Wind Blows Past “Technical Maximum” Predictions from 1995

April 30, 2013

WindBaggers. Still living in 1995.

Craig Morris in Renewables International:

18 years ago, a skeptic of wind power reviewed a German book on the history of wind power in the German daily Frankfurter Allgemeine (FAZ). The journalist still publishes for the paper. His comments from way back have not aged well, but they do sound like a lot of the criticism we now hear outside of Germany today.

The book itself is entitled in German “The history of the wind energy usage 1890-1990,” and although it was never translated (and, indeed, it is practically impossible to find even in German now), US wind power expert Paul Gipe reviewed it on his website in 2004.

Gipe’s summary is much more positive than German journalist George Küffner’s was in 1995. Küffner doubts that wind power “failed” in the 20th century primarily because, as the book’s author argues, the focus in energy policy has been on central-station power plants, such as nuclear. Instead, the journalist believes that low “energy density” is one major problem – a charge that is repeated even today, most recently in a scientific paper that drew a lot of attention. But as I recently wrote in the Energy Transition blog, almost no one in Germany speaks of energy density; the Germans simply install systems and know that the real limit is not theoretical, but practical (see “peak demand parity“). It is important, however, to note that the focus on energy density has historically been a tool used by those who said renewables would never suffice.

After tossing out all of the usual anti-wind claims – they destroy landscapes, kill birds, and are loud – the journalist takes the energy density issue to its logical conclusion when he states that “it remains to be seen whether Denmark and Schleswig-Holstein will ever reach their target of 10 percent wind power, which itself represents the technical maximum.”

The assessment has not aged well. Allow me to draw your attention to a new website, which is unfortunately only in German (the project manager told me today that no English version is in the works, but he will make a budget proposal for an international version). The website provides interactive graphics for renewables in Germany’s 16 states. Though it does not separately provide statistics for wind power, renewables made up 37.6 percent of gross power generation in Schleswig-Holstein in 2011, and most of that was wind. But the state is only in third place behind Thüringen (44.9 percent) and Mecklenburg-Vorpommern (57.7 percent).

amiga

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7 Responses to “Wind Blows Past “Technical Maximum” Predictions from 1995”


  1. No doubt the Germans have learned a thing or two about the energy predicament in fossil fuels (and atomic energy). I often point to this fact when I discuss renewables with friends – its perfectly possible to cope with renewables if you really try and at the same time adapt your consumption to its availability. It might not be a good foundation for classic growth and 24/7 kind of lifestyles we have grown accustomed to, but perhaps the days for that is over in the face of energy decline?

    Anyway, just wonder if you linked the correct video above? Unless its a general lookback on technology for comparison to what we have now. In most cases we know very little of what technology changes into – stuff that looks a bit scifi back then is common today. :)

  2. Bruce Miller Says:

    Wind efficiencies: So what! Americans still use 23% efficient low compression gasoline and alcohol engines? Even Euro-Diesels 40% effiecient? Electrics approaching 99% efficient with in hub motors?

  3. prokaryotes Says:

    Another good resource on renewable news from Germany can be found here http://www.heise.de/thema/Erneuerbare-Energien

  4. joffan7 Says:

    Sorry, who is living in 1995? Taking apart obscure arguments (a line in a book review) from 18 years ago looks faintly ridiculous.

    Of course if you (or Craig Morris) had demonstrated the relevance by quoting some contemporary claims, the “living in 1995″ could have some merit – but I don’t see that anywhere here, and personally I have never heard – until today – any claim that wind’s maximum possible contribution anywhere is 10%.

    Morris’ article would have had more merit if had simply reported on the success of wind electricity generation in various places without the attempt to dress it up as a rebuttal of this ancient detail.


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