News & Analysis
Wind Power – Just Better?
Australian Wind Energy Now Cheaper Than Coal, Gas, BNEF Says ... Wind is now cheaper than fossil fuels in producing electricity in Australia, the world's biggest coal exporter, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. Electricity can be supplied from a new wind farm in Australia at a cost of A$80 ($84) per megawatt hour, compared with A$143 a megawatt hour from a new coal-fired power plant or A$116 from a new station powered by natural gas when the cost of carbon emissions is included, according to a Bloomberg New Energy Finance report. – Bloomberg
Dominant Social Theme: Wind power and alternative energy solutions are just better.
Free-Market Analysis: One of the problems with elite dominant social themes in the era of the Internet is that despite the best efforts of the mainstream press, promotions may be undercut for a number of reasons.
In the excerpt above, we can see Bloomberg, a mainstream media elite mouthpiece, positioning wind power as a great boon and economically efficient approach to energy generation.
The real reason for promoting alternative energy consumption such as wind power has little to do with the environment, from what we can tell, and everything to do with control.
Huge energy producing wind farms, solar farms and other alternative resources are vastly complex to develop and integrate into the power grid.
Coal, oil and other naturally occurring sources of power, meanwhile, are continually demonized. From our point of view, this is by design. The idea is to disenfranchise those who seek to be energy independent and to promote complex solutions that demand bureaucratic oversight.
In this article, excerpted above, Bloomberg makes a continual argument for energy complexity. The wire service explains that coal-fired power stations built in the 1970s and 1980s can still produce power at a lower cost than that of wind, the research shows, but that fossil fuels are growing more expensive.
Of course, reading further informs us that this is not due to supply and demand but because government itself is raising the costs because of government's "price on carbon emissions imposed last year."
Australia is the first major Western country to formally tax carbon emissions. And there remains a great deal of controversy about such taxes, given the infinitesimal contribution of manmade carbon to the atmosphere.
Global warming – AKA climate change – remains highly controversial, too. But that hasn't constrained Australia's leftist government when it comes to taking action. Bloomberg writes the following:
"The fact that wind power is now cheaper than coal and gas in a country with some of the world's best fossil fuel resources shows that clean energy is a game changer which promises to turn the economics of power systems on its head," Michael Liebreich, chief executive officer of Bloomberg New Energy Finance, said in a statement today ...
Australia last year started charging its biggest polluters a price of A$23 a metric ton for their carbon emissions to discourage the use of fossil fuels and fight climate change. Natural gas prices in Australia may triple by 2030, BNEF said.
"The low and falling costs of renewable energy and high and rising costs of coal- and gas-fired plants suggest that much of Australia's new generating capacity is likely to be renewable," Sydney-based Bloomberg New Energy Finance analyst Kobad Bhavnagri wrote in the report.
We can see Bloomberg is flogging its own subscription-finance facility, above. Leaving aside the conflict of interest inherent in reporting so dramatically on trends that one is monetizing, we are left with the ongoing questions about why these sorts of articles never recognize the larger controversies.
The meme itself is obviously in disarray. The Daily Mail, for instance, ran a long article late last year on why wind power is coming into increasing disfavor in Britain. Christopher Booker writes, in part:
Ten years too late, it's good riddance to wind farms – one of the most dangerous delusions of our age ... Energy Minister John Hayes has announced no more wind farms are allowed to be built in the UK ... The significance of yesterday's shock announcement by our Energy Minister John Hayes that the Government plans to put a firm limit on the building of any more onshore windfarms is hard to exaggerate.
On the face of it, this promises to be the beginning of an end to one of the greatest and most dangerous political delusions of our time. For years now, the plan to cover hundreds of square miles of the British countryside with ever more wind turbines has been the centrepiece of Britain's energy policy — and one supported by all three major political parties.
Nowhere will this announcement be greeted with more delirious surprise than in all those hundreds of communities across the land where outraged local protest groups have formed in ever greater numbers to fight the onward march of what they see as the greatest threat to Britain's countryside for centuries.
So unreliable are wind turbines — thanks to the wind's constant vagaries — that they are one of the most inefficient means of producing electricity ever devised.
Indeed, the amount of power they generate is so derisory that, even now, when we have built 3,500 turbines, the average amount of power we get from all of them combined is no more than what we get from a single medium-size, gas-fired power station, built at only fraction of the cost.
No one would dream of building windfarms unless the Government had arranged to pay their developers a subsidy of 100 per cent on all the power they produce, paid for by all of us through a hidden charge on our electricity bills.
The only way the industry managed to fool politicians into accepting this crazy deal was by subterfuge — referring to turbines only in terms of their 'capacity' (i.e. what they could produce if the wind was blowing at optimum speeds 24 hours of every day). The truth is that their average actual output is barely a quarter of that figure.
Yet it was on this deception that the industry managed to fool pretty well everyone that windfarms could make a contribution to Britain's energy needs four times larger than reality — and thus was 'the great wind scam' launched on its way.
Wind power has many difficulties, which is why it has never been relied upon as a chief source of power. The Bloomberg article provides us with a mainstream narrative but such a narrative does not offer us the larger reality.
Conclusion: In an era of information plenty, we wonder how long such articles can be convincing, let alone the investment opportunities they purport to provide.
Posted by mava on 02/09/13 01:58 PM
If there is one thing one must know about "renewable" energy it is that it will undoubtedly result in drastic increase of control of the way we live our lives by the governments. I shall now attempt to explain why.
The current inefficiencies of methods of capturing that energy being irrelevant simply because there is always a way to engineer a better machine, the important thing to understand is that when you capture that energy, you remove it from the environment in much more direct way, therefore impacting the environment in ways not even dreamed with the conventional conversion of potential (already stored away as extra energy by the nature).
Imagine for a second a planet covered in solar panels. (The way to guess the direction of a change in a function is to examine the extremes). You'd think that would an eden, right?
Far from it. The earth would freeze. This is because you now remove much of the directly incoming energy flow, which used to be converted into what we call "higher temperature", and convert it into kinetic or light.
If you imaging the earth covered in efficient wind turbines, or tide turbines, or geothermal turbines, or even seismic energy capture engines, the same thing can be observed, - no more wind, no more tides, no more geothermal no more seismic activity. What would be the impact of such change?
We would kill the earth as we know it. This is because all those types of energy are weak forms (even if they appear as strong forces to us). It will not take much to create drastic environmental changes.
Second, the conversion of this "renewable" energy into what we use, is a self-accelerating process. Here is why. Say one city had converted all of it energy consumption from stored to incoming sources, say solar. Now, there is less of that solar energy is available to contribute to the effects we haven't considered yet, like our houses are much colder. Thus we need to build more of the same to heat them up, which will result in even colder days. And so on.
The only conceivable application of all that energy is in re-directing the impact, as in cases where we move outside radiant heat to the inside and vice-versa.
I hope that you can now see that the direct result of the expansion of the renewable energy myth will be drastic changes in environment, which will lead to drastic increase in regulation.
The authorities push this renewable energy agenda, because that is the result they are aiming for. The increase in regulation. Don't be a primitive fool and fall for such a cheap trick.
Posted by TerryWriterFromPortCredit on 02/09/13 06:25 AM
Is a home-sized wind turbine added with solar a viable way to self-power a home so as to get off the grid controlled by the powers-that-are-trying-to-keep power?
The Canadian Curator.
Posted by washingtongriz on 02/08/13 10:58 PM
One problem with the wind farms that hasn't been mentioned in this article or the commentary is setup and maintenance costs. These turbines, with their huge blades, are extremely expensive pieces of machinery. And I've heard that in the local wind farms here in WA they require a lot of very expensive maintenance to keep them online.
Posted by Dontan on 02/08/13 10:56 PM
@ DB: "Obviously we are not speaking of local or individual solutions." Why not? Why this mega solution vs another? Is that itself not a false dichotomy that enhances some elitist meme?
You tell me, I'm probably just silly and with hidden motives.
Posted by Dontan on 02/08/13 10:29 PM
@ DB. The impression of the whole article is that wind and solar power are poor alternatives. They indeed are poor alternatives for huge centralized plants. But the choice should not be between centralized/monopolized this vs that. It's a false dichotomy, a meme itself maybe, so I was surprised to see DB fall into that trap.
But I guess we all do it from time to time. :-)
Reply from The Daily Bell
We wrote ....
"The real reason for promoting alternative energy consumption such as wind power has little to do with the environment, from what we can tell, and everything to do with control. Huge energy producing wind farms, solar farms and other alternative resources are vastly complex to develop and integrate into the power grid."
What is there about this that you don't understand? We characterized the target of our article as "huge" and "vastly complex." We spoke of the "power grid" and of "wind FARMS." (Subsidized ones.)
Obviously we are not speaking of local or individual solutions. We are speaking of elite memes and their implementation. That is the basis of our analysis for this and every other article that appears as a staff report.
You wrote once and we were glad to clarify. You now have written twice to characterize our article in a way that clearly was not intended.
Write a third time repeating a point that we have addressed first politely and now more emphatically and we will begin to doubt your intentions.
Posted by wabana on 02/08/13 09:51 PM
The east coast of Australia is one big coal seam. The govt. allows mining companies to exploit it at the expense of agricultural land, grazing land and environmental reserves/habitats. Coal seam gas, fracking is another disaster for Australians.
Posted by Dontan on 02/08/13 09:50 PM
As far as I can tell, people have been using the wind and the sun long before oil, coal and nuclear power.
These old sources have been banned or pushed aside by the attempts to build huge centralized power plants serving whole regions and cities (with all the problems that might cause). This is itself a kind of hubris that central planners have been good at promoting.
Nowadays, they are just promoting wind and solar power in the same centralized way. I believe like DB that it is about control, with a bit of greed in there as well.
Wind and solar power are good alternatives for individuals and groups that seek energy independence from state/corporate centralization and monopolization. They are kind of unreliable, and need some back up, but still good alternatives. It makes no sense to attack the wind and the sun when it is centralization and monopolies that is the problem.
I'm very very surprised DB can't see through this false dichotomy.
Click to view link
Reply from The Daily Bell
We've never taken aim at individual or community-based usage, voluntarily implemented. We cover memes of the elite. Wind and solar delivered in massive dosages - and its supposed effectiveness - are surely a dominant social theme. Bigger is always better. Dysfunction is always built in. Chaos is the result.
Posted by piolenc on 02/08/13 09:33 PM
Ouch. I meant "... for each megawatt of wind generating capacity, at least 700 KILOwatts - 0.7 megawatts - of conventional base load generating capacity has to also be built to make up for low or high wind periods... "
If you look at it the right way, the forced implementation of wind power will ultimately be the biggest single booster of conventional power projects in history.
Reply from The Daily Bell
Good insights, thanks.
Posted by piolenc on 02/08/13 09:29 PM
At last, an article about wind power that mentions the only feature worth mentioning - the fact that it is not dispatchable, base load power. Any comparison of wind with coal, oil, gas hydro or nuclear is comparing apples - power that is available when it is needed, and oranges - power that is available when God feels like providing it.
That is the only fact about wind power that is relevant to its usefulness, and coincidentally the only fact almost never mentioned in the mainstream energy "debate." The fact that nobody talks about is that, for every theoretical megawatt of wind generating capacity, at least 70 megawatts of conventional capacity have to also be built to make up for low or high wind periods (that's right - wind turbines are unable to use available wind energy ABOVE the range that they were designed for, due to the fact that available energy is proportional to the cube of the wind speed).
I'll leave it to the Bell to speculate as to why our wannabe masters have chosen to promote the MOST DIFFICULT RESOURCE TO MASTER as the universal remedy to the energy "problems" that they have mostly invented.
Posted by Friend_of_John_Galt on 02/08/13 06:29 PM
Having lived sufficiently near the Altamont Pass wind farm in California to observe the operations and get the local news reports, I can tell you unequivocally that "wind energy" is anything but efficient.
1. You only get power when the wind blows. The wind does not blow constantly. Rarely do more than half the wind turbines operate at any given time, either do to insufficient wind or insufficient demand.
2. The peak demand in the S.F. Bay Region (where Altamont is located) is on warm afternoons during the spring, summer, and fall. It is warm when the wind does not blow. The prevailing wind is caused by onshore air flow, from the local high pressure ridge that develops by the California Coast during the "dry" season -- drawn toward the local low generated by the heat in the Central Valley. So, when the wind blows, the turbines spin while the wind cools down the suburbs, reducing demand for electric cooling. Hot=AC needed=no wind. Wind=cooler temps=reduced electrical demand (no AC needed).
3. The windmills have proven to be very efficient killers of birds. Altamont is directly in the path of the Pacific Flyway -- where millions of migratory birds fly on their biannual north-south trips. Due to the bird kill problems, windmills are restricted during the heaviest bird migration months -- dropping energy production to near zero during those times. The rest of the year, thousands of raptors are killed by the spinning windmills. Since the dry hillsides are subject to grass fires (California gets no rain for more than 8 months each year), the grass beneath the windmills is cut short as a preventive measure. This exposes the field mice, voles, and other small rodents that live in the area to predation by raptors -- that is, the raptors are attracted to the area near the windmills where they are killed by the spinning blades by the thousands.
4. As noted, other generation capacity is required to supply 100% of the load when the windmills do not have enough wind to generate electricity. Onshore winds are strongest in the afternoon, but much of the day winds are moderate. In the early morning, the air is frequently still.
Fortunately, the immediate area where the turbines operate are not attractive for housing, so noise and other environmental aspects of the windmills are not a factor.
These windmills are a huge waste of money -- and are only economically feasible due to the Federal and state tax incentives. California has some of the highest energy rates in the country. For a typical home, electricity starts at about 12 cents per KWH. Rates are tiered and increase based on level of use -- most householders move beyond the allowed "baseline" quantity. Rates reach 36 and 42 cents per KWH for many homeowners. (By comparison, at my new home, in another state, the rate is 8.16 cents pre KWH -- at any quantity of use. -- My electricity costs have dropped by 2/3rds. The primary source of electricity here is from hydro.)
Reply from The Daily Bell
Thanks for "illuminating" this.
Posted by dimitri on 02/08/13 04:36 PM
How about the "free energy" meme? Is it a meme? Or is it the Internet at work?
Posted by zebblanc on 02/08/13 03:50 PM
Are the costs of coal fired power generation units running at idle (on standby) in case the wind stops blowing or the sun sets factored into these studies, I wonder?
Posted by jdwheeler42 on 02/08/13 12:59 PM
I don't know about Australia or the UK, but here in the US, if the claims about wind power were true, then they should be getting all the subsidies they need from the Federal Reserve thanks to the near-zero interest rate policies. Investors should be chasing anything that gives real returns. If wind power still needs government handouts in this environment then it's doubtful it's doing any good at all.
Posted by Abu Aardvark on 02/08/13 12:53 PM
DB: "we wonder how long such articles can be convincing"
Ha, in particular when Bloomberg has to admit how they arrive at their numbers:
"Wind is now cheaper than fossil fuels (... ) when the cost of carbon emissions is included"
Since they fix the 'cost' of carbon emissions at will, I guess we're going to hear a lot more about 'cheap green' energy soon.
By the way, when it comes to (not only) Australia and the entire climate change scam, JoNova seems a good place to go to ...
Click to view link
Reply from The Daily Bell
Good catch. More propagandistic than usual ...
Posted by 1776 on 02/08/13 12:41 PM
Posted by juajuara on 02/08/13 12:14 PM
I know there's a measurable rise in air temperatures down-wind of wind farms. I also have seen reports that, in the current market, wind farms are economically unfeasible. I haven't seen a study that explains the environmental impacts of wind power: certainly nothings free. Have any of you? So far it seems to be the perpetual motion machine mankind has been searching for since the beginning of time.
Reply from The Daily Bell
People living near these wind farms are often made ill simply from the noise. There are law suits in this regard and doubtless more coming ...