heavily subsidised by future generations

    Not just future generations Bryan, past and present ones too (although I know exactly what you mean). Why do they persist in propagating this deception?. Why does the fossil fuel industry get a never-ending hand-out, yet fledgling renewable energy has to go it alone?.

  2. John D, [snip: let’s not get personal. GR] But were not aware that fossil fuels are heavily subsidized?. Strange because you have previously commented on many threads where this has been drawn to the readers attention.

    As for fossil fuels, have you not noticed the alarming rise in the price of oil?. Given that peak oil (the peak rate of oil extraction) occurred in 2005 or 2006, and that global warming is affecting world food prices, how do you expect that to improve?.

    My advice; [snip] get reacquainted with reality.

    1. If wind is so damned attractive, why does the UK find it necessary to subsidise wind to the tune of several times the cost of the actual electricity it generates?

      Why don’t they just remove these “subsidies” from fossil fuels and then wind can compete on its own terms?

      Given that the whole UK market is driven by EU directives, I am sure that the mighty EU bureaucracy could whisk away these fossil fuel subsidies.

      So why doesn’t it? The EU is totally committed to CO2 reductions of 20% or more in the next decade

      1. John, I have approved this comment, but it is sailing very close to the wind with respect to my comment policy. Unsubstantiated or unsupported assertions like these do not make for good debate. If you want people to address your arguments, please provide references to support the “facts” you adduce in support of your case. Note that references to Delingpole or Booker don’t count.

        1. Gareth,
          I made this comment in good faith.
          The issue of wind subsidies in the UK is well documented, in the form of Renewable Obligation Certificates (ROCs)

          For example, this article in the Telegraph (not Booker or JD)


          Or this from The Times


          There are some semantics on whether the ROC system is really a “subsidy”, but the bottom line is that there is a large financial incentive for wind operators in the UK.

          I don’t really want to get into a discussion at to whether these subsidies for wind should be in place per se.

          However, I am genuinely perplexed as to the nature of subsidies to fossil fuels. If these really exist, then I agree that we should remove them and play on a level field, assuming that the wind subsidies also go.

            1. @Gareth,
              I hope you are not worrying about my sensitivities. They are long shot.
              Much as it might pain you, wattsupwiththat has some very serious possibilities of nuclear meltdown in Japan. This is really bad.

            2. If you want to discuss that, take it to an open thread. (My understanding is that the threat has been contained).

            3. Beaker –

              I am not “Cherry Picking” as you put it. Virtually every media release I read about wind energy is negative in its conclusions. You produce a report from the renewables industry, an industry that has massive financial interests in building wind farms, regardless of the efficiency of the turbines. Why should I take these seriously?

              So, here’s another one for you, “Beaker”

              “Wind turbines would need to cover Wales to supply a sixth of country’s energy needs ”


              You got a problem with that? Is that number correct? Do you think this is technically feasible? Do you think that people objecting to this area of windfarms in their countryside is “Nimbyism”

              Actually, “Beaker”, I’d really like you to disclose your interest in this matter. Do you have a financial interest in wind energy? If so, I’d really like to know.

              If not, then do you actually care about the environment? It seems to me that most of these so called “environmentalists” don’t actually give a stuff about the environment.

              You are prepared to totally destroy the countryside to pursue your vision of “low-carbon” energy that is totally misplaced. Not only will it result in unreliable and expensive energy, it won’t actually reduce CO2 emissions.

              We know this from Denmark, which has some of the highest CO2 emissions per capita in Europe, and since it deployed its wind fleet it hasn’t decommissioned a single fossil fuel power station,

              However, “Beaker”, “Bill” and other sockpuppets never listen. You display such typical myopic arrogance and pompous posturing, sneering and cackling like schoolgirl bullies

              The fact is, “Beaker”, you and your troll friends who presumably get paid by the wind industry to spread this rubbish across the internet have nowhere to go. The numbers are set out in plain view.

              David Mackay’s book “Without the Hot Air” explains the numbers quite well.

              As for the ones who find industrial accidents “amusing” such as Thomas, I really have to wonder at your humanity. If you scale up windfarms 10 times, how many more accidents do you think will happen? My guess will be 10 times. There is no economy of scale.

            4. Yes John D, I do work in the Wind Industry in the UK, but am commenting in a personal capacity not a professional one. My response to you is for my own amusement, and in my own time. Would you prefer that people from the wind industry, who know what you are talking about, did not contest your assertions from the Telegraph?
              “You produce a report from the renewables industry, an industry that has massive financial interests in building wind farms, regardless of the efficiency of the turbines. Why should I take these seriously?” – I pointed you towards a rebuttal of an error riddled Telegraph article. Look at the article claims and the rebuttal and see which stands up to scrutiny, then you will know which to take seriously. Oh, and for the record, again, capacity factor is not efficiency, no matter how many times REF spin this yarn.

              “… and since it deployed its wind fleet it hasn’t decommissioned a single fossil fuel power station,” In a previous comment you took objection to, I wrote – You have the choice of your existing mix of generators on the grid, or that same mix plus a wind farm. The Danes do not build wind farms so that they can dynamite existing coal plants and cancel their planned end of life replacement. They build them to add cost effective renewable power to their transnational power grid. Why this obsession (cut and paste all over NIMBY text) with decommissioning plant with years of working life ahead of it? It is not the existence of the coal burner that is the problem, it is the amount of coal burnt. It comes out again in your ‘area the size of Wales’ stuff from the Telegraph – yes, but only if you were displacing the generators, not the generation. Nobody in their right mind suggests doing such a thing.

              “You display such typical myopic arrogance and pompous posturing, sneering and cackling like schoolgirl bullies” – Criky!

              You recommend Without Hot Air, I do too. Unless you are a cherry picker I don’t see how it advises against wind as a beneficial addition to the grid.

              Accidents, on another thread – go and look at some of the accidents on that trash you provided a link to.

            5. Well at least you admit that you work for the wind industry and have a financial interest in seeing it succeed.

              What I find absolutely amazing is that the climate “enthusiasts” are quick to jump on anyone who disagrees with them and label them as shills for Big Oil, but when a shill for Big Wind rocks up and provides “information” everything is hunky dory.

              [snipped for hypocrisy: GR]

            6. Beaker,
              In the response to the Telegraph article from Renewable UK, they state
              “the fact that Germany is building new coal fired power stations is a complete myth”

              Well, according to my sources, the following stations are coming online:

              – EVONIK, Walsum (Duisburg), 800 MW black coal (2010)
              – RWE, Neurath (Cologne), 2 x 800 MW lignite (2009)
              – RWE Westfalen (Dortmund-Hamm, 2 x 800 MW black coal (2011)
              – EON Datteln (Dortmund), 1 x 1100 MW (!) black coal (2011)
              – ENBW Karlsruhe, 1 x 800 MW black coal (2011)
              – Trianel (municipality) Lünen, 1 x 800 MW black coal (2011)
              – Vattenfall Moorburg (Hamburg), 2 x 800 MW black coal (2011)
              – Vattenfall Boxberg (close to Leipzig), 1 x 800 MW lignite (2011)

              (source: Autonomous Mind)

              You may know of alternative sources that suggest these data are incorrect. I’d certainly be interested to hear that.

            7. Dear John D,
              In your comment above you claim that the RenewableUK response states
              “the fact that Germany is building new coal fired power stations is a complete myth”
              However, if you read the RenewableUK letter you can see it actually states
              “The claim that Germany is building five new coal power stations to “provide covering power for the fluctuations from their wind farms” is a complete myth, which is parroted regularly by anti-wind farm campaigners.”
              I trust you agree that the text you removed is important, and should not have been left out when quoting RenewableUK. Misrepresenting others this way does not advance a discussion and leaves you open to accusations of lying.

            8. Misquoting and misrepresentation are par for the course with JohnQuixote, Beaker. You are wasting your time even engaging with him.

            9. I know CTG, but don’t you realise, I am a Shill of Big Wind. As well as being paid handsomely to annoy the key oppinion former John D, and try to shake his confidence in his knee jerk reactions (that we all know irrifutably correct), Big Wind’s enforcers will not let me back out. I know too many ex Shills who have ended up in Turbine foundations, that is why they are so big!
              Oh know, I have said too much, some one is at the door. Save yourself, it is too late for me…

            10. Oh, yes I am sorry, I didn’t quote it exactly. I am extremely sorry
              However, one wonders why the hell they are building so many coal stations when the Germans are supposed to be so planet-friendly.

            11. Yes John D, its sad that Germany is building more coal power plants.

              However if Germany had no wind energy as you would gleefully suggest they should together with the UK and even NZ when we take your nonsense verbatim, these coal stations would fire a lot more coal trough their burners.

              Wind avoids the shoveling of coals into the furnaces of these stations when it is available. Germany produced 38.0 TWh of electricity with its farms in 2009, thats 7% of their national consumption. At 2,460 kWh/ton of coal that is 15,5 million tons of coal or at 100t per rail car a train with 155,000 freight cars, a train of 2400km length…..

              For the UK the numbers are similar in proportion to their wind capacity.

              You simply do not get the wind energy thing don’t you?

            12. “Well at least you admit that you work for the wind industry and have a financial interest in seeing it succeed.”

              Have I made any claims that are misleading or wrong?
              Kind Regards,
              The Shill for Big Wind (employee of a small wind farm developer)

      2. John D, the UK is going to have some serious problems sourcing energy in the future isn’t it?. How is is pretending that (affordable) oil isn’t soon going to run out supposed to address that problem?.

        And why do you think a mature industry that has been around for over a century, is making record profits, and is destroying humanity’s future, deserves a bailout by the taxpayer?.

        1. John D, the UK is going to have some serious problems sourcing energy in the future isn’t it?.

          Yes, but the entire UK wind fleet provides as much energy as about one gas fired station. Hardly a replacement is it?

          1. And when the oil runs out?. The technology fairy materializes and sprinkles zero point energy dust everywhere?.

            You need to contain your contrarian tendencies for just a wee moment, and consider the practical implications of doing nothing.

            We are already on the cusp of an oil crisis. Without affordable oil the price of everything skyrockets. The circulatory system of the global economy runs on oil. Industrial farming, fertilizer production, manufacturing, transport, heck lots of modern day items are made of the stuff.

            Does this mean the “New Dark Age” is around the corner?. I don’t know. Could be. But why find out?.

            How is whining about windmills (yes, I know) going to help the looming energy shortfall in the UK?. In fact you drone on about it so much I hereforth christen you “Johnquixote!”

  3. Co2 level is currently at 390pp and going up at 3 points a year. With America, China and India going flat out with coal we should be at 450 ppm in thirty years. Does anyone seriously believe that the World can get to that level and not be seriously concerned. Even the most rabid Republican might be wondering why the crops are failing.
    Coal will not be in use for power in twenty years time and we need a lot of energy to replace it. I am not a big lover of wind energy but it is part of the mix and we will need as much of all forms of electricity generation as we can get.

    1. Part of the mix is correct. The naysayers love to present misleading figures based on replacing all FF capacity with a single type of renewable (e.g. it would take 50 squillion wind farms to power NZ), when the reality is that it will take a variety of sources. We are lucky in NZ in that we already start from a base of about 60-70% renewable, so we don’t have very far to go to completely replace FF. It will still take a mix of hydro, wind, tidal, geothermal and solar, combined with efficiency measures and a proper smart grid.

      In NZ, solar will probably take the form of small-scale off-grid stuff (PV panels on roofs etc), rather than large-scale generation. Oz is much better off on that front, and has a lot of potential for the concentrating solar/molten salt type installations.

      But people like John D would still prefer that we stick to burning oil and coal until our economy crashes in a muddy heap when they run out.

      1. But people like John D would still prefer that we stick to burning oil and coal until our economy crashes in a muddy heap when they run out.

        I have provided links and numbers to back up my claims.The economy will crash into a heap long before the oil runs out.

        This is the usual argument – wind is only part of the mix.. Please give me some data on what other renewables are available in the UK and mainland Europe.

        Hydro is tiny outside of Scandinavia, solar produces an absolutely miniscule amount of power, so it is primarily wind.

        You seem to be quite keen to sling mud at me, call me a naysayer and liar, yet you have no numbers to back up your arguments. Britain will need the equivalent of a 15km wide strip of offshore wind turbines around the entire country to meet its renewable energy needs.(source Times Education Supplement – but I don’t have the link to hand)

        If you can come up with some numbers I might take your arguments seriously.

        1. John, we are not as careless of attention to detail as you seem to imagine. You might care to look at this past Hot Topic post, for example, which has some relevance to your expostulations.

        2. Johnquixote – “The economy will crash into a heap long before the oil runs out.”

          Yes, when oil is no longer affordable to most. And doing nothing alleviates this situation how exactly?.

        3. John we have gone over this fascination of yours to deride the Wind Energy Industry at length before. For NZ your constant repetition on how wind fairs in the UK are irrelevant for starters on top of the fact that they are factually wrong also. The UK as the potential to generate perhaps 20% of its power from Wind and has a sizable wave energy and tidal potential as well.
          In the end John, there will be countries who have xx % non fossil fuel power generation and then there will be those who might do what you propose and have none.
          Who will fair better?

          1. SA already generates 15% from wind. And it’s not more simply because of grid inadequacies near other ideal wind farm sites.

            There are very few countries that couldn’t manage 30+% from wind alone without much trouble. Combine that with a big rollout of electric vehicles and we have a massive storage and release facility making wind even more viable – exactly none will be wasted if storage can be distributed throughout the car/ bus/ van fleet. Not many power generation systems can manage that.

            1. Add to that the possibility to make NH3 fuel from variable available wind or solar energy (efficient H2O electrolysers to generate H2 are being made already) and you have in form of NH3 a fuel that most ICE engines can burn and that even jet engines can burn. Its a fertilizer when spilled and already one of the most produced and handled chemical. Perhaps the fuel energy store of the future?

          2. So, Thomas, you first accuse me of making factually incorrect statements, and then you glibly state that the UK has “the potential” to produce 20% of its power from wind

            So, perhaps you could entertain me with the statements I made that were incorrect, and then explain to me how the UK will get 20% of its power from wind. (e,g number of turbines, number needed to be deployed on a weekly basis etc) You might also like to explain where it will get the power from when the wind isn’t blowing.

            I realise that the wind lobby like to quote these wildly optimistic figures on wind production, usually based on a peak figure, and rarely quote the actual utilisation. There is a huge financial incentive in wind in the UK, in the form of ROCs. Some wind operator has stated in public that the only reason they would build wind farms in the UK is because of the subsidies.

            The interesting thing is that the actual utilisation is available online in real time, so many people are realising that wind is essentially a scam. You might disagree, Thomas, but if you actually go to the UK and Europe where people are being bullied by wind operators to trash their landscape for piddling amounts of power, you might realise that there is massive public opposition to these montrosities. On a recent trip to the UK, I found that the subject came up on the radio, TV and in the paper almost everyday.

            So before you accuse me of lying Thomas, perhaps you’d actually like to tell me which statement is incorrect before you start pumping out these rose-tinted figures from wind PR companies.

            FInally, when you talk about all this “potential” of wind, wave, tide, etc, we actually need the power NOW. Not in some faraway time. The head of the UK national grid has stated on public record that there will be not enough power capacity to support the UK.

            1. I fed John’s comment into the new SpamCruncher3000 I’ve got sitting on my desk. Here’s the result:

              FInally, when you talk about all this “potential” of wind, wave, tide, etc, we actually need the power NOW. Not in some faraway time.

              COMMENT > Must apply equally to all new power stations involving any technology. Therefore argument must be dismissed as logically invalid.

              ADDITIONAL COMMENT > further arguments presented by unit notably already dealt with previously by other respondents. Unit in question simply ignores this and repeats previous claims. Logically invalid.

              ADDITIONAL COMMENT > SpamCruncher3000 is confused. Is it not evident that having 20% of electricity provided by wind power involves building requisite number of turbines? SC3000 struggles to see any evidence of a point being made.

              so many people are realising that wind is essentially a scam

              COMMENT > class B ‘bad-faith’ type conspiracy theory. Clearly confuses the number of poorly-informed people who may be herded into believing anti-renewable propaganda with actual information concerning issue. Clearly not logically valid.

              [NOTE: Signature tactic of genus – probably acquired from other units.]

              COMMENT > unit present anecdotes concerning what he/she/it was allegedly exposed to in UK media environment as evidence. Clearly logically invalid.

              CONCLUSION > assessment suggests unit/commenter is a spambot of (more-or-less) organic origin prone to making hyperbolic, unreasonable and unsubstantiated claims. Unreliable source of information. Advise ignoring.

            2. Wow “Bill” your comment is so breathtakingly arrogant I simply don’t know where to start.

              You and your fellow commenters seem unable to accept that ANY of my comments are worth addressing. Presumably, you think that a first-world country with “part-time” and the world’s most expensive power will somehow retain its status as a first-world country.

              [snipped: off-topic GR]

            3. Presumably, you think that a first-world country with “part-time” and the world’s most expensive power will somehow retain its status as a first-world country.

              COMMENT > syntax error. Unit probably intends to convey that wind-power is expensive and unreliable. Simple repetition of points previously addressed by other responders. (Such responses ignored – signature trait). Argument descends to the histrionic. Invalid.

            4. John you obviously haven’t bothered to look at the post I provided a link to in an earlier comment. It’s about a serious report on UK offshore energy sponsored by the UK Department of Energy and Climate Change, the Scottish government, and a number of large companies. Hardly the “wind lobby”. Have a look at it. It deals in the facts and figures you keep demanding. There is much more serious thought given to renewable energy production than you seem to appreciate.

            5. probably intends to convey that wind-power is expensive and unreliable

              That’s because it is, “Bill”

              If you believe otherwise, you are deluded.

              And yes, Bryan, I read your article.
              Do you really believe the garbage that come out of DECC?
              If you actually look at the numbers, they are talking rubbish.

              [JD: unsupported assertions do not make good debate. GR]

              There might be days of surplus when they have to dump excess capacity onto other grids like the Danish do, at lower than production costs. It is hardly a successful export industry.

            6. Johnquixote – “Finally, when you talk about all this “potential” of wind, wave, tide, etc, we actually need the power NOW”

              And whose fault is it, we don’t have this in place already?. Yeah, the fossil fuel industry and their lampreys

            7. John, there’s no discussion possible with someone who throws words like “garbage” and “rubbish” around with the abandon that you display, and I’ll cease trying. I don’t “believe” reports, by the way – I do posts on them because I think they are worthy of consideration. Renewable energy is a complex matter, and we can’t be sure how it will best be achieved, but it must be achieved or we’re shot.

            8. “Day after day, Alone on a hill,…” somehow these lyrics cam in my head mulling over your comments and envisioning the sad and future-less stance you promote, as it would appear that you are promoting an entirely foolish stance:

              1) You deride alternative energy concepts such as Wind, Tidal, Geothermal or Solar – despite the fact that they are making a fast growing contribution and have the potential to provide a very large component of word wide energy needs in the future. You hate these so much that you would us rather stop developing and deploying these altogether, let alone publicly fund R&D into them.

              2) You cite the argument that we need to deploy a large number of alternative energy developments rapidly as an argument to not even try or start.

              3) You call upon the future dependence of fossil fuels despite the fact that they a) will run out and already run scarce despite our deep recession, b) let alone the climate damage they will do, which you flat out deny despite overwhelming scientific consensus on the matter.

              So sorry John, you are either a fool with the head in the clouds or have a death wish for our civilization or argue on behalf of fossil fuel interests wishing to maximize their return on the last of their “summer oil….” by trying to hold us hostage to it.

              John, nobody has told you that the future will be easy or simple or that you or anybody else has any entitlement whatsoever to the relative luxury of our current lifestyle in the second half of his century or beyond. But what I can tell you is this: It will get hard for everybody as we adjust to what this planet can afford to give us. We better make sure we prepare and take those energy flows into our basket of solutions that are sustainable and do so fast.

            9. Thomas,
              You seem to think I am a luddite.

              Wind is a 12th Century technology. It is expensive and unreliable,
              When our forefathers found something better than wind, they abandoned it.

              Interestingly, the Spanish subsidised solar, and when they removed the subsidy, the industry collapsed.

              I don’t trust DECC and the EU/UK govts because I perceive them to be incompetent. They are not fit to govern.

            10. John D, I do not know if you are a luddite but I can see that you indeed have your head in the clouds or the sand, whichever medium you prefer to avoid seeing the truth.

              21st century wind turbines have not much in common indeed with 12th century versions and as of the stellar growth of the Solar industry, well its really hard to hide from it. I post here an article form USA TODAY, just to not be accused of listening to treehugger rags:


              From that: “The U.S. solar power market grew a record 67% last year (2010), making it the fastest-growing energy sector, the industry reports Thursday… system cost fell 8% in residential and 11% in commercial markets …. ”

              I read this as stellar commercial success and falling consumer prices. And yes, Obama does extend tax credits for installers, but that is a tiny fraction of the billions in tax subsidies that the US Oil industry gets from their government!

              And as far as your fabled battle ground against solar energy – Spain – goes:

              “In 2010, impressive growth of solar power photovoltaic in Europe. ….. According to EPIA, thanks to the fast-paced cost reduction that is taking place within this industry, “grid parity” for household installations will actually be achieved in several countries of the European Union.”



              The growth of solar installations outstripped all other forms of renewable energy in terms of new capacity in Europe during 2010, new figures reveal.


            11. “So, perhaps you could entertain me with the statements I made that were incorrect”

              No problem, how about this one:

              Hydro is tiny outside of Scandinavia

              I grew up close to the Cruachan hydro station in Scotland, one of the world’s first pump-storage hydro stations. Hydro accounts for more than 10% of Scotland’s generating capacity, and last time I checked, Scotland wasn’t part of Scandinavia.

              In fact, of the ten largest producers of hydroelectricity, Scandinavia only features at 6 (Norway) and 10 (Sweden). So factually incorrect on that front.

              Is hydro really tiny? Let’s see:

              Worldwide, an installed capacity of 777 GWe supplied 2998 TWh of hydroelectricity in 2006. This was approximately 20% of the world’s electricity

              So there is nothing in the statement “Hydro is tiny outside of Scandinavia” that is even remotely factual.

              I do hope you were entertained, Johnquixote. I certainly was.

        4. John D, your generalised views on the competence of European governments seem to me to be completely off topic. You’re just using the thread to make a political declaration. Another hijacking under way. Go and express your political views somewhere else.

      2. Not only all of that CTG, it will take a change to the way the world economy operates. Economists belief in perpetual growth is akin to believing in the tooth fairy.

        And interestingly enough, I was looking at a home-sized wind generator just yesterday, an off-the-shelf type. I’m impressed with how much the price has come down. My place is hardly the ideal site, but combining wind with PV solar (I also have a few small panels running a home-built ventilation system), solar water heating, and microhydro (a stream only 30 metres or so from our house), we want to get off the grid ASAP.

        I’d suggest those that are in a position to, should be investigating getting off-grid too. It’s going to be less painful in the long-term.

  4. Speaking of subsidies for fossil fuels, John D, a recent article in the Melbourne Age identifies A$12.5 billion in annual fossil fuel subsidies. The writer concludes:

    “Scrap all the de facto subsidies for fossil fuels, slash the budget deficit by $12 billion a year and watch the pressure to cut emissions take effect. If that sounds radical, it just shows how badly government policy has been compromised by vested interests.”


  5. It is probably fair to say that in the light of the situation at Japanese nuclear power plants at the moment the nuclear option as an alternative to FF power generation will receive a severe setback at a time when a lot of renewed investment is being made in this direction.
    It will be important to assess the outcome of this tragedy carefully and to avoid jumping to generalizing conclusions on the nuclear technology in general.
    For NZ we can feel blessed by the wind potential here. Combined with wind, hydro, tidal, solar and geothermal options we could be 100% FF independent with room to grow for our electricity generation.

      1. None of which is helped by Tokyo Electric’s standard ‘there is no problem’ / ‘OK, there’s a bit of a problem’ / ‘quite a bit of one, actually’ / ‘ignore that, that was just some walls collapsing during a tremor’ / ‘OK, it really was an explosion’ / ‘but pumping seawater into reactors isn’t an act of desperation, honestly’ approach.

        Why do ‘authorities’ consistently do this. It simply means no-one believes a word they’re saying. Better to state the ugly truth from the outset because then the ‘but it’s not as bad as some fear and we’ll get it back under control, honestly’ seems more convincing.

        John Quiggin has already called the ‘Nuclear Renaissance’ as being over. You’ve got to wonder. I’m afraid for Barry’s sake that even an ‘unsensational’ reality is pretty sensational!… New reactor on the coast 10 k’s down the road from you, anyone?

        Incidentally check out the 6th image down here.

        1. Yes Bill, never helpful to downplay the situation. I see there’s a furore in Europe already over nuclear power. Just when it needs to be at least part of the solution in some countries.

          1. I wonder when somebody will tally up the horrendous damages from the large refinery explosion, the release of vast amounts of toxic sod and chemicals into the atmosphere and the ocean and the massive total amount of oils and petrochemicals spilled by the tsunami and the ensuing destruction over a large region?

            Somehow the invisible danger of radionuclides overwhelms the so obvious other damage in the public consciousness. And as a result we may do great harm to the development of possible future 4th generation nuclear technologies which might be much safer than those from the 1970ies, which were inspired by the need to make reactors capable of producing weapons grade material rather than best practice save nuclear power!

            1. People are more frightened of radionuclides than they are of refinery soot – and even clouds of chemical goo – for a bloody good reason. Pissing in the gene pool is viscerally appalling.

              My top tip for nuclear proponents – never state, or imply, that people are stupid if they gravely doubt this technology, which is notably always perfect in its current iteration. Just as it was in 1976 when these plants were built.

              There will always be mistakes such as not building the tsunami walls high enough, because in the Schrödinger’s cat world of 20/20 hindsight you’re an idiot for proposing such an expensive and pointless option right up to the very moment you’re an idiot for not having built it.

  6. One of the problems with changing our energy sources is that oil and coal have been very plentiful and cheap and now that they are becoming expensive and poisoning our atmosphere we are having difficulty getting our heads round alternatives. Electricity is a really good form energy but we need massive amounts of it. Hydro and geothermal are constant suppliers and produce power at near their rating. Wind generators are rated at 25 knots of wind so when they say they have installed 500 megawatts of wind power it will only generate 100 megawatts. If you think you need 1000 x 1 megawatt wind generators to replace a 1000 megawatt power station (Huntley) you really need 5000.

    1. Its not quits so bad here in NZ:

      “New Zealand wind farms have an average annual capacity factor of 41%. Tararua Wind Farm in the Manawatu operates at around 46%.” (NZ Wind Assoc)

      From http://www.windenergy.org.nz/wind-energy/calculator

      So for Manawatu this means that 1000MW installed capacity on average produces 460MW of power.

      The Huntley power station has a capacity factor of 66.5%, not 100% as coal lovers want us to believe! So do your sums again and it won’t look nearly as hard to do!

      1. Thanks Thomas. I had in the back of my mind something around 40% capacity for NZ wind farms and thought I should check it out, but you’ve saved me the trouble. NZ is particularly well favoured in this respect by comparison with many other countries.

        1. Capacity Factor is a poor measure for how good a generator is. As capacity factor is the actual annual KWh generated over the theoretical maximum KWh generated, the simplest way to increase it would be to reduce the size of the generator. Less power would be generated but the capacity factor ratio would be higher. I suspect that the operator of a 46% capacity factor wind farm may well be lamenting their choice of wind turbine.
          Here in the UK capacity factor is constantly described as a wind turbines efficiency by NIMBYs and the press. It isn’t, but as the explanation is a bit dull, the rebuttal never seems to see the light of day.
          Speaking of UK press, John D trots out all the standard UK Daily Mail stuff such as “You might also like to explain where it will get the power from when the wind isn’t blowing.” How people can not understand that your choice is the current mix of grid generators OR the exact same mix plus a wind farm is beyond me.

          1. There is truth in that Beaker. Capacity factor in wind installations is very much a measure of the quality of the wind resource at the location. NZ is blessed with many locations that have the potential for above 40% capacity factors (installed maximum versus actual generation) for the most appropriate choice of turbine.
            The better way to look at wind generation would be their defacto annual output versus the sites theoretical maximum annual output considering the site’s capacity factor. In this measure most wind farms will have capacity factors in the 80% or 90% and above most conventional power generators.

            Another interesting development of the electricity market is the adaptation of consumer systems to variable input generation.
            At the moment most consumers use electricity in a very unintelligent manner because there is no connection between the availability of power and the momentary cost of the generation and the decision to consume that power. This results in a very wasteful mismatch of generation to load.
            Smart grid developments which allow users such as refrigerators, air conditioners, heat pumps or water heaters as well as future electric car plug in fleets to adapt their load to the availability profile. This will reduce the very high cost of peak load backup generation significantly and hence will lead to cost reductions for consumers as well as a better match of variable input generation to the grid. This is a space to watch with great interest.

            1. The other issue underlying varying load factors is that people are now paying attention to storage possibilities. There are some excellent ideas for storage of power generated by variable sources like wind and solar. The more we move to these power sources the better the thinking and the more sophisticated the applications will become.

              My suspicion is that centralised storage will be much less dominant, although still important, as we move to better grid management and fairly simple redesign of most industrial and domestic electrical equipment.

          2. Hi Beaker,

            John D trots out all the standard UK Daily Mail stuff such as “You might also like to explain where it will get the power from when the wind isn’t blowing

            Isn’t this a reasonable quesion to ask especially when there were weeks of cold weather in the last winter, wind produced next to nothing, and demand was at its peak?

            Is it only Daily Mail readers that ask these questions?

            1. No John D, I am sure that the hard of understanding who prefer other newspapers share this bafflement.
              You have the choice of your existing mix of generators on the grid, or that same mix plus a wind farm. With the wind farm, when the wind blows, less generation is required from the rest of the generators, so less fossil fuel is burnt and/or hydro reserves are conserved for load following. In rare events there is very little wind (though take care with the case you cite above that ignored all wind farms on the lower voltage parts of the grid, the vast majority of wind farms in the UK) the pre-existing grid generators run as if the wind farm was not built. Shoddy journalism tries to argue that this is a reason not to benefit from wind power when the wind is blowing, and anti wind NIMBYs are happy to be convinced. However, the argument makes no sence what so ever.

            2. Maybe “Beaker”, you could read the follwing article and tell me which bits you disagree with, and which bits are “shoddy journalism”

              Britain is becoming less windy, raising doubts over Government’s wind farm strategy

              The failure of the wind industry to generate much electricity during last month’s extreme cold snap has been widely reported

              At 5.30pm on December 7, which National Grid says was the moment of the fourth-highest demand ever recorded in British history, wind contributed just 0.4 per cent of the country’s electricity needs. The generation system coped – but it includes large numbers of old power stations that will soon be closing. In the future, under the far more wind-based system the Government wants to see, such levels of demand could turn out the lights


            3. Perhaps that’s because the off-shore wind generation component has yet to seriously begin.

              It’s certainly a risk, that climate change reduces the amount of available wind power by changing wind patterns.

              Thankfully all the off-shore power grid technology is re-usable for “tidemills” harnessing tidal power. Also, a lot of the windmill technology can potentially be re-used for these tide-mills. The tides won’t stop turning…

            4. Dear John D
              I did indeed see that Telegraph article, and commented on it under the name ‘Beaker’.
              A piece written by Andrew Gilligan where he takes claims made by the REF at face value. A clear recipie for shoddy journalism in my book. Please go to the other Telegraph/Andrew Gilligan/REF article I referenced there
              and look at the response they had to publish from RenewableUK. You can then marvel at the shoddyness of the ‘journalism’.
              As for the NIMBY cold snap story and the 0.4% contribution claim, I had already warned you about the provenence of that figure, but you leap in regardless. Is this because it appears to support your oppinion. Even if you are cherry picking, you have to check that the figure is accurate.

            5. Bravo, Beaker.

              JohnQuixote, why don’t you astonish everyone and show some evidence that you’ve actually read the UK Renewables response, which deals directly with some of those very same squishy little nuggets that you’ve repeatedly dropped on us all?

              Anyone want to bet it will make no difference whatsoever? Of course it won’t.

              One is reminded of Cardinal Pell, Archbishop of Sydney, lecturing Dr Greg Ayers – the head of the BoM fer Chrissakes – as follows;

              “Ayers, when he spoke to the House, was obviously a hot-air specialist. I’ve rarely heard such an unscientific contribution.

              “I regret when a discussion of these things is not based on scientific fact,” Cardinal Pell said. “I spend a lot of time studying this stuff.”

              You couldn’t make it up! Where do all these bumptious, arrogant buffoons come from?

  7. Here’s another question for you beaker. This one is of genuine curiosity.
    When I have traveled in Scotland and seen the many wind farms there, most of the time, there are several turbines that are not turning. I don’t really know how many, maybe 3 or 4 in any visible cluster of turbines.
    Why is this so?

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