Wind Power – Epic Fail

Posted on Tue 10/27/2009 by


Nine Mile Beach single turbine

Large Wind Turbine at Nine Mile Beach Wind Farm. Image courtesy of Verve Energy.

The image at left is a single wind tower. I have included it for perspective. Click on the image to open it in a new and larger window. The perspective is of size, and that is a Toyota  Land Cruiser Troop Carrier parked by the base of the tower.

If this does not scare you, then you have no central nervous system.

Germany has more than 8,000 wind towers, just a little less than what exists in the U.S. For the  whole of the year 2008, those wind towers delivered LESS power to the grid than 3 large coal fired power plants.

This is another of those technical posts, and having said that, I really hope that you’ll stay and read it, because the information is really important. Sometimes, a post that has a technical nature means almost nothing because most people don’t really know what it’s about. That’s the problem I struggle with. I have to explain what it all means in a manner that can be easily comprehended.

Technical information like this is used in a manner that is specifically designed so that the ordinary person has no real comprehension of what it means. Then, when people find out that what it relates to is not what they have been told, then those people running the thing can point to that technical information and say that they were completely up front and detailed all the information. It’s just that no one understands it. That is my job. To translate that technical information, and then to explain it exactly so that it can be understood by the average person.

We have been told that we desperately need to close down those coal burning electrical generating plants because the by product, the Carbon Dioxide (CO2) is a greenhouse gas that is contributing to catastrophic Global Warming/Climate Change.

To replace those coal fired plants, we need to be using power generated from renewable sources, and the two that have been latched onto are Wind Power and Solar Power, which has two versions, Photovoltaic Solar Power, and Concentrating Solar Power, also called Solar Thermal.

Because of that, vast fortunes have been spent on construction of tens of thousands of those huge Wind Towers. We are told without end that these are the way of the future, and that they can supply all our power needs into the future, and they emit no harmful CO2 emissions.

Let’s then look specifically at not just one wind tower, not just a whole wind farm, but the whole and total inventory of wind farm power production for a whole Country. This is not a hypothetical exercise but actual information from operation of every wind tower in Germany.

Germany currently has the second largest power production from wind generation of any Country on the Planet. The largest is now the U.S. where tens of Billions of dollars have been spent on them.
Currently Germany has a Nameplate Capacity of just on 24,000 MegaWatts, (MW) which, using a much simplified explanation looks like it is the equivalent of 12 large coal fired power plants of 2,000 MW Capacity, but simple observations like that are totally and utterly misleading. Each tower has a large nacelle on top and each of those nacelles can produce (at its maximum) around 3MW, so that means that existing 24,000MW would equate to 8000 towers minimum. The number would be considerably more, effectively because the  larger ones have a capacity of 3MW per nacelle, and most are less than that.

Detailed technical figures for the whole of the year 2008 are freely available, and the site they are available at is freely posted on the Internet. However, as is the nature of technical information, no one would ever go to the site and read that information, or even understand what it actually means, or in fact even know what to look for in the first place. So, effectively, information of this nature is seldom seen, and no attention is ever drawn to it, and once you see the explanation, it will be plainly obvious just why the information is hardly ever referred to.

Even though the total amount of power is trumpeted as seemingly quite large at 24,000MW, and this is pointed to as an example,. However, the amount of power actually delivered to the grid for use by consumers is in fact so small as to be inconsequential. These statistics are a graphic example of just that.

The problem with these wind towers is the variability of the wind itself. This means that for periods of time those huge blades are motionless, not turning over the generator inside the large nacelle they are attached to, hence no power is being generated at all. This variability is a problem that operators carefully avoid mentioning in much detail, and when it is brought up, they either distract you, change the subject, or quote technical statistics to confuse the listener. Some operators even claim that their wind plants can run at a 40 to 50% efficiency rate, meaning that they can deliver their full rated power for up to 50% of the time. This compares fairly well, well sort of anyway, with coal fired power which has a power delivery efficiency rate up around 85% and nuclear power which has an efficiency rate up around 93 to 95%. So, the efficiency rate of wind when some quote around 50% might actually sound good, but keep in mind that even at that rate, they are still only supplying their rated power for half, and even less than half of the time. The average most commonly used efficiency rate is around 30 to 35%, and when that number is quoted, they carefully avoid telling you that effectively means that on average they are only supplying electrical power for 8 hours out of every 24.

The following figures give a totally different view of what power is actually being delivered.
These figures are not for one plant in isolation but for the whole inventory of wind power for Germany.

To explain the figures I need you to carefully look at this diagram while I explain it to you, and from that I will then refer to some other charts and then give an overall description of exactly what it all means.

Wind Power 03

This page was translated from the German, so that’s why some of the text within the diagram is still in German. This chart is for the month of October, and why I have chosen this one specifically is that it is closest to the average.
The scale at left is for the Power stated in MW. The horizontal scale details the days in the month. The green line at the top is the maximum rated power in total, that now being 24,000MW. The Pink line is the amount of power ‘guaranteed’ by wind power producers to deliver to the grid. That level is set at 6%. Wait a minute 6%. Six lousy percent. 1440MW power guaranteed absolutely to deliver to the grid by the operators.

The blue line is the amount of power ACTUALLY delivered to the grid. As you can plainly see there, that delivered power is often below even the guaranteed 6% amount, and the average power delivered to the grid for that month is 21.35%.

Keep in mind that this is not for one tower in isolation, or even one wind farm, but for the whole inventory of wind power across the whole Country.

Now, this is the link to the page for the figures for the whole year. The page is in German. I can save this one image as I have, and translate that, but for the whole page, I cannot supply the translated link, so here I will just have to provide the link in German, and then explain the points from that which I will be referring to.

When you go to that page, you will see the charts for each month, and under each month’s chart another diagram showing that on some days, the power actually delivered to the grid does not even reach that guaranteed minimum of 6%, and under each of those second charts that actual time is shown in hours.

So, then here’s a breakdown of the Monthly figures.

January. Power delivered 8824MW or 39.67%. Hours when guaranteed minimum was not even reached: 29 hours.
February. 27.8% and 154 hours.
March. 33.5% and 54 hours.
April. 12.65% and 224 hours.
May. 9.96% and 291 Hours.
June. 12.69% and 193 hours.
July. 13.63% and 163 hours.
August. 17.41% and 168 hours.
September. 13.27% and 230 hours.
October. 21.35% and 140 hours.
November. 27.37% and 112 hours.
December. 18.89% and 162 hours.

The average power delivered to the grid extrapolated out over the whole year is just a tick over 20%.
20%. Not the 40 to 50% some quote, and in fact at no time did it ever approach that figure. Not even the 30 to 35% often quoted as the industry average, and in fact it only reached that figure in 2 months.
This is the average for the whole inventory of every one of those wind towers. Every one of them. More than 8,000 of them.
Note also that the delivered power was below even the guaranteed minimum for 1,920 hours during the year, so it could not even generate the guaranteed minimum for 22% of the year, almost one quarter of the year. That’s not the maximum power but the guaranteed minimum of only 6%.

Look then, closely, at the six month period around late Spring, Summer and Early Autumn, mid year where the average for those six months is barely 13%. Keep particularly in mind that power goes to three end user sectors, Residential, Commercial, and Industrial. If Wind is to take over all power production, then what does Industry and Commerce do for the remaining 87% of the time when there is next to no electrical power at all.

So, then consider this right now.
If the delivered power amounts to only 20%, then the actual power delivered amounts to 43.5 Billion KiloWattHours. (KWH)

Three Large coal fired power plants of 2,000MW Nameplate capacity can actually deliver to the grid 46 Billion KWH, 5% more than every wind tower in the Country.


I won’t even attempt to explain the cost differential here, as I have done in a number of earlier posts, suffice to say that that number of wind towers would have cost in the vicinity of $50 Billion at the most sanguine calculation, while three modern coal fired plants would cost around $6 Billion, worst case scenario, a tenth as much, and producing more power on close to a 24 hour basis.

If I designed something, anything, and went to the Government for funding, and explained that what I had designed would only operate for one fifth of the time, you be the judge of whether or not I would get that funding. I’d be laughed at.

No wonder statistical information like this is not freely available, is not disseminated to the public, while at the same time attracting Billions of dollars in Government subsidies.



For a further update on these German Wind Plants, go to this link.  Wind Power – Epic Fail – Update