The false RE promise of good wind days

There are strong winds across SE Australia these days although WA was in a wind drought yesterday, probably the front end of a high pressure system that will bring the bird-killing mills to a standstill over here in a few days.

Last night the fleet was delivering 62% of plated capacity and providing 20% of the power in the grid. During the day the wind contribution was slightly less (56%)  of capacity but with the sun at its peak at noon RE accounted for 37% of demand.

Those are the numbers that encourage the wind lobby to claim that we are well on the way to 50% or 100% RE, just keep building, get over 100% of demand during the day and store the excess to use overnight. There are two fatal flaws in that argument. First there is no prospect of grid scale storage in our lifetime. And the second is the choke point factor that means you have to judge the capacity of the wind system by its lowest level of production, not the highest or even the average. Sorry.

Looking at the live NemWatch widget.  In WA the wind contribution is up this morning from less than 1% yesterday but you still wouldn’t want to depend on it for your morning coffee!  This is the screen shot at 7.30am.

South Australians get very excited on days like this when they are exporting power to Victoria but check out the times when they have zero wind, indeed the times when there is practically zero wind across the whole of SE Australia.  Then they depend on local gas and coal power from over the border. Over 12 months they still import as much power as they export.

Given the choke point factor it only takes one “no wind” day to bring the system down in the absence of 100% backup from conventional power. Find an engineer to explain what is involved in a black start after the grid has gone down!

And recall the island effect (one of the four icebergs that will sink RE). We are on our own unless you are counting on Tasmania to be the battery of the nation. Even California during the state of emergency will not go completely black because they can reach as far as Canada to get nuclear power and hydro, not to mention the coal and gas power available in other states.

For a picture of a low point check out Victoria on 11 June. The solid line is the total for the state and the coloured lines are individual wind farms. The solid line barely cleared 5% all day.

Dan has made Victoria the wind leader with far more installed capacity than SA (2.8GW vs 2.1). So what happens when they have bad wind days? Queensland is the coal power provider of last resort!


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19 Responses to The false RE promise of good wind days

  1. Herodotus says:

    Time to get out of the cities and return to an agrarian lifestyle?
    At least you can use wind and solar in a context where they sort of work – off grid.
    And even during war time, the agricultural regions were reasonably well fed since they had the land to run enough animals to produce eggs and meat, plus fruit and veg in season. Get those vacola jars washed and ready for preserving.
    As Australia is deindustrialised by the Hope and Change people, and cities take on a somewhat Chicago-like demeanour, this will be the choice we all have to make.

  2. Rafe Champion says:

    Dang, my mother used to have about 100 of those wonderful preserving jars, but they went out to be replaced by a big industrial scale freezer! We didn’t entirely trust the hydro, we had a petrol engine for the milking machine on the odd occasions when it went out. We didn’t want to hand milk 80 or 100 cows for some strange reason!

  3. hzhousewife says:

    Please keep going with these reports Rafe. Last night on the news there was a spot about the, Bald Hills Wind Farm (Vic) and noise, I think residents had a victory. I also see an intriguing headline for the AFR 19 Aug “No new renewable projects while the grid is in crisis: Tilt” – The New Zealand owned renewables developer said the Australian energy market had proved much riskier than anticipated due to intervention by the regulator….
    The economy of renewables has to become more starkly obvious in the coming recession.

  4. Herodotus says:

    What breeds did you have Rafe?

  5. Herodotus says:

    Moccona Coffee jars might work.

  6. Turtle says:

    Satanic mills.

  7. Rafe Champion says:

    Jersey cows Herodotus, sending cream to the Duck River Butter Factory. And pigs to dispose of the skimmed milk.
    Whenever I see those hinged lids with the seal I remember the preserving jars. The preserving was like a military operation every summer.

  8. BoyfromTottenham says:

    Good article Rafe, but don’t forget that adding more ruinables to the grid creates increasingly costly problems, leading to the blackout situation that California found itself in this week. This article points them out (in techie language that tries to reverse the onus of proof by claiming that the traditional grid is the problem, not the ruinables):
    Actually the article is an excellent example of disinformation, so good IMO that one could use it as an example to teach how biased ‘scientists / engineers’ can present a series of valid facts in a way that supports an invalid proposition. Very clever, but evil.

  9. TonyfromOz says:

    I look upon all of this wind performance as an indicator as to the thinking of these green ‘friends of the dirt’, that they are overjoyed when wind has a good day like this. You know, when it reaches a maximum output for the day of 4879MW from a total Nameplate of 7728MW, at a Capacity Factor (CF) of 63% for ONE five minute point in time. How they point to days like this when the average CF is 48.65%, (3760MW of 7728MW) and that is classified as a good day, when those good days when it almost makes it to 5000MW are just a few days in a year, when the yearly average is just 28.5% of Capacity. (2200MW of 7728MW from 64 wind plants and around 4100 individual wind towers)
    These are those good days they point at with glowing pride, and tell us that this is the example of what the future looks like.
    You know a little like this.
    I had a good day with my new (Holden, Ford, Toyota, Hyundai, BMW) yesterday. It actually started first time, and got me almost two thirds of the way to where I wanted to go. Hope it’s like this tomorrow. I might be able to make it back home.
    If anything else (anything) performed this poorly, it would be laughed out of existence.

  10. BoyfromTottenham says:

    TonyfromOz – they have all read ‘How to Lie with Statistics’ by Darrell Huff (published 1954 -). I see it practised every day in our MSM. The public in general don’t have a clue how they are being conned and lied to when they see statistics quoted, because maths is now optional in school (for obvious reasons). Especially lately with COVID stats, the actual (minuscule) percentage of deaths in the whole population is never mentioned – because people would wake up and immediately stop complying with the government’s lockdown.

  11. Rafe Champion says:

    I remember How to Lie with Statistics, and several others like The Use and Abuse of Statistics and Straight and Crooked Thinking but I haven’t seen them around the bookshelves for years.

    The good thing about the RE debate, unlike the climate debate, is that you can get the basics across to anyone of average intelligence if they are interested and the information is readily available.

    More people are going to be interested before long and more people are going to be better informed as well because we are just getting our act together to explain these things.

    Just wait until Joel Fitzgibbon and the ALP dissidents start talking about the four icebergs:) The Labor divide is getting good coverage in The Australian today.

    Mr Fitzgibbon, one of the most influential members of the Labor caucus, raised the prospect of a split — similar to the anti-communist breakaway of the Democratic Labor Party in the 1950s — and ­admitted he did not know how the party could reconcile the growing divergence of its supporters.

    “I am very fearful about how the Labor Party will manage … (to) juggle these two electoral bases and I do fear that, it won’t be in my time, but the party might end up splitting,” Mr Fitzgibbon, the ­national Right faction convenor of the Labor Party, said.

    “I don’t want that to happen. I hope it is unlikely, but I just don’t know how we reconcile the difficulty of being all things to people in (Cooper) in Melbourne, and another thing to a group of people living in central Queensland.”

  12. Herodotus says:

    The public in general don’t have a clue how they are being conned and lied to when they see statistics quoted
    Sadly, that’s about all the MSM do these days.

  13. Herodotus says:

    And I see from Google that they are adopting the Xi method of argument: “We have ways of making you compliant.”

  14. John A says:

    Rafe Champion #3553683, posted on August 20, 2020, at 12:13 pm

    I remember How to Lie with Statistics, and several others like The Use and Abuse of Statistics and Straight and Crooked Thinking but I haven’t seen them around the bookshelves for years.

    The good thing about the RE debate, unlike the climate debate, is that you can get the basics across to anyone of average intelligence if they are interested and the information is readily available.

    Rafe is there anywhere a chart or set of statistics on days of wind across the continent? We see charts and maps of temperatures and rainfalls across the continent but what is there to show a range from NIL to gale force winds charted daily. I would like to show my MPs that there are say 30% of the days in the year when there is no wind across Victoria. Horizontal axis 1 to 365, vertical axis 1 to 100 Km/hour (250Km/hour for Qld cyclones, of course!) is what I am picturing.

    And then we can show the operating range of wind farms according to wind speed (two horizontal lines at minimum and maximum), with the obvious conclusion that outside that range wind power gives us nothing.

  15. Cardimona says:

    My area’s regional daily paper ran an op-ed from a alarmist rent-seeker outfit called “The Next Economy” today.
    It started with an appeal-to-authority logical fallacy and deteriorated into unsupportable assertions from there.
    So I fired off an op-ed length piece to the editor to present the other side of the argument in the simplest possible terms, without shredding “The Next Economy” anti-energy activists (more Rafe Champion-style than David Bidstrup-style).
    The editor declined it.
    Anyway, gotta have a go, eh?
    This is it…

    The glorious tropical winter sky, flawlessly azure, clear and pure, floats silently above the myriad light greens of the Atherton Tablelands. Fields and paddocks shimmer in every shade from apple to lime, all framed by the deep emerald forests of the higher ridges. The sunshine sparkles cobalt blue from the placid waters of Lake Tinaroo and imbues the scene with vibrancy and life, even as not a breath of wind stirs a single leaf.

    From an elevated ridge we can survey this grand harmony between people and nature. There can be no doubt that we in FNQ maintain a clean and pristine environment. Our custodianship of the land has been exemplary and almost no other nation can boast of a place as tidy as ours. Until, that is, we turn and cast our gaze back the other way, towards the harsh, stark, motionless, wind-operated electricity-generation installation constructed on the skyline of the ridge facing Walkamin.

    That part-time electricity factory, euphemistically called “Mt Emerald Wind Farm” by its Thai owners (it’s really a subsidy harvester), has always been contentious and divisive amongst locals, but recently it’s become an object of derision and scorn. Why? Because it’s not just on windless days that it hangs motionless, it’s been locked down on windy days, too. How weird is that? Good stiff July breezes, perfect for the sailors on Tinaroo, whistled wasted past the million-dollar turbine-towers. Why was this allowed to happen when “green energy” is meant to save us from the dreaded “carbon” which, according to green mythology is causing “catastrophic global warming”?

    Well, it’s like this. Not all electrons are equal. There; I’ve said it. And I’ll say it again, this time invoking colour. Not all electrons are equal and the green ones (wind and solar) are the worst. Hang onto your hats, there’s more. The electrons that work strongest and hardest In Australia are black and brown (black and brown coal). Orange ones (nuclear) work hard, too, but we banned them. We have some blue ones (hydro), but not enough for full-time work. We also have hard-workers in amber (diesel, kerosene) and clear (gas). But green; well, green is near-useless. When the going gets tough, usually at our evening mealtime, green is prone to wandering off as the sun sets and the wind, driven as it is by the heat from the sun, drops away.

    But it’s not just the green electrons wandering off the job at random times and leaving the other colours to pick up the load that’s the problem. Green is perpetually wobbly on its feet and always lacks muscle strength. Even when green feels like working it must be surrounded and supported by black, brown, blue, amber, or clear. Green cannot work by itself because it needs the others to keep it steady. In tech terms green is “asynchronous” and does not offer “stability” to the grid. The other colours are all “synchronous”, especially brown and black because of their enormous rotating mass of machinery, and can offer grid stability.

    So how does this explain why the Walkamin windmills were switched off in a stiff breeze, and why was the Sun Metals solar array in Townsville also switched off sometimes recently and throttled back at other times? Well, two of the four huge generators at the Stanford coal-fired power station were off-line for maintenance or repair. I know, right? Green wasn’t ramped up to cover for black, it was switched off instead. All those times we’ve been told about green energy taking over from black energy but reality has revealed that when the black electrons go on sick leave the green ones can’t come to work because they’re just too disruptive.

    If “carbon” were a problem for any aspect of the environment, and it’s not, attempting to run a grid on green electrons cannot solve it. We’ve been sold a pup, people. Green energy relies on affordable grid-scale batteries that may never be invented, and on a further quadrupling of the windmills and solar panels that have already doubled our power-bills in just 17 years. It’s a myth and it’s busted.

    (684 words)

  16. Peter Felstead says:

    South Australia is a net electricity exporter.

    And when it does import electricity it doesn’t have to be coal or gas, it could be wind, or hydro from Tasmania.
    Proper research would actually tell people what is going on……facts based research not lazy “my opinion is” style of pseudo-journalism

  17. Herodotus says:

    it’s really a subsidy harvester
    Yet every day we read outright lies about the wind generating industry producing “cheap power” and that it’s “not subsidised”.

  18. Rafe Champion says:

    Thanks for your contribution Peter, to make it easier, just look at the NemWatch widget every day and see how many hot dinners you will have in Adelaide or any other place without gas or coal in the mix.

    John A, there should be something like the chart you want to see, and if it had been plotted before RE got started, it would not have happened because it would show that wind power is never going to deliver enough every day of the year, 24/365.

    The best that I can suggest is the monthly chart produced by the AEMO that shows the % of the windfleet capacity that is delivered hour by hour. That shows regular wind droughts across the whole of of the NEM with state by state breakdown as well. The initial display is for 24 hours and on the right hand side bar you can get monthly sets.

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