Becalmed, Powerless, Unsightly

Peter Smith30 Jun, 2023 4 Min Read
Tried and found wanting.

Let’s talk about that contradiction in terms “wind power.” Fuelling conspiracy theories isn’t my shtick; but, heck, here goes anyway. Wind won’t work. Strictly speaking, it won’t work in the world as we know it. Of that fact, sinister forces are well aware. And like H. G. Wells’ Martians, slowly and surely they drew their plans against us. Their aim? Nationalisation of power generation and enforced rationing; eventually applied selectively to control “dissidents.” Sinister forces? Think of the World Economic Forum, the E.U., the U.N., increasingly woke corporations, authoritarian governments, the mainstream media, the intelligentsia, useful idiots, Justin Trudeau. Sinister enough for you?

If you don’t like my conspiracy theory, I have no others. So, in that case, please disregard everything after “wind won’t work.” That is certainly beyond dispute. An article published by electrical engineer Paul Miskelly in Sage Journals (“Wind Farms in Eastern Australia - Some Lessons”) convincingly makes the case. It is as relevant and telling today as it was when published in December 2012.

The Australian Energy Market Operator’s (AEMO’s) 2022 Integrated System Plan points to the need for nine times the current build of wind and solar power plus at least 10,000 kilometres of new transmission lines. It’s pie-in-the-sky. But even if it were built, it wouldn’t provide baseload power. How many times has it to be said? Reprised, Mr Micawber would put it this way: "Annual electricity requirement continuous. Annual wind and sun power intermittent. Batteries deficient. Result energy misery."

Result: misery.

Miskelly analysed data produced by AEMO for the year 2010. This data consists of the electricity output from each windfarm, at five-minute intervals, across the whole of eastern Australia. Among his findings:

The output of any individual wind farm can vary enormously [and] the total wind output across the entire grid falls rapidly to zero or near zero on many occasions during the calendar year.

During the first six months of the year, Miskelly found there were 58 intervals of various durations in which the output from the whole fleet of wind farms across Eastern Australia fell below 2 percent of plated capacity; the longest for 19 hours. His conclusion: “the installed capacity of backup has to be some 80 percent of the installed wind-farm capacity.” Later he is even more categorical:

This high frequency of [wind failure], and the power requirements of wind turbines even while idle… may require levels of fossil-fuel standby capacity that approach the total installed capacity of the entire wind-farm fleet.

There we have it. One expensive system, demanding of rare earth extraction by child and slave labor, landscape and seascape despoiling, providing highly variable power, required to be backed near enough 100 percent by affordable and reliable hydrocarbon power. Makes sense in a cockeyed world. And how about the implications of bridging wind failures with gas. It goes from the duplicative to the pyrrhic.

The use of… this form of generation [fast-acting open-cycle gas turbines] rather than the more thermally-efficient closed-cycle gas turbines… may lead, seemingly paradoxically, to higher GHG emissions [CO2, methane, nitrous oxide]… than if wind was not included in the generation portfolio.

You couldn’t write home about it. Fear not, the aforementioned powers that be have the answer: oodles of imaginary green hydrogen filling the breach. Another answer, so they claim, is to disperse wind farms. If it isn’t windy hither, it will be thither. Bummer, high pressure systems across the whole or most of eastern Australia are fairly prevalent.

The occurrence of such fine weather, extended in both time and geographic extent, shows the inadvisability of building wind farms to replace coal-fired base load power stations.

Dispersion. Yeah, that ought to work.

Dispersing windfarms, linked by (ugly and costly) high voltage transmission lines, doesn’t work if there’s little wind anywhere; and this would apply across whatever national jurisdiction you care to name. And even if there were pockets of wind to be had, how would sufficient power be generated to service the whole grid?

A final point. Wind turbines produce about 30 percent of their plated capacity on average. Therefore to be of any use at all, they must be seriously overbuilt. Now imagine the wind is blowing at a good rate. More electricity will be produced than demanded. The result, very low prices. Thus when conditions are right for this business, losses are made. Akin, for example, to department stores losing money over Christmas.

Wind power is an intrinsically flawed business model. It has no future in private hands. Private operators will be bought out by government.

Already, in comrade Daniel Andrews’ (socialist) state of Victoria, the government is on course to bring electricity generation back into government hands; as he announced in October last year, before the state election which resoundingly returned him to power. Voters in Victoria like the cut of Dan’s authoritarian jib. He’s a pathbreaker for what lies ahead. What was that again about a conspiracy theory?

After a career in economics, banking and payment-systems management, Peter Smith now blogs on the topics of the day. He writes for Quadrant, Australia’s leading conservative online site and magazine. He has written Bad Economics, of which, he notes, there is much.

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