Karl Denninger talks about the one thing greens do not want to acknowledge,  Green Energy will not be able to produce energy 24/7 on its own.  Either it needs batteries or some kind of storage system system for when..not if the green energy doesn’t produce.  Nuclear or fossil fuels are much more reliable and cost effective.  The selling back of electricity that is nothing more than a gov’t subsidy are being phased out further reducing the competitiveness of “Green Energy”.

We keep hearing about carbon taxes, “renewable” or “green” energy and similar.

Folks, it’s time to cut the crap — well, actually, it’s far beyond that point.

Let’s take a base cost, which is reasonably conservative (in other words, too low) of about 8 cents/kwh for wind power.  Costs vary widely at the consumer level across the country, but that starting figure sounds pretty reasonable from the published data when it comes to actual cost of wind generation.

The problem is that it is a false paradigm unless you are willing to accept limitations nobody will in today’s world.

A fossil fuel or nuclear plant will produce power except during either (1) planned shutdowns for maintenance or (2) unplanned shutdowns (e.g. emergencies, unanticipated failures requiring a shutdown to correct them, etc) during its design life.  There is no such guarantee for either solar or wind because both rely on something you cannot control.

Our expectation as a society is that whenever we wish to flip the switch and have the lights come on they will.  We can only achieve the “claimed” cost figures for “green energy” if we are willing to violate that expectation; that is, if there is no wind or solar at that time, when you flip the switch nothing happens because the power is in fact off due to lack of supply.

In order to prevent that from happening we can add on the following options either singly or in combination:

  • We can build much more capacity than required and store some of it.  So, for example, let’s say that we need 1,000MWe (1 Gigawatt of electrical power) for a given area.  We can generate more than that much during the time the wind is blowing and store some of it.  However, the laws of thermodynamics tell us that all energy conversions have loss; that is, not only is there no such thing as a free lunch but you can’t break even either.  If we convert the energy to potential energy (e.g. pump water up a hill) and then when we need it use that water to power a turbine (generating electricity just as we do with a dam) a highly aggressive target would suggest that we might achieve 80% efficiency from each of those two steps.  Arithmetic tell us that this comes out to 0.8 * 0.8 = 0.64, or 64% of the energy we put in will be returned.  This means that if we are absolutely certain (p = 0.995, or 1 in 1,000 odds that we’re wrong) that the wind will blow at a sufficient velocity to generate the energy we want 2/3rds of the time in a given location we must in fact produce 1 + (0.33 / 0.64) = 150% of the energy we wish to consume (that is, install 50% more windmills) and we must also install (and pay for) the pumped storage and generation system.  Note that this immediately takes that 8 cents/kwh to 12c plus the cost of the storage and generation system and the people to run it. 
  • We can build a fossil fuel plant to back up the windmills and staff that too.  Given the above figures, since we’re not storing anything, we must now build a 1,000MWe fossil plant and keep it both maintained and ready to be put online as required so as to provide any percentage of the shortfall up to and including 100% (if there is no wind.)  However, you must add the cost of said plant, its staffing and the fuel to run it when its operating to the wind power cost!  While the fossil plant is competitive with wind power on the operating cost that assumes its depreciation is on a 100% use basis.  It’s not; in the above case where the statistical data says that 1/3rd of the time the wind will not blow at a sufficient rate to provide the power we are in fact tripling the deprecation rate assigned to the fossil plant when it is running because the depreciation must be spread over the whole, not just when the fossil plant is “on.”  This makes the backup source cost skyrocket, and thus we no longer are anywhere near competitive.

Solar has the same problem, for the same basic reason — you cannot control when the sun shines at a sufficient flux to generate the power required.  Yes, there are places in the United States where the sun is likely to shine on an unobscured basis far more often than in other places, and transmission via HVDC lines (rather than AC) has materially less loss over long distances (and is convenient for solar since a solar cell generates DC power in the first place; as such it requires only one conversion, to AC at the receiving end, if HVDC transmission is used.)  But again, unless we are willing to be blacked out when we’re wrong we must cover the solar production the same way we cover wind!

Nobody is running the numbers in this regard on an honest basis when they talk about “green energy.”  The fact of the matter is that the claims of the proponents are, in essentially every case, understated by 50% or more, as the above shows.  This means your electric bill, in such a system, will either rise by at least 50% or you must be willing to make the trade-off that when the wind is not blowing or the sun is not shining you have no electricity available at all.

Let’s debate the actual issues with actual costs — not pie-in-the-sky intentional lies put forward by the so-called “green energy” folks and their political “partners.”