Breaking News: Dog Bites Man, Pope Catholic, Wind Energy Saves Carbon

October 18, 2013

Paul Brown for Climate News Network:

Contrary to claims by critics of wind power, Spanish researchers say, the turbines do reduce carbon dioxide emissions significantly even though the wind does not blow constantly.

LONDON, 18 October – One of the most often repeated arguments of the anti-wind lobby is that the turbines produce electricity only intermittently, when there is enough wind to turn them.

This, the critics argue, means that so much gas has to be burnt to provide a reliable supply of electricity that there is no overall benefit to the environment.

But extensive research in Spain means this claim can now definitively be declared a myth. Wind, the researchers found, is a very efficient way of reducing carbon dioxide emissions.

A study of 87 of the country’s coal and gas plants and how they were run alongside Spain’s very large wind industry found that adjustments made to the fossil fuel plants to compensate for variable wind strengths made little difference to their C02 emissions.

The anti-wind campaigners claim that fossil fuel plants have to be kept running at a slow speed, all the time producing CO2, just in case the wind fails. At slow speeds these plants are less efficient and so produce so much CO2 – the opponents of wind say – that they wipe out any gains from having wind power.

But a report published in the journal Energy by researchers at the Universidad Politécnica de Madrid says this is simply not true. There are some small losses, the researchers say, but even if wind produced as much as 50% of Spain’s electricity the CO2 savings would still be 80% of the emissions that would have been produced by the displaced thermal power stations.

At lower penetrations, particularly when the number of wind turbines was small, each megawatt hour produced by wind replaced 100% of the CO2 that would have been produced by each displaced thermal megawatt

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20 Responses to “Breaking News: Dog Bites Man, Pope Catholic, Wind Energy Saves Carbon”

  1. petersjazz Says:

    When talking about intermittence it important to understand that the demand for electricity is varying a lot depending on user pattern. So the grid is pritty smart already. But it can be smarter an for example turn off wind or solar at over capacity minutes


  2. Peaking turbines must be available every day during peak demand. Solar displaces some of the peaking turbine requirement, because it follows the daily load pattern. Wind displaces fossil fuel, so it reduces co2. Peaking turbines are gas fired, thus produce less co2. The amount of peaking turbines does not change much due to increased wind power. Instead, coal and nuclear are displaced. Solar displaces some peaking requirements. Local solar is particularly beneficial because it displaces both generation and transmission requirements. It reduces peaking turbine generation (most costly) and reduces transmission requirements . Transmission is sized by the peak demand. Accordingly, local solar should be paid the highest tariffs, because it reduces expenses the most, just like the utilities get the highest rates during peak daytime hours. Wind has a bigger effect on reduced coal consumption. It tends to be greatest in winter and spring where heating loads are greatest.

  3. Tom Gray Says:

    Here is a summary of another comprehensive analysis by the U.S. National Renewable Energy Laboratory with similar findings: http://aweablog.org/blog/post/boosting-renewable-energy-to-25-of-electricity-supply-in-western-us-would-cut-pollution-save-consumers-billions

    Tom Gray, communications consultant to American Wind Energy Association


  4. […] Paul Brown for Climate News Network: Contrary to claims by critics of wind power, Spanish researchers say, the turbines do reduce carbon dioxide emissions significantly even though the wind does no…  […]


  5. even if wind produced as much as 50% of Spain’s electricity the CO2 savings would still be 80% of the emissions that would have been produced by the displaced thermal power stations.

    Wind contribution:  50%.
    Fossil contribution:  50%.
    Fractional reduction in CO2 from fossil:  80%.
    Net CO2 emissions from fossil:  50%/0.80=62.5%
    Net reduction in fossil CO2 from 50% wind contribution:  37.5%

    Net reduction in fossil CO2 from nuclear-heavy Ontario vs. Denmark:  90%.

    • MorinMoss Says:

      Your comparison between Ontario & Denmark is not apples-to-apples as most of Denmark’s fossil plants also provide district heating as well as electricity aka CHP ( combined heat & power ) and achieve staggering efficiency, up to 90%.

      CHP accounts for 60% of space and water heating requirements for the entire country but is an anomaly in Ontario which relies mostly on fuel oil, natgas and electricity for heat in cities.

      Denmark also uses quite a bit of biomass / biogas so while that’s CO2 emitting, it’s net neutral if done sustainably.


      • Absent some breakthrough in massive, dirt-cheap storage, Denmark is about at the limit of de-carbonizing its electricity supply.  That 9.9 t/capita includes all the advances you cite, and I don’t see any more low-hanging fruit.  Ontario can still adopt many of them, and can also electrify many things now using fossil fuels.  If that electricity comes from new nuclear, that’s a straight reduction in carbon emissions with no direct offsetting impacts.

        • MorinMoss Says:

          Denmark has managed to shed another 1.5 tons CO2 per capita since 2005 (as has Ontario).
          As a percentage, that’s a 50% greater achievement by the Danes.

          From what I can see, there’s no focus at all in Ontario to make further changes on a massive scale and even if there were, they would need 20 – 30 years and hundreds of billions.

          The Danes are driving forward with a plan that’s been in place for years – and they can make adjustments.
          If you can find a cogent plan that Ontario has drawn up and is following, let me know.


          • So you’re saying that Ontario has achieved the same per-capita cuts as Denmark… without even having a plan?  Sounds like either Canadians are brilliant, Danes are dull, or perhaps some common factor is at work.

          • MorinMoss Says:

            I’ve already pointed out the sharp drop in coal-fired generation since 2003 but I suspect the loss of 300,000 manufacturing jobs in that span of time was also a significant, possibly greater, contributor.

            But, as I pointed out in previously, Ontario should be stomping Denmark in emissions reduction and chasing the Swedes, whose country in size & population is much closer to Ontario’s.

            Yet they are well behind the comparatively high-emitting Finns & Norwegians.

            And based on numbers you provided for vehicles, a full electrification of passenger vehicles, leaving aside the exorbitant cost, would only be a reduction of 2 – 2.25 tons per capita and a significant uptake of EVs is, at a minimum, 5-10 years away.


          • Coal-fired generation has dropped considerably in the USA too.  This is a consequence of the shale-gas bubble, which is not too far from popping.

            Wholesale NG prices have nearly doubled from their lows at the Henry Hub, and they’re going to double again.  LNG export terminals and large-scale conversion of trucking from diesel to gas will consume the glut from the demand side, if bankruptcies of over-extended drillers don’t fix the oversupply first.  This is going to drive generation from gas back to coal, and that’s when it gets interesting.

          • MorinMoss Says:

            Coal-fired generation has dropped considerably in the USA too. This is a consequence of the shale-gas bubble, which is not too far from popping.

            That’s pretty much the point I was making about being pushed & pulled as opposed to having a plan and goal.
            I don’t deny the power of the invisible hand of the free market but it must sometimes be opposed.

            If America goes back to coal, I hope it’ll be with newer, hightech plants. I hear the Germans have some quite efficient & flexible ones, and I’m not talking about ones that provide district heating.

            I hope that doesn’t come to pass but I also never expected the world to be in this sorry state at this point in time. The looming problems of my callow youth were all supposed to have been solved by the turn of the 21st century so Y2k, global warming, oil depletion & pollution should have, by now, been a dirty but necessary phase before nuclear fusion would solve all our problems.

            *sigh*

            Well, we got one off the list but I’ll likely be fertilizer before we solve any of the others.


          • If America goes back to coal, I hope it’ll be with newer, hightech plants.

            Won’t happen.  Construction of new plants which emit more than a certain limit is prohibited by new EPA rules.  No coal plant without sequestration can meet those limits, and nobody’s been able to make sequestration work at an affordable price.  This forces everyone into the market for natural gas, which is now dominated by the oil majors.

            The looming problems of my callow youth were all supposed to have been solved by the turn of the 21st century so Y2k, global warming, oil depletion & pollution should have, by now, been a dirty but necessary phase before nuclear fusion would solve all our problems.

            If it weren’t for the “no nukes”, we’d have knocked off (2), (3) and (4) already.  Fusion has been 20 years away since the 1950′s, so I don’t expect anything there any time soon.  However, thorium and fast-spectrum uranium reactors can do most of what fusion was promising to do, so we needn’t give up there.  If we can stop pumping out carbon, we can afford to wait for the rest.

            Cheap, carbon-free electricity truly does change the game.  For instance, we still dump massive amounts of stuff into landfills because it’s the cheapest option.  Cheap, clean electricity allows waste to be destroyed instead, turned into combustible gases and inert slag.  Ze-Gen is reclaiming metal from construction debris and gasifying the combustible parts, with no direct air emissions.  All it takes is energy to power it.

            We CAN do this.  We just have to get over the ideological/political hurdles in the way.

          • MorinMoss Says:

            So long as the GOP holds the House, no environmental effort is guaranteed and Peabody et al will certainly fight in the courts.

            Coal plants aren’t yet dead in America, more’s the pity.


  6. Even at the very high level of renewable energy use examined in the report, the impact on the efficiency of fossil-fired power plants was found to be “negligible,” reducing the carbon emissions reduction benefits of wind and solar by only 0.2 percent, so that on net wind and solar produced 99.8 percent of the expected emissions savings.

    A chief reason for the study’s findings is that electric utility system operators can reliably and efficiently integrate wind and solar energy using the same tools they have used for more than a century to accommodate large swings in electricity demand as well as abrupt failures at conventional power plants. Dozens of studies have demonstrated that wind and solar energy only slightly add to total power system variability, and that most changes in wind and solar output are canceled out by much larger opposite changes in supply and demand. System operators in the Midwest and Texas have each been able to integrate more than 10,000 megawatts of wind energy with only very small increases in their need for operating reserves.

    Nuclear is not a low carbon source of energy. Mining, milling, enrichment, construction, transportation, and wasted disposal produce CO2.

    http://www.resilience.org/stories/2006-05-11/does-nuclear-power-produce-no-co2

    http://www.washingtonsblog.com/2013/04/nuclear-is-not-a-low-carbon-source-of-energy.html

    http://www.treehugger.com/energy-efficiency/us-nuclear-power-decline.html


  7. Another point is that when wind turbines are spread out geographically, they become more consistent as a group. I hear that they are pretty stable at about 40-45% of the maximum rated output, when they are well placed. Wind speeds can be forecast relatively well, and when combined with solar and/or wave and/or tidal and/or biomass, then things can be managed quite well.

    We need to do a lot more methane from sewage and farm waste for the gas peaker plants, instead of fracked natural gas.

    Neil

    • MorinMoss Says:

      You can still have very low wind speed over quite a large area – it’s been seen over the entire UK and even most of Texas.

      But forecasting has improved considerably in recent years and the German day-ahead forecasts are usually very accurate.

      One thing to keep in mind with large deployments of wind & solar is that you have to overbuild quite a bit unless you have other generation sources or storage.


  8. Let’s try again. Utilities must have sufficient capacity on hand for the highest peak demand during the year. That means most of the time there is plenty of room available to supply demand from renewable sources with no effect on the grid and reduced CO2.

    http://www.mncee.org/Innovation-Exchange/ie/November-2012/A-Primer-about-Power-and-Energy–Part-3—Loads-Cu/

    Because the demand curve is so variable, the existing network has reserve capacity twice the demand much of the year. The network has always covered demand from a wide range of sources. That is unchanged when renewables are operating. In that way, variable demand is no different from variable generation. They are both part of forecasting and selecting the generation mix.
    The source has a nice video of changing demand over a long period of time.


  9. Wind does not need additional backup. Its a crock. This reference has a better explanation.

    http://www.windpowermonthly.com/article/1192957/power-system-reserve—no-need-build-wind-back-up

    Back-up is always provided for all power plants on a system, with or without wind
    There is no need to build back-up for wind; existing power plants in any system provide the required back-up for all plants


  10. EP. You may not believe it, but Scotland and Denmark all have higher goals than you envision. What, no wave, tidal, or other? No advances in storage? I can definitely see those driven by demand. Thermal generation gets more expensive every year. I don’t see how Ontario can keep paying for increasingly expensive nuclear, much less find the cash to buy more.


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