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By Robert Rapier on Jun 9, 2014 with 54 responses

When the Wind Doesn’t Blow

Hawi Wind Farm

Every morning after I wake up, I have a routine. The first thing I do, regardless of how sleepy I might still be, is slip on my shoes and run a mile. This erases the fog of sleep and gets me ready for the day. As an aside, I can highly recommend a quick run in the morning for just about everyone. The time commitment is minimal, it’s good for the heart, helps with stress, and it kicks the brain into high gear much faster than a cup of coffee can (which I still have later in the morning).

When I am traveling, I will often use a hotel treadmill, and catch up on the news for a few minutes as I run. But when I am in Hawaii, I run outdoors in all but the worst weather. The town I live in — near the north end of the Big Island — is known for the wind. In fact, the school mascot where my children have attended school for the past five years is “Ka Makani”, which means “the wind” in Hawaiian. There is a 10.6 megawatt (MW) wind farm — Hawi Renewable Development Wind Farm  (shown in the picture above) — 20 miles north of where I live.

While the wind there blows enough to support a wind farm, and more often than not I have to run against it during some part of my run, on some mornings everything is dead still. On those mornings, I know I can look to the west and see black smoke rising into the sky.

The average capacity factor — that is the output of an electricity-producing asset over a period of time divided by its maximum theoretical power output — was about 32 percent for wind power in the US over the past 3 years (Source). The Hawi Renewable Development Wind Farm is a little bit better than that at 45 percent, but for the 55 percent of the time that it isn’t producing power, backup is required. Often, intermittent renewable power power supplies are backed up by dirty and inefficient power.

The Waimea Generating Station is located only a few hundred yards from my house. It is owned and operated by Hawaii Electric Light Company, Inc. (HELCO). The plant consists of three 2.5 MW diesel engine generators that are fired on Number 2 fuel oil with a maximum sulfur content of 0.5 percent by weight. Every time I notice that its calm on my morning run, I can always find the smoke rising from these generators. They come on when the wind turbines aren’t spinning.

When people talk about the intermittent nature of resources like the wind and sun, they are referring to the fact that there are times — often unpredictable — when these resources aren’t producing. At 7 am, the world is waking up and demand for electricity is climbing. At that early hour, and with the sun perhaps not yet shining brightly enough for solar power to contribute appreciably, back-up power is needed in areas like my neighborhood that utilize wind power when it’s available.

That is the nature of intermittent resources. People don’t usually think about the fact that if the wind isn’t blowing that an electric utility — somewhere — brings on line backup power. When this happens, for the consumer it is transparent. Their toaster continues to function as it did when the wind was blowing. People don’t realize it’s happening, unless they see it happen (as I did several times this past week on my morning run when I saw the smoke rising).

Good backup or storage options are required for intermittent resources. At times these renewables can be backed up by hydropower, but more often than not they are backed up just like the Hawi Renewable Development Wind Farm — with fossil fuels.

Promising energy storage options are in development. These include batteries, compressed air, flywheels, and hydrogen production. Without economical backup and storage options, renewable power will be unable to reach its full potential. That’s why I have referred to this as The Most Important Problem in Renewable Energy.

Link to Original Article: When the Wind Doesn’t Blow

You can find Robert Rapier on TwitterLinkedIn, or Facebook.

  1. By Forrest on June 9, 2014 at 7:45 am

    Important to renewable energy, but equally valuable to all power production. Hydro, nuclear, even those expensive clean coal plants. It’s all about handling peak power loads efficiently. The morning and early evening peak load hard to control as well as cold and heat spells. My guess, the ability to store electricity will continue to be expensive and anemic compared to the capability to manage load. The smart grid may be effective, but not a good solution if the cost as predicted is hyper expensive. We should avoid the rush to judgement decision making in attempt to throw yet another problem under the typical break the federal bank solutions. For instance home controllers may be much more cost effective and a solution not requiring or empowering political control. The industry trade show ASHRAE had cost effective solutions to balance AC loads per off peak production of ice cubes. Seasonal heat load storage not very glamorous, but very effective. Produce ice cubes in winter and store underground for peak load summer needs. Summer heat can be utilized likewise. Probably the solution doesn’t gin up much political or corp business interests as to easy for small business to claim. No, glamorous political speeches or federal initiative to smitten voting public. No GE glossy research grants required. Converting as much as possible electric needs to natural gas would be a tremendous improvement. Environmentalist, should be encouraging more efficient use of natural gas at point of use. Why convert NG to electricity first? Electricity is hard to manage, control, maintain, and expensive to distribute. Utilize this valuable commodity for powering equipment that can only be powered by such. Even at that, it is becoming more apparent that the power can be generated easily for home use more efficiently without grid costs. CHIP is a natural for home use and if the fuel cell solution takes hold, double the benefit for home production of power needs. Roof top solar could dovetail the benefit as well.

    • By Forrest on June 9, 2014 at 9:16 am

      A side note: EPA assumptions are shafting the environmental aspects of bio-mass energy. This should be superior to NG, even to solar and wind. It’s cheap, the energy can be easily stored, promotes green plant life, removes waste material that would otherwise rot producing CO2 and probably produce methane gas as well. The huge cost of obsoleting coal plants, may be avoided if EPA had honest values of biomass co-firing of these plants. Meaning it would unfair to rate bio-mass per coal CO2 regs within the combustion chamber. It should be a formula whereupon the power plant fuel would achieve actual CO2 emissions per fuel supply. The power plants should be able to trade tree planting for emissions as well. The could form alliances with forestry department and wood businesses. Also, the biofuel cellulosic process produces a product of lignin that compares pound to pound as energy dense as coal. May be a superior co-fuel for coal plant operation? These solutions low cost and superior to economy benefits.

      • By Forrest on June 10, 2014 at 11:31 am

        Read a current article of Dow Chemical working with Nature Conservancy to research the tree planting solution to industrial air pollution. The science investigation targeted to replace expensive equipment with natural biological solutions at a cost savings. They first investigated nitrogen oxide and found large broad leaf trees most effective. Doing the math they found 10,000 acres of trees equivalent to one scrubber in removing nitrogen oxide from atmosphere and do so at cost savings. But, I will add the value of having a 10,000 acre tree plantation is better and financially more attractive long run as compared to obsolete rusting plant equipment. Also, the trees are accomplishing the feat upon open air atmosphere vs the scrubber at point source concentration. The article claimed EPA doesn’t like natural organic solutions as they have problems with monitoring and compliance law. Meaning, it’s harder to stick up industry and claim the headlines. I did read that Russia was utilizing natural biological science for their environmental problems as it’s so cost effective and reliable. Problem is for U.S. this solution would knock the EPA down from tyrant status.

  2. By Ed_Reid on June 9, 2014 at 9:48 am

    Under current rules, virtually all available wind and solar energy is used first and supplemented with conventional generation as necessary. Assuming the availability of sufficient storage to obviate the need for conventional supplementation also assumes the availability of sufficient surplus generation to fill that storage capacity during the periods when the wind is blowing; and, also, to cover the in/out losses involved in the storage process.

    • By Mac on June 20, 2014 at 1:32 am

      We are going to “Rape” the earth is the mantra,,,,,

      And it won’t even hurt is the reply…..

      “Yes, you G… damned ignorant sh.ts we will continue to use fossil fuels until we run out of the stuff.”

      What a profound insight from profoundly flawed human beings whose portfolios are full of fossil fuel companies..

      • By Ed_Reid on June 20, 2014 at 7:36 am

        I suspect there was some deep philosophical message in your reply, but I am apparently too dense to understand it.

  3. By Roger Blomquist on June 9, 2014 at 3:06 pm

    It’s always about energy storage for wind and solar. Energy can be stored by man using pumped hydro, batteries, chemical systems, or by nature in fossil fuels and uranium nuclei. All are either more expensive or more environmentally disruptive than is uranium. Uranium is so clean that you can submerge over 100 sailors in a sealed steel tube with a reactor inside for months at a time, with no radioactive contamination.

  4. By Ken Davis on June 9, 2014 at 4:18 pm

    The capacity factor cited for wind (40%) is quite a bit higher than actual US experience. From DOE/EIA at, which shows wind energy production and MW capacity for 2006-2010, the average over that period is 26%. To take 2010 as an example, production in 2010 was 94,652,246 MWh and capacity (summer peak value) was 39,135 MW, so the capacity factor that year was 96,652,246/(24*365*39135) = 28%, a little above what you get for the 2006-2010 average. Only at very good sites can you get into the 40+% range year-round.

    • By Robert Rapier on June 9, 2014 at 9:46 pm

      I though that seemed high as well. I was eye-balling it based on the EIA chart here:

      I think the issue is that the eyeball there is deceiving, and when you average it over the year you get lower than 40%. It looks like the average annual factor from 2011-2013 was 32%. I will correct the article. Thanks for the heads up.

      • By alpha2actual on June 10, 2014 at 10:23 am

        Here is a sampling of some 6 year Capacity Factors.

        Germany, onshore 0.187; dismal, but rising due to offshore IWTs
        Denmark, including offshore 0.251; rising due to offshore IWT
        The Netherlands 0.228
        The US Great Plains 0.289; a high value due to excellent winds
        Texas 0.225
        Ireland 0.283; Ireland and Scotland have the best winds i
        New York State 0.249
        Spain 0.241
        China, 2012 0.166; dismal
        Australia 0.300
        UK, 2012 0.275; rising due to offshore IWTs

        • By JonathanMaddox on June 17, 2014 at 4:02 am

          I would attribute the “dismal” capacity factor of onshore wind turbines in Germany to that country’s early start and the continuing preponderance of older tech in some of its best sites. Nor would I attribute Denmark’s high capacity factor exclusively to its offshore wind farms (though of course they help).

          Until quite recently (say, 2008) wind turbines were typically designed to capture a maximum amount of energy. They might produce maximum capacity only in the best conditions for a few hundred hours per year, and wouldn’t produce much at all in slow winds. Low capacity factors were not a major consideration when penetration was low.

          More recent designs have grown *much* larger, sweeping a larger cross-section of higher and faster winds, while aerodynamics have improved and the mechanical complexity of the generators reduced, allowing moderate production of power in low winds which might have seen little or no output from older, smaller turbines, and good production of power in moderately strong winds.

          As long ago as 2007 there were 7 and 10 megawatt wind turbines heralded. These behemoths, while they do exist, never saw widespread deployment, but wind turbines *have* been increasing in size. What gives?

          Most of the newer, larger turbines generally *don’t* have proportionately larger generators, because they can only usefully produce so much more power for so few hours. This means that they “max out” at their full rated capacity for a larger fraction of the time. The very same turbine with double the nameplate capacity might yield slightly more electric energy over the course of the year but would have only half the capacity factor.

          Most recent onshore capacity growth in Germany has been from upgrading turbines at old sites, rather than new greenfield wind farms; this is an accelerating trend and has the side-effect of also improving capacity factors as the capacity ratings are now selected for integration of a grid that is sometimes dominated by wind power. Higher capacity factors are desirable in a way they were not when these wind farms were first built.

          Denmark has benefited from onshore repowering also — and has had a wind-dominated grid for longer than Germany has, so was the first to take advantage of less “spiky” wind generation.

          I’m not sure how to account for China’s “dismal” here. It could be that they’re still using large capacity ratings and don’t care due to the relatively low penetration, or it could be in part because of delays in transmission extensions.

          Australia sees excellent capacity factors because we are relatively late adopters and have some of the world’s best sites (yes, way better than Scotland and Ireland!), especially on the south coast. With the newest turbines, 50% capacity factor in such sites isn’t so unusual. Note that Australia has *no* offshore wind as yet.

          Yet our wind resource maps also show top-rate sites across much of the country, so it’s a pity we haven’t yet pursued wind power further north and inland.

  5. By alpha2actual on June 9, 2014 at 6:15 pm

    Here’s a synopsis of a typical Anthropogenic Climate Change abatement project, Cape Wind Nantucket. This is the will be the first offshore wind turbine installation in the United States. Spoiler, it takes $18.2 BILLION Cape Wind projects to equal the power generation of a single $370 MILLION Combined Cycle Natural Gas Turbine plant.

    This 120 wind turbine project, cost $2.6 BILLION, is rated at 468 mw and will produce 143 mw after applying a capacity factor of 30.4 % (as computed the the University of Delaware) the time the wind actually blows, life cycle is 20 years therefore this project will produce 24.6 Terawatts life cycle. Insofar as this project located in an area which is enshrouded in fog 200, on average, days of the year a low wind velocity environment, a more realistic life cycle output would be 15 Terawatts. The turbines are of German manufacture, the concrete bases construction is contracted to a foreign firm and the project will produce 50 full time jobs.

    A combined cycle natural gas turbine plant studied by the DOE for three years completed in 2010 is rated at 570 mw and produces 470 mw, capacity factor 85%. cost $311 MILLION. life cycle 35 years therefore this plant will produce 133 Terawatts life cycle.

    The contracted cost of the Cape Wind energy will be 23 cents a kilowatt hour (excluding tax credits, which are unlikely to last the length of the project), which is more than 50% higher than current average electricity prices in Massachusetts. the bay state is already the 4th most expensive state for electricity in the nation. Even if the tax credits are preserved, $940 million of the $1.6 billion contract represents costs above projections for the likely market price of conventional power. moreover, these costs are just the initial costs they are scheduled to rise by 3.5 percent annually for 15 years. by year 15 the rate will be $.38 per Kilowatt.

    • By A Real Libertarian on July 17, 2014 at 10:58 pm

      A combined cycle natural gas turbine plant studied by the DOE for three years completed in 2010 is rated at 570 mw and produces 470 mw, capacity factor 85%. cost $311 MILLION. life cycle 35 years therefore this plant will produce 133 Terawatts life cycle.

      No, the plant will produce 0 Kilowatt-hours over its lifetime because somebody forgot to budget in the fuel bill.

      Cape Wind is the first American offshore wind farm and prototypes don’t come cheap, it’s using obsolete equipment because it’s been delayed for almost a decade by lawsuits and wind has proven to last longer then 20 years.

      So, in order to “prove” wind electricity is too expensive you’ve cherry-picked a one of a kind prototype of a type of generation that’s never been done in this country and has been delayed for a decade fighting off lawsuits on top of that.

      Then you compare the full price of that to a standard, easily built, no more big improvements possible natural gas plant… and then assume the gas plant needs no fuel or maintenance.

      This really shows how dishonest anti-wind people are.

      • By Forrest on July 18, 2014 at 7:17 am

        Wind turbines are mature technology. While offshore wind farms not as common as they are in Europe, they are hardly within prototype stage. The fuel cost is included in wholesale price of power as well as all costs such as capital and depreciation. Wind energy construction is not sustainable without a boat load of public money. In 2013 wind energy made up 4% of our power, yet cost taxpayers $2 billion. Wind energy growth is at the expense of taxpayers and ratepayers. States that were fooled into voting for wind energy per lobbyist, experience 14% to 33% rate hikes. Net benefit per wind energy not so attractive as the energy source typically utilized 30% and at random time events that do not align up with need or demand. Net investment is 10:1 against wind.
        Advocates of wind have no problem supporting their choice of energy even when killing endangered bird species, while going bonkers if a competing energy project disturbs the snail darter environment. Same with support of CFL mercury pollution directly within our habitable homes compared to coal mercury dispersion over vast outside areas. Same with pipelines that empower competing energy sources that would actually decrease environmental pollution. These competing power sources get maximum condemnation and max political pressure to prohibit as its not their desired outcome. They attempt to manipulate public and will not compromise to better economy results or environmental improvements. We are often told the public demands renewable energy…..but upon vetting the sample questions it appears public is all for renewable energy and cleaner environment per vague and generic statements without cost numbers, but rate the priority 3%-8% from the bottom for countries top need as compared to other national needs. The political activist attempting to stampede public to their solutions per hysteria of 100 year projections of green house gas disturbances, while the public is losing interests and support upon the continuous political empowering hype.

      • By alpha2actual on July 20, 2014 at 6:45 pm

        The Cape Wind Project turbines are a Semens design, a German firm, and are to be constructed by a subsidiary in Denmark. Obviously you have a reading comprehension problem. Wind is not free. The bean counters look at and analyze Cost of Production. Energy Information Agency, Department of Energy 2011 Cost of Production.

        Cost of Production per MWhr, 2012, US$. Hydro $19, Natural Gas $23, Nuclear $22..$36 depending on installation, Coal $40, Wind $70 and Solar $100. Wind and Solar is not free.

        Now let’s look at how scumbag green crony capitalists suck subsidies from the worker bees. Energy Information Agency, Department of Energy 2011 Cost of Production. Here is a listing of Federal subsidies dedicated for electric power production by source, fiscal 2010, dollars per Megawatt. Oil and Gas $0.64, Hydropower $0.82, Coal $0.64, Nuclear $3.14, SOLAR $775.64, WIND $56.29. You don’t need a Harvard MBA that there is something amiss here.

  6. By alpha2actual on June 9, 2014 at 6:34 pm

    Capacity Factor is a measure of the actual measured output on an annual basis. The CF for Cape Wind is from a paper from the University of Delaware. This paper resulted from a study of offshore wind for a recently authorized $1.4 Billion offshore wind project for the state of Maryland. CF allows for planned maintenance, unplanned maintenance, and grid requirements, load and peak following. In the case of Solar and Wind it would allow for the intermittent nature of the source. European experience CF calculations come in on average mid twenties. However, CF is not the complete story. The power has to be dispatchable. A six year study of Denmark’s offshore wind production found that while wind provided 19% of the country’s electricity generation, it only met an average 9.7% of the demand over a five year period, and a mere 5% during 2006. This is referred to as Demand Capacity.

    • By Forrest on June 10, 2014 at 7:17 am

      Devastating info to financial wisdom of wind energy choice. Thanks, we need such information dispersed to voting public as way to many blowing sunshine i.e. “wind is free energy”.

  7. By Tom G. on June 9, 2014 at 9:27 pm

    And so it goes when you live on an island; even if it is paradise.

    On the mainland we have choices. If you live in California and the wind stops blowing you can import hydropower from the Pacific Northwest or solar power from Arizona or Nevada over the grid. If you live in North Dakota and the wind isn’t blowing it probably will be in South Dakota or Oklahoma. And when for heavens sakes are we going to start using making more use of the heat below our feet for geothermal power plants. They can be switched on and off quickly to meet energy needs and can run 24/7. But alas, most of the good geothermal sites are in the Western United States. Oh wait – and on volcanic islands like in Hawaii :-)

    Modern grid technology can help but it is not the complete solution. Neither is wind, solar, geothermal, biomass, coal, oil, nuclear or even natural gas. However as new technologies go; renewables seem to be one of our better solutions if ever hope to achieve “clean air to breath and water to drink” for everyone on this planet.

    “Clean air to breath and water to drink” trumps 400 ppm of CO2 on a mountaintop in Hawaii any day of the week in my book.

    • By Forrest on June 10, 2014 at 7:38 am

      U.S. power generators have excellent pollution control record. Even coal plants a magnitude cleaner as compared to typical international plants. Remember the analysis of battery car pollution was so low per refueling on super clean energy of grid, including coal power. Typical gasoline contains about 150 different chemicals, including
      benzene, toluene, ethylbenzene and xylene. Diesel fuel particulates recently labeled number one health concern for air quality. Compare that to ethanol simple molecule that upon complete combustion produces CO2 and water and no particulates and yes the fuel can be utilized per diesel cycle.

      • By Optimist on June 11, 2014 at 5:16 pm

        Really? Your wonder fuel produces no CO or NOx?

        Of course, due to safety reasons (mainly the fact that it burns with an invisible flame) those spoilsports in Washington DC insist that you add at least 15% gasoline to it, hence E85. Once you’ve made that compromise, many of the wonder fuel’s benefits evaporate (literally, as ethanol tends to increase the vapor pressure of gasoline, meaning more evaporative loss and emissions).

        And then you always have the wonder fuel’s tendency to absorb moisture, leading to a host of corrosion problems (and separation in severe cases), and issues with storage, transportation and final consumption. As many small engine owners know from bitter experience.

        Other than that, it really is the wonder fuel…

        • By Forrest on June 12, 2014 at 8:38 am

          The 100% ethanol fuel does burns with a clear flame, a testament to its ultra low pollution quality. E85 has low vapor pressure as compared to gasoline, a good thing. Lower blends of Ethanol increase VP of gas. Increasing blends will result in less of this loss of VP until 50% composition matches plain gasoline. This is not always a bad thing as E15 fuel will start your engine easier in winter. Ethanol ability to absorb water a good attribute. Gasoline suffers much from moisture as the combination will precipitate some nasty acids and gunk. Also, the water will plug up fuel system and stall engine. Winter and marine conditions a big problem for gasoline. Now, ethanol low content fuels may also precipitate gunk if suffering extreme water contamination. This is rare, especially if the system is routinely fueled with such fuel and operated. Also, the system should be closed (fuel cap). Since ethanol is routinely blended with gasoline moisture problems have greatly decreased i.e. no more need for Heet additive during winter weather. Small engines suffer with high levels of ethanol per the fact they have been adjusted or tuned to run on E10 or E0. The engine must be adjusted to fuel supply then consistently use that fuel. These engines could be tuned to E30 and enjoy cooler cylinder temps, less smoke, and more power. Just they would need to stay with E30 after making the adjustment. Some lawnmower owners have made the conversion to E85 fuel as they enjoy the higher torque, power, and smell of exhaust. E85 is the preferred alternative fuel with 15-30% gasoline as compared to straight ethanol. Reason being the E85 fuel much more acceptable to native gas engine technology. Meaning the gas portion needed for spark ignition of fuel. Optimized ethanol fueled engines need high compression and hotter spark such as the old point and coil systems of past. Modern flex vehicles have cranked up energy of the modern ignition systems for this purpose. While E85 fuel does reduce emissions it must be noted the current pollution control system for car is, again, not optimized for ethanol. Acetaldehydes the biggest problem for ethanol and that is the result of utilization within gasoline optimized engine. This emission contributes to ozone and smells like wine. Overall, ethanol makes a big impact on reducing auto pollution. The EPA has been after gasoline producers to remove known carcinogen benzene. As I understand the chemistry, the E30 blend is getting much attention per removal of most health harming constituencies of gas and ability to accept maximum state of automotive technology to boost efficiencies of engine.
          Tom was posting on clean air being more important than CO2 reductions, but I did post ethanol simple chemistry produces CO2. Field to wheel much lower than gas CO2 and trending down. NOX results from incomplete combustion, nevertheless simple chemistry doesn’t exist in real world and NOX does become part of tail pipe emissions as well as CO. But, we must acknowledge the simple molecule of ethanol is much easier to control than the 150 chemical brew of gas and that brew makeup is always changing (not consistent).

    • By Michael Cain on June 11, 2014 at 4:42 pm

      This. There are a variety of nuts-and-bolts level studies of a low-carbon largely-renewable power grid for the US Western Interconnect, and they all emphasize diversity, diversity, and diversity. Diverse sources: hydro, wind, solar. Diverse locations: eg, wind on the western Great Plains, on the downslopes of various mountain ranges, along the coast in the Northwest. Diverse transmission routes: the ability to shuffle power between all of the limited number of major demand centers. A certain amount of overbuilding is inevitable, as is a management scheme that allows for load shedding during some circumstances.

      It’s interesting (at least to me) that studies at a similar level of detail don’t seem to exist for the Eastern Interconnect, probably because that’s a whole lot harder problem.

  8. By Joe Clarkson on June 9, 2014 at 10:17 pm

    I live on the same island as Robert. So far, the local utility has managed well with one of the highest grid penetrations of renewables in the US. On average, geothermal, wind, solar and hydro contribute about 40% of the energy transmitted by the grid. On top of this is a significant reduction in maximum load due to distributed generation.

    When there is ample wind, and rain for hydro, renewables may exceed the minimum load during the early morning hours. The utility then forces wind turbines off line to preserve enough fossil generation to maintain frequency regulation.

    Folks on the mainland should be able to tolerate an even higher penetration of renewables due to the larger geographic areas covered by the grids and the resulting smoothing of variability in total renewable output.

    While it is true that wind and solar are not dispatchable, hydro, geothermal and biomass are. As renewables increase their percentage of grid generation, existing fossil plants will be operated at lower and lower capacity factors. This may increase the cost of electricity, but only if the existing capacity payments to fossil generators are too low to make a legacy fossil plant economically viable. However, many fossil plants, like the combined cycle plant near my home, get enough in capacity payments to cover their debt service, so they remain financially solvent even if they never generate a kWh. Some gas-fired peaking plants make money even though they run only a few hundred hours a year.

    In sum, renewables can probably reach grid penetration of at least 50% without significant additional storage. To go to predominately renewable generation, storage will indeed become a necessity and will add considerable expense to the cost of electricity. This is as it should be, since cheap fossil-generated electricity was never going to be a long-term energy source, both for environmental reasons and because of the inevitable depletion of a finite resource. For those who think unlimited cheap electricity is a birthright, get over it already!

    • By Forrest on June 10, 2014 at 7:48 am

      Well, not many will complain of hydro power. That power source has long history of supplying energy needs of country and at exceptional low cost. Energy department published a claim we have enough hydro power in country to meet 40% of countries needs. They have perfected hydro dam placement with much sensitivity to environment. Western states have huge hydro capacity and most of it goes unharnessed. In my opinion we should exploit this resource to the maximum.

  9. By Forrest on June 10, 2014 at 8:28 am

    The turbine blimp turbine interesting solution. The BAT system from Altaeros Energy is self contained easy to set up. Ships within two containers anywhere in world and requires typically one day setup. Install cost 90% less than typical wind turbine. Requires no mast, crane equipment, or concrete foundation. The power can be utilized by micro grid or plugged into normal grid. The 35 ft wide BAT produces enough power for 12 homes. The aerodynamic inflatable duct balloon houses a three blade turbine and floats at altitudes permitted by fed regulation, 1,000 to 2,000 feet. At these altitudes the wind energy is much more consistent and powerful making the turbine 3x more productive. Birds and bats stay away. The system is computer controlled to hunt for wind and reports on status for remote monitoring. This solution is expected to be popular in remote areas that have little or expensive fossil fuel for generators such as island, Alaska frontier, African villages, etc. Wind power at these altitudes calculated 100x more than global needs. Google is also within the mix.

  10. By Jonathan Koomey on June 10, 2014 at 10:40 am

    Pumped storage is a good way to handle this issue, and given the topology of the big Island, you should be able to make this work. There’s a recent example in the Canary Islands:

    • By Robert Rapier on June 10, 2014 at 10:52 am

      I actually worked on a project in this area for a while in Hawaii. You are correct; there are some good locations for this there. I have looked at several of them.

  11. By GoresChakra on June 10, 2014 at 6:00 pm

    Liquid Fluoride Thorium Reactor research is a must – it is inherently safe, has very little waste, promotes non-proliferation, and is a low-cost nuclear energy.
    Just read Ozzie Zehner’s “Green Illusions” and I am convinced the alternate renewable path is a false dream to sufficient reasonable cost energy. Although I disagree with his final recommendation ~ learn to live with less( efficiency, planned communities,fewer people) , his analysis of the costs and practicality of Solar, Wind, Hydro, Biomass, Hydrogen, Tidal, Geothermal, and Nuclear (Uranium based), is compelling. For example the production of Solar panels uses several gruesome greenhouse gases, Sulfur Hexafluoride, Nitrogen trifluoride , and Hexafluoroethane. Wind is also overly touted. A more reasonable average capacity factor of 22% – 26% will be hard to maintain as the best locations for wind have already been utilized, and the environmental damage to build roads to erect and maintain these towers will offset much of their benefits.

    • By Forrest on June 11, 2014 at 7:44 am

      I don’t buy the environmentalist claim that society could or should greatly decrease energy use. Historically that event has never happened unless paying a horrible cost. We should be efficient and wise with energy use, but energy use should increase per progressive society. We need energy to solve problems and improve the human condition.

      Several countries have already targeted the mining of moon dust per He3 nuclear fusion fuel supply. Analysis claim were only a few decades away from another space race to moon. Nuclear fusion reactors using helium-3 is expected to power a highly
      efficient form of nuclear power with virtually no waste and no
      radiation. The earth has little of this resource.

  12. By rlhailssrpe on June 10, 2014 at 6:12 pm

    The article was interesting, the comments more so. Energy technologies is complex and as a result an engineer is always at a disadvantage to a proponent, who is free to state, “happy numbers”, parameters which exist on some paper but which will never be replicated in the real world. Investors, long ago, found a solution to the unhappy situation in which what they were promised, did not happen. In energy contracts, there are many terms, such as capacity factor, which require that if you do not perform as you promise, out to several decimal points, you pay, until you go broke.

    There are only two parameters necessary to comprehend energy, cost, and freedom.

    Mr. Clarkson’s comment, ” For those who think unlimited cheap electricity is a birthright, get over it already!” sums it well, on cost. Mr. Forrest’s words, “… My guess, the ability to store electricity will continue to be expensive and anemic compared to the capability to manage load.”, although not as candid, is both true and to the point.

    The entire US grid was developed on several axioms; it was to be: cheap, ubiquitous, safe and reliable. The alternate energies fail these requirements. In order to survive, they must take value from society for what they contribute. For base loaded supply, they are, and will be much more expensive. That will not change; it is inherent in the technologies. The technical issues are supply storage, conditioning, and distribution (getting it to the wall plug, just right, when you flip the switch).

    To build out and use these technologies requires social control, the capability of the government to tightly ration juice to each user. This is the sole reason, down stream of the utility meter, of the smart grid. At hideous expense, borne by the citizen (I have read $800 per appliance more), each major unit will contain a kill switch controlled solely by the government. In August, your AC will not run, in January, your furnace will not run. And your electric bill will be a much, much larger slice of your budget.

    It is basic economics that this is the definition of a lower standard of living. American manufacturing centers have already experienced this, their employers have moved off shore, after a generation of cost cutting. This is a fact in any industry in which energy is a large part of production costs.

    After engineering a score of nukes, two score fossil fuel power plants, and decades assessing advanced technologies, this engineer strongly believes that we should tell each other the truth about energy. If man is harming the climate, via the combustion of carbon, we face a dread future, unknown to any prior civilization, basically a drastic reduction in our standard of living. An American’s per capita energy use will drop to late 19th century consumption. Whether we will survive this, as a free prosperous people, is unknownable.

    IMHO, we should not destroy our economy, and nation, due to uncertain climate science scenarios, whose damage occurs in centuries. My fear is that the grid will collapse in the coming years. All of our electronics rests on an electrical infrastructure which was built by your grandfathers. It is creaky.

    • By Forrest on June 11, 2014 at 6:57 am

      My utility put in smart meter about a year ago. Not a big deal, you can go to their web site and review your historical energy consumption hour by hour, week by week, and month to month. Also, the utility offered to loan a kilowatt meter that would record energy use of plug in appliances. Utilizing both and internet info was able to discern small usage savings by converting to CFL lights and removing ice maker from freezer. You can basically get an expensive “Energy Saver” class of refrigerator by removing ice maker energy hog and going back to ice trays. Also, we pay a lot for minor convenience of frost free. The utility also attempted a program with customers to give financial incentives to allow them to pull the plug on AC during peak loads. It didn’t work, per my guess the people who didn’t need AC as much signed up and those with high needs didn’t. Of course they could go to smart grid and force compliance.

      • By rlhailssrpe on June 11, 2014 at 10:07 am

        An excellent concept for discussion. Thank you.
        The sole, technically and politically valid response to our climate change, environment problem (you pick the buzz word) is conservation, frugal living. For most of the past two generations, our electrical devices were energy hogs. For decades they competed on some marketed capability, of limited usefulness, and price. Not low price, larger profit margin. Examples: Stainless steel refrigerators which are useless for the money. Paint worked OK, but you can charge much more for SS. Prior to our energy crisis, appliances lasted a generation. If you worked on your washer, you note that an old motor was four times as large as the new ones. Due to government pressures, new motors are tiny, run hotter and die quicker. Heat is the enemy of motors; it cooks the insulation. The government dictated the end of incandescent lights, dictated new fluorescent ballasts which are incompatible with millions of old light fixtures. They dictate. This is my point.

        Money is the comprehensible commonality of all commerce but Americans now live in a society where unspoken decisions in a thousand meetings are driving the cost of survival higher. The reason is that blunt truth about energy, reality, will cost you your job. Complain about the cost of a SS Frig; get fired. Complain about a lousy motor; get fired. Complain about the replacem4ent cost a florescent ballast; get fired. Energy engineers are commonly laid off. Our engineering schools dropped energy course work decades ago; they grads could not find work.

        The end result is Detroit. The area of abandoned factories and homes within the city is greater than Manhattan and San Francisco combined. It no longer makes things that sell, that work.

        If you comprehend technology, cost and schedule, you are an engineer. Not a scientist. Not a PR person. This engineer, after more than forty years of practice says that the all green energies cost too much for base loaded supply, which is vital to our survival. America is currently attempting, and failing, to manage energy by demand management, a fancy word for dictatorship. The only feasible alternative, in a democracy, is to ask citizens to conserve, due to a real crisis, but that would demand vulnerability by our political leaders, courage. There is none.

        IMHO, the grid will collapse long before the seas rise. Consider New York without toilets, water, heat, or vehicles, for ten years. Our infrastructure is creaky, our manufacturing centers have rotted. Why? One reason is the high cost of energy. Our governments are incapable of cost control. Indeed it is forbidden, by law, within the bureaucracies. Thus, at some point, our leaders must either say I am wrong, or lie. We passed that point decades ago.

        • By Optimist on June 11, 2014 at 4:55 pm

          The cost of energy is killing America? Really? Who knew? How does the cost of energy in America compare to the rest of the world? According to Wikipedia(1) it looks pretty good: $0.08 – 0.17/kWh (not including HI, sorry RR); not as cheap as Gulf states or Pakistan, but about in line with India and China. Generally MUCH cheaper than Europe, that dark dictatorship.

          So, I guess we’ll watch how the European grid collapses first, and see how they cope. Maybe we can apply some of the things they do over there.

          Does NOT understanding free markets and economics make one an engineer?


          • By rlhailssrpe on June 11, 2014 at 7:33 pm

            Your reference points out that there is no free market operation, anywhere, for electricity supply. Example: see the price vs tariff discussion There are dominant cost impacts which are not considered in the good comparison. For nondispatchable juice, things get hairier. And remote locations which can not run a wire to the neighbors, e.g. the Hawaiian Islands, have special problems.

            And yes, Europe may well lead us to green destruction, with one huge exception. They stay alive due to US funding of our military. If their economies collapse, it is a problem. If ours collapse, it is a bigger problem.

            From my personal experience, a well run US nuke once produced juice for 1/10th of what you quoted (for a short time). No green energy source could do this.

            I leave it to other readers to judge if US energy costs impact their lives. I am certain that if we kill coal and uranium, as we have been doing, our cost structure will skyrocket as my President promised for coal burning plants.

            China puts a coal plant on line every few days. They are superb engineers and do this because it is a cheap fuel. And they are a dictatorship.

            The irreducible issues with energy, for Americans, are cost, and personal freedom. Not the climate. That said, we must conserve, for ethical reasons.

            • By Optimist on June 12, 2014 at 2:41 pm

              True: a free market for electrical power is not feasible due to the need for a shared transmission system, as California found out about a decade+ ago.

              Europe will be fine. Even if we can somehow force them to pay for their own military protection. As we need to do with South Korea, and Japan.

              Meanwhile Europe and Japan will be excellent proving grounds for the combination of green energy and new batteries. We’ll see.

              So I suppose that well run nuke cost did not include the rather massive infrastructure or the extensive security complex that surrounds it. Who is on the hook for that? The tax payer?

              My only problem with nuke power is this: when things go wrong, they go wrong on a massive scale. And with human nature being what it is, things will always go wrong.

              Oddly enough, the peaceful-only nuke options (e.g. pebble bed or thorium) gets no traction. Why is that?

              With all those coal power plants and massive pollution problems China’s power is hardly any cheaper than USs’. The difference between (some form of) a free market and a dictatorship? Who won’t pay a bit more for cleaner air and water? Or would you rather live in China and enjoy the freedom to pollute? One of the few freedoms you’ll have…

              Wait. We must conserve for ethical reasons? We’re not allowed to do it for climate issues? Please explain.

              Then again, what difference does it make? If we agree that we need to conserve, let’s get on with it. Let the talking heads debate why we need to do it…

            • By rlhailssrpe on June 12, 2014 at 3:46 pm

              You suppose things that simply are not real, e.g. a non existent grid size battery, nuclear security costs which are not included in the utility’s cost, shared transmission system costs which universally defeat cost effectiveness, or “pay a bit more for cleaner air” and massive unsolvable pollution problems.

              China builds plants with no “back end clean up” systems which cause what you see on TV (I knew the US engineers who invented ours and played a small role myself). I had a photo of downtown Pittsburgh at noon on VE day. It looked worse. Every car had its head lights on. Using green energy we would have lost the war. The coal based US grid won it. Engineers solve problems, if allowed to function.

              The other commenters contribute. Use high efficiency heat pumps in the south, insulate everything that does not move, walk to the store. Do not give more power to the regulators who froze out Thorium reactors, would not develop or license them. They kill innovation and cost effective developments, the “not invented here” organization dysfunction. The government must control military applications, but peaceful usages must be controlled by the professions and the market (but not oligopolies).

              But do not conserve based on climate change, an irrational fear which greatly has weakened our nation. It will steal our money, and freedom.

            • By Optimist on June 12, 2014 at 8:31 pm

              Never suggested that grid sized batteries exist. Thanks to electric cars, batteries are getting better. Some are suggesting that they are good enough to threaten the business model of utilities:

              Sorry, I missed the logical jump from pollution in Pittsburgh to the idea that green energy would have lost us the war. Arguably it was Churchill’s decision to shift the British navy from coal to oil that allowed the allies victory. Sticking to coal in that particular application would have cost us the war.

              Engineers do indeed solve problems, and they will solve climate change too. You can contribute, or you can be an obstacle on the road to progress. You decide…

            • By Forrest on June 13, 2014 at 8:07 am

              Oil was and is crucial to running an armed force. Germany suffered from lack of energy and U.S. had much new found petrol and internal capabilities to process. Germany propelled “green technology” to maximum heights during this time period and achieved minimal benefit. I suppose U.S. burning coal a good choice, as the fuel well suited to power generation and saved petrol for military use. Having ample stable and consistent power critical for the fast expansion of manufacturing of war equipment. The same point should be made present day. Why waste natural gas to power grid when coal can do the job. Coal has very limited use vs NG. Do you want your household needs of NG to compete against power plant needs?Also, coal plant technology does an incredible job to minimize pollution (except for CO2). Double that logic for nuclear.
              Europe has plenty of problems and it is not a coincidence they were frontrunners of green energy investments. Germany experienced a massive expense upon wind energy. Not good for their economy. Europe now sits upon fear of Russian natural gas supply as their leadership was full of green energy dreams and failed to develop fossil fuel reserves. BTW, a good read on the history of climate change debate, an article by Steven F Hayward published yesterday “Climate Cultists”. It’s informative with a good perspective. Not friendly to the enthusiast of global warming, but the article frames the debate in terms of real danger and corruption of the debate.

            • By rlhailssrpe on June 13, 2014 at 10:50 am

              Engineers created the US grid, the greatest social contribution in the history of mankind. It is not eternal. It is being used in ways it was never designed to accommodate. Engineers comprehend numbers.

              Your referenced article, written by a lawyer for a financial interest, oddly ignores cost. Batteries are heavy and costly. They will never make a big dent in the grid and may lose the car market. In the judgment of many, ultracapacitors will supplant them. If nat gas remains cheap, PEMFC will replace them in the distributed residential market.

              But the big decision is coal. The US has the best grades in the world in abundance. China burns far more than we do, and will continue. As we kill this power industry, we get weaker, they get stronger.

              Climate change can destroy the United States of America. Or the world.

              Enjoyed the colloquy.

            • By Optimist on June 13, 2014 at 6:45 pm

              The greatest social contribution in the history of mankind would be the green revolution. Food is more essential than electricity, without denying how useful electricity can be.

              The article was by a major bank. They have the right to make fools of themselves, like anyone else, but I suspect their comments would have been the subject of careful internal review.

              You may not appreciate it, but accountants, and banksters, comprehend numbers too.

              I don’t get your fascination with coal. If we killed the US coal industry tonight, it just means that those great grades of coal remain there for future generations, should they need it.

              The Chinese are certainly building coal power plants, and most other things, as fast as they can. Whether that exercise will end in pain or joy remains to be seen.

              Somebody has to invent the green tech of tomorrow. America is a natural leader. There might even be money to be made.

              Climate change is a crisis and an opportunity. To be enjoyed, indeed.

            • By Russ Finley on June 15, 2014 at 11:55 am

              My only problem with nuke power is this: when things go wrong, they go wrong on a massive scale. And with human nature being what it is, things will always go wrong.

              Is that also your only problem with dams? Dams (the hands-down predominant source of purportedly “green” energy–whatever exactly that is) have killed a hundred times more people than nuclear energy not to mention destroyed uncounted river ecosystems and fish runs.

              So I suppose that well run nuke cost did not include the rather massive infrastructure or the extensive security complex that surrounds it. Who is on the hook for that? The tax payer?

              Are we starting or just propagating a new anti-nuclear myth? What extensive/expensive security complex?

              Oddly enough, the peaceful-only nuke options (e.g. pebble bed or thorium) gets no traction. Why is that?

              The answer to your question is effective anti-nuclear energy propaganda. But I thought your only problem with nuclear energy is the same as the problem with dams.

              You don’t need a nuclear power plant to make weapons grade material (or pebble bed, thorium to make electricity). If a country is hell-bent to make a nuclear weapon, they can build a reactor designed specifically for that purpose, like we did, and Israel did, and on and on. You are conflating nuclear weapons with nuclear energy, which is exactly what the anti-nuclear groups have so effectively taught the public to do.

            • By Optimist on June 16, 2014 at 1:57 pm

              Yet each dam failure, rare as they are, is relatively small scale and easier to manage and contain. And, of course they are also becoming rarer. Hardly fair to compare dam failures of 100+ years ago to the relatively new invention of nuclear power, is it?

              “What extensive/expensive security complex?”
              The one that seems to be holding back the widespread use of nuclear power.

              “The answer to your question is effective anti-nuclear energy propaganda.”
              Did you mean “the current reality is effective anti-nuclear energy propaganda”?

              I’m not interested in spreading propaganda, I’m just noticing a correlation.

            • By Russ Finley on June 17, 2014 at 11:44 pm

              Yet each dam failure, rare as they are…

              In the last half century we have had a total of three nuclear incidents of note around the entire world , TMI, Chernobyl, and Fukushima, of which only one caused death. Chernobyl was a primitive reactor without a containment dome, Fukushima was crushed by an act of God; a magnitude 9 earthquake and 30 meter high tsunami.

              …is relatively small scale and easier to manage and contain.

              The 1975 Banqiao dam failures “killed an estimated 171,000 people; 11 million people lost their homes.”

              And, of course they are also becoming rarer.

              No they aren’t.

              Hardly fair to compare dam failures of 100+ years ago to the relatively new invention of nuclear power, is it?

              The failure that killed over 170,000 people was 39 years ago. The 2009 Sayano–Shushenskaya hydroelectric power station accident killed 75 people.

              The one conspiracy theory that seems to be holding back the widespread use of nuclear power.

              I’ve never heard this conspiracy theory until now, and I thought I’d heard them all.

              Did you mean “the current reality is effective anti-nuclear energy propaganda”?

              No. I meant exactly what I said. Large numbers of people have been misinformed, yourself included. The current reality is that nuclear power, like solar and wind, costs more than natural gas. There are four nuclear power plants under construction in the U.S. alone.

              I’m not interested in spreading propaganda, I’m just noticing a correlation.

              Propaganda wouldn’t be very effective if its intended targets knew it wasn’t true, would it? Don’t know what correlation you are referring to.

      • By Tom G. on June 11, 2014 at 10:26 am

        Why not just install a 20+ SEER energy efficient “inverter” AC unit and reduce consumption by about 30%. The new “inverter” units have variable frequency motors [compressors] that don’t turn off and on every few minutes and vary the amount of cooling to only that which is needed. The result is a far more comfortable home for a lot less money.

        And don’t forget to dump your old clothes dryer when the new models that use external air arrive. Our current batch of clothes dryers use the air from within your home you have paid to heat or cool to dry your clothes. Hundreds of cubic feet per minute being sucked out of your home. Just go outside and place your hand in front of the vent and feel how much air is being sucked out of your home. Dumbest and most wasteful appliance ever marketed to the American people.

        And did I mention heat pumps yet? Three hundred [300%] percent more efficient than the best gas furnace you can buy if you happen to live in a relatively mild climate. Put in one unit of electricity energy and get 3 units of heat output in return.

        So many options – so little time. Have a great day.

        • By Ed_Reid on June 11, 2014 at 2:04 pm

          The generator to meter efficiency of the US electricity system is ~30%, so the one unit of electricity required three+ units of input energy to produce those three units of heat from the heat pump. Electricity does not magically emerge from the wall outlet at 100% efficiency.

          • By Tom G. on June 11, 2014 at 6:51 pm

            Actually it is much worse than what you said Ed. There are line losses, electric motor losses, losses through the walls, floors and ceiling of the room you are heating [or cooling] AND lets not forget the losses in the duct work. And of course about the same can be said for something like natural gas, or coal or nuclear or even something like bio-fuels or even the burning wood. Any time you move energy from one location or one type of device to another location or device you lose energy.

            As a society we are currently wasting about 60% of every BTU of heat energy we create. My only point was to identify that there are more efficient ways to obtain heat for a home or business if you happen to live where heat pumps work efficiently.

            Here in the Southwestern part of the U.S. where I live almost every home and business has a heat pump. My average year around electric bill for my 100% all electric home of 1707 ft.sq. is $105.00/month @ about $.12/kWh including all taxes and fees. Heat pumps work really well above about 20 F and as a side benefit they also include Air Conditioning for those hot and muggy days.

            Sorry Ed but I can’t remember what state you live in?

            • By Forrest on June 12, 2014 at 7:28 am

              If your 100% electric a good choice, but 100% electric for most not a good choice. Electricity suffers from the usual steam cycle turbine low efficiencies and line loss distribution per Ed. Natural gas much easier to distribute and efficient per recouping pumping pressure. They have a turbine device to capture pumping energy when lowering line pressure. It’s almost always a better choice to cook with gas and dry clothes with gas. The heat pump water heater about a draw, if your live in primary AC zone. But the heat pump water heater is more expensive. Space heating dependent on your cost of energy and region of country, still very hard to compete against NG. Also, the not readily available CHP systems running on NG have proven to beat grid electricity cost. Such a system properly utilized can provide all your hot water and space heating needs and electric. Under ideal conditions the system can earn rate of return (payback) per selling power to grid. Also, systems such as Polar designed with heat pump for low cost AC and magnifying the heat potential. They are expensive units, because volume is so low. But, they are not complicated, they utilize common technology not that expensive. I would guess the water heater companies may come out with CHP water heater option?

            • By Tom G. on June 12, 2014 at 11:43 am

              Hi Forrest:

              If I lived back in Minnesota where I lived for about 25 years I would most likely have a Combined Heat and Power unit for those days when electricity was not available due to a storm. They are very efficient.

              As you suggest – it depends a great deal on where you live.

            • By Jacob David Tannenbaum on July 16, 2014 at 9:53 am

              Americans are quite unique in the world for their reliance upon clothes dryers. Go to Shanghai and you will see that even smallish apartments have a ‘sun-room’ appended onto the South facing side. Jutting out from the building, the sun room is made mostly of glass on the external, and tile for the floor and skirting. It even has a rack that can be lowered from the ceiling with a pully system for placing your clothes upon. Why spend energy drying at all? If you live in a city then higher winds at altitude also help.

  13. By Forrest on June 13, 2014 at 7:26 am

    I read often the position for clean air and a small price to pay with higher utility bills. That’s a false dichotomy argument. What is clear air? Air that is free from any man made contamination? Should we put our economy in economic tail spin to make some symbolic clean air leadership stance with the expectation the rest of world will follow our wisdom? Since CO2 is the main culprit, are we now defining pure, stable, and life sustaining CO2 as dirty? It is always a compromise to achieve acceptable emissions per cost and it’s always a question of dilution. Example radiation will kill you and nature produces an abundance of this air “pollution”, more than all the nuclear plants. Should we attempt a new federal mandate and place more absolute power within EPA control to clean up the toxic radiation? No, it’s not harmful to our health and terrible expensive to clean up. Radon gas is a natural radiation emission from nature and deadly. In Michigan a big problem. The stats, as big a health problem as smoking tobacco. The practiced solution is to vent to outdoors. But, why should residents get a free ride when venting toxic air pollution. Where is the permit, inspections, reporting, and damaging PR to instill hatred upon public that homes are polluting our clean air for their benefit? Our citizens need to get their heads around the crucial need for low cost energy. It’s not just a few bucks on your utility bill, its jacking up the entire platform of competitive economic activity. Energy cost rests on the base of the economic pyramid in which all other attempts to compete must rise. We need efficiency of cost to flourish as a nation to achieve economic resources to meet the needs of standard of living, international leadership, social services, and defense.

  14. By bcpaulos on June 15, 2014 at 6:48 am

    Mr. Rapier,

    I don’t think it is nit-picking to point out that your definition of capacity factor is not correct.

    Capacity factor is not a measurement of time. It measures the total output of a generator compared to the maximum theoretical output. Or as the IEEE puts it “The gross energy that was produced by a generating unit in a given period as a fraction of the gross maximum generation.”

    A 1 MW wind turbine with a CF of 33% does not produce 1 MW of power 1/3 of the time. Instead it produces 1/3 of the power that it is theoretically capable of producing (333 kW on average) over a time period. It may in fact produce some power 50 or 80% of the time. It may in fact never produce the maximum output of the generator.

    Also, your assertion that a wind farm needs a fossil fuel backup is not entirely accurate. In a networked grid, all generators back up all other generators. Since any generator can fail at any time, utilities keep reserves equivalent to at least the largest single failure. So there is no generation dedicated to “backing up” a wind farm. Instead generators are dedicated to backing up everything, in an “operating reserve.”

    Of course, Hawaii is unique, and has many fewer options in maintaining reliability. Fortunately, the growth of distributed generation, demand response, smart grid controls, and storage are improving reliability, lowering costs, lowering pollution, lowering oil imports, and enabling more wind and solar on the Hawaiian system.

    - Ben Paulos

    • By Robert Rapier on June 15, 2014 at 11:52 am

      “I don’t think it is nit-picking to point out that your definition of capacity factor is not correct.”

      Poor wording on my part. I fixed it. Thanks.

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