What A Clean Energy Future Looks Like – An Absolute Nightmare

Posted on Wed 03/09/2011 by


I can show you what a clean energy future will look like, and it’s not very pretty.

I’m not going to use guesswork or bogus figures, but actual data from actual existing renewable power plants, in this case Wind Power.

I’m not going to do it for a small area, or for one whole electrical grid area isolated from every other grid, or even for a whole State.

I’m going to do it for a whole Country, in this case Australia.

Australia is a large Country in area, in fact around the same size in area as for the whole of Continental U.S.A. However, having said that, it only has a population of just over 22 million people.

So, this is not for some small isolated Country with a small area and a small population.

Before doing this exercise, you need to be aware of a few technical electrical engineering facts, so I’ll explain them.

When I mention a power plant, I’ll quote the Nameplate Capacity. That is the theoretical maximum power that can be produced from that one plant at any one point in time. This is usually expressed in MegaWatts (MW).

Electrical power is consumed over a period of time, and the data is recorded for consumption over a 12 month period. This is usually expressed as most readers would see it, in the form of their electric power bill, expressed in KiloWattHours (KWH). Scaled up, it is expressed in MegaWattHours (MWH), GigaWattHours (GWH) or in the case of huge consumers, like a whole Country TeraWattHours (TWH) Those forms of expression indicate powers of ten in ‘electrical speak’.

Base Load Power. This much maligned term is an actual physical requirement for power that is consumed , and required on the full 24/7/365 basis, and is best expressed by this simple (looking) Load Curve.

This deceptively simple looking chart is the same for cities large and small, towns, whole grids, whole States, and whole Countries, wherever there is a regulated, constant, and regular supply of electrical power enough to cover every consumption requirement, in the Developed World.

See the black line going across the page. Everything below that line is actual power being consumed, and as you can see there is an absolute requirement for between 60 and 65% of every watt of power being generated to be available for virtually every hour of every day, Summer and Winter.

That is what is referred to as the Base Load Requirement.

Another electrical principle you need to be aware of is the actual transmission of that electrical power. Power plants must be in ‘relative’ close proximity to where the power is actually being consumed, This is because when power is ‘sent’ from the plant, there are losses over the distance it has to travel. In effect the power that is generated need to be available in full to consumers. So, it’s not a case of generating the power in, say, Texas, and then sending it ‘down the lines’ for consumption in L.A. or New York, and the same applies here in Australia.

So, it’s not a case of constructing a couple of hundred thousand wind towers in a windy place where they might operate at their best, and then sending all that power across the Country to be consumed in those distant places. Here in Australia, that windy (and out of the way) place might be The Great Australian Bight across Southern Australia. Build a whole stack of wind towers there so there’s no ‘perceived’ problem of their being an eyesore in residential areas where there are a lot of people, and then sending the electrical power they generate off to far off Cairns in North Queensland, or Sydney on the East Coast. There would be virtually no power available at the consumption end if this was the case, so the power has to be generated close to where it is being consumed, and that applies for every type of plant, coal fired, nuclear, natural gas fired, Wind, or even Solar. You can’t fill an arid hot sunny desert with a Gazillion mirrors to focus the Sun to generate electrical power, and then send it off all over the Country.

So having now (hopefully) explained some of those electrical engineering principles, let’s then do the exercise, using actually existing Wind Plants, actual power data, and an actual whole of Australia.

Australia currently has a maximum theoretical Nameplate Capacity for every power plant of almost 51,000MW.

When you add up the total nameplate Capacity for every one of those plants that emits CO2, and they are those coal fired plants, natural gas fired plants, and plants that use oil derivatives to generate their power, that total Nameplate Capacity comes to around 41,000MW, a little more than that, so this is around 80% of Nameplate Capacity for all Australian Power Plants.

Keep this (CO2 specific) Nameplate Capacity total for Australia in mind and I’ll come back to it. 41,000MW

However, remember I said that power is consumed over time.

Look at this chart at left. This shows the actual power consumption by generation source for the WHOLE of Australia.

Now, add up the totals for all power generated that emits Carbon Dioxide (CO2)

Black Coal, Brown Coal, Gas and Oil. It comes to 93.1% of all power being generated emitting that CO2.

Can you see the discrepancy there?

Those large scale coal fired plants are running all time producing vast amounts of power for consumers.

The current ACTUAL power consumption for the whole of Australia is around 300TWH, so extrapolating out the power being consumed from sources that emit CO2,  that figure comes to 280TWH.


Keep that figure in mind also, and I’ll come back to it later as well.

Compare the chart for Australia with this most recent chart for U.S.  power consumption shown at the right. This shows consumed power coming from sources that emit CO2 as totalling out at just on 70%. The big difference in the U.S. is that they have Nuclear power plants, which we don’t have here in Australia, so, in Australia, that extra has to come for coal fired sources, and when you add the Nuclear portion to that CO2 emitting portion, the U.S. total is a bit closer to the Australian total. The US also has more Hydro Power and also agreater total from Renewables, mainly Wind Towers that are being constructed in every increasing numbers. Even so, while that slice on the U.S. chart that says ‘Other Energy Sources’ indicates 4.5% the Wind and Solar Portion of that only make up 2.1% of that overall total.

Okay then, let’s then build the scenario, and keep in mind that while this is an exercise, I am using actual figures for existing wind plants, and actual recent data for power being consumed from all those Wind towers.

The U.S. was at the top of the World list for wind tower plant capacity for a while, but in the last few months has been surpassed by China.

Currently in the US, the installed Nameplate Capacity for all wind towers delivering power to grids across the US is 41,000MW.

Sound Familiar?

Above, I mentioned that the total installed capacity for ever CO2 emitting plant in the whole of Australia was 41,000 MW, the same amount of Nameplate Capacity.

So then it now becomes an exercise of transposing that same amount of total power straight across to the Australian situation. They will have to placed in existing areas where all those other plants are, because I mentioned also the transmission losses.

Now we have the same amount of total Nameplate Capacity as before, only now, all of them are wind towers.

Let’s then look at the data from the U.S. as to the total power being supplied by everyone of those wind towers to grids across the U.S. and for this we have an exact total provided by the U.S. Energy Information Administration and the data for this is shown at this link. Keep in mind that this data is only three months old, and the U.S. is the only place on the Planet that can Post this data with that short a lead time, and most other Western Countries only publish data (not as detailed even as this) on a yearly basis for the previous year, in other words two years out of date.

Aha! you say, caught you out there Tony then, if the data you are using for Australia is two years out of date. Not so, because the current Australian Government supplied data also says that Australia’s consumption rate for electrical power is increasing each year by around 7%, and so I just took the most recent figures I could find for Australia, from the 2010 release, for data from 2008/9 and just added two increments of plus 7% to bring it up to parity when compared to the most recent data from the U.S. data.

Back to the chart at the link.

Wind power data is in that left column, and is expressed in Thousands of MWH, (or GWH), or Millions of KWH, same thing)

Scroll down to the bottom of that column and the last number in that left column where it says ‘Rolling 12 Months ending in November’.

That figure is 92,870 which is 92.87TWH. That is the actual power supplied to grids for all consumers in the last 12 month period.

Remember above I asked you to keep in mind the total power provided to all consumers from every CO2 emitting source in Australia.

That total was 280TWH.

Now can you see the discrepancy?

Even though the Nameplate Capacity is exactly the same, (41,000MW) the amount of power actually delivered is smaller, er, monumentally smaller.

In fact it is only 33% of what is currently being consumed across all of Australia, just from those plants emitting CO2.

One third.

So, immediately, there goes two thirds of all power being consumed across the whole of Australia.

The data doesn’t lie! The data has no Political Agenda! The data is not ‘Green oriented’! The data is not related to Clean Energy jobs!

No, the data shows an entirely different thing.

It shows the truth.

The truth is that when a whole Country like Australia needs 280TWH to run as an effective Country, then that Country will (quite literally) go down the gurgler, if all they have available is only 92.87TWH.

Now, look again at that Load Curve.

If the actual physical requirement of 60 to 65% of all its total power is available for the full 24 hours of every day (and I’ll use the lower figure here of 60%) then again, this Base Load requirement can NEVER be supplied from Wind Power.

That 60% of the full total, that 300TWH is 180TWH, and that total for all those wind towers is just a little above half that total, but the argument for that is an academic and useless one anyway as the delivery of power efficiency rate for Wind is barely 25% for all those U.S. wind towers, and the current running average for the whole of the World is barely 20%. So, while there is a requirement for power to be available for the full 24 hours of every day, then that current delivery of power efficiency rate for all those Wind towers equates to only 6 hours a day at best.

So, while this may only be a scenario, it graphically indicates that a clean energy future with no plants emitting CO2 is a future that is positively disastrous, and in fact, is no future at all.

You can believe whatever you want to believe about the theoretical effects of CO2 emissions with respect to Climate Change/Global Warming, but until you realise what a future with no CO2 emissions from power plants means, then you are sadly misinformed.

Here in Australia, the Government is proposing to place a price on those emissions. They tell us, hand on heart, that by placing this ‘Price on Carbon’ it will drive those emissions down, and promote a move to a clean energy future where those renewables will in fact take over from coal fired power.

This is a patently obvious, and flat out lie.

The people promoting this have not even bothered to find out the real facts of just what is in store if they are to lead this Country, Australia, down this path.

These people have no idea whatsoever.


Note that while this is a scenario, I have used existing and current data. For the relevant U.S. data, I have sourced that from The Energy Information Administration and linked to the relevant page where it was mentioned.

For all the Australian data, I have used the most recent ‘Energy In Australia’ document brought out by the Australian Federal Government. That data is at this link, (pdf Document) and the information is directly taken from that document starting at the section titled ‘Electricity’ which starts on Page 18.