The Ergosphere
Tuesday, June 16, 2020

The collapse of the Energiewende, and the bookkeeping fraud behind "Renewable Energy Certificates"

It was obvious from the outset that the premises behind the Energiewende were false (and possibly fraudulent).  While building out huge amounts of wind and PV generation, Germany has thus far propped up the house of cards with massive subsidies.  Now those subsidies are expiring, and wonder of wonders, look what is happening:
Around 5,000 wind turbines with a total output of 3.7 gigawatts (GW) will fall out of the 20-year EEG subsidy regime at the end of the year. Now the operators have another problem: Due to the corona pandemic, prices on the electricity market have dropped drastically, which means that the vast majority of older wind farms lack the prospect of economic viability. They face shutdown and the German electricity mix is ​​threatened with the loss of considerable amounts of green electricity.

The amounts of electricity from the old wind turbines could be sold on the stock exchange or directly to energy suppliers. However, due to the corona crisis and the falling wholesale price for natural gas there has been a significant drop in prices on the electricity market in recent months. Last July, a megawatt hour of electricity cost over 53 euros, on March 23 it was just under 34 euros. The costs for the continued operation of the systems can hardly be recorded even at the cheapest locations, there are massive shutdowns.
Germany was betting that those wind farms would continue to operate and continue to generate carbon-free electricity, likely long into the future.  But the skeptics were right:  as soon as the subsidies stop, so do the pinwheels.  The carbon impact of this is unclear, but if 3.7 GW of wind at 21.7% capacity factor1 is retired and replaced with gas-fired turbines emitting 550 gCO2/kWh, that's an additional 3.87 million tons of CO2 emitted per year.  That is a significant hit, increasing German CO2(e) emissions by more than half a percent over 2018's 725.7 million tons CO2(e)2.  When successes are measured in fractions of a percent per year, this is yet another major blow to climate goals and shows just how wrong-headed the ideas behind the Energiewende were all along.

There are other signs and symptoms of saturation, of reaching practical limits.  Energy Post notes that grid-storage additions in 2019 fell against 2018.  The 2.9 GW added was a tiny fraction of total world electric generating capacity.  This is utterly contrary to the exponential part of the logistic curve that we need to be on to achieve the Green vision.  As Manhattan Contrarian notes, reality is catching up to Green energy:
If you dutifully read your U.S. mainstream media, you undoubtedly have the impression that “clean” and “green” energy is rapidly sweeping all before it, and soon will supplant fossil fuels in powering our economy.  After all, many major states, including California and New York, have mandated some form of “net zero” carbon emissions by 2050, or in some cases even earlier.  That’s only 30 years away.  And reports are everywhere that investment in “renewables,” particularly wind and solar energy, continues to soar.  For example, from Reuters in January we have “U.S. clean energy investment hits new record despite Trump administration views.”   In the New York Times on May 13 it’s “In a First, Renewable Energy Is Poised to Eclipse Coal in U.S.”   The final victory of wind and solar over the evil fossil fuels must then be right around the corner.

Actually, that’s all a myth.  The inherent high cost and unreliability of wind and solar energy mean that they are highly unlikely ever to be more than niche players in the overall energy picture.  Politicians claim progressive virtue by commissioning vast farms of wind turbines and solar panels, at taxpayer or ratepayer expense, without anyone ever figuring out — or even addressing — how these things can run a fully functioning electrical grid without complete fossil fuel backup.  And the electrical grid is the easy part.  How about airplanes?  How about steel mills?  I’m looking for someone to demonstrate that this “net zero” thing is something more than a ridiculous fantasy, but I can’t find it.
As I like to say, "I'm from Missouri.  Show me."
The fact is that Germany has nowhere further to go by building more wind and solar facilities.  When the wind blows on a sunny day, they already have more power than they can use, and they are forced to give it away to Poland (or even pay the Poles to take it).  On a calm night, no matter how much wind and solar they build, it all produces nothing.  Without the coal plant, the lights go out.  Talk about climate virtue all they want, but no one has yet even begun to work on a solution to get past this hurdle.

Which brings me to the most important piece in the GWPF email, from Cambridge Professor Michael Kelly, appearing in something called CapX on June 8, with the headline “Until we get a proper roadmap, Net Zero is a goal without a plan.”
Been saying this too.
Read enough of this stuff and you gradually realize that almost everything you read about supposed solutions to climate change is completely delusional.
RTWT, and follow any link that looks good.  You'll be glad you did.

Now I come to the fraud that is Renewable Energy Certificates.  Plainly put, they are a way to claim virtue for being "renewable" while still relying on a dirty grid.  Real Clear Energy just called out New England on it:
New Englanders like the idea of wind energy they just don’t want any wind turbines in New England. So they are putting them in New York.

For proof of that, consider the 126-megawatt Cassadaga Wind Project, now being built in Chautauqua County, New York’s westernmost county.
In an email, a spokesperson for Innogy confirmed that the buyer of the power to be produced by Cassadaga “is a group of seven New England utilities procured through the New England Clean Energy request for proposals” in 2016. How will the juice from New York get to New England? It won’t. Instead, the Innogy spokesperson told me that the energy produced by the turbines at Cassadaga “will be used to serve local energy requirements in areas surrounding the project. Export to areas outside New York would require dedicated point-to-point transmission lines.”

Nevertheless, thanks to the magic of renewable-energy credits, New England utilities will get to claim the wind energy that’s being produced in Chautauqua County, as their own. The Innogy spokesperson said the utilities, “can purchase the energy generated from Cassadaga Wind without having a direct point-to-point transmission connection.”

When completed, the Cassadaga project will increase the amount of renewable energy that is being generated in New York but that will be credited to New England.
It's nice to see bigger voices than mine calling out the fakery by name.  More, please.


1.  Germany's on-shore wind farms generated 101,270 GWh in 2019 from 53,333 MW nameplate capacity, for a capacity factor of 21.7%.

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Tuesday, June 09, 2020

Why "renewables" aren't the solution to our climate problem

One of the glaring flaws (far more than a mere foible) of "renewables" (wind and PV) is that they are unreliable.  SO unreliable, as a matter of fact, that they force the adoption of much dirtier fossil-fired generators to accommodate their output swings.

Naive greenies think that "RE" can just be thrown onto the grid, but in fact an RE-heavy grid requires different generating technologies than one with little or none.  You can generally follow the normal load curve using a CCGT plant, which can be up to 64% efficient (LHV).  Following the bumpiness of "renewables" mostly requires simple-cycle gas turbines (the CCGT steam systems don't like rapid power variations); the best open-cycle I've read about gets only 46% efficiency, and I recall that the single-shaft industrial models often get something like 38%.  IOW, you're burning a lot more fuel for the same electric output.  This puts you way behind emissions-wise.

Let's use a real-world example:  the Mitsubishi-Hitachi M501JAC gas turbine, which is available in both simple-cycle and combined-cycle versions.  This allows a head-to-head comparison.  The single-unit combined-cycle version of the M501JAC is rated at 614 MW and 64.0% LHV efficiency.  It doesn't even HAVE a specified turndown ratio, minimum rated output, rated ramp rate or startup time.  One can conclude from this that it really isn't suitable for trying to follow the ups and downs of "renewables", though it can probably handle normal load curves because other steam-turbine plants have been doing it for the last century.

The simple-cycle heat rate of this unit is 7775 kJ/kWh (LHV).  Since a kilowatt-hour is 3600 kJ, we just divide that by 7775 to get 0.463, or 46.3%.  The rated output is 425 MW and the rated ramp rate is 42 MW/minute, or about 10% per minute; it can be turned down to 50% of rated output, so it can go from minimum to full output in 5 minutes.  This can track things like surges and sags from passing clouds and weather fronts pretty well.  Its startup time is specified as 30 minutes.

What you pay for this flexibility is efficiency.  Going from 64.0% down to 46.3% means burning 38% more fuel.  Put another way, you need to get 27.6% of your juice from emissions-free sources just to break even on the increased emissions from going from combined-cycle to simple-cycle... and that assumes that you maintain the 46.3% efficiency at lower output power, which you won't.  GE makes this data very hard to find, but the efficiency of the LMS100 gas turbine drops from 44.3% at rated power down to under 40% at half rated power (the minimum).  This means even MORE fuel required.

Typical capacity factors for wind are 30-40%; PV is much lower.  If you're getting 30% of your juice from "renewables", and you're burning at least 38% more fuel per kWh to get the rest, you're saving less than 3.3% from the CCGT emissions figure.  At low enough capacity factors, you can actually burn more fuel with the addition of "renewables" than what you could do with all-fossil.

Is it worth spending so much money for such paltry gains?  Even if your wallet can stand it, can the planet?

Now, don't let it be said that there aren't ways around this.  With enough excess RE capacity you can just brute-force the issue by dumping excess power to resistance heaters in a CCGT's gas turbines, substituting electricity for fossil fuel and managing the rapid power swings on the demand side.  But this is going to hit the economics, and nobody even seems to be thinking that far out of the box.


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