Tuesday, May 11, 2010


Yesterday’s post we saw how energy price increases have a positive (for us negative) feed back effect on other prices. In this term positive does not mean good, but that it is an increasing cycle that feeds on itself, often referred to a runaway condition. Kinda like borrowing to pay debt, and borrowing to pay that debt, as in what the US and the EU are doing lately, but I digress. A negative feedback means that a natural buffering effect prevents a runaway.

When there is competition for the same item or service that buffering effect is you, the consumer. As prices rise in a competitive market, people switch to someone willing to supply at a lower cost. Hence, price increase feedbacks, in theory, cannot, or should not, happen in a competitive marketplace (bubbles are an exception, but do come to an end at some point).

There is no buffering in price increases when there is no competition and the item that is increasing is the basis for all other commerce. Electricity and natural gas are unique in that regard. Though NG can be stored, electricity cannot be stored, only one supplier can exist (the line from the pole to your home, the main power lines linking everyone together, etc.)

This places electrical supply in a crucial position in our civilization. Without electrical power that is plentiful and cheap enough this civilization cannot function. It’s as simple as that.

So when you are squeezed for power it’s not like you can move and go somewhere else, well, unless maybe out of the province. Anywhere else you go, you will be hit with the same energy consumption and increasing costs. Thus, companies like Hydro One have a captive audience. And they are behaving like the Kings and Lords of old England with us as the captive subjects to be milked at every opportunity. And we saw the outcome of that in both England, and worse for the upper class, France who lost their heads in revolts. Hopefully we are not there, yet…

End of rant, now to some hard realities.

Yesterday I noted about the importance of ERoEI. I’m going to show you an example of a suggestion to get us off fossil fuels that will actually be a net energy loss -- hydrogen.

The Hydrogen Economy is claimed to be the way of the future. Everything running off hydrogen. That would be fine except for one major problem. There is no hydrogen on the planet that can be mined or extracted from the ground in its molecular state H2. It has to be separated from the molecule it is bound to. Most hydrogen on the planet is either in water or methane. This means it will take energy to get that hydrogen out. That will be a net energy loss. The loss is huge, including storage and transporting of the gas, that loss is at least 80%. That means for every 100 joules of energy you put into getting the hydrogen, you will get at best 20 joules back.

The Hydrogen Economy will never happen.

I want to start this with something important.

People's lives are at risk with power generation that is not reliable and expensive.

The CBC program, The Gospel of Green, is correctly named because it is a faith that alternative energy sources like wind and solar can replace all our fossil fuel generation or nuclear power, which is what that segment tried to claim. It’s a myth.

When ever you see a claim of wind producing such and such capacity and hence supply x number of homes, it's an out right lie. That "capacity" is referred to as the name plate capacity of a wind turbine. The one’s being erected in Ontario are 1.5mW capacity. But that is not what they produce.

Name plate capacity is the theoretical output at maximum wind speed. That maximum speed is 55km/hr. In Ontario that rarely happens. Output from a turbine drops as the cube root of the wind speed. This means that if you cut the wind by half to 27km/hr, the output from a turbine drops to 1/8th, or 20% of name plate. Thus as the wind gets slower the output drops dramatically, such that at 15km/hr they produce nothing at all. Not enough energy in the wind to move the blades. So what is the actual output from wind then?

In 2006, the Ontario Government was given a report by the OPA on just that. The basic question is, when wind is needed the most, which is when demand is within 10% of peak, how much does each wind turbine actually produce?

If not, sit for this one, page 7:

The average capacity value of the wind resource in Ontario during the summer (peak load) months is approximately 17%. The capacity value ranges from 38% to 42% during the winter months (November to February) and from 16% to 19% during the summer months (June to August). Since 87% of the hits (periods within 10% of the load peak) occur during the summer months, the overall yearly capacity value is expected to be heavily weighted toward the summer. The overall yearly capacity value is approximately 20% for all wind penetration scenarios. In other words, 10,000 MW of installed nameplate wind capacity is equivalent to approximately 2,000 MW of firm generation capacity.

There you have it. 20%. Actually, it’s worse than that. You can pick up the hourly wind data for any period on line. I obtained 2 years worth of hourly data of actual output for each hour. The goal was to see the number of hours that wind was at each percent name plate. The result was an eye opener.

80% of the time wind produced less than 14% name plate. 50% of the time it produced less than 10% name plate. (The stepped nature of the curve is from rounding to integer percents)

So, if you do the math, for Ontario to get 15% of its power from wind would require the construction of 77,000 wind turbines. That’s one every 100 meters from Windsor to Ottawa, take more than 100 years to build, and at a cost of 3M each would be several times the cost of a nuke plant, which would produce base load 24/7.

This is now being realized in the EU, in spite of what you hear the media claim (links below).

It makes absolutely no sense at all to cut back on, say hydro power in favour of wind on windy days because that hydro power is also renewable at a much lower cost. Wind is only viable when we cannot supply the demand with everything else, which means wind turbines are pathetic contributors to the grid.

Solar power is another case of lies to get you to think they are viable. Solar panels also have name plate capacity, but that is only on sunny days at high noon. There is only a small window between 12 and 2 where panels produce near capacity. Dirty panels of course reduce that. As the sun moves, less of it lands on the panels and of course at night they produce nothing at all (well, see below). During the winter with our long nights that means very little time to generate any power. In winter we can go a week or more with no sun at all, so those panels will produce nothing on cloudy days. They occupy a huge area too, which on our farm land is unacceptable. A recent study claimed we can get all our power from solar, if we wanted to cover a million acres of land with nothing but panels (wonder how they came to that conclusion when the sun does not shine)

One wonders how panels will be cleaned after a snow fall. Electric heating to melt the snow will use more power than they produce (back to our ERoEI). In the summer rain will coat the panels with grime, which would have to be cleaned (again, reducing the ERoEI).

Just to put it into perspective, the 1000 hectare solar farm in Sarnia is claimed to supply power for 7000 homes. Sounds like a lot. But that is just 56 days of immigration into Canada. That is, the number of immigrants into Canada after 56 days will need more power than this farm can supply. That’s how small its contribution is.

Both wind and solar, both pathetic in their output, are highly subsidized by you the tax payer. We have all read about it, 14c/kWh for wind and some 80c/kWh for solar. We are told that when it becomes more main stream the price will come down. Right, like I was told 40 years ago that with nuclear power will be too cheap to meter. You cannot trust anything these people claim.

The current path the Ontario Liberals are going with power will kill business, throw people out of their homes, force more people into bankruptcy, force people to move out of the province, force businesses out (which is already started), and drive the debt of this province higher. It is utterly reckless.

Add to that recklessness is the signing of 20 year contracts for solar and wind generation.

And all for something that does not exist – global warming.

Now if you want to power your home with panels and turbines, please by all means do so if you want to. If companies want to feed into the grid with these, without subsidizing, go right ahead. Just do not ram it down our throats, rape our wallets, for a political ideology.

Here is a gem for you. In Spain they also subsidize people to erect solar panels and feed into the grid, paying them a high premium to do so. Seems these people with the panels have figured out that you can shine flood lamps on the panels all night and get paid to do so. Buy the power from the utility at 5.6c and get 80c back from that same utility for each kW.



"The claim that Denmark derives about 20% of its electricity from wind overstates matters. Being highly intermittent, wind power has recently (2006) met as little as 5% of Denmark’s annual electricity consumption with an average over the last five years of 9.7%."

Germany's renewable myth
"Installed capacity is not the same as production or contribution, however, and by 2008 the estimated share of wind power in Germany’s electricity production was 6.3%, followed by biomass-based electricity generation (3.6%) and water power (3.1%). The amount of electricity produced through solar photovoltaics was a negligible 0.6% despite being the most subsidized renewable energy, with a net cost of about $12.4 billion for 2008."

Something Rotten

Wind power targets unrealistic, say critics

Wind Power Exposed: The Renewable Energy Source is Expensive, Unreliable and Won’t Save Natural Gas.

A Problem With Wind Power


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