Renewable Power Fail – As Usual – July 2010

Posted on Mon 10/18/2010 by

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You don’t need to read too much these days to be aware of the huge increase in the number of renewable power plants, especially those huge wind towers. In fact, the U.S. currently leads the World in the total power produced from Wind Power Generation. In all, the U.S. now has a Nameplate Capacity total of 38,000MW of Installed Capacity. This in fact equates to around 19 of those huge coal fired power plants or Nuclear Power Plants, these largest ones having a capacity of 2000MW and more. So, it might stand to reason that they are in fact providing ever increasing amounts of power, and gradually doing what is claimed of them, to take over the production of large amounts of power from those coal fired plants.

In fact, the opposite is what is actually happening. True, they are providing Power, but its intermittent and variable nature means that they cannot in fact take over power provision from those coal fired plants, and in fact are providing less power, not only when compared to what is being claimed of them, but less even on an overall basis.

What needs to be realised here is the most important fact. Not that overall Nameplate Capacity, which ‘seems’ to be quite substantial, but the actual power that they are providing to the grids across the U.S. That is something that can quite easily be verified. Each Month, the Government releases updated figures for the Month three back from the release date. This is quite a substantial task, and currently, the U.S. is the only Country that does this, or has the expertise and availability of data to be able to do this. Those figures are accurate and are compiled into a huge database at the Energy Information Administration. (EIA) The major problem with that database is that you need to have a comprehensive understanding of what you are looking at, because pages and pages of figures would be meaningless without that understanding.

The task I have when explaining it, is to put it all into an easily understood manner so that those without a comprehensive electrical training can actually see what is being said.

BASE LOAD POWER

A vital part of understanding all this is to have a knowledge of what this much abused term ‘Base Load Power’ really means. There are those supporters of renewable power who always ‘seem’ to discount this and whenever it is mentioned, they always come back with something along the lines of how Base Load Power really is not really an important thing in the argument, and say that those who doubt the capabilities of renewable power always fall back on this term.

It is however absolutely vital to understand what base load Power is, and its relationship with renewable power.

Look at this simple chart. This is called a Load Curve.

It has no names for the axes because, really it doesn’t need them. It does not tell you where this chart might be indicative of. It has no numbers indicating what it is. That vertical axis is the total power that is being used at the times indicated on the horizontal axis. It starts at midnight and goes through the full day back to midnight.

This chart is indicative of anywhere in the Western World where there is a regulated and constant supply of electrical power. It is basically the same for New York, LA, London, Sydney, Berlin, large cities, small towns, densely populated areas, rural areas, large and small States, large and small Countries.

What needs to be taken into account here is that electrical power is consumed in three main sectors, those being Residential which consumes 38% of all electrical power, the Commercial sector, (37%) and the Industrial sector. (24%) So, while we at home use most of our electrical power at set times, mainly around breakfast, and from 4 until 10PM in the evenings, there are significant numbers of areas that require constant amounts of power throughout that full 24 hour period.

The Orange coloured line is the total daily consumption for Summer, and the Blue line is the total for Winter. I have highlighted a solid line across the graph, and this indicates a level where those two graphs just dip under it. The only time either graph falls below that line, just, is for about two hours in the very early AM hours while we all sleep. That line sits at around 60 to 65% of all power being consumed.

Everything below that line is electrical power that is required ABSOLUTELY for the full 24 hours of every day, all year round. To actually supply that power, then there MUST be plants that can actually supply all that power for the full 24 hours. This is currently achieved with the use of coal fired, and nuclear power plants

For those other periods of time where extra power is required, the hump in the middle of every Summer day, and those two humps in each Winter day, then smaller power plants come on line to add to the total required. This is the period called Peaking Power. These, in the main, are those natural gas fired turbines that can run up to speed quickly and supply their power at short notice, and then when demand drops off, they can be shut back down. All this is carefully calculated from grid to grid, so there must be a range of plants to supply what is required absolutely, and then add to the total as needed.

THIS IS WHAT BASE LOAD POWER IS. It is the amount of power required for 100% of the time. It is not a loose term supposedly used to support one side of an argument, or for that fact, something to be so offhandedly rejected as not being important. It is not an adjective, often derogatorily applied to those large coal fired power plants.

It is an actual physical requirement.

To understand why renewable power is not up to the task of the job that is required, this is the single most vital piece of information that needs to be understood.

THE OVERALL PICTURE FOR JULY 2010

This chart shows the overall power consumption totals from the energy source. This chart is not for the month of July, but for the overall consumption for this year 2010 to date. If you click on this image, it will open on a new page and will be a larger image.

These following statistics are provided by the Federal Government and are easily accessed at the Energy Information Administration (EIA) site at this link. The summary there compares data from July 2010 to July 2009, but what is more indicative is to compare the data on a month to month basis.

For individual totals by generation source, the data at this link was used.

This data shows that the overall total power consumption for the month of July rose 9% to 410 Billion KiloWattHours. (KWH) This figure in fact is the largest monthly power consumption for many years.

This again very effectively highlights that despite the constant mantra that we need to be consuming less electrical power, it is not being heeded, because in the privacy of their own thoughts, people will always do the things that give them the most comfort, and because electrical power consumption is a discretionary thing, people will consume whatever they must to remain comfortable, and in Summer, that means cooling air, be it at home, where they work, or in every other aspect of their life. If you look across that line for July 2010 at that link above, you will see that virtually every source provided increased amounts of electrical power to make up for that huge increase in demand.

Well, all except one source that is, because the amount of power provided from the renewable sector actually fell, the only sector to do so.

The largest increase by far was the amount of power provided from the Natural gas sector, an increase of almost 24% in the extra power they provided, and why was that? Refer back to that Load Curve above. When extra power is required for those Peaking Power periods, (the hump) then these plants run up and provide that power. For July, all this increase means is that they were running for a lot longer than they would normally.

THE COAL FIRED SECTOR

The coal fired sector also increased, and in fact supplied more power for this month than it has for any month in the last two years. The increase for July was 9%, and that may not sound much, but the overall power they supplied was 180 Billion KWH, or 45% of all power consumed in the U.S. for that month.

You might think this sounds anomalous when I have mentioned that coal fired power makes up the Base Load on that Load Curve above. It does. However, that Base Load is mainly from those huge plants providing 2000MW of power and more. The increase for this month is from smaller plants that can be more easily run up to speed than those huge ones can, and those smaller plants also supply power for those Peaking Power periods, hence the increase in that coal fired sector as well.

There was also an increase in the power provided from nuclear sources, although not as much, coming in at only 5.2%, mainly due to five of those huge plants being offline for maintenance, refuelling, and unscheduled reasons.

When considering the increase in power from that coal fired source, then that resulted in an increase also in the amount of coal being burned. Overall, for the month of July, an amount of 95.2 Million tons was burned, as indicated at this link. This is a figure not seen for two years, as coal fired power falls way out of favour, and this month proves conclusively that when power is required, then rhetoric spoken from so many sources of the evil of coal fired power goes right out the window. That increase for this month was an increase over last month of almost 9%, and resulted in CO2 emissions in the amount of 272 Million tons, just for July mind you. (Where 2.86 tons of CO2 is produced for every ton of coal being burned, explained at this link.) This increase in the consumption of coal is 35 Million tons higher than for the same 7 month period last year, even after all that talk of how we need to do with burning less coal for power.

THE NATURAL GAS FIRED SECTOR

With respect to the power increase from the Natural Gas fired power generation sector, that increase resulted in an increased consumption of Natural Gas, as shown at this link. In fact, more Natural Gas was burned for electrical power production for this one month than at any other time in U.S. history. They burned 923.7 Million mcf. (where mcf is 1000cubic feet of natural gas) This resulted in an emission of 56.4 million tons of CO2. (where 122 Pounds of CO2 is emitted for every mcf) again, far and away the highest monthly emissions from this sector.

RENEWABLE POWER

I mentioned the increase in every sector bar one, that being the renewable power sector, shown again at this link. The total provided from the whole renewable sector fell 7.7%, and that whole sector only provided 3.1% of the U.S. total power consumed. That renewable sector has 5 sources and keep in mind that two of them burn fossil fuels, wood, and biomass, both also emitting CO2 at around the same rate as for natural gas. So, even while every other sector increases their share of the total, this sector decreases its amount. Let’s then look at the two sectors most currently being touted as the direction for the future, Wind power and Solar Power.

The data for what follows is shown at this link.

WIND POWER

The total amount of power delivered from the wind power sector decreased almost 18% on last month’s figures. It’s share of the total power for the whole of the U.S. for July was only 1.58%, a fall from last months percentage of 2.07%. The rolling 7 month total for 2010 is still only 2.17% of the total.

Sometimes, statistics like percentages can be baffling when read in groups like this, so let’s then place this in some context.

As I mentioned above, the total Nameplate Capacity is 38000MW, the figure often quoted to make wind power seem to be quite a huge supplier of electrical power, but as I have always been so careful to explain, the amount of power actually delivered is by far the most important part of the equation.

Theoretically, this amount of Nameplate Capacity could deliver a set amount of total power if it was to operate at 100%, the blades turning over for every second of the time, and the formula for that is as follows:

NP X 24 X 31 X 1000 where NP=Nameplate Capacity, 24 hours in a day, 31 days in July, and 1000 to convert from MW to KWH, a factor of a thousand.

So this 38000MW of installed nameplate capacity could deliver 28.3 Billion KWH for this 31 day period.

The power actually delivered by all these wind towers during July was 6.49 Billion KWH.

Now this gives them an efficiency rate for power delivery of 22.9%. This is around the current Worldwide average of 20%, but nowhere near the claimed 35% that those who promote wind power tell us can be delivered. The rolling 7 month efficiency rating is around 25.5%, above the Worldwide average of 20%, not surprising considering the at the U.S. plants are in the main those from newer technology, but still woefully low and below the claimed 35%. This still only equates to around 6 hours a day of total power delivery, so again refer that back to the Load Curve above.

This figure of 22.9% is important in fact. It effectively means that they are only delivering their full power for 22.9% of the time.

You may wonder how I can equate that efficiency of total power delivered to a time factor. That is because while ever those blades are rotating the wind Tower is producing its maximum power, and that is explained at this link.

Now why I have shown this, is because now I want you now to go back to that Load Curve above, where I explained the need for huge amounts of power to be available for the full 24 hours of every day. if these wind towers can only provide their power for less than one quarter of that time, then they can NEVER be used for the supply of this Base Load Power, hence, they can NEVER replace coal fired power plants.

For an equivalency basis, and using the same formula, I mentioned that this 38000MW of Wind is the same as for 19 large coal fired power plants. Those 19 coal fired plants actually delivered their full 28.3 Billion KWH of power, 4.4 times as much power, and in fact those 19 coal fired plants delivered the same power as all those wind towers did by just after midnight on July 7th, the same amount of power, only in seven days.

SOLAR POWER

You might think that for the hottest month of Summer with the Sun shining the longest, then those solar plants would come into their own.

Not true.

In fact, the amount of power delivered from solar power plants also decreased for the month. That decrease was only 7.7% but when you’re coming from so tiny a base, then it’s academic really. Solar Power’s percentage of the whole power consumed in the U.S. amounted to 0.032% and the rolling 7 month total amounts to 0.024%, so inconsequential as to be zero.

There is around 800MW in total of installed capacity of solar power in the U.S. about the same as for one medium sized coal fired power plant.

Using the same formula as above, the theoretical maximum power able to be delivered amounts to around 600 Million KWH. They all delivered 132 million KWH of power to consumers, and this gives them an efficiency rating of 22%, and again it is now patently obvious that these plants also cannot be used to supply that power that is required absolutely when you look back at the Load Curve, because that 22% equates to only five and a quarter hours. The rolling 7 month efficiency rate for delivery of power is 14.4%, again woeful when looked at as a whole, equating to only three and a half hours a day, and again refer that back to the Load Curve.

For comparison, that single 800MW equivalent coal fired plant supplied 595 million KWH, 4.5 times as much power, and that same equivalent coal fired plant delivered the same power as for all solar plants by 9PM on the 6th July, in less than seven days.

CONCLUSIONS

When added together for the month of July these two types of plant being touted as the way of the future provided only 1.61% of all power consumed in the U.S. and the rolling 7 month total sees them providing only 2.19% of the whole total.

When efficiency factors are taken into account, these two types of plant are barely managing 22% for the month and 24% for the rolling 7 months, equating to around five to six hours a day, and again, refer that back to the Load Curve where so much power is required for 24 hours of EVERY day.

That total of 1.61% of all power consumed in the U.S. is the main one to look at here though.

Consider the rhetoric from political figures who say we need to ramp that up to 20% and more of the total power levels, and just try and think how that is going to be achieved.

If the truth is going to be told, there is no chance that will ever happen. If so much power is required ABSOLUTELY for 24 hours of every day, then these forms of power will never be able to supply that. The Nameplate Capacity may approach that 20% figure, but it will take an incredibly long time, and the outlay of trillions of dollars, and even then, the very best they can ever hope for is 35% of the time, still only slightly more than eight hours a day, and even with this newer technology coming on stream, these plants are still only managing six hours a day of power delivery.

As is most dramatically shown here, when electrical power is needed the most, it will always come from traditional sources, that being coal fired power, and as is the case here, the ramping up of natural Gas fired plants, making them run for considerably longer than their best practice design parameters, and still emitting considerable amounts of CO2 into the atmosphere. It’s no use calling Natural Gas renewable power just because it emits less CO2. What you are cutting back from the coal fired sector you are making up from the Natural gas fired sector.

These idiots promoting renewable power, especially these main two types, wind and solar are not even bothering to find out is if they actually can take the place of coal fired power, and as is patently obvious from this month’s statistics, they cannot even take over for one Month, let alone for all time.

This is absolute madness, and it’s something you won’t be hearing from the people who promote renewable power.

Enormous amounts of public funding in the way of subsidies are being poured into wind and solar power, two forms of power generation that patently fail at what they are supposed to do. Deliver electrical power to consumers.

The next time someone dismisses Base Load Power while you’re listening, remind yourself by looking at that Load Curve, and then see renewable power for exactly what it is.

RENEWABLE POWER – STILL NOTHING MORE THAN AN ABSOLUTE FAILURE

This post continues on from the earlier posts for this year. They are available at this permanent link. At this link I have the statistics for each month of this year, 2010, to date.

RenewPowerFail2010