Why RE is not sustainable – not enough wind

Not that data will make any difference to the push for RE but in case anyone is interested there is ample evidence to demonstrate that the wind resources are just not there to do the business. Since 2011 Mike O’Ceirin has been collecting the AEMO numbers for the power from all the generators attached to the grid and he pulled out the episodes in a year when the delivery from the wind fleet was 10% or less of the installed capacity.

That was the case on 117 occasions and the durations ranged from one hour to 39 hours. The most interesting, or the most damaging for the prospects of the wind industry are the very low and very long episodes and there were nine (9) times when the duration was more than 24 hours and the average delivery during that time was 8% or less of installed capacity.

There were 35 episodes when the delivery was 7% or less and they all lasted five hours or more.

This means that there is no way that enough wind capacity can be installed to replace fossil fuels until some radically new storage technology turns up. Given that the sun is off duty more than half the time it can’t be taken seriously at the grid scale until the mass storage is here. If it works for people off grid, that’s great but it can’t replace conventional power at grid scale.

Recent windwatching. On Thursday evening at dinner time the wind across the NEM was delivering 3.1% of the power required. On Friday evening the number was 6%. The wind blew up from that point and by midnight it was near 20% of the lower level of supply at that time of night.Today was a roaring time for wind across the NEM, enough to warm the cockles of the heart of wind warriors with numbers over half the demand in SA, a third in Victoria and a quarter in Tasmania , though only 5% in NSW and Queensland. Local variations in the wind can be seen in SA over the last 24 hours in this chart showing the individual wind farms.

A picture from last week. Regrettably the Fuel  Mix numbers lag and today we got a look at the picture for Thursday 28 and some of the day before. Wind was blowing up 3% of the power at dinnertime on Wednesday, 2% for breakfast on Thursday and 2% in the evening.

On the colours, not all the sources fit on the screen shot, wind is the blue layer on top.  Natural gas is the purple layer under wind, it can reach almost 100% in SA when there is no wind (and the supply is topped up with coal power from Victoria.) Hydro is green, unlike the Anero display where it is blue. Field solar is yellow and the fuel mix does not show rooftop PV.

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18 Responses to Why RE is not sustainable – not enough wind

  1. Professor Fred Lenin says:

    Perhaps a wind turbine in every parliament house might help ,there is plenty of wind there ,not much substance though.local council chambers are also windy places too.

  2. chaamjamal says:

    This excellent analysis of the practical considerations in wind energy explains why planet shattering fear is needed to push through this energy technology. The need for activism, particularly fear based activism, is itself the proof that the technology does not sell itself. Those wishing to move the energy infrastructure in tnat direction should work to come up with a practical design for it and not waste time and money trying to push it through with fear of supposed catastrophic consrquences of not doing so.


  3. Nob says:

    Is this a joke headline?

    In the windiest place in the world, Windy McWindyburg in Western Windonia, wind turbines are still not a sustainable or sensible way to provide enough power.

  4. Herodotus says:

    The climate change people have succeeded in fooling a lot of people a lot of the time.
    If we had more honest media this would not be the case.

  5. Rafe Champion says:

    When the wind supply figures are a part of weather reports the situation will change rapidly. I could do the morning and evening peaks, 9am and 6.30 or 7 pm regularly on the Cat but everyone is on side here so it could be boring and not very helpful unless other bloggers pick it up and spread the news wider.

  6. Bruce of Newcastle says:

    Wind farm companies tend to build the best sites first, since that gives the highest return on investment. Then they build the second best, third best and etc. So the quality of wind generation falls because the more capacity gets built the worse the location it’s built on.

  7. bemused says:

    The answer is simple, just add more windmills and solar panels.

    This is what you do when you get serious about wind power: https://intpolicydigest.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/07/1529559318974.jpg.

    And when you find areas that aren’t suitable for wind, put in solar panels: https://scx2.b-cdn.net/gfx/news/hires/2012/optimalplann.jpg.

    Australia really needs to step up.

  8. bemused says:

    Australia really needs to step up with wind and solar.

    This is what we should be doing. So much land and so little put to good use. You know it’s the right thing to do.

  9. Mark M says:

    “To eliminate all fossil fuel use, Australia would need about 60 square metres of solar panel per person, and one wind turbine per 2,000 people.
    Panels on rooftops take up no land, and wind turbines use very little.
    If global energy consumption per person increased drastically to reach Australian levels, solar farms on just 0.1% of Earth’s surface could meet this demand.”


    You could cover Australia in renewable energy but it won’t prevent the climate from changing.

  10. Mark M says:

    Recently released capacity statistics from the International Renewable Energy Agency [IRENA] for 2019 confirm the special status of Australia as the global pathfinder for renewable energy.

    Australia is deploying new renewables 10 times faster per capita than the global average and 4 times faster per capita than in Europe, China, Japan or the US.


    2019 was Australia’s hottest and driest year on record


    >> No amount of sun and seabreeze catchers will prevent the hottest, driest year. Evah.

  11. bemused says:

    You could cover Australia in renewable energy but it won’t prevent the climate from changing.

    Ah, but the unintended consequences of wind pattern changes and effects on albedo could be dramatic. We already know that in some places where there are large wind farms, that wind patterns have changed significantly and altered the local climate. Imagine what would happen if such a large area was covered in renewable crap?

  12. duncanm says:

    Mark M
    #3468967, posted on May 31, 2020 at 8:06 am

    I’m amazed so many rational naysayers are being allowing on that thread.

  13. Andre Lewis says:

    Even if RE worked and provided a substantial part of the power needed it would only do so by being heavily subsidised and backed up by fossil fuel providers forced to operate uneconomically. The net result being power costing far more than it needs to.
    If it actually made a difference to the climate there might be a reason to persist but as it patently does not why are politicians around the world pushing it relentlessly? They can’t all be on the RE company payroll surely?

  14. TonyfromOz says:


    there’s something else I have noticed, (and again, thanks to the Aneroid site) and that is that the total wind generation has sometimes quite sudden falls ranging from 400MW to 600MW, and sometimes even more, and those drops in generation are across short timeframes. This is not towers going off line at plants due to failure, (which would show as a vertical drop) but from lack of wind.

    It happens at all totals. I could understand it is there was high wind, (and therefore high power generation) then they are turned off (and blades ‘feathered’) to prevent damage, but these drops occur across all ranges of power generation. Those falls can be spread across an hour, and sometimes I have seen them down to 15 minutes, so it’s not a sudden vertical drop, but over a short time.

    Why I mention it is that when there is a failure at a coal fired plant, one Unit going off line, and the sudden loss of anything up to 600MW, there’s a hue and cry from the green supporters.

    Now that there is a large wind Nameplate (now 7728MW) it’s the case that there are larger numbers of wind plants in some areas, so that when the wind falls away, there are these sudden and now larger drops in power generation.

    Now I have more than two years of wind generation images on a daily basis, I was thinking of going back and collating the dates when these falls occur, so they are readily available when that ‘unreliable’ tag is bandied around if a coal fired Unit goes down.


  15. Rowjay says:

    Hey SA – hands off our power!!

    According to the ACT Government here, its all ours – magically transported across the link to my island of 100% renewables – all 309MW of it! (Do I need a /sarc?)

  16. Graeme Weber says:

    The last 13 days of April 2016 or 2017 wind power worked at <10% of capacity for 25% of the time – go figure.

  17. Rafe Champion says:

    Thanks Tony, I must refer to your site more often, I have referred to it before because it represents the gold standard in wind watching, you have been on top of it for years and you have done important work like the cost comparison of wind and coal.

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