True costs of wind electricity

by Planning Engineer and Rud Istvan 

Wind turbines have become a familiar sight in many countries as a favorite CAGW mitigation means. Since at least 2010, the US Energy Information Agency (EIA) has been assuring NGOs and the public that wind would be cost competitive by now, all things considered. Many pro-wind organizations claim wind is cost competitive today.  But is it?

Images for wind1

Yet incentives originally intended only to help start the wind industry continue to be provided everywhere. This fact suggests wind is not competitive with conventional fossil fuel generation. How big might the wind cost gap be? Will it ever close? We explore these questions in four sections: incentives, lifetime cost of electricity generation (LCOE), system costs, and market distortions. We examine onshore wind, since EIA says offshore is almost 3x more expensive. For simplicity, we examine EIA national averages, rather than regional ranges.


The main US federal incentive is the wind Production Tax Credit (PTC), created by the Energy Policy Act of 1992. It is now $21.50/MWh for the first ten years of generation. It was intended to jumpstart the industry, so has expired via sunset provisions several times over the past 23 years. Each time, US wind investment promptly collapsed. Each time, Congress promptly renewed PTC at the same or higher incentive rates. Why? At Berkshire Hathaway’s (BH) 2014 annual meeting (BH’s Iowa based electric utility MidAmerican Energy has $5.6 billion invested in wind generation) Warren Buffet said:

“I will do anything that is basically covered by the law to reduce Berkshire’s tax rate. For example, on wind energy, we get a tax credit if we build a lot of wind farms. That’s the only reason to build them. They don’t make sense without the tax credit.” [1]

Images for wind2U.S. Congressman Lamar Smith asked the Congressional Budget Office to estimate PTC’s 2013 cost (as part of that year’s reinstitution debate): the 2013 cost was $13 billion.

Iowa has enacted an additional state PTC of $10/MWh. Buffet gets a total PTC of $31.5/MWh from both federal and Iowa taxpayers. YE2014, BH’s MidAmerican Energy, had 2953MW of Iowa wind capacity. Warren Buffet wind farms  are receiving $253 million of annual tax credit from Iowa wind generation on an investment of $5.6 billion (2953 MW * 0.31CF * 8766 hr/year *$31.5/MWh). BH’s effective tax rate last year was 31%. Those wind credits are equivalent to earning (253/0.31) $816 million on his $5.6 billion wind investment—a 15% return before any operating profit from selling electricity. That is a good deal for the Nebraska billionaire, but not for the rest of us.

The EIA estimates wind costs five years in the future. Since 2010, each cost estimate has had a separate entry for subsidies. Each estimate since 2012 (for 2017) has zero wind subsidies. EIA assumes the PTC expires (it has yet again YE2014). The Obama administration is proposing it be made permanent, with strong support from the AWEA (American Wind Energy Association). This suggests EIA’s estimated wind costs are too low, and partly political rather than mostly factual. How much is shown by closer examination of their other cost components.


The most recent ‘official’ EIA estimates are available in Table 1 of EIA’s Annual Energy Outlook 2015, Electricity Generation Forecasts. The EIA explains:

Levelized cost of electricity (LCOE) is often cited as a convenient summary measure of the overall competiveness of different generating technologies. It represents the per-kilowatthour cost (in real dollars) of building and operating a generating plant over an assumed financial life and duty cycle. Key inputs to calculating LCOE include capital costs, fuel costs, fixed and variable operations and maintenance (O&M) costs, financing costs, and an assumed utilization rate for each plant type. The importance of the factors varies among the technologies. For technologies such as solar and wind generation that have no fuel costs and relatively small variable O&M costs, LCOE changes in rough proportion to the estimated capital cost of generation capacity.

EIA’s LCOE is the annualized net present value (aka annual annuity cost). The estimate is always 5 years into the future. That is why their 2010 estimate above was only verifiable in 2015.

EIA calculates LCOE as the sum of five components: Capital, Fixed O&M, Variable O&M (including fuel), Transmission (incremental), and Subsidies (none). Capital costs are spread over a 30-year life at an interest rate of 6.5%. This appears superficially reasonable, but as we show below, isn’t. Following are the basic LCOE generation comparisons in $/MWh and capacity factor (CF) %, from the EIA AEO 2012 and 2014.

………………………CF%       ($2017)              ($2019)

CCGT                         87               66.1            66.3

Conv.Coal                85               97.7             95.6

Wind                         35               96.0             80.3

GT (peaker)           30             127.9           128.4

Three things stand out. Combined cycle gas turbine (CCGT) costs are cheaper than coal. That makes directional sense; in the US CCGT is gaining share at the expense of coal. CCGT cost advantages include: (a) better net thermal efficiency (61% versus 41% for USC coal), (b) abundant inexpensive natural gas thanks to fracked shale, and (c) cheaper capacity. It takes three years to build a CCGT for about $1000-1250/kw. USC coal takes 4 years to build for about $2850/kw.[2] Peak load gas turbine (GT) capacity only costs about $750/kw, but its LCOE is twice CCGT because its capital is under utilized–only operating 30% of the time. Finally, EIA says wind is competitive with coal and will become more so (about 20% more in just three years!).

‘True’ wind LCOE is understated since the PTC is missing. The annuity value of $21.5/MWH for 10 years at 6.5% interest, annuitized over 30 years is $7.2/MWh. A ‘truer’ comparison to coal is (96+7) ~$103/MWh from the general taxpayer perspective, rather than from Warren Buffet’s.

This unsurprising result just shows the PTC was intended to make wind ‘grid competitive’, and seems to do so—at taxpayer expense. That is why investment collapses toward zero in its absence. There are, however, two further ‘obvious’ plus two additional ‘hidden in the fine print’ issues with the EIA LCOE comparisons that are equally consequential, and similarly biased.

Wind capital cost

Wind capital declines 22% from 2017 to 2019; CCGT only declines 8%. This difference is not attributable to turbine production volume. According to GWEC, 51,473 MW was delivered globally in 2014, comprising at least 17000 units (at ~3MW each). Installation costs don’t scale. Past reductions in wind capital per megawatt came from developing larger turbines, not from increased volume.

Images for wind3But actual installed cost/MW stopped declining, and started rising around 2005. There are few onshore turbines larger than 3 MW because of transportation (road/rail) constraints on blade length. The above 2012 NREL composite chart is deliberately misleading; it ended in 2005 although LBNL data was available to 2011.

Images for wind4EIA’s projected 22% decline in wind capital LCOE is very dubious. We shall use $96/MWh total, the same as EIA’s 2010 LCOE midpoint charted above.

Capacity Factor

The record US annual wind capacity factor was 2014 at 33.9%. EIA itself says the median CF over the past decade is 31%. (Still better than the UK, where CF ranged from a low of 21.5% in 2010 to a record high 27.9% in 2013.) The assumed US 35% CF is unrealistically optimistic. [3]

Images for wind5Using the historic median CF, a ‘truer’ wind LCOE is roughly (35/31*$96/MWh) $108/MWh.Using the historic median CF, a ‘truer’ wind LCOE is roughly (35/31*$96/MWh) $108/MWh.

Fine Print interest rate

The first fine print fudge is the annuity interest rate. The 2014 EIA text says 6.5% (same as 2012). Ah, but the fine print also says that for coal generation without carbon capture and sequestration (CCS), 9.5% is used. EIA’s fine print inside that fine print says this is the equivalent of a $15/ton CO2 emissions tax on coal (buried inside Capital rather than exposed in Variable O&M explicitly including fuel cost).

EIA says conventional coal produces about 2.15 pounds of CO2 per kWh (depending slightly on coal rank). That is ~2.15 tons of CO2 /MWh, a ‘hidden’ LCOE coal fuel penalty of (2.15*$15) $32.25. There is no US ‘carbon tax’; Congress refused to enact Obama’s proposal. A ‘truer’ comparison is wind at $108/MWh to coal at $65.45/MWh.

This also makes intuitive sense. The newest technology UltraSuperCritical (USC) coal must be similar in cost to CCGT in favorable locations (considering coal transport and quality). One was just completed for $1.8 billion (SWEPCO’s 600MW Turk plant in Arkansas) and 10 additional USC coal facilities are presently planned for the US. None of these will be built until the constitutionality of EPA’s proposed CO2 limit (which effectively prohibit them) is settled.

Fine Print lifetime

EIA comparisons are based on a 30-year lifetime; this introduces a large bias. The EIA itself says the average age of the US coal fleet is 42 years; effective coal lifetime is at least that. GE’s marketing materials say the expected life of its CCGT is at least 40 years. In other words, the capital annuity component of non-wind LCOE should be reduced by ~25% to reflect longer useful lives (40 rather than 30 year annuity, EIA capital only, 0.065 r). That is $8.35/MWh lower LCOE for coal after first subtracting the $32.25 fuel penalty hidden in capital, and $4.30/MWh lower for CCGT.

On the other hand, the design life for wind is 20 years; with maintenance they may last 25 years. EIA’s assumed wind lifetime is longer than the industry’s most cheery estimate, thereby understating LCOE. A ‘truer’ comparison would be wind at (capital component annuity 25 rather than 30 years, 0.065 r) $121/MWh compared to 40 year CCGT $57.5/MWh and Coal $57.1/MWh. ‘True’ wind LCOE is about twice the cost of conventional generation from either coal or natural gas.

Studies of UK and Denmark wind farms suggest their actual economic lives appear to be 12-15 years due to wear and tear.[4] One of the unanticipated problems that arose with larger turbines is premature cracking failure of the main axial bearing(s). These failures arise from two very difficult engineering conditions. First is uneven loading. Wind speeds increase with altitude so the three blades, which span great distances, are never evenly loaded. The bearing(s) wobble under the tremendous forces generated. Second, braking when wind speed exceeds 25mph suddenly loads reverse torque on the axial side where previously unloaded (and wobbling) individual bearings are in natural misalignment to their trace. If things go ‘well’, cracking can be caught before catastrophic failure. It is expensive to repair. The blades must be detached so the turbine can be dismounted and sent back to the factory. The following image shows a 3MW unit.

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Sometimes things do not go well.

Images for wind7To summarize the second section on LCOE: EIA’s wind future capital, capacity factor, and lifetime all understate the ‘true’ cost of wind. Conventional coal generation is misleadingly overstated. Given other information provably at EIA’s disposal, its wind-biased US findings appear driven by political considerations.

System Costs

We have looked at wind from the perspective of wind farmers and electricity generators. But that is not the whole story, since wind is intermittent. Intermittency has two broad utility system consequences not captured in generation LCOE. First, the grid has to have some level of offsetting backup generation to maintain stability. Those costs are not borne by wind operators unless they also happen to own the regional grid. Most don’t. Second, transmission capacity has to be added. The full extent of those costs is not usually borne by windfarms, but rather (again) by grid owners.

 Intermittent backup

Grids always have some spare capacity beyond average peak load. This safety margin handles unexpected peaks, unplanned outages, and other random fluctuations. How much depends on a grid’s many specific details, but 10 – 20% reserve margins are typical. A portion of this amount must be fast start gas turbines, or spinning reserves (older smaller depreciated plants operating at minimum capacity that can be ramped as needed), or flexible hydro, or (newly) flexible CCGT. For very small wind generation proportions, the ‘normal’ reserve suffices. As the percentage of wind in the generation mix grows, it increasingly does not. There are inefficiency costs and (depending on the grid) additional backup capacity costs incurred by the system as a whole.

Additional backup requirements depend on grid details beyond just wind generating penetration. For example, Ontario generation is about 58% nuclear, 24% hydro, and 4% wind (although wind is growing since Ontario subsidizes it with above market feed in tariffs). Nuclear is base loaded. Hydro is flexed for peak loads. The large proportion of hydro in Ontario means wind can grow to double-digit penetration without any significant additional backup capacity costs.

Backup has been studied for the UK National Grid and the Texas ERCOT grid, both of which have a more traditional generation mix than Ontario as well as higher wind penetration.

UK’s zero wind for three days 12/11-13/12 during its winter peak load season illustrates the National Grid’s need for wind backup. UK peak load is handled by flexing fossil fuel generation.

Images for wind 8Newer CCGT is specifically designed to flex as efficiently as possible. In recent years GE, Siemens, Alstom, and Mitsubishi have all introduced units. For example, GE’s FlexEfficiency 50 is a 510MWCCGT that can ramp 50MW/minute. At rated output, it operates 61% efficient. It is 60% efficient down to 87% load, and 58% efficient at 40% load (and not designed to operate below 40%). Cycling at less than rated output increases capital cost/MWh via under utilization, and increases fuel cost via reduced efficiency. Notionally, wind 30% CF means a supporting FlexEfficiency 50 running 70% of the time at rated capacity, and the remainder at 40% minimum load. Using GE’s numbers, that would add about $7.20/MWh LCOE of wind intermittency flex cost on a 30-year annuity basis.[5]

The Texas ERCOT grid is quite different. It has high summer peak load demand because of air conditioning. Texas backup capacity is therefore from high LCOE gas turbine peaker units which are unused except in summer.

Images for wind9As the proportion of wind generation increases, grids less blessed than Ontario have to add additional standby capacity of some sort. How much of which sort depends on grid details like those illustrated above. The UK National Grid has published estimates. An analysis by the UKERC suggested 15-22% additional for 10% wind production. A different analysis by the IEA ranged from 6% at 2.5% wind generation, to 12% at 5%, to 18% at 15%.[6] UK wind is presently 9.3% of generation. For the UK National Grid using flexed CCGT, these estimates imply about ($66.1+$7.2/MWh *0.15) ~$11/MWh for additional backup, a ‘truer’ wind LCOE of ($121+$11) $132/MWh for UK’s National Grid

On the Texas ERCOT grid, wind in 2014 was 10.6% of generation. For ERCOT’s summer gas peakers, wind’s ‘true’ cost is about ($121+ 0.15*$128) $140/MWh. Little wonder the Austin, Texas utility finds its renewable generation portfolio loses $80 million, while its fossil fuel generation earns $180 million annually at grid wholesale electricity rates! [7]

Transmission constraints

ERCOT also illustrates clearly the wind impact on transmission planning. Much of the wind capacity is in northern Texas, whereas the demand is in Dallas and Houston. ERCOT’s ‘CREZ’ wind driven grid capacity expansion added/upgraded 3600 miles of transmission lines at a cost of $6.9 billion over 3 years. That compares to $26 billion of cumulative (YE2014) investment in Texas wind generation. Annualized over 30 years at 6.5% and spread over ERCOT’s 36.1 million MWh of 2014 wind generation, CREZ adds wind LCOE of $6.44/MWh. That is 6.7% of EIA’s wind LCOE. EIA’s own incremental transmission estimate is 4%–yet again biased substantially low. The ‘true’ system LCOE of ERCOT wind is ($140+$6) ~$146/MWh, not anywhere near the general EIA estimate of $96/MWh — it is off by half.

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In the UK, lack of transmission capacity between Scotland’s wind farms and England/Wales consumers has led to National Grid Balancing Mechanism ‘constraint payments’ netting about £165/MWh for wind NOT produced when it could have been. That comes out of British ratepayer pockets, even though they get no electricity in return.

          Market Distortions

In 2011, MIT’s Paul Joskow circulated a Sloan School discussion paper pointing out that non-dispatchable generation (wind) not only has a different cost profile, it has a different value (price) profile.

“Wholesale electricity prices reach extremely high levels for a relatively small number of hours each year (see Figure 1) and generating units that are not able to supply electricity to balance supply and demand at those times are (or should be) at an economic disadvantage. These high-priced hours account for a large fraction of the quasi-rents that allow investors in generating capacity to recover their investment costs (Joskow 2008) and failing properly to account for output and prices during these critical hours will lead to incorrect economic evaluations of different generating technologies.”

Here’s a rough overview of studies that have looked at the impact of intermittent wind upon energy markets. This British study found that wind serves to change the capacity mix more so than the pattern of prices. The market shift to lower fixed cost higher variable cost stations results in relatively small price changes. This study from Ireland finds that increased wind penetration does not impact the pricing of electricity in Ireland (that is argued in the paper as a plus for encouraging more wind). This study found that wind in Denmark reduced costs to consumers. This study of ERCOT in Texas found that the spot market prices were reduced but price variance, volatility and risk increased. This study of the Pacific Northwest concluded that despite being more economical and easier to integrate in a hydro-rich area, “the direct economic benefits to end-users from greater investment in wind power may be negligible.”   There are many factors to consider and the interactions between spot prices and long term cost savings are uncertain. Perhaps the situation is best summed up as this report concluded, “the financial impacts of wind power generation are unclear due to the complex nature of wholesale power markets and the many variables that can impact wholesale electricity prices and generator revenues (i.e., location, natural gas prices, generation mix, and electricity demand).” It is not clear in any case that subsidizing wind production will lower overall energy prices in any region, and we already showed that subsidized wind raises generation costs.

Wind generation is associated with challenges in scheduling resources and participation in energy markets. Operators serve load with a varied generation mix. Generation plants have limited flexibility including minimum and maximum output levels, ramp up limitations, minimum down times and startup costs. The unpredictability of wind complicates the resource scheduling process. For more background see these Climate Etc postings: Watch out for the Duck Curve and All Megawatts Are Not Equal.

There is a limit to how far conventional plants can be backed down and remain available for service when they may be needed in the upcoming scheduling period. Wind availability coupled with low load periods can present major problems for system operators. It may be the case of simply having mismatched loads and generation of conventional plants may be needed to maintain grid reliability. Under “constraint payments” generators are paid for not injecting power into the grid. Under “negative power pricing” generators are charged for injecting power into the grid. Overwhelmingly conventional resources are not giving favorable treatment relative to intermittent resources.

This Study notes the additional harm caused by the US Production Cost Credit, which incents wind generators to make money by injecting power even during times of oversupply. Short term this impacts reliability and raises costs for others. Long term this serves to destabilize the market for conventional generation, which will defer investment and lead to further reliability concerns.

The ERCOT region was plagued by negative pricing concerns until the CREZ transmission improvements reduced such instances.

Images for wind11Some have argued from this that increased transmission build up can solve the problem of negative pricing and touted Texas as an example. However, what the transmission build out did was expose the wind resources to a larger market pool, thus reducing the effective penetration level of wind. The problem that wind at significant penetration levels will cause negative pricing remains. If you increase the penetration level in the larger pool, negative problems will remerge. Consistent with that, as Texas has continued to add wind resources, negative pricing problems reemerged in March of this year.


It is reasonable to ask why utilities still invest in wind, when even after PTC ‘true’ wind generation is very uncompetitive with Coal or CCGT, as well as distorting the entire wholesale electricity marketplace. EIA LCOE is not the whole story. EIA does not include other incentives such as state level above market feed in tariffs. Ontario wind gets 13.5¢/kwh versus the Province’s 2014 average wholesale generation price of 9.25¢/kwh–a 46% premium. Texas has a variety of state wind incentives (e.g. job credits and property tax breaks) estimated to cost $1 billion in 2014. Oklahoma has a complete income tax moratorium on wind farms. In 2011, California mandated 33% renewables by 2020 no matter the cost (up from 20% in 2006). The UK has the 2008 Climate Change Act. Germany has the Energiewende. Wind operators generally do not pay a price penalty for the market distortions they create. The most severe example of distorted consequences is Germany’s E.ON utility. Late in 2014 E.ON announced it was taking a $5.6 billion impairment charge on its conventional generating assets then spinning them off into a separate (unprofitable) company.[8] Conventional generation simply is no longer profitable in Germany given Energiewende’s renewables pricing distortions and forced flexing.

We can only approximate the ‘true’ cost of wind, and how much the reality differs from ‘official’ EIA (and industry) claims. Wind resources have often been presented in a far more favorable light than they deserve. Looking at the costs presented here they are far higher than can be justified. It has been hoped that subsidies would make wind self-sustaining in short order, but wind appears no closer to economic viability today than years ago.

The impacts of subsidized wind upon electricity markets are highly uncertain, and in many cases demonstrably harmful. Wind serves to raise costs, complicate scheduling, destabilize markets, and adversely impact reliability all in a hopeless effort to receive “free” energy that is actually quite costly.

The potential for wind is limited. Any sub area can have a high penetration of renewables if those resources are diluted into a larger area. Wind can provide adequate performance when correctly integrated with hydro and fossil resources. But the challenges are significant at this time to reach high penetration levels within most standalone resource mixes in most system grids.

[1] US News and World Report 5/12/2014

[2] Essay No Fracking Way in ebook Blowing Smoke.

[3] The aptly named National Renewable Energy Lab (NREL) has an even worse bias. Their 2013 “Transparent Cost Database” (a misnomer) has a selection biased sample of 109 onshore wind farms with a CF of 39% used for LCOE.

[4] Renewable Energy Foundation, Wear and Tear Hits Windfarm Output and Economic Life (2012). Available at See also Staffel and Green, How does wind farm performance decline with age?, Renewable Energy 66: 775-786 (2014).

[5] We decided not to put this calculation in the text due to its complexity. CCGT LCOE capital $14.3/MWh. 70% operating at rated capacity, and 30% operating at 40% (14.3/.4) costing $21.45. Fuel inefficiency at 40% rated output is (61/58) times LCOE $49.1, a difference of $2.54. Total rated output difference is $23.99/MWh, but only for 0.3 of the time, so Δ$7.20/MWh.

[6] Holttinen et. al., Design and operation of power systems with large amounts of wind power, Final Report IEA Wind Task 25, p.170 (2009)

[7] Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts, Texas Power Challenge (2014)

[8] BloombergBusiness 11/30/14

JC note:  As with all guest posts, please keep your comments relevant and civil.

203 responses to “True costs of wind electricity

  1. Note that the calculation of the costs of wind includes nothing for the raptors they slaughter, which is assuredly an externality that should be accounted for.

    • And bats. We debated an environmental section on this issue plus LFN plus visual landscape ‘pollution’ (a big deal in the UK at present, Tories pledged to stop support for onshore wind for that reason), but decided to stick to what we know rather than discuss all wind objections.

    • The solution is to apply to the wind operators the fines and penalties that Joe Public would incur killing said raptors and said bats.

    • Not to mention the negative health impacts on those stuck living too close, and the homes and townships they render worthless when ludicrous siting near peoples’ homes is allowed.

      I believe the true costs of sprawling industrial wind factories are incalculable.

      We’ve got 308 industrial wind turbines here in Wyoming County of western New York State, and nobody is getting “free’ or reduced rate electricity here – in fact, quite the opposite is true. New York State has some of the highest electricity rates in the nation – in large part, due to literally throwing 100’s of $Billions into the wind.

      Few, if any, meaningful permanent jobs were created here – maybe a few dead bird and bat picker-uppers.

      The County tax rate has gone up every year for the past 12 years in a row (concurrent with the development of wind factories here) – another 9.68% this year.

      Civility has been destroyed in our communities here, as friends and even family members, now hate one another. A few large landowners pimp out their properties to wind developers for a few recycled taxpayer and ratepayer dollars, and destroy their communities in the process.

      To top it all off, the population of Wyoming County has dropped another 2.2% since 2010. Many people are fleeing the wind mess and its associated costs.

      Industrial Wind: A Net Loser – Economically, Environmentally, Technically, and Civilly:

    • The issue of bird deaths is not a winnable argument. According to
      Sibley Guide, several orders of magnitude more birds are killed by window, communication towers, high tension lines, cars, etc. than are killed by wind towers. It seems disingenuous to oppose wind towers due to bird deaths but support all of the other things that kill many more birds.

      • Disagree. The question is what would be the number of bird deaths from natural gas, nuclear and hydropower plants.

      • Cars, cats and buildings do NOT typically kill Bald & Golden Eagles, condors, whooping cranes, and other raptors — Industrial wind turbines do!

        There are Hundreds of BILLIONS of cars, cats and buildings worldwide. Juxtapose that with the fact that there are only about 250,000 industrial wind turbines worldwide (approximately 45,100 of those are in the USA, according to the American Wind Energy Association – AWEA).

        Furthermore, those Hundreds of Billions of cars and buildings have greatly improved the quality of life for Hundreds of BILLIONS of people worldwide. It can even be said that cats improve our quality of life since they keep disease-carrying rodents under control.

        Industrial wind turbines do exactly the opposite – industrializing and devaluing entire Towns and Counties, and destroying the quality of life for those stuck living TOO CLOSE, while providing – at best – a redundant energy source that can NOT provide reliable, dispatchable baseload power.

        Then there is the massive Habitat Fragmentation that the sprawling footprints of industrial wind factories create. Since habitat loss has been cited as the major cause of species decline worldwide, the additional deaths caused by wind factory-created habitat loss, and all the additional transmission lines that must be added, is inexcusable and the exact opposite result true environmentalists espouse to hold dear.

        The whole fiasco becomes even more disgusting when you consider the fact that the very reason the wind industry exists is because of their claims that wind power will reduce CO2 emissions and thereby, help abate Global Warming. Yet, CO2 emissions have NOT been significantly reduced by industrial wind factories, nor have any conventional power plants been shuttered – anywhere, thanks to wind.

        Industrial wind turbines are simply an additive source of bird and bat deaths – for NO justifiable reason!

        Taxpayers and ratepayers are paying twice for the redundant generation provided by these giant “Cuisinarts of the sky,” as a Sierra Club official dubbed wind turbines in a rare moment of candor.

        The fact that President Obama had to sign a special EAGLE-KILL permit law solely for the wind industry, serves to highlight the absolute hypocrisy of wind salesmen and proponents who claim they wish to “save the environment,” while purposely working to slaughter our national symbol – the Bald Eagle (along with MILLIONS of other birds and bats annually) — in the name of this ‘green’ FRAUD.

      • Mary Kay Barton | May 12, 2015 at 10:15 pm |
        Cars, cats and buildings do NOT typically kill Bald & Golden Eagles, condors, whooping cranes, and other raptors — Industrial wind turbines do!

        Although I agree with your comment, the distinction is lost to the average person on the street and a challenge (and you will be challenged) requires a lengthy explanation, which will be lost to all but a select audience. While I encourage you to make the argument I also caution you of the difficulty and frustration in making it.

      • This is a poor argument.
        To put in perspective, a similar argument on the other side would be: we should ignore the effects of climate change because its impact is orders of magnitude less than income inequality, poverty, disease, corruption, and so forth.

      • Ticketstopper:

        “To put in perspective, a similar argument on the other side would be: we should ignore the effects of climate change because its impact is orders of magnitude less than income inequality, poverty, disease, corruption, and so forth.”

        I am not sure I understand what you are saying here, but think you are impying that a counter argument is that human contribution to Co2 levels causes climate change and that if we control Co2, the climate will stop changing. Or possibly, that elevated levels of Co2 are net hamful, not net beneficial (I think a much stronger case can be made for the benefits side vs. the harmful side). Or that human caused climate change is in fact on par with poverty, disease, etc. Any way you slice it, it’s a lot of unsubstantiated handwaving that is unfortunately lost on the average Us citizen.

      • pmhinsc said that the argument against wind energy due to bird deaths was poor because there are many other causes of bird death which kill more birds.
        My counterexample was to use this same line of reasoning in an unacceptable way (for alarmists) noting that deaths from the many non-climate related causes are far greater than any present or future AGW climate caused deaths/

      • Hundreds of Billions of cars and buildings have greatly improved the quality of life for Hundreds of BILLIONS of people worldwide.

        According to Wiki

        An estimate of the total number of humans who have ever lived was prepared by Carl Haub of the nonprofit Population Reference Bureau in 1995, and was subsequently updated in 2002 and 2011; the 2011 figure was approximately 107 billion.[20][21][158] Haub characterized this figure as an estimate that required “selecting population sizes for different points from antiquity to the present and applying assumed birth rates to each period”.[21] Several other scholarly estimates published in the first decade of the 21st century give figures ranging from approximately 100 billion to 115 billion.

        So, “Hundreds of BILLIONS of people worldwide”? Where’s Wilbur when we need him?

      • By the way Mr. Pluckhahn, your insulting tone adds nothing to the discussion.

        As you can see from a brief sampling of my posts on the wind issue from over the years, they include plenty of references which thinking people do find very relevant to the discussion:

        New York Wind Wars – Hiding the Facts:

        New York’s “Sustainability” Plan (aka: Agenda 21): What About Wind Power’s Ecological Insults?

        Dear Christian Science Monitor: Wind Is Not Sacred but a Sacrilege:

        Local Wind Subsidies: New York State’s Money-Road to Nowhere:

      • Thank you for the correction AK. My intended point was that, when combined, there is 100’s of Billion of cars, buildings and cats worldwide, which have greatly improved the quality of life for billions of people.

    • I keep reading about bird slaughter from wind turbine opponents. I frequently drive through the wind farms near the Columbia River, which has a lot of wind and a lot of birds. I’ve only gotten out of the truck once to walk around the turbines. Didn’t see any dead birds.

      But this has piqued my curiosity, so on the next few drives I’m going to be more diligent and really take a look.

      • Danny Thomas

        Charlie Pluckhahn,
        From my reading, birds mortalities are less (but not insignificant) than bats:

      • The rural areas where industrial wind factories are installed usually have health populations of a variety of carnivores – ie: wolves, coyotes, foxes, wild cats and dogs, turkey vultures, etc. So getting accurate bird and bat death counts is nearly impossible. Here in Wyoming County of western New York State, a local person who had a part-time job hunting for bird carcasses for one of the Big Wind LLCs reported that they noticed coyotes scurrying away as they pulled up to the site (which was about once a week). Seems the animals are enjoying welfare on the taxpayers & ratepayers, too.

        US Wind Turbines Kill Over 600,000 – 900,000 Bats A Year (And Plenty Of Birds Too):

        US ‘windfarms’ kill 10-20 times more than previously thought | Save the Eagles International:

        YouTube: Bird vs Wind Turbine FAIL!

      • I have my own objection to wind turbines (the scenic impact), but it seems like quite a stretch for Mary Kay Barton to have linked wind turbines to white nose syndrome in bats. Is there actual evidence that wind turbines are a causal factor in white nose syndrome?

        I am similarly skeptical of the notion that no one can reliably tally the bird kill from these things on account of coyotes, feral dogs and cats, and vultures. I’ll pay more attention on my drive through the turbine farms, but if these things were killing massive numbers of birds I think I’d have noticed more critters around.

        After all, coyotes cross roads, and vultures are noticeable. If the turbines were creating this moveable feast, pardon the pun, I think it’d be noticed along the Columbia River, and not just by me. That said, my mind’s more open on this than it might seem.

      • Something else occurs to me. You’d think that, over time, birds and bats would evolve to avoid wind turbines. I’m thinking of the research on moths in England, which evolved as that country moved from coal to natural gas as a principal heat source.

        As much as I despise what wind turbines do to scenic vistas, I’m having difficulty accepting that they are meaningful long-term threats to birds. If they are, then I can think of a few goose-poop inundated communities that would want to invest in some windmills, even if the never use the juice.

      • Danny Thomas, thanks for your reply. I am no fan of wind turbines. I consider them a blight on the landscape. Words could never really convey to you or anyone else just how much I love the wide open spaces of the American West, and I worry more than a little bit about the possibility that they’ll be blighted by wind turbine farms.

        Scenic impact is, in the end, a value judgment. What do we care about? If we care, there are plenty of ways to deal with it. There isn’t much study needed, only a basic agreement that wind turbines need to be sited in places of low scenic value. People of good will and good faith could likely agree on the areas, if they wanted to.

        When it comes to birds and bats, I am skeptical just as I’m skeptical of the anthropogenic global warming hypothesis. I don’t think the science supports the AGW hypothesis. With respect to birds and bats, thus far I see some contradictions (worry about birds, don’t worry about birds); a disingenuous link to white nose syndrome, which is caused not by wind turbines but by a virus; a dubious (at best) assertion that dead birds and bats can’t be counted because vultures, coyotes, and feral cats and dogs are snapping them up — yet, at the same time, alleged counts of dead birds and bats.

        Pending disciplined, consistent, logical, objective, factual reporting and analysis of the impact of wind turbines on bird and bat populations, including a reliable sense of proportionality, I am not willing to sign on to that particular jihad against wind turbines. This doesn’t mean I like them. It means that, if I’m going to insist on, say, a fact-based and objective approach to AGW, I’m also going to insist on the same as it concerns bird and bats.

        The links are interesting, but they are far from conclusive.

      • Danny Thomas

        Charlie Pluckhahn,
        You’re welcome. My goal is in no way to convince you of anything, I assure you. Only desire was to provide information and the bird topic is a challenge in general due to the above ground infrastructure related mortality rates (wires), cats, et al.
        But from my reading, not just in MSM, but the academic literature such as that provided as well as Bat Conservation International ( the intitiator of which I was fortunate to meet, bats are an entirely different conversation. Enjoy your research. Bats are amazing creatures.

      • Mr. Pluckhahn, Before you accuse someone of being “disingenuous,” or assume the link they post as being “quite a stretch,” you might want to actually open the link and read the report first. The report to which you refer discusses the economic impact due to bat deaths that are being caused by BOTH White Nose Syndrome AND industrial wind turbines.

        For your information, I live in Wyoming County of western New York State where we have 308 industrial wind turbines strewn throughout five entire towns on the western side of the Warsaw Valley, and negatively impacting all those for miles around. We were originally supposed to have over 2,000 industrial wind turbines blighting the entire county, but thanks to a lot of good people getting involved, we have been able to limit it to 308.

        I have been researching and writing about the wind scam for over 10 years now. I write about the wind issue from first-person experience. The fact that you doubt the validity of scavengers eating carcasses of dead birds and bats seems to indicate to me that you are not very familiar with country living.

        The sad reality that most people only care about the wind issue because of the birds – rather than the fact that wind can not provide modern power and is destroying the very environment wind proponents claim they wish to save — speaks to the rampant apathy that allows such a FRAUD to exist in the first place. See:

        Industrial Wind: A NET LOSER – Economically, Environmentally, Technically, and Civilly:

      • Sorry, Mary Kay, but I don’t go in for anyone‘s ax grinding. It is a major complaint of mine regarding the deteriorating level of discussion of all kinds of political and scientific issues. You used white nose syndrome in your argument against wind turbines. You bet it was disingenuous, and you can also bet that I chose the kindest word I could think of.

        You can sell that sort of tendentious nonsense to other people, but not to me. And, as I’ve written several times in this thread, I’m no great fan of wind turbines. But I absolutely refuse to do a version of what I so strongly object to others doing in so many other discussions of important issues.

        If all you want to do is preach to the choir, well, the Internet is a perfect playing field. If you want to engage the third digit in anyone else’s I.Q., then you are going to have to take a different tack.

      • Mr. Pluckhahn – You are absolutely wrong when say: “You used white nose syndrome in your argument against wind turbines” – I did not. The report I posted is about the economic costs incurred by total bat deaths, from both wind turbines & WNS. This important report should not be discounted because it looks at total bat deaths. Thinking people do find the information important.

      • By the way Mr. Pluckhahn, your insulting tone adds nothing to the discussion.

        As you can see from a brief sampling of my posts on the wind issue from over the years, they include plenty of references which thinking people do find very relevant to the discussion:

        New York Wind Wars – Hiding the Facts:

        New York’s “Sustainability” Plan (aka: Agenda 21): What About Wind Power’s Ecological Insults?

        Dear Christian Science Monitor: Wind Is Not Sacred but a Sacrilege:

        Local Wind Subsidies: New York State’s Money-Road to Nowhere:

      • And one other with important facts, Mr. Pluckhahn:

        Industrial Wind Needs Blowback (Siemens ad campaign targeting U.S. taxpayers)

      • Msry Kay, please don’t dodge the issue by changing the subject and throwing links. This is the tactic that the AGW pushers use. It’s objectionable no matter where it comes from. If you weren’t using white nose syndrome as an argument against wind turbines, why did you mention it to begin with?

      • Mr. Pluckhahn,

        You say: “[P]lease don’t dodge the issue by changing the subject and throwing links.”

        Contrary to your erroneous assertion Mr. Pluckhahn, I have not changed the subject. My focus has consistently been on exposing the facts on the net costs of wind – economic, environmental, technical and civil – exactly what this article is about. The links I shared do just that.

        You also say: “If you weren’t using white nose syndrome as an argument against wind turbines, why did you mention it to begin with?”

        Apparently, sir, your reading comprehension is not up to par. I did not specifically mention White Nose Syndrome, other than to share a link of the report on the economic impacts of total bat deaths caused by BOTH industrial wind turbines and White Nose Syndrome. Since bats are already under serious threat due to White Nose Syndrome, most people can easily grasp the reality that the additional, completely unnecessary, 600,000 – 900,000 bat deaths caused by industrial wind turbines per year in the U.S. is of significant concern. Therefore, the report on the economic impacts of total bat deaths is most certainly relevant to the discussion.

        Frankly Mr. Pluckhahn, it is unkind, condescending and insulting remarks like yours which are all too common in today’s society, and indicative of the AGW crowd and their tactics. In fact, the degradation of kindness towards fellow human beings today is a main reason that the industrial wind debacle is able to exist at all.

        If people were “loving their neighbor as themselves” — as Jesus commanded us to, and as espoused by The Golden Rule (the basis of many religions world-wide) — placing 400 – 600 foot industrial towers with their 11+ TON blades spinning at 180 – 200 mph amongst peoples’ homes would NEVER have been allowed at all.

        Industrial Wind – A NET LOSER: Economically, Environmentally, Technically and Civilly:


        Since 1997, orders filled by the Eagle Repository for eagle bodies and parts have increased by 366%, from 1213 in to 4438 in 2013. Since 1997 a much higher percentage of the eagle carcasses received by the Eagle Repository are mutilated and parted out than in the past, a condition typically caused by wind turbine blade strikes. Also keep in mind that the regions that now ship the most eagle carcasses to the repository are the regions that have installed the most wind energy in eagle habitat since 2006.

        Ummm. That looks pretty ominous to me.

        Unless there has been a sudden growth of an eagle killing cult one would assume that 3/4ths of eagle deaths are due to windmills.

        It seems that some scientific type people think windmills are bad for birds.

    • The calculation says this ” 2.15 pounds of CO2 per kWh (depending slightly on coal rank). That is ~2.15 tons of CO2 /MWh,” and that isn’t correct.

  2. Attached is a link to DOE EERE wind vision 2015 status report which has a different perspective but is interesting to read and compare.


    • Which executive summary says the increased electricity costs are outweighted by avoided global CO2 damages. The damages stuff appears to have been concocted by the Mad Hatter in Wonderland.
      Things like this EERE report, the NREL wind calculator biases, and EIA’s ‘obvious’ misestimates are what motivated our analysis.

      • Curious George

        True CO2 damages are an increased plant cover. Even the most ardent friends of CO2 can’t say that no undesirable weeds benefit. (Of course, Warren Buffet benefits).

      • CG, if they were desirable they wouldn’t be called weeds.

  3. Excellent article. It was very good that you addressed some of the serious deficiencies of the EIA numbers. Another major error in them is that they assume that the transmission costs are the same for all sources. Clearly the transmission costs for wind energy are significantly higher than conventional sources — yet that is not reflected in their figures.

    Another MAJOR error is that wind costs are shown on the same chart as conventional costs — whereas they can not be directly compared, due to the significant intermittency matter. (The MIT paper is about that.)

    There are yet other areas where wind energy gets favored treatment — like having different rules in the bidding process.

    All-in-all wind energy is enormously more expensive once realistic costs are attributed it. See for more information.

  4. “It is reasonable to ask why utilities still invest in wind”………..They invest in wind because they are making a killing at the expense of taxpayers. As for the industry’s bogus CO2 calculations, these deliberately dismiss the clear-cutting of forests for turbine placement, the removal of vegetation for thousands of miles of transmission lines and the fact that industry energy production figures are highly embellished. In fact when one looks close nearly everything about this industry is fraudulent.

  5. Well this is rather timely for me I was just starting to write a project report for the Open University on a very related topic.
    Whist looking for articles on the cost of these wind turbines I came across the following newspaper article, which adds another layer of cost.

    • Well…

      It has been pretty obvious for while that the fat-cat billionaire-backed environmental movement wasn’t interested in pollution per se but were just a bunch of NIMBYs that wanted to push manufacturing and power production overseas.

      Since fat-cat billionaires don’t need jobs and don’t care about the middle class, what this did to the US economy was of no interest to them.

      The fact that this would result in a dismaying increase in total global pollution and near lethal levels in parts of China – just to produce their “pollution free” renewable energy equipment – didn’t matter because out-of-sight is out of mind.

      • “Near lethal” – you are being too kind. It looks absolutely lethal to me. Greens love to point to the polution created by coal plants in china that do not employ available technology to greatly reduce the pollution while ignoring baotou. If the msm employed real journalists, all factors around green energy would be exposed. Instead, we get one-sided reporting that grossly distorts the truth and that the average citizen does not see through.

  6. Kent Hawkins

    Your post appears to be missing an important caveat in using LCOE comparisons, which is contained in the EIA reference/link you provide. It is “The LCOE values for dispatchable and nondispatchable technologies are listed separately in the tables, because caution should be used when comparing them to one another.”

    • The MIT paper also made this point. What we have done (in the system section) is estimate for National Grid and ERCOT the approximate additional LCOE cost of intermittent non dispatchable wind. EIA does not bother because it makes non-dispatchables worse (except in Ontario).

    • They include that caveat now Kent, but I don’t believe they did in 2012. Also, if the writers of this piece spent paragraphs on the shortcomings in the LCOE methodology, they’d take many posts to address the LACE methodology.
      My position is the value of wind production is the cost of fuel avoided – because in Ontario, and most places I’ve seen (maybe not IOWA) wind turbines can’t be relied upon to be producing when demand is highest – so they don’t replace any capacity.
      Simple argument: the PTCs cited (national and state) exceeds the fuel cost of generating with natural gas – a megawatt-hour produced from wind likely raises electricity costs.
      In Ontario, with a $135/MWh feed-in tariff and natural gas usually below $4/MMBtu, every MWh costs consumers in excess of $100/MWh – often plus costs of curtailments and always plus the costs of expanding a grid in a period of shrinking demand for power from the grid.

  7. Thank for your piece. A few quick points. The PTC is currently $23/mwh with a pre-tax value of $35/mwh. The Iowa PTC is capped at 363 MW nameplate for wind so not all IA wind is eligible for the PTC. With regard to negative prices and the impact on the economic viability of reliable generation (mid-west nuclear power) the PTC is not the sole culprit. Long term power purchase agreements are harming competitive markets by shielding wind from all market forces. If states limited PPAs and grid operators adopted negative pricing to -1000/mwh it would help level the playing field and wind would assume it’s rightful value as a low-value, intermittent resource that produces largely at a time of day/year when the energy is least needed.

    • Thank Lisa. Good points. As the arrangements get more convoluted (and disconnected from economics and market considerations) problems (negative pricing) can become cures for some ills.

      I’m curious about the -1000/mwh limit. I’m thinking maybe there is an extra zero by typo, but my real question is what is the driver for the limit. Any links or info there would be appreciated.

      • To be clear – I think negative pricing is a good thing if it’s needed. I think it is a bad thing that the industry is being driven to where it is needed. It seems the most effective way to get unneeded generation off the grid. I wouldn’t put a limit on it when it’s the most needed 9at higher cost values). I just wouldn’t exempt anyone who could not be counted on to meet the next days peak.

      • Thanks for your question. Negative pricing serves as a practical tool for encouraging generators to voluntarily curtail operation during excess-gen conditions. For wind, this generally means a project is producing in a transmission constrained area and driving real-time pricing negative. NYISO has a floor of -$1000; I don’t think PJM has a floor. ISO-NE only recently instituted negative pricing at -$150 and will likely lower the floor. The price needs to be sufficiently negative to trigger a response by the wind operator by eating into his out-of-market revenues (subsidies).

        Unfortunately, unless wind power contracts are written to shift the risk of negative pricing onto the wind project owner, ratepayers will be on the hook to cover the difference between the contract price and the market price. That difference could be significant.

      • Thank you Lisa. I checked out your site and would like to provide a link for others who may be interested.

  8. Danny Thomas

    From this: “Little wonder the Austin, Texas utility finds its renewable generation portfolio loses $80 million, while its fossil fuel generation earns $180 million annually at grid wholesale electricity rates! ”

    Found this: “The City of Austin’s utility, Austin Energy,
    is finding that being an early adopter of
    renewables comes with a high cost.
    Older wind and solar contracts cost
    more than the market price of energy.
    • Responding to a task force’s plan to accelerate
    the retirement of a natural gas plant and
    Austin’s coal generation, the utility says that
    in fiscal 2013, the 22 percent of generation
    from renewables cost $80 million more than
    the market price of energy. Conversely, fossil
    fuel generation brought in net revenue of
    $180 million.
    Interesting that the comptroller indicates fairly reasonably the issues with all levels of energy production. This is a good report of the status in Texas.
    (The wind portions look very troubling.)

    But it does not detail what the make up of the Austin Renewable Portfolio entails (hydro/wind/solar/biomass). It does indicate the early adopter (older) rates were higher. Austin has a 150MW solar plant at .05/kwh planned (not including subsidies) but this assumes it will come in on budget and I doubt that would occur. (Recent over budget example: “The 2005 Texas Legislature approved a major transmission project, the
    Competitive Renewable Energy Zones (CREZ), to carry mostly wind energy
    generated in West Texas and the Panhandle to high-demand cities (Exhibit 13).
    • The project was forecast to cost less than $5 billion but ballooned to
    more than $6.9 billion to build nearly 3,600 miles of transmission lines and
    dozens of substations.)

    Comparison of rates in two cities 75 miles apart:
    Thanks to Rud and P.E. for your sharing.

    • Danny, I checked with an energy storage materials colleague at U.T Austin. So far as he knows, it is all wind since the solar plant is controversial and has not yet been built.

      • Danny Thomas

        Thank you. I thought they had a bit of hydro (not much) and know they draw from wind from what I’d read. Also thought the solar plant was in process (paperwork) but am not satisfied it’ll be completed at the .05/kwh as proposed due to typical expected cost overruns.

        Thanks again to you and P.E. for your work.

  9. I would refer readers to Willem Post’s article “Increased Wind Energy Versus Increased Canadian Hydro in New England”, April 22, 2015, The Energy Collective, wherein Post makes the case that cheap hydropower can be purchased from Canada for New England region which would be better than building out new, costly wind energy.

    A major point that Willem Post makes is that renewable energy is redundant energy.

    Willem Post:
    “That means, in Germany and in New England, ALL other existing generators must be kept in good running order, staffed, fueled, ready to go, to provide varying quantities of energy almost all hours of the year, including for balancing the variable solar and wind energy. The end result: Two energy systems to do one job!”

    Put differently, renewable energy is nothing but a jobs program.

  10. Mike Jonas

    Surely the best way to deal with this “problem”, now that the wind generation industry is mature, is to remove all subsidies and incentives for all mature forms of power generation, and allow the power distribution utilities to decide which power they will use and when in order to best serve their customers. That way we will find out very quickly whether wind is competitive. That would be a great way forward for those who claim that wind is truly cost competitive – if they are right then their industry will get genuine universal support and they get very valuable bragging rights.

    • We agree. Every time the US has run that experiment by letting PTC lapse, it gets the same ‘scientific’ answer. Which the present Administration does not like. Which is why they propose making it permanent ‘to reduce uncertainty’. But given Judith’s recent teatimony to Congressman lamar Smith’s Committee after the US midterm elections, and this guest post, perhaps collectively your excellent suggestion ‘can be made so’ (paraphrasing a Navy bridge command)

      • You don’t mean to imply that renewable advocates are lying through their teeth about renewable energy being cost competitive?

    • Would be very interesting to see how competitive nuclear is with all subsidies and govt guarantees removed.

      Not, I suspect.

      • What government subsidies for nuclear power? That is a canard.

        Direct financial transfers – none that I know of.
        Preferential tax treatments – all industries are entitled to claim depreciation and losses. Those are not the same as the PTC and other tax abatements given renewable energy.
        Trade restrictions – only renewable power has a guaranteed 33% share of the market in California regardless of cost
        Favorable regulation of the energy sector – only renewable power has such favorable regulation
        Failure to impose external costs- there is no pollution from nuclear power
        Depletion allowance – allowed to all exhaustible resources not just nuclear power

      • Underwriting any potential clean-up.

        Without this explicit or tacit support it’s unlikely any nuclear plant would get built.

      • Michael | May 12, 2015 at 10:00 pm |
        Underwriting any potential clean-up.

        Without this explicit or tacit support it’s unlikely any nuclear plant would get built.

        Government imposes about a 4X unnecessary cost burden on the nuclear industry through regulation.

        Strip off the regulation (at least down to sane levels) and nuclear is the cheapest and cleanest form of energy.

        If we had taken the money FLUSHED on renewables and instead of making stupid investments in renewables, had made a wise investment in LFTR or LMFR technologies (preferably LFTR) we would be much better off.

      • Wow,

        I’d love to see an unregulated nuclear industry;

        Not a snow flake’s chance of getting any type of insurance.

        Add no government underwriting of the potential massive clean-up costs (Fukushima at $20 billion dollars, so far??, with estimates up to $100 billion for the final costs)

        That would be the end of nuclear power.

      • Michael,

        I agree that all costs and benefits from government should be accounted for when comparing true costs. You may be correct that nuclear could not be insured without the govt. underwriting. On the other hand, these laws have been cemented in place for 40+ years and don’t reflect the latest generations of nuclear power generation or their now long history of safe operations. Chernobyl was not a Western design and had no protective “cap” so would probably not affect true market insurance rates. The one in Japan happened due to a 30 foot tidal wave and does not reflect a normal operations danger. I suspect with the long track records in France, US, Japan, Germany, UK, etc. that if true market insurance was allowed, that with newer designs they still could build an operate nuclear. Allow the insurance industry who are putting their own money on the line to set the standards which will lower costs. I would love to see that experiment and if they could not be built and operated profitably, then so be it.

        But, it is very common to have the govt. make an arbitrary decision at some point in time and then have that fixed for many decades when, in fact, the development of new designs and the long track record of safety would lower insurance rates in a true market.

        I’m pretty sure I know what your response will be.

      • Once you’ve installed windmills and made wind energy ‘must take’ you’ve reduced the utilization of ‘other generaters’ by 20%.

        Since nuclear plants are almost all capital then you’ve also reduce return on investment by about 20%.

        In a ‘wind heavy’ grid no sane investor would invest in a capital intensive energy generation technology….eventually the lights will go out absent subsidies/rate guarantees for other technologies.

      • dougbadgero

        Price Anderson has never cost the U.S. Taxpayer anything. It is a non cash subsidy. It is no different than the shift of liability to the public for many other businesses from bank losses to maritime accidents. Reasonable people can debate whether it should exist but it has never cost taxpayers a dime.

  11. Pingback: True costs of wind electricity | Enjeux énergies et environnement

  12. Excellent post, clear and straight forward math with great examples and references. Thanks PE and Rud.

    Let’s hope that we elect more “decision makers” that care about the cost and reliability of the electricity that drives our economic engine.

  13. I found much in agreement with PE in my recent submission to the Australian Senate Inquiry into Wind Turbines. Much of the submission is based upon the 5 minute dispatch data for 2014.

  14. Beta Blocker

    “In 2011, California mandated 33% renewables by 2020 no matter the cost (up from 20% in 2006). “

    Planning Engineer, what would be your current prediction for how close California will come to achieving 33% renewables by 2020, a target date which is now only five years away?

    Assuming the Californians will fall short of their goal, how much will they fall short; and what combination of technical, economic, and political factors might emerge over the next five years which would cause them to miss their target?

    • Curious George

      Never underestimate a power of creative accounting. Our esteemed Governor is a Grand Master.

    • Beta Blocker -there are a lot of factors (political, technical, financial). interacting to impact whatever happens. Your guess is as good (or better) than mine on that.

      • Beta Blocker

        Planning Engineer, my own view as stated in other comments on other Climate Etc. threads is that reaching 50% renewables in California by 2030 is not possible without adopting very substantial energy conservation measures, and that these measures will not be adopted by energy consumers unless government intervenes decisively in the energy marketplace to raise the price of all carbon fuels, thus creating a renewable-friendly economic climate for encouraging the transition.

      • Beta blocker – what is your estimate wrt the overall cost of “creating a renewable friendly econmic climate”?

        I suspect it has the potential to turn CA into an economic wasteland.

    • Beta Blocker

      Barnes: Beta Blocker – what is your estimate wrt the overall cost of “creating a renewable friendly economic climate”? I suspect it has the potential to turn CA into an economic wasteland.

      What has to happen to reach 50% renewables in California by 2030 is that the cost of all fossil fuel energy resources must be forced dramatically upward, and their supply and availability deliberately constrained, through direct government intervention in the energy marketplace. At the same time, investments in renewable energy technologies must be allowed a guaranteed rate of return which is high enough to attract the levels of investment needed to quickly accelerate the transition. Energy conservation is the other key element of any successful transition plan. Without a strong emphasis on energy conservation, the technical side of the transition can’t be made to work. Higher prices for energy are a necessity if the needed energy conservation measures and the needed capital investments are to be achieved in the time frame that is being proposed.

      Barnes, to answer your question, my rough guess is that the price of grid-supplied electricity in California must double (at the very least) if the goal of 50% renewables by 2030 is to be met while maintaining similar levels of grid stability as exist today. California’s own study estimates the cost increase at 47%, but long historical experience with agenda-driven government cost estimates indicates that the government-estimated cost figures are always greatly understated. Given the number of technical unknowns and project risk unknowns currently extant, a 100% increase seems far more credible than a 47% increase.

      If the approach described above were to have any chance of success in greatly accelerating the adoption of the renewables in California, it would have to be done through creation of a California Power Marketing Authority (CPMA) which centralized the purchase and distribution of all grid-supplied electricity consumed in California, and which had direct authority over the technical configuration of the power grid in California. The legacy power marketing and distribution organizations now operating in California would be contracted as the operating agents of the CPMA, and would be guaranteed a 15% annual return on all investments they made in renewable energy technologies. Energy consumers would get their monthly bill from the CPMA, not from their current utility, whoever that now happens to be. In this way, energy consumers themselves are assigned 100% of the fiduciary responsibility for covering the technical and project risks of forcing an accelerated transition into the renewables. This is only appropriate given that adoption of the renewables is strictly a public policy decision, it is not something which could ever happen inside an unregulated and truly competitive energy marketplace.

      What will Governor Brown’s detailed GHG reduction plan for California, due out in September 2015, actually look like? If it doesn’t contain an approach as bold and as comprehensive as the one described above, could his plan ever have the slightest chance of achieving its objectives? Or even some of its objectives? Or any of them at all? (Probably not. It would be a Potemkin Village plan whose primary purpose was to keep thousands of lawyers busily employed serving the interests of one stakeholder or another in an endless series of environmental litigation lawsuits.)

      • California already reached 50% renewable energy goal in 2011 according to Carson Bruno of Stanford’s Hoover Commission (when hydropower is counted along with solar, wind, and geothermal power).

        My own independent analysis indicates California nearly met or exceeded its 50 percent green power goal in 2009 (49.89 percent), 2010 (50.37 percent) and in 2011 (56.55 percent) [when Renewable Energy Credits or REC’s are counted).

        See: Hoover Analyst: CA Already met 50% Renewable Goal, March 30, 2015,

  15. I know I am not the person you directed your question to, but I cover energy and water policy issues in California.

    California is hell bent on achieving a 50% RPS by 2030 and 40% by 2020.

    A 2014 study sponsored by California’s five largest electric utilities “Investigating a Higher Renewable Energy Portfolio Standard (RPS for California” is enlightening.

    E3 consultants contend there will be no extra costs of a higher RPS other than the cost of decommissioning existing power plants.

    Probably the biggest impact of a higher RPS is that under a 33% RPS there would be 1.6% over generation but under a 50% RPS there would b 23 percent over-generation.

    Another zinger: natural gas backup power would probably cost double because of the reduced number of hours of generation to defray fixed and variable costs of operating power plants.

    But in the long run the California Air Resources Board’s own Scoping Plan Study of 2014 admits that a 50% RPS would not reduce C02 levels significantly.

    Read my article: “Reaching 50% Renewable Energy Goal Won’t Be Easy”, Feb. 11, 2015

    • But in the long run the California Air Resources Board’s own Scoping Plan Study of 2014 admits that a 50% RPS would not reduce C02 levels significantly.

      If deploying 50% renewables isn’t going to reduce the CO2 level significantly, what is the purpose of deploying renewables? Is it a fashion statement?

      • Renewable energy builds a political base in the energy sector for Democrats as they infiltrate yet another sector of the market economy with a pseudo-market enterprise. More than that there is the sociological level of explanation for why renewable energy: post-industrial societies embrace post-modernism and de-modernization. Windmills, reflecting mirrors, and wood burning power plants are preferable no matter the cost because post-modernists want to return to some imaginary bucolic past where there was no bureaucracies, corporations, or social alienation (Re: Karl Marx on communism and Jerry Brown on post-modernism “Small is Beautiful”).

      • Renewable energy builds a political base in the energy sector

        What does that even mean?? Are you referring to political contributions? Like the massive difference between Republicans and Democrats by various fossil fuel industries?

      • He means wind energy is stupid.

      • “Like the massive difference between Republicans and Democrats by various fossil fuel industries?” Let’s assume coal, natural gas and oil gets large subsidies. We did build a reliable, efficient electric grid with that?

      • Extending the life of reserves.

      • The reference to a base in energy is similar to the military’s appropriations strategy: if you spread enough profit around, it makes it impossible to vote against that appropriations pork barrel. Right now, the Republicans largely own the fossil fuel donation bucket; renewable energy in the form of wind and solar PV lobbies introduces a Democrat offset.
        Or in other words – the environmentalism is secondary to the quid pro quo.

      • Well your comment hits the proverbial nail on the head. Renewable energy is considered a luxury good, something for conspicuous consumption to feel self righteous about but makes no economic sense.

    • “But in the long run the California Air Resources Board’s own Scoping Plan Study of 2014 admits that a 50% RPS would not reduce C02 levels significantly. ”

      Wouldn’t a quote, admitting this, be interesting.

      Even more so, a statement that the RPS is expected to reduce CO2 levels significantly.

      I suspect that what we have here is just more climate-‘skepticism’.

      • Michael
        Go to page 33 of the California Air Resources Board’s “Scoping Plan Study 2014 – link here:

        Study the graph carefully. Here is what the text says:

        “Achieving the low-carbon future described in these studies will require that the pace of GHG emission reductions in California accelerate significantly. Emissions from 2020 to 2050 will have to decline several times faster than the rate needed to reach the 2020 emissions limit (Figure 6)”.

        In other words, the Cal Air Resources Board admits it can not reduce C02 emissions “significantly” unless GHG emissions are reduced to zero, not by 33% by 2020, 40% by 2030, or 50% by 2030. Sheer population and economic growth will overpower the GHG emission reduction targets. Think of a metaphor of a finger in a dike while the dam spillway eventually overflows.

      • Michael
        This has nothing to do with climate skepticism. Climate changes as we know from the La Brea Tar Pits in Los Angeles (former dinosaurs and tropical forest) without any industrialization.

        What this has to do with is the California Air Resources Board’s own planning documents which indicate they may not be able to meet their emissions reduction goals. The Air Resources Board’s 2009 Scoping Plan admitted on Page ES-2 that new technologies that don’t even exist would have to be developed and implemented to accomplish their goals.
        Some of these technologies are: battery storage technological breakthroughs, all-electric vehicles for every vehicle in the state, radical changes in land use planning that includes the state usurping local zoning and land use control from local governments (the end of ‘home rule’), a public goods charge on water use and new global warming fees that could only be implemented by eliminating existing laws (Proposition 13 and Proposition 218), and radical changes to lifestyles to vastly reduce water use and thus energy costs associated with pumping water long distances.

      • Yes, “admits” becomes “in other words”.

        Where “in other words” is your interpretation of something that is not at all an admission of anything much.

      • Michael
        Thanks for your comments. What I am trying to communicate has nothing to do with my “interpretation” of the Air Resources Board’s Scoping Plan. The Plan explicitly states that the Air Board must reduce C02 emissions by 85% of the level in 1990 in order to accomplish its goals. California’s Global Warming Solutions Act of 1996 only mandated a 33% reduction. Now Gov. Brown and the state legislature want to increase it to 40% and eventually 50% by 2030.

        To get to the 85% level of reduction will require the removal of all gasoline and diesel powered vehicles and replacement with electric vehicles according to the Scoping Plan. It will require a quadruple redundant energy grid of solar and wind power, with the wind power in other states where, hopefully, it will be blowing when it is not in California. It will require a large amount of imported hydropower from other states to solve the problem of how to power the grid when the sun goes down and solar power fades out each day. California’s peak daily energy use is not in the middle of the day but at night, especially on hot or cold days. Solar is not available at night and there are no battery storage breakthroughs yet to store solar power on a grand scale that would be economic.

      • Michael: Yes, “admits” becomes “in other words”.

        Where “in other words” is your interpretation of something that is not at all an admission of anything much.

        It is quite clear in the quoted source, whichever gloss you prefer.

    • Beta Blocker

      Wayne Lusvardi: Read my article: “Reaching 50% Renewable Energy Goal Won’t Be Easy”, Feb. 11, 2015:

      Here is the URL for that article:

      My take on the article is that reaching 50% renewables in California by 2030 is doable if enough money is spent and if energy consumers are willing to accept a less reliable grid than the one which exists today.

      As mentioned by someone in the article’s Comments section, another question which will rise to the fore as The Great California 50% Renewables Experiment moves forward in earnest will be, what impacts will the transition have on those states which border California?

  16. “The above 2012 NREL composite chart is deliberately misleading; it ended in 2005 although LBNL data was available to 2011.” – Rud et al

    That’s a bit of a claim. Is there evidence or just an assertion?

    • Yes. With specifics in the guest post itself. Referenced. No need to explain.

      • Well, that’s just it – it’s not referenced.

        “NREL 2012” isn’t a reference, it’s a handwave.

        What report / paper/ review/ webpage in 2012??

      • Michael, NREL: The Past and Future Cost of Wind Energy, Autors Lantz, Hand, and Wiser, presented at the 2012 World Renewable Energy Forum in Denver May 13-17. The posts composite figure is from page 4 of the preprint.

      • Michael,
        A better rebuttal would be for you to find and post NREL composite charts which show the missing 10 years of data, rather than attempt to nitpick what is or isn’t there.

      • ticketstopper,

        How bout this;

        Now that Rud has provided a real reference, his “deliberately misleading” assertion can be evaluated.

        And, it’s typical Rud.


        Here’s the chapter heading;
        “Trends in Wind Energy Capital Costs and Performance”

        Rud extracts his graph from this section;
        “2.1 Capital Cost Reductions: 1980–2003

        And what comes next?;
        “2.2 Capital Cost Increases: 2004-2009”

        And there is another graph.

        Guess what the graph looks like in this section!

        Let’s re-visit Rud’s allegation;
        “The above 2012 NREL composite chart is deliberately misleading; it ended in 2005 although LBNL data was available to 2011.”

        What should we call the omission of the report graph that shows the 2005 to 2011 data, so that it can be claimed that the report ignored the 2005 to 2011 data??

        Sceptics wonder.

      • Michael,
        From what you post, what you seem to be saying is that the NREL in fact does agree that wind energy costs are increasing – which is what I read from 2004-2009/Capital Cost increases. Thus your disagreement is only that Mr. Istvan incorrectly states that the real data is not published and why, not that his assertion of wind energy cost increases is false.
        As neither of you posted a link, I am unable to see the data in question.

      • Michael, dead thread. But somehow we are not discussing the same document. The one I archived has no chapters or subsections such as you reference in your reply. I just looked again. At the Denver conference, NREL misled. You only make NREL worse if you are claiming the same authors in some other document with subsections (as you cite) knew otherwise. Please post you doc reference so we can compare. I responded in good faith once understood your question. Can you do likewise?

      • Rud,

        I looked at the reference you gave;
        “NREL: The Past and Future Cost of Wind Energy, ”

        All the data you claim is missing is in there.

        And “some other document”????

        It’s your reference.

        I could claim you are “deliberately misleading”, but I’m leaning towards confabulation.

  17. Mike Flynn

    Did you factor in the savings due to recycling wind turbine blades by burning? Of course, you would have to deduct the energy costs of preparing the blades, but it seems that you can actually produce a reliable steady source of electricity from the wind turbines by burning the blades, and using the heat to turn an alternator.

    Why not just cut out the middleman, and save all the time, energy, and money wasted building wind turbines? Wind power has niche uses, of course. On yachts, isolated repeater stations with little sunlight, but lots of wind, and so on.

    My God, we humans are masters of hurling our scarce resources down the toilet, and congratulating ourselves on how clever we are, at the same time!

  18. Interesting.

    An extensive article about the competitiveness of wind versus other energy pathways.

    I did a search for externalit[y/ies] and came up with nary a hit…except in the comments where someone speaks of a negative externality with wind..

    To which both Rud and PE respond.


    • Danny Thomas

      Not sure what “externalities” you were seeking but specific to Texas I’d found this (from a state selling hard for wind turbines—–just ask JCH):
      Interesting that the comptroller indicates fairly reasonably the issues with all levels of energy production. This is a good report of the status in Texas.
      (The wind portions look very troubling.)

      • Hey Danny,

        I did a search at that document for “externalit[y/ies]. No hits. Also searched for “particulates.” No hits.

        I didn’t look at the document in any detail, but it looks to me that it doesn’t address the issue of externalities.

        Perhaps another case where we see people analyzing the relative costs (indeed, “true” costs) and benefits of different energy pathways, but not even attempting to address externalities?


    • Joshua, why not respond to our referenced specifics? Got problems with those, we are all ears. But be specific. Your blathered general objections to our specifics and references are boring.

    • Will it be “Interesting” whether or not we respond to you?

      • Whether it’s “interesting” or not – here’s my response. I don’t know of any “good” estimates of externalities that could be used, let alone that we would agree upon. In that absence of such – I don’t think the answer is to “fudge” cost data in order to support vague externality concerns. The cost data shows that the differential of externalities need to be huge. In any case if someone wrote a piece discussing and shedding light on externalities, I don’t think my reflexive answer would be to criticize them for what they did not look at, like the KWH cost of delivering power. I don’t think I would get snide about, but if troubled I would say, “Thanks for that, we’ll have to see how (or here’s how) that works out with other considerations such as cost and technical feasibility.” Not ” I don’t have the cost data myself but you need to work that out to before speaking on the subject”.

        As confident as you might be that a “good” understanding of externalities might sway the US to favor more wind, I am at least equal confident that any “good” study of the externalities that incorporated compassion and concern for third world people would find that fossil fuel was the correct choice for most of Africa at this time. Our false expectations and over-optimistic hopes are keeping poor people in the dark.

        I welcome externality studies in the US and other nations. Mostly what I see on one hand are global studiess against conventional technology that don’t delve into alternative technologies dark sides (large deaths in US from particles in the air). Or scattered criticisms of alternative technology(bird deaths). I wish would had more comprehensive efforts to get things on some comparable basis, even if value bound. I don’t know how shutting down dialogue on costs helps with that effort.

      • Well, except your article seems to focus on some hidden incentive (PTC) that means wind is more expensive that it seems, while ignoring externalities associated with the various fossil fuels. We may not have an agreed cost per MWh, but there are many estimates that suggest costs at least the same as the PTC you’ve focussed on here.

      • PE –

        I don’t think we should “fudge.”

        I do think that it is useful, in a comprehensive treatment of the cost competitiveness of wind energy, to discuss externalities. That discussion should, IMO, include caveats about how well we can and can’t quantify externalized costs.

        I don’t think it is valid to draw firm conclusions about the cost competitiveness of various energy pathways without controlling for externalities. That doesn’t mean that I think that a full analysis of costs is not valuable. If there is a lot of uncertainty in that control, then that means that you have to proceed with decision-making in the face of uncertainty.

        I do think that decision-making in the face of uncertainty is something that people find very difficult to do. Because of the difficulty, they tend to get complacent. They tend to be satisfied with reaching certainty in ways that confirm their biases before they’ve gathered sufficient evidence to support their conclusions..

        In contrast to your impression of my beliefs, I am not confident about the net balance of full-cost accounting for various energy pathways. I do see very large externalized costs from fossil fuels (outside of consideration of climate change), but I can also see the potential for relatively large positive externalities from the use of fossil fuels.

        What I see in these pages is that often, “skeptics” “fudge” in order to reach overly-confident conclusions about the net benefits of fossil fuels relative to alternative energy pathways. Perhaps you think that I’m trying to “shut down dialogue” w/r/t those issues. Not so.

      • aplanningengineer: I don’t think the answer is to “fudge” cost data in order to support vague externality concerns.

        Some people just don’t like to consider actual costs and benefits.

    • Joshua | May 12, 2015 at 8:51 pm | Reply

      I did a search for externalit[y/ies] and came up with nary a hit…except in the comments where someone speaks of a negative externality with wind.

      Wind uses a lot of resources and creates a lot of pollution to produce equipment that produces unreliable energy.

      The amount of land and resources required to capture wind, make it a loser.

      The basic problem is renewables don’t make sense even with the actual CO2 savings thrown in.

      Given that reducing a beneficial gas like CO2 is a bad joke – the renewables should be judged purely on LCOE of the fully loaded cost of renewables – or how they compete unsubsidized in the marketplace.

  19. Looks like combined cycle gas turbine (CCGT) with wind turbines is what we’re going to get. One of the most adaptive paired with one of the least. It will be less efficient and a combination of politics and engineers trying to solve problems.

  20. We are also watching an almighty commercial war between gas/oil and coal/nukes where the gas/oil side is prepared to encourage any amount of waste on “alternatives” to deal its actual and potent rivals out of the game.

    I’m sure if there was a Congo flowing through California Big Oil would be the most passionate supporter of “living rivers” and “natural flows”. Alternatives are okay with Big Oil so long as they involve consuming more oil and gas.

    I appreciate all forms of fossil fuel and potent power gen, but Big Oil now needs to be just another shop along the energy strip. The current pipeline situation across the world is unstable wherever you look. You need some oil and gas…but do you really want to buy into that global energy tangle more than you have to? Dependence on wind and sun means dependence on oil and gas (and on coal which is being starved into decrepitude while being flogged to work harder).

    If you’ve got plenty of gas or coal, don’t use it to supplement wind. Use it to supplement human well-being. Modernise, upgrade and improve fossil fuels at all ends, from dust levels at the mine to efficiency at generation. If you like regulating and subsidising, do so for that.

    Expensive, unreliable electricity removes the greatest equaliser and re-invents the class system. It’s like a government which talks about public transport and ends up spending millions on empty urban cycleways which slow down the buses. Stop catering to potty elites. Don’t do this!

    Great article, PE and Rud.

  21. Evidently Wind Generators, ( like solar panels and cell phones ) gobble up rare earth elements, leading to environment destruction like this:

    [video src="" /]

    • Peter Lang

      This is the key point I wanted to get across in my testimony to the Senate Select Committee on wind turbines:

      What’s the cost of CO2 emissions abatement?

      Answer: much higher than recognized.

      The cost of abatement with wind power in Australia would be:
      • 2 to 5 times the 2013 carbon price
      • 4 to 8 times the Direct Action average price achieved at the first auction
      • 6 to 12 times the EU ETS price
      • 100 to 200 times the international carbon price futures to 2020

      The Warburton Review estimated the cost of abatement under the LRET at $32-$72/tonne CO2 in 2020 (Section 5.6 – Cost of abatement’ – from estimates by ACIL-Allen, Frontier Economics and Deloitte).

      But the actual cost is likely to be much higher because the estimates apparently do not take the CO2 abatement effectiveness into account.

      Wheatley estimates wind energy in the NEM was just 78% effective at abating emissions in 2014, and would be about 70% effective if wind power’s share was doubled .

      Under the current RET legislation, wind energy would have to supply about 15% of electricity in 2020. At 15% share, wind is likely to be about 60% effective .

      At 60% effective, the CO2 abatement cost would be $53-$120 per tonne CO2

      Compare these abatement costs:
      Source; Year; $/t CO2
      Warburton review; 2020; $32 – $72
      With effectiveness included (at 60% in 2020); 2020; $53 – $120
      Carbon price at 2013 election; 2013; $24.15
      Direct Action (based on first auction; 2015; $13.95
      EU ETS price; 2015; $9.50
      International carbon permit futures (to 2020); 2020; $0.56

      The most important recommendation from my submission is:

      The CO2 abatement cost estimates in the RET Review be re-estimated taking CO2 abatement effectiveness into account.

      If the Department of Industry, ACIL-Allen, Deloitte or Frontier Economics can be tasked to re-estimate the CO2 abatement cost taking into account the CO2 abatement cost effectiveness (e.g. from Wheatley’s analysis), the estimated abatement costs will be much higher than is currently recognised.

      Once The Treasury, Department of Finance, Department of Industry and the responsible Ministers recognise the high cost of CO2 abatement with wind power, this could be the catalyst for change. It could be the beginning of widespread recognition that the RET is a high cost way of reducing emissions and that the costs will escalate dramatically to 2020.

      These cost increases will harm Australia’s international competitiveness, the economy, jobs, wages and standard of living.

  22. The intermittency problem can be solved by going long on Tesla stock, giving $billions to Musk in government grants to manufacture acres of battery storage capability, and then selling the Tesla stock like Toyota and Mercedes did to cover the grant, before Tesla’s faithful Tesla shareholders catch on and the stock collapses.

  23. John F. Hultquist

    That is a good deal for the Nebraska billionaire, but not for the rest of us.
    That is a good deal for the Nebraska billionaire, but not for the rest of us.
    Not exactly on target. First, I do not think wind energy is a good idea and will be happy when it goes the way of whale oil.
    However, for those with broad-based stock holdings (say mutual funds) there is some return of the taxes paid to support the credits and subsidies. Berkshire Hathaway, or any company, should do what it can to support (enrich) its stock holders. Buffet says this is what he does. It may not be a net gain for me but something is better than nothing. [I haven’t a clue as to which stocks/mutual-funds that we own are involved in such things.]

  24. Rud: Nice arithmetic, but until you take into account the negative externalities of each type of fuel, yor numbers are meaningless.

    • Danny Thomas

      Can agree that this is only a “part way there” analysis as far as it goes. But there are negative and positive externalities for all types of energy choice. Some might find an array of wind turbines to be much like a field of flowers and others might see a blight on the horizon. Some might find a coal mine flattened hilltop as disgusting and others a new location for a shopping mall (maul?). Prior to being able to compare social impacts definitions must be settled. It seems reasonable for an analysis to have a line drawn at some point. How would you frame the discussion and why? For example, you chose to use the term “negative” externalities in your criticism of this offering.

    • David: please feel free to add the negative externalities of intermittent wind power: wasted farm land, ruined vistas, unnecessary power line cuts and access roads, 1M Kg’s of concrete per turbine, end of life disposal of the turbine, grid connection costs, grid instability, the excess fossil fuels needed for backup, etc.

    • You mean the negative external costs that you agree with correct?

      • A problem I have always had with negative externalities of fossil fuels is the statistical artifacts (not facts) about health.

        When I go to compare health impacts of a hotter climate, say, on people living around the equator compared with, say, California or Minnesota, there is no greater incidence of lung cancer or asthma according to United Nations World Health Organization statistics.

        I don’t have to be a global warming skeptic to be skeptical about the imputed negative health externalities from fossil fuels. There always has been climate change. Los Angeles once had dinosaurs roaming around in a tropical forest. Industrialization did not cause its climate change to a semi-arid desert. So there are no “climate change” skeptics. And “global warming” was abandoned as a scientific paradigm in California around 2009 to 2010, three to four years after the California Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006.

    • We know of no way to compute negative externalities for the US or UK.
      The EERE stuff based on ‘cost of carbon’ is from lala land. Go read it.

      So far, there is no global warming in the 21st century, sea level rise is not accelerating, the terrestrial biosphere is greening, and polar bears are thriving. As for future damage projections (which would have to be annuitized at 0.065 r), the 2060 NRC crop yield stuff is bogus (see my very first guest post here in 2011), the ocean acidification stuff is pH overstated by 2x and misrepresented (guest post Shell Games), IPCC SREX finds little association with extreme weather, and observational sensitivity is about half of IPCC climate models. Funafuti is gaining land despite rising sea level (new study this week).
      As for fuels, the only negative extenality (assuming US level pollution abatement on coal) is nuclear rad waste. And that is small if (a) one adopts fuel recycling as in Japan with JNFL’s MOX process at Rokkasho, and (b) retires all gen 1 faciltities as originally planned when built– as should have been done at Fukushima.
      Perhaps you can point us and Judith’s denizens to some scientifically robust negative externalities for CCGT and USC coal? Would be glad to scrutinize them on all our behalf. As for nuclear, a subject beyond this post, start with my essay Going Nuclear.

    • David Appell: Rud: Nice arithmetic, but until you take into account the negative externalities of each type of fuel, yor numbers are meaningless.

      What are the 5-10 most important, and their costs?

      Note that there are claims that wind power is commercially competitive right now without subsidies. Before getting too far into externalities, it should be absorbed that such claims are likely false, ad based on inadequate study..

    • dougbadgero

      Nonsense, the costs outlined are clear and verifiable. Any discussion of negative externalities will be uncertain. Therefore, any discussion of negative externalities belongs in the political arena. It is on you and yours to justify the extra costs to avoid the claimed negative externalities.

  25. Another aspect that needs to be adressed is: 1 kWh of wind electricity does not replace the generated co2 of 1 kWh of gas electricity although the dutch bureau of statistics suggest it does.

  26. Excellent. It seems to me the best way to put a price on wind power is to have it compete in the open market. The federal government, if it wishes to have more wind installed, can set up a program to provide a subsidy per kWh delivered over a 20 year period. The subsidy would be a bid parameter companies would put on the table. The wind provider would have to deal with all the associated problems.

    I think this would lead to the creation of consortia willing to build integrated solar/wind/gas turbine/energy storage/grid improvements mega projects. The federal government can decide if the bid price is worth the effort by looking at energy security, global warming, job creation, and income tax generation. This will give the public a pretty good idea of what renewables cost, and also a transparent view of what the government thinks about long term energy security.

  27. An excellent article and some equally good comments. The UK electricity system is becoming a train crash waiting to happen and the new Government has no intention of stopping the crash. It may stop onshore wind turbines but it is promoting more expensive offshore wind and other more expensive and equally harmful renewables (such as solar – useless with the UK’s unsunny weather – and tidal lagoons).

  28. Thanks for this analysis. I’ve been interested in this topic for some time but the literature is quite muddled and I found it difficult to find some dependable info.

    Perhaps it makes sense to add that the perspective for renewables is the intention to replace all other energy sources in the more distant future.
    The intermittency in distribution related complementary system costs will
    increase tremendously when a certain level of generation of perhaps 10-30% is surpassed (if some marvelous technological innovations won’t come to rescue).

    This also means that further reductions in wind turbine or solar panel costs will be increasingly irrelevant though they are presently regularly cited as a reason to be just optimistic about the future of renewables, especially solar.

    It mostly hinges on future storage technologies. One never knows but this always makes me think of fuel cells which are just on the verge to become economical for 25 years or so now.

  29. A minor point.

    “Studies of UK and Denmark wind farms suggest their actual economic lives appear to be 12-15 years due to wear and tear [4]”.

    The piece gives two references under [4]. The second is to a paper by Staffel summarised here: which criticises the first which was by Prof. Gordon Hughes.

    Staffel says: “To put these claims in context, we could consider the 45 wind farms built in the UK during the 1990s
    (more than 15 years ago):
    • 5 were repowered before their 15th birthday;
    • 5 operated for between 17 and 20 years before being repowered (1 was closed completely);
    • 35 are still operating today”

    Hughes was accused of statistical incompetence by David MacKay. I read the exchange (Hughes was very bad tempered) and concluded that MacKay was right. Those more knowledgeable of statistics might disagree.(see and link to technical paper there).

    • Interesting. Gordon Hughes was rather scathing of a supposedly simplistic statistical error in the Marotzke & Forster paper. He was wrong about that too. Seems rather ironic to me.

    • I believe there is a difference between “actual economic life” and “still working”.

      I may have missed it but I didn’t see that paper referenced. According to that, load factor (CF) drops from 28% new to 21% at age 19. For some reason 35% is used by EIA possibly projecting improvements. So you can expect a 40% reduction in capacity versus EIA estimates. So by 20 years expect about half your investment to be lost. Pretty much typical over optimistic sales hype, not necessarily political motivated. Buyer beware and all that.

      New industry with new products so the data is pretty thin.

    • Peter, those controversies are why we just computed the LCOE consequences of a 25 year versus 30 year life. Then pointed out via these footnoted papers and the axial bearing problem that we might still be too generous.
      One thing about beating a dead horse (like wind). Once it is dead, further beating does not make it deader.

  30. Another excellent post. We should be thankful to Rud, PE, Judith and others who are able to sift through the minutia and explain it in a way that laymen like me can understand. I hope you find the time to do follow-up posts on solar, biomass, nuclear, and even fossil fuels in a way that allows for a more rational comparison of viable and not so viable alternatives.

    As for the externalities referenced by Joshua and ATTP, are you talking about the longer, healthier, and more fulfilling lives we now lead that fossil fuels have made possible? Or, are you alluding to the benefits of a greener planet in response to elevated levels of Co2 and a generally warming world? Just curious.

    • Barnes –

      ==> “As for the externalities referenced by Joshua and ATTP, are you talking about the longer, healthier, and more fulfilling lives we now lead that fossil fuels have made possible? Or, are you alluding to the benefits of a greener planet in response to elevated levels of Co2 and a generally warming world? Just curious.”

      I’m referring to a full-cost accounting of negative and positive externalities. I notice that some “skeptics” are more than willing to discuss positive externalities from fossil fuels and negative externalities from alternative energy, but not negative externalities from fossil fuels. That doesn’t seem to me like a very comprehensive approach and it seems to me to undermine their confidence about the relative advantages of fossil fuels.

      • Joshua – I have no problem with your argument as you frame it here. The problem is, however, that the positive externalities of fossil fuels have been completely ignored by AGW proponents while the negative externalities have been grossly exaggerated. The exact opposite is true for “green” energy – that is, the positive has been greatly exaggerated to the point of outright dishonesty, while negative effects are ignored. These views are continually repeated by the MSM, pop culture, our indoctrination camps, aka, k thru post grad education system, and gollywood with but 2 outlets that provide counter arguments – Fox and WSJ. Try having a conversation with the average Joe (meaning the typical low information voter) about climate change and you will likely find they think we should move away from fossil fuels to green energy because that is all they hear.

        It would be interesting if Dr. Curry had a post on this topic, possibly examining the SCC.

      • Thanks Barnes. Sometimes someone needs to state what is seemingly obvious in clear words.

  31. We can only hope that the decibel level of the green mob/blob abates after the Paris summit fails to accomplish any meaningful agreement wrt causing further damage to the world economy by perpetuating the myth of fossil fuel caused by globalclimatewarmingchange (h/t GaryM). Unfortunately, we may have already passed the tipping point of total insanity. We are literally wasting hundreds of billions, if not trillions on a global scale, in both intellectual and economic capital on green technologies that are not so green and are only capable of providing an extremely small fraction of the energy provided by fossil fuels, at a much higher cost, and that can only operate if fully backed up by another energy source. As others have alluded to, our financial and intellectual capital should not be wasted on what has been shown to be wind and solar boondogles, but instead focused on research to develop real alternatives, not because of globalcliatewarmingchange, but because some day, possibly sooner than later, fossil fuels will become scarce, and life as we know it now will in fact end and we will be in the world of Bill McKibbon:

    “In 1998, Bill McKibben endorsed a scenario of outlawing 60 percent of present fossil fuel use to slow catastrophic climate change, even though that would mean, in his words, that “each human being would get to produce 1.69 metric tons of carbon dioxide annually— which would allow you to drive an average American car nine miles a day. By the time the population increased to 8.5 billion, in about 2025, you’d be down to six miles a day. If you carpooled, you’d have about three pounds of CO2 left in your daily ration— enough to run a highly efficient refrigerator. Forget your computer, your TV, your stereo, your stove, your dishwasher, your water heater, your microwave, your water pump, your clock. Forget your light bulbs, compact fluorescent or not.” That was 1998, today Bill McKibben endorses a 95 percent ban on fossil fuel use, eight times as severe as the scenario described above… from the Moral Case for Fossil Fuels.

    How many warmests out there are ready for McKibben’s world?

  32. As an Ontario rate payer I cringed at the implication that wind makes any sense in Ontario. Not only is the minimal power we get from it expensive and unreliable, it is totally unnecessary. We could easily have 100% zero-CO2 (and cheaper) power by expanding our nuclear fleet by a couple of reactors and buying hydro power from Quebec and Manitoba. But the “geniuses” that run this province recently cancelled the new reactors (at a cost of $100M’s) and ban East/West Ontario power suppliers from importing their power. And to make it worse they have designated at least one nuclear reactor to be sacrificed (cooled down) when the wind picks up since there is no where to dump the excess supply thanks to the wind farms in NY and Ohio that also scramble to sell of their temporary oversupply.

  33. We need some way to get wind energy out of small boys with umbrellas.

  34. Excellent article. Many thanks.

    I believe one solution to the demand for “green” power is to require those who select it to use it exclusively. In other words, when the wind isn’t blowing or the sun isn’t shining, the lights go out.

    And I’m actually a supporter of “alternative” energy sources (let’s not pretend it’s “green”) when appropriate (isolated locations, end of node demand balancing, etc.).

  35. Thank you PE and Rud for for this excellent post. I hate to be a nitpicker, but the following statement keeps nagging at me:

    ” Those wind credits are equivalent to earning (253/0.31) $816 million on his $5.6 billion wind investment—a 15% return ”

    Actually…$253 million in after tax cash flow is equivalent to earning 253/(1-.31) = $367 million – a 6.5% pretax return.

    Still, nothing to sneeze at when you can borrow at 3.5%. It’s free money, compliments of the Iowa taxpayer, to

  36. Also thanks to Rud and PE for the interesting article with references.

    This is still lots to figure out but a rich state like California can afford to experiment with alternate energy sources. The wind mills are ugly and do kill birds. I read in a repowering evaluation of Altamont pass wind mills that golden eagles deaths were around 40 last year with a regional population of around 4,000. BIG problem. Have to study and fix that. But alternate paths to energy self sufficiency help the overall system. Energy independence from coal trains and open pit mines do provide some balance from external costs. Looking into the report from EERE about wind to compare some of the assumptions. Solar on roof tops and parking lots in CA and wind where relatively economic can all be part of the mix. Coal in GA and PA good.

    • Scott
      California does not need any solar or wind power at all to meet a 50% reduction in C02. Economist Charles Frank of the liberal Brookings Institution, supported financially by Sen. Dianne Feinstein and her husband Richard Blum, in a study titled “The Net Benefits of Low and No Carbon Energy”, found that hydro, combined cycle natural gas, and nuclear power could totally displace more C02 than renewables and at much, much cheaper cost. Moreover, California already has exceeded 50% renewable power in 2009, 2010, and 2011 when hydropower is included. When California starts buying large amounts of hydropower for its Energy Imbalancing Market, perhaps that percentage will climb to 65% or so.

      Hydropower, natural gas, and nuclear power don’t kill eagles either.

      One could retort that the Cal Coastal Commission forced coastal power plants to abandon ocean water cooling and shift to expensive cooling in order to avoid destroying fish larvae at the ocean water intake of power plants. But then, desert concentrated solar power plants, wipe out millions of airborne insects that serve as food for birds in the desert food chain.

      The University of Arizona Manduca Project concluded that there are 750 insects per square foot of land area in desert areas. Thus, the Ivanpah Solar Thermal Power Plant impacts about 115 billion insects per year. But given there is a double standard for renewable power plants, they can wipe out the insect food chain of the desert with impunity because insects are not pretty or a cultural image as are eagles.

  37. It will be interesting to see how the drought affects the 8+% of California renewable electricity – since the hydropower serves both as baseload and storage.

  38. Planning Engineer and Rud Istvan, thank you for a good post.

  39. Planning Engineer and Rud — I “think” I disagree with you on some points. But first, I have some questions. Being from the Southeast, I’m not real familiar with wind energy in integrated resource planning.

    (1) Can you provide a link that provides load profile data for wind throughout the U.S.? Some places it primarily blows at night, other places during the day.

    (2) From this load data, can we say that wind is never or rarely considered an option in integrated resource planning for peaking load?

    (3) Did the EIA only use a carbon tax on coal — or did they use it across all fossil fuel options?

    • You can google wind capacity credit or wind capacity value. The credit is around 14% in MISO and ERCOT. That is you can count that portion of your wind for peaking. While I can trust solar for summer peaks (adjusted for the hour or the day), I don’t like giving wind any peaking credit. On the hottest most extreme day when capacity is the most valued below average wind is not a remote possibility. I think the counting wind as capacity is an undue risk undertaken under pressure to be as accomadating as possible to renewables.

      • Peter Lang

        repost in correct place

        Capacity credit for wind is 3% in Victoria and 8% for South Australia (or vice versa) last time I looked..

    • Stephen, on your point 3, our quote was exact. You can check yourself from our hyperlinks. EIA only burdened (via 0.095 r) coal IFF conventional (no gassification, no ccs). A cheat, as we explained in the post.
      As for your point 1, Google wind energy. Many, many maps showing relative potential. Biggest in places like Iowa and Texas panhandle. That is how the NREL pulled off its selection bias trick.
      If wind doesn’t work in the most favorable geographies, what about the rest?
      As for your point 2, correct. See the UK grid figure. Max winter peak load, zero wind. NOT a good combination.

      • Rud — the obvious example for peaking load would be pump storage hydro for wind energy that blows at night. Would a tax credit for wind projects that result in greater use of hydro for peaking load be justified?

      • Peter Lang

        Capacity credit for wind is 3% in Victoria and 8% for South Australia (or vice versa) last time I looked..

      • Peter Lang

        Stephen Segrest,

        Rud — the obvious example for peaking load would be pump storage hydro for wind energy that blows at night.

        The obvious response is that pumped hydro is not even close to being viable with high cost intermittent, unreliable power supply like wind. That’s a been discussed many times on previous posts that you’ve been involved in.

  40. Thanks much for this article. It is informative and devoid of the arrogance I’ve seen elsewhere. Definitely a keeper that I’ll be re-reading carefully.

  41. aplanningengineer, you wrote in the article:

    “CCGT cost advantages include: (a) better net thermal efficiency (61% versus 41% for USC coal) …”

    How does that square with Tables 8.1 and 8.2 here?

    As before, this is not a rhetorical question, but an honest inquiry. Thanks.

    • Charlie, I will take a look tomorrow if no one else beats me to it. I’m just on my iPad in transit. Table 8.2 seems to lump ct and cc plants together so it’s numbers aren’t applicable. Table 8.1 shows CCs with much better efficiency then coal which is consistent. But I haven’t converted btu to %, is the discrepancy in values or delta troubling? CCs have better efficiency because they first use a combustion turbine and the extract the waste heat as well to run boilers. Coal is burned and only works through boilers. (New gasified coal would heat coal, get gas, turn combustion engine and extract waste heat for better coal efficiency,lower emissions, but at large capital costs. )

      • No problem about timing, I completely understand. And I thank you for your candor and your patient willingness to walk through it for me. I understand how frustrating it can be for people with a lot of technical knowledge to deal with people who have a lot less of it. Trust me, I’ve been there, and it can be hard.

        The numbers I highlighted show thermal efficiencies in the mid-40% range for “CC” natural gas, and in the low 30% range for coal and nuclear. Your numbers are much higher. I don’t doubt you. I just want to know where your numbers come from.

        I’m only recently acquainted with your posts and this site, but you already have a great deal of credibility with me, so I’m basically hoping you’ll show me exactly where the DOE numbers are wrong and yours are correct. I must have overlooked something, but I don’t know what it is. Thanks once again for your patience.

    • You are comparing specific new technology (61/40) to the average of what is out on the system now (EIA tables 45/33). It’s like comparing the average fuel mileage of all functioning car and trucks to specific advanced cars and trucks now. If you look at the EIA table 8.1 you can even with the averaging effect see the average Gas heat rate improving from 2003 to 2013 by almost 16%. That’s an amazing rise and I don’t think that many CCs were built in that time frame (A lot just before).

      I didn’t procure the data myself but it appears credible and the fact that averages are different does not raise a red flag.

      • Thanks for your reply, and once again for your patience. Given that the LCOE numbers show that fuel is 60%-70% of the cost of operating a natural gas generator, you’d think that 60% thermal efficiency would be enough of a leap to cause utilities to go crazy to replace other plants, including natural gas plants.

        Imagine you’re, say, United Parcel Service, and two-thirds of your fleet vehicle costs are for gasoline. And a new truck comes out that gets 60 miles a gallon, compared to your old ones that got 30 miles to the gallon. I’d think you’d rush to get new trucks, and have no trouble getting the banks to lend you the money — even if it meant that the old trucks went straight to the landfill.

        But I know that nothing’s ever that simple in life. In any case, it’s startling to notice the increase in the thermal efficiency of natural gas generators. I wonder what happened. By the way, and please correct me if I’m wrong, but I’m going to assume that the DOE averages are correct as averages. I wonder if you have any thoughts as to what will happen to average thermal efficiency in the next 10-15 years as coal goes from 39% of the mix to, say, 30%, and gas goes from 28% to, say, 35%.

        I have a couple more questions for you but will ask them in a separate posting.

      • You can look on the GE page I sent you and see that they offer models with lower efficiency than the 60%. The extra efficiency comes at a price. Each extra bit of efficiency costs more than the last bit. So maybe you don’t want it.

        Think of cars you would probably pay an extra $1000 to have you gas MPG go up by 10%. But how much would you pay to have it go up 1%? How much would it have to go up to get you to pay an extra $50,000? Most people don’t buy the car with the highest MPG.

        Now if you say that reducing fossil fuels is worth the high cost of wind and solar – then maybe you stop doing the calculations to see if the extra efficiency is worth the money.

      • Please understand, I am an unreconstructed Numbers Guy From Hell. Before I “decide” whether wind and solar are “worth it,” I want to know that I’m using the right numbers. It is soooooooo hard to get objective data. Everyone is grinding an ax, except for me ha ha. Really, I feel like Diogenes in search of honest numbers.

        It’s my quest for the numbers that makes me ask these detail questions. Again, I am grateful to you for taking the time to go through them.

  42. A question about the PTC credit for wind. You wrote:

    ‘True’ wind LCOE is understated since the PTC is missing. The annuity value of $21.5/MWH for 10 years at 6.5% interest, annuitized over 30 years is $7.2/MWh. A ‘truer’ comparison to coal is (96+7) ~$103/MWh from the general taxpayer perspective, rather than from Warren Buffet’s.

    Each generation method gets an LCOE projection without subsidy. A few methods — not including wind — have their subsidies listed separately. Leaving aside for the moment your dissection of the LCOE methodology, and confining the question to comparability of the projections (flawed though they might be), I’m failing to see how the wind LCOE is understated because the PTC is missing.

    Wouldn’t the omission of the PTC that the operators are actually getting actually make the net LCOE projections overstated for wind? Again, this is apart from your critique of the LCOE methodology, and focusing exclusively on the effect of excluding the PTC in the Table 1 that you cited.

    Or are you saying that the PTC has been included in wind’s LCOE without it having been disclosed, and therefore wind’s LCOE is artificially low in Table 1? That would be a truly squirrelly move on someone’s part, not to mention puzzling as hell given that subsidies for two types of solar, geothermal, and nuclear are broken out separately.

    • CP, dead thread, but you are owed an answer. The way EIA says they compute LCOE in their five categories, a subsidy is a ‘cost’ to be added to generation. So if they zero it out by assumption, it lowers LCOE. It is not hidden. It is explicitly zeroed when the administration wants to make it permanent, since otherwise wind investment collapses (yet again, see figure 2 of the post).

      • Thanks, ristvan. I appreciate. I feel kind of stupid here. This confuses the hell out of me. I’m going to need to spend a good deal more time with it, because it’s something I really want to understand, and not for five minutes like when I read an explanation of Einstein’s theories of relativity. :-)

      • Ristvan, let me try this one again. The DOE gives pre-subsidy LCOEs for solar, nuclear, and geothermal. From there, they deduct the subsidies for those to come up with a net LCOE. You’d think that, if they included PTC for wind as a subsidy — which would seem logical to me, anyway — that would also be scored as a deduction from the pre-subsidy LCOE according to their methodology, and broken out as such.

        Did DOE include the PTC in the pre-subsidy LCOE for wind without disclosing that they’ve done so? In other words, if for the moment we accept the rest of the DOE methodology, is the 80.3 number given for wind not really 80.3 because that includes a PTC that the DOE has not mentioned?

        Also, you mentioned a “figure 2” in the posting. I don’t see any “figures” labeled with numbers, but I do see numbered footnotes. I know what a “figure” is, but given that the post did not guive figure numbers, I am wondering if you meant “footnote 2” (which is numbered in the post) rather than “figure 2” (which is not numbered in the post).

        Finally, I’m only focusing on this right at the moment because I want to try to understand each element of this analysis. The other material about the miscalculation of capital costs is very interesting to me. I’m only assuming the rest of the methodology to be correct for the purpose of isolating this subsidy calculation.

        Once I’m satisfied that I understand the subsidy calculation, then I’ll dive into the rest. I hope that makes sense. Again, thanks very much for taking the time to try to help me understand this.

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  44. Across the Pacific – it looks like Japan is preparing to ditch its solar subsidised supply and return to nuclear generation. Ignore the opening diatribe, the real information starts halfway through the article:

  45. The topic of wind turbine related bird deaths will become a hot topic soon after I release a video. This video will expose very clearly to all, one of the primary reasons the wind industry’s fraudulent research is hiding the slaughter to millions upon millions of birds and bats. The industry will never be able to hide or create fraudulent research to explain away to the public what they will learn.

    • My comments in reply someone else upthread notwithstanding, I’ll be interested. Please make sure to include some objective research. I want to know how many birds and bats are killed by wind turbines. Then I want to know what other things kill birds and bats, to be able to get a sense of propotionality.

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  47. Rod and PE: UK’s National Grid released documents discussing their ability to forecast production of electricity 4 hours in the future, but didn’t explain why a 4-hour period was important. It may be the amount of time needed to bring an idle fossil fuel plant on line.

    In theory, wind power varies with the third power of wind speed. If wind speed is 10% less than forecast, wind power is 27% less than forecast. If wind speed is 20% less than forecast, wind power is 50% less than forecast.

    Current plans in the UK call for producing 30% of electricity from wind by 2030, which means optimal winds will be capable of producing nearly 100% of demand. If forecasts of wind speed are 10-20% too high on one of those windy days, the grid operator will be scrambling to meet 25-50% of the nation’s electricity demand! If forecasts of wind speed are 10-20% too low on one of those windy days, the grid operator have 25-50% more capacity in reserve than needed. A reserve this size will be associated with significant emission of CO2 even when wind is providing all the power!

    In East Denmark, hydroelectric power backs up electricity generation by wind. Hydroelectric power can be turned on almost instantly and doesn’t emit any CO2. Where the reserve must come from fossil fuel plants, the situation is more complicated. Wind power can be saved through pumped storage and provide its own back-up, but that will roughly double the cost

    The accuracy with which wind power output can be forecast appears to have a major impact on the cost of wind power and the actual reduction in CO2 emissions.

    • Chris Schoneveld

      “In East Denmark, hydroelectric power backs up electricity generation by wind. Hydroelectric power can be turned on almost instantly and doesn’t emit any CO2.”

      Not so. According to Wikipedia: “Denmark has only three hydropower plants, powering 3000 homes, accounting for less than 0.1% of its total electricity production”

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  49. Peter Lang

    Planning Engineer and Rud Istvan,

    My apologies for late responses here. I’ve been busy preparing to testify, testifying and follow up to the Australian Senate ‘Select Committee on Wind Turbines’. I testified on 19 May.

    This is an excellent post. I’d suggest it could be a very valuable peer reviewed paper in ‘Energy Policy’. If you submit it there it will be influential – and very helpful to Australia, UK and other countries. We need papers like this.

    Since at least 2010, the US Energy Information Agency (EIA) has been assuring NGOs and the public that wind would be cost competitive by now, all things considered

    The wind advocates from CSIRO and elsewhere and academia have been arguing that since 1990 in Australia.

    Yet incentives originally intended only to help start the wind industry continue to be provided everywhere. This fact suggests wind is not competitive with conventional fossil fuel generation.

    In Australia we have legislation for a Renewable Energy Target (RET). If electricity retailers do not buy a specified proportion of their electricity from approved renewable energy sources, they have to pay a fine. The fine is legislated at $93/MWh. The current price of the Renewable Energy Certificates (REC) is $36/MWh. So there is huge incentive to build more wind farms. But it’s driving the wholesale cost of electricity down and the retail price up (because the price of the REC’s has to be passed on to consumers). It’s sending the dispatchable generators broke – It’s a disaster for reliable energy supply and competitive electricity priced. But the renewable energy advocates love it and reckon its saving the planet.

    The record US annual wind capacity factor was 2014 at 33.9%. EIA itself says the median CF over the past decade is 31%. (Still better than the UK, where CF ranged from a low of 21.5% in 2010 to a record high 27.9% in 2013.) The assumed US 35% CF is unrealistically optimistic. [3]

    For comparison, the average capacity factor of wind power in the Australian National Electricity Market (NEM) was 29% in 2014.

    In other words, the capital annuity component of non-wind LCOE should be reduced by ~25% to reflect longer useful lives (40 rather than 30 year annuity, EIA capital only, 0.065 r). That is $8.35/MWh lower LCOE for coal …

    Is that correct? I haven’t checked the calculations. However, changing the amortization period from 30 to 40 years doesn’t make a great deal of difference to LCOE because of the effect of the discount rate. The NREL simple LCOE calculator is useful for doing quick checks like this:

    For example, GE’s FlexEfficiency 50 is a 510MWCCGT that can ramp 50MW/minute.

    An off topic factoid: The 1600 MW EPR is also designed to ramp at 50 MW/min down to 50% of rated power, and can operate stably at 25% of rated power.

    Your conclusion includes this:

    We can only approximate the ‘true’ cost of wind, and how much the reality differs from ‘official’ EIA (and industry) claims.

    Can you give me your rough guestimate of what factor the EIA LCOE’s should be raised by. Part way through the post you mentioned 50%. Would that be a reasonable rule of thumb to use?

  50. Wind Energy Generation: The $500 Billion Global Fraud – The British People and those across the world are Being Totally Conned and Absolutely Misled by our Politicians with an energy policy that is based upon predominantly, hot-air. For Wind Turbines are sheer economic madness in the long-term –

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  53. Excellent article. Re:

    “Overwhelmingly conventional resources are not giving favorable treatment relative to intermittent resources.”

    “given” not “giving” presumably

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  58. Curious: There’s no proposed integration of wind with solar, where they complement. Also, the EIA LCOE is misrepresented, since the EIA segregates land wind turbines from ocean. Land wind turbines are far more cost effective than ocean, WITHOUT SUBSIDIES, and are comparable to the cheapest natural gas.

    Fossil fuel costs here, for the most part, do not include NETWORK COSTS and costs of upstream emissions in addition to energy costs there. And the proposed and contemplated architecture for introducing and integrating wind into the energy system are simply a variant of the standard model, with no consideration given to a model which completely decentralizes energy generation, excluding central utilities, and taking advantage of local storage, smart grids, supplementary solar, and lateral sharing rather than vertical integration.

    In short, this is a pancky defense of a world which is under assault by disruptive energy technology.

    Go ahead. Pretend it can continue and try to get government entrenched in it. Eventually, the communities and counties and countries which do so will become non-competitive as a result, simply because renewables will provide energy to locales at costs below the network costs of distribution which they won’t need.

    • Peter Lang


      What on earth are you talking about. This is simpluy an idelogically driven rant, full of nonsense. Let’s pick one for example.

      Fossil fuel costs here, for the most part, do not include NETWORK COSTS

      The network cost are many times higher for intermittent renewable than for fossil fuel generation. At 50% penetration the network costs for renewable would about 50 to 70 times higher than for fossil fuels:

      You clearly haven’t a clue what you are talking about.

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