Renewable Power Fail – As Usual – August 2010

Posted on Mon 11/22/2010 by



This may seem a strange thing to say, but read the post and it shows exactly why this is in fact happening.

Some may wonder why I am doing this analysis on a month by month basis, as, really, there’s only so much you can say by extrapolating out statistics. If something like this was done as a one off thing for the whole year, the full impact would not be seen. Doing it in this manner shines a light on those who tell us that Renewable Power is indeed the way of the future, which it patently is not.

Luckily, I have access to almost real time statistics, available here from the Energy Information Administration (EIA) and the U.S. is one of the only places where something of this nature is available with such a short lead time, so those statistics can be looked at and dissected so close to the time that they are for. Here in Australia, there is no such facility and any full scale statistics are always produced in a yearly Governmental report, and are almost two years old before they become disseminated. The same applies for other areas of the World where statistics like this are also not available.

What access to these numbers does provide me with is the ability to show how forms of generating electrical power are actually providing that electrical power, and that is the key here.

It is not the overall total power of the plants themselves, the Nameplate Capacity, which can indeed be quite large, giving the impression that these renewable plants are in fact supplying large amounts of power.

No, the single most crucial thing to see here is how much power they actually are delivering for consumption, and those figures vary, dramatically so, from that overall Nameplate Capacity.

Here in Australia, I have noticed that the general public seem to be concentrating on the one thing, and that is something that has been cleverly used by politicians as a lever, and almost Lemming like, the people have been sucked into believing what they are told, not through fault on their own part, but due to the fact that they have no idea of how power is generated, and, more importantly, how it is being consumed.

That concentration is on the personal household consumption of electrical power, and how there is the need for those residential consumers to cut back on their use of electrical power, and (somehow) this will effectively reduce the need for great amounts of electrical power.

However, what people need to realise more than anything is that power is consumed in three main areas. Those are the Residential Sector which consumes 38% of all power generated, the Commercial Sector (37%) and the Industrial Sector (24%)

Those breakdowns have changed very little indeed over the last number of decades. True, consumption in the Residential Sector has risen, but that rise has been barely 2% in the last 15 years. Where the changes have been most noticeable are in the other two sectors. The Industrial sector was once a high net consumer of electricity, and what has happened over the last decade or two is that sector has dramatically reduced its consumption, but this change has all been taken up by the Commerce Sector. However, what you notice from this is that those 2 sectors are where people work, in the main, so the overall consumption in those two non residential sectors has stayed pretty much the same, at around 62% of all power consumed.

Even when taking into account economies in that Residential sector that we are told we must make, that sector’s consumption is still rising. This is pretty logical really. As population increases, more homes are required for those people, so consumption in that Sector will always be rising. We are told that the economies we make at our homes are substantial, which is patently false, as any economies you do make are of such a minor nature, that even if they were forced on the whole populace would result in virtually no change whatsoever to overall consumption. The big end users of electrical power in your home are fridges, hot water systems, heating, and air conditioning. Unless Governments plan on banning those things completely, then consumption in that Residential sector will always stay close to that current level of 38%.

Great faith is being placed in rooftop solar power, both for residential power needs, and for the heating of water for household hot water supply. However, until they find a way to make the Sun shine at night, then those households, no matter how large the rooftop solar system is, will still be net users of electrical power FROM the grid. Those rooftop solar systems are also all but useless in places where there is not a year round high daily average of sunlight. The quite substantial costs for those rooftop solar systems also mean that only those who can afford such a large outlay will be the ones taking advantage of it, and to make them more attractive, Governments are subsidising those systems, sometimes quite heavily. In effect this means that those same Governments will need to raise the cost of the electricity they provide to cover those subsidies, effectively meaning those who cannot afford them are paying to subsidise those who can afford them. Gross feed in tariffs are also utilised to make them attractive, and the same applies here as for the original outlay subsidies. I effectively explained that reliance on these rooftop solar systems is false economy, also explaining how useless they really are at this following Post.

Household Solar Power – Don’t Believe The Hype

You will also be told to cut back on the use of air conditioning and heating in the home, but in most places, one or the other is an absolute requirement for comfort at home, and while ever use is discretionary, then people will always opt for comfort in their homes.

So, as you can see from this, a concentration on that Residential sector will in fact achieve very little if anything at all.

Then, another thing, cleverly discounted by those pushing this debate, is the requirement for vast amounts of that generated electrical power to be available for 24 hours of every day, and this is something I have effectively covered in many other Posts, the most recent in last month’s analysis at this link. This shows graphically that almost two thirds of all electrical power being generated must be available for 24/7/365. So while the concentration is on Residential consumption, the other two sectors are where power is required ALL the time.


This chart shows the overall power consumption totals from the energy source. This chart is not for the month of August, 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.

Overall, total consumption for power for August was in fact almost the same as for the previous month, and with the cooler months now approaching, that consumption will rise even further.

In fact, despite all the calls from everyone that we need to be consuming less power, those calls becoming more strident in the last two to three years, as everyone becomes acutely aware of power consumption, the rolling total power consumption for this year to date is the highest it has been for three years now. So, even though we are being told to use less, it has in fact gone the other way. We are using more.

This overall data is shown at this link.


Overall consumption from this sector fell by 1.1%, or in real power terms, almost 2 Billion KiloWattHours (KWH) and this may seem a lot, but what needs to be considered here is the coal sector total of 178 Billion KWH of the overall total monthly consumption of 409 Billion KWH, meaning coal fired power supplied 44% of all power consumed in the U.S. for August. This reduction meant that less coal was burned, in fact down by 350,000 tons to 94.9 Million tons, again, a high total not seen for more than two years. This was down (just) from last month’s total and when 2.86 tons of CO2 is emitted for every ton of coal burned, then this resulted in a reduction of emissions of CO2 in the amount of  just over a million tons, but keep that in mind for later in the post.

The rolling total for the year to date for coal consumption shows an increase in the burning of coal to be 670 million tons, 43 million tons higher than for the same period last year, and a total CO2 emissions increase of 123 million tons to an 8 month total so far of 1.92 Billion tons of CO2 emissions.

See how everything in this debate has numbers that are so huge.

This data is shown at this link.


While coal fired power generation decreased slightly, this sector showed a marked increase, in fact a 5.6% increase, and an actual power increase of 7 Billion KWH to a now staggering 121 Billion KWH or 29.7% of the total power consumed for the month. This now makes this month the largest month in U.S. history for power consumed from this natural gas fired sector.

Now some of you may think that this is in fact a good thing, because Natural Gas plants emit less CO2 than do those coal fired plants, which in fact they do, emitting around one third the CO2 on a power equivalency basis with coal fired power.

So then, just how much CO2 did they emit then, if there was such a large increase from this sector.

CO2 is emitted from the burning of natural gas at the rate of 122 pounds of CO2 for every mcf  (Thousand cubic feet) of natural gas.

To generate the power that was consumed from this natural gas sector last month, an amount of 972 million mcf was burned. This increase over the previous month amounted to 48.3 million mcf.

Hence, just from that natural gas sector, there was an increase in emissions of 2.95 million tons of CO2 to an 8 month total of 320 million tons of CO2 emissions, an increase over the same period last year of nearly 26 million tons.

The data for this is shown at this link.


For once I can actually say that this sector increased the power they supplied to U.S. grids. However, keep that increase in context. It amounted to an increase of 1.7% and an actual power increase of 217 Million KWH, meaning the whole renewable sector supplied 3.18% of the overall total power consumed. Even though this sector increased its power, it still only amounted to 3% of the increase taken up by the Natural gas fired sector. The renewable sector is made up of 5 separate areas, and the two most currently in favour of those are Wind and Solar, and the other three sectors supplied around the same as they always have been supplying, so let’s look at those two forms that are pushed at us so relentlessly.

That data is shown at this link for the overall total, and at this link for the renewable sector alone.


Wind power increased the amount of power it supplied to the grids by 2.1%, or in real terms by 137 Million KWH. Compare this increase to that of the Natural gas fired sector of 7 Billion KWH, 51 times greater. Wind’s overall total amounts to 1.62% of the overall total, and read that again, 1.62%. The rolling 8 month total comes in at 2.09% of all power supplied.

Again statistics quoted like this might lead to overload in the minds of those readers not trained in electrical engineering, so let’s break it down into what they actually do supply compared to how many of them there are in total.

Currently, there is around 38,000 MW of Nameplate capacity for all those wind towers, which sounds quite a lot really, hence this number is always quoted because it sounds so big, when compared to large scale coal fired power plants of 2000MW or more, giving the impression of Wind supplying the equivalent of 19 of those large coal fired plants.

Using the formula for working out the possible maximum power for these 31 days, then if all these wind towers supplied their maximum power all the time, then they could supply 28.3 Billion KWH.

However the amount of power they actually supplied for the month came in only 6.627 Billion KWH.

This gives them a power delivery efficiency rate of 23.4%.

Again, this can be difficult to understand. Whenever those wind turbines turn, they are delivering their full power, so if that rate is at 23.4%, then they are only supplying their power for 5 hours and 40 minutes of every day, and that’s for every one of those wind towers in the U.S. Now refer back to what I said above about how huge amounts of power are required for the full 24/7/365, and it is patently obvious that this form of power generation can never be relied upon to supply the power that is needed absolutely by the overall electricity consumer base on that time frame.

For the rolling 8 month period so far they are still only averaging 26.4% power delivery efficiency rate, which is above the current World average of around 20%, but well below their quoted hoped for 35%. The U.S. percentage is higher because in the main the technology is better, but it is still a patently bad way to deliver the vast amounts of power that are required for the full 24/7/365.

In comparison to those 19 large scale coal fired plants, those coal fired plants supplied 4.3 times more power, or they supplied the same amount of power delivered by every wind tower in a little more than 7 days.

For this data, refer to this link.


Solar power increased its amount of delivered power for this month by what may seem a lot, by a whopping 26% in fact, but keep it in context. That actual increase was only 34 million KWH to 166 million KWH. Keep in mind also that these are the hotter months of the year, so from now on, all figures for Solar power will start to go down, so this is as good as it gets. The total power delivered from every solar plant in the US amounted to 0.04% of all power consumed in the U.S. The rolling 8 month total is also up, in fact to 0.027% of all power consumed.

There are around 800MW of Solar power plants in the US, so, using the same formula as for all plants, then the power delivery efficiency rate for all solar comes in at just under 26% which is quite high indeed, but still only means they are delivering their power for 6 hours and 15 minutes of every day, so these also can never be relied upon to supply absolute requirements, and really, with such a minute amount of power spread across every grid in the U.S. it effectively amounts to zero anyway.

An equivalent sized coal fired plant would have delivered 3.7 times as much power or the same power in a little over 8 days.

For this data, refer to this link.


When added together, these two most favoured sources of renewable power supplied only 1.66% of all power consumed in the U.S. for the month, and the rolling 8 month total comes to only 2.1%.

Even with the massive roll out of more and more power plants using renewable sources to generate the electrical power, nothing can make them perform any better than how they are now. There is no legislation in place to make the wind blow all the time across the blades of these huge towers, and there’s no legislation in place to make the Sun shine for 24 hours of every day over each of the solar plants. They may increase their efficiency, but it will be by so little, nowhere near what is required to make them viable as replacement for CO2 emitting coal fired plants.

Now, having said all that, I want to take you back to what actually is happening, and the statistics bear this out graphically.

What is happening is that those natural Gas fired plants are working harder and for more hours of every day.

Why is that?

While there is a steady increase in these renewable plants, at enormous expense, and heavily subsidised by a Government promoting them at every turn, the absolute fact is that they are not supplying power for when it is required.

Hence, those plants that can run up to speed at a moment’s notice are being asked to do just that, and then to keep running for longer periods than intended.

So, while we are told that we need to cut back on those emissions from coal fired CO2 emitting coal fired plants, which, in reality is something that is also not happening, no matter what we are being told, those CO2 emitting natural gas fired plants are taking up all the slack.

So, while renewable plants are sprouting from the ground in ever increasing regularity, CO2 emissions are not only not going down, they are increasing beyond what decreases there might be from the coal fired sector.

So in actual fact, renewable power is leading to increased CO2 levels, the exact opposite of what we are told must happen.

In fact, CO2 emissions this year alone have increased by 150 million tons, and with the colder months to come, this will only increase even further, so even while renewable plants are supplying power, CO2 emissions are in fact rising, and no amount of new renewable power plants being constructed already or in planning will change that because they cannot supply the power for when it is actually needed.

This again further emphasises what I have been saying all along.


This post adds a further link to 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.