Reaping the Wind

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

The same crowd that imagines electric cars are paragons of "clean" energy recently waxed enthusiastic about windmills after a blustery Scandinavian day. Denmark, with its burgeoning population of nearly six million, saw its wind farms supply more than enough electricity for its own needs that day:

According to The Guardian, the website, which gives real-time breakdowns of Denmark's energy production, showed that the country's wind turbines were not even operating at full capacity when they generated the surpluses.

For all of 2014, Danish wind turbines, most of which are onshore, supplied the equivalent of 39% of the country's annual electricity consumption.
The fact that this is newsworthy at all belies the following assertion by one government official about this incident, "It shows that a world powered 100% by renewable energy is no fantasy."

First off, why weren't the wind turbines "operating at full capacity?" Might it be due to the fact that wind is so unpredictable that wind farms have to be overbuilt just to have a chance of being useful? The article mentions that Germany -- which, with over thirteen times Denmark's population -- received part of this surplus. This brings to my mind a recent Alex Epstein piece on German power policies that the U.S. is foolishly set to emulate. In particular, there is a graph of German power production that plots solar and wind separately. Note the great variation from day to day in the amounts from the latter two sources -- a variation which leads Epstein to call them "unreliables". Note also their much smaller average proportions of the total than Denmark's annual 39%. In addition to having lower power needs than Germany, might Denmark, with a greater proportion of windy seashore than Germany, have a proportionally greater peak wind generating capacity? (Land-based turbines can still benefit from proximity to the ocean, so mentioning that the turbines are mostly on land is moot without elaboration.)

This article raises quite a few questions about "renewable" energy and the distinct suspicion that its advocates are grasping at straws. Indeed, if it "shows" anything, it's that Epstein is right to call "renewable" energy sources "unreliables".

-- CAV

P. S. My latest column, on California's drought, was published yesterday at RealClear Markets.

Updates: Revised P.S.

No comments: