Some Facts About Renewable Electrical Power Generation (Part 2)

Posted on Thu 01/29/2009 by



In yesterday’s post, I showed how statistics can be artfully used to show different things, how the same set of figures can be used in different ways to explain different things. What this effectively showed is that something can have spin added to it to make it look like there has been something done even though those same set of figures can be looked at in another way to make it look like the exact opposite

I posted this quote from President Obama:

To finally spark the creation of a clean energy economy, we will double the production of alternative energy in the next three years.

As I also explained yesterday, this is an actual impossibility. Why I wanted to show those different interpretations of the same set of figures was to show you that when the time comes and someone asks the inevitable question after those three years, seeking to find out if in fact alternative energy production has doubled, then we can look back to the very start and see exactly if it in fact has doubled, and just which interpretation will be used to show that it may (or may not) have doubled.

As I have also explained in earlier posts, these types of power plants take ten years on average to come on line from their inception. This is not the sole province of Wind and Solar plants, but for any type of power plant. If all the ducks do line up, all the approvals are gained, all the impact studies done, and if all that fell into place at the best times, then that ten year span from the thought bubble to opening and actually bringing power to the grid might come down to seven years, but in reality, not much better than that.

So, what you need to be aware of is that any of these plants that do open in the next three years, not one single one of them will be because of this statement from President Obama. Believe me, he will crawl across broken glass to be at the openings of any of them, and the liberal media will fawn all over it saying what an accomplishment this will be for him, but every plant that does open will have been started, approved, constructed almost to completion during the Bush Administration. There will be spin placed on this like you have never seen, a startling example of what President Obama has achieved, but not one of them will be of his doing. Not one.

Okay then, let’s look at renewable electrical power generation, and see just what he needs to have implemented in these next three years, something that will be his achievement. These are new plants not yet even thought about. This is something that can easily be worked out, and later, I will show you exactly how.

First, what we’ll do is to look at what part spin is going to play in all of this, because there will be spin, and again, the media will fall for the spin, because the media knows media, and what they do not know is that plants of this nature just do not take form over night, let alone in three years.

Hydro power can be called renewable, and in fact is part of that renewable mix, so when we look back at the pie chart, we find that hydro power makes up 6.5% of the total power, and when added to the ‘other renewables’ slice of that same pie, the total from renewable sources comes in at 9.7%. You might think this is a small percentage but when the overall U.S. power consumption of 4,121,053 Gigawatts, that percentage then becomes quite considerable indeed.

So, does President Obama intend to double that figure, which would entail building dams and hydro plants on a scale not even China is doing, and China is currently in the process of constructing 20 of the 25 largest hydro schemes currently under construction on the Planet.

No, this will not be happening at all. In fact, if even one dam gets planned in that three years, it will be absolutely incredible that it even got off the ground. So that rules out that part of the renewable equation.

That leaves us with the small slice of the pie titled ‘other renewables’, and that sector makes up 3.2% of the total mix of power consumption in the U.S.

Hey! you say. That sounds like it actually might be doable.

Let’s then look at that slice of the pie. As I mentioned yesterday, this sector is made up from 5 sources, Wood, Waste, Geothermal, Solar and Wind. In reality wood and waste are literally burning trees and waste from dumps and landfills releasing CO2 into the atmosphere, so, even though classified as renewable, they really aren’t. Geothermal power production is still in its infancy and has yet to be scaled up for large power outputs, so all that leaves us with are Wind and Solar, the two ‘flavours of the month’ for those liberals who see this as the way of the future.

Now, we are actually getting into the realms of a doable number, because power consumption from these two sources amounts to only 1.05% of the total power consumed.

Hey! Now you’re talkin’. We can easily double that small number.

But can we really?

Looking just at that small percentage makes you think that it really can be done. In fact, even looking at the overall actual figures from the page of statistics from the EIA, you still may even think that it could be done. Even looking at the way it has increased over recent years, you still may think it could be done.

However, what the plan is for now is that the numbers you see there for solar and wind need to be doubled, and for that to happen in three years. Now keep in mind that all this will have to be ‘new’ power, not just existing construction of plants already scheduled to come on line in that time.

The existing nameplate capacity of all wind power produced in the U.S. is 16,596 Megawatts. (MW) That number is the 100% rating of the units. Remember that they are only variable, only producing power when there is a good reliable strong constant wind rolling the blades around. Hence, the best rated power that they can actually deliver is around 30% of power. If that was 100% (IF) then the maximum, power delivered for usage is calcultaed in Thousand megawatthours. So you multiply the nameplate by 24 (hours in a day) and then 365 (days in a year). The number now becomes 145,380.96 Thousand megawatthours. The actual power delivered as shown in these figures, scroll down is 42,356 Thousand megawatthours, so surprisingly, these units are running at just on 29%.

So then what needs to be done over the next three years is to actually double that amount of delivered power, which can’t be done, but a good indicator will be that this has been put in train to happen.

So we need that same amount of delivered power. Working backwards, this tells us that we need 17,000 MW of nameplate capacity. If the nacelles that produce the power are the most common ones, they they will be the big ones producing 3 MW each. So, that means we need to construct nearly 5,700 of these nacelles. Easy enough to say, but that’s nearly 6,000 of them, and that huge plant in Nantucket Sound that Cape Wind hopes to bring on line, has 140 of them, so 6,000 Wind towers sort of takes on a whole different perspective. Think of the land that will need to be acquired in areas where good wind blows, and blows often, and those areas will then need to be prepared.

With regard to construction of the units that actually produce the power, best practice now sees factories rolling out 250 a year, so to construct the required nacelles, we now have to have already in existence between 8 and 10 new monster factories, and to then build these technical behemoths, rolling out 250 a year for 3 years. The factories also need time for construction, so let’s say if everything falls into place on that front, and all of them can be built within one year, then this now needs to be done in 2 years, meaning between 12 and 15 of these new factories. Then you have to train the work force up for the construction of the nacelles. Then you need to find out exactly where they will be sited where they can deliver their 30% of power to the grid. Then you need to put in train new and huge infrastructure to actually get that power to the consumers.

So then, let’s actually pretend that all of this can be achieved in that three years, we now have 5700 nacelles. We need factories to construct the towers, approvals for acquisition of all the land and then construction to actually start. On a side matter, can you imagine the carbon footprint of all of this construction.

What will the construction phase alone cost then?

Cape Wind can be used as an example. They have 140 towers and the cost is a conservative $1 Billion. So, using that 5700 number, we need to construct 41 of these monster plants, each with 140 wind towers. The cost works out around $40 to $45 Billion, and keep in mind that’s a conservative figure and in today’s dollars. Keep in mind that there is still that ten year lead time, so plant construction phase now balloons out that cost, doubling every 5 to 6 years, so that $45 Billion now blows out to close on $200 Billion, and that is just for the construction of the end product plants, and does not include the factories, the infrastructure of the cost of money for the employees used during the whole process.

Perhaps now you can see just why a ‘flippant’ statement like this is totally out of reach.

I have deliberately not included Solar power, and the same would apply all across the board for that. Solar Plants are currently running at around 15% efficiency.

Keep in mind also that the money for construction is what will be passed onto consumers. The cost of power generated from Wind and Solar means currently runs at 5 to 7 times what power from other sources (Coal, nuclear, hydro) so if any of this comes to fruition, then you can absolutely believe that your electrical power bills will skyrocket.

Also, keep in mind that because of the variability of Wind and Solar Power, they cannot be used for baseload power at all, so even if this does come into effect, not one extra coal fired power plant will be shut down because of this, outside of those that are retired from the grid as running to the end of their designed lifetime.

That brings us neatly back to that other thing I mentioned in the previous post, that of coal fired plants closing in 5 States. This is not a victory for the environmentalists, because these plants have been retired because their lifetime use has reached that date. These old style plants are less efficient than newer coal fired plants, nuclear plants or hydro plants. Technology now sees more power produced from smaller units, and less coal being burned to produce that greater power.

A startling example of this can be seen by comparing the power produced from The Hoover Dam hydro scheme compared to the Chinese monster The Three Gorges Complex. A single generator at The Three Gorges Dam in China is twice the size of a generator at the Hoover Dam, built in the 30’s. However, each generator produces 7 times the power of a generator at Hoover Dam. The total power produced at Hoover Dam with its 16 generators is almost the same as what is produced from 2 of the generators at The Three Gorges Dam, and there are 32 of them on this huge Chinese Hydro Scheme. The technology has advanced so far now that for a generator the same size as one of the earlier, (and now approaching time expired) generators, almost five times the power can be produced, and in the process, the plant will burn less coal to do it. So, this mindless rush to immensely costly Wind and Solar plants to appease trendy environmentalists is a needless cost, when at no stage are you replacing like for like, because wind and solar CANNOT be used to supply a constant and reliable baseload power that is needed absolutely.

So, when you hear of Wind plants and solar plants opening up in the next three years, you need to be fully mindful, that President Obama had absolutely nothing at all to do with it. All he is doing is having his photograph taken so a mindless liberal media can get a ‘photo op’ and write how he is dynamically delivering on his promise to increase renewable power by double within three years.

This is not a case of my being anti Obama, or even anti Democrat, or just being vindictive.

THIS IS SOMETHING THAT JUST CANNOT, AND WILL NOT BE ACCOMPLISHED, no matter what you read and see in the media. This is the proverbial three card trick.