More means worse. Wrecking the grid with unreliable energy

Obviously if wind and solar power are good then more means better. Sure we need a bit of firming capacity from gas but we just need more windmills and acres of solar panels and things will get better. What could go wrong?

The Germans are well ahead of us on this path. See my previous pieces we have to talk about Germany and we need to keep talking about Germany. One of our great threadsters came up with a nice piece on the stability of the German grid, not something that I tried to spell out before because my main points were the cost of the exercise and the failure to reduce emissions.

Still, grid failure is of some interest to people who like the lights to stay on, not to mention the wheels of industry, ATMs, cash registers, petrol pumps and traffic lights.

The German story is depicted in four charts. The bottom line is that more unreliable energy makes the grid less stable.

“Power collapses within minutes”

The first chart shows the performance of wind energy for 15 European countries and that of Germany for the period May, 2018:

Vernunftkraft writes that with wind energy in Europe, “power generation [goes up and down so rapidly that it] collapses within minutes.”

Yet wind proponents and lobbyists like to counter by telling us that the problem will be manageable by simply adding more capacity, some storage and using a smart grid.

The second chart shows that doubled the German installed capacity for wind over the past 8 years only made things worse.

Note that the peaks are far greater and that the instability has become far more extreme. Yet, this is not stopping green energy activists and lobbyists from calling for doubling, tripling or even quadrupling the country’s installed wind capacity.

On top of that, the best locations are taken first and clustered windmills interfere with each other so doubling the rated capacity only produced a little extra power. They report that the German turbines feed in an average of 15% of their rated power.

The third chart of wind and solar production for the month of July 2018 purports to show that they were AWOL far more often than they were on the job. That is not really clear to my reading of the chart but the fourth display is in numbers and this is a killer.

Less than 10% of rated capacity almost half the time

The table above shows the wind ran a total of 744 hours in June 2018. Some 320 hours, or 43% of the total time, saw wind turbines running at a measly 0 – 10% of their rated capacity. The turbines ran at 40% or more of their rated capacity for only a totally lousy 1.5 hours (0.2% of the time)!

That is much worse than the Australian figure of 29 days in the year delivering less than 10% of capacity but the Australian performance will deteriorate with the best sites taken and the first machines getting older.

The picture is clear, more does not mean better for grid stability.

Of course the German grid has managed to stagger on without collapsing yet, an ongoing nightmarish task for the operators. You could say they have maintained reliability if not stability. But reliability depends on the availability of practically 100% of baseload from hydrocarbons and hydro (and nuclear in Germany). We come back to the image of wind and solar as expensive ornaments attached to the grid but even that does not do justice to the damage they do, on top of the ludicrous expense of dual power systems.

UPDATE. The joy of insomnia, at 1.40 am Sydney time wind is down to about 0.6GW that is 13% of Wind capacity and 2.4% of Demand in SE Australia

This entry was posted in Global warming and climate change policy, Rafe. Bookmark the permalink.

37 Responses to More means worse. Wrecking the grid with unreliable energy

  1. BoyfromTottenham

    Rafe, I agree, but where the hell are all our expert power engineers in this debate? Why are they silent on a subject that they should absolutely own? Do they fear for their careers? Ok – let’s ask the recently retired ones – there must be a few of those in this period of retiring baby-boomers. With all due respect to our German friends, why do we have to rely on foreign sources for the data that demonstrates the bleeding obvious? Our power policy should not be the plaything of the Greens and other fringe pressure groups, it is far too important for that. Is there no one available to government that can use traditional power engineering maths and science to demonstrate the ludicrousness of injecting random megawatts of intermittent, asynchronous and non-dispatchable power into our previously predictable, reliable, synchronous power system and not expecting massive problems to result?
    Oh, wait a minute – the LRET legislation guaranteed the owners of this ‘renewable’ power a massive subsidy for decades, and forces the retailers to buy this rubbish or face a $65.00/MWh penalty if they don’t. Now I get it – just like Upton Sinclair I said “It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends on his not understanding it.”

  2. Rafe Champion

    Months ago I posted a link to a report by reputable engineers, it was also written up in The Australian and then it disappeared. Rather like the paper on IR changes produced by the Minerals Council with Martin Ferguson on the working party. He reported on the proposals in a talk to the Sydney Institute months ago or even last year. Silence.

  3. min

    Until there is a lot of inconvenience that is the consequences of unreliable energy nothing will get the public focussed on the problems. Today they were going beserk because Telstra failed so no ATM F Post etc . Can you imagine no charged iPads , iPhones, no air conditioning , elevators? I cannot wait

  4. RobK

    BfT,
    You have answered your own question. A couple of decades and more ago the engineers were having their say.
    The intro of RE has subsequently been structured in an insidious manner.
    Lucrative domestic PV and trial wind were the initial intro. For each 10% increase different techinal issues come to the fore. The cross subsidies mean that a large investment has been committed to both in capital and longterm contracts. New costs due to inappropriate adoption of technology keep emerging. There have been warnings but it has always been met with a bucket of cash and the co2 imperative. RE has a place at the periphery of the grid and beyond. Presently, the expectation of RE is over ambitious. As they say; sending a boy on a man’s errand. It’s not even a realistic way to abate co2 emmissions.

  5. Ƶĩppʯ (ȊꞪꞨV)

    Global warming is an anti-capitalist hoax. Renewables are a hoax all designed to collapse capitalism in order to save the planet’s rocks from the misfortune of human feet stomping on them.

  6. wal1957

    Rafe,

    I think on one of JoNova’s threads- links were also available to the report you mentioned. It is possible that some of the readers there may have copied some pertinent data?

    As for the general populace. I am sure that until the grid fails in a bad way, they do not care what is happening with the RE debacle. Yes the prices hurt, but the lights are still on. AND of course the promise of cheap, cheap, cheap energy costs….just around the corner!

    Consumers are so gullible it is scary!

  7. Russell

    Baby-boomer electrical engineers (retired) are just watching and waiting to laugh at grid issues that are coming due to RE practices. Same folks have been completely demoralised by SJWs who have kicked the guts out of them due to their “gold-plating” of the network – that is the real cause of our significant price rises. Even the Gratton turkeys understand that Network usage component is nearly 50% of your billed usage charges.

    Of course, everyone conveniently forgets that electricity prices were deliberately depressed through late 90s and most of the 2000s (“half-CPI” was the common cry of state governments trying to attract manufacturing businesses). During that time, the grid got so very run down to the point of regular failures and a whole lot of new “regulation” and “compliance monitoring” was brought in for the network businesses to make sure that never happened again. Now that’s called gold-plating. When will the beatings stop?

    And it’ll all happen again with RE and we will be ready with war stories to show how foolish people ignore technical people to their peril. Keep our powder dry is the plan this time. Sometimes powerful arrogant people only listen in the crisis. When did they start listening to Elon Musk? Talk about clutching for straws.

    Every electricity network has always needed Firm Capacity (what is this “firming” rubbish – another RE consultant terminology to make it sound that they know about network stability). Network protection is complex and is impossible to predict when there are so many confounding variables.

    A Network Event is Coming (with suitable GoT memes) – get ready for it.

  8. stackja

    Adam Ant wants a tax on ‘pollution’.
    How will Greens live in darkness?
    Of course, they won’t. Like past ‘elite’ they will continue to live differently to lesser people.

  9. TBH

    BfT, I have to agree. I have some understanding of the issues, but nowhere near the knowledge of an electrical engineer (my engineering study was in another area). Where are the experienced people saying this can’t work without reliable base load supply? I’m wondering how bad it has to get before people will wake up to the fact that 100% renewables just aren’t feasible. Really we should be looking at next generation nuclear if we’re properly serious about air pollution. In the mean time gas (both of the conventional and unconventional varieties) in our power generation will do me.

  10. Bad Samaritan

    OK. I don’t doubt anyone on the unreliability and extreme cost of wind/solar etc. However….

    Germany is doing quite well economically despite the waste of dough. While we might suggest that “one day” it will suffer for it’s folly, the question is when?

    We could also say that if it hadn’t squandered all that loot on silly renewables Germany would be doing better, or much better, but the rejoinder to that is “we are doing quite nicely as it stands, and we are also saving the planet whilst thinking of the children and also doing our duty to accept millions of head-loppers so we can feel good about ourselves all round. We do not think only in terms of getting richer.”

    What is wrong with this, since German GDP and GDP per person is growing at about 1.7-2%, inflation is also about this range = rich people staying rich; no collapse or downward spiral. The foregone extra GDP growth which may have resulted by not going green is the price they willingly pay to “do the right thing”, so what am I missing? Let virtue-signallers be!

  11. OldOzzie

    The UN’s Terrifying, But Ever-Receding, Human-Caused Climate Catastrophe


    Just in time for Halloween, the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has released yet another in a 30-year stream of spooky stories: Global Warming of 1.5 Degree Celsius, an IPCC special report on the impacts of global warming of 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels.

    Like its five predecessors, it makes terrifying predictions about human-caused climate catastrophes that are always just about to occur, unless governments reduce the level of the harmless trace gas carbon dioxide in the atmosphere from its current four-hundredths of one percent to the three hundredths it was before industrialization.

    Notice that the title chosen by the UN gives the game away. It presents correlation as causation by implying that all the warming since pre-industrial times has been caused by industry. There’s no room here for a natural oscillation back from the well-documented lows of the 1700s, which themselves were rebounds from a higher temperature period in the 1400s. (See this NOAA chart).

  12. Macspee

    Rafe, there are other things rarely mentioned. When considering the area covered by the grid in Germany (or anywhere in Europe) we fail to consider how different in extent is the coverage required in Australia. The additional transmission lines, in number and length, to get power from all the different sources of supply into the main grid, along with the piddlingly small amount is like pushing water from our tanks into the mains. (We could solve the water crisis by having all the tanks around the cities pushing their content into the mains to be sent to the country: of course there would be delays after they run out and wait for rain to fill them again.)
    I wonder what the transmission losses are over great distances and I wonder what the costs are of getting power from all those windmills up on hills far from a main transmission line.
    When one drives past Traralgon and sees the Loy Yang power stations up on the hills one realises what a great achievement we have created and what a tragedy to let it go. With hundreds of years of coal still in the valley there is plenty of time to find better ways of making electricity (nuclear?) than assuming that subsidised power is not a perpetual drain on the community that will slowly reduce our standard of living. So much could be done for the good of our people with the money borrowed and thrown away on toys that don’t last and will never be able to be re-built here because there will be no power for industry anywhere but in China and India.

  13. Nob

    Germany is doing quite well economically despite the waste of dough.

    That’s an inversion of a truism:
    Wind power is a folly only affordable by rich countries.

  14. Nob

    I wonder what the transmission losses are over great distances

    Macspee, I don’t know what the calculation for that is, but I do know from what I was told when working on a certain geothermal project in central Australia that transmission losses made it unfeasible to supply power to any city or even large town.

    Hence the mooted plan to run a server farm for the likes of Google. Data transmission over fibre optic doesn’t suffer comparable losses. But the costs and logistics just wouldn’t have added up, so no serious interest was gained, even if it were not for the well casing failures and other drilling difficulties..

  15. duncanm

    “we are doing quite nicely as it stands, and we are also saving the planet whilst thinking of the children and also doing our duty to accept millions of head-loppers so we can feel good about ourselves all round.

    so we’d rather throw good money after bad on ‘the feelz’ rather than tangible benefits to society?

    Don’t worry about the third world suffering lack of water, malaria, TB, and other insidious diseases that could have been wiped out years ago.

    Bjørn Lomborg is probably required reading here.

  16. The bottom line is that more unreliable energy makes the grid less stable.

    Really? Who would have thought that? Not the stupid Greens. Not the stupid ALP. Not the stupid Liberal party.

  17. duncanm

    Sydney Boy – you forgot the stupid average voter.

  18. Mark A

    Nob
    #2856257, posted on November 4, 2018 at 7:13 am

    I wonder what the transmission losses are over great distances

    A quick simple guide.

  19. RobK

    Bad Sam,
    Politicians say the same. The other argument is; “well, evenually coal and gas will runout so why not adapt now.”…and it’s true that RE is more do-able now than in the past, mainly because instrumentation and control is much better and cheaper, new design engineers are keen to have a crack at making it work and now the money is there. Power electrical engineering has many facets. No one is expert in all areas, especially as it merges with electronics. Slowly up-endinding the grid does not immediately reflect in loss of GDP, in fact expensive energy probably initially increases it, before the loss of comparitive advantage sets in and we are stuck with a non-industrial strength system, stranded natural resources and a pathetic debt laiden economy that doesnt allow us to buy our way out easily. This is what we will build for the future. Germany and the US are seeing the light and they both use nuclear power and have far more interconnected grids, along with a massive bank of intellectual capital. We are trying too hard to be at the head of the pack. Forcing technology is risky and expensive. We dont have that kind of reserves. It’s far safer to slow this to a natural development. Call it “organic” growth of renewables, without the artifical subsidies.

  20. John Constantine

    Australian one party State announces six billion dollar tax on Australian oil and gas producers.

    The Libs announce it, shorten spends it buying votes.

    Comrades.

  21. Bruce of Newcastle

    the German grid has managed to stagger on without collapsing yet, an ongoing nightmarish task for the operators

    That is because they use the rest of Europe like a giant battery, especially the French nuclear power plant sector. The other EU countries hate it but Germany is so powerful, especially in finance and business, that they just have to accept it.

    We are surrounded by ocean, so we don’t have anyone else to pull us out of a renewable energy caused crash.

  22. Rafe Champion

    Bad Samaritan, I think closer inspection will reveal that Germany is not doing well economically. They are losing hundreds of thousands of jobs in the windmill and solar panel industries, undercut by China.

    Actually the Chinese have slashed subsidies for wind so their wind industry will collapse as their new coal plants come on line.

    Germany is losing existing power-intensive industries and not getting new investment in power-intensive industries. Surprise surprise! What do you expect when you double the price of power. Imagine if that happened in Australia. But wait…

    They have an ageing population and massive social dislocation. They could afford this kind of virtue signalling and conspicuous consumption but for how much longer?

  23. NoelT

    BfT
    I too have pondered on the absence of power engineers in this debate but, when you think about it, why should they stick their necks out. Firstly, they would be trashed by the technically illiterate whose opinions seem to be given equal or higher credence. Secondly, there would be a lot more work for them in trying to make the whole mess work. Thirdly, when the whole thing comes crashing down, there will be a huge amount of work to rebuild – and they will carry none of the blame.

  24. Muddy

    RobK
    Call it “organic” growth of renewables, without the artificial subsidies.

    That’s a great descriptive.
    So organic development/growth vs. what?
    What word or phrase would use for the latter? (‘Artificial’ doesn’t really communicate the potential consequences). Serious question. As I’ve posted before, a great big chunk of propaganda is about the language we use, and how we use it.
    ‘Propaganda’ is not a bad or dirty thing, by the way. It’s what the regressives and Year Zeros use.

  25. Tezza

    Bruce of Newcastle makes a good point about the rest of Europe’s densely linked generation systems serving as a giant battery for Germany’s renewables policy.
    But in reality, Germany is to the rest of Europe as South Australia is to the NEM: The core of Green idiocy is exporting environmentally damaging instability to its neighbours.
    The linked piece explains how German renewables are destroying French nuclear – truely an idiotic outcome if one thought Greens were concerned with the environment, rather than with destroying modernity.
    https://www.thegwpf.com/german-electricity-exports-and-the-european-internal-energy-market/

    Incidentally, to Rafe’s list of “people who like the lights to stay on, not to mention the wheels of industry, ATMs, cash registers, petrol pumps and traffic lights”, we might add people who like to keep food in their freezers, from every family up through every corner store to every supermarket and cold store.

    I think the warmest fantasy is so close to breaking point that it will take just one decent summer blackout and one good throw-out of freezer contents to turn the political debate back to sensible policy. Scott Morrison will as ever be following a year behind events, which means he will be on the back bench.

  26. Bad Samaritan

    Rafe (10.59am) Here….https://tradingeconomics.com/germany/gdp-growth….

    Unemployment 3.4%. CPI inflation 2.5%. GDP growth 2.3%. Trade surplus about 220 billion Euros pa. Current Account surplus about 180 Billion Euros…and so forth.

    All this reminds me of someone tut-tutting about richer people buying cakes regularly instead of sticking to wholemeal bread, which is better for them.

    They have the cash to waste on windmills and other scams, so why not allow them their illusions and delusions?

  27. Rafe Champion

    Any significance in the inflation figure exceeding growth of GDP?

    Year on year they are not doing well, Q2 better than expected following Q1 that was the weakest since Sept 2016.

    The jury is still out on the economy and their social issues are not going to help.

  28. mundi

    The problem germany has is that being non-english they are one tier down on immigrant picks. So unlike Australia who can ‘show’ a GDP growth by importing skillful people (and ignoring GDP per capita) Germanies imports haven’t been as productive.

    They wanted immigrants to keep the population going at the same GDP increase. But when they are not as skillfull, that doesn’t happen. So they have really flatlined. Meanwhile the unfunded liablities are piling up because on a per capita basis they are rapidly gaining welfare recipients.

  29. RobK

    Bad Sam,
    Even their CO2 emmissions are not decreasing.
    /www.forbes.com/sites/jamesconca/2017/10/10/why-arent-renewables-decreasing-germanys-carbon-emissions/amp/

    Germany’s carbon emissions are not declining much, despite renewables increasing to almost 30% of the country’s power mix this year (see figure below), and over 50% of its installed capacity. Unfortunately, coal has also increased to about 30% and, along with power purchases from France and other countries in Europe, is used to load-follow, or buffer, the intermittency of the renewables.

    Germany’s carbon emissions per person actually rose slightly in 2013 and 2015. The country produces much more electricity than it needs and is not addressing oil in the transportation sector.

    As Peter Rez at Arizona State University discusses, renewables will not make much of a dent in their total carbon emissions. The problem is that even when renewables produce enough energy to supply all of the country’s electricity, the variability of the renewables means Germany has to keep the coal plants running, over half of which use the dirtiest of all coal, lignite.

    /blockquote>

    But no doubt we can do it better and faster because….well just because.

  30. Dr Fred Lenin

    See what happens to Germany if Brexit s fully impemented? Soon the Hungarian and Polish anti globalist heresy will infect France Italy Spain and other members of the European Cmmunist Union,there will be a huge rejection of globsl communism and he EU will fall to bits , be interesting to see the German reaction ,the recividist communist merkell will be gone by then having done her best for Narxist Fascism , probably granted political asylum in Venezuela . Dont be concerned about her welfare ,she will be one of the nomenklatura there and compensated by the thief soros and the cronies who are using the left to gain power over everyone .

  31. Leo G

    All this reminds me of someone tut-tutting about richer people buying cakes regularly instead of sticking to wholemeal bread, which is better for them.

    Do you really measure a person’s riches by the amount of cake they can afford from readies?
    Sure, Germany’s GDP is impressive (USD$4.4 trillion this year), but its current account surplus is only €15.5 billion this year (down 16% from last year) on USD$1.6 trillion revenue and expenses, gross external debt of $5.1 trillion (March 2017), and foreign reserves of $360 billion. Its public debt is 64.1% of GDP compared with our 42.3%.
    Germany’s gross external debt/revenue ratio is about the same as ours. Just like us it relies on increasing foreign debt to give the appearance of wealth.
    I know the mantra- foreign investment is good- but only to the extent that we get real enduring savings from all that revenue and expenses. Like Germany, we seem to be investing a lot in smoke and mirrors.

  32. Tel

    That is because they use the rest of Europe like a giant battery, especially the French nuclear power plant sector. The other EU countries hate it but Germany is so powerful, especially in finance and business, that they just have to accept it.

    Don’t just accept it, invoice for it.

    I’m sure the French do.

  33. Mark M

    Prepare for a saved environment …

    ‘Records falling everywhere’: solar panel demand goes through the roof

    “We felt we could recover the costs in four to five years,” Mr Narang said on Thursday, hours after a 6.5-kilowatt photovoltaic system was installed on his home in The Ponds, in Sydney’s west.

    “You’re also saving the environment.”

    https://www.smh.com.au/business/consumer-affairs/records-falling-everywhere-solar-panel-demand-goes-through-the-roof-20181101-p50dgw.html

    There is a green sucker born every minute.

  34. Tezza

    I notice some discussion of Germany wealth and economic growth, to the conclusion that if they want to waster their money on windmills and solar panels, why not let ’em?

    German GDP growth rests on an undervalued Euro, so even after energy intensive manufacturers decamping to the US and China, its net exports have grown gangbusters.

    Of course the Greeks and Italians have paid for this, and the environment is paying by the perverse displacement of nuclear by German unreliables in the European energy market.

  35. egg_

    “We felt we could recover the costs in four to five years,” Mr Narang said on Thursday, hours after a 6.5-kilowatt photovoltaic system was installed on his home in The Ponds, in Sydney’s west.

    “You’re also saving the environment.”

    Why not make it a 20 kW?
    /sarc

  36. Nob

    Why not make it a 20 kW?

    Environment would be winning so much it would get sick of winning!

    Does anyone even have a fecking CLUE what they mean by “saving” the planet/environment etc?

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