Renewable Power – A Ticking Bomb

Posted on Tue 03/09/2010 by


There is a looming problem with the major shift towards renewable power, a problem that no one is mentioning, not in the U.S., not in Europe, not in Australia, nowhere where there is this mad rush to construct these plants.

The problem is that renewable power just cannot supply the power that is needed absolutely for 24 hours of every day, and that in turn leads to another problem of an even more serious nature. Those renewable plants are being constructed instead of plants that can supply those levels of power. Because of that, plants that actually can supply the required power have fallen into disfavour so much, that they are not being constructed at all, and in fact, not even being considered. When the realistion that renewables cannot supply that power, perhaps decades will be lost, and have already been lost, and then further time will be needed for those plants that can do the job to be constructed, hence there is a looming crisis with respect to the supply of electrical power.

The current Administrations in all those Countries moving towards renewable power won’t mention this, because it goes against their agendas on so many different levels, an agenda to impose that great big new tax they artfully call Carbon Cap And Trade in the differing versions in all those Countries, their agenda to impose new costs on coal fired power plants, thinking this will cause them to burn less coal to produce their power, something they cannot do, their agenda to appeal to the Green lobby for their support, and their agenda to make it seem like they are actually doing something ‘for the good of us all, and for the good of the Planet’.

The renewable power lobby and those involved in that whole sector from construction of the plants and right through to the operation of them dare not mention it for fear of the backlash, but mainly out of fear of losing the Billions they are receiving from Governments in the form of subsidies, at every level from construction through to supply of power to the grids.

Green supporters from the organisations right down to the ordinary people in the community who believe what these organisations have told them, well they’re not mentioning it because they don’t know about in the first place, and have never even bothered to check anyway.

The only ones who may be mentioning it at all are people like me, and because voices like mine are lone voices, then it can easily be discounted as someone ‘making up stuff’ like this for their own personal agenda. I don’t need to make stuff up, and I have absolutely no agenda whatsoever.

The Chart at left is the most recent electrical power chart for the U.S. If you click on the image it will open in a new and larger window. It looks bland enough, and in fact, can even be artfully used to say that all these policies introduced by this Administration might actually be working, but even a simple chart tells truths that cannot be denied. For two years now, I have been referring to these charts, and a new one comes out of the Energy Information Administration every three months. However, even a simple chart requires explanation.

Just in the last year, coal fired power generation has dropped almost 4%. On the surface the first thing you think of is that this is good. If that power is decreasing, then they must be burning less coal. However, the real reason that figure has decreased is that coal fired power plants are closing down. Another good thing you say. They are not closing down out of an altruistic view towards looking after the environment. They are closing down because they are reaching the end of their economic, and engineering, life. A large coal fired plant can be licensed for 50 years of operation, and this can be extended further to 60 years and even to 75 years, but the average life span is around that 50 year mark. The whole total inventory of every coal fired power plant in the U.S. now has an average age of 48 years. Right there, you immediately grasp that some plants must be working well beyond their economic life. That figure on the chart has decreased because plants are now rapidly reaching their time expiry date, and are just ceasing operations to supply power to the grids.

An interesting thing to notice is the figure for Nuclear power. Just 12 months ago, that sector was supplying 19% of all power. Now that figure has risen to 20.2%. There have been no new nuclear power plants built in the U.S. for decades now, so you think how can that sector be supplying more power. That is the nature of nuclear power plants. They can supply their power running at an efficiency of delivery of power vs Nameplate Capacity of around 90 to 92.5%. What has happened here is that because those coal fired plants have closed and that sector is supplying 4% less power overall, then it has to be made up from somewhere that actually can supply power on a 24/7/365 basis, and other than coal fired power, nuclear power is the only other that can actually do this. Because the coal fired sector total has decreased, then the nuclear sector is taking up part of that decrease in the coal sector.

What is also interesting is that the Hydro electric sector has also increased by just under 1%, and no new large scale hydro schemes have come on line for the same amount of time. They too are being asked to supply more power to cover that decrease from the coal fired sector.

The increase from these two sectors accounts for just over half the decrease of coal.

The other half is made up from the Natural Gas Fired power sector which has increased by a further 2%. You may think this sector is way cleaner than coal, but in actual fact, Natural Gas, at a comparable level, still produces 40% of the CO2 emissions of coal. Also, the design of Natural Gas Fired turbine driven generators is not specifically designed to run on a 24/7/365 basis, and in the main, these plants provide power that is used for Peak Power periods when the plants are needed to run up to speed quickly, and supply power for 4 to 6 hours at a time, and then run back down again, something those huge coal fired and Nuclear power plants just cannot do, operating at close to their absolute maximum all the time as they do.

Now, look across at the Renewable power sector, top left of centre, 3.9%, categorised as ‘Other Energy Sources’. That has increased just over half of one percent.

However, that is not all it seems, just from a casual observance of the chart, and to graphically show that I have two links for you to take that show this at its best.

This first link takes you the page that shows the total power supplied from the whole renewable sector, that 3.9% in total. This renewable sector is made up of five methods of generation, and two of those actually produce CO2 on the same scale as for Natural Gas fired power. The two renewable sources of power most currently in favour are Wind Power, and the 2 methods of Solar Power.

At the bottom left of the page at that link is the total for Wind power. When culled out from the overall renewable power total, this shows that Wind only supplies 1.8% of the overall total power delivered to all sectors of consumption in the U.S.

That can be easily checked by taking this link to the total power generated from every sector and scrolling to the figure at the bottom right, and a simple calculation will show that Wind does only supply 1.8% of all power.

Solar, well that’s not really worth looking at, because in fact the total power delivered from Solar sources over the last year has in fact gone down, and a simple calculation shows that all the solar power plants in the U.S. supply only 0.02% of the total power, and read that carefully, 0.02%, the same amount of power being delivered from one large coal fired plant every 18 days.

During the last 12 months, the U.S. has taken over from Germany as the largest producer of electrical power from the Wind Power sector. Currently the U.S. has 36,000 MegaWatts (MW) in Nameplate Capacity of wind towers, and therein lies the exact nature of the first problem I mentioned at the top of the post.

Again, I have no reason to make this stuff up, because the figures speak for themselves, and it’s not just another case of lies, damned lies and statistics, because this is actual fact.

The total ‘feasible’ maximum, power that can be delivered is an engineering calculation.

NP X 24 X 365.25 X 1,000 where NP is Nameplate Capacity, 24 hours in a day, 365.25 days in a year, and the 1,000 to convert from the Nameplate MW down to KiloWattHours (KWH)

So, the maximum feasible power that this (seemingly) huge number of wind towers can supply is 316 Billion KWH of power over a full year, if they are turning at their maximum all the time.

As shown at that first link above, the actual power delivered to the grids is only 71.1 Billion KWH

This gives Wind Power the delivery of power efficiency rating of only 22.5%, effectively meaning they are only supplying power for 22.5% of any unit of time, or around five and a half hours a day. True, on some months they may actually deliver around 33 to 35% but over the whole year that rate drops to an average of only that 22.5%. The same applies in Germany as graphically shown at this link and also at this link. The same applies wherever these towers are in operation across the whole Planet. If anyone tries to tell you that they will operate differently in your Country than they do anywhere else, then it’s a lie. Those figures are now virtually standard and because there are now so many of them in such a wide area over numerous Countries, then those figures bear testimony to just how inefficient they really are.

Because of that, it now highlights the second problem. Because they are so inefficient, there will come a time when people actually begin to understand this. They just cannot be used to fill the void left by those rapidly closing coal fired power plants.

This post effectively shows and explains the 24 hour load curve of actual power consumption. This curve can be used for any application in any town or city in a Western World application. It indicates that nearly 65% of all electrical power being consumed is required on the full 24 hour basis.

Wind Power can never be used to supply this power, and will never be included in the mix of plants required to operate to supply that level of required power.

Therein lies the genesis of the approaching problem.

For so long now, huge amounts of money have been sunk into the construction of these renewable power plants. They are enormously expensive at the front end of construction, need huge subsidies to supply what power they do produce to the grids, the power they do supply is considerably more expensive to consumers at the three levels of consumption, Residential (38%) Commerce (37%) and Industry (24%) , and they have lifetime of only one third to 40% of a large coal or nuclear power plant.

At the same time, those plants that actually can supply the requisite 24 hour power have fallen out of favour. New coal fired plants on the large scale required to replace those aging plants approaching time expiry have not even been considered beyond the original thought bubble stage. There is no point. They would never be approved. Hence. old plants just cease operation, and there are no new replacements coming on line. The same has applied in the case of Nuclear power plants, and only now has discussion been started on them.

The problem lies in the fact that power plants take time to construct, not just Wind plants, but coal fired power plants and nuclear plants also. That time when the truth comes out about these renewable plants has still not even arrived yet, so when it does, if it does, it will already be too late. If the time does arrive when those making the decisions find out this fact, then, true, old plants may be able to be jury rigged to stay in operation, but again, they will be hopelessly old plants by then, already long past the time they were originally designed to operate for, and they will be more prone to problems inherent with plants of that age.

In concert with that is the fact that the technology that would have led to smaller, more efficient plants, that burn less coal, and emit less CO2 for the same, and larger levels of power will have long since stagnated, and in fact been lost completely. The only place where these newer technology coal fired plants are being constructed is in China.

Either way, coal fired power plants will still be in operation for decades to come, because they cannot be replaced by any form of renewable power and new plants are not even being considered.

Pity help the person who has to finally bite the bullet and come out and tell the people that they have been misled for so long. Wait for the political fallout from that.