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By Samuel R. Avro on Aug 19, 2010 with 28 responses

More than Half of UK’s Wind Farms Built in Areas Not Windy Enough

Tags: subsidies, UK, wind

Europe's largest wind farm, with 140 turbines, operated at less than a quarter of its capacity in 2009.

Researcher says that government subsidies are to blame.

More than half of Britain’s wind farms are operating at less than 25 percent capacity because they’re installed in areas without a continuous breeze, according to an academic study reported by the Daily Mail.

The study was based on official data provided by energy regulator Ofgem.

The worst locations cited in the study were a 9-turbine wind farm at Blyth Harbour in Northumberland, northern England, which managed to reach only 4.9 percent of its capacity, and a 4-turbine operation at Chelker reservoir in North Yorkshire operating at 5.3 percent capacity.

More than $400,000 a year can be earned in subsidies from one turbine operating at 30%.

Europe’s largest wind farm, located near Glasgow, ran at less than 25 percent capacity, according to research of the data from 2009.

The analysis was carried out by Michael Jefferson, a professor of international business and sustainability at the London Metropolitan Business School.

Jefferson placed the blame squarely on government subsidies, which he says encourage firms to site their operations badly because of their rush to take advantage of financial incentives. British consumers currently pay an extra £1 billion ($1.56 billion) per year on their fuel bills in order to subsidize the government’s push toward it’s renewable energy goals.

“There is a political motivation to drive non-fossil fuel energy, which I very much respect, but we need more focus,” Jefferson said. He suggests that stimulus funds should be reserved only for the windiest of projects in order to ensure that taxpayers are getting the most bang for their buck.

Operations that fall below 25 per cent should be deemed ineligible for renewable subsidies. “That would focus the mind to put them in a sensible place,” he said.

Britain has 2,906 wind turbines spread over 264 sites with a further 7,000 turbines planned for the next 12 years.

Jefferson has written extensively on energy policy, including contributions to various UN bodies. He was the Deputy Secretary-General of the World Energy Council for 10 years, where his work with the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change led to a certificate for his contributions to their award of a Nobel prize.

  1. By Wendell Mercantile on August 19, 2010 at 1:15 pm

    I’ve heard this story before.  There is one wind farm in our state that had to go up in a hurry to take advantage of a looming deadline for Federal tax credits.  In order to get it up fast, they had to go to a rural part of the state without strict zoning or oversight. 

    The wind company did make the deadline to qualify for the tax credits, but it has been operating at only about 20% of rated capacity since completion. Unfortunately, the site they picked had easy zoning, but not very good winds.

     

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  2. By savro on August 19, 2010 at 1:24 pm

    Wendell Mercantile said:

    I’ve heard this story before.  There is one wind farm in our state that had to go up in a hurry to take advantage of a looming deadline for Federal tax credits.  In order to get it up fast, they had to go to a rural part of the state without strict zoning or oversight. 

    The wind company did make the deadline to qualify for the tax credits, but it has been operating at only about 20% of rated capacity since completion. Unfortunately, the site they picked had easy zoning, but not very good winds.

     


     

    Interesting, sounds like it’s more than just a U.K. problem. Not that it’s surprising.

    What state do you live in? I’d appreciate a link to the project that you’re referring to.

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  3. By Kit P on August 19, 2010 at 3:54 pm

    Sam I have just posted a link to the 2009 Wind Technologies Market Report which is a DOE report that will give a big picture of improving performance in the US.

     

    Wendell has lots of antidotal stories that I would not trust.  Bottom line is that the US has plenty of wind resources and several very good wind development companies.  This is not to say some town manager did not decide his town needed a wind turbine and ignored lots of good advice about where not to put it.

     

    There are some temporary issues of curtailment because building new transmission lines is harder that erecting wind turbines.  There have also been some issues with equipment failures which are to be expected on any new projects.  

     

    To certain extent wind turbines are mechanical and electrical failure test platforms.  If you put up 10 wind turbines and have bearing failure on two, you will have a capacity factor of 20% below what you would have based on the availability of the wind alone.  

     

    If it is broke fix, just do not be near it when it is breaking. 

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  4. By moiety on August 20, 2010 at 4:37 am

    This is the kid of research that is worthless as the message from this study is broadly known. 25% of capacity not an unusual capacity factor for wind turbines. Paul N did the same as this report in a few hours and posted it in the link.
    http://www.consumerenergyrepor…..e-2/#p2146

     

    What this report really means is that many wind farms were put in places that are considered to have good wind resource. But even with a good wind resource capacity factors remain very low meaning that wind cannot penetrate to any greate extent. This is what E.ON says no less as I have previously posted.

     

     

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  5. By russ on August 23, 2010 at 11:47 am

    Expected capacity factor for wind turbines is never over 35% that I have read of, with the normal range being between 10 to 35% around the world.

    Breakdowns are included in that number. Whether the power can be used when generated should be considered in the capacity factor but the greens and wind turbine proponents don’t like to hear about that.

    Actually there are not many areas in the US that have an annual average wind speed of 5 meters/second – 10 mph. Very few above that.

    Most residential type wind turbines are rated at 25 mph wind which is rare and more or less a storm condition and will never achieve their rating.

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  6. By paul-n on August 23, 2010 at 11:12 pm

     

    Jefferson placed the blame squarely on government subsidies, which he says encourage firms to site their operations badly because of their rush to take advantage of financial incentives.

    Just as well this wind program is the only example in recorded history of bad decisions being made to take advantage of government subsidies!

    I Have said before that there is actually a sensible way to subsidise wind energy and avoid this sort of boondoggle.  Do not subsidise the capital cost, but simply pay a premium/subsidy on actual production during peak hours, for, say, the first 5 years for each turbine. 

    Producing lots of electricity in the middle of the night is of marginal benefit, and some sites do just that.  Pay for it when it is valuable, and let the developers take the risk of siting.  If they spend some more time to get it right then everyone benefits, rush and get it wrong and we might just as well throw the dollar bills into the wind.

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  7. By savro on August 23, 2010 at 11:30 pm

    Paul N said:

    I Have said before that there is actually a sensible way to subsidise wind energy and avoid this sort of boondoggle.  Do not subsidise the capital cost, but simply pay a premium/subsidy on actual production during peak hours, for, say, the first 5 years for each turbine. 

    Producing lots of electricity in the middle of the night is of marginal benefit, and some sites do just that.  Pay for it when it is valuable, and let the developers take the risk of siting.  If they spend some more time to get it right then everyone benefits, rush and get it wrong and we might just as well throw the dollar bills into the wind.


     

    I agree with you, Paul. I think your method of doling out subsidies is much more on point than Jefferson’s idea to use a capacity factor as the baromoter. While very low or high capacity factors can give you a quick gauge of how the project is doing, the capacity factor is not the be-all end-all of calculating the energy and economic value of the turbines. For that reason, it’s much smarter to provide incentives based on actual energy gained, as you suggest.

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  8. By paul-n on August 24, 2010 at 3:04 am

    Thanks Sam,

     

    I have followed government energy subsidy behaviour for many years, and been involved in some (small) programs myself, mainly relating to efficiency.  There is no question that when government money is available, it is viewed as “free” money and often leads to poor, and/or rushed decisions, purely to obtain said money.  That is happening in Canada right now as “stimulus” money must be spent by March 2011, so many projects are being rushed, or done just go get some money and jobs in the local area – hardly efficient.

    Engineer-Poet used a great phrase in one of his essays a few years ago “what gets rewarded, gets done”, and so the government should only reward what it really wants to get done.  In this case, peak electricity generation is what it’s about, and is simple and objective to measure.  A geopgraphical situation that produces lots of afternoon/evening peak production is more valuable than one that produces a high capacity factor by lots of nighttime wind.  Similarly, a wind operator that adds storage, by whatever means practical, will also benefit.

    Paying for capacity factor is more subjective, and paying for capacity alone, is just silly.

    The more government pays for actual, delivered results, and nothing else, the more results it will get. 

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  9. By Kit P on August 24, 2010 at 9:19 am

    “In this case, peak electricity
    generation is what it’s about, and is simple and objective to
    measure.”

     

    No, it is not! This is what I am
    talking about when I say people make up their own flawed criteria to
    get the answer they want. Against something, make up a reason.

     

    PaulN is obsessed with this idea
    because he listens to liberals who do not make electricity rather
    than those that do make electricity. E-P is another who claims to be
    an engineer but insists on commenting outside their field of
    experience.

     

    The criteria for the electricity
    generating industry is to supply electricity when and where it is
    needed at an affordable cost. Which we do. The way we do that is
    almost all the time is by having an adequate reserve margin.

     

    The purpose of government spending
    associated with wind and solar is to make liberals feel less guilty
    about how they live. Since wind and solar does not help with reserve
    margin, the electricity generating industry is not going to do it
    unless there is a requirement.

     

    “Similarly, a wind operator that adds
    storage, by whatever means practical, will also benefit.”

     

    If you insist on doing something that
    is stupid, does it matter how stupid you are about doing it?

     

    Hey if one stupid idea does not work,
    PaulN has another one. No reason to listen to those who do
    electricity generating industry, what do they know?

     

    However, it is not for me to reason why
    but to and not die.

     

    “is just silly”

     

    Maybe so PaulN but the US electricity
    generating industry (outside of California) have pretty smart about
    where they put up wind turbines. If you have to do it do it well.
    If you have to do do it where you will make the most money because of
    over reliance on natural gas. This is why Texas is a leader in wind.
    The federal incentive is a production tax credit so it does not
    matter where the trubines get built.

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  10. By paul-n on August 24, 2010 at 3:29 pm

    Kit, given that the UK is increasingly reliant on(now imported) NG for electricity generation, and has little scope for increasing hydro, I think the peak demand is what it’s about over there.  And, of course,  wind turbines do very little to supply electricity when it is needed, and usually not where it is needed either.

    PaulN is obsessed with this idea
    because he listens to liberals who do not make electricity rather
    than those that do make electricity.

    Kit, are you saying then I should only listen to liberals who do make electricity?  Unlike you, I care not for anyones political leanings, I only care about the  quality of their ideas.  I will give the same attention listen to someone who makes electricity regardless of whether they  they are a liberal, a conservative, or a jackass.

    the criteria for the electricity
    generating industry is to supply electricity when and where it is
    needed at an affordable cost. Which we do. The way we do that is
    almost all the time is by having an adequate reserve margin.

    So in the UK, this can (and has) been achieved with NG, which is now being imported from Russia.  The UK governemnt is rightly concerned about the fact that the electricity industry is dependent on this fuel sources, and is seeking to reduce it – I have no problem with that.  Adding wind turbines does not reduce the reserve capacity, though it does appear to be wasting scarce capital.

     

    The purpose of government spending
    associated with wind and solar is to make liberals feel less guilty
    about how they live.

    China is spending huge amounts if money on both wind and solar, but somehow I doubt they are doing this to make any (surviving) Chinese liberals feel better.

     If you insist on doing something that
    is stupid, does it matter how stupid you are about doing it?

    Just so I understand you here, I am talking about a method to increase dispatchable peak capacity (reserve margin), and you think this is a stupid idea?  And you go on to say it doesn;t matter how you do it, because it is stupid.  I don’t think increasing reserve margin is stupid at all, I think it is a good move.  Some methods may be less economical, and less desirable (e.g. nuclear) than others, but that is a different story.  Governments have been subsidising uneconmical things since forever.

    I have just returned from a place (Fairbanks, Alaska) that has just such a storage system;

    For them, the only alternative (in winter, when hydro production is minimal) is to take more oil out of the Alaska pipeline, and burn that at great expense.  They deemed this was a better way to increase their reserve margin – doesn’t seem that stupid to me.

    The federal incentive is a production tax credit so it does not
    matter where the trubines get built.

    Which is exactly what I propose, and is a perfect example of only rewarding what actually gets done (energy produced), – I’m glad you agree.

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  11. By Kit P on August 24, 2010 at 5:35 pm

    “I only care about the quality of their ideas.”

     

    Okay then, we have a basis of agreement.  Second, take my comments in the context of the continental United States.  Electricity generation is a local matter.  The issues are complex.  I am not saying that other places may not have good ideas but wind resources are a very localized.

     

    In the continental United States we are very good at keeping the lights on and our homes warm or cool.  Paul what good ideas do you think I should lean about from other places? 

     

    Should I learn for the UK where you tell me NG is now being imported from Russia?  How about Germany and Spain where they think they replace nuclear with wind and solar?  China?  That place is a complete mess when it comes to clean air and keeping the lights on.

     

    “Just so I understand you here, I am talking about a method to increase dispatchable peak capacity (reserve margin), and you think this is a stupid idea?”

     

    Excuse me but I missed your ideas on that that might be called not stupid.    For example

     

    ‘I have just returned from a place (Fairbanks, Alaska) that has just such a storage system;”

     

    Checking the link:

     

    “26 megawatts of load for 15 minutes (or 40 MW for 7 minutes)

     

    Fifteen minutes is long enough to start up and bring local generation online.”

     

    Pual does not understand when he writes this,

     

    “For them, the only alternative (in winter, when hydro production is minimal) is to take more oil out of the Alaska pipeline, and burn that at great expense.  They deemed this was a better way to increase their reserve margin – doesn’t seem that stupid to me.”

     

    The fuel to make the electricity still has to come from some place and batteries do not increase reserve margin.  The standby capacity still must exist. 

     

    Battery backup a great a proven way to ensure reliability for a very short period of time.  Very, very very, expensive. 

     

    Very stupid idea to increase reserve margin.

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  12. By paul-n on August 24, 2010 at 6:03 pm

    OK Kit, I can understand if you want you comments applied to the lower 48, but then why make them in regard to a UK wind story, without clarifying that point?

    Given that each place/country has its own specific issues, be it fuel, politics, etc, why should they all be judged by US standards.    Something that may well be stupid in the US may or may not be so stupid elsewhere.

    If you think the cont US has all its elec problems solved and does not need to learn anything from anywhere else then good for you.  I am always interested to learn from elsewhere, even if it is learning by their (often predictable) failures.

    And neither does this mean that other places should stop trying to look for other solutions.  Not every country has the capacity, or even desire, to build nukes, even though they work very well here.

    I will concede that in the context of the Fairbanks system it is not truly displacing the oil generation, though it is making it manageable, for if not the battery system, they would have had to build something else.  They do have the geography for a pumped hydro system, though its capacity would be much reduced in winter.  

    The key point here is that the storage (batteries in this case) fills the demand gap that something else (oil fired) can;t, even if only briefly.  

    Yes, the battery energy needs to come from somewhere, and they have off peak outside energy coming from hydro in the southern part of the state.  There are also some wind turbines going up there, which would seem to be a good partnership with the batteries.

    Lots of places in Alaska (the remote towns)  will gladly take the expense of wind + batteries when their alternative is diesel fuel that sometimes has to be flown in.  

    Necessity is the mother of innovation, and places that have needs will (often) find creative ways to meet them, and I’m sure you’ll agree wit that.   Some of these innovations make their way into the  wider world, and that is usually a good thing too.  But, the original point of the article was that ill directed government subsidies derail this process.

    Stupid ideas are not stupid if they make sense in some situations – but deciding where they do and don;t work is best left to the industry people, not the government of they day – I’m sure you can agree with that too.

     

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  13. By Kit P on August 24, 2010 at 10:14 pm

    “I am always interested to learn from
    elsewhere ..”

     

    Paul you are posting comments like you
    know something not like you are trying to learn something.

     

    Now there are certain principles of
    generation that apply anywhere. I will point out where you are wrong
    so you can learn if that is your interest.

     

    “The key point here is that the
    storage (batteries in this case) fills the demand gap that something
    else (oil fired) can;t, even if only briefly.”

     

    No, batteries are used to increase
    reliability when the ramifications of a brief loss of generating
    capacity are unacceptable. It take about 10 second for an emergency
    diesel to be at rated power. I am not use how fact a CCGT comes up
    to speed but I think it is less than 10 minutes.

     

    “Lots of places in Alaska..”

     

    Would that be like a navy ship? Paul, I do not think you have a clue.

     

     

    “I’m sure you’ll agree wit that.”

     

    Again no! Maybe you do not understand
    that the ramifications in some place is dying. Dying just pounds the
    innovation right out of you. Sure you can add batteries and wind
    turbines to lower the cost of diesel fuel but if you are burning
    diesel fuel cost is not what you are concerned with.

     

    What I would add to reduce oil use
    would be a small wood fired power plant.

     

    “Some of these innovations make their
    way into the  wider world, and that is usually a good thing
    too.”

     

    Then you should be able to find lots of
    good examples. I think you have been watching too much science
    fiction. The reason why Paul is wrong is he thinks smart people go
    to the ends of the earth to practice innovation. When you are at the
    end of the earth, smart people practice rock hard reliable.

     

    “I’m sure you can agree with that
    too.”

     

    This I can agree with. If you want me
    to climb a wind turbine to fix it in the middle of a blizzard to keep
    you alive, you are in trouble.

     

    The point here is that there are safety
    rules. The burden of getting someone like me to make your
    electricity is convincing us that your innovation is not just the
    same old stupid ideas.

     

    If you want keep calling old failed
    ideas, innovation you should get used to be called stupid. So far
    that is what Paul has suggested have not proven to be a good idea in
    any application.

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  14. By paul-n on August 25, 2010 at 12:27 am

    Well Kit, I have to confess i did not visit a navy ship in Alaska so I can;t comment on those.  I am not concerned with ships and the people in Fairbanks aren’t either.

    Sure you can add batteries and wind
    turbines to lower the cost of diesel fuel but if you are burning
    diesel fuel cost is not what you are concerned with.

    That’s odd, because everyone I spoke to said the cost of fuel IS what they are concerned with.  One lodge operator was faced with a delayed (air) delivery of fuel because of bad weather.  In his opinion his dependence on diesel fuel  leaves him and his guests more exposed than when they have alternatives, and I would agree with that.

    With the cost of fuel in some areas up to up to $8/gal, is the single biggest impediment to a successful business, or affordable living for most, and they will do whatever they can to minimise it. Not one of them is about to decomission their diesel gensets or oil furnaces, they just want to use them as little as possible, as would I.

    For many of those places, fuel is their single biggest cost, and all that money leaves the town and does not come back.  Unlike the navy ships though, the government does not pick up that tab, and it leaves them with less for everything else.

    What I would add to reduce oil use
    would be a small wood fired power plant.

    Well, at least we can agree on that, and that is one of the directions that they are looking to go, though such plants are not off the shelf items, yet.  In my opinion that is the best direction they can go, though there is a good place for small scale wind too.

     

    So far
    that is what Paul has suggested have not proven to be a good idea in
    any application.

    What I suggested is that the government only pay a subsidy for wind power in peak periods.  I’m not quite sure how you can say that has not proven to be a a good idea.

    As for battery storage, that has proven to be good in many niche applications, just not large, centralised storage (power station scale) and I don;t expect it ever will be, either.

     

    Innovation, by definition, is only innovative if it works.  The burden of having you provide my electricity is that I do not get to innovate, and that is how most people, companies and communities would have it.  But, thankfully, not all.  Just because someone else is doing something for you does mean there is not a better way – it does mean any alternative has to prove and justify itself, and I have never claimed otherwise.

     

     

     

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  15. By Kit P on August 25, 2010 at 10:18 am

    “One lodge operator … I would
    agree with that”

     

    So you are saying you, a person who
    does not know much about making electricity, agree with another
    person person who does not know much about making electricity.

     

    “That’s odd, because everyone I spoke
    to said the cost of fuel IS what they are concerned with. ….leaves
    him and his guests more exposed than when they have alternatives”

     

    Sounds like you hear what you want to
    hear. I heard that the primary concern of the lodge owner is the
    safety of his guest and employees.

     

    This is why I bring up navy ships which
    are very small grid systems.

     

    “all that money leaves the town and
    does not come back”

     

    Are you talking about a place where
    income is derived from rich people coming to town and spending money?
    A place that depends on the navy and coast guard to risk their life
    saving people who should stay in the city.

     

    I am sorry Paul but you rally sound
    stupid when you talk about people who journey someplace for the
    wilderness experience then complain about $200/MWh electricity which
    is still a cheap commodity even at that price.

     

    That is not the real world for most of
    us. Like I said, you stop proposing stupid ideas as mainstream
    opportunities, I will stop calling them stupid. Try starting your
    post like this, ‘here is an interesting idea that has zero practical
    applications but liberal politicians around the world will promote’.

     

    “though such plants are not off the
    shelf items”

     

    No fool, you make them in your works
    shop. Lots of crude gasifiers around fueling old ICE. I know a guy who made them.
    I even think you can find some folks in BC that do it.

     

    “though there is a good place for
    small scale wind too.”

     

    That ‘womp’ ‘womp’ should should
    enhance the wilderness experience. Small wind is another version of
    snake oil. It is for stupid people who do not mind being parted with
    their money.

     

    “What I suggested is that the
    government only pay a subsidy for wind power in peak periods.  I’m
    not quite sure how you can say that has not proven to be a a good
    idea.”

     

    Show me where! It is a good idea if
    you want to kill the wind industry.

     

    “As for battery storage, that has
    proven to be good in many niche applications,..”

     

    No Paul it has not. Batteries are a
    terrible way to store electricity except for all the others.
    Batteries are needed to start your ICE powered generator although
    bigger ones use compressed air.

     

    “But, thankfully, not all.”

     

    So PaulN, you are an advocate of stupid
    people killing themselves.

     

    “does mean there is not a better way”

     

    Again you are wrong, stupid wrong. See
    Paul that is actually what we do in the electricity generating
    industry. We consider the alternatives and pick the best way. The
    industry has a long history innovation and testing alternatives.

     

     

    Paul I am not saying I am smarter than
    you. I am saying I am better at what I do than what you do not do.

     

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  16. By paul-n on August 25, 2010 at 1:48 pm

    Kit, I am not sure how a greater knowledge of making electricity would help the lodge operator, though I am sure you are going to tell me.  His electricity system works fine, it is just the cost of running it is sending him out of business

    I heard that the primary concern of the lodge owner is the
    safety of his guest and employees.

    Precisely, and if the cost of providing that is too great, then you either find a cheaper way to provide it, or close down your business.  He is trying to find a cheaper way.   Not providing safety is not an option, and I have never suggested it is.

     

    Are you talking about a place where income is derived from rich people coming to town and spending money.  A place that depends on the navy and coast guard to risk their life saving people who should stay in the city.

    Actually I am not talking about coastal towns, (though they do benefit from the navy and coast guard) nor exclusively about tourist towns.  There are many small farming/mining/forestry/other towns that are trying to get by.

    you talk about people who journey someplace for the
    wilderness experience then complain about $200/MWh electricity which
    is still a cheap commodity even at that price.

    No Kit, I am talking about the people who service such people.  If they could get electricity at $200/MWh they would agree that is cheap.  With oil at $ 8/gal, you are paying closer to $660/MWh, but if you have no oil, you have no electricity at any price.

     

    No fool, you make them in your works
    shop. Lots of crude gasifiers around fueling old ICE.

    Just so I’ve got this straight, the guy that says making electricity is a serious business, and should only be left to industry, is now saying that people who know equally little about fuel should make “crude” gasifiers in the garage, that (are designed to) produce toxic carbon monoxide, and, if done improperly have a serious explosion risk.  If done improperly, “crude” gasifiers do not deliver a clean gas, and will gradually destroy the engine.    How does that improve the safety of the lodge?  You can equally wind up a crude generator in your garage, but thankfully you are not proposing that.

    Show me where! It is a good idea if you want to kill the wind industry.

     

    No, you show me.  I put forward the idea and you said it has not proven to be a good idea.  Show show me such proof.

     

    Batteries are a terrible way to store electricity except for all the others.

    And just what other ways would they be, to store electricity ?

     

    Niche applications, are suitable in their niche, and that is what I look for.  I am not proposing these as “Mainstream”saying, and never have, they they are “mainstream” .  Your approach would appear to be that the mainstream way is suitable everywhere, and that is not always the case.

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  17. By Kit P on August 25, 2010 at 5:33 pm

    Paul

     

    You keep changing the circumstances of your story.  You are correct.  You are not smart enough to use biomass as a fuel.  Do not feel lonely, lots of people kill themselves trying to save money on electricity.  Penny wise and pound foolish. 

     

    On the other hand biomass can make used to safely make electricity from $50-200/MWh.  It may not be pretty but it works.  If you are going to run it through a ICE you should get good at rebuilding the engine every summer.  

     

    Back to basics!  Why do people make electricity with diesel fuel in remote locations?  Because it is very reliable.  If you want to save money on electricity while ‘small farming/mining/forestry’ move to WV.

     

    What Paul is doing is setting up mutually a exclusive situation to argue his point about some crack pot idea.  

     

    “No, you show me.”

     

    Paul, now you want me to prove a negative.  Again if you have a good idea, you should be able to show me many examples.  Since I can provide any examples of wind power matching increasing load, placing that requirement on the PTC would kill the wind industry.

     

    Use some common sense.  If a good wind resource can make electricity at $45/MWh and peak power cost $100/MWh, lots of wind turbines would get erected without incentives.  

     

    “And just what other ways would they be, to store electricity?”

     

    The US electricity generating industry makes electricity when you need it with the exception of pump hydro which stores potential energy of water using electricity made with coal or nuclear.  I suppose Paul could make expensive electricity and then use expensive ways to store it with high environmental impact in order to save money and protect the environment.  Then Paul could tells how smart he is for doing something other did not.    

     

    “mainstream way is suitable everywhere”

     

    That’s right when it comes to making electricity.  

     

    If you want to make electricity while jumping on a pogo stick, a engineering company will charge you the same hourly rate for engineering services that they would charge if you told them the location and let them pick the best mainstream technology.  

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  18. By paul-n on August 25, 2010 at 7:30 pm

    Kit, I am not changing my circumstances, you are implying things into what I am saying.  

     

    On the other hand biomass can make used to safely make electricity from $50-200/MWh.  It may not be pretty but it works.

    Given that you first said you build the gasifier in your workshop, and you are now saying it can be done for as little as $50/MWh, I’d like to see an example of both of those in the one project.  

    now you want me to prove a negative. Again if you have a good idea, you should be able to show me many examples.

    Kit, you said it has not proven to be a good idea – that implies that you have some proof that it has not worked – I’m just asking to see it. If you meant it has not been proven to be a good idea, that is something different, and not what you said.

     

    If a good wind resource can make electricity at $45/MWh and peak power cost $100/MWh, lots of wind turbines would get erected without incentives.

    I couldn’t agree more.  However, it would seem that even a good wind resource rareley makes money at those prices because not many get built with generous subsidies of some sort.  And as this original article shows, sometimes (often) the subsidies lead to the project being less optimal than without them.

    and let them pick the best mainstream technology.

    Hmm, and just who decides what is best, and best for whom?   Best for the interests of the electricity industry, or the customers that use it?

     

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  19. By Kit P on August 25, 2010 at 8:55 pm

    “$50/MWh, I’d like to see an example
    of both of those in the one project.”

     

    Note that I said biomass. The low
    figure would be for a 50 MWe plant using a fluidized bed boiler. The
    plant at Kettle Falls Washington would an an example. I believe we
    have discussed this before. If you need me to find a link I can but
    not tonight unless you can provide an old guy more energy.

     

    “Best for the interests of the
    electricity industry, or the customers that use it?”

     

    You like to infer bad things about my
    industry. Can we question your integrity? The answer to your
    question is that a good utility achieves both. Utilities are part of
    the community and employees are also customers. Among good, I
    consider my present utility (I have never worked for them but they
    are a customer of my present company) and some that I have worked for
    in the past. Good management benefits both the community and
    investors. I also what bad look like too.

     

    How about the integrity of our public
    officials? Just for the record, ENRON was a deregulated energy
    company that bought a small eclectic utility. They were held
    accountable in court but responsible public officials were not.

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  20. By paul-n on August 26, 2010 at 12:22 am

    Well, we are diverging here, but that Kettle Falls plant, and the other biomass ones in the PNW (e.g. Williams Lake, BC) are on a whole different level.  Outside if the panhandle, it looks to me like there isn’t anything like the forest density in Alaska to support large centralised plants, your gather radius would become too large.

    We have gone through that before and you don;t need a link.  My point is that small scale wood electricity, is not easy, and for all the people making gasifiers (I have been following this carefully for the last decade) very few have successful, reliable electricity producing (or vehicle powering) ones.    

    I should not cast aspersions across the entire industry, but there are parts of it that have put themselves ahead of their customers in the past.  There is no question about the value of good management and community engagement – it just does not always happen.  When CEO’s are too busy managing the share price than the business, or the customers, then there will be trouble.

    As for my railing against (other) engineers pushing mainstream solutions, I have been burned by that in the past.  At the ski resort we ended up with very expensive buildings to operate because the mechanical and electrical engineers that designed them used the mainstream solutions that they use when designing a city hotel.  They did not take into account all the needs and unique situation of their customer (the ski resort) and we were left with buildings that had very high peak electricity loadings, with no ability to load shift, which they did not see as “the building’s problem”  Similarly, they put in large boilers/airhandling units to handle the peak heating loads, which meant most of the time they were operating at 1/3 capacity and hopelessly inefficient.  They would not accept our request for some electric heat capacity, saying it would “overload the building”, and did not design the building to be heatable when there is no electricity.

    When there was a (several time per winter) power outage, we had no ability to power even part of the buildings, like the propane fired air handlers, from a portable generator, leaving us with no ability to heat them in an extended failure situation.  In short, their mainstream thinking left us more exposed and more expensive.  We had to spend the next three years modifying brand new buildings to make them reliable and efficient.

    I have even worse examples from my time in the mining industry but I think you get my point

    The job of the engineer is (as you have said) to consider the alternatives and pick the best way.  Many just pick the way that they did it the last time, it is not the best way for the customer if it does not meet their needs.

     

     

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  21. By Kit P on August 26, 2010 at 10:18 am

    I always find it amusing when Paul
    talks about efficiency in an industry dedicated to wasting energy and
    tearing up the environment.

     

     

    Now that now that my knees are shot, we
    should ban skiing. I have never used an airplane to get to the ski
    slopes. I preferred small local operation where you can enjoy a
    beautiful day without hearing the F-word.

     

    If you want to find a poorly designed
    building for energy use and comfort, go to a power plant.

     

    See Paul the focus is on the best ways
    to produce energy for our customers. If you do an good job of
    producing energy and protecting the environment, our customers can
    use the energy without guilt. In the US, the environmental impact of
    making electricity is insignificant. Tiny compared to the resort
    industry that powered by energy.

     

    I have a big problem with folks like
    Paul. They look at what they do and say OMG what have we done to
    the environment. It is there human nature to point a finger at the
    my industry with statements like this:

     

    “but there are parts of it that have
    put themselves ahead of their customers in the past.”

     

    This is a totally unfounded statement.
    Paul is repeating lies without checking the facts.

     

    In any case, show me the resort the
    resort that has a 10% markup on a cup of coffee.

     

    Resorts are not regulated because they
    are not needed.

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  22. By paul-n on August 26, 2010 at 4:07 pm

    In the US, the environmental impact of
    making electricity is insignificant.

    I’m not sure about that.  The area covered by hydro lakes alone far exceeds all the resorts put together.

    And there are things like this;

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/K…..urry_spill

    There is always an impact, the real question is , is it acceptable, and for the most part, our governments deem that it is.

     

     This is a totally unfounded statement.
    Paul is repeating lies without checking the facts.

     

    Totally unfounded? how about this;

    http://www.nytimes.com/2010/07…..trust.html

    or this;

    http://www.caiso.com/docs/2003…..017111.pdf

    which concluded “Staff found evidence of manipulation of both electricity and natural gas markets”

    or this;

    Texas Regulators Fine Direct Energy $750,000 for Slamming Customers.

    I think that constitutes evidence that parts of the industry have put themselves ahead of their customers.

    Of course, that is why most of the electricity industry is rate-regulated, to prevent such behaviour.  

     

    Resorts are not regulated because they
    are not needed.

    Really?  did you check your facts on that?  I think you will find that all ski resorts are quite strictly regulated for safety, environmental rules, land usage etc etc, just not price.  Try building a new one, or even expanding an existing one and see how far you get.

    Resorts, of all types,  are indeed not “needed”, but they have been around since Roman times, so I would suggest they are a part of civilised life.  Your sailboat and the marinas that support them are no different either.

    As for the coffee, yes they charge a lot, but then so does Starbucks, and everyone else, and, you can always choose not to buy it, or not even go there.  Choice is a wonderful thing

     

     

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  23. By Kit P on August 26, 2010 at 10:06 pm

    “and everyone else, and, you can
    always choose not to buy it, or not even go there.  Choice is a
    wonderful thing”

     

    Yes, but you do not spend any time
    questioning their ethics or telling them how do it better.

     

    Paul is right about resorts being
    regulated and having to jump though hoops to get built. BTW I have
    only told a resort how to do things better. Rolling blackouts were
    occurring in California and I noticed parking lot lights were on when
    we went for lunch.Thye truned them off after I asked. 

     

    “Totally unfounded? how about this;”

     

    Your links are talking about deregulated
    operations and not traditional utilities. On the following list,
    the list my company at the time was on one list and not the other.

     

    “These companies include AEP, Aquila,
    Avista, BPA, Coral Power, Duke, Dynegy, Enron, Idaho

    Power, LADWP, Mirant, PG&E,
    PacifiCorp, Portland General, Powerex, Reliant, Sempra, Sierra
    Pacific, Southern California Edison, and Williams”

     

    “These companies are Enron, BPA,
    Dynegy, Idaho Power, LADWP, Mirant, PowerEx, Reliant and Williams.”

     

    In the months before the crisis, the
    CEO of my company wrote letters to Governor Davis warning of the
    impending problems. Also notice the number of public power
    generators on the list. LADWP was the by far the worst offender at
    ripping off their California neighbors. Where was the GM of LADWP?
    Standing next to Governor Davis pointing fingers.

    [link]      
  24. By paul-n on August 26, 2010 at 11:19 pm

    Yes, but you do not spend any time
    questioning their ethics or telling them how do it better.

    Clearly, some of those companies deserve to have their ethics questioned.  And where were the industry associations on this?  Did they not support your GM?  

    Kit, I am not questioning the ethics of your company, or even of the industry as a whole, I did say parts of it and I maintain that that was the case (and sometimes still is).  Deregulated or not, they are still part of the electricity industry.  When you talk about “those who make electricity” you do not draw such a distinction.  Of course the ones who do their job and run the operations properly are the ones we rarely hear about, and that is probably a good thing.

    In my opinion, government owned utilities (e.g. LADWP) can often be the worst offenders for poor customer service.  That is not a slight against the people who actually make the electricity, either, but more against those who service (or dis-service) the customers, or manage/mismanage the company.    

     

    As for telling them how to do it better, I have not told you how to do your job (nuke plants) better, or how to run a coal plant better.  but the electricity industry does not have a monopoly on new ways to generate electircity.  I am always interested in better ways of making electricity, such as the ORC example in Alaska.  That did not come from the electricity industry but from air conditioning company.  

    And when it comes to servicing the customer, I think customers have a right to look for ways to do it better, and it is in the inteerst of the industry to keep ooking for ways to do it better.

    When I have a supplier who says their way is the best way, as most do, I am OK with that, and expect that, and most of the time their way is, and should be, the best way.  But if they then say their way is the only way and they will not consider any alternatives, that suggests;

    a) that they have stopped looking for, or caring about finding better ways, and

    b) that they do not have the customers interests or needs in mind

    The first is a sign of a company that is unwilling to innovate and the second is poor customer service.  

    In my opinion, a good service company, in any industry, will be attentive to the needs of its customers, and look for ways to help them use their service better, and most utilities do this to some extent.  Electricity is a commodity, but some utilities do a far better job of helping their customers use it successfully than others.

     

    [link]      
  25. By Jamie Bull on August 27, 2010 at 4:00 am

    In other news, half of the students in the UK perform below average on exams.

    [link]      
  26. By Kit P on August 27, 2010 at 9:57 am

    “I am always interested in better
    ways of making electricity, such as the ORC example in Alaska.  That
    did not come from the electricity industry but from air conditioning
    company.”

     

    No Paul you are interested in the
    trivial and the very extreme.

     

    “I have not told you how to do your
    job (nuke plants) better, or how to run a coal plant better.”

     

    If you are interested in how to make
    electricity better you would study how the 104 nukes plants in the US
    have been able to consistently achieve a greater than 90% capacity
    factor. You would study how the coal industry has reduced the
    environmental impact.

     

    Look at the 20% and 50% not the
    0.00001%.

     

    “But if they then say their way is
    the only way and they will not consider any alternatives,..”

     

    Paul is ignorant of how we do things in
    the US. Sooner or later you will get it. Building power plants in
    a public policy decision the US. Alternative have to be considered
    in the EIS, the public is invited to meeting and can provide
    comments.

    [link]      
  27. By Kit P on August 27, 2010 at 10:03 am

    “I am always interested in better
    ways of making electricity, such as the ORC example in Alaska.”

     

    Just for the record that is not a
    better way to make electricity. It is a less expensive way to make
    compared with oil that has high transportation costs.

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  28. By Wendell Mercantile on August 28, 2010 at 8:44 pm

    Jamie Bull said, In other news, half of the students in the UK perform below average on exams.

    Jamie,

    Too bad they aren’t from Lake Woebegone where all the kids are above average.

    [link]      
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