THE PRICE ON CARBON
The Australian Government is proposing to introduce legislation to impose a cost of the emissions of Carbon Dioxide (CO2) which is in the main, being emitted from Coal Fired Power Plants.
It is hoped that the introduction of this legislation will force those electrical power providers to move towards investing in renewable power generating plants.
So far, the Government has been very reticent to tell Australians the actual price that will be placed on those emissions, and how much money it proposes to raise from this huge new tax. Even so, this same Government is also finding it difficult to explain where the money is supposed to come from for this hoped for move to renewable power plants, because it is telling Australians that all the money raised will be given back, either directly to consumers, well, some consumers anyway, and also to those most affected Industries.
That being the case, it’s difficult to see how those coal fired plants will find a way to pay what amounts to hundreds of millions of dollars extra each year with the introduction of this ‘Price on Carbon’ (Dioxide) and then to find the extra similar huge amounts to then invest in those renewable power plants.
So, let’s look at what is a typical proposal for one of those renewable power plants.
THE COOPERS GAP WIND FARM
Can you imagine a new proposal for a power plant that stated they would only be delivering their power for nine hours a day at the absolute best. It probably would have sterner questions asked of the proposal by those in power who agree to something like this.
So, what the proposers do is to tell you this truth about only delivering power for at best those nine hours a day, but they couch it in technical speak that looks impressive on the surface, and at the same time, makes the plant look environmentally conscious.
Those people who do propose something like this are relying on the fact that nearly everyone who reads the proposal sees the data shown there, but cannot translate it without an exact understanding of the electrical principles involved.
So, let’s look at what the proposal says, and dissect the truth of the matter from their own proposal.
Here is the link to the proposal for the Coopers Gap Wind Farm, a project to be constructed around the area West of Toowoomba, which is to the West of the State Capital Brisbane in the State of Queensland in Australia. This document is a pdf document, so you will need a reader to access it.
The information is on page 2 as you scroll down, but first look at the Introduction on Page One where it says that the Plant will have 252 towers and have a Nameplate Capacity of 500MegaWatts, (MW) which makes it sound like an impressively large plant, considering a large scale coal fired power plant will have a Nameplate Capacity of 2000MW. Also worth noting there is the Cost, stated there as over $1.2 Billion.
On Page two, scroll down to the heading that says ‘Benefits’, because this is where all the relevant technical information is, where it says these two things:
• The wind farm will generate up to 1.7 Million MegaWattHours (MWH) of electricity each year, which is enough to power approximately 320,000 homes.
• The wind farm will reduce green house gas emissions by up to 2.2million tonnes annually.
The first statement there makes it sound even more impressive, and while telling the truth, in a way, it takes someone with an understanding of electrical power generation to distil that truth into what it really means.
So let’s then translate what that statement actually means.
That first figure of 1.7 million MWH is a theoretical best case power generation.
It is based upon theoretical data for an average single nacelle on top of one of those towers. That theoretical best case is around 38% of the maximum power that could be produced if it was to operate at its full capacity, and I will explain that in more detail a little later.
That same 1.7 Million MegaWattHours of power they say is enough to power 320,000 homes, which again makes it sound really impressive. How they calculate that is that they know the power consumption for an average residence in and around that area, and they then divide that into the proposed 1.7 Million MWH, and that gives them that figure of 320,000 homes.
However, the plant in its totality is connected only to the grid for that area, so it will not ever be connected directly to those imaginary 320,000 homes. The total power that is supplied to that grid from every plant in that region is then distributed for consumption in three sectors, the Residential Sector, which consumes 38% of all the power being generated, Commerce, 37% and Industrial 24%. That varies from area to area, as some of those grids are in rural areas, and some having more Industry than others, but those averages are pretty close to the mark across most grids.
Remember earlier I mentioned that the total Nameplate Capacity was 500MW for the 252 towers. Well from that Nameplate Capacity, we can calculate the total theoretical maximum power that could be delivered if the plant was to operate at its maximum capacity.
For that, we use the formula:
Total Power = NP X 24 X 365.25 where NP is the Nameplate Capacity, 24 hours in a day, and 365.25 is for a whole year, the added 0.25 taking in leap years.
So, for this plant, the theoretical maximum is:
500 X 24 X 365.25 which comes to 4.383 Million MWH.
Refer now back to the quoted 1.7 million MWH that the plant claims it can deliver.
This gives the plant a Capacity Factor of that same 38% theoretical maximum that a single nacelle might deliver at its best.
So, given the fact that while ever the huge fan on the front is rotating, then the plant is generating power.
Effectively, that 38% now translates into time, and 38% of 24 hours comes in at just a tick over 9 hours.
So, in effect, this whole plant is only delivering its power on average for 9 hours a day, at its absolute best.
Having looked at data for more than three years now, I can state with some authority that the best Wind power can deliver its power is at 25% Capacity Factor. That is the current 12 month total for every Wind Tower in the U.S. and they now have 41,000 MW of Nameplate Capacity for Wind Power. Because the U.S. is constructing so many of these Wind Towers, the technology they have is the latest and best. In the wider World however, that Capacity Factor is closer to 20%, and some wind farms have been known to only deliver as little as 5% for a month.
That current best average in the U.S. of that 25% now equates to barley 6 hours of power delivery a day.
So, even at the best case U.S. Capacity Factor of 25%, the actual power delivered to all consumers now only comes in at 1.1 Million MWH, considerably less than the quoted 1.7 Million MWH.
As is now quite obvious, this new wind plant can NEVER replace a large scale coal fired plant, one that can actually deliver its power 24/7/365, when that level of power is required absolutely.
This wind plant cannot even be relied upon to supply power for Peaking Power times, because again, that power is required also at specific times, those two hours in the morning, and for five to six hours from late afternoon and into the night. The wind cannot be regulated to blow at specific times, so heaven help any grid controlling authority that relies solely on Wind Power for total grid requirements, because if the wind drops away, the plants shut down, and there’s no power to that grid, now overloading other plants and causing them to go into shutdown, causing cascading brownouts and blackouts.
Let’s then look at that second environmentally conscious statement telling us that the plant saves up to 2.2 million tons of greenhouse gas emissions.
This plant says it can deliver 1.7 million MWH, so using the same formula from above, and working backwards from that quoted total, that now gives us a Nameplate Capacity of 194 MW.
I have mentioned in many earlier Posts how a large scale coal fired power plant of around 2000MW Nameplate Capacity can burn as much as 6.5 million tons of coal each year, then using a ratio formula, a plant of the size equivalent to this wind farm, that 194MW will burn 582,000 tons of coal, and using the average multiplier for CO2 emitted per ton of coal burned of 2.86, then CO2 emissions come in at 1.66 Million tons of CO2, which is considerably less than the quoted 2.2 million tons.
Also keep in mind here that any equivalent coal fired plant will be delivering its power on that 24/7/365 basis, so it will be in operation every hour of every day.
However, let’s then say that instead of a coal fired plant, we replace that with an equivalent 194MW Natural Gas fired power plant, and keep in mind here that this data is a calculation again for the full 24 hours of every day, something this, and any, wind plant can never achieve.
Natural Gas plants still emit CO2, but only at one third the rate of coal fired power generation, so now, if this was a Natural gas plant, then those CO2 emissions come in at only 555,000 tons, barely one quarter of the claimed emissions savings of 2.2 million tons.
Keep in mind that here I am using their own figures from their own proposal at that 38% Capacity Factor, and at the current best case Capacity Factor of 25%, those CO emissions would now be considerably lower again than even the lower figure I have quoted here.
So, as you can see, once something like this is explained, the proposal now does not really stack up to what is being claimed.
Also, note the time frame for the construction of this plant. It was originally proposed in 2005. It’s now 2011, and they still haven’t turned a sod of dirt.
Refer also to the proposal in Australia to introduce legislation to place a ‘Price on Carbon’ (Dioxide) and how this legislation is supposed to drive the move towards more renewable power plants. As this so ably demonstrates, even were they to ramp up plans for renewable power plants right now, it would still be at least 6 to 10 years before any of them started to come on line actually delivering power.
I haven’t even gone into any of the numerous health related matters here, and keep in mind that right now, wind turbine syndrome has become a recognised condition, but I will however make one observation.
Remember back to when there was the scare over those huge high tension power lines, and how that scare related to electro magnetic radiation caused by the current flow through those high tension wires. Governments spent millions investigating that. Now, in the case of these wind towers, they just quote that there are no known health related problems with wind farms, and that’s the end of it.
Where I have spoken is such a small part on those health related issues, this is not in any way meant to belittle them, because for the people living in the area where these huge towers will be constructed, this is a problem that will only have an effect on them.
However, having said that, those people proposing this wind plant look at those health related matters and know that they can effectively hose them down by looking concerned about them, but passing them off, full in the knowledge that these health related matters are only a minor problem ….. for them.
The main thing that they are relying is the fact that the residents in that area where the towers will be constructed are people who have in the main, no electrical expertise about the technical aspects of the plant, because if those technical aspects were highlighted as the main thing, then that is something that those proposers just cannot hose down.
As soon as people realise that plants of this nature just do not deliver the power that is required, on the basis that it is required, then as major as those health related issues are, that power delivery problem is just something that those proposers cannot pass off as being of no real consequence.
That is the main problem, and while people concentrate on minor issues, all the while those proposers hope that no one latches on, because this is something they have no answer for.
For those among you who want to read how a wind plant generates its power see the Post at this link.
What I have said here has no political agenda. All I have done here is translate their own data into something that people actually can understand.
When you read a wonderful proposal like this, you almost wish it was in action right now. However, once the reality is explained, you ask yourself just one question only.
‘Just why are they spending this immense amount of money on something that can’t deliver?’